The Devil's Dictionary: Beg

Updated May 14, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
by Ambrose Bierce



To ask for something with an earnestness proportioned to the belief that it will not be given.

Who is that, father?
A mendicant, child,
Haggard, morose, and unaffable — wild!
See how he glares through the bars of his cell!
With Citizen Mendicant all is not well.
Why did they put him there, father?
Obeying his belly he struck at the laws.
His belly?
Oh, well, he was starving, my boy —
A state in which, doubtless, there's little of joy.
No bite had he eaten for days, and his cry
Was "Bread!" ever "Bread!"
What's the matter with pie?
With little to wear, he had nothing to sell;
To beg was unlawful — improper as well.
Why didn't he work?
He would even have done that,
But men said: "Get out!" and the State remarked: "Scat!"
I mention these incidents merely to show
That the vengeance he took was uncommonly low.
Revenge, at the best, is the act of a Siou,
But for trifles —
Pray what did bad Mendicant do?
Stole two loaves of bread to replenish his lack
And tuck out the belly that clung to his back.
Is that all father dear?
There's little to tell:
They sent him to jail, and they'll send him to — well,
The company's better than here we can boast,
And there's —
Bread for the needy, dear father?
Um — toast.

- Atka Mip

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