On this day in 1842 the American critic and writer Ambrose Bierce was born.
During his life he was famous for his direct and penetrating style and his spare but vivid descriptions, particularly of war. We know that he was one of thirteen children, born in a log cabin in Ohio to well-educated parents who for reasons unknown, gave all their offspring names that began with the letter ‘A’.
This is a lot more than we know about his death at the age of seventy-one; apparently he had travelled to Mexico while researching a book, to observe the civil war then raging. Though heard of in the town of Chihuahua, he then simply disappeared. Perhaps his sense of humour led him to plan his own demise.
Here is his quirky poem, Christian:
I dreamed I stood upon a hill, and, lo!
The godly multitudes walked to and fro
Beneath, in Sabbath garments fitly clad,
With pious mien, appropriately sad,
While all the church bells made a solemn din —
A fire-alarm to those who lived in sin.
Then saw I gazing thoughtfully below,
With tranquil face, upon that holy show
A tall, spare figure in a robe of white,
Whose eyes diffused a melancholy light.
‘God keep you, stranger,’ I exclaimed. ‘You are
No doubt (your habit shows it) from afar;
And yet I entertain the hope that you,
Like these good people, are a Christian too.’
He raised his eyes and with a look so stern
It made me with a thousand blushes burn
Replied — his manner with disdain was spiced:
‘What! I a Christian? No, indeed! I’m Christ.’
Today I will try to be direct and honest in all my dealings.