The Tortoise Defined — Ambrose Bierce

“TORTOISE, n. A creature thoughtfully created to supply occasion for the following lines by the illustrious Ambat Delaso:

 

 

 

 

 

TO MY PET TORTOISE   by Ambrose Bierce

 

My friend, you are not graceful –not at all;

Your gait’s between a stagger and a sprawl.

Nor are you beautiful: your head’s a snake’s

To look at, and I do not doubt it aches.

As to your feet, they’d make an angel weep.

‘Tis true you take them in whene’er you sleep.

No, you’re not pretty, but you have, I own,

A certain firmness –mostly you’re [sic] backbone.

Firmness and strength (you have a giant’s thews)

Are virtues that the great know how to use —

I wish that they did not; yet, on the whole,

You lack –excuse my mentioning it –Soul.

So, to be candid, unreserved and true,

I’d rather you were I than I were you.

Perhaps, however, in a time to be,

When Man’s extinct, a better world may see

Your progeny in power and control,

Due to the genesis and growth of Soul.

So I salute you as a reptile grand

Predestined to regenerate the land.

Father of Possibilities, O deign

To accept the homage of a dying reign!

In the far region of the unforeknown

I dream a tortoise upon every throne.

I see an Emperor his head withdraw

Into his carapace for fear of Law;

A King who carries something else than fat,

Howe’er acceptably he carries that;

A President not strenuously bent

On punishment of audible dissent —

Who never shot (it were a vain attack)

An armed or unarmed tortoise in the back;

Subject and citizens that feel no need

To make the March of Mind a wild stampede;

All progress slow, contemplative, sedate,

And “Take your time” the word, in Church and State.

O Tortoise, ’tis a happy, happy dream,

My glorious testudineous regime!

I wish in Eden you’d brought this about

By slouching in and chasing Adam out.”

 

SOURCE:

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