The Passing of Bierce

By George Sterling

(These lines were written in reply to rumor that Ambrose Bierce,
the poet, critic and satirist, died by his own hand.)

Dream you he was afraid to live?
    Dream you he was afraid to die,
    Or that, a suppliant of the sky,
He begged the gods to keep or give?
Not thus the Shadow-maker stood,
    Whose scrutiny dissolved so well
    Our thin mirage of Heaven and Hell—
The doubtful evil, dubious good.

If, drinking at the close of day,
    The staling wine at last displease,
    And, coming to the bitter lees,
One take the sickened lips away,
Who shall demand the Pilgrim keep
    A twilight session with Disgust,
    And know, since revellers cry he must,
A farewell nausea ere he sleep?

Were his a reason to embrace
    The Roman's dignity of death,
    Whose will decreed his final breath,
Determining the time and place,
Be sure his purpose was of pride,
    A matter not of fear but taste,
    When, finding mire upon the waste,
And hating filth, he turned aside.

If now his name be with the dead,
    And, where the gaunt agaves flow'r,
    The vulture and the wolf devour
The lion-heart, the lion-head,
Be sure that head and heart were laid
    In wisdom down, content to die.
    Be sure he faced the Starless Sky
Unduped, unmurmuring, unafraid.

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