To A Censor

Ambrose Bierce 1842 (Meigs County) – 1914 (Chihuahua)

Delay responsible? Why, then; my friend,
Impeach Delay and you will make an end.
Thrust vile Delay in jail and let it rot
For doing all the things that it should not.
Put not good-natured judges under bond,
But make Delay in damages respond.
Minos, Aeacus, Rhadamanthus, rolled
Into one pitiless, unsmiling scold
Unsparing censor, be your thongs uncurled
To 'lash the rascals naked through the world.'
The rascals? Nay, Rascality's the thing
Above whose back your knotted scourges sing.
_Your_ satire, truly, like a razor keen,
'Wounds with a touch that's neither felt nor seen;'
For naught that you assail with falchion free
Has either nerves to feel or eyes to see.
Against abstractions evermore you charge
You hack no helmet and you need no targe.
That wickedness is wrong and sin a vice,
That wrong's not right and foulness never nice,
Fearless affirm. All consequences dare:
Smite the offense and the offender spare.
When Ananias and Sapphira lied
Falsehood, had you been there, had surely died.
When money-changers in the Temple sat,
At money-changing you'd have whirled the 'cat'
(That John-the-Baptist of the modern pen)
And all the brokers would have cried amen!

Good friend, if any judge deserve your blame
Have you no courage, or has he no name?
Upon his method will you wreak your wrath,
Himself all unmolested in his path?
Fall to! fall to!-your club no longer draw
To beat the air or flail a man of straw.
Scorn to do justice like the Saxon thrall
Who cuffed the offender's shadow on a wall.
Let rascals in the flesh attest your zeal
Knocked on the mazzard or tripped up at heel!

We know that judges are corrupt. We know
That crimes are lively and that laws are slow.
We know that lawyers lie and doctors slay;
That priests and preachers are but birds of pray;
That merchants cheat and journalists for gold
Flatter the vicious while at vice they scold.
'Tis all familiar as the simple lore
That two policemen and two thieves make four.

But since, while some are wicked, some are good,
(As trees may differ though they all are wood)
Names, here and there, to show whose head is hit,
The bad would sentence and the good acquit.
In sparing everybody none you spare:
Rebukes most personal are least unfair.
To fire at random if you still prefer,
And swear at Dog but never kick a cur,
Permit me yet one ultimate appeal
To something that you understand and feel:
Let thrift and vanity your heart persuade
You might be read if you would learn your trade.

Good brother cynics (you have doubtless guessed
Not one of you but all are here addressed)
Remember this: the shaft that seeks a heart
Draws all eyes after it; an idle dart
Shot at some shadow flutters o'er the green,
Its flight unheeded and its fall unseen.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011


Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist, and satirist. more…

All Ambrose Bierce poems | Ambrose Bierce Books

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"To A Censor" STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 9 Aug. 2020. <>.

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