To Either

Back further than
I know, in San
Francisco dwelt a wealthy man.
So rich was he
That none could be
Wise, good and great in like degree.

'Tis true he wrought,
In deed or thought,
But few of all the things he ought;
But men said: 'Who
Would wish him to?
Great souls are born to be, not do!'

One thing, indeed,
He did, we read,
Which was becoming, all agreed:
Grown provident,
Ere life was spent
He built a mighty monument.

For longer than
I know, in San
Francisco lived a beggar man;
And when in bed
They found him dead
'Just like the scamp!' the people said.

He died, they say,
On the same day
His wealthy neighbor passed away.
What matters it
When beggars quit
Their beats? I answer: Not a bit.

They got a spade
And pick and made
A hole, and there the chap was laid.
'He asked for bread,'
'Twas neatly said:
'He'll get not even a stone instead.'

The years rolled round:
His humble mound
Sank to the level of the ground;
And men forgot
That the bare spot
Was like (and was) the beggar's lot.

Forgotten, too,
Was t'other, who
Had reared the monument to woo
Inconstant Fame,
Though still his name
Shouted in granite just the same.

That name, I swear,
They both did bear
The beggar and the millionaire.
That lofty tomb,
Then, honored-whom?
For argument here's ample room.

I'll not debate,
But only state
The scamp first claimed it at the Gate.
St. Peter, proud
To serve him, bowed
And showed him to the softest cloud.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Ambrose Bierce

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

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"To Either" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 15 Jul 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/2008/to-either>.

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