AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE
by: Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
I "dipt into the future far as human eye could see,"
- And saw -- it was not Sandow, nor John Sullivan, but she--
- Emancipated Woman, who was weeping as she ran
- Here and there for the discovery of Expurgated Man.
- But the sun of Evolution ever rose and ever set,
- And that tardiest of mortals hadn't evoluted yet.
- Hence the tears that she cascaded, hence the sighs that tore
- All the tendinous connections of her indurated heart.
- Cried Emancipated Woman, as she wearied of the search:
- "In Advancing I have left myself distinctly in the lurch!
- Seeking still a worthy partner, from the land of brutes and
- I have penetrated rashly into manless solitudes.
- Now without a mate of any kind where am I? -- that's to say,
- Where shall I be to-morrow? -- where exert my rightful sway
- And the purifying strength of my emancipated mind?
- Can solitude be lifted up, vacuity refined?
- Calling, calling from the shadows in the rear of my Advance--
- From the region of Unprogress in the dark domain of Chance--
- Long I heard the Unevolvable beseeching my return
- To share the degradation he's reluctant to unlearn.
- But I've held my way regardless, evoluting year by year
- Till I'm what you now behold me -- or would if you were here
- A condensed Emancipation and Purifier proud,
- An Independent Entity appropriately loud!
- Independent? Yes, in spirit, but (O woful, woful state!)
- Doomed to premature extinction by privation of a mate --
- To extinction or reversion, for Unexpurgated Man
- Still awaits me in the backward if I sicken in the van.
- O the horrible dilemma! -- to be odiously linked
- With an Undeveloped Species, or become a Type Extinct!"
- As Emancipated Woman wailed her sorrow to the air,
- Stalking out of desolation came a being strange and rare--
- Plato's Man! -- a biped, featherless from mandible to rump,
- Its wings two quilless flippers and its tail a plumeless
- First it scratched and then it clucked, as if in hospitable
- It invited her to banquet on imaginary worms.
- Then it strutted up before her with a lifting of the head,
- And in accents of affection and of sympathy it said:
- "My estate is some'at 'umble, but I'm qualified to draw
- Near the hymeneal altar and whack up my heart and claw
- To Emancipated Anything as walks upon the earth;
- And them things is at your service for whatever they are
- I'm sure to be congenial, marm, nor e'er deserve a scowl--
- I'm Emancipated Rooster, I am Expurgated Fowl!"
- From the future and its wonders I withdrew my gaze, and then
- Wrote this wild, unfestive lay of Evolutionated Hen.
POEMS BY AMBROSE BIERCE
"An Offer of Marriage"
is reprinted from The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce Vol.
IV: Shapes of Clay. Ambrose Bierce. New York: Neale Publishing