The Hermit

written by Ambrose Bierce

The Hermit

— Ambrose Bierce

To a hunter from the city,
Overtaken by the night,
Spake, in tones of tender pity
For himself, an aged wight:

'I have found the world a fountain
Of deceit and Life a sham.
I have taken to the mountain
And a Holy Hermit am.

'Sternly bent on Contemplation,
Far apart from human kind
In the hill my habitation,
In the Infinite my mind.

'Ten long years I've lived a dumb thing,
Growing bald and bent with dole.
Vainly seeking for a Something
To engage my gloomy soul.

'Gentle Pilgrim, while my roots you
Eat, and quaff my simple drink,
Please suggest whatever suits you
As a Theme for me to Think.'

Then the hunter answered gravely:
'From distraction free, and strife,
You could ponder very bravely
On the Vanity of Life.'

'O, thou wise and learned Teacher,
You have solved the Problem well
You have saved a grateful creature
From the agonies of hell.

'Take another root, another
Cup of water: eat and drink.
Now I have a Subject, brother,
Tell me What, and How, to think.'

About the poet


Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist. Today, he is probably best-known for his short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and his satirical lexicon The Devil's Dictionary. His vehemence as a critic, his motto "Nothing matters" and the sardonic view of human nature that informed his work all earned him the nickname "Bitter Bierce". Despite his reputation as a searing critic, Bierce was known to encourage younger writers, including poet George Sterling and fiction writer W. C. Morrow. Bierce employed a distinctive style of writing, especially in his stories. His style often embraces an abrupt beginning, dark imagery, vague references to time, limited descriptions, impossible events and the theme of war...

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