Ambrose Bierce's Poems

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Poems are not always cheery rhymes, written by carefree poets. Some poets, such as Ambrose Bierce, live a life of misfortune. Growing up with 8 siblings, Bierce hated his family. He resented his mother for “not loving him enough,” and by 15, he left his family behind. Working as a printer’s devil, Bierce began his literary career. However, his literary fame began after the most significant event in his life: the Civil War. He was among the first to volunteer for the Union Army, and was a brave, idealistic soldier. As he witnessed horrors from war, such as the Battle of Shiloh, his idealistic and hopeful personality began to change. His wife left him, and he was shot in the head. With nowhere else to go after his recovery, Bierce rejoined…show more content…
Ambrose Bierce’s grim word choice and guiding nature is present throughout his poetry. Bierce intentionally guides his audience into learning lessons. When he was in the army, Bierce met General Hazen, whom he admired and viewed as a father figure. He valued Hazen’s opinions and his silent-mentor persona was likely developed by Bierce’s experience with Hazen. His guiding nature is shown in “Decalogue.” Oddly enough, the entire poem is filled with lessons. One line reads: “Kill not, abet not those who kill” (line 11). Similar to many of his other lines in this poem, it’s simply a lesson. Do not kill, and don’t help people that kill. For someone who was affected so negatively by the war, Bierce still clung to basic morals. Another line in the poem says “Don’t steal, thou’lt never thus compete” (line 15). While other soldiers may have gone insane from their experiences throughout the Civil War, Bierce still remembers basic morals. He was involved in Sherman’s March to the Sea, where there were bands of rogue soldiers who stole from confederate citizens. Considering how much misfortune Bierce went through, it would be reasonable for…show more content…
In “Legend of Immortal Truth,” Bierce applies vivid and violent imagery to his writing. One section reads: “To my den I conveyed her, I bled her and flayed her,” (line 6-7) which is very dark for a children-style poem that features talking animals. The bear tricked, skinned, and killed a deer, which contributes to the mood. For appearing like such an innocent story initially, the schemes of the predators and brutal treatment of the deet add a sense of violence that Bierce was aiming for. This twisted kind of writing is consistent throughout most of his poems. Another example is in “Alone.” While not nearly as malicious as the last poem, it still lacks a happy ending. The last line states that the flint and steel “had cherished secretly alone” (line 40). The poem portrays fire as love, and when alone, neither the flint nor steel could create fire. Bierce could have ended the poem on a good note, but instead ends it on a sour note. His emotionless and pessimistic mindset guided his poetry. “Decalogue” demonstrated this trend as well. Despite being the poem being a list of morals, Bierce generally states to not to something. The majority of the poem were statements such as “Bear not false witness-that is low” (line 17). Rather than saying to tell the truth, he says you shouldn’t lie. Instead of instructing his audience to be loyal to their partner, he tells them to not cheat.

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