eGZact as … or not

Stuff and shit… from all over the web

The Devil’s Dictionary – “S”

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

SABBATH, n. A weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God

made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh. Among the

Jews observance of the day was enforced by a Commandment of which this

is the Christian version: “Remember the seventh day to make thy

neighbor keep it wholly.” To the Creator it seemed fit and expedient

that the Sabbath should be the last day of the week, but the Early

Fathers of the Church held other views. So great is the sanctity of

the day that even where the Lord holds a doubtful and precarious

jurisdiction over those who go down to (and down into) the sea it is

reverently recognized, as is manifest in the following deep-water

version of the Fourth Commandment:

Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able,

And on the seventh holystone the deck and scrape the cable.

Decks are no longer holystoned, but the cable still supplies the

captain with opportunity to attest a pious respect for the divine


SACERDOTALIST, n. One who holds the belief that a clergyman is a

priest. Denial of this momentous doctrine is the hardest challenge

that is now flung into the teeth of the Episcopalian church by the


SACRAMENT, n. A solemn religious ceremony to which several degrees of

authority and significance are attached. Rome has seven sacraments,

but the Protestant churches, being less prosperous, feel that they can

afford only two, and these of inferior sanctity. Some of the smaller

sects have no sacraments at all — for which mean economy they will

indubitable be damned.

SACRED, adj. Dedicated to some religious purpose; having a divine

character; inspiring solemn thoughts or emotions; as, the Dalai Lama

of Thibet; the Moogum of M’bwango; the temple of Apes in Ceylon; the

Cow in India; the Crocodile, the Cat and the Onion of ancient Egypt;

the Mufti of Moosh; the hair of the dog that bit Noah, etc.

All things are either sacred or profane.

The former to ecclesiasts bring gain;

The latter to the devil appertain.

Dumbo Omohundro

SANDLOTTER, n. A vertebrate mammal holding the political views of

Denis Kearney, a notorious demagogue of San Francisco, whose audiences

gathered in the open spaces (sandlots) of the town. True to the

traditions of his species, this leader of the proletariat was finally

bought off by his law-and-order enemies, living prosperously silent

and dying impenitently rich. But before his treason he imposed upon

California a constitution that was a confection of sin in a diction of

solecisms. The similarity between the words “sandlotter” and

“sansculotte” is problematically significant, but indubitably


SAFETY-CLUTCH, n. A mechanical device acting automatically to prevent

the fall of an elevator, or cage, in case of an accident to the

hoisting apparatus.

Once I seen a human ruin

In an elevator-well,

And his members was bestrewin’

All the place where he had fell.

And I says, apostrophisin’

That uncommon woful wreck:

“Your position’s so surprisin’

That I tremble for your neck!”

Then that ruin, smilin’ sadly

And impressive, up and spoke:

“Well, I wouldn’t tremble badly,

For it’s been a fortnight broke.”

Then, for further comprehension

Of his attitude, he begs

I will focus my attention

On his various arms and legs —

How they all are contumacious;

Where they each, respective, lie;

How one trotter proves ungracious,

T’other one an _alibi_.

These particulars is mentioned

For to show his dismal state,

Which I wasn’t first intentioned

To specifical relate.

None is worser to be dreaded

That I ever have heard tell

Than the gent’s who there was spreaded

In that elevator-well.

Now this tale is allegoric —

It is figurative all,

For the well is metaphoric

And the feller didn’t fall.

I opine it isn’t moral

For a writer-man to cheat,

And despise to wear a laurel

As was gotten by deceit.

For ’tis Politics intended

By the elevator, mind,

It will boost a person splendid

If his talent is the kind.

Col. Bryan had the talent

(For the busted man is him)

And it shot him up right gallant

Till his head begun to swim.

Then the rope it broke above him

And he painful come to earth

Where there’s nobody to love him

For his detrimented worth.

Though he’s livin’ none would know him,

Or at leastwise not as such.

Moral of this woful poem:

Frequent oil your safety-clutch.

Porfer Poog

SAINT, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.

The Duchess of Orleans relates that the irreverent old

calumniator, Marshal Villeroi, who in his youth had known St. Francis

de Sales, said, on hearing him called saint: “I am delighted to hear

that Monsieur de Sales is a saint. He was fond of saying indelicate

things, and used to cheat at cards. In other respects he was a

perfect gentleman, though a fool.”

SALACITY, n. A certain literary quality frequently observed in

popular novels, especially in those written by women and young girls,

who give it another name and think that in introducing it they are

occupying a neglected field of letters and reaping an overlooked

harvest. If they have the misfortune to live long enough they are

tormented with a desire to burn their sheaves.

SALAMANDER, n. Originally a reptile inhabiting fire; later, an

anthropomorphous immortal, but still a pyrophile. Salamanders are now

believed to be extinct, the last one of which we have an account

having been seen in Carcassonne by the Abbe Belloc, who exorcised it

with a bucket of holy water.

SARCOPHAGUS, n. Among the Greeks a coffin which being made of a

certain kind of carnivorous stone, had the peculiar property of

devouring the body placed in it. The sarcophagus known to modern

obsequiographers is commonly a product of the carpenter’s art.

SATAN, n. One of the Creator’s lamentable mistakes, repented in

sashcloth and axes. Being instated as an archangel, Satan made

himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from

Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a

moment and at last went back. “There is one favor that I should like

to ask,” said he.

“Name it.”

“Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws.”

“What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn

of eternity with hatred of his soul — you ask for the right to make

his laws?”

“Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them


It was so ordered.

SATIETY, n. The feeling that one has for the plate after he has eaten

its contents, madam.

SATIRE, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the

vices and follies of the author’s enemies were expounded with

imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a

sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we

are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all

humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans

are “endowed by their Creator” with abundant vice and folly, it is not

generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the

satirist is popularly regarded as a soul-spirited knave, and his ever

victim’s outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent.

Hail Satire! be thy praises ever sung

In the dead language of a mummy’s tongue,

For thou thyself art dead, and damned as well —

Thy spirit (usefully employed) in Hell.

Had it been such as consecrates the Bible

Thou hadst not perished by the law of libel.

Barney Stims

SATYR, n. One of the few characters of the Grecian mythology accorded

recognition in the Hebrew. (Leviticus, xvii, 7.) The satyr was at

first a member of the dissolute community acknowledging a loose

allegiance with Dionysius, but underwent many transformations and

improvements. Not infrequently he is confounded with the faun, a

later and decenter creation of the Romans, who was less like a man and

more like a goat.

SAUCE, n. The one infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment.

A people with no sauces has one thousand vices; a people with one

sauce has only nine hundred and ninety-nine. For every sauce invented

and accepted a vice is renounced and forgiven.

SAW, n. A trite popular saying, or proverb. (Figurative and

colloquial.) So called because it makes its way into a wooden head.

Following are examples of old saws fitted with new teeth.

A penny saved is a penny to squander.

A man is known by the company that he organizes.

A bad workman quarrels with the man who calls him that.

A bird in the hand is worth what it will bring.

Better late than before anybody has invited you.

Example is better than following it.

Half a loaf is better than a whole one if there is much else.

Think twice before you speak to a friend in need.

What is worth doing is worth the trouble of asking somebody to do it.

Least said is soonest disavowed.

He laughs best who laughs least.

Speak of the Devil and he will hear about it.

Of two evils choose to be the least.

Strike while your employer has a big contract.

Where there’s a will there’s a won’t.

SCARABAEUS, n. The sacred beetle of the ancient Egyptians, allied to

our familiar “tumble-bug.” It was supposed to symbolize immortality,

the fact that God knew why giving it its peculiar sanctity. Its habit

of incubating its eggs in a ball of ordure may also have commended it

to the favor of the priesthood, and may some day assure it an equal

reverence among ourselves. True, the American beetle is an inferior

beetle, but the American priest is an inferior priest.

SCARABEE, n. The same as scarabaeus.

He fell by his own hand

Beneath the great oak tree.

He’d traveled in a foreign land.

He tried to make her understand

The dance that’s called the Saraband,

But he called it Scarabee.

He had called it so through an afternoon,

And she, the light of his harem if so might be,

Had smiled and said naught. O the body was fair to see,

All frosted there in the shine o’ the moon —

Dead for a Scarabee

And a recollection that came too late.

O Fate!

They buried him where he lay,

He sleeps awaiting the Day,

In state,

And two Possible Puns, moon-eyed and wan,

Gloom over the grave and then move on.

Dead for a Scarabee!

Fernando Tapple

SCARIFICATION, n. A form of penance practised by the mediaeval pious.

The rite was performed, sometimes with a knife, sometimes with a hot

iron, but always, says Arsenius Asceticus, acceptably if the penitent

spared himself no pain nor harmless disfigurement. Scarification,

with other crude penances, has now been superseded by benefaction.

The founding of a library or endowment of a university is said to

yield to the penitent a sharper and more lasting pain than is

conferred by the knife or iron, and is therefore a surer means of

grace. There are, however, two grave objections to it as a

penitential method: the good that it does and the taint of justice.

SCEPTER, n. A king’s staff of office, the sign and symbol of his

authority. It was originally a mace with which the sovereign

admonished his jester and vetoed ministerial measures by breaking the

bones of their proponents.

SCIMETAR, n. A curved sword of exceeding keenness, in the conduct of

which certain Orientals attain a surprising proficiency, as the

incident here related will serve to show. The account is translated

from the Japanese by Shusi Itama, a famous writer of the thirteenth


When the great Gichi-Kuktai was Mikado he condemned to

decapitation Jijiji Ri, a high officer of the Court. Soon after

the hour appointed for performance of the rite what was his

Majesty’s surprise to see calmly approaching the throne the man

who should have been at that time ten minutes dead!

“Seventeen hundred impossible dragons!” shouted the enraged

monarch. “Did I not sentence you to stand in the market-place and

have your head struck off by the public executioner at three

o’clock? And is it not now 3:10?”

“Son of a thousand illustrious deities,” answered the

condemned minister, “all that you say is so true that the truth is

a lie in comparison. But your heavenly Majesty’s sunny and

vitalizing wishes have been pestilently disregarded. With joy I

ran and placed my unworthy body in the market-place. The

executioner appeared with his bare scimetar, ostentatiously

whirled it in air, and then, tapping me lightly upon the neck,

strode away, pelted by the populace, with whom I was ever a

favorite. I am come to pray for justice upon his own dishonorable

and treasonous head.”

“To what regiment of executioners does the black-boweled

caitiff belong?” asked the Mikado.

“To the gallant Ninety-eight Hundred and Thirty-seventh — I

know the man. His name is Sakko-Samshi.”

“Let him be brought before me,” said the Mikado to an

attendant, and a half-hour later the culprit stood in the


“Thou bastard son of a three-legged hunchback without thumbs!”

roared the sovereign — “why didst thou but lightly tap the neck

that it should have been thy pleasure to sever?”

“Lord of Cranes of Cherry Blooms,” replied the executioner,

unmoved, “command him to blow his nose with his fingers.”

Being commanded, Jijiji Ri laid hold of his nose and trumpeted

like an elephant, all expecting to see the severed head flung

violently from him. Nothing occurred: the performance prospered

peacefully to the close, without incident.

All eyes were now turned on the executioner, who had grown as

white as the snows on the summit of Fujiama. His legs trembled

and his breath came in gasps of terror.

“Several kinds of spike-tailed brass lions!” he cried; “I am a

ruined and disgraced swordsman! I struck the villain feebly

because in flourishing the scimetar I had accidentally passed it

through my own neck! Father of the Moon, I resign my office.”

So saying, he gasped his top-knot, lifted off his head, and

advancing to the throne laid it humbly at the Mikado’s feet.

SCRAP-BOOK, n. A book that is commonly edited by a fool. Many

persons of some small distinction compile scrap-books containing

whatever they happen to read about themselves or employ others to

collect. One of these egotists was addressed in the lines following,

by Agamemnon Melancthon Peters:

Dear Frank, that scrap-book where you boast

You keep a record true

Of every kind of peppered roast

That’s made of you;

Wherein you paste the printed gibes

That revel round your name,

Thinking the laughter of the scribes

Attests your fame;

Where all the pictures you arrange

That comic pencils trace —

Your funny figure and your strange

Semitic face —

Pray lend it me. Wit I have not,

Nor art, but there I’ll list

The daily drubbings you’d have got

Had God a fist.

SCRIBBLER, n. A professional writer whose views are antagonistic to

one’s own.

SCRIPTURES, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as

distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other

faiths are based.

SEAL, n. A mark impressed upon certain kinds of documents to attest

their authenticity and authority. Sometimes it is stamped upon wax,

and attached to the paper, sometimes into the paper itself. Sealing,

in this sense, is a survival of an ancient custom of inscribing

important papers with cabalistic words or signs to give them a magical

efficacy independent of the authority that they represent. In the

British museum are preserved many ancient papers, mostly of a

sacerdotal character, validated by necromantic pentagrams and other

devices, frequently initial letters of words to conjure with; and in

many instances these are attached in the same way that seals are

appended now. As nearly every reasonless and apparently meaningless

custom, rite or observance of modern times had origin in some remote

utility, it is pleasing to note an example of ancient nonsense

evolving in the process of ages into something really useful. Our

word “sincere” is derived from _sine cero_, without wax, but the

learned are not in agreement as to whether this refers to the absence

of the cabalistic signs, or to that of the wax with which letters were

formerly closed from public scrutiny. Either view of the matter will

serve one in immediate need of an hypothesis. The initials L.S.,

commonly appended to signatures of legal documents, mean _locum

sigillis_, the place of the seal, although the seal is no longer used

— an admirable example of conservatism distinguishing Man from the

beasts that perish. The words _locum sigillis_ are humbly suggested

as a suitable motto for the Pribyloff Islands whenever they shall take

their place as a sovereign State of the American Union.

SEINE, n. A kind of net for effecting an involuntary change of

environment. For fish it is made strong and coarse, but women are

more easily taken with a singularly delicate fabric weighted with

small, cut stones.

The devil casting a seine of lace,

(With precious stones ’twas weighted)

Drew it into the landing place

And its contents calculated.

All souls of women were in that sack —

A draft miraculous, precious!

But ere he could throw it across his back

They’d all escaped through the meshes.

Baruch de Loppis

SELF-ESTEEM, n. An erroneous appraisement.

SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one’s self and to nobody else.

SELFISH, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.

SENATE, n. A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high duties and


SERIAL, n. A literary work, usually a story that is not true,

creeping through several issues of a newspaper or magazine.

Frequently appended to each installment is a “synposis of preceding

chapters” for those who have not read them, but a direr need is a

synposis of succeeding chapters for those who do not intend to read

_them_. A synposis of the entire work would be still better.

The late James F. Bowman was writing a serial tale for a weekly

paper in collaboration with a genius whose name has not come down to

us. They wrote, not jointly but alternately, Bowman supplying the

installment for one week, his friend for the next, and so on, world

without end, they hoped. Unfortunately they quarreled, and one Monday

morning when Bowman read the paper to prepare himself for his task, he

found his work cut out for him in a way to surprise and pain him. His

collaborator had embarked every character of the narrative on a ship

and sunk them all in the deepest part of the Atlantic.

SEVERALTY, n. Separateness, as, lands in severalty, i.e., lands held

individually, not in joint ownership. Certain tribes of Indians are

believed now to be sufficiently civilized to have in severalty the

lands that they have hitherto held as tribal organizations, and could

not sell to the Whites for waxen beads and potato whiskey.

Lo! the poor Indian whose unsuited mind

Saw death before, hell and the grave behind;

Whom thrifty settler ne’er besought to stay —

His small belongings their appointed prey;

Whom Dispossession, with alluring wile,

Persuaded elsewhere every little while!

His fire unquenched and his undying worm

By “land in severalty” (charming term!)

Are cooled and killed, respectively, at last,

And he to his new holding anchored fast!

SHERIFF, n. In America the chief executive office of a country, whose

most characteristic duties, in some of the Western and Southern

States, are the catching and hanging of rogues.

John Elmer Pettibone Cajee

(I write of him with little glee)

Was just as bad as he could be.

‘Twas frequently remarked: “I swon!

The sun has never looked upon

So bad a man as Neighbor John.”

A sinner through and through, he had

This added fault: it made him mad

To know another man was bad.

In such a case he thought it right

To rise at any hour of night

And quench that wicked person’s light.

Despite the town’s entreaties, he

Would hale him to the nearest tree

And leave him swinging wide and free.

Or sometimes, if the humor came,

A luckless wight’s reluctant frame

Was given to the cheerful flame.

While it was turning nice and brown,

All unconcerned John met the frown

Of that austere and righteous town.

“How sad,” his neighbors said, “that he

So scornful of the law should be —

An anar c, h, i, s, t.”

(That is the way that they preferred

To utter the abhorrent word,

So strong the aversion that it stirred.)

“Resolved,” they said, continuing,

“That Badman John must cease this thing

Of having his unlawful fling.

“Now, by these sacred relics” — here

Each man had out a souvenir

Got at a lynching yesteryear —

“By these we swear he shall forsake

His ways, nor cause our hearts to ache

By sins of rope and torch and stake.

“We’ll tie his red right hand until

He’ll have small freedom to fulfil

The mandates of his lawless will.”

So, in convention then and there,

They named him Sheriff. The affair

Was opened, it is said, with prayer.

J. Milton Sloluck

SIREN, n. One of several musical prodigies famous for a vain attempt

to dissuade Odysseus from a life on the ocean wave. Figuratively, any

lady of splendid promise, dissembled purpose and disappointing


SLANG, n. The grunt of the human hog (_Pignoramus intolerabilis_)

with an audible memory. The speech of one who utters with his tongue

what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in

accomplishing the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of

setting up as a wit without a capital of sense.

SMITHAREEN, n. A fragment, a decomponent part, a remain. The word is

used variously, but in the following verse on a noted female reformer

who opposed bicycle-riding by women because it “led them to the devil”

it is seen at its best:

The wheels go round without a sound —

The maidens hold high revel;

In sinful mood, insanely gay,

True spinsters spin adown the way

From duty to the devil!

They laugh, they sing, and — ting-a-ling!

Their bells go all the morning;

Their lanterns bright bestar the night

Pedestrians a-warning.

With lifted hands Miss Charlotte stands,

Good-Lording and O-mying,

Her rheumatism forgotten quite,

Her fat with anger frying.

She blocks the path that leads to wrath,

Jack Satan’s power defying.

The wheels go round without a sound

The lights burn red and blue and green.

What’s this that’s found upon the ground?

Poor Charlotte Smith’s a smithareen!

John William Yope

SOPHISTRY, n. The controversial method of an opponent, distinguished

from one’s own by superior insincerity and fooling. This method is

that of the later Sophists, a Grecian sect of philosophers who began

by teaching wisdom, prudence, science, art and, in brief, whatever men

ought to know, but lost themselves in a maze of quibbles and a fog of


His bad opponent’s “facts” he sweeps away,

And drags his sophistry to light of day;

Then swears they’re pushed to madness who resort

To falsehood of so desperate a sort.

Not so; like sods upon a dead man’s breast,

He lies most lightly who the least is pressed.

Polydore Smith

SORCERY, n. The ancient prototype and forerunner of political

influence. It was, however, deemed less respectable and sometimes was

punished by torture and death. Augustine Nicholas relates that a poor

peasant who had been accused of sorcery was put to the torture to

compel a confession. After enduring a few gentle agonies the

suffering simpleton admitted his guilt, but naively asked his

tormentors if it were not possible to be a sorcerer without knowing


SOUL, n. A spiritual entity concerning which there hath been brave

disputation. Plato held that those souls which in a previous state of

existence (antedating Athens) had obtained the clearest glimpses of

eternal truth entered into the bodies of persons who became

philosophers. Plato himself was a philosopher. The souls that had

least contemplated divine truth animated the bodies of usurpers and

despots. Dionysius I, who had threatened to decapitate the broad-

browed philosopher, was a usurper and a despot. Plato, doubtless, was

not the first to construct a system of philosophy that could be quoted

against his enemies; certainly he was not the last.

“Concerning the nature of the soul,” saith the renowned author of

_Diversiones Sanctorum_, “there hath been hardly more argument than

that of its place in the body. Mine own belief is that the soul hath

her seat in the abdomen — in which faith we may discern and interpret

a truth hitherto unintelligible, namely that the glutton is of all men

most devout. He is said in the Scripture to ‘make a god of his belly’

— why, then, should he not be pious, having ever his Deity with him

to freshen his faith? Who so well as he can know the might and

majesty that he shrines? Truly and soberly, the soul and the stomach

are one Divine Entity; and such was the belief of Promasius, who

nevertheless erred in denying it immortality. He had observed that

its visible and material substance failed and decayed with the rest of

the body after death, but of its immaterial essence he knew nothing.

This is what we call the Appetite, and it survives the wreck and reek

of mortality, to be rewarded or punished in another world, according

to what it hath demanded in the flesh. The Appetite whose coarse

clamoring was for the unwholesome viands of the general market and the

public refectory shall be cast into eternal famine, whilst that which

firmly through civilly insisted on ortolans, caviare, terrapin,

anchovies, _pates de foie gras_ and all such Christian comestibles

shall flesh its spiritual tooth in the souls of them forever and ever,

and wreak its divine thirst upon the immortal parts of the rarest and

richest wines ever quaffed here below. Such is my religious faith,

though I grieve to confess that neither His Holiness the Pope nor His

Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury (whom I equally and profoundly

revere) will assent to its dissemination.”

SPOOKER, n. A writer whose imagination concerns itself with

supernatural phenomena, especially in the doings of spooks. One of

the most illustrious spookers of our time is Mr. William D. Howells,

who introduces a well-credentialed reader to as respectable and

mannerly a company of spooks as one could wish to meet. To the terror

that invests the chairman of a district school board, the Howells

ghost adds something of the mystery enveloping a farmer from another


STORY, n. A narrative, commonly untrue. The truth of the stories

here following has, however, not been successfully impeached.

One evening Mr. Rudolph Block, of New York, found himself seated

at dinner alongside Mr. Percival Pollard, the distinguished critic.

“Mr. Pollard,” said he, “my book, _The Biography of a Dead Cow_,

is published anonymously, but you can hardly be ignorant of its

authorship. Yet in reviewing it you speak of it as the work of the

Idiot of the Century. Do you think that fair criticism?”

“I am very sorry, sir,” replied the critic, amiably, “but it did

not occur to me that you really might not wish the public to know who

wrote it.”

Mr. W.C. Morrow, who used to live in San Jose, California, was

addicted to writing ghost stories which made the reader feel as if a

stream of lizards, fresh from the ice, were streaking it up his back

and hiding in his hair. San Jose was at that time believed to be

haunted by the visible spirit of a noted bandit named Vasquez, who had

been hanged there. The town was not very well lighted, and it is

putting it mildly to say that San Jose was reluctant to be out o’

nights. One particularly dark night two gentlemen were abroad in the

loneliest spot within the city limits, talking loudly to keep up their

courage, when they came upon Mr. J.J. Owen, a well-known journalist.

“Why, Owen,” said one, “what brings you here on such a night as

this? You told me that this is one of Vasquez’ favorite haunts! And

you are a believer. Aren’t you afraid to be out?”

“My dear fellow,” the journalist replied with a drear autumnal

cadence in his speech, like the moan of a leaf-laden wind, “I am

afraid to be in. I have one of Will Morrow’s stories in my pocket and

I don’t dare to go where there is light enough to read it.”

Rear-Admiral Schley and Representative Charles F. Joy were

standing near the Peace Monument, in Washington, discussing the

question, Is success a failure? Mr. Joy suddenly broke off in the

middle of an eloquent sentence, exclaiming: “Hello! I’ve heard that

band before. Santlemann’s, I think.”

“I don’t hear any band,” said Schley.

“Come to think, I don’t either,” said Joy; “but I see General

Miles coming down the avenue, and that pageant always affects me in

the same way as a brass band. One has to scrutinize one’s impressions

pretty closely, or one will mistake their origin.”

While the Admiral was digesting this hasty meal of philosophy

General Miles passed in review, a spectacle of impressive dignity.

When the tail of the seeming procession had passed and the two

observers had recovered from the transient blindness caused by its

effulgence —

“He seems to be enjoying himself,” said the Admiral.

“There is nothing,” assented Joy, thoughtfully, “that he enjoys

one-half so well.”

The illustrious statesman, Champ Clark, once lived about a mile

from the village of Jebigue, in Missouri. One day he rode into town

on a favorite mule, and, hitching the beast on the sunny side of a

street, in front of a saloon, he went inside in his character of

teetotaler, to apprise the barkeeper that wine is a mocker. It was a

dreadfully hot day. Pretty soon a neighbor came in and seeing Clark,


“Champ, it is not right to leave that mule out there in the sun.

He’ll roast, sure! — he was smoking as I passed him.”

“O, he’s all right,” said Clark, lightly; “he’s an inveterate


The neighbor took a lemonade, but shook his head and repeated that

it was not right.

He was a conspirator. There had been a fire the night before: a

stable just around the corner had burned and a number of horses had

put on their immortality, among them a young colt, which was roasted

to a rich nut-brown. Some of the boys had turned Mr. Clark’s mule

loose and substituted the mortal part of the colt. Presently another

man entered the saloon.

“For mercy’s sake!” he said, taking it with sugar, “do remove that

mule, barkeeper: it smells.”

“Yes,” interposed Clark, “that animal has the best nose in

Missouri. But if he doesn’t mind, you shouldn’t.”

In the course of human events Mr. Clark went out, and there,

apparently, lay the incinerated and shrunken remains of his charger.

The boys did not have any fun out of Mr. Clarke, who looked at the

body and, with the non-committal expression to which he owes so much

of his political preferment, went away. But walking home late that

night he saw his mule standing silent and solemn by the wayside in the

misty moonlight. Mentioning the name of Helen Blazes with uncommon

emphasis, Mr. Clark took the back track as hard as ever he could hook

it, and passed the night in town.

General H.H. Wotherspoon, president of the Army War College, has a

pet rib-nosed baboon, an animal of uncommon intelligence but

imperfectly beautiful. Returning to his apartment one evening, the

General was surprised and pained to find Adam (for so the creature is

named, the general being a Darwinian) sitting up for him and wearing

his master’s best uniform coat, epaulettes and all.

“You confounded remote ancestor!” thundered the great strategist,

“what do you mean by being out of bed after naps? — and with my coat


Adam rose and with a reproachful look got down on all fours in the

manner of his kind and, scuffling across the room to a table, returned

with a visiting-card: General Barry had called and, judging by an

empty champagne bottle and several cigar-stumps, had been hospitably

entertained while waiting. The general apologized to his faithful

progenitor and retired. The next day he met General Barry, who said:

“Spoon, old man, when leaving you last evening I forgot to ask you

about those excellent cigars. Where did you get them?”

General Wotherspoon did not deign to reply, but walked away.

“Pardon me, please,” said Barry, moving after him; “I was joking

of course. Why, I knew it was not you before I had been in the room

fifteen minutes.”

SUCCESS, n. The one unpardonable sin against one’s fellows. In

literature, and particularly in poetry, the elements of success are

exceedingly simple, and are admirably set forth in the following lines

by the reverend Father Gassalasca Jape, entitled, for some mysterious

reason, “John A. Joyce.”

The bard who would prosper must carry a book,

Do his thinking in prose and wear

A crimson cravat, a far-away look

And a head of hexameter hair.

Be thin in your thought and your body’ll be fat;

If you wear your hair long you needn’t your hat.

SUFFRAGE, n. Expression of opinion by means of a ballot. The right

of suffrage (which is held to be both a privilege and a duty) means,

as commonly interpreted, the right to vote for the man of another

man’s choice, and is highly prized. Refusal to do so has the bad name

of “incivism.” The incivilian, however, cannot be properly arraigned

for his crime, for there is no legitimate accuser. If the accuser is

himself guilty he has no standing in the court of opinion; if not, he

profits by the crime, for A’s abstention from voting gives greater

weight to the vote of B. By female suffrage is meant the right of a

woman to vote as some man tells her to. It is based on female

responsibility, which is somewhat limited. The woman most eager to

jump out of her petticoat to assert her rights is first to jump back

into it when threatened with a switching for misusing them.

SYCOPHANT, n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he

may not be commanded to turn and be kicked. He is sometimes an


As the lean leech, its victim found, is pleased

To fix itself upon a part diseased

Till, its black hide distended with bad blood,

It drops to die of surfeit in the mud,

So the base sycophant with joy descries

His neighbor’s weak spot and his mouth applies,

Gorges and prospers like the leech, although,

Unlike that reptile, he will not let go.

Gelasma, if it paid you to devote

Your talent to the service of a goat,

Showing by forceful logic that its beard

Is more than Aaron’s fit to be revered;

If to the task of honoring its smell

Profit had prompted you, and love as well,

The world would benefit at last by you

And wealthy malefactors weep anew —

Your favor for a moment’s space denied

And to the nobler object turned aside.

Is’t not enough that thrifty millionaires

Who loot in freight and spoliate in fares,

Or, cursed with consciences that bid them fly

To safer villainies of darker dye,

Forswearing robbery and fain, instead,

To steal (they call it “cornering”) our bread

May see you groveling their boots to lick

And begging for the favor of a kick?

Still must you follow to the bitter end

Your sycophantic disposition’s trend,

And in your eagerness to please the rich

Hunt hungry sinners to their final ditch?

In Morgan’s praise you smite the sounding wire,

And sing hosannas to great Havemeyher!

What’s Satan done that him you should eschew?

He too is reeking rich — deducting _you_.

SYLLOGISM, n. A logical formula consisting of a major and a minor

assumption and an inconsequent. (See LOGIC.)

SYLPH, n. An immaterial but visible being that inhabited the air when

the air was an element and before it was fatally polluted with factory

smoke, sewer gas and similar products of civilization. Sylphs were

allied to gnomes, nymphs and salamanders, which dwelt, respectively,

in earth, water and fire, all now insalubrious. Sylphs, like fowls of

the air, were male and female, to no purpose, apparently, for if they

had progeny they must have nested in accessible places, none of the

chicks having ever been seen.

SYMBOL, n. Something that is supposed to typify or stand for

something else. Many symbols are mere “survivals” — things which

having no longer any utility continue to exist because we have

inherited the tendency to make them; as funereal urns carved on

memorial monuments. They were once real urns holding the ashes of the

dead. We cannot stop making them, but we can give them a name that

conceals our helplessness.

SYMBOLIC, adj. Pertaining to symbols and the use and interpretation

of symbols.

They say ’tis conscience feels compunction;

I hold that that’s the stomach’s function,

For of the sinner I have noted

That when he’s sinned he’s somewhat bloated,

Or ill some other ghastly fashion

Within that bowel of compassion.

True, I believe the only sinner

Is he that eats a shabby dinner.

You know how Adam with good reason,

For eating apples out of season,

Was “cursed.” But that is all symbolic:

The truth is, Adam had the colic.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: