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Poem by Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce


The Legatee


IN fair San Francisco a good man did dwell,
And he wrote out a will, for he didn't feel well.
Said he: "It is proper, when making a gift,
To stimulate virtue by comforting thrift."

So he left all his property, legal and straight,
To "the cursedest rascal in all of the State."
But the name he refused to insert, for, said he:
"Let each man consider himself legatee."

In due course of time that philanthropist died,
And all San Francisco, and Oakland beside--
Save only the lawyers--came each with his claim,
The lawyers preferring to manage the same.

The cases were tried in Department Thirteen,
Judge Murphy presided, sedate and serene,
But couldn't quite specify, legal and straight,
The cursedest rascal in all of the State.

And so he remarked to them, little and big--
To claimants: "You skip!" and to lawyers: "You dig!"
They tumbled, tumultuous, out of his court
And left him victorious, holding the fort.

'Twas then that he said: "It is plain to my mind
This property's ownerless--how can I find
The cursedest rascal in all of the State?"
So he took it himself, which was legal and straight. 



Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce


Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce's other poems:
  1. To the Bartholdi Statue
  2. Decalogue
  3. With a Book
  4. The New Decalogue
  5. Rimer


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