This week, the Victor Hugo Quote of the Week wasn’t written by Victor Hugo.Â It was written by Ambrose Bierce.Â It’s a full poem, I’ve just discovered it, and decided I had to share:
ONE OF THE SAINTS
Big Smith is an Oakland School Board man,
And he looks as good as ever he can;
And he’s such a cold and a chaste Big Smith
That snowflakes all are his kin and kith.
Wherever his eye he chances to throw
The crystals of ice begin to grow;
And the fruits and flowers he sees are lost
By the singeing touch of a sudden frost.
The women all shiver whenever he’s near,
And look upon _us_ with a look austere–
Effect of the Smithian atmosphere.
Such, in a word, is the moral plan
Of the Big, Big Smith, the School Board man.
When told that Madame Ferrier had taught
_Hernani_ in school, his fist he brought
Like a trip-hammer down on his bulbous knee,
And he roared: “Her Nanny? By gum, we’ll see
If the public’s time she dares devote
To the educatin’ of any dam goat!”
“You do not entirely comprehend–
_Hernani’s_ a play,” said his learned friend,
“By Victor Hugo–immoral and bad.
What’s worse, it’s French!” “Well, well, my lad,”
Said Smith, “if he cuts a swath so wide
I’ll have him took re’glar up and tried!”
And he smiled so sweetly the other chap
Thought that himself was a Finn or Lapp
Caught in a storm of his native snows,
With a purple ear and an azure nose.
The Smith continued: “I never pursue
Immoral readin’.” And that is true:
He’s a saint of remarkably high degree,
With a mind as chaste as a mind can be;
But read!–the devil a word can he!
Ambrose Bierce, from “Black Beetles in Amber”
I also just learned that you can search the text of all the documents at Project Gutenberg. (As long as there aren’t more than 1000 hits.Â Luckily, only 875 books so far mention Hugo.)