The Isthmian Way

By James Stanley Gilbert


To bow and scrape and shake your hand,

To greet you with a smile so bland

That you will think no other friend

Can toward you half the good intend;

But still to cherish in one's heart

Enough rank hate to fill a cart—

      This is the Isthmian way.


To buy for gold and silver pay;

To answer yea while thinking nay,

To borrow some one's little wealth,

And leave the country for one's health;

To plot and scheme and slyly seek

To make some decent man a sneak—

      This is the Isthmian way.


To kiss the man who wins success,

And kick the man whose luck is less;

To make of vice beatitude,

And virtue of ingratitude!

Accept all favors, but omit

To e'er return the benefit—

      This is the Isthmian way.


To curry favor with the great,

And pander to one's meanest trait;

To smash the Decalogue to bits,

But give your neighbor's weakness fits!

Oppress the weak, uphold the strong—

In short, do everything that's wrong—

      This is the Isthmian way.


To wage a miasmatic strife,

And suffer all the ills of life;

To eat and drink one's self to death,

And curse God with one's latest breath;

And then a "heavenly mansion" fill

Prepared for one on Monkey Hill—

      This is the Isthmian way.


God grant that haply some of us

Escape the general animus,

And travel, though but falteringly,

The nobler path of charity:

Tho' stumbling often, still to find

More cleanly records left behind

Than by the Isthmian way.


Monkey Hill is the Mt. Hope Cemetery.