Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
 
Plain Language from Truthful James; or, the Heathen Chinee
By Bret Harte (1836–1902)
 
From “Complete Poetical Works”

WHICH I wish to remark—
  And my language is plain—
That for ways that are dark,
  And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar,        5
  Which the same I would rise to explain.
 
Ah Sin was his name,
  And I shall not deny
In regard to the same
  What that name might imply;        10
But his smile it was pensive and childlike,
  As I frequent remarked to Bill Nye.
 
It was August the third,
  And quite soft was the skies;
Which it might be inferred        15
  That Ah Sin was likewise;
Yet he played it that day upon William
  And me in a way I despise.
 
Which we had a small game,
  And Ah Sin took a hand;        20
It was euchre—the same
  He did not understand;
But he smiled as he sat by the table
  With the smile that was childlike and bland.
 
Yet the cards they were stocked        25
  In a way that I grieve,
And my feelings were shocked
  At the state of Nye’s sleeve,
Which was stuffed full of aces and bowers,
  And the same with intent to deceive.        30
 
But the hands that were played
  By that heathen Chinee,
And the points that he made
  Were quite frightful to see,
Till at last he put down a right bower,        35
  Which the same Nye had dealt unto me.
 
Then I looked up at Nye,
  And he gazed upon me;
And he rose with a sigh,
  And said, “Can this be?        40
We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor;”
  And he went for that heathen Chinee.
 
In the scene that ensued
  I did not take a hand,
But the floor it was strewed        45
  Like the leaves on the strand
With the cards that Ah Sin had been hiding
  In the game “he did not understand.”
 
In his sleeves, which were long,
  He had twenty-four packs,        50
Which was coming it strong,
  Yet I state but the facts.
And we found on his nails, which were taper,
  What is frequent in tapers—that’s wax.
 
Which is why I remark—        55
  And my language is plain—
That for ways that are dark,
  And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar,
  Which the same I am free to maintain.        60
 
 
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