Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

Rudyard Kipling’s poem was written nearly 100 years ago.  It is a poem for our times.  When a society becomes complacent and yields to its self-indulgent nature, (“all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins”) it is evidence that the empire is in decline.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings  by Rudyard Kipling

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
 I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
 Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
 And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
 That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
 But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
 So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
 Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
 But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
 That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
 They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
 They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
 So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
 They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
 But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
 And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
 (Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
 Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
 And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
 By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
 But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
 And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.” 


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