Wisdom For The Ages


THE GODS OF THE COPYBOOK HEADINGS



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 windborne 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 ice field, 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."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued
wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to
believe it was true
That all is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make
Four--
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain
it once more.

* * * * * * * * * * *

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man--
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her
Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the
Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world
begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his
sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter
return!

--Rudyard Kipling, 1919





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