A Poem for the Day

28 April 2011

This poem by Rudyard Kipling is to be our next piece to memorize as a family, since we have now fully imprinted The Declaration of Independence in our minds and are ready to move on to a new bit of work. Daddy instructed all of us to sit 'round the kitchen table together yesterday and read the poem aloud, trying to dig deeper and think--really THINK--what the author was trying to convey. We came up with some very interesting and thought-provoking results, and I hope you do as well.

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."

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! 

Care to share what you think the author might be trying to say? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

2 epistles:

  1. You memorized The Declaration? That is so cool because I am actually in the process of memorizing it. It. Is. Long. :) But I think it is good for every proud citizen to memorize the document and beliefs our country was founded on, agreed?

  2. @Nӓna -- Yes, we memoried The Declaration. Whew! *wipes brow* It did take a quite a bit o' time... I think we started back in October 2010. We finished the last section about a month ago and have been reviewing it all ever since then, to really get it into our minds.

    Oh, you're memorizing it, too? How neat! What part are you at? We split it up into little sections and made up songs to the words to help us remember. :P

    Indeed. 'Tis very important, I believe. I'll always remember a part in one of the Little House books--Little Town on the Prairie, I believe--where Laura is listening to the Declaration being recited at an Independence Day celebration, and she comments that she "knew those famous words by heart, of course, but it still gave her chills to hear them spoken.." (or something along those lines). When I read that, I thought, "you know the Declaration of Independence BY HEART?!" I'm now proud to say that I, as well as the rest of my family, do, too. :) We were all somewhat chilled, though, when we realized just how similar the king of England's behavior was to that of our current government. It's pretty sad. One can't help but wonder what our dear old U.S.A. is coming to... :( Well, we know the hand of God is in this, and He will bring good out of it in some way. We cling to that hope.

    Love ya, dear!
    Elizabeth Rose


"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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