Category Archives: poetry

The Gods of the Copybook Headings – 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 . . .

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 worshiped 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 Feminimian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbor 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.”

And 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.

(hat tip)

If I could collaborate with Kipling…

Here are some notes I jotted down. I was thinking about filling in some gaps I perceive.

If you can call the good you get a blessing–
Give thanks for it as being heaven-sent
But never let the bad your mind start messing
Or make you doubt that all things are well-meant

If you can stand before all with your head up
But bow whenever under a command
And never need with upraised fist to get up
And need no proof to prove that you’re a man

Just some rough ideas. I have others. What gaps do you see?