During our “down-week” at Summit (yay, Tamiflu…), Doc Noebel took the time to give us a little current events talk and to run through introductions with the staff, since he was unable to hang with us last Saturday. One of the first things he read to us was a poem by Rudyard Kipling entitled “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”. This poem is included in the front of all the student’s notebooks, but Doc rarely has time to include it in his opening remarks, as witnessed by my complete lack of familiarity with these stanzas. I wanted to post it here and encourage you all to read it slowly and aloud, either to yourself or to others. There are so many references to historical events, worldviews, and even proverbs that for me this peom quickly moved into the realm of utter brilliance. If you are unfamiliar with what is a copybook heading, please read this beforehand…otherwise this poem will make absolutely no sense to you and you will be forced out of your own ignorance to call me and Kipling both blathering idiots. The Gods of the Market Place does not refer to the Free Market (sorry, libs), but rather different governments and worldviews that lean more towards socialism interventionism, secular humanism, and other godless institutions. I will leave it to you, the reader, to discover Kipling’s intent of the Gods of the Copybook Headings.
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 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!