Epitaph for America

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I have never been a fan of Rudyard Kipling, but he did get things right once or twice, as in his 1919 poem “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 . . . 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.

10:16 am on September 19, 2008