August 14, 2014

Poetry Corner

  This evening, my friend BOB! and I were discussing...current events ...when suddenly he broke into verse (as he is occasionally wont to do). He thus summed up the situation perfectly.

"Please don't let this be about politics...or Kipling." 

Fear not gentle readers....We'll put it below the fold. 
A Servant When he Reigneth 

Three things make earth unquiet

And four she cannot brook
The godly Agur counted them
And put them in a book --
Those Four Tremendous Curses
With which mankind is cursed;
But a Servant when He Reigneth
Old Agur entered first.
An Handmaid that is Mistress
We need not call upon.
A Fool when he is full of Meat
Will fall asleep anon.
An Odious Woman Married
May bear a babe and mend;
But a Servant when He Reigneth
Is Confusion to the end.

His feet are swift to tumult,
His hands are slow to toil,
His ears are deaf to reason,
His lips are loud in broil.
He knows no use for power
Except to show his might.
He gives no heed to judgment
Unless it prove him right.

Because he served a master
Before his Kingship came,
And hid in all disaster
Behind his master's name,
So, when his Folly opens
The unnecessary hells,
A Servant when He Reigneth
Throws the blame on some one else.

His vows are lightly spoken,
His faith is hard to bind,
His trust is easy boken,
He fears his fellow-kind.
The nearest mob will move him
To break the pledge he gave --
Oh, a Servant when he Reigneth
Is more than ever slave! 

Another Kipling poem has gotten a lot of discussion over the last two years, but The Gods of the Copybook Headings deals with broad trends and human nature. This one however, seems frighteningly specific. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 01:56 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 300 words, total size 16 kb.

1 "What's wrong with Kipling"
"Depends on who is being Kippled."

Posted by: Mauser at Thu Aug 14 04:01:41 2014 (TJ7ih)

2 I've never understood what "the Gods of the Copybook Headings" refers to.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Thu Aug 14 20:50:30 2014 (+rSRq)

3 Lots of copybooks, back in the day when handwriting was something you were expected to pick up on your own, had "headings" (the handwriting you were copying) which were proverbs or maxims. "If you write down a moral statement five hundred times, maybe it will take," was the thinking. So, basically, a shorthand for "the sorts of moral lessons that were expected to be learned by children by rote"...

I happen to favor MacDonough's Song myself.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Thu Aug 14 21:17:36 2014 (zJsIy)

4 Many years ago schools in England had what were called copybooks. These were used to teach penmanship and had in addition to their text, many blank (but lined) pages. The printed pages usually contained bits of wisdom from philosophers, the Bible and great historical figures from around the world. The idea was that one would copy the quotes on the blank pages to practice proper penmanship and hopefully gain some of the wisdom in the words via 'osmosis' after copying said phrases innumerable times.  

Copybooks fell out of favor in the US in the 20s or 30s but were still in use in the UK in the 1960s (Bill Whittle has mentioned that he was beset by them when he was growing up in the Bahamas). 
The poem refers to a fellow going back in time through all of his previous incarnations and noting the great truths that are often discarded as passe or no longer applicable by utopians but inevitably come back to bite the societies that do not heed them.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Thu Aug 14 21:35:48 2014 (DnAJl)

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