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The Gods Of The Copybook Headings

Rudyard Kipling 1865 (Mumbai) – 1936 (London)



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 Gorilas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither clud 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 worshiped the Gods of the Market Who promiced these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promiced 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 promiced 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 selective 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.'

The the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tounged wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to belive 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!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:34 min read
16,163

Quick analysis:

Scheme AABB CCDD AAXX EEFF GGHH IIXX BBJJ KKLL MMXXNNCC
Characters 2,740
Words 515
Stanzas 9
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 8

Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist chiefly remembered for his tales and poems of British soldiers in India and his tales for children. more…

All Rudyard Kipling poems | Rudyard Kipling Books

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1 Comment
  • mikew.23321
    There are several typos and spelling errors in this copy. "Clud" and "Promice" are two notable ones.
    LikeReplyReport 19 months ago

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"The Gods Of The Copybook Headings" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 5 Feb. 2023. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/33442/the-gods-of-the-copybook-headings>.

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