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The Age of Reason

Whene'er I read some savage tale
Of punishment devised
By tyrants in an olden day,
When serfs were victimised,
I reverently tell myself:
'Thank God, we're civilised!'

Thank God, those idols, grimmer far
Than gods of wood or stone,
Unthinking Hate and brute Revenge,
With all the seeds they've sown,
Are cast to earth, and Reason sits
With Mercy on the throne.

Calm Reason sits upon the throne
And fashions righteous laws,
And in our blessed Age of Light
It ever bids us pause
And, ere we plan the remedy,
Unearth the Primal Cause.

It seeks not, in a brutish rage,
To flog the witless fool;
The rack, the pillory are gone,
The witches' ducking stool;
And Reason builds no gallows for
Heredity's poor tool.

'Reform lies not in punishment!'
So saith the modern sage.
'No remedy for evil holds
Blind Hate or Savage Rage.
The whipping-post, the darkened cell
Are of a darkre age.'

So Reason saith; so Mercy saith;
And, having said, withdraw.
(O brothers in this Noble Age
That there should be a flaw!)
And to the vacant throne there steps
The thing men call the Law.

The Law devised by kings long-dead
And superstitious priests,
Whose code considered but revenge,
With bloody rites and feasts
The ancient Law, bequeathed by men
Scarce risen from the beasts.

But e'en before such kings and priests
Infested our poor earth,
Long ages ere some bleeding wretch
Excited their loud mirth,
A thing, half man, with crooked brain,
It chanced, was given birth.

And lo! this thing begat him sons,
And their sons sons again.
And on and on, till sturdier
And cleaner grew the strain.
Till in the breed, for many an age,
The taint had dormant lain.

For countless ages it, mayhap,
The fatal taint had missed,
Till, in our day, a babe was born
With some strange mental twist.
A thing for all men's sympathy
A foredoomed atavist.

And that he sinned against our code
And harmed a fellow-man
(Lord knows what Nature is about
To work on such a plan!)
Lo, he is seized on by the Law
And placed beneath the ban!

And what has reason now to say,
Chief of our modern gods?
And Mercy? 'Keep the man apart,
But harm not such poor clods?'
'Nay,' saith the Law, 'we'll truss him up
And scourge his back with rods!'

And so they take the last poor son
Of all that tainted host,
And try to exorcise the taint
There at the whipping-post.
This is the Age of Reason, friends!
It is our proudest boast.

And what of those great men on high
Who said this thing should be?
What of the Law's high officers
Who voiced the brute decree?
Shall such ones not become the mark
For scornful obloquy?

Nay, gentle brothers, blame them not
Blame is the whip of fools
For here again we mark in them
Heredity's poor tools,
The eld rings with their sires' demand,
Calling for ducking stools.

And so, when all is said and done,
We end where we began.
We must leave Nature to proceed
With her age-honored plan.
E'en I who speak may be the son
Of some strange-fashioned man.

Because he had a twisted form
A man of old was slain;
They flog him in our Age of Light
For his poor twisted brain;
And, 'spite my words, the chances are
They'll do the same again.

Still, when I read some savage tale
Of punishment devised
By tyrants of an olden day,
When serfs were victimised,
I feel it in my heart to say
'Thank God, we're civilised.'

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis

Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis, better known as C. J. Dennis, was an Australian poet known for his humorous poems, especially "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke", published in the early 20th century. Though Dennis's work is less well known today, his 1915 publication of The Sentimental Bloke sold 65,000 copies in its first year, and by 1917 he was the most prosperous poet in Australian history. Together with Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, both of whom he had collaborated with, he is often considered among Australia's three most famous poets. While attributed to Lawson by 1911, Dennis later claimed he himself was the 'laureate of the larrikin'. When he died at the age of 61, the Prime Minister of Australia Joseph Lyons suggested he was destined to be remembered as the 'Australian Robert Burns'. more…

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