First, what is a copybook?
Back in the day, when handwriting was valued, copybooks were used to practice penmanship. To elevate your thinking, the copybooks had proverbs, quotations, and pithy sayings as headings on each page. The headings were copied to practice, and the sayings were committed to memory.
Wouldn’t this be a great way to memorize Scripture? I may try making my own copybooks with Scripture verses I’d like to commit to memory. But I digress…
Rudyard Kipling wrote the “Gods of the Copybook Headings” in 1919 after the horrific Great War as a commentary on the degradation of society.*
I contend that his Gods have returned in 2020.
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.
The author reveals that he is reincarnated throughout time observing the requirements of the Gods of the Market Place, but observing the longevity of the Gods of the Copybook Headings.
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.
The WISDOM of the Gods of the Copybook Headings elevated us to the status of modern 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.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings refused to disappear, and the smell of their undeniable truth was detected when news of finality came from far-off places.
The smell of Molotov cocktails and the smell of death in CHAZ/CHOP remind us that the Gods of the Copybook Headings are still stalking mankind’s dreams.
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.
The Gods of the Market Place in our time tell us that the past is evil and needs to be erased, forgotten, and “worked against”. The author uses unfamiliar beautiful things promised by the 1919 Gods of the Market Place, but modern promises of beautiful things include a society free of police, free from racism, with free healthcare, free education, free living expenses, free housing, free of violence, free of guns, and free of the need for borders, free from military spending, free, free, free…
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.”
No place better illustrates this than the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle. They wanted a place with no police (the no-cop coop), and immediately an armed militia with no accountability, no due process, no civil protections rose up.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings said “Stick to the police and civil authorities”, “Make change within the system or else, you may get a might-makes-right protection racket”. In Kipling’s words, “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.”
The author focuses on adultery as the example of sexual sin in his day. One wonders what his brilliant pen would write today.
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.”
One of the most timeless of his stanzas identifies the constant drum beat of Socialism. Margaret Thatcher summarized this very well, “The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” The other problem with Socialism is that it has been tried, and it destroys lives.
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.
This is hopeful. Have the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to us to explain basic truths? Society hasn’t accepted these truths as a whole, but individuals are waking up.
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 wobbling 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!
Some of these verses remind me of Ecclesiastes.
9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. [Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV]
1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV]
12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his work–this is God’s gift to man. [Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 ESV]
– King Solomon
11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then^ face to face. [1 Corinthians 13:11-12 ESV] (^upon our final reunion with God)
Pray to God to open our eyes to see past the lies of the Gods of the Market Place.
*Rudyard Kipling’s “Gods of the Copybook Headings”, Sunday Pictorial of London, October 26, 1919
So why a Copybook? I am not certain I wrangled all that is in that image. Well done.
Question about apologia in specific. You are commenting on socialism and sexual sin etc. I usually tried to hold only to Christ apart from “named sins” and issues. Too limited?
D. L. Williams said:
Thanks for the catch on the image. I placed it in the post rather than leave it as a featured image. Apparently, the featured image is not always featured.
More substantively regarding my focus on sin or specific sins, this was the tack Kipling was taking in his poem and I thought his examples were profound and applied to many specific examples today.
My thoughts and writing are a difficult balance of Titus 1:7-9a vs Titus 1:9b-11.
Paul also got very specific in 1 Corinthians. So much so he was apologetic for his harshness in 2 Corinthians.
I appreciate being cautioned. I’m no Paul, obviously, and if he struggled with the balance of Law and Gospel, then I’m sure to struggle.
If we say Jesus Saves, should we not also be ready to say what he saves us from? Providing gentle and respectful evidence of the rebellion of mankind against their savior and Lord is part of the package.
22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. [Jude 1:22-25 ESV]