Pertinent Poetry

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

Rudyard Kipling

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.

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.

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.

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 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.”

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.”

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.

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 bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Ozymandius

by: Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings,
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The Young British Soldier

When the 'arf-made recruity goes out to the East

'E acts like a babe an' 'e drinks like a beast,

An' 'e wonders because 'e is frequent deceased

   Ere 'e's fit for to serve as a soldier.

      Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,

      Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,

      Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,

         So-oldier OF the Queen!Now all you recruities what's drafted to-day,

You shut up your rag-box an' 'ark to my lay,

An' I'll sing you a soldier as far as I may:

   A soldier what's fit for a soldier.

      Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .

First mind you steer clear o' the grog-sellers' huts,

For they sell you Fixed Bay'nets that rots out your guts --

Ay, drink that 'ud eat the live steel from your butts --

   An' it's bad for the young British soldier.

      Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .

When the cholera comes -- as it will past a doubt --

Keep out of the wet and don't go on the shout,

For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,

   An' it crumples the young British soldier.

      Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .

But the worst o' your foes is the sun over'ead:

You must wear your 'elmet for all that is said:

If 'e finds you uncovered 'e'll knock you down dead,

   An' you'll die like a fool of a soldier.

      Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .

If you're cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,

Don't grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;

Be handy and civil, and then you will find

   That it's beer for the young British soldier.

      Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .

Now, if you must marry, take care she is old --

A troop-sergeant's widow's the nicest I'm told,

For beauty won't help if your rations is cold,

   Nor love ain't enough for a soldier.

      'Nough, 'nough, 'nough for a soldier . . .

If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath

To shoot when you catch 'em -- you'll swing, on my oath! --

Make 'im take 'er and keep 'er:  that's Hell for them both,

   An' you're shut o' the curse of a soldier.

      Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .

When first under fire an' you're wishful to duck,

Don't look nor take 'eed at the man that is struck,

Be thankful you're livin', and trust to your luck

   And march to your front like a soldier.

      Front, front, front like a soldier . . .

When 'arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,

Don't call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;

She's human as you are -- you treat her as sich,

   An' she'll fight for the young British soldier.

      Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .

When shakin' their bustles like ladies so fine,

The guns o' the enemy wheel into line,

Shoot low at the limbers an' don't mind the shine,

   For noise never startles the soldier.

      Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .

If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,

Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:

So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,

   And wait for supports like a soldier.

      Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,

And the women come out to cut up what remains,

Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

   An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

      Go, go, go like a soldier,

      Go, go, go like a soldier,

      Go, go, go like a soldier,

         So-oldier of the Queen!

For What It’s Worth

Buffalo Springfield

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

“Tommy”

by Rudyard Kipling

I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mr. Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy how’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints:
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;

While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind,”
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country,” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
But Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!