Jul 30, 2006

Copybook Headings

I've written previously about my spiritual grandmother, Lucy, who liked some of the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. Lucy was particularly fond of Kipling's Gods of the Copybook Headings, a strangely prophetic poem written in 1911. The term Copybook Headings refers to the sayings and universal truths that were printed on student writing pads and school books of a hundred years ago.

In his short poem (40 lines), Kipling was able to foresee our present society better than any science fiction writer I know--pacifism, sexual revolution, entitlements, etc. Kipling made it clear--violate the copybook headings that forbids such things and a society or civilization is destroyed.
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 last four lines of the poem seems surely meant for our times--
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.
Where can you find the copybook headings--the synthesis of human wisdom? Why not start with the Book of Wisdom in the Old Testament?

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