Sunday, January 30, 2011

Our Moment of Culture

Yesterday I read a Kipling short story I'd never read before, called Easy as A B C.

It's an amusing little tale, I recommend it while not suggesting it'll change your life in any meaningful way. But it did finally help me understand one of his angrier-sounding poems, that I can't really say I'd ever understood before.  Turns out the poem is part of the story. 

McDonough's Song

Whether the State can loose and bind
  In Heaven as well as on Earth:
If it be wiser to kill mankind
  Before or after the birth--
These are matters of high concern
  Where State-kept schoolmen are;
But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
  Endeth in Holy War.

Whether The People be led by The Lord,
  Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
  Or cheaper to die by vote--
These are things we have dealt with once,
  (And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
  Endeth in wholly Slave.

Whatsoever, for any cause,
  Seeketh to take or give
Power above or beyond the Laws,
  Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King--
  Or Holy People's Will--
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
  Order the guns and kill!

Once there was The People--Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth
Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, 0 ye slain!
Once there was The People--it shall never be again!

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