Rudyard Kipling on Gun Control

"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.'"

Rudyard Kipling, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" (1919). The full poem is about the perpetual folly of mankind in forsaking the elemental truths learned in school (the gods of copybook headings) in favor of seductive, but ultimately destructive, utopian teachings (the gods of the market place). For example,

"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.'"

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More Kipling on Gun Control and Other Matters:

Dave's post reminded me of an excerpt from Kipling's The Old Issue; Kipling is warning of what may happen if The Old King (the old absolutist monarch) returns. It's a great summary, I think, of a certain libertarian-conservative constitutionalism -- think, in U.S. terms, of the First (speech), Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments (due process), plus concerns about the surveillance state, high taxation, and interference with judicial independence -- with a dollop of slippery slope talk thrown in:

All we have of freedom, all we use or know --
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw --
Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

Till our fathers ’stablished, after bloody years,
How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

So they bought us freedom -- not at little cost
Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost,

Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed.

Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure.
Whining “He is weak and far”; crying “Time shall cure.”,

(Time himself is witness, till the battle joins,
Deeper strikes the rottenness in the people’s loins.) . . .

Here is naught unproven -- here is naught to learn.
It is written what shall fall if the King return.

He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom’s name.

He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms -- arms we may not bear.

He shall break his judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers ’neath our window, lest we mock the King --

Hate and all division; hosts of hurrying spies;
Money poured in secret, carrion breeding flies.

Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
These shall deal our Justice: sell -- deny -- delay.

We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse
For the Land we look to -- for the Tongue we use.

We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
While his hired captains jeer us in the street.

Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,
Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.

Sloven, sullen, savage, secret, uncontrolled,
Laying on a new land evil of the old --

Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain --
All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.

At the same time, whenever I quote Kipling's more libertarian words, I also have to recall his more communitarian ones, from The Law of the Jungle (special bonus for law geeks -- Chevron deference included!):
Now this is the Law of the Jungle -- as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. . . .

Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open, the word of the Head Wolf is Law.

Now these are the Laws of the jungle, and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is -- Obey!

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More Kipling on Gun Control and Other Matters:
  2. Rudyard Kipling on Gun Control
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