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The Gods Of The Copybook Headings Analysis

Author: Poetry of Rudyard Kipling Type: Poetry Views: 907

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,

I make my proper protestations 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 Gorilas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,

Being neither clud 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 worshiped the Gods of the Market Who promiced these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promiced 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 promiced the Fuller Life

(Which started by loving our neighbor 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 selective 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.'

The the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tounged wizards withdrew,

And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to belive 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 burn,

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


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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read it through the eyes of someone who lived through the Fabian Socialist movement in Europe. Google the image of the Fabian Socialist window at the London School Of Economics and then read this poem over again.

| Posted on 2013-10-13 | by a guest

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I'm sure everyone knows this. Copybooks were how children practiced their penmanship. At the heading of each page was a statement of moral truth that the child would copy. Those statements were to morals as gravity is to nature. You cannot avoid them and to disobey them will always bring disaster.
The "Gods of the Marketplace" are those political, cultural fads that are foisted on a gullible public. (think Obamacare) They promise something that, if taken in light of the moral of the copybook, will not work. The use of the term "Marketplace" is perfect because we are primed to believe the deception of these political or cultural lies because we have already been deceived by the power of money. Men sell their souls to accumulate what? Gold? an almost useless piece of metal? Or things that rust decay and fall to pieces?
In truth the "Gods of the Marketplace" are us. We worship ourselves we attribute some supernatural power to our ideas that, if they are clever enough we can create perpetual motion, or in other words overcome the Gods of the Copybook Headings.
This poem is reminding us we are only mortal and when we put our hand in the fire, no matter how much money is in our pocket, or how clever we are, or how many of us say it won't happen... our fingers will burn

| Posted on 2013-10-08 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2013-07-29 | by a guest

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it's a basic god vs. godless scenario.evolutionists vs. creationists. those that believe follow many false prophets while those that don't follow and worship themselves. history repeats time and again. society rises under faith, loses the faith and become lovers of themselves. only to fall to the whims of godless leaders that have no regard for human life. history is repeating now friends.

| Posted on 2013-07-06 | by a guest

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I don\'t think the \"Gods of the Marketplace\" have anything to do with capitalism or the stock market or banking in the context of the poem. I think they are the passing fads, the popular beliefs, the political promises and philosophical trends that people choose to believe based on wishful thinking and going along with the crowd, rather than beliefs based on looking at the facts of reality with a clear and honest eye. The \"Gods of the Copybook Headings\" are the accumulated wisdom based on the hard facts of reality, with no wishful thinking allowed, gathered from centuries of experience and distilled in clear statements of these universal and eternal truths.

| Posted on 2012-11-22 | by a guest

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Please4 note that line two should read \'prostrations\' rather than \'protestations\'.

| Posted on 2012-02-17 | by a guest

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The last line stumped me at first because I thought it meant the Copybook Gods were the antagonist. After looking up what is meant by \'copybook headings\' and then giving it another more careful read, I realized that the last line contains a concept that is incredibly relevant to discussions of religion, good/evil and the nature of man- the purpose of suffering. In our comfort and success we lose track of reality and we pull away from God when we pursue worldly concerns. Suffering calibrates us, trues us up, and brings us back to reality. When we have turned our backs on the Gods of the Copybook Headings, only terror and slaughter will wake us up.

| Posted on 2012-02-09 | by a guest

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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 Gorilas while we followed the March of Mankind.
This is an interesting verse (verse 2). Kipling may be undermining his own message here, since we have the gorillas still following the Gods of the Copy Book headings while mankind leaves them behind. And we know how that ended... anyone wish they were a gorilla?
Likewise with the tribe wiped of the icefield or the lights going out in Rome. Progress brings disasters. But the bigger disaster would be no progress. If we had stuck with the Gods of the Copy Book Headings we would sill be living in the trees with the gorillas. The fool\'s wabbling finger may have been burnt twice but it also points us to the stars.
We have to follow the Gods of the Market Place, follow our own path. We will suffer as a result but we will grow. Maybe that was Kiplings intent all along?

| Posted on 2012-01-15 | by a guest

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Wow, don\'t pull on it so hard to torture some socio-political prophetic statement out of it. Those who say \"its simple\" are correct - read the Kipling\'s \"Just So\" stories - he is plain and simple in putting forth his meaning in his writings. All this nonsense about Brittan’s politics and social system is unnecessary. The \"laws of the universe\" (Copybook Headings) are simple - so much so that one can be distracted by the flashy \"Market Place\" of ideas where all men attempt to \"rediscover\" Truth, or find that Truth that, supposedly none has known or seen before – a truth that will help them deny their limited creature nature and exalt them for their mental or physical or moral prowess. These ideas change and pass like women\'s clothing fashions. Lives built upon these fleeting ideas suffer the fearful (and in some cases destructive)realization that the old truths were the only Truth that deserved the name - the lives built upon these false and fleeting truths die, figuratively and possibly factually. The day of reckoning is guaranteed and cannot be avoided.
The only socio-political element is the inference that “Social Progress” – this constant following of the “market place” truths will end up with mankind justifying their own existence and loosing sight that they are “created beings” and therefore imperfect, or in moral terms , “sinful”. From that unfortunate vantage point, they have “progressed” to the point where their downfall is the only possible fate. The implication, then, is that those who build a life based on the truths of the Gods of the Copybook Headings will do wisely and avoid destruction. What is unclear is whether Kipling believed men capable of following the truths of the Gods of the Copybook Headings or whether he had a more cynical view of mankind and believed we are all meant to “learn the hard way” and return to them after having ignored them at our peril.

| Posted on 2011-07-27 | by a guest

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The last line is not a suggestion that The Gods of the Copybook Headings will bring \"Terror and Slaughter\" when they return. It is that they will arrive contemporaneously. Whatever form the terror and slaughter may take, their consequence will be the return of The Gods of the Copybook Headings (truth).

| Posted on 2011-07-01 | by a guest

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I think that this is the neverending story of humans. The Gods of the Market Place bring false hopes-lies- to the people i order to sell cheep ideas and fool the mass, only to destroy them in the end.They are kind of like that friend who really isn\'t a friend, but a moocher. Now, the Gods of the copybook Headings like the parents of rebellious childrren. they don\'t present pretty little lies, but the truth. The cold, hard truth. And then, When the unruly kids follow the lead of those bad friends, the Gods of the Copybook Headings are there to punish. And that is the only way we humans learn.

| Posted on 2011-04-14 | by a guest

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KISS! Copybook headings contained (mostly) objective truths... \"Water will certainly wet you\", \"Fire will burn\", \"There\'s no such thing as a free lunch\". Humans repeatedly try to ignore objective reality, calling it all \"relative\" or \"old-fashioned\". Hucksters get rich selling this snake oil. And ordinary folks end up paying the price. Again and again.

| Posted on 2010-12-23 | by a guest

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Think of it this way. From a point begin a spiral outward (gods of the marketplace), return to the
starting point and draw a sraight line outward
(gods of the copybook heading). There you have it!
The strainght and narrow and the spiral(out of control). I write poetry and it is obvious Kipling
was simply reminding the reader that man will always
try to remove himself from those truths that he cannot
control and that he will eventually fail.

| Posted on 2010-11-12 | by a guest

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What an interesting poem! It strikes me as more of a litmus test of the reader than anything else...
I don\'t think either set of \"gods\" is the right one. The Gods of the Market Place are those of ideological fashion, and in a sense, folly. People sieze on one ideological fashion or another for how to live, according to the time, and later abandon them when it turns out to not work well.
But the Gods of the Copybook Headings are not eternal truths, but rather, conditioned responses. They are blind appeals to authority without wisdom or discernment. These do endure longer than the Gods of the Market Place, but they are little better than the latter. Rather, the Gods of the Copybook Headings return when people\'s hopes are dashed (terror and slaughter) precisely because the copybook headings don\'t promise wonderful things.

| Posted on 2010-11-08 | by a guest

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Don\'t buy the false left-right dichotomy. BOTH parties are controlled by the same \"force.\" Liberal, conservative, democrat, republican; ALL of which are on the left of the political spectrum. Communists or nazis, both are/were progressive socialists. We need to turn back to traditionalism! Kings and queens were not near as harsh or despotic as we were all led to believe. They were our only protection from speculators and revolutionaries well financed and in worldwide collusion. They were the Gods of the Marketplace and sold us their bill of goods; greed, hatred and envy. Today the government taxes us much more than King George ever did. Although King George\'s forebears were simply a tool of the revolutionaries in the English civil war. Turn to God America, he dwells in the eastern orthodox church.

| Posted on 2010-11-08 | by a guest

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The last line reads as it does because the Gods of the Copybook Heading represent natural law, which isn\'t kind or not kind, good or evil necessarily, it simply is. The sea can be wonderful or terrible depending on how you interact with it. As far as robbing selective Peter to pay collective Paul, that deals with the isolation of a group (say, the \'rich\' or the Jews) to pay either financially or in blame for the expenses or sins of the rest.

| Posted on 2010-11-08 | by a guest

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its amazing how true these words can be almost a hundred years later its funny to me how even after murderers like hitler stalin pol pot mao hussein who promised collective salvation for the greater good there is still people who think that marx was right and that the free market is somehow evil because god for bid there is no one controlling the wealth and telling us who can rise and fall hey libs that is gods and natures law to determine and the second you can realize this the more you will see the flaw in social engineering remember these so called academics if thats what you want to call them also came up with gas chambers who do you think you are libs you are not and never will be god and even if you do not believe in god then you are also not nature no mater how much you try to control natures production i.e. global warming fascists do us all a favor you and george soros go buy a rather large island and move away from us freedom loving god worshiping family oriented real humans and you can do all the social progression you want call us in about a hundred years and tell us how your doing (if your still exist after all you will probably eat each other because hey no one should have to work and if some ones hungry well eat someone its for the greater good after all) or just for once just be honest what is so horrible about telling one your views and letting us decide if we like them or not thats the difference between conservatives and socialists you lie to get your results because hey the ends justify the means (is that right hitler?) and we conservatives must rely on the truth because ....oh ya theres that god thing again and that darn family oriented thing again we actually care about real facts and how our actions may affect the future you just care about can theory that you studied under some marxist professor really worked.

| Posted on 2010-10-11 | by a guest

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This is so simple! This poem tells us how as cultures we fall for false prophets, false promises, lose our faith, become bedazzled by governing forces. It also reinforces that whether you call it socialism or progressive, it never ever works, and ultimately leads to communism, which ALWAYS ultimately leads to death and destruction. Are people that stupid to think that your government should be responsible for you? Capitalism: a system of reaping what you sow is the only success. Each generation has had this happen, under the guise of a different individual, or a different name. Think Hitler=Communism. Mussolini=Facism. Obama=Progressive. The theory is as old as time itself. It always ends badly, with a corrupt government controlling the people it cajoled while calling them idiots behind their back, controlling their income, food dollar, living locale, and worst of all, pushing re-distribution of wealth.
--Sorry for the rambling post, but this hit home.

| Posted on 2010-10-08 | by a guest

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The most amazing thing about the posts are the completely opposed understanding of the various posters. Clearly the Copybook Gods are the homely homilies of truth and reality of the nature of mankind and the world. People find these uninspiring after a time and are deluded and seduced by the exciting Gods of the Marketplace (not the free