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The Gods Of The Copybook Headings Analysis

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

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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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| Posted on 2017-03-08 | by a guest

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An earlier poster nailed it. This was Kipling's warning to us about the ills of socialism, as promoted by the Fabian Society. As stated, it is the God-believing vs. the Godless and the retribution that will come when the Godless have completely taken over and you refuse to abide by their edicts. It explains how they will try to sell us on the good of socialism, only to later reveal their true self with blatant communism - "if you don't work you die." Yes, this was a warning that does not require difficult interpretation. Kipling later commented this was precisely what he was talking about.

| Posted on 2016-07-06 | by a guest

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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 Brittans 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 market place of today\'s capitalism) the market place of seductive ideas such as utopias sold by socialists and marxists and progressives, all known by Kipling. Clearly these seductive ideas lead to ruin in his poem. The final line shows that the slaughter and horror comes and of course the Gods of the Copy Book headings has to return with the unhappy outcomes of following the seductive and unreal ideas. The God\'s of Copy book headings do not bring about the slaughter and terror, they just come as a return to reality of the nature of man and of God\'s creation returns to the those who have followed foolish ideas. He sees this as a unbreakable cycle, I, presonally am hopeful in the end mankind can see the beauty in the eternal truths as human consciousness rises. Another copybook heading: \"God is Good\".

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

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Seek to know the Truth, and It shall set you free.

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

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I think a few people are confused about the last line \"The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!\" Before this, Kipling is talking about the cycle that seems to come full circle. When we stop believing in eternal truths and are led away by the promises of an easy life by those who would wish to rule us, then comes the end of the cycle: terror and slaughter return. That is when we, with nowhere else to turn, will turn to the greater truths which are represented by the Gods of the Copybook Headings. It is not that the Gods of the Copybook headings are going to BRING terror and slaughter, it is that we will eventually RETURN to eternal truths only after terror and slaughter are turned on us! That is the completion of the cycle. When we give up everything because we\'ve been enticed by an easy life, one with no hard work or morals (just turn everything over to these great leaders who want nothing more than your collective happiness), that is when terror and slaughter eventually come because we have given up our freedom and our voice and have stopped listening to the eternal truths. When that happens, we will then return to those eternal truths (they will return). When we have nowhere else to turn, we will turn to God - they are His truths. It is too bad that the cycle seems to go this way. We start out listening to eternal truths, then we prosper, we start to get lazy, start to think that we (our thinking or reasoning) is better than the old-fashioned eternal truths, and that is when we start to suffer. When we have suffered greatly, we then return to those eternal truths. If we could only see the cycle before it completes, we could save ourselves so much anguish. Perhaps that is what Kipling is warning us about -- whether this is applied to politics and our freedoms we enjoy, or our own internal struggles and cycles, it all applies...

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

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A comment on posting of 2010.10.07 \"Beware of wolves in sheeps\' clothing\" - yes -definitely this poem is a reference to Fabian Socialism, the new darling of Kipling\'s time andcan be applied to the progressives progress in ours.

| Posted on 2010-10-07 | by a guest

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Given the varied interpretations (see above) I\'d say that the \"Gods of the copybook headings\" is still illustrating the sheep like nature of man. Beware of wolves in sheeps clothing say I and think, think for yourself.

| Posted on 2010-10-07 | by a guest

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Defy common sense, and liberty in the name of overcomming the woes that come with it (with power comes responsibility), and go chasing pipe dreams created by men to solve the problems of MAN, in place of GOD, and inevitably you wind up in what history shows us has always been the \"darker times\" created by a collective sense of entitlement which in turn creates a broken economic system, followed by the rise of individuals who feel they have a \"responsibility\" to rise up and protect the masses from all of the chaos that ensues.
Ultimately those individuals, even those with the best of intentions in the beginning, wind up with a \"God complex\" and usually bring terror, and slaughter, in the name of the \"greater good\" for mankind.
Awesome poem, thanks Glenn Beck.

| Posted on 2010-10-07 | by a guest

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It\'s really very simple...Take God (simple ageless truth)out of society and man is left to his own devices.And historically that is never very pretty because greed and perversion rule the day.This poem should be posted in every classroom in America.

| Posted on 2010-10-07 | by a guest

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Said the young lady to her ne\'er–do–well acquaintance,
\"Sir, do you like Kipling?\" To which he replied, \"Why, I don\'t know, my dear, I\'ve never Kipled.\"
Well, I\'ve \'Kipled\' and he has politics condensed into a nutshell. Forget the past and suffer the future.

| Posted on 2010-10-07 | by a guest

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to understand the poem you should look at the copybooks from that time (example Palmer 1895) that Kipling would have likely used.
You will find things like: 1 Beauty and wealth may pass away but truth can never die, 2 It is better to be an honest begger than a rich knave, love one another,3 love of gain is the root of evil, 4 If you have done what is right you generally succeed in your business, 5 give us this day our daily bread, 6 the world is full of good if our eyes are open to see it,

| Posted on 2010-10-07 | by a guest

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I enjoy discussing politics and religion as much as anyone else on this post. But in a more general (non-biased) sense, I think is that the “Gods of the Market Place” are a reference to the whims of human nature, drawn to extremes (both Right & Left) by the simple selfish desire for pleasure and comfort. Either extreme will end in self (and societal) destruction. The “Gods of the Copybook Headings” are the inescapable truths of the physical universe into which we’ve been born (the rational, logical, mathematical...and unfeeling...world). The latter will always win out in the end.

| Posted on 2010-09-22 | by a guest

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\"The Ten x Truths\" ( see above).
\"Common (not so common) Sense!\" (see above)
\"Man will continue to repeat the same mistakes \" (see Santiana), Not Carlos! (He\'s a commie, though he plays a great guitar).
God what a great poem! It touches everything. From Audaltery and slavery to gun control and self defense. From stupidity and ignorance to war and injustice .... all the human vices and the abandonment of all the virtues, and then finding them again. The circle of folly and brillance of Man.
This is a poem of \"Lost Morality\" and how it will come to visit us again, whether we like it or not! It speaks of the \"Age\'s\" of humanity and it\'s ignorance, . and it\'s glory!
Anything that we do that takes us away from God is evil.
That doesn\'t leave us much to do.

| Posted on 2010-09-21 | by a guest

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This is a far darker work than I first thought and it was written by someone that was arguably part of the English elite that ruled the bulk of the world (with their cousins and/or pawns ruling the rest).
This is not an analysis of socialism/communism per say, but a quick history and future of the human race. Let me explain...
Kipling\'s narrator looks over his various incarnations over the history of humanity, each subservient to a economic system. All governments and civilizations revolve around an economic system, and I mean economics in the broadest sense of the word (population control, social management of resources, religion organizations, and even war are economics or economic factors if viewed objectively). But the \"Gods of the Copybook Headings\" outlast them all.
But who or what are \"The Gods of the Copybook Headings\"? Copybooks were used in Kipling\'s time by school children to learn penmanship by copying sayings and proverbs (truisms and other tips for being a good citizen). The \"secondary\" purpose of the copybooks was what Kipling was referring to in the context of this poem. Repetition is a powerful tool for learning, or more properly put, conditioning (Pavlovian Style). Through repetition we can absorb concepts or behaviors, making them reflexive and automatic. Learning through repetition is meant to BYPASS CONSCIOUS THOUGHT, it builds reflexive reactions not responses born of critical analysis of the stimulus. Aldous Huxley who paid homage to both Shakespeare and Kipling in the title of his book, \"Brave New World\", explained how sleep-learning had proved useless for teaching new skills requiring conscious thought, but was quite useful to inject a sort of cultural-conditioning through \"osmosis\". Putting thought-terminating cliches, slogans, and twisted little maxims directly into the sub-conscious. This is an extreme example, but there are more subtle examples of cultural conditioning and predictive programming all around us (if you choose to look).
\"The Gods of the Copybook Headings\" are the ones that hand down the cultural conditioning that gives us our collective subjective reality. They are the masters of mass psychology that play the peoples of the world like a fiddle and have grown unimaginably rich in the process. The duty of guiding the sheep is passed from one generation to the next, from \"Good Shepard\" to \"Good Shepard\". They are the ones that pay squads of \"Think-Tanks\" to predict the future path of humanity, for as the all-too-true saying goes \"Culture is handed down from above\".
Why do you think that it has been declassified that the CIA funded Gloria Steinem and the Women\'s Liberation Movement?
Why do you think that limousines were spotted dumping garbage bags full of Acid to college campuses and other things that started the Hippy Craze and the New Age Movement?
Why do you think the Warren Commission was headed by a Wall Street Banker? Are the heads of the country\'s largest banks qualified to investigate the assassination of a president?
Why are we force fed facts in school through rote memorization instead of learning to observe our world with a critical eye?
The plan is hundreds, if not thousands, of years old... We live in a Matrix, an cultural illusion that is what Plato was really talking about in his parable of \"The Cave\".
Read through the poem again, and imagine the world Aldous Huxley told us about...
The \"Brave New World\" is at x

| Posted on 2010-09-14 | by a guest

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\"Marketplace\" is not meant to represent the freemarket in this poem. The \"marketplace\" was where people gathered and interacted. The gods of the marketplace are man made philosophies. The gods of the copybook are eternal truths. This is not about the virtue of the free market over socialism. This about the folly of ignoring common sense. Man\'s pride will invite \"terror and slaughter.\" Progressives who think they can reinvent the world and overule God\'s laws will return us to ruin like a \"Dog returns to his Vomit.\"

| Posted on 2010-08-16 | by a guest

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The Gods of the copybook headings refer to those which dictate what should be on the copybook headings. This is how socialists began to indoctrinate the youth. Kipling was warning that social progress (social justice, or socialism) always ends in collapse. Rome collapsed when it went from a Republic to a democracy. Democracy in its purest form is rule by the masses what is best for the collective. The Gods of the marketplace are those that provide the jobs, in essence it is capitalism. Under capitalism anything is possible even pigs with wings. When the Gods of the copybook headings take control all men are paid for existence i.e. welfare and no man must pay for his sins i.e. bailouts. When Kipling lived he saw this first hand and this poem was a warning to all of us because he knew that the burnt fools bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the fire. We in America broke free from Britain because we did not want to live under this form of government but now over 200 years later we are heading right back to where we started.

| Posted on 2010-07-27 | by a guest

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As a songwriter I can say from experience that what my lyrics mean and what they mean to a listener will completely differ. Each of us sees meaning from the time/space we occupy at that instant of experience. With that said, The meaning of this inspiritional work has changed for me at various times I read it.
The Copybook headings being proverbs and axioms we have heard from childhood, The Gods of the Copybook headings become their creators whose ultimate goal revolves around passing along wisdom (or eternal truths). If the marketplace represents commercialism, the Gods of the Marketplace (in modern times) becomes the Corporate Sponsers whose major concern is selling their product, even if it means using proverbs and axioms to do it.
My first reading was done with no proior knowedge of the author or even what a copybook was. What stuck most in my mind was the unfinished proverb: As a dog returns to his vomit (So a fool returns to his folly).
Reguardless, the overall "feeling" I got with the first reading still holds true: Don't trust those are attemting to sell you something, especially if its from a political or religious podium.
I find it disturbing (and hilarious) that Glen Beck would use such a twisted view of the work to sell a book.

| Posted on 2010-07-11 | by a guest

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Poetry 172
Poetry 106
Poetry 19
Poetry 132
Poetry 6
Poetry 196
Poetry 25
Poetry 28
Poetry 16
Poetry 207
Poetry 134