Gods of the the Copybook Headings

This poem by Rudyard Kipling is a wonderful comment on Romans 1:18-1:32.  Alternatively, it is a terrible comment on the nature of humanity and the wrath of God.  Kipling describes his "Gods of the Copybook Headings" as the gods who of eternal, immutable law.  These "gods" and this law cannot be escaped and will brutally make what corrections are necessary to bring humanity back into some kind of conformity.

The human project is to free itself from this bondage and to rise above to a greater nobility.  It is necessarily a vain enterprise.  Freedom is not an option.  As Kipling describes, the dog returns to his vomit and the sow to her mire, and "the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire."  We are bound to such foolishness because rising to greater nobility or at least aspiring to freedom is what we actually want to do; we are bound to do it.  And it always ends in the same place.  Death.

Kipling understands the law very well.  It is unfortunate that he does not know the gospel.  For right where the law ends, death, is where Jesus Christ goes.  With his own crucifixion he puts death to death. The Gods of the Copybook Headings, that is to say, the God of wrath, inexplicably reveals himself in the person of his son in order that freedom might be declared.  But just as there is no question of avoiding the wrath nor rising to a higher nobility, so also there is no question of laying claim to this freedom.  For that would only be to cobble together another god of the marketplace, a god whom we find on our own terms.  No, the only thing for us is to be put to death so that the striving ends.  And then to have that freedom of Jesus Christ declared to us.

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.'

Then 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!