Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Farewell Kiss

It's a little early, since we have yet a month to endure them. And since those replacing them are already proclaiming their own intentions even before taking office, I'm not expecting them to bring a bright new day to the world, but enough for each day is its own evil. Then, too, it's not our job to banish evildoers from the world. We'll do a lot better than we have if we learn to obey Paul's instruction not to be partakers with them in their sins.

So how to see off the old fittingly, before we welcome the new for more of the same? I have no opportunity to throw shoes, and that's already been done anyway by one whose courage and clarity put me to shame. But this from Rudyard Kipling on the occasion of the siege of Kut in Iraq 90 years ago, in which the Ottoman army overcame a British invasion force, seems like a worthy sendoff to the Katrina Boys and the King Jehoram of our day, as he departs with no one's regret:

Mesopotamia 1917

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?

They shall not return to us, the strong men coldly slain
In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
Are they too strong and wise to put away?

Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide -
Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?

Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?
When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
By the favour and contrivance of their kind?

Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take counsel with their friends,
To confirm and re-establish each career?

Their lives cannot repay us - their death could not undo -
The shame that they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
Shall we leave it unabated in its place?


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