Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Go Search that Splendour of Decay

 Ballade of Moderns
by G. K. Chesterton 

 On deserts red and deserts grey
The temples into sand have slid;
Go search that splendour of decay
To find the final secret hid
In mummies' painted coffin-lid
In hieroglyphs of hunt and play.
Read the last word, my cultured kid,
They all were moderns in their day. 

 Yes, it was just as bold and gay
To do what Astoreth forbad.
Yes, it was smart to carve in clay
And chic to build a pyramid.
Yes, Babylonian boys were chid
For reading hieroglyphs risqué.
We do but as our fathers did --
They all were moderns in their day. 

 There are progressives who passed away
And prigs of whom the world is rid,
And there are men in hell today
As silly as old Ben Kidd;
And Webb (whose uncle calls him Sid),
God made him with the flowers of May,
And the blind stones he walked amid.
They all were moderns in their day. 


 Prince, still the soul stands virgin; "quid
Times"; we tear some rags away
But shall we grasp her; God forbid.
They all were moderns in their day.

This pairs well with the previous quotation from "On Reading". Benjamin Kidd was an immensely popular sociologist who authored Social Evolution, one of the bestselling works of Social Darwinism. Part of the reason for his popularity was that he was anti-socialist and held that religion had a small but definitely positive contribution to the evolution of society. Sidney Webb was a socialist and Fabian who later became notorious for his enthusiastic evaluation of Stalinism.