The letter from George Rose headlined “Syllabus for a crash course in compassion” (Herald, Nov. 11) was excellent!
The one improvement I suggest is that the title of Kipling’s poem be corrected. Wikipedia has it incorrect as “The Gods of the Copybook Headings.” That shocked me, for when I was a child in the 1920s, my dad and I enjoyed this poem. Its last stanza was:
“And when all this is accomplished
“and the brave new world begins,
“Where each man insists on his merits,
“And no man desists from his sins,
“then as surely as water will wet us,
“as surely as fire will burn.
“the gods of the copybook maxims
“with terms and slaughters return.”
The word “maxims” emphasizes the social and moral tinge, and assumed that readers knew what copybooks were. Some later reader changed that word to “headings,” which explains “copybooks” and “maxims” to readers but loses the socio-moral punch.
Wikipedia has a few other changes from Kipling’s original that have been made through the decades, less important than the above.
Rose’s selection of examples for his “crash course in compassion” is great! His 10th example, Kipling’s poem “If,” he calls an Ode to Obama, speaking directly to Obama.
I like to alter Kipling’s words from “If you can,” and begin each line with “Can you?” ending with a question mark. That gives us a punch with each line!