Most Englishmen have no problem in meeting with with Triumph and Disaster, and are fully aware not only that the female of the species is more deadly than the male, but also that East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. Few realise, though, that some of Kipling's seemingly high-flown pronouncements are actually ironic or even sarcastic.
A poem he wrote in 1919 is called The Gods of the Copybook Headings. Hardly anyone nowadays has any idea what the title means; you will have to look here if you want to find out what a copybook is, and even then it is not easy to understand exactly what the sly old devil is saying. It could be that he is making a plea for common sense, but perhaps he is pouring scorn on traditional values.
One verse has given us a colourful image in its third line:
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
But there is a reason why I have been reminded of these fusty old verses. Let us, holding our noses, turn to the paranoid commentator Glenn Beck, conspiracy theorist, rabble-rouser and darling of Fox News and the loony right. He used the last two verses of the poem in a video trailer and read the entire poem except the final lines on air in his broadcast on October 7, 2010, making an attempt to explain it in terms of today's politics and his own beliefs.
If, on November 6th, one of the possibilities facing the US is realised, he will have a powerful friend: Glenn Beck is a Mormon.