The Secret Key and Other Verses

Ode to the Philistines

George Essex Evans

            IN an age of Mammon and Greed,
                In an age of Humbug and Cant,
            Where Speech is greater than Deed
                In the reign of the sycophant,
Let us turn from the shameless lips that babble of things Divine,
And shout to the God we know not the Song of the Philistine!

            All hail, as you gather and pass
                From the mansion and counting-house,
            Men with a front of brass;
                Men with the soul of a mouse;
Men with the mark of the beast scored as deep on your brows unclean
As erst on the brows that quailed ’neath the scourge of the Nazarene.

            Six days shalt thou swindle and lie!
                On the seventh—tho’ it soundeth odd—
            In the odour of sanctity
                Thou shalt offer the Lord, thy God,
A threepenny bit, a doze, a start, and an unctuous smile,
And a hurried prayer to prosper another six days of guile.

            You have judged by the rich man’s rule!
                You have treated your thinkers as dust!
            You have honoured the braggart and fool
                Whilst Genius has starved on a crust!
For all that you ask to fit what you call “a man” for a place
Is a shallow heart, a noisy tongue, thick hide, and a brazen face.

            You have sold your daughters for gold!
                You have sold your honour for naught!
            And your creed is easily told—
                “All things can be offered and bought!”
And you thank the good Lord God in your pews, on your bended knees,
That you live in a cultured age—and do cultured things like these!

            In an age too enlightened and good
                To call any wrong by its name,
            Millions are crying for food,
                Millions are living in shame,
Millions of human hearts, as God knows if he sees and feels,
Lie bound by the System’s chains ’neath the crunch of the System’s wheels!

            You are slaves to custom and vogue!
                You are timid to speak or to move!
            You have worshipped the monied rogue!
                You are walled in your narrow groove!
And the men with the noblest hearts, who have aimed at the Highest Good,
You have trampled them under your feet—unheard and misunderstood!

            For the spirit of old remains
                That nailed the Christ to the tree;
            That brought Galileo to chains
                And Bruno to tragedy.
For the Philistine altereth not—unchanged since the world began
He has hindered the march of progress and murdered the thinking man.

            Take heed in your sordid pride!
                Take heed in your purse-born ease!
            For far o’er the world and wide
                Grows something greater than these,
And the throb of the vexed world’s heart no system shall cramp in thrall,
Till the joy and sorrow of each be the joy and sorrow of all.

            Lo, whoever shall stand and fight
                With the tongue, or the brain, or the pen,
            For a larger measure of Right
                For the mass of his fellow men,
He is nearer the unknown God than the chiefs of a priestly line,
His life is a deeper prayer than the cant of the Philistine.

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