Monday, December 01, 2008

The Rubaiyat of Gordon Brown

This Kipling parody of the Khayyam/Fitzgerald masterpiece was written for Sir Auckland Colvin, an Anglo-Indian financial administrator who found his Government a bit short of the readies :

In January 1886 he converted some annual licence duties in certain provinces into a general tax on non-agricultural incomes in excess of Rs. 500 per annum. This unpopular proceeding was immortalised in Kipling's Departmental Ditties by The Rupaiyat of Omar Kalvin, which represents the finance member as plying the begging-bowl among his European countrymen.

But doesn't it remind you of our Glorious Leader, Omar Brown - another one "Who hath not Prudence" ?

Now the New Year, reviving last Year's Debt,
The Thoughtful Fisher casteth wide his Net;
So I with begging Dish and ready Tongue
Assail all Men for all that I can get.

Imports indeed are gone with all their Dues--
Lo! Salt a Lever that I dare not use,
Nor may I ask the Tillers in Bengal--
Surely my Kith and Kin will not refuse!

Pay--and I promise by the Dust of Spring,
Retrenchment. If my promises can bring
Comfort, Ye have Them now a thousandfold--
By Allah! I will promise Anything!

Indeed, indeed, Retrenchment oft before
I swore--but did I mean it when I swore?
And then, and then, We wandered to the Hills,
And so the Little Less became Much More.

Whether a Boileaugunge or Babylon,
I know not how the wretched Thing is done,
The Items of Receipt grow surely small;
The Items of Expense mount one by one.

I cannot help it. What have I to do
With One and Five, or Four, or Three, or Two?
Let Scribes spit Blood and Sulphur as they please,
Or Statesmen call me foolish--Heed not you.

Behold, I promise--Anything You will.
Behold, I greet you with an empty Till--
Ah! Fellow-Sinners, of your Charity
Seek not the Reason of the Dearth, but fill.

For if I sinned and fell, where lies the Gain
Of Knowledge? Would it ease you of your Pain
To know the tangled Threads of Revenue,
I ravel deeper in a hopeless Skein?

"Who hath not Prudence"--what was it I said,
Of Her who paints her Eyes and tires Her Head,
And gibes and mocks the People in the Street,
And fawns upon them for Her thriftless Bread?

Accursed is She of Eve's daughters--She
Hath cast off Prudence, and Her End shall be
Destruction . . . Brethren, of your Bounty
Some portion of your daily Bread to Me !

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