Monday, November 11, 2013

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

I'm currently reading Don't Count on It! by John C. Bogle (see sidebar), one of the inventors of the index mutual fund.

The introduction has a quote I really like from a Rudyard Kipling poem. I hope I am not insulting you by mentioning that a copybook was a notebook used to teach penmanship in the 19th century. The student might copy important passages and quotations from classical literature to demonstrate his/her handwriting skills.
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through relevant fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place ...
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
 I'm not sure what "relevant fingers" are, but anyone with pretensions of valuing the study of history can understand where Kipling is coming from.

1 comment:

Virginia Ted said...

I appreciate the quotation marks Bogle puts around "Mutual" funds in the title of his book. Haven't read it, but I'm a convert of his from way back. He was the soul of Vanguard back in the day. Could be a little cranky from time to time, though.