June 24th, 2014

Sword, sorcery, and The Dykes

Richard Fernandez has written another great great article. Probably one of his best, and that’s saying something.

Someone in the comments section there made reference to this 1902 Kipling poem which I’d never even seen before. I was impressed enough by the theme and its appropriateness (“We were born to peace in the lee of the dykes, but the time of our peace is past”) that I’m reproducing it here:


We have no heart for the fishing, we have no hand for the oar–
All that our fathers taught us of old pleases us now no more;
All that our own hearts bid us believe we doubt where we do not deny–
There is no proof in the bread we eat or rest in the toil we ply.

Look you, our foreshore stretches far through sea-gate, dyke, and groin–
Made land all, that our fathers made, where the flats and the fairway join.
They forced the sea a sea-league back. They died, and their work stood fast.
We were born to peace in the lee of the dykes, but the time of our peace is past.

Far off, the full tide clambers and slips, mouthing and testing all,
Nipping the flanks of the water-gates, baying along the wall;
Turning the shingle, returning the shingle, changing the set of the sand…
We are too far from the beach, men say, to know how the outworks stand.

So we come down, uneasy, to look, uneasily pacing the beach.
These are the dykes our fathers made: we have never known a breach.
Time and again has the gale blown by and we were not afraid;
Now we come only to look at the dykes — at the dykes our fathers made.

O’er the marsh where the homesteads cower apart the harried sunlight flies,
Shifts and considers, wanes and recovers, scatters and sickens and dies–
An evil ember bedded in ash — a spark blown west by the wind…
We are surrendered to night and the sea — the gale and the tide behind!

At the bridge of the lower saltings the cattle gather and blare,
Roused by the feet of running men, dazed by the lantern glare.
Unbar and let them away for their lives—the levels drown as they stand,
Where the flood-wash forces the sluices aback and the ditches deliver inland.

Ninefold deep to the top of the dykes the galloping breakers stride,
And their overcarried spray is a sea — a sea on the landward side.
Coming, like stallions they paw with their hooves, going they snatch with their teeth,
Till the bents and the furze and the sand are dragged out, and the old-time hurdles beneath.

Bid men gather fuel for fire, the tar, the oil and the tow–
Flame we shall need, not smoke, in the dark if the riddled seabanks go.
Bid the ringers watch in the tower (who knows how the dawn shall prove?)
Each with his rope between his feet and the trembling bells above.

Now we can only wait till the day, wait and apportion our shame.
These are the dykes our fathers left, but we would not look to the same.
Time and again were we warned of the dykes, time and again we delayed:
Now, it may fall, we have slain our sons, as our fathers we have betrayed.

Walking along the wreck of the dykes, watching the work of the seas!
These were the dykes our fathers made to our great profit and ease.
But the peace is gone and the profit is gone, with the old sure days withdrawn…
That our own houses show as strange when we come back in the dawn!

21 Responses to “Sword, sorcery, and The Dykes”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    As was said just the other day, “Is there any conservative truth that is not to be found in ‘The Gods of the Copybook Headings?’ “

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “The Left is contemptuous of costs because they don’t believe it matters… costs don’t matter because the government [the evil rich] will pay for it… they don’t really see [willful denial of reality] the connection between Truth — or God if you prefer — and consequences. the idea that reality can be trumped by perception is now the ultimate in modern [liberal] sophistication, a necessary device to support the world of magic.” Richard Fernandez

    The left has inculcated into much of the public its most fundamental meme, that objective reality cannot be perceived, that only subjective relativism is discernible. Thus there are no objective moral truths. But “if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch”, which is exactly what is happening to our country.

    “we have slain [mortgaged their future] our sons, as our fathers we have betrayed”. [the truths and liberties they bequeathed to us] THE DYKES

    Ultimately, reality will not be mocked and the bill shall come due. The magical thinking engaged in by the left is merely kicking the can down the road by firmly implanting one’s mind ‘where the sun don’t shine’.

    “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” Abraham Lincoln

  3. T Says:


    Agreed — a great column. We have discussed many of these points on your blog, but Fernandez’s essay succinctly unifies them into a coherent image.

    Like barbarians they don’t really see the connection between Truth — or God if you prefer — and consequences. Goodies are simply there. Arithmetic is only useful for convincing people, for making the spell work. Peace comes if you want it hard enough. Healthcare can be made universal by spending Other People’s Money. Science is but a persuasive device, but it’s the wanting, it’s the will that makes things happen.

    And thus, according to the left, one need only judge the good intentions — results be damned. His comparison to the South seas islanders mimicking airfields to attract the magic birds is, sadly, both telling and tragic.

  4. Ray Says:

    Jiminy Cricket syndrome: the delusional belief that if you wish for something hard enough, it will come true.

  5. AManOfTheWest Says:

    Fantastic post Neo. A clear reminder of why I come here every day, and of why yours is one of only two blogs I contribute to.

    And interestingly, it was my Googling of a Kipling quote that led me to your site, years ago. I read your ‘change’ story first, then every post you had made. Now Kipling again as a reminder.

    Thank you.

  6. J.J. Says:

    What is the difference between Barack Obama and Donald Trump? They’re both hugely narcissistic, both desirous of power, both willing to throw people under the bus if it suits their purposes. But they are quite different.

    Trump has a resume of accomplishment interspersed with some failure. Trump has been in the arena willing to work and sweat and fail and learn from his mistakes. He has built things and employed people. He understands that the dykes need to tended.

    Obama has a resume of few solid accomplishments other than winning elections. He has not been in the arena and learned from his mistakes. He’s in the arena now and is bewildered that his ideas are not working. He knows, deep in his heart, how the world should be – how he was going to remake it in that image. That the world is not responding disappoints him. How can they not see it his way?
    He will not learn from his mistakes because, in his mind, his intentions are good. And that is what counts. That the dykes give way and people are dead and injured is not his concern – it’s the intentions.

    We see the Islamists have intentions too. Which they believe are all for the best. Their view of the world is one where everyone is a Muslim and in submission to Allah. Where all is the will of Allah, free will is not allowed. Using creativity and science to better your life is not accepting the will of Allah. They know, deep in their hearts, how the world should be. They do not just have intentions though, they are willing to be in the arena and contest to make their intentions come true. They want to tear down the dykes.

    For the average LIV, none of this matters as much as what is on the telly tonight or who is breaking up in Hollyweird. They don’t even recognize that there are dykes that need to be protected. Nor do they realize that Barack Obama can’t, because of his magical beliefs, do it for them.

  7. Matt_SE Says:

    Magical thinking on the left.
    They’ve been shielded from barbarism so long that they think dignified debate is the norm.
    Rough men are going to correct that.
    This is how a country is educated.

  8. parker Says:


    I am much more cynical about BHO. He does not have “magical beliefs”. He channels Stalin, Mao, and Fidel. His beliefs are evil.

  9. J.J. Says:

    parker: “He does not have “magical beliefs”. He channels Stalin, Mao, and Fidel. His beliefs are evil.”

    And you don’t think Stalin, Mao, and Fidel had good intentions? Their view was that what they were doing was all for the good. They all came up as guerillas – in the arena. The difference is they were willing to get in the arena. Obama isn’t. Oh, he will throw people under the bus, but he lives primarily in his head, not in the arena.

    In being that way he’s a lot like most progs. The CAGW Watermelons, for instance, believe correlation is causation without solid evidence. They just want it that way. And they think wind/solar can replace oil/gas/coal simply because that’s what they believe in the face of all contrary evidence. Magical thinking.

    Obama believed his charm offensive in the ME would provide great dividends. He believes he can reason with the Iranians. He believes that the Iraqi ethnicities can knit themselves together into a coherent government by dint of his telling them to. It’s magical thinking all the way down. The dykes fail because magical thinking doesn’t keep them strong not because the magical thinkers want them to.

    Of course, I could be wrong. 🙂

  10. parker Says:


    Yes, you could be very wrong. 😉 Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Fidel, Pol Pot, Chavez, and all the tyrants throughout history never were possessed by good intentions, even in the beginning of their bloody path to power. From the beginning it was about a ruthless quest for absolute power.

  11. Mike Says:

    A better poem to describe every worthless and ingrate Democrat (which is, essentially, eery single one of them) could not be written.

    They are a shame and a disgrace on humanity. They are a shame and an embarrassment to their ancestors and to their children.

    They are no better than a rancid object lesson for all time about what things are and where they come from, and how low a human being can be when it rides the high horse.

    May they all be cursed in a blessed way, of the sort that might make them feel the pain they have brought forth into the world and so repent.

    B&^tards and B*&ches every last one of them to a man and woman.

  12. parker Says:

    BTW, J.J., the boychild never believed his words could “stop the rising of the oceans”. That was merely fluff to make the LIVs and the hard core progressives faint or salivate. With this group of gangsters always assume malice.

  13. GrannyAesop Says:

    Fernandez wrote this: Of barbarian ignorance Bacon wrote:

    “Many secrets of art and nature are thought by the unlearned to be magical. … The empire of man over things depends wholly on the arts and sciences. For we cannot command nature except by obeying her.”

    I think Fernandez nailed the Obama administration and the Left in general. “Nature” also includes the “laws” of human behavior, of which Obama seems smashingly ignorant: even if one attributes his actions to malice aforethought (rather than simply sheer ineptness), he does his machinations so clumsily that he succeeds only because the Media Circus is rooting for their Ringmaster and unwilling to tell anyone that the lions are loose and the elephants on the rampage.


    SF fans may be familiar with the third of Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws : “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
    Here is a parallel that seems on topic(all can be found at Wikipedia):
    Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. (Grey’s law)

  14. GrannyAesop Says:

    PPS thanks for the Kipling poem; he should be read and recited more often, for the style as well as the substance.
    (I miss poems that have real rhymes and discernible scansion; most of the modern poetry I have seen is just prose paragraphs chopped up with line breaks; some of the experts are better, of course, but far too many people fancy themselves to be poets when they aren’t even very good at the prose.)

  15. SCOTTtheBADGER Says:

    Mr. Kipling was such a master of clearly conveying his ideas through his verse. I agree that the Gods of the Copybook Headings is the essence of the real world.

  16. Beverly Says:

    No wonder Kipling is out of favor with the mandarins of the faculty lounge!

    But, to quote another immortal line, “there is none so blind as those who Will Not see.”

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    The Left’s logick is the same as their magick.

  18. T Says:

    In addition to the Fernandez essay, see Victor Davis Hanson’s essay (Obama’s World Disorder) in defining ideas. IMO these essays are companion pieces which clarify Obama’s foreign policy. As GrannyAesop noted above: “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. (Grey’s law)”


  19. J.J. Says:

    On another post, I left the following comment:
    “If you believe that all cultures are essentially similar. If you believe that the Muslims are just another religious group like the Jews and Christians. If you believe that the Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds can sit down and jaw, jaw to work out their differences in Iraq. If you believe that the hatred of the Islamists for the West is a result of the West’s intransigence. If you believe that the West can win over the Islamists by being fair and nice. If you believe that no one can possibly threaten you because of your awesome economy. If you believe having a strong military is acting like a bully. If you believe burning oil is bad. If you believe high oil prices are good. If you believe all those things, then your foreign policy might look a lot like Obama’s.”

    When you look at what Obama believes or thinks he knows about the state of world affairs, then you can understand where he’s coming from. None of us believe any of the positions stated above. But Obama and his allies do.

    Reading the link to VDH’s post which outlines the history of our policy since WWII, you can see that Obama has broken with that policy. Because he is evil? No, because he (and most progs) thinks it’s the really, really right thing to do. They believe that it will lead to good things happening.

    Remember what C. S. Lewis said, “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” Obama and the progs think what they are doing is for the good of all. We don’t see it that way and are certain they must be consciously plotting TEOTWAWKI. In their magical world equality of outcomes and reasonable negotiation can direct the affairs of men, while the economy can be powered by wind and solar with good jobs for all. It’s FAITH written large. And it’s an intolerant faith. They continually attack us as evil because we aver that they are mistaken in their beliefs and policies.

    Just like climate scientists they cannot be objective. Objectivity would require they look at some evidence. Have their policies improved the economy? Have their polices improved vis a vis the Islamists? Have their policies improved people’s incomes? Have their policies improved our relations with allies like Great Britain, Germany, Israel, or Japan? Have their policies brought stability in the Middle East? Have their policies improved the outlook for the stability of the dollar and world trade? The answers are all a resounding, “NO!” But their magical thinking allows them to ignore the evidence.

    IMO, the MSM has been the most culpable party in this battle of ideas. Throwing their weight totally behind the progressive agenda has allowed many citizens to remain ignorant of the issues and problems. The result is a debate between conservatives with a bullhorn and the progs with a mega-watt loud speaker system that drowns out the bullhorn. What we need is some conservative billionaires to follow Rupert Murdoch’s example. We need our own mega-watt loud speaker system.

  20. T Says:


    “It’s FAITH written large. And it’s an intolerant faith. They continually attack us as evil . . . .”

    This is precisely what they share with the Islamic brethren. It’s no wonder they are as quick to scream “Islamophobe” as they are quick to scream “racist.”

  21. colagirl Says:

    Wow, what timing. I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot myself, especially:

    “Now we can only wait for the day, wait and apportion our shame.
    These were the dykes our fathers left but we would not look to the same….”

    Kipling knew, all right. Would we had listened to him.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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