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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 1, 1932)

Ancient Moderns

Ancient Moderns.

We talk of the trend of modern times as if modern times were something new, whereas Modernity is as old as the history of Cheops or the mystery of sausages. Every era of existence has boasted its modernity from the moment Adam raised Cain when he considered Eve was dressing above her means.

The truth is that all “moderns” have always flown off the handle because the handle belonged to a stick in the mud. They represent the natural human reaction to inaction. To-day they precede precedent, to-morrow they are as outworn as unbrowsed eyebrows, original skin, and face values generally. They only serve to show that we are here to bray and gone to-morrow.

Looking back on the ancient “moderns” is like getting a glance at to-morrow yesterday, or collecting the spirit of recollection through a petrol pump. For who to-day is more “modern” than Christopher C. Columbus was, when he set out to lay the foundation of the great American gum-booting industry? What was more up to the time-table than Noah, when he launched his famous joint-stock company and made Arrowroot a houseboat word? What of Alexander (the dead one) who toured India with his rag-time band and played “Havoc” with variations wherever he went? How about Cleopatra—well, perhaps there was a little too much “how” about her. Consider Robert Bruce who introduced the money-spider into Scotland, George Washington who invented truth-in-advertising, and Methuselah who introduced life insurance. What of Lot's lot when his wife asserted her feminine franchise by proving herself to be the salt of the earth and a pillar of society?

After all, the only essential difference between the ancient moderns and the modern ancients is that the first are historical and the last are hysterical.