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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 81

Appendix A — To a Socialist Friend

page 121

Appendix A

To a Socialist Friend

Because I cannot share your creed
You doubt my heart, insult my reason;
With "blindness," "levity," and "greed"
In turn your eloquence you season.

The maxims of your fervid school
Don't err from over-toleration;
He must be either knave or fool
Who will not let you save the nation.

You tell us how the poor are ground
In factories and dens of sweaters;
How we and they alike are bound
In iron or in golden fetters.

You marvel that we hug our chains;
You taunt us with our meek enduring
Of evils that your wiser brains
Alone possess the art of curing.

You think, forsooth, we have not felt
That cloud of human care and sorrow,
Because we fear it will not melt
Before your magic wand to-morrow.

Your passionate exordium spare,
And spare us, too, your peroration;
The argument is rather bare
When only rich in declamation.

page 122

Have you discovered, you alone!
The squalid village, sordid city?
We too—our hearts are not of stone—
Possess some rudiments of pity.

'Tis just because we so deplore
The ills of poverty and famine,
That, lest you aggravate them more,
Your panacea we cross-examine,

My doctor, say, for my disease
Prescribes but exercise and tonic.
You scoff at remedies like these:
"Mere palliatives to make it chronic!"

No! I must stand upon my head
To keep the gout from upwards rising,
And swallow the East-wind for bread—
It's lighter and more appetising.

I hint that what you recommend
May be too thin for my digestion;
The one reply you condescend:
"What folly thus to beg the question!"

But when I learn that first on me
You try this regimen and diet,
"Ah! not in meo corpore,"
I cry, "experimentum fiat."

When we object, that you refrain
From practising what you've expounded,
You answer: "Socialism is vain
By private enterprise surrounded."

But, if we give you larger rope,
Are you not in the same condition?
Collectivism here must cope
With ruthless world-wide competition.

page 123

If labour still must buy our wheat,
Where is your paradise of workers?
If, making less, we've less to eat,
The poor go hungry through the shirkers.

But my dilemma you decline;
Base bonds of foreign trade you sever;
'Neath figless tree and grapeless vine
You feed upon yourselves for ever.

Yet, wherefore need I criticise
Each detail of your dream fantastic?
Much deeper down the problem lies
How far is human nature plastic?

That it may change I do not doubt,
Since other times have other fashions;
But you are reckoning without
The primary instincts and passions.

For man, that perverse, curious beast,
The product of a thousand ages,
With freedom's sauce the sparest feast
Prefers to well-provided cages.

When each has got his task assigned
By the elect who give the orders,
A "Merry England "we shall find
Of convicts and of prison-warders!

You tell me I mistake your plan;
The force behind it is religious;
The sense of brotherhood in man
Will sanctify that change prodigious.

Ah, friend! Think not that I dispute
Religion's power to make and mould us;
To sweeten earth; our life transmute;
I know the half has not been told us.

page 124

But, as experience oft has taught
Religion thrives not on compulsion;
Enforced conversion ever brought
Its after-crop of mad revulsion.

A hundred years ago in France,
When men by law were made fraternal,
There-followed what a furies-dance
Of horror and of fate infernal!

In every Kingdom of the Saints
Power falls to hypocrites and toadies;
The weak bear all the harsh restraints,
But quis custodiet custodes?

Though when a scheme is proved absurd,
We are not bound to show a better,
Yet I will add one other word
By way of postscript to my letter.

Our policy of laissez-faire,
Abhorred of all your tribe and faction,
It is no gospel of despair,
But faith in liberty of action.

Although we do not underrate
The boon of governmental science,
The master-builders of our fate
Are character and self-reliance.

The State were but an empty shell
Without them, undermined and hollow;
Where these are present all is well;
In God's good time the rest shall follow.

R. H. Law