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Ch. 10: The Escape


We watched you building, stone by stone,
The well-washed cells and well-washed graves
We shall inhabit but not own
When Britons ever shall be slaves;
The water's waiting in the trough,
The tame oats sown are portioned free,
There is Enough, and just Enough,
And all is ready now but we.


But you have not caught us yet, my lords,
You have us still to get.
A sorry army you'd have got,
Its flags are rags that float and rot,
Its drums are empty pan and pot,
Its baggage is--an empty cot;
But you have not caught us yet.


A little; and we might have slipped
When came your rumours and your sales
And the foiled rich men, feeble-lipped,
Said and unsaid their sorry tales;
Great God! It needs a bolder brow
To keep ten sheep inside a pen,
And we are sheep no longer now;
You are but Masters. We are Men.


We give you all good thanks, my lords,
We buy at easy price;
Thanks for the thousands that you stole,
The bribes by wire, the bets on coal,
The knowledge of that naked whole
That hath delivered our flesh and soul
Out of your Paradise.


We had held safe your parks; but when
Men taunted you with bribe and fee,
We only saw the Lord of Men
Grin like an Ape and climb a tree;
And humbly had we stood without
Your princely barns; did we not see
In pointed faces peering out
What Rats now own the granary.


It is too late, too late, my lords,
We give you back your grace:
You cannot with all cajoling
Make the wet ditch, or winds that sting,
Lost pride, or the pawned wedding rings,
Or drink or Death a blacker thing
Than a smile upon your face.



Gilbert Keith Chesterton