Friday, June 08, 2007

Morality Poems--Society



Have you ever heard of the New England Primer? First published in 1690, it was part religious message, part English text book, and part introduction to Puritan ruler-whacking goodness.

I've always been fascinated by the little rhyming couplets the Primer uses as a mnemonic to teach the alphabet. They are ingenious vehicles for indoctrination. It's a lost art (probably a good thing).

These "Morality Poem" posts are my little attempt to philosophize about the world New England Primer style. Can you guess in one word what I'm trying to describe in each of these "lessons?" Hint: each represents something damaging to society.

The mind of justice hears and weighs,
The knife of the righteous blindly slays.


Public faces wave the fist
Then shiver with secret bedrooms' kiss.



(My first attempt at one of these was a little while ago. Strangely enough, this post gets the most random hits from Yahoo and Google searches. Folks are searching for moral guidance, I suppose.)

14 comments:

dara said...

I'm a little perturbed that the primer doesn't have an entry for "I." It's not really teaching kids their ABC's if it skips an inconvenient letter.

Michele said...

I've heard of the Primer but never bothered to find more about it. Obviously a greivous oversight on my part.

Is the first one bigotry or Predjudice? I'm guessing here.

Interesting post Jason. You always have the most obscure and thought provoking topics.

Terri said...

I'm guessing the second one is Hypocrisy?

jason evans said...

Dara, I didn't even notice that!!
Quite right. I would say that there's no "I" in Puritan, but that would be wrong, I guess.

Michele, I'll take "obscure and thought provoking" as a huge compliment. Thanks! I'm afraid one of those words isn't what I'm looking for to describe the first rhyme. Thanks for guessing, though. :)

Terri, yes! You nailed that one. One down, one to go.

dara said...

The claim to be teaching the kids how to read is clearly a cover for teaching them values. And, on a related note, if I were to hazzard a guess, I'd say that your first couplet is "Fundamentalism."

angel said...

those new england poem thingies are rather odd...
yours are definitely worth mulling over- especially the second one!

Steve G said...

I would guess the first is Capital Punishment, but that's two words.

Bhaswati said...

Nice take on the style, Jason. The second one baffles me. Please shed some light?

Good to be here after a while. :-)

Canterbury Soul said...

tough. a shot in the dark. politics?

CJ said...

First chance I've had to shoot over and check out your blog. I do so enjoy your writing and the content is brilliantly different, with the atmospheric photos you've got the perfect mix! Will be checking out you archives over the next little while. Thanks for the visit...

onipar said...

Stumped on that first one. Very cool post though. I can't wait to find out what that is (I suck at riddles, even though this isn't really a riddle).

Oh wait...how about "punishment," or "law"?

jason evans said...

Dara, the message certainly isn't delicate, is it? As for "fundamentalism," you're getting warmer.

Angel, thanks. :) They definitely have an archaic feel. That's probably what draws me to them.

Steve, that's a good guess, but not correct. Here's a hint: I'm juxtaposing "hears and weighs" against "blindly."

Bhaswati, good to see you! Terri got the second one, "hypocrisy." We have a tendency, at least in this country, to condemn in public the very things we do in secret. Life would be far less complex if we were more open.

Canterbury Soul, sorry, not politics. See my reply to Steve above for a hint. :)

CJ, thanks for the visit and the kind words! I will definitely be stopping back at your blog. Feel free to visit anytime.

Onipar, you're getting warmer too. Here's another hint: what do the righteous lack if they are acting blindly? Great to see you, by the way. =)

Terri said...

I'm like a dog with a bone here - is the first one 'retribution' perhaps?

jason evans said...

Terri, you're close. Retribution is involved. The word I was looking for was "empathy." It occured to me that righteous anger arises when we stop listening, when we can't appreciate the other person's position. There is very little in life that wouldn't benefit from being open to the other person's point of view.