Debits and Credits

The Portent

Horace Ode 20, Bk. V.

Rudyard Kipling

OH, late withdrawn from human-kind
    And following dreams we never knew
Varus, what dream has Fate assigned
    To trouble you?

Such virtue as commends the law
    Of Virtue to the vulgar horde
Suffices not. You needs must draw
    A righteous sword;

And, flagrant in well-doing, smite
    The priests of Bacchus at their fane,
Lest any worshipper invite
    The God again.

Whence public strife and naked crime
    And—deadlier than the cup you shun—
A people schooled to mock, in time,
    All law—not one.

Cease, then, to fashion State-made sin,
    Nor give thy children cause to doubt
That Virtue springs from iron within—
    Not lead without.

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