The New FreethinkerOne of the joys of reading books from over a hundred years ago is to be reminded that there is nothing new under the sun. Things that claim to be novel never really are. What’s new is really old. What boasts of youth is usually trivial. The following is an old poem by that wonderful British gadfly of late, G.K. Chesterton, about new freethinkers.
The New Freethinker
By G.K. Chesterton
JOHN Grubby who was short and stout
And troubled with religious doubt,
Refused about the age of three
To sit upon the curate’s knee;
(For so the eternal strife must rage
Between the spirit of the age
And Dogma, which, as is well known,
Does simply hate to be outgrown).
Grubby, the young idea that shoots,
Outgrew the ages like old boots;
While still, to all appearance, small,
Would have no Miracles at all;
And just before the age of ten
Firmly refused Free Will to men.
The altars reeled, the heavens shook,
Just as he read of in the book;
Flung from his house went forth the youth
Alone with tempests and the Truth.
Up to the distant city and dim
Where his papa had bought for him
A partnership in Chepe and Deer
Worth, say twelve hundred pounds a year.
But he was resolute. Lord Brute
Had found him useful; and Lord Loot,
With whom few other men would act,
Valued his promptitude and tact;
Never did even philanthropy
Enrich a man more rapidly:
‘Twas he that stopped the Strike in Coal,
For hungry children racked his soul;
To end their misery there and then
He filled the mines with Chinamen —
Sat in that House that broke the Kings,
And voted for all sorts of things —
And rose from Under-Sec. to Sec.
With scarce a murmur or a check.
Some grumbled. Growlers who gave less
Than generous worship to success,
The little printers in Dundee,
Who got ten years for blasphemy,
(Although he let them off with seven)
Respect him rather less than heaven.
No matter. This can still be said:
Never to supernatural dread
Never to unseen deity,
Did Sir John Grubby bend the knee;
Nor was he bribed by fabled bliss
To kneel to any world but this.
The curate lives in Camden Town,
His lap still empty of renown,
And still across the waste of years
John Grubby, in the House of Peers,
Faces that curate, proud and free,
And never sits upon his knee.