The Easy Chair: Talks & Round Table Discussions
Crime; Soviet Union; Poetry
RJ Rushdooney: This is R. J. Rushdooney with Easy Chair talk number four. I’d like to begin with something that is totally irrelevant, but tickles me no end. It’s a news item that American funeral directors have noticed that corpses do not decompose as quickly as they used to. They attribute this development to the increased use of preservatives in convenience and packaged foods. In other words, we all now have a better shelf life thanks to the neighborhood grocery store.
Well, one more item before we get down to something a little more serious. Not too long ago a question was asked of a number of people, and then of a computer. The same question was asked of all these people and also the computer, and it was this, what kind of a watch would you rather have given your choice of two watches? One that did not run at all, or one that lost seven seconds each day. Now almost every human being said they preferred the watch that only lost seven seconds a day, but the computer chose the stopped watch, the watch that did not work.
The reason for it was that in terms of the logic of the workings of the computer, the watch that lost time, seven seconds a day, would be correct only once every 2,000 years or so, whereas the stopped watch would be correct twice a day. Now that’s the logic of a computer, and perhaps we should say it’s the logic of nitpickers too. At any rate, so much for computers.
Now to get on to a much more serious subject. Ovid Demaris is a reporter who for a good many years has been probably the number one writer in this country on crime. He is a man with extensive knowledge of the workings of the underworld. Moreover, unlike some other writers, he does not romanticize the criminal world, he writes of it as someone who regards it as a blight on the American landscape. Now I’m not recommending his most recent book, published in 1981 by Times Books, and the cost is $15, but the title is The Last Mafioso.
The book is really a report on extensive tape recordings with Jimmy Fratianno, a member of the mafia. About every fourth word is a four letter word. These talks with Fratianno were tape recorded and transcribed. The story is about Jimmy Fratianno, perhaps the last of the old time, old type mafioso. Not too long ago he turned witness for the FBI. Since he knew more than almost any other man about the inner workings of the mafia, he has been used extensively to put away a large number of criminals. In fact the epilogue gives the results of his testimony before several grand juries and court trials, all of which demonstrate how much havoc he has wrought in the world of the mafia.
Now as I say it’s not pleasant reading, and I’m using this as a jumping off point to a couple of other books. The significant point in this book is this. Fratianno represented the old order, the kind of mafia member who came up from the ranks. Who was a hit man, a professional killer, who killed without any compunction and enjoyed his work. What has happened to the mafia as this book clearly reveals is that increasingly with the passing of time we have seen the sons and even grandsons of some of the old time mafia men take over the leadership. They do not come up through the ranks. They are born into power.
They are not the kind of men that Fratianno obviously is; a man who can kill, a man who knows the ins and outs of the criminal world, who knows the politicians that are to be paid off, and who knows the workings of crime intimately from the bottom on up. As a result the criminal world is getting soft. Resentment has grown up towards the old time men who have the know-how the young hoodlums lack. As a result in recent years we’ve seen many of the old time mafia bosses, retired men, actually executed because of the resentment of the new leaders who are men who know more than they do, and who know how incompetent they basically are.
It was this kind of contempt that led Fratianno to turn into a witness and informer. He is being kept in hiding in order to be preserved from sure execution at the hands of a vengeful mob. Now a few notes about the criminal world, things that are not in this book, this country has seen a successive wave of different kinds of criminal syndicates. As one immigrant group after another, a large group of millions moving over to the United States from their homeland arrive here, they become inhabitants of the ghettos.
Now the ghetto has a bad reputation in our day, but the ghetto in American history has been a place of transient populations. Of newcomers who land there, in a few years work their way out of there into better neighborhoods, and make way for a new wave of immigrants. We have never had a permanent ghetto population.
The closest we have come to it is what we have now, and it is a creation of welfarism. Remove welfarism and you will have the same development that you’ve always had in this country. People hitting the ghettos, the blacks from the south, the arkies and oakies of some years ago moving northward and westward, inhabiting ghettos, but very quickly working their way up to positions of freedom, wealth, and power.
Well, as you’ve had these successive large waves of immigration, you’ve always had a fallout in that some have taken the easier route of crime rather than hard work. Thus you had a few generations back the control of crime by Germans, and by the Irish, and by the Jews. Then by the Italians.
We’re now seeing, and this is the significance of Demaris’ book, the beginning of the end for the Italian, especially Sicilian underworld. There are pressures already, although the book does not deal with it, very definitely at work. Black criminal groups, Mexican criminal groups, and also now the beginnings of criminal groups among Israeli immigrants who found life in Israel too difficult and left to come to the United States. Now each of these groups for a while prevails, but with a second and third and fourth generation the old criminal character is gone.
Too much power is inherited, and as a result a very deadly weakness sets in. They don’t know their work from the ground up, and the soldiers in the mob begin to recognize there are weak men at the top, and fewer men are recruited as soldiers who have the old viciousness. The result is a disintegration sets in.
Well, I’ve gone into Demaris’ book and the underworld of crime at some length because in a sense the communist party in the Soviet Union is a mafia. A mafia which has taken over a sizeable portion of the world. What we have seen in the Soviet Union is this. The men who took over, Lenin, Stalin, and all their associates, were young men at the time they came to power.
Stalin held power well into advanced age. Since then the men who have taken over have been progressively older men. Malenkov took over at a much more advanced age than Lenin or Stalin. Khrushchev definitely older. Kosygin and Brezhnev, still older. Today you have in the Politburo, in the Soviet Union, a group of very elderly men.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with age, I certainly since some people think I’m beginning to age, I don’t feel that, but I’m not a teenager by quite a few decades. Age has its place, and in a normal structure, a healthy structure you have both old and young. You have the input of age and its experience, and you have the vitality and drive of youth. Both are essential.
What has happened in the criminal underworld of the mafia is that senior citizens are running it, and senior citizens are running the Soviet Empire. The result is a timidity on the part of the Soviet Union. They have power enough to overrun Europe tomorrow, but they’re not doing it. They see all the problems and none of the opportunities.
One of the things happening is that the KGB, the secret police, are increasingly exercising more and more power in the Soviet Union. They recognize that the open, admitted leadership, the Politburo is no longer capable of enough initiative, but even within the KGB there are signs of decay. The older men are not as old perhaps as those in the Politburo, but they no longer have the kind of drive that say the men in Stalin’s day did, or the men in Khrushchev’s day.
Well, with that general preface I want to turn to two very important books on the Soviet Union. They are probably not in print any longer, even though I just ran across them and picked them up recently. The first was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1975, the author is Dimitri Panin, P-A-N-I-N. The title, The Notebooks of Sologdin, S-O-L-O-G-D-I-N. It’s the autobiography of Panin, but since he was the real life model of the character Sologdin and Solzhenitsyn’s novel The First Circle, he gives a fuller account here of what Solzhenitsyn reports in his book.
Now Panin was born in Moscow in 1911 of upper middle class parents. As a result he can remember the Soviet revolution. He is an older man, he represents an older generation, and therefore an older character. His book thus is very, very interesting, grim reading as he describes the horrors of many, many years in Soviet prison camps. Panin was converted to catholicism, he has left the Soviet Union and settled near Paris.
His book thus represents a perspective that is more oriented to a Christian world and life view. He says, and I quote, “Save your soul and you’ll save your body too.” This was his premise in terms of which he survived in prison and in slave labor camps. He did not put the emphasis on physical survival, but on a survival spiritually. He did not want to be destroyed by the evil, the ugliness, the viciousness that had overwhelmed the country and was overwhelming him in the prison camp.
I think his book is very telling in that today we have many survivalists who act as though the essence of survival is to save their skins, to hole up somewhere with food and guns as though this is the solution. Well, the first step in survival is as Panin says, save your soul. Then having been saved know that we belong to the only victorious army in history. True survival means yes, necessary precautions if it is a time for precautions, but above all else a plan for conquest. Nobody who thinks in terms of their survival can survive. They’ve already admitted to the fact that they expect to lose. They belong to the world of losers, Panin did not.
As a result, he did survive. His book is a grim one, but a very encouraging one. It tells us of a very many people who knew that they were in the midst of evil, but they compromised because, well, the power was in the hands of the enemy, therefore the only way to survive is to play ball with the enemy. Solzhenitsyn has said that the tragedy of our time is that nobody in the Soviet Union any longer believes in communism, whereas in the United States they still do.
Well, Panin’s book and the next book I shall deal with in a little while, Bukovsky’s book, underscore that fact. No one believes in communism. What they are trying to do is simply to gain submission. Their goal is power, and all those without principle compromise with power. Now, this tells us something about our country too, because one of the things that we are seeing now in these church and state trials is that a great many people are working out plans of accommodation with the controls imposed by the state. They are ready to allow the licensing of their christian school, they are ready to allow one control after another because they’re cowards. They believe that the great power is the United States or the state in which they live rather than the lord of hosts.
It is interesting that one after another of these books on the Soviet Union gives us a glimpse at times of the old believers in the Soviet Union. The old believers go back to the time of Peter the Great when they broke with the Russian Orthodox Church. They became an underground church, and as a result they have resisted the Soviet Union steadfastly. There is by the way a great deal of the old believer faith in Solzhenitsyn. He has never said that he is a member thereof, but very definitely his sympathies are with them.
Panin says of these old believers that going back to the old days and to the present, they were well informed about the vile misdeeds of the venal princes of the church, and denounced them as representatives of the antichrist. They considered themselves the true Orthodox Christians who recognize no innovations and resisted the temptations of our era. The brotherhood was led by a woman and her two sons, they had all been given 25 year sentences. He’s speaking of a group in one of the slave labor camps. They came from the working class mechanics, metal workers, miners, truck drivers. Before their arrest, they had lived in the Donatus Basin, famous for its coal mines.
At the transit prison in Kubachev there had been 15 or so of these people and I got to know them while we were all together. Only three of them wound up with me in the camp. Then he goes on to say, upon arriving at the camp this one man, whom he knew well, a highly qualified mechanic, he categorically refused to have the numbers put on his clothing, regarding them as the brand of Satan and thus offensive to a christian. To avoid serving this same Satan, he refused to do any work whatsoever. He would not take any food from the kitchen because it might have contained animal fats, which he did not eat on principle. In other words, he kept the dietary laws of scripture. He consented to take only bread and sugar.
However, on Wednesdays and Fridays he gave the bread away to his barracks mates. He spent all day and part of the night in prayer and in meditations on spiritual subjects. He had almost no religious education, but the clarity of his understanding and interpretation of the truths of christian doctrine was absolutely amazing. He endured countless days and nights in the punishment cell, enough to kill an ox. Each time he came out he was more lean than ever. There was no point adding anything to his sentences, for he already had 25 years to serve. After trying out every means of coercion at their disposal and having utterly failed to break his indomitable will, the authorities finally gave up and allowed him to satisfy his modest needs.
After this the Latvian orderly in the BUR and several other men began to make fun of him, and those who are always at prayer. We set the orderly straight, asking him to get out altogether if he valued his neck. He asked to be transferred to the camp jail. Well, there’s much like this in this and other books. These are the men who stand, who cannot be broken. They are men who take their faith seriously and who say we will not surrender on anything.
One of the sad facts in the current church scene, which I’ve seen across country is this. In one denomination, women’s ordination was approved and a favorable view of homosexuality, because fundamentalists, pastors and laymen, voted to go along with it. Their excuse was, and I heard them say it when I was in the area a little later, was simply this. It was because others told me about this that I asked some of them. It is important to make a witness to our modernist brethren in the denomination. We need to work to make them born again Christians so that we cannot deal with these other matters and offend them.
In other words, they limited the faith to being born again. People like that cannot stand, they cannot survive in the day of evil, but men like these old believers who draw the line on numbers on their back, who draw the line at prohibited food, they take the every word of God seriously. Even the worst torturers in the slave labor camps have learned that you cannot break these men. There’s an important lesson here for all of us, because it’s the spirit of total obedience, of a recognize of the requirement of our lord that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Only by such a faith can we stand.
Try to get Panin, P-A-N-I-N, Dimitri Panin’s book from the library. You’ll find it very moving reading. It’s the account of a man who was there and who survived because of his faith. Well, our next book also from the Soviet Union is a very different book, because it represents a young man, a generation that comes from the time of World War II, whereas Panin was born before World War I. It is Vladimir Bukovsky, B-U-K-O-V-S-K-Y, To Build a Castle, My Life as a Dissenter. Published by the Viking Press in New York in 1979, and I do not know the price, and it may still be in print but I’m not sure.
Bukovsky has spent 12 of his 35 years, over half his adult life in prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals. The new form of punishment increasingly favored for use with superior people is the psychiatric hospital. The idea is to break their minds so that their usefulness can be destroyed. Well, Bukovsky represents the post World War II generation, and as he tells us very quickly you learn that what you were taught in school is garbage. That communism is a farce, a very great evil, and everything connected with it is incredibly evil. As a result, he says, no one believes after their very early years in anything connected with Marxism. They are totally contemptuous.
The only goal left of the Soviet Union is to gain submission. They no longer work for belief, they don’t expect it. The people have lost all faith since Stalin’s day. The result is that everywhere there is nothing but a submission to get along. Even those who call themselves Christians do so. When he was at the Serbsky Institute psychiatric hospital where superior leaders of protest movements were placed to be broken, many of the women workers were simple Christians, but he says, and I quote, “And yet the same village women used to rat on us without mercy. They would pick up the slightest little word we said and squeal to the nurses, who wrote everything down.”
“At times when escapes were planned or somebody tried to feign madness, especially if he faced the death penalty, these women would notice everything and report it immediately. If you asked them, “Why do you do it? You’re supposed to be Christians.” They replied, “We can’t help it, it’s our job. It was useless to argue with them. Maybe Brezhnev’s not such a bad fellow either, it’s just that he’s got a lousy job.”
As Bukovsky points out, this is the spirit of most of the people in the Soviet Union. Nobody likes it, they despise it, but the only way to get ahead is to play ball. As Bukovsky says, power depends upon public obedience. Power depends upon public obedience.
As a high school student he therefore began to protest together with other students, to protest in the name of civil rights. The amazing fact is that these youths developed with some help from older men who came into the movement a civil rights movement in the Soviet Union. They did it in a variety of ways, by underground publications, by the public reading of poetry in public places, by contacting foreign journalists and the like, and they paid a price for it. They were arrested and thrown into prison.
What did they do in prison? Well, the funniest part of the book has to do with that. In a sense, the account he gives of life in prison is horrifying as the accounts of Panin and Solzhenitsyn and others, but there is this aspect that’s funny. The Soviet Union has a constitution which spells out freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of this and that in much more detail than the US constitution. Constitutions are meaningless if there’s not a faith in the people that binds them to a way of life that agrees with what is in the constitution. Well, the Soviet constitution is a façade to delude the world, but it’s the law.
Any time there is a complaint against any violation of civil rights, the authorities are duty bound to investigate it in the Soviet Union. Everything has to be proper legally. This does not mean that anything is done to correct it. What is done is to bear down on the man in whose department these protesters are. Well, of course what the men tried to do is to prevent letters from being written, but what these young men did and everyone in the institutions, the prisons or hospitals or camps they were in, was to recruit others, to get them to write as many as ten letters a day, each on one subject, each to some prominent Soviet leader. Then get the letters mailed out, legally or illegally, and to watch what happened.
Well of course everyone who received such a letter had to act on it, which meant he had to pass it down to someone under him, to pass on down to somebody below him, until it finally reached the person in charge of these particular prisoners. Well, this meant that everybody up and down the line was irritated at having all kinds of protests hit his desk, and he would bear down on the person below him. They would send an investigating commission to the particular institution, prison, or slave camp where these protests were coming from, the orders being stop all this trouble. We don’t want all this paperwork above us, because the one thing that would result from all this would be a mountain of paperwork.
Nothing was ever done to make life more bearable for the prisoners. All that the letters did was to start a mountain of paperwork. Bureaucracies and tyrannies go hand in hand. As you create a bureaucracy you create a tyranny, and a bureaucracy goes by the letter of the law. Not by justice, but by the letter of the law. There was a news item recently, Danny Kaye I believe was going into Canada to receive some kind of award at a testimonial dinner in his honor. When he reached the border, driving I think it was, at any rate all the customs officials and border guards gathered around to express their appreciation of him, and to ask for autographs, and to chat with him. There was a little time spent delaying his move through the border while these bureaucrats gathered around this celebrity with a great deal of pleasure.
Then when it was time to go they stopped him. Why? Mr Kaye, we must have some identification. Well, that’s the bureaucratic mind. Everything has to be done by the book, so Bukovsky and his friends used that mentality. They created an ocean of paperwork for everybody above them. They bedeviled the bureaucracy. They had more than one man removed because the bureaucracy above them got upset at all the paperwork that was coming across their desk, and the orders were, stop that or you will pay a price for this.
As a result, they finally got one or two men who said, “What do you want us to do to make you shut up, to stop writing these letters and smuggling them out?” There was a slight change in their condition. Now, this gives you something of the spirit of Bukovsky and his young rebels. They are using the system to punish the system, and this is why the book, even though it is not as well written as Panin and Solzhenitsyn, is in some respects the most important single book to come out of the Soviet Union in recent years. It’s importance is this.
The Soviet hierarchy and bureaucracy is like the mafia. It’s full of senior citizens, it’s full of bureaucrats. There are still hoodlums killing people, torturing people and the like, but they’re not as effective, ruthless, and efficient as the older generation. In fact some of the old KGB men shake their heads in the midst of what’s going on, brutal though it may be, more than you and I would care to ever witness. They’re saying that in effect, these are idiots, fools. They don’t know how to do the job properly.
Well, Bukovsky speaks very bluntly about the 19th century worship of the common man and democracy, and he says the common man, like everybody else, is depraved. The old belief, the old worship in the common man, the old trust in democracy is foolish.
Moreover, he says the fundamental error of all these people is, and I quote, “They regard man as being born into this world completely empty like a vessel, and as malleable as wax, and therefore they assert that there will be no more crime, dissatisfaction, envy, or hatred. The amazing, naïve and inhuman faith of all socialists in the power of reeducation transformed our school years into a torture and covered the country with concentration camps. In our country, everybody is being reeducated from the cradle to the grave, and everybody is obliged to reeducate everybody else.”
He says, “The net result is that in the Soviet Union you believe in environmentalism, you believe in the power to change things, that there’s no fundamental given nature. In other words, there’s no belief that man is a sinner. No acceptance of original sin, no belief in total depravity, education is going to change everything. He says in the Soviet Union they even made a serious attempt to turn apples into pears, and for 50 years based biology on that belief.”
“It is said that for 20 years an eccentric Englishman cut the tails off rats in the expectation that they would produce tailless offspring, but nothing came of it, and he gave it up. What can you expect of an Englishman? No, that’s no way to build socialism. He lacked sufficient passion, a healthy faith in the radiant future. It was quite different in our country. They cut off people’s heads for decades and at last saw the birth of a new type of headless people. This dream of absolute universal equality is amazing, terrifying, and inhuman, and the moment it captures people’s minds the result is mountains of corpses and rivers of blood accompanied by attempts to straighten the astute and shorten the tall.”
“I remember that one part of the psychiatric examination was a test for idiocy. The patient was given the following problem to solve. Imagine a train crash. It is well known that the part of the train that suffers the most damage in such crashes is the carriage at the rear. How can you prevent that damage from taking place? The idiot’s usual reply is expected to be uncouple the last carriage. That strikes us as amusing, but just think, are the theory and practice of socialism much better?”
“Society says that socialists contains both the rich and the poor. The rich are getting richer and the poor are poorer, what is to be done? Uncouple the last carriage, liquidate the rich, take away their wealth, and distribute it among the poor, and they start to uncouple the carriages. There is always one carriage at the back, there are always richer and poorer, for society is like a magnet, there are always two poles. Does this discourage a true socialist?”
Well, of course the point Bukovsky makes there is a tremendous one. If you have a belief in environmentalism, you’re going to start uncoupling carriages. You’re going to liquidate a class of society, and there will be another class to liquidate. You’re going to use destruction as your tool for creating a new world order. Bukovsky goes on to speak very grimly of the spirit of compromise in the people, and he says that people always argue, everyone knows that the order is bad, but well, we must live for Russia. The communists will one day disappear of themselves. This argument is a favorite with scientists in the military.
He goes on to say that this leads to slavery. The people are silent, and they use every kind of excuse, including religious ones like this, and I quote, “Communism has been visited upon Russia in retribution for her sins. To resist God’s retribution is equally sinful.” What do you do? Why, you join them in sinning more. This is the spirit of compromise. He says, and hardly anyone will admit openly and honestly that he is simply afraid of reprisals.
He says, the old believers, they refuse to work for the state. What do they do? “They don’t read newspapers, they don’t listen to the radio, don’t touch official documents, and in the presence of all functionaries including investigators they make the sign of the cross. Out of my sight, Beelzebub. When released from jail they live off what they can earn from private individuals.” Well, the point that he makes emphatically is that it is not going to change of itself, because as long as you have cowards you will have the socialist state.
He describes life in the factories, and he says when he was working in a bus factory in Moscow, “Only one man put in a full day’s work. The rest hated him, and when pointing him out would rotate one finger meaningfully by the temple. They were always looking for chances to do him dirt, either surreptitiously damaging his machine or by stealing his tools. “Want to be a champion and raise the targets?” They said spitefully. It turned out that if one man exceeded the target, the target, that is the work quota, would be raised for all of them the following month, and they would have to work twice as hard for exactly the same money.”
What they did was the lower the target steadily so that production was virtually nil. Well, what’s the result of all of this? Bukovsky spells it out very, very clearly. Free labor, so called free labor, those outside the slave labor camps does not produce. He says that if tomorrow a general amnesty were given and everybody freed from slave labor camps it would precipitate an economic disaster. Production in the Soviet Union would collapse, because it is only slave labor, people who work under the whip, who work because they are not working they will not be fed and they will starve to death, who work to stay alive, only those people produce.
The net result is that slave labor camps are a necessity. They have to have them to have any production. He goes on to cite what happens when anyone in the non-slave camp world of the Soviet Union shows any initiative. If he works in a factory, he is subjected to punishment by the other workers. He describes a case for example, “I remember once sharing a cell with a character whose only crime was that of behaving as a normal commercial entrepreneur, doing no harm to anyone. He went to a coal mine and offered to remove their slag heaps for them at a moderate fee. The director was pleased. He had already had several reprimands for those slag heaps and they were in the way.”
“Then this chap went to some collective farms and offered their chairmen some cheap slag for building their cow barns. The chairmen were also happy. My cell mate next went with a collective farm trucks and some peasants and removed the slag from the mine. Everyone gained from it, all parties were in raptures, and a mass of financial problems was solved at a stroke. My enterprising comrade got six years in jail for it.”
He describes another situation of the fate of Ivan Nikiforovich Kudenko. “He was a senior financial advisor working for the council of ministers of the USSR with the rank of deputy minister, who in 1960 volunteered to carry out an economic experiment in the state farms of Kazakhstan. Kudenko’s proposals were extremely simple, a system of complete self financing and financial autonomy with above all a realistic scheme of material incentives. Payments were made for achieved results and not for the effort expended.”
In other words, what he was trying out was capitalism. To continue, “The experiment was fantastically successful. The employment of men and machines was reduced by a factor of ten or 12. The cost price of grain by far, the productivity of each worker was increased seven fold and his salary four fold. Kudenko had demonstrated that introduction of his system into Russian agriculture would enable production to be quadrupled while the number of people employed in agriculture could be reduced from 30 million to five. Well, the result was he got a prison sentence, and Kudenko died in 1973, 13 years later in a prison hospital.”
As a result, slave labor must continue. They will not surrender on socialism and their only hope therefore is in slave labor, since no other kind of labor will work. Well, I’ve spent a great deal of time on this and I do urge you to get these books from the library and read them. Bukovsky’s book you might still be able to buy. They are well worth reading. Bukovsky’s book, the earlier chapter especially is not as well written, but it is very important in order to see the decay within the Soviet Union.
Last time I read I believe one poem, did I not, of Francis Thompson. I’d like to read another, which was a great favorite of mine from the day I read it, which I read to my children when they were very young. It’s a poem for children, and the title is Little Jesus.
Little Jesus, wast Thou shy once, and just so small as I? And what did it feel like to be out of Heaven, and just like me? Didst Thou sometimes think of there, and ask where all the angels were? I should think that I would cry for my house all made of sky. I would look about the air, and wonder where my angels were, and at waking ’twould distress me, not an angel there to dress me. Hadst thou ever any toys like us little girls and boys? Didst Thou play in Heaven with all the angels that were not too tall, with stars for marbles? Did the things play can you see me through their wings?
Did Thy Mother let Thee spoil thy robes, with playing on our soil? How nice to have them always new in Heaven, because ‘twas quite clean blue. Didst Thou kneel at night to pray and dist Thou join Thy hands this way? Did they tire sometimes being young and make the prayer seem very long? Didst Thou like it best that we should join our hands to pray to Thee?
I used to think before I knew the prayer not said unless we do. Did Thy mother at the night kiss Thee and fold the clothes in right? Didst Thou feel quite good in bed, kissed and sweet and Thy prayers said? Thou canst not have forgotten all that it feels like to be small, and Thou knowest I cannot pray to thee in my father’s way. When Thou was so little say, couldst Thou talk Thy father’s way?
A little child come down and hear a child’s tongue like thine own. Take me by the hand and walk, and listen to my baby talk, to Thy father show my prayer. He will look Thou art so fair and say, And say: “Oh Father, I Thy Son, bring the prayer of a little one.” And He will smile, that childrens tongue hath not changed since Thou wast young!
Very beautiful, is it not? Francis Thompson wrote the greatest single poem in the English language, the Hound of Heaven. It’s a very moving poem of his own experience. Francis Thompson as a young man in the last century contracted tuberculosis, was put into a hospital. In those days they did not know the danger of narcotics, and he was given drugs, heavy dosages to ease his pain, and became a narcotic. Was turned out a narcotic, lived on the streets for a while, and only his faith enabled him to overcome his habit, but his health was broken for life. It was while he was on the streets, on butcher paper that he had picked up from trash cans, that he wrote the Hound of Heaven.
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