The faith that they share with Berkeley Square

You know That Sign? You know, the one that says “Love is Love,” “No Human is Illegal,” “We Believe in Science,” and “Get Your Pumpkin Spice Latte Today.” Okay, I may have got just a little bit carried away there.

That Sign is all over our neighborhood, and without a sense of history, I’d be in despair that our country is being hollowed out from within by the people who think virtue is a matter of affirming the proper opinions. But thanks to Kipling and “Tomlinson,” I can think of our block as the modern version of Berkeley Square, and remember that the foolish are always with us.

You see, when Tomlinson died he had a little trouble explaining why he should get into Heaven.

The Wind that blows between the Worlds, it cut him like a knife,
And Tomlinson took up the tale and spoke of his good in life.
“O this I have read in a book,” he said, “and that was told to me,
“And this I have thought that another man thought of a Prince in Muscovy.”
The good souls flocked like homing doves and bade him clear the path,
And Peter twirled the jangling Keys in weariness and wrath.
“Ye have read, ye have heard, ye have thought,” he said, “and the tale is yet to run:
“By the worth of the body that once ye had, give answer—what ha’ ye done?”
Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and little good it bore,
For the darkness stayed at his shoulder-blade and Heaven’s Gate before:—
“O this I have felt, and this I have guessed, and this I heard men say,
“And this they wrote that another man wrote of a carl in Norroway.”
“Ye have read, ye have felt, ye have guessed, good lack! Ye have hampered Heaven’s Gate;
“There’s little room between the stars in idleness to prate!
“For none may reach by hired speech of neighbour, priest, and kin
“Through borrowed deed to God’s good meed that lies so fair within;
“Get hence, get hence to the Lord of Wrong, for thy doom has yet to run,
“And . . . the faith that ye share with Berkeley Square uphold you, Tomlinson!”

But it gets worse. Faced with the horror of the Abyss, Tomlinson begs for shelter in Hell.

The Wind that blows between the Worlds, it cut him like a knife,
And Tomlinson took up the tale and spoke of his sins in life:—
“Once I ha’ laughed at the power of Love and twice at the grip of the Grave,
“And thrice I ha’ patted my God on the head that men might call me brave.”
The Devil he blew on a brandered soul and laid it aside to cool:—
“Do ye think I would waste my good pit-coal on the hide of a brain-sick fool?
“I see no worth in the hobnail mirth or the jolthead jest ye did
“That I should waken my gentlemen that are sleeping three on a grid.”
Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and there was little grace,
For Hell-Gate filled the houseless soul with the Fear of Naked Space.
“Nay, this I ha’ heard,” quo’ Tomlinson, “and this was noised abroad,
“And this I ha’ got from a Belgian book on the word of a dead French lord.”
—”Ye ha’ heard, ye ha’ read, ye ha’ got, good lack! and the tale begins afresh—
“Have ye sinned one sin for the pride o’ the eye or the sinful lust of the flesh?”

Finally the Devil sends Tomlinson back to the world and tells him to live this time.

“Ye are neither spirit nor spirk,” he said; “ye are neither book nor brute—
“Go, get ye back to the flesh again for the sake of Man’s repute.
“I’m all o’er-sib to Adam’s breed that I should mock your pain,
“But look that ye win to a worthier sin ere ye come back again.
“Get hence, the hearse is at your door—the grim black stallions wait—
“They bear your clay to place to-day. Speed, lest ye come too late!
“Go back to Earth with lip unsealed—go back with open eye,
“And carry my word to the Sons of Men or ever ye come to die:
“That the sin they do by two and two they must pay for one by one,
“And . . . the God you took from a printed book be with you, Tomlinson!”


    • Tim Turner on October 25, 2022 at 1:02 PM

    Thanks, Margaret! I had never read that before.
    I decided to look for the poem on the internet. Wow! That guy Kipling, huh? I remember reading Paradise Lost in high school, and was suitably impressed. I never “studied” Kipling, but throughout my life I’ve been impressed with his style and down to earth messages.
    Again, thank you for the read (and the context.)  🙂

  1. An exceedingly relevant citation, Margaret. The eternal realm respects not the idle, nor the uncommitted. What the penalty may be, we who live cannot be certain. Perhaps Saint John had a glimpse:

    I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. [Revelation 3:15-16]

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