November 5th, 2008

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The Gods of the Copybook Headings

Published in October 1919 when the poet was 53 years old, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" has proved enduringly popular, despite the fact that copybooks disappeared from schoolrooms in Britain and America during, or shortly after, World War 2. A copybook was an exercise book used to practice one's handwriting in. The pages were blank except for horizontal rulings and a printed specimen of perfect handwriting at the top. You were supposed to copy this specimen all down the page. The specimens were proverbs or quotations, or little commonplace hortatory or admonitory sayings—the ones in the poem illustrate the kind of thing. These were the copybook headings.

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