Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cantemus, fratres

The following is from G.K. Chesterton's "The Little Birds That Won't Sing" in the collection of essays Tremendous Trifles. Compare Luther's "And then go joyfully to your work, singing..."

+HRC

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If reapers sing while reaping, why should not auditors sing while auditing and bankers while banking? If there are songs for all the separate things that have to be done in a boat, why are there not songs for all the separate things that have to be done in a bank? As the train from Dover flew through the Kentish gardens, I tried to write a few songs suitable for commercial gentlemen. Thus, the work of bank clerks when casting up columns might begin with a thundering chorus in praise of Simple Addition.
"Up my lads and lift the ledgers, sleep and ease are o'er. Hear the Stars of Morning shouting: 'Two and Two are four.' Though the creeds and realms are reeling, though the sophists roar, Though we weep and pawn our watches, Two and Two are Four."
"There's a run upon the Bank—Stand away! For the Manager's a crank and the Secretary drank, and the
   Upper Tooting Bank
         Turns to bay!
   Stand close: there is a run
   On the Bank.
   Of our ship, our royal one, let the ringing legend run,
   That she fired with every gun
         Ere she sank."
.....
And as I came into the cloud of London I met a friend of mine who actually is in a bank, and submitted these suggestions in rhyme to him for use among his colleagues. But he was not very hopeful about the matter. It was not (he assured me) that he underrated the verses, or in any sense lamented their lack of polish. No; it was rather, he felt, an indefinable something in the very atmosphere of the society in which we live that makes it spiritually difficult to sing in banks. And I think he must be right; though the matter is very mysterious. I may observe here that I think there must be some mistake in the calculations of the Socialists. They put down all our distress, not to a moral tone, but to the chaos of private enterprise. Now, banks are private; but post-offices are Socialistic: therefore I naturally expected that the post-office would fall into the collectivist idea of a chorus. Judge of my surprise when the lady in my local post-office (whom I urged to sing) dismissed the idea with far more coldness than the bank clerk had done. She seemed indeed, to be in a considerably greater state of depression than he. Should any one suppose that this was the effect of the verses themselves, it is only fair to say that the specimen verse of the Post-Office Hymn ran thus:
     "O'er London our letters are shaken like snow,
      Our wires o'er the world like the thunderbolts go.
      The news that may marry a maiden in Sark,
      Or kill an old lady in Finsbury Park."
Chorus (with a swing of joy and energy):
     "Or kill an old lady in Finsbury Park."
And the more I thought about the matter the more painfully certain it seemed that the most important and typical modern things could not be done with a chorus. One could not, for instance, be a great financier and sing; because the essence of being a great financier is that you keep quiet. You could not even in many modern circles be a public man and sing; because in those circles the essence of being a public man is that you do nearly everything in private. Nobody would imagine a chorus of money-lenders. Every one knows the story of the solicitors' corps of volunteers who, when the Colonel on the battlefield cried "Charge!" all said simultaneously, "Six-and-eightpence." Men can sing while charging in a military, but hardly in a legal sense. And at the end of my reflections I had really got no further than the sub-conscious feeling of my friend the bank-clerk—that there is something spiritually suffocating about our life; not about our laws merely, but about our life. Bank-clerks are without songs, not because they are poor, but because they are sad. Sailors are much poorer. As I passed homewards I passed a little tin building of some religious sort, which was shaken with shouting as a trumpet is torn with its own tongue. THEY were singing anyhow; and I had for an instant a fancy I had often had before: that with us the super-human is the only place where you can find the human. Human nature is hunted and has fled into sanctuary.

2 comments:

  1. Disney has provided an exceptionally fine banker song.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XxyB29bDbBA&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DXxyB29bDbBA

    ReplyDelete
  2. "There's Nothin' in that Chancel -- Stand Away!"

    We're No Durn Papists ...
    So we say:
    Stand up, stand up for Jesus
    In the Pew.
    Of our nave, our Luth'ran one, let the ringing legend run,
    That she but talked Psalm 95 Verse 6
    Ere she sank."


    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor

    ReplyDelete

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