The Question of Givens




Sir, with the scalpel and delicate knives
Hacking a hole in the guinea-pig's brain,
Versed in the Why of our poor little lives,
Study the papers and kindly explain.
Something seems wrong in the scheme that you drew—
Please reconstruct your Creation anew.

Yes, I am sure that the Lord is a fiction,
Yes, I am sure from a germ-blob of earth,
Slowly we clomb into dress-clothes and diction,
Sat on a chair and told lies of our birth:
I'm one Ascidian and you are another—
What about Givens, my erudite brother?

What about Givens? Hell Fire's exploded—
He did his best in a close imitation—
Held a lit steamer with cotton-bales loaded
Hard on the bank, for the people's salvation—
Burned like an onion and broke as he died
Nature's first law which is:—'Keep a whole hide.'

What was the motive that led him to danger?
Why did he stick to the wheel like a fool?
Why did he trouble to rescue the stranger
When he might jump in the stream and be cool?
Death could be found in a prettier way,
Why did he plump for an Auto da Fe?

What was the instinct—acquired or inherited?
Dim recollection of Sunday–School teaching?
Desperate rush to the Fate that he merited?
Practical finish of Methody preaching?
He was a deck-hand—it wasn't his pidgin
Rashly to riot in flames or religion.

Though you shall read in a work of devotion
Something that says there is no love exceeding
Death for a friend's sake, that wasn't his notion:
He held the wheel while the rest fled unheeding.
Deck-hands and passengers love in their station—
What shall we think of this Type–Aberration?

Mark him, defunct now, a lusus naturae.
Say he was mad or suggest he was drunk.
Write on his tombstone:—'He tasted Death's fury
Long ere he died, too uncultured to funk.'
Add there:— ' Resurgat—as wheat haulm or tree.'
So much for Givens—but what about Me?

Hand back that God that you diddled me out of—
Hand back the prayer-book you said was a sham—
Give me some Power I haven't a doubt of—
Something almighty to bless and to damn!
Deuce take your atoms and test-tubes that smell—
Givens won Heaven by walking through Hell!

If he comes out in the Dark on the far side—
Finds there is neither Gold Doorway nor Throne—
He will steer straight for some unannexed starside,
Start, on his merits, a Heaven of his own.
Sidney will help him, while you on the earth
Write to the Times of a new planet's birth.

So! You can prove me an anthropoid whats-its-name,
Post-proto-blasto-Caesarian It—
Work your philosophy, gentlemen—rat's its name—
Try it on Givens and Givens won't fit.
All that you know of the Earth, Sky or Sea
Doesn't account for that fellow—or Me!