Henry Salt Archive

Henry Salt (1853-1939) was the author of the Life of Henry David Thoreau, Animals Rights and A Plea for Vegetarianism which inspired Gandhi for follow a vegetarian diet.

The Modern Guy Fawkes

He lurks down beside the base
Of that proud edifice, Society,
Where fashionable idlers chase
The phantom-form they call “variety”;
Where landlords lounge from room to room,
And millionaires suspect no treason—
Deep down in subterranean gloom
He lives, and lurks, and bides his season.

Above, through many a spacious hall,
Deck’d gorgeously with stolen treasure,
They ply their pastime, one and all,
The votaries of pelf and pleasure;
Indulging every wanton whim.
Carousing, trading, gambling, whoring,
How should they pause to think of him—
That fellow underneath the flooring?

A rude, rough fellow, who delights
To scout conventional civility;
Who cares no whit for vested rights,
Nor cultivates respectability;
Who hath no balance at the bank,
No Sunday pew in church or chapel—
Take heed, ye men of wealth and rank,
Foredoom’d with this grim foe to grapple!

For this is he, the modern Guy,
By poets famed as Demogorgon,
Who, unbeheld of mortal eye,
Constructs a strange explosive organ,
By which those careless folk, intent
On everlasting rouse and revel,
Will see their festal mansions sent
In swift combustion to the devil.

E’en now they riot flush’d with wine,
And the mad din swells loud and louder;
Deep down he stores the secret mine,
And lays the silent train of powder;
No chemic compound, subtly wrought,
Is this, for death and devastation;
Nay, but a train of kindling thought,
A mine of moral indignation.

A fierce, consuming, quenchless blast
Of righteous wrath and fiery feeling.
By which that fabric of the past,
Piled high through centuries of stealing,
Shall start and shiver at the roar
Of the loud summons democratic,
Fate-stricken to it inmost core,
From lowest base to highest attic.

When comes the crash? No tongue may tell.
The train is laid; the fuse is ready;
Deep down in subterranean cell
He bides his season, stern and steady.
Take heed, ye lofty millionaires!
Proud dames and high-born lords, remember
The rude rough Guy that lurks downstairs,
On this—the fifth day of November!

H. S. Salt
The Commonweal, November 5, 1887