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.

Homo Rapiens, and Other Verses

The Socialist Review, February 1927

Homo Rapiens, and Other Verses. By Henry S. Salt.
(Watts & Co.,)

MR. HENRY S. Salt is an old Socialist warrior. He is also that not very uncommon individual, a violent vegetarian and a pugnacious pacifist. That which earns his disapproval he chases with a club. He usually catches it—and the club has spikes, though not, it should he said, poisoned spikes. The verses in this collection are so many hearty thwacks with the club. Sometimes the spiked side is outward, and the object of Mr. Salt’s attentions falls to rise no more. Sometimes his onslaught is more in the nature of a playful dig in the bread-basket from the end of the club, and the victim gasps for breath and wonders what has happened to him. In every case one can see the joy of battle in the eyes of the wielder of the club, as he pursues one victim after another with brilliant epigram and barbed jest.

Mr. Salt’s antipathies are many. He goes to the Cattle Show, and is provoked as follows:

“You wish to see the Fat Beast show,
Foretaste of festive season,
Where panting oxen, ranged arow,
Can scarcely get a wheeze on;
And stout folk stand around and stare,
Their beefy thoughts regaling.
Fat Beasts? Why, yes; you’ll find them there—
On both sides of the railing.”

Of the “principle” of capitalist society, Mr. Salt has the following pithy summary:

Dieu et mon Droit has long gone by,
As kingship nears its end.
What shall he Rapiens’ rallying cry,
His profits to defend?
What else but Pelf with Piety?
Dieu et mon Dividende.”

The foundation by certain muddle-headed persons of the “Duty and Discipline” Movement for the benefit of school boys—a movement which, like most of them, is quite non-party and only anti-Socialist, leads Mr. Salt to hail the glorious future:

“When British boys, from shore to shore,
Two priceless boons shall find:—
The Flag, that’s ever waved before,
The Birch, that’s waved behind.”

In a section entitled “Old Saws Resharpened,” Mr. Salt contrives to hit three antipathies with one blow of the club:

“What’s in a Name? Why, much. Relief
For doer of ill deed.
Say ‘Private Enterprise’—and thief
From disrepute is freed.
Say ‘Sport’—all’s fair; say ‘War’—the Church
Will bless the guns that kill;
Speak but the magic word ‘Research’
And torture as you will!”

One wishes there were space for more quotations. A brilliant little book of epigrams, without a dull patch in it. May it be widely read.

RHO