Editor's introduction to The Sons of Martha by Rudyard Kipling

There is more than one kind of aristocracy.

Luke tells us the story: Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were entertaining Jesus and his disciples. Martha rushed about the kitchen and household, seeing to the cooking, bringing wash basins, changing towels, and doing the other things needful when one's home has been unexpectedly invaded by a celebrity and his entourage.

"Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

"And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus feet, and heard his word.

"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.

"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things:

"But one thing is needful: Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

(Luke 10:38-42)

Much has happened since then; but Rudyard Kipling tells us, we sons of Martha have yet to pay the final reckoning.

Imperial Stars Vol. I: The Stars at War, Jerry Pournelle, ed. p. 227

The Sons of Martha

Rudyard Kipling 1907
The sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited
   that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the 
  careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she
  was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without
  end, reprieve, or rest.
It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and
  cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that 
  the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care
  to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by
  land and main.

They say to mountains, "Be ye removed." They say to
  the lesser floods, "Be dry."
Under their rods are the rocks reproved-they are not
  afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit-then is the 
  bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly
  sleeping and unaware.
They finger death at their gloves' end where they piece
  and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry 
  behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into
  his terrible stall,
And hale him forth a haltered steer, and goad and turn
  him till evenfall.
To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till
  death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden - under the
  earthline their altars are-
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to
  restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again
  at a city's drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a
  little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to drop
  their job when they dam'-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark
  and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren's
  day may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path
  more fair or flat - 
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha
  spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness
  to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their
  common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed - they
  know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for
  them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet - they hear the Word - they see
  how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and - the
  Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!

============================================================== Some feedback: > Just to do the old double newsgroup reverse thread tie-in bit, > I am reposting this to alt.folklore.urban, because this poem > is part of the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, aka The > Iron Ring Ceremony. Before I was Called, I first saw this > poem on a memorial to the 6 people who'd died while building > the dam at Grand Falls, New Brunswick. Previous Re: C++: The COBOL of the 90s.html - A calm, rational, well-supported post on some of the problems with C & C++ Up to Unix-Haters Archive Main Page Next I Miss VMS - Some of the essentials that unix lacks.