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Necessary Evils

From The Seattle Star, December 16, 1913. By Berton Braley.

In the days of old Rameses, when he ruled along the Nile,
There were human sacrifices of a rather gory style.
And if tender-hearted people at this sort of thing demurred,
“It’s a Necessary Evil,” they were told, when it occurred.
“For the mighty gods require it, and we mustn’t tell them ‘No,’
Or the crops would cease to prosper and the Nile would cease to flow!”
Yet in time this custom perished, ‘spite of priest and king and thrall,
For a Necessary Evil’s no necessity at all!

In the time of Mr. Nero, who was emperor of Rome,
There were Necessary Evils which were very much at home.
There were gladiators’ battles and a lot of other games,
Such as feeding Christian martyrs to the lions or the flames.
But the reign of Nero ended and he had his little day,
And those Necessary Evils were completely swept away—
Swept away like little sandhills in a sudden windy squall—
For a Necessary Evil’s no necessity at all!

There were good and kindly people who defended slavery
As a Necessary Evil which was simply bound to be.
Yet it’s washed away forever by the blood of noble men;
It’s a Necessary Evil which will not come back again!
So the Barroom and the Brothel, which are ever talked about
As two Necessary Evils which we cannot do without—
They shall go like those before them, they shall crumble to their fall—
For a Necessary Evil’s no necessity at all!

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