HEAD-MONEY, n. A capitation tax, or poll-tax.In ancient times there lived a king Whose tax-collectors could not wring From all his subjects gold enough To make the royal way less rough. For pleasure’s highway, like the dames Whose premises adjoin it, claims Perpetual repairing. So The tax-collectors in a row Appeared before the throne to pray Their master to devise some way To swell the revenue. “”So great,”” Said they, “”are the demands of state A tithe of all that we collect Will scarcely meet them. Pray reflect: How, if one-tenth we must resign, Can we exist on t’other nine?”” The monarch asked them in reply:””Has it occurred to you to try The advantage of economy?””””It has,”” the spokesman said: “”we sold All of our gray garrotes of gold; With plated-ware we now compress The necks of those whom we assess. Plain iron forceps we employ To mitigate the miser’s joy Who hoards, with greed that never tires, That which your Majesty requires.”” Deep lines of thought were seen to plow Their way across the royal brow.””Your state is desperate, no question; Pray favor me with a suggestion.””””O King of Men,”” the spokesman said,””If you’ll impose upon each head A tax, the augmented revenue We’ll cheerfully divide with you.”” As flashes of the sun illume The parted storm-cloud’s sullen gloom, The king smiled grimly. “”I decree That it be so –and, not to be In generosity outdone, Declare you, each and every one, Exempted from the operation Of this new law of capitation. But lest the people censure me Because they’re bound and you are free,’Twere well some clever scheme were laid By you this poll-tax to evade. I’ll leave you now while you confer With my most trusted minister.”” The monarch from the throne-room walked And straightway in among them stalked A silent man, with brow concealed, Bare-armed –his gleaming axe revealed! –G.J.


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