Where Have All The Pirates Gone?

Last week I rediscovered a poem called “God’s Funeral,” in which Thomas Hardy pictures the passing mourners who

Struck out sick thoughts that could be overheard:

How sweet it was in years far hied

To start the wheels of day with trustful prayer,

To lie down liegely at the eventide

And feel a blest assurance he was there!

An unblest assurance-company agent (forgive the allusion; the point comes later) happened to call that evening. My needs were modest: a policy against fire, flood, burglary, and personal accident. The agent decided that, bless my innocent heart, I had set my sights too low, and with an earnest altruism rare in the knockabout world of commerce threw in other exigencies at no extra charge.

I am now protected against (pass the magnifying glass) thunderbolts and earthquakes, civil commotions and labor disturbances, and much more besides. Included is a splendid and sonorous cover against “Malicious Persons acting on behalf of or in connection with any political organization” (are you thinking what I’m thinking?). Oh yes, and my servants may breathe easily in case of “personal injury, disease or damage to grooms, coachmen and gardeners, but excluding chauffeurs.” A sour note, that—what if my driver is struck down by a wasting pestilence?

Finally, I will lose nothing in the event of “military or usurped power.” It should comfort me, but it makes me vaguely uneasy. Do they know something we don’t? Have they done a deal with the coming junta? And why, I demanded of a dazed agent, was I being given no protection against pirates? Everybody in the old-fashioned policies lived in mortal dread of them. ...

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