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The Latest Decalogue -- Arthur Hugh Clough

(Poem #159) The Latest Decalogue
Thou shalt have one God only; who
Would be at the expense of two?
No graven images may be
Worshipp'd, except the currency:
Swear not at all; for, for thy curse
Thine enemy is none the worse:
At church on Sunday to attend
Will serve to keep the world thy friend:
Honour thy parents; that is, all
From whom advancement may befall:
Thou shalt not kill; but need'st not strive
Officiously to keep alive:
Do not adultery commit;
Advantage rarely comes of it:
Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,
When it's so lucrative to cheat:
Bear not false witness; let the lie
Have time on its own wings to fly:
Thou shalt not covert; but tradition
Approves all forms of competition.
-- Arthur Hugh Clough
  One of the two extant manuscripts has four additional lines, not printed
  in any early edition of Clough, summarizing his decalogue in an ironic
  restatement of the two great commandments of the law (Matthew 22: 37-39):

   The sum of all is, thou shalt love,
   If any body, God above:
   At any rate shall never labour
   More than thyself to love thy neighbour."

Time has not rendered this poem archaic[1], quaint or outdated - on the
contrary, it seems just as trenchantly relevant today as it doubtless did
back in 1862.

Compare Decalogue to the previous poem, 'There is no God..' (Poem #69)
- Decalogue lacks the subtle irony, opting instead for a more forthright
style, reminiscent of Bierce. This contributes greatly to its timelessness;
Clough's verse is, indeed, more 20th Century than Victorian in flavour.

[1] well, the phrase 'the currency' in line 4 seems a trifle old-fashioned,
but only if you want to nitpick

Biography etc: See poem #69


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