Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)|
The Latest Decalogue
Thou shalt have one God only; who
Would tax himself to worship two?
God's image nowhere shalt thou see,
Save haply in the currency:
Swear not at all; since for thy curse
Thine enemy is not the worse:
At church on Sunday to attend
Will help to keep the world thy friend:
Honor thy parents; that is, all
From whom promotion may befall:
Thou shalt not kill; but needst not strive
Officiously to keep alive:
Adultery it is not fit
Or safe, for women, to commit:
Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,
When 'tis so lucrative to cheat:
False witness not to bear be strict;
And cautious, ere you contradict.
Thou shalt not covet; but tradition
Sanctions the keenest competition.
As noted by P. G. Scott, Clough's
The Latest Decalouge may have been written to show that the "bourgeois morality" of his time was actually irreligious.
The poem appears in two distinct manuscripts, one
held by the British Museum, and the other at Harvard University. The
version presented above is the one held by Harvard. Most anthologies
seem to use a combination of the two versions.
In addition to a slightly different parody
of the ten commandments, the British Museum version ends with a parody
of their summary given in the Gospel according to Matthew:
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.
The text of both manuscript versions can be found in:
Clough, Arthur Hugh. The Poems of Arthur Hugh Clough, second
edition. F.L. Mulhauser, ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.
The origins of the poem are discussed by:
Scott, P. G. (1967). The Text and Structure of Clough's "The
Latest Decalogue". Notes and Queries, New Series, 14 (10), 378-379.