'The Last Decalogue' by Arthur Hugh Clough
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Thou shalt have one God only;—who
Would be at the expense of two?
No graven images may be
Worshipped, 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 'tis so lucrative to cheat:
Bear not false witness; let the lie
Have time on its own wings to fly:
Thou shalt not covet, but tradition
Approves all forms of competition.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Last Decalogue: A Critical Analysis
As literature enthusiasts, we are often drawn to works that reflect our personal beliefs and values. However, there are some literary pieces that challenge our beliefs and make us question the very foundations of our morality. Arthur Hugh Clough's "The Last Decalogue" is one such poem that makes us contemplate our moral compass and the principles that we hold dear.
Arthur Hugh Clough was a renowned poet and educator in the Victorian era. He was known for his ability to blend humor, satire, and serious themes in his works. "The Last Decalogue" is one of his most famous poems, written in 1849, and it is a satirical take on the Ten Commandments.
The poem follows a simple structure of ten stanzas, each corresponding to one of the Ten Commandments. However, Clough's interpretation of the commandments is far from conventional. He uses each commandment as a starting point to criticize the hypocrisy and moral shortcomings of the Victorian society.
Clough's interpretation of the commandments is not intended to be taken literally. Rather, it is a commentary on the societal norms and the moral values of his time. For instance, in the first stanza, "Thou shalt have one God only; who/Would be at the expense of two," Clough ridicules the idea of religious exclusivity and the belief that one religion is superior to others. He questions the morality of imposing one's beliefs on others and the consequences of religious fanaticism.
Similarly, in the third stanza, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord/In vain; or which is same thing, fraud," Clough criticizes the hypocrisy of those who claim to be religious but engage in unethical practices. He highlights the moral bankruptcy of those who use religion as a guise to deceive others.
The poem continues in a similar vein, with Clough using each commandment to challenge the prevailing societal norms. He questions the morality of slavery in stanza six, "Thou shalt not kill; but need'st not strive/Officiously to keep alive," and the class divide in stanza eight, "Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,/When it's so lucrative to cheat."
What makes "The Last Decalogue" significant is its relevance even today. Clough's criticism of religious fanaticism, hypocrisy, and the exploitation of the weak is a theme that resonates with us even in the 21st century. The poem offers a timeless message that transcends time and space.
Moreover, the poem offers a commentary on the limitations of the Ten Commandments. While the commandments may have been relevant in their time, they fail to encompass the complexities of modern society. Clough offers a nuanced interpretation of the commandments that is more relevant to the Victorian society and, by extension, to our society.
"The Last Decalogue" was a groundbreaking poem that challenged the prevailing moral norms of the Victorian era. It was a bold statement that criticized the hypocrisy and moral shortcomings of the society. The poem was widely read and appreciated for its wit, humor, and satire, and it cemented Clough's position as one of the most important poets of his time.
In conclusion, "The Last Decalogue" is a significant poem that challenges our beliefs and makes us question the very foundations of our morality. Clough's interpretation of the commandments is a commentary on the societal norms and moral values of his time, and it offers a timeless message that is relevant even today. The poem is a testament to Clough's wit, humor, and ability to blend serious themes in his works.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Last Decalogue: A Timeless Poem with a Message for All Ages
Arthur Hugh Clough's The Last Decalogue is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. Written in 1849, it is a satirical take on the Ten Commandments, the moral code that has guided humanity for centuries. The poem is a masterpiece of wit and wisdom, and its message is as relevant today as it was over 170 years ago.
The poem consists of ten stanzas, each corresponding to one of the Ten Commandments. However, instead of the traditional commandments, Clough offers his own version, which is both humorous and thought-provoking. Let's take a closer look at each of these commandments and what they mean.
The first commandment in Clough's version is "Thou shalt have one God only; who would be at the expense of two?" This is a clever play on words, as it suggests that having two gods would be a waste of money. However, the deeper meaning is that we should focus on what is truly important in life and not get distracted by trivial matters.
The second commandment is "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, lest thou worship a symbol." This is a warning against idolatry, which is the worship of physical objects or symbols. Clough is saying that we should not get too attached to material things and should focus on spiritual values instead.
The third commandment is "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; that is, thou shalt not call thyself an atheist or a deist." This is a criticism of those who claim to be atheists or deists, as Clough believes that they are simply using these labels to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. He is saying that we should be honest with ourselves and others about our beliefs.
The fourth commandment is "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; but if anybody asks what it means, be sure you say you don't know." This is a humorous take on the traditional commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. Clough is suggesting that many people follow this commandment without really understanding its meaning. He is saying that we should take the time to understand the spiritual significance of the Sabbath.
The fifth commandment is "Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." This is a straightforward commandment that emphasizes the importance of respecting our parents. Clough is saying that this is a fundamental value that should be instilled in us from a young age.
The sixth commandment is "Thou shalt not kill; but needst not strive officiously to keep alive." This is a controversial commandment that challenges the traditional view that all life is sacred. Clough is saying that we should not kill unnecessarily, but we should also not go to great lengths to keep people alive if they are suffering.
The seventh commandment is "Thou shalt not commit adultery; but thou shalt not be a prig." This is a warning against being too judgmental of others. Clough is saying that we should not be hypocritical and should not judge others for their actions.
The eighth commandment is "Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat, when it's so lucrative to cheat." This is a criticism of the capitalist system, which Clough believes encourages cheating and dishonesty. He is saying that we should strive for honesty and integrity in all our dealings.
The ninth commandment is "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour; nor him that pays thy pocket, suffer it to be done behind his back." This is a warning against gossip and slander. Clough is saying that we should not spread rumors or talk behind people's backs.
The tenth and final commandment is "Thou shalt not covet; but tradition approves all forms of competition." This is a criticism of the competitive nature of society. Clough is saying that we should not be envious of others and should focus on our own goals and aspirations.
In conclusion, The Last Decalogue is a timeless poem that offers a satirical take on the Ten Commandments. Clough's version is both humorous and thought-provoking, and its message is as relevant today as it was over 170 years ago. The poem challenges us to think deeply about our values and beliefs and to strive for honesty, integrity, and respect for others. It is a masterpiece of wit and wisdom that deserves to be read and appreciated by all.
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