Thursday, September 23, 2004


Parodies of the Decalogue

Some might find these clever parodies of the Ten Commandments blasphemous, but I don't. To those who profess to be Christians, they're salutary reminders of the dangers of hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

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.
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), The New Decalogue:
Have but one God: thy knees were sore
If bent in prayer to three or four.
Adore no images save those
The coinage of thy country shows.
Take not the Name in vain. Direct
Thy swearing unto some effect.
Thy hand from Sunday work be held --
Work not at all unless compelled.
Honor thy parents, and perchance
Their wills thy fortunes may advance.
Kill not -- death liberates thy foe
From persecution's constant woe.
Kiss not thy neighbor's wife. Of course
There's no objection to divorce.
To steal were folly, for 'tis plain
In cheating there is greater pain.
Bear not false witness. Shake your head
And say that you have "heard it said."
Who stays to covet ne'er will catch
An opportunity to snatch.

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