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University of Bucharest Dinu Simona-Ioana

Faculty of Letters English B, Gr.2, Series 1, 2nd yr

Humanity and divinity

The "Last Decalogue" poem was written by Arthur Hugh Clough, a 19th century English
poet, in which, with satire, highlights the behavior, thought and moral degradation of Victorian
The title of the poem is suggestive and refers to the 10 religious and moral commands
contained in the Old Testament which, having a basic meaning in Christianity and Judaism, refer
strictly to worship of one God, to the observance of one's own parents, the Sabbath, blasphemy,
murder, theft and adultery.
The word "latest" in the title suggests that throughout history, even if mankind had only
one Decalogue, it was not always respected, and, using its profound meaning, Clough presents, in
contradiction, "another set "of 10 commandments through which human society parodies, in fact,
a satire to the morals of society of all time.
At first glance, the poet seems to insult religion by asking his question: “...who would tax
himself to worship two?” but, in reality, he is unaffected by the lack of faith of his fellow men.
Moreover, through this poem, Clough wants to illustrate the fact that Victorian society was
dominated by avarice and greed, and money was something that people had great prize:

“God's image nowhere shalt thou see,

Save haply in the currency...”

By a parallel to the 10 commandments, the poet wants to highlight the defects of the
people and, being a good acquaintance of human nature, satirizes all those who overtake the drink
and the infamous men:

“Adultery it is not fit

Or safe, for women, to commit”

In a decadent society in which hypocrisy and appearance prevailed, Clough uses the
Decalogue to prove that those who should have maintained order are equally dishonest :

“Thou shalt not covet; but tradition

Sanctions the keenest competition...”

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University of Bucharest Dinu Simona-Ioana
Faculty of Letters English B, Gr.2, Series 1, 2nd yr

The poem appears in two distinct manuscripts, one supported by British Museum and the
other by Harvard University. The version after the British Museum ends with a parody of the 10
commandments, as they are mentioned in the Gospel of 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.”

In my opinion, the poet wants to demonstrate, through this poem, that man, by his nature,
being weak and corrupt, often falls prey to temptations, but above man stands the word of God, the
supreme Creator.


Clough, Arthur-Hugh. The Last Decalogue

Dinu Simona-Ioana

English B, Gr.2, Series 1, 2nd yr

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