The New Decalogue

By Ambrose Bierce 1842–1914 Ambrose Bierce
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 gain.

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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Poet Ambrose Bierce 1842–1914

Subjects Religion, Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

Poetic Terms Couplet, Aphorism

 Ambrose  Bierce

Biography

Ambrose Bierce's literary reputation is based primarily on his short stories about the Civil War and the supernatural—a body of work that makes up a relatively small part of his total output. Often compared to the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, these stories share an attraction to death in its more bizarre forms, featuring depictions of mental deterioration, uncanny, otherworldly manifestations, and expressions of the horror of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

Poetic Terms Couplet, Aphorism

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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