By 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.
Ambrose Bierce was a journalist, short story writer, poet, and satirist who wrote about the culture around him with fearlessness and wit. He was one of the most popular writers of his time, and his book The Devil’s Dictionary, a collection of skewering aphorisms, remains a classic. Bierce disappeared mysteriously after deciding to go to war-torn Mexico at the age of seventy-one.
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