Keep well the Hermetic Decalogue

Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
On education,
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before
Administration.

Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
Nor with compliance
Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science.

Thou shalt not be on friendly terms
With guys in advertising firms,
Nor speak with such
As read the Bible for its prose,
Nor, above all, make love to those
Who wash too much.

Thou shalt not live within thy means
Nor on plain water and raw greens.
If thou must choose
Between the chances, choose the odd;
Read The New Yorker, trust in God;
And take short views.

The last four stanzas of Auden’s hilariously trenchant and alarmingly timely poem “Under Which Lyre: A Reactionary Tract for the Times,” delivered at Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa Society, 1946. Auden had just returned from months touring the devastation of Germany after World War II. He was not convinced the the United States and England were not going down the same path that led Germany to National Socialism.

You can listen to W. H. Auden himself read the whole poem here.

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