Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II


Arthur Hugh Clough

DUTY—that’s to say, complying,
    With whate’er’s expected here;
On your unknown cousin’s dying,
    Straight be ready with the tear;
Upon etiquette relying,
Unto usage nought denying,
Lend your waist to be embraced,
    Blush not even, never fear;
Claims of kith and kin connection,
    Claims of manners honour still,
Ready money of affection
    Pay, whoever drew the bill.
With the form conforming duly,
Senseless what it meaneth truly,
Go to church—the world require you,
    To balls—the world require you too,
And marry—papa and mamma desire you,
    And your sisters and schoolfellows do.
Duty—’tis to take on trust
What things are good, and right, and just;
    And whether indeed they be or be not,
    Try not, test not, feel not, see not:
    ’Tis walk and dance, sit down and rise
    By leading, opening ne’er your eyes;
Stunt sturdy limbs that Nature gave,
And be drawn in a Bath chair along to the grave.
’Tis the stern and prompt suppressing,
    As an obvious deadly sin,
All the questing and the guessing
    Of the souls own soul within:
’Tis the coward acquiescence
    In a destiny’s behest,
To a shade by terror made,
Sacrificing, aye, the essence
    Of all that’s truest, noblest, best:
’Tis the blind non-recognition
    Or of goodness, truth, or beauty,
Save by precept and submission;
    Moral blank, and moral void,
    Life at very birth destroyed.
Atrophy, exinanition!
Yea, by duty’s prime condition
    Pure nonentity of duty!

Poems and Prose Remains vol II - Contents

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