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vetuste_ennemi | 16:30 Fri 16th Aug 2013 | Religion & Spirituality
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There Is No God, the Wicked Sayeth

"There is no God," the wicked saith,
"And truly it's a blessing,
For what He might have done with us
It's better only guessing."

"There is no God," a youngster thinks,
"or really, if there may be,
He surely did not mean a man
Always to be a baby."

"There is no God, or if there is,"
The tradesman thinks, "'twere funny
If He should take it ill in me
To make a little money."

"Whether there be," the rich man says,
"It matters very little,
For I and mine, thank somebody,
Are not in want of victual."

Some others, also, to themselves,
Who scarce so much as doubt it,
Think there is none, when they are well,
And do not think about it.

But country folks who live beneath
The shadow of the steeple;
The parson and the parson's wife,
And mostly married people;

Youths green and happy in first love,
So thankful for illusion;
And men caught out in what the world
Calls guilt, in first confusion;

And almost everyone when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
Or something very like Him.

Arthur Hugh Clough :


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What's interesting is that he wrote this in the high Victorian period.

Supposedly a time of rebirth of religous spirit and yet he feels the need to take issue with all these atheistical people running about.

And actually he died just as Darwin was publishing the Origin of Species and Huxley was debating with Wilberforce.

I think it shows the pent up powder keg that was the Victorian Religious/Atheist schism about to go off and reach it's height when the atheist MP Bradlaugh would be imprisoned briefly in the Clock Tower at Westminster for refusing to swear rather than affirm the oath of allegience.

An interesting time
Question Author
That's an interesting take on the poem, Jake. I don't see that he's necessarily taking issue with atheism; on the contrary I think there's a lot in it to delight even rabid evangelical atheists like me. I'm particularly fond of the second stanza.
You don't think he's taking issue with atheism?

How o you read:

//"There is no God," the wicked saith// ?
Question Author
He may be, Jake, but I read it as an observation that it is our condition in life . that largely affects our attitudes. Obviously the wicked would prefer not to be held to account, most people don't think a lot about ultimate destiny when things are going swimmingly, and perhaps we all search for comfort and hope when things are low. I can see a rather charming irony about it all which in no way depends (for me) on what Clough himself may have thought or indeed what he may have been trying to teach us.
Wasn't it said earlier and more succinctly;

"A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."

Francis Bacon

Question Author
Glad to see you championing economy, Khandro. Of course, I disagree with Bacon. And unlike you and Jake I think Clough's poem is a comment not a homily. But I've been wrong about many things in the past, could be wrong about this now and further, based on the principle that history repeats itself (didn't someone add: "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce"?) will be wrong again in the future.
Whatever the sentiment means, and whether it's right or wrong, I'm afraid IMHO it's a pretty crap poem, and I urge you to return to G.M.Hopkins forthwith.
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Well, if you think this is a crap poem you obviously won't think much of Kipling or Chesterton's mate Belloc, will you, Khandro?
v-e; Surprisingly, you seem to have something of a predilection for the sentimental. If had to mark poets of that period, I would have to give;
Kipling; Low 2.2
Belloc; Third class honours
Hopkins; 1st class, with distinction.
Question Author
He knows me so well.
That's not an attack on atheism. If anything it's a humorous little tongue in cheek dig at religion. I like verse 2. :o)

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