In 1946, the newly American W.H. Auden urged the academics of a victorious nation to choose “Under Which Lyre” they would ply their trade — would they sing the song of Apollo, god of order, or Hermes, god of freedom? (Hear Auden read the poem here.)
Auden urged on his listeners “the Hermetic decalogue,” which I’m quoting in a syllabus, and about which I have something of substance to say — but just for the moment, I’m puzzling over the narrow matter of how to number his ten commandments. I propose the following but remain open to alternate theories.
It’s an important question, because depending how you do this, committing a social science is analogous either to adultery or murder. (Or possibly failing to honor your father and mother — but I don’t think so; whatever Auden was, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t Jewish.)
Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before
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.