Ralph Luker on Clio's Commandments

November 09, 2004

Ralph Luker over at Cliopatra shares with us The Decalogue of Clio as prepared by George Tindall.

Clio's Decalogue: The Commandments of the Muse

I Thou shalt smite the Philistines hip and thigh with thy first sentence. This is the First Commandment.

II Thou shalt love the active verb with all thy heart, with all the soul, and with all thy mind, and thou shalt have no passive verbs before me; the present tense, moreover, is an abomination unto the muse.

III Thou shalt not take the names of thy cast in vain, for the muse will not hold that one guiltless who faileth fully to denominate and clearly to identify in relation to the subject all persons or incidents, be they Zora Neale Hurston, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, or the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. Only after thou hast performed this ceremony of purification mayest thou use familiar terms like unto Hurston, Lamar, or The Duel to the Death.

IV Remember the footnote, to keep it holy. In thy text shalt thou labor thy subject, but neither discuss thy documents nor yet thy methodology. Footnotes were made for scholars and not scholars for footnotes; yea, verily, the greatest is not the writer who citeth the most obscure document, nor yet the one who pileth Ossa upon Pelion.

V Honor thy chronology, to keep it straight, and put thy time clause first, that thy days may be long upon the printed page.

VI Thou shalt not kill thy reader, neither with the dangling participle, nor the split infinitive, nor with string of prepositional phrases, nor yet with adjectives and adverbs.

VII Thou shalt not commit adulteration, neither with slang nor with jargon, yea though the words be favored of thine instructors.

VIII Thou shalt not covet thy source's prose, imagery, or purple passage, nor anything that is thy source's, for lo, thou canst say it better thyself. Thou mayest quote only to season thy store, and that in fear and trembling.

IX Thou shalt not bear false witness, nor pass judgment upon mankind, nor yet pardon any man or woman for anything; thou mayest seek the reason for error but neither the excuse nor the blame. Vengeance is mine, saith the muse.

X Thou shalt not steal thy reader's attention by using "this" for "the," nor "the" for "a," neither shall thou employ negations. Neither a "no"-er nor a "not"-er be; but rather an accentuator of the positive; in this respect shalt thou do as these commandments say do and not as they, alas, do.

Posted by Red Ted at November 9, 2004 08:51 AM | TrackBack