Muses and Writing

(Thalia by Jean-marc Nattier)

(Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
“I pray to Mnamosyna (Memory), the fair-robed child of Ouranos (Heaven), and to her daughters [the Mousai].

Sappho, Fragment 103 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric I) (C6th B.C.) :
“Hither, holy Kharites (Graces) and Pierides Moisai [come inspire a song].”

The nine Muses of Greek mythology: Calliope of epic poetry, Clio of history, Erato of lyric poetry, Euterpe of music, Melpomene of tragedy, Polyhymnia of sacred poetry, Terpsichore of dance and song, Thalia of comedy, and Urania of Astronomy. They granted boons to the poets and artists of the ancient world.

Dante, cried out in The Inferno:
O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!
O memory that engraved the things I saw,
Here shall your worth be manifest to all!

Long after wide- belief in them had died out, some artists still sang their glories.

From Wiki: “Many Enlightenment figures sought to re-establish a “Cult of the Muses” in the 18th century. A famous Masonic lodge in pre-Revolutionary Paris was called Les Neuf Soeurs (“nine sisters”, that is, the nine Muses), and it was attended by Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Danton, and other influential Enlightenment figures. One side-effect of this movement was the use of the word “museum” (originally, “cult place of the Muses”) to refer to a place for the public display of knowledge.”

Flash forward to the 19th century when Emily Bronte depicted her muse like a lover:

“What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
Who loves me, no word of mine shall e’er betray
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.

Burn then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear-
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air;
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.”

In today’s world, many scoff at the idea of muses. Perhaps this stems from the many would-be writers who bemoan not being able to write due to not feeling “inspired”. And they wait and they wait and they wait.

Confession time: I have a muse. But here’s the things. She isn’t a sweet, angelic thing who waves a magic wand over my head. No, she watches over me as I regularly type away. Sometimes the words and ideas come easily. More often, the words are crappy, and silent cursing is going on in my head as I try to figure out another plot snafu.

But then, sometimes when I’m still struggling at the netbook, but more often, when I am drifting to sleep, she comes to me and whispers the answer.

The Muse award those who work diligently.

Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm  Comments (19)  
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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wonderful blog post. πŸ™‚

  2. Fickle are the Muses, for the come from Divine stock,
    Little the the Author know that Creation always comes as a shock.


  3. Thank you so much, Bardic!

    And thank you for visiting my blog. πŸ™‚

  4. So true, Ralfast.

    Muse always strikes when one least expects it.

    *reminder to self: never leave house without a pen*

  5. Does not include spellchecker….



  6. I find inspiration most often comes while I’m writing. My muse isn’t going to do all the work for me πŸ˜‰

  7. I like Muses, in fact I think we are all Muses in life for someone else and not all the time know. We all inspire if not left an stain on someone intentional or not.

  8. So true, DD!

    Someone said, “inspiration comes from the writing.”

  9. Vanessa,

    I love how you put it. Yes, we humans are muses too, in a way. Our kind words of encouragement toward others can inspire. And sadly, our discouraging words can have lasting affects on people.

  10. I find that I can’t draw or paint if I’m uninspired. My subject needs to grab me, otherwise my work suffers!
    Muses are fickle, they must be courted and enticed. πŸ™‚

  11. Beth,

    Heh. That could be another post. Besides BIC, how does one entice their Muses? Maybe some accept candy as bribery. πŸ˜‰

    Although mine would probably demand blood…

  12. Julian Jaynes has an interesting theory that, in the ancient world, people experienced the voice of consciousnesses as something external to themselves. He talks about the muses. From wikipedia:

    “Jaynes built a case for this hypothesis that human brains existed in a bicameral state until as recently as 3000 years ago by citing evidence from many diverse sources including historical literature. He took an interdisciplinary approach, drawing data from many different fields.[2] Jaynes asserted that, until roughly the times written about in Homer’s Iliad, humans did not generally have the self-awareness characteristic of consciousness as most people experience it today. Rather, the bicameral individual was guided by mental commands believed to be issued by external ‘gods’ β€” commands which were recorded in ancient myths, legends and historical accounts. This is exemplified not only in the commands given to characters in ancient epics but also the very muses of Greek mythology which ‘sang’ the poems: the ancients literally heard muses as the direct source of their music and poetry.”

  13. My muse wants a perfectly mixed martini, stirred, NOT shaken, and go easy on the vermouth.

  14. Haystack,

    Thank you SO much for that info! That’s something I need to read more about.

  15. DD,

    heh heh. πŸ™‚

  16. You, curse? Methinks not! πŸ™‚

  17. Haystack

    Interesting idea. First time I heard of it. I concur with Tasha, it requires further exploration.

  18. Oh, that’s right Sputsie.

    Drats! I haven’t been able to hide my true prim and proper nature from you. πŸ˜‰

  19. My Muse exists in the sound of my keys typing and the way my painted fingernails look wrapped around a fountain pen. Like you, my Muse usually begins to tickle my fingertips late at night.

    Here’s to our muses, however strange or beautiful they may be. Cheers! πŸ™‚

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