Friday, May 31, 2013

THE MYTH OF THE MUSES


Painting: Grasses
There are nine Muses, the daughters of  the Roman gods Zeus and Mnemosyne, and they are expected to inspire those of us struggling with poetry, music, drama and everything else that requires effort of the creative kind. Most of us find that they do a lousy job and it doesn’t do to depend on these wilful misses. Sometimes – often – they take the day off.  They are flibbertigibbets, too busy simpering, gazing at their reflections in ponds and combing their hair.

Mind you, they are a bit precious about their responsibilities. For heaven’s sake, it takes three of them to look after poets. Calliope, for example, only troubles herself about epic poetry, the really long kind that goes on for pages. She could set a poet on that sort of journey and she wouldn’t have to check on him more than, say, once a month at most. Erato is the love goddess, looking after love poems, with a sideline in mime. Not many people go in for mime these days, and people in love can burst into rhyme at the drop of a come-hither eyelid, so Erato isn’t exactly taxed. As for Euterpe, she’s rather up-market with the responsibility for lyric poetry.

What about the rest of us, I ask? What about story-tellers and historians and memoirists, essayists and bloggers? We need help too, and we are always fretting that the Muse has left us.  Well, come to think of it, we aren’t forgotten, but we have to stretch a point or two. Clio could help if we argue that history is involved. Humourists have Thalia in their corner, and her sister Melpomeme wallows in tragedy. That leaves Polyhymnia (sacred song), Terpsichore (dancing) and Urania  (astronomy) – none of whom are a lot of help to writers.

We have to find other ways of getting the job done. Luckily there are heaps of ways that writers can cope with the times when the brain isn’t too responsive and the will is weak. Who’s in charge here anyway? Us or those nine useless young women who are never around when you need them?


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