I’m hoping to get a little writing done today. I swear, finishing this novella, that’s only 20k words to begin with, has been one of the greater writing challenges of my life. Between an array of personal loss and health scares, my imagination seems to have acquired hair-trigger sensibilities. In other words, my thought train is easily derailed these days.
I’m distracted. My son goes for surgery tomorrow. As a result of motherly fretting, my muse packed her bags and left for warmer, sunnier climes. I picture her on a sunny beach in the Florida Keys sipping on one of those drinks that come in a coconut. *sigh*
Because I can’t seem to rub two thoughts together, I thought I’d pay homage to Calliope the writer’s muse. The gods and their immortal minions like when mere mortals genuflect. Maybe she’ll return and allow me to concentrate long enough to get this story done.
When Uranus the god of the vast sky melded his essence with Gaia the earth and mother of all life, the Titans were born. Sometime later, Mnemosyne the personification of memory, lay with her nephew Zeus for nine consecutive nights and the nine Muses came out of that union.
As these nine women were long considered the source of knowledge, places dedicated to learning, were dedicated to them. Hence the name Museum. As a child growing up in Chicago, a city known world-wide for its museums, I used to stare at those Greek statues standing outside the Museum of Science and Industry and wonder. If Zeus had only nine Muse daughters, then why did the building have far more than nine Muses all around the outside? It wasn’t until I got involved with the preservation of historical architecture that I discovered they weren’t Muses. They were architectural caryatids – decorative statues of women whose sole purpose is to support the roof-line on their heads.
The Field Museum of Natural History has the real deal. The famed nine Muses of the ancient world, as large as their Titaness mother, look down on the main floor. As a child, I found these statues rather curious. I couldn’t imagine what they had to do with stuffed and mounted animals, mummies, and dinosaurs. Years passed before I figured it out. Each one held something, a clue as to who and what they represented and while some made perfect sense to me as a child, others were confusing.
Calliope – Muse of Epic Poetry carries a writing tablet
Clio – Muse of History carries a scroll
Erato – Muse of Love Poetry carries a Cithara – a type of lyre
Euterpe – Muse of Music carries a flute
Melpomene – Muse of Tragedy carries a Tragic mask
Polyhymnia – Muse of Hymns carries a veil
Terpsichore – Muse of Dance carries a lyre
Thalia – Muse of Comedy carries a Comic mask
Urania – Muse of Astronomy carries a globe and compass
I understand now they are the representatives of poetry, the arts, and science. They’re there as a symbol of the very best in the many cultures depicted in the vast museum collections.
For centuries writers made a habit of dedicating to the muses for luck. As I’ve mentioned before, Calliope is the writer’s muse and my blog and all the writing on it is dedicated to her. Here are a few examples of writers paying homage:
William Shakespeare, Henry V:
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Charles Baudelaire, The Venal Muse:
O muse of my heart, lover of palaces,
Will you bring, when January lets loose its sleet
And its black evenings without solace,
An ember to warm my violet feet?
What will revive your bruised shoulders,
The nocturnal rays that pierce the shutters?
When you cannot feel your palace, just your empty billfold,
How will you harvest the gold of azure vaults and gutters?
You should, to earn your bread today
Like a choir boy with a censer to wave,
Sings hymns with feeling but without belief.
Or, a starving rip-off artist, selling your charm
And your laughter shades the tears so no one sees the harm
In bringing to bloom an ordinary rat, a vulgar thief.
John Milton, Paradise Lost:
Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse…
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!
O memory that engraved the things I saw,
Here shall your worth be manifest to all!
Emily Dickinson, Awake ye muses nine:
Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,
Unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine!
The Aeneid by Virgil:
O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;
What goddess was provok’d, and whence her hate;
For what offense the Queen of Heav’n began
To persecute so brave, so just a man…
Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus:
O lady myn, that called art Cleo,
Thow be my speed fro this forth, and my Muse,
To ryme wel this book til I haue do…
Thomas Moore, While History’s Muse:
While History’s Muse the memorial was keeping
Of all that the dark hand of Destiny weaves,
Beside her the Genius of Erin stood weeping,
For hers was the story that blotted the leaves.
But oh! how the tear in her eyelids grew bright,
When, after whole pages of sorrow and shame,
She saw History write,
With a pencil of light
That illumed the whole volume, her Wellington’s name.
Mary Darby Robinson, Ode to the Muse:
While softly o’er the pearl-deck’d plain,
Cold Dian leads the sylvan train;
In mazy dance and sportive glee,
SWEET MUSE, I’ll fondly turn to thee;
And thou shalt deck my couch with flow’rs,
And wing with joy my silent hours.
William Blake, To the Muses:
Whether on crystal rocks ye rove,
Beneath the bosom of the sea
Wand’ring in many a coral grove,
Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry!
How have you left the ancient love
That bards of old enjoy’d in you!
The languid strings do scarcely move!
The sound is forc’d, the notes are few!
There shall thy tongue in heav’nly murmurs flows,
And there my muse with heav’nly transport glow:
No more to tell of Damon’s tender sighs,
Or rising radiance of Aurora’s eyes,
For nobler themes demand a nobler strain,
And purer language on th’ ethereal plain.
Cease, gentle muse! the solemn gloom of night
Now seals the fair creation from my sight.
And so, have them for yourself, whatever kind of book it is,
and whatever sort, oh patron Muse
let it last for more than one generation, eternally.
The phrase for today is ~Dressed to the nines
This phrase is used to describe someone dressed smartly or flamboyantly. Some people believe this is about tailors once using nine yards of material to make a shirt, as in, the more material you had the more wealth you had. As someone who put years into researching historical clothing, I’d have to say I don’t believe this to be true. There’s just no evidence to support it.
In The Progressive Dictionary of the English Language of 1835, the author takes a stab at it. He says perhaps the phrase was originally dressed to thine eyes. That’s better than the first, but still no written proof of such a transition. However, it does show up in print early on as to the nine. That has a dedication feel to it doesn’t it? In medieval Europe The Nine Worthies appear in print. These distinguished fellows were derived from Pagan and Jewish history as well as tales from the Bible and consisted of Judas Maccabaeus, Joshua, David, Hector, Alexander, Julius Caesar, King Arthur, Godfrey de Bouillon, and Charlemagne. This makes more sense to me than the other possible origins. But…one of the earliest references of To the Nine from the early 1600s says this:
The learned tribe whose works the World do bless,
Finish those works in some recess;
Both the Philosopher and Divine,
And Poets most who still make their address
In private to the Nine.
Philosophers and poets? That says Muse to me. Hmm…Does this mean if I dress to the nines this week, Calliope will return?
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