The Muses- Voices of Inspiration

March 7, 2009
By , virginia beach, VA
A cool breeze carries sounds to the young ears of an amateur writer. Singsong voices eliminate all other roaming thoughts in her adolescent mind. The spirits of these voices sing as the youthful writers mind fills with images of love, heartbreak, torture, battle, and triumph. Gradually, her pen meets the paper and words burst onto the page. A story of deceitful love has been born. Who, you ask, are these spirits of inspiration? They are none other then the Muses, the nine sisters of inspiration. The purpose of this paper is to describe the Muses.
The Muses were nine goddesses of inspiration, arts, and sciences. Calliope was the Muse of epic poetry. When portrayed she commonly held a stylus or scroll. Euterpe, the Muse of lyrical poetry and dionysian (rapturous music), was generally seen with a flute. Her flute represented the musical nature of lyrical poems. Erato was Muse of erotic poetry. Clio, Muse of written history, was pictured with a scroll or set of tablets. The Muse of religious poetry and song was Polyhymnia. She was thought to be the most pious and thoughtful sister. Terpsichore was depicted as the Muse of dance; her symbol was a lyre. Melpomene, Muse of tragedy, was most commonly depicted with the frowning mask of tragedy. It was said that she dressed in cathurnus, a type of thick-soled boot worn by Greek tragic actors. Thalia, Muse of comedy, was opposite to Melpomene. Thalia’s symbol was the timeless laughing mask. Urania was Muse of astronomy; her symbols was a globe. Each Muses’ name had a meaning that connected to an art or science. Calliope meant beautiful voice and Clio meant proclaimer. Erato took the meaning of passionate or lovely, and Euterpe meant the pleasure giver. Polyhymnia meant many songs, and Melpomene meant songstress. Terpsichore, like her dancing domain, meant rejoicing in the dance or whirling. Thalia meant festive or flourishing, and Urania meant mountain queen. Although all together the Muses were the inspirers, they are each unique and have their own domain in arts and sciences.
The Muses were daughters of the King of gods and sky, Zeus. Although they were daughters of the Olympian their mother was the Titan Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. Calliope was the mother of Orpheus by King Thrace. When Orpheus was grown he went to live with his father on Earth. Like his mother, he had a beautiful voice that was so pure it could tame the savage beast. Orpheus wed a woman named Euridice, but on their wedding day Euridice died of snakebite. Orpheus ventured into the Underworld for his true love; he played his lyre and touched everyone’s heart. His music was so beautiful that Hades agreed to let him take back his bride on one condition. He could not look at her until he reached the world of the living. He agreed but when dim light appeared ahead he turned to make sure she was there. When he did, Hermes appeared to take her away; he heard the whisper of a faint farewell. After that Orpheus found no joy in this world and was ripped to shreds by water nymphs when he refused to dance. The Muses, grieving for their beautiful nephew/son, gave him a proper funeral so he could finally rejoin his bride in the Underworld. Calliope was also called the mother of Hymen, the Corybantes, and the Sirens. Clio was the mother of Hyacinthus. Terpsichore was also said to be mother to the Sirens. The Muses were great companions to Apollo, the Charities, Eros, Dionyssus, and Aphrodite. The Muses’ family was artistically or scientifically enhanced as well.
The Muses were born atop Mt. Pierus in Pieria. They resided on Mt. Helicon in Boetia, Greece. When they were not at home they could be found on one of Apollo’s sacred mountains, Prarnaosus or Helicon. Like all gods, the Muses had shrines throughout the land. Places such as schools commonly held a shrine dedicated in their honor; it was called the Mouseion. The word museum comes from the Greek word mouseion. Other places like the Museum of Alexandria and the Valley of the Muses were a great dedication to these nine goddesses. Sacrifices made to the Muses were water, milk, and honey. The Muses were great contributors to the names of places in today’s world.
Like the gods before them, the Muses found themselves in contests with humans more than once. The first competitors of the Muses were a group of mortal girls, the daughters of a man named Pierus. Due to a horrible loss the mortal girls were turned into various birds. Another challenger was a minstrel by the name of Thamyris. He too lost and was deprived of his eyes and minstrel. Demodocus was also deprived of his eyes after loosing, but he was given the gift of song from these generous goddesses. Hera prompted the Sirens, daughters of Terpsichore, and they too lost. As punishment the Muses plucked their feathers and made crowns out of them. King Pyreneus of Daulis attempted to seduce the Muses but fell to his fatal death when he jumped out the tower window after them; turns out they could fly but he couldn’t. The Muses were helpful as well. In the argument between Aphrodite and Persephone over Adonis, Calliope was asked by Zeus to decide which gets Adonis. Calliope’s conclusion was that Adonis would spend part of every year with each woman. When Pegasus was a colt Athena entrusted him to the Muses. In his excitement of meeting the sisters, he kicked the side of the mountain causing the springs of Aganippe and Hippocrene to spew a bounty of inspiration. Urania was most interested in the flying horse; she prophesized all his great deeds, but she grieved at his departure when he was given to Bellerophone. After Bellerophon’s death, Urania and the other Muses rejoiced at having their Pegasus back. The Muses were never beat, but were of the most generous overall goddesses for they blessed their competitors with the gift of hearing their voices and were caring towards most.
The Muses didn’t sing for just anyone. They sang at every Olympian banquet. They also sang at the funeral for the hero Achilles and King Peleus. In their generosity they taught Ariotaeus the arts of prophecy and healing; as well as teaching the nymph Echo to play glorious music. They gave the sphinx her riddle and trained the son of Orpheus, Musueus, to sing. Poets and writers who were inspired by the Muses were Homer, Edmund Spenser, Shakespeare, Lord Byron, and William Blake.
The amateur writer finally finishes her writing. There is a problem though; she has no ending. As she stares, wide-eyed and frustrated at the page, she attempts to envision the last line of her story. Nothing comes to her, no voices, no wind, and no idea of what should happen next. Then, when the end seems anywhere but near, she sees the last image. Satisfied with her ending she closes the book. She whispers a faint thank you as dawn nears. She knows who they were, the Muses, the goddesses of inspiration and all things artistic. The Muses roam free, even if we don’t see them. Everyone has a Muse – their inspiration for living and doing what they are passionate for. Who’s yours?





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