Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Muses

MNEMOSYNE, was Titan goddess of memory and remembrance. 

MNEMOSYNE,  i. e. memory, a daughter of Uranus, and one of the Titanides, became by Zeus the mother of the Muses. (Hom. Hymn. in Merc. 429; Hes. Theog. 54, 915; Diod. v. 67; Orph. Hymn. 76; Cic. De Nat. Deor. iii. 21.)

Hesiod, Theogony 915 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And again, he [Zeus, after lying with Demeter] loved Mnemosyne with the beautiful hair: and of her the nine gold-crowned Muses were born."

Alcman, Fragment 133 (from Etymologicum Gudianum) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (Greek lyric C7th B.C.) :
"Mneme (Memory) : Alkman, they say, calls her big-eyed, since we see the past by our thinking."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 67. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Of the female Titans they say that Mnemosyne discovered the uses of the power of reason, and that she gave a designation to every object about us by means of the names which we use to express whatever we would and to hold conversation one with another; though there are those who attribute these discoveries to Hermes. And to this goddess is also attributed the power to call things to memory and to remembrance (mneme) which men possess, and it is this power which gave her the name she received."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 39. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Part of the rituals at the oracle of Trophonios at Lebadeia in Boiotia :] He [the supplicant] is taken by the priests, not at once to the oracle, but to fountains of water very near to each other. Here he must drink water called the water of Lethe (Forgetfulness), that he may forget all that he has been thinking of hitherto, and afterwards he drinks of another water, the water of Mnemosyne (Memory), which causes him to remember what he sees after his descent . . . After his ascent from [the oracle of] Trophonios the inquirer is again taken in hand by the priests, who set him upon a chair called the chair of Mnemosyne (Memory), which stands not far from the shrine, and they ask of him, when seated there, all he has seen or learned. After gaining this information they then entrust him to his relatives." 

 Zeus and Mnemosyne, Marco Liberi 

The genealogy of the Muses is not the same in all writers. The most common notion was, that they were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, and born in Pieria, at the foot of Mount Olympus (Hes. Theog. 52, &c., 915; Hom. Il. ii. 491, Od. i. 10; Apollod. i. 3. § 1); but some call them the daughters of Uranus and Gaea (Schol. ad Pind. Nem. iii. 16; Paus. ix. 29. § 2; Diod. iv. 7; Arnob. adv. Gent. iii. 37), and others daughters of Pierus and a Pimpleian nymph, whom Cicero (De Nat. Deor. iii. 21) calls Antiope (Tzetz. ad Hes. Op. et D. p. 6; Paus. l. c.), or of Apollo, or of Zeus and Plusia, or of Zeus and Moneta, probably a mere translation of Mnemosyne or Mneme, whence they are called Mnemonides (Ov. Met. v. 268), or of Zeus and Minerva (Isid. Orig. iii. 14), or lastly of Aether and Gaea. (Hygin. Fab. Praef.) Eupheme is called the nurse of the Muses, and at the foot of Mount Helicon her statue stood beside that of Linus. (Paus. ix. 29. § 3.)

The Muses were the goddesses of music, song and dance, and the source of inspiration to poets. They were also goddesses of knowledge, who remembered all things that had come to pass. Later the Muses were assigned specific artistic spheres: Calliope, epic poetry; Clio, history; Urania, astronomy; Thalia, comedy; Melpomene, tragedy; Polyhymnia, religious hymns; Erato, erotic poetry; Euterpe, lyric poetry; and Terpsichore, choral song and dance.

 A circle containing the names and symbols of Apollo, Mnemosyne and the nine Mousai: for Apollo a lyre, Calliope a writing board, Urania a globe, Polyhymnia a pensive face, Erato and Terpsichore lyres, Melpomene and Thalia tragic and comic masks, Euterpe flutes, Clio scroll, and Mnemosyne the mountain of Pieria

If we now inquire into the notions entertained about the nature and character of the Muses, we find that, in the Homeric poems, they are the goddesses of song and poetry, and live in Olympus. (Il. ii. 484.)
Being goddesses of song, they are naturally connected with Apollo, the god of the lyre, who like them instructs the bards, and is mentioned along with them even by Homer. (Il. i. 603, Od. viii. 488.)

 Muses in Raphael's Parnassus

  Apollo and the Muses by Tintoretto

Apollo and the choir of Muses performed at the feasts of the gods, together with Artemis and the Graces.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 2. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.)
"They call Apollo Mousegetes (Leader of the Muses)."

 Poussin Apollo and Muses

Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry, holding a stylus and board. C2nd AD 

Clio, the Muse of history, resting her hand on a pillar with a stylus and scroll. C2nd AD 

Polyhymnia, the Muse of religious hymns, stands in a pensive pose, conservatively wrapped in a robe. C2nd AD 

Terpsichore, the Muse of lyric poetry and song, seated with a lyre. C2nd AD

The Muse Melpomene holding a tragic mask. Note: the mask is a post-classical reconstruction. 50BC 

Thalia, the Muse of comedy, holding a comic mask. C2nd AD  

 Euterpe, lyric poetry

 Erato, erotic poetry

 Johann Heinrich The Elder Tischbein,The Muse Urania

As poets and bards derived their power from them, they are frequently called either their disciples or sons. (Hom. Od. viii. 481, Hymn. in Lun. 20 ; Hes. Theog. 22; Pind. Nem. iii.; Serv. ad Virg. Georg. ii. 476.) 

Muses in Raphael's Parnassus

Pindar, Pythian Ode 1. 13 ff :(Greek lyric C5th B.C.)
"And on the immortals' hearts your shafts [poetry and song] instill a charmed spell--by grace of Leto's son [Apollo] and the low-girdled  (Muses)."

Muses in Raphael's Parnassus

Pindar, Paean 7 :
"But I pray to Mnemosyne (Memory), the fair-robed child of Uranus,, and to her daughters [the Muses], to grant me ready resource; for the minds of men are blind, whosoever, without the maids of Helicon, seeketh the steep path of them that walked it by their wisdom."

A further feature in the character of the Muses is their prophetic power, which belongs to them, partly because they were regarded as inspiring nymphs, and partly because of their connection with the prophetic god of Delphi. Hence, they instructed, for example, Aristaeus in the art of prophecy. (Apollon. Rhod. ii. 512.)

Eustache Le Sueur or LesueurThe Muses: Clio, Euterpe and Thalia

That dancing, too, was one of the occupations of the Muses, may be inferred from the close connection existing among the Greeks between music, poetry, and dancing.

Baldassare Peruzzi, Muses Dancing with Apollo

Paolo Veronese, Music

Plato, Laws 653d (trans. Bury) :
"The gods, in pity for the human race thus born to misery, have ordained the feasts of thanksgiving as periods of respite from their troubles; and they have granted them as companions in their feasts the Muses and Apollo the master of music, and Dionysus . . . Shall we . . . postulate that education owes its origin to Apollo and the Muses? . . . Shall we assume that the uneducated man is without choir-training,  and the educated man fully choir-trained? . . . Choir-training, as a whole, embraces of course both dancing and song."

Plato, Laws 672b :
"Athenian: There was implanted in us men the sense of rhythm and harmony, and that the joint authors thereof were Apollo and the Muses and the god Dionysus."

Plato, Laws 795e :
"Of dancing there is one branch in which the style of the Muse is imitated, preserving both freedom and nobility, and another which aims at physical soundness, agility and beauty [i.e. athletics]."

Paolo Veronese,  Music, Astronomy and Deceit

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 36 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"There is a story that Pythagoras [the mathematician] used to sacrifice an ox to the Musae (Muses) when he had made anew discovery in geometry."

Plato, Critias (trans. Bury) :
"Hermokrates (Hermocrates): You must go and attack the argument like a man. First invoke Apollo and the  Muses, and then let us hear you sound the praises and show forth the virtues of your ancient citizens.
Kritias (Critias): Friend Hermokrates . . . besides the gods and goddesses whom you have mentioned, I would specially invoke Mnemosyne (Memory); for all the important part of my discourse is dependent on her favor, and if I can recollect and recite enough of what was said by the priests and brought hither by Solon, I doubt not that I shall satisfy the requirements of this theater."

Plato, Phaedrus (trans. Fowler) :
"The third kind [of madness] is the madness of those who are possessed by the Muses; which taking hold of a delicate and virgin soul, and there inspiring frenzy, awakens lyrical and all other numbers; with these adorning the myriad actions of ancient heroes for the instruction of posterity. But he who, having no touch of the Muses's madness in his soul, comes to the door and thinks that he will get into the temple by the help of art-he, I say, and his poetry are not admitted."

 Apollo and the Muses, oil on canvas polyptych by Charles Meynier, Cleveland Museum of Art, from left to right: Polyhymnia, Erato, Apollo, God of Light, Eloquence, Poetry and Fine Arts with Urania, Clio, f History Calliope,

 Poussin, Dance to the Music of Time

Plato, Ion (trans. Lamb) :
"Socrates: And as the Korybantian (Corybantian) revelers when they dance are not in their right mind, so the lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains: but when falling under the power of music and metre they are inspired and possessed; like Bacchic maidens who draw milk and honey from the rivers when they are under the influence of Dionysus but not when they are in their right mind. And the soul of the lyric poet does the same, as they themselves say; for they tell us that they bring songs from honeyed fountains, culling them out of the gardens and dells of the Muses; they, like the bees, winging their way from flower to flower. And this is true. For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him: when he has not attained to this state, he is powerless and is unable to utter his oracles.
Many are the noble words in which poets speak concerning the actions of men; but like yourself when speaking about Homer, they do not speak of them by any rules of art: they are simply inspired to utter that to which the Muse impels them, and that only; and when inspired, one of them will make dithyrambs, another hymns of praise, another choral strains, another epic or iambic verses--and he who is good at one is not good any other kind of verse: for not by art does the poet sing, but by power divine. Had he learned by rules of art, he would have known how to speak not of one theme only, but of all; and therefore god takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers, as he also uses diviners and holy prophets, in order that we who hear them may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless words in a state of unconsciousness, but that god himself is the speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us. And Tynnikhos the Khalkidian (Tynnichus the Chalcidian) affords a striking instance of what I am saying: he wrote nothing that any one would care to remember but the famous paean which; in every one's mouth, one of the finest poems ever written, simply an invention of the Muses, as he himself says. For in this way, the God would seem to indicate to us and not allow us to doubt that these beautiful poems are not human, or the work of man, but divine and the work of God; and that the poets are only the interpreters of the Gods by whom they are severally possessed. Was not this the lesson which the God intended to teach when by the mouth of the worst of poets he sang the best of songs? Am I not right, Ion?
Ion: Yes, indeed, Sokrates, I feel that you are; for your words touch my soul, and I am persuaded that good poets by a divine inspiration interpret the things of the Gods to us.
Sokrates: And you rhapsodists are the interpreters of the poets?
Ion: There again you are right.
Sokrates: Do you know that the spectator is the last of the rings which, as I am saying, receive the power of the original magnet from one another? The rhapsode like yourself and the actor are intermediate links, and the poet himself is the first of them. Through all these the god sways the souls of men in any direction which he pleases, and makes one man hang down from another. Thus there is a vast chain of dancers and masters and undermasters of choruses, who are suspended, as if from the stone, at the side of the rings which hang down from the Muse. And every poet has some Musa from whom he is suspended, and by whom he is said to be possessed, which is nearly the same thing; for he is taken hold of. And from these first rings, which are the poets, depend others, some deriving their inspiration from Orpheus, others from Muses; but the greater number are possessed and held by Homer. Of whom, Ion, you are one, and are possessed by Homer; and when any one repeats the words of another poet you go to sleep, and know not what to say; but when any one recites a strain of Homer you wake up in a moment, and your soul leaps within you, and you have plenty to say; for not by art or knowledge about Homer do you say what you say, but by divine inspiration and by possession; just as the Korybantian (Corybantian) revellers too have a quick perception of that strain only which is appropriated to the god by whom they are possessed, and have plenty of dances and words for that, but take no heed of any other. And you, Ion, when the name of Homer is mentioned have plenty to say, and have nothing to say of others. You ask, ‘Why is this?’ The answer is that you praise Homer not by art but by divine inspiration."

Gustave Moreau - The Muses Leaving Their Father Apollo to go and Enlighten the World 

 Poussin, Inspiration of the Poet

Hesiod, Theogony 1 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"One day they [the Muses] taught Hesiod glorious song while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helikon (Helicon), and this word first the goddesses said to me--the Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus who holds the aigis: ‘Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know, when we will, to utter true things.’
So said the ready-voiced daughters of great Zeus, and they plucked and gave me a rod, a shoot of sturdy laurel, a marvelous thing, and breathed into me a divine voice to celebrate things that shall be and things there were aforetime; and they bade me sing of the race of the blessed gods that are eternally, but ever to sing of themselves both first and last. But why all this about oak or stone?" 

 Gustave Moreau - Hesiod and the Muses 

Gustave Moreau - Hesiod and Muse 

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 5 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[The Sphinx] had learned a riddle from the Muses, and now sat on Mount Phikiom (Phicium) where she kept challenging the Thebans with it."

Gustave Moreau - The Victorious Sphinx