Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On muses...#2

Have you ever read the interview section in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend magazine where they ask a personality a standard set of quick questions? 
There's one that goes something like: "It's not trendy but I love...?"
My answer would be "it's not trendy but I love the epic poets". 
And they're the reason the whole 'Muse' thing began. There are some brilliant stories within the lyrical language of the ancient poets. 
Homer wasn't one to mince words. OK so his Odyssey is pretty long (epic, in fact) but in the oral tradition of the times it was intended to be sung rather than read - and being the 8th century BC think 'entertainment' rather than 'academia'. Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus' 10 year journey home following the fall of Troy - a loaded tale - so it makes sense that Homer invokes the muse right off the bat in the opening line: 
"Sing to me of the man, Muse, of twists and turns driven time and again off course." 
About 10 lines into The Aeneid, after defiantly stating his independence, Virgil sought help (rather frustratedly by the sounds) from the deities :
"O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate; 
What goddess was provok'd, and whence her hate

Shortly after Homer and Virgil, a third heavyweight showed up. In his poem Metamorphoses, Ovid pretty much describes the history and creation of the world in 15 volumes. And with such a mammoth task it's no wonder he opens with a plea for divine inspiration to the Muses:
"Of bodies chang'd to various forms, I sing: 
Ye Gods, from whom these miracles did spring, 

Inspire my numbers with coelestial heat; 

'Till I my long laborious work compleat:

So my point is, the original purpose of the muse was to create insights and inspire new artistic forms. To call upon a higher power to help unleash the limitless potential of the individual. 
But if you think about the modern day muse - the painter's latest infatuation, or the famous supermodel fashion designers aspire to dress - it's all about inspiring imitation. Creating something in the mould of someone else. 
That's one reason why I love the epic poets. Those guys were way ahead of their time. They were true, great, original thinkers. We need a few of those kind of people in the 21st century. Any contenders?

NB. A case in point. When you google search images of Homer, you get about a million pictures of Homer...Simpson.

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