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Transcript of The Truth
Muses in Literature
One of the very first uses of the muse was in invocation, in Greek literature.
Muses in Music
Some of the most famous muses are ones that didn't inspire writers or painters. They inspired musicians.
Muses in Art
People as muses are extremely common in the artistic world, especially in this time period, because so many paintings were of people (while not all songs and very few books are about one person).
By Austin Taylor
Honors English 10
November 27th, 2013
A research project based on "Sacre Bleu," a novel by Christopher Moore
is a novel by Christopher Moore about the personal lives of artists and the effects of muses upon them during the late 1800's.
Note: All artists and muses really existed.
Cast of (important) Characters:
is a spirit who can, for lack of a better word, possess a body and control it, or create her own to use. She either inhabits or creates an artist's ideal, and proceeds to inspire him to paint her (specifically with the
, blue paint that is more valuable than gold). Her master (AKA Poopstick) then harvests the blue from the painting and her body. This creates more of the color, which Poopstick then sells to another unsuspecting painter, soon to be inspired more than they had ever experienced by their ideal, controlled by
Gustave Moreau, Hesiod and the Muse (1891)
is a wizard-like character that survives as long as the paintings with his blue survive. He harvests the blue using the muse. Basically, he's a jerk, and the antagonist by the end of the tale.
The muse goes from artist to artist (all of which were real) in an effort to keep producing the
and keep Poopstick alive. Of course, she falls truly in love with one.
Artists include (but are not limited to):
Vincent Van Gogh
Lautrec's father is one of the most important sympathisers. These are the people that fed and clothed the artists while their paintings were widely believed to be garbage.
Others include Lautrec's family (his mother and sister) and non artist friends.
This inspired the question...
What is a muse, really?
Well, the answer is...
A muse is a person or idea who inspires an artist in his/her work, and in all likelihood, nothing more.
What is a Muse?
The dictionary defines a muse as a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.
The muses were originally the 9 daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne.
They were basically all the same person. They all had the same thoughts.
It was said that if they loved a man, he had no worries.
They each had a different realm.
Calliope: epic poetry
Erato: love poetry
Polyhymnia: sacred poetry
"The Muses Urania and Calliope" by Simon Vouet
"Clio" by Pierre Mignard
"Erato the Muse of Poetry" by Edward John Poynter
The muse Euterpe by Francesco del Cossa
"Melpomene The Muse of Tragedy" by Elisabetta Sirani
Polyhymnia by Francesco del Cossa
François Boucher - "Terpsichore, the Muse"
Thalia, Muse of Comedy, Giovanni Baglione
"Urania and Calliope" (Detail) Simon Vouet
Today a muse is a person or spirit who inspires work.
They were invoked at the beginnings of many epic poems.
“I begin my song with the Helikonian Muses;
they have made Helikon, the great god-haunted mountain, their domain;
their soft feet move in the dance that rings
the violet-dark spring and the altar of mighty Zeus.”
, Translation by Apostolos Athanassakis)
"Sing in me, muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of fighting
the wanderer, troubled for years on end,
after he robbed the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy"
-The Odyssey by Homer
"Hesiod and the Muse" by Gustave Moreau
“The ‘Muse’ is not an artistic mystery, but a mathematical equation. The gift are those ideas you think of as you drift to sleep. The giver is that one you think of when you first awake.”
“But the fact is, she [the muse] won't be summoned. She alights when it damn well pleases her. She falls in love with one artist, then deserts him for another. She's a real bitch!”
-Erica Jong, "(
Seducing the Demon: Writing for my Life")
"The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited."
Bag of Bones
O Divine Poesy
Goddess-daughter of Zeus,
Sustain for me
This song of the various-minded man,
Who after he had plundered
The innermost citadel of hallowed Troy
Was made to stray grievously
About the coasts of men,
The sport of their customs good or bad,
While his heart
Through all the seafaring
Ached in an agony to redeem himself
And bring his company safe home.
Vain hope – for them!
For his fellows he strove in vain,
Their own witlessness cast them away;
To destroy for meat
The oxen of the most exalted sun!
Wherefore the sun-god blotted out
The day of their return.
Make the tale live for us
In all its many bearings,
– from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)”
Since then, muses have inspired authors of all kinds, beginners to masters, writing anything from classics plays to horror.
Some say that the muse uses her magic on you so that it is easy for you to create glorious work. Others say that the muse is purely there to provide the inspiration while the artist takes care of the rest.
“My muse, always, is Aphrodite”
“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative-fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think this is fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he is on duty), but he’s got the inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life.
Believe me, I know.
-Stephen King ("On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" pages 144-5)
Conceptions of the muse vary...
“If I ever saw my muse she would be an old woman with a tight bun and spectacles poking me in the middle of the back and growling, "Wake up and write the book!”
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
("Seducing the Demon: Writing for my Life")
Though how the authors visualize the muse differs, the muse itself is thought about. Therefore it exists.
In literature, muses are thought of, and even credited, quite often. The question remains:
Are muses some sort of mystical being?
From the evidence displayed in the previous bubble, authors seem to create their muse as an embodiment of their motivation or inspiration. Since it is so different for everyone (and since so few modern authors take it seriously), it is unlikely that the muse actually is a spirit traveling from artist to artist, giving ideas to writers like bones to hungry dogs.
However, as with any exploration of the slightly magical, anything is possible.
One of the most famous muses in music history is
muse of epic poetry
Euterpe, muse of music
Pattie Boyd is thought to have inspired "Something" by The Beatles, "Layla" by Eric Clapton and "Wonderful Tonight," also by Eric Clapton ("Famous Songs And The Muses That Inspired Them").
Pattie was a successful model. She was asked to play a screaming schoolgirl in a Beatles movie. There she met George Harrison. They ended up getting married, and were very happy. It was during this period that he wrote and recorded "Something," which is one of his most successful songs (it has been covered the most times, 150).
Eric Clapton came into the picture after their relationship started going downhill, in around 1968. He and Pattie had an affair, as George had affairs with many women. He wrote Layla for her as a plea for her to leave George, and "Wonderful Tonight" about her as well.
When Pattie refused to run away with him, Clapton ran away himself to get addicted to Heroin. Years later he contacted her. Pattie and George's relationship had only gotten worse. After fights and tears (and one epic guitar battle won by Eric) Pattie left her husband to be with Eric Clapton ("My Hellish Love Triangle").
No Doubt's "Don't Speak" was inspired by bassist Tony Kanal after he and the singer broke up ("Famous Songs And The Muses That Inspired Them").
"Rosanna" by Toto's muse was Rosanna Arquette ("Famous Songs And The Muses That Inspired Them")
#1 hit "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette's muse was David Coulier
("Famous Songs And The Muses That Inspired Them").
"You Oughta Know"
The song "Vera" by Pink Floyd was written about Vera Lynn
("Famous Songs and the Muses that Inspired Them").
"Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White Tees was written for muse Delilah DiCrescenzo
("With a song in her Heart").
Delilah and the Plain White Tees
Muses in music are much less mystical than those in literature.
Instead of a psychological embodiment of an occurrence like inspiration, a muse in the music industry is most often a physical person, who usually has an intimate relationship with the artist.
It is their actual person that provides the inspiration to create beautiful things. They are not created as a result of the inspiration.
This could be caused by the fact that the music industry is a much more popular one than the book industry. Rock stars are called such for a reason. There are select few writers who come to that status, and it is often without the sex appeal that most rock stars have. This leads to a gap in the very basis of the art; music and the resulting popularity tends to be more physical, while writing novels is purely a mental feat, and is often appreciated in a mental way.
It makes sense that a muse in music is often a person lusted after, or a lover, while a muse in literature is more imagined than anything.
This section supports the theory that a muse is someone who inspires (often through physical connection), and nothing more.
This is ironic, because there is no Greek muse for art in general. .
"Hesiod Listening to the Inspiration of the Muse" Edmond Aman-Jean
"There is a very special quality to the rapport between an artist and his muse."
("I went from being a shy, blonde teenager to Picasso's The Girl with the Ponytail")
As with rock stars, many muse-artist relationships were physical and passionate.
For example, Picasso fell in love at first sight with Marie-Therese Walter and had an affair with her (while married). When he moved on to another woman, she was devestated. When he died, she killed herself ("Picasso's muse").
Marie-Therese Walter in Picasso's "Le Rêve"
This painting belonged to Picasso's "period of distorted depictions," full of simple shapes and bold colors. It's erotic content was slightly controversial.
Lydia Corbett caught Picasso's eye when she was just 19 years old, then girlfriend of Toby Jellinek (painter and sculptor). He sketched her, and asked to paint her.
She was flattered, and he did. He created over fourty images of her, and though he made his attraction to her clear, their relationship never developed beyond a godfather-goddaughter one ("I went from being a shy, blonde teenager to Picasso’s The Girl with the Ponytail").
Perhaps it is this leashed passion that inspired Picasso to create such beautiful works.
Sketch of Lydia Corbett
"Sylvette by Picasso
"Woman with Yellow Hair" by Picasso
The painter of some of the most controversial pieces of all time certainly had muses. One of his most important, leading to two of his most famous paintings, was
"The Picnic" or "Luncheon on the Grass" by Manet
"The Picnic" was a highly disputed painting when it came out, because of the woman's nudity and her pose. She looks directly at the painter, and is set amoung clothed men. Furthermore, the model and muse Victorine Meurent was thought to be a prostitute, though she was not ("Olympia – the muse, the model, the woman")
("The 10 Most Influential Artist’s Muses").
"Olympia" by Manet
Because Manet painted Victorine as a prostitute here with a black maid, this piece was just as controversial as "The Picnic."
Pioneering pieces like Picasso's "Head of a Woman" (right) almost always were inspired by a muse. In this instance, it was Fernande Oliver, Picasso's muse and lover ("Fernande Olivier").
Picasso moved from woman to woman because their effect on him as a muse seemed to wear off.
Muses in art are, as you can see, closer to muses in music than muses in literature. They are most often real people, not a dream of a person, and their relationships with painters are mostly (but not always) romantic.
It could be the passion in the relationship, or withheld passion, that is inspiring.
It could be that artists are more physical beings, like musicians, and less intellectual.
It certainly wasn't their desirable status. Artists have never really been rock stars.
Perhaps, all deep thinking and romanticism aside, it was that at least in this time period prostitutes and paid models were readily available.
To sum things up, muses are wily creatures.
They're hard to define, hard to catch, and especially hard to pin down.
From writers we get that they're things of the mind; reflecting it and created by it.
From musicians we get that they're a person causing inspiration. Most often they're the subject of a song, and those songs are almost always about love or longing.
From artists we get a similar thought as from musicians:
Muses are almost always the subject of a work of art. They inspired it, they are an important part of it.
Muse to artist relationships can be non romantic, but there is almost always love or lust somewhere among the feelings.
The conclusions drawn from muses in music and art imply that there must be desire for the muse. Perhaps that is why she is always portrayed as the ideal, in Sacre Bleu as well as paintings.
The idea of a muse has been around for a very long time. They have evolved almost-gods to simply people who inspire.
Even when there isn't a person, one is fabricated to explain the inspiration.
The likelihood of there actually being a spirit who goes from body to body inspiring artists through there ideals is slim. However, we know that people really are inspired by other people, and maybe this only occurs with a little magic help.
Though I can define a muse in the literal sense, there is a little something, whether it's a spirit or a spark, there that we probably will never be able to define.