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The Nine Muses of Poetry

 

Happy is he whom the Muses Love. For though man has sorrow and grief in his soul, when the Muses sing, at once he forgets his dark thoughts and remembers not his troubles.  Hesiod 

The Ancient Greeks believed there were nine patron goddesses of the arts and that each muse had unique powers of poetic inspiration. The daughters of Zeus, the king of all gods, and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, the Muses were responsible for the creation of all things beautiful. When they sang, it was said that the world stood still – everything, everyone transfixed by their musical voice.

Catherine’s and Vincent’s journey is an epic one weaving the tragic with the sublime, the philosophical with the romantic, the dark with the light – a circuitous quest, triumph its reward. These poetry selections chart their travels – from aloneness, to recognition, to hope, to dreams, to love, each step protected and inspired by a devoted muse. 

 

Their story begins:

a drawing of the muse Melpomene

MELPOMENE

 

THE THE MUSE OF TRAGEDY

Melpomene acknowledges our sadness and our longing. She graces the seeker with her compassion and understanding on the journey through darkness.

 

Before Catherine, the world was too much with him, and Vincent was alone.

Vincent standing outside the tunnel entrance in the park in the deep nights. Text is the poem Alone by Edgar Allen Poe

ALONE

Edgar Allan Poe

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—
 
a drawing of the muse Polyhymnia

POLYHYMNIA

THE THE MUSE OF SACRED SONGS AND MEDITATION

 

Of all the Muses, she is most attuned to a woman’s quest for fulfillment, purpose and the transcendent experience. She steadies a woman on life’s tight-rope, leads her across the chasm.

 

Before Vincent came into Catherine’s life, she was incomplete and searching. She loved only in her dreams.

Catherine sitting on the beach at sunset, the text is the poem I Have Dreamed of You So Much by Robert Desnos

I HAVE DREAMED OF YOU SO MUCH

Robert Desnos

I have dreamed of you so much that you are no longer real.
Is there still time for me to reach your breathing body, to kiss your mouth and make your dear voice come alive again?

I have dreamed of you so much that my arms, grown used to being crossed on my chest as I hugged your shadow, would perhaps not bend to the shape of your body.
For faced with the real form of what has haunted me and governed me for so many days and years, I would surely become a shadow.

O scales of feeling.

I have dreamed of you so much that surely there is no more time for me to wake up.
I sleep on my feet prey to all the forms of life and love, and you, the only one who counts for me today,
I can no more touch your face and lips than touch the lips and face of some passerby.

I have dreamed of you so much, have walked so much, talked so much, slept so much with your phantom,
that perhaps the only thing left for me is to become a phantom among phantoms,
a shadow a hundred times more shadow than the shadow that moves
and goes on moving, brightly, over the sundial of your life.

a drawing of the muse Urania

URANIA

THE THE MUSE OF ASTRONOMY AND FORETELLING

 

Urania, in her cloak embroidered with stars, reads our futures in their positions. She witnesses our actions, can see the effect of a single flutter of the butterfly’s wing. She rejects coincidence, knowing that things unfold as they should.

 

That night …Catherine lifted the veil shourding an exquisite mystery and changed two lives forever.

Catherine sitting in Vincent's chamber the night she tore the bandages from her face and when she first saw his full-on

Who Ever Loved That Loved Not at First Sight

Christopher Marlowe

It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overruled by fate.
When two are stripped, long ere the course begin,
We wish that one should love, the other win;

And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:
The reason no man knows; let it suffice
What we behold is censured by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?

a drawing of the muse Calliope

CALLIOPE

THE THE MUSE OF HEROIC POETRY, COURAGE, AND COMMITMENT

 

Calliope treasures dignity, bravery and eloquence. Her seekers learn to live life to its fullest, to appreciate all its possibilities.

 

Their way was new and uncharted – they were something that had never been. But they moved steadfastly toward love, enduring the pain and cherishing every moment of joy.

In the blue light of her threshold, Catherine and Vincent gaze into each other's eyes. Text is the poem "As Once the Winged Energy of Delight" by Rilke

AS ONCE THE WINGED ENERGY OF DELIGHT

Rainer Maria Rilke

As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions…For the god
wants to know himself in you.

a drawing of the muse Clio

CLIO

THE THE MUSE OF HISTORY, JOURNALING, AND CELEBRATION

 

Clio is the scholar who revels in remembering. She leads her seekers through suffering to truth. Give her your stories.

 

Page after page, he kept a chronicle of his new life …

Vincent in his chamber at his writing desk. Text is the poem "The Dream" by Amy Levy

THE DREAM

Amy Levy

A fair dream to my chamber flew:
Such a crowd of folk that stirred,
Jested, fluttered; only you,
You alone of all that band,
Calm and silent, spake no word.
Only once you neared my place,
And your hand one moment’s space
Sought the fingers of my hand;
Your eyes flashed to mine; I knew
All was well between us two.

* * * * *

On from dream to dream I past,
But the first sweet vision cast
Mystic radiance o’er the last.

* * * * *

When I woke the pale night lay
Still, expectant of the day;
All about the chamber hung
Tender shade of twilight gloom;
The fair dream hovered round me, clung
To my thought like faint perfume:-
Like sweet odours, such as cling
To the void flask, which erst encloses
Attar of rose; or the pale string
Of amber which has lain with roses.

 
a drawing of the muse Thalia

THALIA

 THE THE MUSE OF COMEDY AND PASTORAL POETRY

  Thalia is a playful Muse who knows great healing will come from laughter. She is our inner child and wants to come out and play. She wants us to see with fresh eyes – as if for the first time – all that is magical around us.

Thalia loves to lie in the sun, to splash through puddles. She loves the mountains, the meadows and forests …

And lakes in Connecticut.

Vincent and Catherine outdoors in the sunshine, gazing into each other's eyes. Text is the poem "Escape" by James Rorty

ESCAPE
James Rorty

I have come far for this cleansing;
Now I shall not hurry.
The city had tied a great stone
About my neck.
I drop it — so

Now I can see the mountain.
I leave this soiled bundle of bitterness
In the reeds by the brink.
Now
I stand free and naked to the evening.

Hearken, O Sun,
Staring so hard at me through the balsams —
you who fuse
Earth, air and water in a golden calm—
I am not strange;
I too am beautiful;
I have not forgotten —

Plunge! 

a drawing of the muse Euterpe

EUTERPE

THE THE MUSE OF LYRIC POETRY AND MUSIC

 

Her name means “Delight” and she is the bringer of joy, the giver of stars.

  

“I never …” Catherine said and fell into his arms. 

Catherine, having fallen into Vincent's arms, and Vincent smiling because of it, in the rain beneath the bandshell. Text is the poem "My Delight and Thy Delight" by Robert Bridges

MY DELIGHT AND THY DELIGHT

Robert Bridges 

My delight and thy delight
Walking, like two angels white,
In the gardens of the night:

My desire and thy desire
Twinning to a tongue of fire,
Leaping live, and laughing higher;
Thro’ the everlasting strife
In the mystery of life.

Love, from whom the world begun,
Hath the secret of the sun.

Love can tell and love alone,
Whence the million stars are strewn,
Why each atom knows its own,
How, in spite of woe and death,
Gay is life, and sweet is breath:

This he taught us, this we knew,
Happy in his science true,
Hand in hand as we stood
Neath the shadows of the wood,
Heart to heart as we lay
In the dawning of the day. 

a drawing of the muse Erato

ERATO

THE THE MUSE OF ROMANTIC AND EROTIC POETRY

 

Erato is the awakener of desire. Those who call upon her are made worthy of love, guided to throw off the shackles of fear, unchained from all that holds us back from ecstasy. She is generous and warm, the artist of the beautiful.

 

“I thought maybe we could go inside … by the fire,” she said.

And he did … he did take that first step. 

Catherine speaking to Vincent standing in the open door of her balcony off her living room. Text is the poem "The Gateway" by Alec Derwent Hope

THE GATEWAY

Alec Derwent Hope

Now the heart sings with all its thousand voices
To hear this city of cells, my body, sing.
The tree through the stiff clay at long last forces
Its thin strong roots and taps the secret spring.

And the sweet waters without intermission
Climb to the tips of its green tenement;
The breasts have borne the grace of their possession,
The lips have felt the pressure of content.

Here I come home: in this expected country
They know my name and speak it with delight.
I am the dream and you my gates of entry,
The means by which I waken into light.

a drawing of the muse Terpsichore

TERPSICHORE

THE MUSE OF THE DANCE

 

Terpsichore hears the music in the winds and moves into the arms of her partner. She is graceful and anticipatory, whirls with the circle of life, and perhaps loves the waltz best of all …

 

“Can you hear it?” she asked.

“I can,” he answered.

Catherine and Vincent dancing in the empty Great Hall. Text is the lyrics of the song "Dance Me to the End of Love" by Leonard Cohen

DANCE ME TO THE END OF LOVE

Leonard Cohen

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

the chamber of the winds with statues of the Muses in the different doorways

Author’s Note: This project was originally created for WFOL 2010 – the Poem of the Day. To hear the verses read aloud by participating fans, visit the WFOL  2010 Great Hall Library. 

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