INVOKING THE MUSE,
efore I met Paul, I had never heard of the Muses.
He enlightened me. The Muses were nine sisters,
daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, which means "memory."
Their names are Clio, Erato, Thalia, Terpsichore, Calliope,
Polyhymnia, Euterpe, Melpomene, and Urania. Their job is
to inspire artists. Each Muse is responsible for a different art.
There's a neighborhood in New Orleans where the streets
are named after the Muses. I lived there once and had no idea;
I thought they were just weird names.
Here's Socrates, in Plato's Phaedrus, on the "noble effect
of heaven-sent madness":
The third type of possession and madness is possession by
the Muses. When this seizes upon a gentle and virgin soul it
rouses it to inspired expression in lyric and other sorts of
poetry, and glorifies countless deeds of the heroes of old for
the instruction of posterity. But if a man comes to the door
of poetry untouched by the madness of the Muses, believing
that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his
sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly
eclipsed by the performances of the inspired madman.