MUSES - MOUSAI - ΜΟΥΣΑΙ
"From the Heliconian Muses let us begin to sing, who hold the great and holy mount of Helicon, and dance on soft feet about the deep-blue spring and the altar of the almighty son of Cronos, and, when they have washed their tender bodies in Permessus or in the Horse's Spring or Olmeius, make their fair, lovely dances upon highest Helicon and move with vigorous feet. Thence they arise and go abroad by night, veiled in thick mist, and utter their song with lovely voice, praising Zeus the aegis-holder and queenly Hera of Argos who walks on golden sandals and the daughter of Zeus the aegis-holder bright-eyed Athene, and Phoebus Apollo, and Artemis who delights in arrows, and Poseidon the earth-holder who shakes the earth, and reverend Themis and quick-glancing Aphrodite, and Hebe with the crown of gold, and fair Dione, Leto, Iapetus, and Cronos the crafty counsellor, Eos and great Helius and bright Selene, Earth too, and great Oceanus, and dark Night, and the holy race of all the other deathless ones that are for ever. And one day they taught Hesiod glorious song while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helicon, and this word first the Goddesses said to me – the Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus who holds the aegis:
"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 marvellous 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?
"Come thou, let us begin with the Muses who gladden the great spirit of their father Zeus in Olympus with their songs, telling of things that are and that shall be and that were aforetime with consenting voice. Unwearying flows the sweet sound from their lips, and the house of their father Zeus the loud-thunderer is glad at the lily-like voice of the Goddesses as it spread abroad, and the peaks of snowy Olympus resound, and the homes of the immortals. And they uttering their immortal voice, celebrate in song first of all the reverend race of the Gods from the beginning, those whom Earth and wide Heaven begot, and the Gods sprung of these, givers of good things. Then, next, the Goddesses sing of Zeus, the father of Gods and men, as they begin and end their strain, how much he is the most excellent among the Gods and supreme in power. And again, they chant the race of men and strong giants, and gladden the heart of Zeus within Olympus, -- the Olympian Muses, daughters of Zeus the aegis-holder.
"Them in Pieria did Mnemosyne (Memory), who reigns over the hills of Eleuther, bear of union with the father, the son of Cronos, a forgetting of ills and a rest from sorrow. For nine nights did wise Zeus lie with her, entering her holy bed remote from the immortals. And when a year was passed and the seasons came round as the months waned, and many days were accomplished, she bare nine daughters, all of one mind, whose hearts are set upon song and their spirit free from care, a little way from the topmost peak of snowy Olympus. There are their bright dancing-places and beautiful homes, and beside them the Graces and Himerus (Desire) live in delight. And they, uttering through their lips a lovely voice, sing the laws of all and the goodly ways of the immortals, uttering their lovely voice. Then went they to Olympus, delighting in their sweet voice, with heavenly song, and the dark earth resounded about them as they chanted, and a lovely sound rose up beneath their feet as they went to their father. And he was reigning in heaven, himself holding the lightning and glowing thunderbolt, when he had overcome by might his father Cronos; and he distributed fairly to the immortals their portions and declared their privileges.
"These things, then, the Muses sang who dwell on Olympus, nine daughters begotten by great Zeus, Cleio and Euterpe, Thaleia, Melpomene and Terpsichore, and Erato and Polyhymnia and Urania and Calliope, who is the chiefest of them all, for she attends on worshipful princes: whomsoever of heaven-nourished princes the daughters of great Zeus honour, and behold him at his birth, they pour sweet dew upon his tongue, and from his lips flow gracious words. All the people look towards him while he settles causes with true judgements: and he, speaking surely, would soon make wise end even of a great quarrel; for therefore are there princes wise in heart, because when the people are being misguided in their assembly, they set right the matter again with ease, persuading them with gentle words. And when he passes through a gathering, they greet him as a God with gentle reverence, and he is conspicuous amongst the assembled: such is the holy gift of the Muses to men. For it is through the Muses and far-shooting Apollo that there are singers and harpers upon the earth; but princes are of Zeus, and happy is he whom the Muses love: sweet flows speech from his mouth. For though a man have sorrow and grief in his newly-troubled soul and live in dread because his heart is distressed, yet, when a singer, the servant of the Muses, chants the glorious deeds of men of old and the blessed Gods who inhabit Olympus, at once he forgets his heaviness and remembers not his sorrows at all; but the gifts of the Goddesses soon turn him away from these. Hail, children of Zeus! Grant lovely song and celebrate the holy race of the deathless Gods who are for ever, those that were born of Earth and starry Heaven and gloomy Night and them that briny Sea did rear. Tell how at the first Gods and earth came to be, and rivers, and the boundless sea with its raging swell, and the gleaming stars, and the wide heaven above, and the Gods who were born of them, givers of good things, and how they divided their wealth, and how they shared their honours amongst them, and also how at the first they took many-folded Olympus. These things declare to me from the beginning, ye Muses who dwell in the house of Olympus, and tell me which of them first came to be." And following this lengthy homage to the Mousai (Muses; Gr. Μοῦσαι), the great theogony begins, its very utterance attributed to their inspiration.
(Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 1-115, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914)
Generalities Concerning the Mousai
According to Isíodos (Hesiod, Ἡσίοδος), the Mousai (Muses, Μοῦσαι, plural) are nine daughters of Zefs (Ζεύς) and Mnimosýni (Mnemosyne, Μνημοσύνη), born in Piæría (Pieria, Πιερία, also Πιερίς) near Mount Ólymbos (Όλυμπος). They are the source of inspiration drawn on by all the poets, musicians and scholars for they have providence over the arts and sciences and poetry of all kinds. They are the great Goddesses of Culture who comprise the principal entourage of Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων), who accompanies their singing with his kithára (cithara or lyre, κιθάρα). Because of his association with these Goddesses and the fields of interest which they represent, Apóllôn is known by epithets derived from their name: Mousarkhos (Μούσαρχος), leader of the Mousai, and Mousayǽtas (Μουσαγέτας), companion of the Mousai. Their mother, Mnimosýni, is Memory, and the Mousai hold the memory of all that has passed and provide access to these memories for those who wish to compose works of art and literature. As a preface to many works by the great poets of antiquity, we find a supplication to the Mousai, for inspiration and guidance before proceeding in their labor.
The Mousai are intimately connected with culture and elegance and all the best which can be attributed to civilization, and their influence can be felt in the modern English language with so many words derived from their name. The word museum has as its root the ancient word Μουσεῖον, which was a temple devoted to the Mousai; this term was also used to designate a place of study such as the great Mouseion of Alexandria. (There was also a temple in ancient Athens called the Μουσεῖον dedicated to Mousaios (Μουσαῖος), the famous student or son of Orphéfs (Ὀρφεύς), and, of course, his name is related to the Mousai.) The word music comes from the ancient Greek μουσική, and by extension we have such words as musical, musician, and musicology. The word mosaic is also related to their name and many Medieval mosaics are said to have been dedicated to the Mousai. Words such as muse, musings, amuse, and bemuse may also be etymologically related, although there is dispute among scholars regarding this.
There is some confusion regarding the names of the Mousai and how many of them there are; they are usually said to be nine in number, as noted above, and due to the weight of the Thæogonía (Θεογονία) of Isíodos (Hesiod, Ἡσίοδος) where this is clearly expressed, the idea of there being nine is the most commonly held; nonetheless there are other groupings and names of Mousai.
The Mousai Titánidæs
Aloéfs (Ἀλωεύς) was a son of Poseidóhn (Ποσειδῶν). Aloéfs married Iphimǽdeia (Ἰφιμέδεια), but she had two sons by Poseidóhn, Ótos (Ὦτος) and Æphiáltis (Ἐφιάλτης); these two sons are known collectively as the Aloádai (Ἀλωάδαι), despite the fact that they were actually sons of the Poseidóhn. Pafsanías (Παυσανίας), the geographer, records in his book on the description of Greece that the Aloádai were the first to worship the Mousai on Mt. Ælikóhn (Ἑλικών) in Viôtía (Βοιωτία), a mountain sacred to these Goddesses, and that the Aloádai held that the Muses are three in number  and gave them the names listed below. These three are known as the Mousai Titánidæs (Μοῦσαι Τιτάνιδες) or the Elder Muses, first to have been worshiped, and are believed to be the progeny of Yi (Earth, Γῆ) and Ouranós (Οὐρανός):
Mælǽti (Μελέτη) "Contemplation"
Mními (Μνήμη) "Memory"
Aïdí (Ἀοιδή) "Song"
The Mousai Apollônídæs
Another tradition talks of the Mousai Apollônídæs (Μοῦσαι Απολλωνίδες), the Mousai who are daughters of Apóllôn. This comes from a fragment from a commentary on Isíodos by Tzǽtzis (Τζέτζης) in which he quotes Évmælos (Εὔμελος)  stating that there are three Mousai thus named:
Kiphisóh (Κηφισώ) "of the river Κηφισός"
Apollônís (Ἀπολλωνίς) "Daughter of Apóllohn"
Vorysthænís (Βορυσθενίς) etym. possibly from σθένος, "strength" (Theoi.com)
The Delphic Mousai
In the Symposiaká (Συμποσιακά) of Ploutarkhos (Πλούταρχος), we hear yet another opinion, that the Delphians say that there are three Mousai who are named for their dominion over three parts of the universe. Each Mousa has governance over one portion and all three combine these, mixing the divine with the earthly.  Their names reflect their stations:
Ypáti (Ὑπάτη), the first, who has governance over the fixed stars.
Mísi (Μήση), the middle, who has governance over the planets.
Níti (Νήτη), the last, who has governance under the moon.
The Nine or Olympian Mousai
When the Muses are generally mentioned in texts, they are usually referring to the nine  spoken of by Homer , and Isíodos in his Theogony, listing their names . This grouping of Muses is sometimes called the Olympian Mousai.
The Orphic hymn to the Mousai gives us this same list:
Κλειώ τ’ Εὐτέρπη τε Θάλειά τε Μελπομένη τε
Τερψιχόρη τ’ Ἐρατώ τε Πολύμνιά τ’ Οὐρανίη τε
While there are various traditions as to how many Mousai there are, as well as the names by which they are known , by the Classical period, the list as laid out in the Orphic hymn is standard. This is confirmed in many texts, notable amongst these, as pointed out above, in Isíodos.
Next follows a description the nine Olympian Mousai and the arts associated with each Goddess. Regarding the details of their lives, not much is known and the stories are often contradictory. The specific areas of literary or artistic interest which are the providence of each particular Mousa (Μοῦσα, singular) were attributed to them in the Classical era. Often the only thing of particular interest noted in the ancient literature concerning the lives of the Mousai, are the children which they are said to have begot; these children usually give clues as to the nature of their mothers and, therefore, are identified in the brief biographies given below.
Kleióh - (Κλειώ. Her name means 'to celebrate;' the word κλέος, glory or fame, is also related to her name.)
Kleióh is said to be the mother (Licymnius Fragment 768A) of Ymǽnaios (Ὑμήν or Ὑμέναιος), the God who inspires poetry and song at the marriage feast, although his parentage is given otherwise in other literature. Kleióh made love to Píæros (Πίερος) and gave birth to Yákinthos (Ὑάκινθος), who is beloved of Apóllôn and the first man to have fallen in love with a male, according to Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου 1.3.3. She is praised by the great poets of antiquity as the inspiration of song and the divine source of sweetness.
Kleióh is the Mousa of History (Συγγραφή ). Her insignia in iconography is a scroll or a chest of books.
"Cleio is so named because the praise which poets sing in the encomia (ἐγκωμιαζομένων
ed. eulogies, praises) bestows great glory (κλέος) upon those who are praised" 
Eftǽrpi - (Εὐτέρπη. Etym. εὖ 'well' + τέρπειν 'please')
According to Apollódôros (1.3.4), Eftǽrpi united with the river Strymóhn (Στρυμών) and gave birth to Rísos (Ῥῆσος), who became a king of Thráki (Θρᾴκη) and who fought on the side of the Trojans in the Ἰλιὰς Ὁμήρου.
Eftǽrpi is the Mousa of Music and Lyric Poetry (τό Μέλος). Her insignia in iconography is the aflós (αὐλός), a musical wind instrument usually having a reed and sounding something like an oboe.
"Euterpê (ed. is so named), because she gives to those who hear her sing delight (τέρπειν) in the blessings which education bestows" 
Tháleia is the Mousa of Comedy (Κωμῳδία). Her insignia in iconography is comic mask and the shepherd's staff; sometimes she is depicted with a wreath of ivy.
"Thaleia (ed. is so named), because men whose praises have been sung in poems flourish (θάλλειν) through long periods of time" 
Mælpomǽni - (Μελπομένη. Literally, the Songstress. Etym. from μέλπω, 'to celebrate with song and dance.')
According to Apollódôros (1.3.4), Mælpomǽni united with the river-God Akhælóös (Ἀχελῷος) and gave birth to the Seirínæs (Σειρῆνες) although other sources say that Tærpsikhóra was the mother.
Mælpomǽni is the Mousa of Tragedy (Τραγῳδία). Her insignia in iconography is the tragic mask and the club of Iraklís (Ἡρακλῆς) or a sword. Her head is sometimes surrounded by ivy (because ivy is associated with Diónysos who is worshiped with the performance of tragedy) and she wears the kóthyrnos (κόθυρνος), a sort of boot built like a sandal in that it had an open front and was laced up high on the foot, a type of footwear associated with actors in ancient Athens.
"Melpomenê (ed. is so named), from the chanting (μελῳδίας) by which she charms the souls of her listeners" 
Tærpsikhóra - (Τερψιχόρα. Etym. τέρπω 'delight' + χoρός 'dance')
According to the poet Píndaros (Πίνδαρος) (frag. 139), Tærpsikhóra is the mother of Línos (Λῖνος), the brother of Orphéfs, although his parentage is given differently elsewhere.
Tærpsikhóra is the Mousa of Choral Dance (Χορός) and Song. Her insignia in iconography is the lýra (λύρα) and the plíktron (plectrum or pick, πλῆκτρον).
"Terpsichorê (ed. is so named), because she delights (τέρπειν) her disciples with the good things which come from education" 
Æratóh - (Ἐρατώ. Etym. from ἔρως 'love' or 'attraction')
According to Ísyllos (Ἴσυλλος) the Spartan, from an oracle he received at Dælphí (Δελφοί), Æratóh is the mother of Klæophíma (Κλεοφήμα) by Málos (Μάλος) and begot Klæophíma (Κλεοφήμα), the grandmother of Asklipiós (Ἀσκληπιός) . Æratóh is the Muse of Erotic Poetry, lyric love poetry. Æratóh has been represented as a beautiful draped Goddess holding a kithára (κιθάρα) or the lýra (λύρα).
"Erato (ed. is so named), because she makes those who are instructed by her men who are desired and worthy to be loved" 
Polýmnia (Πολύμνια, alt. Πολυύμνια. Etym. πολύς 'many' + ὕμνος 'hymn')
Polýmnia is given by one source (Schol. l. c. i. 23.) to be the mother of Orphéfs by Íagros (Οἴαγρος). Other sources say the mother of Orphéfs is Kalliópi and that his father was Apóllôn.
Polýmnia is the Mousa of Religious Hymns (Ὑμνῳδία). Her insignia in iconography is the veil and she is depicted with a pensive demeanor.
"Polymnia (ed. is so named), because by her great (πολλῆς) praises (ὑμνήσεως) she brings distinction to writers whose works have won for them immortal fame" 
Ouranía - (Οὐρανία. Etym. οὐρανός 'sky')
According to Pafsanías (Παυσανίας) the geographer (9.29.5) and other sources, Ouranía is the mother of Línos (Λῖνος), the brother of Orphéfs, with the father being Amphímaros (Αμφίμαρος), but Línos' parentage is given differently in other literature.
Ouranía is the Mousa of Astronomy (Ἀστρονομία). Her insignia in iconography is the globe.
"Urania (ed. is so named), because men who have been instructed of her she raises aloft to heaven (οὐρανόν), for it is a fact that imagination and the power of thought lift men's souls to heavenly heights" 
Kalliópî - (Καλλιόπη. Etym. καλός 'beautiful' + ὄψ, ὀπός 'voice') Kalliópî is the eldest of the Mousai. Kalliópî has many children, one of which was Orphéfs by Apóllôn although other accounts give Íagros (Οἴαγρος) as the father.
Kalliópî is the Mousa of Æpopiía (Ἐποποιία) or Ǽpæa (Ἔπεα), ancient Greek words which mean Epic Poetry, the stories in verse of the great Heroes. Kalliópî is said to be the Mousa who inspired Ómiros (Ὅμηρος) to write Iliás (Ἰλιάς) and Odýsseia (Ὀδύσσεια). Her insignia in iconography is a writing tablet or scroll and a writing instrument.
"Calliopê (ed. is so named), because of her beautiful (καλὴν) voice (ὄπα), that is, by reason of the exceeding beauty of her language she wins the approbation of her auditors." 
THE ORPHIC HYMN TO THE MOUSAI 
76. Mousai [The Muses; Gr. Μοῦσαι]
The Fumigation from Frankincense.
Daughters of Jove, dire-sounding and divine, 
Renown'd Pierian, sweetly speaking Nine;
To those whose breasts your sacred furies fire
Much-form'd, the objects of supreme desire:
Sources of blameless virtue to mankind,
Who form to excellence the youthful mind;
Who nurse the soul, and give her to descry
The paths of right with Reason's steady eye.
Commanding queens who lead to sacred light
The intellect refin'd from Error's night;
And to mankind each holy rite disclose,
For Mystic knowledge from your nature flows.
Clio, and Erato, who charms the sight,
With thee Euterpe minist'ring delight:
Thalia flourishing, Polymina fam'd,
Melpomene from skill in music nam'd:
Terpischore, Urania heav'nly bright,
With thee who gav'st me to behold the light.
Come, venerable, various, pow'rs divine,
With fav'ring aspect on your Mystics shine;
Bring glorious, ardent, lovely, fam'd desire,
And warm my bosom with your sacred fire.
76. Μουσῶν, θυμίαμα λίβανον
Μνημοσύνης καὶ Ζηνὸς ἐριγδούποιο θύγατρες,
Μοῦσαι Πιερίδες, μεγαλώνυμοι, ἀγλαόφημοι,
θνητοῖς, οἷς κε παρῆτε, ποθεινόταται, πολύμορφοι,
πάσης παιδείης ἀρετὴν γεννῶσαι ἄμεμπτον,
θρέπτειραι ψυχῆς, διανοίας ὀρθοδότειραι,
καὶ νόου εὐδυνάτοιο καθηγήτειραι ἄνασσαι,
αἳ τελετὰς θνητοῖς ἀνεδείξατε μυστιπολεύτους,
Κλειώ τ’ Εὐτέρπη τε Θάλειά τε Μελπομένη τε
Τερψιχόρη τ’ Ἐρατώ τε Πολύμνιά τ’ Οὐρανίη τε
Καλλιόπηι σὺν μητρὶ καὶ εὐδυνάτηι θεᾶι Ἁγνηι.
ἀλλὰ μόλοιτε, θεαί, μύσταις, πολυποίκιλοι, ἁγναί,
εὔκλειαν ζῆλόν τ’ ἐρατὸν πολύυμνον ἄγουσαι.
 Ἑλλάδος περιήγησις 9.29.2.
 See Greek Epic Fragments, M. L. West, 2003, LCL 497, Harvard Univ. Press, pp. 250 & 251.
 Ἠθικὰ Πλουτάρχου· 49.9.14 Συμποσιακά.
 Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορικὴ Διοδώρου Σικελιώτου 4.7.4.
 Ὀδύσσεια Ὁμήρου 24.60.
 Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 76-79.
 ὕμνος Ὀρφέως 76.8-10 Μουσῶν.
 It is tempting to translate "history" with the ancient Greek ἱστορία, but in antiquity, ἱστορία meant simply "inquiry."
 Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορικὴ Διοδώρου Σικελιώτου beginning at 4.7.4, trans. C. H. Oldfather, 1935, but apparently in the Public Domain.
 This according to the following inscription: 32. In scriptiones Graecae, IV2, 1, no. 128, iv, 40-50 [Isyllus; ca. 300 B. C.] as found in Asclepius: Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies, by Emma J. Edlestein and Ludwig Edelstein, 1945. The John Hopkins Univ. Press [Baltimore and London], p. 24.)
 Ibid. Oldfather, p. 365.
 ὕμνος Ὀρφέως 76 Μουσῶν, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1792.
 Thomas Taylor's note to the hymn:
Ver. i.] Daughters of Jove. Proclus, in some manuscript commentary, cited by Gyraldus, in Syntag. de Musis. p. 534. says that the Muses are called the daughters of Jove and Mnemosyne, because to those who desire to posses disciplines and sciences, intellect and the power of memory are necessary as the first requisites: the latter of which the Greeks call μνημονικὸς, the former νοητικὸς. But as the best explanation of the nature of the Muses is given by Proclus, in his Commentary or, Plato's Republic, p. 399. accompanied with all that philosophical elegance and subtilty (ed. antique spelling as in the book) which he possessed in so remarkable a degree, I persuade myself the following Paraphrase on his discourse concerning the different kinds of poets, will be highly acceptable to the liberal reader; and that its great excellence will amply compensate for its length.
"In the first place then, there are three poetic forms corresponding to the three different powers of the soul, Intellect, Reason, and Opinion. These we shall explain according to the opinion of Plato; and produce from Homer examples of each. The first kind of poetry then, is similar to intellect. But intellect is the best, most perfect, and most divine power of the soul: it is the most similar to a divine life, in the contemplation of which it is wholly employed, and is swallowed up as it were in the essence of divinity; so that it enkindles its own light from the splendor of the Gods, and conjoins its own most simple essence with supernatural unity. In like manner the most excellent kind of poetry, gives beatitude to the soul, from divinity, and places it among the Gods; participating by an ineffable union with the participated deities, and conjoining that which is filled with good, with its replenishing source. Hence it abstracts the soul from all material connections, illuminates it with celestial light, inflames it with a divine fire; and compels the whole inferior constitution of the soul, to be obedient to intellect alone. Indeed, a Fury of this kind is more excellent than any temperance; since it furnishes the soul with such a symmetry and proportion of divinity, that the very words bursting forth as its last effects, appear to be adorned with the beautiful bands of measure and number. For as prophetic fury arises from truth, and the amatorial (ed. pertaining to love) from beauty; so the poetic proceeds from divine symmetry, by means of which it most intimately unites the poets with the Gods. Plato, in the Phædrus, speaking of this Fury, says that it is an occupation of the Muses; and a Fury sent from above on tender and untouched souls. That its employment is to suscitate (ed. to rouse, animate) and inspire the poet, according to odes and the other kinds of poetry but its end, the instruction of posterity by celebrating the infinite deeds of antiquity. From these words it is plain, that Plato, in the first place, ascribes divinity to this kind of poetry, as being derived from the Muses; who fill as well intelligible as sensible works with paternal harmony, and ellegant motion. But he calls it an occupation, because the whole illustrated soul, resigns itself to the present effect of illuminating divinity: and a Fury, because it relinquishes its own proper ingenuity, and is carried according to the vigorous impulse of a superior power. Again, in the second place he describes the habit of the soul thus occupied: for, he says, it ought to be tender and untouched; not rigid, hard, and filled with many and various opinions, foreign from inspiring divinity: but it should be soft and tender, that it may easily admit divine inspiration; and untouched, that it may be sincere and empty of all other concerns. In the third place, he adds its common employment; that it is perfected by the afflatus (ed. divine inspiration) of the Muses, and by the soul properly disposed for its reception. Indeed suscitation is an elevation of the soul, an operation but little depraved, and a vigorous conversion to the deity, from a lapse into the whirls of generation. But an afflatus is a divine motion, and an unwearied musical dance towards the inspiring deity. Lastly, he testifies that human concerns spoken from a divine mouth, become more perfect, illustrious, and more convenient for the delivery of true doctrine to the hearers, Not that this kind of poetry is accommodated to juvenile tuition, but is the most convenient of all for the instruction of those who are perfect in politic discipline, and who earnestly desire the mystical tradition of divine concerns. On this account, Plato deservedly prefers it to all human arts. But he who (as he writes in the same place) approaches to the poetic gates, without the Fury of the Muses, trusting that he may become a good poet by a certain art, will be himself empty, as well as his poetry, in respect of that which proceeds from Fury; before whose presence, the poetry vanishes which is dictated by prudence alone." Thus far from the Phædrus.
Again, not dissimilar to these, are the words of Socrates in the Iö. For when the rhapsodist affirms, that he abounds with a copiousness of discourse on Homer, but not upon the other poets, Socrates ascribes the cause of this to his being moved by divine force, and not by art. For unless he was peculiarly inclined to Homer by a divine instinct, he would he equally as copious on all other poets as upon Homer. But the first mover says he is a God or a Muse, that is a divine cause; from thence the poet is excited, and from him again the rhapsodist. Hence poetic Fury is a medium between a divine principle and the rhapsodist, moving, and at the same time moved, and distributing supernal gifts to inferiors, by a certain latent consent; by means of which, these degrees cohere among themselves in the same manner as many iron rings depending from a magnet, each of which communicates in gradation, its alluring and attractive power to the other. So in the poetic chain, it is requisite there should be something divine, which, through proper mediums, may connect the last to the first monad. This Fury Homer, as well as Plato, calls at one time in the plural number Muses, and at another time in the singular number a Muse: in the first case, having respect to the multitude of the chain of the Muses; but in the second to the coherent union of all things, which is inserted from the first cause in inferior natures. For indeed poetry subsists in a secret and uniform manner in the first mover, and afterwards in poets excited by that unity, like the revolution of a thread from its bottom clew εἴνειλεγμένως, but in the rhapsodist's, according to the lowest and ministrant degree. And thus much it is sufficient for the present to have alledged from Plato's Iö. He who desires more, must consult that dialogue, where he will find many things commending this first and divine kind of Poets.
We shall farther add the testimony of the Athenian guest and of Timæus. For he exhorts us to follow poets seized with the Fury of Apollo, such being the sons of the Gods, and knowing in the best manner the concerns of their progenitors, although they deliver them without the assistance of arguments and demonstrations. And Plato, in the third book of his Laws, thus writes: "This genus of poets is divine, it is agitated by the Gods, composes sacred hymns, and every where embraces Truth attended with the Graces and Muses." To which may be added, that in the first Alcibiades, he says, the nature of poetry is ænigmatical, and is not manifest to every understanding.
Indeed, you will find in Homer all kinds of poetry; but he has less of imagination and imitation, and excels in the first, concerning which we are now discoursing. For, inspired by the Muses and full of fury, he proposes mystical senses of divinity; such as concerning demiurgical unity, the triple division of the universe, the chains of Vulcan, and the connection of Jupiter with Juno. But Homer speaking of Demodocus (under whose person he wishes to signify himself, and on this account reports he was blind) says that he was a divine bard, loved by the Muses and their leader Apollo.
And thus much for the first kind of poets and poetry, according to Proclus; among which it is evident these Hymns must be ranked; as all sacred poetical composition belongs to this highest order. He then proceeds to the second kind of poetry, which the Greeks call διάνοια, or rational, as follows. Reason then is inferior to in dignity and power, yet it follows intellect as the leader of its energies, between which, and opinion, it is the connecting medium. And as soul by intellect is conjoined with the divinities; so by the assistance of reason it is converted into itself. Hence it revolves the multitude of arguments, considers the various differences of forms, collects intellect and the intelligent into one; and imitates in its operations an intelligible essence. But since prudence is the employment of reason, we attribute to it the second kind of poetry, which is a medium between the preceding, and the third which we shall next explain. This rational poetry, understands the essences of things, and is freely conversant about what is honest and good, as well in words as in actions, which are likewise the object of its contemplation. It produces every particular invested with elegant numbers and rythms; proposes moral sentences, the best counsels, intelligible moderation, and every virtue. Besides this, it teaches the circuits of the soul, its immortality and various powers; explains to mortals many names of an incorporeal nature, and produces many probable Dogmata respecting corporeal substance. The Athenian guest (in Plato, lib. i. De Legibus) testifies, that the poetry of Theognis is of this kind, which, because it teaches and commends every virtue, is justly to be preferred to the poetry of Tyrtæus, which exhorts to fortitude alone. But Homer represents this species of poetry, when he describes the life of the soul, the different essences of her parts, the difference between the image and the usurping soul, the variety subsisting in nature, the order of the elements of the universe, civil offices, and the like. But Homer himself, appears to have made Phemius the lyrist skilled in this kind of poetry, where Penelope says to him, lib. i.
"Alluring arts thou know'st, and what of old
"Of Gods and heroes, sacred bards have told."
After the two superior kinds of poetry, that inspired by Fury, and the rational; it remains to speak of the imitative. This last kind of poetry, then, is far distant from the excellence of the others; since it employs imaginations, opinions, and the irrational senses; from whence it contracts many vices, especially in that part of it, which is called phantastic. For it greatly raises moderate affection, disturbs the hearers, and, together with words, various harmonies, and numbers, changes the affections of the soul. It shadows over the nature of things not such as they are, but such as they appear to vulgar inspection; and explains them not according to an exact knowledge, but from a delusive imagination. Besides this, it proposes as its end the delight of its auditors; and particularly regards that part of the soul, which is obnoxious to the passions of joy and grief. But it is subdivided into two other kinds, one of which is conjectural or assimilatory, and the other phantastic. The latter of these represents only the apparent imitation and similitude, not that which is true; and considers its end accomplished, if it produces in the hearers pleasure and delight, belonging to the phantasy alone. But the other does not so much study the gratification of the popular ear, as a proper imitation, that it may express the things themselves, and exhibit to the eyes an exquisite image of that, concerning which it treats, and may as near as possible, express the exemplars which it imitates. But Plato himself, under the person of the Eleatean guest (in Sophista) describes the differences of each of these as follows. "I now appear to discern two species of imitation, one conjectural, or the art of assimilating, whose business is to fabricate an image emulous (ed. imitative) of its exemplar, as far as pertains to length, breadth, depth, and convenient colours.
Theæt. Do not those who imitate something, perform this to the utmost of their ability?
Guest. Not those who fashion or paint any great work. For if they bestowed on the resemblances the true commensuration of beautiful things, the superior members would appear less than is proper, and the inferior larger: because the one is beheld by us at a distance, the other near at hand.
Theæt. Intirely so.
Guest. Hence artists neglecting truth, do not accommodate to resemblances such commensurations as are really beautiful, but only such as appear so."
From these words it is plain that Plato distinguishes each kind of imitation, not only in painting and statuary, but also in poetry; which he compares with those imitative arts. Again, the Athenian guest speaks separately of the conjectural kind, where he treats of that music which does not propose to itself pleasure, but a true and most similar imitation of its exemplar, as in the second book of Laws. Indeed, Socrates speaks of the phantastic kind in the tenth book of the Republic, comparing it to a picture which does not represent the works of nature, but of artists; and these not such as they are, but such as they appear, not imitating their reality, but only their phantastic representation. He likewise demonstrates that this kind of poetry is phantastic and is in the third degree from truth. But each kind of imitation is found in Homer. For he is then to be esteemed phantastic when he affirms any thing according to vulgar opinion; such as when ascribing the rising and setting of the sun, not from true situations, but from such as appear so to the senses, which are deceived by distance of place, But where he preserves types of imitation convenient to persons and things, as when he imitates heroes fighting, consulting, and speaking, framing deeds and discourses adapted to the life and pursuits of each, he ought to be called a conjectural poet. And of this kind perhaps is the lyrist of Clytemnestra, who so learnedly imitated examples of temperance by right opinion, that Clytemnestra was free from fault, while he resided with her. But it is lawful to call the musician Thamyris, phantastic, who, instead of the ancient and simple music, endeavoured to introduce one more pleasant, diversified in many ways, and calculated to please the senses and the vulgar. Hence he is feigned to have contended with the Muses themselves, by whom, having raised their anger, he was blinded; not that in reality the Muses are affected with anger, but because he was incapable of the true, simple, and ancient music; and laboured only to move the affections and imagination, not following right opinion, or the science of imitation."
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