In Greek mythology the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne;
originally goddesses of memory only, but later identified with
individual arts and sciences. The paintings of Herculaneum show
all nine in their respective attributes. (Three earlier Muses
are sometimes given, i.e. Melete (Meditation), Mneme (Remembrance),
and Aoide (Song).
Chief of the nine Muses (Gr. beautiful voice); the muse of epic
and heroic poetry, and of poetic inspiration and eloquence. Her
emblems are a stylus and wax tablets. (The name is also applied
to a steam organ, making raucous music on steam whistles.)
The inventress of historical and heroic poetry, the Muse of history.
Hence the pun, "Can clio do more than amuse?"
(Addison adopted the name as a pseudonym, and many of his papers
in the Spectator are signed by one of the four letters in this
word, probably the initial letters of where they were written
of Chelsea, London, Islington, Office. Cp. NOTARIKON.)
Inventress of the double flute, muse of Dionysiac music, patroness
of joy and pleasure, and of flute-players.
She presided over comedy and pastoral poetry. She also favoured
rural pursuits and is represented holding a comic mask and a shepherd's
crook. Thalia is also the name of one of THE THREE GRACES.
The muse of tragedy.
Up then, Melpomene, thou mournfullest Muse of Nine,
Such cause of mourning never hadst afore.
(Spencer: Shepherd's Calendar-November)
The muse of dancing and the dramatic chorus, and later of lyric
poetry. Hence, Terpsichorean, pertaining to dancing. She is usually
represented seated, and holding a lyre.
The muse of erotic poetry, usually represented with a lyre.
Also, Polymnia. The muse of lyric poetry and the inventer of the
lyre. She invented harmony and presided over singing.
The muse who presides over Astrology; usually represented pointing
at a celestial globe with a staff. Also an epithet of Aphrodite
or Venus. The name means "heavenly" or "celestial."
Milton (Paradise Lost, VII, 1-39) makes her the spirit of the
loftiest poetry, and calls her "heavenly born" and the
sister of Wisdom.
Source: Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase
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