On Muses and Shakespeare’s Fire

O! For a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest invention of heaven!

Wm. Shakespeare

There is a general assumption in the arts that a muse comes in the form of a woman, close enough to aspire to, but no so close as to actually reach, and that great art is created while in a state of great longing. The inference is of course, that one cannot make great art except out of love. I don’t believe this to be a universal truth. What muse then to women who make art? (There seem to be few male muses.) Or, conversely, what muse to the writing of Whitman and Wilde and others going back to antiquity? Note too that the muse comes as much from loss as longing – artist HR Giger’s Li for example. (I have no doubt that loss can beget longing, possibly more strongly than presence.) Is the muse then the longing for something that can never be had?

I would think that the muse is that which is there at the inception of the work but sometimes not at the end. I say only sometimes because what work is ever really complete? Who would not remake something, who would not reorder the words and even the world, if only given the chance?

A man told once that there is an alternative translation of the first words of the Book of Genesis that say “In the beginning, God spoke a word upon the water and the world was created.” I have not been able to find that translation since I was first told of it, but I have thought often upon it and that, in it’s own way is a muse. Enigmatic and pure, the beginning for creation in conceptual thought (where the word stands for the thing) a corollary of a sort of the ontological argument for God.

I imagine that along time ago, in some cave not far from the particular blue waters of Mediterranean, a creature once an animal stared into a fire and then, moved by something they could not articulate, placed their henna-colored hand-print upon the wall. There, in between the light of Shakespeare’s fire, and the drying dye, was the muse. Something comes and was seen in the light of the fire, if only for a moment, and someone else marks its passing with something else.

I also think it possible, in the Socratic way where each statement implies it’s own antithesis, that with the exception of that first pure word spoken upon the still waters of the primordial, that muses come not to create but to destroy. The artist then must make something out of the ashes left in the fire of the their passing. Creation and recreation, fire and clay. Who builds until they have to?

Heavy Shit.

Someone beer me,



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