So, later tonight I'm going with a group of friends to see the band Muse at Nassau Coliseum. I thought now would be a great time to bring out what exactly a "muse" is. Well, in poetry, music, literature and other forms of artistic mediums, a MUSE is anyone or anything that gives cause for inspiration. Primarily in Greek literature and mythology, a muse (Greek "MOÛS", pl. "MOÛSAI") would be the figurative source of inspiration to the artist, story-teller, or other.
We may go to museums and just figure that they're named that way just because they're there to a-muse you. Ha. No. In fact, a museum literally means "place sacred to the muses" or "home of the muses", because they (by figurative standards) are generally responsible for what you see in museums. Museum is a word English took straight from Latin. Mouseîon is it's translation in Greek.
But who exactly are the "Muses"? Originally there were three: Melete (meaning "practice"), Mnemosyne (memory), and Aeode (song). As time went on, however, those three branched into nine. Nine different Muses to embody the arts and inspire creation. In fact mousike means the "art of the muses", and this is where we get the word music from in our language.
The nine muses were, over time, given emblems so that they were easily recognized by. I shall explain below.
-Calliope is the muse of Epic Poetry, and the emblem she carries is a Writing Tablet. Her name means she has a "beautiful voice".
-Clio is the muse of History, carrying Scrolls. Her name means to "recount" or "make famous".
-Erato is the muse of Lyric Poetry, and she is known to carry a Cithara. Many believe her name comes from the root name of the god Eros, who is the god of sexual love (we get the word "erotic" from his name), and if so, Erato would mean "desired".
-Euterpe is the muse of Music, carrying the Aulos emblem. This means "rejoicing well"
-Melpomene is the muse of Singing, but is closely associated with Tragedy, and she carries around a Tragic Mask. "The one that is melodious"
-Polyhymnia is the muse of Choral Poetry, and carries a Veil. And before I say what her name means, you should be capable by adding poly (many) and hymn (songs). "The one of many hymns"
-Terpsichore is the muse of Dance, and holds the lyre. "Delight of dancing." Also, we have a lesser known word in English that comes from the muses name, and that is TERPSICHOREAN or anything pertaining to dance.
-Thalia is the muse of Comedy, and her emblem is the Comic Mask (yes, as in comedy and tragedy). Her name means "the joyous, the flourishing".
-Urania is the ninth and final muse of Astronomy, known for carrying around a Globe and Compass (how scholarly of her). Her name means "of the heavens" and is a great reference to the planet Uranus.
The reason, mythologically, all these muses came about was that Zeus slept with the original muse of memory, Mnemosyne, for a consecutive nine nights, and thus the nine muses were born.
There's also quite a bit of history as to a tenth muse, but not based on mythological record. For example Sappho of Lesbos was complimented as being the tenth by Plato, because of how inspiring she was. So it can be used to compliment those who inspire. It's ironic that the muse that inspired me to write all of this is the band Muse itself.