There is a monkey whispering in my ear. Is it a devil or angel, perhaps an alter ego planning dark or brilliant deeds? It’s nothing but a conspiring hairy muse. Shakespeare certainly thought it rascally, chiding the idle and absent muse in Sonnet 100.
by William Shakespeare
Where art thou Muse that thou forget’st so long,
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend’st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return forgetful Muse, and straight redeem,
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, resty Muse, my love’s sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make time’s spoils despisèd every where.
Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life,
So thou prevent’st his scythe and crooked knife.
The mischievous, elusive muse is a myth which remains with us today. In The Oxford American magazine – yes the issue where my painting “Young Woman with a Cupid” is featured (see post here) – Rick Bragg gets funny and brutal, questioning the idea of the fairylike creature showering us with creative pixie dust.
The accoutrements, the fashion, I can do without, but I have always been intrigued by the notion, the whimsy, that some kind of writing spirit hovers near.
I, myself, have never seen one. But all my writing life I have heard writers speak of it, wistfully, as if it were a lover. “Oh, punkin’, I had planned to write today, but the muse, you see, it just wasn’t on me.”
Because you know that some days it doesn’t come at all, the words, and you write anyway, gaining just inches instead of yards, write until you can’t feel your legs and your family thinks that you might be dead.
If it had a form, this muse, it would be a hairy, goatlike beast, something you pin down with a boot on its neck, just so you won’t be so goddamn lonely during this hateful process. And at night, when you believe you are done with it, it bumps and growls from underneath your bed.
–Rick Bragg Laments His Absent Muse