Invoking the Muse in 21st Century Rome

While this blog will stray far from the form and weight of an epic poem, I am borrowing from ancient poetic tradition an introduction style: a humble request of the Muse.

I recall from studying Latin as a minor at Mount Holyoke College, in his founding of Rome story, The Aeneid, Virgil invokes the Muse right up front in the opening lines:

Musa, mihi causas memora, quo numine laeso,quidve dolens, regina deum tot volvere casusinsignem pietate virum, tot adire labores impulerit. Tantaene animis caelestibus irae? Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity,how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man,noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many trials? Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods?
(translation by A. S. Kline)

The inspired poet responds to the question in the 12 books following that describe the protagonist Aeneas’ journey from his native Troy to the shores of Latium, where his descendent Romulus would eventually found Rome and father the first Romans who would later form the Roman Empire.

The anger Virgil mentions is the Queen of Heaven Juno’s grudge at being runner-up to Venus in a beauty contest, and then having one of her pet cities decimated in war. Since Aeneas is the mortal son of Venus, i.e. a kind of nephew to “Auntie Juno,” and since those were the days when the gods and goddesses had human defects like jealousy and anger, she decides to exact revenge by challenging him at every step of his trip.

I relate to Aeneas.  Though my hometown was still thankfully standing when I left it, moving to the shores of Latium a couple of millenia later still presents challenges. There is a lot of beauty to share in the midst, but, taking a cue from the masters, the journey becomes interesting when the protagonist faces tests of her wit and faith.

So I begin my tale.

O Muse, were the gods offended that I left New York City and set my stilettos on Roman cobblestones, only to get caught the heel in the crevice again and again, until I learned that wedge sandals and thicker heels are the way to go ? Did I offend the Great Ones in leaving native Westchester with its wide roads and career women, clothing dryers and organic juice bars? Speak to me the story and the wonder of my adopted Italian homeland, whence all my paternal great-grandparents left one century ago, only to have their great-grandaughter return, in fulfillment of a destiny only you may know.

Inspiration and Poetry:

Calling the Muse daily, inspiration from the Art of War

Classic invocations of the Muse: Homer, from the Odyssey; Dante, from The Divine Comedy

Thomas Hardy, Rome: The Vatican–Sala Delle Muse (1887)

Edna St Vincent Millay, Invocations of the Muses