Bibliotherapy

A Blessings by the Muses

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From Gafurius’s ‘Practica Musice’, The music of the Spheres.

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From Martianus Capella’s ‘Marriage of Philology and Mercury’, Hall and Burge 1977 English edition, Columbia University Press. New York. Chapter 2, The Marriage. From pages 40- 45.

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‘…Then, while the others kept quiet a moment, Urania began:

’With trust in the divine will and without disputing, behold the assemblies of the stars and the sacred vaults of the heavens; you formerly studied what cause whirled the interdependent spheres, now as their leader you shall assign causes to their sweeping motions. You shall perceive what is the fabric that connects their circuit, what bond encompasses them, and what huge spheres are enclosed within a curving orbit; you will see what drives on and what delays courses of the planets, which rays of the sun inflame the moon or diminish its light, what substance kindles the stars in heaven, and how great are the bodies which heaven spins around, what is the providence of the gods, and what is its mode of operation. Ascend into the temples of heaven, maiden, deserving of such a marriage; your father-in-law Jupiter asks you to rise to the lofty stars.’

Then sang Calliope:

‘Always a friend to the favoring muses, for you Magnesian rivers and the fountain of Gorgonian horse have poured your drink, for you the Aonid peak, green with garlands, puts forth its leaves, while Cirrha prepares violets; you know how to chant prophecies to the sweet Muses and to play the lyre of Pindar, and at your word the string and the sacred plectrum know how to pour forth the Thracian song. Light of our lives, praise always our sacred songs and approve the music we play. Ascend into the temples of heaven, maiden, deserving of such marriage; your father-in-law Jupiter asks you to rise to the lofty stars.’

Thus sang Polymnia:

‘You have been exalted and, though recently of mortal blood, are now endowed with godhead; at last you reap the rewards of your efforts: the shining sky, the abode of the gods, and the companionship of Jove. You are used to combining and dispersing a variety of sounds according to the rules of rhythm, to assessing them which syllable, marked with the macron, is pronounced with circumflexion, which with the mark of brevity the micron curves; to assessing melodies and tones and tunes and all such knowledge, and all that can, when the mind is urged to it, gain the heights of heaven. Ascend into the temples of heaven, maiden, deserving of such a marriage; your father-in-law Jupiter asks you to rise to the lofty stars.’

Thus sang Melpomene:

‘ You are accustomed to sing tragic songs for the theater, or wear the boot of comedy and echo the songs which under your care we offered when sweet music aided us; now to you, maiden, our champion and our expositor, made immortal by the theme of your song, to you I sing. For I am happy to adorn your bridal chamber, and may my garlands be acceptable in your service. May you ever seem worthy of an Olympian wedding, ever fairer than the other gods. Ascend into the temples of heaven, maiden, deserving of such a marriage; your father-in-law Jupiter asks you to rise to the lofty stars.’

Thus sang Clio:

‘You sound forth in the guise of the rhetorician and set free by your passion the man accused, you link together contrary sentiments, building up sophisms by heaping together arguments, now binding something together by the rule of grammar, clever at using your gift of fine speech to play with words that by their double meaning destroy the ordinary sense; now gaze upon the starry threshold of the sky and enjoy the holy whiteness of heaven, for it is precious to see that in its true light. Ascend into the temples of heaven, maiden, deserving of such a marriage; your father-in-law Jupiter asks you to rise to the lofty stars.’

Next spoke Erato:

‘O famous maiden, to whom the palace of the Thunderer is open, source of the arts, rightly is the world subject to you, since it was from the beginning apprehended by your rational principles. Why the sacred lightning flashes, whence echoing thunder sounds, what drives the moisture through the opening of the sky when the storm clouds gather, what is brought back by the clearness of spring when the rain clouds march away, why the circle of the year spins round to end all the hurrying centuries-we avow that secrets unknown to others are known to you alone, Ascend into the temples of heaven, maiden deserving of such marriage; your father-in-law Jupiter asks you to rise to the lofty stars.’

Then sang Terpsichore:

‘ I am delighted, dear Maiden, that through this honor you gain a sight of the stars! Your industry and the genius of your nature have won this for you. That wakeful concentration of yours bestowed this honor on you lucubrations. Having toiled day and night on the sacred writings, and knowing the future and being ready to learn, you have understood what the stoics offer in their sacrifices when the flame puffs from the kindling. For without misgivings, with unhesitating utterance, you anticipate what the smoke tells on the flaming altars of the Sabaens, what message is brought by air thick with the ash of incense, or what the sure signs foretell by prophetic voices. Ascend into the temples of heaven, maiden, deserving of such a marriage; your father-in-law Jupiter asks you to rise to the lofty stars.’

Then Euterpe began:

‘O maiden, our guide to skillful prophecy, who could ascend to heaven and bring down to pure souls the sacred teaching by which they were able to know themselves, and by which they discerned and saw with a clear light the decrees of fate and the countenance of the spirits, and who allotted stars to be the minds of Plato and Pythagoras, and who has ordered ephemeral creatures to behold the decree of heaven with all obscurity removed: rightly ascend to the senate of the Thunderer, you who alone are fir to be married to Mercury. Ascend into the temples of heaven, maiden, deserving of such a marriage; your father-in-law Jupiter asks you to rise to the lofty stars.’

Then Thalia spoke:

‘O Blessed maiden, who take up the marriage bond amid such a singing of the stars, and with such approval from the universe become a daughter-in-law of the Thunderer: of which god are you to become the wife? He alone on wandering wing, alert for sudden storms, flies out beyond the stars of the universe, and when he has crossed the straits on high, returns to Tartarus. He alone is able to wield his famous staff before the chariot and white horses of the high father; he alone gladly restores the fortunes of Osiris as he falls, whom the father of the gods knows to be weighted down by the life-giving seed he has discovered; to Mercury his step-mother gladly gave her milky breast; his powerful caduceus counteracts dread poison; and when he speaks, all venom is dissolved. He is learned among the gods; but this girl is still more learned. Now the arts are blessed, which you two so sanctify that they allow men to rise to heaven and open to them the stars and allow holy prayers to fly up to the clear sky. Through you the mind’s intelligence, alert and noble, fills the uttermost depth, through you proven eloquence brings everlasting glory. You bless all subjects, and you bless us, the Muses.’

While the Muses thus wove their web of song, now singly, now in unison, and in turn repeated their sweet melodies, there came into the maiden’s quarters and her bedroom some matrons…’

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