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Apollo and the Muses.

This is my third attempt to put to use the title of this paper. I first suggested it in 1976 to Sid Zimmerman, house editor at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, as the title for the book edited by Neil Isaacs and me that was eventually called The Sporting Spirit: Athletes in Literature and Life. I can still recall Sid's glee over the phone upon hearing this idea; he was so elated in fact that I did not even think to ask him what was wrong. Slowly I inferred the problem: it was too academic for a book on sports, too arty, too precious, too cute, and while perhaps appropriate for content, not appropriate at all for the intended use of those contents--at least in the view of HBJ--to sell the book. I think Sid felt that the title would cause the book to be mistaken for a story of some Ivy League rock group.

My second attempt was 1984 at Detroit at the meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English. At the request of Richard Doxtator, I agreed to participate in a program designed to promote interest in sports literature among high school teachers and prepared, under the above title, primarily a list of the rich and abundant ways that Apollo, patron god of sports, and the Muses, benefactors of the arts, could make beautiful music together in the high school classroom; but since interest, judging from attendance, was not exactly overwhelming, Rich decided, wisely I think, to turn some of the planned performances into a discussion by the faithful few of how Apollo could even be brought into the classroom--to say nothing about how he might get along with his half-sisters. Again I felt not so much disappointed as presumptuous for thinking that the world was waiting with bated breath--I had a graduate student once (a rock musician, by the way) who spelled it "baited" breath--to hear my grand interpretation of a grand theme in art and literature.

So once again I am setting out to bring Apollo and the Muses to the attention of others, and this time I was determined to have a say, no matter what the audience or where. Had my Eastern flight out of Atlanta even been hijacked, I was set to persevere. Indeed I could already hear the newscast, the excited voice of Dan Rather: "And this just in to the CBS newsroom. One of the Americans on the hijacked air liner--a Tennessee hillbilly it is said--insists on reading to his captors and other passengers a prepared speech by the strange and unlikely name of 'Apollo and Muses.' "

So it is a breakthrough for me to be here tonight sharing this paper with you and while I am at it I may as well admit to another breakthrough. This is the first time I have written a paper without a colon in the title. My passion for this practice has been so bad in the past that my wife has threatened, should she outlive me, to put one on my tombstone in the following manner "Robert J. Higgs: Lover of Colons."

What is it about Apollo and the Muses that I find so intriguing? What is so important about the Raphael Fresco in the Vatican and the same theme in the works of so many other "immortals," as Henry Wiggen would say, including Anton Mengs, Baldassare Peruzzi, Nicolas Poussin, Thomas Rowlandson, and John Singer Sargent? What does a classical and renaissance motif have to say to us in the twentieth century that could possibly be cogent?

The answer I believe--or one answer anyway--lies in an understanding of the figures as symbols and the relationship between them. It is a relationship that goes right to the heart of our efforts in the Sports Literature Association. "Connect, always connect," Goethe said, and that advice is especially relevant to those of us who seek to find values in the connections between sports and literature. Basically, I want to suggest that Apollo and the Muses make a wonderful combination that serves beautifully the human goals of art, civilization, freedom and play, while their separation leads to opposite effects, so painfully evident in man's history. The Muses represent the shadow world which, according to Carl G. Jung, it has been man's tragedy to ignore, especially in the modern age. Apollo, the brilliant one, may appear to be admirable and glorious wherever he is, but his real worth at any time depends not so much upon the light he collects unto himself but that which he reflects upon others who reside upon Parnassus with him. If not softened by love of the Muses, arts and sciences, he is truly a terrible figure, dominating the natural world and asserting boldly, sometimes cruelly, his power, killing the Python, the Children of Niobe, and flaying Marsyas, his rival in the celebrated music contest. He is frequently depicted in his opposition to other gods, namely Dionysus and Christ, again out of some perceived necessity to hold his power in check. Indeed the ideal is a sort of balance between contrary impulses as G. Rattray Taylor remarks in Sex in History:
As Euripides strove to show, the central problem is control of powerful
instinctive forces by the conscious mind. As King Pentheus discovered,
to try and suppress them is entirely suicidal. The attempt provokes an
explosion in which all barriers are overthrown. The conscious mind must
ride these forces as a man rides a powerful horse. This explains, what
has puzzled so many, why the worship of Apollo at Delphi was combined
with the worship of Dionysus. It was Nietzsche who started the
confusion with his false antithesis between Apollonian and Dionysiac
religions. Since then numerous writers have classified not only only
theoleptic religions, but periods such as Romanticism, as Dionysiac;
and have treated religions and periods of cerebral control (including
Classicism) as being Apollonian. But Apollo was the symbol of
moderation, the golden mean, the Greek concept of measure. The extremes
of patrist Puritanism are not Apollonian, while on the other hand, the
Romantics never abandoned themselves to group orgies. Apollo did not
deny the unconscious in a state of trance, and the Delphic Sibyl, who
spoke from the unconscious in a state of trance, was under his aegis.
Apollo and Dionysus are not opponents but partners. (236-37)


Nietzsche, however, did not, in fairness, insist upon an antithesis by any means. He too found that a partnership of some sort was not only desirable but inevitable, as seen in The Birth of Tragedy: "The effects of the Dioynsiac spirit," says Nietzsche "struck the Apollonian Greeks as titanic and barbaric; yet they could not disguise from themselves the fact that they were essentially akin to those deposed Titans and heroes. They felt more than that: their whole existence, with its temperate beauty, rested upon a base of suffering and knowledge which had been hidden from them until the reinstatement of Dionysus uncovered it once more and 10 and behold! Apollo found it impossible to live without Dionysus. The elements of Titanism and barbarism turned out to be quite as fundamental as the Apollonian element." (34)

In fairness again, this time to those who preceded him, the discovery of Nietzsche of an interlocking relationship of the two forces was neither original nor inspiring, according to Arthur C. Danto in his book Nietzsche as Philosopher:"... he held the... perhaps dull view that the passions and dreams of men be disciplined and guided by reason, that our lives be Apollonian and Dionysiac at once, in that balance of force and form which, after all, had been recommended from the beginning of moral philosophy." (149)

Mark P.O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon in Classical Mythology remind us that "just as Apollo maybe a foil for Dionysus, so he may be used as a meaningful contrast to the figure of Christ. Each in his person and his life represents, physically and spiritually, two quite different concepts of meaning and purpose both in this world and in the next. Apollo and Christ do indeed afford a startling and revealing contrast." (152)

Apollo has been used in such a way time and time again. In the preface to his book Christ and Apollo: Dimensions of the Literary Imagination, William F. Lynch, S.J. says that a study of this relationship began to bloom in the mid-fifties and that he is proud to join the mental company of others who have preceded him in the same general area: Cleanth Brooks, Amos Wilder, Erich Auerbach, Nathan Scott, Francis Fergusson, Roland Frye, Sally Teselle, William Mueller, Erich Heller, Ray Hart, Stanley Hooper, Allen Tate and others. Lynch's definition and use of the terms show the imaginative use of literary criticism which in some ways is just as important as the literary imagination if the two are to grow together. He writes:
As for the title, Christ and Apollo. Nietzsche and Spengler have
accustomed us to the contrariety and the pairing of Dionysus and
Apollo: energy and form, infinite and finite, enthusiasm and control,
romantic and classic. Because I think that in our time we need a new
movement toward the definite and away from the dream, I take even the
symbol of Apollo as a kind of infinite dream over against Christ who
was full of definiteness and actuality--and was on that account
rejected by every gnostic system since, even up to now. Even if a
little unjustly, let Apollo stand for everything that is weak and
pejorative in the "aesthetic man" of Kierkegaard and for that kind of
fantasy beauty which is a sort of infinite, which is easily gotten
everywhere, but which will not abide the straitened gates of limitation
that leads to stronger beauty. Let him also stand for a kind of
autonomous and facile intellectualism, a Cartesianism, that thinks form
can be given to the world by the top of the head alone, without contact
with the world, without contact with the rest of the self.

On the other hand I mean Christ to stand for the completely definite,
for the Man who, in taking on our human nature (as the artist must)
took on every inch of it (save sin) in all its density, and Who so
obviously did not march too quickly or too glibly to beauty, the
infinite dream. I take Him, secondly, as the model and source of that
energy and courage we again need to enter the finite as the only
creative and generative source of beauty. (xii)


Exactly who is this god Apollo that has generated so much critical and philosophical debate and been the subject of countless representations in painting, poetry, and especially sculpture, his own favorite form? That is just the problem: Apollo is not "exactly" any god, and his multifacetedness is the cause both of all his awful deeds and his glory as well as a great deal of confusion. Andrew Lang in Myth, Ritual and Religion gives us a glimpse of his many roles:
The legend of Apollo has only been slightly sketched, but it is obvious
that many elements from many quarters enter into the sum of his myths
and rites. If Apollo was originally the sun-god, it is certain that his
influence on human life and society was as wide and beneficent as that
of the sun itself. He presides over health and medicine, and over
purity of body and soul. He is the god of song, and the hexameter,
which first resounded in his temples, uttered its latest word in the
melancholy music of the last oracle from Delphi....

In his oracle he appears as the counsellor of men, between men and Zeus
he is a kind of mediator... tempering the austerity of justice with a
yearning and kind compassion. He sanctifies the pastoral life by his
example, and, as one who has known bondage to a mortal, his sympathy
lightens the burden of the slave. He is the guide of colonists, he
knows all the paths of earth and all the ways of the sea, and leads
wanderers far from Greece into secure havens, and settles them on
fertile shores. But he is also the god before whom the Athenians first
flogged and then burned their human scapegoats .... He is the god of
death, he is amorous and revengeful. In the old religions no figure was
more beautiful; yet he, too, bears the birthmarks of ancient creeds,
and there is a shadow that stains his legend and darkens the radiance
of his glory. (227-28, italics added)


In our time Apollo has come to take on another role, that of the god of space and space exploration. It is he who will guide future travelers to Jupiter and beyond just as he did ancient colonists. Hence it should not surprise us that the entry in Painting Index following Apollo Destroying Python by Delacroix is Apollo II Space Team by Norman Rockwell. Listen in this regard if you would to the words of Werner Von Braun, one of the great Apollonians: "Apollo has provided a new perspective and stimulated new lines of constructive thinking that enhance the brotherhood of man. It is the kind of impact on society, subtle but powerful, which moves individuals and nations toward a higher level of civilized conduct than previously seemed possible. The human spirit, when inspired, can accomplish miracles that no amount of satisfying our material needs can ever hope to equal." (L. Taylor 137)

Noble words to be sure and it was partly for the reason of such talk, plus my own experience as a targets officer in a surface-to-surface missile unit with nuclear capability, that caused me to decide Dionysus is the most appropriate name for all our nuclear missiles since it is he who, when separated far enough from Apollo and not given attention due him, shatters all forms and bursts the fetters of organized life into an ocean of atoms. As we look heavenward toward our orbiting shuttles, we ought to ask what the prices might be for our soaring dreams and remember the sobering words of Carl Jung who continually directed our gaze at the shadow side of human life. "Every good quality has its bad side, and nothing that is good can come into the world without directly producing a corresponding evil. This is a painful fact. Now there is the danger that consciousness of the present may lead to an election based upon illusion: the illusion, namely that we are the culmination of the history of mankind, the fulfillment and end-product of countless centuries. If we grant this, we should understand that it is no more than the proud acknowledgment of our destitution: we are also the disappointment of the hopes and expectations of the ages." (199)

As students of sports, we need to remember that Apollo, in addition to all his other roles, was also the patron god of athletics. Says John B. Noss in Man's Religions, Apollo "heartily believed in youth, and was the sponsor of athletic contests, himself drawing a strong bow." Throughout his impressive study of Apollo in The Nude: A Study of Ideal Form Kenneth Clark repeatedly shows the connections between athletic art and the Apollonian ideal, even pointing out at the very beginning that Apollo is more than athlete, which is just another way of saying he was certainly that:
The Greeks had no doubt that the god Apollo was like a perfectly
beautiful man. He was beautiful because his body conformed to certain
laws of proportion and so partook of the divine beauty of mathematics.
The first great philosopher of mathematical harmony had called himself
Pythagoras, son of the Pythian Apollo. So in the embodiment of Apollo
everything must be calm and clear; clear as daylight, for Apollo is the
god of light. Since justice can exist only when facts are measured in
the light of reason, Apollo is the god of justice; sol justitae. But
the sun is also fierce; neither graceful athlete nor geometrician's
dummy, nor an artful combination of the two, will embody Apollo, the
python slayer, the vanquisher of darkness. The god of reason and light
superintended the flaying of Marsyas. (55)


Apollo was, in appearance at least, the complete divinity with beautiful body and head, and the effort to unite his beautiful body with the homelier heads of mortals and lesser deities, was, says Clark, a common practice. "Evidently it was thought that the divinity of a ruler could be enhanced by giving him the body of a god. In consequence the practice was approved by the early Roman emperors and became an accepted convention. To us, who look first at the head, there is something comic about these academic Pheidian nudes, from which--every trace of individuality had been erased centuries ago, being surrounded by the likeness of the unhappy Claudius or the maniac Caligula." (83)

The reverse also occurred, putting Apollo's head on the body of another, at least in one very notable incident, as John Pearson points out in Arena.
Officially the arena was called the Flavian Amphitheatre, after the
dynastic name of the Emperor, but several centuries ahead it would pick
up its simpler and more lasting title. Ironically this name, which
would erase all mention of the Flavians from popular memory, had
originated with their hated predecessor Nero. His colossal statue stood
near the site of the arena. Rather than demolish it, Vespasian had
ingeniously changed its head and its identity to that of Apollo, the
sun god. And it was this colossus, with Apollo's head, built by Nero,
that gave the arena its enduring name, the Colosseum. (7)


Think for a moment of the strange history of the word "coliseum" and the connections with Apollo when you see a game in a certain famous stadium in Southern California.

Finding the right head (or body) for Apollo is a minor problem compared to the much larger one of determining his proper relationship with the promptings of other gods on Parnassus and Olympus. It is only when Apollo stands alone, even with someone else's head or body, that trouble begins. For this reason we should seek to understand him. To look at him solus is to engage in reductionism which has been not just the source of mischief in the world but the source of tragedy as well, that tendency to isolate one god and attribute all power to him alone and condemn traits of others. Hence on every side we see and hear all sorts of reductionist claims: (1) For Apollo, that only science and technology can now save us; (2) for Dionysus, booze is the only answer; and (3) for Christ, prayer--Christian prayer, i.e.--is the only answer. Not only is reductionism at work in the panaceas in the name of rationalism, escape, and mysticism, but there are also the most startling forms of synthesis, for example the muscular Christian (Apollo-Christ) and the chemical athlete (Dionysus-Apollo). One believes--or professes to believe--that a team that prays together stays together, and the other, while possessing an Apollonian body, has, like the Roman emperors, a series of fantastic heads to select from depending on needs on the field or off. I have even known synthesis to occur at a second level--that is, a union of the muscular Christian and the chemical athlete--perhaps what we might call a "Chrischemalete," if we have to name this creature. Some did not think this synthesis a possibility. Billy Graham, an Apollonian Christian for example, said a few years ago in defence of alliance of sports and religion, "Athletes, you notice don't take drugs." Tom Landry, a Christian Apollonian, wanted to convey the same impression until it was revealed that the Dallas Cowboys team was so riddled with drugs as to be called not America's Team but "South America's Team." So it goes throughout our jockocracy--the effort to combat chemicals on the one hand and to promote some type of order--quite often Christian--on the other.

In all of the reductionism involving Apollo in modern times one synthesis has, I believe, been largely ignored. I refer of course to Apollo and the Muses. For instance, there is a great deal of talk and even hype these days about the "student-athlete," but that term, abused as it is, does not convey the same idea of synthesis as "Apollo and the Muses" that I have in mind. The term "student-athlete" is more apt to be regarded merely as one who can read his letter sweater, as the joke goes. I do not believe that things are quite that bad, having, for example, the starting football center in my senior class in literature and science and having recently read a brilliant paper by him on Bronowski's teleology. That particular student has a 3.9 and is on his way to medical school. There is hope but things are certainly bad enough, mainly because the curriculum that most modern athletes follow is either not challenging or is entirely utilitarian in nature in some branch of business and technology. Some of the Muses, those of music and dance, may be invoked fairly often either in a curriculum or out, but as a group they are, for the most part, simply dismissed by athletes and coaches alike mainly because the arts and sciences they represent are considered "useless," a term that has lost its older meaning of "priceless." In all my twenty years of teaching, for instance, I have never known a coach to attend a lecture on campus or a poetry reading or an art show or even a play, with the exception of course of Lyle Olsen, and other coaches in the SLA. What, though, does it mean? Does it mean that a coach's time must be spent entirely in the service of Apollo or is there something about the Muses that he instinctively fears or doesn't want to understand?

Just who were (or are) the Muses anyway? The definiton from Americana is one of the most concise and yet comprehensive.
In classical mythology, they were goddesses of poetry, music, dance and
generally of all artistic, intellectual, and scientific pursuits. They
were the daughters of Zeus (Jupiter) and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory.
Under the direction of Apollo, who in this role was surnamed Musagetes
(Leader of the Muses), they sang and danced at festivities honoring
gods and heroes. Their oldest seats of worship were on the slopes of
Olympus, Helicon, and Parnassus, from which their cult spread
throughout the Greek and Roman world. From the time of Homer, writers
traditionally invoked the aid of the Muses to inspire their work.

Originally, the Muses were merely goddesses of song, three in number,
and appeared only as a chorus. Later tradition increased the group to
nine and assigned to each a special function.

The nine Muses with their special fields of interest and attributes
were as follows:
   Calliope--epic and heroic poetry; holds a writing tablet and stylus.
   Clio--history; holds a roll of parchment.
   Erato--lyric and erotic poetry; plays a lyre.
   Euterpe--music, especially wind instruments; plays a double flute.
   Melpomene--tragic poetry; holds a tragic mask.
   Polyhymnia--sacred poetry and hymns; looks thoughful with one finger
   raised to her lips.
   Terpsichore--dance and choral poetry and song; appears dancing and
   holds a lyre.
   Thalia--comic and idyllic poetry; holds a comic mask and carries a
   shepherd's crook.
   Urania--astronomy; holds a globe, sometimes scientific instruments.


"They are all," says Hesiod as quoted in Edith Hamilton, "of one mind, their hearts are set upon song and their spirit is free from care. He is happy whom the Muses love. For though a man has sorrow and grief in his soul, yet when the servant of the Muses sings, at once he forgets his dark thoughts and remembers not his troubles. Such is the holy gift of the Muses to men .... One day the nine appeared to him and they told him, 'We know how to speak false things that seem true, but we know, when we will, to utter true things.' They were the companions of Apollo, the God of Truth, as well as of the Graces [Aglaia (Splendor), Euphrosyne (Mirth) and Thalia (Good Cheer)]. Pindar calls the lyre theirs as well as Apollo's, 'the golden lyre to which the step, the dancer's step, listens, owned alike by Apollo and the violet-wreathed Muses." (Hamilton 37)

Note the picture of domestic bliss on Olympus as presented in the Homeric hymn, "The Hymn of Pythian Apollo," confirming what painters have tried to capture in the same scene and even Tolstoy's observation at the beginning of Anna Karenina that "happy families are all alike."
THE HYMN TO PYTHIAN APOLLO

The glorious son of Leto
goes to steep Pytho,
playing his hollow lyre,
wearing divine and perfumed clothes.
And his lyre makes a lovely sound
with its gold pick.
And then, like a thought,
he goes to Olympos
from earth, to the house of Zeus
where the other gods
are gathered.
And suddenly the gods
are only concerned with
the lyre and song,
and all together the Muses sing
the divine gifts of the gods,
each one answering the other
with a beautiful voice,
and the suffering of men,
what they have
from the immortal gods,
how they live,
mindless, helpless,
how they can't find
a cure for death
or a defense against age.
And the Graces
with their beautiful hair
and the Seasons, happy,
dance with Harmonia
and Hebe and Aphrodite,
the daughter of Zeus,
holding each others' hands
by the wrist. (Boer 161)


Whether Homer's hymns begin with praise for Apollo, as in the previous hymn, or for the Muses, as in the one that follows, all are immediately linked since all are needed to make beautiful music.
THE HYMN TO THE MUSES

I begin
with the Muses
and with Apollo
and Zeus
because
it's through
the Muses
and the archer
Apollo
that there are men
on earth
singers and
lyre players
and because
it's through Zeus
there are kings

you're a lucky man
if the Muses
like you
sweet
is the sound
that flows
from your mouth
hail
children
of Zeus
favor
my song. (Boer 90)


What, then, do the Muses mean, or represent? When playing with Apollo they are very clearly suggestive of a type of wholeness that the Greeks held dear. In one way or another all the arts and sciences and play and games are represented. Indeed the image of them together on Parnassus in painting or song is the pagan version of a prelapsarian world. Such a scene helps us to understand, by contrast, what happens when Apollo and the Muses are not together. A painting by Tintoretto in this regard is telling. Without Apollo they seem confused, crowded, desperate and emergent, not yet fully alert and certainly not at play. They seem to be the stuff that dreams are made of and they are surrounded by darkness. Their action, collective in part, is preparatory, perhaps in response to the rising dawn and the corning of Apollo.

Without Apollo to evoke their special powers and bring them into relief and distinction, the Muses live in shadow. Unlike other figures, though, from the world of unconscious, Adonis, Marsyas, and Christ, they are not persecuted by Apollo but too often left alone or ignored. Indeed we can say that persecution of others begins when the Muses are relegated to darkness. Then and fully then can it be said that Apollo's heart has turned to stone. "When reason sleeps, monsters awake," said Jefferson, but the monsters spring from head of Apollo, the God of Truth, and not from the neglected Muses, the goddesses of arts. Truth can be beautiful and good but oppressive when it finds no place in its realm for arts, when in effect it banishes memory, for if the Muses stand for anything they stand for memory.

Daughters of Mnemosyne, that is memory, the Muses foster all the artistic endeavors that keep the past before us, from Clio, Muse of history, to Melpomene, Muse of tragedy. The muses keep before us what John Updike has called "the forgotten slaughters of history." They are not the goddesses of record but of ritual and story and song. They are not primarily interested in who won or lost but how the game was played--who performed heroically and why. They are also daughters of time, but of a time different from that of Apollo, god of prophecy and the future. He is the god of numbers and facts, the Muses the goddesses of letters and ideas. They are by definition the party of memory; he the party of illusion, also by definition; and though he is a party of one, his followers are legion.

Using a couple of works from the Apollonian world of sports, I would like to show how the Muses operate to make us remember not by pointing to a record book but through form or art. Listen to the spirit not only of Euterpe (Muse of lyric or elegy) but also those of Melpomene (tragedy) and Clio (history) in this remarkable poem by the poetry editor of Arete, Robert W. Hamblin:
ON THE DEATH OF THE EVANSVILLE UNIVERSITY
BASKETBALL TEAM IN A PLANE CRASH,
DECEMBER 13, 1977

And now we know
why coaches rage,
kick benches,
curse rivals and referees.

Here, on this corpse-strewn hill
where grief smothers hope
with an obscene fog,
finality the only prize,
the orphaned heart knows
that every contest is do or die,
that all opponents are Death
masquerading in school colors,
that each previous season
is mere preliminary for encounter
with this last, bitter cup.

Yet we would not have it so,
it must not be so;
man is not made for death.
Cry foul. Shriek protest.
Claim a violation.
Even in losing, dying,
herald the perfect play.

So scream, all-knowing coaches,
admonishing priests, scream.
Swear, chew asses, make us work.
Never quit.
What else sustains
in nights when dreams
plummet downward in darkness
to question the betraying earth?


Note here the aid of the Muses in celebrating the heroic, the domain of Apollo.

The other poem I would like to share reflects the influence of Euterpe but also that of Terpsichore, Muse of dance, and it also depicts well the province of the Muses, the inner life of the athlete that neither camera nor spectator can ever capture, but only the imaginative artist and then only partly and with the aid of the appropriate Muse. The poem is "Runner" by W.H. Auden.
All visible, visibly
Moving things
Spin or swing,
One of the two,
Move as the limbs
Of a runner do,
To and fro.
Forward and back,
Or, as they swiftly
Carry him,
In orbit go
Round an endless track:
So, everywhere, every
Creature disporting
Itself according
To the Law of its making,
In the rivals' dance
Of a balanced pair
Or the ring-dance
Round a common centre,
Delights the eye
By its symmetry
As it changes place.
Blessing the unchangeable
Absolute rest
Of the space they share.

The camera's eye
Does not lie,
But it cannot show
The life within,
The life of a runner
Or yours or mine,
That race which is neither
Fast nor slow
For nothing can ever
Happen twice,
That story which moves
Like music when
Begotten notes
New notes beget,
Making the flowing
Of time a growing,
Till what it could be
At last it is
Where fate is freedom,
Grace and surprise.


In the inner world--"where the meanings are," as Emily Dickinson says--is both the house of memory and the house of poetry, and we abandon them at our peril. This is precisely the point that Ursula K. Le Guin makes in her essay entitled "The Child and the Shadow," in The Language of the Night, which I recommend highly.

In Jungian psychology the realm of the shadow and abode of memory are to some degree one and the same since memory, as Jung depicted it in Analytic Psychology, lies on the outer edge of the unconscious. "The function of memory, or reproduction, links us up," Jung says, "with things that have faded out of consciousness, things that became subliminal or were cast away or repressed. What is called memory is this faculty to reproduce unconscious contents, and it is the first function we can clearly distinguish in its relationship between our consciousness and the contents that are not actually in view."(22)

Like the ancient Muses, memory, as interpreted by Jung, hovers over the unconscious depths but lies adjacent to intuition of the ectopsychic world. There is no art without memory and no human learning without art--only dogma: people telling us everything instead of suggesting or showing by the arts.

How is it, it might be asked, that the Muses function to make us remember and then to forget. Why do they focus in the Homeric hymn on "the suffering of men... how they live mindless, helpless [and] can't find a cure for death or a defense against age" and then promise through "song," as Hesiod says, to make one forget "his dark thoughts and remember not his trouble"? In a cliche, they provide the consoling power of verse or metaphor, but at a deeper level an explanation might be what Lynch calls the "Generative Finite" which "pictures the imagination as following a narrow direct path through the finite. With every plunge through, or down into, the real contours of being, the imagination also shoots up into insight, but in such a way that the plunge down causally generates the plunge up." This is also the way of the Muses as opposed to the all too frequent practice of Apollo who, says Lynch, "thinks form can be given to the world, without contact with the rest of the self."

Apollo is everywhere in the world but he is at his best when at home with the Muses. When he descends from Parnassus to parade his power and revel in his own authority or pursue women who despise him, he becomes the tyrant, a role he has often assumed in history, though under many guises and other names. Jung, for example, in 1918 saw arising in Germany the archetype of the "blond beast" who was to spill so much blood for the next three decades and leave us all in a state of neurosis (Analytic Psychology 183). And who was this "blond beast" with his love of games and festivals and persecution of dissenters and talk of superiority--other than the sun god himself? Is it any accident that a favorite symbol of Hitler that hung over his desk was the laurel, the logo of Apollo? So awful does Apollo become when he represses the shadow that he is often mistaken for his opposite, Dionysus. This none other than Kenneth Clark has done as seen in his concluding remarks in the section of Apollo:
Apollo, who, in the early nineteenth century, was lost sight of in the
smoke of materialism, has become in this century the object of positive
hostility. From Mexico, from the Congo, even from the cemeteries of
Tarquinia, those dark gods, of which D.H. Lawrence made himself the
prophet, have been brought out to extinguish the light of reason. The
individual embodiment of calm and order is to be supplanted by communal
frenzy and the collective unconscious. Such impulses were well known to
the Greeks. They are embedded in Greek religion; they are at the root
of antique tragedy; and they are made beautifully visible to us on
reliefs and drinking cups depicting Dionysos and his companions.
Dionysiac enthusiasm, as we shall see in a later chapter, produced a
series of nude figures that had a longer and more continuous life than
the embodiments of Olympian calm. Yet when we look at the earliest
representations of enthusiasm, the satyrs and rhumba dancers on
sixth-century Greek vases, we realize why the Greeks felt that their
art could not rest on this basis alone. Without some element of lawful
harmony it would have been no different from the arts of the
surrounding cultures, Hittite, Assyrian, or, as we may speculate,
Minoan; and like them have dwindled into decoration, anecdote, or
propaganda. This is the justification of Apollo in his cruel triumph
over Marsyas. The union of art and reason, in whose name so many
lifeless works have been executed and so many ludicrous sentiments
pronounced, is after all a high and necessary aim; but it cannot be
achieved by negative means, by coolness or nonparticipation. It demands
a belief at least as violent as the impulses it controls; and if today
in the sensual wailing of the saxophone, Marsyas seems to be avenged,
that is because we have not the spiritual energy to accept the body and
to superintend it. (108)


Can we really believe that Clark is saying what he appears to be saying, that is, that the flaying of Marsyas is necessary? If so, for what deed?--for merely challenging Apollo in a musical contest! Is losing one's hide what losing coaches really fear? Is Apollo's attitude not one that denounces pluralism and enshrines the philosophy that winning is the only thing? Later in the book in the section on pathos Clark comments on Marsyas.
The first Pergamene school did, however, produce one work in which the
body was a direct means of communicating emotion, the Marsyas, hanging
with his hands and feet bound to a tree, waiting in terror for the
knife. In its origins this myth had expressed the cruel arrogance of
the Apollonian idea; but the men of Pergamon, with their romantic
respect for barbarians, felt enough sympathy with Marsyas to make his
figure into a tragic symbol. (301)


Here again is a subtle indictment of Romanticism and even tragedy. How can anyone not feel sorry for Marsyas and not ask why? How can anyone look upon suffering, especially unjustified suffering, and not ask why? No one can unless the sense of tragedy, the province of Melpomene, has been deadened by blind adoration of Apollo. Tragedy touches some common depth within humankind, or ought to, that stirs us to a sense of pity and terror, just as Aristotle said. Can we not understand the position of Euripides the mystic, who, as Jane Ellen Harrison writes in Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, "did not, could not wholly love Apollo, who stood more and more for clear light and truth and reason and order and symmetry and the harmony of the heavenly bodies and all the supposed Greek virtues. He knew of a god whose rites and whose beauty were of darkness; when Pentheus asks Dionysos; 'How is thy worship held, by night or day?' the god makes answer: 'Most often night; 'tis a majestic thing / The darkness: "(395) Can we not also appreciate the view of Harrison herself when she writes, on the issue of Apollo as a god of flocks, "Apollo will prove, I think, to be the god of the fold but it is a fold of human sheep."(440)

Just as Clark finds the slaying of the python a legitimate heroic act, so to D.H. Lawrence that very act would be the tragic symbol of our age, as it would be for Carl Jung. The answer, they would say, is not to kill the serpent but, as in Euripides' metaphor of the horse, to ride it, control it, and never lose awe of its destructive tendency. In fact one way to explain all the winged symbols of the unconscious world, flying serpents, dragons, and horses is the discovery of consciousness itself, the recognition that these forces exist, are on the wing, and must be acknowledged, the recognition that man is a divided creature, son of the sun (Apollo) and the vine (Dionysus) as well.

It is in fact the Muses who mediate between these two worlds, for just as they respond to the light of Apollo so too do they articulate the awful darkness of Dionysus, creator of tragedy. Without him there would be no Melpomene or remembrance of things past. Clark would say that only Apollo can find a solution to AIDS or a threat to the killer bees, but the Muses would in their articulated forms remind us of the difference between necessary acts--the battle against diseases--and unnecessary ones--the slaying of Marsyas, the execution of millions in Europe and Asia for absolutely no reason at all other than arrogance.

The Muses as mediators point toward the sun and the vine and give music and meaning, the essence of poetry, to the contending forces. They are the goddesses of Arts and Sciences both, as long as science is humanely defined. They are even the guides of technology--as long as technology is considered as an art (from techne, meaning art), as Pirsig reminds us. They are slaves neither to Bios (life, but another name for vine or Dionysus) nor to Mekos (machine, but another name for Apollo). They are the goddesses of consciousness itself.

The Muses, then, are not so silent after all. What they do is to remind us of other realities, other modes of perception than those encountered in the sunlight of common day. To athletes they point toward a rich and diverse curriculum in arts and sciences, and to coaches they extend the invitation to campus symposia, dramas and symphonies, even those with saxophone, and to administrators they ask that athletic dorms be closed forever so that athletes can becomes more involved in the social, cultural, and intellectual life on the campus.

These are specific changes, I believe, that the Muses would welcome in our society, but their main function goes far beyond any sort of social structure and practice. Though they ask us all to dance, their main function is to soften us, and in this regard I want to end this lecture with reference to a work by the man in whose honor it is given. I refer to The Southpaw and specifically to the episode where Hollie is trying to save Henry from the philosophy of Durocher at the time and from becoming an island in the empire of the Moors.
"You are a lefthander, Henry. You always was. And the world needs all
the lefthanders it can get, for it is a righthand world. You are a
southpaw in a starboarded atmosphere. Do you understand?"

"Sure I understand," said I. "I am not such a stupid goon as you might
think."

"Exactly," she said. Then she begun to cry a little, and she fought
against it, and when she had control over herself she spoke further. "I
hold your hand," she said, "and your hand is hard, solid like a board.
That is all right, for it must be hard against the need of your job. On
a job such as yours your hand grows hard to protect itself. But you
have not yet growed calluses on your heart. It is not yet hard against
the need of your job. It must never become hard like your hand. It must
stay soft.

"In most places of the world hardness is a mark of credit. I do not
believe that. I believe the best hand is the soft hand, the best heart
is the soft heart, the best man is the soft man. I want my old soft
Henry back, Henry the Coward Navigator." And then she busted out crying
allover the place. (Harris 307-08)


Note in Hollie's little speech a clear belief in will to act and memory of how things used to be. Clearly the Muses were with her--and Mark Harris too.

Works Cited

Auden, W.H. "Runner." The Sporting Spirit: Athletes in Literature and Life, eds. Robert J. Higgs and Neil Isaacs. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977. Pp. 90-91.

Boer, Charles, trans. The Homeric Hymns. Chicago: The Swallow Press, 1970.

Clark, Kenneth. The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form. New York: Doubleday, 1956.

Danto, Arthur C. Nietzsche As Philosopher. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1965.

Hamblin, Robert J. "On the Death of the Evansville University Basketball Team in a Plane Crash, December 13, 1977." Sports Inside Out, eds. David L. Vanderwerken and Spencer K. Wertz. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1985. Pp. 750-51. (Originally published in The Cape Rock 14, Winter 1978.)

Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York: New American Library, 1942.

Harris, Mark. The Southpaw. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962.

Harrison, Jane. Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion. Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1912.

Jung, Carl G. Analytic Psychology: Its Theory and Practice. New York: Vintage Books, 1968.

__. Modern Man in Search of a Soul. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1933.

Lang, Andrew. Myth, Ritual and Religion. Vol II. 1906, reprint New York: AMS Press, 1968.

Lynch, William F., S.J. Christ and Apollo: Dimensions of the Literary imagination. South Bend, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979.

Morford, Mark P.O., and Robert J. Lenardon. Classical Mythology. New York: David McKay Co., 1971.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. Trans. Francis Golffing. Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday, 1956.

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Author:Higgs, Robert J.
Publication:Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Sep 22, 2014
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