Invocations to the Muse in Epic Poems

Homer began his two epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, with an invocation to the muse.  This was to indicate that the writer was seeking inspiration from a higher source.  Since then, Homers example has been followed by almost every epic poem writer.  The only epic poem writer that I can see that didn’t follow this example is Dante.


Now I am going to include a few examples of invocations to the muse:


From The Iliad:


“Sing , goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus

and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achians,

hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls

of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting

of dogs, of all birds, and the will  of Zeus was accomplished

since that time when first there stood in division of conflict

Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.”


From The Odyssey:


“Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven

far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel.

many were they whose cities he saw, whose minds he learned of,

many the pains he suffered in his spirit on the wide sea,

struggling for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.

Even so he could not save his companions, hard though

he strove to; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness,

fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios, the Sun God,

and he took away the day of their homecoming.  From some point

here, goddess, daughter of Zeus, speak, and begin our story.”


From Virgil’s The Aeneid:


“Arms, and the man I sing, who, forced by fate,

And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate,

Expell’d and Exil’d, left the Trojan shore.

Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,

And in the doubtful war, before he won

The Latian realm, and built the destined town;

His banish’d gods restored to rites divine,

And settled sure succession in his line,

From whence the race of Alban fathers come,

And the long glories of majestic Rome.

            O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;

Whar goddess was provok’d, and whence her hate;

For what offense the Queen of Heav’n began

To persecute so brave, so just a man;

Involv’d his anxious life in endless cares,

Expos’d to wants, and hurried into wars!

Can heav’nly minds such high resentment show,

Or exercise Their spite in human woe?”


From John Milton’s Paradise Lost:


“Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,

In the beginning how the heavens and earth

Rose out of chaos:  or if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed

Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence

Invoke thy aid to my advent’rous song,

That with no middle flight intends to soar

Above th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues

Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.

And chiefly thou O Spirit, that dost prefer

Before all temples the upright heart and pure,

Instruct me for thou know’st; thou from the first

Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread

Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast abyss

And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark

Illumine, what is low raise and support;

That to the highth of this great argument

I may assert Eternal Providence,

And justify the ways of God to men.”


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