Choir of Muses

Choir of Muses

Choir of Muses

Choir of Muses

Excerpt

"We must admit, said he, that the Muses gave a good answer. Of course, I retorted, because they are Muses."

-- Plato : Republic, VIII , 547a.

A HISTORIAN ATTACKS the subject of the Muses nervously and with some fear of being laughed at. Weighted with quotations and authorities, dull and stumbling, what favours can such as he hope for from these goddesses? Still, one of them is Clio, the Muse of History. The endless gossip of that old lady is a timely reminder that she is never content merely "to make researches," to "undertake an investigation." If she stopped at that, she would not write so many huge books. Clio is a Muse simply because she invents endlessly and, as indeed she boasts in her franker moments, re-creates the past.

We have only one word -- history -- for what are in fact two things: the history that happened and the history that is told. It is as though the word "physics" meant, at the same time, nature itself and the knowledge that we have of nature. Indeed that would be less bad, for even those who know nothing of physics have nature in front of them: they are in no risk of confusing the two. But the history that happened only exists, for us, hidden inside the history that describes it. While it is happening it is not being told. When Clio begins . . .

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