In ancient Greece, the Hippocrene was a spring on Mt. Helicon around which the muses would dance to find poetic inspiration. Hippocrene, Pirene and Aganippe are known as the springs of Pegasus. Located at the foot of Mount Helicon in Boeotia these springs flow into the Parnassus. These fountains are the most celebrated wells that gushed forth under the hoof of Pegasus. They had the virtue of conferring poetic inspiration on those who drank their waters. The Muses often immersed themselves in the waters when tired or in need of fresh inspiration and then would dance and sing on the tender greensward that bordered the fountains. Hippocrene means ‘Spring of the Horse’. Pirene means ‘to flow around’ and Aganippe means ‘The Gentle Mare’. These names were also given to the nymphs who live in and tend to these fountains.
The image of a fountain of inspiration is significant. Water is the giver of life. Writing is as essential to human existence as the water we drink.
Poet and physician William Carlos Williams called poetry the “underground current of all our lives.” He knew that poetry itself is a wellspring, whose waters are full of healing power.
Evidence of the power of the Hippocrene to confer creative inspiration on the bard lies within ‘Ode to A Nightingale’ by John Keats. After noting that the nightingale can ‘singest of summer in full-throated ease’ Keats sighs
O, for a draught of vintage!
That hath been Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim.
Little wonder then that writer’s make the pilgrimage to the Hippocrene, if only in their fertile imagination, to bathe and wet their lips, that they may be given swiftly flowing verse.
The following piece bears witness to the power of taking a flight of imagination and working with a muse After sitting in quiet contemplation, fishing the streams of his psyche, Jonathan Mynard, a Year 12 English student at La Trobe Secondary College wrote a rich piece about his ‘Faith’.
by John Mynard
I have never seen the wind. But the tree branches wave to one another and the leaves flutter. The clouds meander from horizon to horizon, appearing to block the sun and passing soon after. I feel a force on my face that penetrates my clothes and ruffles my hair. It makes me shiver and wish I could be inside where it is warm.
I have never seen sound. The crash of waves on sand, the bubbling of a creek as water races and dodges over rocks. The voice of someone special, a sweet word uttered in love. The harsh word spoken to pierce, to hurt. The silence that becomes louder than sound, that is depressive, heavy. The music that is infinitely complex but so simple at the same time.
I have never seen love. The inexpressible something in the eyes, communicated at many levels. The actions that speak more than words and proves deep care and trust. The tender touch and few comforting words offered for a troubled soul.
I have never seen time. Yesterday I was young, today here I am, and tomorrow I will be old. Silence, depression, and anticipation: do clocks really never slow or stop? Tomorrow becomes today which neither here is content. For it must slip into yesterday and yesteryear and I am powerless to interfere.
I have never seen me. The thoughts that stream endlessly, the wishes hope and dream. The person trapped inside my body, who writes the words more than the hand, speaks more than the tongue or lips.
I have never seen God. The universe exists, the earth is here; life and purpose permeates them both. The close friend whom I know and communicate with. The knowledge, the assurance, the purpose, the revelation; the relationship, the love experienced, the peace, the hope… All true and real, invaluable.
I have never seen the wind.
Jonathon wrote this only after repeatedly practicing stream of consciousness writing. He had the remarkable capacity of detaching himself in the bustling classroom, distancing himself from the jostling for power, concentrating on the task at hand.
Heather Blakey – The House of the Muse