The Muse Part 1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
When three women visit a struggling poet, painter, and composer, little do the the three artists realize the inspiration these muses will give them. This is part 1, dealing with the poet.

Submitted: August 11, 2016

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Submitted: August 11, 2016

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Jean Francois was at a loss for words, literally. The poet renowned all throughout France had been composing poems since he was six years old. His poems weren’t just stanzas, or lines of words, but verbal pictures breathing life. Once a child prodigy, he had had a gift for weaving words together to form images of a beautiful sunset, or of a maiden wandering through the stormy night. He could capture the tender feelings of a mother for her child, or the passion that two lovers felt. His pen was an angelic finger, touching the hearts of all his readers. Or so it had seemed.

It had been five years in which Jean had been unable to find the words to flow out like a fountain from his pen. Because of this, he grew despondent. Money wasn't a problem. He had enough money to live on from the sales of his past work, but it wasn’t about the money. Certainly he was grateful that he was living comfortably, but what was the point of continuing to live if he couldn’t continue on with his passion? Food, drink, and shelter could only sustain his physical health, but only his poetry could sustain the cravings of his starving soul, and he had been starving creatively for so long.

And then she arrived one day when he was taking a stroll in the park. The poet saw her walking, wearing a yellow bonnet, brighter than a summer day, and a dress yellow like a field of dandelions in the spring. Despite the colors of the clothing, they weren’t the fanciest clothes, yet she carried herself with such confidence that would befit a queen. Francois was perplexed, for he noticed that no one else noticed the beauty that had sprung among them, as each one was busy in his or her daily tasks. Then he noticed that she was making her way towards him, which caused him to grow nervous, wondering if she was coming to berate him for staring. It would be the logical conclusion. He thought of some way he could apologize to her, but he had nothing to say. It was ironic. The famed poet was an exceptional genius when it came to expressing himself in poetry laid upon paper, but when it came to everyday speech and communication he was clueless.

“Are you Jean Francois?” the woman asked him.

“Yes,” the poet said. “How did you know?”

“I know because my intuition tells me that you need inspiration,” she said. “Besides, I am in love with your prose, Jean Francois. The way the words flow across the page, the way the prose touches my heart. For instance” she said quoting one of his best loved poems….

  “In a cell of my own making, your flowers bloom

Changing hell into paradise, as it ushers out the gloom.

Though I was confined to darkness dead

You are the sun, in which from your light I’m fed.

For not all of God’s angels have wings

Of his whole heavenly choir that sings,

But they are still angels, unlocking the cell, with a key

Allowing your heart to leave the prison and to fly free.

 

“Why would you love that one?” asked Jean. “It’s not even one of my bests. Also, what do you mean I called out to you? Who are you?”

“It’s not for any artist to make a judgement which one of their works is the best,” said the woman. “That’s up to each and every individual who is in love with their craft to determine. As for who I am, my name is Aednat. Now, tell me, does your soul not grow weary in the city?”

“I think so,” said Jean. Of course he was bored of Paris! And normally he’d write down his feelings upon paper so eloquently, if not for the writers block in his head. He was tired of the sounds of the clattering of horse hooves and carriages upon the cobblestone roads, of crowds walking down the streets like cattle, and of the public drunkenness and belligerence.

Yet, she asked a good question, and although she hadn't stated it by asking him why he hadn’t communed with nature for the last eight years, that was the gist of it. And the truth was he didn’t know. Maybe, even though he was weary of the city, he had still grown too accustomed to the comforts it offered, such as the fine wine, the rich food, the theater, and the concerts. Still, he knew that he certainly did miss the beautiful countryside, its woods and creeks.

“Has it occurred to you,” continued Aednat, “that the reason you have lost your inspiration is because of the city?”

“I didn’t think,” –

“Say no more, Jean. What you need is a holiday in the countryside.”

“I'm not disposed to at the moment,” Jean said nervously.

“What important appointments do you have currently?”

Jean had nothing to say, seeing as he didn’t have any other priorities. Yet, he was never good with talking to people, particularly women. The fact that she was a beautiful woman, not just physically, but personality-wise, made him all the more uncomfortable for fear he might say something foolish.

“I would rather go to the countryside by myself,” he said.

“Nonsense,” said Aednat, taking him by the hand. “I, along with millions of others, have fallen under the spell of your beautiful poetry. Surely the most gifted Monsieur Francois can find it in his heart to socialize with the common folk.”

“But that’s the problem,” said Jean. “You’re not common.”

“Oh, then it shouldn’t be a difficulty for you to join me,” she laughed, while taking his hand.

Before Jean knew it, he was on a carriage, leaving Paris with Aednat. He spent his time looking at his feet to begin with. But she gradually helped him out of his shell. She had a picnic basket full of sandwiches and grapes, as well as glasses and a bottle of champagne to share. It was hard to tell whether it was the gregarious nature of Aednat, or the champagne, that put Jean at ease, but eventually the poet was laughing and talking more freely. “I am unsure as to what made me engage in poetry in the first place,” he said. “But perhaps it helps me connect more with reality.”

“I think most would say the same about their art,” Aednat, who was sitting across from him, said. 

“Come to think of it,” continued Jean with a hiccup, “I’m not sure why I haven’t communed with nature for such a long time. When I was a wee boy, I lived out in the countryside with my father, a hardworking farmer. My mother had passed away when I was eight years old, and my father always resented me for having lived, and her for having died. He never liked children much. Sometimes he would hit me or yell at me for his misfortunes. But my mother, oh she was different. Before she died she gave me a special notebook that she had bought for me with her meager savings. See, I wrote my first poem when I was six, and everyone said it was the work of a prodigy. So, she encouraged, no, she made me promise to keep up with my writing. After her death, I kept away from my belligerent father as much as possible, finding solitude in the woods by the creek as I wrote down my poetry.”

“It sounds like you had a hard life,” said Aednat, giving his hand a squeeze.

"All too true,” sighed Jean. "I was also picked on by the other children. Perhaps it was jealousy, or maybe they just thought I was strange, since I wasn’t like them. Either way, I didn’t have a beautiful life with my father who thought poetry was a waste of time, and I certainly didn’t have anyone my age as friends. Nature was my temple, my solitude, my friend.”

“Why then did you ever choose to live in Paris?” asked Aednat.

“My editor and my publishing firm asked me to,” shrugged the poet. “They were tired of the long waits when it came to mailing my manuscripts. In time though, I grew to love aspects of city life, such as good food, performing arts, galleries, and so forth, but now that I think about it, my soul has missed the gentle company of the trees.”

“And I think nature will do more for you than you can imagine,” said Aednat.

“Now, tell me, I beg of you, where are you from?” asked Jean. “You don’t have a French accent in the least. Your accent sounds Irish.”

“This is true,” said Aednat, and she took off her bonnet, in which bright. red hair cascaded down her shoulders, like a waterfall in the sunset. And for the first time, since she removed her bonnet, Jean noticed that there were freckles upon her cheeks. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t noticed them before, but perhaps the shadows had covered them.

“I’m from the outskirts of Cork, Ireland,” she said.

“And what brings you to France?” Jean asked.

“France is a land of writers, artists, musicians, actors, and overall dreamers,” nodded Aednat thoughtfully. “In truth, I don’t think I chose France, but France chose me to be a muse. I lived in what many would call poverty, but I was never poor. Like you, I had nature to commune with. But unlike you, I had a loving family my whole life, who always supported me. I am terribly sorry about the loss of your mother, and the abuse from your father.”

“I let it sleep in the past, unless I’m asked. It’s not a big deal, Aednat. I am curious as how you made it to France.”

“It wasn’t easy, my dear Jean. But a wife of one of the farmers nearby was French, and she taught me how to speak the language. It’s how I discovered your poetry, which opened up a whole new world for me in which I saw greater beauty in life. I said to myself that if France could produce someone of such a stellar spirit, I had to go meet him for myself.”

“I’m touched,” Jean was at a loss for words.

“So I saved every penny to make it here,” she continued. “I was also blessed with the support of my parents. Eventually I was able to take a ship to France, and I have since fallen in love with it, just as much as I have fallen in love with your poetry." 

For the rest of the trip, Jean became so at ease with this plucky Irish woman, that it didn’t seem long until the carriage reached its destination, as the driver pulled the horses to a stop. Upon disembarking, Jean made an effort of paying the coachman, but Aednat wouldn’t have any of it, telling him that he had paid so much with his poetry, that giving the coachman some francs was the least she could do.

The coachman gave his word that he would wait, and the two of them headed into the groves of trees. Jean was unprepared for the overwhelming wave of nostalgia and longing that washed over him, as happier memories reminded him of simpler times when the woods were his true friend, before he was beguiled by the charms of the city. As nostalgia gripped his heart, Aednat was running out into the woods, spinning herself in circles around the trees, before falling into the orange and yellow leaves, and taking in a deep breath of the fresh autumn air. Jean mimicked her in breathing in the air, finding it to smell more intoxicating than a freshly opened bottle of fine wine. Drunk off the aroma that nature gave him, he followed her lead, crashing into the leaves right by her.

“Do you smell that sweet smell?” asked Aednat.

“Yes, indeed I do,” said Jean. “For it’s not just the smell of the autumn woods, but of my childhood. Sometimes I wish I could have had other children to share it with.”

“Then let’s be children again,” she took him by the hand, and pulled him up. “Just for the day.”

For the next three hours, Jean found himself climbing trees with her to see a stunning panoramic ocean of yellow.orange, and red waves of leaves, or walking barefoot in creeks of cold water, in which she would sometimes giggle as she splashed it on him. In turn, he would splash it back at her, causing her to laugh louder.

The two of them laid side by side under the trees, as evening approached. The setting sun turned the leaves of yellow into glowing molten gold, and set leaves of red and orange in a brilliant, blazing fire. Yet the air around them was fresh and growing cold. Aednat cuddled close to Jean, and the two gave each other warmth that way.

“Is this not better for your soul than the city?” she asked softly.

“It is,” agreed the poet. “I feel invigorated.”

Aednat nodded. She stood up and stretched, before walking towards a grove of trees. A rush of wind blew through her hair, causing her bright red strands to flutter in the air in unison with the red leaves flying about her like red butterflies, as her yellow dress was accentuated by the red and yellow sky.

“Can one truly get any closer to Heaven than this? Come join me, Jean!”

Once Jean walked over, Aednat took him by the hand. He gulped, feeling his heart beat rapidly.

“Now, with our hands together, let’s lift them up to the sky,” she said.

“Just the hands we are holding?”

“No. Our other hands, too. We’re going close our eyes and pretend, as the wind blows against us, that we are birds flying together over the hills.”

Jean closed his eyes, and as the wind blew against him, he saw a vison of them flying over the hills. In his mind, they were passing over farmlands, chateaus, old castles, and mountains. The two of them were birds, with nothing to keep them attached to the ground, free to soar wherever they wished.

Taken by surprise, Jean was briefly lifted off his feet by Aednat, and then twirled by her, before she clasped one hand on his shoulder, and another in his hand.

“I’m so happy I could just dance,” she said. “Don’t you feel similar?”

“I’ve never danced before,” he protested.

“Then I’d be happy to teach you. Put your free hand on my back, above my waist." 

When the poet stalled, she moved his free hand to her lower back.

“Now, just follow my lead,” she said.

He did so, feeling awkward about it. “You’re doing magnificent,” she said. 

Magnificent? He doubted it! She was leading him in a waltz, in which he was tripping over his own two feet. Once he even fell down taking her with him. When he tried to apologize, she only laughed heartily, a sweet, caring voice echoing with joy throughout the woods, as though she were some magical fairy creature. She even had the audacity to pull him back to his feet again, urging him to continue on. As the dance progressed, even though he made blunders at times, he found that he was indeed getting better at waltzing.

“Aednat, I’m” – he started before she cut him off.

“Don’t say anything,” she said. “Just pay attention to the beauty around you.”

Jean took her advice, as they continued to waltz. Leaves floated down, like pages of gold, from the trees around them, the white trunks of the trees rose up tall, like pillars within a ballroom hall. Except, the woods were more elegant than any ballroom, for it was the place that nature did its dance of life and death. Feeling more confident, Jean dipped Aednat downwards. Aednat obliged by lifting one of her legs in the air, and tilting her head back causing her bright red hair to sweep across the carpet of gold and fire. For a brief moment, he looked into her eyes to find that they mirrored a galaxy of wonders and endless possibilities. Who was this woman?

The dance continued until the moon cast its glow upon the forest. It was then that Aednat brought it to an end by kissing Jean upon the forehead. “You dance divinely,” she said.

On the way back in the carriage, Jean was in awe over the events of the day. Emotions, profound and powerful, were welling up inside of him.

“Aednat, when will I see you again?”

"You will see me every fall, amongst the trees, and you will see me in your poetry, but you won’t see me again like this,” she said sadly.

“Why ever not?” he asked in shock. “Did I do something to dishonor you?”

“No, nothing of the sort. I have had a lovely time with you. But there are others who are in need of a muse, and I must be a muse to them as well. I have accomplished what I set out to do. I have awakened your soul. Now, it’s time for you to write poetry again.”

“But I can’t write it without you,” he protested.

“You have written it without me for years, because of all of the different facets of life that inspired you. I was only one inspiration out of many. Now, I must go and re-inspire other artists.”

The poet looked down, not able to look at Aednat. He was broken-hearted, and he tried not to cry. She took a seat by him, and gently held him in her arms.

“Be not full of sorrow,” she said, her voice as gentle as her touch. “Don’t you see? Not only are you able to write again, but I have coaxed you out of your shell. There are many wonderful woman out there, and they will be blessed to meet you. Stop withdrawing yourself. You will continue to bless people with your poetry, but now also with your company. Would you refuse me the right to awaken, or reawaken the art within others, as I have you?”

“No, of course not,” said Jean. “That would be selfish.”

She clutched his hand, and she too started to cry. “You are amazing, Jean. I enjoyed our time together. This memory will last us both a lifetime. Good things will happen to you.”

Back at his Parisian apartment, Jean toiled on a new poem. By lantern light, he poured out all the tender feelings, and passions, from his heart on paper, forming verses that bespoke of the tender joy and enchantment of dancing with a fairy princess among a carpet of fire and gold, under trees of marble against the setting sun, concluding it with the pain of such a moment slipping out of his life. It was the most powerful poem he had ever written, for it burned painfully on paper just as it burned in his heart.

The next morning, Jean submitted his poem for publication. His readers were ecstatic to see another poem from Jean Francois after five years of silence. But upon reading his latest work, they were overwhelmed with feelings of both happiness and melancholy. For the poet’s words pierced their hearts like daggers, bringing to surface their memories of joy and loss.

From then on, Jean was never without ideas. Furthermore, what Aednat had told him came to pass. He wasn't lonely anymore, having friends in abundance. Still, a part of him desired to see that beautiful Irish woman again. However when he asked about her, everyone was at a loss, having never seen her. 

End of Part 1 


© Copyright 2017 Jonathan Scott Griffin. All rights reserved.

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