Doris Lessing: Grief like a weight of cold pain
Patricia Monaghan: We lose the person we were

Théophile Gautier: No force can annihilate what once was

Statue2_2

"Oh! When you stopped at the archeological museum to contemplate the piece of hardened mud that conserves my form," said Arria Marcella, turning her long humid glance toward Octavian, "and when your thought flew ardently toward me, my soul felt it in that world where I float, invisible to common eyes; belief creates the god, and love creates the woman. One is not really dead until one is no longer loved. Your desire brought me back to life. The powerful evocation of your heart erased the distances that separated us."

Tanmanphoto_091707_mg_1221b8x8incheThe idea of amorous evocation that the young woman expressed agreed with the philosophical beliefs of Octavian, beliefs which we are not far from sharing.

In fact, nothing dies, everything exists forever; no force can annihilate what once was. Every action, every word, every form, every thought fallen into the universal ocean of things produces circles that go on enlarging to the edge of eternity. The material figure does not disappear except to the common glance, and the specters that detach themselves from it people infinity. Paris continues to abduct Helen in an unknown region of space. Cleopatra's galley swells its silken sails over the azure of an ideal Cydnus. Certain impassioned and powerful spirits have been able to bring back to themselves centuries that seemed vanished, and revive those who were dead to all. Faust had for a mistress the daughter of Tyndareus and led her to his Gothic castle, at the bottom of the mysterious abysses of Hades. Octavian had just lived one day under the reign of Titus and had been loved by Arria Marcella, daughter of Arrius Diomedes, lying at this moment next to him on an ancient bed in a town the world considered destroyed.

Tosawyer_flickr

       --Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), in short story "Arria Marcella," about a young man of the 1800s who falls in love with a beauty from dead Pompeii.  This is my translation, but the whole story is translated in My Fantoms by Richard Holmes (1945- ), as he describes in the New York Review of Books (14 August 2008).

"Oh! lorsque tu t'es arrêté aux Studj à contempler le morceau de boue durcie qui conserve ma forme," dit Arria Marcella en tournant son long regard humide vers Octavien, "et que ta pensée s'est élancée ardemment vers moi, mon âme l'a senti dans ce monde où je flotte invisible pour les yeux grossiers; la croyance fait le dieu, et l'amour fait la femme. On n'est véritablement morte que quand on n'est plus aimée, ton désir m'a rendu la vie, la puissante évocation de ton coeur a supprimé les distances qui nous séparaient."

L'idée d'évocation amoureuse qu'exprimait la jeune femme rentrait dans les croyances philosophiques d'Octavien, croyances que nous ne sommes pas loin de partager.Nasa_megeath_robberto

En effet, rien ne meurt, tout existe toujours ; nulle force ne peut anéantir ce qui fut une fois. Toute action, toute parole, toute forme, toute pensée tombée dans l'océan universel des choses y produit des cercles qui vont s'élargissant jusqu'aux confins de l'éternité. La figuration matérielle ne disparaît que pour les regards vulgaires, et les spectres qui s'en détachent peuplent l'infini. Pâris continue d'enlever Hélène dans une région inconnue de l'espace. La galère de Cléopâtre gonfle ses voiles de soie sur l'azur d'un Cydnus idéal. Quelques esprits passionnés et puissants ont pu amener à eux des siècles écoulés en apparence, et faire revivre des personnages morts pour tous. Faust a eu pour maîtresse la fille de Tyndare et l'a conduite à son château gothique, du fond des abîmes mystérieux de l'Hadès. Octavien venait de vivre un jour sous le règne de Titus et de se faire aimer d'Arria Marcella, fille d'Arrius Diomèdes, couchée en ce moment près de lui sur un lit antique dans une ville détruite pour tout le monde.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)