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Yourcenar, Apuleius, Petronius: slender threads.

In a review-essay of the English translation of Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoires d'Hadrien, published in the Anglican Theological Review of 1956, the specialist in early Christian history Frederick C. Grant suggested that a passage in Yourcenar's novel on the cult of Antinous showed not only 'fine writing'--due in this case as much to Yourcenar's translator, Grace Frick, as to Yourcenar herself--but also the influence of Apuleius. Hadrian speaks:

The cult of Antinous seemed like the wildest of my enterprises, the overflow of a grief which concerned me alone. But our epoch is avid for gods; it prefers the most ardent deities, and the most sorrowful, those who mingle with the wine of life a bitter honey from beyond the grave. At Delphi the youth has become the Hermes who guards the threshold, master of the dark passages leading to the shades. Eleusis, where his age and status as a stranger formerly prevented him from being initiated with me, now makes of him the young Bacchus of the Mysteries, prince of those border regions which lie between the senses and the soul. His ancestral Arcadia associated him with Pan and Diana, woodland divinities; the peasants of Tibur identify him with the gentle Aristaeus, king of the bees. In Asia his worshipers liken him to their tender gods devoured by summer heat or broken by autumn storms. Far away, on the edge of barbarian lands, the companion of my hunts and travels has assumed the aspect of the Thracian horseman, that mysterious figure seen riding through the copses by moonlight and carrying away the souls of the dead in the folds of his cloak. (1)

'Anyone familiar with Apuleius's Metamorphoses,' Grant concluded, 'will recognize the echoes of the "hymn" to Isis, her aretalogy, the goddess with many names, one nature.' (2) He was evidently thinking of, but did not cite, Metamorphoses 11.5, especially this famously crucial section:

Inde primigenii Phryges Pessinuntiam deum matrem, hinc autocthones Attici Cecropiam Minervam, illinc fluctuantes Cyprii Paphiam Venerem, Cretes sagittiferi Dictynnam Dianam, Siculi trilingues Stygiam Proserpinam, Eleusinii vetusti Actaeam Cererem, Iunonem alii, Bellonam alii, Hecatam isti, Rhamnusiam illi, et qui nascentis dei Solis inchoantibus inlustrantur radiis Aethiopes utrique priscaque doctrina pollentes Aegyptii, caerimoniis me propriis percolentes, appellant vero nomine reginam Isidem. (3)

There is much in the Metamorphoses that a modern novelist might exploit in order to recover and convey the texture of cultural life in the high imperial age. (4) It is a natural question, therefore, whether Yourcenar's novel--a life-story told by Hadrian in the form of a letter to the young Marcus Aurelius--shows any significant Apuleian influence, particularly in view of the reputation Yourcenar enjoyed throughout her career as a figure of immense erudition. (5) The question is the subject of this short study. The answer offered will be minimal, but in reaching it several items of interest to students of the Latin novel emerge.

Yourcenar identified the sources, both primary and secondary, on which she had drawn in writing Memoires in a Note that accompanied her text. Although revised and expanded between 1951, the date of the book's first appearance in France, and 1982, the date of the definitive Pleiade edition, the Note does not cite Apuleius as a source of information in the way that many other authors are cited. Nonetheless any reader of Memoires might be reminded at certain points of passages in the Metamorphoses, the difference of character and tone between the two works notwithstanding, as when for instance Hadrian at one stage tells of a mistress from long ago:

Et pourtant, parmi ces maitresses, il en est une au moins que j'ai delicieusement aimee. Elle etait a la fois plus fine et plus ferme, plus tendre et plus dure que les autres: ce mince torse rond faisait penser a un roseau. J'ai toujours goute la beaute des chevelures, cette partie soyeuse et ondoyante d'un corps, mais les chevelures de la plupart de nos femmes sont des tours, des labyrinthes, des barques, ou des noeuds de viperes. La sienne consentait a etre ce que j'aime qu'elles soient: la grappe de raisin des vendages, ou l'aile. Couchee sur le dos, appuyant sur moi sa petite tete fiere, elle me parlait de ses amours avec une impudeur admirable. (6)

The passage immediately recalls Lucius' rhapsody on women's hair in Metamorphoses 2.8-9, with its culmination in the description of the hair of the maidservant Photis:

Sed in mea Photide non operosus sed inordinatus ornatus addebat gratiam. Uberes enim crines leniter remissos et cervice dependulos ac dein per colla dispositos sensimque sinuato patagio residentes paulisper ad finem conglobatos in summum verticem nodus adstrinxerat. (7)

Elsewhere Hadrian tells of an occasion, shortly after his accession, when his enemy Lusius Quietus, an authentic figure, seems to have made a treacherous attempt on his life during a hunting expedition:

Il m'invita a une chasse en Mysie, en pleine foret, et machina savamment un accident dans lequel, avec un peu moins de chance ou d'agilite physique, j'eusse a coup sur laisse ma vie. (8)

The hunting episode contrived by Apuleius at Metamorphoses 8.4-5 supplies a parallel: the jealous Thrasyllus, with comparable treachery, assists a raging wild boar which attacks and eventually kills Charite's husband Tlepolemus, the obstacle to his discreditable desire, by deliberately wounding Tlepolemus' horse and exposing him to the boar's onslaught. It begins with a dire warning: Spectate denique, sed oro sollicitis animis intendite, quorsum furiosae libidinis proruperint impetus. (9) Later still, Hadrian tells of his initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries, emphasising the intense emotion experienced in the company of his fellow devotees:

J'avais entendu les dissonances se resoudre en accord; j'avais pour un instant pris appui sur une autre sphere, contemple de loin, mais aussi de tout pres, cette procession humaine et divine ou j'avais ma place, ce monde ou la douleur existe encore, mais non plus l'erreur. Le sort humain, ce vague trace dans lequel l'oeil le moins exerce reconnait tant de fautes, scintillait comme les dessins du ciel. (10)

Lucius' climactic experience at Metamorphoses 11.23 is an obvious comparandum:

Accessi confinium mortis et, calcato Proserpinae limine, per omnia vectus elementa remeavi; nocte media vidi solem candido coruscantem lumine; deos inferos et deos superos accessi coram et adoravi de proxumo.

Such correspondences, if that is the right term to use, are not close and could be no more than fortuitous. (11) But equally they could imply a general knowledge of the Metamorphoses on Yourcenar's part that two passing references in her essays seem to confirm. In Borges ou le Voyant, from 1987, Yourcenar includes a quotation from Borges' story Les Theologiens that contains Apuleius' name: 'Qui est Apulee devant les multiplicateurs du Grand Vehicule;' while in Ton et langage dans le roman historique, from 1972, in a discussion of the difficulty of understanding and recovering conversational language in Roman antiquity from high literary texts, acknowledgement is made of the two authors of what Yourcenar termed 'le roman picaresque,' namely Petronius and Apuleius. (12) The notion of influence is therefore plausible.

Support on the flank comes from another passage of Memoires in which familiarity with Apuleius' Apology is evident. Early in his reign Hadrian discharges a personal obligation:

Le camarade des plaisirs et des travaux litteraires d'autrefois, Victor Voconius, etait mort; je me chargeai de fabriquer son oraison funebre; on sourit de me voir mentionner parmi les vertus du defunt une chastete que refutaient ses propres poemes, et la presence aux funerailles de Thestylis aux boucles de miel, que Victor appelait jadis son beau tourment. Mon hypocrisie etait moins grossiere qu'il ne semble: tout plaisir pris avec gout me paraissait chaste. (13)

The passage has two sources. The funeral oration is based on a section of the Apology in which Apuleius defends his composition of erotic verses:

Diuus Adrianus cum Voconi amici sui poetae tumulum uorsibus muneraretur, ita scripsit:

Lasciuus uersu, mente pudicus eras,

quod numquam ita dixisset, si forent lepidiora carmina argumentum impudicitiae habenda. (14)

This follows quotation of lines from Catullus, and through lepidiora carmina is clearly reminiscent of the neoteric tradition. (15) Hadrian had earlier confessed to his addressee, 'j'ai quelque part, sous clef, un ou deux volumes de vers d'amour, le plus souvent imites de Catulle,' (16) which also draws on the Apology: Ipsius etiam diui Adriani multa id genus legere me memini. (17) Thestylus (sic) meantime is known from Martial 7.29: Thestyle, Victoris tormentum dulce Voconi. (18) Yourcenar conflated the two sources and took Hadrian's friend and Martial's Victor Voconius to be one and the same. (19) Whether they were is an unanswerable question: identification is sometimes made with the younger Pliny's friend and coeval, Voconius Romanus, from Saguntum by the sea, but this is unlikely. (20)

For a historical novelist certainty of identification was unnecessary, even for an author famously (if controversially) committed to historical authenticity. (21) As already remarked Apuleius is not mentioned by name in Yourcenar's Note. The relevant wording when authorities on Hadrian's friends are disclosed is essentially the same in both the original and the expanded Pleiade editions: 'Pline le Jeune et Martial ajoutent quelques traits a l'image un peu effacee d'un Voconius ou d'un Licinius Sura,' (22) which suggests that Yourcenar felt free to draw on Pliny and Martial for her Voconius as she thought fit. Nevertheless her text shows that Yourcenar knew something of the Apology, and given her classical knowledge at large, and of the sources for the history of Hadrian in particular, the gloss of the Apology is no surprise. Confirmation comes from the English version of the Note, which differs significantly at the point of concern from that of the French editions: 'both the Younger Pliny and Martial add a few touches to the somewhat sketchy information left to us by Apuleius and by Trajan's historians for two of Hadrian's friends, Voconius and Licinius Sura.' (23) An entry in an unpublished collection of 'Notes' on Memoires now housed among Yourcenar's papers in the Houghton Library at Harvard University--a kind of commentary by Yourcenar on her own text--is self-explanatory and comprehensible:

Voconius est un personnage historique, Thestylis (sic) aussi; et H. fit en effet l'eloge du premier dans les termes indiques ici; seule, la presence de Thestylis aux funerailles est imaginee. (24)

Grant's essay was first delivered as a lecture at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Before publication he sent a copy to Yourcenar at Petite Plaisance, her home in Northeast Harbor, Maine; but when it arrived Yourcenar was about to travel abroad and delayed a response. Several months later, however, she reacted with indignation when she discovered that the lecture had been published, because despite its apparently enthusiastic tone she found much of it offensive and accordingly prepared a detailed letter to Grant addressing the issues he had raised--concerning ancient mystery cults in the main--and said that she would have replied much earlier had she known he intended to make his lecture public. She also planned to submit a formal reply to the Anglican Theological Review. (25)

the event her protest came to nothing, and her letter remains only as a draft, offering, regrettably, no comment on 'the echoes' of Apuleius Grant detected. But in its remarks on the Eleusinian mysteries and the cults of the Cabiri, Trophonios, and Mithras, it illustrates the extent of Yourcenar's academic knowledge and allows its reader to appreciate how and why she had written of the mysteries in Memoires as she did. (26) The letter, an essay in effect of some four thousand words, is far too long to quote in full. The following, on Hadrian and Eleusis, is a sample:

Toute allusion a Eleusis faite par Hadrien lui-meme se heurtait a une difficulte grave: la consigne du silence qu'il etait cense d'observer. C'est ce qui m'a decidee a lui faire presenter l'experience eleusiaque en quelque sorte de biais, en l'assimilant a d'autres meditations a demi mystiques inspirees par la contemplation mathematique des spheres, sur un ton somme toute pas trop eloigne de celui du Songe de Scipion, ou de certaines allusions cosmologiques de Virgile (bien que la pensee d'Hadrien soit orientee vers une philosophie differente), ou encore de l'epigramme de Ptolemee que nous a conservee l'Anthologie Palatine. Le secret symbolique d'Eleusis est ainsi evoque par Hadrien par analogie, en partie pour ne pas manquer a une promesse formelle de silence, en partie parce qu'un homme eleve a l'ecole des philosophes eut sans doute cherche a donner a ces vieux rites une motivation philosophique qu'il eut pu faire sienne, a peu pres comme un catholique des annees 1920 eut pu chercher des arguments dans la philosophie de Bergson. Vous reprochez a ces vues d'Hadrien d'antidater sur le neo-Platonisme, mais Noumenios, ce philosophe qui fut assez lie avec Hadrien pour lui adresser une Consolatio apres la mort d'Antinous, fut deja sur bien des points un precurseur de Plotin (Croiset, Hist. Litter. Grecque, V.694, Aime Puech, << Noumenios d'Apamee >>). Vous reprochez aussi a ces vues d'etre << influencees par la theosophie >>. Ayant fort peu lu les theosophes, j'ignore a quel ouvrage vous faites allusion, mais, toute theorie plus ou moins fumeuse mis a part, il n'en reste pas moins vrai que c'est seulement a l'aide de l'experience mystique universelle que nous pouvons essayer de deviner ce que fut l'initiation eleusiaque pour les esprits superieurs du monde greco-romain qu'une simple pantomime religieuse n'eut pas suffi a toucher. (27)

Evidence of this kind suggests that if any Isiac material were in mind when the passage on Antinous was composed, it may have come from knowledge of the aretalogical tradition at large as well as, or rather than, from Apuleius. (28) At the same time Yourcenar was well informed about the iconography of Antinous, as the pertinent section of the Note indicates, and knew the various divine forms in which Antinous was represented in sculpture and on coins. (29) At Petite Plaisance she maintained a dossier of images of Antinous as she collected photographs to illustrate successive editions of her novel--it is still in situ--which contains some fifty items and predictably enough includes the most well known representations of the new god. Various passages in Memoires may have been inspired by them, as a valuable study by Michele Goslar suggests, the effect being to enhance the novel's overall authenticity. (30) Also, and perhaps more pertinent still, there are references to representations of Antinous in Les Carnets de notes de << Memoires d'Hadrien >>, Yourcenar's reflections on the composition of her novel which have accompanied editions of the work since 1953. They reveal the rootedness of this material in Yourcenar's consciousness, from an early age, through the novel's long gestation and far beyond. (31)

The range of divinities with whom Antinous historically came to be associated was extensive: Osiris, Horus, Dionysus (especially), Hermes, Apollo--these are the most prominent among others. For immediate purposes it is significant that statues of Antinous-Hermes and Antinous-Dionysus Zagreus are known specifically from Delphi and Eleusis, and that Arcadia was an important region in which coins were minted with his image, Pan being one divinity with whom he was identified at Mantinea. He is portrayed moreover as Aristaeus, the god of the bees, in a familiar statue originally from Rome (now in the Louvre), while at Lanuvium, where a temple was built to him, he was commemorated with Diana by the members of a funerary college. A portrait representing him as Silvanus was found nearby. One relief in Yourcenar's dossier shows Antinous leading a horse, which is perhaps the source of her reference to him as the Thracian Horseman, the chthonic hunting and healing god of the Balkans. (Its genuineness is much disputed.) But in any case the impact of the visual material as a whole hardly seems in doubt. (32)

It would have been impossible on chronological grounds for Yourcenar to attribute to Hadrian direct knowledge of the Metamophoses in the way that he describes Petronius as the author of a book that lightens life and makes of it 'une balle bondissante et creuse, facile a recevoir et a lancer dans un univers sans poids.' (33) (Trimalchio is playing with a ball when first seen in the Satyricon.) (34) But the reference is just one in Yourcenar's writings that hints at a preference for the earlier over the later author. Hadrian's view of the ancient novelists is rather low: 'Les conteurs, les auteurs de fables milesiennes, ne font guere, comme des bouchers, que d'apprendre a l'etal de petits morceaux de viande apprecies des mouches.' (35) In Memoires nonetheless the Satyricon is the model for a putative work, abandoned in the end, that had a very serious purpose, and that might be taken to indicate high regard on the part of Yourcenar herself:

J'ebauchai pourtant a cette epoque un ouvrage assez ambitieux, mi-partie prose, mi-partie vers, ou j'entendais faire entrer a la fois le serieux et l'ironie, les faits curieux observes au cours de ma vie, des meditations, quelques songes; le plus mince des fils eut relie tout cela; c'eut ete une sorte de Satyricon plus apre. J'y aurais expose une philosophie qui etait devenue la mienne, l'idee heraclitienne du changement et du retour. Mais j'ai mis de cote ce projet trop vaste. (36)

Elsewhere Naples is the city of Petronius in the opening sentence of the sketch, Wilde rue des Beaux-Arts, (37) and Petronius, like Martial, is one of the many Latin authors encountered by Nathanael, the protagonist of the late novella, Un homme obscur, when working as a proof-reader in his uncle's printing house in late Renaissance Amsterdam:

Il lut Martial; un Petrone lui tomba entre les mains. Certaines pages le divertirent. Mais ces trois coquins de Petrone, courant leurs aventures comme certains gars de sa connaissance dans les rues mal famees d'Amsterdam, ces gaudrioles de Martial couvertes de la patine des siecles, ces descriptions de postures ou d'assemblages bizarres, tout ce qui emoustillait les hypocrites commentateurs, c'etait ce qu'il avait fait ou vu faire, dit ou entendu dire a l'occasion au cours de sa vie. (38)

More substantively still, remarks in Yourcenar's critical essay on Constantin Cavafy, originally composed as the introduction to the translations of Cavafy's poetry Yourcenar made in the 1930s with Constantin Dimaras, draw for illustration of the poet's depiction of Alexandria directly on the world of the Satyricon:

Mais une lumiere toute grecque continue subtilement a baigner les choses: legerete de l'air, nettete du jour, hale sur la peau humaine, sel incorruptible qui preserve aussi d'une totale dissolution les personnages du Satyricon, ce chef-d'oeuvre grec en langue latine. Et, en effet, la pegre alexandrine de Cavafy rappelle souvent Petrone; le realisme nonchalant de tel poeme intitule: Deux jeunes hommes, entre vingt-trois et vingt-quatre ans, evoque irresistiblement le souvenir des bons coups d'Ascylte et d'Encolpe. (39)

The remarks, in an essay admired notably by E.M. Forster, fall between quotations of 'One Night' and lines from 'Two Young Men 23 To 24.' (40) Yourcenar, it happens, could imagine Hadrian in conversation with Cavafy. (41)

Also to take into account is an extract from the Satyricon that appears in Yourcenar's second masterpiece, the novel L'OEuvre au Noir of 1968, which is set in northern Europe of the early Renaissance. The passage concerned serves as the credo of the figure Henri-Maximilien Ligre, who quotes and translates it for the benefit of his cousin, the alchemist and doctor Zenon (Zeno) who is the novel's chief character as their crucial encounter at Innsbruck, midway through the work, comes to an end:

<< Stultissimi, inquit Eumolpus, tum Encolpii, tum Gitonis aerumnae, et precipue blanditiarum Gitonis non immemor, certe estis vos qui felices esse potestis, vitam tamen aerumnosam degitis et singulis diebus vos ultro novis torquetis cruciatibus. Ego sic semper et ubique vixi, ut ultimam quamque lucem tanquam non redituram consumarem, id est in summa tranquillitate...

"Sots que vous etes, dit Eumolpe, se souvenant des maux d'Encolpe, de ceux de Giton, et surtout des gentillesses de ce dernier. Vous pourriez etre heureux et menez pourtant une vie miserable, soumis chaque jour a une gene pire que la veille. Pour moi, j'ai vecu chaque journee comme si ce jour que je vivais devait etre le dernier, c'est-a-dire, en toute tranquillite." (42)

'Petrone,' Henri-Maximilien concludes, 'est l'un de mes saints intercesseurs.' (43) Much later, Zeno recalls the exchange as he anticipates his fateful demise:

<< Ma mort semblait sure, et je n'avais plus qu'a couler quelques heures in summa serenitate... A m'en supposer capable >>, poursuivit-il avec un hochement amical qui sembla fou au chanoine, mais qui s'adressait a un promeneur lisant Petrone dans une rue d'Innsbruck. (44)

Attentive readers will immediately realise that the Latin text quoted is not truly Petronian, but is based on two of the so-called Nodotian fragments of the late seventeenth century:

Eumolpus, tum Encolpii tum Gitonis commotus aerumnis et praecipue blanditiarum Gitonis non immemor: "Stultissimi, inquit, certe estis vos, qui virtute praediti, felices esse potestis, vitam tamen aerumnosam degitis et singulis diebus vos ultro novis torquetis cruciatibus. (45)

Id est in tranquillitate: si me vultis imitari, sollicitudines animis mittite... [etc.]" (46)

Only the section from Ego sic semper to consumerem (sic) is genuine Petronius. (47) Yourcenar's essential interest in the Satyricon, however, is not undermined; knowledge of the false fragments is simply indicated, as remarks in the Note de l'auteur that Yourcenar appended to L'OEuvre au Noir confirm:

Le fragment 99 de Petrone, tel que le cite Henri-Maximilien, s'augmente de quelques lignes inauthentiques qu'on suppose ici, pour les besoins de la cause, composees, non par l'inventif Nodot au XVIIe siecle, mais par quelque ardent humaniste de la Renaissance, peut-etre par Henri-Maximilien lui-meme. In summa serenitate est un noble apocryphe. (48)

All is not lost, however, for Apuleius and the Metamorphoses. As L'OEuvre au Noir concludes, Zeno, a prisoner condemned to execution on trumped up charges--the Inquisition is in full force--takes steps to end his life on his own terms and awaits the arrival of death in agony and hallucination:

La nuit aussi bougeait: les tenebres s'ecartaient pour faire place a d'autres, abime sur abime, epaisseur sombre sur epaisseur sombre. Mais ce noir different de celui qu'on voit par les yeux fremissait de couleurs issues pour ainsi dire de ce qui etait leur absence: le noir tournait au vert livide, puis au blanc pur; le blanc pale se transmutait en or rouge sans que cessat pourtant l'originelle noirceur, tout comme les feux des astres et l'aurore boreale tressaillent dans ce qui est quand meme la nuit noire. Un instant qui lui sembla eternel, un globe ecarlate palpita en lui ou en dehors de lui, saigna sur la mer. Comme le soleil d'ete dans les regions polaires, la sphere eclatante parut hesiter, prete a descendre d'un degre vers le nadir, puis, d'un sursaut imperceptible, remonta vers le zenith, se resorba enfin dans un jour aveuglant qui etait en meme temps la nuit. (49)

Between 1965 and 1968 Yourcenar prepared material for what was to become in the event the Carnets de notes de << L'OEuvre au Noir >>, her reflections on the composition of the work; but the material was not fully redacted or published at the time of her death in 1987. It is now included in the Pleiade edition of her novels due to the editorial initiative of Yvon Bernier, with whom Yourcenar collaborated on the Carnets in her late years. (50) She wrote in one of its passages:

N'ayant jusqu'ici lu que les quelque cinq ou six premiers chapitres d'Apulee, et connaissant le reste de l'oeuvre surtout par des resumes ou des commentaires, je tombe avec surprise et admiration sur les paroles du pretre decrivant ce qui est evidemment le passage par la mort, ch. XI, que je trouve dans une traduction anglaise: << I approached the confines of death, and having trod the threshold of Proserpine, I returned from it, being carried through all the elements. At midnight I saw the sun shining with a splendid light, and I manifestly drew near to the gods above and beneath... >> Ainsi, Zenon mourant, dans ce qui est precisement sa derniere vision, avant que l'ouie seule demeure quelques moments en plus, voit resplendir le soleil de minuit dans le ciel de l'ete polaire. Et certes, l'image a ete rationnellement introduite dans mon livre du fait que le voyage de Zenon aux confins de la Laponie suedoise est a ses yeux le plus depaysant qu'il ait accompli, et incidemment lie au souvenir des << nuits blanches >> d'un bref amour. La rencontre avec Apulee ne m'interesse pas moins et peut-etre d'autant plus qu'Apulee n'avait jamais vu le soleil de minuit. Espece de symbole archetypal de la mort et d'une sorte de triomphe sur la mort. (51)

The reference is clearly to Metamorphoses 11.23 and is evidence enough of Yourcenar's familiarity with the Isis-book. Just as clearly the reference is garbled, since it is not the priest who speaks but Lucius, a slip perhaps attributable to simple inadvertence or lack of opportunity to check details. The passage may mean that Yourcenar read the Metamorphoses, in part at least, in the mid to late sixties or even later, although not necessarily then for the first time: the possibility that she had read the work before writing Memoires cannot be entirely excluded, and reminiscences of the sort itemised above, while meagre, may conceivably stand. Notably a minor work from 1930, Le Catalogue des idoles, contains, as its longest entry, this remarkable passage:

PSYCHE. Psyche a epouse l'inconnu. Elle le caresse, mais elle n'a pas vu son visage. Le corps de celui qui repose a cote d'elle, chaque nuit, dans l'obscurite, prend la forme de son plus beau songe. L'amour, ce miel des tenebres.

Une femme heureuse se fut assoupie a son tour, mais le sommeil ne peut effleurer Psyche. Ce corps couche dans l'ombre l'effraie comme un cadavre. Elle decide d'allumer sa lampe.

Avoir cru s'unir a l'infini, et ne trouver rien qu'un etre. Le palais de Psyche est moins vaste qu'elle ne pensait; il suffit d'un soupir pour que tout s'ecroule. Murs et plafonds, que ne soutient plus la pression d'une ferveur.

On a dit que Psyche avait les ailes d'un papillon, mais son ame est celle d'une abeille. Cette ouvriere rebatira son palais, alveole par alveole. Elle s'habituera meme a aimer l'Amour. (52)

Whether directly from the Metamorphoses or indirectly through some intermediate source, this extract is proof of Apuleian influence, given that no other extant work from antiquity tells the story of Cupid and Psyche. There is nothing in Apuleius' narrative of the girl with butterfly wings or of Psyche as a bee, aspects of Yourcenar's text that must be attributed to knowledge of Greco-Roman symbolic associations of the soul with the butterfly, moth, and bee, (53) for which iconographical as well as literary sources are relevant. (54) The remainder, however, can only be derived from the Metamorphoses, in which connection it is notable that on March 17, 1958, during a visit to Rome, Yourcenar visited the Villa Farnesina in order to see the frescoes painted by Raphael and his followers in the Loggia di Psiche, and that while no copy of the Metamorphoses is on record in her library at Petite Plaisance, an edition of the story of Cupid and Psyche was certainly in her possession. (55)

Ultimately, however, it is a better suggestion that the passage from the Carnets de notes de << L'OEuvre au Noir >> makes use of the Metamorphoses in the composition of Memoires d'Hadrien unlikely; and altogether the influence of Apuleius on Yourcenar cannot be said to have been anything but slight. As a positive gain, however, Zeno's vision of the midnight sun may be added to examples of the phenomenon from antiquity known to modern scholars from Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and Jewish-Christian sources on mystery cults, (56) and Yourcenar's inference that such an event is an "archetypal symbol" of triumph over death be appropriately observed.


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Delcroix, M. 1995. 'Notes et connotations. Les Carnets de L'OEuvre au Noir,' in A.-Y. Julien ed., Marguerite Yourcenar aux frontieres du texte (Lille): 43-52.

Evers, C. 2013. 'Images of a divine youth: the Brussels Antinous and its workshop,' in T. Opper ed., Hadrian: Art, Politics and Economy (The British Museum, London 2013): 89-99.

GCA XI = W.H. Keulen, S. Tilg, L. Nicolini, L. Graverini, S.J. Harrison, S. Panayotakis and D. van Mal-Maeder eds., Apuleius Madaurensis Metamorphoses Book XI: The Isis Book, Text, Introduction and Commentary (Leiden and Boston 2015).

Finkelpearl, E.D. 1998. Metamorphosis of Language in Apuleius: A Study of Allusion in the Novel. Ann Arbor.

Goslar, M. 2007. Antinous, de la pierre a l'ecriture de Memoires d'Hadrien. Brussels.

Grant, F.C. 1956. 'Hadrian's Memoirs,' Anglican Theological Review 38: 290-299.

Hinds, S. 1998. Allusion and Intertext: Dynamics of Appropriation in Roman Poetry. Cambridge.

Hunink, V. ed. 1997. Apuleius of Madauros Pro Se de Magia (Apologia). 2 vols. Amsterdam.

Jeffreys, P. ed. 2009. The Forster-Cavafy Letters: Friends at a Slight Angle. Cairo and New York.

Lambert, R. 1984. Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous. London.

Laes, C. 1998. 'Forging Petronius: Francois Nodot and the Fake Petronian Fragments,' Humanistica Lovaniensia 47: 358-402.

Merkelbach, R. 1995. Isis regina-Zeus Sarapis: Die griechisch-agyptische Religion nach den Quellen dargestellt. Stuttgart and Leipzig.

Meyer, H. 1991. Antinoos: Die archaologischen Denkmaler unter Einbeziehung des numismatischen und epigraphischen Materials sowie der literarischen Nachrichten. Munich.

Opper, T. 2008. Hadrian: Empire and Conflict. London.

Poignault, R. 1995. L'Antiquite dans l'oeuvre de Marguerite Yourcenar: Litterature, mythe et histoire. 2 vols. Brussels.

Poignault, R. 2005. 'Matrones et amantes dans Memoires d'Hadrien,' in M. Ledesma Pedraz and R. Poignault eds., Marguerite Yourcenar: La femme, les femmes, une ecriture-femme? (Clermont-Ferrand): 301-320.

Savigneau, J. 1993. Marguerite Yourcenar: Inventing a Life (trans. J.E. Howard). Chicago and London.

Schlam, C.C. 1976. Cupid and Psyche: Apuleius and the Monuments. University Park, PA.

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Syme, R. 1979. Roman Papers II. Oxford.

Syme, R. 1988. Roman Papers V. Oxford.

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Vout, C. 2007. Power and Eroticism in Imperial Rome. Cambridge.

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Zimmerman, M. 2012. Apulei Metamorphoseon Libri XI. Oxford.


University of Notre Dame

(1) Grant 1956: 286-287. The essay reviewed the American edition of Frick's English translation of Yourcenar's book, Memoires d'Hadrien, first published in Paris in 1951 by Librairie Plon, which as Memoirs of Hadrian was published in New York by Farrar, Straus and Young in 1954, and by Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd. in London in 1955. In what follows quotations from Memoires and Yourcenar's other novels are from the final Pleiade edition of 1982 (Marguerite Yourcenar, OEuvres romanesques. Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, Paris 1982, abbreviated as OR), and quotations from her essays are from the final Pleiade edition of 1991 (Marguerite Yourcenar, Essais et memoires. Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, Paris 1991, abbreviated as EM). I extend thanks to Ellen Finkelpearl for her encouraging remarks on a draft of this essay, and to Marc-Etienne Vlaminck of the Centre International de Documentation Marguerite Yourcenar in Brussels for his assistance during my visit to that institution in September 2015. The eagle eye of Nicholas Bradley is also appreciated.

(2) Grant 1956: 299.

(3) The text of Zimmerman 2012.

(4) Or even for comic effect, as in Cremutius Cordus' story of killing three robbers who ambushed him in Robert Graves' I, Claudius (1934), which evidently draws on Metamorphoses 2.32-3.11.

(5) Poignault 1995, a remarkable study, provides the best illustration of Yourcenar's astonishing knowledge of classical antiquity.

(6) OR 336; cf. Poignault 2005: 311-312, without reference to Apuleius.

(7) Metamorphoses 2.9.

(8) OR 362.

(9) Metamorphoses 8.3.

(10) OR 400.

(11) On the principle laid down with regard to Shakespeare's plays by Bate 2009: 134: 'Since the eighteenth century there has been a busy scholarly industry in the tracking of Shakespeare's borrowings and the tracking of his sources. But verbal parallels can be coincidental and shared ideas can be derived at secondhand, especially in a culture that encouraged the recycling and amplification of sententiae and commonplaces.' On the complexities of understanding allusion see Hinds 1998: ch. 2, and in the case of Apuleius himself Finkelpearl 1998.

(12) EM 589; 291. Ton et langage perhaps underestimates what might be deduced about conversational Latin from the Metamorphoses, as also from Roman comedy.

(13) OR 368-369.

(14) Apology 11.3-4 (the text of Vallette 1971).

(15) Catullus 16.5-6; see Butler and Owen 1914: 30.

(16) OR 311.

(17) Apology 11.4.

(18) See Galan Vioque 2002: 208-209 (cf. Kay 1985: 233), noting that Thestylis is the name of Corydon's female slave at Virgil, Eclogues 2.10, 43. Thestylis (sic) appears also in the English translation of Memoires.

(19) Poignault 1975: 591-592.

(20) Syme 1991: 108 n. 22 (unanswerable); Courtney 1993: 382 (identification); Butler and Owen 1914: 30 (unlikely; cf. Hunink 1997 II: 53); PIR2 L 210 with Syme 1979: 480-482; 1998: 471, 488; Birley 2000: 101. Martial 11.78 adds a further aspect: Victor on the point of marriage in need of urgent heterosexual instruction.

(21) The accuracy of Memoires was seriously, and strangely, challenged by Syme in the Bryce lecture of 1984 (Syme 1991: 157-181), in which, however, full consideration of Yourcenar's aims and of revisions to her original text of 1951 was omitted.

(22) OR 547; the edition of 1951 omits 'le Jeune,' which appears in editions of 1956 and 1962.

(23) Memoirs of Hadrian (Secker & Warburg edn. [n.1]): 309, my emphasis.

(24) Marguerite Yourcenar Additional Papers (MS Fr 372.2.266). Houghton Library, Harvard University. (In a list of modified or imagined historical events).

(25) The events are known from the draft of the letter, dated February 6, 1957, which can be read in a volume of Yourcenar's published correspondence: Marguerite Yourcenar, 'Une Volonte sans flechissement': Correspondance 1957-1960. (D'Hadrien a Zenon II). Paris 2007: 56-69. A second undated draft invited Grant, shortly to attend a conference in Bangor, to her home for discussion: 'Une Volonte sans flechissement': 202-204. Neither letter was apparently completed or mailed. Yourcenar was notoriously sensitive to adverse criticism of her work.

(26) Many details might now, more than a half century later, be disputed, but that is not the point. Blanckeman 2014: 263-264 comments on the draft but obscures its status.

(27) 'Une Volonte sans flechissement': 58-59.

(28) See conveniently Witt 1971: 100-110, with especially P. Oxy. 1380 and the great inscription from Cyme (Merkelbach 1995: 115-118). It is true that Metamorphoses 11.5 itself is influenced by the aretalogical tradition (GCA XI 61, 148-166), but the issue is that of Yourcenar's direct knowledge of the text.

(29) The material on Antinous in OR 550-552 is much more extensive than in earlier editions, but already in the original edition of 1951 it occupied a twenty-seven line paragraph. In the Librairie Plon Nouvelle Bibliotheque Francaise edition of 1962 (text from1958) it occupied some three pages.

(30) Goslar 2007; cf. Poignault 1995: 651-657, emphasising a synthetic impact. Vout 2007: 54 urges of Antinous that 'his is a story that demands that historians use the visual,' a point Yourcenar understood long ago.

(31) OR 520, 522, 531-533.

(32) Meyer 1991 is the standard collection of images of Antinous, but note the refinements of Vout 2007: 126 n. 76. Lambert 1984: 224-237, 238-243 provides a check-list of statues and a digest of what is known from coinage and gems; see also usefully Turcan 2008: 168-172. Vout 2007: 74-113 disturbingly discusses issues of identification and authenticity. For the pertinent items here see Goslar 2007: nos. 7 (contentious), 8, 17, 22 (omitted by Meyer), 23. Lambert 1984: 184-197 on the cult of Antinous is very important. Blum 1914, known to Yourcenar, remains an impressive collection of numismatic evidence. Obviously no account can be taken here of iconographic discoveries made since Yourcenar's death in 1987, for which see Opper 2008: 188-190; Evers 2013.

(33) OR 302. The Metamorphoses cannot have been composed before 138, the year of Hadrian's death.

(34) Satyricon 28.

(35) OR 303.

(36) OR 455.

(37) EM 499 (the sketch belongs to En pelerin et en etranger, first published posthumously in 1989).

(38) OR 969. The work first appeared in Comme l'eau qui coule (1982).

(39) EM 136. The essay and translations were published as a volume in 1958 and later supplemented. The essay was included in the collection Sous benefice d'inventaire (1962) and is now in EM 130-164. For Dimaras' recollections of his collaboration with Yourcenar see Savigneau 1993: 106-109, and for the progress of the volume see Savigneau 1993: 139, 230, 232, 255-256; cf. Yourcenar's comments in Les yeux ouverts: Entretiens avec Matthieu Galey (Paris 1980): 205-207.

(40) For the views of Forster, Cavafy's friend and supporter quoted by Yourcenar in her essay, see his letter of July 25, 1958 to G. Savidis in Jeffreys 2009: 119-120 (Letter no. 86).

(41) See Weitzman 1998.

(42) OR 657-658. For a valuable introduction to L'OEuvre au Noir (The Abyss) see Shurr 1987.

(43) OR 658.

(44) OR 821.

(45) Laes 1998: fragment 19, following Satyricon 98.9.

(46) Laes 1998: fragment 20, following Satyricon 99.1.

(47) Satyricon 99.1.

(48) OR 845. The following edition is included in Yourcenar's library at Petite Plaisance: 'Petrone. Le Satiricon. Preface d'Henry de Montherlant. Paris, Gallimard, collection 'Folio', no. 70, 1978, 253 p.' (Bernier 2004: no. 3069).

(49) OR 832-833.

(50) See Bernier 1990; cf. OR 851.

(51) OR 870-871 (Yourcenar's emphases).

(52) EM 524.

(53) Bettini 1991: 197-219. The butterfly image appears at EM 804 (Souvenirs pieux).

(54) Schlam 1976. The reference elicits no comment from Delcroix 1995.

(55) Les Voyages de Marguerite Yourcenar. Centre International de Documentation Marguerite Yourcenar. Bulletin no. 8 (December 1996, Brussels): 51 (visit); Bernier 2004: no. 6815: 'Apulee. Histoire de Psyche. Paris, Payot et Cie, collection 'Bibliotheque miniature', [s.d.], 120p.' (edition).

(56) GCA XI: 400.
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