"ANIMULA VAGULA, BLANDULA"

Hadrian
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeHadrian - Credit: Arnaud Gaillard
This Latin poem is presented in the Historia Augusta as the words of Hadrian himself, written on his deathbed. It has been translated many times in different ways:

 

My soul, my pleasant soul and witty,

The guest and consort of my body,

Into what place now all alone,

Naked and sad wilt thou be gone?

No mirth, no wit, as heretofore,

Nor jests wilt thou afford me more.

Henry Vaughan, 1652.

 

Ah! Gentle, fleeing, wav'ring sprite,

Friend and associate of this clay!

To what unknown regions borne

Wilt thou now wing thy distant flight.

No more with wonted humour gay,

But pallid, cheerless and forlorn.

George Gordon, Lord Byron, 1806.

 

Grace Frick, Yourcenar's partner and English translator, includes her own prose version on p.247.

Hadrian died in the certain knowledge that the Roman Senate would deify him, as it had already deified his wife. It is clear enough from the poem, however, that he entertained little hope of consorting with Jupiter and Mars in the heavens. This seems to have been one of the factors that attracted Yourcenar to Hadrian as a literary subject, citing Flaubert's comment (see p7) about "the melancholy of the antique world," the moment "when the gods had ceased to be and the Christ had not yet come," when "man stood alone."