Building an intertextual network with lions – Part 2

The Daughters of Minyas by Antonio Fantuzzi (Italian, active France, 1537–45)
The Daughters of Minyas

‘Once you have begun remembering – isn’t this so? – one image springs another; they run through your head in all directions, scampering animals flushed from coverts. Memory’s not a reel, not a film you can run backwards and forwards at will: it’s the flash of startled fur, the slither of silk between the fingers, the duplicated texture of hair or bone. It’s an image blurring, caught on the move: as if in one of my family snapshots, taken before the cameras got so foolproof that any fool could capture the moment.’
(Mantel 1995: 11)

Carmel is An Experiment in Love’s homodiegetic narrator: she is the ‘Narrating-I’ remembering her younger self the ‘Experiencing I’ and narrating those experiences (as an extradiegetic narrator) to an audience likewise outside the narrative.  Her thoughts in this extract are for the benefit of the extradiegetic narratees (a role we assume as readers of the text) and they are her thoughts as she burrows through memory selecting a snapshot and telling her story.

And Carmel is a fiction. Behind Carmel is Hilary Mantel, selecting not a random thought but constructing a selected and organised representation of Carmel’s memory processing. Similarly, Andy is the extrahomodiegetic narrator in Douglas Coupland’s Generation X.

‘… you can’t help but be helplessly reminded of the sort of bleached Kodak snapshots taken decades ago and found in shoeboxes in attics everywhere. You know the type: all yellowed and filmy, always with a big faded car in the background and fashions that look surprisingly hip. When you see such photos, you can’t help but wonder at just how sweet and sad and innocent all moments of life are rendered by the tripping of a camera’s shutter, for at that point the future is still unknown, and has yet to hurt us, and also for that brief moment, our poses are accepted as honest.’
(Coupland 1991: 20)

More photographs, more memories and more you, you, you. Andy draws us into his world by inviting us to share experiences. We all know that ‘type’ of photograph. Isn’t this so? ‘can’t help but be helplessly’: as with Carmel, Andy presents himself as hostage to memory. His subsequent narration, however, is focused and controlling. From the engaging ‘you know the type’ into specific emotional evaluations ‘sweet’, ‘sad’, ‘innocent’. It’s a guided reading which ends with an interesting juxtaposition. ‘Our’ (him/me/you/everyone) poses (an action which indicates pretence) are accepted (by him/me/you/everyone?) as ‘honest’.

Evocations/Invocations of Memory. Truth and artifice. A series of triggers for me, I suppose, that foreground fictionality. I began Part 1 with memories of lions invading allusive space; their shapes elusive, my recall imperfect (until I went back to the texts). But in constructing their worlds, narrators have been claiming to struggle with memory for a long time now, at least since the Iliad.

The enormous Catalogue of Ships in book 2, introducing most of the principal warriors of both armies, is no doubt the best example of delayed exposition in the Iliad, constituting as it does a deferred formal opening or playbill, a “natural” beginning for the whole epic.
(Sternberg 1978: 39)

Now, the point is not that the Homeric narrator ‘forgot’ the list but that a particular point was selected (and occasion contrived) for its insertion. And point selected, the task still required a memory more than mortal.

ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι·
[485] ὑμεῖς γὰρ θεαί ἐστε, πάρεστέ τε, ἴστέ τε πάντα,
ἡμεῖς δὲ κλέος οἶον ἀκούομεν οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν·
οἵ τινες ἡγεμόνες Δαναῶν καὶ κοίρανοι ἦσαν.
πληθὺν δ᾽ οὐκ ἂν ἐγὼ μυθήσομαι οὐδ᾽ ὀνομήνω,
οὐδ᾽ εἴ μοι δέκα μὲν γλῶσσαι, δέκα δὲ στόματ᾽ εἶεν,

[490] φωνὴ δ᾽ ἄρρηκτος, χάλκεον δέ μοι ἦτορ ἐνείη,
εἰ μὴ Ὀλυμπιάδες Μοῦσαι, Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο
θυγατέρες, μνησαίαθ᾽ ὅσοι ὑπὸ Ἴλιον ἦλθον·
ἀρχοὺς αὖ νηῶν ἐρέω νῆάς τε προπάσας.

Il. 2.484-93

Tell me now, you Muses who have your homes on Olympos – you are gods, and attend all things and know all things, but we hear only report and have no knowledge – tell me who were the leaders of the Danaans and their rulers. As for the mass of men, I could not tell of them or name them, not even if I had ten tongues and ten mouths, and in me a voice unbreakable and heart of bronze, unless the Olympian Muses, daughters of Zeus who holds the aegis, were to tell over the names of all the many who came to Ilios. Yet I will give the leaders of the ships, and the ships in all their numbers. (trans. Hammond)

The Muses are the daughters of Mnemosyne (the goddess Memory) and it is within their power to list every single combatant at Troy. Thankfully the narrator is selective in his request and the Catalogue only runs to the end of book 2, a piffling 384 lines. More memory problems and more you, not you (us) but you (them). The extraheterodiegetic narrator of the Iliad cannot access details in the storyworld and so appeals to gods, likewise outside the narrative but who have always been, there and everywhere, infallible witnesses who can provide and authenticate details. Truth not rumour, a confession of inadequacy (one much later picked up by Vergil, and taken into absurdity by Ovid), a closing line with a centrally placed first-person statement of intent ἐρέω (‘the leaders of ships I speak and ships in all their number’): signposts of narratorial presence, signposts of fictionality.

I began with memories of lions, lions I was cued to remember (as helplessly as Andy looking at photographs). In Part 1, I noted some ‘quick points’: ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ is an embedded character-narration (an act of narration within a narrated world) and chosen from a list of possible stories to tell. The narrator scrolls through her own memory before settling on the unfamiliar. Her reported reasoning ‘for this story was not common’ (haec quoniam uulgaris fabula non est, Met. 4.53) both piques interest in innovation and throws down a challenge to our reader experience (maybe I’ll spot things, maybe I have seen this somewhere before). And these daughters of Minyas are weaving whilst telling their selected tales; weaving with wool, weaving with words, manufacturing text(-iles). With (inter-)textuality foregrounded in the staging, the reader is encouraged to look closely at the composition. What materials are in there? How do they come together? I ended with a metrical observation on Amor as the intertexts I spotted took me away from the narrative, from immersion in the tale of two doomed lovers into reflection on text, on the form in which the narrative was encoded and what other narratives were embedded in the code.

I’m not trying to crack a code though, or to unravel the meaning, only to explore how a series of cues in the narrative presentation unlocked those lions in memory that then populated my allusive space. Immersion broken, how can we take this further in building the network and creating a reading? Tell me now, you Muses, tell me of all the lions that ever were, and their lovers? I do not have their ear. Luckily, the modern source-hunter has digital Muse substitutes like the Tesserae project ‘a flexible and robust web interface for exploring intertextual parallels’. It’s not hidden behind a paywall (no exclusus lector here) and I’ve added it in Digital Resources link section. I already have my possible intertexts in Catullus 64 and Vergil’s Eclogues, so all I want to do for now is cast the net around those and see what I catch.

Tracking lions led me to Eclogues 10, and there it is in Screenshot A (n. 84). Glancing around for more correspondences between the two texts, n. 92 caught my eye. An icy spring in the second half of the Ovidian hexameter and icy springs in the first half of the Vergilian hexameter.

Ardua morus, erat, gelido contermina fonti.
Met. 4.90

There was a tall mulberry, bordering upon an icy spring.

Hic gelidi fontes, hic mollia prata, Lycori,
Ecl. 10.42

Here are icy springs, here soft meadows, Lycoris.

I suggested in Part 1 that with the switch of location from city to country, the lovers could be seen as eloping from an elegiac world into a pastoral one. Situating the mulberry tree by that icy spring does not on its own push our reading over a genre boundary but it does take us closer to that border (contermina), if we allow the allusion to those icy springs in Arcadia in a poem already in mind.

In Eclogue 10, Gallus sketches his own locus amoenus and invites the absent Lycoris to share it with him. In Met. 4, the daughter of Minyas reports the location for the lovers’ ill-fated rendezvous. One spring foreshadows/echoes another. Both landscapes are foreign to them.

But how was this urbane, personal poet and soldier to be accommodated in Virgil’s pastoral landscape? … apart from ll. 37-43 [the scene-setting], there is little of no imitation of Theocritus in Gallus’ lament … Virgil ends the relationship between Gallus and Daphnis because he wishes to reproduce, as far as the hexameter allows, the tone and movement of an elegy…
(Clausen 1994: 288-90)

Elegy bleeding into pastoral? Omnia uincit Amor; et nos cedamus Amori. As noted in the previous post, allusive space is messy! There are tracks to follow here but somewhere else. I want to keep this post of reasonable length and look at a line in Screenshot B which also caught and kept my eye: n. 1.

E quibus una leui deducens pollice filum
Met. 4.36

One of them as she was drawing off the thread with her light thumb [said…]

dextera tum leuiter deducens fila supinis
Cat. 64.312

then the right hand, lightly drawing down the threads with fingers upturned

Met. 4.36 is the last line in the narrator-text before this daughter of Minyas suggests in direct speech that the sisters tell one another stories. This is the daughter who narrates the ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’. leui deducens pollice filum ~ leuiter deducens fila. The intertext is also narrator-text describing the activity of a trio of immortal weavers, the Parcae (Fates) before they begin their wedding song.

Let’s expand the narrative situation of the intertext a little. The Parcae have tottered into Catullus 64 to sing at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis in front of an audience of assembled immortals. They sit, they spin, and then they sing.

aeternumque manus carpebant rite laborem.
laeua colum molli lana retinebat amictum,
dextera tum leuiter deducens fila supinis
formabat digitis, tum prono in pollice torquens
libratum tereti uersabat turbine fusum,
Cat. 64.310-14

their hands duly plucked their eternal labour,
the left hand holding the distaff wound with soft wool
then the right, lightly drawing down, fingers upturned,
was shaping the threads, then, twisting with thumb turned down,
spun the spindle balanced on the rounded wheel

The first verse here is enclosed by ‘the endless task’ and the ‘balanced spindle’ of the last is woven into a visually balanced line (balanced rounded spun wheel spindle). Iconic word order underscores the nature of their handiwork. Their spinning is order, harmony, and eternity.

The attention this text gives to the depiction of the Parcae prefigures and underlines their role as a major attraction but the content also carries information significant to an aesthetic, as Elena Theodorakopoulos (2000: 135) has observed: ‘The passage is replete with the kinds of expressions which become conventional signals for Hellenistic affiliations in Augustan poetry, and which to a less cliched extent are already present in some of the shorter poems of Catullus’, noting concepts such as effort (laborem v. 310), polish (v. 315-6), and softness (v. 311, v. 318). She also notes the recurring motif of the ‘thread as guide’ which connect the poem’s two embedded narratives; ‘leuiter deducens fila’, v. 321, ‘leui… filo’, v. 317 with ‘tenui… filo’, v. 113. The thread of the Parcae recalls the thread of Ariadne which earlier in the text (in an embedded narrative) allowed Theseus to escape the labyrinth.

The guiding thread of the Parcae is spun with care and will run true and forever, as pronounced by their song’s refrain.

currite ducentes subtegmina, currite, fusi.

run, drawing the weft, spindles run.

The refrain describes and underlines their tireless labour but its use as refrain, in song, suggests the poetry too will run forever. The Parcae, as artists, are making their aesthetic affiliations clear. They lie with the poet’s own, professed in poem 1, praised in poem 95: songs fine-spun and lasting. As goddesses they sing the future, as artists they construct their prophecies from the literature of the past. And the subject of their song? Another ‘lion’, the son-to-come, Achilles.

qui persaepe uago uictor certamine cursus
flammea praeuertet celeris uestigia ceruae.
Cat. 64.340-1

[Achilles] frequent victor in the ranging contest of the track,
will outrun the smouldering steps of the swift hind.

We’ll stray no further from the path but only note that in those steps (uestigia), the source-hunter might read a sign, a prompt to take up the chase themselves and trace song’s tracks. We began with lions, we found other lovers, and we picked up threads. And I want to finish for now by taking the Parcae’s thread back (or forwards) through the Eclogues to the beginning of the Metamorphoses (accompanied by a barrage of quotes!).

cum canerem reges et proelia, Cynthius aurem
uellit et admonuit: ‘pastorem, Tityre, pinguis
pascere oportet ouis, deductum dicere carmen.’
nunc ego (namque super tibi erunt qui dicere laudes,
Uare, tuas cupiant et tristia condere bella)
agrestem tenui meditabor harundine Musam.
Ecl. 6.3-8

As I was singing kings and battles, the Cynthian tugged my ear and warned me, ‘Tityrus, a shepherd should feed fat his sheep, but sing a fine-spun song. Now, Varus, (for you have others enough who desire to sing your praises and lay out grim wars), I will contemplate my woodland Muse on slender reed.’

‘‘Agrestem tenui meditabor harundine Musam’: no attentive reader will fail to hear the echo of the First Eclogue, 2 ‘siluestrem tenui Musam meditaris auena’. There tenui may have seemed ornamental, contributing rather to the shape and balance of the line than to its sense. Here, however, tenui is defined by its context: it is the equivalent of λεπταλέην and signifies a concept of poetry, poetry as conceived by Callimachus. His pastoral poetry, Virgil imples, though ostensibly Theocritean, is essentially Callimachean.’
(Clausen 1994: 175)

tenui harundine ~ tenui auena ~ tenui filo – keep track of the thread. ‘During the previous decades of literary activity [prior to Ovid’s Metamorphoses] deduco had acquired a special resonance: in this intensely literary context deducite plays upon the full range of associations of Augustan poetry, in which the deductum carmen represents τὴν Μοῦσαν λεπταλέην (fr. 1.24 Pf.) of the Aetia Prologue’ (Knox 1986: 10).

καὶ γὰρ ὅτε πρώτιστον ἐμοῖς ἐπὶ δέλτον ἔθηκα
γούνασιν, Ἀπ[ό]λλων εἶπεν ὅ μοι Λύκιος·
ʿ. . . . . . .]. . . ἀοιδέ, τὸ μὲν θύος ὅττι πάχιστον
θρέψαι, τὴ]ν Μοῦσαν δ’ ὠγαθὲ λεπταλέην
Aetia fr. 1.21-4 Pf.

For when, for the very first time, I placed my tablet on my knees, Lycian Apollo enjoined me thus: ‘[…] singer, raise your victim to be as fat as possible, but, my good man, your Muse to be slender. (trans. Acosta-Hughes & Stephens)

in noua fert animus mutatas dicere formas
corpora; di, coeptis (nam uos mutastis et illa)
adspirate meis primaque ab origine mundi
ad mea perpetuum deducite tempora carmen.
Met. 1.1-4

My spirit moves me to tell of shapes changed into strange
bodies; oh gods (for it was you who changed them),
inspire what I have begun and from the beginning of the world
lead my continuous song down to my own times. (trans. Hill)

The use of a word so charged with meaning in the current poetic idiom is not casual. Ovid’s proem has a precise function, serving as an announcement of the stylistic and thematic concerns of the poem it introduces. In the juxtaposition of these two terms [perpetuum and deductum], Ovid explicitly acknowledges his most important model for the structure and style of the Metamorphoses. There is no paradox. In Ovid’s carmen perpetuum Callimachus would have recognized a poem very much like his own Aetia.’
(Knox 1986: 10)

Once you have begun remembering – isn’t this so? – one image springs another… Part 2 was supposed to be stabilising the network, instead it spun on in allusive space. Weavers to lions to weavers; epic, elegy, pastoral, and nothing stable. Part 3 to come then.


Clausen, W. (1994) Virgil Eclogues, Oxford.
Coleman, R. (1977) Vergil Eclogues, Cambridge.
Coupland, D. (1991) Generation X, New York.
Knox, P. (1986) Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Traditions of Augustan Poetry, Cambridge.
Mantel H. (1995) An Experiment in Love, London.
Sternberg, M. (1978) Expositional Modes and Temporal Orderings in Fiction, Baltimore.
Theodorakopoulos, E. (2000) ‘Catullus, 64: Footprints in the Labyrinth’ in A. Sharrock & H. Morales, eds., Intratextuality: Greek and Roman textual relations, Oxford, 115-41.

Further Reading

Janan, M. (1994) ‘There beneath the Roman Ruin Where the Purple Flowers Grow’: Ovid’s Minyeides and the Feminine Imagination’, AJP 115: 427-448.
Newlands, C. (1986) ‘Amatores Exclusi: The simile of the fractured pipe in Ovid’s Metamorphoses 4’, Ramus 15: 143-153.
Perraud, L. A. (1983-1984) ‘Apostrophe and Separation in the Pyramus and Thisbe Episode’, The Classical Journal 79: 135-139.

And for Pyramus and Thisbe. Because the night.

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