“Et in Arcadia ego.” At the end of his essay on Poussin’s painting, Irwin Panofski mentions Goethe. Goethe’s travel journal made use of that Latin expression in a different way — “Me too I’ve been to Arcadia” seems to say the poet. “Auch ich war in Arkadien.” There is no reference to death, assures us the art critic. What we have is a tourist sending home a postcard and nothing else. It would be a morbid idea to think otherwise, to suppose that every time such a postcard is sent, we receive a momento mori, for that would be similar to believing that any time we post a selfie, the photo inevitably contains a reference to our death. A sinful thought — delictatio morosa.
But wait! What would Poussin say? There are two possible interpretations for the Latin inscription that the Greek shepherds are trying to decipher in the painting. One that assumes that this is a real grave site of another shepherd and the epitaph confirms that he is local. The other is a little more abstract and awkward, for it is in poor Latin. What else to expect from an Arcadian? And so it conveys a bizarre idea that death itself speaks to us here. That is there is no dead body inside the sepulcher and the empty sarcophagus serves as a personification of our mortality, for even in Arcadia that beautiful thing called life has to end. And in the end we see that there is really no contradiction between the variant interpretations, for cemeteries, funerals and coffins bring about not very cheerful ideas that are relevant to us and are usually quite awkward to express.
And now comes the surprise. You see, I am not at all concerned about tourists and their postcards. This is my blog and it is mostly about me. And naturally every entry here should be potentially treated as the last one. And I am writing all this to prepare my reader for the disclosure that I am no longer in Versailles, but have moved to Brest, and like Goethe on his way from Italy I say, “Et in Arcadia ergo.”