|Cupids play music with Apollos instruments|
The first Latin poem I ever fell in love with is one of the simplest and one of the most famous. It is by Gaius Valerius Catullus who lived in the first century BCE. He’s the one who famously asked Lesbia to give him a thousand kisses and then a thousand more in order to confound the old men. And he wrote about the sparrow. But the poem I fell in love with is this one. In twelve words he sums up a certain type of love affair that every one of us has probably experienced.
Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, nescio. Sed fieri sentior et excrucior.
I love you and I hate you.
Why I do this, I have no idea.
But I feel it happening and I’m in agony.
|Bust of Virgil from his so-called tomb in Naples|
Like the others this is a fairly free translation:
Speluncam Dido dux et Troianus eandem
deveniunt. Prima et Tellus et pronuba Iuno
dant signum; fulsere ignes et conscious Aether
conubiis, summoque ulularunt vertice Nymphae.
Dido and the Trojan leader come together
In the same cave. First Earth and then
Juno the goddess of marriage
Give permission. Heaven watches the act of love
And illuminates the scene with lightning
And from the highest peak the Nymphs shriek.
[Virgil Aeneid IV. 165-168]
|Fresco from Lake Albano, Italy|
Militat omnis amans, et habet sua castra Cupido:
Attice, crede mihi, militat omnis amans.
Every lover does battle, Cupid has his own camp
Believe me, Atticus, every lover does battle.
[Ovid, Amores I.9]
|My friend Matt dressed as a Roman|
Quod spirat tenera malum mordente puella,
Quod de Corycio quae venit aura croco;
Vinea quod primis floret cum cana racemis,
Gramina quod redolent quae modo carpsit ovis;
Quod myrtis, quod messor Arabs, quod sucina trita,
Pallidus Eoo ture quod ignis olet;
Gleba quod aestivo leviter cum spargitur imbre,
Quod madidas nardo passa corona comas:
Hoc tua, saeve puer Diadumene, basia fragrant.
Quid si tota dares illa sine invidia?
Like an apple when a tender girl bites into it,
Like the perfume that wafts from saffron crocus,
Or a bright vineyard flowering with new clusters,
Like grass newly nibbled by a lamb,
Like crushed myrtle
Or the fingers of an Arabian spice collector,
Like rubbed amber or flaming frankincense,
Like light summer rain on earth
Or a garland resting on hair dripping with nard…
Your kisses, cruel boy, smell of all these.
Just imagine what they would be like
If you gave them without holding back.
|bedroom of the Hotel Europeo, Naples|
Si me cadurci restitutis fasciis
nudam Caleno concubantem proferat
If you were to untangle the sheets of my marriage bed
You would find me lying nude with my husband Calenus…
And on that sensual but chaste note of conjugal love I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Caroline writes historical mysteries for kids set in Ancient Rome and the Wild West but has recently retold two stories from Virgil's Aeneid for reluctant or dyslexic teen readers. Try Queen of the Silver Arrow for a tragic love story.