Dating a Latinist? Married to one? Need Latin quotes to use in love letters? Don't know any Latin, but really need a Latin love poem? Well, maybe these little gems of Latin poetry will help you out when you need a quote to express yourself in an eternal language (maybe even while text messaging?). If not, just enjoy. Remember, there would be no romance without Rome!
These are really some of the best lines of poetry ever written in any language. Several poetic genres are represented here, including elegy, pastoral love song and prothalamium - a celebration of marriage (Propertius).
I deliberately did not include any quotes from Ovid's 'Ars Amatoria' - this work is, quite oddly, precisely what comes to mind when one thinks of Roman love poetry, but it is really nothing but a set of instructions. I tried to choose works that represent one's emotions. I also tried to keep the selections short. Most of them are rather upbeat, except for the short poem by Catullus, 'Odi et amo'. It is definitely one of the most famous Latin poems and one of the most famous love quotes of all time, so it would be unfair to bypass it here, despite its confused mood. Geez, does he love her or does he hate her? Catullus is, in general, a good source of cute short love poems. The rest of the verses in this selection are excerpts from longer works.
If you are completely new to Classical Latin versification, do not be surprised that these poems do not rhyme. Rhyming was only introduced as a standard poetic device in Medieval times. Also, if you attempt to pronouce these verses without knowing Latin they may not sound like poetry at all! That's because Roman poets had a different idea about what poetry is. Their language had long and short sounds, and Latin (and Greek) poetry was based on arranging long and short syllables. Although the patterns of this quantitative meter were very much the same as in later European poetry, it is difficult for us to percieve them. Medieval Latin poems are more similar to traditional European poetry. As an example, I have added a little quote from Carmina Burana.
If entire brief poems and fragments of longer poetic works are not what you are looking fore, I am happy to say that I have recently added a page with shorter love quotes and sayings (many of the quotes come from Classical prose writers). For those interested in English love poetry, I recommend my collection of promise ring poems.
Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.
Let us live, my Lesbia, let us love,
and all the talk of the stern old men,
may it be worth a penny!
Suns may set, and suns may rise again:
but when our brief light has set,
night is one long everlasting sleep.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
then another thousand, and then another hundred,
and, when we've counted up the many thousands,
let us confuse them so as not to know them all,
so that no enemy may cast an evil eye,
when he finds out that there were so many kisses.
Quaeris, quot mihi basiationes
tuae, Lesbia, sint satis superque.
quam magnus numerus Libyssae harenae
lasarpiciferis iacet Cyrenis
oraclum Iovis inter aestuosi
et Batti veteris sacrum sepulcrum;
aut quam sidera multa, cum tacet nox,
furtivos hominum vident amores:
tam te basia multa basiare
vesano satis et super Catullo est,
quae nec pernumerare curiosi
possint nec mala fascinare lingua.
You ask how many of your kisses, Lesbia, are
enough for me and more than enough. As great as
is the number of the Libyan sand that lies on
silphium-bearing Cyrene, between the oracle of
sultry Jove and the sacred Tomb of old Battus; or
as many as are the stars, when night is silent,
that see the loves of men, to kiss you with so many
kisses, Lesbia, is enough and more than enough for
your mad Catullus; kisses, which neither curious
eyes shall count up nor an evil tongue bewitch.
Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
I hate and I love. How can I do that, you might ask me perhaps?
I do not know. But that's what I feel and this is torture.
Virgil, Ecloga VII
Nerine Galatea, thymo mihi dulcior Hyblae,
candidior cycnis, hedera formosior alba,
cum primum pasti repetent praesepia tauri,
si qua tui Corydonis habet te cura, uenito.
Sea-Nymph Galatea, sweeter to me than thyme of Hybla,
whiter than the swan, lovelier than pale ivy,
as soon as the pastured bulls seek the yard again,
if you care at all for thy Corydon, come!
Virgil, Eclogue VIII
saepibus in nostris parvam te roscida mala
- dux ego vester eram - vidi cum matre legentem.
alter ab undecimo tum me iam acceperat annus,
iam fragilis poteram a terra contingere ramos.
ut vidi, ut perii, ut me malus abstulit error!
In our orchard-close I saw thee, a little girl with her mother--
I guided you both--gathering apples wet with dew:
the next year after eleven had just received me:
I could just reach the brittle branches from the ground.
As I saw, how I perished, how the fatal craze swept me away!
Virgil, Aeneid IV
Agnosco veteris vestigia flammae
I recognize the traces of an old flame
Ovid, Amores I, 2
sic erit; haeserunt tenues in corde sagittae,
et possessa ferus pectora versat Amor.
Cedimus, an subitum luctando accendimus ignem?
cedamus! leve fit, quod bene fertur, onus.
Thus it will be; slender arrows are lodged in my heart,
and Love vexes the chest that it has seized
Shall I surrender or stir up the sudden flame by fighting it?
I will surrender - a burden becomes light when it is carried willingly.
Ovid, Amores I, 9<...>
Militat omnis amans, et habet sua castra Cupido:
Attice, crede mihi, militat omnis amans.
Every lover wages a war, Cupid has his own campaign
Believe me, Atticus, every lover wages a war.
Liber eram et vacuo meditabar vivere lecto;
at me composita pace fefellit Amor.
Cur haec in terris facies humana moratur?
Iuppiter, ignosco pristina furta tua.
I was free and intended to live with my bed being unshared,
But Love, after truce had been established, tricked me.
Why does such mortal beauty exist on earth?
Jupiter, I forgive you all your past love intrigues!
Nox mihi prima venit! primae da tempora nocti!
Longius in primo, Luna, morare toro.
Tu quoque, qui aestivos spatiosus exigis ignes,
Phoebe, moraturae contrahe lucix iter.
My first night is approaching! Alot more time for my first night!
O Moon, dwell longer over our first union.
And you, Sun, who draw out summer fires,
Cut short the journey of the light that's still to linger.
From "The Cambridge songs" (Iam dulcis amica)<...>
Karissima, noli tardare
studeamus nos nunc amare
sine te non potero vivere
iam decet amorem perficere
My dearest, do not hesitate!
Let us now study the art of love.
Without you I cannot live
Now is the time to perfect our love!
Peter Abelard (?). From "Axe Phebus Aureo"<...>
Hinc mihi fletus abundat,
hinc fletus inundat.
Est mihi pallor in ore,
Est, quia fallor amore.
Hence my tears are abundant
Hence my tears are flowing.
My face is pale
Because of love's dissapointment.
From Carmina Burana (Omnia sol temperat)
Ama me fideliter,
fidem meam nota,
de corde totaliter
et ex mente tota,
alens in remota;
quisquis amat taliter,
volvitur in rota.
Love me faithfully,
Taking heed of my loyalty,
With all your heart,
With all your mind.
I am closest to you
When I am far away;
Whoever loves like this
Rides on the wheel (of Fortune).