Sannazaro: Inexorable death lays cities waste...


And do we complain if the years allotted to our life flee swiftly? Inexorable death lays cities waste...
The Fates carry men away. Time unaided will remove cities and whatever you behold, as the Fates demand.

  --From "In the ruins of Cumae," by Jacopo Sannazaro (1458-1530), translated by Helen Waddell (1889-1965) in The Wandering Scholars (1927)

Et querimur, cito si nostrae data tempora vitae
diffugiunt? urbes mors violenta rapit...
Fata trahunt homines: fatis urgentibus, urbes, et quodcumque vides, auferet ipsa dies.

Emperor Hadrian to his soul


Dear little fleeting pleasing soul
the guest and comrade of my body
into what regions must you go now--
pale little, cold little, naked little soul
without your old power of jesting?

  --Roman emperor Hadrian (76-138). The translation is by Frederick Brittain (1893-1969), in The Penguin Book of Latin Verse (1962)

Animula vagula blandula
hospes comesque corporis
quae nunc abibis in loca
pallidula rigida nudula
nec ut soles dabis jocos?

Agius/ Waddell: Thou hast come safe to port, I still at sea


Thou hast come safe to port,
I still at sea,
The light is on thy head,
darkness in me.

Pluck thou in heaven's field
violet and rose,
while I strew flowers that will thy vigil keep
where thou dost sleep,
love, in thy last repose.

--Translation by Helen Waddell (1889-1965) of a lament for Hathimoda (840-874), Abbess of Gandesheim. The Latin original is in a manuscript called Vita et obitus Hathumodae primae abbatissae Gandersheimensis, composed by a monk and poet called Agius. It is considered one of the most beautiful and simple lives of the Dark Ages. The translation is a loose one.

Te iam portus habet; nos adhuc iactat abyssus.
Te lux vera tenet; nos tenebrae retinent.
Te cum virginibus comitans, quocumque it, agnum,
lilia cum violis colligis atque rosis;
nos cum coancillis nostris tumulo ecce tuopte
flores spargentes, ducimus excubias.

Thomas à Kempis: Come to me when it is not well with thee.


Son, I am the Lord, who gives strength in the time of tribulation.* Come to me when it is not well with thee.

Stand firmly, and be of good courage: comfort will come to thee in its proper season. Wait for me, wait, I will come and cure thee. **

Let not therefore thy heart be troubled... believe in me,*** and trust in my mercy. When thou thinkest I am far from thee, I am often nearest to thee....All is not lost, when anything falls out otherwise than thou wouldst have it. Thou must not judge according to thy present feeling....

    --Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471 ), in The Imitation of Christ , translated (1502) by William Atkinson and Margaret Beaufort?]

* John, xiv.27, 29
** Matt, viii, 7
***John, xiv, 27, 29

Catullus: Hail and Farewell


By ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side am I come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
And vainly parley with thine ashes dumb:
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath taken thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, the heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell,
Take them, all drenchèd with a brother’s tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell!

--Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca 85-ca 54 B.C.),  translated by Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)

Borne through many nations and over many seas,
I have come, my brother, to the sad funeral,
to give you at the last the offering to the dead
and make a speech in vain to your silent ashes,
since fate has stolen you yourself away.
O unhappy brother, unfairly snatched away!
Still meanwhile, by the old custom of our ancestors,
accept now the sad brotherly offering, wet with tears,
and forever and ever, my brother, hail and farewell.

--tr. by Sedulia

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
et mutam nequiquam adloquerer cinerem,
quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum,
heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi.
nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum
tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,
accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu
atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.

Abelard: David's Lament for Jonathan

...You now, my Jonathan,Dor_david_jonathan_2
I mourn above all,
among all delights
there will always be tears.

 Woe, why am I
followed by evil counsel,
and could give you
no protection in battle?

 If I had fallen by your side
I would have died happy
for there is nothing greater
than what love will do.

 and living after you
would mean continual dying
since half a soul
is not enough to live.

So I have won
an unhappy victory:
what emptiness,
what short-lived joy
have I had from it.


I silence my lyre:
if only I could silence too
my mourning and weeping.
My hands hurt from playing,
my voice is hoarse from crying
and my breathing faint.

       --Peter Abelard (1079-1142)

Planctus David Super Saul et Jonathan

Tu mihi nunc, Jonatha,
Flendus super omnia,
Inter cuncta gaudia
Perpes erit lacryma.

Heu! cur consilio
Acquievi pessimo,
Ut tibi praesidio
Non essem in praelio?

Vel confossus pariter
morerer feliciter
cum, quid amor faciat,
maius hoc non habeat,
et me post te vivere
mori sit assidue,
nec ad vitam anima
satis sit dimidia.

Infausta victoria
Potitus, interea,
Quam vana, quam brevia
Hic percepi gaudia!


Do quietem fidibus:
vellem, ut et planctibus
sic possem et fletibus:
laesis pulsu manibus,
raucis planctu vocibus
deficit et spiritus.

Thomas à Kempis: Thou hast here no abiding city


Do, do now, my beloved, whatsoever thou art able to do; for thou knowest not when thou shalt die, nor yet what shall befall thee after thy death.

Keep thyself as a stranger and pilgrim upon the earth, and as one to whom the affairs of this world do nothing appertain.

Keep thy heart free, and lifted up to God, because thou hast here no abiding city.

  --Thomas à Kempis (ca 1380-1471), Of the Imitation of Christ, Book I, ch XXIII. Translator unknown.

Age, age nunc charissime quidquid pro te agere potes, quia nescis quando morieris. Nescis etiam, quid tibi post mortem sequatur....

Serva te tanquam peregrinum et hospitem super terram, ad quem nihil spectat de mundi negociis. Serva cor liberum, et ad Deum sursum erectum, quia non habes hic manentem civitatem....



Saint Augustine: I wondered that other men should live when he was dead


4... My heart grew somber with grief, and wherever I looked I saw only death. My own country became a torment and my own home a grotesque abode of misery. All that we had done together was now a grim ordeal without him. My eyes searched everywhere for him, but he was not to be seen. I hated all the places we had known together, because he was not in them and they could no longer whisper to me “Here he comes!” as they would have done had he been alive but absent for a while. I had become a puzzle to myself, asking my soul again and again, “Why are you downcast? Why do you distress me?” But my soul had no answer to give….Tears alone were sweet to me, for in my heart’s desire they had taken the place of my friend.

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6... I wondered that other men should live when he was dead, for I had loved him as though he would never die. Still more I wondered that he should die and I remain alive, for I was his second self. How well the poet put it when he called his friend the half of his soul! I felt that our two souls had been as one, living in two bodies, and life to me was fearful because I did not want to live with only half a soul. Perhaps this, too, is why I shrank from death, for fear that one whom I had loved so well might then be wholly dead.


7... What madness, to love a man as something more than human! What folly, to grumble at the lot man has to bear! I lived in a fever, convulsed with tears and sighs that allowed me neither rest nor peace of mind. My soul was a burden bruised and bleeding. It was tired of the man who carried it, but I found no place to set it down to rest.


8… the grief I felt for the loss of my friend had struck so easily into my inmost heart simply because I had poured out my soul upon him, like water upon sand, loving a man who was mortal as though he were never to die.


9... Blessed are those who love you, O God, and love their friends in you and their enemies for your sake. They alone will never lose those who are dear to them, for they love them in one who is never lost, in God….

      --Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Confessions of Saint Augustine,  Book IV  (translated by: Unknown)

Original Latin:

quo dolore contenebratum est cor meum, et quidquid aspiciebam mors erat. et erat mihi patria supplicium et paterna domus mira infelicitas, et quidquid cum illo communicaveram, sine illo in cruciatum immanem verterat. expetebant eum undique oculi mei, et non dabatur. et oderam omnia, quod non haberent eum, nec mihi iam dicere poterant, `ecce veniet,' sicut cum viveret, quando absens erat. factus eram ipse mihi magna quaestio, et interrogabam animam meam quare tristis esset et quare conturbaret me valde, et nihil noverat respondere mihi. et si dicebam, `spera in deum,' iuste non obtemperabat, quia verior erat et melior homo quem carissimum amiserat quam phantasma in quod sperare iubebatur. solus fletus erat dulcis mihi et successerat amico meo in deliciis animi mei.

mirabar enim ceteros mortales vivere, quia ille, quem quasi non moriturum dilexeram, mortuus erat, et me magis, quia ille alter eram, vivere illo mortuo mirabar. bene quidam dixit de amico suo: `dimidium animae' suae. nam ego sensi animam meam et animam illius unam fuisse animam in duobus corporibus, et ideo mihi horrori erat vita, quia nolebam dimidius vivere, et ideo forte mori metuebam, ne totus ille moreretur quem multum amaveram.

o dementiam nescientem diligere homines humaniter! o stultum hominem immoderate humana patientem! quod ego tunc eram. itaque aestuabam, suspirabam, flebam, turbabar, nec requies erat nec consilium. portabam enim concisam et cruentam animam meam impatientem portari a me, et ubi eam ponerem non inveniebam.

nam unde me facillime et in intima dolor ille penetraverat, nisi quia fuderam in harenam animam meam diligendo moriturum acsi non moriturum?

beatus qui amat te et amicum in te et inimicum propter te. solus enim nullum carum amittit cui omnes in illo cari sunt qui non amittitur. et quis est iste nisi deus noster?