Valentine’s Day

Marbodus (ca. 1035 – 11 September 1123) was archdeacon and schoolmaster at Angers, France, then Bishop of Rennes in Brittany. He was a respected poet, hagiographer, and hymnologist.

I have to smile wryly at the last instruction in the last two lines. But then if the young lover had kept these to himself, we’d never had seen them.

Horace composed an ode about a certain boy
Who could easily enough have been a pretty girl.
Over his ivory neck flowed hair
Brighter than yellow gold, the kind I have always loved.
His forehead was white as snow, his luminous eyes black as pitch
His unfledged cheeks full of pleasing sweetness
When they gleamed bright white and red.
His now was straight, lips blazing, teeth lovely,
Chin shaped after a perfectly proportioned model.
Anyone wondering about the body which lay hidden under his clothes
Would be gratified, for the boy’s body matched his face.
The sight of his face, radiant and full of beauty,
Kindled the observer’s heart with the torch of love.
But this boy – so beautiful, so extraordinary,
An enticement to anyone catching sight of him –
Nature had molded wild and stern:
He would sooner die than consent to love.
Rough and thankless, like a tiger cub,
He only laughed at the gentlest words of a suitor,
Laughed at a sighing lover’s tears,
He mocked those he himself caused to die.
Wicked indeed, this one, and as cruel as wicked,
Who with this vice in his character keeps his body from being his glory.
A handsome face demands a good mind, and a yielding one,
Not puffed up but ready for anything.
The little flower of youth is fleeting and too brief;
It soon witherws, falls, and knows not how to revive.
This flesh is now so smooth, so milky, so unblemished,
So good, so handsome, so slipper, so tender.
Yet the time will come when it will become ugly and rough,
When this flesh, dear boyish flesh, will become worthless.
Therefore, while you flower, take up riper practices.
While you are in demand and able, be not slow to yield to an eager lover.
For this you will be prized, not made lsss of.
These words of my reques, most beloved,
Are sent to you alone; do not show them to many others.


I think I may have posted this before, but some people may not have seen it, and its slightly amended to suit the sender.

Alvisi to Rafe (characters from Standish)

Thou ‘minds me, love, of nothing more than autumn;
a grey November dull with sullen mists.
That vacuum secret month, when senses grow numb,
but yet this taboo spark for thee exists.
When in thy presence something o’ertakes me,
an acid etchéd line ‘twixt want and hate;
compulsion both to hold thee and to kiss thee,
or strike thee down and take thee to my mate.
Greater men than thee have made me harden,
other lips than thine have touched this skin,
so why should I attempt to seek thy pardon,
when other lips fulfil what you begin?
So sneer sweet Rafe, and on with this vendetta,
It only serves to make me want thee better.

Valentine’s Day letter from Garnet Littleton to Harry Thompson from Blessed Isle

Lo!  When the rosy fingered dawn
Her gentle light in at the casement shine
And from the Stygian depths, new-born,
She draws this soul of mine,
I contemplate with grateful breast
The manly bosom whereon I rest.
Shaped for the Titan’s herculean task,
Yea, as of marble fairly wrought,
By a master’s hands, and though most dearly bought,
Containing every blessing I might ask.

Here beats a heart of Attic kind,
Fit for the ancient heroes’ company,
Here slumbers quiet a lively mind,
That I would bend with kisses upon me.
And, Harry, though I think you’d blush
I dream with greatest pleasure of the power,
The thrust and elevation of that tower,
About whose proper name I must say “hush”.

So, sleeping warrior, awake
The day of lovers taps upon the glass
And of its nectar let us now partake.
The deed of Venus we should soon surpass,
When the angry god of war she overcame
In swooning bliss.  The lion most tame
Lay with the lamb.  Just so, with you
My nature wild you effortless undo
And make me answer only to your name.

Reply from Harry to Garnet
My dear fanciful lad, you are of the two of us the eloquent one.  Though I should try my hardest to string together fine words – to somehow attempt to reply appropriately to such a poem, a great deal of which, I may say, went over my head – I could not do better than to answer plainly “I love you too.”  I will endeavour to show you by actions what I cannot express in speech.  Today and always,