Showing posts tagged love poetry

A Valentines Day Special! 

Ancient Love Poetry

Since it’s Valentines Day we thought we’d show our appreciation of your support by showing you some examples of ancient love poetry! While Valentines Day was not celebrated by the Ancients, the noble art of love expressed through poetry was alive and well. 

Ancient Egypt

My one, the sister without peer,

The handsomest of all!

She looks like the rising morning star

At the start of a happy year.

Shining bright, fair of skin,

Lovely the look of her eyes,

Sweet the speech of her lips,

She has not a word too much.

Upright neck, shining breast,

Hair true lapis lazuli;

Arms surpassing gold,

Fingers like lotus buds.

Heavy thighs, narrow waist,

Her legs parade her beauty;

With graceful step she treads the ground,

Captures my heart by her movements.

She causes all men’s necks

To turn about to see her;

Joy has he whom she embraces,

He is like the first of men!

When she steps outside she seems

Like that the Sun!

From Papyrus Chester Beatty I

Ancient Rome

Lovers all are soldiers, and Cupid has his campaigns: 
I tell you, Atticus, lovers all are soldiers.
Youth is fit for war, and also fit for Venus
Imagine an aged soldier, an elderly lover! 
A general looks for spirit in his brave soldiery; 
a pretty girl wants spirit in her companion.

Both stay up all night long, and each sleeps on the ground; 
one guards his mistress’s doorway, one his general’s.
The soldier’s lot requires far journeys; send his girl, 
the zealous lover will follow her anywhere.
He’ll cross the glowering mountains, the rivers swollen with storm; 
he’ll tread a pathway through the heaped-up snows; 
and never whine of raging Eurus when he sets sail
or wait for stars propitious for his voyage.
Who but lovers and soldiers endure the chill of night, 
and blizzards interspersed with driving rain? 
The soldier reconnoitres among the dangerous foe; the lover spies to learn his rival’s plans.

Excerpt from Ovid “Love and War” (AD 17-43)

Ancient Greece

Some there are who say that the fairest thing seen

on the black earth is an array of horsemen

some, men marching; some would say ships: but I say
She whom one loves best is the loveliest.

Light were the work to make this plain to all,
since she, who surpassed in beauty all mortality,
Helen, once forsaking her lordly husband,

fled away to Troy-land across the water.
Not the thought of child or beloved parents
was remembered, after the Queen of Cyprus
won her at first sight.

Since young brides have hearts that can be persuaded
easily, light things, palpitate to passion
as am I, remembering Anaktoria
who has gone from me

and whose lovely walk and the shining pallor
of her face I would rather see before my
eyes that Lydis’s chariots in all their glory
armoured for battle.

Written by Sappho of Lesbos

Ancient China

Married couples who love each other tell each other a thousand things without talking.

Ancient Chinese Proverb

Ancient Sumer

"My dearest, my dearest, my dearest, my darling,

My darling, my honey of her own mother,

My sappy vine, my honey-sweet,

My honey-mouthed of her mother!

"The gazing of your eyes is pleasant to me;

Come my beloved sister.

The speaking of your mouth is pleasant to me,

My honey-mouthed of her mother.

The kissing of your lips is pleasant to me;

Come my beloved sister.

"My sister, the beer of your barley is good,

My honey-mouthed of her mother.

The sale of your beer-bread is good;

Come my beloved sister.

"My desirable one, my desirable one,

Your charms are lovely,

My desirable apple garden,

Your charms are lovely.

My fruitful garden of mes trees,

Your charms are lovely,

My one who is in himself Dumuzid-abzu,

Your charms are lovely.

My holy statuette, my holy statuette,

Your charms are lovely.

My alabaster statuette adorned with a lapis-lazuli jewel,

Your charms are lovely.”

Extract from the “Song of Songs”

An Ancient Egyptian Love Charm

Hail to you, Re-Horakhty, father of the gods! 

Hail to you, Seven Hathors, who are adorned in bands of red linen!

Hail to you, gods, lords of heaven and earth!

Come, <make> so-and-so born of so-and-so come after me like a cow after fodder; like a servant after her children; like a herdsman (after) his herd. 

If they do not cause her to come after me, I will set <fire to> Busiris and burn up <Osiris>. 

O.Deir el Medina 1057 

New Kingdom

Ramesside Period

Love charms are usually only found during the Ptolemaic period and this is the only example which survives from Pharaonic Egypt. The Seven Hathors which the person invokes here are also associated with childbirth. They determined the fate of the child and were often called upon to protect it. 

The threats to the gods here, although they seem pretty blasphemous to our modern ears, are perfectly normal threats for the Ancient Egyptians in their magical and ritual texts. 

The phrases “so-and-so” would be replaced with the desired recipients name and their parents name.

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