Two Latin Thoughts On Love by Anon


Cras amet qui nunquam amavit
Quique amavit cras amet

These lines are quoted by John Fowles at the end of ‘The Magus’ (“Tomorrow shall love he who has never loved. He who has loved in the past shall love again tomorrow”)

According to the omniscient Wikipedia, these lines are from the Pervigilium Veneris, the Vigil of Venus,  a Latin poem, probably written in the 4th century.[1] It is generally thought to have been by the poet Tiberianus…

Or, as I learnt in school:

Amo, Amas Am At It Again!

[I love, you love, he/she/it loves or I’m at it again…]

Although I am very glad now to have had Latin dinned into me from the age of ten, the textbooks were dire compared to what must be on offer these days. I remember learning by rote how to say ‘Good eagle, O good eagle, Of a good eagle, by with or from a good eagle – and then all over again in the plural. Needless to say I have had no occasion to use this particular expression, nor do I ever expect to. Winston Churchill had much the same perspective on a table:

‘This is a Latin grammar.’ [The teacher] opened [the textbook] at a well-thumbed page. ‘You must learn this,’ he said, pointing to a number of words in a frame of lines …

What on earth did it mean? Where was the sense of it? It seemed absolute rigmarole to me. However, there was one thing I could always do: I could learn it by heart …

‘Have you learnt it?’ he asked.

‘I think I can say it, sir,’ I replied; and I gabbled it off.

He seemed so satisfied with this that I was emboldened to ask a question …

‘But,’ I repeated, ‘what does it mean?’

‘Mensa means a table,’ he answered.

‘Then why does mensa also mean O table,’ I enquired, ‘and what does O table mean?’ …

“O table,—you would use that in addressing a table, in invoking a table.’

‘But I never do,’ I blurted out in honest amazement.

‘If you are impertinent, you will be punished, and punished, let me tell you, very severely,’ was his conclusive rejoinder.”

The illustration is a sculpture in the Louvre by Antonio Canova (1757–1822): Psyché ranimée par le baiser de l’Amour (Psyche revived by the kiss of Love). Marble, 1793. Via Wikimedia, uploaded by Mak Thorpe

About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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