Category Archives: Later Latin

The Madness of Merlin – Extract from the Vita Merlini (contributed by Mark Walker)

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s extraordinary epic poem Vita Merlini  (“The Life of Merlin”, written in Classical hexameters) is a fascinating work set in a semi-mythological era of kings, prophets and madmen. Its eponymous hero is one of the most famous characters in all literature and it is here for the first time that he is brought […]

O quanta, qualia (Peter Abelard, 1079-1142) (contributed by Mark Walker)

This hymn employs an iambic rhythm in lines of twelve syllables (or half-lines of six syllables each if you prefer). Abelard was not only a brilliant scholar, he was also a celebrated composer whose love songs were once the toast of Paris. In his later monastic life he composed a complete hymnal for the Monastery […]

Stabat Mater dolorosa (contributed by Mark Walker)

‘A supreme achievement of the Franciscan, and, indeed, of the religious verse of the Middle Ages,’ (according to F.J.E. Raby in his History of Christian Latin Poetry) the Stabat Mater has been variously attributed to Jacopone da Todi (c.1228-1306),  Pope Innocent III (c.1160-1216), and St. Bonaventura (d. 1274), but its authorship remains unknown for certain. […]

O Fortuna from the Carmina Burana collection (contributed by Mark Walker)

The various and mostly anonymous authors responsible for the collection of poems now known as the Carmina Burana were a motley assortment of disaffected monks, students and clerici vagrantes (‘wandering clergy’), often referred to collectively as ‘Goliards’, an obscure catch-all term for these writers of satirical and/or profane songs about love, sex, drinking, gambling and […]

Dies Irae – The Requiem Sequence (contributed by Mark Walker)

Attributed to Thomas de Celano (1190-1260), the Dies Iræ is arguably the most famous and  most evocative Medieval Latin poem. It describes in vivid detail the Last Judgement, the summoning of the dead, the deliverance of the good and the damnation of the bad to eternal torment. It was adopted as the Requiem Mass (Mass […]

Letter – Heloise (c.1100-1163) to Abelard (contributed by Mark Walker)

The story of the ardent love affair between fiery philosopher Peter Abelard and his brilliant young student Heloise has been preserved in their remarkable letters to each other: Abelard’s autobiographical Historia Calamitatum (‘Story of my misfortunes’) tells how he was asked to tutor the remarkable young girl at her uncle’s home in Paris, how their […]

Latin Ode to the London Olympics (contributed by Bijan Omrani)

This Latin Ode to the London Olympics is written in Sapphics in imitation of Horace’s Carmen Saeculare. Horace’s original was written in honour of the Secular Games (Ludi Saeculares) a grand spectacle which was held in Rome in 17 BC, and was therefore the perfect model for Latin verses on the modern Olympics. These verses […]