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Paulinus of Nola, bishop, 353-431, and Ausonius: Poems


Paulinus of Nola was an important figure in the Christian Roman Empire. He was passionately in love with his fellow Christian and writer, Ausonius. There is an element of copying classical homosexual poetry in these verses, but they clearly indicate a relationship distinct and more erotic than "friendship". Later in life Paulinus distanced himself from Ausonius, a victim perhaps of a narrowing view of sexual ethics.

To Ausonius

I, through all chances that are given to mortals,
And through all fates that be,
So long as this close prison shall contain me,
Yea, though a world shall sunder me and thee,

Thee shall I hold, in every fibre woven,
Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face
Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,
Instant and present, thou, in every place.

Yea, when the prison of this flesh is broken,
And from the earth I shall have gone my way,
Wheresoe'er in the wide universe I stay me,
There shall I bear thee, as I do today.

Think not the end, that from my body frees me,
Breaks and unshackles from my love to thee;
Triumphs the soul above its house in ruin,
Deathless, begot of immortality.

Still must she keep her senses and affections,
Hold them as dear as life itself to be,
Could she choose death, then might she choose forgetting:
Living, remembering, to eternity.

trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, ed. Stephen Coote, (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane, Penguin, 1983)

An Epigram by Ausonius c. 310-390

Epigram No 62

Glad youth had come they sixteenth year to crown,
To soft encircle they dear cheeks with down
And part the mingled beauties of thy face,
When death too quickly comes to snatch your grace.
But thou'll not herd with ghostly common fools,
Nor piteous, waft the Stygian pools;
Rather with blithe Adonis shalt thou rove
And play Ganymede to highest Jove.

[in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]