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Venantius Fortunatus, bishop, c.530-c.603


Venantius Fortunatus was a poet, born c. 530 in Treviso, near Ravenna in Italy. He spent his time as court poet to the Merovingians. After visiting the tomb of St. Martin of tours at St. Hilary at Poitiers, he decided to enter a monastery. He continued to write poetry, some of which have a permanent place in Catholic hymnody, for instance the Easter season hymns Vexilla Regis and the Pange Lingua (Sing, O my tongue, of the battle). Three of four years before he died he was made bishop of Poitiers.

Written on an Island off the Breton Coast

You at God's altar stand, His minister
And Paris lies about you and the Seine:
Around this Breton isle the Ocean swells,
Deep water and one love between us twain.

Wild is the wind, but still thy name is spoken;
Rough is the sea: it sweeps not o'er they face.
Still runs my lover for shelter to its dwelling,
Hither, O heart, to thine abiding place.

Swift as the waves beneath an east wind breaking
Dark as beneath a winter sky the sea,
So to my heart crowd memories awaking,
So dark, O love, my spirit without thee

trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, ed. Stephen Coote, (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane, Penguin, 1983), 112