Deeply romantic poem in Latin and English

One way to discover a deeply romantic poem in Latin is to start with a contemporary poem which is outstanding in English.

The life that I have

The life that I have

is all that I have

and the life that I have

is yours

The love that I have

of the love that I have

Is yours and yours and yours.


Excuse me.  Something in my eye…

As you can see, we have a different tone today.  If you want to woo your Valentine a little – move them – would you not choose those exact words?

They are the first two stanzas of a the romantic poem that features heavily in Carve Her Name with Pride, the classic film.  You most likely recognize it.

The film was based on a true story.  Etienne, a French army officer, and Violetta, a secret agent in the SOE, (British secret service, French section), have a whirlwind (three day) romance.  Violetta is risking her life assisting the French Resistance.  Etienne sends her the above poem shortly before he is suddenly killed.  Violetta uses it both as a espionage coding device and as a “means to recall her strength”.*  We hear her reciting it in order to steel herself during some of the most moving parts of the film when she has been captured.

If that were not romantic enough, in real life the poem was apparently, (there is some controversy about this)*, written by Leo Marks, who oversaw codes and ciphers for the SOE.  He had written it for his Canadian girlfriend, who sadly died.  He then made use of it by passing it on to the real-life SOE agents for cipher work. (Apparently, he gave it to the real-life agent who is represented by Violetta in the film).

I have done my best to monopolize the time of Quintus the professional Latin translator recently, but, speedy as ever, Quintus has produced another careful, professional Latin translation, this time of the beautiful stanzas, above.

As I have said before, a puzzle is apt device for a Valentine’s card.  You know that successful romance begins with intrigue.  Secrecy is a tradition for Valentine’s Day, anyway.  Use of this poem, an icon of romance and, well, literal intrigue would be particularly apposite.  You don’t need to be literal and break out your enigma machine.  Use Latin.

I would just put the Latin version on one side of a card, or even a piece of paper, and the English on the other.  I guarantee you will get at least a gulp when your Valentine realises what you have said to them.

Here is Quintus’ fine translation:

Vita quam habeo

Nihil habeo

nisi vitam quam habeo

et vita quam habeo

est tua

Amor quem habeo

amoris quem habeo

est tuus, est tuus, est tuus.

I think people love to love in Latin.  Often, the less likely the person, the more they love it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

from ilearnlatin.

P.S.  I have a Mp3 (audio file) of the poem in Latin being read by Quintus, if you’d like it.  Just leave a comment.  I’ll get back to you.


*Daily Telegraph article discussing the Life that I Have, the unabridged version.  It has a short film of Virginia Mckenna, the star of movie, reciting the poem.


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Valentine’s Day II – love poem in Latin

Weave Latin around a contemporary love poem

How about a love poem in Latin?  you thought to yourself.  Good idea. Use an bold, contemporary love poem and encrypt it in Latin.  Intrigue your Valentine, then give them goosebumps.  For those of you who need a poem idea for a guy, how about this to get his attention:

The Shirt by Jane Kenyon

The shirt touches his neck

and smooths over his back.

It glides down his sides.

It even goes down below his belt – 

down into his pants*.

Lucky shirt.


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Latin for Valentine’s Day

Anteros, the Latin name for god of requited love and a good word in Latin for Valentine's Day

Anteros, the Greek god of requited love, perched on a fountain in Piccadilly Circus, London.


It’s nearly here…

You have a little while until the 14th.  You can make contemporary use of Latin for Valentine’s Day.  I have some ideas for you.

Why use Latin for Valentine’s Day?

A Unique Idea

How many people can say they had something commissioned especially for them on Valentine’s Day?  Find a love poem that expresses your sentiment and give it to a good translator, (details below), for translation into Latin.  At roughly $25 upwards for 100 words, depending on the length of the poem, you will get a professional translation into high-quality Latin poetry in one to two days.  There is something particularly appealing about choosing a very contemporary poem.  Select something that will stop your Valentine* in their tracks.

Move them

The Latin version of the poem offers a riddle for your Valentine*.  The English version is the solution.  Together they are quite moving: within the space of one poem you will have revealed yourself, concealed yourself, and have allowed your Valentine to reveal you again.  If that does not suggest the process of falling in love and romance to your Valentine*, I do not know what will, so hypnotise them with the subliminal message.

Latin on Valentine’s Day: a Privacy screen

You can choose a poem that is tender, passionate, or shockingly erotic.  Words in Latin are unlikely to embarrass your Valentine* in public.  How and when you reveal their meaning is limited only by your imagination.

Recruit professional expertise for impact

A quick search produced the following list of transcription services.  I would recommend that you use those offered by dedicated “Latinists”, rather than companies offering multilinguist services.  They will have experience of producing Latin poetry specifically.  I have no connection with any of them.  You can make the arrangements online.

The Latin Translator: “Quintus” has a PhD from Cambridge.  He can do up to 100 words in 24 hours for £16 (or $25), for example.  A MP3 version is $12.

(It looks like Dr Quintus’ services include providing the correct Latin for tattoos, if you want to go the more permanent route).

Oxford Latin: Oxford Latin do work for the BBC.  They can translate 51 to 100 words for £26 to £40, for example.  (That’s about $40 to $60, by my reckoning).


A MP3 Latin version could be useful.  I think a MP3 of the English in your own voice is necessary.  You send your tantalising card in Latin, (perhaps with just two or three scattered words in English, in order to intrigue.  Choosing these words can be fun and can  inject some humour).  Later in the day, you send the English audio, (to their cellphone, for privacy at work).  Imagine their face burning, or a lump forming in their throat, as they listen.  Phew.  You will be on their mind all day.

Which poem would I choose?  Hmmn.  I like “Tread softly” by W.B. Yeats (“Tread softly, for you tread upon my dreams).  It is moving and short, my favourite qualities in a poem.

and one made earlier…

Here is an example, with the translation done for you.  Do you remember Hupfield’s As Time Goes By, the love song from the Warner Brothers Classic movie, Casablanca?  The film is number one of the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest love stories of all time.

Imply a classic romance

Professor Judith Hallett, of the Classics Department, University of Maryland, has translated part of the song into Latin quite beautifully.  It has short lyrics that are a little bitter-sweet rather than saccharine.  As I described earlier, you can use the Latin message as puzzle within the card, (as per Valentine’s Day tradition).  In this case, you reveal the meaning by playing the song.  Oh, and this time you are subtly suggesting by association that yours is one of the great classic romances.  You smoothie, you.

Excerpt from As Time Goes By

Music and words by Herman Hupfield

You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss,
a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.

And when two lovers woo, they still say ‘I love you,’ On that you can rely.
No matter what the future brings, as time goes by.

Moonlight and love songs never out of date,
Hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate.
Woman needs man and man must have his mate,
That no one can deny.

It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die.
The world will always welcome lovers,
As time goes by.

© 1931 Warner Bros. Music Corporation ASCAP

Professor Hallett’s Latin translation

Haec sunt memoranda, manent suspiria, basia longius.

Pertinet mos veterrimus, ut it tempus.
Et cum amant duo, iterant “Te amo”,

Fies certissimus,
Pertinet mos veterrimus, ut it tempus.
Amores, luna, numquam senescent;

Fervida corda semper invident;
Femina virque sese coniungent,
Fies certissimus.

Eadem fabula, amor cum gloria, dulcis et decorus.
Amantes fovet hic mundus, ut it tempus.

Theme for a Day

There are many ways you can extend this theme to the Day, either simply or extravagantly.  There may be a screening of Casablanca near you, or there may be a certain piano bar….

Any song

Of course, the lyrics of any song can be translated into Latin and the song played to reveal the meaning.  You can use Latin for Valentine’s Day.  So, what are you waiting for?

Happy Valentine’s day for the 14th.

*I assume you are planning for just one Valentine.  Ahem.

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