Unrequited love: a Paraclausithyron from Pompeii

A paraklausithyron is a ‘motif from Greek and especially Augustan love elergy’ which typically places a lover outside his (or her) mistress’s door, desiring entry.  This one, in a woman’s voice, was found in Pompeii on the door of a modest private dwelling and is reportedly ‘the only female homoerotic love poem to survive from the ancient Roman world’.

Oh, if only I could hold your sweet arms around my neck
In an embrace and place kisses on your tender lips.
Go now, entrust your joys to the winds, my darling,
Believe me, fickle is the nature of men.
Often I have been wakeful in the middle of the wasted night
Thinking these things to myself:
many men whom Fortune has raised up on high,
Now suddenly rush headlong, and fall, overwhelmed by her.
In this way when Venus has suddenly joined together lover’s bodies
But daylight comes to divide them.

‘The fleeting nature of love, desire, and pain of separation, all at Venus’s behest’ are recurring themes of graffiti in Pompeii.

Featured image: Simeon Solomon.  Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene.  1864.

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An Italian poem for Valentine’s Day

I want a slow painful love, as slow as a slow death and with no end (I want it to be stronger than death) and with no change either, no. I want our two souls to undergo, without a moment’s peace, a dark torment; and in a rapt silence the lament at our doors of an ocean, alone, below. I want the high tower made of granite and rising so high in the serene sky that it could with the polar star be entwined. I want a bed of crimson and to find when in that shade and on that breast I lie, as if deep inside a tomb, the Infinite.

I Want A Slow Painful Love by Gabriele D’Annunzio.  Illustration by Lorenzo Mattotti.

The Longer Read: Naples ’44

‘Neapolitans take their sex lives very seriously indeed.

A woman called Lola, whom I met at the dinner-party given by Signora Gentile, arrived at HQ with some denunciation which went into the waste-paper basket as soon as her back was turned. She then asked if I could help her.  It turned out she had taken a lover who is a captain in the RASC, but as he speaks no single word of Italian, communication can only be carried on by signs, and this gives rise to misunderstanding. Would I agree to interpret for them and settle certain basic matters?

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It started in Naples

Sophia Loren and Clark Gable on location on Capri in ‘It started in Naples‘ (Melville Shavelson, 1960).  IMDB says:

When American lawyer Michael Hamilton (Clark Gable) hears that his estranged younger brother and sister-in-law have died in a car accident, he flies to Naples, Italy, to settle their estate. Upon arriving, the xenophobic Hamilton meets his impish nephew, Nando (Marietto), for the first time, and decides he will bring the boy back with him to the United States. But when Nando’s gorgeous aunt, Lucia Curcio (Sophia Loren), protests, a lengthy and heated custody battle ensues.

‘On his last sight of Fiammetta’ – A Naples Love Story

By legend it was in the ‘huge, utterly gothic space’ of the Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, situated in the very centre of the Centro Storico of Naples, that the 14th Century poet and writer Giovanni Boccaccio first glimpsed his muse, Fiammetta or ‘Little Flame’.  He was 21 years old at the time and had arrived in Italy’s biggest and richest city with his banker father from Florence a few years before.

Many thought, and think, that Fiammetta was Maria d’Aquino, a daughter of Robert, King of Naples.  Boccaccio venerated her beauty and mind, even if her body remained out of reach as she retreated back into the court and away from Naples city life.  Instead of a companion, she would become a constant feature of his later works, many of which recreate Naples in all its earthy reality.

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