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.


Naples, Italy, 1960. Mount Vesuvius in Background.

I love the real affection on the faces of these young lovers.  Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson.  I wonder whether this was a ‘decisive moment’ in their lives?

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.

‘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.

Continue reading