three pairs of lovers with space



Hilarius, a cleric studying in Champagne, France around 1125, but supposed to have been an Englishman, [1] Hilarii versus et ludi (Paris, 1838). Besides one addressed to his teacher and some religious verse, five of his surviving fourteen poems were love poems, one addressed to a nun and four to boys.  The four latter are presented below.

The translation of those numbered VII, IX and XIII is by John Boswell in Appendix 2 of his Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (Chicago, 1980), pp. 372-4, with the amendment of his translation thrice of one word, noted in a footnote. That of number X "To William of Anfonia" is by Thomas Stehling in his Medieval Latin Poems of Male Love and Friendship (New York, 1984), pp.71-75. The Latin text is that printed by Champollion-Figeac with two amendments by Boswell explained in footnotes. The enumeration of the poems follows that in Champollion-Figeac.


VII. To a Boy of Anjou

To a Boy of Anjou

Beautiful and singular boy,[2]
Kindly inspect, I implore you,
These writings which are sent by your admirer;
Look at them, read them, and profit by what you read.

Prostrate at your knees,
On bended knee, with clasped hands,
As one of your suppliants,
I spare neither tears nor prayers.

I am afraid to speak face to face;
Speech escapes me, I am held speechless,
So I admit my sickness in writing,
Confident that I shall merit healing.

Enough, wretch! I barely bore it
When I tried to hide my love;
Now that I can no longer dissemble,
I finally extend my hands, bound together.

As a patient I demand a doctor,
Holding out my hands in supplication.
You alone have the only medication;
Therefore save me, your clerk.

Long held in a dreary jail,
I found no one who would have mercy on me;
Since I cannot be set free with a gift,
I must lead a life worse than death.

Oh, how I wish you wanted money!
Mine is the pain! Mine the suffering!
It is ignorant of you[3] to have decided
Such commerce constitutes vice.

Surely, boy,[2] this is foolishness,
To be so unyielding,

A solemn resolve of chastity
Ruined the fair Hippolytus;[5]
Joseph nearly met his end
When he spurned the queen's desire.[6]

A 12th-century boy of Anjou (illustrtd. by the Grahame Johnstone twins in Ida Foulis's This Land of Kings 1066-1399)

Ad Puerum Andegavensem

Puer pulcher et puer unice,
Que mittuntur a tuo suplice
Scripta, precor, benignus inspire,
Vide , lege, lectaque perfice.

Ego tuis affusııs genibus,
Genıı flexo junctisque ınanibus,
Ut de tııis unus suplicibus,
Et lacrimis utor et precibus.

Loqui presens presenti vereor;
Sermo fugit, et ınutus teneor.
Scripto tandem morbum confiteor,
Cunfitensque saluteın ınereor.

Satis, miser! pene sustinui
Dum amorem celare volui;
Cum caelare non ultra potui,
Manus victas tendem exibui.

Eger ego deposco medicum
Tendens manus ad modum suplicum
Solus habes emplastrum unicum:
Ergo serva me tuum clericum.

Gravi diu detentus carcere,
Non inveni qui vellet parcere;
Cum absolvi non possim munere,
Vitam duco pejorem funere.

O! Quam vellem ut velles precium,
Meus dolor! meum exicium!
Es nescius[2] qııod esse vicium
Decrevisti tale commercium.

Certe, pııer, hoc est inscicia,
Quod (est) tibi tanta duricia
Qui sit pulcris ex pudicicia.

Castitatis grave propositum
Condeınnavit pulcrum Ipolitum;
Pene Joseph venit ad obitum,
Dum regine contensit libitum.

Mediaeval English schoolboys being taught by a monk, by Peter Jackson


IX. To an English Boy

To an English Boy

Hail, fair boy,[2] who seeks no bribe,
Who regards being won with a gift as the height
   of vice,
In whom beauty and honesty have made their
Whose comeliness draws to itself the eyes of all
   who see him.

Golden haired, fair of face, with a small white
Soft-spoken and gentle - but why do I praise these
Everything about you is beautiful and lovely; you
   have no imperfection,
Except that such fairness has no business devoting
   itself to chastity.[7]

When nature formed you, she doubted for a
Whether to offer you as a girl or a boy,
But while she sets her mind's eye to settling this,
Behold! You come forth, born as a vision for all.

Afterward, she does finally extend her hand to
And is astonished that she could have created
   anyone like you.
But it is clear that nature erred in only this one
That when she had bestowed on you so much, she
   made you mortal.

No other mortal can be compared with you,
Whom nature made for herself, as if an only child;
Beauty establishes its home in you,
Whose sweet flesh shines as brightly as the lily.

Believe me, if those former days of Jove should
His handservant would no longer be Ganymede
But you, carried off to heaven; by day the sweet
And by night your sweeter kisses you would
   administer to Jove.

You are the common desire of lasses and lads;[8]
They sigh for you and hope for you, because they
   know you are unique.
They err or, rather, sin who call you “English”:
They should add letters and call you “angelic.”[9]

Ad Puerum Anglicum

Ave, puer speciose, qui non queris
Qui te dono conparari summum ducis
In quo decor et honestas delegit
Forma cujus sibi capit oculos spectancium.

Crinis flavus, os decoruın cervísque
Sermo blandııs et suavis; sed quid laudem
Totııs pulclıer et decorus, nec est in te
Sed vaccare castitati talis nequit[6]

Cum natura te creavit, dubitavit paululum
Si proferret te puellam, an proferret
Sed dum in hoc eligendo mentis figit
Ecce prodis, in cummune natus ad

Postquam vero tibi manum extremam
Est mirata quia talem te creasse potuit;
Sed naturam in hoc solum erravisse patuit,
Qıuod, cum tanta contulisset, te mortalem

Tibi nequid conparari quislibet mortalium,
Quem natura sibi fecit singularem filium;
In te sibi pıılcritudo legit domilium,
Cujus nitet caro cara, candens uti lilium.

Crede mihi, si redirent prisca Jovis secula,
Ganimedes jam non foret ipsius vernacula;
Sed tu, raptus in supernis , grata luce
Gratiora quidem nocte Jovi dares oscula.

Puellarum juvenumque votum extas
Te suspirant et exoptant quem noverunt
Errant quidem, inmo peccant qui te
   vocant Anglicum;
Et vocalem interponant, et dicant

Non angli sed angeli by John Everett Millais: the future Pope Gregory I originates Hilary's pun by quipping that these pretty English boys ("Angli") for sale would be angels ("angeli") if only they were Christian


X. To William of Anfonia

To William of Anfonia

Hail, splendor of England,
Highest glory, unique beauty!
Rumor testifies publicly
How extravagantly generous you are.
I extend to rumor the well-earned thanks
I ought to give it;
By its gift I have you in my mind
And what I already possess is no small thing.

Rumor is a good thing: by its tidings
I know a great deal about who you are,
But nonetheless I thirst to know more:
Whether you have need for my service.
“Rumor is a bad thing,” said Virgil;
He spoke well, never spoke better.
“Rumor is a good thing,” said Hilary;    
He spoke true, never spoke truer.

Virgil had just cause
To call rumor bad;
But such a situation presents itself to Hilary
That he rightly gives rumor a good name.       
Nature did not make you suddenly
But took extraordinary pains with you.
She gave of herself to you, and rightly so,
For you amply repay the debt.

She gave you wealth which you use so 
Generously that you surpass everyone.
You are robust in appearance, strong in learning,
And arrogant about neither one nor the other.
Certainly if Jupiter now reigned -
Jupiter who wickedly became a bull for a girl -
He would likewise become a bird for you
So that you might be joined with him forever.[10]

Rumor speaks the truth about you
But is still conquered by truth.
The reality is so great that rumor is overcome;
And thus the greater part of truth is lost.
Rumor grows and may it never stop,
But still it cannot suffice.
Though it usually conquers, here it is defeated
Because it cannot say all.  

I am not strong enough finally to remain silent
Because I burn with a malignant flame.
Can this suffering be just,
That I no longer am what I used to be?
Not long ago I foolishly believed
That no one could take anything from me.
I thought - I am not ashamed to admit –
That fortune could not wound me.

While I confidently held such hope
And diligently pursued love,      
See, a heap of troubles fell on me,
Heavy misfortunes, envious of my happiness.
For a long time the wheel of fortune lifted me higher
And higher, but now I know from experience
The sweeter a standing,
The harder the fall from it.

Ad Guillelmum de Anfonia

Ave, splendor telluris Anglice,
Decus summum et decor unice,
De te fama testatur publice,
Largitatis quam sis inmodice!
Fame grates dignas exibeo
Exibere quas sibi debeo,
Dono cujus te mente teneo;
Nec est parum quod jam obtineo.

Fama bonum, ex cujus nuncio
Magna, qui sis, ex parte sencio;
Sed plus tamen sentire sicio,
Si sit opus meo servitio.
“Fama malum” dixit Virgilius;
Bene, dixit nil unquam melius.
“Fama bonum” dixit Hilarius;
Verum, dixit nil unqııam verius.

Ille causam honestam habuit
Ex qua malam vocare debuit;
Huic se locus talis exibuit
Boni nomen quod jure tribuit.
Te non fecit natura sııbito;
Laboravit in te plus solilo,
Sua tibi dedit, et merito ,
Reddis enim vicem pro debito.

Dedit opes, quibus sic uteris
Largitate quod omnes preteris;
Vales forma, vales in litteris;
Nec superbis nec his, nec ceteris.
Si nunc certe regnaret Jupiter,
Pro puella bos factus turpiter,
Avis foret (tibi) similiter,
Aput illum ut fores jııgiter.

De te verum a fama dicitur;
Fama tamen a vero vincitur.
Res est tanta, quod fama premitur
Sic de vero pars magna demitur.
Crescit fama, ne cessat crescere ,
Neqııe tamen valet sufficere;
Sic est victa que solet vincere,
Quia totum non valet dicere.

Reticere tandem non valeo,
Quia flama maligna caleo:
Videatur si jure doleo,
Quia non sum quod esse soleo.
Nuper enim credebam temere
Qııemqııam mihi nil posse demere;
Extimabam, ne pudet edere,
Me fortıınam noın posse ledere.

Dum spem talem haberem credulus ,
Dum instarem amori sedulus,
Ecce venit malorum cumulus ,
Casus gravis et letis emulus.
Me fortııne rota superior
Diu tulit, sed nunc experior
Quia status quanto suavior,
Tanto casus est factus gravior.

The Oratory of the Paraclete in Champagne, the Benedictine monastery where Hilary lived when he wrote his poems (18th century lithograph, following restoration)


XIII. To an English Boy

To an English Boy

Beautiful boy, flower fair,
Glittering jewel, if only you knew
That the loveliness of your face
Was the torch of my love.

The moment I saw you,
Cupid struck me; but I hesitate,
For my Dido holds me,
And I fear her wrath.[11]

Oh, how happy would I be
If for a new favorite
I could abandon this love[12]
In the ordinary way.

I will win, as I believe,
For I will yield to you in the hunt:
I am the hunted, you are the hunter,
And I yield to any hunter like you.

Even the ruler of heaven,
Once the ravisher of boys,
If he were here now would carry off
Such beauty to his heavenly bower.

Then, in the chambers of heaven,
You would be equally ready for either task:
Sometimes in bed, other times as cupbearer -
And Jove's delight as both.

Ad Puerum Anglicum

Puer decens, decens floris,
Genma micans, velim noris
Quia tui decus oris
Fuit mihi fax amoris.

Ut te vidi, ınos cupido
Me percussit; sed diffido;
Nam me tenet mea Dido
Cujus iram reformido.

O Quam felix ego forem,
Si per novum suscessorem,
Asuetum juxta morem,
Declinarem hunc amorem.

Inpetrabo, sicut credo;
Nam in predam tibi cedo.
Ego preda tuque predo:
Me predoni tali dedo.

Nam et rector superorum,
Ractor olim puerorum,
Si nunc esset, tam decorum
Ad celeste ferret torum.

Aula tandem in superna ,
Satis prontus ad alterna,
Nunc in toro, nunc piııcerna,
Jovi fores gratus una.


by Gaston Goor

[1] This attribution goes back at least to Jean Mabillon’s Annales ordinis S. Benedicti, vol. 5 (1713), p. 315. In its favour, five of his lyric poems were addressed to English people: three boys and two women.

[2] Boswell’s translation of “puer” as “youth” has her been amended to “boy”.  Whilst it would be entirely legitimate to point out that the Latin “puer” could encompass youths as well as literal boys, just as its English equivalent “boy” can (or at least could), this cannot justify translating the word in such a way as to imply that Hilary must have meant “youths” rather than boys”.  This sort of license is typical of one important way by which Greek love has typically been misrepresented as androphile in translations since the 1980s.

[3] Reading “es nescius" (with Herkenrath) instead of the “sed melius” printed by Champollion-Figeac. [Translator’s note]

[4] Two lines are omitted here; the first is missing from the manuscript, leaving the next (“Qui sit pulcris ex pudiciciae”) ambiguous. [Translator’s note]

[5] The account in Seneca's Phaedra might have been familiar to Hilary [Translator’s note]. In this play, the Hippolytus’s spurning of Phaedra, who had fallen in love with him, led to his doom.

[6]  The biblical Joseph’s spurning of the advances of his master’s wife (not actually a queen) led to his imprisonment (Genesis 39: 7-20).

[7] For “nequid " I read “nequit," … as does Fuller. [Translator’s note]

[8] Note the particularly firm assertion of the general assumption in pre-modern Europe that such a beautiful boy would be desired by both sexes.

[9] A Latin pun on “anglicus" and “angelicus,” doubtless copied from Bede’s famous anecdote explaining why Pope Gregory the Great launched a mission to convert the English to Christianity in AD 597.  Long before, Gregory had seen for sale in the market in Rome some particularly beautiful slave-boys whom he was told were “Angli” (English) and heathen. “Non angli sed angeli si forent Christiani (Not English but angels if only they were Christians)” he said. (Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People II 1, though he does not actually quote Gregory’s famous words).

[10] In classical mythology, Jupiter became a bull in order to abduct Europa, a woman, and became an eagle in order to take away Ganymede, a boy, to live with him forever.

[11] Dido was the ancient Queen of Carthage who according to Virgil’s Aeneid (IV 642) cursed the lover who abandoned her and his descendants, with ultimately fatal consequences.

[12] I.e., if I could leave my “Dido” for you, as other men leave one woman for another. The Latin is tortuous. [Translator’s note]