You are so beautiful

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 20 Mar 2024

  cc954ed21d7e396e9011d750da1311b7cca15be395895c384cbe9f0e57c54ce3.jpg How do I say "you are so beautiful” in Latin?     Profile photo for Robert O'Reilly     Robert O'Reilly author of three novels, 'Roland House II' and 'The Whitening', 'Pandemica' all here on Publish Ox, links below.  

There is a beautiful poem in old Latin, a tombstone inscription from a husband to his wife, which fully merits the description ‘you are so beautiful’. It is so ancient it's only found in a book of ancient inscriptions and if you know any Latin at all you can see many of the words are archaic, 2nd century B.C. or even older. It is a miracle that it was found and transcribed.

Hospes quod Deico paullum est, asta et pellage.

Hoc est sepulcrum hou pulcrum pulcrai feminae:

Nomen parents nominarunt Claudiam.

Suom mareitum corde deilexit sano:

Gnatos duos creavit, horunc alterum

In terra linquit, alium sub terra locat.

Sermone lepido, tum autem incessu commodo.

Domum servavit, lanam fecit, dixi, abei.

My translation:

Friend, what I have to say is short, stand and read.

This is the gravestone, not beautiful, of a beautiful woman:

Her parents named her Claudia.

She loved her husband with a full heart:

She bore two children, one

she leaves on Earth, the other, she buried.

She was witty in talk, yet chaste in her carriage.

She managed the house well. She wove wool. I have spoken. Go.

The beauty of this inscription, besides its amazing terseness in describing a woman’s short life in a few words, is the play on ‘pulcher’, ‘beautiful’ in Latin, and ‘sepulcher’, which means gravestone. I also love the terse words in the first line, ‘asta et pellage’, ‘stop and read’. and the last two words, ‘dixi, abei.’ ‘I have spoken. Go.’ They are swift commands, which hint at the husband’s serious grief and remorse at his loss.

This is what’s best about Latin, to express in a few words a deep well of feeling which we can barely reflect in a dozen words in English. my latest half-finished novel. Roland house. The Whitening. Pandemica.


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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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