Virgil / Eclogue 2
Come to me, beautiful boy;
see how the nymphs bring you lilies in heaped baskets,
How for you the fair water-nymph,
plucking pale violets and the heads of poppies
mixes narcissus and sweet-smelling fennel-flower;
Then, entwining them with cassia and other delicious herbs,
she embroiders the delicate hyacinth with the golden marigold.
I myself will gather quinces pale with down, and chestnuts, which my Amaryllis loved.
Archaeologists have discovered most of Egypt's love poetry in Deir el-Medina, a village of tomb builders during the New Kingdom. Here, many skilled artisans worked on the tombs of pharaohs such as Ramses II and Tutankhamun.
Findings indicate that these villagers may have been remarkably literate for their time. The local community—not just the scribes and students—may have contributed to the poetry of Deir el-Medina.
The love poems were likely set to music and used events from daily life and the natural world—growing grain, capturing birds, fishing along the Nile—as metaphors to talk about love.
The Crossing (Excerpt)
I'll go down to the water with you,
and come out to you carrying a red fish,
which is just right in my fingers.
(Translated by M. Fox)
Written during Egypt's New Kingdom (1539-1075 B.C.) but likely composed much earlier, these songs are surprisingly direct about love and romance in ancient Egypt, using metaphors, repetition, and other poetic techniques familiar to poetry readers today.
The Flower Song (Excerpt)
To hear your voice is pomegranate wine to me:
I draw life from hearing it.
Could I see you with every glance,
It would be better for me
Than to eat or to drink.
(Translated by M.V. Fox)
Love poem from the Middle Kingdom
The earth trembled as you passed by,
Turning everything sacred as you walked.
And you set your blue eyes upon me for the first time,
speaking at me with the depth of the night
...like a nightingale who doesn't need its wings to fly.
What a blessing it is to be worthy of your look.
I have seen rain on the desert,
and all impossible things coming true.
All of my prayers carry your name.
I wish to be pure so that I can desire you.
Take me as you will.
Letter from Babylon 2000 B.C.
"Let me be your shield and the skin you wear.
Like this, you will be always inside me."
Ancient Egyptian Love Poetry
Love, how I'd love to slip down to the pond,
bathe with you close by on the bank.
Just for you I'd wear my new Memphis swimsuit,
Made of sheer linen, fit for a queen--
Come see how it looks in the water!
Couldn't I coax you to wade in with me?
Let the cool creep slowly around us?
Then I'd dive deep down and come up for you dripping,
Let you fill your eyes with the little red fish that I'd catch.
Love Poem from Ancient Egypt
Egypt, Deir el-Medina, 1300 B.C
"She has no rival,
there is no one like her.
She is the fairest of all.
She is like a star goddess arising
... at the beginning of a new year;
brilliantly white, shining skin;
such beautiful eyes when she stares,
and sweet lips when she speaks;
she has not one phrase too many.
With a long neck and shining body
her hair of genuine lapis lazuli;
her arm more brilliant than gold;
her fingers like lotus flowers,
ample behind, tight waist,
her thighs extend her beauty,
shapely in stride when she steps on the earth.
She has stolen my heart with her embrace,
She has made the neck of every man turn round at the sight of her.
Whoever embraces her is happy,
he is like the head of lovers,
and she is seen going outside
like That Goddess, the One Goddess."
Love poem from the Middle Kingdom
Tonight I will hold you my beloved.
Finally I will drink life from your lips
and wake up from this ever lasting sleep
yes finally my hands will hold yours.
And forgive me if I never let go again.
I wish I was a bird to fly to your shoulder and
sing all the words I never said to you.
But do we need words? Do we need a sound?
Touch my breast beloved I have been waiting for you.
Waiting to lay down over my destiny.
In the deepest light you shall know my name
And the Fire between us will tell me yours.
All things will remain
But tonight we will be born again.
Ancient Egyptian Love Poem
Is there anything sweeter than this hour?
for I am with you, and you lift up my heart --
for is there not embracing and fondling when you visit me
and we give ourselves up to delights?
...If you wish to caress my thigh,
then I will offer you my breast also -- it won't thrust you away!
Would you leave because you are hungry?
- are you such a man of your belly?
Would you leave because you need something to wear?
- I have a chestful of fine linen!
Would you leave because you wish something to drink?
Here, take my breasts! They are full to overflowing, and all for you!
Glorious is the day of our embracings;
I treasure it a hundred thousand millions!
LETTER FROM BABYLON 2000 B.C.