A few posts back, I posted the text of a medieval Latin hymn to the Goddess of Love from the 13th century “Little Renaissance.” At the time, I included a literal translation, but declined to translate it into poetry on the grounds that I couldn't do it justice.

What I had unwittingly done, of course, was to set myself a challenge.

(In the unlikely event that you've ever wondered what poets do while lying awake at night, you now know.)

So here's the best that I can do with it. You can even sing it to the same tune.

Well, kind of.

Ave Formosissima


Ave formosissima,

gemma pretiosa;

ave decus virginum,

virgo gloriosa.


Ave lumen luminum,

ave mundi rosa:

Blanziflor et Helena,

Venus generosa!



Maiden Most Glorious


Hail Fair and Fairest

Jewel Most Precious

Foremost of Maidens

Maiden Most Glorious


Hail Light of Lights

Flower of Being

Beauty of Beauties

Love, Lady Love



Translation: © Steven Posch, based on Ave Formosissima (from Carmina Burana ca. 1230)

Tune: Medieval (Piae Cantiones, 1582)


Above: Venus (detail)

Sandro Botticelli, Primavera (ca. 1475)