Isle of Lesbos : Letters & Journals : 12th Century Letters

 

12th Century Love Letters

These two lesbian love letters, written in the twelfth century, are from a German manuscript.

Love-Letter One

To C.--, who is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb,
B.-- sends all the love that one can send to love.
O my unique and special one,
Why are you delaying so long in that far-off land?
Why do you want me to die, your one and only
Who loves you, as you know, with all her body and soul,
and who, like a hungry little bird,
Sighs for you at every hour and every moment?
For ever since I was cut off from your sweetest presence,
I have not wanted to hear or see anyone else but you;
Just as a turtledove, after she lost her husband,
Remains forever sitting on its barren twig,
So I lament without end
Until I once more can enjoy your faithfulness.
I look around and do not find my lover,
Nor anyone to console me with a word.
While I very happily
Review in my mind the sweetness
Of your conversations and your appearance,
I am oppressed with terrible pain,
For I find nothing like them now.
What should I compare to your love?
It is sweeter than honey or the honeycomb.
And compared to it, the luster of gold and silver are worthless.
What else can I say? In you are all sweetness and value.
Thus my spirit always languishes in your absence.
You have none of the poison of treachery;
You are sweeter than milk and honey.
You are singled out from the thousands;
I love you more than all the others;
You alone are my love and my desire;
You are the sweet refreshment of my soul.
There is no pleasure for me
Without you.
Everything that was pleasant with you
Is wearisome now and dreary without you.
And so, I wish to say that in all truth
That if I could pay my life for you, I would not hesitate
Because you are the only woman I have chosen with my heart.
Therefore, I always pray to God
That bitter death does not come to me
Before I enjoy the sight of you, so long desired and so dear.
Farewell. --
Have all my faith and love;
Accept what I have written and sent you
And my ever faithful spirit.

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Love-Letter Two

To G, her one and only rose,
A.-- sends the bond of precious love.
What strength have I that I may bear it,
That I may endure your absence?
Is my strength the strength of stones
That can wait for your return?
I never cease from aching, night and day,
Like someone missing a hand and foot.
Without you anything happy or delightful
Seems like mud trod underfoot.
Instead of rejoicing I weep;
My spirit never seems joyful.
When I remember the kisses you gave me,
The way you refreshed my little breasts with sweet words,
I would like to die
Since I cannot see you.
What should I, most wretched, do?
Where should I, most poor, turn?
O, if my body had been committed to earth
Until your longed-for return,
Or if I could go on a journey like Habakkuk,
So that just once I could come to where
I saw the face of my lover,
Then I would not care if I died that very hour.
For there is no one who has been born in the world
Who is so lovable and dear,
No one who without feigning
Loves me with so deep a love.
Therefore, I ache without end
Until I am allowed to see you.
According to one wise man, the worst misery
Is to be far from someone one cannot live without.
As long as the world endures,
You will never be blotted out from my heart's care.
Why do I linger with so many words?
Come back, my sweet love!
Don't put off your journey any longer.
Know that I can no longer endure your absence.
Farewell--
Remember me.

Where to Learn More

Various, The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, Stephen Coote, editor (London: Penguin Books, 1983, 1986).