Ausonius of Bordeaux, considered by his contemporaries the greatest poet of his time, lived in the fourth century—almost all of it. He was a professor whose students became saints (Paulinus of Nola—himself a fine poet, and perhaps the first great Christian poet) and emperors (Gratian). The following is from the Parentalia, a series of poems named after the old Roman pagan family funeral holiday, somewhat like Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos and All Saints’ and All Souls’:
Hactenus ut caros, its iusto funere fletos / functa piis cecinit nenia nostra modis. / nunc dolor atque cruces nec contrectabile vulnus, / coniugis ereptae mors memoranda mihi. / … // torqueo deceptos ego vita caelibe canos, / quoque magis solus, hoc mage maestus ago. (Parentalia 9.1–14)
Until now my dirge has fulfilled its appointed task / by singing of those who were dear by natures bond. / But now grief and torment and a wound I cannot touch: / I must tell my wife’s untimely death. / … // Mocked by my widower’s state, I pull at my grey hairs / the more I live alone, the more I live in gloom.
Will I be the one to be alone, or will she? For how long?
Thanks, dear reader.