“Mary: A Marvel”: Another Epigram by Henrik Harder

We’re back with another epigram from the Danish neo-Latin poet Henrik Harder.

The following elegiac couplet about Mary is quite clever: the title points out that the Latin name “Maria” (i.e., Mary) is an anagram (ἀνάγρ[αμμα]) of the Latin infinitive amari, “to be loved.” The comparison between Mary and the Greco-Roman goddess Venus that follows turns on a series of puns on the syllable “mar-“: Maria (Mary), mari (sea, whence Venus was said to have been born in the myth of her origin), and amari (“to be loved”). Thus, Mary (Maria) is more worthy to be loved (amari) than a goddess born from the sea (mari).

I’ve tried to reflect these puns in my translation, and added a secondary pun on a different word as well to reinforce the poems point. My version is in iambic pentameters.


Nostra Maria Venus non orta mari sed amari

    Dignior et melior quam Venus orta mari.

“Mary: A Marvel”

Our Mary is no Venus, no mere faux

Marine divinity from Ocean’s foam.

Yet marvel: She is worthier of love

And better far than some mere faux

Marine divinity from Ocean’s foam. 


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