I’d seen this poem years ago and forgotten about it, so I was glad when a reader (thanks, Griffin!) sent me the link: Forked Tongues (at Futility Closet):

From the New Englander and Yale Review, January 1843: “The great etymological affinity between Italian and Latin, is illustrated by the following lines addressed to Venice, by a citizen of that republic before its fall, which read equally in both languages”:

Te saluto, alma Dea, Dea generosa,
O gloria nostra, O Veneta Regina!
In procelloso turbine funesto
Tu regnasti secura; mille membra
Intrepida prostrasti in pugna acerba.
Per te miser non fui, per te non gemo;
Vivo in pace per te. Regna, O beata,
Regna in prospera sorte, in alta pompa,
In augusto splendore, in aurea sede.
Tu serena, tu placida, tu pia,
Tu benigna; tu salva, ama, conserva.

If you go to the link, you can also see a poem presented as being “at the same time Latin, Italian, and Portuguese”; I have no idea whether that’s accurate now, or was then, but it’s an enjoyable conceit.


  1. This goes back to Mario Pei, The story of Language:

  2. The oldest occurrence in Google seems to be 1817.

  3. This goes back to Mario Pei, The story of Language
    Ah, that will be where I first saw it, then. Pei’s was one of the first books on language I read as a wee lad. (Fun but thoroughly unreliable.)

  4. maybe the only difference is the italian “fui” from latin “fuit”.
    the verses are actually built leveraging mainly on the vocative of first conjugation in “-a” to match italian feminine and ablative of second conjugation in “-o” to match the italian masculine.

  5. Although I only took Latin in high school, it has never left me. My teacher was the smartest woman I have ever known: fluent and well-read in Latin, ancient Greek, and three other languages. Yet there she was stuck in a high school in a small town. She is no longer with us.
    Thank you, Mrs. Jardine. Magistra.

  6. Q Kerub: “maybe the only difference is the italian “fui” from latin “fuit”.
    I read fui as 1st person sg., parallel with gemo and vivo “due to you I wasn’t poor, due to you I don’t sigh, due to you I live in peace”, so the Latin is correct.

  7. (Edit: miser is better translated as “wretched”, not as “poor”; my German intruded here.

  8. Obviously, it’s also similar in Spanish:
    “Te saludo, alma Diosa, Diosa generosa,
    ¡Oh gloria nuestra, Oh Véneta Reina!
    En proceloso remolino funesto
    Tú reinaste segura; mil miembros
    Intrépida postraste en pugna acerba.
    Por ti mísero no fui, por ti no gimo:
    Vivo en paz por ti. Reina, Oh beata,
    Reina en próspera suerte, en alta pompa,
    En augusto esplendor, en áurea sede.
    Tú serena, tú plácido, tú pía,
    Tú benigna; tu salva, ama, conserva.”

  9. Carlos Cortijo says

    That’s not portuguese. Obviously similar, because most of the words used exist in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, though many are cultisms or sound archaic. But not closer to Portuguese than to Spanish, for example (someone has added the translation to Spanish). Italian is probably the romanic language that more sounds like latin. There are many irregularities in Italian that you understand (and learn very easily, and never forget) when you know some latin. I am Spanish but fluent in Italian and learning portuguese, and studied latin.

  10. David Marjanović says

    maybe the only difference is the italian “fui” from latin “fuit”.

    Not even! From context, it’s clearly first person, not third, and that’s fui in Latin.

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