My interest in writing Latin verse stems from my own career as a teacher of Classics. After graduating from Glasgow University with First Class Honours in 1972, I went to Balliol College Oxford as a Snell Exhibitioner, where I wrote a thesis on Greek Tragedy, graduating B.Litt. in 1975. I then taught at Harrow School before moving nine years later to become Head of Classics at St. Paul's School, where I remained until retirement in 2010. For the last twenty years I have taught students part-time at various Oxford colleges, mainly Balliol and Trinity, where I am a college lecturer in Classics.
My interest in writing Latin verse grew out of my teaching Latin prose composition for many years, and also from being a great fan of the master of Latin elegiac verse, the love poet Ovid. I enjoy the discipline of keeping to the framework of the elegiac couplet as practised by the Roman poets under the emperor Augustus, 2,000 years ago, and 500 years before them, the poets of ancient Greece. The most famous example is probably the couplet written in honour of the dead Spartans at Thermopylae by the poet Simonides, which reads in translation:
'Bear news to Sparta, stranger passing by,
That here, obedient to her laws, we lie'.
Epitaphs for dead friends were always composed in this metre, and also for dead pets, and the practice continued throughout Europe from the Renaissance onwards. My own experience of finding a Victorian example in Chiswick Park, the primary motivation for me to attempt this art form myself, illustrates this.
Process & Pricing
The way this would work is for the you to send me a description of your loved pet - to include their name, any anecdotes, and some personal characteristics (as we all, to some extent think of pets in this way). I would incorporate the most important of these into my poem, so making it a personal memorial. I would also provide an English translation below the Latin verses (normal length six lines, so three couplets). The Latin and translation could be in calligraphy, should you choose, so it can be framed and put above the animal's favourite spot in the house, perhaps with a photograph.
The cost, including calligraphy, would be £125; excluding calligraphy, £100. (Calligraphy cost includes postage to the UK along with an email copy).
We are not currently able to offer framing as part of the process.
Three examples of my work follow. They are, in order, one for a Jack Russell terrier that belonged to my stepson, Charlie and his partner; one for our own cat, Eboli, and the third for a King Charles Spaniel. This little dog belonged to the former President of Trinity College, Oxford, Sir Ivor Roberts, who had the last two lines inscribed on a plaque which appears above Dido's grave in the college garden.