Ausonius' Roses


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A famous classic poem evoking the beautiful Paestum Rose gardens is generally attributed to Ausonius (c. 310 - c. 395). It's about the beauty of the Rose connected with its frailty and short life span ('vanity' motif, vana rosa).

Below this poem with some translations. (Eng/Fr). The most famous parts are those where the 'Paestum' rose is described at Dawn (v. 11-14) and the conclusion: carpe diem to the young girl at the end (v. 47-50).


Elsewhere on this website you find a short biography of Ausonius and a page (in French) about the cultivation of the Rose in ancient times. Also I compiled a florilegium of poems inspired by this poem (Herrick, Ronsard, Gryphius), from imitations to complete translations (e.g. Bonaventure des Periers).



In een klassiek en ooit wereldberoemd gedicht worden de legendarische Rozentuinen van Paestum bezongen. Het gedicht wordt meestal toegeschreven aan Ausonius (4e eeuw). De 'vana rosa' thematiek (de roos, hoe schoon ook, vergaat zeer snel) is exemplarisch uitgewerkt.

Hieronder het gedicht met vertalingen (twee Engelse en één in 't Frans). De Latijnse tekst met twee Nederlandse vertalingen staat op een aparte pagina.


Een korte biografie vindt u via deze link

Over Homerus, Aurora en de roze-vingerige dageraad. En ook nog wat over de roos in de klassieke oudheid (Frans-NL)


Paestum, southern Italy ("Poseidonia" Greek colony, founded in 600 B.C.) was famous for its roses. In 29 B.C. Virgil referred to the beauty and success of its rosaries ...canerem, biferique rosaria Paesti (Georgica IV, 119.)  This phrase is oftened interpreted as if the Paestum roses were twice-blooming (biferi = twice-bearing, grammatically belonging to Paestum, not to the rosaria). However,  Servius, a grammarian in the 3rd or 4th century AD, commented on Vergil and added a note about Paestum: "Pestum oppidum est Calabriae: in quo uno anno bis nascunt rosae." : Paestum is a town in Calabria, where roses are born (bloom) twice in one year. Ergo: remontant roses. Modern day cultivators often doubt the correctness of Servius' note.

The flowers of old roses are quite different from modern ones. Sometime in the 18th century the Paestum rose seems to have become extinct but some experts claim traces of it in roses such as ‘Autumn Damask’.

[De Rosis Nascentibus]



On budding roses

Loeb Classics, Ausonius (2 Volumes)
translation: Hugh. G. Evelyn White, 1921


slightly modified

On newblown roses

Mediaeval Latin Lyrics
translation: Helen Waddell, 1948

Idylle XIV , Rosae

Oeuvres complètes d'Ausone (2 Tomes), t. 2
traduction E.-F. Corpet, 1843
Les notes de la publication originale sont - partiellement -  intégrés dans une page séparée (intertexte pertinente comme p.e. Ronsard: Mignonne, allons voir si la rose..)

Ver erat et blando mordentia frigora sensu
   spirabat croceo mane revecta dies.
strictior Eoos praecesserat aura iugales,
   aestiferum suadens anticipare diem.
errabam riguis per quadrua compita in hortis,
   maturo cupiens me vegetare die.
vidi concretas per gramina flexa pruinas
   pendere aut holerum stare cacuminibus,
caulibus et patulis teretes conludere guttas

   ... et caelestis aquae pondere tunc gravidas. [line only in old editons]]
vidi Paestano gaudere rosaria cultu
   exoriente novo roscida Lucifero.

rara pruinosis canebat gemma frutectis
   ad primi radios interitura die.











It was spring-time, and the day - brought back by saffron morn - was breathing softly after the biting cold. A shrewder air had run before Dawn, moving me to fore-stall (anticipate) a hot Summer Day.

I was straying along the paths dividing the well-watered garden-plots, seeking to drink in the freshness of the day's prime. I saw the rime hanging upon the bending grass or resting on the tops of garden herbs, and round drops rolling together upon the cabbage-leaves.

I saw  rose-beds shining with dew, just like the ones cultivated at Paestum,  at the new light (Morning Star) of the day. Upon the frosted bushes a white pearl glimmered here and there, to perish at the earliest rays of day.

Spring, and the sharpness of the golden dawn.
Before the sun was up a cooler breeze
had blown, in promise of a day of heat,
and I was walking in my formal garden,
to freshen me, before the day grew old.

I saw the hoar frost stiff on the bent grasses,
sitting in fat globes on the cabbage leaves,
and all my Paestum roses laughing at me,
dew-drenched, and in the East the morning star,
and here and there a dewdrop glistening white,
that soon must perish in the early sun.


C’était au printemps : la douce haleine du matin et sa piquante fraîcheur annonçaient le retour doré (saffran) du jour. La brise froide encore, qui précédait les coursiers de l’Aurore, invitait à devancer les feux du soleil. J’errais par les sentiers et les carrés arrosés d’un jardin, dans l’espoir de me ranimer aux émanations du matin. Je vis la bruine peser suspendue sur les herbes couchées, ou retenue sur la tige des légumes ; et, sur les larges feuilles du chou, se jouer les gouttes rondes et lourdes encore de cette eau céleste. 

Je vis les riants rosiers que cultive Paestum briller humides au nouveau lever de Lucifer. Çà et là, sur les arbrisseaux chargés de brouillards, luisait une blanche perle qui devait mourir aux premiers rayons du jour[279].

 ambigeres raperetne rosis Aurora ruborem
   an daret et flores tingeret orta dies.
ros unus, color unus, et unum mane duorum:
   sideris et floris nam domina una Venus.
forsan et unus odor: sed celsior ille per auras
   difflatur, spirat proximus iste magis.
communis Paphie dea sideris et dea floris
   praecipit unius muricis esse habitum.







 One might doubt whether Aurora steals blushes from the rose, or dayrise donates its colours to these flowers.

One is the dew, one the tint, one the morn of both ; for Venus is the one queen both of the morning-star and of the flower. Perchance, too, one is their fragrance ; but that is diffused on the breezes far above us, this, near at hand, breathes forth a sweetness more perceptible. The queen of Paphos, goddess of the star and flower alike, bids both be habited in one purple hue.

Think you, did Dawn steal colour from the roses,
or was it new born day that stained the rose ?
To each one dew, one crimson, and one morning,
to star and rose, their lady Venus one.
Mayhap one fragrance, but the sweet of Dawn
drifts through the sky, and closer breathes the rose.

 On doute si l’Aurore emprunte aux roses son éclat vermeil, ou si le jour naissant donne à ces fleurs la nuance qui les colore[280].

Même rosée, même teinte, même grâce matinale à toutes deux ; car l’étoile et la fleur ont pour reine Vénus : même parfum peut-être mais le parfum de l’une se dissipe dans les hautes régions des airs[281] : plus rapproché, on respire mieux le parfum de l’autre. Déesse de l’étoile et déesse de la fleur, la divinité de Paphos a voulu leur donner à toutes deux la couleur de la pourpre.

momentum intererat quo se nascentia florum
   germina comparibus dividerent spatiis.
haec viret angusto foliorum tecta galero,
   hanc tenui filo purpura rubra notat,
haec aperit primi fastigia celsa obelisci,
   mucronem absolvens purpurei capitis.
vertice collectos illa exinuabat amictus,
   iam meditans foliis se numerare suis.
nec mora: ridentis calathi patefecit honorem,
   prodens inclusi stamina densa croci.
haec, modo quae toto rutilaverat igne comarum,
   pallida conlapsis deseritur foliis.
mirabar celerem fugitiva aetate rapinam,
   et dum nascuntur consenuisse rosas.
ecce et defluxit rutili coma punica floris
   dum loquor, et tellus tecta rubore micat.
tot species tantosque ortus variosque novatus
   una dies aperit, conficit ipsa dies.



















The time was just at hand for the teeming buds to split in equal segments. One is close capped with a covering of green leaves; another flecks her narrow sheath with ruddy purple ; a third is opening the tip of her tapering spire and freeing the point of her crimson head. Another was disengaging at her peak her furled array, already planning to take count of herself with her petals.
Then on a sudden she has laid open the glories of her smiling calyx displaying the close-packed saffron seeds which lie within. Another, which but late had glowed with all the fires of her bloom, now fades, abandoned by her falling petals.
I marvelled at the swift ruin wrought by the fleeting season, to see the roses all withered even while they bloom. See, even while I  speak, a glowing flower has shed the ruddy honours of its head, and earth gleams carpeted with crimson. These many forms, these various births and changes, one day brings forth and the same day ends.

 A moment dies : this bud that was new born
has burgeoned even fold on even fold;
This still is green, with her close cap of leaves,
this shows a red stain on her tender sheath.
This the first crimson of the loosened bud
and now she thinks to unwind her coverings,
and lo ! the glory of the radiant chalice,
scattering the close seeds of her golden heart.
One moment, all on fire and crimson glowing,
all pallid now and bare and desolate.


I marvelled at the flying rape of time ;
but now a rose was born : that rose is old.
Even as I speak the crimson petals float
down drifting, and the crimsoned earth is bright.

So many lovely things, so rare, so young,
a day begat them, and a day will end.

Le moment était venu où les germes naissants de ces fleurs allaient se développer en même temps. L’une verdoie couverte encore d’un étroit chapeau de feuilles : l’autre se nuance déjà d’un rouge filet de pourpre. Celle-ci commence à découvrir la cime effilée de son haut obélisque, et laisse poindre sa tête empourprée : celle-là déploie le voile étendu sur son front, avide déjà de faire compter ses feuilles nombreuses ; et sans plus attendre elle étale les richesses de son riant calice, et livre au jour la poussière dorée qu’il renferme. Une d’entre elles, qui rayonnait naguère de tous les feux de sa chevelure, pâlit abandonnée de ses feuilles qui tombent.
J’admirais les rapides ravages du temps dans sa fuite, et ces roses que je voyais éclore tout ensemble et vieillir[
282]. Et voici que la chevelure empourprée de la fleur radieuse se détache au moment où je parle, et la terre brille jonchée de sa rouge dépouille. Et toutes ces formes, toutes ces naissances, toutes ces transformations variées, un seul jour les produit, un seul jour les enlève.

conquerimur, Natura, brevis quod gratia florum:
   ostentata oculis ilico dona rapis.
quam longa una dies, aetas tam longa rosarum,
   quas pubescentes iuncta senecta premit.
quam modo nascentem rutilus conspexit Eoos,
   hanc rediens sero vespere vidit anum.
sed bene quod paucis licet interitura diebus
   succedens aevum prorogat ipsa suum.
collige, virgo, rosas dum flos novus et nova pubes,
   et memor esto aevum sic properare tuum.











Nature, we grieve that such beauty is short-lived : once displayed to our eyes forthwith you snatch away your gifts. As long as is one day, solong is the life of the rose ; her brief youth and age go hand in hand. The flower which the bright Morning Star beheld just being born, that, returning with late evening, he sees a withered thing.
But 'tis well ; for though in a few days the rose must die, she springs anew prolonging her own life.

So, girl, gather the roses, while the bloom and your youth is fresh, and be mindful that so your life-time hastes away.

O Earth, to give a flower so brief a grace !
As long as a day is long, so long the life of a rose.
The golden sun at morning sees her born,
and late at eve returning finds her old.
Yet wise is she, that hath so soon to die,
and lives her life in some succeeding rose.
O maid, while youth is with the rose and thee,
pluck thou the rose : life is as swift for thee.

Nous nous plaignons, nature, que la beauté des fleurs soit fugitive : les biens que tu nous montres, tu les ravis aussitôt. La durée d’un jour est la durée que vivent les roses : la puberté pour elles touche à la vieillesse qui les tue. Celle que l’étoile du matin a vue naître, à son retour le soir elle la voit flétrie. Mais tout est bien : car, si elle doit périr en peu de jours, elle a des rejetons qui lui succèdent et prolongent sa vie. Jeune fille, cueille la rose, pendant que sa fleur est nouvelle et que nouvelle est ta jeunesse, et souviens-toi que ton âge est passager comme elle[283].

The texts follows the critical edition of Schenkl (1893)

The title is traditional but editorial.


A new critical edition appeared in 1999, edited and annotated by R.P.H. Green, Ausonii Magni Opera  (1999 [Oxford Classical Texts].

There the poem is also placed in Appendix A II (p. 262)Green suggests to accept it as Ausonian based on internal evidence. Historiographical elements are neatly  summed up by E.F. Sandys in a letter to the Spectator (1904), who is more reticent in his conlusion.


  vol. II, pp. 276–81, In Appendice, considered spurious   The generic indication 'Idylle' is traditional but editorial. Corpet's translation was published juxtaposed to a French edition of Ausone by C.L.F. Panckoucke (2 volumes), part of Seconde Série de la Bibliothèque Latine-Française... (Paris 1842-3). It was only in the critical editions of the late 19th Century that line 10 was suppressed.