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Hilarius the Englishman
(fl. 1125) U.K.

the poet



Hilarius wrote light verse of great charm in Latin, including poems dedicated to English persons - which has led to the otherwise unsupported theory that he was English himself. He was one of the pupils of Pierre Abélard at his oratory of the Paraclete, and addressed to him a copy of verses with its refrain in the vulgar tongue, "Tort avers vos li mestre," Abelard having threatened to discontinue his teaching because of certain reports made by his servant about the conduct of the scholars.

Later Hilarius may have made his way to Angers. His poems are contained in manuscript supp. lat. l008 of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, purchased in 1837 at the sale of M. de Rosny. Quotations from this manuscript had appeared before, but in 1838 it was edited by Champollion Figeac as Hilarii versus et ludi.

His works consist chiefly of light verses of the goliardic type. There are verses addressed to an English nun named Eva, lines to Rosa, "Ave splendor puellarum, generosa domina," and another poem describes the beauties of the priory of Chaloutre la Petite, in the diocese of Sens, of which the writer was then an inmate. One copy of satirical verses seems to aim at the pope himself. Two other poems, published in an anthology by Norton Rictor, express his love for a 'Boy of Angers' and 'An English boy'.

He also wrote three miracle plays in rhymed Latin with an ad-mixture of French. Two of them, Suscitatio Lazari and Historia de Daniel repraesentanda, are of purely liturgical type. At the end of Lazarus is a stage direction to the effect that if the performance has been given at matins, Lazarus should proceed with the Te Deum, if at vespers, with the Magnificat.

The third, Ludus super iconic Sancti Nicholai, is founded on a sufficiently foolish legend. Petit de Julleville sees in the play a satiric intention and a veiled incredulity that put the piece outside the category of liturgical drama.

All three plays show variety of metre, great liveliness and dramatic power. The French refrains (lacking in the play on Daniel), which are a lyrical addition, not an interpretation of the Latin, give an impression of directness and freshness.

A rhymed Latin account of a dispute in which the nuns of Ronceray at Angers were concerned, contained in a cartulary of Ronceray, is also ascribed to the poet, who there calls himself Hilarius Canonicus. The poem is printed in the Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Chartes (vol. XXXVII. 1876), and is dated by P Marchegay from 1121.

After 1125 there is no certain trace of him; he may be the same person as the Hilary who taught classical literature at Orleans, mentioned by William of Tyre and Arnulf of Orleans c. 1150, but it is unknown whether Hilarius of Orleans and Hilarius the playwright are separate people, nor if either of them are the same person as the Hilarius who taught at Angers.

Based on the evidence of his literary corpus, there is strong reason to believe that Hilary was born in England; however, the major part of his life was spent in France where he had gone to study under Abelard at Paris. Following his training in Paris, Hilary went to Angers, eventually becoming a canon at Ronceray.

Hilary's importance to gay history rests with his poetry, all of which is written in Latin. Fourteen of Hilary's poems survive in a single manuscript at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Five are amorous poems, four of which are addressed to boys, one other to a woman.

In the first of two poems called "To an English Boy", he asserts:

"You are completely handsome; there is no flaw in you
Except this worthless decision to devote yourself to chastity".

in the second poem of the same name we read:

'I'll be the loot, you the robber-
To such a robber I surrender'.


Source: excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001
http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Hilarius_(Poet) - et alii

You can read two of his poems in our section devoted to the homoerotic poetry.

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