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Terms of endearment - 10 different ways to say 'I love you'

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Default profile picture Sarah Turpin

Bono, Jeanne Moreau or Shakespeare... why not try out one of the most beautiful European declarations of love for Valentine's day?

Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred, then another thousand, then a second hundred, then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.” (Da mi basia mille, deinde centum, dein mille altera, dein secunda centum, deinde usque altera mille, dinde centum.) This is what Roman poet Catullus wrote to his lover in carmen 5. His poems are often rude and crude, but yet seeks to show that experience with love is fundamental to life.

According to Jewish culture, love has always been a joyous event, as demonstrated by the French painter Marc Chagall who painted ‘Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden’. A triumph of colour in a scene where the lovers are surrounded by generous Mother Nature who provides everything for them. Even if the snake that tempts Eve seems pleasant, Adam and Eve are about to discover the carnal pleasures (or rather, eat the forbidden fruit).

In the 18th Century, the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova delighted the patrons of the arts with his most famous piece of work ‘Cupid and Psyche’ inspired by the classical myths. This sculpture portrays the moment before the lovers kiss. It was inspired by the ancient legend in which Venus, jealous of the beauty of mortal Psyche, sends her son Cupid to Earth to make her fall in love with an hideous, unsightly man. But as the beautiful also have ‘inner beauty’, Cupid falls in love with his victim, marries her, and she then joins the other Gods and Goddesses on Mount Olympia as an immortal.

In romantic Verona, the lovers secretly meet on the girl's balcony. This place has captured the imagination of the whole world, and is now covered with the romantic phrases of numerous tourists who travel here. In Shakespeare’s legendary eponymous play, Juliet tells Romeo, during the love scene "Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow".

Descend/ O Night of love,/ grant oblivion/ that I may live;/ take me up/ into your bosom,/ release me from/ the world!” (O sink hernieder,/ Nacht der Liebe,/gib Vergessen,/ daß ich lebe;/nimm mich auf/ in deinen Schoß,/ löse von/ der Welt mich los!) The night is also an accomplice for the lovers in Wagner's famous opera Tristan and Isolde, written at the height of 19th Century German romanticism.

Love is platonic according to the 19th century Spanish poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, who expressed the sacredness of a woman in love with great tenderness: “Your eyes are blue, and when you laugh,/ their smooth clarity reminds me/ of the tremulous brilliance of the morning/ reflected in the sea”. (Tu pupila es azul, y cuando ríes,/ su claridad süave me recuerda/ el trémulo fulgor de la mañana/ que en el mar se refleja)

In 1958, with Meditative Rose, the visionary Dalì in his cynical surrealism painted a red rose suspended in the sky that reflects its light onto a couple and a glimpse of a tear on a petal, testimony of eternal love.

In the 1990s, the Irish rock band U2 drove half the world crazy with the poetic words of ‘One’. The voice of Bono convinced them that,"love is a temple, love a higher law". According to some interpretations of the words, he wanted to put us in the shoes of someone who is HIV positive who wants to love and be loved, with respect. "We're one but we're not the same".

Perhaps many poets would like to recite their poems on the Pont Neuf in Paris, as it is one of the top romantic destinations. François Truffaut set his unconventional love film ‘Jules and Jim'(1962) in Paris. At the beginning of the film, an extraordinary Jeanne Moreau, anticipating the conflicting sentiments of the three main characters, announced "You told me: I love you, I told you: wait, I almost said: take me, you said: go" (Tu m'as dit je t'aime/ Je t'ai dit attends/ J’allais dire prends-moi/ Tu m'as dit va-t-en). This was also used for a song by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin in the 1960s with “I love you, me neither” (Je t’aime, moi non plus).

The film ‘Life is a miracle', released in 2004 by the Serbian director, Emir Kusturica, tells the love-story of Luka and Sabaha. This film restores the idea of a simple world in a delicate and light way, a world with joy, which softens the cruellest conflicts, in this case the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

Thanks to Pier Paolo Silvestri for the last photo in the article

Translated from Da Catullo agli U2, dieci modi di dire «ti amo»