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Riddle of Greek love poem uncovered on hidden grave

What's it all about?: Chris Rogers kneels beside the Greek engraving PICTURES: SWNS

A MYSTERY has been unearthed in a village cemetery after a clear-up revealed a message carved on a gravestone in ancient Greek.

Volunteers clearing overgrown ivy at St Margaret’s Church uncovered the message written in a hitherto unknown form of Greek on a former Oxford University cricketer’s headstone.

Cecil Headlam passed away in 1934, but the inscription was only unearthed last month at the church in Hothfield, Kent.

All Greek to me: The message written on the gravestone

An ancient Greek specialist was hired to translate the text which is thought to be an ancient love poem but could not discern its full meaning because it was written in code.

The translator said: ‘It seems to be some love poem, maybe something obscure or someone’s attempt at a Greek love poem. Maybe a misquote even.

‘The first line speaks of a beautiful couple in Eros [the Greek god of love’s name] but I get nothing out of the second one.

‘Verse three says “as she was kissed” and the fourth “as before the midwife kissed”. Perhaps it’s a child’s grave?’

Discovery: The Greek engraving was found on an Oxford polymath’s headstone at a village church cemetery in Hothfield, Kent

The message was revealed following the clean-up by the Hothfield History Society ahead of its exhibition about its surroundings in September.

Cecil studied at Oxford University between 1895 and 1908 before becoming a first-class cricketer playing for Middlesex. He then embarked on a career as a travel writer, writing books on Nuremberg, Naples and Chartres.

Chris Rogers, chairman of the Hothfield History Society, finds the discovery a mystery and is running through a number of possible explanations.

‘I wonder if one of his Greek-speaking brothers died before him but perhaps the other wrote it,’ he said.

Uncovering the truth: Members of Hothfield History Society

‘Did the deceased himself specify it to be there or did the family stick it on there?

‘It could’ve been a family joke, a secret code or perhaps a mistake by the engraver — I’m sure there weren’t many Greek speakers in Hothfield in the 1930s.’