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Louïse Labé 
(°Lyon, ca. 1520; †Parcieux-en-Dombes, 1566)

La belle cordière


SONNET I


What if the hero of the Odyssey
Had been like you, a man that’s fair of face ?
Would he have had that easy-mannered grace,
Yet be the cause of so much agony ?

At any rate, your roving ways are sure
To make me count the weeks we’ve been apart,
And open gaping wounds within my heart,
This ailing heart which you alone can cure.

O ill-starred fate! A scorpion sting
Eats at my heart. I need a remedy
From the malicious beast that poisoned me.

I beg you, dear, just stop my suffering.
Come back to your true love, and let me lie
Clasped in your arms again, or let me die.

Translation Alice Park


SONNET III


O languid longing, o languorous sighs.
Rise up once more whenever you are here,
Because I can't stop these rivers of tears,
And these fountains flowing from my eyes.

O cruelties, o inhuman hardness,
Piteable regards of celestian lights.
O benumbed heart, o passionate heights,
Do you con me with false lovelinnes ?

Amor is disguised with a friendly face,
But I won't welcome him, nor embrace
His cunning features, mysterious and dark.

As he draws and aims on me his arrow,
I'm not afraid because it is too narrow,
Even for him, to hurt me and hit a free mark.


SONNET VII


All love is seen to fade and pass away.
When soul blends body by most subtle art,
I am the body, you the better part.
But O my well-loved soul, why did you stray ?

Why can’t I always swoon with pleasure in
Your arms? My love, my better part, my soul,
O rescue me from drowning, even though
I know so well how badly I have sinned.

Dear friend, I sense there’s something in the air
Of hunger lost. And if at last we meet
Again, please don’t be cold, remote, discreet.

I am afraid our long concealed affair
Is willed to play out with a formal grace,
Both kind and cruel, never commonplace.

Translation Alice Park


SONNET VIII


I live, I burn, I drown and I die
I endure at once chill and cold;
Life is too hard and too soft to hold;
I am joyful and sad, don't ask me why.

Suddenly I laugh and at the same time cry
And as I'm happy I must endure grief,
It lasts forever and goes like a thief,
Suddenly I bloom and vanish into sigh.

Thus I suffer Amors' inconstancy
And when I think I am in great pain,
Without thinking, it is gone again.

Then when my joy is a certainty
And my longing for love is not in vain,
I am in pain all over once again.


SONNET XI


O gentle gaze, o eyes where beauty grows,
Like little gardens full of amorous flowers,
Where the bow of Love shoots his sharp arrows
And where my eyes have gazed for many hours.

O savage cruelty, o felon heart
Binding me in so many rigorous chains,
So many are my lovesick tears and pains,
Burning is the ache of my tortured heart.

Thus you, my eyes, so much delight have had,
From looking in his eyes, so much enjoyment;
But you, my heart, the more you see them glad,

The more you languish, the worse your torment.
Then guess if there is any joy for me,
Knowing my heart and eyes thus disagree.


SONNET XIV


While I have tears that start into my eyes,
At memories of joys that we have known
And while my voice, still master of its own,
Is not yet choked with sobbing and with sighs.

While still my hand has cunning to devise,
A lover's cadence to the lute's soft tone
And while in understanding you alone,
I no more wisdom need to make me wise.

How could I want, as yet, that I were dead ?
And when these eyes have no more tears to shed,
My voice is hoarse and my hands lost their art.

When no longer can my tormented heart
Declare itself in love, then I will pray
For Death to blacken out my brightest day.


SONNET XVIII


Kiss me, kiss me again and kiss me more;
Give me one of your most tastiest,
Give me one of your most sexiest
And I'll give hot kisses, more than four.

Ah, are you sad? Let me ease the pain,
With more sweet kisses, five or six;
So that our desiring lips can mix
And we'll enjoy each other again.

Then double life will us both ensue:
You will live in me, as I live in you.
Love, let me dream about foolish things:

I'm always unsatisfied with my life
And I'm sad that I can't be your wife,
Because I can't fly away on wings.


SONNET XXIII


What good is it to me that once you praised
The golden splendour of my plaited hair,
Or that to two bright Suns you would compare
The beauty of my eyes, from which Love gazed

And shot the cruel darts so expertly ?
Where are you now, tears that so quickly dried ?
Or death, which was to prove you would abide
By oath of love and solemn loyalty ?

Or did you seek from malice to delude,
Slavery by pretending servitude ?
Forgive the thought, this once, my dearest one,

When grief and anger fiercely combine;
I know, wherever you may have gone,
Your martyrdom is as harsh as mine.


SONNET XXIV


Do not reproach me, Ladies, if I've loved
And felt a thousand torches burn my veins,
A thousand griefs, a thousand biting pains
And all my days to bitter tears dissolved.

Thus, Ladies, do not denigrate my name.
If I did wrong, the pain and punishment
Are now. Don't file their daggers to a point.
You must know, Love is master of the game:

No need of Vulcan to explain your fire,
Nor of Adonis to excuse your desire,
But with less cause and far less occasion,

As the whim takes her, idly she can curse
You with a stronger and stranger passion.
But take care your suffering is not worse !

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Lyon
Lyon in the XVIth century

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Biography

Louise Labé was an important literary figure in the Renaissance
world of Lyon. One of her nicknames was "La belle cordière".
Around 1543 she married Ennemond Perrin, who was 30 years
older and a rope maker like her father.
Her book of poems, published in 1555, included 24 sonnets
in the Petrarchan tradition and three satirical elegies about love.
She is also known for her illustrious love affairs with the poet
Olivier de Magny and with Claude Rubys.
In the last years of her life she returned to her country house
at Parcieu en Dombes, where she died on the 25th of April 1566.




Louïse Labé  (in het Nederlands)


Louïse Labé - Sonnets  (en Français)


Louïse Labé - Elégies  (en Français)


Sonnet XXII  (Français / Nederlands)


Louïse Labé  (in Italiano)


Club des poétesses disparues


Dead Poetesses Society



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  © Gaston D'Haese: 13-03-2002.
Update: 27-12-2015.