University of Chicago Press, 2006
Awarded Honorable Mention for Most Significant Book Published in the Field of Early Modern Womens Studies in 2006, Society for the Study of Early Modern Women
Poetry translated by Annie Finch and prose translated by Deborah Lesko Baker.
A passionate, and formally virtuosic translation of the complete work of France's first feminist poet—and the first English translation to faithfully render Labé's actual original rhyme schemes.
Thanks to her acclaimed volume of poetry and prose published in France in 1555, Louise Labé (1522-66) remains one of the most important and influential women writers of the Continental Renaissance. Best known for her passionate feminist love sonnets, Labé played off the Petrarchan male tradition with wit and irony, and her elegies respond with lyric skill to predecessors such as Sappho and Ovid.
“In their bilingual edition of Louise Labé’s prose and poetry, Deborah Lesko Baker and Annie Finch offer scholars, students, and teachers an elegant, much-awaited, and long overdue critical translation of one of the most important women writers of the French sixteenth century.” – Leah Chang, H-France Review
Sonnet 18 ["Kiss Me Again"]
Kiss me again, rekiss me, and then kiss
me again, with your richest, most succulent
kiss; then adore me with another kiss, meant
to steam out fourfold the very hottest hiss
from my love-hot coals. Do I hear you moaning? This
is my plan to soothe you: ten more kisses, sent
just for your pleasure. Then, both sweetly bent
on love, we’ll enter joy through doubleness,
and we’ll each have two loving lives to tend:
one in our single self, one in our friend.
I’ll tell you something honest now, my Love:
it’s very bad for me to live apart.
There’s no way I can have a happy heart
without some place outside myself to move.
Sonnet 14 ["The Point of Death"]
While my eyes can still pour out fountains of tears,
mourning our shared hours, gone now, so long gone;
while my slow sighs and sobs can still bemoan
the loss of you in a voice someone might hear;
while my hands can still caress this lute to clear
praises for any grace you might have shown,
and while my spirit remembers to bend alone
on you, on nothing that’s outside your sphere—
I’ll never want to reach the point of death!
Though when my eyes grow dry and this voicing breath
is broken and my hand is powerless,
and when my spirit takes its mortal flight,
beating with no more signs of love—yes, then, I’ll press
for death to cover my clearest day with night.
Sonnet 19 ["A Meeting With Diana"]
Diana, standing in the clearing of a wood
after she had hunted her prey and shot it down,
breathed deep. Her nymphs had woven a green crown.
I walked, as I often do, in a distracted mood,
not thinking—when I heard a voice, subdued
and quiet, call, “astonished nymph, don’t frown;
have your lost your way to Diana’s sacred ground?”
Since I had no quiver, no arrows, it pursued,
“dear friend, who were you meeting with today?
Who has taken your bow and arrows away?”
I said, “I found an enemy on the path,
and hurled my arrows at him, but in vain—
and then my bow— but he picked them up in wrath,
and my arrows shot back a hundred kinds of pain.”
Sonnet 16 ["Impotence"]
After a time in which thunder and hail
have beaten the mountains—the Caucasian height—
a fine day comes, and they’re clothed again in light.
When Phebus has covered the land with his circling trail,
he dives to the ocean again, and his sister, pale
with her pointed crown, moves back into our sight.
When the Parthian warrior has spent some time in the fight,
he loosens his bow and turns from his travail.
When I saw you plaintive once, I consoled you, though
that provoked my fire, which was burning slow.
But now that you have given me your embrace
and I am just at the point where you wanted me,
you have quenched your own flame in some watery place;
now it’s colder than my own could ever be.
Sonnet 2 ["Handsome Brown Eyes"]
Ah handsome brown eyes— ah eyes that turn away—
ah burning sighs; ah tears that stretch so far;
ah night I vainly wait for, without a star;
ah luminous and vainly returning day—
oh sad complaints; oh love’s stubborn play;
oh lost hours; oh wasted pain and war;
oh thousand deaths, each in a tightened snare;
oh sullen evils that design against my way.
Ah laugh, ah forehead, hair, arm, hand, and finger,
ah plaintive lute, viola, bow, and singer—
so many flames to engulf one single woman!
I despair of you; you carry so many fires
to touch my secret places and desires,
but not one spark flies back, to make you human.
Post a review of Louise Labé, Complete Poetry and Prose on Amazon