Sonnet III

The original can be found here:

My version, here:

O enduring desires, o vain hopes
Sorrowful sighs and habitual tears.
You are the fathers of the many rivers
Of which my eyes are mother and fountain.

O cruelties, o un-human hardness
Pitiful gaze at the lighted heavens
O heart numb, o first passions
Is it your aim to make my pain grow?

However more, Love his bow upon me turns
Numerous fires and barbs He aims at me
He is frustrated in His vile plans:

I am already so injured in my every organ
that to open in me a new would, He
will find no flesh whereby to hurt me more.

Tricky, that one. The meaning of the sestet was less than clear on the first dozen or so readings. But I think that is more or less what she’s getting at. Emotionally numb – is that what we might call it?

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Sonnet II

Sonnet II

Ô beaux yeux bruns, ô regards détournés,
Ô chauds soupirs, ô larmes épandues,
Ô noires nuits vainement attendues,
Ô jours luisants vainement retournée!

Ô tristes plaints, ô désirs obstiné,
Ô temps perdu, ô peines dépendues,
Ô milles morts en mille rets tendues,
Ô pires maux contre moi destiné!

Ô ris, ô front, cheveux bras mains et doigts!
Ô luth plaintif, viole, archet et voix!
Tant de flambeaux pour ardre une femelle!

De toi me plains, que tant de feux portant,
En tant d’endroits d’iceux mon cœur tâtant,
N’en ai sur toi volé quelque étincelle.

In my version :

O beautiful brown eyes, O stolen glances,
O warm sighs, O blossoming tears,
O dark nights, vainly waiting,
O shimmering days, in vain re-lived!

O sad complaints, O obstinate desires,
O hours lost, O sorrows dependable,
O thousand deaths in a thousand snares,
O terrible evils ranged against me.

O laugh, O brow, hair, arms, hands and fingers!
O plaintive lute, violin, bow and voice!
So many flames, fanning the ardour of this woman!

Of you I moan, where your flames lick,
Many places, not least my heart it feels,
As if I have stolen your spark of fire.

I struggled with the final tercet of this one. The meaning of the French is multi-layered and ambiguous. However with all the talk of physical attractions in the first tercet & sparks and fires in the final one, I hope to be excused ‘lick’ in my version. I think it is a pretty sexy poem. After all she is being tomented by her desire for someone.

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Sonnet VIII ‘I Live, I Die’

The original French version:

Je vis, je meurs; je me brûle et me noie,
J’ai chaud extrême en endurant froidure ;
La vie m’est trop molle et trop dure ;
J’ai grands ennuis entremêlés de joie.

Tout à coup je ris et je larmoie,
Et en plaisir maint grief tourment j’endure ;
Mon bien s’en va, et à jamais il dure ;
Tout en un coup je sèche et je verdoie.

Ainsi Amour inconstamment me mène ;
Et quand je pense avoir plus de douleur,
Sans y penser je me trouve hors de peine.

Puis, quand je crois ma joie être certaine,
Et être au haut de mon désiré heur,
Il me remet en mon premier malheur.

And in English, as translated by me:

I live, I die; I scorch myself and drown,
I touch the flames, whilst enduring ice;
Life is both limp and too unyielding;
The greatest tedium is entangled with joy.

Of a sudden, I laugh, then I whimper,
Great pleasure layered with my grief;
All that is good, leaves. He never endures.
The dry-ness of my heart is soon washed away.

Thus, inconstant Love rules me;
When, anticipating sadness, I do not think,
to find myself at ease.

And believing happiness to be my certain lot,
To have arrived at the summit of my joy,
He sends me sinking, down to the first fire.

Copyright M Hancox 7-9-2010
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La Belle Cordière – Louise Labé

Louise was an impressive woman. Born in 1520 (or thereabouts) in Rouen, she lived an extraordinary literary life, hanging out in salons, being clever and writing clever things. She deserves to be much better known than she is, not least because she wrote probably the first feminist manifesto in Europe. And she addressed a subject that is still, 500 years later, exercising people around the world – the education of women.

I discovered Louise by chance a few months ago & am slowly translating into English the twenty-four sonnets that she wrote. Other translations exist out there in cyber-space but these are my own, small, tribute to the brilliant, shining Louise. Her sonnets address love and its loss in ways that will resonate with anyone who has ever been a teenager and suffered the exquisite joy/pain that is unrequited love. The sentiments in her poems could well be summarised by ‘it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all’. But she says this in so many different, sensual, wonderful ways, that they are well worth enjoying over and over again.

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8 medium pears, peeled, halved, cored.
Juice of one lemon.
150g Golden granulated sugar (or not golden).
450 ml white wine.
200 ml maple syrup (I didn’t add this, as didn’t have any, husband had eaten it all)
3 fresh bay leaves (or not)
1 cinnamon stick (or two, or three).

Put pears & lemon juice in a bowl & toss to coat.
Heat sugar, maple syrup, white wine, bay leaves & cinnamon stick & 300ml water gently in large pan. Dissolve sugar.

Add pears & juice, bring to boil, cover with greaseproof paper & lid & simmer gently for 15-20 mins, or until pears tender.I have a feeling this bit took longer than they said. And I had small pears.

Put pears into wide necked jars. Fill with the cooking liquor. If you are planning to actually bottle these, then you need kilner or some such jars. Then you need to go through the bottling process to preserve them. So good in the depths of winter. Oh & if you have left over liquor, DONT THROW IT AWAY. I froze several jars of it & used it, watered down, to make grown up jelly, studded with raspberries. Soooooo good.

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