Tag Archives: French



(Translated from the French of Louise Labé)

As soon as I begin to drift anew
In my bed’s feathery soft cave,
Toward the restfulness I crave,
Sadness wanders off, dissolves in you.

Then I realize the good that I pursue
And sigh so loudly for, I hold engraved
In my own heart, and I am laved
With such fierce sobbing I could break in two.

O happy night all mine! O gentle drowse,
Sweet rest so filled with peace—
Carry on my dream as nights go by.

And if my loving soul is not supposed
Ever to have good things in truth, at least
Then, let me have them in a lie.

…………………………………….© Cynthia Jobin, 2014
SONNET IX (English)

Tout aussi tôt que je commence à prendre
Dens le mol lit le repos désiré,
Mon triste esprit hors de moy retiré
S’en va vers toy incontinent se rendre.

Lors m’est avis que dedens mon sein tendre
Je tiens le bien, où j’ay tant aspiré,
Et pour lequel j’ay si haut souspiré,
Que de sanglots ay souvent cuidé fendre.

O dous sommeil, o nuit à moy heureuse!
Plaisant repos, plein de tranquilité,
Continuez toutes les nuiz mon songe:

Et si jamais ma povre âme amoureuse
Ne doit avoir de bien en vérité,
Faites au moins qu’elle en ait en mensonge.

SONNET IX (French)

As noted before (see SONNET II and SONNET VIII in archives) many translations of Louise Labé’s poetry already exist–some almost transliterations, others keeping close to lexical meaning but with little attention to the petrarchan poetic form she employed. Because French poetry is primarily syllabic and English poetry more accentual, I have observed the sonnet rhyme scheme and meter, but not the syllabic counts. What I have attempted is to make a poem from a poem.
Source: 1556 text in Renaissance French, from François Rigolot’s
Louise Labé: Oeuvres Complètes.



Maine’s mountains seem like lonely islands
rising from the peneplain, assuming maybe
grandeur just because they’re not
surrounded by competing neighbor peaks.
A few are clustered—Mt. Desért, Mahoosucs–
but none range so auspiciously collective as
The White Mountains of New Hampshire,
The Green Mountains of Vermont…

…”monadnocks” they are called, American
for the Abnaki meaning “solitary height.”
For centuries they’ve held their ground
providing wary outlooks to the land and sea,
being the initial, or the final, weary challenge of
the Appalachian Trail, the highest point of
the Atlantic seaboard until Rio de Janeiro,
and the first to greet the sunrise in the USA.

These mountains each acquired a moniker–
Abnaki, French or English–dubbed by those
who walked and worked the “maine-iac” terrain.
How else explain Picked Chicken Hill, Misery Knob,
Pocomoonshine, St. Sauveur, or Toenail Ridge?
Yet, in 1959, Maine’s legislature deemed
there was a need for a collective name, so
“The Longfellow Mountains,” they en masse became.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Maine.
Now all its mountains claim the cachet of
his poetry and fame.  What would he say
today–in grateful tetrametric trochees–
being honored so?  It’s just as well, perhaps,
he does not know.  It seems his name,
collectivizing mountains, never did catch on,
though it appears, sometimes, on mountain maps.



–a translation* from the French of Louise Labé, 16th century     (original included below)


O beautiful brown eyes, O looks that spurn,
O heated sighs, O tears spent as the rain,
O black nights I await in vain,
O glitterings of day vainly returned!

O sad complaint, O stubbornly what burns,
O lost time, O wind-blown pains,
O thousand deaths stretched ‘cross a thousand seines,
O worst of evils fate for me has churned!

O brain, brow, hair, arm, hand and finger!
O plaintive lute, viol, bow and singer!
So many torches to inflame a bitch!

I bemoan how all these fires to excite
These places licking at my heart ignite
In yours only a spark, the merest itch.


——————————-copyright 2014 Cynthia Jobin

O beaus yeus bruns, ô regards destournez,
O chaus soupirs, ô larmes espandues,
O noires nuits vainement atendues,
O jours luisans vainement retournez:

O tristes pleins, ô desirs obstinez,
O tems perdu, ô peines despendues,
O mile morts en mile rets tendues,
O pire maus contre moy destinez.

O ris, ô front, cheveus, bras, mains et doits:
O lut plaintif, viole, archet et vois:
Tant de flambeaus pour ardre une femmelle!

De toy me plein, que tant de feus portant,
En tant d’endrois d’iceus mon coeur tatant,
N’en est sur toy volé quelque étincelle.


*Labé was a cause célèbre among academic feminists of the later 20th century and many translations of her poetry are floating about the internet…most of them paying no attention to meter or rhyme and going for the closest lexical meaning of the original.  I have attempted here to make a poem from a poem.
The original is from the collection of poems first published in Lyon by Jean de Tournes in 1555 as corrected and amended in 1556 and collected by François Rigolot.(Lyon, Bibliothèque de la Ville, 391714: Bibliographie A2) in his definitive Louise Labé: Oeuvres Complètes Paris:  Flammarion,  2004



—-The French author Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) said that to dream of
literary projects—even those one may never write—is to smoke enchanted cigarettes.

Ah, yes, Balzac, I am a smoker
of enchanted cigarettes, daydreaming
literary wonders I will never write.

Should we meet for a petit’ aperitif
some evening at Les Deux Magots
together we might watch our fragrant puffs

rise potently in cupolas of silken smoke.
Or am I thinking of another almost novel
someone almost wrote?  Not cupolas but

parasols, I think—gossamer ethereals
above our heads.  Was that your bright
idea or mine?  Garçon!  Another drink!

There’s time yet to convince those parasols
to be black bumbershoots in fog or
even morph to mushroom clouds.

We are too loud to listen to
a limit for our skies.  Soon enough
a would-have-been becomes a never-was.

What never saw the light is no more
unto dust than many a blighted text
the western welkin proudly shone upon.

Allons, tonight let us to airy somethings
be enthralled.  Just think if the abode of angels,
our firmament, had not been hatched at all.