Sonnet II (translation) by Polly Shulman


Sonnet II
Louise Labé
Translated by Polly Shulman

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 coeur tâtant,
N’en ai sur toi volé quelque étincelle.

Sonnet II

O fine brown eyes, O glances turned away,
O burning sighs, O tears that pour and pour,
O black nights, long and vainly waited for,
O shining days that come but will not stay:

O sad complaints, O obstinate desire,
O wasted time, O worse-than-wasted pains,
O thousand deaths caught in a thousand chains,
O cruel offenses intricate and dire,

O laughter, forehead, fingers, hands, arms, hair:
O violin, O lute, O plaintive air:
So many flames to burn me through and through!

How can it be that you who blaze and scorch
Can sweep my secret places with your torch
Without a single ember burning you?


Louise Labé (c. 1520-1566) was a French Renaissance poet in Lyon. Her Oeuvres, first published in 1555, include a feminist prose introduction urging women to pursue an intellectual life; an allegorical dialogue; three verse elegies; and 24 sonnets, of which this is the second.

Polly Shulman writes novels for children, most recently a trilogy of fantasy adventure stories—The Grimm Legacy, The Wells Bequest, and The Poe Estate—about kids who work in a magical library. She loves sonnets.

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