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Today, I’m going to read the poem Sonnet 24 by Louise Labé, the first recognized French poetess. She was born in Lyon, between 1520 and 1525. She was raised during one of the most interesting centuries in literature's history. The Middle Ages were over, and the Italian renaissance was creating a revolution in France’s artistic life. The message of the poem is simple and still so very modern: love and its torments...I will read the poem once slowly so you can repeat after me, then I’ll read it faster with a personal interpretation.

labe1 – Poem in old French

Ne reprenez, Dames, si j’ay aymé :
Si j’ay senti mile torches ardentes,
Mile travaus, mile douleurs mordentes :
Si en pleurant, j’ay mon tems consumé,

Las que mon nom n’en soit par vous blamé.
Si j’ay failli, les peines sont presentes,
N’aigrissez point leurs pointes violentes :
Mais estimez qu’Amour, ê point nommé,

Sans votre ardeur d’un Vulcan excuser,
Sans la beauté d’Adonis acuser,
Pourra, s’il veut, plus vous rendre amoureuses :

En ayant moins que moy d’occasion,
Et plus d’estrange et forte passion.
Et gardez vous d’estre plus malheureuses.

2 – Poème in modern French

Ne reprenez, Dames, si j’ai aimé,
Si j’ai senti mille torches ardentes,
Mille travaux, mille douleurs mordantes.
Si, en pleurant, j’ai mon temps consumé,

Las ! que mon nom n’en soit par vous blamé.
Si j’ai failli, les peines sont présentes,
N’aigrissez point leurs pointes violentes :
Mais estimez qu’Amour, à point nommé,

Sans votre ardeur d’un Vulcain excuser,
Sans la beauté d’Adonis accuser,
Pourra, s’il veut, plus vous rendre amoureuses,

En ayant moins que moi d’occasion,
Et plus d’étrange et forte passion.
Et gardez-vous d’être plus malheureuses!

3 – Translation

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

Then, ladies, do not denigrate my name.
If I did wrong, the pain and punishment¸Are now.
Don’t file their needles to a point.
Consider: Love is master of the game:

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

As the whim takes him, idly he can curse
You with a stranger and a stronger passion.
But 0 take care your suffering’s not worse.


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