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16th Century – “Je vis, je meurs” by Louise Labé – French Woman Poet

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis - updated on Jun 17, 2020

Discover the 16th Century French poem – “Je vis, je meurs” by Louise Labé – Woman Poet and my English translation of the poem.

The first recognized French poetess, Louise Labbé 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 this poem is simple and still so very modern: love and its torments…

This very famous French poem is read twice (enunciated and natural recordings) + detailed explanation of the vocabulary in easy French + analysis of the poem + author’s life + transcript with the English translation in my audiobook “Easy French Poetry”.

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1- 16th Century – “Je vis, je meurs” by Louise Labé – French Woman Poet

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

Tout en un 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 en haut de mon désiré heur,
Il me remet en mon premier malheur.

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2- 16th Century French Poem in Old French

Je vis, je meurs : je me brule et me noye.
J’ay chaut estreme en endurant froidure :
La vie m’est et trop molle et trop dure.
J’ay grans ennuis entremeslez de joye.

Tout en un coup je ris et je larmoye,
Et en plaisir maint grief tourment j’endure :
Mon bien s’en va, et jamais il dure :
Tout en un coup je seiche et je verdoye.

Ainsi Amour inconstamment me meine :
Et quand je pense avoir plus de douleur,
Sans y penser je me treuve hors de peine.

Puis quand je croy ma joye estre certeine,
Et estre au haut de mon desiré heur,
Il me remet en mon premier malheur.

3- English Translation of the French Poem

I live, I die: I drown and I burn,
I endure at once extreme heat and cold;
Life is at once too soft and too hard,
I feel boredom mingled with joys.

At the same time, I laugh and I cry,
And I endure many torments of pleasures,
My fortune fades away, and lasts forever,
At the same time, I wither and I Bloom.

Thus I suffer love’s inconstancies
And when I believe I will suffer more,
Without knowing, I find myself at peace.

Then, when I feel my joy is certain,
And I am on top of what I could wish right now,
Love casts me back into my former grief.

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