Love Sonnets and Elegies

Author(s): Louise Labe


Louise Labe, one of the most original poets of the French Renaissance, published her complete Works around the age of thirty and then disappeared from history. Rediscovered in the nineteenth century, her incandescent love sonnets were later translated into German by Rilke and appear here in a revelatory new English version by the award-winning translator Richard Sieburth.


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LOUISE LABE was born between 1516 and 1522 in Lyon, France. Her father was a ropemaker and her mother died when she was an infant. It is thought that Labe may have been sent to the sisters of the convent of La Deserte for her primary and secondary schooling, where she would have learned the arts of needlecraft and music in addition to Latin and Italian. Legend has it that she excelled on horseback and jousted in tournaments dressed as a man. In her twenties, Labe married a ropemaker twenty years her elder. In her lifetime she gained a reputation as a scholar and, to her enemies, as a femme scavante, or courtesan. Her complete writings, Euvres de Louize Labe Lionnoize, were published in 1555 and included a preface dedicated to Clemence de Bourges, three elegies, twenty-four sonnets, a prose work titled "The Debate Between Folly and Love," and twenty-four homages to her addressed by various Lyonnese men of letters. After her death on Febuary 15, 1566, her legend continued to grow. Rilke famously published his German versions of Labe's sonnets in 1917, and in his anthology of sixteenth-century verse, Leopold Senghor pronounced her "the greatest poetess ever born in France." To this day the "Ami" of her love poems remains a mystery. RICHARD SIEBURTH is a professor of French and comparative literature at New York University. He has translated works by Friedrich Holderlin, Walter Benjamin, Michel Leiris, Michael Palmer (into French), Henri Michaux, Maurice Sceve, Gershom Scholem, Georg Buchner, Guillevic, and, most recently, Nostradamus's The Prophecies. He received a PEN/Book of the Month Translation Prize for his translation of Gerard de Nerval's Selected Writings, and has also edited a number of Ezra Pound's works, including A Walking Tour in Southern France, The Pisan Cantos, Poems & Translations, and New Selected Poems and Translations. KARIN LESSING is an American poet who has been living in Provence, France, since 1962. She was born in Gorlitz, a town now split by the German-Polish border, and emigrated to the United States at an early age. Her Collected Poems was published in 2010.

General Fields

  • : 9781590177310
  • : The New York Review of Books, Inc
  • : NYRB Poets
  • : 0.368
  • : June 2014
  • : 178mm X 115mm
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Paperback
  • : 144