Love Sonnets and Elegies
by Louise Labe, preface by Karin Lessing, edited and translated from the French by Richard Sieburth
Louise Labé, 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.
The deeply learned Louise Labe knew well the love poetry of Sappho, Propertius, Ovid, and Petrarch, but she herself joined the ranks of these great Western tossers and turners by breaking with convention. Across five centuries, thanks to Richard Sieburth's beautiful translations, her urgent voice, her embodied images, and her rapid, somehow breathless, lines come to us as if they were spoken yesterday.
Richard Sieburth has captured the vigor, intensity, and vernacular tang of Louise Labe's startling poems. He has turned the 'rhymed cordage as twined and tensile as rope' of the fabled Belle Cordiere, daughter of a ropemaker, into spirited poems in English.
[Labe] laments for one alone, but the whole of nature unites with them: it is the lament for one who is eternal.
— Rainer Maria Rilke
A great poet, perhaps one of the greatest of all time.
—The Polar Bear, a character in Samuel Beckett's Dream of Fair to middling Women