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Louise Labé: Last Sonnet

If I have loved, good ladies, blame not me,
If I a thousand flames have felt the light,
A thousand pangs and travails, passed each night
And day in weeping inconsolably;

Do not Love’s darts envenom by your spite,
Alas! that my good name should sullied be,
If I have erred, I paid the penalty;
Consider this : if e’er the time is right

Adonis’ beauty you need not accuse,
Nor Vulcan’s rights, your ardour to excuse,
Should Cupid wish it, smitten you will be,

And subject to far less temptation
Burn with a stranger, stronger passion;
Pray that you end not heartbroken like me !

Sonnet XXIV
Ne reprenex, Dames, si j’ai aimé
Si j’ay senti mile torches ardentes,
Miles travaus, mile douleurs ardentes.
Si, en pleurant, j’ay mon tems consumé,

Las! que mon nom ne soitm par vous blamé.
Si j’ay failli, les peines sont presentes,
N’aigrissez point leurs pointes violents :
Sans votre ardeur d’un Vulcan excuser,
Sans la beauté d’Adonis accuser,
Pourra, s’il veut, plus vous rendre amoureuses,

En ayant moins que moi d’ocasion,
Et plus d’estrange et forte passion.
Et gardez vous d’estre plus malheureuse! 

Louise Labé (1522-66), known as La Belle Cordière, was one of the most famous inhabitants of Lyons during its heyday as a centre of culture during the sixteenth century. Stanley Applebaum (Introduction to French Poetry, Dover 1991) describes her as “a fêted beauty, an accomplished scholar and linguist, a spirited horsewoman, a champion of women’s rights and a gifted literary hostess, as well as a touching poet“.  Whether she ever was a Belle de Jour of the time is uncertain, but she did have several intense extra-marital affairs. In this, her last Sonnet, she launches a spirited counter-attack against her judges, the respectable bourgeoises of Lyons.