Sonnet IV

Gabrielle de Coignard
1550 – 1586


The sun, upon a cliff its bright rays beaming,
Trickles the melting snow; and so my lot
As well: I too melt when I feel the hot
Gentleness of your flame upon me gleaming.

My weeping eye becomes a brooklet, streaming;
And my soul, vanquishing my flesh, vows not
Again to bend itswill—nay, not one jot—
To seek out vice or be full wayward-seeming.

But let your fire desist, leaving me lost,
And cold my heart grows, frozen more than frost
Of frigid winter’s day, white as the snows.

Dear Lord, I pray you not abandon me!
Return, else eath must be my destiny:
I live but by that gift your grace bestows.

To Sleep

We present this work in honor of the 410th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola
1559 – 1613


Frightful representation of death,
cruel sleep, my heart no longer agitate,
by showing me the tight knot has been cut,
sole consolation for my adverse fate.

Seek out the ramparts of some tyrant strong,
his walls of jasper, ceiling made of gold;
or seek the miser rich in his poor bed,
and make him wake up sweating, trembling, cold.

Then let the first see how the angry mob
breaks down with wrath his iron-covered gates,
or see the hidden blade of lackey bought;

and let the second see his wealth exposed
by stolen key or furious assault:
and let Love keep the glories he has wrought.

Translation by Alix Ingber


Marguerite de Navarre
1492 – 1549


O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.
True love is life’s true end,
My heart can comprehend,
And therefore I intend
My love unceasingly to give.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love lends me confidence,
Grants conscience calmer sense,
Builds patient competence,
Forms faith and hope restorative;
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love is my victory,
Honor, gleaming glory;
Fashions me his story
Of pleasure’s daily narrative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love has such lovely grace
That when I see his face
I find a tranquil place
For fervent years contemplative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love offers deep content:
With his care provident
And arm omnipotent,
I need no aid alternative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love draws me lovingly,
Attracts with gloom, then glee,
Charms me with misery.
Alas! His changes I misgive.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love spreads his wings to fly,
Calls me to gratify
Him by pursuit; I sigh,
And hurry toward the fugitive.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love, to secure my heart,
Falls in my arms by art,
And then away will dart
In dalliance provocative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

My joy without a peer
Inspires such songful cheer,
I cry to every ear,
“Love love, or lapse insensitive!”
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Shepherdesses gracious,
For Love be amorous,
Thereby more rapturous
Than queens of high prerogative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Translation by Margaret Coats

Diamond Speaks

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 480th birthday.

Mary, Queen of Scots
1542 – 1587


‘Tis not because my strength outranks both flame and brand,
Nor because my facets display a cunning hand,
Nor because, set in fine-wrought gold, I shine so bright,
Nor even that I’m pure, whiter than Phoebus’ light,
But rather because my form is a heart, like unto
My Mistress’ heart (but for hardness), that I’m sent to you.
For all things must yield to unfettered purity
And she is my true equal in each quality.
For who would fail to grant that once I had been sent,
My Mistress should thus, in turn, find favour and content?
May it please, from these omens I shall gather strength
And thus from Queen to equal Queen I’ll pass at length.
O would I could join them with an iron band alone
(Though all prefer gold) and unite their hearts as one
That neither envy, greed nor gossip’s evil play,
Nor mistrust, nor ravaging time could wear away.
Then they’d say among treasures I was most renowned,
For I’d have two great jewels in one setting bound.
Then with my glitt’ring rays I should confound the sight
Of all who saw me, dazzling enemies with my light.
Then, by my worth and by her art, I should be known
As the diamond, the greatest jewel, the mighty stone.

Sweet and Dear Kisses

We present this work in honor of the 410th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Giovanni Battista Guarini
1538 – 1612


Sweet and dear kisses,
sustenance of my life,
which now steal away, now give back my heart
for your sake I must learn
how a stolen heart
feels no pain of dying and yet dies.
All that is sweet in love,
whenever I kiss you,
oh sweetest roses,
resides in you.
And if I could, with your sweet kisses,
end my life—
oh what a sweet death!

Sonnet CXI

We present this work in honor of the 480th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Juan Boscan Almogaver
1490 – 1542


I am like one who in a desert bides
Forgotten by the world and its concerns,
By chance encounter suddenly who learns
A dear friend lives, whom he supposed had died.

He fears at first this doubtful apparition,
But finding it then reliable and assured,
Commences to recall his past condition
By newly awakened sentiments allured

But when it’s time for friend and friend to part
Since to be parted soon he must consent
He finds old solitude stamped with new indent.

To mountain grass he must then reconcile,
And barren wastes which lack a trace of art,
Trembling each time he enters his cave the while.

Translation by Dia Tsung

Farewell to Folly

We present this work in honor of the 430th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Robert Greene
1558 – 1592


Sweet are the thoughts that savour of content;
The quiet mind is richer than a crown;
Sweet are the nights in careless slumber spent;
The poor estate scorns fortune’s angry frown:
Such sweet content, such minds, such sleep, such bliss,
Beggars enjoy, when princes oft do miss.

The homely house that harbours quiet rest;
The cottage that affords no pride nor care;
The mean that ‘grees with country music best;
The sweet consort of mirth and music’s fare;
Obscured life sets down a type of bliss:
A mind content both crown and kingdom is.

I Live, I Die, I Burn, I Drown

Louise Labé
c. 1524 – 1566


I live, I die, I burn, I drown
I endure at once chill and cold
Life is at once too soft and too hard
I have sore troubles mingled with joys

Suddenly I laugh and at the same time cry
And in pleasure many a grief endure
My happiness wanes and yet it lasts unchanged
All at once I dry up and grow green

Thus I suffer love’s inconstancies
And when I think the pain is most intense
Without thinking, it is gone again.

Then when I feel my joys certain
And my hour of greatest delight arrived
I find my pain beginning all over once again.


Translation by Delmira Agustini