Biography of Louise Labe
Louise Labe was born in the early 1520s to a prosperous rope-maker, a member of the Lyon bourgeoisie. Her mother died when she was a child; her father had her educated in languages and music, and a brother may have taught her to ride and fence. She was married in her mid-teens to another rope-maker, some 30 years older than she. It was apparently after her marriage that she began to participate in the literary circles of Lyon.
In 1555 Euvres de Louize Labe Lionnoize was published in Lyon: it contained a prose dedicatory epistle to a local noblewoman, a prose Debat de Folie et d'Amour, 24 sonnets (the first in Italian), and three elegies; the work concluded with 24 poems by other writers, praising Labe's ability. The book was popular enough that three other editions came out within a year (the first Revues et corrigees par la dite Dame), and it was widely-read enough to bring both praise from beyond Lyon and criticism for being immodest and "unwomanly."
Sometime after 1556, Labe apparently left Lyon to live in the countryside. Her husband died in the early 1560s and she died, perhaps of the plague, in 1566.
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Louise Labe Poems
Long-felt desires, hopes as long as vain-- sad sighs--slow tears accustomed to run sad into as many rivers as two eyes could add,
While Yet These Tears
While yet these tears have power to flow For hours for ever past away; While yet these swelling sighs allow My faltering voice to breathe a lay;
I Flee The City, Temples, And Each Place
I flee the city, temples, and each place where you took pleasure in your own lament, where you used every forceful argument
While I have tears that start into my eyes, At memories of joys that we have known And while my voice, still master of its own, Is not yet choked with sobbing and with sighs.
All love is seen to fade and pass away. When soul blends body by most subtle art, I am the body, you the better part. But O my well-loved soul, why did you stray ?
I live, I burn, I drown and I die I endure at once chill and cold; Life is too hard and too soft to hold; I am joyful and sad, don't ask me why.
What good is it to me that once you praised The golden splendour of my plaited hair, Or that to two bright Suns you would compare The beauty of my eyes, from which Love gazed
What if the hero of the Odyssey Had been like you, a man that's fair of face ? Would he have had that easy-mannered grace, Yet be the cause of so much agony ?
Kiss me, kiss me again and kiss me more; Give me one of your most tastiest, Give me one of your most sexiest And I'll give hot kisses, more than four.
O gentle gaze, o eyes where beauty grows, Like little gardens full of amorous flowers, Where the bow of Love shoots his sharp arrows And where my eyes have gazed for many hours.
Do not reproach me, Ladies, if I've loved And felt a thousand torches burn my veins, A thousand griefs, a thousand biting pains And all my days to bitter tears dissolved.
O languid longing, o languorous sighs. Rise up once more whenever you are here, Because I can't stop these rivers of tears, And these fountains flowing from my eyes.
Long-felt desires, hopes as long as vain--
sad sighs--slow tears accustomed to run sad
into as many rivers as two eyes could add,
pouring like fountains, endless as the rain--
cruelty beyond humanity, a pain
so hard it makes compassionate stars go mad
with pity: these are the first passions I've had.
Do you think love could root in my soul again?
If it arched the great bow back again at me,