Thursday, January 24, 2013


Let's Live

Joachim du Bellay (ca. 1522-1560), Les Regrets, no. 53 (my translation):
Let's live, Gordes, live, live, and despite the grumbling
   of old men, let's not stop our merry-making:
   let's live, since life is so short and so precious,
   and even kings have only temporary enjoyment of it.
Day fades into night, and in the morning glows again,
   and the seasons repeat their familiar progression:
   but when man has lost this sweet light,
   death makes him sleep for one night without end.
Will we then imitate a beast's existence?
   No, instead, always lifting our heads toward the sky,
   We will taste now and then the sweetness of pleasure.
He is truly a fool who, trading the certainty
   of an immediate benefit for an unstable hope,
   is always willing to thwart his own desire.
Here is the French text from the elegantly printed first edition (Paris: Federic Morel, 1558), followed by a transcription:

Viuons (Gordes) uiuons, uiuons, & pour le bruit
   Des uieillards ne laissons à faire bonne chere:
   Viuons, puis que la uie est si courte & si chere,
   Et que mesmes les Roys n'en ont que l'usufruit.
Le iour s'esteint au soir, & au matin reluit,
   Et les saisons refont leur course coustumiere:
   Mais quand l'homme a perdu ceste doulce lumiere,
   La mort luy fait dormir une eternelle nuict.
Donq imiterons-nous le uiure d'une beste?
   Non, mais deuers le ciel leuans tousiours la teste,
   Gousterons quelque fois la doulceur du plaisir.
Celuy urayement est fol, qui changeant l'asseurance
   Du bien qui est present en douteuse esperance,
   Veult tousiours contredire à son propre desir.
Latinists will recognize the influence of the first six lines of Catullus' fifth poem on du Bellay's exquisite sonnet:
Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.

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