Louise Labé: Sonnet 8 (From French)

Sonnet 8
By Louise Labé
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

I live, I die: I burn myself, I drown.
        I'm hot in the extreme while suffering cold.
        Life is too soft for me, too hard to hold.
        My joy and heavy ache are mixed in one
At once I laugh and smile, and weep and frown
        In pleasure, my heart finds great pangs and grief.
        The good flies off, yet stays without relief.
        At once I blossom green, and wither brown.
Thus does Love lead me on capriciously,
        And when I think my lot is but more pain
        With scarce a thought I find myself pain-free.
Then when I think my joy a certainty
        And fortune's peak is finally my domain, 
        He casts me down to deep old grief again. 

The Original:

Je vis, je meurs : je me brule et me noye.
        J’ay chaut estreme en endurant froidure :
        La vie m’est et trop molle et trop dure.
        J’ay grans ennuis entremeslez de joye :
Tout à un coup je ris et je larmoye,
        Et en plaisir maint grief tourment j’endure :
        Mon bien s’en va, et à jamais il dure :
        Tout en un coup je seiche et je verdoye.
Ainsi Amour inconstamment me meine :
        Et quand je pense avoir plus de douleur,
        Sans y penser je me treuve hors de peine.
Puis quand je croy ma joye estre certeine,
        Et estre au haut de mon desiré heur,
        Il me remet en mon premier malheur.

Note on the French text:

L13: Heur does not, as all of Labé's most prominent English translators seem to think, have the primary meaning of "hour." The Renaissance French word for hour was heure, with an E at the end, just as in modern French. Heur, here being opposed to the related malheur, meant "fortune, chance." Reading it as "hour" makes the line in question into bathetic nonsense. Hours, being time units, tend to pass. Why Labé would think herself at the peak of her sought-after hour, and then expect the reader to be surprised that that hour passes away, as is the wont of hours to do, is a mystery to me.
The mistake of translators is all the more amusing given that plays on heur vs heure were, as one would expect, quite common. For example there's Labé's colleague Maurice Sceve writing "Et tant me fut l'heur, et l'heure importune..." and Labé herself lamenting l'heur passé "past fortune" which one translator renders as "hours, gone now" thereby allowing linguistic incompetence to riotously yet unpardonably force Labé's subversion of a cliché to be replaced with the actual cliché itself.
The mistake may be due to the fact that the word is little used in modern French, with the exception of some fossilized phrases such as Il n'y a qu'heur et malheur dans ce monde "There is but fortune and misfortune in this world" and Je n'ai pas eu l'heur de... meaning "I haven't had the pleasure of...", usually meant sarcastically with the implication that the object of the phrase is something rather unpleasurable.

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