—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Don’t rush the reading; velocity you’ll need
& that will come, but speed may speed up mistakes.
The truest key, to ignite and then to heed
curiosity. Shake that spear—and awake!
Wise words long ago spoken by Francis Bacon:
some books are meant to be tasted, some digested
after much chewing. But chewing, not pulping; they con
poorly who con encyclopedic, congested,
massive bulk matter, thus clog that fountain retention.
So, taste before chewing the papery watercress:
be choosing whether, and then what, to extract;
next, kindling those best of Kindles, intent, & invention!
Such fiery adjutants help you read with zest.
My secret: make work your play; that’s all for this tract.
—Louise Labé (1525-1566)
O eyes clear with beauty, O tender gaze,
small gardens filled with amorous blossoms where
felonious darks of Love spin through the air,
where my eyes glare and blanken in dead glaze.
O criminal heart, O granite cruelty,
you hold me now viciously in your power,
I cry so many weary tears, and hour
on hour my heart suffers a burning sea.
Although my eyes have sudden pleasure stored
from drinking in the eyes of him my lord,
heart, the more you look, darker is your night,
the more your languish, closer is your death.
Tell me, how can I breathe one tranquil breath
when my eye fights my hearts with deadly light?
If I could linger on his lovely chest
happy, soaring with him for whom I see
myself die, if envy did not keep me
from living my brief days with him, and best,
if holding me he'd say: "My dear friend,
let us enjoy each other and be sure
that no rainburst or seas or seastorm lure
us to separation before our lives end,"
if, while my arms were sleeping on the nape
of his neck like ivy circling a tree,
death came, jealous of our carefree rapport
as tenderly he kissed me more and more,
into his lips my soul would then escape
and, more than alive, I'd die in ecstasy.
Man is in love
And love is what vanishes;
What more is there to say?
(Today's sonnets by Louise Labé were translated from the Italian by Willis and Aliki Barnstone.)