I have a backlog of translations that I think are unlikely — for various reasons, having very little to do with their quality — to find a publisher. (If anyone knows of a journal or press that might consider formalist translations of poets who perished prior to 1917 … please let me know!) For lack of a better alternative, I’ll post some of these “fugitive” poems here.

I’m going to start with a particularly provoking bit of verse that I found in the Cancioneiro de Palacio, a mid-fifteenth-century multilingual songbook of the Iberian peninsula. The original was so entertaining … so, well, quaint in its misogyny … that a wicked spirit moved me to draft this version:


translated by a woman
from the Portuguese
of Jorge d’Aguiar

Take courage, fortify, my heart,
draw strength, and go on living!
Remember they are only women.

Remember she has yet to be
born, who doesn’t fall in error.
Remember, I have yet to see
a woman ever taste of pleasure
when she grants mercy to a man.
To passion, therefore, don’t give in —
take your pleasure where you can!
Remember they are only women.

Relax, sad lover, take a break.
To wrong her would be sweet revenge.
Dry your tears, it’s getting late —
leave off this waiting, make an end!
Hope, like ladies, has no reason.
On these, therefore, do not attend!
Refusal can be overridden:
remember they are only women.

Your steadfast strength, your blazing passions,
and their deceitfulness (which happens
to be a trait of noble breed)
are making you a wretch indeed!
My heart, don’t kill yourself in vain:
however stricken with this pain
you may be, however smitten,
you’ll find that they are only women.

What profits you to pine away?
Why wish upon a shooting star?
They’ll never change, nor ever be
otherwise than what they are.
Leave them, then, in Nature’s state.
Don’t wait, and never ask permission!
Remember they are only women.

Live, my heart! Don’t kill yourself
for those who never will be true.
They have no feeling for themselves —
why should they therefore feel for you?
Live, my heart, and blazon forth!
You’ll see (exactly as I’ve written)
they are women — only women.

Long ago, the realm of Spain
was lost, and for Florinda’s — kiss;
the Trojan city, too, destroyed
for wicked things that Helen did.
Unbind yourself, my heart, and live!
For she who first made Adam sin
and taste, of her, the fruit forbidden,
was the first mother of these women.

— Samantha Pious

The prudishness of the late-medieval clericus is matched only by his desperation …

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