Friday in Hell with Maurice

Yesterday, or perhaps the day before--mornings are a cloudy time for me, I introduced M. Sceve, a poet living in France at about the time of Sir Thomas Wyatt.  His Délie is counted by Harold Bloom as among the world's great poetic works.  And the book I have before me is a wonderful introduction--but only that, leaving the reader longing for more.  And I hope you were, because I will share again, first the French, then the English.

from Emblems of Desire: Selections from the Délie of Maurice Sceve
Ed. and Tr. Richard Sieburth


Comme Hecaté tu me feras errer
Et vif, & mort cent ans parmy les Vmbres:
Comme Diane au Ciel me resserrer,
D'ou descendis en ces mortelz encombres:
Comme renante aux infernalle vmbres
Amoidriras, ou accroistras mes peines.
     Mais comme Lune infuse dans mes veines
Celle tufus, es, $ seras DELIE,
Qu'Amour à ionct a mes penseés vaines
Si fort, que Mort jamais ne l'en deslie.


As Hecate, you will doom me to wander
Among the Shades, alive & dead a hundred years:
As Diana, you will confine me to the Sky
Whence you descended to this vale of tears:
As Queen of Hell in your dark domain,
You will increase or diminish my pains.
    But as Moon infused into my veins,
You were, & are, & shall be DÉLIE,
So knotted by Love to my idle thoughts
That Death itself could never untie us.

So, for Maurice Sceve, while using classical allusions, we also get the sense of Délie as the Blessed Virgin: the reference to "this vale of tears," being an allusion, perhaps, to one of the most significant of the Marian prayers--"Salve Regina." Thus we have the holy and the unholy combined, just as life and death are combined.  What is also interesting, and perhaps not unique--but notable, is the pre-Coleridgian reference to "life in death," as a state of being in which one in love finds him or herself.

And here I am particularly transfixed by the image of Délie as "Moon infused into my veins."  What a magnificent and powerful image of the pervasiveness of influence and meaning.  Délie is not merely outside influence time and space and position, but she is part of me, in my blood, completely encompassing my body, alive and dead and there can be no separation of the two.  Nice.


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