Selected Poems and Translations: A Bilingual Edition

Selected Poems and Translations: A Bilingual Edition

Selected Poems and Translations: A Bilingual Edition

Selected Poems and Translations: A Bilingual Edition


Madeleine de l'Aubespine (1546–1596), the toast of courtly and literary circles in sixteenth-century Paris, penned beautiful love poems to famous women of her day. The well-connected daughter and wife of prominent French secretaries of state, l'Aubespine was celebrated by her male peers for her erotic lyricism and scathingly original voice.

Rather than adopt the conventional self-effacement that defined female poets of the time, l'Aubespine's speakers are sexual, dominant, and defiant; and her subjects are women who are able to manipulate, rebuke, and even humiliate men.
Unavailable in English until now and only recently identified from scattered and sometimes misattributed sources, l'Aubespine's poems and literary works are presented here in Anna Klosowska's vibrant translation. This collection, which features one of the first French lesbian sonnets as well as reproductions of l'Aubespine's poetic translations of Ovid and Ariosto, will be heralded by students and scholars in literature, history, and women's studies as an important addition to the Renaissance canon.


Madeleine de l'Aubespine (1546–96) is a newvoice in the early modern period for three reasons. First, until my discovery, most of her work was lost. Second, she enjoyed a posthumous career as the author of frequently reprinted erotic poems; and she is the earliest French woman author of a lesbian poem, where the woman narrator disputes the favors of her beloved with a man whom she calls her “co-rival.” While her other texts are petrarchist poems and translations, typical for her time, the erotica, although a common genre in the period, are rarely associated with women. Moreover, even the women authors who did not write erotic poetry acted as if a slippery connection opened between being a published woman and a public one, and they used a number of “strategies of legitimation” reflecting the pressures that burdened them. These strategies included withholding publication and debating their anxiety about losing the “modesty of their sex.” L'Aubespine's erotic and lesbian poems are a counterpoint to that narrative. the third reason for considering l'Aubespine a “new voice” is the myth of the author that l'Aubespine constructs in collaboration with the greatest Renaissance French poet, Pierre de Ronsard. She is one of very few women whose literary talents Ronsard praised in his verse. Even more astonishing is the fact that

1. the term is Anne R. Larsen's. See “Un honneste passetems: Strategies of Legitimation in French Renaissance Women's Prefaces,” L'Esprit créateur, special issue, “Writing in the Feminine Renaissance,” 30 (1990): 11–22, at 11.

2. For instance, the Italian poet Gaspara Stampa, posthumously published by her sister, or the Dames Des Roches, a mother and daughter admired a century later by the writer Madeleine de Scudéry for preserving “the modesty of their sex”: Madeleine and Catherine Des Roches, Les Oeuvres, ed. Anne R. Larsen (Geneva: Droz, 1993), 11.

3. Ronsard contributed a poem praising the piety of Anne de Marqueis to Marquets's 1562 collection on the occasion of the collogue of Poissy that was supposed to reconcile the Catholics and

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