Sonnet by Joachim du Bellay (1522-1560) / Translation by Morgan Downs


If all our life is no more than a day
In the Eternal; if the years which turn
Chase off our days without hope of return,
So transient are all things, be what they may:
O captive soul, why do you dream today?
Why unto worldly shadows do you yearn,
Whereas, to fly in a more clear sojourn
Your back is feathered for the wingèd way?
There is the Good that every soul desires,
There is the rest to which the world aspires,
And there is love, and pleasure evermore.
There, o my soul! Shepherded to the skies,
The high ideal you shall realize
Of beauty, which in this world I adore.


Morgan Downs is a poet in his 20s living in Massachusetts. 

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3 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Although I do not know the translated poet, your translation seems sensitive and well done.
    In what language was this poem originally written?
    Was your translation done as part of a class assignment, or your own idea?
    Either way, I like what it has to say.

    • Morgan Downs

      The original language is French. Du Bellay was part of a group of poets called La Pleiade, which included Ronsard, the most famous, although I prefer Du Bellay. They introduced classical and renaissance poetic forms and trends to French, and also asserted the French language as a worthy language for poetical expression without feeling the need to slavishly ape Italian or Latin. They are among the first poets in what we could recognize as ‘modern’ French. Personally, I think Du Bellay might be the best sonneteer before the Romantic era. He was the first to use it for themes beyond love.

      I translated it for my own edification during a time when I had been reading a lot of his work, and French poetry in general, and when I was writing some French sonnets myself.


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