This is the first large-scale English translation of Maurice Scève's poem cycle Délie, originally published in Lyons in 1544 and only rediscovered in the early twentieth century as one of the great forgotten masterpieces of French poetry. A contemporary of Sir Thomas Wyatt in England, Sceve occupies a crucial place in the history of French verse between the late medieval tradition of Marot and the more self-consciously Renaissance poetics of the Pléiade. Powerfully registering the early impact of Petrarch's Rime in France, Scève's canzoniere nonetheless establishes itself as a strongly independent and fiercely idiosyncratic series of 449 love poems addressed to the poet's mysterious object of desire, Delie. Often considered a sixteenth-century Mallarmé because of the radiant obscurity of his verse, Sceve emerges in these English translations as a poet whose passionate ironies can be compared to such English metaphysicals as Donne while at the same time evoking the oblique self-portraiture of John Ashbery.
Introduced and annotated by the prize-winning translator Richard Sieburth, this bilingual selection from Scève's Délie (which also includes the fifty emblems illustrating the original edition) will appeal not only to students of French literature and lovers of poetry but also to the broader audience of readers drawn to the visual and verbal universe of the Renaissance.
Honorable Mention, 2003 PEN Poetry Translation Award
Richard Sieburth is Professor of French and Comparative Literature, New York University. His translations include Friedrich Hoelderlin's Hymns and Fragments, Michel Leiris's Nights as Day, Walter Benjamin's Moscow Diary, and Gerard de Nerval's Selected Writings.
"The translations are tours de force, rendering Scève's concentrated phrases into accessible, often charming English verse."—Margaret M. McGowan, Times Literary Supplement
"Formally exacting, dense with puns and cryptic wordplay, sublime in their passion for ambiguity, Maurice Scève's dizains would seem to resist all attempts at translation. Or so I thought until I opened this new version of the Délie. Richard Sieburth has performed a miracle of literary invention. He has made these poems sing."—Paul Auster
"Richard Sieburth has performed a magnificent service by translating a large selection of the book-length love poem Délie by Maurice Scève, one of the greatest French Renaissance poets, whose work is hardly known in English. Sieburth's long introduction does much to clarify the difficulties that Scève presents even to a French reader. But what is truly amazing is how he has found a contemporary equivalent for Scève's extremely compact music and enabled it to breathe in English, while still retaining the tension of the original."—John Ashbery
"Recovered, rediscovered early in the twentieth century, the radically inventive and challenging poetry of Maurice Scève forms an important link in the history of European lyric from the Renaissance to the present. Its complexly erotic silences and harmonies speak as vividly to our own deeply unsettled moment as they must have to that vital circle of poets and humanists of Lyons, who were among the first in France to explore the Petrarchan field of desire. What a great gift, to receive these virtuosic renditions in English from one of our finest living scholars and translators, Richard Sieburth."—Michael Palmer