Si nostre vie est moins qu’une journée

A sonnet by Joachim du Bellay on the fleetingness of mortal life compared to the eternity of the afterlife. It is a paradox – why do we cling to the pleasures and vicissitudes of this life when an eternity of joy and restfulness awaits us?

Because, of course, this life is less than a day long in comparison with eternity.

Joachim DU BELLAY   (1522-1560)

Si nostre vie est moins qu’une journée…
Si nostre vie est moins qu’une journée
En l’eternel, si l’an qui faict le tour
Chasse nos jours sans espoir de retour,
Si périssable est toute chose née,

Que songes-tu, mon ame emprisonnée ?
Pourquoy te plaist l’obscur de nostre jour,
Si pour voler en un plus cler sejour,
Tu as au dos l’aele bien empanée ?

La, est le bien que tout esprit desire,
La, le repos où tout le monde aspire,
La, est l’amour, la, le plaisir encore.

La, ô mon ame au plus hault ciel guidée !
Tu y pouras recongnoistre l’Idée
De la beauté, qu’en ce monde j’adore.

From <;

So the sonnet expresses a yearning for the eternal satisfactions of the after life, compared to the slings and arrows of human existence. But as the last line says, there is beauty to adore in this world too, so what’s to be done? The poem poses the question but doesn’t give a clear answer.

I suspect that du Bellay, like most of us, would come down on the side of Carpe Diem.

The Poetry Dude


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