Je n’escris point d’amour, n’estant point amoureux,

Here is a melancholy sonnet from Joachim du Bellay, presumably written while living in Rome on a diplomatic assignment and pining for his native France. In the 1500s, distances were real, not bridged by an hour or two in a plane…

The poem follows a simple, repetitive structure, with each line consisting of a statement of what the poem is not about, followed by a statement of the reason why. The effect is to build up a cumulative sense of the poet’s sadness, almost with a hypnotic effect.

Je n’escris point d’amour, n’estant point amoureux,

Je n’escris de beauté, n’ayant belle maîtresse

Je n’escris de douceur, n’esprouvant que rudesse

Je n’escris de plaisir, me trouvant douloureux :

Je n’escris de bon heur, me trouvant malheureux,

Je n’escris de faveur, ne voyant ma Princesse,

Je n’escris de tresors, n’ayant point de richesse,

Je n’escris de santé, me sentant langoureux :

Je n’escris de la Court, estant loing de mon Prince,

Je n’escris de la France, en estrange province,

Je n’escris de l’honneur, n’en voyant point icy :

Je n’escris d’amitié, ne trouvant que feintise,

Je n’escris de vertu, n’en trouvant point aussi,

Je n’escris de sçavoir, entre les gens d’Eglise.

Joachim Du Bellay, Les Regrets Sonnet 79

Most of the examples are personal – love, beauty, gentleness, pleasure, happiness, favours, riches, good health, friendship, honour etc, but the final line takes a somewhat daring dig at the Church, saying he doesn’t write about knowledge or learning, because he is among churchmen. In Rome, the city of the Pope, this could have got him into trouble, I would think.

The sub-text of the poem is that all the poet’s troubles would be over if only he could return to France. Well, finally he did.

The Poetry Dude


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