Here is a nice love poem from Juan Boscan to a Duchess (probably platonic as he would otherwise risk getting into trouble with the Duke). It is interesting in a Baroque sort of way by the poem not only declaring the poet’s love, but also musing on the poem itself as an adequate vehicle for conveying a declaration of love. Does it succeed? Well, everybody will decide for themselves, but I certainly enjoyed the wit and wordplay involved.
A LA DUQUESA
¿A quién daré mis amorosos versos,
que pretienden amor, con virtud junto,
y desean también mostrars’hermosos?
A ti, señora en quien todo esto cabe,
a ti se den, por cuanto si carecen
destas cosas que digo que pretienden,
en ti las hallarán cumplidamente.
Recógelos con blanda mansedumbre
si vieres que son blandos, y si no,
recógelos como ellos merecieren.
Y si después t’importunaren mucho
con llorar, porque así suelen hazello,
no te parezcan mal sus tristes lloros,
que, pues que son sus lágrimas con causa,
no sólo es gran razón que se consientan,
mas an de ser dolidas y lloradas
por todos los que vieren donde caen.
Ellos se van huyendo de mis manos
pensando que podrán bivir doquiera,
pero, según an sido regalados
y poco corregidos en sus vicios,
a peligro andarán si en ti no hallan
manera de bivir en sus regalos
y amparo por valerse en sus errores.
Si pasaren con onra, dales vida,
y si no, no les quites el remedio
que’l tiempo les dará con su justicia:
que mueran y que los cubra la tierra,
y la tierra será el eterno olvido.
The first, three-line stanza sets out the intent of the poem in the form of two questions – to whom will the poem be addressed in order to inspire love, and will the poem itself be a work of beauty? So we go straight to the duality that runs right through the poem – it deals with a declaration of love but also with the poem itself in a self-referential manner.
The next stanza answers the first question – the poem is addressed to you, meaning the duchess, but links this immediately to the quality of the poem, saying the attributes which might be lacking in the poem are surely present in the duchess and then inviting her to be the judge of the poem, receiving it according to its merits, whether these be real or not.
The third stanza claims the poem will cause the duchess to cry, but this is intentional, so she should not take it badly, the poem should have the same effect on all who read it. Again the focus is as much, if not more, on the poem itself as on the Duchess and the poet’s declaration of love for her.
In the fourth stanza the poet says that his work can be appreciated by all, but if it does not find a due welcome from its intended recipient, even with all its faults and errors, the poem is in danger of being a failure. So the fate of the poem seems to be of as much importance to the poet as the consummation of his love for the Duchess.
Indeed the final stanza puts the fate of the poem entirely in the hands of the poet’s loved one, the Duchess. If she considers it worthy, the poem will be well-received and live on for posterity. And, if not, the poem should be buried and forgotten.
So which choice would we make?
The Poetry Dude