Veronica Franco (1546-1591) was a Venetian courtesan who wrote literary-quality poetry and prose.



My translations of Veronica Franco

Veronica Franco translations

Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric (I)
by Veronica Franco
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

"I resolved to make a virtue of my desire."

My rewards will be commensurate with your gifts
if only you give me the one that lifts
me laughing...

And though it costs you nothing,
still it is of immense value to me.

Your reward will be
not just to fly
but to soar, so high
that your joys vastly exceed your desires.

And my beauty, to which your heart aspires
and which you never tire of praising,
I will employ for the raising
of your spirits. Then, lying sweetly at your side,
I will shower you with all the delights of a bride,
which I have more expertly learned.

Then you who so fervently burned
will at last rest, fully content,
fallen even more deeply in love, spent
at my comfortable bosom.

When I am in bed with a man I blossom,
becoming completely free
with the man who loves and enjoys me.

Here is a second, more formal version of the same poem, translated into rhymed couplets...

Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric (II)
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"I resolved to make a virtue of my desire."

My rewards will match your gifts
If you give me the one that lifts
Me, laughing. If it comes free,
Still, it is of immense value to me.
Your reward will be—not just to fly,
But to soar—so incredibly high
That your joys eclipse your desires
(As my beauty, to which your heart aspires
And which you never tire of praising,
I employ for your spirit's raising) .
Afterwards, lying docile at your side,
I will grant you all the delights of a bride,
Which I have more expertly learned.
Then you, who so fervently burned,
Will at last rest, fully content,
Fallen even more deeply in love, spent
At my comfortable bosom.
When I am in bed with a man I blossom,
Becoming completely free
With the man who freely enjoys me.

***

Franco published two books: "Terze rime" (a collection of poems) and "Lettere familiari a diversi" (a collection of letters and poems). She also collected the works of other writers into anthologies and founded a charity for courtesans and their children. And she was an early champion of women's rights, one of the first ardent, outspoken feminists that we know by name today. For example...

Capitolo 24
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(written by Franco to a man who had insulted a woman)

Please try to see with sensible eyes
how grotesque it is for you
to insult and abuse women!
Our unfortunate sex is always subject
to such unjust treatment, because we
are dominated, denied true freedom!
And certainly we are not at fault
because, while not as robust as men,
we have equal hearts, minds and intellects.
Nor does virtue originate in power,
but in the vigor of the heart, mind and soul:
the sources of understanding;
and I am certain that in these regards
women lack nothing,
but, rather, have demonstrated
superiority to men.
If you think us "inferior" to yourself,
perhaps it's because, being wise,
we outdo you in modesty.
And if you want to know the truth,
the wisest person is the most patient;
she squares herself with reason and with virtue;
while the madman thunders insolence.
The stone the wise man withdraws from the well
was flung there by a fool...

***

Life was not a bed of roses for Venetian courtesans. Although they enjoyed the good graces of their wealthy patrons, religious leaders and commoners saw them as symbols of vice. Once during a plague, Franco was banished from Venice as if her "sins" had helped cause it. When she returned in 1577, she faced the Inquisition and charges of "witchcraft." She defended herself in court and won her freedom, but lost all her material possessions. Eventually, Domenico Venier, her major patron, died in 1582 and left her with no support. Her tax declaration of that same year stated that she was living in a section of the city where many destitute prostitutes ended their lives. She may have died in poverty at the age of forty-five. Hollywood produced a movie based on her life: "Dangerous Beauty."

When I bed a man
who—I sense—truly loves and enjoys me,
I become so sweet and so delicious
that the pleasure I bring him surpasses all delight,
till the tight
knot of love,
however slight
it may have seemed before,
is raveled to the core.
—Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We danced a youthful jig through that fair city—
Venice, our paradise, so pompous and pretty.
We lived for love, for primal lust and beauty;
to please ourselves became our only duty.
Floating there in a fog between heaven and earth,
We grew drunk on excesses and wild mirth.
We thought ourselves immortal poets then,
Our glory endorsed by God's illustrious pen.
But paradise, we learned, is fraught with error,
and sooner or later love succumbs to terror.
—Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I wish it were not considered a sin
to have liked fucking.
Women have yet to realize
the cowardice that presides.
And if they should ever decide
to fight the shallow,
I would be the first, setting an example for them to follow.
—Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch




Poetry by Michael R. Burch The PoetBay support member heart!
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Written on 2021-06-06 at 05:37

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