The HyperTexts

Marion Shore

Marion Shore has published fiction, poetry and poetry in translation. Her translations include works of Dante, Villon, Ronsard, Baudelaire, Rilke and many others. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and two sons.

Like Migrant Birds

Like migrant birds who pause to light
upon some sunny isle,
my thoughts leave off their weary flight
to rest upon your smile.

My Lady Seems So Fine and Full of Grace ...

Dante, translated by Marion Shore

My lady seems so fine and full of grace
when she greets others, passing on her way,
that trembling tongues can find no words to say,
and eyes, bedazzled, dare not meet her gaze.
Modestly she goes amid the praise,
serene and sweet, with virtue her array;
and seems a wonder sent here to display
a glimpse of heaven in an earthly place.

Her glance gives such delight as she goes by
that in each heart a sweetness seems to move
which he who has not felt can never know;
and from her lips there seems the while to flow
a soft and tender spirit full of love,
that travels to the soul and tells it: Sigh.


Passa la nave mia colma d’oblio...
―Petrarch, Canzoniere 189

Despite the dreams and yearnings that lie drowned,
the flotsam of desire, the fearful straits,
the capsized hope, the passion gone aground,
the tides too treacherous to navigate,
you lift your gaze each time love reappears
like an ocean liner gliding through the dark,
without a thought you rush down to the pier
and climb aboard and once again embark,
and stand upon the deck ablaze with light,
and raise your glass beneath the glittering stars,
and watch the harbor slowly fade from sight,
not caring where you’re going, or how far—
knowing the odds are slim that you’ll survive,
yet never having felt quite so alive.

If Upon That Fair Breast I Might Lie

Louise Labé, translated by Marion Shore

If upon that fair breast I might lie
of him for whom I feel my life subside;
if it were mine to linger at his side
while my few remaining days run by;
if as he held me close, I heard him sigh:
“Dearest love, contentedly let us bide,
vowing that no fearful strait nor tide
nor storm can make us part until we die;”
if, with my arms enfolding him to me,
like the ivy twining round the tree,
Death would come, envying me my bliss,
then as within that kiss I took delight
and toward his lips my spirit rose in flight,
my life I would disdain, were death like this.

The Cracked Bell

Charles Baudelaire, translated by Marion Shore

It is both sweet and bitter to remain
on winter evenings by the burning log,
and hear forgotten memories rise again
upon the chimes that ring out through the fog.
How fortunate that strong and cheery bell,
despite its age, so wakeful and content,
who hourly resounds its faithful knell,
like some old soldier watching by his tent.

Me, my soul is cracked, and when it longs
to fill the dark and bitter sky with songs,
its voice is like the faint and rasping sound
made by a man upon the battleground,
who struggles, by a lake of blood, to rise,
but pinned beneath a pile of corpses dies.

Ballade of the Hanged

François Villon, translated by Marion Shore

Mortal brothers who after us live on,
be not hardened when our fate is known,
but pity us our ills when we are gone,
and likewise God will pity you your own.
You see us hanging, nameless and unknown,
the flesh that we so recently did sate,
mouldering now, devoured and decayed,
and we, the bones, are bleaching in the sun.
Let nobody despise our wretched state;
but pray that God absolve us, everyone.

And if we call you brothers, then forbear
to scorn us, even though you see us dead
through justice. All the same you are aware
that not all men possess a level head.
Have mercy on us now our souls are fled,
and that we may be pardoned for our shame,
and gain salvation from eternal flame,
commend us to the Blessed Virgin’s son.
Now we are dead, let no one speak our blame;
but pray that God absolve us, everyone.

We have been washed and cleansed by rainy skies,
and burnt and blackened by the sunlight’s glare;
magpies and crows have fed upon our eyes
and from our beards and brows plucked out our hair.
Never in repose, now here, now there,
swaying always as the winds decree,
our bodies hang for all the world to see,
for birds and beasts to peck and prey upon.
Then be not one of our society;
but pray that God absolve us, everyone.
Prince Jesus, you who reign in majesty,
vouchsafe to guard us from the enemy
that his infernal kingdom we may shun.
Men, here there is no trace of mockery;
but pray that God absolve us, everyone.

Parallel Universe

Away beyond the firmament somewhere,
beyond the farthest boundaries of space,
there may be a parallel universe out there,
one where I have never met your gaze.
Or maybe there is one where you and she
have never met, she whom you love best,
where mine is the name you whisper tenderly
and I am the one you hold against your breast.

Out beyond the shining sweep of stars,
beyond the spinning galaxies above,
there may be a world identical to ours
in all but this: that you return my love.
Somewhere perhaps there is a universe
where when you dream, you see my eyes, not hers.

The HyperTexts