29. de La Boétie’s Sonnets

I find it puzzling why all editions of the Montaigne essays always include this section about the sonnets of Etienne de La Boétie but never include the actual poems. Montaigne explained in the previous essay that his friend asked him to be the executor of his writings and he was proud to publish them for him.

The allpoetry.com website has a translation of one of his sonnets, which I will share:

Love, when first my franchise was dead,
How much I had lost yet I do not know,
And do not tell me, ill-wise, that I have
Married for ever such a strong prison.
I thought I would save myself from you in some way,
To the fort keeping me away from her; and now I see
That I gain nothing by fleeing from you,
Because your trait in fleeing with which I take.
Who has seen a cheerful child in the village,
Who has a cane behind a dog tied,
The dog was surprised to be beaten from behind,
He gets fired and hits himself, and the children are happy
Laugh as he goes, as he comes, and fleeing among them
Cannot escape the blows he gives himself.

Heartwarming, it is not. But I gather from it why Montaigne and de La Boétie would get along so well. The two shared a stark realism about life. Perhaps Montaigne was the sunnier of the two — I think I might have enjoyed a volume of de La Boétie essays.

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