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A review of Emblems of Desire from American Poet


This book presents a stunning selection of Scève’s first book-length cycle of poems known as the Dèlie, first published in 1544. The poems were translated from the French by Richard Sieburth and are presented in both English and French. Maurice Scève (c. 1500-64) was recognized during his lifetime as the greatest poet of the city of Lyons, and the enthrallment his contemporaries must have felt for his inventive poetic leaps and his thrilling display of how love becomes the shape of the world is still accessible to readers today. This edition not only presents the music of his French, but also illustrates the poems with fifty woodcuts that were included in the original edition. Sieburth’s translations are in a layered, lovely English, reaching out of the time in which they were written. As John Ashbery writes, “[Sieburth] has found a contemporary equivalent for Scève’s extremely compact music and enabled it to breathe in English, while still retaining the tension of the original.”

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