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Pierre Louys (1870-1925): from Chansons de Bilitis


Some of the most famous of all Lesbian poems were written by a male French poet.

The Complaisant Friend

The storm lasted all night. Selenis, with her lovely
hair, came to spin with me. She stayed for fear of
the mud, and we filled my little bed, clasped close
each other. When two girls go to bed together, sleep
stays at the door. 'Bilitis, tell me, tell me, whom
do you love?' To caress me softly she slipped her leg
over mine. And over my mouth she said: 'Bilitis, I
know whom you love. Shut your eyes. I am Lycas!'
I answered, touching her: 'Can I not see that you
are a girl? Your pleasantry is out of place.' But
she rejoined: 'I am really Lycas, if you shut your
lids. Here are his arms, and here are his hands . . .'
And in the silence she tenderly delighted my dreaming
with a singular vision.

[trans. Anonymous]

The Meeting

Treasure-like, I found her in a field
under a myrtle hedge, wrapped from her
throat to her feet in a yellow robe broidered
with blue. 'I have no friend,' she told me,
'for the nearest town is forty furlongs hence.
I live alone with my mother, who is widowed and
ever sad. If you wish, I will follow you. I
will follow you even to your own house, though
It is on the other side of the island, and I
will live under your roof until you send me
away. Your hand is tender, and your eyes are
blue. Let us go! I carry nothing with me
except the little naked Astarte which hangs
from my necklace. We will place it near yours
and we will give them roses for each night's
reward '

[trans. Anonymous]

The Breasts of Mnasidice

Carefully she opened her tunic with one
hand and offered me her warm soft breasts as
one offers a pair of living pigeons to the
goddess. 'Love them well,' she said to me
'I love them so much! They are dears, they are
like little children. I amuse myself with them
when I am alone. I play with them and give
them pleasure. I sprinkle them with milk. I
powder them with flowers. Their little tips
love the fine hair with which I wipe them. I
caress them with a shiver. I lay them to
sleep in wool. Since I shall never have
children and since they are so far from my
mouth, kiss them for me.'

[trans. Anonymous]

Penumbra

Under the sheet of transparent wool we
slipped, she and I. Even our heads were sunk
under, and the lamp illumined the stuff over
us. Thus I beheld her dear body in a mysterious
light. We were closer one to another, more
free, more intimate, more naked. 'In the same
shirt,' she said. We remained with our hair up
in order to be less covered, and the perfumes
of the two women rose from their two natural
censers in the bed's narrow space. Nothing in
the world, not even the lamp, saw us that night.
Which of us was lover only she and I could tell.
But men shall know nothing thereof.

[trans. Anonymous]

Love

Alas! if I think of her, my throat becomes
dry, my hand falls back, my breasts harden and
hurt, and I shiver and I cry as I walk. If I
see her, my heart stops and my hands tremble,
my feet freeze, a redness of flame rises to my
cheeks, my temples beat in agony. If I touch
her, I grow mad, my arms stiffen and my knees
give under me. I fall before her, and I go to
my bed like a woman who is going to die. I feel
I am wounded by every word she speaks. Her love
is a torture, and those who pass by hear my
lamentations . . . Alas! how can I call her
well-beloved?

[trans. Anonymous]

The Agonizing Memory

I remember . . . (at what hour of the day
do I not have her in my sight?) - I remember
the way she lifted up her hair with her pale
and feeble fingers. I remember a night she
passed so softly with her cheek on my breast
that the joy kept me awake, and on the morrow
her face showed the mark of the round excrescence.
I see her holding her glass of milk and watching
me sideways with a smile. I see her powdered
and with her hair up, opening her big eyes in front
of the mirror and retouching the red on her lips
with her finger. And, above all, my despair is
a constant torture because I know minute by
minute she sinks into another's arms and what
she asks and what she gives.

[trans. Anonymous]