The Lute

I am the lute. Perhaps you'd like to dress
my figure in your words. My curving stripes
you may describe as if I were a ripe
full-bodied fig. Why not over-stress

the darkness you perceive in me? I shared
Tullia's darkness. I've even more than she
had in her private parts and her bright hair
shone like a ballroom. Sometimes we

performed duets: her mouth took up the sound
that swelled from me, embellishing my song.
Against her softness I held tight and strong
until our intermingling was profound.


translation©1995,2001 Leonard Cottrell

main index for rhymed translations.
rhymed Rilke translations

Die Laute

Ich bin die Laute. Willst du meinen Leib
beschreiben, seine schön gewölbten Streifen:
sprich so, als sprächest du von einer reifen
gewölbten Feige. Übertreib

das Dunkel, das du in mir siehst. Es war
Tullias Dunkelheit. In ihrer Scham
war nicht so viel, und ihr erhelltes Haar
war wie ein heller Saal. Zuweilen nahm

sie etwas Klang von meiner Oberfläche
in ihr Gesicht und sang zu mir.
Dann spannte ich mich gegen ihre Schwäche,
und endlich war mein Inneres in ihr.


NP2 1908

Tullia d'Aragona (c.1510-1556), an accomplished Italian renaissance courtesan. Quote here is from the Dorothy Disse website.

"Tullia d'Aragona was born in Rome and raised in Siena by her mother. Like her mother, she became a courtesan, and like other courtesans who wished to move in the upper reaches of society, she was trained in music and literature. When she was in her mid-20s, she and her mother began to move from city to city; in the late 1530s they lived in Venice and Ferrara. In both cities Aragona interacted with the philosophic and literary elite, her home became a salon, and her writing began to be noticed …"

Dorothy Disse's website "Other women's voices" is interesting. The main index is