Delie object de plus hault vertu was first published in 1544 in Lyon by Sulpice Sabon for the bookseller, Antoine Constantin. The subsequent 1564 edition, published in Lyon by Nicolas Du Chemin, follows the first edition closely, but moves the initial huitain (“A SA DELIE”) to the very end of the volume and includes an index of figures and first lines. The woodcut figures present significant changes from one edition to the other. The Délie has a mathematical layout; many suggestions have been made about its significance and about the relationship between text and image inasmuch as this work has a visual and spatial component. The Délie is composed of one decasyllabic huitain (an epigram of eight lines of verse), 449 decasyllabic dizains (epigrams of ten lines of verse), fifty woodcut emblems (each with a motto and a figure, surrounded by an ornamental border) which appear at regular intervals.
Paris : Nicolas du Chemin, 1564.
Scève’s Délie is a syncretic work, which bears the mark of the poet’s erudition and high concept of poetry. The work conveys the thoughts and feelings of a lover suffering from unrequited love and striving for perfection. Throughout the Délie, love is an obsessive and complex experience in which the sacred and the profane are intertwined. The question of Délie’s identity has tantalized critics; some have assimilated her to the Lyonnese poet Pernette Du Guillet, whose posthumous Rymes sometimes echo Scève’s Délie. La Croix du Maine, in contrast, saw the name “Délie” as the anagram of “L’Idée” (Idea), and stressed the Neo-platonic aspects of the lover’s quest. Yet, Délie eludes any attempt to define her; her composite persona combines references to Petrarch’s Rime Sparse and Petrarchan poetry, the Bible and Christian literature, classical texts and iconography, mythology, French and Neo-Latin sources. The concise quality of the dizains, and their convoluted syntax contribute to the complexity of this fascinating work.
from the Gordon Collection at the University of Virginia
* * *
The less i see her, the more i hate her:
The more i hate her, the less anger i feel.
The more i adore her, the less it means:
The more i flee her, the more i wish her near.
Love with hate & pleasure with pain,
The two arrows fall on me in a single rain.
And the love i great which thereby gains
As hate sinks in & cries out for revenge:
Thus my vain desire makes me detest
The one my heart so infallibly requests.
* * *
For this kindness let me at least commend you,
Of which i note both occasion & site
Where, all atremble, you heard me undo
This mortal knot into which my heart was tied.
I saw you, like me, now grown tired
Of my travail, more out of compassion
Than any sense of this great passion
I still feel, though less so than at the start.
For as you extinguished my affliction,
You secured this burnt offering of my heart.
* * *