I Ask You, Love

I ASK you, love, to understand but this.
For if you knew how I do love you, naught
Would shock you in my infidelities,
And you would know the reverence of my thought.

These women are not in my heart, be sure.
And you unwisely suffer, thinking I
Prefer a passing drunkenness to your
Reflective fascination, subtle, shy.

What if the body sins? Such luxury harms
The soul no whit. Despise the luring flower
Of carnal lips. Although I love your arms,
It is your soul that holds me in its power.

Your soul, a glass where candid pleasures shine,
Lute touched by mystery's seraph tenderly,
Cup of pure water still refreshing me,
When I am sickened with corrupted wine.

Dismiss the common folly of those wives
Whose mediocre pride makes them enslave
Their husbands in their narrow marriage gyves,
In memory of the maidenhead they gave.

O you my strength and weakness, you I hold
More dear. . . My love your soul and body mixes
In a miraculous fervour which is bold
To change the postulate that custom fixes.

If I indeed loved but your loveliness,
Then we might tremble for our union . . .
More than unstable passion, we possess
The high, veridical communion.

That of two souls, more than a carnal bond,
For soul alone in hearts ferments, sublime
Folly that builds new beings far beyond
Ignoble luxuries the sport of time.

Now do you understand that my vain rut
Should leave you calm? The bonds of flesh are too
Unstable to be crimes. If I loved but
Your body, I should not be loving you!

translated by Jethro Bithell