Mary Stuart: The Poet

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The following sonnet was written by Mary during her incarceration in Fotheringhay. The next poem is an ode to the death of her first husband, the French king Francis II. Although Mary was fluent in both French and old Scot she preferred to write in French which was the language of the court, and considered more sophisticated.

If you are interested in Mary's poetry, please see the book by Robin Bell "Bittersweet Within my Heart", detailed in our "Book Review" section.

Ode to Francis II

Que suis-je hélas? Et de quoi sert ma vie?
Je ne suis fors qu'un corps privé de coeur,
Une ombre vaine, un objet de malheur
Qui n'a plus rien que de mourir en vie.
Plus ne me portez, O ennemis, d'envie
A qui n'a plus l'esprit à la grandeur.
J'ai consommé d'excessive douleur
Votre ire en bref de voir assouvie.
Et vous, amis, qui m'avez tenue chère,
Souvenez-vous que sans coeur et sans santé
Je ne saurais aucune bonne oeuvre faire,
Souhaitez donc fin de calamité
Et que, ici-bas étant assez punie,
J'aie ma part en la joie infinie.
Alas what am I? What use has my life?
I am but a body whose heart's torn away,
A vain shadow, an object of misery
Who has nothing left but death-in-life.
O my enemies, set your envy all aside;
I've no more eagerness for high domain;
I've borne too long the burden of my pain
To see your anger swiftly satisfied.
And you, my friends who have loved me so true,
Remember, lacking health and heart and peace,
There is nothing worthwhile that I can do;
Ask only that my misery should cease
And that, being punished in a world like this,
I have my portion in eternal bliss.

The "Deuil Blanc" painted by Francois Clouet in 1559 when Mary was in mourning 
of her father-in-law Henry II of France and said to be Elizabeth's favourite picture of her cousin. @ owner, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Mary’s first husband, the young French King Francis II died suddenly of an ear infection aged only sixteen. Mary, a year older than him, wrote the following poem in a state of great dejection, having lost the only pure love that she would ever encounter.

En mon triste et doux chant In my sad, quiet song,
D'un ton fort lamentable, A melancholy air,
Je jette un oeil tranchant, I shall look deep and long
De perte incomparable, At loss beyond compare,
Et en soupirs cuisants And with bitter tears,
Passe mes meilleurs ans. I'll pass my best years.
Fut-il un tel malheur Have the harsh fates ere now
De dure destinée Let such a grief be felt,
Ni si triste douleur Has a more cruel blow
De Dame Fortunée Been by Dame Fortune dealt
Qui, mon coeur et mon oeil, Than, O my heart and my eyes!
Vois en bière et cercueil? I see where his bier lies?
Qui en mon doux printemps In my springtime's gladness
Et fleur de ma jeunesse And flower of my young heart,
Toutes les peines sens I feel the deepest sadness
D'une extrême tristesse Of the most grievous hurt.
Et en rien n'ai plaisir Nothing now my heart can fire
Qu'en regret et désir But regret and desire.
Ce qui m'était plaisant He who was my dearest
Ores m’est peine dure; Already is my plight.
Le jour le plus luisant The day that shone the clearest
M’est nuit noire et obscure; For me is darkest night.
Et n’est rien si exquis There is nothing now so fine
Qui de moi soit requis. That I need make it mine.
J’ai au coeur et à l’oeil Deep in my eyes and heart
Un portrait et image A portrait has its place
Qui figure mon deuil Which shows the world my hurt
Et mon pâle visage In the pallor of my face,
De violettes teint Pale as when violets fade,
Qui est l’amoureux teint. True love’s becoming a shade
Pour un mal étranger In my unwonted pain
Je ne m’arrête en place, I can no more be still,
Mais j’en ai beau changer Rising time and again
Si ma douleur efface; To drive away my ill.
Car mon pis et mon mieux All things good and bad
Sont mes plus déserts lieux. Have lost the taste they had.
Si en quelque séjour, And thus I always stay
Soit en bois ou en pré, Whether in wood or meadow,
Soit pour l’aube du jour Whether at dawn of day
Ou soit pour la vesprée, Or at the evening shadow.
Sans cesse mon coeur sent My heart feels ceaselessly
Le regret d’un absent Grief for his loss to me.
Si parfois vers ces lieux Sometimes in such a place
Viens à dresser ma vue, His image comes to me.
Le doux trait de ses yeux The sweet smile on his face
Je vois en une nue; Up in a cloud I see.
Soudain je vois en l’eau Then sudden in the mere
Comme dans un tombeau. I see his funeral bier.
Si je suis en repos, When I lie quietly
Sommeillante sur ma couche Sleeping upon my couch,
J’ois qu’il me tient propos; I hear him speak to me
Je le sens qu’il me touche; And I can feel his touch.
En labeur, en reçoi, In my duties each day
Toujours est près de moi. He is near me always.
Je ne vois autre objet Nothing seems fine to me
Pour beau qu’il se présente; Unless he is therein.
A quel que soit sujet My heart will not agree
Oncques mon coeur consente Unless he is within
Exempte de perfection I lack all perfection
A cette affliction In my cruel dejection.
Mets chanson ici fin I shall cease my song now,
A si triste complainte My sad lament shall end
Dont sera le refrain; Whose burden aye shall show
Amour vrai et non feint True love can not pretend
Pour la séparation And though we are apart,
N’aura diminution. Grows no less in my heart

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