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Bernat Etxepare


He was born in Eiheralarre, a village close to Donibane Garazi (Saint Jean de Pied de Port), capital of the part of Navarre that today forms part of France. This priest was the author of the first book printed in the Basque language in 1545. We know little about his life, but we do know he spent some time in prison, probably accused of political involvement at a time when the kingdoms of France and Castile were jostling to take over the old Kingdom of Navarre. In his book, he gathered autobiographical, religious, amatory and patriotic poems, some of which praise the Basque language.



        Bernat Etxepare , 1545



Speak no ill of women, by my love;

If men let them alone, they'd do no wrong.


Many men speak ill of them,

Talking in a light and dishonest way.

They'd be better off in silence,

Women would do no wrong were there no men.


Few sane men there are who slang them,

It is more honest to speak well of them.

Why must they be criticised?

Big and small, we are all born of them.


To blame women is not brave,

Or to equal them all to criticize but one.

A man thus behaving would be better off mute,

And deserves not to have been fed milk.


He who blames women should think

Where he and all of us are born from,

I would ask him if he was born of woman or not.

If only for her, he should praise them all.


Women are always a benefit for men,

By them we all come to the world;

If she didn't bring us up, we'd die on birth,

And when we've grown up, we still need her.


When we are healthy, through her we dress and eat,

When we're ill, we're lost without her,

When we die, who will weep for us like a woman?

We need her at all times, there's no doubt.


Where there's no woman, I see nothing pleasing,

Neither man nor the home is tended to,

Disorder reigns throughout the house.

I care not for paradise if there's no women there.


Never have I heard that women attack men first,

Rather that it's man who offends the woman.

Evil always pours from men,

Why then are women to be blamed?


Men should have more virtue

I see more of it among women;

There are a thousand bad men for every bad woman,

For every virtuous man there are a thousand women.


If we believed men, there'd be no good women,

They can't help attacking them even if they're good.

But there are many women who avoid men,

Because virtue is much greater amongst them.


Never have I heard of a woman forcing a man,

It's the man who chases the woman like a fool.

If any should approach him lovingly,

Must man blame her for this?


God loves women more than anything on earth;

He came down from heaven for love of one.

It was a woman who made Him our brother,

And through her, all women are worthy of praise.


I think a woman is something sweet,

Something charming in all her charms,

She supplies great pleasure by night and by day.

Great villainy it is to speak ill of her.


There's nothing so pretty and pleasurable

As a naked woman beneath the man,

Surrendered with wide open arms,

So a man can do with her as he please.


Though he harms her with his dart in her body,

She will complain less than would an angel.

The dart once relaxed and healed the wound,

The power of her charms reconciles them.


Can there be any so coarse as not to see this

And who can blame her for this?

It is not a well bred man who behaves thus

Because he does not the good that women do.



Translation: Toni Strubell

Original version: EMAZTEN FABORE


© Bernat Etxepare    

© Translation: Toni Strubell    

Basquepoetry is a project of the Susa publishing house for the diffusion of Basque poetry