Helen – book 2 – sonnet 1

Standard

Let’s now turn to the last of the three main sonnet-sequences, and work towards completing the Helen series…

Soit qu’un sage amoureux ou soit qu’un sot me lise,
Il ne doit s’esbahir voyant mon chef grison,
Si je chante d’amour : tousjours un vieil tison
Cache un germe de feu sous une cendre grise.
 
Le bois verd à grand’ peine en le souflant s’attise,
Le sec sans le soufler brusle en toute saison.
La Lune se gaigna d’une blanche toison,
Et son vieillard Tithon l’Aurore ne mesprise.
 
Lecteur, je ne veux estre escolier de Platon,
Qui la vertu nous presche, et ne fait pas de mesme :
Ny volontaire Icare, ou lourdaut Phaëthon,
 
Perdus pour attenter une sotise extreme :
Mais sans me contrefaire ou Voleur ou Charton,
De mon gré je me noye et me brusle moy-mesme.
 
 
 
                                                                            Whether a wise lover or whether a fool reads me,
                                                                            He ought not to be astonished, seeing my grey hairs,
                                                                            That I’m singing of love; ancient embers always
                                                                            Hide the germ of a fire beneath the grey ash.
 
                                                                            Green wood is kindled with great difficulty, by blowing on it,
                                                                            But dry wood burns at any time without blowing;
                                                                            The moon has got herself a white fleece,
                                                                            And Dawn does not despise her old Tithonus.
 
                                                                            Reader, I do not wish to be a scholar of Plato
                                                                            Who preaches us virtue but does not do as he says;
                                                                            Nor willingly [to be] Icarus, or clumsy Phaethon,
 
                                                                            Destroyed by attempting their extreme folly;
                                                                            But without pretending to be that thief or carter,
                                                                            I’d willingly give myself to drowning or burning.
 
 
 
Beginning the second book of helen poems, Ronsard cannot avoid admitting his age and potentially foolish behaviour! But, in an image I don’t recall him using earlier, he compares how well ‘old’ and ‘young’ wood burns …
 
The classical references are fairly simple ones:  Aurora and her aged lover Tithonus; Icarus who flew too near the sun, Phaethon who lost control of Apollo’s sun-chariot and was killed. Note however that Ronsard re-characterises both myths (line 13):  Icarus did not steal the wings he used, but foolishly mis-used what he’d been given; and there’s no particular sense that Phaethon was unable to drive skilfully (like a ‘carter’), only that the sun-god’s horses were too much for him.
 
Blanchemain has one variant in his text (line 4, “Cache un germe de feu dessous la cendre grise”) not affecting the meaning, and offers a variant of line 10 in a footnote: “Qui, pour trop contempler, a tousjours le teint blesme” (‘Who from too much studying always has a pallid look’). Frankly, that version of line 10 is much more apposite – fitting the context of the outward appearances which the rest of the poem discusses – than the later variant which is only loosely picked up by the denigratory ‘thief and carter’ of line 13; presumably it was the explosion of sharp ‘t’ sounds that Ronsard sought to avoid.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Interlude (5)

Standard

Another quick set of variants across editions. I’m including this one partly because it graphically demonstrates also that you can’t trust modern editors: neither of my two ‘standards’, Blanchemain and Marty-Laveaux, actually print the text which appears in the edition they say they are using…

1552
 
Thiard, chacun disoit à mon commencement,
Que j’estoi trop obscur au simple populaire :
Aujourd’hui, chacun dit que je suis au contraire,
Et que je me dements parlant trop bassement.
 
Toi, qui as enduré presqu’un pareil torment,
Di moi, je te suppli, di moi que doi-je faire ?
Di moi, si tu le sçais, comme doi-je complaire
A ce monstre testu, divers en jugement ?
 
Quand j’escri haultement, il ne veult pas me lire,
Quand j’escri basement, il ne fait qu’en médire :
De quel estroit lien tiendrai-je, ou de quels clous,
 
Ce monstrueux Prothé, qui se change à tous cous ?
Paix, paix, je t’enten bien : il le faut laisser dire,
Et nous rire de lui, comme il se rit de nous.
 
 
 
Thiard, everyone said when I began
That I was too obscure for the simple man in the street;
Today, everyone says that I am the opposite,
And that I’ve gone mad for speaking in too low a style.
 
You who have endured much the same torture,
Tell me, I beg, tell me what must I do?
Tell me, if you know, how I should please
This many-headed monster, with such varied opinions?
 
When I write in a high style, they don’t want to read me;
When I write in a low style, they just abuse me.
With what tight bonds or what nails can I hold
 
This monstrous Proteus who changes shape at every moment?
OK, OK, I understand you completely: we must leave them to speak,
And laugh at them, as they laugh at us.
 
1560
 
Mon Thiard, on disoit à mon commencement,
Que j’estoi trop obscur au simple populaire :
Mais aujourdhuy lon dit que je suis au contraire,
Et que je me dements parlant trop bassement.
 
Toy, de qui le labeur enfante doctement
Des livres immortels, di-moi, que doi-je faire ?
Di-moi (car tu sçais tout) comme doi-je complaire
A ce monstre testu, divers en jugement ?
 
Quand j’escri hautement, il ne veult pas me lire,
Quand j’escri basement, il ne fait qu’en médire :
De quels liens serrez ou de quel rang de clous
 
Tiendrai-je ce Prothé, qui se change à tous cous ?
Paix, paix, je t’enten bien : il le faut laisser dire,
Et nous rire de lui, comme il se rit de nous.
 
 
 
My Thiard, they used to say at the beginning
That I was too obscure to the simple man in the street;
But today they say that I am the opposite,
And that I’ve gone mad for speaking in too low a style.
 
You whose labour gives birth learnedly
To immortal books, tell me, what should I do?
Tell me (for you know everything) how I should please
This many-headed monster, with such varied opinions?
 
When I write in a high style, they don’t want to read me;
When I write in a low style, they just abuse me.
With what tight bonds or what line of nails
 
Can I hold this Proteus who changes shape at every moment?
OK, OK, I understand you completely: we must leave them to speak,
And laugh at them, as they laugh at us.
 
1578
 
Tyard, on me blasmoit à mon commencement,
Que j’estoi trop obscur au simple populaire :
Mais on dit aujourd’huy que je suis au contraire,
Et que je me dements parlant trop bassement.
 
Toy, de qui le labeur enfante doctement
Des livres immortels, dy-moy, que doy-je faire ?
Dy-moy (car tu sçais tout) comme doy-je complaire
A ce monstre testu, divers en jugement ?
 
Quand je brave en mes vers, il a peur de me lire :
Quand ma voix se desenfle, il ne fait que mesdire.
Dy moy de quels liens, et de quel rang de clous
 
Tiendray-je ce Prothé, qui se change à tous coups ?
Tyard, je t’enten bien, il le faut laisser dire,
Et nous rire de luy, comme il se rit de nous.
 
 
 
Tyard, they used to blame me at the beginning
That I was too obscure to the simple man in the street;
But today they say that I am the opposite,
And that I’ve gone mad for speaking in too low a style.
 
You whose labour gives birth learnedly
To immortal books, tell me, what should I do?
Tell me (for you know everything) how I should please
This many-headed monster, with such varied opinions?
 
When I am defiant in my verse, they are afraid to read me;
When my voice becomes less grand, they just abuse me.
Tell me with what bonds or what line of nails
 
Can I hold this Proteus who changes shape at every moment?
Tyard, I understand you completely: we must leave them to speak,
And laugh at them, as they laugh at us.
 
 
1584
 
Tyard, on me blasmoit à mon commencement,
Dequoy j’estois obscur au simple populaire :
Mais on dit aujourd’huy que je suis au contraire,
Et que je me démens parlant trop bassement.
 
Toy de qui le labeur enfante doctement
Des livres immortels, dy-moy, que doy-je faire ?
Dy-moy (car tu sçais tout) comme doy-je complaire
A ce monstre testu divers en jugement ?
 
Quand je brave en mes vers il a peur de me lire :
Quand ma voix se desenfle, il ne fait qu’en mesdire.
Dy-moy de quel lien, force, tenaille, ou clous
 
Tiendray-je ce Proté qui se change à tous coups ?
Tyard, je t’enten bien, il le faut laisser dire,
Et nous rire de luy, comme il se rit de nous.
 
 
 
Tyard, they used to blame me at the beginning
Because I was too obscure to the simple man in the street;
But today they say that I am the opposite,
And that I’ve gone mad for speaking in too low a style.
 
You whose labour gives birth learnedly
To immortal books, tell me, what should I do?
Tell me (for you know everything) how I should please
This many-headed monster, with such varied opinions?
 
When I am defiant in my verse, they are afraid to read me;
When my voice becomes less grand, they just abuse me.
Tell me with what bond, force, manacles or nails
 
Can I hold this Proteus who changes shape at every moment?
Tyard, I understand you completely: we must leave them to speak,
And laugh at them, as they laugh at us.
 
1587
 
Ma Muse estoit blasmée à son commencement,
D’apparoistre trop haulte au simple populaire :
Maintenant des-enflée on la blasme au contraire,
Et qu’elle se desment parlant trop bassement.
 
Toy de qui le labeur enfante doctement
Des livres immortels, dy-moy, que doy-je faire ?
Dy-moy (car tu sçais tout) comme doy-je complaire
A ce monstre testu divers en jugement ?
 
Quand je tonne en mes vers il a peur de me lire :
Quand ma voix se rabaisse il ne fait qu’en mesdire.
Dy-moy de quel lien force tenaille ou clous
 
Tiendray-je ce Proté qui se change à tous coups ?
Tyard, je t’enten bien, il le faut laisser dire,
Et nous rire de luy comme il se rit de nous.
 
 
 
My Muse used to be blamed at the beginning
For appearing too high-flown for the simple man in the street;
Now she’s become less grand, they blame her for the opposite,
And that she’s gone mad for speaking in too low a style.
 
You whose labour gives birth learnedly
To immortal books, tell me, what should I do?
Tell me (for you know everything) how I should please
This many-headed monster, with such varied opinions?
 
When I thunder in my verse, they are afraid to read me;
When my voice becomes less grand, they just abuse me.
Tell me with what bond, force, manacles or nails
 
Can I hold this Proteus who changes shape at every moment?
Tyard, I understand you completely: we must leave them to speak,
And laugh at them, as they laugh at us.
 
 
No doubt, as it was the opening poem in the Continuation des Amours and then became the first poem of book 2 in its various editions, Ronsard would have devoted significant effort to thinking and re-thinking the way his book opens.
 
If you look back at my original post, you’ll see that:
 – Marty-Laveaux inserts “Quand je tonne” from 1587 into his ‘1584’ version;
 – Blanchemain, basing his text on the 1560 edition, uses the 1578 version for line 3 (where Ronsard re-organised simply to remove the medieval ‘lon’), and also for line 13 (where Ronsard re-uses Tyard’s name, to avoid the repetitive exclamation “paix, paix!”)
 
Neither is a great sin, of course, but neither is a version Ronsard actually authorised!
 
 
 

 

Interlude (4)

Standard

Six months ago I posted a few poems in multiple versions, showing how they changed as Ronsard re-edited them through various editions. Here’s another which, as you can see, Ronsard virtually re-wrote every time he looked at it…

1552
 
Marie, qui voudroit vostre beau nom tourner,
Il trouveroit Aimer: aimez-moi donq, Marie,
Faites cela vers moi dont vostre nom vous prie,
Vostre amour ne se peut en meilleur lieu donner:
 
S’il vous plaist pour jamais un plaisir demener,
Aimez-moi, nous prendrons les plaisirs de la vie,
Penduz l’un l’autre au col, et jamais nulle envie
D’aimer en autre lieu ne nous pourra mener.
 
Si faut il bien aimer au monde quelque chose:
Cellui qui n’aime point, cellui-là se propose
Une vie d’un Scyte; et ses jours veut passer
 
Sans gouster la douceur des douceurs la meilleure.
E, qu’est-il rien de doux sans Venus? las! à l’heure
Que je n’aimeray point puissai-je trépasser!
 
 
 
Marie, anyone who tried re-arranging your lovely name
Would find “Aimer” [‘to love’]; so love me, Marie,
Do to me what your name asks of you,
Your love cannot be given anywhere better.
 
If you please to keep it a pleasure for ever,
Love me, we will enjoy the pleasures of life
Hanging on each other’s necks, and never will any desire
To love elsewhere be able to lead us away.
 
After all, you have to love something in this world;
Whoever loves not at all offers himself only
The life of a Scythian, and wants to spend his days
 
Without tasting the sweetest sweet of all.
What is there that is sweet without Love? Oh, at the moment
When I cease loving, may I die!
1560
 
Marie, qui voudroit vostre nom retourner,
Il trouveroit Aimer : aimez-moy donc, Marie ;
Puisque vostre beau nom à l’amour vous convie,
Il faut vostre jeunesse à l’amour adonner.
 
S’il vous plaist pour jamais vostre amy m’ordonner,
Ensemble nous prendrons les plaisirs de la vie,
D’une amour contra aymée, et jamais autre envie
Ne me pourra le cœur du vostre detourner.
 
Si faut-il bien aimer au monde quelque chose ;
Celuy qui n’aime point, pour son but se propose
Une vie d’un Scythe, et ses jours veut passer
 
Sans gouster la douceur des douceurs la meilleure.
Eh! qu’est-il rien de doux sans Venus? las! à l’heure
Que je n’aimeray point puissai-je trespasser!
 
 
 
Marie, anyone who tried re-arranging your name
Would find “Aimer”; so love me, Marie,
Since your fair name makes you ready to love,
You should give your youth to love.
 
If you please to appoint me your love for ever,
Together we shall take the pleasures of life,
With a love loved in return, and never will any other desire
Be able to turn my heart away from yours.
 
You really must love something in this world;
Whoever loves not at all, offers himself the goal of
The life of a Scythian, and wants to spend his days
 
Without tasting the sweetest sweet of all.
Ah, is there anything that is sweet without Love? Oh, at the moment
When I cease loving, may I die!
1578
 
Marie, qui voudroit vostre nom retourner,
Il trouveroit Aimer : aimez-moy donc, Marie ;
Vostre nom de nature à l’amour vous convie,
Pecher contre son nom ne se doit pardonner.
 
S’il vous plaist vostre cœur pour gage me donner,
Je vous offre le mien : ainsi de ceste vie
Nous prendrons les plaisirs, et jamais autre envie
Ne me pourra l’esprit d’une autre emprisonner.
 
Il fault aimer, maistresse, au monde quelque chose.
Celuy qui n’aime point, malheureux se propose
Une vie d’un Scythe, et ses jours veut passer
 
Sans gouster la douceur des douceurs la meilleure.
Eh! qu’est-il rien de doux sans Venus? las! à l’heure
Que je n’aimeray plus puissai-je trespasser!
 
 
 
Marie, anyone who tried re-arranging your name
Would find “Aimer”; so love me, Marie,
Your fair name naturally makes you ready to love,
Sinning against your own name you should not forgive yourself.
 
If you please to give me your heart as guarantee,
I shall offer you mine: so this life’s
Pleasures we shall take, and never will any other desire
Let me emprison the spirit of another lady.
 
One must love something, mistress, in this world;
If anyone loves not at all, that unfortunate offers himself
The life of a Scythian, and wants to spend his days
 
Without tasting the sweetest sweet of all.
Ah, is there anything that is sweet without Love? Oh, at the moment
When I cease loving, may I die!
 
1584
 
Marie, qui voudroit vostre nom retourner,
Il trouveroit aimer : aimez-moi donc, Marie,
Vostre nom de nature à l’amour vous convie,
A qui trahist Nature il ne faut pardonner.
 
S’il vous plaist vostre cœur pour gage me donner,
Je vous offre le mien : ainsi de ceste vie,
Nous prendrons les plaisirs, et jamais autre envie
Ne me pourra l’esprit d’une autre emprisonner.
 
Il faut aimer, maistresse, au monde quelque chose.
Celuy qui n’aime point, malheureux se propose
Une vie d’un Scythe, et ses jours veut passer
 
Sans gouster la douceur des douceurs la meilleure.
Rien n’est doux sans Venus et sans son fils : à l’heure
Que je n’aimeray plus puissé-je trespasser.
 
 
 
Marie, anyone who tried re-arranging your name
Would find “Aimer”; so love me, Marie,
Your fair name naturally makes you ready to love,
And anyone who betrays Nature ought not to be forgiven.
 
If you please to give me your heart as guarantee,
I shall offer you mine: so this life’s
Pleasures we shall take, and never will any other desire
Let me emprison the spirit of another lady.
 
One must love something, mistress, in this world;
If anyone loves not at all, that unfortunate offers himself
The life of a Scythian, and wants to spend his days
 
Without tasting the sweetest sweet of all.
Nothing is sweet, without Venus and her son:  at the moment
When I cease loving, may I die!
1587
 
Marie, qui voudroit vostre nom retourner,
Il trouveroit aimer : aimez-moi donc, Marie,
Vostre nom de luymesme à l’amour vous convie,
Il fault suyvre Nature, et ne l’abandonner.
 
S’il vous plaist vostre cœur pour gage me donner,
Je vous offre le mien : ainsi de ceste vie,
Nous prendrons les plaisirs, et jamais autre envie
Ne me pourra l’esprit d’une autre emprisonner.
 
Il faut aimer, maistresse, au monde quelque chose.
Celuy qui n’aime point, malheureux se propose
Une vie d’un Scythe, et ses jours veut passer
 
Sans gouster la douceur des douceurs la meilleure.
Rien n’est doux sans Venus et sans son fils : à l’heure
Que je n’aimeray plus puissé-je trespasser.
 
 
 
Marie, anyone who tried re-arranging your name
Would find “Aimer”; so love me, Marie,
Your fair name of itself makes you ready to love,
You should follow Nature and not abandon her.
 
If you please to give me your heart as guarantee,
I shall offer you mine: so this life’s
Pleasures we shall take, and never will any other desire
Let me emprison the spirit of another lady.
 
One must love something, mistress, in this world;
If anyone loves not at all, that unfortunate offers himself
The life of a Scythian, and wants to spend his days
 
Without tasting the sweetest sweet of all.
Nothing is sweet, without Venus and her son:  at the moment
When I cease loving, may I die!
 
 

Amours book 2 – Elégie à son livre (again)

Standard

Blanchemain’s early version of the lengthy elegy Ronsard places at the beginning of book 2.

Mon fils, si tu sçavois ce qu’on dira de toy,
Tu ne voudrois jamais déloger de chez moy,
Enclos en mon estude, et ne voudrois te faire
User ny fueilleter aux mains du populaire.
Quand tu seras party sans jamais retourner,
Il te faudra bien loin de mes yeux sejourner :
« Car, ainsi que le vent sans retourner s’envole,
« Sans espoir de retour s’eschappe la parole.
 
Ma parole, c’est toi, à qui de nuict et jour
J’ay conté les propos que m’a tenus Amour,
Pour les mettre en ces vers qu’en lumiere tu portes,
Crochetant maugré moy de ma chambre les portes,
Pauvret! qui ne sçais pas que les petits enfans
De la France ont le nez plus subtil qu’elephans.
 
Donc, avant que tenter le hazard du naufrage,
Voy du port la tempeste et demeure au rivage :
On se repend trop tard quand on est embarqué.
 
Tu seras assez tôt des médisans moqué
D’yeux, et de hausse-becs, et d’un branler de teste.
« Sage est celuy qui croit à qui bien l’admoneste.
 
Tu sçais (mon cher enfant) que je ne te voudrois
Ni tromper, ni moquer. Grandement je faudrois,
Et serois engendré d’une ingrate nature,
Si je voulois trahir ma propre geniture :
Car tel que je te voy n’agueres je te fis,
Et je ne t’aime moins qu’un pere aime son fils.
 
Quoy ! tu veux donc partir ; et tant plus je te cuide
Retenir au logis, plus tu hausses la bride.
Va donc, puis qu’il te plaist ; mais je te suppliray
De respondre à chacun ce que je te diray,
Afin que toi (mon fils) gardes bien en l’absence
De moy, le pere tien, l’honneur et l’innocence.
 
Si quelque dame honneste et gentille de cœur
(Qui aura l’inconstance et le change en horreur)
Me vient en te lisant d’un gros sourcil reprendre
Dequoy je ne devois abandonner Cassandre,
Qui la premiere au cœur le trait d’Amour me mit,
Et que le bon Petrarque un tel peché ne fit,
Qui fut trente et un an amoureux de sa dame,
Sans qu’une autre jamais luy peust eschauffer l’ame,
Respons-luy, je te pri’, que Petrarque sur moy
N’avoit authorité de me donner sa loy,
Ny à ceux qui viendroyent apres luy, pour les faire
Si long temps enchainez sans leur lien desfaire.
 
Luy-mesme ne fut tel : car, à voir son escrit,
Il estoit éveillé d’un trop gentil esprit
Pour estre sot trente ans, abusant sa jeunesse
Et sa Muse au giron d’une vieille maistresse ;
Ou bien il jouyssoit de sa Laurette, ou bien
Il estoit un grand fat d’aimer sans avoir rien ;
Ce que je ne puis croire, aussi n’est-il croyable.
Non, il en jouyssoit ; puis la fit admirable,
« Chaste, divine, saincte : aussi tout amant doit
« Louer celle de qui jouyssance il reçoit :
« Car celuy qui la blasme aprés la jouyssance
« N’est homme, mais d’un tigre il a prins sa naissance.
 
Quand quelque jeune fille est au commencement
Cruelle, dure, fiere, à son premier amant,
He bien ! il faut attendre : il peut estre qu’une heure
Viendra, sans y penser, qui la rendra meilleure.
Mais, quand elle devient, sans se changer un jour,
Plus dure et plus rebelle et plus rude en amour,
Il s’en faut esloigner, sans se rompre la teste
De vouloir adoucir une si sotte beste.
Je suis de tel advis ; me blasme de ceci,
M’estime qui voudra ; mais la chose est ainsi.
 
Les femmes bien souvent sont cause que nous sommes
Inconstants et legers, amadouans les hommes
D’un espoir enchanteur, les tenants quelquefois,
Par une douce ruse, un an, ou deux, ou trois,
Dans les liens d’amour, sans aucune allegeance ;
Cependant un valet en aura jouyssance,
Ou bien quelque mignon dont on ne se dout’ra
Sa faux en la moisson secretement mettra.
Et si ne laisseront, je parle des rusées
Qui ont au train d’amour leurs jeunesses usées,
(C’est bien le plus grand mal qu’un homme puisse avoir
Que servir une femme accorte à decevoir)
D’enjoindre des labeurs qui sont insupportables,
Des services cruels, des tasches miserables :
Car, sans avoir esgard à la simple amitié,
Aux prieres, aux cœurs, cruelles, n’ont pitié,
De leurs pauvres servans, tant elles font les braves,
Qu’un Turc n’a de pitié de ses valets esclaves.
Il faut vendre son bien, il faut faire presens
De chaines, de carquans, de diamans luysans ;
Il faut donner la perle et l’habit magnifique,
Il faut entretenir la table et la musique,
Il faut prendre querelle, il faut les suporter.
Certes, j’aimeroy mieux dessus le dos porter
La hotte pour curer les estables d’Augée
Que me voir serviteur d’une dame rusée.
« La mer est bien à craindre, aussi est bien le feu,
« Et le ciel quand il est de tonnerres esmeu.
« Mais trop plus est à craindre une femme clergesse,
« Sçavante en l’art d’amour, quand elle est tromperesse :
« Par mille inventions mille maux elle fait,
« Et d’autant qu’elle est femme, et d’autant qu’elle sçait.
Quiconque fut le Dieu qui la mit en lumiere
Il fut premier auteur d’une grande misere.
 
Il falloit par presens consacrez aux autels
Acheter nos enfans des grands dieux immortels,
Et non user sa vie avec ce mal aimable,
Les femmes, passion de l’homme miserable,
Miserable et chetif, d’autant qu’il est vassal,
Vingt ou trente ans qu’il vit, d’un si fier animal.
Mais, je vous pri’, voyez comme par fines ruses
Elles sçavent trouver mille feintes excuses,
Apres qu’ell’ ont failly. Voyez Helene après
Qu’Ilion fut bruslé de la flamme des Grecs,
Comme elle amadoua d’une douce blandice
Son badin de mary, qui pardonna son vice,
Et qui plus que devant de ses yeux fut épris,
Qui scintilloient encor les amours de Pâris.
 
Ulyss’, qui fut si caut, bien qu’il sceut qu’une trope
De jeunes poursuyvans baisassent Penelope,
Devorant tout son bien, si est-ce qu’il brusloit
D’embrasser son espouse, et jamais ne vouloit
Devenir immortel avec Circe la belle,
Pour ne revoir jamais Penelope, laquelle,
Pleurant, luy rescrivoit de son fascheux sejour,
Pendant que, luy absent, elle faisoit l’amour ;
Si bien que le dieu Pan de ses jeux print naissance
(D’elle et de ses muguets la commune semence),
Envoyant tout exprès, pour sa commodité,
Le fils chercher le père en Sparte la cité.
« Voilà comment la femme avec ses ruses donte
« L’homme, de qui l’esprit toute beste surmonte.
 
Quand un jeune homme peut heureusement choisir
Une belle maistresse eslue à son plaisir,
Soit de haut ou bas lieu, pourveu qu’elle soit fille
Humble, courtoise, honneste, amoureuse et gentille,
Sans fard, sans tromperie, et qui sans mauvaistié
Garde de tout son cœur une simple amitié,
Aimant trop mieux cent fois à la mort estre mise
Que de rompre sa foy quand elle l’a promise,
Il la faut bien aimer tant qu’on sera vivant,
Comme un rare joyau qu’on trouve peu souvent.
« Celuy certainement merite sur la teste
« Le feu le plus ardent d’une horrible tempeste,
« Qui trompe une pucelle, et mesmement alors
« Qu’elle se donne à nous et de cœur et de corps. »
 
N’est-ce pas un grand bien, quand on fait un voyage,
De rencontrer quelqu’un qui d’un pareil courage
Veut nous accompagner et comme nous passer
Les chemins, tant soient-ils fascheux à traverser ?
Aussi n’est-ce un grand bien de trouver une amie
Qui nous ayde à passer ceste chetive vie,
Qui, sans estre fardée ou pleine de rigueur,
Traitte fidelement de son amy le cœur ?
 
Dy-leur, si de fortune une belle Cassandre
Vers moy se fust monstrée un peu courtoise et tendre,
Un peu douce et traitable, et soigneuse à guerir
Le mal dont ses beaux yeux dix ans m’ont fait mourir,
Non seulement du corps, mais sans plus, d’une œillade
Eust voulu soulager mon pauvre cœur malade,
Je ne l’eusse laissée, et m’en soit à tesmoin
Ce jeune enfant ailé qui des amours a soin.
 
Mais voyant que tousjours elle marchoit plus fiere,
Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere,
Pour en aimer une autre en ce pays d’Anjou,
Où maintenant Amour me detient sous le jou,
Laquelle tout soudain je quitteray, si elle
M’est, comme fut Cassandre, orgueilleuse et rebelle,
Pour en chercher une autre, à fin de voir un jour
De pareille amitié recompenser m’amour,
Sentant l’affection d’une autre dans moy-mesme :
« Car un homme est bien sot d’aimer si on ne l’aime. »
 
Or’ si quelqu’un après me vient blasmer dequoy
Je ne suis plus si grave en mes vers que j’estoy
A mon commencement, quand l’humeur pindarique
Enfloit empoulément ma bouche magnifique,
Dy-luy que les amours ne se souspirent pas
D’un vers hautement grave, ains d’un beau stile bas,
Populaire et plaisant, ainsi qu’a fait Tibulle,
L’ingenieux Ovide et le docte Catulle.
Le fils de Venus hait ces ostentations ;
Il suffit qu’on luy chante au vray ses passions,
Sans enflure ny fard, d’un mignard et doux stile,
Coulant d’un petit bruit comme une eau qui distile.
Ceux qui font autrement, ils font un mauvais tour
A la simple Venus et à son fils Amour.
 
S’il advient quelque jour que d’une voix hardie
J’anime l’eschafaut par une tragedie
Sententieuse et grave, alors je feray voir
Combien peuvent les nerfs de mon petit sçavoir,
Et si quelque furie en mes vers je rencontre,
Hardy j’opposeray mes muses à l’encontre,
Et feray resonner d’un haut et grave son
(Pour avoir part au bouc) la tragique tançon.
Mais ores que d’Amour les passions je pousse,
Humble, je veux user d’une Muse plus douce.
Non ! non ! je ne veux pas que, pour ce livre-ci,
J’entre dans une escole, ou qu’un regent aussi
Me lise pour parade : il suffit si m’amie
Le touche de la main dont elle tient ma vie :
Car je suis satisfait si elle prend à gré
Ce labeur que je vouë à ses pieds consacré
[Et à celles qui sont de nature amiables
Et qui jusqu’à la mort ne sont point variables.]
My son, if you knew what they’ll say of you,
You’d never want to leave my home,
But stay shut away in my study; you wouldn’t want yourself
Used or leafed thorough by the crowd’s hands.
When you’ve gone, never to return,
You’ll have to live very far from my eyes :
“For as the wind flies off without returning,
So, without hope of returning, the word escapes.”
 
My word, that’s what you are, to whom night and day
I have told the ideas which Love held out to me,
So I could put them into these verses which you take into the light,
Picking the locks of the doors of my room in defiance of me,
Poor thing, who know not that the little children
Of France have sharper noses than elephants.
 
So, before testing the risks of shipwreck,
See the storm from port, and stay on the shore.
You repent too late when you’re already on board.
 
Soon enough you’ll be mocked by ill-wishers,
With their eyes, their lifted noses and a shake of the head.
“Wise the man who believes a person who gives good advice.”
 
You know, my dear child, that I have no desire
To deceive or mock. I’d do great wrong,
And would have been born of an ungrateful nature,
If I sought to betray my own offspring,
For as I see you, so I recently made you,
And I love you no less than a father loves his son.
 
Yet you still wish to go? And the more I wish
To keep you at home, the more you pull at the bit.
Go on then, since you want to, but I beg you
To answer everyone as I will tell you,
So that you, my son, properly protect in my absence
Your father’s – my own! – honour and innocence.
 
If some honest lady of noble heart,
Who is horrified by inconstancy and change,
On reading you reproves me with a heavy frown
That I ought not to have abandoned my Cassandre,
Who was first to shoot the arrow of love into my heart,
And that good old Petrarch committed no such sin,
Being thirty-one years in love with his lady
Without any other ever being able to set his soul ablaze,
Then reply to her, I beg, that Petrarch had
No authority over me to subject me to his law,
Nor those others who came after him, to make us
Chained so long a time without breaking our ties.
 
He himself was not like that; for if you look at what he wrote
He was a sharp man, with too noble a spirit
To be a fool for thirty years, wasting his youth
And his Muse in the lap of an old mistress.
Either he enjoyed his little Laura, or he was
Indeed a great fool to love but not have her at all.
I can’t believe that, nor is it believable;
No, he enjoyed her, then made her out to be admirable,
Chaste, divine, holy: “every lover should also
Praise her from whom he gains enjoyment;
For he who blames her after enjoying her
Is no man, but was born of a tiger.”
 
When some young girl is at the beginning
Cruel, harsh and proud to her first lover,
Ah well, he must still remain; it may be that the time
Will come, unexpectedly, which will make her better.
But when she becomes, without a day passing
Harsher and more contrary, and coarser in love,
You must distance yourself, without wearying yourself
Trying to soften so foolish a beast.
That’s my advice: blame me for it
Or praise me who will: these are the facts.
 
Women are often the reason we are
Inconstant and flighty, coaxing men
With bewitching hope, sometimes keeping them
With sweet tricks for a year, or two, or three,
In love’s bonds without relief;
And yet a servant will enjoy them,
Or perhaps some sweet thing no-one suspects
Will secretly put his scythe to the harvest.
And still they won’t stop, I mean those sly girls
Who have spent their youths in Love’s train,
(It’s certainly the greatest trouble a man can have
To serve a woman used to deception)
[They won’t stop] demanding labour which is insupportable,
Cruel service, wretched tasks;
For without regard to simple love
To prayers, to hearts, they cruelly have no pity
For their poor servants, so proud they appear,
No more than a Turk has pity on his slave-servants
[The lover] has to sell his goods, make presents
Of chains, purses, and shining diamonds;
He must give pearls and magnificent clothes,
He must look after the table and the music,
He must take up her quarrels, and endure them.
Certainly I’d prefer to carry on my back
A basket and clean the Augean stables,
Than to become the servant of a sly Lady.
“The sea really should be feared, the fire as well,
And the sky when it is shaken with thunder,
But much more to be feared is a learned woman
Well-versed in the art of love, when she is a deceiver;
By a thousand tricks she makes a thousand evils,
And she’s as wise as she is a woman.”
Whichever was the god who brought her to life,
He was the prime author of great misery.
 
We ought, with presents consecrated at their altars
To offer bribes for our children with the great, immortal gods,
So they don’t waste their lives with that pleasant evil
Woman, the passion of wretched men,
Wretched and weak insofar as they’re vassals,
For the 20 or 30 years of their lives, of so proud a beast.
I beg you, see how by subtle tricks
They are able to find a thousand fake excuses
After they’ve deceived! Look at Helen after
Troy was burned by the Greeks’ fire,
How she wheedled with sweet flattery
Her fool of a husband, who pardoned her vice
And fell in love more than before with her eyes
Which sparkled still with love for Paris.
 
Ulysses, who was so cunning, though he knew that a troop
Of young suitors was kissing Penelope,
Devouring all his goods, yet still he burned
To kiss his wife, and never wished
To become immortal with the beautiful Circe
So as never again to see Penelope, whom
Weeping he wanted to tell about his wearisome journey,
While, as he was away, she was making love:
So much so that the god Pan was born from their frolics
(The common seed of her and her dandies)
As she immediately sent, to make things easier for her,
The son to seek his father in the city of Sparta.
“That is how woman with her cunning defeats
Man, whose spirit overcomes all the animals.”
 
If a young man might fortunately choose
A fair mistress, selected for his pleasure,
No matter if she’s from a high or low place provided she is
A humble, courteous, honest, loving and gentle girl,
Without disguise, without trickery, who without wickedness
Keeps with all her heart her simple love,
Much preferring to be put to death a hundred times
Than to break her word when she has promised it;
Then you must love her truly while you live
As a rare jewel most infrequently found.
“He certainly deserves the hottest fires
Of terrible storms upon his head
Who deceives a maid, especially when
She gives herself to us heart and body.“
 
Isn’t it a great delight when we’re travelling
To meet someone who with equal bravery
Wishes to a company us and like us to journey
Long roads, however tiresome they are to cross?
And isn’t it a great delight to find a girl
Who helps us on this life’s wretched journey,
Who without being burdened or full of harshness
Treats her lover’s heart faithfully?
 
Tell them, then, if perchance the fair Cassandre
Had showed herself a little courteous and tender towards me,
A bit gentle and someone you could deal with, and keen to cure
The ills with which her fair eyes had put me to death those ten years;
If not with her body but with just a single glance
She’d been willing to soothe my poor, ill heart,
I’d not have left her, let my witness be
That young winged child who watches over love-affairs.
 
But seeing how she always continued more proud
I unbound myself from all my first love
To love with it another in the country of Anjou,
Where Love now keeps me under his yoke.
[A love] which I will immediately abandon if she
Is to me as Cassandre was, proud and rebellious,
To find another, so that one day I may see
My love returned with an equal love,
Feeling the affection of another within myself:
“For a man is a complete fool to love if he isn’t loved.”
 
So, if someone afterwards chooses to blame me that
I am no more as grave in my verse as I was
At the beginning, when the Pindaric mood
Puffed up in swollen words my magniloquent voice
Then tell him that love does not sigh
In high-flown grave verse, but in a fine low style,
Pleasant and popular, like that of Tibullus,
The ingenious Ovid and the learned Catullus.
The son of Venus hates ostentation:
Enough that we sing his passions to him truly
Without bombast or disguise, in a charming sweet style
Flowing with a gentle sound like a tinkling spring.
Those who do otherwise do a bad turn
To simple Venus and her son Love.
 
If it should happen one day that with bold voice
I enliven the stage with some tragedy
Grave and sententious, then I shall show
How loud the strings of my little learning can sound.
And if I encounter passion in my verse
I shall boldly set my Muses against it,
And make a tragic dialogue resound with high-flown
And serious tones (assuming the tragic buskin).
But while I focus on the passions of Love,
In lower style I prefer to employ a sweeter Muse.
No, no, I do not want through this book
To enter a school, or for a regent too
To read me for show; it’s enough if my beloved
Touches it with the hand in which she holds my life.
For I am satisfied if she approves
This work which I dedicate, consecrated, at her feet,
[And to those who are by nature amiable
And who remain unchanging till death. ]

 

Changes vary from minor grammatical variants (Ronsard changes his mind about whether a participle like “tenant” should vary in number or gender), to quite different versions of the same thought, and occasionally some quite different ideas entirely. I wonder if he removed the reference to a lover living “20 or 30 years” as he himself was living proof that lovers could last a good while longer! We can also see Ronsard tidying up where he had in his early years ‘cheated’ a bit in the scansion: so he gets rid of the elision in “Ulyss’ qui”, as being something alien to French.
 
I think it would be wrong to attribute the modern slang meaning of “baiser” (‘having sex’ but rather cruder!) to what Ronsard accuses Penelope and her lovers of doing; but I don’t think we should rule out the possibility that a cruder meaning lurks behind the word.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Amours book 2 – Elégie à son livre

Standard

Although it’s been months since my last post, I find myself still in book 2 of the Amours! This is really the very last poem from book 2 I’ll be posting, though: the lengthy Elegy which Ronsard prefixed to the book as he sent it out into the world.

Mon fils, si tu sçavois ce qu’on dira de toy,
Tu ne voudrois jamais desloger de chez moy,
Enclos en mon estude : et ne voudrois te faire
Salir ny fueilleter aux mains du populaire.
Quand tu seras parti, sans jamais retourner,
Estranger loin de moy te faudra sejourner :
« Car ainsi que le vent sans retourner s’envole,
« Sans espoir de retour s’eschappe la parole.
 
Or tu es ma parole, à qui de nuict et jour
J’ay conté les propos que me contoit Amour,
Pour les mettre en ces vers qu’en lumiere tu portes,
Crochetant maugré moy de ma chambre les portes,
Pauvret! qui ne sçais pas que nos citoyens sont
Plus subtils par le nez que le Rhinoceront.
 
Donc avant que tenter la mer et le naufrage,
Voy du port la tempeste, et demeure au rivage.
« Tard est le repentir de tost s’estre embarqué.
 
Tu seras tous les jours des médisans moqué
D’yeux, et de hausse-becs, et d’un branler de teste.
« Sage est celuy qui croit à qui bien l’amoneste.
 
Tu sçais (mon cher enfant) que je ne te voudrois
Tromper, contre nature impudent je faudrois,
Et serois un Serpent de farouche nature
Si je voulois trahir ma propre geniture :
Car tout tel que tu es, n’agueres je te fis,
Et je ne t’aime moins qu’un pere aime son fils.
 
Quoy? tu veux donc partir : et tant plus je te cuide
Retenir au logis, plus tu hausses la bride.
Va donc puis qu’il te plaist, mais je te suppliray
De respondre à chacun ce que je te diray,
Afin que toy (mon fils) tu gardes en l’absence
De moy le pere tien, l’honneur et l’innocence.
 
Si quelque dame honneste et gentille de cœur
(Qui aura l’inconstance et le change en horreur)
Me vient, en te lisant, d’un gros sourcil reprendre
Dequoy je ne devois oublier ma Cassandre,
Qui la premiere au cœur le trait d’amour me mist,
Et que le bon Petrarque un tel peché ne fist,
Qui fut trente et un an amoureux de sa dame,
Sans qu’une autre jamais luy peust eschauffer l’ame :
Respons-luy je te pri’, que Petrarque sur moy
N’avoit authorité pour me donner sa loy,
Ny à ceux qui viendroyent apres luy, pour les faire
Si long temps amoureux sans leur lien desfaire.
 
Luy-mesme ne fut tel : car à voir son escrit
Il estoit esveillé d’un trop gentil esprit
Pour estre sot trente ans, abusant sa jeunesse
Et sa Muse au giron d’une vieille maistresse :
Ou bien il jouyssoit de sa Laurette, ou bien
Il estoit un grand fat d’aimer sans avoir rien.
Ce que je ne puis croire, aussi n’est-il croyable :
Non, il en jouyssoit : puis la fist admirable,
« Chaste, divine, saincte : aussi l’amoureux doit
« Celebrer la beauté dont plaisir il reçoit :
« Car celuy qui la blasme apres la jouissance
« N’est homme, mais d’un Tygre il a prins sa naissance.
Quand quelque jeune fille est au commencement
Cruelle, dure, fiere à son premier amant,
Constant il faut attendre : il peut estre qu’une heure
Viendra sans y penser, qui la rendra meilleure.
Mais quand elle devient voire de jour en jour
Plus dure et plus rebelle, et plus rude en amour,
On s’en doit esloigner, sans se rompre la teste
De vouloir adoucir une si sotte beste.
Je suis de tel advis : me blasme de ceci,
M’estime qui voudra, je le conseille ainsi.
 
Les femmes bien souvent sont cause que nous sommes
Volages et legers, amadoüans les hommes
D’un espoir enchanteur, les tenant quelquefois
Par une douce ruse, un an, ou deux, ou trois,
Dans les liens d’Amour sans aucune allegeance :
Ce-pendant un valet en aura joüissance,
Ou bien quelque badin emportera ce bien
Que le fidele amy à bon droit cuidoit sien.
Et si ne laisseront, je parle des rusées
Qui ont au train d’amour leurs jeunesses usées,
(C’est bien le plus grand mal qu’un homme puisse avoir
Que servir une femme accorte à decevoir)
D’enjoindre des travaux qui sont insupportables,
Des services cruels, des tâches miserables :
Car sans avoir esgard à la simple amitié
De leurs pauvres servans, cruelles n’ont pitié,
Non plus qu’un fier Corsaire en arrogance braves,
N’a pitié des captifs aux environs esclaves.
Il faut vendre son bien, il faut faire presens
De chaisnes, de carquans, de diamans luisans :
Il faut donner la Perle, et l’habit magnifique,
Il faut entretenir la table et la musique,
Il faut prendre querelle, il faut les suporter.
Certes j’aimerois mieux dessus le dos porter
La hotte, pour curer les estables d’Augée,
Que me voir serviteur d’une Dame rusée.
« La mer est bien à craindre, aussi est bien le feu,
« Et le Ciel quand il est de tonnerres esmeu,
« Mais trop plus est à craindre une femme clergesse,
« Sçavante en l’art d’amour, quand elle est tromperesse :
« Par mille inventions mille maux elle fait,
« Et d’autant qu’elle est femme, et d’autant qu’elle sçait.
Quiconque fut le Dieu qui la mit en lumiere
Il fut premier autheur d’une grande misere.
 
Il falloit par presens consacrez aux autels
Acheter nos enfans des grands Dieux immortels,
Et non user sa vie avec ce mal aimable,
Les femmes, passion de l’homme miserable,
Miserable et chetif d’autant qu’il est vassal,
Durant le temps qu’il vit, d’un si fier animal.
Mais je vous pri’, voyez comment par fines ruses
Elles sçavent trouver mille feintes excuses,
Apres qu’ell’ ont failly ! voyez Helene apres
Qu’Ilion fut bruslé de la flamme des Grecs,
Comme elle amadoüa d’une douce blandice
Son badin de mary, qui luy remit son vice,
Et qui plus que devant de ses yeux fut épris,
Qui scintilloient encor les amours de Pâris.
Que dirons-nous d’Ulysse ? encores qu’une trope
De jeunes poursuyvans aimassent Penelope,
Devorans tout son bien, si est-ce qu’il brusloit
D’embrasser son espouse, et jamais ne vouloit
Devenir immortel avec Circe la belle,
Pour ne revoir jamais Penelope, laquelle
Pleurant luy rescrivoit de son fascheux sejour,
Pendant qu’en son absence elle faisoit l’amour :
Si bien que le Dieu Pan de ses jeux print naissance,
(D’elle et de ses muguets la commune semence)
Envoyant tout expres, pour sa commodité,
Le fils chercher le père en Sparte la cité.
« Voilà comment la femme avec ses ruses donte
« L’homme, de qui l’esprit toute beste surmonte.
 
Quand on peut par hazard heureusement choisir
Quelque belle maistresse, et l’avoir à plaisir,
Soit de haut ou bas lieu, pourveu qu’elle soit fille
Humble, courtoise, honneste, amoureuse et gentille,
Sans fard, sans tromperie, et qui sans mauvaitié
Garde de tout son cœur une simple amitié,
Aimant trop mieux cent fois à la mort estre mise,
Que de rompre sa foy quand elle l’a promise :
Il la faut honorer tant qu’on sera vivant,
Comme un rare joyau qu’on treuve peu souvent.
« Celuy certainement merite sur la teste
« Le feu le plus ardent d’une horrible tempeste,
« Qui trompe une pucelle et mesmement alors
« Qu’elle se donne à nous, et de cœur et de cors.
 
N’est-ce pas un grand bien quand on fait un voyage,
De rencontrer quelcun qui d’un pareil courage
Veut nous acompagner, et comme nous passer
Les torrens, les rochers, fascheux à traverser ?
Aussi n’est-ce un grand bien de trouver une amie,
Qui nous aide à passer cette chetive vie,
Qui sans estre fardée ou pleine de rigueur,
Traite fidellement de son amy le cueur ?
 
Dy leur, si de fortune une belle Cassandre
Vers moy se fust monstrée un peu courtoise et tendre,
Et pleine de pitié eust cherché à guarir
Le mal dont ses beaux yeux dix ans m’ont fait mourir,
Non seulement du corps, mais sans plus d’une œillade
Eust voulu soulager mon pauvre cœur malade,
Je ne l’eusse laissée, et m’en soit à tesmoin
Ce jeune enfant ailé qui des amours a soin.
 
Mais voiant que tousjours elle marchoit plus fiere,
Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere,
Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou,
Où maintenant Amour me detient sous le jou :
Laquelle tout soudain je quitteray, si elle
M’est comme fut Cassandre, orgueilleuse et rebelle,
Pour en chercher une autre, à fin de voir un jour
De pareille amitié recompenser m’amour,
Sentant l’affection d’une autre dans moymesme :
« Car un homme est bien sot d’aimer si on ne l’aime.
 
Or’ si quelqu’un apres me vient blasmer, dequoy
Je ne suis plus si grave en mes vers que j’estoy
A mon commencement, quand l’humeur Pindarique
Enfloit empoulément ma bouche magnifique :
Dy luy que les amours ne se souspirent pas
D’un vers hautement grave, ains d’un beau stille bas,
Populaire et plaisant, ainsi qu’a fait Tibulle,
L’ingenieux Ovide, et le docte Catulle.
Le fils de Venus hait ces ostentations :
Il suffist qu’on luy chante au vray ses passions
Sans enflure ny fard, d’un mignard et doux stile,
Coulant d’un petit bruit, comme une eau qui distile.
Ceux qui font autrement, ils font un mauvais tour
A la simple Venus, et à son fils Amour.
 
S’il advient quelque jour que d’une voix hardie
J’anime l’eschafaut par une tragedie
Sentencieuse et grave, alors je feray voir
Combien peuvent les nerfs de mon petit sçavoir.
Et si quelque furie en mes vers je rencontre,
Hardi j’opposeray mes Muses alencontre :
Et feray resonner d’un haut et grave son
(Pour avoir part au bouc) la tragique tançon.
Mais ores que d’Amour les passions je pousse,
Humble je veux user d’une Muse plus douce.
 
Je ne veux que ce vers d’ornement indigent
Entre dans une escole, ou qu’un brave regent
Me lise pour parade : il suffist si m’amie
Le touche de la main dont elle tient ma vie.
Car je suis satisfait, si elle prend à gré
Ce labeur que je voüe à ses pieds consacré.
My son, if you knew what they’ll say of you,
You’d never want to leave my home,
But stay shut away in my study; you wouldn’t want yourself
Dirtied or leafed thorough by the crowd’s hands.
When you’ve gone, never to return,
You’ll have to live like a stranger far from me :
“For as the wind flies off without returning,
So, without hope of returning, the word escapes.”
 
And you are my word, to whom night and day
I have told the ideas which Love told me,
So I could put them into these verses which you take into the light,
Picking the locks of the doors of my room in defiance of me,
Poor thing, who know not that our citizens have
Sharper noses than the rhinoceros.
 
So, before trying the sea and shipwreck,
See the storm from port, and stay on the shore.
“Early to board, late to repent.”
 
Every day you’ll be mocked by ill-wishers,
With their eyes, their lifted noses, and a shake of the head.
“Wise the man who believes a person who gives good advice.”
 
You know, my dear child, that I have no desire
To deceive you: I would have to be shameless, contrary to nature
And a serpent with an untamed nature
If I sought to betray my own offspring,
For just as you are, I recently made you,
And I love you no less than a father loves his son.
 
Yet you still wish to go? And the more I wish
To keep you at home, the more you pull at the bit.
Go on then, since you want to, but I beg you
To answer everyone as I will tell you,
So that you, my son, protect in my absence
Your father’s – my own! – honour and innocence.
 
If some honest lady of noble heart,
Who is horrified by inconstancy and change,
On reading you reproves me with a heavy frown
That I ought not to have forgotten my Cassandre,
Who was first to shoot the arrow of love into my heart,
And that good old Petrarch committed no such sin,
Being thirty-one years in love with his lady
Without any other ever being able to set his soul ablaze,
Then reply to her, I beg, that Petrarch had
No authority over me to subject me to his law,
Nor those others who came after him, to make us
Love so long a time without breaking our ties.
 
He himself was not like that; for if you look at what he wrote
He was a sharp man, with too noble a spirit
To be a fool for thirty years, wasting his youth
And his Muse in the lap of an old mistress.
Either he enjoyed his little Laura, or he was
Indeed a great fool to love but not have her at all.
I can’t believe that, nor is it believable;
No, he enjoyed her, then made her out to be admirable,
Chaste, divine, holy: “The lover should also
Celebrate the beauty from whom he gains his pleasure;
For he who blames her after enjoying her
Is no man, but was born of a tiger.”
 
When some young girl is at the beginning
Cruel, harsh and proud to her first lover,
He must remain constant; it may be that the time
Will come, unexpectedly, which will make her better.
But when she becomes from day to day
Harsher and more contrary, and coarser in love,
You should distance yourself, without wearying yourself
Trying to soften so foolish a beast.
That’s my advice: blame me for it
Or praise me who will, I counsel him thus.
 
Women are often the reason we are
Light and flighty, coaxing men
With bewitching hope, sometimes keeping them
With sweet tricks for a year, or two, or three,
In love’s bonds without relief;
And yet a servant will enjoy them,
Or perhaps some wag will run off with the delight
Which the faithful lover rightly thought his own.
And still they won’t stop, I mean those sly girls
Who have spent their youths in Love’s train,
(It’s certainly the greatest trouble a man can have
To serve a woman used to deception)
[They won’t stop] demanding work which is insupportable,
Cruel service, wretched tasks;
For without regard to the simple love
Of their poor servants, they cruelly have no pity,
No more than a proud corsair, brave and arrogant,
Has pity on the captives in his slave-quarters.
[The lover] has to sell his goods, make presents
Of chains, purses, and shining diamonds;
He must give pearls and magnificent clothes,
He must look after the table and the music,
He must take up her quarrels, and endure them.
Certainly I’d prefer to carry on my back
A basket and clean the Augean stables,
Than to become the servant of a sly Lady.
“The sea really should be feared, the fire as well,
And the sky when it is shaken with thunder,
But much more to be feared is a learned woman
Well-versed in the art of love, when she is a deceiver;
By a thousand tricks she makes a thousand evils,
And she’s as wise as she is a woman.”
Whichever was the god who brought her to life,
He was the prime author of great misery.
 
We ought, with presents consecrated at their altars
To offer bribes for our children with the great, immortal gods,
So they don’t waste their lives with that pleasant evil
Woman, the passion of wretched men,
Wretched and weak insofar as they’re vassals
During their lives of so proud a beast.
I beg you, see how by subtle tricks
They are able to find a thousand fake excuses
After they’ve deceived! Look at Helen after
Troy was burned by the Greeks’ fire,
How she wheedled with sweet flattery
Her fool of a husband, who forgave her vice
And fell in love more than before with her eyes
Which sparkled still with love for Paris.
And what shall we say of Ulysses? While a troop
Of young suitors was making love to Penelope,
Devouring all his goods, yet still he burned
To kiss his wife, and never wished
To become immortal with the beautiful Circe
So as never again to see Penelope, whom
Weeping he wanted to tell about his wearisome journey,
While in his absence she was making love:
So much so that the god Pan was born from their frolics
(The common seed of her and her dandies)
As she immediately sent, to make things easier for her,
The son to seek his father in the city of Sparta.
“That is how woman with her cunning defeats
Man, whose spirit overcomes all the animals.”
 
If by chance you might fortunately choose
Some fair mistress, and have her for your pleasure,
No matter if she’s from a high or low place provided she is
A humble, courteous, honest, loving and gentle girl,
Without disguise, without trickery, who without wickedness
Keeps with all her heart her simple love,
Much preferring to be put to death a hundred times
Than to break her word when she has promised it;
Then you must honour her while you live
As a rare jewel most infrequently found.
“He certainly deserves the hottest fires
Of terrible storms upon his head
Who deceives a maid, especially when
She gives herself to us heart and body.“
 
Isn’t it a great delight when we’re travelling
To meet someone who with equal bravery
Wishes to a company us and like us to journey
Over torrents and rocks, tiresome to cross?
And isn’t it a great delight to find a girl
Who helps us on this life’s wretched journey,
Who without being burdened or full of harshness
Treats her lover’s heart faithfully?
 
Tell them, then, if perchance the fair Cassandre
Had showed herself a little courteous and tender towards me,
And full of pity had sought to cure
The ills with which her fair eyes had put me to death those ten years;
If not with her body but with just a single glance
She’d been willing to soothe my poor, ill heart,
I’d not have left her, let my witness be
That young winged child who watches over love-affairs.
 
But seeing how she always continued more proud
I unbound myself from all my first love
To love with it another in the country of Anjou,
Where Love now keeps me under his yoke.
[A love] which I will immediately abandon if she
Is to me as Cassandre was, proud and rebellious,
To find another, so that one day I may see
My love returned with an equal love,
Feeling the affection of another within myself:
“For a man is a complete fool to love if he isn’t loved.”
 
So, if someone afterwards chooses to blame me that
I am no more as grave in my verse as I was
At the beginning, when the Pindaric mood
Puffed up in swollen words my magniloquent voice;
Then tell him that love does not sigh
In high-flown grave verse, but in a fine low style,
Pleasant and popular, like that of Tibullus,
The ingenious Ovid and the learned Catullus.
The son of Venus hates ostentation:
Enough that we sing his passions to him truly
Without bombast or disguise, in a charming sweet style
Flowing with a gentle sound like a tinkling spring.
Those who do otherwise do a bad turn
To simple Venus and her son Love.
 
If it should happen one day that with bold voice
I enliven the stage with some tragedy
Grave and sententious, then I shall show
How loud the strings of my little learning can sound.
And if I encounter passion in my verse
I shall boldly set my Muses against it,
And make a tragic dialogue resound with high-flown
And serious tones (assuming the tragic buskin).
But while I focus on the passions of Love,
In lower style I prefer to employ a sweeter Muse.
 
I do not want these verses, stripped of ornament,
To enter some school, or a worthy regent
To read me for show; it’s enough if my beloved
Touches it with the hand in which she holds my life.
For I am satisfied if she approves
This work which I dedicate, consecrated, at her feet.
 
 
 

 

A few words of commentary on these 200 lines:- the rhinoceros (or, in the earlier version, elephant) has a ‘subtle’ nose, one good for smelling out the good and the bad: ‘sharp’, we could more easily say in English, but while it’s obvious which sort of ‘sharpness’ the elephant’s nose has, it’s perhaps less so for the rhinoceros where a ‘sharp’ nose could refer to its horn not its sensitivity.- Ronsard’s cynicism about Petrarch’s chaste relationship with Laura is perhaps also a corrective to those scholars who think Ronsard’s own affairs were more imagined than real?  His harsh words about women, implicitly applied to Cassandra, should not be taken too literally: he speaks elsewhere of still loving her.

– there’s a cluster of classical references in the middle of the poem:  the Augean stables, cleaning whose filth was one of Heracles’ ‘impossible’ tasks;  Helen of Troy, taken back by Menelaus after Troy’s fall as she was still the most beautiful woman in the world, though her continuing love for Paris is largely a Ronsardian invention (in Homer, she and Menelaus are genuinely reconciled)

– Ronsard invents, too, Penelope’s unfaithfulness to Odysseus with her troop of suitors – in the Odyssey she famously remains loyal; his son Telemachus journeys to Sparta seeking information from Menelaus at the goddess Athene’s prompting, not sent away by Penelope; and Circe did not offer Odysseus immortality but threatened to turn him into a pig like his followers!  Ronsard has, ironically because it would be obvious to all his readers, twisted the Greek tale on its head. However, at the same time he demonstrates his wide and deep reading: in a pretty obscure Pindar fragment, but as far as I know nowhere else, Penelope is indeed said to be Pan’s mother (the father, though, Apollo not one or several human suitors!)

– where Ronsard turns to his new love in Anjou, he says “Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere, / Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou“; that “en” technically means that he is giving Marie his first love, transferring it from Cassandre: this is not a new love, but the old one with a new subject.

– for the really interested, “empoulément” is ampoulément, from the same root as ampoule, a ‘swollen’ bulb of glass.

– Ronsard contrasts the style of Pindar – the great Greek poet of Odes – with that of Tibullus, Ovid and Catullus: Romans, but principally contrasted as love-poets and slightly licentious ones at that. (The ‘son of Venus’ is of course Cupid, god of love.)

 

 

See the next post for Blanchemain’s earlier version with its many variants.

 

Amours 2 — dedicatory sonnet

Standard
[A] ROBERT GARNIER, Prince des poëtes tragicques.
 
SONNET
 
Tu gravois dans le ciel les victoires de France,
Et de nos roys sceptrez ta lyre se paissoit,
Quand ce monarque Amour, qu’elle ne cognoissoit,
Eut vouloir de luy faire entonner sa puissance.
 
Bruslant de ce desir, une fleche il eslance
Que ta jeune poitrine imprudente reçoit ;
Puis, comme le travail en flattant te deçoit,
Tu te plais à chanter le cruel qui t’offence.
 
Son nom, qui ne rouloit sur le parler françois,
Maintenant plus enflé par ta gaillarde voix
Remplit l’air estranger de sa fameuse gloire ;
 
Si que luy, amorcé de ce premier honneur,
Frappe tous ceux qu’il voit dedans Pegase boire,
Pour trouver (mais en vain) encor un tel sonneur.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            [To] Robert Garnier, prince of tragic poets:
 
 
                                                                            You wrote in the heavens the victories of France,
                                                                            And your lyre was nourished by our sceptred kings,
                                                                            When that monarch Love, which it did not recognise,
                                                                            Chose to make it thunder of his power.
 
                                                                            Burning with this desire, he shot an arrow
                                                                            Which struck your careless youthful breast ;
                                                                            Then, as the work flattered to deceive you,
                                                                            You pleased yourself in singing of the cruel one who struck you.
 
                                                                            His name, which was not spoken in the French tongue,
                                                                            Now made greater by your cheerful voice
                                                                            Fills foreign air with his renowned glory;
 
                                                                            So much that he, beginning with this first trophy,
                                                                            Shoots all those whom he sees drinking from the Pegasis,
                                                                            To find (but yet in vain) another such singer.
 
 
 
Marty-Laveaux doesn’t print this dedicatory sonnnet to Garnier in his book; so this is Blanchemain’s version. We’ve met Garnier before: Ronsard wrote a series of sonnets to go at the front of Garnier’s own works as they were published; here is one dedicating Amours 2 to him. Garnier responded after Ronsard’s death with a magnificent elegy.
 
Ronsard shows how he takes ideas that many another poet has played with, and re-knits them into a work that is entirely new and fresh – while still managing to flatter and extol the dedicatee! Though Garnier is best known as a tragic poet (as Ronsard’s dedication reminds us), his first published work was the “Plaintes amoureuses” of 1565 – three years before his first tragedy, and written while he was still a 21-year-old law student. (The book has now been lost.) In fact, apart from his “Hymne de la Monarchye” (and his “Elegy to Ronsard”) poetry by Garnier outside his tragedies is still hard to find.
 
(In fact, even though the latter part of the Elegy has been anthologised over the centuries, and can be found on the web, I’ve been unable to find the original Elegy – as published immediately after Ronsard’s death along with a flood of other poetry in honour of the great man – re-printed in full since the sixteenth century. I feel another post coming on…)
 
So, in extraordinarily disingenuous fashion, given that du Bellay’s “L’Olive” appeared in 1549 and he himself had written 220 love sonnets in his 1st book of Amours in the early 1550s, Ronsard credits Garnier with introducing love-poetry into France … !  (Let us ignore, for the moment, the love poems not in sonnet form of all the preceding generations of poets, from Saint-Gelais to Marot to Villon to Christine de Pisan to Machaut …. !)
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 2:69

Standard
Cesse tes pleurs, mon livre : il n’est pas ordonné
Du destin, que moy vif tu sois riche de gloire :
Avant que l’homme passe outre la rive noire,
L’honneur de son travail ne luy est point donné.
 
Quelqu’un apres mille ans de mes vers estonné
Voudra dedans mon Loir, comme en Permesse, boire,
Et voyant mon pays, à peine pourra croire
Que d’un si petit lieu tel Poëte soit né.
 
Pren, mon livre, pren cœur : la vertu precieuse
« De l’homme, quand il vit, est toujours odieuse :
« Apres qu’il est absent, chacun le pense un Dieu.
 
« La rancueur nuit tousjours à ceux qui sont en vie :
« Sur les vertus d’un mort elle n’a plus de lieu,
« Et la posterité rend l’honneur sans envie.
 
 
 
                                                                            Cease your tears, my book : it was not ordained
                                                                            By fate that, while I am alive, you should be rich in glory ;
                                                                            Before any man passes beyond the black river,
                                                                            The honour due his work is never given to him.
 
                                                                            Someone, astonished by my verse after a thousand years,
                                                                            Will want to drink from my Loir, as from Permessus,
                                                                            And seeing my homeland will hardly be able to believe
                                                                            That from so small a place was such a poet born.
 
                                                                            Take heart, my book: “The precious virtue
                                                                            Of a man, while he lives, is always disliked;
                                                                            After he is gone, everyone thinks him a god.
 
                                                                            Rancour only harms those who are alive;
                                                                            It has no power over the virtues of the dead,
                                                                            And posterity renders honour without envy.”
 
 
 
A gently-classicising poem to end book 2 as originally conceived.  The black river in line 3 is the Styx, the border of the underworld; Permessus in line 6 is the spring on Mt Helicon, home of the Muses. Both do not demand great learning from Marie! Ronsard remains full of certainty about his eventual acceptance as France’s pre-eminent poet…!
 
Blanchemain’s early version has the usual array of variants in the first half: in the opening stanza the honour is due his book, not him, which is slightly more modest!  (The change in line 3 is one of those where Ronsard rejects a poetic inversion (“passé j’aye”) even though the replacement is rather prosaic by comparison: a pity.)

 
 
Cesse tes pleurs, mon livre : il n’est pas ordonné
Du destin que, moy vif, tu reçoives la gloire ;
Avant que passé j’aye outre la rive noire,
L’honneur que l’on te doit ne te sera donné.
 
Quelqu’un, apres mil ands, de mes vers estonné,
Voudra dedans mon Loir comme en Permesse boire,
Et, voyant mon pays, à peine voudra croire
Que d’un si petit champ tel poëte soit né.
 
Pren, mon livre, pren cœur : la vertu precieuse
De l’homme, quand il vit, est tousjours odieuse.
Après qu’il est absent, chacun le pense un dieu.
 
La rancueur nuit tousjours à ceux qui sont en vie ;
Sur les vertus d’un mort elle n’a plus de lieu,
Et la posterité rend l’honneur sans envie.
 
 
 
                                                                            Cease your tears, my book : it was not ordained
                                                                            By fate that, while I am alive, you should receive glory;
                                                                            Before I have passed beyond the black river,
                                                                            The honour people owe you will not be given you.
 
                                                                            Someone, astonished by my verse after a thousand years,
                                                                            Will want to drink form my Loir, as from Permessus,
                                                                            And seeing my homeland will hardly want to believe
                                                                            That from so small a countryside was such a poet born.
 
                                                                            Take heart, my book: “The precious virtue
                                                                            Of a man, while he lives, is always disliked;
                                                                            After he is gone, everyone thinks him a god.
 
                                                                            Rancour only harms those who are alive;
                                                                            It has no power over the virtues of the dead,
                                                                            And posterity renders honour without envy.”
 
 
 
And so we reach the end of book 2: merry Christmas!