Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sonnet 18

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Une beauté de quinze ans enfantine,
Un or frisé de meint crespe anelet,
Un front de rose, un teint damoiselet,
Un ris qui l’ame aux Astres achemine :
 
Une vertu de telle beauté digne,
Un col de neige, une gorge de lait,
Un coeur ja meur en un sein verdelet,
En Dame humaine une beauté divine :
 
Un oeil puissant de faire jours les nuis,
Une main douce à forcer les ennuis,
Qui tient ma vie en ses dois enfermée :
 
Avec un chant decoupé doucement,
Or’ d’un souris, or’ d’un gemissement :
De tels sorciers ma raison fut charmée.
 
 
 
                                                                       A childlike beauty just fifteen years old,
                                                                       The curled gold of so many ringlets
                                                                       A rosy brow, a maiden’s hue,
                                                                       A smile which carries my soul to the stars :
 
                                                                       A virtue worthy of such beauty
                                                                       A snowy neck, a milk-white throat,
                                                                       A heart already ripe in a youthful breast
                                                                       In a human Lady, a divine beauty :
 
                                                                       An eye with the power to make nights into days,
                                                                       A soft hand to drive off cares,
                                                                       Which holds my life enclosed in its fingers :
 
                                                                       With a song softly ending
                                                                       Now in a smile, now in a sigh :
                                                                       With such sorcery my reason has been charmed.
 
 
 
Ronsard leaves the mythology behind to return to his closely-observed naturalism. The phrasing is beautiful even if sometimes the adjectives are familiar.  Though this version is very little changed from earlier ones, his second thoughts are nonetheless valuable – the changes from the earlier version (below) definitely enhance the poem.
 
Two minor changes:  graces” to “beauté” in line 5 (earlier version: “A virtue worthy of such graces/favours”), and “piller” to “forcer” (line 10 – “A soft hand to steal cares away”);  and a different first line, far weaker than the one he replaced it with later:
 
Un chaste feu qui en l’ame domine
                                                                        A chaste warmth/fire which rules my soul
 
 
 

Odes 1, 17 – to Cassandre

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Probably Ronsard’s single most famous poem, known to many a Frenchman who knows nothing else of the poet.
 
 
Mignonne, allons voir si la rose
Qui ce matin avoit desclose
Sa robe de pourpre au Soleil,
A point perdu, ceste vesprée,
Les plis de sa robe pourprée,
Et son teint au vostre pareil.
 
Las ! voyez comme en peu d’espace,
Mignonne, elle a dessus la place
Las, las, ses beautez laissé cheoir !
O vrayment marastre Nature,
Puis qu’une telle fleur ne dure
Que du matin jusques au soir !
 
Donc, si vous me croyez mignonne,
Tandis que vostre âge fleuronne
En sa plus verte nouveauté,
Cueillez, cueillez vostre jeunesse :
Comme à ceste fleur la vieillesse
Fera ternir vostre beauté.
 
 
 
                                                                                                 My darling, let’s go and see if the rose,
                                                                                                 Which this morning had opened
                                                                                                 Its scarlet dress to the Sun,
                                                                                                 Has in any way lost, this evening,
                                                                                                 The folds of its scarlet dress
                                                                                                 And its hue, equal to your own.
 
                                                                                                 Alas!  see how in a little time,
                                                                                                 My darling, it has all round it,
                                                                                                 Alas, let its beauties fall !
                                                                                                 Nature, you are a  cruel stepmother
                                                                                                 If such a flower lasts
                                                                                                 From morning just till evening !
 
                                                                                                 So, if you believe me, my darling,
                                                                                                 While your years are blooming
                                                                                                 In their freshest newness,
                                                                                                 Harvest, oh harvest your youth :
                                                                                                 Just like this flower, old age
                                                                                                 Will tarnish your beauty.
 
 

You can read Tony Kline’s version in verse here.

 
 
 
 

À la Fontaine Bellerie (Odes 2, 9)

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O Déesse Bellerie,                                                                  O goddess Bellerie [“of the lovely smile” perhaps]
Belle Déesse cherie                                                               Goddess fair and dear 
De nos Nimphes, dont la vois                                              Of our nymphs, whose voices
Sonne ta gloire hautaine                                                       Sound your glory on high
Accordante au son des bois,                                                In harmony with the sound of the woods
Voire au bruit de ta fontaine,                                                And of the murmur of your fountain too;
Et de mes vers que tu ois.                                                     Goddess also of my verse which you know.               
 
Tu es la Nimphe eternelle                                                     You are the eternal nymph
De ma terre paternelle,                                                          Of my homeland
Pource en ce pré verdelet                                                      And so in this verdant meadow              
Voi ton Poëte qui t’orne                                                          Look on your poet who honours you  
D’un petit chevreau de laict,                                                  With a small suckling kid                    
A qui l’une & l’autre corne                                                      With its two young horns                
Sortent du front nouvelet.                                                      Newly sprung from its forehead.                
 
Sus ton bord je me repose,                                                  I lie down on your banks
Et là oisif je compose                                                            And there idly compose,
Caché sous tes saules vers                                                 Hidden under your willows, some                                                    
Je ne sçai quoi, qui ta gloire                                                Sort of verse to announce
Envoira par l’univers,                                                            Your glory throughout the universe,
Commandant à la memoire                                                Lodging it in memory
Que tu vives par mes vers.                                                  So that you will always live through my verse.
 
L’ardeur de la Canicule                                                         The heat of the dog-days
Toi, ne tes rives ne brule,                                                      Burns neither you nor your banks
Tellement qu’en toutes pars                                                 Since in every part  
Ton ombre est epaisse & drue                                            You provide shade deep and dense      
Aus pasteurs venans des parcs,                                         For the shepherds coming from the fields,          
Aus beufs las de la charue,                                                 For the oxen freed from the plough,
Et au bestial epars.                                                                And for our scattered livestock.
 
Tu seras faites sans cesse                                                   You will unceasingly be called
Des fontaines la princesse,                                                  Princess of fountains
Moi çelebrant le conduit                                                       By me celebrating the spring
Du rocher persé, qui darde                                                  In the pierced rock, from which gush forth  
Avec un enroué bruit,                                                           With a hoarse sound
L’eau de ta source jazarde                                                  The chattering waters of your fount    
Qui trepillante se suit.                                                           Which splashing chase one another.
 
 
There is an earlier version of this ode too:  Ronsard made detailed changes most of the way through, so here is the whole poem in its earlier state:
 
 
O fontaine Bellerie,                                                                 O fountain Bellerie
Belle fontaine cherie                                                              Fountain fair and dear 
De nos Nimphes, quand ton eau                                        Of our nymphs, when your water
Les cache au creux de ta source,                                        Hides them in the hollow of your spring
Fuyantes le Satyreau,                                                            As they flee from the satyr
Qui les pourchasse à la course,                                          Who pursues them in the hunt
Jusqu’au bord de ton ruisseau                                            Right to the edge of your stream
 
Tu es la Nimphe eternelle                                                     You are the eternal nymph
De ma terre paternelle,                                                          Of my homeland
Pource en ce pré verdelet                                                     And so in this verdant meadow              
Voi ton Poëte qui t’orne                                                          Look on your poet who honours you  
D’un petit chevreau de laict,                                                  With a small suckling kid                    
A qui l’une & l’autre corne                                                      With its two young horns                
Sortent du front nouvelet.                                                      Newly sprung from its forehead.                
 
L’Été je dors ou repose,                                                         In summer I sleep or lie down
Sur ton herbe, où je compose                                             On your bank, where I compose,
Caché sous tes saules vers                                                 Hidden under your willows, some                                                    
Je ne sçai quoi, qui ta gloire                                                Sort of verse to announce
Envoira par l’univers,                                                            Your glory throughout the universe,
Commandant à la memoire                                                Lodging it in memory
Que tu vives par mes vers.                                                  So that you will always live through my verse.
 
L’ardeur de la Canicule                                                         The heat of the dog-days
Ton vert rivage ne brûle,                                                       Burns not your green banks
Tellement qu’en toutes pars                                                 Since in every part  
Ton ombre est epaisse & drue                                            You provide shade deep and dense      
Aus pasteurs venans des parcs,                                         For the shepherds coming from the fields,          
Aus beufs las de la charue,                                                 For the oxen freed from the plough,
Et au bestial epars.                                                                And for our scattered livestock.
 
Iô ! tu seras sans cesse                                                        Lo, you will be unendingly
Des fontaines la princesse,                                                 Princess of fountains
Moi çelebrant le conduit                                                       As I celebrate the spring
Du rocher persé, qui darde                                                 In the pierced rock, from which gush forth  
Avec un enroué bruit,                                                           With a hoarse sound
L’eau de ta source jazarde                                                  The chattering waters of your fount    
Qui trepillante se suit.                                                           Which splashing chase one another.
 
 

You can read Tony Kline’s verse translation of this second version here.

 
 
 

Pièces retranchées – Sonnet 4

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Quand en songeant ma folastre j’acolle,
Laissant mes flancs sus les siens s’alonger,
Et que, d’un branle habilement leger
En sa moitié ma moitié je recole :
 
Amour adonc si follement m’affole,
Qu’un tel abus je ne voudroy changer,
Non au butin d’un rivage estranger,
Non au sablon qui jaunit en Pactole.
 
Mon Dieu, quel heur, et quel consentement,
M’a fait sentir ce faux recolement,
Changeant ma vie en cent metamorphoses !
 
Combien de fois, doucement agité,
Suis-je ore mort, ore resuscité,
Entre cent lis, et cent vermeilles roses ?
 
 
 
                                                                       Oh, how while dreaming I stick to my folly,
                                                                       Allowing my limbs to stretch alongside hers,
                                                                       And how, with an expert and gentle impulse
                                                                       To her half I re-join my half !
 
                                                                       Love has thus so bewildered and fooled me
                                                                       That I would not change such a deception,
                                                                       Not for the booty of some foreign shore,
                                                                       Not for all the sand which yellows the river Pactolus.
 
                                                                       My goodness, what hour and what assent
                                                                       Made me feel this false attachment,
                                                                       Changing my life a hundred different ways !
 
                                                                       How many times, sweetly troubled,
                                                                       Am I now dead, now revived,
                                                                       Between a hundred lilies and a hundred red roses !
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 17

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Le Destin veut qu’en mon ame demeure
L’oeil, et la main, et le poil delié,
Qui m’ont si fort brulé, ferré, lié,
Qu’ars, prins, lassé, par eux faut que je meure.
 
Le feu, la prise, et le ret à toute heure,
Ardant, pressant, nouant mon amitié,
En m’immolant aux pieds de ma moitié,
Font par la mort, ma vie estre meilleure.
 
Oeil, main, et poil, qui bruslez et gennez,
Et enlacez mon coeur que vous tenez
Au labyrint de vostre crespe voye,
 
Que ne puis-je estre Ovide bien disant?
Oeil tu serois un bel Astre luisant,
Main un beau lis, poil un beau ret de soye.
 
 
 
                                                                       Fate wills that in my heart should live
                                                                       The eye and hand and unloosed hair
                                                                       Which have so fiercely burned, seized, bound,
                                                                       That – burned, caught, wearied by them – I must die.
 
                                                                       The fire, the capture, the net – all the time
                                                                       Scorching, crushing, tying up my love –
                                                                       Destroying me utterly by my other half
                                                                       Make my life, through death, be better ;
 
                                                                       Eye, hand and hair which burn and discomfort
                                                                       And entwine round my heart, which you hold
                                                                       In the labyrinth of your harsh glance.
 
                                                                       Oh, why can’t I be Ovid who wrote so well?
                                                                       Eye, you would be a fair star shining;
                                                                       Hand, a fair lily; hair, a net of fine silk.
 
 Continuing his Ovidian theme, this time Ronsard mentions Ovid explicitly. The ‘other half’ – that is, his lady love – who destroys him is a common topos of classical poetry.
 
By now Ronsard was clearly happy with his melding of classical references to his naturalistic poetry. Only a few minor changes occur in this poem. Line 1 in an (earlier) version is
 
 Par un destin dedans mon coeur demeure
 
                                                                       Through some fate, within my heart live…
 
And in line 7 he tried:
 
Occise aux pieds de ma fiére moitié
 
                                                                       Cut me down to the ground through my proud other half
 
 
 

Sonnet 16

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Je veux pousser par la France ma peine,
Plustost qu’un trait ne vole au decocher :
Je veux de miel mes oreilles boucher,
Pour n’ouir plus la voix de ma Sereine.
 
Je veux muer mes deux yeux en fonteine,
Mon coeur en feu, ma teste en un rocher,
Mes piés en tronc, pour jamais n’approcher
De sa beauté si fierement humaine.
 
Je veux changer mes pensers en oiseaux,
Mes doux soupirs en Zephyres nouveaux,
Qui par le monde eventeront ma pleinte.
 
Je veux du teint de ma palle couleur,
Aux bords du Loir enfanter une fleur,
Qui de mon nom et de mon mal soit peinte.
 
 
 
                                                                       I want to publish throughout France my trouble,
                                                                       Quicker than an arrow flies from the bow :
                                                                       I want to plug my ears with honey
                                                                       So as no longer to hear the voice of my Siren.
 
                                                                       I want to change my two eyes into a fountain,
                                                                       My heart into fire, my head into a rock,
                                                                       My feet into a tree-stump, so as never to approach
                                                                       Her beauty, so proudly human.
 
                                                                       I want to change my thoughts into birds,
                                                                       My soft sighs into new Zephyrs [breezes],
                                                                       Which will expose my woes throughout the world.
 
                                                                       I want to birth a flower, with the hue
                                                                       Of my pale colour, on the banks of the Loire
                                                                       Which would be painted with my name and my ills.
 
 
Ronsard is thinking of Ovid this time, and offers a meditation on his Metamorphoses. Lines 3-4 recall Odysseus whose men plugged their ears with honey as they sailed past the ship-wrecking Sirens (Homer’s Odyssey book 12). The last tercet recalls Narcissus – or, better, Hyacinth who was changed on his death into a flower marked with the words ‘woe, woe’. (The Zephyrs in the previous line may also recall Hyacinth’s story, since it is Zephyr in one version who is responsible for his death.)
 
Ronsard made only minor changes here:  in the first line another version has “par l’univers” (through the whole universe) instead of just France(!); and there is a slightly clumsier version of line 3, improved on here.
 
 
 

Sonnet 15

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Ha, qu’à bon droit les Charites d’Homere
Un faict soudain comparent au penser,
Qui parmi l’air peut de loin devancer
Le Chevalier qui tua la Chimere :
 
Si tost que luy une nef passagere
De mer en mer ne pourroit s’élancer,
Ny par les champs ne le sçauroit lasser,
Du faux et vray la prompte messagere.
 
Le vent Borée ignorant le repos,
Conceut le mien de nature dispos,
Qui dans le Ciel et par la mer encore
 
Et sur les champs animé de vigueur,
Comme un Zethés, s’envole apres mon cueur,
Qu’un Harpye en se jouant devore.
 
 
 
                                                                       Ah, how rightly the Graces of Homer
                                                                       Would compare a sudden deed to thought
                                                                       Which can far outrun through the air
                                                                       That Knight who killed the Chimaera :
 
                                                                       So quick, that a ship in its passage
                                                                       From sea to sea could not forge ahead of it
                                                                       Nor over land could the swift messenger
                                                                       Of truth and falsehood outrun it.
 
                                                                       The North Wind which never rests
                                                                       Conceived my [thoughts], by nature alert,
                                                                       Which in the heavens and by sea too
 
                                                                       And over land, vigorous and active
                                                                       Like Zetes, fly off after my heart
                                                                       Which a Harpy is playfully devouring.
 
 
Another of those complicated classical allusions which struggles to come to life. Homer does indeed compare swift deeds to the speed of thought; the Knight is Bellerophon whose flight on Pegasus to defeat the Chimaera is here recalled; the ‘swift messenger of truth and falsehood’ is Rumour, subject of a famous passge in Virgil’s Aeneid; Zetes is one of the sons of the North Wind; and the Harpies were the winged demons who came and stole all the food from Phineus’s table in the story of Jason and the Argonauts – – as featured in the Ray Harryhausen epic film !