Helen – sonnet 2:42

Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir à la chandelle,
Assise aupres du feu, devidant et filant,
Direz, chantant mes vers, en vous esmerveillant,
Ronsard me celebroit du temps que j’estois belle.
Lors vous n’aurez servante oyant telle nouvelle,
Desja sous le labeur à demy sommeillant,
Qui au bruit de Ronsard ne s’aille resveillant,
Benissant vostre nom de louange immortelle.
Je seray sous la terre, et fantôme sans os :
Par les ombres myrteux je prendray mon repos.
Vous serez au fouyer une vieille accroupie,
Regrettant mon amour, et vostre fier desdain.
Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain :
Cueillez dès aujourdhuy les roses de la vie.
                                                                      When you are good and old, in the evening by candlelight
                                                                      Sat near the fire, carding and spinning,
                                                                      You will say as you sing my poems while marvelling
                                                                      “Ronsard made me famous at the time when I was beautiful.”
                                                                      Then you’ll have just one servant to hear this news,
                                                                      Already half-asleep at her task,
                                                                      Who at the sound of ‘Ronsard’ will suddenly wake
                                                                      Congratulating you for this immortal praise.
                                                                      I shall be beneath the earth, a bloodless ghost;
                                                                      Among the shadows of myrtle I shall take my rest.
                                                                      You will be old and bent over the hearth,
                                                                      Regretful for my love and your proud scorn of it.
                                                                      So live, heed me, don’t wait for tomorrow;
                                                                      Pluck life’s roses today!
Probably Ronsard’s most famous sonnet.
Not surprisingly there are only minor textual variants: ‘devisant’ (talking) for ‘devidant’ in line 2, and ‘au nom de Ronsard’ (at the name of Ronsard) in line 7.
[Edit:  bizarrely, the translation of the second stanza could turn on an editorial comma!  I was forced to paraphrase line 8, as with this punctuation it reads that the old servant is blessing Cassandre with eternal praise. I’m quite sure that any eternal praise here is supposed to be Ronsard’s! Ideally, the “-ant” (‘-ing’) forms of the verbs would distinguish male and female, and we’d be able to see if the old lady ‘waking’ was intended to be the person ‘blessing’. But they don’t.
If you remove Marty-Lavaux’s comma at the end of line 7, you can read the whole thing significantly differently:  ‘Then you’ll have just one servant to hear this news, / Already half-asleep at her task, / Who will suddenly wake at the sound of Ronsard / Blessing you with this immortal praise.’  – – in other words Ronsard is doing the blessing not the old servant. I have to admit though that, with the same verb form in each of the four lines of the stanza, and three of them clearly referring only to the old servant, it’s hard to justify switching the ownership of the verb in this last line … ]

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


About fattoxxon

Who am I? Lover of all sorts of music - classical, medieval, world (anything from Africa), world-classical (Uzbek & Iraqi magam for instance), and virtually anything that won't be on the music charts... Lover of Ronsard's poetry (obviously) and of sonnets in general. Reader of English, French, Latin & other literature. And who is Fattoxxon? An allusion to an Uzbek singer - pronounce it Patahan, with a very plosive 'P' and a throaty 'h', as in 'khan')

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