Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sonnet 41

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Quand au matin ma Deesse s’habille,
D’un riche or crespe ombrageant ses talons,
Et les filets de ses beaux cheveux blons
En cent façons en-onde et entortille :
 
Je l’accompare à l’escumiere fille
Qui or’pignant les siens brunement lons,
Or’ les frizant en mille crespillons,
Passoit la mer portée en sa coquille.
 
De femme humaine encore ne sont pas
Son ris, son front, ses gestes, ne ses pas,
Ne de ses yeux l’une et l’autre estincelle.
 
Rocs, eaux, ne bois, ne logent point en eux
Nymphe qui ait si follastres cheveux,
Ny l’oeil si beau, ny la bouche si belle.
 
 
 
                                                                      When my goddess dresses in the morning
                                                                      In the rich curling gold which shades her heels,
                                                                      And when she waves and twists a hundred ways
                                                                      The strands of her beautiful blonde hair;
 
                                                                      Then I compare her to the daughter of the foam
                                                                      Who, now combing her own long brown hair,
                                                                      Now fluffing it into a thousand little curls,
                                                                      Crossed the sea carried in her shell.
 
                                                                      No longer are they those of a human woman,
                                                                      Her smile, her brow, her gestures, her walk,
                                                                      Nor the sparkle in her two eyes.
 
                                                                      Rocks, waters and woods provide a home for no
                                                                      Nymph who has such maddening hair,
                                                                      Nor eye, nor lips so fair.
 
 
The image in the second quatrain will be familiar if you’ve ever seen Botticelli’s Venus in her shell; for this is she.
 
Only minor changes in Blanchemain’s chosen version: “Et que les rets de ses beaux cheveux blons” in line 3 (‘The nets of her beautiful blonde hair‘); in line 8 she “Nageoit à bord dedans une coquille” (‘Floated to land in a shell‘); but most oddly, in line 7, “jaunement lons” – so she too has blonde hair instead of contrasting brown!
 
 
 

Sonnet 42

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Avec les lis les oeillets mesliez
N’égalent point le pourpre de sa face :
Ny l’or filé ses cheveux ne surpasse,
Ores tressez  et ores desliez.
 
De ses couraux en voute replies
Naist le doux ris qui mes soucis efface :
Et à l’envy la terre où elle passe,
Un pré de fleurs émaille sous ses piez.
 
D’ambre et de musq sa bouche est toute pleine,
Que diray plus ?  J’ay veu dedans la plaine,
Quand l’air tonnant se crevoit en cent lieux,
 
Son front serein, qui des Dieux s’est fait maistre,
De Jupiter rasserener la destre,
Et tout le ciel obeir à ses yeux.

 

 
 
                                                                      Carnations mixed with lilies
                                                                      In no way equal the pink of her face,
                                                                      Nor does golden thread surpass her hair,
                                                                      When it’s dressed or when it’s loose.
 
                                                                      Arching from her coral lips
                                                                      Is born that sweet smile which wipes away my cares;
                                                                      And with envy, the earth where she passes
                                                                      Bejewels the meadow with flowers beneath her feet.
 
                                                                      Her lips overflow with amber and musk;
                                                                      What more to say?  I’ve seen upon the plain
                                                                      When the thunderous air bursts in a hundred places
 
                                                                      Her calm brow, which has made itself master of the gods,
                                                                      Calming the right hand of Jupiter,
                                                                      And the whole of heaven obeying her eyes.
 
 
In this sonnet, Blanchemain offers a version where the final rhyming lines of each tercet are different, but the rest of the poem is essentially unchanged. (Though line 7 becomes “Et cà et là, partout où elle passe” (‘And here and there, wherever she passes‘.)  Here then is the modified final sestet:
 
 
D’ambre et de musq sa bouche est toute pleine ;
Que diray plus ?  J’ay veu dedans la plaine,
Lorsque plus fort le ciel vouloit tancer,
 
Son front serein, qui des dieux s’est fait maistre,
De Jupiter rasserener la destre,
Ja, ja courbé pour sa foudre élancer.

 

 
 
                                                                     Her lips overflow with amber and musk;
                                                                     What more to say?  I’ve seen upon the plain
                                                                     When heaven prepares to scold more strongly
 
                                                                     Her calm brow, which has made itself master of the gods,
                                                                     Calming the right hand of Jupiter,
                                                                     Already bent to throw his thunderbolt.

 

 
 
 
 

Sonnet 43

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Ores la crainte et ores l’esperance
De tous costez se campent en mon coeur:
Ny l’un ny l’autre au combat n’est veinqueur,
Pareils en force et en perseverance.
 
Ores douteux, ores plein d’asseurance,
Entre l’espoir le soupçon et la peur,
Pour ester en vain de moy-mesme trompeur,
Au coeur captif je promets delivrance.
 
Verray-je point avant mourir le temps,
Que je tondray la fleur de son printemps,
Sous qui ma vie à l’ombrage demeure ?
 
Verray-je point qu’en ses bras enlassé,
Recreu d’amour tout penthois et lassé,
D’un beau trespas entre ses bras je meure ?

 

 
 
 
                                                                      Now fear, and now hope,
                                                                      Plant themselves all around my heart;
                                                                      Not one nor the other is the winner in their battle,
                                                                      Equal in strength and perseverance.
 
                                                                      Now doubtful, now full of certainty,
                                                                      Between hope, suspicion and fear,
                                                                      To be my own deceiver in vain
                                                                      I promise deliverance to my captive heart.
 
                                                                      Shall I never see the time, before I die,
                                                                      When I shall pluck the flower of her springtime,
                                                                      Beneath which my life is lived in shadow?
 
                                                                      Shall I never see the time when, twined in her arms,
                                                                      Worn out with love, all breathless and weary,
                                                                      I die a beautiful death within her arms?
 
 
 
As usual, Ronsard tinkered with this one to try for minor improvements;  Blanchemain’s chosen version has changes in 5 of the lines, though only in lines 7 and 13 does he really modify the meaning. Rather than list them all, here is the complete sonnet in that version:
 
 
Ores la crainte et ores l’esperance,
De çà, de là, se campent en mon coeur,
Et tour à tour l’un et l’autre est veinqueur,
Pareils en force et en perseverance.
 
Ores douteux, ores plein d’asseurance,
Entre l’espoir le soupçon et la peur,
Heureusement de moy-mesme trompeur,
Au coeur captif je promets delivrance.
 
Verray-je point avant mourir le temps,
Que je tondray la fleur de son printemps,
Sous qui ma vie à l’ombrage demeure ?
 
Verray-je point qu’en ses bras enlassé,
Tantost dispost, tantost demy-lassé,
D’un beau souspir entre ses bras je meure ?

 

 
 
                                                                     Now fear, and now hope,
                                                                     Plant themselves now one side, now the other, within my heart,
                                                                     And turn and turn about, one then the other is the winner,
                                                                     Equal in strength and perseverance.
 
                                                                     Now doubtful, now full of certainty,
                                                                     Between hope, suspicion and fear,
                                                                     Happily my own deceiver,
                                                                     I promise deliverance to my captive heart.
 
                                                                     Shall I never see the time, before I die,
                                                                     When I shall pluck the flower of her springtime,
                                                                     Beneath which my life is lived in shadow?
 
                                                                     Shall I never see the time when, twined in her arms,
                                                                     Sometimes fresh, sometimes half-wearied,
                                                                     I die with a happy sigh within her arms?
 
 
 
 

Cassandre 38-50: a note

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Over the next few days I will be revising earlier posts of the poems in this section of the book. There are some minor corrections on the texts, but mainly I want to add into the posts more about variant texts. OK, so it’s more for my satisfaction than anything!

New versions now complete for all these sonnets:  38, 39, 40 – – (41-43 added) – –44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, and 50.

 

Sonnet 38 (re-published)

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Doux fut le trait qu’Amour hors de sa trousse
Tira sur moi; doux fut l’acroissement
Que je receu dès le commencement,
Pris d’une fiebvre autant aigre que douce.
 
Doux est son ris et sa voix qui me pousse
L’esprit du corps plein de ravissement,
Quand il lui plaist sur son Lut doucement
Chanter mes vers animez de son pouce.
 
Telle douceur sa voix fait distiler,
Qu’on ne sçauroit, qui ne l’entend parler,
Sentir en l’ame une joye nouvelle.
 
Sans l’ouir, dis-je, Amour mesme enchanter,
Doucement rire, et doucement chanter,
Et moy mourir doucement auprès d’elle.
 
 
                                                                       Sweet was the arrow which Love drew from his bag
                                                                       Against me; sweet was the increase
                                                                       I’ve received since love’s beginning
                                                                       Gripped by a fever as bitter as it is sweet.
 
                                                                       Sweet is that smile and that voice which draws
                                                                       My soul from my body, full of delight
                                                                       When, self-accompanied softly on the lute, pleasure  rewards
                                                                       The singing of my verses as the thumb strikes the strings.
 
                                                                       Such sweetness that voice distils
                                                                       That no-one who doesn’t hear its singing would be able
                                                                       To feel that new joy in their soul.
 
                                                                       Without hearing, I say, Love himself enchanting us,
                                                                       Sweetly smiling and sweetly singing,
                                                                       And me sweetly dying beside her.
 
 
 
Ronsard deliberately writes so that it appears to be his lady’s singing that he is talking about in the 2nd & 3rd ‘stanzas’; only in the last ‘stanza’ does he resolve the ambiguity and make it clear that it is Cupid who is singing. Unfortunately his/her distinctions are more obvious in English, so I’ve had to torture the translation a little to keep the ambiguity.
Blanchemain recognises this version in a footnote, but chooses instead the following substantially different one as his preferred text, in which only the final tercet remains unchanged:
 
 
Doux fut le trait qu’Amour hors de sa trousse
Pour me tuer me tira doucement
Quand je fus pris au doux commencement
D’une douceur si doucettement douce.
 
Doux est son ris et sa voix, qui me pousse
L’esprit du corps, pour errer lentement
Devant son chant, accordé gentement
Avec mes vers animés de son pouce.
 
Telle douceur de sa voix coule à bas,
Que sans l’ouïr vraiment on ne sait pas
Comme en ses rets l’amour nous encordelle,
 
Sans l’ouïr, dis-je, Amour mesme enchanter,
Doucement rire, et doucement chanter,
Et moy mourir doucement auprès d’elle.
 
 
 
                                                                      Sweet was the arrow which Love sweetly drew
                                                                      From his quiver to kill me
                                                                      When I was seized at the sweet beginning
                                                                      By a sweetness so very sweetly sweet.
 
                                                                      Sweet is that smile and that voice which draws
                                                                      My soul from my body, to wander lightly
                                                                      Before his song, nobly harmonised
                                                                      With my verses as the thumb strikes the strings.
 
                                                                      Such sweetness flows from his voice down here
                                                                      That without hearing it truly you would not know
                                                                      How love can tie us up in his nets,
 
                                                                      Without hearing, I say, Love himself enchanting us,
                                                                      Sweetly smiling and sweetly singing,
                                                                      And me sweetly dying beside her.
 
 Frankly, 5 variants of ‘doux’ (‘sweet’ or ‘soft’) in two-and-a-half lines is a bit much for me – though as usual there are some elements which seem an improvement.
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 37

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Ces petits corps qui tombent de travers
Par leur descente en biais vagabonde,
Heurtez ensemble ont composé le monde
S’entr’acrochans de liens tous divers.
 
L’ennuy, le soing et les pensers couvers
Tombez espais en mon amour profonde,
Ont acroché d’une agrafe feconde
Dedans mon coeur l’amoureux univers.
 
Mais s’il advient que ces tresses orines,
Ces dois rosins et ces mains ivoirines
Rompent ma trame en servant leur beauté,
 
Retourneray-je en eau, ou terre, ou flame ?
Non : mais en voix qui là bas de ma Dame
Accusera l’ingrate cruauté.
 
 
 
                                                                      Those little bodies which fall sideways
                                                                      In their descent by slant-wise wanderings
                                                                      By crashing together have made up the world
                                                                      Grasping one another by all kinds of ties.
 
                                                                      Pain, care and hidden thoughts
                                                                      By falling thickly on my profound love
                                                                      Have grasped with their plentiful hooks
                                                                      The whole universe of love within my heart.
 
                                                                      But if it happens that those golden locks,
                                                                      Those rosy fingers and those ivory hands
                                                                      Should snap my thread as I serve their beauty,
 
                                                                      Shall I return to water, earth or fire?
                                                                      No: rather, to a voice which down below will accuse
                                                                      The ungrateful cruelty of my Lady.
 
 
 
From mythology Ronsard moves to philosophy – beginning with the atomic theories Democritus, Epicurus et al; and ending with (three of) the four elements originally proposed by Empedocles and by Ronsard’s time firmly embedded in philosophy and ‘science’. There’s even a hint of Copernican astronomy with the concept of objects ‘falling sideways’ – the orbit of a planet or an electron is simply the effect of continuously falling towards the centre but travelling sideways (‘slant-wise’?) fast enough to remain at the same distance from the centre.
 
But mythology is not far off: in line 11 there’s a reference to the ‘thread’ of life which the Fates would cut when it was your time to die.
 
Once again Blanchemain has a substantially varied version.  As there are changes in all parts of the poem, here’s his version complete:
 
 
Ces petits corps culbutans de travers,
Par leur descente en biais vagabonde,
Heurtez ensemble ont composé le monde,
S’entr’accrochans d’accrochements divers.
 
L’ennuy, le soing et les pensers couvers,
Tombez espais en mon amour profonde,
Ont façonné d’une attache feconde
Dedans mon coeur l’amoureux univers.
 
Mais s’il advient que ces tresses orines,
Ces dois rosins et ces mains yvoirines
Froissent ma vie, en quoi retournera
 
Ce petit tout ? En eau, air, terre, ou flamme ?
Non, mais en voix qui toujours de ma dame
Par le grand tout les honneurs sonnera.
 
 
                                                                     Those little bodies tumbling sideways
                                                                     In their descent by slant-wise wanderings
                                                                     By crashing together have made up the world
                                                                     Grasping one another in various grips.
 
                                                                     Pain, care and hidden thoughts
                                                                     By falling thickly on my profound love
                                                                     Have fashioned with their plentiful fixings
                                                                     The whole universe of love within my heart.
 
                                                                     But if it happens that those golden locks,
                                                                     Those rosy fingers and those ivory hands
                                                                     Should hurt my life, to what will return
 
                                                                     My little all? To water, air, earth or fire?
                                                                     No: rather, to a voice which will always shout out
                                                                     The beauty of my lady throughout the great all.
 
 
This version manages to get all four of the elements into line 12, even if ‘air’ is a little awkwardly on an unstressed-syllable, as well as contrasting ‘my little all’ with the ‘great all’ of the universe in philosophical style. There are losses too: line 4 is pretty weak, for instance!  The enjambment in lines 11-12 is unusual for Ronsard.
 
 
 

Sonnet 36

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Pour la douleur qu’Amour veut que je sente,
Ainsi que moy Phebus tu lamentois,
Quand amoureux et banny tu chantois
Pres d’Ilion sur les rives de Xante.
 
Pinçant en vain ta lyre blandissante,
Fleuves et fleurs et bois tu enchantois,
Non la beauté qu’en l’ame tu sentois,
Qui te navroit d’une playe aigrissante.
 
Là de ton teint tu pallissois les fleurs,
Là les ruisseaux s’augmentoyent de tes pleurs,
Là tu vivois d’une esperance vaine.
 
Pour mesme nom Amour me fait douloir
Pres de Vandôme au rivage du Loir,
Comme un Phenis renaissant de ma peine.
 
 
 
                                                                      With the sadness which Love wants me to feel
                                                                      You too, Phoebus, just like me lamented
                                                                      When, a banished lover, you sang
                                                                      By Ilium on the banks of the Xanthe.
 
                                                                      Vainly gripping your beguiling lyre
                                                                      You enchanted rivers, flowers, woods,
                                                                      But not the beauty whom your soul desired
                                                                      Who hurt you with a bitter wound.
 
                                                                      There, you made the flowers pale with your hue;
                                                                      There, the rivers grew deeper with your tears;
                                                                      There, you lived in empty hope.
 
                                                                      Now, Love makes me weep for the same name
                                                                      Near Vendôme on the banks of the Loir,
                                                                      Like a phoenix reborn from my pain.
 
 
 
Another mythological sequence: Ronsard once again creates a parallel between ‘his’ Cassandre and her Trojan namesake.  Phoebus (Apollo) was believed to have fallen in love with Cassandra of Troy (Ilium) but been rejected by her. The river Xanthe is one of the Trojan plain’s rivers.  The phoenix is the legendary bird reborn through fire – so that Ronsard evokes the burning pain he feels without actually having to use that phrase.  Note that the Loir is not the Loire – it’s further north in Eure-et-Loir.
 
I’ve translated line 7 rather loosely: strictly, it’s “But not the beauty whom you feel [or, ‘which you feel’] in your soul“; beauty may be the abstract or it may mean ‘her beauty’ or it may just mean Cassandra!  But I think Apollo is meant to feel the desire (or the wound), rather than just ‘sense her beauty’; so I’ve tried to convey that intent rather than translate the words directly.
 
Blanchemain’s version has (in my view) some improvements on this one – and some awkwardnesses missing here! In line 3 he has “Quand, amoureux, loin du ciel, tu chantois” (‘When, in love but far from heaven, you sang’); but the major differences, for better and worse, are in the final sestet. Here it is in his version:
 
 
Là de ton teint se pallissoient les fleurs,
Et l’eau, croissant du dégout de tes pleurs,
Portoit tes cris, dont elle rouloit pleine.
 
Pour mesme nom les fleurettes du Loir,
Pres de Vendôme, ont daigné me douloir,
Et l’eau se plaindre aux souspirs de ma peine.
 
 
                                                                     There, the flowers grew pale with your hue,
                                                                     And the waters, growing deeper as they tasted your tears,
                                                                     Carried your cries, as they flowed filled with them.
 
                                                                     Now, for the same name, the little flowers of the Loir
                                                                     Near Vendôme have seen fit to grieve with me,
                                                                     And the waters to weep at my pain’s sighs.
 
 For better, Ronsard avoids the slightly approximate rhyme of ‘vaine – peine’ and uses a stricter rhyme instead; and he mirrors the flowers and waters of the first tercet in the second. But for worse, he loses the linking theme of Love’s intent, and the image of the phoenix. 
 
 

You can read Tony Kline’s version in verse here