Odes 5, 15

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Nous ne tenons en notre main
Le temps futur du lendemain;
La vie n’a point d’asseurance,
Et, pendant que nous desirons
La faveur des roys, nous mourons
Au milieu de notre esperance.
 
L’homme, après son dernier trespas ,
Plus ne boit ne mange là bas,
Et sa grange, qu’il a laissée
Pleine de blé devant sa fin,
Et sa cave pleine de vin
Ne luy viennent plus en pensée.
 
Hé ! quel gain apporte l’esmoy?
Va, Corydon, appreste-moy
Un lict de roses espanchées.
Il me plaist, pour me défascher,
A la renverse me coucher
Entre les pots et les jonchées.
 
Fay-moy venir Daurat icy ;
Fais-y venir Jodelle aussi,
Et toute la musine troupe;
Depuis le soir jusqu’au matin,
Je veux leur donner un festin
Et cent fois leur pendre la coupe.
 
Verse donc et reverse encor
Dedans ceste grand’ coupe d’or :
Je vay boire à Henry Estienne,
Qui des enfers nous a rendu
Du vieil Anacreon perdu
La douce lyre teïenne.
 
A toy, gentil Anacreon,
Doit son plaisir le biberon,
Et Bacchus te doit ses bouteilles ;
Amour son compagnon te doit
Venus, et Silène, qui boit
L’esté dessous l’ombre des treilles.
 
 
 
                                                                                               We do not hold in our hands
                                                                                               What the future is for tomorrow;
                                                                                               Life gives us no assurances
                                                                                               And while we seek
                                                                                               The favour of kings, we die
                                                                                               In the midst of our hopes.
 
                                                                                               Man after his eventual death
                                                                                               No longer drinks or eats in the Beyond,
                                                                                               And his barn which he left
                                                                                               Full of corn before his end
                                                                                               And his cellar full of wine
                                                                                               No longer come to his mind.
 
                                                                                               Ah, what gain does worry bring?
                                                                                               Go, Corydon, prepare me
                                                                                               A bed strewn with roses.
                                                                                               It pleases me to relax
                                                                                               To lie down on my back
                                                                                               Among the strewings and chaff.
 
                                                                                               Send Daurat to me here
                                                                                               And send Jodelle too
                                                                                               And the whole troop of the Muses’ followers;
                                                                                               From evening through till morning
                                                                                               I’d like to give them a feast
                                                                                               And offer them the cup a hundred times.
 
                                                                                               Pour then, and pour again
                                                                                               Within this great cup of gold
                                                                                               I shall drink to Henry Estienne
                                                                                               Who has returned to us from Hades
                                                                                               The sweet lyre of Teos
                                                                                               Lost by old Anacreon.
 
                                                                                               To you, noble Anacreon,
                                                                                               The drinker owes his pleasure
                                                                                               And Bacchus owes you his bottles;
                                                                                               Venus owes you Love, her companion,
                                                                                               And Silenus who drinks
                                                                                               All summer under the shade of the vine-arbour.
 
As well as the usual classical references, here Ronsard refers to his own contemporaries and friends, other poets in the group which called itself “La Pléïade” (after the cluster of stars, and a famous group of Alexandrian poets: a bold move, particularly as the Alexandrian Pleiad included the enormously influential poets Callimachus and Theocritus, as well as Lycophron and Apollonius of Rhodes!).  Jean Daurat (or Dorat) and Étienne Jodelle were among its minor members;  “the whole troop of the Muses’ followers” is of course the Pléïade.
 
Anacreon was a Greek lyric poet, born in Teos, whose style Ronsard set out to imitate, and whose content he sometimes adapted too: see, for instance, Ode 20 in book 4.
 
Last, Henry Estienne was a publisher and scholar, who edited and issued many Greek texts in print for the first time.
 
 
 
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