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.
 
 
 
 
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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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  1. Pingback: Cassandre 38-50: a note « Oeuvres de Ronsard

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