Ode to Jacque Peletier

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Apologies for the long time without a post: I’ve been too ill and tired to make any sensible translations!  But it did give me a chance to read a bit: while glancing through the works of Jacques Peletier du Mans [as one does…! 🙂 ], I found this ode which Ronsard dedicated to him. As it’s in a volume of Peletier’s works published in 1547, this is Ronsard’s first published work, as well as his first Ode.  It eventually ended up in the Pièces retranchées des Odes.

Ode de Pierre de Ronsart

a Jacques Peletier, Des beautez qu’il

voudroit en s’Amie.

Quand je seroy si heureux de choisir
Maistresse selon mon desir,
Saiz tu quelle je la prendroye,
Et a qui suget me rendroye,
Pour la servir, constant, a son plaisir ?
 
L’age non meur, mais verdelet encore :
C’est celuy seul qui me devore
Le cueur d’impatience atteint :
Noir je veux l’œil, et brun le teint,
Bien que l’œil verd le François tant adore.
 
J’aime la bouche imitante la rose
Au lent Soleil de May desclose :
Un petit Tetin nouvelet,
Qui se fait desja rondelet,
Et s’eslever dessus l’Albastre s’ose.
 
La taille droitte, a la beauté pareille,
Et dessouz la coeffe une oreille
Qui toute se monstre dehors :
En cent façons les cheveux tors :
La joue egalle a l’Aurore vermeille.
 
L’estomac plain, la jambe longue et grelle,
D’autant que moins sembleroit elle
A celles qui l’ont volontiers
Plus grosse qu’il ne faut d’un tiers :
Le flanc haussé, la cuisse ronde et belle.

La dent d’ivoire, odorante l’aleine,
A qui s’egalleroient a peine
Toutes les fleurs de la Sabee,
Ou toute l’odeur desrobee
Que l’Inde riche heureusement ameine.
 
L’esprit naif, et naive la grace :
La main lascive, ou qu’elle embrasse
L’amy en son giron couché,
Ou que son Luc en soit touché,
Et une voix qui mesme son Luc passe.
 
Qu’el’ seust par cueur tout cela qu’a chanté
Petrarque en Amours tant venté,
Ou la Rose par Meun decritte :
Et contre les femmes despite
Avecques qui jeune j’auroy’ hanté.
 
Quand au maintien, inconstant et volage,
Follatre, et digne de tel age :
Le regard errant ça et la,
Et une dousseur sus cela
Qui plus cent fois que la beauté soulage.

Je ne voudroye avoir en ma puissance
A tous coups d’elle jouissance :
Souvent le nier un petit
En amour donne l’appetit,
Et donne encor’ la longue obeissance.
 
Quand est de moy, je ne voudroy’ changer
Femme telle a l’or estranger,
Ny a tout cela qui arrive
De l’Orient en nostre rive,
Ny a la Lote heureux fruit a manger.
 
Lors que sa bouche a me baiser tendroit,
Ou que tendre ne la voudroit,
Feignant la cruelle faschee :
Ou quand en quelque coing cachee,
A l’impourveu accoller me viendroit.

Ode of Pierre de Ronsard

to Jacques Peletier, On the beauties

he would wish for in a lover

When I’m fortunate enough to choose
A mistress according to my wishes,
Do you know whom I shall take
And to whom I shall make myself subject
To serve constantly, at her pleasure?
 
Not too mature in years, but still in fresh youth:
That alone gnaws at my heart,
Wounded with impatience;
I want her eyes to be black, her skin tanned,
Even though the French love green eyes so much.
 
I love a mouth which imitates the rose
Blooming in the lazy sunshine in May;
A small budding breast,
Just rounding out,
And daring to lift itself above the alabaster [of her skin]
 
A fine figure, equal to her beauty,
And beneath her hair, ears
Which show themselves entire beyond it;
Her hair curled a hundred ways;
Her cheek crimson to equal the Dawn.
 
A rounded stomach, a long and slender leg,
In which respect she should resemble as little as possible
Those who choose to have legs
A third thicker than necessary;
A high waist, a round and pretty thigh.
 
Teeth of ivory, sweet-smelling breath
Scarcely to be equalled by
All the flowers of Sheba,
Or all the secret perfumes
Which the rich Indies happily bring us.
 
A simple spirit, and simple charm;
A naughty hand, whether she’s embracing
A lover lying in her lap
Or whether she’s playing her lute with it,
And a voice which surpasses even her lute.
 
She should know by heart all that
Petrarch sang in his so-well-known Love poems,
Or the Rose described by [Jean de] Meun;
And she should vex those women
With whom I might have spent time when young.
 
As for how she behaves herself – inconstant, fickle,
Flighty, just as she should be at that age;
Her glance should wander here and there,
And a sweetness over all
Which comforts a hundred times more than her beauty.
 
I wouldn’t want to have in my power
Happiness from her, not at any price;
Denying your man a little thing often
Increases desire in love,
And also makes for long-lasting obedience.
 
As for me, I would not want to change
Such a lady for foreign gold,
Nor for everything which arrives
On our shores from the Orient,
Nor for Lotus, that fruit so enjoyable to eat:
 
Whether her lips reached to kiss me,
Or whether she didn’t want to, tenderly
Feigning cruel anger;
Or whether hidden in some corner
She came unexpectedly to embrace me.
 
 In stanza 8, “the Rose” is a reference to the famous ‘Roman de la Rose’ (Romance of the Rose), completed by Jean de Meun.  In the penultimate stanza the Lotus refers to the food of the  Lotus-Eaters in Homer’s Odyssey IX – see also Tennyson’s ‘Lotus Eaters’. The lotus was a narcotic; though it is also sometimes identified with the persimmon! The version above is taken from the 1547 edition of Peletier, where it is accompanied by Peletier’s Ode in response, using the same stanza-form and the same number of stanzas, which I may put up soon!
 
I mention this because Blanchemain’s version has an extra stanza; but as Peletier’s poem has the same number of stanzas as the above, the revised version printed by Blanchemain would not fit the context of the paired Odes in Peletier’s book.
 
Blanchemain’s version also has little changes throughout, so as usual it is easiest to print his version as well, entire, with changes marked. As usual also, I’m far from convinced that the majority of these changes improve the poem; though some undoubtedly improve obscurities in the original version
 
Quand je seroy si heureux de choisir
Maistresse selon mon desir,
Mon Peletier, je te veux dire
Laquelle je voudrois eslire
Pour la servir, constant, a son plaisir. 
 
L’age non meur, mais verdelet encore :
Est l’age seul qui me devore
Le cueur d’impatience atteint :
Noir je veux l’œil, et brun le teint,
Bien que l’œil verd toute la France adore.
 
J’aime la bouche imitante la rose
Au lent Soleil de May desclose :
Un petit Tetin nouvelet,
Qui se fait desja rondelet,
Et sur l’yvoire eslevé se repose.
 
La taille droitte, a la beauté pareille,
Et dessouz la coeffe une oreille
Qui toute se monstre dehors :
En cent façons les cheveux tors :
La joue egalle a l’Aurore vermeille.
 
L’estomac plain, la jambe de bon tour,
Pleine de chair tout à l’entour,
Que par souhait on tasteroit,
Un sein qui les Dieux tenteroit
Le flanc haussé, la cuisse faite au tour.
 
La dent d’ivoire, odorante l’aleine,
A qui s’egalleroient a peine
Les doux parfums de la Sabee,
Ou toute l’odeur desrobee
Que l’Arabie heureusement ameine.
 
L’esprit naif, et naive la grace :
La main lascive, ou qu’elle embrasse
L’amy en son giron couché,
Ou que son luth en soit touché,
Et une voix qui mesme son luth passe.
 
Le pied petit, la main longuette et belle,
Dontant tout cueur dur et rebelle,
Et un ris qui en descouvrant
Maint diamant, allast ouvrant
Le beau sejour d’une grace nouvelle ;
 
Qu’el’ seust par cueur tout cela qu’a chanté
Petrarque en Amours tant venté,
Ou la Rose si bien escrite :
Et contre les femmes despite
Par qui je fus des enfance enchanté ;
 
Quand au maintien, inconstant et volage,
Follatre, et digne de tel age :
Le regard errant ça et la,
Un naturel avec cela
Qui plus que l’art miserable soulage.
 
Je ne voudroye avoir en ma puissance
A tous coups d’elle jouissance :
Souvent le nier un petit
En amour donne l’appetit,
Et fait durer la longue obeissance.
 
D’elle le temps ne pourroit m’estranger,
N’autre amour, ne l’or estranger,
Ny a tout le bien qui arrive
De l’Orient à nostre rive,
Je ne voudrois ma brunette changer,
 
Lors que sa bouche a me baiser tendroit,
Ou qu’approcher ne la voudroit,
Feignant la cruelle faschee :
Ou quand en quelque coing cachee,
Sans l’aviser pendre au col me viendroit.
When I’m fortunate enough to choose
A mistress according to my wishes,
My Peletier, I’d like to tell you
Which I’d choose
To serve constantly, at her pleasure? 
 
Not too mature in years, but still in fresh youth:
That’s the only age which gnaws at
My heart, wounded with impatience;
I want her eyes to be black, her skin tanned,
Even though all France loves green eyes.
 
I love a mouth which imitates the rose
Blooming in the lazy sunshine in May;
A small budding breast,
Just rounding out,
Which lies raised up on the ivory [of her skin]
 
A fine figure, equal to her beauty,
And beneath her hair, ears
Which show themselves entire beyond it;
Her hair curled a hundred ways;
Her cheek crimson to equal the Dawn.
 
A rounded stomach, a well-rounded leg,
Plenty of flesh all around it,
Which you’d want to touch,
A breast which would tempt the Gods,
A high waist, a rounded thigh.
 
Teeth of ivory, sweet-smelling breath
Scarcely to be equalled by
The sweet perfumes of Sheba,
Or all the secret perfumes
Which Arabia happily brings us.
 
A simple spirit, and simple charm;
A naughty hand, whether she’s embracing
A lover lying in her lap
Or whether she’s playing her lute with it,
And a voice which surpasses even her lute.
 
A little foot, a hand, quite long and beautiful,
Overcoming every hard, rebellious heart,
And a smile which, displaying
Many a diamond, indicates the beginning
Of the fair visit of a new Grace;
 
She should know by heart all that
Petrarch sang in his so-well-known love poems,
Or the Rose so well written;
And she should vex those women
By whom I’d been enchanted since youth.
 
As for how she behaves herself – inconstant, fickle,
Flighty, just as she should be at that age;
Her glance should wander here and there,
A naturalness with her
Which comforts more than wretched art.
 
I wouldn’t want to have in my power
Happiness from her, not at any price;
Denying your man a little thing often
Increases desire in love,
And makes obedience long-lasting.
 
From her time could not part me,
Nor other love, nor foreign gold,
Nor for all the goods which arrive
On our shores from the Orient,
Would I want to exchange my brown-haired lass:
 
Whether her lips reached to kiss me,
Or whether she didn’t want to come close,
Feigning cruel anger;
Or whether hidden in some corner
She came without warning to hang on my neck.
 I also have another version, similar to Blanchemain’s but with further changes.  The opening of stanza 1 becomes
 
Quand je seroy si heureux de choisir
Une maistresse à mon desir
                                                                                When I’m fortunate enough to choose
                                                                                A mistress at my wish …
 
Then in that additional (8th) stanza,
 
Maint diamant, allast ouvrant
Le beau vermeil d’une lèvre jumelle
                                                                                Many a diamond, begins by opening
                                                                                The fair crimson of her twin lips.
 
and the last line of the next stanza becomes
 
Dont je serois comme d’elle enchanté
                                                                                Of whom I’d be enchanted as with her
 
In the next stanza, “avec” becomes “outre” – ‘A naturalness beyond that which comforts…”.   And finally in the last stanza the middle line changes:
 
Comme feignant d’estre faschee 
                                                                               As one feigning to be angry…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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