Stances (Stanzas) – part 1

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After the opening sonnet, Ronsard writes a long poem of about 180 lines, in many ‘stanzas’. It’s interesting to compare the regularity of these stanzas with those in the elegy near the end: in that later poem, the initially regular stanzas become more erratic in length, ‘unbalancing’ the reader, and go hand in hand with sudden and seemingly-erratic changes of theme to convey the distress in the poet’s mind. In these ‘stances‘ at the beginning of the book, the regularity of the form instead contrasts with similar sudden changes in the train of thought, providing a contrasting instead of complementary framework for Ronsard’s elegy.  (Though, remember too that it is 15 years since Ronsard was actually in love with Marie, and that the poems are partly a presentation for the king, so that this is as much (or more) about art than it is about loss…)

Since the poem is so long, I have decided to ‘publish’ in several parts!

Je lamente sans reconfort,
Me souvenant de ceste mort
Qui desroba ma douce vie :
Pensant en ces yeux qui souloient
Faire de moy ce qu’ils vouloient,
De vivre je n’ay plus d’envie.
 
Amour tu n’as point de pouvoir :
A mon dam tu m’as fait sçavoir
Que ton arc par tout ne commande.
Si tu avois quelque vertu,
La Mort ne t’eust pas devestu
De ta richesse la plus grande.
 
Tout seul tu n’as perdu ton bien :
Comme toy j’ay perdu le mien,
Ceste beauté que je desire,
Qui fut mon thresor le plus cher :
Tous deux contre un mesme rocher
Avons froissé nostre navire.
 
Souspirs, eschaufez son tombeau :
Larmes, lavez-le de vostre eau :
Ma voix, si doucement lamente,
Qu’à la Mort vous faciez pitíé,
Ou qu’elle rende ma moitié,
Ou bien que je la suive absente.
 
Fol qui au monde met son cœur,
Fol qui croit en l’espoir mocqueur,
Et en la beauté tromperesse !
Je me suis tout seul offensé,
Comme celuy qui n’eust pensé
Que morte fust une Deesse.
 
Quand son ame au corps s’attachoit,
Rien, tant fust dur, ne me faschoit,
Ny destin ny rude influance :
Menaces, embusches, dangers,
Villes et peuples estrangers
M’estoient doux pour sa souvenance.
 
En quelque part que je vivois,
Tousjours en mes yeux je l’avois,
Transformé du tout en la belle :
Et si bien Amour de son trait
Au cœur m’engrava son portrait,
Que mon tout n’estoit sinon qu’elle.
 
Esperant luy conter un jour
L’impatience de l’Amour
Qui m’a fait des peines sans nombre,
La mort soudaine m’a deceu :
Pour le vray le faux j’ay receu,
Et pour le corps seulement l’ombre.
 
Ciel, que tu es malicieux !
Qui eust pensé que ces beaux yeux
Qui me faisoient si douce guerre,
Ces mains, ceste bouche et ce front
Qui prindrent mon cœur, et qui l’ont,
Ne fussent maintenant que terre ?
I lament with no comfort,
Recalling that death
Which stole away my sweet life:
Thinking on those eyes which used
To do with me whatever they wanted,
For life I have no more desire.
 
Love, you have no power at all:
To my displeasure you have made me realise
That your bow is not all-powerful.
If you had some power
Death would not have stripped you
Of your greatest riches.
 
It’s not you alone who have lost your property:
Like you I have lost mine,
That beauty which I love,
Which was my dearest treasure:
Both of us, against one and the same rock,
Have smashed our vessel.
 
Sighs, warm her tomb;
Tears, wash her with your water:
My voice, lament so sweetly:
So that you will make Death have pity
Either so that it will return my other half,
Or indeed so that I will follow she who’s gone.
 
Foolish is he who places his faith in the world,
Foolish he who believes in mocking hope
And deceitful beauty!
I alone have injured myself
Like one who had not believed
That death was a goddess.
 
When her soul was fixed in her body,
Nothing however harsh would have upset me,
Neither fate nor rough authority;
Threats, ambushes, dangers,
Foreign towns and peoples
Were kind to me, remembering her.
 
In whatever place I lived,
Always I had her before my eyes
Transformed entirely to beauty;
And so well had Love with his dart
Engraved her portrait in my heart
That my all was only her.
 
As I was hoping to tell her one day
Of the impatience of Love
Which had given me troubles without number,
Sudden death disappointed me:
In place of the real thing, I received a fake,
And in place of her body, just her shade.
 
Heaven, how malicious you are!
Who would have thought that those fair eyes
Which made such sweet war on me,
Those hands, those lips, that face
Which stole my heart, and which have it still,
Would now be nothing but dust?
 
 
 Fortunately this is also a poem which Ronsard did not change too much; Blanchemain’s variants are minor. For simplicity entire stanzas from his edition are re-printed below with changes marked:
 

stanza 4

Souspirs, eschaufez son tombeau :
Larmes, lavez-le de vostre eau :
Ma voix si doucement se plaigne
Qu’à la Mort vous faciez pitíé,
Ou qu’elle rende ma moitié,
Ou que ma moitié j’accompaigne.
 
 
                                                                              Sighs, warm her tomb;
                                                                              Tears, wash her with your water:
                                                                              My voice so sweetly protests
                                                                              That you should make Death have pity
                                                                              Either so that it will return my other half,
                                                                              Or that my other half I can accompany.

 stanza 7

En quelque part que je vivois,
Tousjours en mes yeux je l’avois,
Transformé du tout en la belle :
Si bien Amour à coups de trait
Au cœur m’engrava son portrait,
Que mon tout n’estoit sinon qu’elle.
 
 
                                                                              In whatever place I lived,
                                                                              Always I had her before my eyes
                                                                              Transformed entirely to beauty;
                                                                              So well had Love with his arrow-shots
                                                                              Engraved her portrait in my heart
                                                                              That my all was only her.
 
 
 
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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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