Sonnet 5

Le Passant, et le Genie.
Veu que ce marbre enserre un corps qui fut plus beau
Que celuy de Narcisse, ou celuy de Clitie,
Je suis esmerveillé qu’une fleur n’est sortie,
Comme elle feit d’Ajax, du creux de ce tombeau.
L’ardeur qui reste encore, et vit en ce flambeau,
Ard la terre d’amour, qui si bien a sentie
La flame, qu’en brazier elle s’est convertie,
Et seiche ne peut rien produire de nouveau.
Mais si Ronsard vouloit sur sa Marie espandre
Des pleurs pour l’arroser, soudain l’humide cendre
Une fleur du sepulchre enfanteroit au jour.
A la cendre on cognoist combien vive estoit forte
La beauté de ce corps, quand mesmes estant morte
Elle enflame la terre et la tombe d’amour.
                                                                                            Dialogue – the Passer-by and the Spirit
                                                                                            Since this marble encloses a form which was more lovely
                                                                                            Than that of Narcissus, or that of Clytie,
                                                                                            I am astonished that a flower has not sprouted
                                                                                            From the hollow of this tomb as it did from Ajax’s.
                                                                                            The hot passion which remains, and lives in this torch,
                                                                                            Burns with love the very earth, which has so felt
                                                                                            The flame that it is changed into a brazier
                                                                                            And, dried out, can produce nothing new.
                                                                                            But if Ronsard wished to scatter on his Marie
                                                                                            Tears to water it, suddenly the moist ashes
                                                                                            Would give birth to a flower from the tomb.
                                                                                            Even as ashes, we understand how strong when alive was
                                                                                            The beauty of this form, when even being dead
                                                                                            She burns the earth and the tomb with love.
Blanchemain makes only one tiny change – in line 10, he alers the article so it reads “soudain d‘humide cendre…”.  That makes the translation of lines 10-11 something like ‘ …suddenly from the moist ashes / Of the tomb would be born a flower’.
We all know that Narcissus thought himself the most beautiful thing on earth; there are plenty of nymphs called Clytie, but the one we want is probably the daughter of Pandareus (she is also known as Merope), to whom Juno gave wisdom and beauty.  The flower of Ajax – thought by some to be larkspur – grew from his blood following his suicide, a flower marked ‘Ai’ (the first letters of his name, and also a Greek exclamation ‘ah!’, ‘woe’, ‘oh!’.

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