Élégie – part 1

Standard

Another long poem as the book draws to an end. Unlike the ‘Stanzas’ at the beginning of the book, this elegy gradually disintegrates from its initially-standard stanza-form into a series of shorter & longer segments. I guess the more erratic length is suposed to ‘unbalance’ the reader and convey distress. Personally, I find it slightly annoying, but that’s just my opinion!

Like the ‘Stances’, I have decided to ‘publish’ this 150-line poem in several parts.

Le jour que la beauté du monde la plus belle
Laissa dans le cercueil sa despouille mortelle
Pour s’en-voler parfaite entre les plus parfaits,
Ce jour Amour perdit ses flames et ses traits,
Esteignit son flambeau, rompit toutes ses armes,
Les jetta sur la tombe, et l’arrousa de larmes :
Nature la pleura, le Ciel en fut fasché
Et la Parque d’avoir un si beau fil trenché.
 
Depuis le jour couchant jusqu’à l’Aube vermeille
Phenix en sa beauté ne trouvoit sa pareille,
Tant de graces au front et d’attraits elle avoit :
Ou si je me trompois, Amour me decevoit.
Si tost que je la vey, sa beauté fust enclose
Si avant en mon cœur, que depuis nulle chose
Je n’ay veu qui m’ait pleu, et si fort elle y est,
Que toute autre beauté encores me desplaist.
 
 Dans mon sang elle fut si avant imprimee,
Que tousjours en tous lieux de sa figure aimee
Me suivoit le portrait, et telle impression
D’une perpetuelle imagination
M’avoit tant desrobé l’esprit et la cervelle,
Qu’autre bien je n’avois que de penser en elle,
En sa bouche en son ris en sa main en son œil,
Qu’encor je sens au cœur, bien qu’ils soient au cercueil.
 
J’avois au-paravant, veincu de la jeunesse,
Autres dames aimé (ma faute je confesse) :
Mais la playe n’avoit profondement saigné,
Et le cuir seulement n’estoit qu’esgratigné,
Quand Amour, qui les Dieux et les hommes menace,
Voyant que son brandon n’eschauffoit point ma glace,
Comme rusé guerrier ne me voulant faillir,
La print pour son escorte et me vint assaillir.
 
Encor, ce me dit-il, que de maint beau trofee
D’Horace, de Pindare, Hesiode et d’Orfee,
Et d’Homere qui eut une si forte vois,
Tu as orné la langue et l’honneur des François,
Voy ceste dame icy : ton cœur tant soit il brave,
Ira sous son empire, et fera son esclave.
Ainsi dit, et son arc m’enfonçant de roideur,
Ensemble dame et traict m’envoya dans le cœur.
 
 Lors ma pauvre raison des rayons esblouye
D’une telle beauté se perd esvanouye,
Laissant le gouvernail aux sens et au desir,
Qui depuis ont conduit la barque à leur plaisir.
 
Raison, pardonne-moy : un plus caut en finesse
S’y fust bien englué, tant une douce presse
De graces et d’amours la suivoient tout ainsi
Que les fleurs le Printemps, quand il retourne ici.
The day on which the most beautiful of the world’s beauty
Left in the coffin her mortal remains
To fly off, perfect among the most perfect,
On that day Love lost his flame and his arrows,
Put out his torch, broke all his weapons,
Threw them on the tomb and bedewed it with tears:
Nature wept for her, Heaven was angered
And Fate too, at having cut so fair a thread.
 
From sunset to rosy dawn
Phoenix could not find her equal in beauty,
Such grace and charms she had in her face;
Or, if I’m wrong, Love deceives me.
As soon as I saw her, her beauty was kept
So much at the front of my mind [heart] that since then nothing
Have I seen which pleased me, and there it is so strong
That all other beauty still  displeases me.
 
In my blood she was imprinted so far to the front
That always in all places the image of her
Beloved form follows me, and such an impression
Of this perpetual fancy
Has so robbed me of spirit and rational thought
That I have no other benefit than thinking of her,
Of her lips, her smile, her hand, her eye
Which I still feel in my heart though they are in the grave.
 
 I have in the past, conquered by youthful desire,
Loved other ladies – I confess my fault;
But the wound did not bleed so deeply
And my hide was just scratched,
When Love, who threatens gods and men,
Seeing that his torch was not warming my ice at all
And like a cunning warrior not wanting to lose me,
Took her for his escort and came to besiege me.
 
 Although, he said to me, with many a fair trophy
From Horace, Pindar, Hesiod and Orpheus
And Homer too who was so powerful a voice,
You have embellished the language and the glory of the French people,
See this lady here: your heart however brave it is
Will fall under her power, and become her slave.
So he said, and his bow crushing me with its violence
Sent both dart and lady together into my heart.
 
Then my weak reason, dazzled by the glare
Of such a beauty, fainted and was lost,
Leaving control to feeling and desire,
Which since then have steered my boat at their pleasure.
 
Reason, forgive me: one more cunning in subtlety
Would easily have been caught like this, so sweet a crowd
Of graces and loves followed her just like
The flowers follow Spring, when it returns here.
 
 
There is only one variant in Blanchemain’s text of this section – of the last line and a half.  Blanchemain has:
 
                                        …tant une douce presse
De graces et d’amours en volant la suivoient,
Et de ses doux regards ainsi que moy vivoient.
 
 
                                                                                                                 … so sweet a crowd
                                                                              Of graces and loves follow her in flight
                                                                              And live on her sweet glances, as I do.
 
 
 Perhaps a quick word on the various classical allusions.  In the first stanza, and again at the end of the poem (in the third section as blogged here) Fate (la Parque) is invked with the image of ‘cutting the thread’ of life; the three Fates span a thread for every man’s life & when the third sister Atropos cut that thread that ended the man’s life. Phoenix was a brother of Europa who, after she was carried off by Jupiter, set off to seek her; eventually settling in Phoenicia, he was believed to have fathered children by many mothers.
 
The list of poets includes the traditionally greatest poets of the classical world: Homer and Hesiod, the archetypes of Greek epic and pastoral poetry; Pindar, originator of the ode; Horace the greatest of the Latin lyrical poets. Orpheus of course was the legendary singer whose songs were powerful enough to raise the dead.
 
 
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