Monthly Archives: May 2013

Sonnet 8

Standard
Tu ne dois en ton cœur superbe devenir,
Ny braver mon malheur, accident de fortune :
La misere amoureuse à chacun est commune :
Tel eschappe souvent qu’on pense bien tenir.
 
Tousjours de Nemesis il te faut souvenir,
Qui fait nostre avanture ore blanche ore brune.
Aux superbes Tyrans appartient la rancune :
Comme ton serf conquis tu me dois maintenir.
 
Les Guerres et l’Amour se semblent d’une chose :
Le veinqueur bien souvent du veincu est batu,
Qui paravant fuyoit de honte à bouche close.
 
L’amant desesperé souvent reprend vertu :
Pource un nouveau trophee à mon mal je propose,
D’avoir contre tes yeux si long temps combat.
 
 
 
                                                                                You should not become proud at heart,
                                                                                Nor disdain my misfortune, the accident of fate;
                                                                                The wretchedness of love is common to all –
                                                                                So a man often loses what he expected to hold on to.
 
                                                                                You must always remember Nemesis
                                                                                Who makes our love now white, now black.
                                                                                Malice is for proud tyrants;
                                                                                You should treat me as your vanquished slave.
 
                                                                                War and Love seem alike in one way:
                                                                                The winner is very often beaten by the loser
                                                                                Who beforehand fled in shame, speechless [with fear].
 
                                                                                The despairing lover often regains courage;
                                                                                Therefore I offer a new trophy to my sickness,
                                                                                For having fought so long against your glances.
 
 
The image of a lover erecting a trophy (sacrifice) in a temple for his love goes back at least to Horace’s famous ode. I imagine the themes elsewhere in the poem – love and war, Nemesis – are as old. What’s important (as in Horace’s ode) is what the poet does with them!
 
Blanchemain’s version varies throughout from this text; though he footnotes the version above in the first and last ‘stanzas’.  Here’s the earlier version complete, with changes marked:
 
 
 
Tu ne dois en ton cœur superbe devenir,
Pour me tenir captif : cela vient de fortune :
A tout homme mortel la misère est commune :
Tel eschappe souvent qu’on pense bien tenir.
 
Tousjours de Nemesis il te faut souvenir,
Qui fait nostre avanture ore blanche ore brune.
Aux tigres, aux lyons appartient la rancune :
Comme ton serf conquis tu me dois maintenir.
 
Les Guerres et l’Amour sont une mesme chose :
Le veinqueur du vaincu bien souvent est batu,
Qui paravant fuyoit de honte à bouche close.
 
Soit que je sois captif sans force ni vertu,
Un superbe trophée au cœur je me propose,
D’avoir contre tes yeux si long temps combatu.
 
 
 
                                                                                You should not become proud at heart
                                                                                At holding me captive; that’s the result of fate.
                                                                                To every mortal man wretchedness is common –
                                                                                So a man often loses what he expected to hold on to.
 
                                                                                You must always remember Nemesis
                                                                                Who makes our love now white, now black.
                                                                                Malice is for tigers, for lions;
                                                                                You should treat me as your vanquished slave.
 
                                                                                War and Love are one and the same:
                                                                                The winner is very often beaten by the loser
                                                                                                      [order of words only is changed]
                                                                                Who beforehand fled in shame, speechless [with fear].
 
                                                                                Even if I’m a captive, powerless and without courage,
                                                                                I yet offer a proud trophy to my heart,
                                                                                For having fought so long against your glances.
 
 
 
 
 
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Sonnet 7

Standard
Amour abandonnant les vergers de Cytheres,
D’Amathonte et d’Eryce, en la France passa :
Et me monstrant son arc, comme Dieu, me tança,
Que j’oubliois, ingrat, ses loix et ses mysteres.
 
Il me frappa trois fois de ses ailes legeres :
Un traict le plus aigu dans les yeux m’eslança.
La playe vint au cœur, qui chaude me laissa
Une ardeur de chanter les honneurs de Surgeres.
 
Chante (me dist Amour) sa grace et sa beauté,
Sa bouche ses beaux yeux sa douceur sa bonté :
Je la garde pour toy le sujet de ta plume.
 
Un sujet si divin ma Muse ne poursuit.
Je te feray l’esprit meilleur que de coustume :
«  L’homme ne peut faillir, quand un Dieu le conduit.
 
 
 
                                                                                 The god of Love, abandoning the orchards of Cythera,
                                                                                 Amathus and Eryx, has moved to France
                                                                                 And showing me his bow like a god he scolded me
                                                                                 For ungratefully forgetting his laws and mysteries.
 
                                                                                 He struck me three times with his light wings;
                                                                                 The sharpest of his arrows he shot in my eyes.
                                                                                 The wound reached my heart, and that burning wound gave me
                                                                                 A burning desire to sing of the glory of Surgères.
 
                                                                                 “Sing,” said the god of Love to me “of her grace and beauty,
                                                                                 Her lips, her fair eyes, her sweetness, her goodness;
                                                                                 I am watching over her for you, to be the subject of your verse.”
 
                                                                                 So godlike a subject my Muse was not seeking!
                                                                                 “I shall make your spirit greater than it was;
                                                                                 Man cannot fail, when a god leads him.”
 
 
  
 
Ronsard sets out the inspiration for his new book of poems in a strongly classicising style, pointing to the direct inspiration – indeed, demands – of the god of love as his motivation. He also localises his Helen as the lady from Surgères – and indeed she remains the town’s principal claim to fame.
 
Blanchemain’s version is identical except that he (curiously) prints “Un ardeur” at the beginning of line 8 – I don’t recall seeing it as a masculine noun elsewhere, maybe this is a typo?
 
The opening classical allusions may need some explanation:  though all are sites associated with Venus as goddess of love.  The Palicastro (Old Town) on the island of Cythera has an archaic Greek temple to Venus (Aphrodite) ‘of the Heavens’;  Amathus on Cyprus was the second-largest cult site for Venus in the ancient world (after her birthplace, Paphos); and mount Eryx in Sicily (now Monte San Giuliano), which was in ancient times considered equal to Etna as one of Sicily’s greatest mountains, was topped by another temple of Venus.
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 6

Standard
Dedans les flots d’Amour je n’ay point de support,
Je ne voy point de Phare, et si je ne desire
(O desir trop hardy !) sinon que ma Navire
Apres tant de perils puisse gaigner le port.
 
Las ! devant que payer mes vœux dessus le bort,
Naufrage je mourray : car je ne voy reluire
Qu’une flame sur moy, qu’une Helene qui tire
Entre mille rochers ma Navire à la mort.
 
Je suis seul me noyant de ma vie homicide,
Choisissant un enfant un aveugle pour guide,
Dont il me faut de honte et pleurer et rougir.
 
Je ne sçay si mes sens, ou si ma raison tasche
De conduire ma nef : mais je sçay qu’il me fasche
De voir un si beau port et n’y pouvoir surgir.
 
 
 
 
                                                                                 On the sea of love I have nothing to bear me up,
                                                                                 I see no lighthouse [to guide me], and yet I want only
                                                                                 (Idle wish!) that my ship
                                                                                 May reach its port after so many perils.
 
                                                                                 Alas! Before paying my vows on board
                                                                                 I shall die shipwrecked;  for I see only
                                                                                 One flame lighting my way, one Helen who draws
                                                                                 My ship to death on a thousand rocks.
 
                                                                                 I am alone, drowning myself, destroyer of my own life,
                                                                                 Choosing as guide a child, a blind child,
                                                                                 Which ought to make me weep and blush from shame.
 
                                                                                 I don’t know if my senses or my reason are trying
                                                                                 To guide my craft;  but I know it annoys me
                                                                                 To see so fair a port and not be able to reach it.
 
 
  
 
A thoroughly worked-through ship metaphor!  I can’t think of many of Ronsard’s poems which maintain a metaphor throughout.  Some allusions again – “Phare” is both a standard word for lighthouse and also a reference to the famous Pharos of Alexandria; and the blind child is of course Cupid.
 
I can’t be sure but I do wonder if the last line offers a double-entendre: how often does a ship “surgir” to gain its port?  Obviously there is an image of the surging sea here, and the ship weathering the storm; but I wonder if Ronsard’s ship ‘rising up’ as it sees its harbour might not be one of those ship-metaphors often found in (for instance) English Cavalier poets who obviously cannot talk about sex directly?
 
Blanchemain’s earlier version begins differently, but is otherwise the same until the final lines:  he opens with “Poussé des flots d’amour…” (‘Driven on love’s surges…’), which I have to say I find more vivid than the later version of the beginning!
 
Although Blanchemain offers the version of lines 12-13 above in a footnote, his chosen text changes half of the last ‘stanza’:
 
 
Je ne crains point la mort, mon cœur n’est point si lasche,
Je suis trop généreux ; seulement il me fasche
De voir un si beau port et n’y pouvoir surgir.
 
                                                                                 I don’t fear death at all, my heart is not so cowardly,
                                                                                 And I am too noble at heart;  it simply annoys me
                                                                                 To see so fair a port and not be able to reach it.
 
  
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 5

Standard
Helene sceut charmer avecque son Nepenthe
Les pleurs de Telemaque. Helene, je voudroy
Que tu peusses charmer les maux que je reçoy
Depuis deux ans passez, sans que je m’en repente.

Naisse de nos amours une nouvelle plante,
Qui retienne noz noms pour eternelle foy,
Qu’obligé je me suis de servitude à toy,
Et qu’à nostre contract la terre soit presente.

O terre, de nos oz en ton sein chaleureux
Naisse une herbe au Printemps propice aux amoureux,
Qui sur nos tombeaux croisse en un lieu solitaire.

O desir fantastiq, duquel je me deçoy,
Mon souhait n’adviendra, puis qu’en vivant je voy
Que mon amour me trompe, et qu’il n’a point de frere. 

 
 
 
                                                                                 Helen knew how to charm away with her nepenthe
                                                                                 The tears of Telemachus. Helen, I wish
                                                                                 You could charm away the pain I’ve been suffering
                                                                                 These last two years, though I am not sorry for them.
 
                                                                                 May a new plant be born from our love
                                                                                 To keep our names together [as a sign] of eternal fidelity,
                                                                                 As I have bound myself in servitude to you,
                                                                                 And may the earth be witness of our vow.
 
                                                                                 O earth, may there be born from our bones in your warm bosom
                                                                                 A spring plant perfect for lovers,
                                                                                 To grow on our graves in some lonely place.
 
                                                                                 O fantastical love with which I deceive myself!
                                                                                 My wish will not come true, since as I live I see
                                                                                 My love deceives me, and has no brother.
 
  
 
A couple of classical allusions here which need explaining!  ‘Nepenthe’ in line 1 refers to the 4th book of the
Odyssey (lines 220-1), in which Helen pours Telemachus a cup filled with the drug nepenthe, literally ‘no-grief’ – in other words, an anti-depressant (perhaps an opiate?).  At the other end of the sonnet, the odd reference to love’s brother is – apparently – a reference to the obscure Anteros (Anti-Eros – – love’s opposite or reflection). Cupid-Eros told his mother Venus he could not grow if he did not have a twin brother – who thus symbolises the need for love to be returned if it is to grow.
 
Blanchemain’s earlier version has only the minor substitution of a tree for a flower in line 10 – “Naisse un arbre au Printemps” (‘may there be born from our bones in your warm bosom / In Spring a tree perfect for lovers…’).  However, he also footnotes an alternative version of lines 6-7:
 
 
Qui conserve nos noms en escrit dessus soy,
Les porte entre-lassez d’une eternelle foy
 
                                                                                 To preserve our names in writing upon it,
                                                                                 And bear them entwined in eternal fidelity
 
The image here being either that of a tree with names inscribed by the lovers, perhaps; or a flower like the narcissus which bears the name ‘written’ on it in the form of the patterns on the petals.
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 4

Standard
Tout ce qui est de sainct, d’honneur et de vertu,
Tout le bien qu’aux mortels la Nature peut faire,
Tout ce que l’artifice icy peut contrefaire,
Ma maistresse en naissant dans l’esprit l’avoit eu.
 
Du juste et de l’honneste à l’envy debatu
Aux escoles des Grecs : de ce qui peut attraire
A l’amour du vray bien, à fuir le contraire,
Ainsi que d’un habit son corps fut revestu.
 
Tousjours la chasteté des beautez ennemie
(Comme l’or fait la Perle) honore son Printemps,
Une vertu nayve, une peur d’infamie,
 
Un œil qui fait les Dieux et les hommes contens :
La voyant si parfaite, il fault que je m’escrie,
Bien-heureux qui l’adore, et qui vit de son temps !
 
 
 
 
                                                                                 All there is that’s holy, honourable, virtuous,
                                                                                 All the good which Nature can bring mortals,
                                                                                 All that artifice can counterfeit here,
                                                                                 My mistress had it all within her soul as she was born.
 
                                                                                 With the justice and truth debated urgently
                                                                                 In the schools of the Greeks; with that which can attract
                                                                                 To love truly good things, and avoid the opposite;
                                                                                 With these, like simple clothes, her body was draped.
 
                                                                                 As well, chastity – the enemy of other beauties –
                                                                                 Embellishes her springtime, as gold sets off pearls;
                                                                                 With a naïve virtue, avoidance of evil,
 
                                                                                 And a glance which makes gods and men happy.
                                                                                 Seeing her so perfect, I have to cry out
                                                                                 Happy he who loves her, and lives in her lifetime!
 
 
 
 Lovely simple images and yet some unusual and charming ones too.  Blanchemain’s earlier version has only minor differences in the third ‘stanza’, which runs:
 
 
La chasteté qui est des beautez ennemie
(Comme l’or fait la Perle) honore son Printemps,
Un respect de l’honneur, une peur d’infamie, …
                                                                                 Chastity which is the enemy of other beauties
                                                                                 Embellishes her springtime, as gold sets off pearls;
                                                                                 With respect for honour, avoidance of evil, …
 
Blanchemain also offers in a footnote a line 11 like Marty-Laveaux’s with the one difference that her virtue is “parfaite” (‘perfect’) rather than “nayve” – “Une vertu parfaite, une peur d’infamie, …”
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 3

Standard
Ma douce Helene, non, mais bien ma douce haleine,
Qui froide rafraischis la chaleur de mon cœur,
Je prens de ta vertu cognoissance et vigueur,
Et ton œil comme il veut à son plaisir me meine.
 
Heureux celuy qui souffre une amoureuse peine
Pour un nom si fatal : heureuse la douleur,
Bien-heureux le torment, qui vient pour la valeur
Des yeux, non pas des yeux, mais de l’astre d’Helene.
 
Nom, malheur des Troyens, sujet de mon souci,
Ma sage Penelope et mon Helene aussi,
Qui d’un soin amoureux tout le cœur m’envelope :
 
Nom, qui m’a jusqu’au ciel de la terre enlevé,
Qui eust jamais pensé que j’eusse retrouvé
En une mesme Helene une autre Penelope ?
 
 
 
 
                                                                                 My sweet Helen, no rather my sweet breath
                                                                                 Whose cool refreshes the heat in my heart,
                                                                                 I gain strength and recognition from your virtue
                                                                                 And your eye leads me as it will at its pleasure.
 
                                                                                 Happy he who suffers a lover’s pain
                                                                                 For so fatal a name; happy the sadness,
                                                                                 So happy the torture which comes for the worth
                                                                                 Of those eyes – or not Helen’s eyes but her star.
 
                                                                                 That name, misfortune of the Trojans, subject of my care,
                                                                                 My wise Penelope and my Helen also,
                                                                                 Who envelops all my heart with her loving care;
 
                                                                                 That name which has lifted me from the earth to the heavens,
                                                                                 Who would ever have thought that I’d have found
                                                                                 In a Helen, indeed, another Penelope?
 
 
 
 Ronsard contrasts the heroines of the two Homeric poems about the Trojan War – Helen, the faithless wife, whose infidelity led to Troy’s destruction, and Penelope, faithful wife of Odysseus, who ‘spun out’ the years of waiting for his return remaining chaste & loyal despite strong pressure to re-marry.
 
Unfortunately I cannot think of a way to replicate his charming pun in the first line!
 
 Blanchemain’s earlier version has only a minor difference:  the end of line 8 is “des flammes d’Helene” (‘Helen’s fire’) instead of her star (astre).