Sonnet 9


We’ve all heard of writer’s block; I wonder if there’s such a thing as translator’s block?? I apologise for the lengthy absence: initially with ‘translator’s block’, then I’ve just been unable to get onto WordPress for the last couple of months for reasons I don’t understand. Still, it’s working now so I’ll get posting again…

L’autre jour que j’estois sur le haut d’un degré,
Passant tu m’advisas, et me tournant la veuë,
Tu m’esblouis les yeux, tant j’avois l’ame esmeuë
De me voir en sursaut de tes yeux rencontré.
Ton regard dans le cœur, dans le sang m’est entré
Comme un esclat de foudre alors qu’il fend la nue :
J’euz de froid et de chaut la fiévre continue,
D’un si poignant regard mortellement outré.
Lors si ta belle main passant ne m’eust fait signe,
Main blanche, qui se vante estre fille d’un Cygne,
Je fusse mort, Helene, aux rayons de tes yeux :
Mais ton signe retint l’ame presque ravie,
Ton œil se contenta d’estre victorieux,
Ta main se resjouyt de me donner la vie.
                                                                                 The other day, when I was at the top of a staircase
                                                                                 You saw mw as you passed; turning your eyes on me
                                                                                 You blinded me, so stunned was my soul
                                                                                 Seeing myself all unexpectedly meeting you eyes.
                                                                                 Your look struck my heart, my blood,
                                                                                 Like a thunderclap as it splits the clouds:
                                                                                 I fell ill with a continuous fever, hot and cold,
                                                                                 Done to death by so sharp a look.
                                                                                 So, if your hand had not beckoned me as you passed,
                                                                                 That white hand which boasts it’s the swan’s daughter[‘s],
                                                                                 I would have been dead, Helen, from the rays of your eyes.
                                                                                 But your signal saved my soul, almost rapt away,
                                                                                 Your eye was happy to be victorious,
                                                                                 And your hand rejoiced to restore my life.
The swan’s daughter in line 10 is the original Helen (of Troy), the daughter of Leda to whom Jupiter famously appeared as a swan before engaging in sex with her: a subject many painters have enjoyed having a go at! As Nicolas Richelet put it in his notes (quoted by Blanchemain), “from that it follows that her hand retains the whiteness of the bird whose daughter she is“.
Blanchemain’s text is identical except that the second half begins “Et si ta belle main…” (‘And, if your fair hand…’) – which, for me, is a more natural conjunction here.

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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