Sonnet 17

De toy ma belle Grecque, ainçois belle Espagnole,
Qui tires tes ayeuls du sang Iberien,
Je suis tant serviteur que je ne voy plus rien
Qui me plaise, sinon tes yeux et ta parole.
Comme un mirouer ardent, ton visage m’affole
Me perçant de ses raiz, et tant je sens de bien
En t’oyant deviser, que je ne suis plus mien,
Et mon ame fuitive à la tienne s’en-vole.
Puis contemplant ton œil du mien victorieux,
Je voy tant de vertus, que je n’en sçay le conte,
Esparses sur ton front comme estoiles aux Cieux.
Je voudrois estre Argus ; mais je rougis de honte
Pour voir tant de beautez que je n’ay que deux yeux,
Et que tousjours le fort le plus foible surmonte.
                                                                                Yours, my fair Greek, or rather my fair Spaniard
                                                                                Whose ancestors come from Iberian blood,
                                                                                I am yours, in servitude such that I no longer see anything
                                                                                Which pleases me but your eyes and words.
                                                                                Like a burning mirror, your face terrifies me,
                                                                                Piercing me with its rays; yet I feel so good
                                                                                Watching you chatter that I am no longer my own,
                                                                                And my fleeing soul flies to yours.
                                                                                Then, considering your eyes which have conquered mine,
                                                                                I see so many virtues that I cannot count them
                                                                                Scattered on your brow like stars on the heavens.
                                                                                I’d like to be Argus; for I blush with shame
                                                                                At seeing so many beauties with just my two eyes,
                                                                                And because the strong is always overcome by the weaker.
If you thought line 3 seemed a bit awkward – the scansion opposed slightly by the words – then you’ll be irritated to know that the older Ronsard changed a rather better line which he’d written first time around!  In Blanchemain’s text we read “Je suis tant serviteur, qu’icy je ne voy rien / Qui me plaise” (‘I am yours, in servitude such that I see nothing here / Which pleases me’) – which to me seems infinitely preferable.
Helen’s family (de Fonsèque) were of Spanish origin – apparently from Monterey?  She is ‘Greek’ because all classical allusions go back to Greece!  Argus is the 100-eyed, never-sleeping god who acts as watchman in several stories.

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')

2 responses »

  1. What an amazing image, this burning mirror. A different translation would destroy it, I cannot think of anything like this until Borges,
    She is Greek because she is Helene.. Ronsard did have a passion for the letters in a name, didn’t he –

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