Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sonnet 31

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Ostez vostre beauté, ostez vostre jeunesse,
Ostez ces rares dons que vous tenez des cieux,
Ostez ce docte esprit, ostez moy ces beaux yeus,
Cet aller, ce parler digne d’une Deesse :

Je ne vous seray plus d’une importune presse
Fascheux comme je suis : vos dons si precieux
Me font en les voyant devenir furieux,
Et par le desespoir l’ame prend hardiesse.

Pource si quelquefois je vous touche la main,
Par courroux vostre teint n’en doit devenir blesme :
Je suis fol, ma raison n’obeyt plus au frein,

Tant je suis agité d’une fureur extrème.
Ne prenez, s’il vous plaist, mon offence à desdain,
Mais douce pardonnez mes fautes à vous-mesme.

 

 
 
                                                                               Take off your beauty, take off your youth,
                                                                               Take off those rare gifts that you received from Heaven,
                                                                               Take off that learned mind, take off those fair eyes,
                                                                               That way of walking, of speaking worthy of a goddess;
 
                                                                               I will no longer be as offensive, as importunately
                                                                               Demanding, as I am; your gifts so precious
                                                                               Make me, as I see them, become mad
                                                                               And through despair my soul gains boldness.
 
                                                                               So, if sometimes I touch your hand,
                                                                               You should not become pale with anger;
                                                                               I am mad, my reason no longer obeys the curb,
 
                                                                               So stirred am I by extreme passion;
                                                                               Do not hold my offence, I beg, to scorn;
                                                                               But sweetly pardon my faults towards you.

 

 
 
 Again, no changes from Blanchemain’s earlier text.  In the final line, depending on your punctuation around ‘douce’, the meaning can be as above or the line could become ‘But, sweet one, pardon…’
 
A note on the maddening business of translation: that first stanza! Is it ‘remove your beauty’? ‘Take away your beauty’? I’ve used ‘Take off’ to reflect the use of the verb in ‘taking off’ clothes; perhaps if we lived a few hundred years ago ‘Doff your beauty’ would have been best…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ode (1)

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Je suis homme né pour mourir ;
Je suis bien seur que du trespas
Je ne me sçaurois secourir
Que poudre je n’aille là bas.
 
Je cognois bien les ans que j’ay,
Mais ceux qui me doivent venir,
Bons ou mauvais, je ne les sçay,
Ny quand mon âge doit finir.
 
Pour-ce fuyez-vous-en, esmoy,
Qui rongez mon cœur à tous coups,
Fuyez-vous-en bien loin de moy.
Je n’ay que faire avecque vous.
 
Au moins, avant que trespasser,
Que je paisse à mon aise un jour
Jouer, sauter, rire et dancer
Avecque Bacchus et Amour.
 
 
                                                           I am a man born to die;
                                                           I’m quite sure that from death
                                                           I cannot save myself
                                                           From going below as dust.
 
                                                           I know exactly how old I am,
                                                           But the years which should still come to me,
                                                           Good or bad,I know not,
                                                           Nor when my time will end.
 
                                                           Therefore begone, care,
                                                           You who gnaw my heart at every opportunity,
                                                           Begone far from me,
                                                           I have nothing to do with you.
 
                                                           At least before dying
                                                           Let me spend a day at my ease
                                                           Playing, leaping, laughing, dancing
                                                           With Bacchus and Love.
 
 
 
Blanchemain puts at the front of his edition of the ‘Odes retranchées’ this poem. It starts so strongly, and that opening line cries out to be quoted regularly and often! I wonder why Ronsard removed it from later editions?  Perhaps it is because the last stanza is relatively weak and unfocused – but only relatively.
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 30

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L’arbre qui met à croistre a la plante asseuree :
Celuy qui croist bien tost, ne dure pas long temps,
Il n’endure des vents les souflets inconstans :
Ainsi l’amour tardive est de longue duree.

Ma foy du premier jour ne vous fut pas donnee :
L’Amour et la Raison, comme deux combatans,
Se sont escarmouchez l’espace de quatre ans :
A la fin j’ay perdu, veincu par destinee.

Il estoit destiné par sentence des cieux,
Que je devois servir, mais adorer vos yeux :
J’ay, comme les Geans, au ciel fait resistance.

Aussi je suis comme eux maintenant foudroyé,
Pour resister au bien qu’ils m’avoient ottroyé
Je meurs, et si ma mort m’est trop de recompense.

 

 
 
                                                                               The tree which sets itself to grow is surely grounded,
                                                                               But one which grows quickly does not last long,
                                                                               It cannot endure the varied blows of the winds;
                                                                               Just so, a slow love is long-lasting.
 
                                                                               My troth was not given you from the first day;
                                                                               Love and Reason, like two duellists,
                                                                               Skirmished together the space of four years;
                                                                               In the end, I lost, overcome by fate.
 
                                                                               It was fated, by the decision of the heavens,
                                                                               That I should serve but love your eyes;
                                                                               Like the Giants, I resisted heaven.
 
                                                                               But, like them, I am now overwhelmed;
                                                                               For resisting the good that they had granted me
                                                                               I must die, and yet my death is too much reward for me.
 
 
 
 
One of this little cluster of sonnets where Blanchemain has the same text as the late versions.  The Giants resisting the gods are familiar from many mythologies (the frost giants – hrímþursar – & giants of Jotunheim in Norse mythology for instance) but Ronsard is clearly referring back to classical mythology. Whether he is being specific about the Thracian giants who fought with Heracles and the gods in the ‘gigantomachy’ familiar from many vase paintings, or referring rather to the Titans who ruled before the gods, and who were defeated by Jupiter, is perhaps not important.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Odelette (44)

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Boivon, le jour n’est si long que le doy.
Je perds, amy, mes soucis quand je boy.
Donne-moy viste un jambon sous la treille,
      Et la bouteille
      Grosse à merveille
   Glougloute auprès de moy.
Avec la tasse et la rose vermeille
   Il faut chasser l’esmoy.
 
                                                           Let’s drink, day is not as long as a finger.
                                                           My friend, I lose my worries when I drink.
                                                           Give me quick some ham beneath the arbour
                                                                 And a bottle,
                                                                 Marvellously big,
                                                              Glugging beside me.
                                                           With a cup and a red rose
                                                              We must chase away care.
 
 
 

I thought I’d post this just because the first line mirrors one in the middle of the Ode to Simon Nicolas – and of course the sentiments too are mirrored!

 

 

Sonnet 29

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De vos yeus, le mirouer du Ciel et de Nature,
La retraite d’Amour, la forge de ses dards,
D’où coule une douceur, que versent vos regards
Au cœur, quand un rayon y survient d’aventure,
 
Je tire pour ma vie une douce pasture,
Une joye, un plaisir, que les plus grands Cesars
Au milieu du triomphe, entre un camp de soudars,
Ne sentirent jamais : mais courte elle me dure.
 
Je la sens distiller goutte à goutte en mon cœur,
Pure saincte parfaicte angelique liqueur,
Qui m’eschaufe le sang d’une chaleur extrème.
 
Mon ame la reçoit avecque tel plaisir,
Que tout esvanouy je n’ay pas le loisir
Ny de gouster mon bien, ny penser à moymesme.
 
 
                                                                               From your eyes, the mirror of Heaven and Nature,
                                                                               Love’s retreat and the forge of his arrows,
                                                                               Whence flows a sweetness which your glances pour
                                                                               Into the heart, when some ray by chance reaches it,
 
                                                                               [From them] I draw sweet sustenance for my life,
                                                                               A joy, a pleasure, that the greatest Caesars
                                                                               In the midst of their triumphs, surrounded by their troops,
                                                                               Never felt; but it lasts only a short while.
 
                                                                               I feel it distil drop by drop in my heart,
                                                                               A pure, holy, perfect, angelic liquor
                                                                               Which warms my blood with its excessive heat.
 
                                                                               My soul drinks it in with such pleasure
                                                                               That, entirely overcome, I have no time
                                                                               To taste my good-fortune, nor to think of myself.
 
 
 Blanchemain offers a minor variant in line 12, “Mon ame la reçoit avec un tel plaisir” – personally I think the line flows slightly better with this version, but I don’t have Ronsard’s ear!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 28

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Si j’estois seulement en vostre bonne grace
Par l’erre d’un baiser doucement amoureux,
Mon cœur au departir ne seroit langoureux,
En espoir d’eschaufer quelque jour voste glace.
 
Si j’avois le portrait de vostre belle face,
Las ! je demande trop ! ou bien de vos cheveux,
Content de mon malheur je serois bien heureux,
Et ne voudrois changer aux celestes de place.
 
Mais je n’ay rien de vous que je puisse emporter,
Qui soit cher à mes yeux pour me reconforter,
Ne qui me touche au cœur d’une douce memoire.
 
Vous dites que l’Amour entretient ses accords
Par l’esprit seulement, je ne sçaurois le croire :
Car l’esprit ne sent rien que par l’ayde du corps.
 
 
                                                                               If I were only in your good graces
                                                                               Through the gain of a sweetly-loving kiss,
                                                                               My heart would not pine at your parting,
                                                                               In the hope that one day it might melt your ice.
 
                                                                               If I had a picture of your fair face –
                                                                               Oh, I ask too much! – well then, of your hair,
                                                                               Content in my misfortune I would be happy
                                                                               And would not want to change places with the gods.
 
                                                                               But I have nothing of yours which I could take with me,
                                                                               Which could be dear to me and bring me comfort,
                                                                               Or could touch my heart with a sweet memory.
 
                                                                               You say that Love maintains its ties
                                                                               Through the spirit alone; I cannot believe it;
                                                                               For the spirit feels nothing without the body’s help.
 
 
 
 I love the idea of a portrait of the back of Helen’s head being all he can hope for; and the last line is wonderful!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Odes 5:13 – À Simon Nicolas, Secretaire du Roy

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I think this is the 200th poem I’ve posted, so here’s Ronsard in celebratory style, enjoying youth and drinking!

À Simon Nicolas
Secretaire du Roy
 
Nicolas, faisons bonne chère
Tandis qu’en avons le loisir;
Trompon le soin et la misere,
Ennemis de nostre plaisir.
 
Purgeon l’humeur qui nous enflame
D’avarice et d’ambition;
Ayon, philosophes, une ame
Toute franche de passion.
 
Chasson le soin, chasson la peine,
Contenton-nous de nostre rien :
Quand nostre ame sera bien saine
Tout le corps se portera bien.
 
Une ame de biens affamée
Obscurcit tousjours la raison :
Il ne faut qu’un peu de fumée
Pour noircir toute la maison.
 
Faire conqueste sur conqueste
De biens amassez sans propos,
Ce n’est que nous rompre la teste,
Et ne trouver jamais repos.
 
J’ay raclé de ma fantasie
Le monde au visage éhonté,
Pour vaquer à la poësie
Quand j’en auray la volonté.
 
Voilà le bien que je desire,
Sans plus en vain me tourmenter:
Désormais sera mon empire
Que savoir bien me contenter.
 
Quand ta fièvre (dont la mémoire
Me fait encores frissonner)
Ne t’auroit appris qu’à bien boire,
Tu ne la dois abandonner.
 
A toutes les fois que l’envie
Te prendra de boire, reboy ;
Boy souvent, aussi bien la vie
N’est pas plus longue que le doy.
 
C’est un grand bien d’estre hydropique
Et d’eau s’enfler la ronde peau :
Des elemens le plus antique
Et le meilleur, n’est-ce pas l’eau?
 
Non seulement la maladie
Qui nous surprend par ses efforts
Ne rend nostre masse estourdie,
Enervant les forces du corps,
 
Mais elle trouble la cervelle
Et l’esprit qui nous vient des cieux :
Il n’y a part qui ne chancelle,
Quand les hommes deviennent vieux.
 
Puis la mort vient, la vieille escarce;
Alors un chacun se repent
Que mieux il n’a joué sa farce;
Mais bon-temps, à Dieu t’y command’.
 
 
 
Nicolas, let’s make good cheer
While we still have the time ;
Outwit care and misery,
The enemies of our pleasure.
 
Sweep away the ill-humour which inflames us
With avarice and ambition;
Have, like philosophers, a soul
Entirely free of passion.
 
Chase away care, chase away troubles,
Content ourselves with the nothing we have;
When our soul is pure
The whole body will be well.
 
A soul hungry for possessions
Always clouds the reason;
Just a little smoke is needed
To make the whole house dark.
 
Making conquest after conquest,
Amassing possessions without purpose,
It’s nothing but wearing yourself out
And never finding rest.
 
I’ve scraped from my imagination
The world with its shameless face,
To focus on poetry
Whenever I want.
 
That’s the possession I desire
Without vainly troubling myself about more;
In future my empire will be
That which can readily satisfy me.
 
Since your fever (the memory of which
Still makes me shiver)
Would have taught you only to drink well,
You should not give it up.
 
On every occasion when the desire
To drink takes you, drink again!
Drink often, and then life
Is no longer than a finger.
 
It’s great to have dropsy
And for your smooth skin to swell with water;
The most ancient and best
Of the elements, surely, is water!
 
Not only does the illness
Which catches us unawares, by its efforts
Wear down the stuff of which we’re made,
Weakening the strength of the body,
 
But it also troubles the brain,
And the spirit which comes to us from the heavens;
There is no part which does not totter
When men become old.
 
Then comes death, the old miser;
And so each of us is sorry
That he did not play out the farce better ;
But enjoy yourself, and commend yourself to God.
 
 As usual with the Odes, I’m only using Blanchemain; yet (surprise) even so, there are variants! He footnotes beneath the 1584 version (above) a variant from 1587 in the 7th stanza – halfway through the poem. Note how cunningly Ronsard adapts ’empire’ to a whole new meaning by switching it from noun to verb, ’empire’ to ’em-pirer’ (to make worse)
 
 

Voilà le bien que je desire,
Sans plus en vain me tourmenter:
Afin que mon ame n’empire
Par faute de se contenter.
 

                                                                        That’s the possession I desire
                                                                       Without vainly troubling myself about more;

                                                                       So that my soul should not get worse,

                                                                       Through want, at satisfying itself.
 
 
 Incidentally, note that the next poem in the book is another drinking song, “Boy Janet“.  In the 1570s & 80s, under the poet-king Charles IX and his successor Henri III, last of the Valois, the ‘secretaires et notaires de la Chambre du Roi’ numbered around 70, and naturally interested themselves in poetry & poets. Nicolas was one such, though there seems little more known about him.