Sonnet 21

Standard
Je t’avois despitee, et ja trois mois passez
Se perdoient, Temps ingrat, que je ne t’avois veüe,
Que destournant sur moy les esclairs de ta veüe,
Je senty la vertu de tes yeux offensez.
 
Puis tout aussi soudain que les feux eslancez,
Qui par le ciel obscur s’esclattent de la nue,
Rasserenant l’ardeur de ta cholere esmeue,
Sou-riant tu rendis mes pechez effacez.
 
J’estois sot d’appaiser par souspirs et par larmes
Ton cœur qui me fait vivre au milieu des alarmes
D’Amour, et que six ans n’ont peu jamais ployer.
 
Dieu peult avecq raison mettre son œuvre en poudre :
Mais je ne suis ton œuvre, ou sujet de ta foudre.
« Qui sert bien, sans parler demande son loyer. »
 
 
                                                                                I had annoyed you, and already the past three months
                                                                                Had been lost, a disagreeable time, in which I hadn’t seen you,
                                                                                When turning on me the lightning-bolts of your glance
                                                                                I felt the power of your offended eyes.
 
                                                                                Then, just as suddenly as bolts of fire
                                                                                Which burst through the dark sky from a cloud,
                                                                                Calming the heat of your anger which I had aroused
                                                                                With a smile you wiped clean my sins.
 
                                                                                I was stupid to pacify with sighs and tears
                                                                                That heart of yours which makes me live amidst the alarms
                                                                                Of Love, and which six years have never managed to tame.
 
                                                                                God may with reason make the work of His hands dust;
                                                                                But I am not the work of yours, not subject to your thunderbolts.
                                                                                “He who serves well asks for his pay without speaking.”
 
 
It’s a rather odd poem: the first half narrative, the second reflection, is not perhaps so unusual, though it is a very marked distinction here. But the first tercet seems to have little to do with the octet – no mention before this of his sighs and tears in an attempt to recover her, especially as in the opening he says he hasn’t seen her for 3 months…. And then that last tercet is almost from a different poem:  we move suddenly from rejection and reconciliation, to Ronsard declaring a form of independence (almost, “I need not fear you”) and finally asserting he has ‘served well’ despite the opening lines which recall 3 months of estrangement…? 
 
Could this strangeness be the result of the older Ronsard tinkering with the poem? Indeed it could. Blanchemain’s earlier version has some substantial differences in the sestet, as well as a cosmetic change in the first half – “Quand” at the beginning of line 3. But it’s in the sestet that the poem gels back together into one stream of connected thought in this earlier version: a clear case of the older Ronsard trying to improve or amend, and here at least making a mess of it.  Here’s the sestet in its earlier form:
 
J’estois vraiment un sot de te prier, maistresse ;
Des dames je ne crains l’orage vengeresse.
En liberté tu vis, en liberté je vy.
 
Dieu peult avecq raison mettre son œuvre en poudre :
Mais je ne suis ton œuvre, ou sujet de ta foudre.
Tu m’as très mal payé pour avoir bien servy.
 
 
 
                                                                               I was truly stupid to beg you, mistress;
                                                                               I do not fear the avenging storm of ladies.
                                                                               In freedom you live, in freedom I live.
 
                                                                               God may with reason make the work of His hands dust;
                                                                               But I am not the work of yours, not subject to your thunderbolts.
                                                                               You have paid me very ill for having served you well.
 
 
This time we get the link back to the narrative;  we can easily imagine the begging in the context of the meeting and then the smile which resolved the breach. The sudden claim of fearlessness is perhaps less obvious in light of the previous few lines, but I think we can see the poet here returning to confidence, building on that smile, and now becoming assertive in his renewed confidence.  All in all, let’s stay with Blanchemain this time and Ronsard’s first thoughts!
 
I mentioned the cosmetic change to ‘Quand’ in line 3; Blanchemain also footnotes a different version of line 2.  So, with a strong preference for the second half of Blanchemain, here’s the complete poem with his ending and that alternative beginning to line 2 marked:
 
 
Je t’avois despitee, et ja trois mois passez
Fuyoient sans retourner, que je ne t’avois veüe,
Quand, destournant sur moy les esclairs de ta veüe,
Je senty la vertu de tes yeux offensez.
 
Puis tout aussi soudain que les feux eslancez,
Qui par le ciel obscur s’esclattent de la nue,
Rasserenant l’ardeur de ta cholere esmeue,
Sou-riant tu rendis mes pechez effacez.
 
J’estois vraiment un sot de te prier, maistresse ;
Des dames je ne crains l’orage vengeresse.
En liberté tu vis, en liberté je vy.
 
Dieu peult avecq raison mettre son œuvre en poudre :
Mais je ne suis ton œuvre, ou sujet de ta foudre.
Tu m’as très mal payé pour avoir bien servy.
 
 
 
                                                                              I had annoyed you, and already the past three months
                                                                               Had fled without returning, in which I hadn’t seen you,
                                                                               When turning on me the lightning-bolts of your glance
                                                                               I felt the power of your offended eyes.

 
                                                                                Then, just as suddenly as bolts of fire
                                                                                Which burst through the dark sky from a cloud,
                                                                                Calming the heat of your anger which I had aroused
                                                                                With a smile you wiped clean my sins.
 
                                                                               I was truly stupid to beg you, mistress;
                                                                               I do not fear the avenging storm of ladies.
                                                                               In freedom you live, in freedom I live.
 
                                                                               God may with reason make the work of His hands dust;
                                                                               But I am not the work of yours, not subject to your thunderbolts.
                                                                               You have paid me very ill for having served you well.
 
 
 
 
 
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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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