Monthly Archives: December 2013

Madrigal (55a)

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Si c’est aimer, Madame, et de jour et de nuict
Resver, songer, penser le moyen de vous plaire,
Oublier toute chose, et ne vouloir rien faire
Qu’adorer et servir la beauté qui me nuit :
 
Si c’est aimer de suivre un bon-heur qui me fuit,
De me perdre moy-mesme et d’estre solitaire,
Souffrir beaucoup de mal, beaucoup craindre et me taire,
Pleurer, crier merci et m’en voir esconduit :
 
Si c’est aimer de vivre en vous plus qu’en moy-mesme,
Cacher d’un front joyeux une langueur extrême,
Sentir au fond de l’ame un combat inegal,
Chaud, froid, comme la fiévre amoureuse me traitte :
Honteux, parlant à vous, de confesser mon mal :
 
Si cela c’est aimer, furieux je vous aime :
Je vous aime, et sçay bien que mon mal est fatal :
Le cœur le dit assez, mais la langue est muette.
 
 
 
                                                                              If it is love, my Lady, both day and night
                                                                              To dream, ponder, think of how to please you,
                                                                              To forget everything and want to do nothing
                                                                              But adore and serve the beauty which harms me;
 
                                                                              If it is love to pursue a happiness which runs from me,
                                                                              To lose myself and be alone,
                                                                              To suffer much harm, to fear much and be silent,
                                                                              To weep, call for mercy and see myself rejected;
 
                                                                              If it is love to live in you more than in myself,
                                                                              To hide with a happy face my extreme pining,
                                                                              To feel in the depths of my soul an unequal combat,
                                                                              Hot and cold as love’s fever treats me;
                                                                              Too shy in speaking with you to confess my illness;
 
                                                                              If that is love, I love you madly;
                                                                              I love you, and well know that my illness is mortal:
                                                                              My heart speaks enough, though my tongue is silent.
  
 
One of those Ronsardian ‘madrigals’, a sonnet with extra lines – here an extra couple of lines in the penultimate tercet.  And what a lovely poem it is.
 
Blanchemain has only one minor difference, in line 14 where he has “si cela est aimer” instead of “si cela c’est aimer”.  The change is purely to the sound of the line (and this time the smoother effect of avoiding hiatus between the vowels “cela_est” is the improvement Ronsard sought.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Sonnet 55

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Je sens de veine en veine une chaleur nouvelle,
Qui me trouble le sang et m’augmente le soing.
Adieu ma liberté, j’en appelle à tesmoing
Ce mois qui du beau nom d’Aphrodite s’appelle.

Comme les jours d’Avril mon mal se renouvelle :
Amour qui tient mon Astre et ma vie en son poing,
M’a tant seduit l’esprit que de pres et de loing
Tousjours à mon secours en vain je vous appelle.

Je veux rendre la place en jurant vostre nom,
Que le premier article avant que je la rende,
C’est qu’un cœur amoureux ne veut de compagnon.

L’amant non plus qu’un Roy de rival ne demande.
Vous aurez en mes vers un immortel renom :
Pour n’avoir rien de vous la recompense est grande.

 
 
 
                                                                              I feel flowing from vein to vein a new warmth
                                                                              Which troubles my blood and increases my cares.
                                                                              Farewell my freedom, I call to witness it
                                                                              This month which is called by the fair name of Aphrodite.
 
                                                                              Like the days in April my illness renews itself;
                                                                              Love who holds my Star and my life in his grasp
                                                                              Has so seduced my spirit that from near and far
                                                                              I am always calling you to my aid – in vain.
 
                                                                              I want to surrender this role while swearing on your name
                                                                              That the first point before I give it up
                                                                              Is that a lover’s heart wants no companion.
                                                                              The lover, like a King, demands no rival.
 
                                                                              You shall have immortal renown through my verse,
                                                                              A great repayment for having nothing from you!
 
 
 
Technically I’m breaking my rule here: the above is the Blanchemain version of the poem not the version in the late editions. The only difference is in line 10, which in the late version ends “…que de la rendre” (‘…before giving it up’). Why not print that & show the variant? I follow one of the modern editors who could see no reason for the change other than an early editor ‘correcting’ Ronsard’s French “…que je la rende”:  but, as he points out, it’s not incorrect – it’s a subjunctive. Maybe the early editor simply had an aversion to the subjunctive…
 
The reference to Aphrodite is, however, a little unusual:  Ronsard usually names his gods after the Roman (Latin) version not the Greek.
 
 
 

Sonnet 54

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Bienheureux fut le jour où mon ame sujette
Rendit obeissance à ta douce rigueur,
Quand d’un traict de ton œil tu me perças le cœur,
Qui ne veut endurer qu’un autre luy en jette.
 
La Raison pour neant au chef fit sa retraite,
Et se mit au dongeon, comme au lieu le plus seur :
D’esperance assaillie et prise de douceur,
Trahit ma liberté, tant elle est indiscrette.
 
Le Ciel le veult ainsi, qui pour mieux offenser
Mon cœur, le baille en garde à la foy du Penser :
Qui trompe ma raison desloyal sentinelle,
 
Vendant de nuict mon camp aux soudars des Amours.
J’auray tousjours en l’ame une guerre eternelle :
Mes pensers et mon cœur me trahissent tousjours.
 
 
 
 
                                                                              Happy was the day on which my soul, your subject,
                                                                              Made obeisance to your sweet harshness,
                                                                              When you pierced with a dart from your eye that heart of mine
                                                                              Which cannot endure another glance at it.
 
                                                                              Reason made her retreat to a vacant place, my head,
                                                                              And put herself in the dungeon, as being the securest of places;
                                                                              Attacked by hope and conquered by sweetness
                                                                              She betrayed my freedom, so indiscreet is she.
 
                                                                              Heaven too wished this, which (to better attack
                                                                              My heart) had set to guard it the trustworthiness of Thought;
                                                                              But that disloyal sentinel deceived my reason,
 
                                                                              Selling my camp at night to the troops of Love.
                                                                              I shall always have eternal war in my soul;
                                                                              My thoughts and my heart are always betraying me.
  
 
 
Richelet explains line 5:  ‘he follows the opinion of several including Aristotle who place the seat of reason in the heart, which – attacked by the eyes of Helen – forced and required reason to fall back and retreat to the head; from this cause lovers are considered without reason because Love chases reason from the heart when he wounds it’.
 
I could use an explanation for line 4 myself! The grammar is “[Mon coeur] Qui ne veut endurer qu’un autre [traict] luy en(?) jette” ‘My heart cannot endure that another dart shoot it with [it? them?]’, though perhahaps I am meant to read “…un autre [oeil] luy en [=de traicts d’oeil] jette” ‘My heart cannot endure that another eye shoot it with darts from the eye’?   Thoughts welcome!  I have translated vaguely ‘another’ which (like the French) might refer back to eyes or darts…
 
Blanchemain offers 3 variant lines in his chosen text, and then a  further 4 in a footnote! In both cases the opening quatrain is untouched, so here are the remaining ‘stanzas’ first in his preferred text:
 
 
La Raison pour neant au chef fit sa retraite,
Et se mit au dongeon, comme au lieu le plus seur :
D’esperance assaillie et prise de douceur,
Rendit ma liberté, qu’en vain je re-souhaite.
 
Le Ciel le veult ainsi, qui pour mieux offenser
Mon cœur, le baille en garde à la foy du Penser :
lequel trahit mon camp, desloyal sentinelle,
 
Ouvrant l’huis du rempart aux soudars des Amours.
J’auray tousjours en l’ame une guerre eternelle :
Mes pensers et mon cœur me trahissent tousjours.
 
 
                                                                              Reason made her retreat to a vacant place, my head,
                                                                              And put herself in the dungeon, as being the securest of places;
                                                                              Attacked by hope and conquered by sweetness
                                                                              She gave up my freedom, whichc I vainly demand back.
 
                                                                              Heaven too wished this, which (to better attack
                                                                              My heart) had set to guard it the trustworthiness of Thought;
                                                                              Which betrayed my camp, a disloyal sentinel,
 
                                                                              Opening the gates of the fort to the troops of Love.
                                                                              I shall always have eternal war in my soul;
                                                                              My thoughts and my heart are always betraying me.
 
 
 
And here is the footnoted variant:
 
 
La Raison pour neant au chef fit sa retraite,
Et se mit au dongeon, comme au lieu le plus seur :
D’esperance assaillie et prise de douceur,
Trahit ma liberté, tant elle est indiscrette.
 
Mon destin le permet, qui pour mieux m’offenser
Baille mon cœur en garde à la foy du Penser :
Qui trompe son seigneur, desloyal sentinelle,

Vendant de nuict mon camp
et mon cœur aux Amours
J’auray tousjours en l’ame une guerre eternelle :
Mes pensers et mon cœur me trahissent tousjours.
 
 
 
                                                                              Reason made her retreat to a vacant place, my head,
                                                                              And put herself in the dungeon, as being the securest of places;
                                                                              Attacked by hope and conquered by sweetness
                                                                              She betrayed my freedom, so indiscreet is she.
 
                                                                              My fate permtted this, which (to better attack me)
                                                                              Set my heart under guard of the trustworthiness of Thought;
                                                                              But that disloyal sentinel deceived its lord,
 
                                                                              Selling my camp and heart at night to Love.
                                                                              I shall always have eternal war in my soul;
                                                                              My thoughts and my heart are always betraying me.

 

 
 
 
 

Sonnet 53

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J’errois à la volee, et sans respect des lois
Ma chair dure à donter me commandoit à force,
Quand tes sages propos despouillerent l’escorce
De tant d’opinions que frivoles j’avois.
 
En t’oyant discourir d’une si saincte vois,
Qui donne aux voluptez une mortelle entorce,
Ta parole me fist par une douce amorce
Contempler le vray bien duquel je m’esgarois.
 
Tes mœurs et ta vertu, ta prudence et ta vie
Tesmoignent que l’esprit tient de la Deité :
Tes raisons de Platon, et ta Philosophie,
 
Que le vieil Promethee est une vérité,
Et qu’apres que du ciel eut la flame ravie
Il maria la Terre à la Divinité.
 
 
 
                                                                              I was wandering at random, and respecting no laws
                                                                              My flesh, hard to tame, was compelling me by force,
                                                                              When your wise words peeled away the rind
                                                                              From those many frivolous thoughts I had.
 
                                                                              Hearing you air these ideas in so saintly a voice
                                                                              Which gives to pleasure a fatal twist,
                                                                              Your words like sweet bait made me
                                                                              Reflect on that true good whose way I had lost.
 
                                                                              Your manners, your virtue, your prudence, your life
                                                                              All witness that the spirit holds something of the divine;
                                                                              Your reasoning from Plato, and your Philosophy,
 
                                                                              [Witness] that old Prometheus is a fact,
                                                                              And that after he had torn fire from heaven
                                                                              He married Earth to the Divine.
  
 
 
Frankly I find, in the metaphysics of the first half, that the sound is at least as important as the meaning!  Specifically, I’m not sure how to visualise ‘peeling the rind from my varied thoughts’, or how discussing wise ideas in a saintly voice gives the pleasure of hearing them ‘a fatal twist’. But there is no denying that there is resonance and weight in those lines.
 
In the second half, Ronsard no doubts expects us to associate Plato with ‘platonic love’ (i.e. unconsummated), as well as to understand the more direct reference to Platonic ‘Forms’ – that is, the idealised (heavenly) versions of imperfect earthly things. Ronsard of course wants to imply that Helene’s perfections are un-Platonic in the sense that they are as perfect as the heavenly versions: that is what his last couplet is about.  Prometheus was of course punished eternally by the gods for stealing fire and giving it to mankind – a symbol of mankind’s inventiveness and advancement, bringin man near to being godlike; in the myth, neither the gods nor the ancients provide any real sense of a ‘marriage of heaven and earth’, rather more a continued struggle between them, but that is not Ronsard’s point here!
 
Blanchemain offers us two variants of the last couplet, as Ronsard worked on its weight and sonority over the years. The earliest version is the one he prints in his text:
 
Et qu’en ayant la flame à Jupiter ravie,
Il maria la Terre à la Divinité.
 
                                                                              And that having torn fire from Jupiter
                                                                              He married Earth to the Divine.
 
 
In a footnote he provides a later version which approaches, but is not yet, the final form printed by Marty-Laveaux:
 
Et qu’apres que du ciel la flame il eut ravie
Il maria la Terre à la Divinité.
 
                                                                              And that after he had torn fire from heaven
                                                                              He married Earth to the Divine.
 
 
Losing the weak participle ‘ayant’ from the line was obviously a good thing; and it is interesting to see the subtle search for weight and resonance in the penultimate line in the two versions of the same words – finally achieving greater weight by eliminating the elisions (‘ciel_la’ and ‘flame_il’).  Here, clearly I think, the latest version is the winner!
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 52

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Dessus l’autel d’Amour planté sur vostre table
Me fistes un serment, je vous le fis aussi,
Que d’un cœur mutuel à s’aimer endurcy
Nostre amitié promise iroit inviolable.

Je vous juray ma foy, vous feistes le semblable,
Mais vostre cruauté, qui des Dieux n’a soucy,
Me promettoit de bouche, et me trompoit ainsi :
Ce-pendant vostre esprit demeuroit immuable.

O jurement fardé sous l’espece d’un Bien !
O perjurable autel ! ta Deité n’est rien.
O parole d’amour non jamais asseuree !

J’ay pratiqué par vous le proverbe des vieux :
Jamais des amoureux la parole juree
N’entra (pour les punir) aux oreilles des Dieux.

 

 
 
 
                                                                              Upon the altar of Love, stood on your table,
                                                                              You made me a vow and I made you one too,
                                                                              That with mutual hearts, strengthened to love one another,
                                                                              Our promised love would be inviolable.
 
                                                                              I swore you my oath, you swore the same,
                                                                              But your cruelty which cares not for the gods
                                                                              Made me the promise with your mouth only, and so deceived me;
                                                                              Your spirit yet remains unchangeable.
 
                                                                              O prison-sentence disguised beneath the appearance of Good!
                                                                              O betraying altar! your divinity is nothing.
                                                                              O word of love, never certain!
 
                                                                              I have experienced through you the proverb of the ancients:
                                                                              Never shall the sworn word of lovers
                                                                              Reach (as their punishment) the ears of the gods.
  
 
 
The earlier Blanchemain version has a minor variant of line 2: “Vous me fistes serment, et je le fis aussi” (‘You made me a vow, and I made it too’). 
 
Richelet offers an explanatory footnote:  ‘Helene and [Ronsard] had made an oath to love one another with inviolable love. [Claude] Binet told me that this oath was sworn on a table carpeted in laurels, symbol of eternity, to mark the mutual linkage of their love proceeding from Virtue, which is immortal.‘ 
 
This of course contradicts my view that Ronsard’s love for Helene was essentially platonic and poetic!  I might hide behind a defence that Binet is merely reporting what Ronsard imagined as a background for his poem.  But I suspect you will find that that is stretching my disbelief a little too far…… 🙂
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 51

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Amour a tellement ses fleches enfermees
En mon ame, et ses coups y sont si bien enclos,
Qu’Helene est tout mon cœur, mon sang et mes propos,
Tant j’ay dedans l’esprit ses beautés imprimees.
 
Si les François avoient les ames allumees
D’amour ainsi que moy nous serions en repos :
Les champs de Montcontour n’eussent pourry nos os,
Ny Dreux ny Jazeneuf n’eussent veu nos armees.
 
Venus, va mignarder les moustaches de Mars :
Conjure ton guerrier de tes benins regars,
Qu’il nous donne la paix, et de tes bras l’enserre.
 
Pren pitié des François, race de tes Troyens,
A fin que nous facions en paix la mesme guerre
Qu’Anchise te faisoit sur les monts Ideens.
 
 
 
                                                                              Love has so firmly buried his arrows
                                                                              In my soul, and his blows are so well fixed there
                                                                              That Helen is all my heart, my blood and my thoughts,
                                                                              So much are her beauties imprinted in my spirit.
 
                                                                              If the French had souls burning
                                                                              With love like mine, we would be at peace;
                                                                              The battlefield of Montcontour would not be rotting our bones,
                                                                              Nor would Dreux and Jazeneuf have seen our armies.
 
                                                                              Venus, go and pet Mars’s moustaches,
                                                                              Beg your warrior with your pleasing glances
                                                                              That he might give us peace; hold him tightly in your arms.
 
                                                                              Take pity on the French, descended from your Trojans,
                                                                              That we might make in peace that same war
                                                                              Which Anchises made on you, on the Idaean mountains.
  
 
Richelet helpfully adds a footnote that lines 7-8 refer to ‘places in France marked by the misery of our civil wars‘. There were only 7 major battles in the Wars of Religion. The Battle of Moncontour (in Poitou) was the penultimate and took place on 3 October 1569 – largely between foreign merecenary forces! – with the surrender of 8000 Huguenots; Dreux (near Ronsard’s beloved Loir) was the site of the first major battle of the Wars of Religion on 19 December 1562, which brought the Catholics another hard-won victory; and Jazeneuf (or Jazeneuil) was the third, in late 1568, a relatively minor and even skirmish though it was followed by heavy casualties as the armies over-wintered close to each other.
 
Venus is called on, as Mars’s wife, to calm his desire for war. Venus favoured the Trojans in the Trojan War, and was particularly associated (for instance in Virgil’s Aeneid) with the family of Aeneas, her half-divine son by Anchises.
 
Blanchemain has only one minor variant:  “à repos” for “en repos” in line 6, which has only a slight inflexional difference in meaning.
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 50

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Bien que l’esprit humain s’enfle par la doctrine
De Platon, qui le vante influxion des cieux,
Si est-ce sans le corps qu’il seroit ocieux,
Et auroit beau louer sa celeste origine.

Par les Sens l’ame voit, ell’oyt, ell’imagine,
Ell’a ses actions du corps officieux :
L’esprit incorporé devient ingenieux,
La matiere le rend plus parfait et plus digne.

Or’ vous aimez l’esprit, et sans discretion
Vous dites que des corps les amours sont pollues.
Tel dire n’est sinon qu’imagination,

Qui embrasse le faux pour les choses cognues :
Et c’est renouveller la fable d’Ixion,
Qui se paissoit de vent et n’aimoit que de nues.

 

 
 
                                                                              Though the human spirit puffs itself up through the teaching
                                                                              Of Plato, which boasts it is in-breathed from the heavens,
                                                                              Yet without the body it would be unproductive
                                                                              And would congratulate itself on its celestial origin in vain.
 
                                                                              The soul sees by the senses, it hears, it imagines,
                                                                              It has its action through the offices of the body;
                                                                              The spirit held within the body becomes ingenious,
                                                                              Substance makes it more perfect and more worthy.
 
                                                                              Yet you love the spirit, and without thinking
                                                                              You say that love is polluted by bodies.
                                                                              Saying such a thing is nothing but a fancy
 
                                                                              Which embraces the false instead of things understood;
                                                                              But that is renewing the fable of Ixion,
                                                                              Who satisfied himself with the wind and loved nothing but clouds.

 

  
 
Ronsard the philosopher today!  There’s a lot of what from context is ‘specialised’ philosophical vocabulary in here; I have paraphrased (or guessed at!) how Ronsard is using it to try to pull out the meanings. But “ingenieux” in line 7 defeats me: I am pretty sure Ronsard is borrowing the Latin sense (‘genius’=spirit) and it means something like in-spirited, within-the-body and therefore is a pun almost on the first half of the line, but I’ve left it as ‘ingenious’ since I can’t think of a way of catching that pun in modern English usage!
 
The reference to Ixion is explained in a footnote printed by Blanchemain:  ‘Ixion, Juno’s lover, embraced a cloud which Jupiter had made in the image of that goddess’.
 
Blanchemain also offers two small variants in the first quatrain:
 
Bien que l’esprit humain s’enfle par la doctrine
De Platon, qui le chante influxion des cieux,
Si est-ce sans le corps qu’il seroit ocieux,
Et auroit beau vanter sa celeste origine.
 
                                                                              Though the human spirit puffs itself up through the teaching
                                                                              Of Plato, which sings of it as in-breathed from the heavens,
                                                                              Yet without the body it would be unproductive
                                                                              And would vaunt its celestial origin in vain.