Sonnet 45

Standard
Doux desdains, douce amour d’artifice cachee,
Doux courroux enfantin, qui ne garde son cœur,
Doux d’endurer passer un long temps en longueur,
Sans me voir sans m’escrire, et faire la faschee :
 
Douce amitié souvent perdue et recherchee,
Doux de tenir d’entree une douce rigueur,
Et sans me saluer me tenir en langueur,
Et feindre qu’autre part on est bien empeschee :
 
Doux entre le despit et entre l’amitié,
Dissimulant beaucoup, ne parler qu’à moitié.
Mais m’appeler volage et prompt de fantasie,
 
Blasmer ma conscience et douter de ma foy,
Injure plus mordante au cœur je ne reçoy :
Car douter de ma foy c’est crime d’heresie.
 
 
 
                                                                              Sweet scorn, sweet love by artifice hidden,
                                                                              Sweet childlike anger which does not defend her own heart,
                                                                              Sweet in enduring long spells of boredom
                                                                              Without seeing me, without writing to me, and in being sorry;
 
                                                                              Sweet friendship often lost and found,
                                                                              Sweet in keeping that first sweet strictness,
                                                                              And, without greeting me, keeping me pining
                                                                              And pretending to be detained elsewhere;
 
                                                                              Sweet, between resentment and love,
                                                                              Pretending much, speaking only a part.
                                                                              But calling me fickle and quick to imagine things,
 
                                                                              Reprimanding my conscientiousness and doubting my fidelity,
                                                                              I could not receive a sharper wound to my heart;
                                                                              Because doubting my fidelity is a crime of heresy!
  
 
 Oh the frustrations of translation!  Though Ronsard consistently uses “doux” its meaning fluctuates between ‘sweet’ and ‘soft’ all the way through – and sometimes means both together of course. How to do that in English?! I’ve stayed with the same word above, to reflect however poorly Ronsard’s reiteration of the same word: but ‘soft’ sounds, well, softer and sweeter than ‘sweet’ in English, and in any case perhaps ‘gentle’ would carry the dual meaning better?  Perhaps a ‘better’ approximation might be
 
                                                                              Sweet (soft? gentle?) scorn, sweet (gentle?) love by artifice hidden,
                                                                              Soft childlike anger which does not defend her own heart,
                                                                              Sweet (gentle?) in enduring long spells of boredom
                                                                              Without seeing me, without writing to me, and in being sorry;
 
                                                                              Sweet friendship often lost and found,
                                                                              Sweet (soft?) in keeping that first soft strictness,
                                                                              …
 
Beyond that, the poem is full of gentle reflections and refractions of sound – vowel sounds (“doux courroux” obviously; but how about the varying long-vowel sounds closed by ‘r’ in “Sans me voir sans m’escrire, et faire la faschee”, or the huge variety of ‘e’ sounds in the following line “Douce amitié souvent perdue et recherchee”); consonants (the d, r, s reflections in “Douce amour d’artifice [cachee]”, the m, p, and zh/z sounds in “Mais m’appeler volage et prompt de fantasie”); and whole words and phrases (“un long … en long[ueur]”, “amitié … à moitié”).  Almost none of this have I captured in my translation:  so please read through the French out loud even if it means nothing to you, because the sound is so important in this one!
 
The last tercet looks a little odd in this context: what happened to all those subtle reflections?  Well, there’s the big repeat “douter de ma foy” but a lot of the internal alliterations are missing.  Blanchemain comes to our rescue here: in his earlier version these elements of ‘scaffolding’ are still present, until removed by the older Ronsard in search of some different truth:
 
 
Craindre ma conscience et douter de ma foy,
M’est un reproche amer, qu’à grand tort je reçoy
Car douter de ma foy c’est crime d’heresie.
 
                                                                              Fearing my conscientiousness and doubting my fidelity,
                                                                              Is a bitter reproach to me, which I consider a great injury
                                                                              Because doubting my fidelity is a crime of heresy!
 
 
Why the changes?  Well, “craindre ma conscience” sounds better but makes less sense thaan “blasmer”; and the aggrieved tone, and implied offense taken, sit uncomfortably in the context of Ronsard’s quiet acceptance of his servitude elsewhere in this poem and others. Do they improve the poem? Well, improving the sense is perhaps one thing; but in the end, for me this poem is ‘about’ it’s structure and sound – so I’m happier with Blanchemain’s earlier version and the way the final tercet sits more comfortably in that form.
 
 
 [PS forgot to mention one other little change in Blanchemain:  line 7 becomes
 
Et sans me saluer me tuer en langueur …
 
                                                                             And, without greeting me, killing me with pining… ]
 
 
 
 
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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')

One response »

  1. Un ondin, qui suivait une route cachée,
    Se chantait des chansons, toujours selon son coeur.
    Ses complaintes étaient de variable longueur,
    Nulle d’elles ne fut de laideur entachée.

    Pour les fleurs il produit cette oeuvre recherchée,
    Aux couplets imprégnés de force et de rigueur.
    Il pourrait s’y glisser un soupçon de langueur,
    Sans que n’y fût jamais une plainte ébauchée.

    Le hibou le regarde avec grande amitié ;
    Le crapaud, l’entendant, se réveille à moitié.
    Tous les deux sont charmés par cette fantaisie.

    Heureux que ces petits lui témoignent leur foi,
    C’est avec grand honneur que l’ondin la reçoit :
    Il se sent fier comme un prophète d’hérésie.

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