Monthly Archives: January 2014

Sonnet 64

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Si j’ay bien ou mal dit en ces Sonnets, Madame,
Et du bien et du mal vous estes cause aussi :
Comme je le sentois j’ay chanté mon souci,
Taschant à soulager les peines de mon ame.
 
Hà, qu’il est mal-aisé, quand le fer nous entame,
S’engarder de se plaindre et de crier merci !
Tousjours l’esprit joyeux porte haut le sourci,
Et le melancholique en soy-mesme se pâme.
 
J’ay suivant vostre amour le plaisir poursuivy,
Non le soin, non le dueil, non l’espoir d’une attente.
S’il vous plaist ostez-moy tout argument d’ennuy :
 
Et lors j’auray la voix plus gaillarde et plaisante.
Je ressemble au mirouër, qui tousjours represente
Tout cela qu’on luy monstre et qu’on fait devant luy.
 
 
 
 
                                                                              If I have written good or bad things in these Sonnets, my Lady,
                                                                              You are the cause both of good and bad ;
                                                                              As I felt them so I have sung of my cares,
                                                                              Seeking to sooth the pain in my soul.
 
                                                                              Oh how difficult it is, when the blade cuts into us,
                                                                              To keep oneself from weeping and calling for mercy !
                                                                              The joyous spirit always keeps its head high beneath cares
                                                                              And the melancholic man swoons within himself.
 
                                                                              In seeking your love I have sought pleasure,
                                                                              Not care, not sadness, not the hope of expectation.
                                                                              If you please, take from me all the claims of worry
 
                                                                              And then my voice shall be more sprightly and pleasing.
                                                                              I am like a mirror, which always shows
                                                                              Everything that you show it and do before it.
  
 
Ronsard left this last poem untouched between versions.
 
But it would be uncharacteristic to end the book without a variant, so you may be interested to know that Marty-Laveaux’s edition has the tailpiece “Fin du premier livre des Sonnets d’Helene” (‘End of the first book of Helen’s sonnets’), while Blanchemain’s earlier edition signs off “Fin du premier livre des Sonnets pour Helene” (‘…book of the Sonnets for Helen’)!
 
As usual I have collected all my texts and translations – Marty-Laveaux edition only – into one document available here.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Sonnet 63

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Je faisois ces Sonnets en l’antre Pieride,
Quand on vit les François sous les armes suer,
Quand on vit tout le peuple en fureur se ruer,
Quand Bellone sanglante alloit devant pour guide :
 
Quand en lieu de la Loy le vice, l’homicide,
L’impudence, le meurtre et le sçavoir muer
En Glauque et en Protée, et l’Estat remuer,
Estoyent tiltres d’honneur, nouvelle Thebaïde.
 
Pour tromper les soucis d’un temps si vicieux,
J’escrivois en ces vers ma complainte inutile.
Mars aussi bien qu’Amour de larmes est joyeux.
 
L’autre guerre est cruelle, et la mienne est gentille :
La mienne finiroit par un combat de deux,
Et l’autre ne pourroit par un camp de cent mille.
 
 
 
 
                                                                              I was crafting these Sonnets in the Pierian cave
                                                                              At the time when you’d see Frenchmen sweating under arms,
                                                                              When you’d see the whole populace rushing around in a fury,
                                                                              When Bellona went all bloody before them as guide ;
 
                                                                              When – instead of the Law – vice, homicide,
                                                                              Shamelessness, murder, knowing how to change
                                                                              Into Glaucus and into Proteus, and to set aside the State,
                                                                              Were titles of honour, a new Thebaid.
 
                                                                              To set aside the cares of a time so full of vice
                                                                              I wrote in these verses my ineffectual complaint.
                                                                              Love, as well as Mars, rejoices in tears.
 
                                                                              That other war is cruel, mine is gentle,
                                                                              Mine will end with a duel between two,
                                                                              The other couldn’t end even with a hundred thousand in battle.
  
 
 
This penultimate poem in Marty-Laveaux’s edition is not even in the Blanchemain first edition.  It stands as a sort of ‘apologia’, his reason or excuse for having concentrated on fluffy love poetry when so many more important things were happening in the world.  I’m not sure whether the slight feeling of standing outside, looking back which my opening line conveys is right, but that’s how I read the French imperfect Ronsard uses.  
 
A litter of classical references again. The Pierian spring was sacred to the Muses and therefore a source of inspiration; the cave is Ronsard’s own twist on the tale to reflect the grotto in which he composed at Meudon (see Sonnet 40). Bellona is a goddess of war, Mars of course god of war. Proteus & Glaucus are both sea-gods, both prophetic, and both shape-changers – though it is Proteus who has become synonymous with that art.  They are also both ‘chthonic’ deities – more earthbound and less other-worldly than the Olympians – whch may also link them to the ‘Thebaid’: in that poem, Statius de-emphasised the Olypmian gods and gave more prominence to such ‘lesser’ deities as Proteus.
 
Statius’ s epic poem of the seven heroes attacking Thebes is in the same traditon as Aeschylus’s ancient tragedy (‘The Seven against Thebes’). But in Statius the epic heroism is downplayed, and the heroes are more notable for their cruelty and insane ferocity – which is clearly the link Ronsard is drawing here.  I find it interesting that there are only 6, not 7, examples of wickedness – unless you count changing like Glaucus or Proteus to be 2 things!
 
A couple of other translation remarks.  In lines 7-8, as I’ve implied just above, the translation might instead be “knowing how to change like (or, in the style of) Glaucus and into Proteus” – to me, the French doesn’t read easily that way but I may be wrong!  And in line 12, the contrast between ‘cruelle’ and ‘gentille’ offers a range of meanings for ‘gentille’ – gentle, or perhaps noble [ as in ‘gentle-man’ ], or kind – and therefore for the way in which you read ‘cruelle’ to contrast.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 62

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Je ne veux point la mort de celle qui arreste
Mon cœur en sa prison : mais, Amour, pour venger
Mes larmes de six ans, fay ses cheveux changer,
Et seme bien espais des neiges sur sa teste.Si tu veux, la vengeance est desja toute preste :
Tu accourcis les ans, tu les peux allonger :
Ne souffres en ton camp ton soudart outrager :
Que vieille elle devienne, ottroyant ma requeste.

Elle se glorifie en ses cheveux frisez,
En sa verde jeunesse, en ses yeux aiguisez,
Qui tirent dans les cœurs mille pointes encloses.

Pourquoy te braves-tu de cela qui n’est rien ?
La beauté n’est que vent, la beauté n’est pas bien :
Les beautez en un jour s’en-vont comme les Roses.

 
 
 
 
                                                                              I don’t at all want the death of her who holds
                                                                              My heart in her prison : but, Love, to avenge
                                                                              My six years of tears, make her hair change colour,
                                                                              And thickly sow her head with your snows.
 
                                                                              If you are willing, revenge is already at hand ;
                                                                              You hasten the years on, you can lengthen them too ;
                                                                              Do not allow her to insult your trooper in your camp ;
                                                                              Grant my request : let her become old.
 
                                                                              She glories in her hair, her ringlets,
                                                                              In the green of her youth, in her sharp eyes,
                                                                              Which lodge in men’s hearts a thousand darts.
 
                                                                              Why do you boast of that which is nothing ?
                                                                              Beauty is like the wind, beauty is not good ;
                                                                              Beauty disappears in a day like the roses.

 

  
 
 
There is one tiny change from Blanchemain’s earlier version:  perhaps not even that.  In line 7, Blanchemain has “soldat” for “soudard”.  Both are variants of the same word, but in modern terms “soudard” means a boor – you might ‘swear like a trooper’ (“soudard”) but you don’t ‘swear like a soldier’ (“soldat”).  In the translation I’ve used ‘trooper’ (above) to try to capture this slight difference – Blanchemain’s line would then obviously be ‘Do not allow her to insult your soldier in your camp’.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 61

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Madame se levoit un beau matin d’Esté,
Quand le Soleil attache à ses chevaux la bride :
Amour estoit present avec sa trousse vuide,
Venu pour la remplir des traicts de sa clairté.

J’entre-vy dans son sein deux pommes de beauté,
Telles qu’on ne voit point au verger Hesperide :
Telles ne porte point la Deesse de Gnide,
Ny celle qui a Mars des siennes allaité.

Telle enflure d’yvoire en sa voûte arrondie,
Tel relief de Porphyre, ouvrage de Phidie,
Eut Andromede alors que Persée passa,

Quand il la vit liée à des roches marines,
Et quand la peur de mort tout le corps luy glaça,
Transformant ses tetins en deux boules marbrines.

 
 
 
                                                                              My Lady arose one fine morning in Summer
                                                                              When the sun was harnessing his horses ;
                                                                              Love was present with his quiver empty,
                                                                              Come to refill it with the arrows of her brightness.
 
                                                                              I glimpsed in her bosom two apples of beauty
                                                                              Such as one could not find in the Hesperides’ orchard ;
                                                                              Such as the goddess of Cnidus does not bear,
                                                                              Nor she who gave Mars milk from hers.
 
                                                                              Such a swelling of ivory in its rounded arch,
                                                                              Such a relief in porphyry, the work of Phidias,
                                                                              Had Andromeda when Perseus passed by,
 
                                                                              When he saw her bound to sea-board rocks,
                                                                              And when the fear of death made her whole body like ice,
                                                                              Transforming her breasts into two marble-like globes.

 

  
 
A crescendo of classical allusion as we near the end of the book! The garden of the Hesperides was where the golden apples grew – a wedding gift from Juno to Jupiter;  Juno is also Mars’s mother.  The goddess of Cnidos is Venus – the ‘Venus of Cnidos’ was also the most famous statue of Praxiteles (picture here), one of the foremost Greek sculptors. Phidias was the other great sculptor of antiquity, whose name is a byword for quality.  Andromeda was rescued by Perseus from a sea-monster after being chained naked to a rock as a sacrifice – hence a classic example of the nude female form (several examples on her Wikipedia page!)

 
 
 

Sonnet 60

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J’attachay des bouquets de cent mille couleurs,
De mes pleurs arrosez harsoir dessus ta porte :
Les larmes sont les fruicts que l’Amour nous apporte,
Les soupirs en la bouche, et au cœur les douleurs.

Les pendant je leur dy, ne perdés point vos fleurs
Que jusques à demain que la cruelle sorte :
Quand elle passera, tombez de telle sorte
Que son chef soit moüillé de l’humeur de mes pleurs.

Je reviendray demain. Mais si la nuict, qui ronge
Mon cœur me la donnoit par songe entre mes bras,
Embrassant pour le vray l’idole du mensonge,

Soulé d’un faux plaisir je ne reviendrois pas.
Voyez combien ma vie est pleine de trespas,
Quand tout mon reconfort ne depend que du songe !

 
 
 
                                                                              I tied bouquets of a hundred-thousand colours,
                                                                              Watered with my tears, above your door last night;
                                                                              Tears are the fruits that Love brings us,
                                                                              With sighs on our lips and pain in our hearts.
 
                                                                              As I hung them up, I said to them “Do not lose your flowers
                                                                              Until tomorrow when my cruel lady comes out ;
                                                                              When she passes, fall in such a way
                                                                              That her head is soaked in the moisture of my tears.
 
                                                                              I shall return tomorrow. But if the night, which gnaws at
                                                                              My heart, should give me a dream of her in my arms,
                                                                              Kissing the untrue image as if it were real
 
                                                                              And drunk with false pleasure I shall not return.
                                                                              See how my life is full of death,
                                                                              When all my comfort depends only on dreams !”

 

  
 
 
No variants here, but one typological detail.  Marty-Laveaux does not use quote-marks (guillemets) to indicate beginnings or ends of speech. Blanchemain does.  In Blanchemain everything from line 5 to the end is what Ronsard says as he leaves the flowers: and in deference to him that’s how I’ve marked the sppech above. It is possible the last couplet could be addressed to Helen, with the poem, rather than to the flowers; and in fact I think that is better; and it might even be argued that the speech is just the quatrain, and the remainder of the poem is Ronsard musing to himself & us.  I like Marty-Laveaux’s indication of beginn ing but not end, for the flexibility in thinking & re-thinking the poem it allows us.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 59

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Ne romps point au mestier par le milieu la trame,
Qu’Amour en ton honneur m’a commandé d’ourdir :
Ne laisses au travail mes poulces engourdir
Maintenant que l’ardeur à l’ouvrage m’enflame :

Ne verse point de l’eau sur ma boüillante flame,
Il faut par ta douceur mes Muses enhardir :
Ne souffre de mon sang le boüillon refroidir,
Et tousjours de tes yeux aiguillonne moy l’ame.

Dés le premier berceau n’estoufe point ton nom.
Pour bien le faire croistre, il ne le faut sinon
Nourrir d’un doux espoir pour toute sa pasture :

Tu le verras au Ciel de petit s’eslever.
Courage, ma Maistresse, il n’est chose si dure,
Que par longueur de temps on ne puisse achever.

 
 
 
                                                                              Break not through its middle the weft on the loom
                                                                              Which Love commanded me to weave in your honour;
                                                                              Do not leave my thumbs to become numb at their work
                                                                              Now that passion rouses me to the work;
 
                                                                              Pour no water on my boiling flame,
                                                                              You must embolden my Muses with your sweetness;
                                                                              Do not allow the boiling in my blood to grow cool,
                                                                              And always goad my soul onwards with your eyes.
 
                                                                              From its first beginnings, never hush up your name.
                                                                              To make it grow well, it needs only
                                                                              To feed on sweet hope as all its food;
 
                                                                              You will see it rise little by little to Heaven.
                                                                              Courage, my lady, it is not so hard a thing
                                                                              That it cannot be achieved with the passing of time.

 

  
 
 
The shift in time between the octet and tercet seems to me rather awkward (at least in my translation):  we move from an established love being praised in established poems, back to the earliest beginnings – literally, to its ‘earliest childhood’ or ‘ first cradle’. But I figure that is what Ronsard meant so the awkwardness in the English is in that sense a deliberate reflection of what I see in the French.
 
As we near the end of the book, the number of variants between my versions continues to be tiny, and there are hardly any more to report: certainly none here!
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 58

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Je sens une douceur à conter impossible,
Dont ravy je jouïs par le bien du penser,
Qu’homme ne peut escrire ou langue prononcer,
Quand je baise ta main en amour invincible.

Contemplant tes beaux yeux ma pauvre ame passible
En se pasmant se perd, lors je sens amasser
Un sang froid sur mon cœur, qui garde de passer
Mes esprits, et je reste une image insensible.

Voila que peut ta main et ton œil, où les trais
D’Amour sont si ferrez, si chauds et si espais
Au regard Medusin qui en rocher me mue.

Mais bien que mon malheur procede de les voir,
Je voudrois et mille yeux et mille mains avoir,
Pour voir et pour toucher leur beauté qui me tue.

 
 
 
                                                                              I feel a sweetness impossible to relate
                                                                              Ravished by which I rejoice in the happiness of thoughts
                                                                              Which man cannot write or tongue pronounce
                                                                              Whenever, invincible in love, I kiss your hand.
 
                                                                              Contemplating your fair eyes my poor guilty soul
                                                                              Is lost, fainting, as I feel a coldness in my blood
                                                                              Piling up on my heart, which prevents my spirit
                                                                              From getting through, and I remain an insensible statue.
 
                                                                              That is what your hand and eye can do, when the blows
                                                                              Of Love are so steely, so hot, so thickly-falling
                                                                              In that Medusa-like look which turns me to stone.
 
                                                                              But though my troubles spring from seeing them,
                                                                              I’d like a thousand eyes and a thousand hands
                                                                              To see and touch that beauty of theirs which is killing me.

 

  
 
 
Blanchemain has minor variants, one of which looks to me like a printer’s attempt to ‘correct’ a mis-spelling. After all, written with a long s, there’s little to choose between ‘ferrez’ and ‘ſerrez’ in line 12.  Yet “serrez” (‘so tightly-packed’) is no better in meaning than “ferrez”, but is almost duplicated by “epais” and clutters up the line with rather too much assonance. It may be a less unusual word, but I still think “ferrez” is the better reading.
 
 
Je sens une douceur à conter impossible,
Dont ravy je jouïs par le bien du penser,
Qu’homme ne peut escrire ou langue prononcer,
Quand je baise ta main contre amour invincible.

Contemplant tes beaux yeux ma pauvre ame passible
En se pasmant se perd, lors je sens amasser
Un sang froid sur mon cœur, qui garde de passer
Mes esprits, et je reste une image insensible.

Voila que peut ta main et ton œil, où les trais
D’Amour sont si serrez, si chauds et si espais
Au regard Medusin qui en rocher me mue.

Mais bien que mon malheur procede de les voir,
Je voudrois mille mains, et autant d’yeux avoir,
Pour voir et pour toucher leur beauté qui me tue.

 
 
 

                                                                              I feel a sweetness impossible to relate
                                                                              Ravished by which I rejoice in the happiness of thoughts
                                                                              Which man cannot write or tongue pronounce
                                                                              Whenever I kiss your hand, in the face of invincible love.
 
                                                                              Contemplating your fair eyes my poor guilty soul
                                                                              Is lost, fainting, as I feel a coldness in my blood
                                                                              Piling up on my heart, which prevents my spirit
                                                                              From getting through, and I remain an insensible statue.
 
                                                                              That is what your hand and eye can do, when the blows
                                                                              Of Love are so tightly-packed, so hot, so thickly-falling
                                                                              In that Medusa-like look which turns me to stone.
 
                                                                              But though my troubles spring from seeing them,
                                                                              I’d like to have a thousand hands and as many eyes
                                                                              To see and touch that beauty of theirs which is killing me.