Sonnet to Robert Garnier


The Galland poem reminded me of the Garnier dedications… These 4 sonnets come from Ronsard’s ‘uncollected works’ which is to say they are dedicatory poems written to go in the front of books of Garnier’s works. They demonstrate that Ronsard could exaggerate and be adulatory with the best (or worst) of them, and provide some amusing but often frankly beautiful little poems well worth seeing more of.  Marty-Laveaux collected these & others into an “Autre recueil des sonnets” (‘another collection of sonnets’), Blanchemain into “Sonnets diverses” (‘various sonnets’) – neither very inspired titles. Of the 4 Garnier sonnets to come, only the first two are in Marty-Laveaux.

Prince des Tragiques.
Je suis ravi quand ce brave sonneur
Donte en ses vers la Romaine arrogance,
Quand il bastit Athenes en la France,
Par le cothurne acquerant de l’honneur :
Le bouc n’est pas digne de son bon-heur,
La liërre est trop basse recompense,
Le Temps certain qui les hommes avance,
De ses vertus sera le guerdonneur.
Par toy, Garnier, la Scene des François
Se change en or, qui n’estoit que de bois,
Digne où les Grands lamentent leur fortune.
Sur Helicon tu grimpes des derniers,
Mais tels derniers souvent sont les premiers
En ce bel art où la gloire est commune.
                                                                             TO ROBERT GARNIER
                                                                             Prince of Tragedians
                                                                             I am swept away when this great poet
                                                                             Tames in his verse the arrogance of Rome,
                                                                             When he builds Athens in France,
                                                                             Gaining honour through the tragic buskin;
                                                                             The ram is not a worthy [prize] for his good fortune,
                                                                             The ivy is too little reward,
                                                                             But unvarying Time which advances men
                                                                             Will honour him for his virtues.
                                                                             Through you, Garnier, the French stage,
                                                                             Which once was wood, is changed to gold,
                                                                             Worthy for the greats to lament their fate.
                                                                             You are climbing Helicon among the latest,
                                                                             But such latecomers are often the first
                                                                             In this fair art in which glory is common.


The “cothorne” (‘cothurnus’ or buskin) is the traditional footwear of antique actors – rather like the leather boots strapped up the calf or lower leg which you see in pictures of Roman soldiers.  Helicon is of course the home of the Muses and therefore the home of Art in all its forms. I love the last line: Ronsard says ‘glory is common’, perhaps meaning glory is shared by many great writers, but it’s hard not to see him as hinting strongly that it’s just too easy to gain glory with stage works, where the quality of the poetry may be overlooked amongst so many distractions…! 

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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