Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sonnet 68

Standard
L’œil qui rendroit le plus barbare appris,
Qui tout orgueil en humblesse détrempe,
Et qui subtil affine de sa trempe
Le plus terrestre et lourd de nos espris,
 
M’a tellement de ses beautez épris,
Qu’autre beauté dessus mon cœur ne rampe,
Et m’est avis, sans voir un jour la lampe
De ces beaux yeux, que la mort me tient pris.
 
Cela que l’air est de propre aux oiseaux,
Les bois aux cerfs, et aux poissons les eaux,
Son bel œil m’est. O lumiere enrichie
 
D’un feu divin qui m’ard si vivement,
Pour me donner l’estre et le mouvement,
Estes-vous pas ma seule Entelechie ?
 
 
 
 
                                                                            That eye which teaches the most barbarous,
                                                                            Which dilutes all pride with humility,
                                                                            And which subtly purifies with its tempering
                                                                            The most earthy and heavy of our spirits,
 
                                                                            Has so captured me by its beauties
                                                                            That no other beauty can creep within my heart,
                                                                            And it is my belief that, if I miss seeing for one day
                                                                            The light of those fair eyes, Death will take me.
 
                                                                            As the air is the right place for birds,
                                                                            As the woods are for deer, the waters for fish,
                                                                            So her fair eye is for me. O light enriched
 
                                                                            By divine fire, which burns me so fiercely,
                                                                            Are you not that which gives me being
                                                                            And movement, my sole Entelechy?
 
 
Blanchemain favours us with Muret’s note explaining ‘entelechy’: ‘My soul alone, which causes all movement in me, both natural and voluntary. Entelechie, in Greek, signifies perfection. Aristotle teaches that this ‘entelechie’ gives essence and movement to all things.’  I suppose we might translate as ‘my sole perfection’.  I love the image of the first tercet – perfection indeed. Blanchemain’s version has a slight change in the first line of the tercet (line 9): “Cela vraiment que l’air est aux oyseaux” (‘That indeed which the air is for birds’).
 
There is a more substantive change in the opening quatrain:
 
 
L’œil qui rendroit le plus barbare appris,
Qui tout orgueil en humblesse détrempe,
Par la vertu de ne sais quelle trempe
Qui saintement affine les esprits,
 
 
                                                                           That eye which teaches the most barbarous,
                                                                           Which dilutes all pride with humility,
                                                                           By the virtue of some tempering quality
                                                                           Which saint-like purifies the spirit.
 
 
 
For me the newer version in Marty-Laveaux provides a better verse, partly by maintaining the specific rather than moving to ‘some or other’…
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 67

Standard
Voyant les yeux de ma maistresse eslüe,
A qui j’ay dit, Seule à mon cœur tu plais,
D’un si doux fruict, Amour, tu me repais,
Que d’autre bien mon ame n’est goulüe.
 
L’Archer, qui seul les bons esprits englüe,
Et qui ne daigne ailleurs perdre ses traits,
Me fait de peur glacer le sang espais,
Quand je l’advise, ou quand je la salüe.
 
Non, ce n’est point une peine qu’aimer :
C’est un beau mal, et son feu doux-amer
Plus doucement qu’amerement nous brule.
 
O moy deux fois, voire trois bien-heureux,
S’ Amour me tue, et si avec Tibulle
J’erre là bas sous le bois amoureux.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                            When I see the eyes of my chosen mistress,
                                                                            To whom I said “You alone please my heart”,
                                                                            You, Love, feed me with so sweet a fruit
                                                                            That my soul is greedy for no other.
 
                                                                            The Archer, who alone snares good spirits
                                                                            And who does not choose to waste his darts elsewhere,
                                                                            Makes my dull blood freeze with fear
                                                                            When I see her, or when I greet her.
 
                                                                            No, loving is no kind of trouble;
                                                                            It is a beautiful illness, and its bittersweet fire
                                                                            Burns us more gently than bitterly.
 
                                                                            Oh I’d be twice, no thrice happy
                                                                            If love kills me and with Tibullus
                                                                            I wander down below within the wood of lovers.
 
 
I think this is the first time we’ve met Tibullus, though Ronsard has named several other classical poets before. He was a ‘Silver Latin’ poet, that is a poet from the early years of the empire in the Augustan age. In our terms, that means he is one of those awkward people whose life started in BC and ended in AD 🙂  Naturally, he is another early love poet: you can read many of his poems on Tony Kline’s site. The wood of lovers is a reference to Virgil’s Aeneid – in book 6 when Aeneas goes to the underworld he sees the myrtle grove where lovers wander:
 
Not far from here, outspread on every side, are shown the Mourning Fields; such is the name they bear. Here those whom stern Love has consumed with cruel wasting are hidden in walks withdrawn, embowered in a myrtle grove; even in death the pangs leave them not. In this region he sees Phaedra and Procris, and sad Eriphyle, pointing to the wounds her cruel son had dealt, and Evadne and Pasiphaë. With them goes Laodamia, and Caeneus, once a youth, now a woman, and again turned back by Fate into her form of old. Among them, with wound still fresh, Phoenician Dido was wandering in the great forest …
(Fairclough’s translation). You may remember Ronsard among the myrtles in Helen 6(a).
 
Blanchemain’s earlier version has Ronsard wandering “prés de Tibulle” (‘near Tibullus’) instead of ‘with’ him; but there are more substantive differences in the first half of the poem:
 
 
Voyant les yeux de ma maistresse esleue,
A qui j’ay dit : Seule à mon cœur tu plais,
D’un si doux fruict mon âme je repais,
Que plus on mange et plus en est goulue.
 
Amour, qui seul les bons esprits englue,
Et qui ne daigne ailleurs perdre ses traits,
M’allége tant du moindre de ses traits
Qu’il m’a du cœur toute peine tollue.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           When I see the eyes of my chosen mistress,
                                                                           To whom I said “You alone please my heart”,
                                                                           I feed my soul with so sweet a fruit
                                                                           That, even as it eats more, it is greedy for more.
 
                                                                           Love, who alone snares good spirits
                                                                           And who does not choose to waste his darts elsewhere,
                                                                           Lightens for me the least of his wounds
                                                                           So much that he has lifted all pain from my heart.
 
 
 
To my mind this earlier version transitions better from first to second half; lightened wounds and no pain lead more readily to love not being any kind of trouble, than does blood frozen with fear at seeing or meeting the beloved! But the later version of line 4 is undeniably better. As usual with the changes Ronsard introduced into his poems, you win some and you lose some … !
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 66

Standard
Ciel, air et vents, plains et monts découvers,
Tertres vineux et forests verdoyantes,
Rivages torts et sources ondoyantes,
Taillis rasez et vous bocages vers :

Antres moussus à demy-front ouvers,
Prez, boutons, fleurs et herbes rousoyantes,
Vallons bossus et plages blondoyantes,
Et vous rochers, les hostes de mes vers :

 
Puis qu’au partir, rongé de soin et d’ire,
A ce bel œil Adieu je n’ay sceu dire,
Qui pres et loin me detient en esmoy,
 
Je vous supply, Ciel, air, vents, monts et plaines,
Taillis, forests, rivages et fontaines,
Antres, prez, fleurs, dites-le luy pour moy.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Heaven, air and winds, plains and exposed mountains,
                                                                            Vine-covered hills and verdant forests,
                                                                            Winding rivers and flowing springs,
                                                                            Well-tended groves, and you green woods;
 
                                                                            Mossy caves with half-open mouths,
                                                                            Meadows, buds, flowers and bedewed grass,
                                                                            Hills and valleys, white-sanded beaches,
                                                                            And you rocks, hosts to my singing:
 
                                                                            Since on parting, gnawed by care and anger,
                                                                            I could not say Farewell to that fair eye
                                                                            Which keeps me near or far in anguish,
 
                                                                            I beg you – Heaven, air, winds, mountains, plains,
                                                                            Hills, forests, rivers, founts,
                                                                            Caves, meadows, flowers – say it to her for me!

 

 

  
This for me is another example of Ronsard setting himself a ‘problem’ – in this case, making a list poetic, and making the countryside grand & ‘antique’ in feel – and then delivering a solution. That he succeeded is evident in the detailed rather than wholesale changes he made when he returned to the poem in later life. The last 3 lines are masterful – a tumble of words repeated from the first two stanzas yet completely different in pace and character.  The antique feel comes largely through the adjectives and participles – though “rousoyantes” is (I believe) a form invented by Ronsard, relying on an old French version (rousée) of “rosée” (dew), which I’ve given a rather out-of-context antique feel in the translation too; and consequently allowed myself to ‘invent’ the adjective ‘white-sanded’ to try to capture something of the oddity of sands “blondoyantes” (‘becoming blonder’) in the next line!  But the nouns are also a strange bunch – technical or antique terms abound to define the countryside; and then we have the “vallons bossus”, the ‘valleys with hills in them’…  All in all a marvellously difficult piece to translate with anything approaching the variety of the original… (I failed…)
 
As indicated most of the differences in Blanchemain’s version are ones of detail: “plaine” (singular) not “plains” in line 1; “tertres fourchus” (cloven hills) instead of “tertres vineux” (vine-covered hills) in line 2; “coteaux vineux”  (vine-covered slopes) in place of the “vallons bossus” in line 7; in line 10 “l’adieu je n’ay sceu dire” (indirect rather than direct speech). Line 8 is however more substantively different, in the earlier version naming the rivers local to him in his youth agai,n rather than the more generalised ‘rocks’ he later replaced them with:
 
 
Gastine, Loir, et vous, mes tristes vers
 
                                                                           Gastine, Loir – and you too, my sad poetry:

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 65

Standard
Quand j’apperçoy ton beau poil brunissant,
Qui les cheveux des Charites efface,
Et ton bel œil qui le Soleil surpasse,
Et ton beau teint sans fraude rougissant,
 
A front baissé je pleure gemissant
Dequoy je suis (faulte digne de grace)
Sous les accords de ma ryme si basse,
De tes beautez les honneurs trahissant.
 
Je connoy bien que je devroy me taire
En t’adorant : mais l’amoureux ulcere
Qui m’ard le cœur, vient ma langue enchanter.
 
Doncque (mon Tout) si dignement je n’use
L’ancre et la voix à tes graces chanter,
C’est le destin, et non l’art qui m’abuse.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                            When I see your fair brown locks
                                                                            Which eclipse the hair of the Graces,
                                                                            And your fair eye which surpasses the Sun,
                                                                            And your fair complexion reddened by no artificial means,
 
                                                                            With lowered brow I weep, groaning
                                                                            That I am (though it’s a failing worthy of forgiveness)
                                                                            Betraying in the rhymes of my poor poetry
                                                                            The honour due to your beauties.
 
                                                                            I fully understand that I should be quiet
                                                                            As I adore you; but the ulcer of love
                                                                            Which burns my heart has enchanted my tongue.
 
                                                                            So, my All, if I do not worthily use
                                                                            My ink and my voice to sing your graces,
                                                                            It is fate not art which leads me astray.

 

 

  
Here’s another poem which the older Ronsard considerably re-worked. In places you can see why: the early version of line 4 (below) starts “Et ton tetin” which sounds pretty ugly, so “ton beau teint” is a definite improvement. Sometimes you wonder what was behind the change: why is Cassandre’s hair brown in old Ronsard’s memory, when it’s blonde (below) to his younger eyes?!
 
It’s good to see a bit of modesty – even if false modesty – about the power of poetry! But of course the point is that however beautiful the poem – and Ronsard would always claim his own as beautiful – she outshines it. The 2 versions of the final couplet are fascinating for their differences, while retaining the same effect: quite a virtuoso re-working in the late version!
 
Here is the complete Blanchemain (early) version:
 
 
Quand j’apperçoy ton beau chef jaunissant,
Qui la blondeur des filets d’or efface,
Et ton bel œil qui les astres surpasse,
Et ton tetin comme œillet rougissant,
 
A front baissé je pleure, gémissant
De quoi je suis (faute digne de grace)
Sous l’humble voix de ma rime si basse,
De tes beautés les honneurs trahissant.
 
Je connois bien que je devrois me taire
Ou mieux parler : mais l’amoureux ulcère
Qui m’ard le cœur me force de chanter.
 
Doncque, mon tout, si dignement je n’use
L’encre et la voix à tes graces vanter,
Non l’ouvrier, non, mais son destin, accuse.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           When I see your fair golden hair
                                                                           Which eclipses the colour of golden tiaras,
                                                                           And your fair eye which surpasses the stars,
                                                                           And your breast reddening like a carnation,
 
                                                                           With lowered brow I weep, groaning
                                                                           That I am (though it’s a failing worthy of forgiveness)
                                                                           Betraying in the humble words of my poor poetry
                                                                           The honour due to your beauties.
 
                                                                           I fully understand that I should be quiet
                                                                           Or speak better; but the ulcer of love
                                                                           Which burns my heart forces me to sing.
 
                                                                           So, my All, if I do not worthily use
                                                                           My ink and my voice to laud your graces,
                                                                           Accuse not the workman, no, but his fate.

 

 

 Incidentally, Blanchemain also quotes the whole late version in a footnote, though with one minor change – “‘de ma lyre” in line 7 instead of “de ma ryme” (do I even need to translate that for you?!)
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 64

Standard

Sonnet 63 is already posted (here) so let’s skip to no. 64…

 
Tant de couleurs l’Arc-en-ciel ne varie
Contre le front du Soleil radieux,
Lors que Junon par un temps pluvieux
Renverse l’eau dont la terre est nourrie :
 
Ne Jupiter armant sa main marrie
En tant d’éclairs ne fait rougir les cieux,
Lors qu’il punit d’un foudre audacieux
Les monts d’Epire, ou l’orgueil de Carie :
 
Ny le Soleil ne rayonne si beau
Quand au matin il nous monstre un flambeau
Tout crespu d’or, comme je vy ma Dame
 
Diversement les beautez accoustrer,
Flamber ses yeux, et claire se monstrer,
Le premier jour qu’elle ravit mon ame.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           The rainbow does not range so many colours
                                                                           On the brow of the radiant sun
                                                                           When Juno in rainy weather
                                                                           Pours out the water which nourishes the earth;
 
                                                                           Jupiter arming his marring hand
                                                                           Does not so light up the heavens with his lightning
                                                                           When he punishes with daring thunder
                                                                           The mountains of Epirus or the pride of Caria;
 
                                                                           The Sun does not shine so beautifully
                                                                           When in the morning he shows us his fire
                                                                           Fringed with gold, as I saw my Lady
 
                                                                           Variously dress her beauties,
                                                                           And make her eyes shine and appear so bright,
                                                                           On the first day that she stole my soul.
 
 
Although the Cassandre sonnets are often portrayed as more naive, more confident than the later (Helen) sonnets, in fact I’ve found they’re often just as cynical or just as tongue-in-cheek as the later, arguably more disillusioned, sets. Yet there are certainly occasions when Ronsard offers us a sunny, bright poem that has not a trace of cynicism or disillusionment about it: and here’s one.  So neat it is, that even the older Ronsard found nothing in his first thoughts which needed improving!
 
Some comments on the mythological aspects of the poem. Juno strikes me as an odd choice in the first quatrain: she is not (to my mind) usually associated with rain, but with war, youth and strength, maybe the moon and women and fertility. I suppose it is in this last role that she is invoked here, but I wonder if the choice was driven by poetic reasons (and metre!) as much as mythology? With Jupiter and his thunderbolts we are on safer ground; I’ve assumed that Ronsard is using “marrie” transitively rather than in its usual meaning of “sad” or “unhappy”. But why Epirus and Caria? Well, Jupiter (Zeus) had a sanctuary in Dodona, Epirus, so there is a connection; but Ronsard is almost certainly half-quoting Silus Italicus, whose ‘Punica’ contains the line “intonat ipse, quod tremat et Rhodope Taurusque et Pindus et Atlas” – ‘[Jupiter] himself thundered, and Rhodope and Taurus and Pindus and Atlas shook’.  I have to admit I can’t think of or find any obvious link to Caria – but I’m sure there is something equally recondite there to be found…
 
[Edit:  thanks to Gregorio for pointing me to Muret’s notes, which suggest the ‘pride of Caria’ is a reference to the Mausoleum, the enormous tomb-monument built for Mausolus and his wife, one of the ‘seven wonders of the world’. I can see that this might be ‘the pride of Caria’, but lightning didn’t destroy the Mausoleum – it was brought down by a series of medieval earthquakes. So either Ronsard or Muret is stretching a point here … ]
 

 

 
 
 
 

Sonnet 62

Standard
Quand ces beaux yeux jugeront que je meure,
Avant mes jours me bannissant là bas,
Et que la Parque aura porté mes pas
A l’autre bord de la rive meilleure :
 
Antres et prez, et vous forests, à l’heure,
Pleurant mon mal, ne me dédaignez pas :
Ains donnez moy sous l’ombre de vos bras,
Une eternelle et paisible demeure.
 
Puisse avenir qu’un poëte amoureux,
Ayant pitié de mon sort malheureux,
Dans un cyprès note cet epigramme :
 
CI DESSOUS GIST UN AMANT VANDOMOIS
QUE LA DOULEUR TUA DEDANS CE BOIS
POUR AIMER TROP LES BEAUX YEUX DE SA DAME.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           When those fair eyes determine I shall die,
                                                                           Banishing me down below before my time,
                                                                           And when Fate has borne my steps
                                                                           To the far bank of that better river;
 
                                                                           Then, caves and meadows and forests, then
                                                                           Weeping over my misfortune, do not scorn me,
                                                                           But give me in the shade of your arms
                                                                           Eternal and peaceful rest.
 
                                                                           And may a poet in love,
                                                                           Pitying my unhappy fate,
                                                                           Place this epigram on a cypress:
 
                                                                           BENEATH THERE LIES A LOVER FROM VENDOME
                                                                           KILLED BY GRIEF WITHIN THESE WOODS
                                                                           FOR LOVING TOO MUCH HIS LADY’S FAIR EYES.
 
  
Regarding line 11, Blanchemain reminds us in a footnote that ‘in Greek an epigram signifies any inscription’ – but an epigram could also be a three line mini-poem such as the last tercet so I’m not sure that it’s necessary to see Ronsard making a Greek allusion here!  On the other hand line 4 clearly is a classical allusion, since only in classical myth is the afterlife bordered by a river (the Styx) – and of course ‘below’ rather than in heaven ‘above’.
 
There are only a couple of variants in Blanchemain, both in the second quatrain, where Ronsard chose new effects without modifying the sense. That quatrain reads:
 
 
Antres et prez, et vous forests, à l’heure,
Je vous suppli, ne me dédaignez pas :
Ains donnez moy sous l’ombre de vos bras,
Pour tout jamais eternelle demeure.
 
 
                                                                           Then, caves and meadows and forests, then
                                                                           I beg you, do not scorn me,
                                                                           But give me in the shade of your arms
                                                                           For all time eternal rest.
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 61

Standard
Dedans un pré je veis une Naïade,
Qui comme fleur marchoit dessus les fleurs,
Et mignotoit un bouquet de couleurs,
Echevelee en simple verdugade.
 
De son regard ma raison fut malade,
Mon front pensif, mes yeux chargez de pleurs,
Mon cœur transi : tel amas de douleurs
En ma franchise imprima son œillade.
 
Là je senty dedans mes yeux couler
Un doux venin, subtil à se mesler
Où l’ame sent une douleur extrème.
 
Pour ma santé je n’ay point immolé
Bœufs ny brebis, mais je me suis brulé
Au feu d’Amour, victime de moy-mesme.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Within a meadow I saw a Naiad
                                                                           Who like a flower walked upon the flowers
                                                                           And cosseted a bouquet of colours,
                                                                           Half-dressed in just her petticoat.
 
                                                                           At her look my reason became sick,
                                                                           My brow thoughtful, my eyes full of tears,
                                                                           My heart pierced; such a mass of ills
                                                                           Her glance imprinted on my freedom.
 
                                                                           There I felt running into my eyes
                                                                           A sweet poison, subtly in-mixing itself
                                                                           Where my soul felt extreme pain.
 
                                                                           I have sacrificed no burnt-offerings of oxen or sheep
                                                                           For my health, but rather have burned myself
                                                                           On the altar of Love, my own victim.

 

  
 
The version above gives little clue that in its earliest form the sonnet had a completely different ending!  What I find fascinating is that both endings look like an organic part of the finished poem – yet one is grafted on, turning the end of the poem in a very different direction.  There are also a couple of lesser changes early on; here’s the whole thing in that early version:
 
 
Dedans un pré je veis une Naïade,
Qui comme fleur marchoit dessus les fleurs,
Et mignotoit un bouquet de couleurs,
Echevelee en simple verdugade.
 
Dès ce jour-là ma raison fut malade,
Mon front pensif, mes yeux chargez de pleurs,
Moi triste et lent : tel amas de douleurs
En ma franchise imprima son œillade.
 
Là je senty dedans mes yeux couler
Un doux venin, subtil à se mesler
Au fond de l’âme, et, depuis cet outrage,
 
Comme un beau lis, au mois de juin, blessé
D’un rais trop chaud, languit à chef baissé,
Je me consume au plus verd de mon âge.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Within a meadow I saw a Naiad
                                                                           Who like a flower walked upon the flowers
                                                                           And cosseted a bouquet of colours,
                                                                           Half-dressed in just her petticoat.
 
                                                                           Since that day my reason has become sick,
                                                                           My brow thoughtful, my eyes full of tears,
                                                                           Myself sad and slow; such a mass of ills
                                                                           Her glance Imprinted on my freedom.
 
                                                                           There I felt running into my eyes
                                                                           A sweet poison, subtly in-mixing itself
                                                                           Deep in my soul, and since that assault
 
                                                                           Just as a fair lily in the month of June, struck
                                                                           By too warm a ray [of sunshine], droops with its head down
                                                                           So I am consumed in the bloom of my youth.
 
 
EDIT:  Some commentators would have it that the ‘meadow’ in the first line is meant to evoke  the name of Cassandre’s husband, Jean de Peigné seigneur du Pray:  “pré/Pray” sound the same. It’s even been said that Ronsard changed the earlier plural (“prés”/’meadows’) to the singular, to make the allusion clearer. It’s possible, I suppose.