Quel son masle et hardy, quelle bouche héroique,
Et quel superbe vers enten-je icy sonner ?
Le lierre est trop bas pour ton front couronner,
Et le bouc est trop peu pour ta Muse tragique.
Si Bacchus retournoit au manoir Plutonique,
Il ne voudroit Eschyle au monde redonner,
Il te choisiroit seul, qui seul peux estonner
Le theatre François de ton cothurne antique.
Les premiers trahissoient l’infortune des Rois,
Redoublant leur malheur d’une trop basse voix :
La tienne comme foudre en la France s’écarte.
Heureux en bons esprits ce siecle plantureux :
Auprés toy, mon Garnier, je me sens bien-heureux,
De quoy mon petit Loir est voisin de ta Sarte.
What sound, manly and bold, what heroic voice,
And what proud verse do I hear ringing out here?
The ivy is too poor to crown your brow,
And the ram too little for your tragic Muse.
If Bacchus returned to Pluto’s domain
He would not want to give Aeschylus back to the world,
He would choose only you, who alone can astonish
French theatre with your antique buskin.
Earlier writers betrayed the misfortune of kings,
Redoubling their misfortunes with too poor a voice:
Yours, like thunder, rolls forth across France.
Blessed with great spirits is this bounteous age;
Beside you, my Garnier, I feel myself fortunate
That my little Loir neighbours your Sarte.
As with the previous poem, Ronsard writes here in his usual Alexandrines. They seem appropriate for a poem proclaiming the voice of thunder with which Garnier speaks, and for comparing him with Aeschylus, perhaps the most noble and high-flown of the three great Greek tragedians and the most natural compaarator (in my view) for the French grand style. (By contrast, Shakespeare is comfortable in Sophoclean or Euripidean style, though he can rise to Aeschylean heights when he wants to: French tragedy cannot descend to the commonplace of Euripides, and rarely to the middle ground of Sophocles!) Incidentally this is the first time one of the ancient Greek tragedians has been mentioned in a poem (as opposed to a footnote) on this blog.
Having said which, it is pretty obvious that the compliment is over-blown… and Ronsard’s self-deprecation in the final line doesn’t of course stop him making sure we know exactly who has written this encomium! I imagine Ronsard with his tongue in his cheek; and I have to say I like his style here!
In the first stanza the ivy wreath or laurel wreath is an ancient tragic prize; the ram is a sacrifice appropriate to the gods of ancient Greece, but as Ronsard says here too small to say thank you for so great a talent as Garnier…