Sonnet 56

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Quel sort malin, quel astre me fit estre
Jeune et si fol, et de malheur si plein ?
Quel destin fit que tousjours je me plain
De la rigueur d’un trop rigoureux maistre ?
 
Quelle des Sœurs à l’heure de mon estre
Pour mon malheur noircit mon fil humain ?
Quel des Démons m’eschauffant en son sein,
En lieu de laict, de soin me fit repaistre ?
 
Heureux les corps dont la terre a les os !
Bien-heureux ceux que la nuit du Chaos
Presse au giron de sa masse brutale !
 
Sans sentiment, leur repos est heureux :
Que suis-je, las ! moy chetif amoureux,
Pour trop sentir, qu’un Sisyphe ou Tantale ?
 
 
 
 
                                                                           What malign fate, what star made me
                                                                           Young and so foolish, and so full of misfortune?
                                                                           What destiny made me always complain
                                                                           Of the harshness of a too-strict master?
 
                                                                           Which of the Sisters at the time of my creation
                                                                           Blackened the thread of my life to my misfortune?
                                                                           Which of the Demons, warming me at his breast,
                                                                           Fed me with hard care in place of milk?
 
                                                                           Fortunate those corpses whose bones are in the earth!
                                                                           So fortunate those whom the night of Chaos
                                                                           Presses to the bosom of his rough form!
 
                                                                           This is not sentiment: their rest is happy;
                                                                           But I, alas, the wretched lover – what am I
                                                                           From having too much feeling, but Sisyphus or Tantalus?
 
 
 
Another sonnet with which the older Ronsard tinkered; I have for instance translated line 7 above to follow line 5 (‘Which of the …’) even though that feels a little awkward in line 7, only because in the earlier version (below) Ronsard does not deliberately parallel the beginning of the lines!  (Interesting that he removes the insistent duplication of “Heureux ceux-là” in lines 9-10, but adds the less insistent duplication of lines 7 & 9.) The Sisters are a well-defined group – the three Graiai whom Perseus visits, sometimes identified with the Moirai or Fates who spin the threads of man’s life; ‘the Demons’ are a far less clearly-defined group – ‘which demon’ (in Blanchmain’s version) carries that sense of a less-defined group better.
 
In other respects the change in the second stanza seems clearly (to me) to move away from the easy writing of the early version towards a more tortured, deliberately complex and obscure style – Ronsard (again) trying too hard in his old age to eliminate elements of youthful simplicity from his poems?
 
Sisyphus and Tantalus in the final line are famous images of the torments of Hell – Sisyphus always rolling his great rock uphill but never reaching the top, Tantalus always ‘tantalised’ by food and water just out of reach.
 
Again, as changes occur throughout, and so that you can take your own view on the versions of the second stanza, here is the complete Blanchemain (early) version:
 
 
 
Quel Dieu malin, quel astre, me fit estre
Et de misére et de tourment si plein ?
Quel destin fit que tousjours je me plain
De la rigueur d’un trop rigoureux maistre ?
 
Quelle des Sœurs, à l’heure de mon estre
Noircit le fil de mon sort inhumain ?
Et quel démon d’une senestre main,
Berça mon corps quand le ciel me fit naistre ?
 
Heureux ceux-là dont la terre a les os !
Heureux ceux-là que la nuict du chaos
Presse au giron de sa masse brutale !
 
Sans sentiment, leur repos est heureux :
Que suis-je,  las ! moy chetif amoureux,
Pour trop sentir, qu’un Sisyphe ou Tantale ?
 
 
 
 
                                                                           What malign god, what star made me
                                                                           So full of sorrow and pain?
                                                                           What destiny made me always complain
                                                                           Of the harshness of a too-strict master?
 
                                                                           Which of the Sisters at the time of my creation
                                                                           Blackened the thread of my inhuman fate?
                                                                           And which Demon with ominous hand
                                                                           Cradled my limbs when heaven had me born?
 
                                                                           Fortunate those whose bones are in the earth!
                                                                           Fortunate those whom the night of Chaos
                                                                           Presses to the bosom of his rough form!
 
                                                                           This is not sentiment: their rest is happy;
                                                                           But I, alas, the wretched lover – what am I
                                                                           From having too much feeling, but Sisyphus or Tantalus?

 

 
 
 
 
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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')

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