Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sonnet 81

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Pardonne moy, Platon, si je ne cuide
Que sous le rond de la voute des Dieux,
Soit hors du monde, ou au profond des lieux
Que Styx entourne, il n’y ait quelque vuide.
 
Si l’air est plein en sa voute liquide,
Qui reçoit donc tant de pleurs de mes yeux,
Tant de soupirs que je sanglote aux cieux,
Lors qu’à mon dueil Amour lasche la bride ?
 
Il est du vague, ou si point il n’en est,
D’un air pressé le comblement ne naist :
Plus-tost le ciel, qui piteux se dispose
 
A recevoir l’effet de mes douleurs,
De toutes parts se comble de mes pleurs,
Et de mes vers qu’en mourant je compose.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Pardon me, Plato, if i do not believe
                                                                            That beneath the circle of the Heavens’ vault,
                                                                            Whether beyond the world or in the depths of the parts
                                                                            Which Styx surrounds, there is no void [vacuum].
 
                                                                            If the air is full in its watery vault,
                                                                            Where is there room for so many tears from my eyes,
                                                                            So many sighs which I sob to the heavens,
                                                                            Since Love gave rein to my grief ?
 
                                                                            Is it from emptiness, or if not from there,
                                                                            From air under pressure, that its full-ness is born?
                                                                            No: rather heaven, which is pitiful and willing
 
                                                                            To receive the effect of my depair,
                                                                            Is filled in all parts with my tears,
                                                                            And with my verse which, dying, I compose.

 

 

Some philosophy-cum-science from Ronsard:  Plato did not believe in the existence of a vacuum (or perhaps rather any ‘void’/emptiness) in the world, Ronsard answers that there must be or he’ll over-fill everything with his tears. (I’ve copied his double-negative in the opening quatrain:  I must say working through the grammar here was rather testing!) Plato held that the universe was continually ‘becoming’ – self-generating – so that any temporary gaps between matter would be filled by this process; at the beginning of the sestet Ronsard is referring to these arguments about the nature of its ‘becoming’. As always, he turns the intellectual discussion to an extravagant love metaphor, in a charming fashion.
 
Fortunately the earlier Blanchemain version is substantially similar, with only minor variants in the language. In line 4, the Styx “emmure” (‘walls in’ rather than ‘surrounds’) the underworld; in line 5 the air is filled “en sa courbure humide” (‘in its wet curvature’ instead of ‘in its watery vault’); and in line 9 “Il est du vague, ou certes, s’il n’en est” (‘It is from emptiness, or certainly if not’, rather than ‘if not from there’).
 
The next sonnet, no.82, can be found here.
 
 [ PS.  I am amused to see the opening phrase re-used, with a twist, half way through this sonnet in the Marie set! I’m sure that’s entirely deliberate.]
 
 
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Sonnet 80

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Skipping past sonnet 79 – which is here – we arrive at no. 80.

 
Pour voir ensemble et les champs et le bort,
Où ma guerriere avec mon cœur demeure,
Alme soleil, demain avant ton heure
Monte en ton char et te haste bien fort.
 
Voicy les champs, où l’amoureux effort
De ses beaux yeux ordonne que je meure
Si doucement, qu’il n’est vie meilleure
Que les soupirs d’une si douce mort !
 
A costé droit, un peu loin du rivage
Reluist à part l’angelique visage,
Mon seul thresor qu’avarement je veux.
 
Là ne se voit fonteine ny verdure,
Qui ne remire en elle la figure
De ses beaux yeux et de ses beaux cheveux.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            To see together both field and riverbank
                                                                            Where my warrior-girl stays with my heart,
                                                                            Dear sun, tomorrow earlier than usual
                                                                            Jump in your chariot and make great haste.
 
                                                                            Here are the fields, where the loving command
                                                                            Of her fair eyes ordered me to die
                                                                            So sweetly, that there is no life better
                                                                            Than the sighs of so sweet a death!
 
                                                                            On the right side, a little way from the bank
                                                                            Her angelic face shines out,
                                                                            My only treasure, which I greedily desire.
 
                                                                            There is no spring or grassy lawn there
                                                                            Which does not mirror in itself the appearance
                                                                            Of her fair eyes and her fair hair.

 

 

  
There are minor changes from Blanchemain’s edition, just variants in the imagery or language really. In line 4, the instruction is “Monte à cheval et galoppe bien fort” (‘Jump on your horse and gallop hard’); in line 5 the command is “aimable” (‘kindly’) instead of “amoureux”; in line 9 Cassandre is “sur ce bord du rivage” (‘on this bank of the river’); and in line 9 it’s her face “Que trop avare ardentement je veux” (‘Which I, too greedy, ardently desire’).
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 78

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Petit barbet, que tu es bienheureux,
Si ton bon-heur tu sçavois bien entendre,
D’ainsi ton corps entre ses bras estendre,
Et de dormir en son sein amoureux !
 
Où moy je vy chetif et langoureux,
Pour sçavoir trop ma fortune comprendre.
Las! pour vouloir en ma jeunesse apprendre
Trop de raisons, je me fis malheureux.
 
Je voudrois estre un pitaut de village
Sot, sans raison et sans entendement
Ou fagoteur qui travaille au bocage :
 
Je n’aurois point en amour sentiment,
Le trop d’esprit me cause mon dommage,
Et mon mal vient de trop de iugement.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Little tyke, how fortunate you are,
                                                                            If only you were able to understand your fortune,
                                                                            To stretch out your body so between her arms
                                                                            And to sleep in her lovely bosom!
 
                                                                            Whereas I live weak and drooping
                                                                            From being too well able to understand my fate.
                                                                            Alas, from wanting in my youth to learn
                                                                            Too many truths, I have mad myself unhappy.
 
                                                                            I’d rather be a peasant in some village,
                                                                            Drunk, stupid and without understanding,
                                                                            Or a stick-collector working in the woods;
 
                                                                            Then I’d have no sentiment about love.
                                                                            Too much spirit is what causes me my harm,
                                                                            And my ills come from too much thinking.

 

 

The eternal lament of the intellectual – ‘my ills come from too much thinking’! As a friend of mine used to say, don’t employ university graduates if what you want is common sense… 🙂  I do like this poem!!
 
In line 9, the “pitaut de village” could be a ‘village idiot’, but in this context I think Ronsard is thinking about simple rusticity rather than simpletons.
 
Without changing the flavour of the poem, Ronsard re-wrote it considerably after the first edition. Generally I think his later version is tighter, with more varied writing within its theme, than the older one. Here is Blanchemain’s (early) version complete to show the differences:
 
 
Ha ! petit chien, que tu es bien-heureux,
Si ton bon-heur tu sçavois bien entendre,
D’ainsi ès bras de ma mie t’estendre,
Et de dormir en son sein amoureux !
 
Mais, las ! je vy chetif et langoureux,
Pour sçavoir trop mes misères comprendre.
Las! pour vouloir en ma jeunesse apprendre
Trop de sçavoir, je me fis mal-heureux.
 
Mon Dieu, que n’ai-je au chef l’entendement
Aussi plombé qu’un qui journellement
Bèche à la vigne ou fagotte au bocage !
 
Je ne serois chétif comme je suis ;
Mon trop d’esprit, qui cause mon dommage,
Ne comprendroit comme il fait mes ennuis.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Ah, little pup, how fortunate you are,
                                                                           If only you were able to understand your fortune,
                                                                           To stretch yourself in the arms of my sweetheart
                                                                           And to sleep in her lovely bosom!
 
                                                                           But I, alas, live weak and drooping
                                                                           From being too well able to understand my wretchedness.
                                                                           Alas, from wanting in my youth to learn
                                                                           To know too much, I have made myself unhappy.
 
                                                                           My God, why don’t I have an intelligence
                                                                           As leaden as one who daily
                                                                           Digs in the vineyard or collects sticks in the woods!
 
                                                                           I’d not then be weak as I am;
                                                                           My excess of spirit, which causes me my harm,
                                                                           Would not understand how it makes my troubles!

 

 
 
 In line 9-10 the expression could also mean ‘being feather-brained’ – interesting how in English we go for a light image rather than a heavy one! – but in this case I think the heavy image is closer to Ronsard’s meaning.
 
 

Sonnet 77

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Le sang fut bien maudit de la Gorgonne face,
Qui premier engendra les serpens venimeux !
Ha ! tu devois, Helene, en marchant dessus eux,
Non écrazer leurs reins mais en perdre la race.
 
Nous estions l’autre jour en une verte place
Cueillans m’amie et moy des bouquets odoreux :
Un pot de cresme estoit au milieu de nous deux,
Et du laict sur du jonc cailloté comme glace :
 
Quand un serpent tortu de venin tout couvert,
Par ne sçay quel malheur sortit d’un buisson vert
Contre le pied de celle à qui je fay service,
 
Tout le cœur me gela, voyant ce monstre infait :
Et lors je m’escriay, pensant qu’il nous eust fait
Moy, un second Orphée et elle une Eurydice.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            That blood was truly cursed which, from the Gorgon’s head,
                                                                            First formed venomous serpents!
                                                                            Ah, Helen, you should as you walked over them
                                                                            Not have crushed their guts but destroyed their race.
 
                                                                            We were the other day in a green spot,
                                                                            My love and I, picking sweet-smelling bouquets;
                                                                            There was a pot of cream between us two
                                                                            And milk on a reed mat, clotted like ice;
 
                                                                            When a twisting serpent all covered in venom
                                                                            By some ill-chance, leaving a green bush,
                                                                            Struck the foot of her to whom I make my service;
 
                                                                            My heart froze, seeing that wicked beast ;
                                                                            And then I cried out, thinking that he would have made of us
                                                                            Me a second Orpheus and her another Eurydice.

 

 

Take a moment to savour the only 12-syllable lines in the Amours de Cassandre (apparently!).
 
The snaky hair of the Gorgons (led by Medusa) is well known. Less well known is the very obscure story of Helen (of Troy) crushing an African snake, thus causing the species’ strange halting movement, on the way home to Sparta after the fall of Troy…  And, though Euridice died of a snake bite, Ronsard is also thinking of the great love of Orpheus for her.
 
Ronsard tinkered with this sonnet as much as any he didn’t re-write substantially, so here is the complete Blanchemain (early) version with changes marked. Blanchemain, probably rightly, feels the first line in this version is so obscure it needs a footnote to point us in the direction of Medusa.
 
 
Le sang fut bien maudit de la hideuse face,
Qui premier engendra les serpens venimeux !
Tu ne devois, Helene, en marchant dessus eux,
Leur écrazer leurs reins et en perdre la race.
 
Nous estions l’autre jour en une verte place
Cueillans m’amie et moy les fraisiers savoureux :
Un pot de cresme estoit au milieu de nous deux,
Et sur du jonc du laict cailloté comme glace :
 
Quand un vilain serpent de venin tout couvert,
Par ne sçay quel malheur sortit d’un buisson vert
Contre le pied de celle à qui je fay service,
 
Pour la blesser à mort de son venin infait ;
Et lors je m’escriay, pensant qu’il nous eust fait
Moy, un second Orphée et elle une Eurydice.
 
 
 
                                                                           That blood was truly cursed which, from the hideous head,
                                                                           First formed venomous serpents!
                                                                           Helen, you should as you walked over them
                                                                           Have crushed their guts and destroyed their race.
 
                                                                           We were the other day in a green spot,
                                                                           My love and I, picking tasty strawberries;
                                                                           There was a pot of cream between us two
                                                                           And milk on a reed mat, clotted like ice;
 
                                                                           When a wretched serpent all covered in venom
                                                                           By some ill-chance, leaving a green bush,
                                                                           Struck the foot of her to whom I make my service,
 
                                                                           To wound her to death with its wicked venom;
                                                                           And then I cried out, thinking that he would have made of us
                                                                           Me a second Orpheus and her another Eurydice.

 

  [Edit:  I have returned to line 8 after reading Louise Rogers Lalaurie’s discussion paper on translation. She points out that ‘laits caillotés’ were like little blancmanges, we might say ‘set’ rather than ‘clotted’. So it might be clearer to translate as something like ‘A pale blancmange mound, like an ice-cream, upon rushes’? ]
 
 
 

Sonnet 76

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Ny les combats des amoureuses nuits,
Ny les plaisirs que les amours conçoivent ,
Ny les faveurs que les amans reçoivent,
Ne valent pas un seul de mes ennuis.
 
Heureux espoir, par ta faveur je puis
Trouver repos des maux qui me deçoivent,
Et par toy seul mes passions reçoivent
Le doux oubly des tourmens où je suis.
 
Bienheureux soit mon tourment qui r’empire,
Et le doux joug, sous qui je ne respire :
Bienheureux soit mon penser soucieux :
 
Bienheureux soit le doux souvenir d’elle,
Et plus heureux le foudre de ses yeux,
Qui cuist ma vie en un feu qui me gelle.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Not the combats of nights of love,
                                                                            Not the pleasures that acts of love brings,
                                                                            Not the favours that lovers receive –
                                                                            None are worth a single one of my troubles.
 
                                                                            Happy hope, through your favour I can
                                                                            Find rest from the evils which deceive me,
                                                                            And through you alone my passions gain
                                                                            Sweet forgetfulness of the torments in which I am.
 
                                                                            Happy be my torment which again worsens,
                                                                            And the sweet yoke under which I cannot breathe;
                                                                            Happy be my anxious thought;
 
                                                                            Happy be the sweet memory of her,
                                                                            And happier the lightning of her eyes,
                                                                            Which burns my life in a fire which freezes me.

 

 

Minor variants are scattered through Blanchemain’s version of this pretty poem, so here is the earlier one complete:
 
 
Ny les combats des amoureuses nuits,
Ny les plaisirs que les amours conçoivent ,
Ny les faveurs que les amans reçoivent,
Ne valent pas un seul de mes ennuis.
 
Heureux ennui ! en toi seulet je puis
Trouver repos des maux qui me deçoivent,
Et par toy seul mes passions reçoivent
Le doux oubly des tourmens où je suis.
 
Bien-heureux soit mon tourment qui n’empire,
Et le doux joug, sous lequel je respire !
Et bien-heureux le penser soucieux 
 
Qui me repaît du doux souvenir d’elle !
Et plus heureux le doux feu de ses yeux,
Qui cuit mon cœur dans un feu qui me gelle !
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Not the combats of nights of love,
                                                                           Not the pleasures that acts of love brings,
                                                                           Not the favours that lovers receive –
                                                                           None are worth a single one of my troubles.
 
                                                                           Happy trouble! In you alone I can
                                                                           Find rest from the evils which deceive me,
                                                                           And through you alone my passions gain
                                                                           Sweet forgetfulness of the torments in which I am.
 
                                                                           Happy be my torment which does not worsen,
                                                                           And the sweet yoke under which I breathe!
                                                                           And happy my anxious thought
 
                                                                           Which feeds me with the sweet memory of her!
                                                                           And happier the sweet fire of her eyes,
                                                                           Which burns my heart in a fire which freezes me!

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 75

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A word before I start:  there is a lot of play in this poem around multiple meanings of the word “mirer” – to reflect like a mirror, to admire, even to sight or target (as with a gun-sight). I’ve given up all hope of reflecting that in a single translation, so have used plenty of [brackets] to enclose multiple versions of the translation which you should read, as it were, simultaneously … It’s not elegant but it is the closest I can come to the multiple readings in parallel which Ronsard creates.

 

Je parangonne à vos yeux ce crystal,
Qui va mirer le meurtrier de mon ame :
Vive par l’air il esclate une flame,
Vos yeux un feu qui m’est saint et fatal.
 
Heureux miroër, tout ainsi que mon mal
Vient de trop voir la beauté qui m’enflame :
Comme je fay, de trop mirer ma Dame,
Tu languiras d’un sentiment égal.
 
Et toutes-fois, envieux, je t’admire,
D’aller mirer les beaux yeux où se mire
Amour, dont l’arc dedans est recelé.
 
Va donq’ miroër, mais sage pren bien garde
Que par ses yeux Amour ne te regarde,
Brulant ta glace ainsi qu’il m’a brulé.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            I propose as rival to your eyes this glass
                                                                            Which [ the murderer of my soul so admires / continually mirrors the murderer of my soul ]
                                                                            Brightly through the air its flame flashes,
                                                                            Your eyes the fire which is to me holy and deadly.
 
                                                                            Happy mirror, just as my ills
                                                                            Come from seeing too much that beauty which inflames me;
                                                                            So, as I do, from [ mirroring/admiring ] my Lady too much
                                                                            You will languish from the same feelings.
 
                                                                            Yet continually I admire you, envious
                                                                            That you still [mirror/admire] the fair eyes in which Love
                                                                            [Regards himself/is mirrored], in which his bow is hidden.
 
                                                                            Go then mirror, but wisely take good care
                                                                            That Love does not look on you through her eyes,
                                                                            Burning your [ ice/glass ] as he has burned me.

 

 

Apart from those slippery meanings, there isn’t really anything to add by way of commentary. Blanchemain’s earlier version has a rather different second half; here then is the sestet in the earlier version:
 
 
Et toutes-fois, envieux, je t’admire,
D’aller mirer le miroer où se mire
Tout l’univers devant lui remiré.
 
Va donq’ miroër, va donc, et pren bien garde
Qu’en le mirant ainsi que moi ne t’arde
Pour avoir trop ses beaux yeux admiré.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Yet continually I admire you, envious
                                                                           That you still [mirror/admire] the mirror in which the whole world
                                                                           Regards itself, mirrored before it.
 
                                                                           Go then mirror, go then and take good care
                                                                           That in reflecting her she does not burn you as she has me
                                                                           For having looked too much on her fair eyes.

 

 
 
 
 

Sonnet 74

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Les Elemens et les Astres, à preuve
Ont façonné les rais de mon Soleil,
Vostre œil, Madame, en beauté nompareil,
Qui çà ne là son parangon ne treuve.
 
Dés l’onde Ibere où le Soleil s’abreuve,
Jusqu’à l’autre onde où il perd le sommeil,
Amour ne voit un miracle pareil,
Sur qui le Ciel tant de ses graces pleuve.
 
Cet œil premier m’apprit que c’est d’aimer :
Il vint premier tout le cœur m’entamer,
Servant de but à ses fleches dardées.
 
L’esprit par luy desira la vertu
Pour s’en-voler par un trac non batu
Jusqu’au giron des plus belles Idées.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            The Elements and Stars fashioned
                                                                            Their masterpiece, the rays of my Sun,
                                                                            Your eyes, my Lady – unequalled in beauty,
                                                                            Which nowhere find a comparator.
 
                                                                            From the Iberian sea where the sun drinks deeply,
                                                                            To the other sea where he wakes from sleep,
                                                                            Love sees no like miracle
                                                                            On which Heaven has rained so many of its graces.
 
                                                                            Those eyes first taught me what it is to love;
                                                                            They first came to break into all my heart,
                                                                            Which provided the target for their barbed arrows.
 
                                                                            Through those eyes, my spirit sought virtue
                                                                            So that it might fly on some unbeaten track
                                                                            To the bosom of the finest Ideals.

 

 

I have changed the image in line 1 – my image comes from apprenticeships in the arts, Ronsard’s comes from the craft of the armourer: the “preuve” is a test, a competition, but especially a competition of the noble, jousting kind. So in Ronsard’s image the ‘weapon’ of Cassandre’s eyes was made to be tested in combat against others. In the final line, as well, I have used ‘Ideals’ but in fact Ronsard refers to Platonic Forms or ‘Ideas’.  For a reader today, chivalry and Platonic philosophy are perhaps less current than they would be to Ronsard’s learned renaissance audience and I’ve switched to images that may carry more immediate impact today.
 
However, note that Blanchemain quotes Muret’s commentary on line 1, where he ‘translates’ “à preuve” as “à qui mieux” (‘who better?’) – ‘The stars – who better – created Cassandre’s radiant eyes’. Muret also suggests that the final line really means ‘to the bosom of God’ [ he uses the words “la divinité” as a humanist! ].
 
Blanchemain’s earlier version has a number of variants throughout, so here is his version complete:
 
 
Les Elemens et les Astres, à preuve
Ont façonné les rais de mon Soleil,
Je dis son œil, en beauté nompareil,
Qui çà ne là son parangon ne treuve.
 
Dés l’onde Ibere où le Soleil s’abreuve,
Jusques au lit de son premier réveil,
Amour ne void un miracle pareil,
Sur qui le Ciel tant de ses graces pleuve.
 
Cet œil premier m’apprit que c’est d’aimer :
Il vint premier ma jeunesse animer
A la vertu, par ses flammes dardées.
 
Par lui mon cœur premièrement s’aila,
Et loin du peuple à l’écart s’envola
Jusqu’au giron des plus belles Idées.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                           The Elements and Stars made
                                                                           Their masterpiece, the rays of my Sun –
                                                                           I mean her eyes – unequalled in beauty,
                                                                           Which nowhere find a comparator.
 
                                                                           From the Iberian sea where the sun drinks deeply,
                                                                           To the bed of his first waking,
                                                                           Love sees no like miracle
                                                                           On which Heaven has rained so many of its graces.
 
                                                                           Those eyes first taught me what it is to love;
                                                                           They first came to excite my youth
                                                                           To virtue, with their barbed flames.
 
                                                                           Through those eyes, my heart first took wing,
                                                                           And flew aside, far from the people,
                                                                           To the bosom of the finest Ideals.