Sonnet 71

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Ja desja Mars ma trompe avoit choisie,
Et dans mes vers ja Francus devisoit :
Sur ma fureur ja sa lance aiguisoit,
Epoinçonnant ma brave poësie :
 
Ja d’une horreur la Gaule estoit saisie,
Et sous le fer ja Sene tre-luisoit,
Et ja Francus à Paris conduisoit
Le nom Troyen et l’honneur de l’Asie :
 
Quand l’Archerot emplumé par le dos,
D’un trait certain me playant jusqu’à l’os,
De ses secrets le ministre m’ordonne.
 
Armes adieu, le Myrte Pafien
Ne cede point au Laurier Delfien,
Quand de sa main Amour mesme le donne.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Now already Mars had outwitted me
                                                                            And now in my verse Francus was chattering away ;
                                                                            Now he was sharpening his lance on my passion,
                                                                            Skewering my bold poetry;
 
                                                                            Now Gaul was seized with horror,
                                                                            The Seine now glinting beneath the blades,
                                                                            Francus now bringing to Paris
                                                                            The name of Troy and Asia’s honour;
 
                                                                            When the little Archer, feathers on his back,
                                                                            Wounding me to the bone with a sure dart
                                                                            Ordained me as minister of his secrets.
 
                                                                            Farewell arms! The myrtle of Paphos
                                                                            Yields nothing to the laurel of Delphi
                                                                            When Love himself gives it with his own hand.

 

 

  
It’s hard to think of Ronsard as a poet of war and epic poetry – the Franciad notwithstanding – yet here he is claiming that he was already at work on such an epic when he was diverted towards love poetry. Maybe this is a ‘classicizing’ defence of love poetry, for epic is of course – like tragedy – considered greater than ‘mere’ love poetry. But it is believed true that he had begun work on his epic Franciad in the 1540s, before turning to love poetry, the Franciad having to wait till the 1570s for publication in its partially-complete state.
 
The hero Francus is an entirely made-up French origin myth, originating in the medieval period: Francus is Astyanax, Hector’s son, mysteriously surviving the death he suffered in the various Greek epics of Troy (in the Little Iliad he is thrown from the walls, in the Ilioupersis, he is killed and the King Priam – his grandfather – is beaten to death with his body!). Escaping to Europe, Astyanax/Francus becomes the origin of the Franks, and founder of the Merovingian dynasty (Charlemagne’s line).
 
Paphos and myrtle are both associated with Venus: Paphos because, after her birth at sea, she came ashore in a seashell there (cf. the famous Botticelli painting); and myrtle is sacred to Venus in classical religion.  Delphi and the laurel are linked with Apollo:  Delphi for the famous Oracle, the laurel as sacred to him and the plant into which Daphne was changed to save her from Apollo’s advances (alluded to in the previous sonnet).
 
The original version (in Blanchemain) has a few small variants:  his lines 7-8 read
 
 
Et ja Francus à son bord conduisoit
Les os d’Hector forbannis de l’Asie,
 
                                                                           Francus now bringing to its banks
                                                                           The bones of Hector exiled from Asia;
 
and his line 11 reads “De sa grandeur le saint prestre m’ordonne” (‘By his greatness ordained me his holy priest’ or ‘Ordained me holy priest of his greatness’).
 
 
 
 
 
 
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