Sonnet 72

Amour, que n’ay-je en escrivant, la grace
Divine autant que j’ay la volonté ?
Par mes escrits tu serois surmonté,
Vieil enchanteur des vieux rochers de Thrace.
Plus haut encor que Pindare et qu’Horace,
J’appenderois à ta divinité
Un livre faict de telle gravité,
Que du Bellay luy quitteroit la place.
Si vive encor Laure par l’Univers
Ne fuit volant dessus les Thusques vers,
Que nostre siecle heureusement estime,
Comme ton nom, honneur des vers François,
Victorieux des peuples et des Roys,
S’en-voleroit sus l’aisle de ma ryme.


                                                                            Love, why have I not, as I write, divine
                                                                            Favour that matches my eagerness?
                                                                            You would be overcome by my writing,
                                                                            Ancient enchanter of the ancient rocks of Thrace!
                                                                            Higher still than Pindar and Horace,
                                                                            I would add to your divinity in
                                                                            A book written with such gravity
                                                                            That du Bellay would make way for it!
                                                                            Laura does not fly so fleetly through
                                                                            The world within those Tuscan verses
                                                                            Which our age happily esteems,
                                                                            As your name, the honour of French verse,
                                                                            Victorious over peoples and kings,
                                                                            Would fly on the the wings of my poetry.



Ronsard is in emulatory mode here: a poem written to make the point that he sees himself as the successor of the great love poets of the past, and as great as or greater than those of his own day. So he calls up the names of Horace, Rome’s greatest lyric poet; Pindar, the greatest of the Greeks (according to Quintilian at least – “of the nine lyric poets, Pindar is by far the greatest”); and by implication Petrarch, the greatest of the Italians (Laura being his muse, Tuscany being his home) and Orpheus himself, the greatest of all poets (the Thracian ‘enchanter’). With them, who else to be Ronsard’s challenger as the greatest poet of the day than Joachim du Bellay, his close friend, whose “L’Olive”, the first French set of love sonnets, was Ronsard’s immediate inspiration?
So beautifully crafted as a poem of emulation with the other great love poets: how strange then that its first version was instead addressed to his Lady! The poem itself is largely unchanged, and still makes the same competitive point; but the address distracts attention from that purpose – though it does place the poem in the context of the book of love poems to Cassandre, in a way that the later variant does not!
Blanchemain’s version begins:
Que n’ay-je, Dame, en escrivant, …
                                                                           Why have I not, my Lady, as I write, …
He also has one other minor change in line 7, where the book is “enflé de telle gravité” (‘puffed up with such gravity’). That version, at least to me, sits more happily in the context of ‘higher’ – int he later version raising divinity higher by attaching a great weight seems rather an odd image, here at least we might have an image of a lighter-than-air balloon carrying the weight 🙂



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