Sonnet 73

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Pipé d’Amour, ma Circe enchanteresse
Dedans ses fers m’arreste emprisonné,
Non par le goust d’un vin empoisonné,
Non par le jus d’une herbe pecheresse.
 
Du fin Gregeois l’espée vangeresse,
Et le Moly par Mercure ordonné,
En peu de temps du breuvage donné
Peurent forcer la force charmeresse :
 
Si qu’à la fin le Dulyche troupeau
Reprint l’honneur de sa premiere peau,
Et sa prudence au-paravant peu caute.
 
Mais pour mon sens remettre en mon cerveau,
Il me faudroit un Astolphe nouveau,
Tant ma raison est aveugle en sa faute.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Snared by Love, my enchantress, my Circe
                                                                            Holds me imprisoned within her chains;
                                                                            She did not use the taste of poisoned wine,
                                                                            Nor the juice of a sinful herb.
 
                                                                            The avenging sword of the wily Greek
                                                                            And the cure for the enchantment ordained by Mercury
                                                                            In a short while were able to overpower
                                                                            The power of the charm in the drink they were given;
 
                                                                            So that, in the end, the Dulychean troop
                                                                            Recovered the honour of its original shape
                                                                            And its prudence, though formerly so incautious.
 
                                                                            But to put my sense back in my brain
                                                                            I would need a new Astolpho,
                                                                            So blind is my reason to its failing.

 

 

Circe is the enchantress who transforms Odysseus’ crew into pigs in the 10th book of the ‘Odyssey’.  She uses a potion and a magic wine-cup. Note that the pigs run free, and are not kept chained; but they are metaphorically chained by the enchantment. They are rescued by Odysseus (the wily Greek) who – at Mercury’s recommendation – uses the plant ‘molu’ or ‘moly’ to prevent the witch’s magic affecting him.  [Some argue that the men were only metaphorically transformed into pigs, their humanity taken away by a hallucinogen of some kind; the snowdrop has anti-hallucinogenic properties (apparently!) so may be ‘moly’.] Dulichium was one of the islands of which Odysseus was king; possibly one of the Echinades, or nearby Cephalonia?
 
Astolpho takes us to a rather more modern epic – Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioso’. Astolpho is the powerful champion who restores Orlando to his senses after he has been maddened by love. Originally one of Charlemagne’s paladins, Astolpho/Astolfo in Ariosto has acquired a range of magical weapons and steeds. He flies on a hippogriff, meets St John the Apostle, then takes Elijah’s chariot to the moon, where he finds Orlando’s lost wits in a bottle…!
 
Blanchemain’s version has only 3 minor changes – though one affects the very beginning of the poem!  The early version begins “Du tout changé, ma Circe…” (‘Changed in every way, my Circe holds me…’). In line 8 Odysseus’ sword and ‘moly’ “Forcèrent bien la force charmeresse” (‘overpowered easily the power of the charm’) – not noticeably better or worse than the alternative repetition of ‘forcer’! And in line 10 the troop “reprit” instead of “reprint” (recovered) its honour – a difference only between treating ‘troop’ as plural or singular.
 
 
 
 
 
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