Ronsard has a way of turning a compliment, doesn’t he – and often deftly turning it to himself! If ever a poet was secure in his knowledge of his own worth, it’s Ronsard. But of course this poem is about the surpassing charms of Cassandre, greater than any inspiration to any poet before… The ‘poet of the Grecian army’ is of course Homer, the war is the Trojan War, his poem the Iliad, and the Greek general who dies is Achilles. Paris was chosen to judge the contest between Juno, Venus and Minerva and naturally decided the prettiest was best – so Ronsard says Cassandre is prettier than the goddess of love herself. Myrtles and laurels are the prize for poets, and indeed the victors of any contest, in the classical world – though not good enough as a prize for Ronsard apparently! I must admit to some paraphrasing in this translation: in line 5 Paris actually “saw [Venus] in the valley”, but ‘glimpsed … garden’ offers an alliterative effect similar to “veit en la valée”. In line 14 Ronsard actually says no myrtle is ‘worthy of you, nor worthy of my head’, but I have changed this (with less excuse) to the more explanatory ‘crown’. Blanchemain’s version shows how Ronsard’s self-confidence had grown later in life: for in this version he ends by receiving (and being pleased to receive) the best of myrtle crowns… Si l’escrivain de la Gregeoise armée Eust veu tes yeux qui serf me tiennent pris, Les faits de Mars il n’eust jamais empris, Et le duc grec fust mort sans renommée. Et si Pâris, qui vit en la valée La grand’ beauté dont son cœur fut épris, Eust veu la tienne, il t’eust donné le pris, Et sans honneur Venus s’en fust allée. Mais s’il advient, ou par le vueil des cieux, Ou par le trait qui sort de tes beaux yeux, Qu’en publiant ma prise et ta conqueste, Outre la Tane on m’entende crier, Io ! Io ! quel myrte ou quel laurier Sera bastant pour enlacer ma teste ! If the poet of the Grecian army Had seen your eyes, which hold me bound as a serf, He would never have taken up the deeds of Mars [war] And the Greek general would have died without fame. And if Paris, who glimpsed in the garden That great beauty by which his heart was seized, Had seen yours, he would have given you the prize And Venus would have left without reward. But if it happens, by the will of Heaven Or by the wound given by your fair eyes, That in speaking out of my capture and your conquest, Beyond Tanais they hear me singing “Io! Io!”, what myrtle or what laurel Will be woven to twine around my head! In the second quatrain his first version is more allusive than the later one – perhaps unusually! – explaining itself only in line 8; but the later version, while making the allusion clearer in line 5, does end up repeating itself if we recognise Cypris and Venus to be the same person. In the final lines, Blanchemain says ‘I believe “la Tane” is Tanais’; this was a city at the southern end of the [modern] river Don, that is to say NE of the Crimea at the top-right of the Black Sea – – or, in classical terms, the far end of the known world. So those beyond Tanais are in effect at or beyond the edges of the known world. ‘Io’ was a representation of the shouting (or ululation) of Bacchantes and others in the throes of some form of ecstatic dance-trance – again, associated with the mystic east.