Sonnet 111

Si doux au cœur le souvenir me tente
De la mielleuse et fielleuse saison,
Où je perdi mes sens et ma raison,
Qu’autre plaisir ma peine ne contente.
Je ne veux point en la playe de tante
Qu’Amour me fit pour avoir guerison,
Et ne veux point qu’on m’ouvre la prison,
Pour affranchir autre part mon attente.
Plus que la mort je fuy la liberté,
Tant j’ay grand peur de me voir escarté
Du doux lien qui doucement m’offense,
Et m’est honneur de me voir martyrer,
Sous un espoir quelque jour de tirer
Un seul baiser pour toute recompense.
                                                                            So sweetly the memory assaults my heart
                                                                            Of the honey-sweet, bitter-gall season
                                                                            In which I lost my sense and reason,
                                                                            That other pleasures cannot soothe my pain.
                                                                            I have no wish for the wound, insofar as
                                                                            Love gave me it, to be healed,
                                                                            And no wish that my prison be opened
                                                                            To grant my desire freedom in some other place.
                                                                            More than death I flee liberty,
                                                                            Such great fear I have of being separated
                                                                            From the sweet tie which sweetly shocks me,
                                                                            And it is honour to me to be tortured
                                                                            In the hope some day of extracting
                                                                            A single kiss as payment for all.




I’ve always had a weakness for ‘unusual’ numbers, and 111 is a special favourite (!)  Beethoven’s op.111 for instance, his last piano sonata; a Brahms string quintet, Schumann’s Fantasiestücke. [Edit: just discovered a fine set of concert studies by Moscheles, op. 111, as well; and Parsifal is no. 111 in the Wagner Werke-Verzeichnis.][Further edit: I understand Prokofiev deliberately made his 6th Symphony Op.111, in homage to Beethoven!] Psalm 111 is a Hebrew acrostic which is fun, though I feel I’d appreciate it more if I could read Hebrew! 🙂 111 is one of the bus routes out of London’s Heathrow airport…
It’s even better if the ‘111’ is actually attached to something precious:  Glenn Gould thought Beethoven’s op. 111 vastly overrated & trivialised the first movement as much as possible in his recording; I feel he might have said something similar about this poem!  It’s not one of Ronsard’s greatest, but fortunately it is a beautiful little poem that carries the ‘weight’ of its arbitrary numbering well!  I like the second line: ‘honey-like and gall-like’ is what it means literally, and both are (perhaps) coinages of Ronsard’s.
There are some minor variants in Blanchemain’s version: the penultimate line has the rather anodyne “quelquefois” (‘sometimes’) instead of the rather more arresting “quelque jour”; and the first stanza has several small differences, which the later version again improves with something a little more striking in each case – except in line 4, where I find the image of other sadness (potentially) soothing the pain rather striking.
Si doucement le souvenir me tente
De la mielleuse et fielleuse saison
Où je perdi la loi de ma raison,
Qu’autre douleur ma peine ne contente.
                                                                            So sweetly the memory assaults me
                                                                            Of the honey-sweet, bitter-gall season
                                                                            In which I lost the guidance of my reason,
                                                                            That other sadnesses cannot soothe my pain.



About fattoxxon

Who am I? Lover of all sorts of music - classical, medieval, world (anything from Africa), world-classical (Uzbek & Iraqi magam for instance), and virtually anything that won't be on the music charts... Lover of Ronsard's poetry (obviously) and of sonnets in general. Reader of English, French, Latin & other literature. And who is Fattoxxon? An allusion to an Uzbek singer - pronounce it Patahan, with a very plosive 'P' and a throaty 'h', as in 'khan')

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Sonnet 119 | Oeuvres de Ronsard

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