Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sonnet 138

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Hausse ton vol, et d’une aile bien ample,
Forçant des vents l’audace et le pouvoir,
Fay, Denisot, tes plumes émouvoir
Jusques au ciel où les dieux ont leur temple.
 
Là, d’œil d’Argus leurs deitez contemple,
Contemple aussi leur grace et leur sçavoir,
Et pour ma Dame au parfait concevoir,
Sur les plus beaux fantastique un exemple.
 
Choisis apres le teint de mille fleurs,
Et les destrampe en l’humeur de mes pleurs,
Que tiedement hors de mon chef je ruë.
 
Puis attachant ton esprit et tes yeux
Droit au patron desrobé sur les dieux,
Pein, Denisot, la beauté qui me tuë.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Raise higher your flight, and on full wings,
                                                                           Overcoming the insolence and power of the winds,
                                                                           Make your feathers, Denisot, move
                                                                           Right to heaven where the gods have their temple.
 
                                                                           There, contemplate their godhead with the eye of Argus,
                                                                           Contemplate too their grace and wisdom
                                                                           And, to conceive my Lady to perfection,
                                                                           Conjure up an idea based on the fairest of them.
 
                                                                           After that, select the tint of a thousand flowers,
                                                                           And soak them in the water of my tears
                                                                           Which run warm down my face.
 
                                                                           Then, fixing your spirit and your eyes
                                                                           Right on your model, stolen from the gods,
                                                                           Paint her, Denisot, that beauty who is killing me.

 

 

denisot

We’ve met Argus recently, with is many eyes; and we’ve also run into Nicolas Denisot before – and there I said I didn’t know he was a painter! Further research indicates that, though Denisot was a gentleman and therefore not a professional painter, he did become well-known as a great amateur portraitist: “Il a esté estimé for bon Poëte et Orateur tant en Latin qu’en François, et surtout tresexcellent à la peinture, principalement pour le crayon” (‘he was considered a really good poet and orator, both in Latin and French, and above all most excellent at painting, principally with the pencil’ [my emphasis on ‘above all’; and the ‘painting with a pencil’ which is just as odd in French as in English…]
 
Sadly only a portrait of Margaret of Navarre, as frontis to the Tombeau de Marguerite de Valois which he published in 1551 (and to which Belleau, Baif, Dorat and Ronsard contributed). In its woodcut form, it cannot I fear give us much of a feeling for his abilities as a portraitist.  Nevertheless it was not just Ronsard but others of the Pleiade who (in verse) seek Denisot’s afforts to capture the image of their beloved.
 
The helpful Muret tells us that in line 8 ‘fantastique = draw with ‘ta fantasie’: Fantastique is here a verb…’.
 
In line 9 I have paraphrased: I cannot think of an attractive way of translating directly Ronsard’s ‘which warmly I pour out of my head’!   The earlier Blanchemain version has only a couple of words different:
 
 
Moissonne après le teint de mille fleurs,
Et les détrempe en l’argent de mes pleurs …
 
 
                                                                            After that, harvest the tint of a thousand flowers,
                                                                            And soak them in the silver of my tears

 

 
 
 
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Sonnet 135

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Sonnet 134 is already on the blog (here); so here’s no.135.

 

Douce beauté, meurdriere de ma vie,
En lieu d’un cœur tu portes un rocher :
Tu me fais vif languir et desecher
Passionné d’une amoureuse envie.
 
Le jeune sang qui d’aimer te convie,
N’a peu de toy la froideur arracher,
Farouche fiere, et qui n’as rien plus cher
Que languir froide, et n’estre point servie.
 
Appren à vivre, ô fiere en cruauté :
Ne garde point à Pluton ta beauté,
Quelque peu d’aise en aimant il faut prendre.
 
Il faut tromper doucement le trespas :
Car aussi bien sous la terre là-bas
Sans rien sentir le corps n’est plus que cendre.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Sweet beauty, murderer of my life,
                                                                            In place of a heart you have a stone;
                                                                            You make me, though alive, fade away and shrivel up
                                                                            Impassioned with love’s desire.
 
                                                                            The youthful blood which urges you to love
                                                                            Has not been able to draw off your coldness from you,
                                                                            Wild and proud one, who hold nothing dearer
                                                                            Than sitting listlessly and coldly, accepting no service.
 
                                                                            Learn to live, proud in your cruelty;
                                                                            Don’t keep your beauty for Pluto,
                                                                            You must relax a little in love.
 
                                                                            You must sweetly defeat death,
                                                                            For, too, down there below the earth,
                                                                            Feeling nothing, the body is nothing but dust.

 

 

 

 I wonder if Ronsard meant “aussi bien” (in the penultimate line) to have the same meaning as “aussi tost” – that is, ‘For as soon as we are under the ground…’? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it used this way but it certainly reads more sensibly / logically in English this way…
 
This is one of those poems in which Ronsard tweaked the sestet to try to get closer to his ideal. Personally I feel his first version was better and the later one (above) more obscure. Here’s that earlier, clearer version from Blanchemain (note that he didn’t modify “aussi bien” between versions!):
 
 
Apprens à vivre, ô fiere en cruauté ;
Ne garde point à Pluton ta beauté ;
Tes passetemps en aimant il faut prendre.
 
Le seul plaisir peut tromper le trespas :
Car, aussi bien, quand nous serons là-bas,
Sans plus aimer, nous ne serons que cendre. 
 
 
                                                                            Learn to live, proud in your cruelty;
                                                                            Don’t keep your beauty for Pluto;
                                                                            You must spend your leisure in love.
 
                                                                            Only pleasure can defeat death,
                                                                            For, too, when we are down below
                                                                            With no more love, we will be only dust.

 

 

(The next poem in the book is the “Stances” (stanzas) – the first poem not in sonnet form in the book.  It is already on the blog (here), along with the two following sonnets nos. 136 and 137.  So the next entry will be no. 138!

 

 
 
 

Voix de ville

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In my introduction to the musical settings of Ronsard, I mentioned in passing the voix-de-ville or vaudeville, the popular songs which used (or re-used) Ronsard’s poems in a simple melodic line. When performed, there was presumably an improvised accompaniment. This is probably as close as we can get to the sort of singing of his poems that Ronsard speaks of in his verse, the poet or reader singing the words while creating a (simple, improvised?) lute accompaniment.

I hadn’t intended to say much more about them; but then I found a few transcribed so I thought it would be interesting to put them beside the ‘art song’ settings.

Naturally enough, such popular settings rarely survive. But in the 1570s Jehan Chardavoine published a collection. Scholars have been divided on whether he collected genuine tunes (which puts him a century ahead of the antiquarians who sought out and recorded aspects of the world around them in danger of disappearing; and several centuries ahead of the 20th century folksong collectos like Bartok and Vaughan Williams); or whether he composed his own tunes in a ‘folk-like’ style. In some ways, it doesn’t matter: as long as these tunes sounded like contemporary popular tunes people might hear in the street, then they give us a good idea of what these Ronsard poems might have sounded like when sung.

[It is probable that the ‘art songs’ would also have been sung as melodies with a lute accompaniment – taking the ‘superius’ (top line) of the setting, and playing the other three parts as an accompaniment on the lute. The songs with large homophonic sections would fit this style of performance easily, but we know from contemporary lute intabulations that polyphonic songs by the ‘greats’, with complex interweaving melodies, were also very popular.]

In these settings I’ve just set out the tune; inevitably there would have been several ‘verses’ sung, with more of the original poems in them, but I have not reproduced those additional texts.

Titles

Mignonne allons voirMa petite colombelle;  Quand j’estois libre;  Quand ce beau printemps je voy;  Douce maistresse;  Le petit enfant AmourLas, je n’eusse jamais pensée

Composer

unknown! Though it might just be Chardavoine himself …

Source

Recueil des plus belles et excellentes chansons en forme de Voix-de-ville, tirées de divers autheurs tant anciens que modernes, auxquelles a été nouvellement adaptée la musique de leurs chants communs, afin que chacun les puisse chanter en quelque lieu qu’il se trouvera tant de voix que sur les instruments by Jehan Chardavoine, 1576

(texts on recmusic.org/lieder site as linked above)
(playable scores here)
(Image of original score here)
(recorded extracts here and here.

 

I have used Tiersot’s transcriptions for the first five. EDIT: since discovering that Henry Expert’s work is still in copyright, I’ve re-edited the last two myself from the original source – and added copies of the pages too.

The first recorded extract is from an old LP by Hugues Cuénod, called “French Troubadour Songs”(!) which I found here though I’ve also seen it on YouTube. It is a version of ‘Quand ce beau printemps’ whose metre follows Chardavoine closely but whose melody is a little different.  The second extract is a realisation of ‘Mignonne allons voir’ from a CD which is centred around Chardavoine’s book, and which (delightfully) uses the talents of a range of youngsters on instruments and voice, supplementing the professionals who do most of the work, in a way that reflects what Chardavoine might have intended! The CD is called Mignonne … allons voir, by The Muses’ Fellows.

 

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Char1

Char2

 

 

Sonnet 133

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Si l’on vous dit qu’Argus est une fable,
Ne le croyez bonne posterité,
Ce n’est pas feinte ains une vérité,
A mon malheur je la sens veritable.
 
Un autre Argus en deux yeux redoutable,
En corps humain non feint, non inventé,
Espie, aguete, et garde la beauté
Par qui je suis douteux et miserable.
 
Quand par ses yeux Argus ne la tiendroit,
Tousjours au col mignarde me pendroit,
Je cognois bien sa gentille nature.
 
Ha ! vray Argus, tant tu me fais gemir,
A mon secours vienne un autre Mercure,
Non pour ta mort, mais bien pour t’endormir.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            If they tell you that Argus is a fable
                                                                            Don’t believe them, o good posterity,
                                                                            He is not made up, but very truth,
                                                                            To my misfortune I feel it truly.
 
                                                                            Another Argus in two formidable eyes,
                                                                            In human form, not made up, not invented,
                                                                            Watches out, stays alert, and guards the beauty
                                                                            Who makes me doubtful and wretched.
 
                                                                            If Argus were not keeping her under his eyes,
                                                                            She’d always hang, winsome, on my neck –
                                                                            I know her gentle nature well.
 
                                                                            Oh, true Argus, how you make me sigh!
                                                                            May a second Mercury come to my aid,
                                                                            Not bringing you death but rather sleep.

 

 

 

 Sometimes Ronsard’s use of his classical learning is there to make you smile rather than think hard. Today is one of those days!  Argus was the hundred-eyed, never-sleeping watchman who guarded Io from Jupiter; Mercury, the trickster, charmed him to sleep and then (in the myth) killed him.
 
After deciding to include sonnet 132 (from 1572) in his 1560 edition, Blanchemain obviously felt relaxed and included this one as well while noting he took it from the last 1584 edition! His version is identical. He quotes Muret’s footnote – which incidentally comes from the 1560 edition! – in which Muret states that ‘this poem in no way belongs to Cassandre’. I don’t know why he came to that conclusion, unless it was ‘inside information’ from his friendship with Ronsard and acquaintance with his poems.

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 132

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Honneur de May, despouille du Printemps,
Bouquet tissu de la main qui me donte,
Dont les beautez aux fleurettes font honte,
Faisant esclorre un Avril en tout temps :
 
Non pas du nez, mais du cœur je te sens
Et de l’esprit, que ton odeur surmonte :
Et tellement de veine en veine monte,
Que ta senteur embasme tous mes sens.
 
Sus, baise moy en lieu de nostre amie,
Pren mes souspirs, pren mes pleurs je te prie,
Qui serviront d’animer ta couleur,
 
(Ainsi ta fleur ne deviendra fanie)
Les pleurs d’humeur, les souspirs de chaleur,
Pour prendre un jour ta racine en ma vie.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Glory of May, spoils of Spring,
                                                                            Bouquet woven by the hand which masters me,
                                                                            Whose beauty shames the flower-blooms,
                                                                            Making April bloom at all seasons;
 
                                                                            Not with my nose but with my heart I sense you,
                                                                            And with my spirit which your perfume overcomes;
                                                                            And so strongly it rises from vein to vein
                                                                            That your fragrance perfumes all my senses.
 
                                                                            Come then, kiss me in place of my beloved,
                                                                            Take my sighs, take my tears I beg you;
                                                                            They will serve to enliven your colour
 
                                                                            So that your flower does not fade,
                                                                            The tears with their dampness, the sighs with their heat,
                                                                            So that you may for one day plant your root in my life.

 

 

 

 Despite a shorter history (Blanchemain notes that it dates from 1572, which doesn’t stop him including it in his set based on the 1560 edition!) this poem is not short of variants. It was the sestet that caused Ronsard difficulties. Beside the version above (the last), we may put the following variant of the last two lines, from 1572: I’ve included line 12, to highlight the different punctuation.
 
 
 
Ainsi ta fleur ne deviendra fanie :
Mes chauds souspirs serviront de chaleur,
Et mes pleurs d’eau pour te donner la vie.
 
 
                                                                            So that your flower does not fade;
                                                                            My hot sighs will provide the heat,
                                                                            And my tears the water, to give you life.
 
 
It’s worth noting that, though Marty-Laveaux claims to be re-printing the 1584 edition, he presents a ‘compound’ version of this poem. For, according to Blanchemain’s notes, the 1584 edition of the poem was altered to end thus:
 
 
Sus ! baise-moy, couche-toy près de moi ;
Je veux verser mille larmes sur toi,
Mille soupirs, chauds d’amoureuse envie,
 
Qui serviront d’animer ta couleur,
Les pleurs d’humeur, les souspirs de chaleur,
Pour prendre un jour ta racine en ma vie.
 
 
 
                                                                            Come then, kiss me, lie down beside me;
                                                                            I want to pour a thousand tears on you,
                                                                            A thousand sighs, hot with a lover’s desire;
 
                                                                            They will serve to enliven your colour,
                                                                            The tears with their dampness, the sighs with their heat,
                                                                            So that you may for one day plant your root in my life.

 

I cannot claim to have gone back & re-consulted the original editions (tempted as I am!), so I will assume – for the moment – that the M-L text printed at the top is a combination of these two versions prepared by the editor rather than Ronsard’s own final thoughts.  Mostly retaining the 1572 text, but re-using line 12 from the 1584 version, Ronsard tried again. Note that, though retaining the 1572 text for the first tercet, and the 1584 text for the second, lines 11 & 12 are switched round to retain the c-c-d e-d-e rhyme scheme of 1572 rather than the c-c-d e-e-d of 1584.

 

 

 

 

Sonnet 131

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A toy chaque an j’ordonne un sacrifice,
Fidele coin, où tremblant et poureux,
Je descouvry le travail langoureox
Que j’endoroy, Dame, en votre service.
 
Un coin meilleur plus seur et plus propice
A declarer un torment amoureux,
N’est point en Cypre, ou dans les plus heureux
Vergers de Gnide, Amathonte ou d’Eryce.
 
Eussé-je l’or d’un Prince ambitieux,
Coin, tu serois un temple precieux
Enrichy d’or et de despense grande :
 
Où les amans par un vœu solennel
Joutant lutant autour de ton autel,
S’immoleroient eux-mesmes pour offrande.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            For you I command an annual sacrifice,
                                                                            Trusty spot, where trembling and poor
                                                                            I discovered the listless labour
                                                                            Which I endure, my Lady, in your service.
 
                                                                            A better spot, more certain and more favourable
                                                                            For declaring a lover’s torment,
                                                                            There is not – in Cyprus, or in the happiest
                                                                            Orchards of Cnidus, Amathus or Eryx.
 
                                                                            Had I the gold of an ambitious Prince,
                                                                            Little spot, you would become a precious temple
                                                                            Enriched with gold and great expense,
 
                                                                            Where lovers with a solemn vow,
                                                                            Jousting and fighting around your altar,
                                                                            Would sacrifice themselves as an offering.

 

 

 

 Is there a little slip in Ronsard’s clasical learning here?  In lines 7-8, Cnidus was a wealthy city on the Ionian coast (SW Turkey) – though it was wealthy through trade rather than agriculture; Amathus was an ancient royal city of Cyprus, rich in grain; and Eryx (now Erice) is in Sicily, an island which was traditionally a grain-basket for the Mediterranean. So the reference to “vergers”, taken broadly as agriculture rather than specifically ‘orchards’, is generally fine. But why “Cyprus, or … Amathus”? if Amathus is (by extension) used to represent Cyprus??
 
While I am nit-picking I should admit that I have struggled to find “poureux” in any dictionary, old or new. I think it means ‘poor’ but I can’t prove it…
 
Today is also one of those days when you (almost) get two poems for the price of one: at least, the second half is substantially different. Blanchemain offers a couple of variants in line 5 – “Un coin vraiment plus seur ne plus propice” (‘A spot truly more certain and more favourable’) – and then the following sestet.  The first tercet is clearly weaker; the second providing, instead of a medieval image, a classical one (dedicating an offering by hanging it in the temple, reminding me again of Horace’s ode 1:5 – see here).
 
 
 
Eussé-je l’or d’un prince ambitieux,
Tu toucherois, nouveau temple, les cieux,
Elabouré d’une merveille grande ;
 
Et là, dressant à ma nymphe un autel,
Sur les piliers de son nom immortel
J’appenderois mon ame pour offrande.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Had I the gold of an ambitious Prince,
                                                                           You would reach the heavens, a new temple,
                                                                           Built by a great marvel;
 
                                                                           And there, setting an altar to my nymph,
                                                                           On the columns of her immortal name
                                                                           I would hang my soul as an offering.

 

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 130

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L’an mil cinq cens avec quarante et six,
En ces cheveux une Dame cruelle,
Autant cruelle en mon endroit que belle,
Lia mon cœur de ses cheveux surpris.
 
Lors je pensoy, comme sot mal appris,
Nay pour souffrir une peine eternelle,
Que les crespons de leur blonde cautelle
Deux ou trois jours sans plus me tiendroient pris.
 
L’an est passé, et l’autre commence ores
Où je me voy plus que devant encores
Pris dans leurs rets : et quand par fois la mort
 
Veut deslacer le lien de ma peine,
Amour tousjours pour l’estreindre plus fort,
Flatte mon cœur d’une esperance vaine.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            In the year fifteen hundred and forty six,
                                                                            In these fair locks a cruel Lady –
                                                                            As cruel to me as she is beautiful –
                                                                            Bound my heart, caught unawares by her fair locks.
 
                                                                            Then I thought, like an ill-taught fool
                                                                            Born to suffer eternal pain,
                                                                            That the curls with their cunning blonde-ness
                                                                            Would hold me for two or three days, no more.
 
                                                                            The year is ended, and another is now beginning
                                                                            In which I see myself still more than before
                                                                            Caught in their net; and when sometimes death
 
                                                                            Seems willing to loose the bond of my pain,
                                                                            Love always, to grasp it more strongly,
                                                                            Deceives my heart with empty hope.

 

 

 

I am, for some reason, struck by the decision to begin with a date: it seems somehow remarkable that a sonnet should begin with a date, and that Ronsard should have worked to fit a date into his metre! I’ve opted out of trying to give the date a special poetic form…  (I’ve also translated “cheveux” as ‘fair locks’ rather than just ‘hair’ twice in the first quatrain.)
 
The form of the date above wasn’t Ronsard’s only attempt at a metrical form: Blanchemain’s edition gives us some earlier thoughts – and here to reflect the different words I’ve tried varying the translation too.
 
 
L’an mil cinq cens, contant quarante six,
Dans ces cheveux une dame cruelle
(Ne sçais quel plus, las ! ou cruelle ou belle)
Lia mon cœur, de ses graces espris.
 
Lors je pensoy, comme sot mal-appris,
Nay pour souffrir une peine immortelle,
Que les crespons de leur blonde cautelle
Deux ou trois jours sans plus me tiendroient pris.
 
L’an est passé, et l’autre commence ores
Où je me voy plus que devant encores
Pris dans leurs rets ; et quand par fois la mort
 
Veut deslacer le lien de ma peine,
Amour tousjours, pour l’ennouer plus fort,
Flatte mon cœur d’une esperance vaine.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            In the year fifteen hundred adding forty six,
                                                                            In these fair locks a cruel Lady –
                                                                            I no longer know, alas, if she is cruel or fair –
                                                                            Bound my heart, captured by her gracefulness.
 
                                                                            Then I thought, like an ill-taught fool
                                                                            Born to suffer immortal pain,
                                                                            That the curls with their cunning blonde-ness
                                                                            Would hold me for two or three days, no more.
 
                                                                            The year is ended, and another is now beginning
                                                                            In which I see myself still more than before
                                                                            Caught in their net; and when sometimes death
 
                                                                            Seems willing to loose the bond of my pain,
                                                                            Love always, to tie the knot more strongly,
                                                                            Deceives my heart with empty hope.