Sonnet 127

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Non, la chaleur de la terre qui fume
Aux jours d’Esté luy crevassant le front :
Non l’Avant-chien, qui tarit jusqu’au fond
Les tiedes eaux, qu’ardant de soif il hume :
 
Non ce flambeau qui tout ce monde allume
D’un bluetter qui lentement se fond :
Bref, ny l’esté, ny ses fiames ne font
Ce chaud brazier qui mes veines consume.
 
Vos chastes feux, esprits de vos beaux yeux,
Vos doux esclairs qui rechaufent les cieux,
De mon brazier eternizent la flame :
 
Et soit Phœbus attelé pour marcher
Devers le Cancre, ou bien devers l’Archer,
Vostre œil me fait un Esté dedans l’ame.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Not the heat of the ground which steams
                                                                            In the days of summer which cracks its surface;
                                                                            Not the dog-days which dries up to the very bottom
                                                                            The warm waters which, burning with thirst, it sucks up;
 
                                                                            Not that torch which lights the whole of this world
                                                                            With a sparkling fire which slowly fades;
                                                                            In brief, neither the summer nor its fires make
                                                                            This hot furnace which consumes my veins.
 
                                                                            Your chaste fires, spirits of your fair eyes,
                                                                            Your soft lightning-bolts which warm up the heavens,
                                                                            These make the flame of my furnace never-ending;
 
                                                                            And whether Phoebus was yoked to walk
                                                                            Beside the Crab, or indeed beside the Archer,
                                                                            Your eye would make me a summer within my soul.

 

 

 

 Summer is upon us and after a couple of days of fierce heat this sonnet seems only too appropriate!  A couple of commentaries. In line 7, Marty-Laveaux prints “fiames” so I have dutifully followed; Blanchemain and others i’ve cross-checked print “flames”. I can’t find any evidence of “fiames” in the Ronsard lexicon or in middle French, so I feel pretty sure it’s a mis-print: but I don’t have the courage of my convictions…  In any case I’ve translated it as if it were “flames”. In line 3, the dog-days are the sultry summer days of July/August where Sirius (the dog star) rises at the same time as the sun.
 
In the final tercet, those of you who (like me) don’t really know the zodiac or pay attention to astrology might need a paraphrase: Ronsard says effectively ‘whether the sun (Phoebus Apollo) was forced to stay in mid-summer (Cancer, the crab), or even if it was forced to stay in mid-winter (Sagittarius, the archer), it would still be summer in my soul”.
 
There are a series of minor revisions from Blanchemain’s edition, so rather than an ugly list of changes here’s Blanchemain’s version entire:
 
 
Non, la chaleur de la terre qui fume
Aux jours d’esté jusques en son profond ;
Non, l’avant-chien qui tarit jusqu’au fond
Les tiedes eaux, qu’ardant de soif il hume.
 
Non, ce flambeau qui tout ce monde allume
D’un bluetter qui lentement se fond ;
Bref, ny l’esté, ny ses flames, ne font
Ce chaud brasier qui mes veines consume.
 
Vos chastes feux, esprits de vos beaux yeux,
Vos doux esclairs qui rechauffent les dieux,
Seuls de mon feu eternisent la flame.
 
Et, soit Phœbus attelé pour marcher
Devers le Cancre, ou bien devers l’Archer,
Vostre œil me fait un esté dans mon ame.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Not the heat of the ground which steams
                                                                            In the days of summer right down to its depths;
                                                                            Not the dog-days which dries up to the very bottom
                                                                            The warm waters which, burning with thirst, it sucks up;
 
                                                                            Not that torch which lights the whole of this world
                                                                            With a sparkling fire which slowly fades;
                                                                            In brief, neither the summer nor its fires make
                                                                            This hot furnace which consumes my veins.
 
                                                                            Your chaste fires, spirits of your fair eyes,
                                                                            Your soft lightning-bolts which warm up the gods,
                                                                            These alone make the flame of my fire never-ending;
 
                                                                            And if Phoebus was yoked to walk
                                                                            Beside the Crab, or indeed beside the Archer,
                                                                            Your eye would make me a summer within my soul.
 
 

 

 

 
 
 
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