Sonnet 138

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.




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



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')

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