Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ode 5:3

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The mention of Nicolas Denisot in a recent post sent me off looking for more information. I was fascinated to discover that Ronsard had been one of several Pleiade poets (others were du Bellay and Baif) who contributed poems to a book Denisot saw through the presses in 1551. It was of course early days for the Pleaide poets but it’s still an impressive list! And it secured Denisot’s reputation as a poet.

The book was the Tombeau de Marguerite de Valois Royne de Navarre; you can read it here. But this book was itself a translation (or rather a set of translations) by these French poets of the Hecatodistichon composed by Denisot’s erstwhile pupils in England. For he had spent two or three years there as their tutor before being recalled to France, and their poem in memory of Margaret of Navarre, who died late in 1549 shortly after Denisot’s return to France, no doubt reflected Denisot’s own style and preferences as much as their own. At any rate, Denisot enthusiastically saw the Hecatodistichon through the presses in 1550, and then prevailed on his humanist friends to pull together the Tombeau, whose subtitle is: “Composed first in Latin Distichs by three sisters and Princesses in England; then translated into Greek, Italian and French by several excellent poets of France.” Daurat provided the Greek translation; du Bellay, Denisot and Baif the French; and Jean Pierre de Mesme (who had previously translated Ariosto into French) provided the Italian.

The three princesses were the Seymour sisters – Anne, Margaret and Jane; it’s believed their father hoped to marry Jane to Edward VI, so the family certainly did move in the highest circles. Ronsard’s ode sets their work up as the dawn of culture in England, hitherto ‘barbarous’, and he indicates hopes for an Anglo-French literary rapprochement built on these foundations. Richelet adds notes on the ode (re-published in 1552 in Ronsard’s book 5) to the effect that the ode is “for three learned daughters of England, instructed and taught by Denisot, count of Alsinois”; “because at that time these three ladies had composed a book in Christian distichs, in Latin, terrifically well written, which were soon translated into Greek, Italian and French, and were dedicated to Mme Marguerite, only sister of king Henry II”.

 

Quand les filles d’Achelois,
Les trois belles chanteresses,
Qui des homme par leurs vois
Estoient les enchanteresses,
Virent jaunir la toison,
Et les soldars de Jason
Ramer la barque argienne
Sur la mer Sicilienne,
 
Elles, d’ordre, flanc à flanc,
Oisives au front des ondes,
D’un peigne d’yvoire blanc
Frisotoient leurs tresses blondes,
Et mignotant de leurs yeux
Les attraits delicieux,
Aguignoient la nef passante
D’une œillade languissante.
 
Puis souspirerent un chant
De leurs gorges nompareilles,
Par douce force alléchant
Les plus gaillardes aureilles ;
Afin que le son pipeur
Fraudast le premier labeur
Des chevaliers de la Grece
Amorcés de leur caresse.
 
Ja ces demi-dieux estoient
Prests de tomber en servage,
Et jà domptés se jettoient
Dans la prison du rivage,
Sans Orphée, qui, soudain
Prenant son luth en la main,
Opposé vers elles, joue
Loin des autres sur la proue,
 
Afin que le contre-son
De sa repoussante lyre
Perdist au vent la chanson
Premier qu’entrer au navire,
Et qu’il tirast des dangers
Ces demi-dieux passagers
Qui devoient par la Libye
Porter leur mere affoiblie.
 
Mais si ce harpeur fameux
Oyoit le luth des Serenes
Qui sonne aux bords escumeux
Des Albionnes arenes,
Son luth payen il fendroit
Et disciple se rendroit
Dessous leur chanson chrestienne
Dont la voix passe la sienne.
 
Car luy, enflé de vains mots,
Devisoit à l’aventure
Ou des membres du Chaos
Ou du sein de la Nature ;
Mais ces vierges chantent mieux
Le vray manouvrier des cieux,
Et sa demeure eternelle,
Et ceux qui vivent en elle.
 
Las ! ce qu’on void de mondain
Jamais ferme ne se fonde,
Ains fuit et refuit soudain
Comme le branle d’une onde
Qui ne cesse de rouler,
De s’avancer et couler,
Tant que rampant il arrive
D’un grand heurt contre la rive.
 
La science, auparavant
Si long temps orientale,
Peu à peu marchant avant,
S’apparoist occidentale,
Et sans jamais se borner
N’a point cessé de tourner,
Tant qu’elle soit parvenue
A l’autre rive incogneue.
 
Là de son grave sourcy
Vint affoler le courage
De ces trois vierges icy,
Les trois seules de nostre âge,
Et si bien les sceut tenter,
Qu’ores on les oit chanter
Maint vers jumeau qui surmonte
Les nostres, rouges de honte.
 
Par vous, vierges de renom,
Vrais peintres de la mémoire,
Des autres vierges le nom
Sera clair en vostre gloire.
Et puis que le ciel benin
Au doux sexe feminin
Fait naistre chose si rare
D’un lieu jadis tant barbare,
 
Denisot se vante heuré
D’avoir oublié sa terre,
Et passager demeuré
Trois ans en vostre Angleterre,
Et d’avoir cogneu vos yeux,
Où les amours gracieux
Doucement leurs fleches dardent
Contre ceux qui vous regardent.
 
Voire et d’avoir quelquefois
Tant levé sa petitesse,
Que sous l’outil de sa vois
Il polit vostre jeunesse,
Vous ouvrant les beaux secrets
Des vieux Latins et les Grecs,
Dont l’honneur se renouvelle
Par vostre muse nouvelle.
 
Io, puis que les esprits
D’Angleterre et de la France,
Bandez d’un ligue, ont pris
Le fer contre l’ignorance,
Et que nos roys se sont faits
D’ennemis amis parfaits,
Tuans la guerre cruelle
Par une paix mutuelle,
 
Advienne qu’une de vous,
Nouant la mer passagere,
Se joigne à quelqu’un de nous
Par une nopce estrangere ;
Lors vos escrits avancez
Se verront recompensez
D’une chanson mieux sonnée,
Qui cri’ra vostre hymenée.
When the daughters of Achelous,
The three fair singers
Who were with their voices
Enchantresses of men,
Saw the fleece growing golden,
And Jason’s soldiers
Rowing the ship, the Argo,
On the Sicilian sea,
 
Lined up side by side
Lazily at the front of the waves,
With combs of white ivory
They were curling their blonde tresses
And, hinting with their eyes
At their delicious attractions,
Making signs to the passing ship
With a languishing look.
 
Then they sigh a song
From their peerless throats,
With its sweet force alluring
The strongest ears;
So that the snaring sound
Draws the Greek knights
From their primary task,
Attracted by their caresses.
 
Now would those half-gods have been
Ready to fall into slavery,
Now overcome would they have thrown themselves
Into the river’s prison,
Unless Orpheus, suddenly
Taking up his lute in his hand,
Opposing the ladies had played
Far from the others on the [ship’s] prow,
 
So that the counter-tune
Of his lyre, repelling it,
Lost in the wind the song
Which first came aboard the ship,
And drew away from danger
Those half-god travellers
Who needed to take
Through Libya their enfeebled mother.
 
But if that famous harper
Heard the lute of the Sirens
Which plays on the foamy edges
Of Albion’s sands,
His pagan lute he would break
And would become a disciple
Of their Christian song
Whose tones surpass his own.
 
For he, full of empty words,
Invented at random
Out of the limbs of Chaos
Or the heart of Nature;
But these maids sing better
Of the true maker of the heavens
And his eternal home
And those who live in it.
 
Alas, what you see in the world
Never rests firm on its foundations,
But ebbs and flows suddenly
Like the motion of the waves
Which never stop rolling,
Advancing and falling back,
As long as they come crashing
With a great shock against the shore.
 
Knowledge, hitherto
For so long a thing of the East,
Little by little moving forward
Now appeared in the West,
And without ever limiting itself
Never stopped changing,
So that it arrived
At the other shore unknown.
 
There with its haughty gravity
It arrived to bewilder the courage
Of these three maids here,
The only three of our age,
And so well did it tempt them
That soon you could hear them singing
Many a paired verse which outdid
Our own, which blush with shame.
 
Through you, maidens of renown,
True painters of memory,
The fame of other maidens
Will be bright in your glory.
And since benign heaven
Made to be born so rare a thing
In the sweet feminine sex,
And in a place hitherto so barbarous,
 
Denisot boasts himself happy
To have forgotten his own land
And remained a traveller
For three years in your England,
And to have known your eyes
From which gracious cupids
Softly dart their arrows
Against those who look on you.
 
Indeed sometimes [he boasts] of having
So raised up his own littleness
That with the tool of his own talent
He polished up your youthfulness,
Opening to you the fair secrets
Of the ancient Latins and Greeks,
Whose honour is renewed
In your new muse.
 
Ah, since the spirits
Of England and of France,
Bound in a league, have taken up
Arms against ignorance,
And since our kings have become,
Instead of enemies, perfect friends
Killing cruel war
Through a mutual peace,
 
May it come about that one of you,
Swimming the passage of the sea,
Might join herself with some one of us
In a foreign marriage;
Then your precocious writings
Will see themselves rewarded
With a song better played,
Which will announce your wedding.

(Let me admit that the second line of that last stanza is a bit of a paraphrase! “Nouer” was an antique word even in Ronsard’s day, equivalent to “nager” (‘to swim’).)

The poem falls into three equal sections: the classical introduction, the generalities about the awakening of culture in England; and then the specific praise of the three ladies. In the classical opening, Achelous was the chief river-deity of classical myth and father of the Sirens.  The legend of Jason and the Argonauts, in search of the Golden Fleece, is well-known, though it’s usually the meeting of Odysseus and the Sirens we read; less well-known is that Orpheus was one of the Argonauts.

 

 

 

Sonnet 150

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En ce printemps qu’entre mes bras n’arrive
Celle qui tient ma playe en sa verdeur,
Et ma pensée en oisive langueur,
Sur le tapis de ceste herbeuse rive ?
 
Et que n’est-elle une Nymphe native
De ce bois verd ? par l’ombreuse froideur
Nouveau Sylvain j’alenterois l’ardeur
Du feu qui m’ard d’une flamme trop vive.
 
Et pourquoy, cieux ! l’arrest de vos destins
Ne m’a faict naistre un de ces Paladins,
Qui seuls portoyent en crope les pucelles ?
 
Et qui tastant baisant et devisant,
Loin de l’envie et loin du mesdisant,
Par les forests vivoyent avecques elles ?
 
 
 
                                                                            In this springtime, why does she not come into my arms,
                                                                            She who keeps my wound fresh
                                                                            And my thoughts in idle listlessness
                                                                            On the carpet of this grassy bank?
 
                                                                            And why is she not a Nymph, native
                                                                            Of this green wood? With its shady cool
                                                                            I, a new Wood-dweller, would retard the heat
                                                                            Of the fire which burns me with too bright a flame.
 
                                                                            And why, heavens, did the judgement of fate
                                                                            Not make me born one of those Paladins
                                                                            Who alone carry maidens behind them,
 
                                                                            And who – touching, kissing, chatting,
                                                                            Far from envy and those who speak ill –
                                                                            Live with them in the forests?

 

 

 

 Another allusion to Ariosto, perhaps, in the reference to Paladins on chargers. His wry humour amuses me – why is it OK for heroes in storybooks to go off alone into the woods with maidens, without people whispering suspiciously about what they might get up to, but not for real people to do it…?
 
In line 11, the maiden is ‘en crope’ : in case horse-jargon isn’t your thing, that is ‘on the crupper’, behind the saddle on the horse’s back.  We might also say, ‘riding pillion’.
 
Blanchemain has a few variants, including the opening, but they leave the sense unchanged: here are his opening lines
 
 
Entre mes bras que maintenant n’arrive
Celle qui tient ma playe en sa verdeur,
Et ma pensée en gelant tiedeur
Sur le tapis de ceste herbeuse rive !
 
Et que n’est-elle une nymphe native
De quelque bois ! Par l’ombreuse froideur …
 
 
 
                                                                            Why does she not now come into my arms,
                                                                            She who keeps my wound fresh
                                                                            And my thoughts in freezing warmth
                                                                            On the carpet of this grassy bank?
 
                                                                            And why is she not a Nymph, native
                                                                            Of some wood? Through the shady cool …

 

And so we complete 150 sonnets from book 1; I shall update the ‘complete’ pdf shortly.  [Edit:  pdf uploaded.]  Such is the size of Amours I that, even after more than 150 poems, we’re still less than two-thirds of the way through, however…!
 
 
 

Sonnet 149

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Si tu ne veux contre Dieu t’irriter,
Escoute moy, ne mets point en arriere
L’humble soupir, enfant de la priere :
La priere est fille de Jupiter.
 
Quiconque veut la priere eviter,
Jamais n’acheve une jeunesse entiere
Et voit tousjours de son audace fiere
Jusqu’aux enfers l’orgueil precipiter.
 
Pource orgueilleuse eschappe cet orage,
Dedans mes pleurs attrempe ton courage,
Sois pitoyable, et guaris ma langueur :
 
Tousjours le Ciel, tousjours l’eau n’est venteuse,
Tousjours ne doit ta beauté dépiteuse
Contre ma playe endurcir sa rigueur.
 
 
 

 

                                                                            If you do not wish to become frustrated with God
                                                                            Listen to me, never overlook
                                                                            The humble sigh, child of prayer:
                                                                            Prayer is the daughter of Jupiter.
 
                                                                            Whoever wishes to avoid prayer
                                                                            Never completes the whole of his youth
                                                                            And, as a result of his proud audacity, always sees
                                                                            Conceit hurl him down into hell.
 
                                                                            Therefore, conceited lady, escape from this tempest,
                                                                            Steep your courage in my tears,
                                                                            Be pitiful, cure my longing;
 
                                                                            Though sky and sea may always be stormy,
                                                                            Never should your spiteful beauty
                                                                            Harden its callous severity towards my wound.

 

 

 

 In typical humanist style Ronsard oscillates wildly between Christian and classical religious motifs – God and hell, Jupiter and Hades… It may be relevant that – as Muret tells us – this sonnet is based on a speech by Phoenix in Homer’s Iliad 9. It may also be relevant that the most Christian touch is ‘God’ (as opposed to ‘a/the god’) in line 1, which is a late change. Blanchemain’s earlier version is more happily classicising!
 
 
 
Si tu ne veux les astres dépiter
En ton malheur, ne mets point en arriere
L’humble souspir de mon humble priere :
La priere est fille de Jupiter.
 
Quiconque veut la priere eviter
Jamais n’acheve une jeunesse entiere,
Et void tousjours de son audace fiere
Jusqu’aux enfers l’orgueil precipiter.
 
Pour ce, orgueilleuse, eschappe cest orage,
Mollis un peu le roc de ton courage,
Aux longs souspirs de ma triste langueur.
 
Tousjours le ciel, tousjours l’eau n’est venteuse,
Tousjours ne doit ta beauté dépiteuse
Contre ma playe endurcir sa rigueur.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            If you do not wish to spite the stars
                                                                            In your sadness, never overlook
                                                                            The humble sigh of my humble prayer:
                                                                            Prayer is the daughter of Jupiter.
 
                                                                            Whoever wishes to avoid prayer
                                                                            Never completes the whole of his youth
                                                                            And, as a result of his proud audacity, always sees
                                                                            Conceit hurl him down into hell.
 
                                                                            Therefore, conceited lady, escape from this tempest,
                                                                            Soften a little the stone of your courage
                                                                            In the long sighs of my sad longing;
 
                                                                            Though sky and sea may always be stormy,
                                                                            Never should your spiteful beauty
                                                                            Harden its callous severity towards my wound.

 

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 148

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As sonnet 147 is already posted, the next in sequence is no. 148…

En autre lieu les deux flambeaux de celle
Qui m’esclairoit, sont allez faire jour,
Voire un midi, qui d’un ferme sejour
Sans voir la nuict dans les cœurs etincelle.
 
Hé ! que ne sont et d’une et d’une autre aele
Mes deux costez emplumez à l’entour ?
Haut par le Ciel sous l’escorte d’Amour
Je voleroy comme un Cygne aupres d’elle.
 
De ses beaux raiz ayant percé le flanc,
J’empourpreroy mes plumes en mon sang,
Pour tesmoigner la peine que j’endure :
 
Et suis certain que ma triste langueur
Pourroit flechir non seulement son cueur
De mes souspirs, mais une roche dure.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Into another place the two torches of her
                                                                            Who illuminated me have gone to make it day,
                                                                            Indeed a midday which firmly stays
                                                                            Sparkling in men’s hearts without seeing night.
 
                                                                            Ah, why with one and another wing
                                                                            Are my two sides not feathered all round?
                                                                            High through the sky under Love’s escort
                                                                            I would fly like a swan after her.
 
                                                                            Having pierced my flank with her lovely rays
                                                                            I would empurple my wings in my blood
                                                                            To bear witness to the pain I endure;
 
                                                                            And I am certain that my sad longing
                                                                            Would be able to bend to pity not only her heart
                                                                            With my sighs, but even a hard rock.

 

 

 

 Though the swan in line 8 recalls a dying ‘swan-song’, Ronsard’s image mutates into that of the pelican which (traditionally) pecks at its own breast to feed its children.
 
Blanchemain’s version differs only in detail: in the first quatrain ( below), and in line 9 which begins “De ses deux raiz …” (‘…with her two rays’).
 
 
En autre part les deux flambeaux de celle
Qui m’esclairoit sont allez faire jour,
Voire un midy, qui d’un stable sejour,
Sans annuiter dans les cœurs estincelle.
 
 
                                                                            Into another place the two torches of her
                                                                            Who illuminated me have gone to spend a day,
                                                                            Indeed a midday which stably remains
                                                                            Sparkling in men’s hearts without night coming on.

 

 

 
 
 

Chanson (146a)

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Ronsard put together a sequence of 135 sonnets before his first lyric in the book; now, barely 10 sonnets later, comes a second!

Ma Dame je n’eusse pensé,
Opiniastre en ma langueur,
Que ton cœur m’eust recompensé
D’une si cruelle rigueur,
Et qu’en lieu de me secourir
Tes beaux yeux m’eussent fait mourir.
 
Si prevoyant j’eusse apperceu,
Quand je te vy premierement,
Le mal que j’ay depuis receu
Pour aimer trop loyalement,
Mon cœur qui franc avoit vescu,
N’eust pas esté si tost veincu.
 
Tu fis promettre à tes beaux yeux
Qui seuls me vindrent decevoir,
De me donner encore mieux
Que mon cœur n’esperoit avoir :
Puis comme jalous de mon bien
Ont transformé mon aise en rien.
 
Si tost que je vy leur beauté,
Amour me força d’un desir
D’assujettir ma loyauté
Sous l’empire de leur plaisir,
Et décocha de leur regard
Contre mon cœur le premier dard.
 
Ce fut, Dame, ton bel accueil,
Qui pour me faire bien-heureux,
M’ouvrit par la clef de ton œil
Le paradis des Amoureux,
Et fait esclave en si beau lieu,
D’un homme je devins un Dieu.
 
Si bien que n’estant plus à moy,
Mais à l’œil qui m’avoit blessé,
Mon cœur en gage de ma foy
A luy mon maistre j’ai laissé,
Où serf si doucement il est
Qu’une autre beauté luy desplaist.
 
Et bien qu’il souffre jours et nuis
Mainte amoureuse adversité
Le plus cruel de ses ennuis
Luy semble une felicité,
Et ne sçauroit jamais vouloir
Qu’un autre œil le face douloir.
 
Un grand rocher qui a le doz
Et les pieds tousjours outragez,
Ores des vents, ores des flots
Contre les rives enragez,
N’est point si ferme que mon cueur
Sous l’orage de ta rigueur.
 
Car luy sans se changer, aimant
Les beaux yeux qui l’ont en-rethé,
Semble du tout au Diamant,
Qui pour garder sa fermeté
Se rompt plustost sous le marteau,
Que se voir tailler de nouveau.
 
Ainsi ne l’or qui peut tenter,
Ny grace, beauté, ny maintien
Ne sçauroyent dans mon cœur enter
Un autre portrait que le tien,
Et plustost il mourroit d’ennuy,
Que d’en souffrir un autre en luy.
 
Il ne faut donc pour empescher
Qu’une autre Dame en ait sa part,
L’environner d’un grand rocher,
Ou d’une fosse, ou d’un rempart :
Amour te l’a si bien conquis,
Que plus il ne peut estre acquis.
 
Chanson, les estoiles seront
La nuict sans les Cieux allumer,
Et plustost les vents cesseront
De tempester dessus la mer,
Que de ses yeux la cruauté
Puisse amoindrir ma loyauté.
My Lady, I would not have thought,
Stubborn in my languishing,
That your heart would have repaid me
With such cruel severity,
And that instead of coming to my aid
Your eyes would have done me to death.
 
If, looking ahead, I had perceived
When first I saw you
The wrongs which I have since received
From loving too faithfully,
My heart, which had lived free,
Would not have been to quickly overcome.
 
You promised with your fair eyes
Which came only to deceive me
To give me still better
Than my heart could hope to have;
Then as if envious of my happiness
They transformed my comfort to nothing.
 
As soon as I saw their beauty,
Love forced me through desire
To make my fidelity subject
To the rule of their pleasure,
And shot from their glance
The first dart into my heart.
 
It was, my Lady, your fair welcome
Which to make me happy
Opened for me, with the key of your eyes,
The paradise of lovers;
Made a slave in so fair a place,
Instead of a man I became a god.
 
So happily that, no longer being my own
But belonging to the eyes which had struck me,
My heart as pledge of my faithfulness
I left to them, my masters,
Where as a serf so sweetly it rests
That any other beauty displeases it.
 
And although it suffers night and day
So many a lover’s reverse,
The cruellest of its pains
Seems to it bliss,
And it can never wish
That any other eyes should make it unhappy.
 
A great rock whose back
And feet are always struck
Now by winds, now by waves
Furiously against the banks,
Is not so firm as my heart
Beneath the storm of your severity.
 
For he, unchanging, loving
The fair eyes which have netted him,
Seems entirely like the Diamond
Which to maintain its firmness
Would rather break beneath the hammer
Than be cut anew.
 
Thus, neither gold which can tempt
Nor grace, beauty and bearing
Can place in my heart
Any other picture but your own,
And rather would it die of its troubles
Than suffer any other [picture] in it.
 
It is not necessary to prevent
Another Lady from having part of it
By encircling it with a great stone [wall]
Or a ditch or rampart;
Love has conquered it so well for you
That it can no longer be bought.
 
My song, the stars will light
The night without the heavens,
And sooner will the winds cease
Storming over the sea,
Than the cruelty of her eyes
Can lessen my fidelity.
 
 Muret informs us that this poem is based on a letter (in verse, of course) in Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioiso’, sent by Bradamante to Ruggiero.
 
 Blanchemain’s version shows that Ronsard re-wrote much of the first stanza, but elsewhere only made minor changes. To avoid a long list & complicated back-and-forth referencnig to the version above, here’s the whole of the earlier version:
 
Las ! je n’eusse jamais pensé,
Dame qui causes ma langueur,
De voir ainsi recompensé
Mon service d’une rigueur,
Et qu’en lieu de me secourir
Ta cruauté m’eust fait mourir.
 
Si, bien-accort, j’eusse apperceu,
Quand je te vy premierement,
Le mal que j’ay depuis receu
Pour aimer trop loyalement,
Mon cœur, qui franc avoit vescu,
N’eust pas esté si tost vaincu.
 
Mais tu fis promettre à tes yeux,
Qui seuls me vindrent decevoir,
De me donner encore mieux
Que mon cœur n’esperoit avoir ;
Puis comme jaloux de mon bien,
Ont transformé mon aise en rien.
 
Si tost que je vis leur beauté,
Amour me força d’un desir
D’assujettir ma loyauté
Sous l’empire de leur plaisir,
Et decocha de leur regard
Contre mon cœur le premier dard.
 
Ce fut, Dame, ton bel accueil,
Qui, pour me faire bien-heureux,
M’ouvrit par la clef de ton œil
Le paradis des amoureux,
Et, fait esclave en si beau lieu,
D’un homme je devins un dieu.
 
Si bien que, n’estant plus à moy,
Mais à l’œil qui m’avoit blessé,
Mon cœur en gage de ma foy
A mon vainqueur j’ai délaissé,
Où serf si doucement il est
Qu’autre liberté luy desplaist ;
 
Et, bien qu’il souffre jours et nuis
Mainte amoureuse adversité,
Le plus cruel de ses ennuis
Luy semble une felicité,
Et ne sçauroit jamais vouloir
Qu’un autre œil le face douloir.
 
Un grand rocher qui a le doz
Et les pieds tousjours outragez,
Ores des vents, ores des flots
Contre les rives enragez,
N’est point si ferme que mon cœur
Sous l’orage d’une rigueur :
 
Car luy, de plus en plus aimant
Les beaux yeux qui l’ont en-reté,
Semble du tout au diamant,
Qui pour garder sa fermeté
Se rompt plustost sous le marteau,
Que se voir tailler de nouveau.
 
Ainsi ne l’or qui peut tenter,
Ny grace, beauté, ny maintien,
Ne sçauroit dans mon cœur enter
Un autre portrait que le tien,
Et plustost il mourroit d’ennuy,
Que d’en souffrir un autre en luy.
 
Il ne faut donc, pour empescher
Qu’une autre dame en ait sa part,
L’environner d’un grand rocher,
Ou d’une fossé, ou d’un rempart :
Amour te l’a si bien conquis,
Que plus il ne peut estre acquis.
 
Chanson, les estoiles seront
La nuict sans les cieux allumer,
Et plustost les vents cesseront
De tempester dessus la mer,
Que de ses yeux la cruauté
Puisse amoindrir ma loyauté.
Alas, I’d never have thought
(my Lady, you who cause my languishing)
To see repaid in this way
My service with severity,
And that instead of coming to my aid
Your cruelty would have done me to death.
 
If, fine and attractive, I had perceived
When first I saw you
The wrongs which I have since received
From loving too faithfully,
My heart, which had lived free,
Would not have been to quickly overcome.
 
But you promised with your eyes
Which came only to deceive me
To give me still better
Than my heart could hope to have;
Then as if envious of my happiness
They transformed my comfort to nothing.
 
As soon as I saw their beauty,
Love forced me through desire
To make my fidelity subject
To the rule of their pleasure,
And shot from their glance
The first dart into my heart.
 
It was, my Lady, your fair welcome
Which to make me happy
Opened for me, with the key of your eyes,
The paradise of lovers;
Made a slave in so fair a place,
Instead of a man I became a god.
 
So happily that, no longer being my own
But belonging to the eyes which had struck me,
My heart as pledge of my faithfulness
I abandoned to my conqueror,
Where as a serf so sweetly it rests
That any other [kind of] freedom displeases it.
 
And although it suffers night and day
So many a lover’s reverse,
The cruellest of its pains
Seems to it bliss,
And it can never wish
That any other eyes should make it unhappy.
 
A great rock whose back
And feet are always struck
Now by winds, now by waves
Furiously against the banks,
Is not so firm as my heart
Beneath the storm of severity:
 
For he, loving more and more
The fair eyes which have netted him,
Seems entirely like the Diamond
Which to maintain its firmness
Would rather break beneath the hammer
Than be cut anew.
 
Thus, neither gold which can tempt
Nor grace, beauty and bearing
Can place in my heart
Any other picture but your own,
And rather would it die of its troubles
Than suffer any other [picture] in it.
 
It is not necessary to prevent
Another Lady from having part of it
By encircling it with a great stone [wall]
Or a ditch or rampart;
Love has conquered it so well for you
That it can no longer be bought.
 
My song, the stars will light
The night without the heavens,
And sooner will the winds cease
Storming over the sea,
Than the cruelty of her eyes
Can lessen my fidelity.
 

 

 
 
 
 

Sonnet 146

Standard
Tout effroyé je cherche une fonteine
Pour expier un horrible songer,
Qui toute nuict ne m’a faict que ronger
L’ame effroyée au travail de ma peine.
 
Il me sembloit que ma douce-inhumaine
Crioit, Ami, sauve moy du danger,
A toute force un larron estranger
Par les forests prisonniere m’em-meine.
 
Lors en sursaut, où me guidoit la vois,
Le fer au poing je brossay dans le bois :
Mais en courant apres la derobée,
 
Du larron mesme assaillir me suis veu,
Qui me perçant le cœur de mon espée,
M’a fait tomber dans un torrent de feu.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Thoroughly scared, I seek a fountain
                                                                            To make sacrifice against a frightful dream
                                                                            Which all night did nothing but gnaw away
                                                                            My scared soul, afflicting [further] my pains.
 
                                                                            It seemed to me that my sweetly-inhuman lady
                                                                            Cried out “My love, save me from danger!
                                                                            With all his strength some unknown thief
                                                                            Is dragging me off, a prisoner, through the forest.”
 
                                                                            Then, leaping up, where her voice led me
                                                                            With sword in hand I pushed my way into the wood;
                                                                            But running after the ravished lady
 
                                                                            I found myself attacked by the thief himself,
                                                                            Who piercing my heart with my own sword
                                                                            Caused me to fall into a torrent of fire.

 

 

 

 

In line 2, “expier” is really ‘to atone for’ – but there’s a secondary (more classically-rooted) meaning of ‘to sacrifice in order to ward off evil’.  I’ve gone for the more general ‘making sacrifice’. In line 10 note that “brossay” has a secondary meaning too, something like “I missed her, I couldn’t find her”, which – though maybe at the back of Ronsard’s mind – is not the way he uses it here.
 
There are only 2 minor differences in Blanchemain’s earlier version:  in line 10, “je brossay par le bois” (‘I pushed my way through the wood’; and the very opening which is, in this earlier version, “Espouvanté, je cherche une fontaine” (‘Terrified, I seek…’).  Why on earth did Ronsard change that to ‘effroyé’ so that he ends up repeating the word in lines 1 & 4 ?!

 

 

 
 
 

Lassus – Bon jour, mon coeur

Standard

Time for another song. This is perhaps the most famous of all, simply becasue it is by the most mainstream composer – le plus que divin Orlande, as Ronsard called him when singling him out from contemporary composers for praise.

Lassus did not particularly favour Ronsard’s poetry, but was alert to current tastes throughout Europe – he wrote Italian, French and German songs as well as the ubiquitous Latin church music, all in the best local styles and all with varied local tastes in mind.

There appear to be two variants of Lassus’ setting – so I shall have to dig around a bit more to find you the other one… 🙂

Title

Bon jour, mon coeur

Composer

Roland de Lassus (1530-1594)

Source

Meslanges d’Orlande de Lassus, contenant plusieurs chansons…, 1570

(text on recmusic.org/lieder site here)
(blog entry here)
(listen to the score here)
(recorded extract here – source: “Ronsard et les néerlandais“, Egidius Kwartet)

 

Lassus sets this fragment of Ronsard almost entirely homophonically, so the words are easily heard. Ronsard would be pleased! Note that this is the only one of the ‘several songs’ in the collection to a text by Ronsard, though there are a small handful of other settings elsewhere in Lassus’ vast output. My version comes from Henry Expert’s La fleur des musiciens de P. de Ronsard.

The recorded extract is of the ending – the last 20 or so bars in the trasnscription – to show that even when he overlaps the voices the clarity of the words remains Lassus’s priority.

Bon jour mon coeur_0001
Bon jour mon coeur_0002
Bon jour mon coeur_0003
Bon jour mon coeur_0004
Bon jour mon coeur_0005

Here is the song as printed in the 1576 edition of his Meslanges by Le Roy and Ballard – the four part-books are available on the fantastic Gallica website, and I have extracted the relevant page from each to save you hunting through!  This format was a far more common way of publishing than ‘full score’ as in the Supplement to the Amours, designed for performance rather than scholarly reading! (The final line on each page is the beginning of the next piece in the books.)
BJMC-1 BJMC-2 BJMC-3 BJMC-4