Sonnet 142

De ton beau poil en tresses noircissant
Amour ourdit de son arc la ficelle :
Il fit son feu de ta vive etincelle,
Il fit son trait de ton œil brunissant.
Son premier coup me rendoit perissant :
Mais son second de la mort me rappelle,
Qui mon ulcere en santé renouvelle,
Et par son coup le coup va guarissant.
Ainsi jadis sur la poudre Troyenne,
Du soudart Grec la hache Pelienne,
Du Mysien mit la douleur à fin :
Ainsi le trait que ton bel œil me rue,
D’un mesme coup me guarist et me tue.
Hé quelle Parque a filé mon destin !
                                                                            From your lovely hair, dark in its braids,
                                                                            Love wove the string of his bow;
                                                                            He made his fire from your bright spark,
                                                                            He made his arrow from your brown eyes.
                                                                            His first blow brought me close to dying;
                                                                            But his second called me back from death,
                                                                            It restored to health my wound,
                                                                            And by its blow cured the blow.
                                                                            So of old on Trojan soil
                                                                            The Greek soldier’s Pelian axe
                                                                            Put an end to the sadness of the Mysian;
                                                                            And so the wound that your fair eyes flung on me
                                                                            With the same blow cured me and killed me.
                                                                            Ah, what Fate has spun my destiny!



In lines 1 & 4, the “-issant” ending implies that her hair is ‘darkening’, her eyes ‘getting browner’ – but I have used the simple adjective, as I don’t think that’s what Ronsard meant…  (Note – below – that at first Cassandre’s hair was blonde, but later in life Ronsard adjusts the colour to dark! )
The reference in lines 10-11 is pretty obscure – another of Ronsard’s learned asides – the more so as it refers to a Trojan War episode outside Homer. Blanchemain’s note tells us “The axe (hache=hatchet) of Achilles, son of Peleus, cured the wounds that it had made”. This is from a story that Achilles first landed at Mysia, some way down the coast from Troy, but mistook it for Troy and attacked it. The Mysian king, Telephus, was wounded by Achilles but the wound would not heal. The Delphic oracles told Telephus that what made the wound would heal it, so he sought Achilles’ help – and, touched by the spear [not the axe!] that made the wound, it was healed. Nowadays the mythical image that might come to mind is Wagner’s Parsifal myth! 
Today for a change we have a poem whose ending Ronsard left untouched, but whose beginning was re-crafted. There is a tiny change in line 12 – “Ainsi le trait de ton bel œil me rue” – which swings the meaning around a little to become ‘And so the wound from your fair eyes threw me down’. Otherwise the sestet is identical. Here are the two quatrains in Blanchemain’s version;  I admire the way he re-thought line 3 so completely with only a small change, building the very effective pairing of lines 3-4 in the version at the top.
De ton poil d’or en tresses blondissant
Amour ourdit de son arc la fiscelle ;
Il me tira de ta vive etincelle
Le doux fier trait qui me tient languissant.
Du premier coup j’eusse été perissant,
Sans l’autre coup d’une fleche nouvelle
Qui mon ulcere en santé renouvelle,
Et par son coup le coup va guarissant.


                                                                            From your golden locks in their blonde braids,
                                                                            Love wove the string of his bow;
                                                                            He drew for me from your bright spark
                                                                            The sweet noble wound which keeps me pining.
                                                                            From the first blow I had been close to dying,
                                                                            Without the other blow from a new arrow
                                                                            Which restored to health my wound,
                                                                            And by its blow cured the blow.



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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