Monthly Archives: September 2014

Sonnet 160

Standard
Or’ que Jupin espoint de sa semence,
Veut enfanter ses enfans bien-aimez,
Et que du chaud de ses reins allumez
L’humide sein de Junon ensemence :
 
Or’ que la mer, or’ que la vehemence
Des vents fait place aux grans vaisseaux armez,
Et que l’oiseau parmi les bois ramez,
Du Thracien les tançons recommence :
 
Or’ que les prez et ore que les fleurs
De mille et mille et de mille couleurs
Peignent le sein de la terre si gaye :
 
Seul et pensif aux rochers plus segrets
D’un cœur muet je conte mes regrets,
Et par les bois je vay celant ma playe.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                           When Jupiter, aching with his seed,
                                                                           Wishes to give birth to his well-loved children,
                                                                           And with the warmth of his heated hips
                                                                           Sows it in Juno’s moist body;
 
                                                                           When the sea and the violence
                                                                           Of the winds makes space for great armed vessels,
                                                                           And the bird amongst the branchy woods
                                                                           Begins again her dispute with the Thracian;
 
                                                                           When the meadows and when the flowers
                                                                           With thousands and thousands and thousands of colours
                                                                           Paint the earth’s breast so gaily;
 
                                                                           [Then,] alone and thoughtful among the most hidden rocks
                                                                           With silent heart I tell of my regrets,
                                                                           And within the woods I hide my wound.

 

 

There are two ways to look at the Thracian in line 8. Perhaps he is Orpheus, whose singing traditionally competes with that of birds.  Or, as Muret learnedly tells us, perhaps ‘the bird is Philomela, changed into a nightingale, who complains of the assault of Tereus, king of Thrace, her brother in law (in Ovid Metamorphoses book 6)‘. Ronsard’s opening quatrain is based on a Vergilian original (of which more in a moment), but is surprisingly ‘graphic’ in its imagery – I can’t immediately think of another poem in which he virtually describes sexual intercourse as opposed to alluding to it! Perhaps it’s OK because it’s a classical allusion … !  It’s interesting too that he personalises the image much more than Vergil; Jupiter and Juno (a married couple of course – nothing untoward here!) rather than Vergil’s Heaven and Earth – an image which goes back all the way to the Egyptians and beyond.
 
To put it in context, here’s Vergil’s original (Georgics 2, lines 323-8):
 
Ver adeo frondi nemorum, ver utile silvis ;
Vere tument terrae et genitalia semina poscunt.
Tum pater omnipotens fecundis imbribus Aether
Coniugis in gremium laetae descendit, et omnes
Magnus alit magno commixtus corpore fetus.
Avia tum resonant avibus virgulta canoris, …
 
 
                                                                           Spring is so desired by the leaves of the groves, by the woods;
                                                                           Indeed the earth heaves and demands the life-bearing seed.
                                                                           Then the Heaven, the all-powerful father, with his rich rains
                                                                           Descends into the lap of his joyful bride, and the mighty god
                                                                           Joined with her mighty body nourishes all her offspring.
                                                                           Then the pathless woods resound to birdsong …
 
 
For all that Vergil is more impersonal, or less explicit, about the sexual dimension, it’s worth noticing his vocabulary:  the earth’s ‘heaving’ is not far from the the English ‘tumescent’, the ‘lap’ is regularly used as a polite synonym in sexual allusions, ‘commixtus’ (compare ‘commingling’ in English is a standard poetic word for sex, and ‘genitalia’ and ‘semina’ (from ‘semen’) pretty obviously carry similar associations!  So Ronsard in some ways hasn’t stepped far beyond his model… (And, in this context, I find it amusing that poetic allusion requires Jupiter to seed Juno’s ‘breast’ or ‘bosom’ (“sein”) which is q word still further removed than the ‘lap’ that Vergil uses!)
 
What’s interesting is how far we are supposed to reflect on this opening, after the middle sections of the poem slide the focus slightly onto more general springtime events, when we reach the conclusion. The solitude and silence directly reflect the middle of the poem, rather than the lusty opening; but there is clearly a subtext that solitude is more than just the absence of the beloved, it’s the absence of a sexual partner.
 
 There’s not much variation in Blanchemain’s version: the opening quatrain goes as follows:
 
 
Or’ que Jupin, espoint de sa semence,
Hume à longs traits les feux accoustumez,
Et que le chaud de ses reins allumez
L’humide sein de Junon ensemence;
 
 
                                                                            When Jupiter, aching with his seed,
                                                                            Breathes in long breaths of the well-known fires,
                                                                            And when the warmth of his heated hips
                                                                            Seeds Juno’s moist body;

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 159

Standard
En ma douleur, malheureux, je me plais,
Soit quand la nuict les feux du Ciel augmente,
Ou quand l’Aurore en-jonche d’Amaranthe
Le jour meslé d’un long fleurage espais,
 
D’un joyeux dueil mon esprit je repais :
Et quelque part où seulet je m’absente,
Devant mes yeux je voy tousjours presente
Celle qui cause et ma guerre et ma paix.
 
Pour l’aimer trop également j’endure
Ore un plaisir, ore une peine dure,
Qui d’ordre egal viennent mon cœur saisir :
 
Brief, d’un tel miel mon absinthe est si pleine,
Qu’autant me plaist le plaisir que la peine,
La peine autant comme fait le plaisir.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            In my sadness, unfortunate, I am content,
                                                                            Whether at night when heaven’s lamps grow brighter,
                                                                            Or when Dawn carpets with purple
                                                                            The day, mingled with a long deep carpet of flowers,
 
                                                                            With joyful grief I feed my spirit;
                                                                            And wherever I go off alone
                                                                            Before my eyes I see always present
                                                                            Her who causes both my war and my peace.
 
                                                                            For loving her too much, equally I endure
                                                                            Now pleasure, now harsh pain,
                                                                            Which in constant succession come and seize my heart;
 
                                                                            In short, with such honey is my wormwood so full
                                                                            That pleasure pleases me as much as pain,
                                                                            Pain as much as does pleasure.
 
 
 
Blanchemain reprints a couple of Muret’s notes which are useful to me as translator if less so to you as readers!  He tells us that “en-jonche” means ‘to carpet [with rushes]’ – ‘the metaphor is taken from the rushes that one throws around the place to freshen up the summer’.  Also in line 3, where I have simply provided a colour-word (purple), Ronsard uses ‘Amaranthe’, a plant which carries the same name in English. To help his French readers connect this with the colour, Muret reminds them that it is what ‘the vulgar call “passevelours” (‘velvet’ being the key element of the name’); apparently amaranth is also called in English red-root, which might serve the same purpose!
 
Otherwise only a few minor variants in Blanchemain’s text – though one alters the opening line:
 
En ma douleur, las ! chétif, je me plais …
 
                                                                            In my sadness, wretched alas, I am content …
 
 
There is a tiny change in line 12, which begins “Et d’un tel miel …” (‘And with such honey…’), which is interesting for the rhythmically much more satisfying solution he replaced it with (above); and perhaps the ‘biggest’ change in the opening of the second quatrain (line 5) which becomes:
 
 D’un joyeux dueil sans fin je me repais …
 
                                                                            In my sadness, wretched alas, I am content …
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 158

Standard
En m’abusant je me trompe les yeux,
Aimant l’objet d’une figure vaine.
O nouveauté d’une cruelle peine !
O fier destin ! ô malice des Cieux !
 
Faut-il que moy de moy-mesme envieux,
Pour aimer trop les eaux d’une fonteine,
Que ma raison par les sens incertaine
Cuide en faillant son mal estre son mieux ?
 
Donques faut-il que le vain de ma face
De membre à membre aneantir me face,
Comme une cire aux raiz de la chaleur ?
 
Ainsi pleuroit l’amoureux Cephiside,
Quand il sentit dessus le bord humide
De son beau sang naistre une belle fleur.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                           In deceiving me my eyes are mistaken,
                                                                           Loving the substance of an empty image.
                                                                           O the novelty of this cruel pain!
                                                                           O proud destiny! O malevolence of heaven!
 
                                                                           Must it be, being in love with myself
                                                                           From loving too much the waters of a spring,
                                                                           That my reason, through my senses uncertain,
                                                                           Should believe wrongly that its own harm is what’s best for it?
 
                                                                           And so, must the empty nothing of my appearance
                                                                           Make me disappear completely, limb by limb,
                                                                           Like wax in the rays of the [sun’s] heat?
 
                                                                           Thus did Narcissus weep, in love,
                                                                           When he saw on the moist bank
                                                                           Created from his fair blood a beautiful flower.

 

 

‘Cephisides’ (line 12) is a classical form, ‘son of Cephisus’ – we’ve met Alcides, son of Alceus, elsewhere as a name for Hercules. The river-god Cephisus was father of Narcissus.
 
Whenever Ronsard resorts to two lines of pretty ordinary exclamations (line 3-4), there’s usually a problem or a lack of inspiration. And this is no different: I find it hard to get excited about this sonnet … However, though Ronsard re-worked the poem a fair bit, those two lines remained untouched!  Here is Blanchemain’s version complete:
 
 
 
Que lâchement vous me trompez, mes yeux,
Enamourés d’une figure vaine !
O nouveauté d’une cruelle peine !
O fier Destin ! ô malice des Cieux !
 
Faut-il que moy, de moy-mesme envieux,
Pour aimer trop les eaux d’une fontaine,
Je brûle après une image incertaine
Qui pour ma mort m’accompagne en tous lieux ;
 
Et quoi ! faut-il que le vain de ma face
De membre en membre aneantir me face,
Comme une cire aux raiz de la chaleur !
 
Ainsi pleuroit l’amoureux Cephiside,
Quand il sentit, dessus le bord humide,
De son beau sang naistre une belle fleur.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            How despicably you deceive me, my eyes,
                                                                            Enamoured of an empty image!
                                                                            O the novelty of this cruel pain!
                                                                            O proud destiny! O malevolence of heaven!
 
                                                                            Must I, being in love with myself
                                                                            From loving too much the waters of a spring,
                                                                            I burn after a wavering image
                                                                            Which to cause my death accompanies me everywhere;
 
                                                                            What then? Must the empty nothing of my appearance
                                                                            Make me disappear completely, limb by limb,
                                                                            Like wax in the rays of the [sun’s] heat?
 
                                                                            Thus did Narcissus weep, in love,
                                                                            When he saw on the moist bank
                                                                            Created from his fair blood a beautiful flower.

 

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 157

Standard
De la mielleuse et fielleuse pasture,
De qui le nom s’appelle trop aimer
Qui m’est et sucre et riagas amer,
Sans me saouler je pren ma nourriture.
 
Ce bel œil brun, qui force ma nature,
D’un jeusne tel me fait tant consumer,
Que je ne puis ma faim des-affamer
Qu’au seul regard d’une vaine peinture.
 
Plus je la voy, moins saouler je m’en puis :
Un vray Narcisse en misere je suis.
Hé qu’Amour est une cruelle chose !
 
Je cognoy bien qu’il me fera mourir,
Et si ne puis ma douleur secourir,
Tant j’ay sa peste en mes veines enclose.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Of the honey-sweet, bitter-gall food
                                                                            Whose name is ‘loving too much’,
                                                                            Which is to me both sugar and bitter arsenic,
                                                                            I eat without being satisfied.
 
                                                                            That fair brown eye which overcomes my nature
                                                                            Feeds me so much of that kind of meal
                                                                            That I can no longer un-hunger my hunger
                                                                            Except only by looking at an empty picture.
 
                                                                            The more I see it, the less I can be satisfied;
                                                                            A true Narcissus in my wretchedness I am.
                                                                            Ah, how cruel a thing is Love!
 
                                                                            I fully understand that it will kill me,
                                                                            And yet I cannot help my sadness,
                                                                            So much of its poison is locked up in my veins.
 
 
 
The reference to Narcissus is, in contrast with the learned references of the last poem, nice and straightforward – as Narcissus gazed at his own reflection, so Ronsard gazes at his lady’s portrait – and no doubt there is a hint that he is in some sense reflected in her…  Those who have aview on the Academy’s attempts to keep the French language pure will also have a view on Ronsard’s invention of the word ‘to un-hunger’!
 
Only minor differences in the earlier Blanchemain version, the initial quatrains becoming:
 
 
De la mielleuse et fielleuse pasture
Dont le surnom s’appelle trop aimer,
Qui m’est et sucre et riagas amer,
Sans me saouler je pren ma nourriture :
 
Car ce bel œil qui force ma nature
D’un tel jeuner m’a tant fait consumer,
Que je ne puis ma faim des-affamer
Qu’au seul regard d’une vaine peinture.
 
 
 
                                                                            Of the honey-sweet, bitter-gall food
                                                                            Whose surname is ‘loving too much’,
                                                                            Which is to me both sugar and bitter arsenic,
                                                                            I eat without being satisfied.
 
                                                                            For that fair eye which overcomes my nature
                                                                            Has fed me so much of that kind of meal
                                                                            That I can no longer un-hunger my hunger
                                                                            Except only by looking at an empty picture.

 

There is a further variant:

 

De cette douce et fielleuse pasture
Dont le surnom s’appelle trop aimer,
Qui m’est et sucre et riagas amer,
Sans me saouler je pren ma nourriture :
 
Car ce bel œil qui force ma nature
D’un si long jeun m’a tant fait épasmer,
Que je ne puis ma faim des-affamer
Qu’au seul regard d’une vaine peinture.
 
Plus je la voy, moins saouler je m’en puis :
Un vray Narcisse en misere je suis.
Hé qu’Amour est une cruelle chose !
 
Je cognoy bien qu’il me fera mourir,
Et si ne puis a mon mal secourir,
Tant j’ay sa peste en mes veines enclose.

 
 
 
                                                                            Of that sweet, bitter-gall food
                                                                            Whose surname is ‘loving too much’,
                                                                            Which is to me both sugar and bitter arsenic,
                                                                            I eat without being satisfied.
 
                                                                            For that fair eye which overcomes my nature
                                                                            Has made me faint with so much of that kind of meal
                                                                            That I can no longer un-hunger my hunger
                                                                            Except only by looking at an empty picture.
 

 
                                                                            The more I see it, the less I can be satisfied;
                                                                            A true Narcissus in my wretchedness I am.
                                                                            Ah, how cruel a thing is Love!
 
                                                                            I fully understand that it will kill me,
                                                                            And yet I cannot help my illness,
                                                                            So much of its poison is locked up in my veins.
 

Sonnet 155

Standard
Comme le chaud au feste d’Erymanthe,
Ou sus Rhodope, ou sur quelque autre mont
Sur le printemps la froide neige fond
En eau qui fuit par les rochers coulante :
 
Ainsi tes yeux (soleil qui me tourmente)
Qui cire et neige à leur regard me font,
Frappant les miens, ja distillez les ont
En un ruisseau qui de mes pleurs s’augmente.
 
Herbes ne fleurs ne sejournent aupres,
Ains des Soucis, des Ifs et des Cypres :
Ny de crystal sa rive ne court pleine.
 
Les autres eaux par les prez vont roulant,
Mais ceste-ci par mon sein va coulant,
Qui sans tarir s’enfante de ma peine.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            As the heat at the summit of Erymanthus
                                                                            Or on Rhodope, or some other mountain
                                                                            In springtime melts the cold snow
                                                                            Into water which runs off through the rocks;
 
                                                                            So your eyes, the sun which torments me,
                                                                            Which melt me like wax and snow at their glance,
                                                                            Striking my own have already melted them
                                                                            Into a river which grows bigger with my tears.
 
                                                                            Plants and flowers do not live there,
                                                                            Except marigolds, yews and cypresses;
                                                                            Nor does their stream flow full of crystal water.
 
                                                                            Other streams roll through the meadows,
                                                                            But this one flows down my breast
                                                                            And without slowing is born of my pain.

 

 

Line 10 perhaps needs a word of explanation: marigolds are there because the word “souci” (marigold) also means ‘care’ or ‘worry’; yews and cypresses are associated with mourning. In the opening lines, Rhodope is just one of many classically Greek mountains snow-capped in winter, though in modern terms it is a Bulgarian mountain (still called Rhodope).
 
In the opening line the “feste d’Erymanthe” is the ‘summit of Erymanthus’. But it could just be the ‘festival of Erymanthus ‘ – perhaps the Adonia, centred in the Peloponnese and celebrated in the hot Greek late spring or summer? (Although the link between Erymanthus and the Adonia is tenuous: Erymanthus was Apollo’s son, and was blinded by Venus for spying on her love-making with the fair Adonis.) This, however, is far-fetched.
 
If we were in doubt, the earlier version of the poem more clearly presents the image of hot weather melting snow on a mountian; Erymanthus is the geographical location, in the mountains just south of Patras in the northern Peloponnese. Here’s Blanchemain’s text:
 
 
Comme le chaud, ou dedans Erymanthe,
Ou sus Rhodope, ou sur un autre mont,
En beau cristal le blanc des neiges fond
Par sa tiedeur lentement vehemente,
 
Ainsi tes yeux (éclair qui me tourmente)
Qui cire et neige à leur regard me font,
Touchant les miens, ja distillez les ont
En un ruisseau qui de mes pleurs s’augmente.
 
Herbes ne fleurs ne sejournent auprés,
Ains des soucis, des ifs et des cyprés,
Ny d’un vert gai sa rive n’est point pleine.
 
Les autres eaux par les prez vont roulant,
Mais ceste-cy par mon sein va coulant,
Qui nuit et jour s’enfle et bruit de ma peine.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            As the heat within Erymanthus
                                                                            Or on Rhodope, or on another mountain
                                                                            Into fair crystal [streams] melts the white of the snow
                                                                            With its slow but insistent warmth,
 
                                                                            So your eyes, whose sparkle torments me,
                                                                            Which melt me like wax and snow at their glance,
                                                                            Touching my own have already melted them
                                                                            Into a river which grows bigger with my tears.
 
                                                                            Plants and flowers do not live there,
                                                                            But rather marigolds, yews and cypresses;
                                                                            Nor is the bank filled with gay greenery.
 
                                                                            Other streams roll through the meadows,
                                                                            But this one flows down my breast
                                                                            Which night and day swells and murmurs with my pain.

 

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 156

Standard
De soins mordans et de soucis divers
Soit sans repos ta paupiere esveillée,
Ta lévre soit de noir venin moüillée,
Tes cheveux soyent de viperes couvers :
 
Du sang infet de ces gros lezars vers
Soit ta poitrine et ta gorge soüillée,
Et d’une œillade obliquement rouillée,
Tant que voudras guigne moy de travers,
 
Tousjours au Ciel je leveray la teste,
Et d’un escrit qui bruit comme tempeste,
Je foudroiray de tes monstres l’effort :
 
Autant de fois que tu seras leur guide
Pour m’assaillir, ou pour sapper mon Fort
Autant de fois me sentiras Alcide.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            With biting cares and varied worries
                                                                            May your eyelids, without rest, be wakeful;
                                                                            May your lips be soaked in black poison,
                                                                            Your hair covered with vipers;
 
                                                                            With blood infected by those overweight leprous verses
                                                                            May your breast and throat be defiled,
                                                                            And with a crooked and blighted eye
                                                                            May you, as much as you please, look at me crossways;
 
                                                                            I shall always raise my head to heaven
                                                                            And with my writing which thunders like the tempest
                                                                            I shall overwhelm your monstrous attempts;
 
                                                                            As often as you are their leader
                                                                            In attacking me, or undermining my fortress,
                                                                            So often will you find I am an Alcides [Hercules].

 

 

 

What is this sonnet doing in the middle of the Amours?! Muret tells us ‘this sonnet was written against some minor secretaries, dandies and darlings of the court, who, having too feeble a mind to understand the author’s writings, tried to criticise and scorn that which they did not understand’. That still doesn’t explain why it’s here!
 
In line 5 I have assumed in line 5 that “lezars” is related to “lazars” (lepers/leprous) though that is my intuition rather than something I have found confirmed in a dictionary!
 
Minor differences in Blanchemain: in line 7 “d’une œillade envieuse et rouillée” (‘with an envious, blighted eye’); and line 13 becomes “Pour m’assaillir dans le cœur de mon fort” (‘In attacking me within the heart of my fortress’).
 
 
 

 

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 154

Standard
Puis que cest œil, dont l’influence baille
Ses loix aux miens, sur les miens plus ne luit,
L’obscur m’est jour, le jour m’est une nuit,
Tant son absence asprement me travaille.
 
Le lict me semble un dur champ de bataille,
Rien ne me plaist, toute chose me nuit,
Et ce penser qui me suit et resuit,
Presse mon cœur plus fort qu’une tenaille.
 
Ja pres du Loir entre cent mille fleurs,
Soulé d’ennuis de regrets et de pleurs,
J ‘eusse mis fin à mon angoisse forte,
 
Sans quelque Dieu qui mon œil va tournant
Vers le païs où tu es sejournant,
Dont le seul air sans plus me reconforte.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Since that eye, whose influence subjects
                                                                            My own to its laws, no longer shines on mine,
                                                                            Darkness is day for me, and day is night,
                                                                            So bitterly does its absence torment me.
 
                                                                            My bed seems to me a hard field of battle,
                                                                            Nothing pleases me, everything does me harm,
                                                                            And that thought which pursues me again and again
                                                                            Assails my heart harder than pincers.
 
                                                                            Now near the Loir, among hundreds of thousands of flowers,
                                                                            Surfeited with troubles, regrets, tears,
                                                                            I would have made an end to my deep anguish,
 
                                                                            Unless some god had turned my eyes
                                                                            Towards the country where you are staying,
                                                                            Whose air alone, without anything more, comforts me.
 
 
 
 
 This is apparently an imitation of Petrarch, though I don’t know Petrarch well enough to have located the ‘original’. And yet, doesn’t it seem as if it were simply created freely, rather than within a framework already set, so totally within Ronsard’s idiom is it.
 
Blanchemain provides a couple of minor variants, in the opening and the closing lines(!):   at the beginning, “Puis que cest œil qui fidelement baille…” (‘Since that eye which consistently subjects…’); and at the end, “… où tu es sejournant, / Avec mon cœur, dont l’air me reconforte” (which contorts the grammar so much the whole tercet needs to be re-organised in English – it would become ‘Unless some god had turned my eyes, together with my heart, towards the country where you are staying, whose air comforts me.’)