Ode 5:3 – a footnote

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If you followed my link to the Tombeau de Marguerite de Valois Royne de Navarre, you’ll have noticed that the version of the ode published there was (surprise surprise) rather different! Here, for the completist in you (and me), is the originally-published 1551 version.

 

Aux trois sœurs, Anne, Marguerite et Jane de Seymour, Princesses Angloises, Ode par Pierre de Ronsard Vandomois.
 
Le Conte d’Alsinois [=Denisot] au lecteur :
Amy Lecteur, je t’ay bien voulu faire quelques petites annotations sur les Odes de Ronsard, te promettant continuer a l’avenir sur toutes ses œuvres, affin de te soulagier de peine : j’entens à toi qui n’as encor long temps verse à la lecon des Poëtes. 
 
[‘Dear Reader, I was keen to help you with several small notes on the Odes of Ronsard, promising to continue in future for all his works, to save you trouble; I mean, any of you who have not spent a long time drinking in the learning of our Poets.’  See footnotes below the text.]
 
Quand les filles d’Achelois,
La fable Secilienne,
Qui foullerent de leurs voix
La douceur Hymettienne
Virent jaunir la toison,
Et les Soudards de Jason
Ramer la Barque parlante
Pres de leur gyron volante :
 
Elles d’ordre flanc à flanc,
Oisives au front des ondes,
D’un peigne d’yvoire blanc
Friserent leurs tresses blondes,
Et mignotant de leurs yeux
Les attraiz delicieux,
D’une œillade languissante
Guetterent la Nef passante.
 
Puis souspirerent un chant
De leurs gorges nompareilles,
Par douce force allechant
Les plus gaillardes oreilles,
Affin que le son pippeur
Fraudast l’honneste labeur
Des Heroës de la Grece
Amorcéz de leur caresse.
 
Ja ces Demydieux estoient
Prestz de tumber en servage,
Et ja dontéz se jettoient
Dans la prison du rivage,
Sans Orphée, qui soudain
Prenant son luc en la main,
Opposé contre elles joüe
Loing des autres, sur la proüe :
 
Affin que le contreson
De sa repoussante lyre
Perdist au vent leur chanson
Premier qu’entrer au Navire,
Et qu’il tirast du danger
Ce jeune peuple estranger,
Qui devoit par la Libye
Porter sa mere affoiblie.
 
Mais si le Harpeur fameux
Ouyoit le luc des Serenes
Qui sonne aux bordz écumeux
Sur les Angloises arenes :
Son luc payen il fendroit,
Et disciple se rendroit
Dessous leur chanson Chrestienne
Dont la voix passe la sienne.
 
Car luy enflé de vains motz
Devisoit a-l’avanture,
Ou des membres du Chaos
Ou du sein de la nature ;
Mais ces Vierges chantent mieux
Le vray Manouvrier des cieux,
Nostre demeure eternelle,
Et ceulx qui vivent en elle.
 
Las, ce qu’on voit de mondain
Jamais ferme ne se fonde,
Ains fuit et refuit soudain
Comme le branle d’une onde
Qui ne cesse de rouller,
De s’avançer et couller,
Tant que rampant il arrive
D’un grand heurt contre sa rive :
 
La Science au paravant
Si long temps orientale,
Peu a peu marchant avant
S’apparoist occidentale :
Et sans jamais se borner
Ell’ n’a cessé de tourner,
Tant qu’elle soit parvenue
A l’autre rive incognue.
 
Là, de son grave souci
Vint affoller le courage
De ces troys Vierges icy,
Les trois seules de nostre aage :
Et si-bien les sçeut 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 Memoire,
Des aultres vierges le nom
Sera cler 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 oublyé sa terre
Quelquesfois, et demeuré
Trois ans en vostre Angleterre,
De pres voyant le Soleil
Quant il se panche au sommeil
Plonger au seing de vostre onde
La Lampe de tout le monde.
 
Voire et d’avoir quelquesfois
Tant levé sa petitesse,
Que soubz l’outil de sa voix
Il pollist vostre hautesse :
Vous ouvrant les beaux secretz
Des vieux Latins et les Grecz,
Dont l’honneur se renouvelle
Par vostre Muse nouvelle.
 
Doncques puis que les espritz
D’Angleterre et de la France,
Bandéz d’une ligue, ont pris
Le fer contre l’Ignorance :
Et que nos Roys se sont faictz
D’ennemys, amys parfaictz,
Tuans la guerre cruelle
Par une paix mutuelle.
 
Avienne qu’une de vous,
Noüant la mer passagere,
Se joigne à quelqu’un de nous
Par une nopce estrangere :
Lors voz escriptz avancéz
Se voiront recompenséz
D’une aultre Ode mieux sonnée,
Qui crîra vostre Hymenée.
When the daughters of Achelous,
In the Sicilian fable,
Who with their voices trampled underfoot
The sweetness of Hymettus,
Saw the fleece growing golden,
And Jason’s soldiers
Rowing the talking ship
Near their leaping bosom:
 
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,
With languishing looks
Closely watched the passing ship.
 
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 heroes
From their honourable 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 them 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 their song
Which first came aboard the ship,
And drew away from danger
That young tribe of travellers
Who needed to take
Through Libya their enfeebled mother.
 
But if the famous harper
Heard the lute of the Sirens
Which plays on the foamy edges
Of the English 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 our 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 its 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
Has 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
For some time and remained
For three years in your England,
Seeing from close by the Sun
As it dips towards its rest
Plunge into the bosom of your waters
the Light of the whole world.
 
Indeed sometimes [he boasts] of having
So raised up his own littleness
That with the tool of his own talent
He polished up your high style;
Opening to you the fair secrets
Of the ancient Latins and Greeks,
Whose honour is renewed
In your new muse.
 
So, 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 passable sea,
Might join herself with some one of us
In a foreign marriage;
Then your precocious writings
Will see themselves rewarded
With another Ode better played,
Which will announce your wedding.
 
1st stanza:
“les filles d’Achelois”, the Sirens sung by poets in the fables of Sicily
“La douceur Hymettienne”, honey
“la Barque parlante”, Jason’s ship which spoke & predicted the fortunes of the Argonauts in Apollonius
 
3rd stanza:
“Des Heroës de la Grece”, the brave Argonauts
 
5th stanza:
“Qui devoit par la Libye /Porter sa mere affoiblie”, the Argonauts, halted in the Libyan Syrte (desert) were warned in a dream by a certain Nymph, to take their mother, enfeebled by so many ills, through the deserts of Africa to Lake Triton. Their mother was their ship which first bore them in its belly from Thessaly to Colchos. Apollonius book 3.
 
7th stanza:
“Ou des membres du Chaos /Ou du sein de la nature”, Orpheus composed a book of the genealogy of the gods, as he himself bears witness in the first book of the Argonauts
 
12th stanza:
“Denisot se vante heuré …”, the Count of Alsinois, formerly tutor to these three Ladies
“Quant il se panche au sommeil”, this passage must be understood as they say ‘by common sense’ for in truth the sun does not fall (as it seems to fall) into England’s sea; but rather into Spain’s. (Statius: “Cadiz, the bed of the sun”)
 
15th stanza:
“Noüant la mer passagere”, ‘nouant’ (‘swimming’) because he calls them Sirens; ‘passagere’ for ‘passable’, the active for the passive.
 
 
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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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