Sonnet 161

Que n’ay-je, Amour, cette Fere aussi vive
Entre mes bras, qu’elle est vive en mon cœur ?
Un seul moment guariroit ma langueur,
Et ma douleur feroit aller à rive.
Plus elle court, et plus elle est fuitive
Par le sentier d’audace et de rigueur :
Plus je me lasse, et recreu de vigueur
Je marche apres d’une jambe tardive.
Au moins escoute, et ralente tes pas :
Comme veneur je ne te poursuy pas,
Ou comme archer qui blesse à l’impourveuë.
Mais comme amy de ton amour touché,
Navré du coup qu’Amour m’a décoché,
Forgeant ses traits des beaux rais de ta veuë.
                                                                            Why do I not have, o Love, this wild animal as alive
                                                                            Within my arms, as she is within my heart?
                                                                            A single moment would cure my listlessness,
                                                                            And make my sadness go by the board.
                                                                            The more she runs away, and the more she flies
                                                                            Along the path of boldness and harshness,
                                                                            The more I become tired and, recovering my strength,
                                                                            I walk after her with slow limbs.
                                                                            At least hear me, and slow your pace;
                                                                            I do not pursue you like a hunter,
                                                                            Or an archer who wounds unexpectedly;
                                                                            But like a lover, wounded by your love,
                                                                            Struck down by the blow which Love loosed on me,
                                                                            Forging his darts from the fair rays of your glance.



 Another satisfying arc to the poem, but why the switch from 3rd to 2nd person halfway through? Odd, though far from unusual in Ronsard!
Only minor variants from the Blanchemain version: the very opening, “Puissé-je avoir ceste fere aussi vive …” (‘Oh that I might have this wild animal as alive …’); and in lines 12-13 he is “comme amy de ton amour touché / Du fer cruel qu’Amour m’a décoché”. That could be translated either with the two clauses in juxtaposition – – ‘like a lover, wounded by your love, / By the cruel weapon which Love loosed on me’ – – but if we prefer to enjamb the lines and make a proper sentence out of it, we have something along the lines of ”as one who loves being in love with you, wounded by the cruel weapon …’ (and contrariwise, the Marty-Laveaux version can be read with the verbs juxtaposed as ‘as one who loves being in love with you, wounded and struck down by the blow …’) Though that second option makes sense, context suggests the first version.
Muret reminds us that Ronsard is alluding to a well-known passage in Ovid’s metamorphoses in the sestet:  in Dryden’s translation, Apollo calls to Daphne
Stay Nymph, he cry’d, I follow, not a foe.
Thus from the lyon trips the trembling doe;
Thus from the wolf the frighten’d lamb removes,
And, from pursuing faulcons, fearful doves;
Thou shunn’st a God, and shunn’st a God, that loves.
He adds that the opening two lines are adapted from Pietro Bembo; Ronsard’s poem however goes off in a different direction thereafter. Bembo’s poem is below; my translation is again approximate.


La fera che scolpita nel cor tengo,
Così l’avess’ io viva entro le braccia:
Fuggì sì leve, ch’io perdei la traccia,
Né freno il corso, né la sete spengo.
Anzo così tra due vivo e sostengo
L’anima forsennata, che procaccia
Far d’una tigre sciolta preda in caccia,
Traendo me, che seguir lei convengo.
E so ch’io movo indarno, o penser casso,
E perdo inutilmente il dolce tempo
De la mia vita, che giamai non torna.
Ben devrei ricovrarmi, or ch’i’ m’attempo
Et ho forse vicin l’ultimo passo:
Ma piè mosso dal ciel nulla distorna.
                                                                            The wild beast which I keep engraved in my heart,
                                                                            Oh that I thus had her alive within my arms;
                                                                            She flees so lightly that I lose the track,
                                                                            Nor slow my course nor sate my thirst.
                                                                            Yet thus between the two I live and my soul
                                                                            Remains crazed, as it tries
                                                                            To make a free-roaming tigress its prey in the hunt,
                                                                            Dragging me along as I agree to pursue her.
                                                                            And I know I pursue in vain, my thoughts shattered,
                                                                            And uselessly waste the sweet time
                                                                            Of my life, which will never return.
                                                                            I must indeed recover, or at least attempt it,
                                                                            And I am perhaps close to that last step;
                                                                            But a step away from heaven can never turn back.

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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