Puis que je n’ay pour faire ma retraite
Du labyrinth, qui me va seduisant,
Comme Thesée, un filet conduisant
Mes pas douteux par les erreurs de Crete :
Eussay-je au moins une poitrine faite
Ou de Crystal, ou de verre luisant,
Ton œil iroit dedans mon cœur lisant
De quelle foy mon amour est parfaite.
Si tu sçavois de quelle affection
Je suis captif de ta perfection,
La mort seroit un confort à ma plainte :
Et lors peut estre esprise de pitié,
Tu pousserois sur ma despouille esteinte,
Quelque souspir de tardive amitié.
Since I do not have, to make my way out
Of the labyrinth which continually captivates me,
A thread like Theseus to lead
My uncertain steps through Crete’s delusions;
Had I at least a breast made
Either of crystal, or of shining glass,
Your eye could read within my heart
What faithfulness makes my love perfect.
If you knew through what affection
I am a captive of your perfection,
Death would be a comfort to my sighs;
And then, perhaps, seized by pity
You would utter over my dead ashes
Some sigh of belated love.
The references in the first quatrain are, of course, to the tale of the Minotaur: imprisoned in a labyrinth, designed by Daedalus to be so complex it was inescapable, the Minotaur was killed by Theseus who unravelled a ball of string as he went in, given him by Ariadne, and then followed the thread back again to find his way out.
The striking image of the see-through heart is not Ronsard’s own: it comes from Bembo, whose sonnet 7 has a similar second quatrain:
avess’ io almen d’un bel cristallo il core,
che, quel ch’ i’ taccio e Madonna non vede
de l’interno mio mal, senz altra fede
a’ suoi begli occhi tralucesse fore …
I wish I had at least a heart made of fine crystal,
Which, when I am silent and my Lady does not see
Within me my ills, without any other proof of loyalty
Would shine through clearly to her fair eyes …
Blanchemain’s earlier version is virtually unchanged; only line 7 begins differently, “Lors tu serois dedans …” (‘Then you could read within …’).