Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hymn for King Henry III, King of France, for the Victory at Montcontour (Hymn 1:9)

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For those who prefer poetry to music, here’s one of Ronsard’s hymns. Apparently the king liked this one so much he learned it by heart and would recite it regularly to his courtiers – or enjoy hearing others recite it!

Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
   Fier et fort,
Dessous l’aile de sa mere,
Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
   Aux Dragons
Fait guerre sortant de l’aire :
 
Tel qu’un jeune Lyonneau
   Tout nouveau
Quittant caverne et bocage,
Pour premier combat assaut
   D’un cœur haut
Quelque grand Taureau sauvage :
 
Tel aux desens de vos dos,
   Huguenos
Sentistes ce jeune Prince,
Fils de Roy, frere de Roy,
   Dont la Foy
Merite une autre Province.
 
A peine sur son menton
   Un cotton
De soye se laisse espandre ;
Jeune trompant le trompeur,
   S’est sans peur
Monstré digne d’Alexandre.
 
Il a guidant ses guerriers,
   De Lauriers
Orné son front et sa bande :
Et Capitaine parfait,
   Sa main fait
Ce qu’aux autres il commande.
 
Il a tranché le lien
   Gordien
Pour nos bonnes destinées :
Il a coupé le licol
   Qui au col
Nous pendoit des huit années.
 
Il a d’un glaive trenchant
   Au mechant
Coupé la force et l’audace,
Il a des ennemis morts
   Les grans corps
Fait tomber dessus la place.
 
Ils ont esté combatus,
    Abbatus,
Terrassez dessus la poudre,
Comme chesnes esbranchez,
   Trebuchez
Dessous l’esclat d’une foudre.
 
De sang gisent tous couverts
   A l’envers,
Tesmoins de sa main vaillante :
Ilz ont esté foudroyez,
   Poudroyez,
Sur les bors de la Charante.
 
Charante qui prend son nom
   D’Acheron,
A tels esprits sert de guide,
Les passant comme en bateau
   Par son eau
Au rivage Acherontide.
 
Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
   Le repas
Des mastins sans sepulture,
Et sans honneur de tombeaux 
   Les corbeaux
Mangent leur chair pour pasture.
 
Ny le tranchant coutelas,
   Ny le bras,
Ny force à la guerre adextre
Ne sert de rien à la fin
   Au plus Fin,
Quand il se prend à son maistre.
 
Du fort pere vient l’enfant
   Trionfant :
Le cheval ensuit sa race,
Le chien qui de bon sang part,
   Va gaillard
De luy-mesmes à la chasse.
 
Ainsi Pyrrhe Achillien
   Du Troyen
Coupa la guerre ancienne,
Ruant en l’âge où tu es
   Les feux Grecs
Dedans la ville Troyenne.
 
Ainsi Prince valeureux,
   Et heureux,
Tu mets fin à nostre guerre,
Qui depuis huit ans passez
   Oppressez
Nous tenoit les cœurs en serre.
 
Ce que les vieux n’avoyent sceu,
   Tu l’as peu
Parachever en une heure ;
Aussi Prince de bon-heur,
   Tout l’honneur
Sans compagnon t’en demeure.
 
A Dieu grace nous rendons,
   Et fendons
L’air sous l’hynne de victoire,
Poussant gaillars et joyeux
   Jusqu’aux Cieux,
Ton nom tes faits et ta gloire.
 
Et soit au premier resveil
   Du Soleil,
Soit qu’en la mer il s’abaisse,
Tousjours nous chantons Henry
   Favori
De Mars et de la jeunesse.
As a little eagle comes out,
   Bold and strong,
From beneath its mother’s wing
And with long, hooked talons
   Makes war
On dragons, coming from the air;
 
As a young lion,
   New-grown,
Quiting cave and woodland
For its first fight attacks
   With high courage
Some great, savage bull;
 
So, to the cost of your hides,
   Huguenots,
You felt this young Prince:
The son of a King, the brother of a King
   Whose faithfulness
Deserves another demesne.
 
Hardly on his chin
   Had the silken
Fluff begun to sprout;
Young, deceiving the deceiver,
   He fearlessly showed
Himself worthy of Alexander.
 
Guiding his warriors, he has
   With laurels
Adorned his brow and his troop,
And, the perfect captain,
   His hand does
What he commands others to do.
 
He cut the knot
   Of Gordium
To make our future good,
He cut the halter
   Which for eight years
Has hung around our necks.
 
With his slicing blade he has
   Cut off
The strength and daring of the wicked,
He has made the dead enemies’
   Great corpses
Fall upon the ground.
 
They were fought,
   Beaten down,
Crushed into the dust
Like oaks lopped down,
   Battered
Under a bursting thunderbolt.
 
Covered in blood they all lie
   Overturned,
Witnesses to his valiant hand.
They were crushed,
   Turned to dust,
On the banks of the Charente.
 
The Charente, which takes its name
   From Acheron,
Acted as guide to those spirits,
Passing them, as if in boats,
   Through its waters
To the banks of Acheron.
 
They are catapulted down,
   A meal
For dogs, without burial
And without the honour of tombs;
   Crows
Feast on their flesh.
 
Neither the slicing cutlass,
   Nor an arm
Or strength suited to war
Offer any help in the end
   To the finest
When he takes himself to his master.
 
From a powerful father comes a son
   Triumphant;
The horse follows his breeding,
The dog which comes from a good bloodline
   Happily goes
Off to the hunt by himself.
 
Thus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles,
   Cut short
The ancient war of the Trojan,
Hurling down in the age in which you are
   Those who once were Greek
Within the city of Troy.
 
So, valorous and fortunate
   Prince,
You have made an end of our wars
Which for the last eight years
   Oppressed
Us all, squeezing our hearts.
 
What the ancients could not do,
   You have managed
To complete in a single hour;
So Prince of good fortune,
   All the glory
Rests with you and you alone.
 
To God we give thanks
   And shatter
The air with our victory song;
Shouting gaily and joyously
   To the heavens
Your name, your deeds and your glory.
 
Whether at the first rising
   Of the sun,
Or when he sets in the sea,
We continuously sing of Henry,
   Favourite
Of Mars and of our youth.

 

 Plenty of classical and other learning in here, so let’s add a few notes. 
 
Stanzas 3-4 reminds us that this was a period of considerable Catholic-Protestant tension. The Battle of Montcontour was in 1569, during the Third War of Religion, and was (as suggested in stanza 16) decisive. Sadly it did not end the strife; the famous St Bartholomew’s Day massacre took place three years later in 1572 (when Ronsard was in his late 40s). Henry, who was only 18 at the time of the battle, came to the throne in 1574.
 
In stanza 6, the reference to Gordium goes back to Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot – a symbol of future rule over Asia and of future victories, hence its appropriate use here. But the knot is also proverbially used as a symbol of insoluble problems; and any claim that Henry III resolved the Wars of Religion at Montcontour can only be considered optimistic…!
 
In stanzas 9-10 Ronsard makes the fanciful claim that the river Charente derives its name from Acheron, the river of Hades. It gives him a good image but seems unlikely. (Montcontour is in the Poitou-Charentes region.)
 
Pyrrhus (in stanza 14) is another name for Neoptolemus, the rather angry and aggressive son of Achilles who killed old men, boys & women (Priam, Astyanax & Polyxena) in the sack of Troy. I doubt Ronsard is suggesting Henry III is quite so savage or ruthless; the link is rather the decisiveness of the victories.
 
 
There are some minor variants in editions: Blanchemain’s opening stanza goes
 
      Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
         Fier et fort,
      De dessous l’aile à sa mere,
      Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
         Aux dragons
      Fait guerre sortant de l’aire
 
– the changed third line can be translated identically, or could mean the eagle comes out ‘from beneath the wing to its mother’.  Then stanzas 10-11 go:
 
      Charante qui prend son nom
         D’Acheron,
      Leur sert de port et de guide,
      Les passant comme en bateau
         Par son eau
      Au rivage Acherontide.
 
      Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
         Le repas
      Des mastins, sans sepulture,
      Et sans honneur de tombeaux ;
         Les corbeaux
      De leur chair font leur pasture.
 
 
(The Charente ‘acts as their port and guide’; and crows ‘make their feast on their flesh’).
 
 
 
 

Ode 4:30

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Celuy qui n’ayme est malheureux,
Et malheureux est l’amoureux ;
Mais la misere la plus grande,
C’est quand l’amant (après avoir
En bien servant fait son devoir)
Ne peut avoir ce qu’il demande.
 
La race en amours ne sert rien,
Ne beauté, grace ne maintien ;
Sans honneur la Muse gist morte ;
Les amoureuses du jourd’huy,
En se vendant, ayment celuy
Qui le plus d’argent leur apporte.
 
Puisse mourir mechantement
Qui l’or ayma premierement !
Par luy le frere n’est pas frere,
Par luy le pere n’est pas père,
Par luy la sœur n’est pas sœur,
Et la mere n’est pas la mere.
 
Par luy la guerre et le discord,
Par luy les glaives et la mort,
Par luy viennent mille tristesses,
Et, qui pis est, nous recevons
La mort par luy, nous qui vivons
Amoureux d’avares maistresses.
He who loves not is unfortunate,
And unfortunate is he who loves:
But the greater misery
Is when the lover (after
Making his bow, serving his lady well)
Cannot have what he seeks.
 
In love, breeding is no use,
Nor beauty, grace or bearing.
Dishonoured, the muse lies dead;
The lovers of today,
Selling themselves, love him
Who brings them most money.
 
May he die disagreeably
Who loves gold first of all:
Because of him, a brother is not a brother,
Because of him, a father is not a father,
Because of him, a sister is not a sister,
And a mother not a mother.
 
Because of him come war and discord,
Because of him, swords and death,
Because of him, a thousand sad things,
And what is worse we gain
Death because of him, we who live
In love with greedy mistresses.

 

I’ve just been reading about Ronsard’s re-invention of his gentrified background; and this poem seems entirely appropriate for today. Subtly, in the second stanza, he implies that he has breeding, as well as that he’s not in this for the money. But of course that’s just tucked away; the main thrust of the poem is against greedy mistresses, and greed more generally. As alway, Ronsatd manages to be sententious without being dull.
 
 
 
 
 

Amours diverses 23

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Que me servent mes vers et les sons de ma Lyre,
Quand nuict et jour je change et de mœurs et de peau
Pour aimer sottement un visage si beau ?
Que l’homme est malheureux qui pour l’amour souspire ! 
 
Je pleure je me deuls je suis plein de martyre,
Je fay mille Sonnets, je me romps le cerveau,
Et ne suis point aimé : un amoureux nouveau
Gaigne tousjours ma place et je ne l’ose dire. 
 
Madame en toute ruse a l’esprit bien appris,
Qui tousjours cherche un autre apres qu’elle m’a pris.
Quand d’elle je bruslois, son feu devenoit moindre : 
 
Mais ores que je feins n’estre plus enflamé,
Elle brusle apres moy. Pour estre bien aimé,
Il faut aimer bien peu, beaucoup promettre et feindre.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            What use to me are my poems, and the sounds of my lyre,
                                                                            When night and day I keep changing what I do, and how I look,
                                                                            From loving foolishly a face so fair?
                                                                            How unhappy is the man who sighs for love!
 
                                                                            I weep, I grieve, I’m filled with suffering,
                                                                            I write a thousand sonnets, I rack my brains;
                                                                            And am not loved at all. A new lover
                                                                            Keeps taking my place, and I dare not speak to her.
 
                                                                            My Lady has a spirit well-taught in every trick,
                                                                            And she always looks for another after she has caught me.
                                                                            When I burned for her, her love became less;
 
                                                                            But now I pretend no longer to be afire
                                                                            She burns for me! To be properly loved
                                                                            You must love just a little, promise much, and pretend.

 

 

 Well, a thousand sonnets is a slight exaggeration, but not too much of one…! 🙂  I love the way Ronsard starts off with a typical ‘forlorn lover’ topos, and then switches it around in the last tercet, to end with a very cynical view of love.
 
Blanchemain’s version has a few variants: but most importantly, the earlier version doesn’t have this role-reversal ending!  As well as the lack of contrast between the two halves, this version also has the weakness that the first half ends with another lover; and then the second half basically repeats the thought process…  In this case, I think, a clear win for Ronsard the reviser.

 

Que me servent mes vers et les sons de ma lyre,
Quand nuict et jour je change et de mœurs et de peau
Pour aimer sottement un visage trop beau ?
Mal-heureux est celuy qui pour l’amour souspire ! 
 
Je pleure, je me deuls, je suis plein de martyre,
Je fais mille sonnets, je me romps le cerveau,
Et si je suis hay : un amoureux nouveau
Gaigne tousjours ma place, et je ne l’ose dire. 
 
Ma dame en toute ruse a l’esprit bien appris,
Qui me hait maintenant que d’elle suis espris,
O dure cruauté ! Avant que je l’aimasse, 
 
Elle n’aimoit que moy ; mais ores à mespris
Me met comme un esclave, et s’encourt à la chasse
Pour en reprendre un autre ainsi qu’elle m’a pris.
 
 
 
                                                                            What use to me are my poems, and the sounds of my lyre,
                                                                            When night and day I keep changing what I do, and how I look,
                                                                            From loving foolishly a face all too fair?
                                                                            Unhappy is he who sighs for love!
 
                                                                            I weep, I grieve, I’m filled with suffering,
                                                                            I write a thousand sonnets, I rack my brains;
                                                                            And yet I’m hated. A new lover
                                                                            Keeps taking my place, and I dare not speak to her.
 
                                                                            My Lady has a spirit well-taught in every trick,
                                                                            And she hates me now that I am in love with her.
                                                                            O harsh cruelty! Before I loved her,
 
                                                                            She loved only me, but now scornfully
                                                                            She treats me as a slave, and sets out on the hunt
                                                                            To capture another just as she caught me.

 

 
 
 
 
 

del Mel – Mignonne allons veoir si la rose

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In 1598 Phalèse published a large collection of songs, the Rossignol Musical. There are several Ronsard settings among them, including this one.  Rinaldo del Mel (or del Melle) made his name in Italy, where he published many madrigals (including madrigal cycles) and motets. But he wasn’t Italian. Instead, he was one of a 150-year-long line of Franco-Flemish composers who had headed south to find work in the courts of Italy. Like others in the late 16th century, he took an Italian name: Orlando di Lasso, ‘the divine Orlando’, was really a Flamand called Roland de Lassus; and Rinaldo del Melle was originally René de Mel.

Title

Mignonne allons veoir si la rose

Composer

Rinaldo del Mel (1554-c1598)

Source

Le Rossignol Musical des Chansons de diverses et excellens autheurs de nostre temps, published by Phalèse 1597

(text on recmusic.org/lieder site here)
(blog entry here)
(listen to the score here)
(recorded extract not available – this song doesn’t appear to have been recorded)

This setting is marked by several features not seen in the earlier French settings: not least that there are 5 voice-parts.  There’s frequent imitation (the repeated ‘Mignonne’ all the way through; the rhythm of ‘O vrayement marastre nature’ which repeats in all voices in part 2; the distinctive “Comme a ceste fleur” in part 3 where the dotted minim extends across the barline nearly every time, until everyone sings it all together homophonically; and the rhythmic figure which bounces around the choir in part 3 on ‘fera tenir’); and the runs  on ‘cueillez’ in the third part, and similar figures elsewhere – both imitative and melismatic at the same time! – are much more prevalent than in the French settings I’ve posted.

There are a few lapses in prosody (word setting) which strike me as odd from a Franco-Flemish composer:  there’s one place in the superius where ‘vray-e-ment’ with a short ‘e’ becomes ‘vray-ehhhhh-ment’ with a long middle syllable, for instance; and I wonder what Ronsard would have made of the way del Mel runs together the lines at “…laisse cheoir / O vrayement …” so that the line-break comes after the ‘O’ – “laisse cheoir O – – – vrayement”?! But these are minor niggles.

[Edit: there’s a fairly horrible clash between an F-A-C in the top three voices and a G in the bass at bottom of p3. No amount of ‘ficta’ (accidentals) will resolve that, so it’s either a misprint or deliberate. I’ve left it as printed, though you should probably lower the F to an E in the Contra part.]

Part 1MigDelMel_0001 MigDelMel_0002 MigDelMel_0003 MigDelMel_0004 MigDelMel_0005

Part 2MigDelMel_0006 MigDelMel_0007MigDelMel_0008 MigDelMel_0009 MigDelMel_0010 MigDelMel_0011

part 3MigDelMel_0012 MigDelMel_0013 MigDelMel_0014 MigDelMel_0015 MigDelMel_0016 MigDelMel_0017

My copy of the Rossignol musical came from the wonderful Gallica website; here are the relevant pages extracted from the 1598 second edition. You can see immediately how some parts (tenor and bassus in part 1 for instance) have less repetition – and so less words – than others.

superiusRDMMig-S1 RDMMig-S1 RDMMig-S3 contraRDMMig-C1 RDMMig-C2 RDMMig-C3 tenorRDMMig-T1 RDMMig-T2 RDMMig-T3 quintaRDMMig-Q1 RDMMig-Q2 RDMMig-Q3 bassusRDMMig-B1 RDMMig-B2 RDMMig-B3

Ode 3:13 – to Joachim du Bellay

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Nous avons quelque fois grand faute
Soit de biens, soit de faveur haute,
Comme l’affaire nous conduit,
Mais tousjours tandis que nous sommes
Ou morts, ou mis au rang des hommes,
Nous avons besoing de bon bruit.
 
Car la louange emmiellée
Au sucre des Muses mellée
Nous perçe l’aureille en riant
Je di louange qui ne cede
A l’or que Pactole possede
Ny aux perles de l’Orient.
 
La vertu qui n’a cognoissance
Combien la Muse a de puissance
Languit en tenebreux sejour
Et en vain elle est soupirante
Que sa clarté n’est apparante
Pour se monstrer au raiz du jour.
 
France sous Henry fleurist comme
Sous August’ fleurist Romme,
Elle n’est plaine seulement
D’hommes qui animent le cuïvre,
Ny de peintres qui en font vivre
Deux ensamble eternellement ;
 
Mais grosse de sçavoir enfante
Des filz dont el’ est triumphante,
Qui son nom rendent honoré :
L’un chantre d’amour la decore
L’autre Mars, et l’autre encore,
De Phoebus au beau crin doré.
 
Entre lesquelz le ciel ordonne
Que le premier lieu l’on te donne,
Si tu monstres au jour tes vers
Entés dans le tronc d’une Olive,
Qui hausse sa perrucque vive
Jusque à l’esgal des lauriers vers.
We have sometimes a great lack
Either of goods or of high favour,
As matters lead us,
But always while we are
Either dead or placed among the ranks of men,
We have need of good report.
 
For honeyed praise
Mixed with the sugar of the Muses
Pierces our ears amidst laughter;
 I sing a praise which does not give place
To the gold which Pactolus owns
Nor to the pearls of the Orient.
 
Virtue, which takes no note
How powerful is the Muse,
Pines in a shadowy place
And in vain it sighs
That its brightness is not bright enough
To show itself in the light of day.
 
France under Henry flourishes as
Rome flourished under Augustus;
It is not full only
Of men who bring life to brass,
Nor of painters who make the two of them
Together live eternally;
 
But pregnant with knowledge it gives birth
To sons in whom she is triumphant,
Who make her name honoured;
One ornaments her as a singer of love,
Another of war, another still
Of Phoebus with his fair golden hair.
 
Among these, heaven ordains
That we give you the first place,
If you show the daylight your verse
Grafted on the trunk of an Olive,
Which raises its living crown
Up to level with the green laurels.

 

 Today, a lovely & beautifully-built ode to his friend du Bellay, praising his ‘Olive’ (the first book of sonnets in French). Along the way Ronsard manages to get in a brief but telling patriotic gesture of praise to Henri II’s France, another Rome in the golden age of Augustus. As each stanza moves us one step closer to the goal, in a very carefully-calculated but artful way, there is a definite sense of climax.
 
 
 
 
 

Odelette (Odes retranch. 74)

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Tay-toy, babillarde arondelle,
Ou bien je plumeray ton aile,
Si je t’empoigne, et d’un cousteau
Je te couperay ta languette,
Qui matin san repos caquette,
Et m’estourdit tout le cerveau.
 
Je te preste ma cheminée
Pour chanter, toute la journée,
De soir, de nuict, quand tu voudras ;
Mais au matin ne me resveille
Et ne m’oste, quand je sommeille,
Ma Cassandre d’entre les bras
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Hush, you chattering swallow,
                                                                            Or else I’ll pluck your wings
                                                                            If I can catch you, and with a knife
                                                                            I’ll cut out your little tongue
                                                                            Which every morning without a break cackles
                                                                            And stuns my brain completely.
 
                                                                            I’ll lend you my chimney
                                                                            To sing all day long,
                                                                            At eve, at night, whenever you want;
                                                                            But in the morning, don’t wake me
                                                                            And don’t, while I’m asleep, take
                                                                            My Cassandre from my arms.

 

 

 

 Ronsard can be at his best in his shorter poems – charming, light, breezy, humorous. Here’s a winner!
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1:214

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Je sens portraits dedans ma souvenance
Tes longs cheveux et ta bouche et tes yeux,
Ton doux regard, ton parler gracieux,
Ton doux maintien, ta douce contenance.
 
Un seul Janet honneur de nostre France,
De ses crayons ne les portrairoit mieux,
Que de l’Archer le trait ingenieux
M’a peint au cœur leur vive remembrance.
 
Dans le cœur donque au fond d’un diamant,
J’ay son portrait, que je suis plus aimant
Que mon cœur mesme. O vive portraiture !
 
De ce Janet l’artifice mourra :
Dedans mon cœur le tien me demourra,
Pour estre vif apres ma sepulture.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            I see portrayed within my memory
                                                                            Your long hair, your lips, your eyes,
                                                                            Your sweet glance, your gracious way of speaking,
                                                                            Your sweet bearing, your sweet countenance.
 
                                                                            Only a Janet, the pride of our France,
                                                                            Could portray them better with his colours
                                                                            Than the Archer’s cunning blow
                                                                            Has painted their vivid remembrance in my heart.
 
                                                                            In my heart, then, in the depths of a diamond
                                                                            I have his picture, which I love more
                                                                            Than my heart itself. What a life-like portait!
 
                                                                            This Janet’s art will die;
                                                                            But within my heart yours will remain,
                                                                            Still living on after my death.

 

 

 A lovely poem with a faintly bizarre final couplet!  The only difference in the earlier version is in line 10, where Ronsard says to Cassandre “J’ay ton portrait” (‘I have your portrait’). For ‘Janet’ see here.