Le Chant des Sereines (Amours 2:67e)

“The Song of the Sirens” is based around the episode in the Odyssey (in book 12) when Odysseus – Ulysses to the Romans – sails past the Sirens’ island but, while his men are warned to stop up their ears so they cannot hear the alluring song, Odysseus has himself bound tightly to the mast and keeps his ears open…
Fameux Ulysse, honneur de tous les Grecs,
De nostre bord approche toy plus pres,
Ne single point sans prester les oreilles
A noz chansons, et tu oirras merveilles.
Nul estranger de passer a soucy
Par ceste mer sans aborder icy,
Et sans contraindre un petit son voyage,
Pour prendre port à nostre beau rivage :
Puis tout joyeux les ondes va tranchant,
Ravy d’esprit, tant doux est nostre chant,
Ayant appris de nous cent mille choses,
Que nous portons en l’estomach encloses.
Nous sçavons bien tout cela qui s’est fait,
Quand Ilion par les Grecs fut desfait :
Nous n’ignorons une si longue guerre,
Ny tout cela qui se fait sur la terre.
Doncques retiens ton voyage entrepris,
Tu apprendras, tant sois-tu bien appris.
Ainsi disoit le chant de la Serene,
Pour arrester Ulysse sur l’arene,
Qui attaché au mast ne voulut pas
Se laisser prendre à si friands apas :
Mais en fuyant la voix voluptueuse,
Hasta son cours sur l’onde tortueuse,
Sans par l’oreille humer cette poison
Qui des plus grands offense la raison.
Ainsi, Jamin, pour sauver ta jeunesse,
Suy le conseil du fin soldat de Grece :
N’aborde point au rivage d’Amour,
Pour y vieillir sans espoir de retour.
« L’Amour n’est rien qu’ardante frenesie,
« Qui de fumee emplist la fantaisie
« D’erreur, de vent et d’un songe importun :
« Car le songer et l’Amour ce n’est qu’un.
Famous Ulysses, honour of all the Greeks,
Approach now nearer our borders,
Sail no more without lending your ears
To our songs, and you will hear marvellous things.
No stranger cares to pass
Over this sea without landing here,
And without delaying his journey a little
To seek port on our fair shores;
Then most happy he leaves slicing through the waves,
His spirit delighted, so sweet is our song,
After learning from us a hundred thousand things
Which we carry locked up in our breasts.
We know well all that happened
When Troy was destroyed by the Greeks;
We are not unaware of so long a war,
Nor all that which is done on earth.
So, defer the voyage you’ve undertaken,
You will learn much, however learned you are.
So spoke the song of the Siren,
To halt Ulysses on the sands,
He who, attached to the mast, did not wish
To allow himself such delightful attractions;
But fleeing the voluptuous voice
He hurried his journey on the winding seas,
Without drinking in through his ears that poison
Which assaults the reason of the greatest.
So, Jamin, to rescue your youth,
Follow the counsel of the fine soldier of Greece;
Do not land on the shores of Love,
To grow old there without hope of return.
“Love is nothing but burning madness,
Which fills the imagination with smoke,
Mistakes, empty wind and nagging dreams;
For dreaming and Love are the same thing.”
Ronsard addresses the poem to Amadis Jamyn (last stanza). Amadis Jamyn was “an excellent poet who translated into [French] verse Homer’s Iliad and part of the Odyssey”, as a learned footnote tells us – thus giving us the reason why the subject is from the Odyssey.
Inevitably there are a few differences in Blanchemain’s version, but only a few:  the 6th line of the 2nd stanza becomes “S’en retournant ravy de nostre chant” (‘Looking back delighted with our song’); and in the 4th stanza, Odysseus is very vividly “garroté au mast” (less vividly, ‘bound tight to the mast’ – but obviously the literal meaning is ‘garroted’, tied around the throat so tightly he would choke), and he hurries away “sur l’onde poissonneuse” (‘over the fishy sea’).

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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