|D’un gosier masche-laurier J’oy crier Dans Lycofron ma Cassandre, Qui prophetize aux Troyens Les moyens Qui les reduiront en cendre. Mais ces pauvres obstinez Destinez Pour ne croire à leur Sibylle, Virent, bien que tard, apres Les feux Grecs Forcener parmy leur ville. Ayant la mort dans le sein, De la main Plomboient leur poitrine nue, Et tordant leurs cheveux gris, De longs cris Pleuroient qu’ils ne l’avoient creuëe. Mais leurs cris n’eurent pouvoir D’esmouvoir Les Grecs si chargez de proye, Qu’ils ne laisserent sinon Que le nom De ce qui fut jadis Troye. Ainsi pour ne croire pas, Quand tu m’as Predit ma peine future : Et que je n’aurois en don, Pour guerdon De t’aimer, que la mort dure : Un grand brasier sans repos, Et mes os, Et mes nerfs, et mon cœur brûle : Et pour t’amour j’ay receu Plus de feu, Que ne fit Troye incredule.||With her laurel-chewing throat I hear calling In Lycophron my Cassandra, Prophesying to the Trojans The way They’ll be reduced to ashes. But those poor obstinate men, Destined Not to believe their Sybil, Saw afterwards, though too late, Greek fire Raging through their town. With death in their hearts, With their hands They sheathed their naked breasts in lead And tearing their grey hairs With long cries They wept that they had not believed her. But their cries had no power To move The Greeks, so laden with loot That they left nothing But the name Of what once was Troy. So, for not believing When you told me Of my future pain, And that I should gain only, As trophy For loving you, the gift of harsh death, A great fire ceaselessly Burns My bones and nerves and heart, And for your love I’ve had More fire Than made Troy astonished.|
I’m uncomfortable with the opening line: Ronsard’s “masche-laurier” is hard to capture I feel (EDIT – see below & Patrice’s useful clarification in the comments). But it would be a pity not to attempt the poem: it’s a marvellous one, I think, with the balance between 4 stanzas of Troy and two of Cassandre (or 2+2+2 if you prefer) and the clear link between the ‘ancient’ Cassandra and the ‘modern’, and the literal burning and the metaphorical. Most of this is a straightforward and familiar recital of the Trojan legend, but Muret helps us with the odd reference to Lycophron: ‘Lycophron, a native of Chalcis, was one of the seven poets who flourished in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, and who were called the Pleiade. This Lycophron wrote a poem called Cassandra, which alone has survived to this day, in which he depicts her predicting the evils which are to come to the town of Troy’. Thus we see Ronsard managing to refer back to the original Pleaid of Alexandrian poets in the Hellenistic period of Greece, which gave its name to the ‘modern’ Pleiade of Ronsard, Baif and the others. No variants to report from Blanchemain’s earlier version (!) ====== More on the opening line: following Patrice’s hint, I have gone and looked up Lycophron. As often with Ronsard, the learned reference isn’t as difficult to locate as you might think: in fact, it’s in the 6th line of the 1500 line poem… The opening, in a Victorian translation I’ve borrowed from www.theoi.com, goes: “All will I tell truly that thou askest from the utter beginning, and if the tale be prolonged, forgive me, master. For not quietly as of old did the maiden loose the varied voice of her oracles, but poured forth a weird confused cry, and uttered wild words from her bay-chewing mouth, imitating the speech of the dark Sphinx.” The Greek word is “Daphne-phagon” – laurel- or bay-eating – at the beginning of line 6 below Further edit: Ronsard also used this concept in Odes 1.11, strophe 5, where he writes of Phoebus (Apollo): Lequel m’encharge de chanter Son Du-Bellay, pour le vanter Sur tous ses enfans qui ont bien Masché du Laurier Delphien. He who charged me to sing Of his Du Bellay, to praise him Above all those of his children who have Well-chewed the Delphic laurel.