I do enjoy a good piece of cynicism. And here is Ronsard being more cynical than usual! But it’s a charmer, along with the way Ronsard admits that (as a teenager might put it) he’s not going all the way, let alone 2 or 3 times a night, but in fact is only getting kisses from his ladies. Maybe it adds a little spice to know that Anne was Marie’s sister – or so it is said. It seems to me likely that the poem pre-dates the whole ‘Marie’ set and refers to a different pair of sisters. In any case, hardly the poem to include in the ‘Amours de Marie’, maybe that’s why it ended up in the collection of discarded pieces… There is however a little story worth telling here about the composer Anthoine de Bertrand, who set this poem in his books of Ronsard sonnets: it seems that Bertrand’s first wife Marie died and he re-married, to Anne Carrière (she is mentioned as his widow in a document of 1583)… So when he set this text, he was offering a compliment to both ladies, rather than being cynical. Tibullus, in line 4, was a Roman poet of the last years BC – the time of the collapse of the Republic and the age of Augustus. His surviving work consists of two books of love poetry, the first addressed to Delia, the second to Nemesis. His fellow-poet Ovid wrote (in his ‘Amores’): “Sic Nemesis longum sic Delia nomen habebunt, / Altera cura recens, altera primus amor” – ‘thus Nemesis and Delia will long be famous, the latter his recent love, the former his first’.
Blanchemain’s edition has only one variant; and that is in line 9 which reads “Je respons, mon Choiseul, …”
Line 9 has a long history. In 1555 (the original publication) this read “Je respons à cela, que je suis amoureux” (‘I reply to that, that I am in love’). In 1560 – the edition Blanchemain bases his text on – it became “Je respons, mon Choiseul, que…”: Choiseul is Christophe (or Chretophle) de Choiseul.This appears to have been a nod in the direction of Belleau, who was writing the commentary on this book, and whose friend Choiseul was. Belleau appended a remarkable note to Ronsard’s text: ‘He addresses this sonnet to Chretofle de Choiseul, one of the finest and firmest of friends, whose virtue and integrity (not to speak of his ancient lineage) is well-known among his own friends, and among those professing to be lettered, and to whom (after God) I owe most obedience and humble service for having fed and kept me for ten years, and having given me means to assure the rest of my life against the efforts and violence of necessity.”
Yet in 1567, long before Belleau’s death, and in an edition still nominally commented by Belleau, he changed it to the text above: to which the note reads, “He addresses this sonnet to [Guillaume] Cherouvrier, one of his best and closest friends, whose virtue and integrity is well-known to those who profess to be musical or lettered.” It’s not clear what was going on here, in relation to Belleau and his protector Choiseul, though some have used it as evidence that Belleau was not involved in the notes to the 1567 edition despite his name apprearing on them! Though very little more seems to be known about Cherouvrier, his name does appear in various royal accounts where he is paid as “chantre de la chambre et chappelle” (chamber & chapel singer) during the 1570s and into the 1580s. Ronsard also addressed ‘Le Souci du Jardin‘ (in Poems book 1) to ‘Sieur Cherouvrier, excellent musicien’ in the late 1560s or early 1570s.