Gayetez et Epigrammes (39)


While wandering through some of the more obscure poems, how about this one…

Qui est ce livre ? – Estranger. – Qui l’a faict ?
– Le grand Osie en sçavoir tout parfaict.
– Qui l’a conduit des terres poulonoises,
Et fait sonner nos parolles françoises ?
– C’est Lavardin, ce sçavant translateur,
Et docte autant que le premier autheur.
– De quoy discourt ce livre magnifique ?
– De nostre loy, de la foy catholique ;
Tout ce qu’il faut retenir ou laisser,
Et qu’un chrestien doit à Dieu confesser,
Pour estre net du fard de l’heresie,
Croyant l’Eglise, et non la fantaisi
De ces cerveaux éventez, esgarez,
Qui par orgueil sont de nous separez.
Et bref, Passant, si le zele t’allume
Des peres vieux, achepte ce volume,
Pour vivre seur en la ferme union.
Mais si tu es de l’autre opinion,
Et si tu veux les mensonges ensuivre
Des nouveaux fols, n’achepte pas ce livre
Pour t’en mocquer ; tu porterois en vain
En lieu d’un livre un fardeau dans la main.
On a book concerning the Catholic faith,
translated by Jean de Lavardin
Dialogue between a passer-by and a bookseller
What is this book ? – A foreign one. – Who wrote it ?
– The great Hosius, perfect in learning.
– Who has brought it from Polish lands,
And made it shout out with our French words ?
– It is Lavardin, that scholarly translator,
As learned as its first author.
– Of what does this magnificent book tell ?
– Of our law, the Catholic faith ;
All that must be retained or let go,
And that a Christian should confess to God,
To be clear of the burden of heresy,
Believing in the Church and not the fantasy
Of those airy, bewildered minds
Who are separated from us by their pride.
In brief, traveller, if zeal for the ancient Fathers
Has fired you, accept this volume
In order to live surely, in firm union.
But if you are of the other opinion
And if you want to follow the lies
Of new madmen, do not take this book
To laugh at it ; you’ll be taking in vain,
Instead of a book, a burden in your hands.
This is a poem included among Ronsard’s posthumous pieces, i.e. not one he published within his collected editions in his lifetime.  Ronsard makes clear his own position is with the Catholic church.  But, given our image of the Wars of Religion in France (the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre etc), he is perhaps surprisingly relaxed in his address to any protestant/Huguenot reading it. OK, he uses words like ‘lies’ and ‘madmen’, but he warns only of the eternal rather than earthly consequences of that religious choice.
Jean de Lavardin is not the Marquis de Lavardin who rose to be Marshal France under Henry IV (after a career on both sides of the religious divide in the Wars of Religion!); he is, rather, the abbot of the Premonstratensian monastery of the Étoile (the Star — “l’Abbaye Sainte-Trinité et Saint-Sauveur de l’Étoile” in full) at Authon next to Vendôme. and thus very much part of Ronsard’s world in the Loir region. He was known principally as a translator of the Letters of St Jerome, but also – relevant to this poem – of the “Confession catholique de la foy chrestienne” (‘Catholic confession of the Christian faith’) of Bishop Hosius, published in 1579. Its attractive title page – see it here – states “Faite Françoise du Latin de Stanislaus HOSIVS, Cardinal Polonois, Euesque de Vvarme, & President au Concile de TRENTE, PAR Iean de LAVARDIN, Vandomois, Abbé de l’Estoille.” (‘Done into French from the Latin of Stanisław Hozjusz, Polish Cardinal, Bishop of Warmia, and President of the Council of Trent….’), which explains the reference to Poland in the third line.
It also makes clear that the reference to ‘Osius’ in line 2 is not to Bishop Hosius (or Osius) who led the Council of Nicaea in the 300s AD in creating the Nicene Creed we still use today; but to Stanislaus Hosius, the Latinized version of Stanisław Hozjusz.
It was a chunky book – nearly 1700 pages! – which suggests that Ronsard is gently joking about its size in the final line when he refers to it as a ‘burden’ 🙂



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