To his soul (Dernier vers)

Amelette Ronsardelette,
Mignonnelette doucelette,
Treschere hostesse de mon corps,
Tu descens là bas foiblelette,
Pasle, maigrelette, seulette,
Dans le froid Royaume des mors :
Toutesfois simple, sans remors
De meurtre, poison, ou rancune,
Mesprisant faveurs et tresors
Tant enviez par la commune.
Passant, j’ay dit, suy ta fortune
Ne trouble mon repos, je dors.
                                                                            Little soul of little Ronsard
                                                                            Darling and sweet,
                                                                            Dearest guest within my body
                                                                            You are going down below weak,
                                                                            Pale, small, thin and lonely,
                                                                            Into the cold kingdom of the dead:
                                                                            And yet modest, not remorseful
                                                                            For murder, poison or malice,
                                                                            Despising favours and treasures
                                                                            So envied by the common herd.
                                                                            Traveller, I have spoken: follow your fortune,
                                                                            Trouble not my rest, I sleep.
His very last poem – at least, the last poem in the Dernier Vers, placed at the end of his collected works; though these days followed by a mountain of pieces he’d cut from earlier editions, not published, published but not collected…! Are the last two lines an address to his soul, or to a passing traveller (like an inscription for his tomb)? It’s ambiguous: read it both ways.
– – – –
I hadn’t till now realised – though I’m sure Ronsard’s much better-educated classicist friends would have spotted it immediately – that this poem is, inevitably, an imitation of a classical original. The emperor Hadrian, he of the Wall, wrote his version in AD138: as you can see, the first half of Ronsard’s poem follows it very closely (except for the final line, Hadrianic humour which somehow doesn’t fit Ronsard!)
Animula vagula blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula rigida nudula
Nec ut soles dabit iocos.
                                                                            Little soul, little wanderer, little charmer
                                                                            Guest and companion of the body,
                                                                            Into what places do you now depart –
                                                                            Dark little, cold little, empty little ones,
                                                                            And you won’t as usual be making jokes.
If you’re interested, here are 43 other translations, from 1625 to 2012! Obviously my former ignorance of the poem is not shared …

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')

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s