Monthly Archives: March 2015

Amours 1.196

Au plus profond de ma poitrine morte
Il m’est advis qu’une main je reçoy,
Qui me pillant entraine avecque soy
Mon cœur captif, que maistresse elle emporte.
Coustume inique, et de mauvaise sorte,
Malencontreuse et miserable loy,
Tu m’as tué, tant tu es contre moy,
Loy des humains, bride trop dure et forte.
Faut-il que veuf, seul entre mille ennuis,
Mon lict desert je couve tant de nuits ?
Hà ! que je porte et de haine et d’envie
A ce Vulcan ingrat et sans pitié,
Qui s’opposant aux raiz de ma moitié,
Fait eclipser le Soleil de ma vie.
                                                                            In the deepest place in my dead breast
                                                                            I seem to feel a hand
                                                                            Which as it plunders me drags with it
                                                                            My captive heart, and takes it to be its mistress.
                                                                            Iniquitous custom, wicked fate,
                                                                            Unlucky and wretched law,
                                                                            You have killed me, so much you are against me,
                                                                            Law of mankind, bridle too harsh and strong.
                                                                            Must I bereft, alone among a thousand troubles,
                                                                            Brood on my deserted bed for so many nights?
                                                                            Ah, what hate and jealousy I bear
                                                                            Towards that ungrateful and pitiless Vulcan
                                                                            Who, setting himself against the light of my other half,
                                                                            Eclipsed the Sun of my life.
Muret, footnoting the Amours, tells us: ‘Vulcan, husband of Venus, was a jealous god. This sonnet has nothing to do with Cassandre, as with several others in this book.’ Vulcan as the husband of Venus, who found her in bed with Mars; are we to assume that Ronsard has been playing with a married lady? Or is this a less-precise reference, which would fit Cassandre better, to another lover competing for her hand and making off with her – perhaps, her husband-to-be rather than a husband? Or is Muret right in saying this has nothing to do with Cassandre – for, after all, we have already encountered many a sonnet addressed to Sinope, Marguerite and other ladies?
In the end, does it matter?! Poetry does not, after all, have to be subjected to the analysis which a strict biographer might apply. It is an attractive poem with a novel image in the opening quatrain and some unusual phrases in the second.
In both, there are variants in the earlier Blanchemain edition: of these I think we can safely say the older versions of lines 2 and 7 are weaker, but that does not make the version less interesting.
Au plus profond de ma poitrine morte
Sans me tuer une main je reçoy,
Qui, me pillant, entraine avecques soy
Mon cœur captif, que, maistresse, elle emporte.
Coustume inique et de mauvaise sorte,
Malencontreuse et miserable loy,
Tant à grand tort, tant tu es contre moy,
Loy sans raison miserablement forte.
                                                                            In the deepest place in my dead breast
                                                                            I feel a hand which does not kill me,
                                                                            Which as it plunders me drags with it
                                                                            My captive heart, and takes it to be its mistress.
                                                                            Iniquitous custom, wicked fate,
                                                                            Unlucky and wretched law,
                                                                            So wrongly, so much you are against me,
                                                                            Law without reason, wretchedly strong.

Amours 1.200

Les vers d’Homere entre-leus d’aventure,
Soit par destin, par rencontre ou par sort,
En ma faveur chantent tous d’un accord
La guarison du tourment que j’endure.
Ces vieux Barbus, qui la chose future
Des traits des mains, du visage et du port
Vont predisant, annoncent reconfort
Aux passions de ma peine si dure.
Mesmes la nuict, le somme qui vous met
Douce en mon lict, augure me promet
Que je verray vos fiertez adoucies :
Et que vous seule oracle de l’amour,
Verifirez en mes bras quelque jour
L’arrest fatal de tant de propheties.
                                                                            The poetry of Homer, glanced over at random,
                                                                            Whether by fate or accident or luck
                                                                            Sings all in harmony for my benefit
                                                                            The cure of the torment which I endure.
                                                                            Those bearded ancients, who future things
                                                                            Predicted by the features of hands, of the face,
                                                                            Of the way you walk, announce comfort
                                                                            For the passions of my harsh suffering.
                                                                            Even the night and sleep which place you
                                                                            Softly in my bed, make me the prophecy
                                                                            That I shall see your pride softened;
                                                                            And that you, sole oracle of love,
                                                                            Will someday make true in my arms
                                                                            The inevitable end of so many prophecies.
The idea of using ancient texts as oracles is a commonplace, though most people would think of opening the Bible at random rather than a copy of Homer! But this is all part of the learned image Ronsard wants to project – and to play with, for after all it is not so learned to resort to ancient texts at random for oracular (almost astrological) predictions…
Only one variant in Blanchemain, in the penultimate line, where Casandre “Verifirez dans mes bras…”. The change which has no impact on the meaning, only on the sound of the line, in the later version swapping out the hard ‘d’ sound of “dans” and replacing it with the soft and sensuous ‘z’ sound that comes from placing a vowel after the -ez ending of “verifirez”.

Amours 1.178

O traits fichez jusqu’au fond de mon ame,
O folle emprise, ô pensers repensez,
O vainement mes jeunes ans passez,
O miel, ô fiel, dont me repaist ma Dame :
O chaud, ô froid, qui m’englace et m’enflame,
O prompts desirs d’esperance cassez,
O douce erreur, ô pas en vain trassez,
O monts, ô rocs, que ma douleur entame !
O terre, ô mer, chaos, destins et cieux,
O nuict, ô jour, ô Manes stygieux,
O fiere ardeur, ô passion trop forte :
O vous Daimons, ô vous divins esprits,
Si quelque amour quelquefois vous a pris,
Voyez, pour Dieu, quelle peine je porte !
                                                                           O wounds fixed right in the bottom of my soul,
                                                                           O foolish influence, o thoughts re-thought,
                                                                           O my years of youth passed in vain,
                                                                           O the sweetness, the bitterness, which my Lady feeds me;
                                                                           O heat, o cold, which freeze and inflame me,
                                                                           O swift wishes for hope, now broken,
                                                                           O sweet error, o paths taken in vain,
                                                                           O hills and rocks, the beginnings of my sadness!
                                                                           O earth, sea, chaos, fate and heavens,
                                                                           O night and day, o Stygian shades,
                                                                           O proud ardour, o passion too strong;
                                                                           O fates, o divine spirits,
                                                                           If any love ever seized you,
                                                                           See, for God’s sake, the pain I bear!
A few days ago we had Ronsard’s ijitation of Gesualdo, “Ny… ny… ny…”; today, another one, this time “O… o… o…”! The bravura technical challenge is the same, and the result is too. Charming, brilliant, and yet at the same time a little tongue-in-cheek…
In line 12 I’ve translated “Daimons” as ‘fates’, since the reference seems to be more to the Greek ‘daimon’ than to the more medieval ‘demon’. But in Blanchemain’s version, the only variant is the spelling here: “O vous démons !” which translates more obviously as ‘O demons’…
Ronsard’s immediate source, as before, was Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo. To show his sophistication, Ronsard places another unrelated poem between his two imitations; going one better than Gesualdo, whose two poems follow each other directly in the Rime diverse.  Here’s the Italian original:
O viva fiamma, o miei sospiri ardenti
O miserabil duol, o spirti lassi,
O pensier d’ogni speme ignudi & cassi,
O strali nel mio cuor fieri & pungenti;
O bei desir de l’honorate menti,
O vane imprese, o dolorosi passi,
O selve, o piaggie, o fonti, o fiume, o sassi
O spietata cagion de miei tormenti:
O gloriosi allori, o verdi mirti,
O luogo un tempo à me dolce, & giocondo,
Ove io gia sparsi dilettoso canto;
O voi leggiadri, et amorosi spirti,
S’alcun vive qua giu nel basso mondo
Pietà vi prenda del mio acerbo pianto.
                                                                            O living flame, o my ardent sighs,
                                                                            O wretched grief, o fading spirits,
                                                                            O thoughts of every hope denuded and demolished,
                                                                            O proud and stinging shafts in my heart,
                                                                            O beautiful desires of honoured minds,
                                                                            O vain undertakings, o steps illed with sadness,
                                                                            O woods, o shores, o founts, o rivers, o rocks,
                                                                            O ruthless cause of my torments,
                                                                            O glorious laurels, o green myrtles,
                                                                            O place once sweet to me and happy
                                                                            Where I once scattered delightful songs,
                                                                            O you graceful and loving spirits,
                                                                            If any [of you] live down here in the base world,
                                                                            Take pity on my bitter weeping.
Notice how, in line 11, Gesualdo adapts his theme slightly by opening the line not with “O” but with “Ove” –  a neat and clever touch!
This time, both Ronsard and Gesualdo are basing their poems on a Petrarchan original (Canzoniere 161), though typically the “O” motif is used more, and more brilliantly, by the two refined, showy and definitely more sophisticated followers in the late renaissance.
O passi sparsi, o pensier’ vaghi et pronti,
O tenace memoria, o fero ardore,
O possente desire, o debil core,
O i occhi miei, occhi non già, ma fonti!
O fronde, honor de le famose fronti,
O sola insegna al gemino valore!
O faticosa vita, o dolce errore,
Che mi fate ir cercando piagge et monti!
O bel viso ove Amor inseme pose
Gli sproni e ‘l fren ond’el mi punge et volve,
Come a lui piace, et calcitrar non vale!
O anime gentili et amorose,
S’alcuna à ‘l mondo, et voi nude ombre et polve,
Deh ristate a veder quale è ‘l mio male.
                                                                            O wandering steps! O vague and busy dreams!
                                                                            O changeless memory! O fierce desire!
                                                                            O passion strong! heart weak with its own fire;
                                                                            O eyes of mine! not eyes, but living streams;
                                                                            O laurel boughs! whose lovely garland seems
                                                                            The sole reward that glory’s deeds require;
                                                                            O haunted life! delusion sweet and dire,
                                                                            That all my days from slothful rest redeems;
                                                                            O beauteous face! where Love has treasured well
                                                                            His whip and spur, the sluggish heart to move
                                                                            At his least will; nor can it find relief.
                                                                            O souls of love and passion! if ye dwell
                                                                            Yet on this earth, and ye, great Shades of Love!
                                                                            Linger, and see my passion and my grief.
                                                                            (Translation by Thomas Wentworth Higginson)

Amours 1.181

Jamais au cœur ne sera que je n’aye,
Soit que je tombe en l’oubli du cercueil,
Le souvenir du favorable accueil,
Qui reguarit et rengregea ma playe.
Cette beauté, pour qui cent morts j’essaye,
Me saluant d’un petit ris de l’œil,
Se presenta si benigne à mon dueil,
Qu’un seul regard de tous mes maux me paye.
Si donc le bien d’un esperé bon jour,
Plein de caresse, apres un long sejour,
En cent nectars mon esperance plonge,
Quel paradis m’apporteroit ce bien,
Si bras à bras d’un amoureux lien
Je la tenois tant seulement en songe ?
                                                                            Never in my heart will be that which I don’t have,
                                                                            Even if I fall into the oblivion of the coffin –
                                                                            The memory of favour and welcome
                                                                            Which cures and aggravates [Love’s] wound.
                                                                            That beauty for whom I dare a hundred deaths
                                                                            Greeted me with a little smile in her eye
                                                                            And showed herself so kind about my grief
                                                                            That one single glance repaid me for all my ills.
                                                                            If then the delight of a hoped-for greeting,
                                                                            So caressing, after a long wait
                                                                            Plunges my hopes into a hundred nectars,
                                                                            What paradise would that delight bring me
                                                                            If arm in arm in a lover’s embrace
                                                                            I could hold her – even if only in dreams? 
Sometimes I get an unexpected surprise from an unexpected direction: today’s is that this is the only poem I’ve uploaded so far – out of nearly 500! – that’s begun with “Jamais…” (‘Never…’) – which seems such an obvious opening word for a love-poet! That’s one of the many things I enjoy about Ronsard, his ability to surprise even by avoiding the obvious!  Blanchemain’s earlier version offers a number of variants, which combine to give us an attractive alternate version:
Jamais au cœur ne sera que je n’aye,
Soit que je tombe en l’oubli du cercueil,
Le souvenir du favorable accueil
Qui reguarit et rengregea ma playe ;
Car la beauté pour qui cent morts j’essaye,
Me saluant d’un petit ris de l’œil,
Si doucement satisfait à mon dueil,
Qu’un seul regard de tous mes maux me paye.
Si donc le bien d’un esperé bon-jour,
Plein de caresse, aprés un long sejour,
En cent nectars peut enivrer mon âme,
Quel paradis m’apporteroit les nuits,
Où se perdra le tout de mes ennuis,
Evanoui dans le sein de ma dame ?
                                                                            Never in my heart will be that which I don’t have,
                                                                            Even if I fall into the oblivion of the coffin –
                                                                            The memory of favour and welcome
                                                                            Which cures and aggravates [Love’s] wound,
                                                                            Because the beauty for whom I dare a hundred deaths
                                                                            Greeted me with a little smile in her eye
                                                                            And so gently met me in my grief
                                                                            That one single glance repaid me for all my ills.
                                                                            If then the delight of a hoped-for greeting,
                                                                            So caressing, after a long wait
                                                                            Can make my soul drunk with a hundred nectars,
                                                                            What paradise would night-time bring me
                                                                            In which all of my pains could be lost,
                                                                            Vanished in my lady’s breast?

de la Hèle – Mais voyez




Mais voyez mon cher esmoy


George de la Hèle (1547-86)


Le Rossignol musical … , 1598, Phalèse


(text on site here)
(blog entry here)
(listen to the score here)
(recorded extract here – source:  De Vlaamse Polyfonie 2 – Philippe Rogier in Spain, by the Currende Consort)


Another of my own transcriptions, and another 5-voice song. It’s the only Ronsard song we have from the pen of George de la Hèle – and indeed the ONLY song we have from his pen. De la Hèle was one of those unfortunate composers whose works have disappeared not just into obscurity but into ashes: he was a well-regarded pupil of Manchicourt, and became master of royal chapel of Philip II in Madrid in his early thirties, where most of his prolific output perished in the fire of 1734. What we are left with consists of a handful of scraps and a book of 8 Masses he commissioned Plantin to print (Plantin insisted de la Hèle buy 40 copies himself to make the project viable, though generously charged him only 16 florins a copy instead of 18!) The ‘scraps’ are 2 motets, and this song.

The song survives because it was printed by Phalèse in a small selection of Ronsard-song within his Rossignol musical – for which it was selected because of its fame after it won first prize at the prestigious Puy song-contest of Evreux (the ‘Puy de musique d’Evreux’) in 1576. The winner was named Prince of the Puy – and the event has been revived in recent years as the ‘Puy neuf d’Evreux’, with composers challenged to write a piece on a text used in the renaissance to win the title once again of Prince of the Puy.

The song itself is quite self-consciously sophisticated (and, as you can see, long!), but nonetheless attractive. Note the long notes on ‘angelicque face’, and the runs on ‘jouissance’ etc – madrigalian word-painting in the Italian style. Sadly, it has never been recorded by singers, though I have a recording of the first part only played by an ‘alta capella’ consort of ‘loud’ instruments such as might have entertained the crowds at the Puy d’Evreux. The extract runs from the top of p4 of the score (“vostre front et voz cheveux” in the contra) to around bar 43 at the foot of the next page.

A couple of other facts about the composer: after his early success he died young, before he was 40, for reasons unknown; but not before he had married a lady apparently named Madelena Guabaelaraoen (I imagine she was quite pleased to swap surnames…!)



Mais voyez_0001
Mais voyez_0002
Mais voyez_0003
Mais voyez_0004
Mais voyez_0005
Mais voyez_0006
Mais voyez_0007
Mais voyez_0008
Mais voyez_0009seconde partie
Mais voyez_0010
Mais voyez_0011
Mais voyez_0012
Mais voyez_0013
Mais voyez_0014
Mais voyez_0015
Mais voyez_0016
Mais voyez_0017
Mais voyez_0018
Mais voyez_0019

For your reference and enjoyment, here are the original pages from the Rossignol musical, as made freely available by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France on its Gallica website.


rossignolsuperius GdlH-S1 GdlH-S2 GdlH-S3 GdlH-S4contra GdlH-C1GdlH-C2 GdlH-C3 GdlH-C4quinta GdlH-Q1 GdlH-Q2 GdlH-Q3 GdlH-Q4tenor GdlH-T1 GdlH-T2 GdlH-T3 GdlH-T4bassus GdlH-B1 GdlH-B2 GdlH-B3 GdlH-B4






Amours 1.176

Ny les desdains d’une Nymphe si belle,
Ny le plaisir de me fondre en langueur,
Ny la fierté de sa douce rigueur,
Ny contre Amour sa chasteté rebelle :
Ny le penser de trop penser en elle,
Ny de mes yeux l’eternelle liqueur,
Ny mes souspirs messagers de mon cœur,
Ny de sa glace une ardeur eternelle :
Ny le desir qui me lime et me mord,
Ny voir escrite en ma face la mort,
Ny les erreurs d’une longue complainte,
Ne briseront mon cœur de diamant,
Que sa beauté n’y soit tousjours emprainte :
« Belle fin fait qui meurt en bien aimant.
                                                                            Not the disdain of so fair a nymph,
                                                                            Not the pleasure of melting into listlessness,
                                                                            Not the pride of her sweet harshness,
                                                                            Not her chasteness, rebelling against love;
                                                                            Not the thought of thinking too much about her,
                                                                            Not the eternal weeping of my eyes,
                                                                            Not my sighs, messengers of my heart,
                                                                            Not eternal passion for her icy-ness;
                                                                            Not desire which traps me and gnaws at me,
                                                                            Not seeing death written in my face,
                                                                            Not the mistakes of a long lament;
                                                                            These will not break my diamond-hard heart
                                                                            And prevent her beauty forever being stamped there:
                                                                            “A fair ending he makes who dies loving truly.”
It’s quite unusual to find Ronsard so single-minded as in the way he begins the first 11 lines of this poem (which I’ve replicated in the translation); but that is partly because he is deliberately copying (or translating) another poem which attempts the same effect in Italian. Before we go there, a couple of variants in Blanchemain’s edition:  in line 6, “la fatale liqueur” (‘the death-dealing weeping…’); and in line 8 “Ny de ma flamme une ardeur eternelle” which necessitates a revised translation of the whole line – ‘Not the eternal heat of my fire’.
Ronsard’s original, as so often in his selection of Italian poets for translation, is not Petrarch himself but one of the sixteenth-century Petrarchist followers. In this case it is Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo, expert in Greek and Latin, poet in the Petrarchist vein and a commentator on Petrarch. Born in 1496, his poetry was published in a collected edition in 1585, but it is not clear whether he was still alive at the time. (As far as I know, unrelated to the more famous Carlo Gesualdo, composer of the late 16th century.)  Ronsard’s source was (probably) the ‘Rime diverse di molti eccellentissimi auttori…’ of 1545.  Both Ronsard and Gesualdo quote from Petrarch himself in the last line, a line which had become proverbial. Here’s Gesualdo’s poem:
Ne di selvaggio cuor feroce sdegno,
Ne crude voglie nel mio danno accorte,
Ne il veder già le mie speranze morte,
Ne il lungo affanno lagrimoso e ‘ndengno;
Ne ‘l guasto al viver mio fido sostegno,
Ne il girne ratto inanzi tempo a morte,
Ne pensier ch’a me sol tormento apporte,
Ne ‘l mal inteso mio desir sì degno;
Ne la spenta mia dolce usata aita,
Ne il mai qua giù sentito, aspro dolore,
Onde io m’appresso a l’ultima partita;
Ne altro fia che ‘l mio primiero ardore,
Spenga giamai mentre dimoro in vita;
Che bel fin fa, chi ben amando muore.
                                                                            Not the fierce anger of a wild heart,
                                                                            Nor crude desires nor my prudent injury,
                                                                            Nor seeing my hopes already dead,
                                                                            Nor long sorrow, tearful and unworthy;
                                                                            Not my failure to keep alive my faithfulness,
                                                                            Nor time, stolen before, running away to death,
                                                                            Nor the thought which to me alone brings torment,
                                                                            Nor my desire, so worthy but misunderstood,
                                                                            Nor my sweet life, spent and used up,
                                                                            Nor the ills I suffer down here, the bitter pain,
                                                                            Whence I press on to my final parting;
                                                                            These will not make it any different from my first love,
                                                                            Nor make it die while I remain alive:
                                                                            “What a fine end he makes, who dies loving truly.”




A ce malheur qui jour et nuit me poingt
Et qui ravit ma jeune liberté,
Dois-je tousjours obeïr en ce poinct,
Ne recevant que toute cruauté ?
       Je sens
       Mes sens
    Et mon mal redoubler.
Cest or frizé, et le lys de son teint,
Sous un Soleil doublement esclaircy,
Ont tellement mes moüelles attaint,
Que je me voy déja presque transi.
    Son œil ardant,
       En moy
       Du feu,
    Me brusle peu à peu.
Je cognois bien, mais helas ! c’est trop tard,
Que le meurtrier de ma franche raison,
S’est escoulé par l’huys de mon regard,
Pour me brasser ceste amere poison :
    Je n’eus qu’ennuis
       Le jour
       Au cœur
    M’inspira sa rigueur.
Et nonobstant (cruelle) que je meurs,
En observant une saincte amitié,
Il ne te chaut de toutes mes clameurs,
Qui te devroient inciter à pitié.
    Vien donc, Archer
       Le pas,
    Me guider au trespas !
Ny mes esprits honteusement discrets,
Ny le travail que j’ay pour t’adorer,
Larmes, souspirs et mes aspres regrets
Ne te sçauroient, (Dame) trop inspirer,
    Si quelquefois,
       Tu vois
       A l’œil
       Le dueil
       Que j’ay,
    Pour l’amoureux essay.
Quelqu’un sera de la proye preneur,
Que j’ay long-temps par cy-devant chassé,
Sans meriter joüira de cet heur,
Qui a si fort mon esprit harassé.
    C’est trop servy,
       Du mal
       Je veux
    Concevoir autres vœux.
Quelque lourdaut, ou quelque gros valet,
Seul à l’escart de mon heur joüissant,
Luy tastera son ventre rondelet,
Et de son sein le pourpre rougissant.
    De nuict, de jour,
       Me fait
       Ce fait
    Et me sert d’un Enfer.
Or je voy bien qu’il me convient mourir
Sans esperer aucun allegement,
Puis qu’à ma mort tu prens si grand plaisir,
Ce m’est grand heur et grand contentement,
    Me submettant,
       Qu’à tort
       La Mort
    Me ravit par despit.
This pain which stabs me day and night
And which steals away the freedom of my youth,
Must I always obey it on this point
Though receiving only cruelty?
       I sense
       My senses
    And my pain redoubled.
These golden curls, and the lilies of her complexion,
Beneath a sun shining doubly-clear
Have struck me to the core so far
That I feel myself almost dead.
    Her burning eye,
       At me
       The pain
       Of fire
    Burns me little by little.
I realise, but oh too late,
That the murderer of my cool reason
Has escaped through the portal of my eyes
To brew for me this bitter poison.
    I have had only worries
       The day
       Into my heart
    Breathed her harshness.
And though I may die, cruel one,
Preserving this holy friendship
All my cries will not bother you
Though they should move you to pity.
    Come then, Archer-god
       So dear to me,
       Your speed,
    To guide me to death.
Neither my shy and modest spirits,
Nor the trouble it causes me to love you,
Not tears, sighs and bitter regrets –
None of these, my lady, will be able to move you as much
    As if sometimes
       You see
       In my eyes
       The pain
       Which I gain
    Through love’s trial.
Some other hunter it will be who takes
The prey that I’ve been coursing up to now;
Without deserving, he’ll enjoy that pleasure
Which has so fiercely tortured my soul.
    It’s no use;
       By fatal
       I will
    Pursue other vows of love.
Some dolt or gross servant
Alone, apart, mocking my fortune,
Will caress her rounded belly
And the blushing crimson of her breast.
    By night and day
       Makes me
       This truth
    And makes my life a hell.
I clearly see that I ought to die
Without a hope of lessened pain;
Since my death gives you such great pleasure,
Then it will be a great happiness and great pleasure
    Submitting myself,
       In spite
    Steals my spirit.
Appended by Marty-Laveaux to what he calls an “Autre recueil de sonnets” (‘Another collection of sonnets’), although as you may note it is not a sonnet, this is yet another piece culled from the main texts by Ronsard.  Blanchemain’s text is identical. This was another poem which inspired contemporary composers.