Amours 1.190

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Tousjours l’erreur qui seduit les Menades,
Ne deçoit pas leurs cerveaux estonnez :
Tousjours au son des cornets entonnez
Les monts Troyens ne foulent de gambades.
 
Tousjours le Dieu des vineuses Thyades
N’affolle pas leurs cœurs espoinçonnez,
Et quelquefois leurs esprits forcenez
Cessent leur rage, et ne sont plus malades.
 
Le Corybante a quelquefois repos,
Et le Curet sous les armes dispos,
Ne sent tousjours le Tan de sa Deesse :
 
Mais la fureur de celle qui me joint,
En patience une heure ne me laisse,
Et de ses yeux tousjours le cœur me poind.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Not always does the error which led the Maenads astray
                                                                            Deceive their stunned brains;
                                                                            Not always to the sound of braying trumpets
                                                                            Do they throng the Trojan hills with their capers;
 
                                                                            Not always does the god of the wine-soaked Thyades
                                                                            Madden their excited hearts,
                                                                            And sometimes their frenzied minds
                                                                            Cease their madness, and are ill no more.
 
                                                                            The Corybant sometimes rests,
                                                                            And the Curete, under arms,
                                                                            Does not always feel the mark of her goddess;
 
                                                                            But the madness for her which encloses me
                                                                            Leaves me not an hour at peace,
                                                                            And with her eyes my heart always wounds me. 
 
 
Ronsard’s “tousjours” I have translated as ‘always’ – but there is a subsidiary meaning in the French which only gets eliminated towards the end, which is ‘still’ – ‘the Maenads are not still running around the hills of Troy, the Thyades are no longer maddened…’ But with the sestet it becomes clear that he is not contrasting ‘then’ and ‘now’, but ‘not always’ and ‘always’. (Incidentally, while “tousjours … ne” works in French, ‘always doesn’t’ seems to me to mean something slightly different from ‘doesn’t always’ in English!)
 
What of all these names? The Maenads are famous from Euripides’ play of the same name: followers of Dionysus/Bacchus, as were the ‘wine-soaked Thyades’. Maenads (=’maddened ones’) certainly came from or worshipped in the hills, but not specifically Trojan hills. Both were known for the frenzy of their celebrations, ecstatic dancing leading to trance and the loss of inhibition – often leading to violent excess. Corybants were followers of Cybele (another Asian goddess – the Greeks always viewed Asia with suspicion), and Curetes of Rhea – who is often in turn associated with Cybele. They too were known for their ecstatic rites, or as Muret footnotes it ‘when they sacrificed they were seized by a madness which made them run, shout & jump as if out of their minds’.
 
Minor variants in Blanchemain: here’s the whole poem again to avoid a string of picky amendments. Note how in lines 2 and 7 this earlier version had in-line alliteration which Ronsard later chose to make much more subtle by simply switching the words.
 
 
Tousjours l’erreur qui seduit les Ménades
Ne deçoit pas leurs esprits estonnez ;
Toujours au son des cornets entonnez
Les monts troyens ne foulent de gambades.
 
Tousjours le Dieu des vineuses Thyades
N’affolle pas leurs cœurs espoinçonnez,
Et quelquefois leurs cerveaux forcenez
Cessent leur rage, et ne sont plus malades.
 
Le Corybante a quelquefois repos,
Et le Curet, sous les armes dispos,
Sent par saisons le tan de sa déesse ;
 
Mais la fureur de celle qui me joint
En patience une heure ne me laisse,
Et de ses yeux tousjours le cœur me point.
 
 
                                                                            Not always does the error which led the Maenads astray
                                                                            Deceive their stunned minds;
                                                                            Not always to the sound of braying trumpets
                                                                            Do they throng the Trojan hills with their capers;
 
                                                                            Not always does the god of the wine-soaked Thyades
                                                                            Madden their excited hearts,
                                                                            And sometimes their frenzied brains
                                                                            Cease their madness, and are ill no more.
 
                                                                            The Corybant sometimes rests,
                                                                            And the Curete, under arms,
                                                                            From time to time feels the mark of her goddess;
 
                                                                            But the madness for her which encloses me
                                                                            Leaves me not an hour at peace,
                                                                            And with her eyes my heart always wounds me.
 
 
 Blanchemain also offers us a variant of the final tercet:
 
Mais la beauté qui me pousse en erreur
En patience une heure ne me laisse :
« Le sang qui boust est toujours en fureur. »
 
                                                                            But the beauty which drives me to errors
                                                                            Leaves me not an hour at peace:
                                                                            “The blood which boils is always maddened.” 
 
 
 
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