Amours 1.186

Je m’asseuroy qu’au changement des cieux,
Cet an nouveau romproit ma destinée,
Et que sa trace en serpent retournée
Adouciroit mon travail soucieux :
Mais puis qu’il est neigeux et pluvieux,
Baignant son front d’une humide journee,
Cela me dit qu’au cours de cette annee
J’escouleray ma vie par les yeux.
O toy qui es de moy la quinte essence,
De qui l’humeur sur la mienne a puissance,
Ou de tes yeux serene mes douleurs,
Ou bien les miens alambique en fontaine,
Pour estoufer mon amour et ma peine
Dans le ruisseau qui naistra de mes pleurs.
                                                                            I am certain, when the skies change,
                                                                            That this new year will cut short my misfortune
                                                                            And its track, twisting like a serpent,
                                                                            Will soften my care-filled troubles;
                                                                            But while it is snowy and raining,
                                                                            Bathing its brow with wet days,
                                                                            That tells me that in the course of the year
                                                                            I shall give away my life through my eyes.
                                                                            You who are my very being,
                                                                            Whose mood has power over mine,
                                                                            Either soothe away my grief with your eyes
                                                                            Or distil my [eyes] into a spring,
                                                                            To drown my love and my pain
                                                                            In the stream which is born from my tears.
Another turning of the seasons poem, nicely capturing the way the weather sways our convictions! I like the simplicity of ‘when the skies change’ in line 1; though the word is the same as the poetic ‘heavens’, nothing changes about heaven from year to year – I think here Ronsard is looking at the simple meaning not the poetic image. I’ve adapted the mediaeval medicine of the first tercet: she is literally his ‘quintessence’, the mystical fifth essence (beyond earth, air, fire and water), and her ‘humour’ controls his own; while we might translate ‘humour’ as ‘temperament (traditionally there were four temperaments – choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic) more precisely it means one of the four body fluids blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile.
I should also draw attention to the verbs in lines 11-12 – “serene” and “alambique”. ‘Serene’ is of course an adjective, ‘alembic‘ a noun (a flask or bottle used in distilling), but Ronsard craftily converts them to verb-forms which have exactly the same orthography as the adjective/noun forms.  A strict translation might be
                Either serene away my grief with your eyes
                Or ‘still my [eyes] into a spring ….     (with ‘still pretending to be a shortening of ‘distil’ )
Blanchemain offers a couple of minor variants. At the beginning of the second quatrain he has
Mais, puis qu’il tourne en un rond pluvieux
Ses fronts lavés d’une humide journée …
                                                                            But while it turns in its rainy round
                                                                            Its brow soaked by wet days, …
and in  line 9 varying the ‘filler’ syllable at the beginning of the line: Blanchemain has “Las!” (‘Ah!’) instead of “O”…

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')

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