Amours 1.211

Si blond si beau, comme est une toison
Qui mon dueil tue et mon plaisir renforce,
Ne fut oncq l’or, que les toreaux par force
Aux champs de Mars donnerent à Jason.
De ceux qui Tyr ont choisi pour maison,
Si fine soye au mestier ne fut torce :
Ny mousse au bois ne revestit escorce
Si tendre qu’elle en la prime saison.
Poil digne d’estre aux testes des Deesses,
Puis que pour moy tes compagnons tu laisses,
Je sens ramper l’esperance en mon cueur :
Courage Amour, desja la ville est prise,
Lors qu’en deux parts, mutine, se divise,
Et qu’une part se vient rendre au veinqueur.
                                                                            So blond, so beautiful, as the locks
                                                                            Which kill my grief and strengthen my pleasure,
                                                                            Was never that gold which the bulls gave
                                                                            By force to Jason in the fields of Mars.
                                                                            By those who chose Tyre as their home
                                                                            Has no such fine silk been twisted in their work ;
                                                                            No moss which clothes bark in the woods
                                                                            Is so tender as this early in the season.
                                                                            Hair worthy of being on the heads of the goddesses,
                                                                            Since you have left your companions for me
                                                                            I feel hope building in my heart ;
                                                                            Courage, Love – the town is already taken
                                                                            Since it has rebelliously divided itself into two parts
                                                                            And one part has just handed itself to the conqueror.
My, what contorted grammar throughout: quite often you have to read two or three lines before the meaning emerges clearly. The opening for instance: “si blond si beau” could easily mean ‘She’s as blond as she is beautiful’ – but then line 3 forces a re-think. The references are almost simple by comparison:  Jason of course gained the golden fleece – but not directly from the bulls. It was Aeëtes (Medea’s father) who promised him the fleece if he would just plough his fields using the fire-breathing, brass-hooved bulls); and the result of ploughing the fields was not winning the fleece, but reaping the fruit of the dragons’ teeth, an army of soldiers. Only then, and after further skullduggery, was Jason able to obtain the fleece (by theft!)  ‘By force’, incidentally – though Ronsard’s usage is no less ambiguous – means that the bulls were forced by Jason to do his will.
The second quatrain refers to the fabled qualities of Tyrian purple – again, Ronsard’s image is deliberately oblique, since it was the colour of Tyrian cloth, not its innate qualities or those of its workmanship, that were valued. (Tyrian purple was a dye extracted from sea-snails, which actually improves its colour and brightness with exposure to air , rather than fading. It is estimated that “twelve thousand snails of Murex brandaris yield no more than 1.4 g of pure dye, enough to colour only the trim of a single garment.” No wonder that purple sold for its weight in silver. It is this value that Ronsard indirectly alludes to: though inevitably only the finest cloths, too, would be dyed with such expensive colour. Here, “Tyr” is the city of Tyre (hence, ‘Tyrian’ (or Phoenician) purple), no relation to the Norse god of the same name.
In the earlier version Blanchemain prints a minor variant in line 5 “qui Tyr ont esleu …” (‘those who elected to live in Tyre’); and a different form of line 9 “Poil folleton où nichent mes liesses” (‘Wild hair where my joys lodge’). He adds an admonitory footnote, that this sonnet is not about Cassandre, i.e. that Ronsard ‘re-used’ an earlier sonnet.

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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