Monthly Archives: August 2015

Amours 1.215

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De ses Maris, l’industrieuse Heleine,
L’esguille en main retraçoit les combas
Dessus sa toile : en ce poinct tu t’esbas
D’ouvrer le mal duquel ma vie est pleine.
 
Mais tout ainsi, Maistresse, que ta leine
Et ton fil noir desseignent mon trespas,
Tout au rebours pourquoy ne peins-tu pas
De quelque verd un espoir à ma peine ?
 
Mon œil ne voit sur ta gaze rangé
Sinon du noir, sinon de l’orangé,
Tristes tesmoins de ma longue souffrance.
 
O fier destin ! son œil ne me desfait
Tant seulement, mais tout ce qu’elle fait,
Ne me promet qu’une desesperance.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Her husbands’ battles the industrious Helen,
                                                                            Needle in hand, retraced
                                                                            Upon her cloth; in the same way you enjoy yourself
                                                                            Laying open the pain with which my life is filled.
 
                                                                            But even as, mistress, your wool
                                                                            And your black thread depict my death,
                                                                            Instead why do you not paint
                                                                            With some green a hope in my pain?
 
                                                                            My eyes see nothing arrayed upon your gauze
                                                                            But black and orange colours,
                                                                            Sad witnesses of my long suffering.
 
                                                                            O proud fate! Her eyes do not defeat me
                                                                            By themselves, but everything that she does
                                                                            Promises me nothing but despair.
 
 
 
The allusion to a wife embroidering a husband’s battles perhaps brings more readily to mind Penelope making (and un-making) her tapestry while awaiting the return of Odysseus in Homer’s epic. But here it is the dutiful Helen (hardly our image of her!) who is sitting weaving. The scene comes from Iliad book 3, where the rainbow goddess Iris comes as messenger of the gods to Helen, and finds her weaving scenes of the Trojan War which (Helen recognises) is a fight for possession of her. (Her husband at this point is Paris, though Iris instils a longing for her former husband Menelaus – another reason for Ronsard to speak of her weaving both husbands’ battles … )
 
Of course the precise details are not the point: Ronsard merely needs the image of a wife weaving her husband’s tale – to contrast it with his own tale of woe being woven by Cassandre.
 
Blanchemain’s earlier version differs in a number of details. In line 1, technically both Achaeans and Trojans were ‘Greeks’, although we tend to think of it as a war between ‘Greeks’ and ‘Trojans’. In line 3 Ronsard replaces the vaguely-mediaeval ‘gauze’ with the more common ‘cloth’; and in line 6 also he opts for less recondite words in his later version.
 
 
Des maris grecs l’industrieuse Heleine,
L’aiguille en main retraçoit les combas ;
Dessus ta gaze en ce poinct tu t’esbas,
Traçant le mal duquel ma vie est pleine.
 
Mais tout ainsi, Maistresse, que ta leine
D’un filet noir figure mon trespas,
Tout au rebours pourquoy ne peins-tu pas
De quelque verd un espoir à ma peine ?
 
Las ! je ne vois sur ta gaze rangé
Sinon du noir, sinon de l’orangé,
Tristes tesmoins de ma longue souffrance.
 
O fier destin ! son œil ne me desfait
Tant seulement, mais tout ce qu’elle fait,
Ne me promet qu’une desesperance.
 
 
                                                                            Her Greek husbands’ battles the industrious Helen,
                                                                            Needle in hand, retraced ;
                                                                            Upon your gauze in the same way you enjoy yourself
                                                                            Drawing the pain with which my life is filled.
 
                                                                            But even as, mistress, your wool
                                                                            With its black thread represents my death,
                                                                            Instead why do you not paint
                                                                            With some green a hope in my pain?
 
                                                                            Alas, I see nothing arrayed upon your gauze
                                                                            But black and orange colours,
                                                                            Sad witnesses of my long suffering.
 
                                                                            O proud fate! Her eyes do not defeat me
                                                                            By themselves, but everything that she does
                                                                            Promises me nothing but despair.
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

Amours 1.203

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Celuy qui fist le monde façonné
Sur le compas de son parfait exemple,
Le couronnant des voûtes de son temple,
M’a par destin ton esclave ordonné.
 
Comme l’esprit qui saintement est né
Pour voir son Dieu, quand sa face il contemple,
Plus heureux bien, recompense plus ample
Que de le voir, ne luy est point donné ;
 
Ainsi je pers ma peine coustumiere,
Quand à longs traits j’œillade la lumiere
De ton bel œil, chef-d’œuvre nompareil.
 
Voila pourquoy, quelque part qu’il sejourne,
Tousjours vers luy maugré moy je me tourne,
Comme un Souci aux rayons du Soleil.
 
 
 
                                                                            He who made the world fashioned
                                                                            On the measure of his perfect example,
                                                                            Crowning it with the vaults of his temple,
                                                                            Has ordained me by fate as your slave.
 
                                                                            Like a spirit which is born holy
                                                                            To see its God, when it contemplates His face
                                                                            Is given no greater good, no repayment
                                                                            More ample, than to see Him;
 
                                                                            Just so I lose my accustomed pain
                                                                            When in long draughts I drink in the light
                                                                            Of your fair eye, an unequalled masterpiece.
 
                                                                            That is why, wherever it is,
                                                                            I always despite myself turn towards it
                                                                            As a marigold turns to the rays of the sun.
 
 
 
 As Muret tells us, this poem is ‘almost a translation of Bembo’s sonnet‘ (below); and, this time, this is more literally true than elsewhere when Ronsard borrows ideas but offers a different poem.  Here Ronsard’s poem – while clearly a Ronsard poem, and with ‘in-fill’ which is his own – remains faithfully very close to the original.
 
Here’s Bembo – rime 38:
 
L’alta cagion, che da principio diede
A le cose create ordine e stato,
Dispose ch’io v’amassi e dielmi in fato,
Per far di sé col mondo exemplo e fede.
 
Che sì come virtù da lei procede,
Che ‘l tempra e regge, e come è sol beato
A cui per grazia il contemplarla è dato,
Et essa è d’ogni affanno ampia mercede,
 
Così ‘l sostegno mio da voi mi vene
Od in atti cortesi od in parole,
E sol felice son, quand’io vi miro.
 
Né maggior guiderdon de le mie pene
Posso aver di voi stessa, ond’io mi giro
Pur sempre a voi, come elitropio al sole.
 
 
                                                                            The high Cause, who from the beginning gave
                                                                            To created things their order and station,
                                                                            Arranged that I should love you and handed me to the fates
                                                                            To make of this an example of faithfulness for the world.
 
                                                                            That, as virtue flows from Him
                                                                            Who tempers and rules it, and as it is with the blessed sun,
                                                                            So by Him the gift of looking upon her is given by grace,
                                                                            And she is the ample reward for all labour;
 
                                                                            So, my support comes to me from you
                                                                            Whether in acts of courtesy or in words,
                                                                            And I am only happy when I gaze upon you.
 
                                                                            No greater reward for my troubles
                                                                            Could I have from you yourself, hence I turn myself
                                                                            Always and only toward you, as the heliotrope does the sun.
 
 
That did not stop Ronsard improving his version between editions! In Blanchemain’s edition, lines 6- 7 read “quand sa face il contemple, / De tous maux un salaire plus ample …” (‘when it contemplates His face, / For all its troubles no greater payment / Than to see Him is given to it.’)
 

 

 
 
 
 
 

Janequin – Pourquoy tournés vous

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Title

Pourquoy tournés vous voz yeux

Composer

Clément Janequin

Source

Huitiesme Livre de Chansons, published by Le Roy & Ballard, 1557

(text on Lieder.net site here)
(blog entry here)
(listen to the score here)
(recording here – source: Janequin – La Chasse & autres chansons, Ensemble Clément Janequin)

By coincidence (I guess!) the two Ronsard texts chosen by Sweelinck are also the only two Ronsard texts in the 1575 edition of the 8th book of songs published by Le Roy and Ballard. This is one of those books which, in its various editions, saw songs come and go: the full listing is on the ‘sources’ page. It’s faintly odd that in the mid-1570s, when volumes devoted (almost) entirely to Ronsard song were very much the fashion, Le Roy and Ballard actually reduced the number of Ronsard songs included in the new edition of their 8th book!

My transcription uses the 1557 S-T-B parts which are on Gallica, and the 1559 Contra (where the word underlay is fractionally different – I’ve standardised it here) which I enjoyed handling in the British Library. The tiny size of the book caught me by surprise – the pages are much smaller than a modern postcard.

Janequin’s setting – nearly 50 years older than Sweelinck’s! – naturally sounds old-fashioned beside it. Long stretches of homophony, relieved by patches of polyphony; a much less consistent (or insistent) use of melodic ‘themes’. But Janequin does play with triple-rhythm at several points, though in a way which is less audible in performance than it is visible in the score…  The selection I’ve chosen includes a couple of these triple-time segments.

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Sweelinck – Plus tu cognois

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Title

Plus tu cognois que je brusle pour toy

Composer

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

Source

Chansons a cinc parties de M. Jean Pierre Svvelingh, 1594

 

(text on Lieder.net site here)
(blog entry here)
(listen to the score here)
(recording here – source: Sweelinck, The Secular Vocal Works, Gesualdo Consort Amsterdao)

 

Here’s the other Sweelinck setting of Ronsard. Little to add to my previous comments on Sweelinck – though you might note the way the opening melodic phrase is picked up and repeated (again and again) very precisely in each voice – a move towards baroque fugue technique, beyond the looser approaches of the renaissance fuga. Sweelinck also delivers a fabulous cadence at bar 40, where the newly-departing phrase manages to take off without in any way diminishing the power of the ‘minor’ feeling as the previous one finishes. Ravishing! (That ‘minor’ mood was also clear in the previous Sweelinck piece – another sign of his move towards baroque tonality and away from renaissance ‘modes’.)

Incidentally, this text is one of the most popular among Ronsard’s composers – the first time we’ve had it here, but plenty more to come…

 

 

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Amours 1.219

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Depuis le jour que captif je souspire,
Comme un serpent l’an s’est tourné sept fois :
(Sous astre tel je pris l’haim) toutesfois
Plus qu’au premier ma fiévre me martire.
 
Quand je soulois en mon estude lire
Du Florentin les lamentables vois,
Comme incredule alors je ne pouvois
En le mocquant, me contenir de rire.
 
Je ne pensoy, tant novice j’estoy,
Qu’homme eust senti ce que je ne sentoy,
Et par mon fait les autres je jugeoye.
 
Mais l’Archerot qui de moy se facha,
Pour me punir un tel traict me cacha
Dedans le cœur, qu’onque puis je n’eus joye.
 
 
 
                                                                            Since the day I sighed in captivity
                                                                            The year has turned, like a serpent, seven times :
                                                                            Beneath such a star I hooked myself. Yet
                                                                            More than at first my fever tortures me.
 
                                                                            When I used to read in my study
                                                                            The Florentine’s lamenting voice,
                                                                            Like a disbeliever then I could not,
                                                                            Mocking him, restrain my laughter.
 
                                                                            I did not think, such a novice was I,
                                                                            That man could have felt what I did not feel,
                                                                            And by my actions I judged others.
 
                                                                            But the little Archer, angry with me,
                                                                            To punish me buried such a wound
                                                                            Within my heart that since then I’ve had no happiness.
 
 
 
Perhaps this is the nearest Ronsard gets to admitting that he set out complaining about the fashion for frivolous love sonnets, and writing classical odes instead, but then ended up writing this collection of over 200 to establish himself!
 
The ‘Florentine’ of line 6 is of course Petrarch, born in Arezzo but brought up just outside Florence.
 
In revising his earlier version, Ronsard very neatly made one change in each ‘stanza’ [though to be fair one is really only a minor change in the mood of a verb]. All are only changes of detail, though each is a small but valuable improvement. So here’s the whole poem again in that earlier version:
 
 
Depuis le jour que captif je souspire,
L’an dedans soi s’est tourné sept fois :
(Sous astre tel je pris l’haim) toutesfois
Plus qu’au premier ma fiévre me martire.
 
Quand je soulois en ma jeunesse lire
Du Florentin les lamentables vois,
Comme incredule alors je ne pouvois
En Ie mocquant, me contenir de rire.
 
Je ne pensois, tant novice j’estoy,
Qu’homme eust senti ce que je ne sentoy,
Et par mon fait les autres je jugeoye.
 
Mais l’Archerot qui de moy se facha,
Pour me punir un tel soin me cacha
Dedans le cœur, qu’onque puis je n’eus joye.
 
 
 
                                                                            Since the day I sighed in captivity
                                                                            The year upon itself has turned seven times :
                                                                            Beneath such a star I hooked myself. Yet
                                                                            More than at first my fever tortures me.
 
                                                                            When I used to read in my youth
                                                                            The Florentine’s lamenting voice,
                                                                            Like a disbeliever then I could not,
                                                                            Mocking him, restrain my laughter.
 
                                                                            I did not think, such a novice was I,
                                                                            That man could have felt what I did not feel,
                                                                            And by my actions I judged others.
 
                                                                            But the little Archer, angry with me,
                                                                            To punish me buried such care
                                                                            Within my heart that since then I’ve had no happiness.
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.216

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Amour, que j’aime à baiser les beaux yeux
De ma maistresse, et à tordre en ma bouche
De ses cheveux l’or fin qui s’escarmouche
Dessus son front astré comme les cieux !
 
C’est à mon gré le meilleur de son mieux
Que son bel œil, qui jusqu’au cœur me touche,
Dont le beau nœud d’un Scythe plus farouche
Rendroit le cœur courtois et gracieux.
 
Son beau poil d’or, et ses sourcis encore
De leurs beautez font vergoingner l’Aurore,
Quand au matin elle embellit le jour.
 
Dedans son œil une vertu demeure,
Qui va jurant par les fleches d’Amour
De me guarir : mais je ne m’en asseure.
 
 
 
                                                                            Love, how I love kissing the beautiful eyes
                                                                            Of my mistress, and twisting in my mouth
                                                                            The fine gold of her hair which skirmishes
                                                                            Over her brow, starry like the heavens!
 
                                                                            In my opinion, the best of her best
                                                                            Is her fair eye, which touches me deep in my heart,
                                                                            And her fair Scythian knot, still wilder,
                                                                            Makes my heart courteous and graceful.
 
                                                                            Her fair golden hair, her eyebrows too
                                                                            With their beauties make the Dawn blush
                                                                            When in the morning she beautifies the day.
 
                                                                            Within her eye lives a power
                                                                            Which keeps swearing by Love’s arrows
                                                                            To cure me; but I won’t rely on it.
 
 
 
Again, Ronsard takes tropes he’s ued and re-used many times, and makes something fresh and vibrant out of them. I do like this poem, and the ending especially wraps up a marvellous complex of feelings both positive and negative about the condition of love in just a few words.
 
 Although the earlier version shares a recognisable set of ideas with this later version, in detail it is a different poem! (Fortunately, the different opening words signal there’s change to watch out for.) Note how some re-punctuation around line 7’s Scythian completely shifts the meaning.
 
 
Mon Dieu, que j’aime à baiser les beaux yeux
De ma maistresse, et à tordre en ma bouche
De ses cheveux l’or fin qui s’escarmouche
Si gayement dessus deux petits cieux !
 
C’est à mon gré ce qui lui sied le mieux
Que ce bel œil, qui jusqu’au cœur me touche,
Et ce beau poil, qui d’un Scythe farouche
Prendroit le cœur en ses plis gracieux.
 
Ses longs cheveux, et ses sourcis encore
De leurs beautez font vergongner l’Aurore,
Quand plus crineuse elle embellit le ciel,
 
Et dans cet œil je ne sais quoi demeure
Qui me peut faire en amour à toute heure
Le sucre fiel et le riagas miel. 
 
 
                                                                            My god, how I love kissing the beautiful eyes
                                                                            Of my mistress, and twisting in my mouth
                                                                            The fine gold of her hair which skirmishes
                                                                            So gaily above those two small heavens.
 
                                                                            In my opinion, the things which suit her best,
                                                                            Are that fair eye, which touches me deep in my heart,
                                                                            And that beautiful hair, which would seize the heart
                                                                            Of a wild Scythian in its graceful folds.
 
                                                                            Her long hair, her eyebrows too
                                                                            With their beauties make the Dawn blush
                                                                            When with hair spread wide she beautifies the sky.
 
                                                                            And in that eye lives some unknown
                                                                            Bitter sugar and honey-sweet poison
                                                                            Which can make me be in love all the time. 
 
 
Blanchemain also offers us another complete re-write of the final tercet, from 1587 (Marty-Laveaux’s is the 1584 text), which shows that Ronsard never really felt any of his poems, even the delightfully-good ones, were a finished statement:
 
En son œil vole une image vestue
D’aile et de traits : je croy que c’est Amour,
Je le cognois, il me blesse, il me tue. 
 
                                                                            In her eye floats an image clothed
                                                                            With wings and barbs; I believe it is Love,
                                                                            I recognise him – he wounds me, he kills me.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sweelinck – Pourquoy tournez vous

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Title

Pourquoy tournez vouz voz yeux

Composer

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

Source

Chansons a cinc parties de M. Jean Pierre Svvelingh, 1594

 

(text on Lieder.net site here)
(blog entry here)
(listen to the score here)
(recording here – source: Sweelinck, The Secular Vocal Works, Gesualdo Consort Amsterdao)

 

Time for a new composer and a new source. Sweelinck is someone we tend to think of as ‘early Baroque’, mainly because of his forward-looking organ works. It’s odd to see him in company with people who are clearly NOT baroque – yet that is the reality of Sweelinck. As is the fact that his keyboard music is a small (and in some ways unrepresentative) fraction of his total output, in a recent ‘complete’ edition around 7CDs compared with around 17CDs of vocal music (two-thirds of it psalm settings).

The vocal music is much ‘closer’ to its pre-baroque contemporaries, as the settings of Ronsard show. Even so, the vocal settings show forward-looking ideas: in this one, for instance, the voices enter one by one over a remarkably long span of time, rather than (e.g.) in pairs or sequentially but much closer together; and the quinta and bassus effectively act together as the ‘bass line’, a fine and sonorous support for the 3 lines above which, in turn, already show something of the ‘melody plus accompaniment’ style developing into the baroque.

As the title page shows, though Sweelinck wrote in the French style (among others) to gain sales in the French market, his contemporaries (even those in Franco-Flemish Anvers = Antwerp in the Low Countries, had some problems with his name!

Svve(image from Gallica)

 

 

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