Amours 1.207

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Sœur de Pâris, la fille au Roy d’Asie,
A qui Phebus en doute fit avoir
Peu cautement l’aiguillon du sçavoir,
Dont sans profit ton ame fut saisie :
 
Tu variras vers moy de fantaisie,
Puis qu’il te plaist (bien que tard) de vouloir
Changer ton Loire au sejour de mon Loir,
Pour y fonder ta demeure choisie.
 
En ma faveur le Ciel te guide ici,
Pour te monstrer de plus pres le souci
Qui peint au vif de ses couleurs ma face.
 
Vien Nymphe vien, les rochers et les bois,
Qui de pitié s’enflamment sous ma voix,
Pleurant ma peine, eschaufferont ta glace.  
 
 
 
                                                                            Sister of Paris, daughter to the King of Asia,
                                                                            To whom Phoebus, doubting, gave
                                                                            Incautiously the goad of knowledge,
                                                                            By which your soul was without profit seized ;
 
                                                                            You will change your ideas towards me
                                                                            Since you choose (though late) to consider
                                                                            Exchanging your Loire to stay on my Loir
                                                                            And to found there your chosen home.
 
                                                                            For my benefit is Heaven guiding you here
                                                                            To show you more closely the pain
                                                                            Which paints my face so vividly with its colours.
 
                                                                            Come, Nymph, come : the rocks and woods
                                                                            Which blaze up in pity at my voice,
                                                                            Weeping for my pain, will warm up your ice.
 
 
 
 
Classical allusiion to the fore again, though here Ronsard’s use of a roundabout way to identify Cassandre is fairly obvious – he rapidly gives us as much information as possible (sister of Paris, daughter of Priam, prophetic mouthpiece of Apollo … ah yes, that would be Cassandra!) In line 3 the “aiguillon” (goad, or prick, or sting, or really anything sharp and painful) perhaps calls to mind a more Christian image, that of St Paul “kicking against the pricks” as the King James version so wonderfully puts it. (Have you ever noticed how many of Jesus’s turns of phrase and stories are the language of a farmer in the fields, not that of a carpenter? If he did follow his father’s trade, he can only have done so part-time!)  Whether an intended reference or not, it is clearly the same metaphor: just as cattle were goaded with sharp sticks to keep them from wandering in the wrong direction, so here prophetic knowledge is both painful and also leaves no choice – Cassandra must prophesy, no matter that it hurts.
 
But then, in the rest of the poem, we abandon that image and the pains (or otherwise) of knowledge – because it becomes clear that was all just an elaborate way to say “Cassandre”. There is no real suggestion in the first tercet that Heaven’s guiding is in any way painful to Cassandre, as it was to her Trojan namesake; nor that the need to understand lies behind any decision to move closer to his home. And that is probably why I find this sonnet a bit irritating. There are thematic links between the opening and the rest, but those links seem accidental and un-purposed, which is un-satisfactory in a poet of Ronsard’s quality.
 
The earlier version printed by Blanchemain does not offer any substantive changes. In lines 7-8 he becomes slightly less certain of her intentions:
 
Changer ton Loire au rives de mon Loir,
Voire y fonder ta demeure choisie.
 
                                                                            Exchanging your Loire for the banks of my Loir,
                                                                            Maybe even founding there your chosen home. 
 
and in the final line becomes “De leurs soupirs eschauferont ta glace” (‘the rocks and woods … With their sighs will warm up your ice’)
 
 
 
 
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