Monthly Archives: October 2015

Amours 1.223

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Mets en oubly, Dieu des herbes puissant,
Le mauvais tour que non loin d’Hellesponte
Te fit m’amie, et vien d’une main pronte
Guarir son teint de fiévres pallissant.
 
Tourne en santé son beau corps perissant !
Ce te sera, Phebus, une grand’honte,
Si la langeur sans ton secours surmonte
L’œil, qui te tient si long temps languissant.
 
En ma faveur si tu as pitié d’elle,
Je chanteray comme l’errante Dele
S’enracina par ton commmandement :
 
Que Python fut ta premiere conqueste,
Et comme Dafne aux tresses de ta teste
Donna l’honneur du premier ornement.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Forget, God of powerful herbs,
                                                                            The wicked trick which, not far from the Hellespont,
                                                                            My beloved did you, and come with ready hand
                                                                            To cure her complexion, pallid with fever.
 
                                                                            Return to health her fair but perishing body !
                                                                            It would be great shame on you, Phoebus,
                                                                            If this weakness, without your help, overcame
                                                                            Those eyes which kept you for so long weak-kneed.
 
                                                                            If to please me you have pity on her
                                                                            I shall sing how the wandering Delos
                                                                            Rooted itself at your command ;
 
                                                                            That Python was your first conquest,
                                                                            And how Daphne gave to the tresses of your head
                                                                            The glory of their first ornament.
 
 
Plenty of mythological reference here, as Ronsard begs Apollo, god of healing (‘powerful herbs’), to cure his beloved.Cassandre’s Trojan namesake, the priestess, was originally ‘cursed’ with prophetic madness by Apollo after she refused his advances (or, worse, led him on and then tricked him). Python links to the oracular side of Apollo as well, being the dragon-deity associated with the oracle at Delphi, defeated by Apollo so that the Delphic oracle became his – and was served by a ‘Pythian’ priestess.According to Ronsard, Delos (the island) rooted itself at Apollo’s command: more generally, legend has it that the wandering island was eventually fixed in its position – equidistant from the mainland to north and west, the Greek islands on the coast of Turkey in the east, and Crete to the south – by Poseidon, and subsequently became Apollo’s birthplace. And Daphne picks up the theme of ‘becoming rooted’, as she was the nymph turned into a laurel tree to avoid Apollo’s advances. (Whence the laurel wreath as a symbol of victory in competition is associated with Apollo.)

Note that the two mythical girls in the poem are both failed conquests of Apollo, who received terrible punishments!

In lines 7-8 I have tried to find a parallel for “langueur … languissant” and settled on ‘weak’ words: I’m not sure Ronsard would approve of ‘weak at the knees’ though!

Blanchemain’s version has a variant in lines 11-12:

 
                         … comme l’errante Dele
S’enracina sous ta voix, et comment
Python sentit ta premiere conqueste
 

                                                                                       … how the wandering Delos
                                                                            Rooted itself at your call, and how
                                                                            Python felt your first conquest
  

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Amours 1.227

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Le Jeu, la Grace, et les Freres jumeaux,
Suivent ma Dame, et quelque part qu’elle erre,
Dessous ses pieds fait esmailler la terre,
Et des hyvers fait des printemps nouveaux.
 
En sa faveur jargonnent les oiseaux,
Ses vents Eole en sa caverne enserre,
Le doux Zephyre un doux souspir desserre,
Et tous muets s’accoisent les ruisseaux.
 
Les Elemens se remirent en elle,
Nature rit de voir chose si belle :
Je tremble tout, que qulequ’un de ces Dieux
 
Ne passionne apres son beau visage,
Et qu‘en pillant le tresor de nostre âge,
Ne la ravisse et ne l’emporte aux cieux.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Playfulness, Grace, and the twin brothers
                                                                            Follow my Lady, and wherever she wanders
                                                                            Beneath her feet be-spangle the earth,
                                                                            And make from winter a new spring.
 
                                                                            For her the birds chatter,
                                                                            Aeolus binds the winds in his cavern,
                                                                            Soft Zephyr looses a soft sigh,
                                                                            And quietly the streams rise.
 
                                                                            The Elements behold themselves in her,
                                                                            Nature smiles to see something so fair ;
                                                                            I tremble all over, lest one of these gods
 
                                                                            Should become passionate for her fair face
                                                                            And, looting the treasure of our age,
                                                                            Steal her away and carry her to the heavens.
 
 
Once more Cassandre is accompanied by a cluster of classical virtues. Today we have the Dioscuri – Castor & Pollux, the twins – who here must be invoked in their capacity for bringing favourable weather (though that’s usually for sailors). Aeolus is god of the winds, and Zephyr one of his charges. Characteristically, Ronsard injects himself, and a humorous perspective, into the poem – the earthly lover terrified lest these deified virtues make off with his beloved.
 
The only difference in Blanchemain’s edition is the beginning of line 11 – “Mais, las ! je crain que qulequ’un … ” (‘But oh! I fear lest one …’), which is clearly improved in the later version.
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.228

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Mon Des-Autels, qui avez dés enfance
Puisé de l’eau qui coule sur le mont,
Où les neuf Sœurs dedans un antre font
Seules à part leur saincte demeurance :
 
Si autrefois, l’amoureuse puissance
Vous a planté le myrte sur le front,
Enamoure de ces beaux yeux qui sont
Par vos escrits l’honneur de nostre France :
 
Ayez pitié de ma pauvre langueur,
Et de vos sons adoucissez le cœur
D’une qui tient ma franchise en contrainte.
 
Si quelquefois en Bourgoigne je suis,
Je flechiray par mes vers, si je puis,
La cruauté de vostre belle Saincte.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                            My dear Des Autels, you who have since childhood
                                                                            Drawn from the waters which flow on the mount
                                                                            Where the nine sisters, within a cave, make
                                                                            Alone and apart their holy residence ;
 
                                                                            If once the power of love
                                                                            Placed laurels upon your brow,
                                                                            Enamoured of those fair eyes which are
                                                                            Through your writings the credit of our France ;
 
                                                                            [Now] have pity on my weak pining
                                                                            And with your music soften the heart
                                                                            Of the one who holds my liberty in chains.
 
                                                                            And if sometime I am in Burgundy
                                                                            I shall turn aside with my verse, if I can,
                                                                            The cruelty of your fair Saint. 
 
 
 
Amidst the chansons and elegies which conclude the first book, there are a couple of final sonnets. This is one of them, a quick tribute to Ronsard’s friend Guillaume Des Autels, “gentilhomme Charrolois”. He was a cousin of Pontus de Tyard and, through the literary circle around him in Lyons became a sometime member of the Pleiade. Indeed, most of Des Autels’ poetry comes from the 1550s, when he was in his twenties. His birthplace is uncertain, though clearly in or near the city of Charolles in Burgundy; the date of his death likewise unknown. Des Autels always referred to his beloved as ‘his Saint’ in his verse, echoed here by Ronsard. Ronsard’s book of “Discours” opens with an elegy to Des Autels, one of several tributes to his fellow-poet.
 
The nine sisters of the opening stanza are of course the Muses, whose home was on Mount Helicon; though they are normally associated with the springs and sacred grove there, not a cave. The Corcyrian cave on mount Parnassus is, however, sacred to the Muses; and there is a stray reference in Pausanias to a rck ‘worked like a cave’ in the grove on Helicon. Perhaps Ronsard amalgamated the two!
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
                                                                             
 
 

Amours 1.226

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Veu la douleur, qui doucement me lime,
Et qui me suit, compagne, pas-à-pas,
Je prevoy bien qu’encor je ne suis pas
Pour trop aimer à la fin de ma rime.
 
Dame, l’ardeur qui de chanter m’anime
Et qui me rend en ce labeur moins las,
C’est que je voy qu’agreable tu l’as,
Et que je tiens de tes pensers la cime.
 
Je suis, Amour, heureux et plusqu’heureux
De vivre aimé, et de vivre amoureux
De la beauté d’une Dame si belle,
 
Qui lit mes vers, qui en fait jugement,
Et dont les yeux me baillent argument
De souspirer heureusement pour elle.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            In view of the grief which sweetly entraps me
                                                                            And pursues me like a companion, step by step,
                                                                            I foresee that I am not yet,
                                                                            From loving too much, at the end of my verse.
 
                                                                            My Lady, the passion which drives me to sing
                                                                            And makes me less weary in this task
                                                                            Is that of seeing it delights you
                                                                            And that I retain the highest of your thoughts.
 
                                                                            I am happy, Love, and more than happy
                                                                            To live beloved, and to live in love
                                                                            With the beauty of so fair a Lady
 
                                                                            Who reads my verse, who offers her judgement of it,
                                                                            And whose eyes offer me a reason
                                                                            To sigh happily for her.
 
 
For once Ronsard admits he’s happy in his love – even if lines 1-2 suggest a negative view. It is faintly odd that, after so negative a start, the rest of the poem is so positive; a pity, as it weakens what would otherwise be one of my favourites. Even so, there is that lovely play on “suit … suis” in lines 2-3. And note how, at the end of this huge book of love-sonnets, Ronsard promises us more: does he mean simply further editions amplified with more poems to Cassandre, or can he already have been thinking of the ‘Continuation des Amours’ which later transformed into book 2, the Amours de Marie?
 
There is of course an earlier version, though it differs only in detail:  in line 3 “Je connoy bien …” (‘I recognise that I am not …’); in line 9 “Je suis vraiment heureux” (‘I am tuly happy’) – which I think is better, though some might think there are then too many “V”s in 9-10; and line 13 “Et qui me donne à tout heure argument” (‘And which at all times gives me reason …’).
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.221

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De veine en veine, et d’artere en artere,
De nerfs en nerfs le salut me passa,
Que l’autre jour ma Dame me laissa
Dedans le cueur tout triste et solitaire.
 
Il fut si doux, que je ne puis m’en taire,
Tant en passant d’aiguillons me laissa,
Et tellement de son trait me blessa,
Que de mon cueur il ne fist qu’un ulcere.
 
Les yeux, la voix, le gracieux maintien,
A mesme fois s’accorderent si bien,
Que l’ame fut d’un tel plaisir si gloute,
 
Qu’affriandee au goust d’un si doux bien,
Entrerompant son terrestre lien,
De me laisser fut mille fois en doute.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            From vein to vein, artery to artery,
                                                                            Nerve to nerve travels the greeting
                                                                            Which the other day my Lady left
                                                                            Within my sad and lonely heart.
 
                                                                            It was so sweet that I cannot keep quiet about it,
                                                                            Though as it travelled it left me sharp thorns
                                                                            And so wounded me with its blow
                                                                            That it changed my heart to a festering sore.
 
                                                                            Her eyes, her voice, her graceful bearing
                                                                            At that moment so fitted one another
                                                                            That my soul was so drunk with pleasure
 
                                                                            That drawn to the taste of such sweet goodness
                                                                            It tried to break through its earthly bonds
                                                                            And nearly left me a thousand times.
 
 
 
Perhaps I’m being mean but this seems to me to be fairly ‘routine’ by Ronsard’s standards. That said, there are some clever details of misdirection: the opening couple of lines make it easy to read “le salut” as ‘my health’, so ‘my health is passing away’, another trope we might expect to see; until we get to line 3 and discover the real meaning is his lady-love’s greeting. Less dramatically, the verb in line 5 could mean ‘I can’t lie about it’ as much as ‘I can’t keep quiet about it’.
 
The earlier version offers a number of differences in detail, as far as the meaning goes, though substantial change to the poem! This version of the opening quatrain strikes me as more natural, less forced; and so too does the earlier version of the sestet, with its less grandiose vocabulary, and the more natural use of “gouster” compared with “gloute” in the newer version. Indeed, in this earlier version the poem has more life and naturalness, and seems to me rather less ‘routine’. In this case, newer is not better…
 
 
De veine en veine, et d’artere en artere,
De nerfs en nerfs le salut me passa,
Que l’autre jour ma Dame prononça,
Me promenant tout triste et solitaire.
 
Il fut si doux, que je ne puis m’en taire,
Tant en passant d’aiguillons me laissa,
Et tellement de son trait me blessa,
Que de mon cueur il ne fist qu’un ulcere.
 
Les yeux, la voix, le gracieux maintien,
A mesme fois s’accorderent si bien,
Qu’au seul gouster d’un si nouveau plaisir
 
Non espéré s’effroya l’ame toute,
Et, pour aller rencontrer son desir,
De me laisser fut mille fois en doute.
 
 
                                                                            From vein to vein, artery to artery,
                                                                            Nerve to nerve travels the greeting
                                                                            Which the other day my Lady spoke
                                                                            As I walked, sad and lonely.
 
                                                                            It was so sweet that I cannot keep quiet about it,
                                                                            Though as it travelled it left me sharp thorns
                                                                            And so wounded me with its blow
                                                                            That it changed my heart to a festering sore.
 
                                                                            Her eyes, her voice, her graceful bearing
                                                                            At that moment so fitted one another
                                                                            That at just the taste of so novel a pleasure,
 
                                                                            So unexpected, my entire soul was amazed
                                                                            And, to to go and meet its desire,
                                                                            It nearly left me a thousand times.