Interlude – Ronsard as emender

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I thought it might be illuminating to look at the way Ronsard adjusted his poems through the various editions in his lifetime. It will already be obvious that there are sometimes quite substantial variants between the two editions (broadly, early & late) that I’ve been using. Here I’m filling in some extra detail!

We’ll look at 3 poems: chosen mainly because someone else pointed them out as good examples! First, the opening poem of the 1st book of Amours.

Note the arrival then departure of the dying swan motif: Ronsard’s friends and editors thought he remnoved it because editors pointed out that dying swans don’t sing, they just moan!  No further commentary though: scholars and poets are thoroughly divided on whether Ronsard improved or damaged his poems by continually fiddling with them, and to me the best approach is simply to admit this is a subjective judgement – and consequently one each reader will make for him- or herself.

I’ve included the 1587 posthumous edition, for it’s one-word variation (!)

1552
 
Qui voudra voir comme un dieu me surmonte,
Comme il m’assaut, comme il se fait vainqueur,
Comme il renflamme et renglace mon coeur,
Comme il se fait un honneur de ma honte,
 
Qui voudra voir une jeunesse prompte
A suivre en vain l’objet de son malheur,
Me vienne voir: il verra ma douleur
Et la rigueur de l’archer qui me dompte.
 
Il cognoistra combien la raison peut,
Contre son arc, quand une fois il veut
Que nostre cueur son esclave demeure,
 
Et si verra que je suis trop heureux
D’avoir au flanc l’aiguillon amoureux,
Plein du venin dont il faut que je meure.
 
 
 
Whoever wants to see how a god is overcoming me,
How he is assaulting me, how he is making himself conqueror,
How he is burning then freezing my heart,
How he is gaining glory for himself from my shame;
 
Whoever wants to see youth quick
To pursue in vain the object of its misfortune,
Let him come and see me: he will see my misfortune,
And the harshness of the archer who overwhelms me.
 
He will understand how much reason can do
Against his bow, when once he wishes
Our hearts to remain his slaves,
 
And, too, will see that I am too happy
To have love’s spur in my side,
Full of the poison which must kill me.
1567
 
Qui voudra voir comme un dieu me surmonte,
Comme il m’assaut, comme il se fait vainqueur,
Comme il renflamme et renglace mon coeur,
Comme il se fait un honneur de ma honte,
 
Qui voudra voir une jeunesse prompte
A suivre en vain l’objet de son malheur,
Me vienne voir: il verra ma douleur
Et la rigueur de l’archer qui me dompte.
 
Il cognoistra combien peut la raison,
Contre son trait, quand sa douce poison
Tourmente un cueur que la jeunesse enchante;
 
Et cognoistra que je suis trop heureux
D’estre, en mourant, nouveau cygne amoureux,
Qui plus languit, et plus doucement chante.
 
 
 
 
Whoever wants to see how a god is overcoming me,
How he is assaulting me, how he is making himself conqueror,
How he is burning then freezing my heart,
How he is gaining glory for himself from my shame;
 
Whoever wants to see youth quick
To pursue in vain the object of its misfortune,
Let him come and see me: he will see my misfortune,
And the harshness of the archer who overwhelms me.
 
He will understand how much reason can do
Against his blow, when its sweet poison
Torments a heart which youth enchants;
 
And he will know that I am too happy
To be, as I die, another swan in love
Who, as he fades, sings sweeter still.
1578
 
Qui voudra voir comme un dieu me surmonte,
Comme il m’assaut, comme il se fait vainqueur,
Comme il renflamme et renglace mon coeur,
Comme il se fait un honneur de ma honte,
 
Qui voudra voir une jeunesse prompte
Qui voudra voir un sujet de malheur,
Me vienne lire: il lira ma douleur
Dont ma Maistresse et Amour font conte.
 
Il cognoistra que foible est la raison,
Contre son trait, quand sa douce poison
Corrompt le sang, tant le mal nous enchante;
 
Et cognoistra que je suis trop heureux
D’estre, en mourant, nouveau cygne amoureux,
Qui son obseque à soy-mesme se chante.
 
 
 
 
Whoever wants to see how a god is overcoming me,
How he is assaulting me, how he is making himself conqueror,
How he is burning then freezing my heart,
How he is gaining glory for himself from my shame;
 
Whoever wants to see excited youth,
Whoever wants to see an object of misfortune,
Let him come and read me: he will read of my misfortune,
Of which my Mistress and Love tell stories.
 
He will understand that reason is feeble
Against his blow, when its sweet poison
Corrupts the blood, so much does evil enchant us;
 
And he will know that I am too happy
To be, as I die, another swan in love
Who, as he fades, sings sweeter still.
1584
 
Qui voudra voir comme Amour me surmonte,
Comme il m’assaut, comme il se fait vainqueur,
Comme il renflamme et renglace mon coeur,
Comme il se fait un honneur de ma honte,
 
Qui voudra voir une jeunesse prompte
A suivre en vain l’objet de son malheur,
Me vienne lire: il verra ma douleur
Dont ma déesse et mon dieu ne font conte.
 
Il cognoistra qu’Amour est sans raison,
Un doux abus, une belle prison,
Un vain espoir qui de vent nous vient paistre.
 
Et cognoistra que l’homme se décoit
Quand plein d’erreur un aveugle il reçoit
Pour sa conduite, un enfant pour son maistre.
 
 
 
Whoever wants to see how Love is overcoming me,
How he is assaulting me, how he is making himself conqueror,
How he is burning then freezing my heart,
How he is gaining glory for himself from my shame;
 
Whoever wants to see excited youth,
Whoever wants to see an object of misfortune,
Let him come and read me: he will see my misfortune,
Of which my goddess and my god tell stories.
 
He will understand that Love is without reason
a sweet illusion, a good-looking prison,
an empty hope which tries to feed us with a breeze.
 
And he will understand that man deceives himself
when utterly mistakenly he takes blind Love
as his guide, the child Cupid as his master.
 
1587
 
Qui voudra voir comme Amour me surmonte,
Comme il m’assaut, comme il se fait vainqueur,
Comme il renflamme et renglace mon coeur,
Comme il se fait un honneur de ma honte,
 
Qui voudra voir une jeunesse prompte
A suivre en vain l’objet de son malheur,
Me vienne lire: il verra ma douleur
Dont ma déesse et mon dieu ne font conte.
 
Il cognoistra qu’Amour est sans raison,
Un doux abus, une belle prison,
Un vain espoir qui de vent nous vient paistre.
 
Il cognoistra que l’homme se décoit
Quand plein d’erreur un aveugle il reçoit
Pour sa conduite, un enfant pour son maistre.
 
 
 
Whoever wants to see how Love is overcoming me,
How he is assaulting me, how he is making himself conqueror,
How he is burning then freezing my heart,
How he is gaining glory for himself from my shame;
 
Whoever wants to see excited youth,
Whoever wants to see an object of misfortune,
Let him come and read me: he will see my misfortune,
Of which my goddess and my god tell stories.
 
He will understand that Love is without reason
a sweet illusion, a good-looking prison,
an empty hope which tries to feed us with a breeze.
 
He will understand that man deceives himself
when utterly mistakenly he takes blind Love
as his guide, the child Cupid as his master.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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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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