Amours 2:52

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Tu as beau, Jupiter, l’air de flames dissoudre,
Et faire d’un grand bruit galloper tes chevaux
Ronflans à longs esclairs par le creux des nuaux,
Et en cent mille esclats coup sur coup les descoudre :
 
Je ne crains tes esclairs ny ton son ny ta foudre,
Comme le cœur peureux des autres animaux :
Il y a trop long temps que les foudres jumeaux
Des yeus de ma maistresse ont mis le mien en poudre.
 
Je n’ay plus ny tendons ny arteres ny nerfs :
les feux trop violents qu’en aimant j’ay soufferts,
m’ont tournè tout le corps et toute l’ame en cendre.
 
Je ne suis plus un homme (ô estrange meschef ! )
Mais un fantaume vain, qu’on ne sçauroit plus prendre,
Tant la foudre amoureuse est cheute sus mon chef.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            In vain, Jupiter, have you dissolved the air into flames,
                                                                            And made your horses gallop with great noise
                                                                            Snorting long lightning-flashes through the slits of their nostrils,
                                                                            And with millions of crashes blow by blow unpicked them;
 
                                                                            I do not fear your thunders, lightning and noise,
                                                                            Like the fearful hearts of other animals;
                                                                            For too long the twin lightnings
                                                                            Of my mistress’s eyes have turned my [heart] into powder.
 
                                                                            I no longer have tendons, arteries, nerves;
                                                                            The too-violent fires which I’ve suffered in love
                                                                            Have turned my whole body and soul to ashes.
 
                                                                            I am no longer a man (o strange mischance!)
                                                                            But an empty shade which can no longer be touched
                                                                            So much of Love’s lightning has fallen on my head.
 
 
 
We tend to think of Jupiter the Thunderer as sitting on his cloud throwing thunderbolts. (Too many Disney cartoons maybe!) But the image Ronsard uses here is drawn from Roman times, when the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (Jupiter Best and Greatest) was topped with a statue group of Jupiter the Thunderer riding in a  four-horse chariot. Indeed, the early Roman dictator Camillus (saviour and second founder of the city)  was exiled partly for driving a chariot drawn by four white horses in procession, as such a team was an honour reserved to Jupiter. It’s possible the fame of Salviati’s Florentine frescoes, linking the triumphs of Camillus with those of Cosimo de Medici, had reached France; certainly these included that very chariot.
 
So much for the mythology; Ronsard of course is using it only to dismiss it, or rather to place the fires of his own love above those of the thunderstorm: a wonderful image I don’t recall seeing before this.  Incidentally, it may seem odd that Ronsard uses the familir ‘tu’ form rather than the formal ‘vous’ for Jupiter; it perhaps reflects an admixture of Christian doctrine, encouraging the use of ‘abba’ (‘father’) for God, and implying in the family relationship perhaps the use of ‘tu’.  That said, I haven’t posted (and can’t can’t quickly identify) any other poems where Ronsard addresses Jupiter directly with ‘tu’.
 
Much of the poem was re-worked over its life: Blanchemain’s early version is below.  (A ‘term’ or ‘terminus’ in line 13 is a pillar carved in human form – rather like a caryatid.)
 
 
Tu as beau, Jupiter, l’air de flames dissoudre,
Et faire galloper tes haut-tonnans chevaux
Ronflans à longs esclairs par le creux des nuaux,
Et en cent mille esclats coup sur coup les descoudre :
 
Ce n’est pas moy qui crains tes esclairs ny ta foudre,
Comme les cœurs peureux des autres animaux :
Il y a trop long temps que les foudres jumeaux
Des yeus de ma maistresse ont mis le mien en poudre.
 
Je n’ay plus ny tendons ny arteres ny nerfs
Veines, muscles, ny pouls : les feux que j’ay soufferts
Au cœur pour trop aimer me les ont mis en cendre,
 
Et je ne suis plus rien (ô estrange meschef ! )
Qu’un terme qui ne peut voir, n’ouir, ny comprendre,
Tant la foudre d’amour est cheute sur mon chef.
 

 
 
 
                                                                            In vain, Jupiter, have you dissolved the air into flames,
                                                                            And made your loud-thundering horses gallop
                                                                            Snorting long lightning-flashes through the slits of their nostrils,
                                                                            And with millions of crashes blow by blow unpicked them;
 
                                                                            It’s not me who fears your lightning and thunder,
                                                                            Like the fearful hearts of other animals;
                                                                            For too long the twin lightnings
                                                                            Of my mistress’s eyes have turned my [heart] into powder.
 
                                                                            I no longer have tendons, arteries, nerves,
                                                                            Veins, muscles or pulse: the fires which I’ve suffered
                                                                            In my heart from loving too much have turned them to ashes.
 
                                                                            And I am no longer anything (o strange mischance!)
                                                                            But a statue which cannot see, hear, nor understand
                                                                            So much of Love’s lightning has fallen on my head.
 
 
 
 
 
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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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