Chanson (Amours 2.56a)

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Comme la cire peu à peu,
Quand pres de la flame on l’approche,
Se fond à la chaleur du feu :
Ou comme au feste d’une roche
La neige encores non foulée
Au Soleil se perd escoulée :
 
Quand tu tournes tes yeux ardans
Sur moy d’une œillade gentille,
Je sens tout mon cœur au-dedans
Qui se consomme et se distille,
Et ma pauvre ame n’a partie
Qui ne soit en feu convertie.
 
Comme une rose qu’un amant
Cache au sein de quelque pucelle
Qu’elle enferme bien cherement
Pres de son tetin qui pommelle,
Puis chet fanie sur la place
Au soir quand elle se delace :
 
Et comme un lis par trop lavé
De quelque pluye printaniere,
Panche à bas son chef aggravé
Dessus la terre nourriciere,
Sans que jamais il se releve,
Tant l’humeur pesante le gréve :
 
Ainsi ma teste à tous les coups
Se panche de tristesse à terre.
Sur moy ne bat veine ny pouls,
Tant la douleur le cœur me serre :
Je ne puis parler, et mon ame
Engourdie en mon corps se pâme.
 
Adonques pasmé je mourrois,
Si d’un seul baiser de ta bouche
Mon ame tu ne secourois,
Et mon corps froid comme une souche :
Me resoufflant en chaque veine
La vie par ta douce haleine.
 
Mais c’est pour estre tourmenté
De plus longue peine ordinaire,
Comme le cœur de Promethé,
Qui se renaist à sa misere,
Eternel repas miserable
De son vautour insatiable.
Like wax little by little
When you bring it near to the flame
Melts in the heat of the fire;
Or like on the summit of a rock
The snow still untrodden
Disappears flowing away in the sun;
 
So, when you turn your burning eyes
On me with a gentle glance,
I feel my heart within me
Entirely consumed and evaporated
And my poor soul has no part
Which is not converted into fire.
 
Like a rose which a lover
Hides in the breast of some girl
Which she keeps very dearly
Near her rounded breast,
Then falls faded on the spot
In the evening when she undresses ;
 
And like a lily, too much watered
By some springtime rain,
Bends its overweighted head down
Over the ground which nourishes it,
And never lifts it back up
So much does the heavy liquid weigh it down ;
 
Just so my head constantly
Bends with sadness towards the ground.
In me beats no vein or pulse,
So much does sadness grip my heart ;
I cannot speak, and my soul,
Paralysed, faints in my body.
 
Fainting thus I shall die,
If with one single kiss from your mouth
You will not rescue my soul
And my body which is cold as a stump,
Blowing life back into each vein
With your sweet breath.
 
But this, so that it can be tortured
By a longer, ordinary pain
Like the heart of Prometheus
Which is re-born to his sorrow,
An eternal, wretched meal
For his insatiable vulture.
 
 
This is a wonderful poem: a real favourite. I love the extended metaphor of drooping, dying, over-weighted flowers in the middle, such a graphic and immediate image as well as showing Ronsard’s close connection with the natural world.  And the opening stanzas with their images of melting are no less immediate and visual. Unlike his immediate inspiration, Marullus (below), Ronsard does us the favour of including the name of Prometheus in his poem rather than just the allusion to his post-mortem torture in Hades: although, as in the Latin of Marullus, it’s usually his liver that is torn, in the context of a love-poem substituting the heart makes yet another immediate, direct and effective link.
 
There are minor variants in the second half of the poem (below), but also in line 2 of the second stanza Marie glances with “une œillade subtile” (‘a subtle glance’ rather than a gentle one). Here the physical image of Ronsard collapsing is that much stronger, but perhaps he didn’t like the repetition of ‘knees’; likewise, but with a clearer gain, the repeat of “ainsi” to start consecutive stanzas disappears. In this version, more significantly, there is a touch of malice attributed to Marie’s bringing him back to life, which disappears in the reformulation above.
 
 
… Ainsi ma teste à mes genoux
Me tombe, et mes genoux à terre.
Sur moy ne bat veine ny pouls,
Tant la douleur le cœur me serre :
Je ne puis parler, et mon ame
Engourdie en mon corps se pâme.
 
Lors ainsy pasmé je mourrois,
Si d’un seul baiser de ta bouche
Mon ame tu ne secourois,
Et mon corps froid comme une souche :
Me resoufflant en chaque veine
La vie par ta douce haleine,
 
Afin d’estre plus tourmenté
Et que plus souvent je remeure
Comme le cœur de Promethé,
Qui renaist cent fois en une heure,
Pour servir d’apast miserable
A son vautour insatiable.
 
 
                                                                              … Just so my head falls
                                                                              To my knees, and my knees to the ground.
                                                                              In me beats no vein or pulse,
                                                                              So much does sadness grip my heart ;
                                                                              I cannot speak, and my soul,
                                                                              Paralysed, faints in my body.
 
                                                                              And just so fainting I shall die,
                                                                              If with one single kiss from your mouth
                                                                              You will not rescue my soul
                                                                              And my body which is cold as a stump,
                                                                              Blowing life back into each vein
                                                                              With your sweet breath,
 
                                                                              So that I can be tortured more
                                                                              And more often return
                                                                              Like the heart of Prometheus
                                                                              Which is re-born a hundred times an hour,
                                                                              To serve as the wretched meal
                                                                              For his insatiable vulture.
 
 
As I said above, Ronsard’s immediate inspiration was the following Epigram of Marullus (book 2, no. 2):  Note that in the editions likely to have been used by Ronsard there are some typos which don’t make a lot of sense in lines 2 & 3. I have made some amendments (and was very pleased to find, on checking, that they were the same as the modern editor’s conclusions!). As you can see, the images are the same (if less-developed, as you’d expect in an epigrammatic poem) and the poem falls into the same three sections. Which is not to take anything away from Ronsard; it is one of those perfect ‘translations’ where the poem is re-presented in a different language as a different, but linked, poem.

 

Ignitos quoties tuos ocellos
In me, vita moves repente qualis
Cera defluit impotente flamma,
Aut nix vere novo calente sole,
Totis artubus effluo, nec ulla
Pars nostri subitis vacat favillis.
Tum qualis tenerum caput reflectens
Succumbit rosa verna, liliumve,
Quod dono cupidae datum puellae
Furtivis latuit diu papillis,
Ad terram genibus feror remissis
Nec mens est mihi, nec color superstes
Et iam nox oculis oberrat atra,
Donec vix gelida refectus unda
Ut quod vulturio iecur resurgit
Assuetis redeam ignibus cremandus.
 
 
                                                                              As often as you turn your burning eyes
                                                                              On me, my life suddenly like
                                                                              Wax melts under a weak flame
                                                                              Or the snow in the newly-burning sun;
                                                                              I melt in all my limbs, nor is any
                                                                              Part of me empty of the sudden flames.
                                                                              Then, as the fresh rose or lily bends down,
                                                                              Turning down its tender head
                                                                              Which, given as a gift to an eager girl,
                                                                              She long hid secretly at her breast,
                                                                              So I am borne down to the earth as my knees give way,
                                                                              Nor does my mind work, nor my colour remain,
                                                                              And already dark night prowls around my eyes,
                                                                              Until, scarce-restored by icy water,
                                                                              As that liver [of Prometheus] grew back for the vulture
                                                                              I shall return to be burnt again by the flames I’m used to. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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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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