An ordinary offering – a succulent houseplant – generates the conceit of ‘ever-living’ through the memorial of poetry; and suddenly we are back in the world of Petrarch and Laura. As we give up pens and books for online messaging and e-books, it would be nice to think Ronsard will survive the changeover 🙂Nicolas Richelet, early editor of the Helen poems, offers this footnote on the sempervivum: “A kind of simple which takes its name from its nature. It is not without cause that he makes this present, sempervivum is also used to make someone fall in love. That’s why in ancient times it was attached to house doors, to chase away all hatred and hostility.” (This use of sempervivum was apparently unknown to Culpepper, whose Herbal says ‘Our ordinary Houseleek is good for all inward heats, as well as outward, and in the eyes or other parts of the body: a posset made of the juice is singularly good in all hot agues, for it cooleth and tempereth the blood and spirits and quencheth the thirst; and is also good to stay all defluction or sharp and salt rheums in the eyes, the juice being dropped into them. If the juice be dropped into the ears, it easeth pain…. It cooleth and restraineth all hot inflammations, St. Anthony’s fire (Erysipelas), scaldings and burnings, the shingles, fretting ulcers, ringworms and the like; and much easeth the pain and the gout.’ – from Wikipedia.) Blanchemain has only two variants, plus a third hidden in a footnote. In line 4 he has a chnage of tense, “Comme vous enchaisniez … ” (‘Since you have kept in chains …’); and in line 13 “Vous vivrez et croistrez …” (‘You shall live and increase like Laura in greatness’), which is perhaps better in meaning but has none of the rhythmic complexity of the revised version. The footnote offers a variant of the opening, “A fin qu’en renaissant …” (‘That through being reborn from age to age may live on …’), which offers two slightly different ways of reading the opening: being reborn from age to age, in order to live on; or living on from age to age through being reborn.
A fin qu’à tout jamais de siecle en siecle vive La parfaite amitié que Ronsard vous portoit, Comme vostre beauté la raison luy ostoit, Comme vous enchaisnez sa liberté captive : A fin que d’âge en âge à noz neveux arrive, Que toute dans mon sang vostre figure estoit, Et que rien sinon vous mon cœur ne souhaitoit, Je vous fais un present de ceste Sempervive. Elle vit longuement en sa jeune verdeur : Long temps apres la mort je vous feray revivre, Tant peut le docte soin d’un gentil serviteur, Qui veut en vous servant toutes vertus ensuivre. Vous vivrez (croyez-moy) comme Laure en grandeur, Au moins tant que vivront les plumes et le livre. That for ever, from age to age, may live on The perfect love which Ronsard bears you, Since your beauty has stolen his reason, Since you keep in chains his captive liberty ; That from age to age to our descendants may be known How your picture was everywhere in my blood, And how my heart desired nothing but you, I make you a gift of this sempervivum It lives long in its youthful freshness : A long time after death I shall make you live again, So far as the learned care of a noble servant Who wishes in serving you to follow all the virtues. You shall live, believe me, like Laura in greatness, At least as long as live pens and books.