Helen 2:11

Trois jours sont ja passez que je suis affamé
De vostre doux regard, et qu’à l’enfant je semble
Que la nourrice laisse, et qui crie et qui tremble
De faim en son berceau, dont il est consommé.
Puis que mon œil ne voit le vostre tant aimé,
Qui ma vie et ma mort en un regard assemble,
Vous deviez, pour le moins, m’escrire, ce me semble :
Mais vous avez le cœur d’un rocher enfermé.
Fiere ingrate beauté trop hautement superbe,
Vostre courage dur n’a pitié de l’amour,
Ny de mon palle teint ja flestry comme une herbe.
Si je suis sans vous voir deux heures à sejour,
Par espreuve je sens ce qu’on dit en proverbe,
L’amoureux qui attend se vieillist en un jour.
                                                                            Three days have now passed while I’ve been starved
                                                                            Of your sweet glance, and I feel like a child
                                                                            Whom the nurse has left, which cries and trembles
                                                                            In its cradle from the hunger which consumes it.
                                                                            Since my eyes have not seen yours, so beloved,
                                                                            Which collect together in one look my life and my death,
                                                                            You ought at least to write to me, I think;
                                                                            But you have a heart like a sealed rock.
                                                                            Proud, ungrateful beauty, too vain and conceited,
                                                                            Your harsh spirit has no pity on my love,
                                                                            Nor on my pale colour, withered like the grass.
                                                                            If I am two hours at a stretch without seeing you,
                                                                            By actual experience I feel just what the proverb says,
                                                                            “The lover forced to wait becomes old in a day”.
An unusual baby simile here distinguishes this poem from the many others in this vein; as does the wry reference to growing old in the last couplet! No doubt there is a knowing wink in the opening line at “Trois ans sont ja passez” (from Helen book 1); and it’s interesting to see a Biblical reference in line 11 – ‘all flesh is like grass … the grass withers and fades’ from Isaiah – in place of the usual classical references. It must be only a coincidence – mustn’t it? – that 1578 was also the year of the breakthrough of Du Bartas with his very Biblical epic about the week of Creation…
Blanchemain offers “Que sa nourrice laisse…” (‘Whom its nurse has left’) in line 3. He also offers us a variant of line 9:  “Fiere, ingrate et rebelle, à mon dam trop superbe” (‘Proud, ungrateful and contrary, too conceited, to my hurt’); and the information that, in 1578, these ‘Helen’ poems appeared in the ‘Amours diverses’ – moving to Helen later!

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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