Category Archives: Chansons

Poems which Ronsard labelled as ‘Chansons’

La Quenoille – – (Amours 2.67c)

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This poem is simply called “La Quenoille” (the distaff – the long tall bit on top of a spinning wheel on which the wool is wound as it’s spun); not a chanson officially, or an elegy, or anything else. Ronsard got quite annoyed when critics laughed at him for making so much of the gift of something so functional, a reaction which Belleau reflects in a footnote: ‘If all the ladies who laughed at the simple and inexpensive gift of the poet to a fair simple girl, wise and not lazy, were as skilled and useful as her, our age would have greater worth’. So there!  (Belleau uses, or invents, the word “prudfemme“, a match for “prudhomme“, which I’ve here rendered as ‘skilled and useful’.)  It’s relevant that the idea has classical roots, being from Theocritus,who gives a distaff as a present to the wife of Nicias, a doctor, his host and friend.

Quenoille, de Pallas la compagne et l’amie,
Cher present que je porte à ma chere Marie,
A fin de soulager l’ennuy qu’elle a de moy,
Disant quelque chanson en filant dessur toy,
Faisant piroüeter à son huis amusée
Tout le jour son roüet et sa grosse fusée.
 
Quenouille, je te meine où je suis arresté :
Je voudrois racheter par toy ma liberté.
Tu ne viendras és mains d’une mignonne oisive,
Qui ne fait qu’attifer sa perruque lascive,
Et qui perd tout son temps à mirer et farder
Sa face, à celle fin qu’on l’aille regarder :
Mais bien entre les mains d’une disposte fille
Qui devide qui coust, qui mesnage et qui file
Avecques ses deux sœurs pour tromper ses ennuis,
L’hyver devant le feu, l’esté devant son huis,
 
Aussi je ne voudrois que toy Quenouille faite
En nostre Vandomois (où le peuple regrette
Le jour qui passe en vain) allasses en Anjou
Pour demeurer oisive et te roüiller au clou.
Je te puis asseurer que sa main delicate
Filera doucement quelque drap d’escarlate,
Qui si fin et si souëf en sa laine sera,
Que pour un jour de feste un Roy le vestira.
 
Suy-moy donc, tu seras la plus que bien venue,
Quenouille, des deux bouts et greslette et menue,
Un peu grosse au milieu où la filace tient
Estreinte d’un riban qui de Montoire vient.
Aime-laine, aime-fil, aime-estain, maisonniere,
Longue, Palladienne, enflée, chansonniere,
Suy-moy, laisse Cousture, et allon à Bourgueil,
Où, Quenouille, on te doit recevoir d’un bon œil.
« Car le petit present qu’un loyal ami donne
« Passe des puissans Rois le sceptre et la couronne.
O distaff, companion and friend of Pallas,
Dear gift which I being to my dear Marie
To lessen the boredom she has of me,
Singing some song as she spins on you,
Amusedly making her wheel and big bobbin
Spin all day at her door.
 
Distaff, I take you to where I was caught:
I hope to buy back my freedom with you.
You won’t come into the hands of an idle dainty
Who does nothing but tweak her voluptuous hairdo,
And who spends all her time admitting herself, painting
Her face, with the aim that everyone should come and look at her;
Rather, into the hands of a shapely girl
Who knows what things cost, who manages, who spins
With her two sisters to beguile boredom,
In winter before the fire, in summer out of doors.
 
Also, I don’t want you, distaff made
In our Vendôme, where the people regret
Any day spent pointlessly, to go to Anjou
And remain idle and whirl round on a nail.
I can assure you that her delicate hand
Will gently spin a scarlet cloth
Which will be so fine and so soft in its threads
That a king would wear it on a feast-day.
 
So follow me, you will be more than welcome,
Distaff, with your two ends thin and slender,
A little fatter in the middle where it holds the tow
Gripped by a ribbon which comes from Montoire.
Wool-lover, thread-lover, yarn-lover, home-keeper,
Tall, Palladian, proud, song-maker,
Follow me, leave Cousture, let’s go to Bourgueil
Where, distaff, they should welcome you gladly,
“For the little gift which a loyal friend gives
Surpasses the sceptre and crown of powerful kings.”
 
 
Belleau offers us a profusion of footnotes, mostly on the 4th stanza:
 – Montoire, he tells us, is a town a short three leagues away, near the author’s place of birth;
 – in the following line, he tells us the three “aime-” compounds are “three words invented by the author. Estain is a kind of carded wool ready for spinning. Maisonniere, because the distaff does not leave its home;
 – then, in the next line, it is Palladian not for Palladio (the architectural reference comes later) but because “Pallas [Athene] invented the distaff” (see also line 1). (Note that, in the same line, “enflée” can mean both ‘proud’ and  ‘swollen’ or ‘fat’, as the distaff becomes when wool is wound onto it.)
 – Coustures is “a village in the Varemme at the bottom of Vendome, where the poet was born, at the foot of a south-facing crag in a place which is currently called La Poissoniere, the chateau belonging to the eldest of the house of Ronsard.” In his “Ronsard & the Pléiade” (1906), George Wyndham describes how he “visited his father’s castle, De la Poissonière, as a reverent pilgrim, some years ago. It stands beneath a low cliff of white rock overgrown with ivy, in the gentle scenery, elegiac rather than romantic, to which Ronsard’s verse ever returns. Above the low cliff are remnants of the Forêt de Gastine …”
 
There are, naturally, a few changes in the text as well: note how one of the changes Ronsard made was eliminating the imaginary infinitive “suivir” (not “suivre”) – a poetic licence he allowed himself in his early years but grew unhappy with in later life.

 

Quenoille, de Pallas la compagne et l’amie,
Cher present que je porte à ma chere ennemie,
Afin de soulager l’ennuy qu’elle a de moy,
Disant quelque chanson en filant dessur toy,
Faisant piroüeter à son huis amusée
Tout le jour son roüet et sa grosse fusée.
 
Sus ! quenouille, suis moy, je te meine servir
Celle que je ne puis m’engarder de suivir.
Tu ne viendras és mains d’une pucelle oisive,
Qui ne fait qu’attifer sa perruque lascive,
Et qui perd tout le jour à mirer et farder
Sa face, à celle fin qu’on l’aille regarder :
Mais bien entre les mains d’une disposte fille
Qui devide qui coust, qui mesnage et qui file
Avecques ses deux sœurs pour tromper ses ennuis,
L’hyver devant le feu, l’esté devant son huis,
 
Aussi je ne voudrois que toy, quenouille gente,
Qui es de Vendomois (où le peuple se vante
D’estre bon ménager), allasses en Anjou
Pour demeurer oisive et te roüiller au clou.
Je te puis asseurer que sa main delicate
Filera dougément quelque drap d’escarlate,
Qui si fin et si souëf en sa laine sera,
Que pour un jour de feste un Roy le vestira.
 
Suy-moy donc, tu seras la plus que bien venue,
Quenouille, des deux bouts et greslette et menue,
Un peu grosse au milieu où la filace tient
Estreinte d’un riban qui de Montoire vient.
Aime-laine, aime-fil, aime-estain, maisonniere,
Longue, Palladienne, enflée, chansonniere,
Suy-moy, laisse Cousture, et va droit à Bourgueil,
Où, Quenouille, on te doit recevoir d’un bon œil.
« Car le petit present qu’un loyal ami donne
« Passe des puissans Rois le sceptre et la couronne.
O distaff, companion and friend of Pallas,
Dear gift which I being to my dear enemy
To lessen the boredom she has of me,
Singing some song as she spins on you,
Amusedly making her wheel and big bobbin
Spin all day at her door.
 
Up, distaff, and follow me, I lead you to serve
Her whom I cannot keep myself from pursuing.
You won’t come into the hands of an idle lass
Who does nothing but tweak her voluptuous hairdo,
And who spends all day admitting herself, painting
Her face, with the aim that everyone should come and look at her;
Rather, into the hands of a shapely girl
Who knows what things cost, who manages, who spins
With her two sisters to beguile boredom,
In winter before the fire, in summer out of doors.
 
Also, I don’t want you, gentle distaff
Who are from Vendôme, where the people boast
Of being good housekeepers, to go to Anjou
And remain idle and whirl round on a nail.
I can assure you that her delicate hand
Will finely spin a scarlet cloth
Which will be so fine and so soft in its threads
That a king would wear it on a feast-day.
 
So follow me, you will be more than welcome,
Distaff, with your two ends thin and slender,
A little fatter in the middle where it holds the tow
Gripped by a ribbon which comes from Montoire.
Wool-lover, thread-lover, yarn-lover, home-keeper,
Tall, Palladian, proud, song-maker,
Follow me, leave Cousture, and go straight to Bourgueil
Where, distaff, they should welcome you gladly,
“For the little gift which a loyal friend gives
Surpasses the sceptre and crown of powerful kings.”
 
Note in the 3rd stanza the word “dougément”: Belleau explains that this means “subtly, with thin fine threads. Dougé is a word from Anjou and the Vendome, used by spinners who spin the thread thin and slender with their spindles. It appears from this that Marie was not from a grand or rich family – as we’ve said, for she was a hostelry-girl.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
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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. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amourette (2:67b)

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I guess “amourette” is best translated, ‘a little love-song’…

Or’ que l’hyver roidist la glace épesse,
Réchaufons nous ma gentille maistresse,
Non acroupis pres le foyer cendreux,
Mais aux plaisirs des combats amoureux.
Assison-nous sur ceste molle couche :
Sus baisez-moy, tendez-moy vostre bouche,
Pressez mon col de vos bras despliez,
Et maintenant vostre mere oubliez.
 
Que de la dent vostre tetin je morde,
Que vos cheveux fil à fil je destorde :
Il ne faut point en si folastres jeux,
Comme au dimanche arrenger ses cheveux.
 
Approchez donc, tournez-moy vostre jouë.
Vous rougissez ? il faut que je me jouë.
Vous sou-riez : avez-vous point ouy
Quelque doux mot qui vous ait resjouy ?
Je vous disois que la main j’allois mettre
Sur vostre sein : le voulez-vous permettre ?
Ne fuyez pas sans parler : je voy bien
A vos regards que vous le voulez bien.
Je vous cognois en voyant vostre mine.
Je jure Amour que vous estes si fine,
Que pour mourir de bouche ne diriez
Qu’on vous baisast bien que le desiriez :
Car toute fille encor’ qu’elle ait envie
Du jeu d’aimer desire estre ravie.
Tesmoin en est Helene qui suivit
D’un franc vouloir Pâris qui la ravit.
 
Je veux user d’une douce main forte.
Hà vous tombez : vous faites ja la morte.
Hà quel plaisir dans le cœur je reçoy :
Sans vous baiser vous mocqueriez de moy
En vostre lit quand vous seriez seulette.
Or sus c’est fait ma gentille brunette :
Recommençon afin que nos beaux ans
Soyent reschauffez de combats si plaisans.
 
 
                                                                            Now that winter gnaws the thick ice,
                                                                            Let us re-warm ourselves, my gentle mistress,
                                                                            Not crouched near the cinder-filled fireplace,
                                                                            But in the pleasures of love’s contests.
                                                                            Let’s sit on this soft couch;
                                                                            Come, kiss me, offer me your lips,
                                                                            Squeeze my neck in your enlaced arms,
                                                                            And now forget your mother!
 
                                                                            How I shall nibble your breast with my teeth,
                                                                            How I shall unknot your hair, strand by strand;
                                                                            One cannot, in wild games like these,
                                                                            Keep one’s hair Sunday-tidy.
 
                                                                            Come here, then, turn to me your cheek.
                                                                            You’re blushing? But I must play with it.
                                                                            You are smiling: have you not heard
                                                                            Any of the soft words which made you happy.
                                                                            I told you that I was going to put my hand
                                                                            On your breast: will you allow me?
                                                                            Don’t run off without speaking; I clearly see
                                                                            From your looks that you really want it.
                                                                            I understand you from looking at your face.
                                                                            I swear by Love that you are so prim
                                                                            That even if you died, you would not say with your mouth
                                                                            That someone could kiss you even though you wanted it;
                                                                            For every girl, as she desires to play
                                                                            The game of love, wants to be ravished.
                                                                            Witnesses say that it was Helen who followed
                                                                            Of free will Paris who had ravished her.
 
                                                                            I want to use a hand that’s soft but strong.
                                                                            Ah, you fall, you are now silent.
                                                                            Ah, what pleasure I get in my heart!
                                                                            If I didn’t kiss you, you would mock me
                                                                            When you were alone in your bed.
                                                                            Up then, it’s done, my gentle brunette;
                                                                            Let’s begin, so that our beautiful years
                                                                            May be warmed up by such pleasant contests!
 
 
One of the rare poems in which Ronsard approaches the physicality of love-making – though even here he leaves unspoken how far his love-making goes. Perhaps we should think of the “Elegy to his Book” with which Ronsard begins this second set of Amours: there, Ronsard says Petrarch would have been a fool for continuing to write love-poems without having ‘enjoyed’ his Laura…
 
Ou bien il jouyssoit de sa Laurette, ou bien
Il estoit un grand fat d’aimer sans avoir rien.
 
                                                                            Either he enjoyed his little Laura, or else
                                                                            He was a great fool for loving without getting anything.
 
There are a few clumsinesses in here I’m surprised survived to the end of Ronsard’s life – “bien” as the rhyme word in 2 consecutive lines, with no grammatical difference to excuse it (as in “jouë…jouë” or “mettre…permettre”); or “ravit” followed by “ravie” 2 lines later (both prominent as rhyme words). And one of them (“bien..bien”) was even added in the course of re-writing! It’s nice to see, though, the older Ronsard more daringly putting his hand on her breast rather than her knee…  Note also that Blanchemain’s version, unlike the later one, is ‘edited’ into 2 homogeneous groupings: 4+4+4; 8+8+8.  Here’s the substantially-varying early version:
 
Or’ que l’hyver roidit la glace épesse,
Réchaufons-nous, ma gentille maistresse,
Non accroupis dans la fouyer cendreux,
Mais au plaisir des combats amoureux.
 
Assisons-nous sur ceste molle couche :
Sus, baisez-moy de vostre belle bouche,
Pressez mon col de vos bras deliez,
Et maintenant vostre mere oubliez.
 
Que de la dent vostre tetin je morde,
Que vos cheveux fil à fil je destorde :
Il ne faut point en si folastres jeux,
Comme au dimanche arranger ses cheveux.
 
Approchez-vous, tendez-moy vostre oreille :
Hà ! vous avez la couleur plus vermeille
Que par avant : avez-vous point ouy
Quelque doux mot qui vous ait resjouy ?
Je vous disois que la main j’allois mettre
Sur vos genoux : le voulez-vous permettre ?
Vous rougissez, maistresse: je voy bien
A vostre front que je vous fais grand bien.
 
Quoi ! vous faut-il cognoistre à vostre mine.
Je jure Amour que vous estes si fine,
Que pour mourir de bouche ne diriez
Qu’on vous le fist bien que le desiriez :
Car toute fille encor’ qu’elle ait envie
Du jeu d’aimer desire estre ravie.
Tesmoin en est Helene qui suivit
D’un franc vouloir Pâris qui la ravit.
 
Or je vay donc user d’une main forte
Pour vous avoir. Ha ! vous faites la morte !
Sus, endurez ce doux je ne sais quoy !
Car autrement vous mocqueriez de moy
En vostre lict quand vous seriez seulette.
Or sus, c’est fait, ma gentille brunette :
Recommençons, a’ fin que nos beaux ans
Soyent réchauffez en combats si plaisants.
 
 
                                                                            Now that winter gnaws the thick ice,
                                                                            Let us re-warm ourselves, my gentle mistress,
                                                                            Not crouched in the cinder-filled fireplace,
                                                                            But in the pleasure of love’s contests.
 
                                                                            Let’s sit on this soft couch;
                                                                            Come, kiss me with your lovely lips,
                                                                            Squeeze my neck in your loosed arms,
                                                                            And now forget your mother!
 
                                                                            How I shall nibble your breast with my teeth,
                                                                            How I shall unknot your hair, strand by strand;
                                                                            One cannot, in wild games like these,
                                                                            Keep one’s hair Sunday-tidy.
 
                                                                            Come here, then, turn to me your ear.
                                                                            Ah, your colour is more crimson
                                                                            Than before!  Have you not heard
                                                                            Any of the soft words which made you happy.
                                                                            I told you that I was going to put my hand
                                                                            On your knee: will you allow me?
                                                                            You’re blushin, mistress; I clearly see
                                                                            In your face that I’m greatly pleasing you.
 
                                                                            Oh yes, I have to understand you by your face.
                                                                            I swear by Love that you are so prim
                                                                            That even if you died, you would not say with your mouth
                                                                            That someone could do it even though you wanted it;
                                                                            For every girl, as she desires to play
                                                                            The game of love, wants to be ravished.
                                                                            Witnesses say that it was Helen who followed
                                                                            Of free will Paris who had ravished her.
 
                                                                            So I’m going to use a strong hand
                                                                            To have you. Ah, you are now silent.
                                                                            Come on, enjoy this sweet something!
                                                                            For otherwise you would mock me
                                                                            When you were alone in your bed.
                                                                            Up then, it’s done, my gentle brunette;
                                                                            Let’s begin, so that our beautiful years
                                                                            May be warmed up in such pleasant contests!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Chanson (2:64a)

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Harsoir, Marie, en prenant maugré toy
Un doux baiser acoudé sur ta couche,
Sans y penser je laissay dans ta bouche
L’ame en baisant qui s’enfuit de moy.
 
Comme j’estois sur le poinct de mourir,
Et que mon ame amusée à te suivre,
Ne revenoit mon corps faire revivre,
Je renvoyay mon cœur pour la querir.
 
Mais mon cœur pris de ton œil blandissant
Aima trop mieux estre chez toy (Madame)
Que retourner, et non-plus qu’à mon ame
Ne luy chalut de mon corps perissant.
 
Lors si je n’eusse en te baisant ravy
De ton haleine une vapeur ardente,
Qui depuis seule (en lieu de l’ame absente
Et de mon cœur) de vie m’a servy :
 
Voulant harsoir mon tourment appaiser,
Par qui sans ame et sans cœur je demeure,
Je fusse mort entre tes bras à l’heure
Que maugré toy je te pris un baiser.
 
 
 
                                                                            Yestereve, Marie, in taking despite you
                                                                            A sweet kiss while leaning on your couch,
                                                                            Without thinking of it I left in your mouth
                                                                            My soul, which as we kissed ran away from me.
 
                                                                            As I was on the point of dying,
                                                                            And since my soul, amused to be following you,
                                                                            Would not return to make my body live again,
                                                                            I sent my heart off to seek it.
 
                                                                            But my heart, captured by your flattering eyes,
                                                                            Liked being with you too much, my lady,
                                                                            To return, and no more than my soul
                                                                            Did it care about my dying body.
 
                                                                            So – if I had not as I kissed you seized
                                                                            From your breath a burning vapour
                                                                            Which since then has alone, in place of my absent soul
                                                                            And my heart, served to keep me alive –
 
                                                                            Wishing yestereve to soften my torment,
                                                                            In which soul-less and heart-less I linger,
                                                                            I would have died in your arms at the moment
                                                                            When, despite you, I took from you a kiss.
 
 
 
One of those extended metaphors so beloved by love poets! In fact this one goes back directly to Marullus (see below), but you don’t need to know that to enjoy the poem. What you do need is the willingness to engage with the rather artificial extension of the metaphor! Given that, we can agree that Ronsard does the job very well.
 
Of course, this poem changed over time, though these are mostly ‘tweaks’ to address small poetic or grammatical points the later Ronsard was unhappy with.  The change that most surprises me is that in the later, not earlier, version Ronsard resorts to the ‘olde Frensche’ form (as we might say, though I’m sure his is genuine not faked) of “harsoir”. Normally, Ronsard tidies up such artificialities and makes sure he’s not being deliberately ‘poetical’ in this way; I suspect he might have been trying to avoid “que je pris”? Anyhow, I’ve used ‘yestereve’ above as a parallel ‘olde Englische’ form 🙂   Here’s Blanchemain’s text of the earlier version:
 
 
 
Hier au soir que je pris maugré toy
Un doux baiser, accoudé sur ta couche,
Sans y penser, je laissay dans ta bouche
Mon ame, hélas! qui s’enfuit de moy.
 
Me voyant prest sur l’heure de mourir,
Et que mon ame, amusée à te suivre,
Ne revenoit mon corps faire revivre,
Je t’envoyay mon cœur pour la querir.
 
Mais mon cœur, pris de ton œil blandissant,
Aima trop mieux estre chez-toy, Madame,
Que retourner, et non plus qu’à mon ame
Ne luy chaloit de mon corps perissant.
 
Lors, si je n’eusse en te baisant ravy
De ton haleine une chaleur ardente,
Qui depuis seule (en lieu de l’ame absente
Et de mon cœur) de vie m’a servy,
 
Voulant hier mon tourment appaiser,
Par qui sans ame et sans cœur je demeure,
Je fusse mort entre tes bras à l’heure
Que maugré toy je te pris un baiser.
 
 
 
                                                                            Yesterday at evening when I took despite you
                                                                            A sweet kiss while leaning on your couch,
                                                                            Without thinking of it I left in your mouth
                                                                            My soul, alas, which ran away from me.
 
                                                                            Seeing me immediately dying,
                                                                            And that my soul, amused to be following you,
                                                                            Would not return to make my body live again,
                                                                            I will send you my heart to seek it.
 
                                                                            But my heart, captured by your flattering eyes,
                                                                            Liked being with you too much, my lady,
                                                                            To return, and no more than my soul
                                                                            Did it care about my dying body.
 
                                                                            So – if I had not as I kissed you seized
                                                                            From your breath a burning warmth
                                                                            Which since then has alone, in place of my absent soul
                                                                            And my heart, served to keep me alive –
 
                                                                            Wishing yesterday to soften my torment,
                                                                            In which soul-less and heart-less I linger,
                                                                            I would have died in your arms at the moment
                                                                            When, despite you, I took from you a kiss.
 
 
As I mentioned, this is based on one of the epigrams by Marullus. As a Latinist I have to register my excitement at seeing a bizarre word like “quantulacumque” – the sort of word you come across once or twice in a lifetime!! Note that the neat recapitulation of the beginning which Ronsard gives us ins itself a neat translation of the Marullan original.
 
 
Suaviolum invitae rapio dum, casta Neaera,
imprudens vestris liqui animam in labiis,
exanimusque diu, cum nec per se ipsa rediret
et mora letalis quantulacumque foret,
misi cor quaesitum animam ; sed cor quoque blandis
captum oculis nunquam deinde mihi rediit.
Quod nisi suaviolo flammam quoque, casta Neaera,
hausissem, quae me sustinet exanimum,
ille dies misero, mihi crede, supremus amanti
luxisset, rapui cum tibi suaviolum.
 
 
 
                                                                            When I stole a kiss from you, chaste Neaera, unwilling as you were,
                                                                            I foolishly left my soul on your lips;
                                                                            And soul-less for a while, since it would not return by itself
                                                                            And the delay, however small, would have been fatal,
                                                                            I sent out my heart to seek my soul; but my heart too, caught
                                                                            By your falttering eyes, never came back to me.
                                                                            If I had not drunk in with the kiss, chaste Neaera,
                                                                            A flame as well which supports me while I am soul-less,
                                                                            That day would have shone upon your wretched lover, believe me,
                                                                            As his very last, when I stole that kiss from you.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Chanson (2:61b)

Standard
Je suis un demi-Dieu quand assis vis-à-vis
De toy mon cher souci j’escoute les devis,
Devis entre-rompus d’un gracieux sou-rire,
Sou-ris qui me retient le cœur emprisonnée :
En contemplant tes yeux je me pasme estonné,
Et de mes pauvres flancs un seul vent je ne tire.
 
Ma langue s’engourdist, un petit feu me court
Fretillant sous la peau : je suis muet et sourd,
Un voile sommeillant dessus mes yeux demeure :
Mon sang devient glacé, le courage me faut,
Mon esprit s’evapore, et alors peu s’en faut
Que sans ame à tes pieds estendu je ne meure.
 
 
                                                                            I am a demi-god when seated face to face
                                                                            With you, my dear love, I hear your gossip,
                                                                            Gossip mingled with that gracious smile,
                                                                            A smile which holds me with heart imprisoned;
                                                                            Contemplating your eyes, I faint away astonished
                                                                            And cannot heave a single breath from my poor breast.
 
                                                                            My tongue is numbed, a little fire runs
                                                                            Frisking under my skin, I am dumb and deaf,
                                                                            A veil rests sleeping over my eyes,
                                                                            My blood runs cold, courage fails me,
                                                                            My spirit dissolves, and I am oh so close
                                                                            To lying senseless, stretched out at your feet, and dying.
 
 
 

A lovely little chanson – and how modest of Ronsard to feel himself only a demi-god…!  Blanchemain’s earlier version has a small variant in the first verse (“Car, en voyant tes yeux … ” in line 6 – ‘For, seeing your eyes …’), and more substantial alterations in the second: although in the last two lines it is mainly adjustment of the word-order to avoid some of the (relative) clumsiness of the version below (the adjacent rhyming “pieds es…” and the run of short syllables at the end).

 
 
Ma langue s’engourdist, un petit feu me court

Fretillant sous la peau : je suis muet et sourd,
Et une obscure nuit dessus mes yeux demeure :
Mon sang devient glacé, l’esprit fuit de mon corps,
Je tremble tout de crainte, et peu s’en faut alors
Qu’à tes pieds estendu sans ame je ne meure.
 
 
                                                                            My tongue is numbed, a little fire runs
                                                                            Frisking under my skin, I am dumb and deaf,
                                                                            Dark night rests over my eyes,
                                                                            My blood runs cold, my spirit flees my body,
                                                                            I tremble all over in fear, and oh I am so close
                                                                            To lying stretched out at your feet senseless, and dying.
 
Belleau’s commentary tells us that this is a translation of one of Sappho’s odes, also imitated by Catullus. The Catullus version (perhaps more likely to be Ronsard’s immediate model?) is below:
 
 
Ille mi par esse deo videtur,
ille, si fas est, superare divos,
qui sedens adversus identidem te
    spectat et audit
dulce ridentem, misero quod omnes
eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi
    < —- (missing line?) —->
lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinant aures, gemina teguntur
    lumina nocte.
otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:
otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:
otium et reges prius et beatas
    perdidit urbes.
 
 
                                                                            He seems to me to be the equal of a god,
                                                                            He seems, if it is no blasphemy, to be greater than the gods
                                                                            Who, sitting opposite you again and again
                                                                                Watches and hears you
                                                                            Laughing sweetly, which snatches away from me
                                                                            Wretched as I am, all my senses: for immediately I
                                                                            Saw you, Lesbia, there was nothing else for me.
                                                                                < ———- >
                                                                             My tongue grew slow, a weak flame
                                                                            Ran down my limbs, my ears rang
                                                                            With their own sound, my twin eyes
                                                                                Were enclosed in night.
                                                                            Free-time is a problem for you, Catullus,
                                                                            You frolic around in free-time, and enjoy it too much.
                                                                            Free-time has destroyed kings before
                                                                                And fair cities.
 
 
Sappho’s incomplete poem ends inconclusively: is this a poem of jealousy or not? Scholars argue about it (though the fact that Catullus obviously based his own poem on it might lead one to suspect it ended similarly, there is always the possibility that Catullus subverted expectation!)  I’ve been lazy here and borrowed the translation from Lauren Hunter.
 
 
φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν’ ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι
ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί-
σας ὐπακούει
 
καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ’ ἦ μὰν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν,
ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ’ ἴδω βρόχε’ ὤς με φώνας
οὔδεν ἔτ’ εἴκει,
 
ἀλλὰ κὰμ μὲν γλῶσσα +ἔαγε, λέπτον
δ’ αὔτικα χρῶι πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμακεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ’ οὐδ’ ἒν ὄρημμ’, ἐπιρρόμ-
βεισι δ’ ἄκουαι,
 
κὰδ’ δέ ἴδρως κακχέεται, τρόμος δὲ
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ’ ὀλίγω ‘πιδεύης
φαίνομ’ ἔμ’ αὔτᾳ.
 
ἀλλὰ πᾶν τόλματον, ἐπεὶ καὶ πένητα …
 
 
                                                                            to me he seems to be equal to the gods,
                                                                            that man who sits near you, facing you
                                                                            and hears you
                                                                            speaking sweetly
 
                                                                            laughing delightfully, and this actually
                                                                            makes my heart tremble within my breast;
                                                                            for whenever I look at you – even a glance! –
                                                                            no words come to me,
 
                                                                            but my tongue is snapped
                                                                            and fine flames run through my body instantly
                                                                            and I see nothing with my eyes
                                                                            and my ears ring
 
                                                                            and sweat pours down me,
                                                                            and all of me is trembling,
                                                                            and I am paler green than grass
                                                                            and I seem to lack but little of dying.
 
                                                                            but all should be risked! since even a poor person –
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Chanson (Am 2:59a)

Standard
Voulant, ô ma douce moitié
T’asseurer que mon amitié
Ne se voirra jamais finie :
Je fis pour t’en asseurer mieux,
Un serment juré par mes yeux
Et par mon cœur et par ma vie.
 
Tu jures ce qui n’est à toy,
Ton cœur et tes yeux sont à moy
D’une promesse irrevocable,
Ce me dis-tu : helas au moins
Reçoy mes larmes pour tesmoins
Que ma parolle est veritable.
 
Alors belle tu me baisas
Et doucement des-attizas
Mon feu d’un gracieux visage :
Puis tu fis signe de ton œil,
Que tu recevois bien mon dueil
Et mes larmes pour tesmoignage.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            “Wanting, my sweet other half,
                                                                            To assure you that my love
                                                                            Would never come to an end,
                                                                            I made to better assure you of it
                                                                            A vow sworn on my eyes
                                                                            And my heart and my life.”
 
                                                                            “But you swore by what you don’t have :
                                                                            Your heart and eyes are mine
                                                                            By an irrevocable promise,
                                                                            You told me.” “Alas, then at least
                                                                            Accept my tears as witness
                                                                            That my word is truthful.”
 
                                                                            Then, my fair one, you kissed me
                                                                            And sweetly un-kindled
                                                                            My fire with your gracious face;
                                                                            And then you made me a sign with your eye
                                                                            That you indeed accepted my grief
                                                                            And my tears as a witness. 
 
 
 
A charming little song, beautifully-balanced in those 3 stanzas. Belleau tells us this poem is “taken from” Marullus, but as you can see Ronsard took the idea alone from Marullus: the balance and shape are all his own.

 
(Marullus : Epigram 1.58)
 
Juravi fore me tuum perenne,
per me, per caput hoc, per hos ocellos,
qui te disperiere contuendo,
per quod plurima cor tulit dolenda.
“Haec”, inquis, “mea sunt, tua ista sunto ! “
At certe lacrimae meae, Neaera,
quas juro fore me tuum perenne.
 
                                                                            I have sworn I will be yours forever –
                                                                            By myself, by this head, byu these eyes
                                                                            Which have perished from looking on you,
                                                                            By this heart which has borne so many grievous things.
                                                                            “These things,” you say, “are mine: let them be yours!”
                                                                            These are certainly my tears, Neaera,
                                                                            By which I swear I will be yours forever
 
 Blanchemain’s version of the poem offers a few variants:
 
Voulant, ô ma douce moitié
T’asseurer que mon amitié
Jamais ne se verra faillie,
Je te fis pour t’asseurer mieux,
Un serment juré par mes yeux
Et par mon cœur et par ma vie.
 
Tu jures ce qui n’est à toy,
Ton cœur et tes yeux sont à moy
D’une promesse irrevocable,
Ce me dis-tu : Las ! pour le moins
Reçoy mes larmes pour tesmoins
Que ma parolle est veritable.
 
Alors belle tu me baisas
Et doucement des-attisas
Le feu qui brusle mon courage :
Puis tu fis signe de ton œil,
Que tu recevois bien mon dueil
Et mes larmes pour tesmoignage.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            “Wanting, my sweet other half,
                                                                            To assure you that my love
                                                                            Would never fail,
                                                                            I made to better assure you
                                                                            A vow sworn on my eyes
                                                                            And my heart and my life.”
 
                                                                            “But you swore by what you don’t have :
                                                                            Your heart and eyes are mine
                                                                            By an irrevocable promise,
                                                                            You told me.” “Alas, then at the least
                                                                            Accept my tears as witness
                                                                            That my word is truthful.”
 
                                                                            Then, my fair one, you kissed me
                                                                            And sweetly un-kindled
                                                                            The fire which burns up my courage;
                                                                            And then you made me a sign with your eye
                                                                            That you indeed accepted my grief
                                                                            And my tears as a witness. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Chanson (Am. 2.61a)

Standard
Si je t’assauls, Amour, Dieu qui m’es trop cognu,
Pour neant en ton camp je feray des allarmes :
Tu es un vieil routier et bien appris aux armes,
Et moy jeune guerrier mal appris et tout nu.
 
Si je fuy devant toy, je ne sçaurois aller
En lieu que je ne sois devancé de ton aile :
Si je veux me cacher, l’amoureuse etincelle
Qui reluist en mon cœur me viendra deceler.
 
Si je veux m’embarquer tu es fils de la mer,
Si je men-vole au Ciel ton pouvoir y commande,
Si je tombe aux enfers ta puissance y est grande :
Ainsi maistre de tout, force m’est de t’aimer.
 
Or je t’aimeray donq, bien qu’envis de mon cœur,
Si c’est quelque amitié que d’aimer par contrainte :
« Toutefois (comme on dit) on voit souvent la crainte
« S’accompagner d’amour et l’amour de la peur.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            If I assault you, o god of Love so well-known to me,
                                                                            To no purpose shall I raise alarms in your camp :
                                                                            You are a real veteran, well-used to alarms,
                                                                            And I’m a young warrior, poorly-taught and completely unarmed.
 
                                                                            If I flee before you, I won’t be able to go
                                                                            Anywhere your wings won’t reach first;
                                                                            If I try to hide myself, the spark of love
                                                                            Which shines in my heart will expose me.
 
                                                                            If I decide to take ship, you are the son of the sea;
                                                                            If I fly to heaven, your power rules there;
                                                                            If I fall into hell, your might is great there:
                                                                            As you are master of all, I must love you.
 
                                                                            So, I shall love you, though against my heart’s desire,
                                                                            If it is a form of love to be forced to love:
                                                                            “You often,” as they say, “see anxiety
                                                                            Accompanied by love, and love by fear.”
 
 
 
Here is a chanson built on 4 quatrains – not quite a madrigal, but the differences are slight 🙂  Structurally, though, we have a three-part design (1-8, 9-12. 13-16), hence a more significant contrast with the sonnet-form Ronsard uses.
 
The version printed by Blanchemain only differs slightly: line 2 reads “En vain je te feray dans ton camp des allarmes“, word order rather than meaning changing; and in line 10, “Si je m’enleve au Ciel …” (‘If I lift myself to heaven…’).