Category Archives: Madrigals

Poems which Ronsard labelled as ‘Madrigals’. For Ronsard, a madrigal is a sonnet with an unusual number of lines – that is, his lines have the same length and are (generally) grouped in 4s and 3s as in a sonnet, but the total number of lines will be greater than 14.

Helen 2:30

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Voyez comme tout change (hé, qui l’eust esperé ! )
Vous me souliez donner, maintenant je vous donne
Des bouquets et des fleurs : Amour vous abandonne,
Qui seul dedans mon cœur est ferme demeuré.
 
Des Dames le vouloir n’est jamais mesuré,
Qui d’une extreme ardeur tantost se passionne,
Tantost une froideur extreme l’environne,
Sans avoir un milieu longuement asseuré.
 
Voila comme Fortune en se joüant m’abaisse :
Vostre plus grande gloire un temps fut de m’aimer,
Maintenant je vous aime, et vostre amour me laisse :
 
Ainsi que je vous vey je me voy consumer.
Dieu pour punir l’orgueil commet une Deesse :
Elle vous appartient, je n’ose la nommer.
 
 
 
                                                                            See how everything changes ! Who could have expected this ?
                                                                            You used to give me bouquets of flowers,
                                                                            Now I give you them ; Love abandons you,
                                                                            He alone is firmly stationed in my heart.
 
                                                                            The desire of ladies is never measured,
                                                                            It is always extremely passionate, burning with ardour,
                                                                            But soon an extreme coldness enwraps it,
                                                                            Its place not long assured.
 
                                                                            See how Fortune playfully abases me:
                                                                            Your greatest glory once was to love me,
                                                                            But now I love you and your love for me has gone;
 
                                                                            As I see you, I am myself consumed.
                                                                            God has appointed a goddess to punish pride:
                                                                            She is yours, I dare not name her.
 
 
I like the inversion here. For once, Helen is the one in love – though not for long, and so the complaints continue. Not that I can remember Helen sending bouquets, nor indeed loving Ronsard deeply…
 
A couple of notes :
 – in line 4, perhaps the idea is, ‘he is in my heart only (not yours)’ , rather than that his heart contains love and nothing else. –But, while that might be a ‘poetic’ meaning we want to infer, the grammar has to be contorted to support that reading.
 – in the last two lines, Ronsard is referring to Nemesis. She ‘belongs to’ Helen because, as Richelet tells us, ‘deflowered by Jupiter, Nemesis gave birth to an egg from which Helen [of Troy] hatched’: an appropriate origin for that Helen, transferred to Ronsard’s.
 
 
Blanchemain’s version shows that the ending of this poem is a complete re-write. There are also minor changes in 78: “Tantost d’une froideur extreme s’environne” (‘But soon it wraps itself in an extreme coldness’). The last four lines here read:
 
 
… Maintenant je vous aime, et languis de tristesse,
 
Et me voy sans raison de douleur consumer.
Pour me venger de vous il est une déesse :
Vous la cognoissez bien, je n’ose la nommer.
 
 
                                                                            But now I love you and I pine from sadness,
                                                                            And without reason find myself consumed by grief.
                                                                            To avenge me on you, there exists a goddess:
                                                                            You know her well, I dare not name her.
 
 
It’s a more ‘standard’ ending than the one Ronsard moves to, with the usual reference to vengeance in exchange for undeserved grief, and far less ‘demanding’ on the reader than the more allusive later version, which expects us to reach Nemesis through ‘punishment’ not revenge, and through the allusion to her relationship with Helen.
 
Not content with providing this earlier text, Blanchemain also offers a version from the ‘posthumous editions’, which converts the 14-line sonnet into a 16-line ‘madrigal’. Here, the second half expands the thoughts, but also makes clearer the Helen birth-myth:
 
Voila comme Fortune en se joüant m’abaisse :
Vostre apprehension et vostre seul penser
Un temps furent à moy, or’ vostre amour me laisse :
Le temps peut toute chose à la fin effacer.
 
Ne vous mocquez pourtant du lien qui me presse ;
Soyez douce à mon cœur, sans tant le reblesser.
Dieu, pour punir l’orgueil, commet une deesse ;
Son sein vous esclouit, gardez de l’offenser.
 
 
                                                                            See how Fortune playfully abases me:
                                                                            Your fears and all your thoughts
                                                                            Were once for me, but now your love abandons me;
                                                                            Time can efface all things in the end.
 
                                                                            But don’t laugh at the ties which oppress me;
                                                                            Be gentle with my heart, without hurting it again and again.

                                                                            God has appointed a goddess to punish pride:
                                                                            Her breast hatched you, take care not to offend her.
 
 
 
 
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Amours 2:59

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Amour voulut le corps de ceste mousche prendre,
Qui fait courir les bœufs en esté par les bois,
Puis il choisit un trait de ceux de son carquois,
Qui piquant sçait le mieux dedans les cœurs descendre.
 
Il eslongna ses mains, et feit son arc estendre
En croissant, qui se courbe aus premiers jours du mois,
Puis me lascha le trait contre qui le harnois
D’Achille ny d’Hector ne se pourroit defendre.
 
Apres qu’il m’eut blessé en riant s’en-vola,
Et par l’air mon penser avec luy s’en-alla.
Penser va-t’en au Ciel, la terre est trop commune.
 
Adieu Amour adieu, adieu penser adieu :
Ny l’un ny l’autre en moy vous n’aurez plus de lieu :
Tousjours l’un me maistrise, et l’autre m’importune.
 
 
 
                                                                            Love decided to take on the body of that fly
                                                                            Which makes cattle run through the woods in the summer,
                                                                            Then he chose an arrow from those in his quiver,
                                                                            A sharp one which is best at sinking into the heart.
 
                                                                            He stretched out his hands, and made his bow stretch
                                                                            Like the moon curving in the first days of the month,
                                                                            Then he released at me his arrow, against which the armour
                                                                            Of Achilles or Hector could not defend.
 
                                                                            After he’d wounded me he flew off laughing
                                                                            And my thoughts went off into the air with him.
                                                                            Thoughts, go off to heaven, the earth is too common.
 
                                                                            Farewell Love, farewell; farewell thoughts, farewell.
                                                                            Neither the one nor the other of you will any longer have a place in me.
                                                                            Always one is telling me what to do, the other begging me.
 
 
 
An entirely gratuitous Iliad reference in the second quatrain, Achilles and Hector being the heroes on each side of the Trojan War; but here representative purely of any armoured figure. And, although beginning with the image of the gadfly, Ronsard ignores it after the opening couplet. So, in the end, a relatively standard presentation of the image of love and his arrows – the main interest therefore being in the final tercet with its unusual outcome!
 
Blanchemain sees this poem as a ‘madrigal’, i.e. it has an extra line (4-4-3-4 instead of 4-4-3-3). Apart from a minor adjustment in line 3 (“Puis il choisit un trait sur tous ceux du carquois…”, ‘Then he chose an arrow from all those in his quiver’), he offers a completely different, but much more ‘standard’ (and less surprising) ending. Here’s the second jalf of the poem again in his version:
 
Apres qu’il m’eut blessé en riant s’en-vola,
Et par l’air mon penser avec luy s’en-alla ;
Mais toutesfois au cœur me demoura la playe,
 
Laquelle pour néant cent fois le jour j’essaye
De la vouloir guerir ; mais tel est son effort
Que je voy bien qu’il faut que maugré moy je l’aye,
Et que pour la guerir le remede est la mort.
 
 

                                                                            After he’d wounded me he flew off laughing

                                                                            And my thoughts went off into the air with him.
                                                                            But still the wound remained in my heart,
 
                                                                            Which I fruitlessly try a hundred times a day
                                                                            To get it cured; but such is its strength
                                                                            That I well see I’ll have to keep it despite myself,

                                                                            And that the remdey for curing it is death.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 2:45 (madrigal)

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Comme d’un ennemy je veux en toute place
M’eslongner de vos yeux, qui m’ont le cœur deceu,
Petits yeux de Venus, par lesquels j’ay receu
Le coup mortel au sang qui d’outre en outre passe.
 
Je voy, les regardant, Amour qui me menasse,
Aumoins voyant son arc je l’ay bien apperceu :
Mais remparer mon cœur contre luy je n’ay sceu,
Dont le trait fausseroit une forte cuirasse.
 
Or pour ne les voir plus, je veux aller bien loing
Vivre desur le bord d’une mer solitaire :
Encore j’ay grand’peur de ne perdre le soing,
Qui m’est par habitude un mal hereditaire,
 
Tant il a pris en moy de force et de sejour.
« On peut outre la mer un long voyage faire,
« Mais on ne peut changer ny de cœur ny d’amour.
 
 
                                                                            Like an enemy I want at every point
                                                                            To distance myself from your eyes, which have deceived my heart,
                                                                            Those little Venus-eyes through which I received
                                                                            The mortal wound in my blood which runs me through and through.
 
                                                                            I see as I look at them Love menacing me,
                                                                            And I well know his bow having seen it ;
                                                                            But how to fortify my heart against him I have never known,
                                                                            Whose blow can defeat a strong breastplate.
 
                                                                            So, too see them no more, I shall go far off
                                                                            To live on the edge of some lonely sea;
                                                                            Yet still I’m afraid it will be wasted effort,
                                                                            A thing which is for me a common, inherited flaw,
 
                                                                            So strong his hold and for so long over me.
                                                                            “You can make a long voyage beyond the sea
                                                                            But you can’t change your heart or your love.”
 
 
For Marty-Laveaux, this is a madrigal; for Blanchemain, whose version has not yet been amplified with line 12 above, it is a sonnet. I find myself unable to see why Ronsard added that line: it doesn’t seem to be there to add to or amplify the sense of the piece. Even though the change links to further modifications of  the tercet at the end, it is – even in that context – just an extra line, an extra thought. (And, in my view, the more complex thought of the later evrsion isn’t even an improvement.)
 

Well, so much for literary criticism:  here’s Blanchemain’s earlier version complete, despite the small number of differences, to encourage you to read it complete and see what you think about the ‘missing’ line …

 
 
Comme d’un ennemy je veux en toute place
M’eslongner de vos yeux, qui m’ont le cœur deceu,
Petits yeux de Venus, par lesquels j’ay receu
Le coup mortel au sang qui d’outre en outre passe.
 
Je voy toujours dans eux Amour qui me menasse,
Aumoins voyant son arc je l’ay bien apperceu :
Mais remparer mon cœur contre luy je n’ay sceu,
Dont le trait fausseroit une forte cuirasse.
 
Or pour ne les voir plus, je veux aller bien loing
Vivre desur le bord d’une mer solitaire :
Encore j’ay grand’peur de ne perdre le soing,
 
Qui, hoste de mon cœur, y loge nuict et jour.
On peut bien sur la mer un long voyage faire,
Mais on ne peut changer ny de cœur ny d’amour.
 
 
 
                                                                            Like an enemy I want at every point
                                                                            To distance myself from your eyes, which have deceived my heart,
                                                                            Those little Venus-eyes through which I received
                                                                            The mortal wound in my blood which runs me through and through.
 
                                                                            I see always in them Love menacing me,
                                                                            And I well know his bow having seen it ;
                                                                            But how to fortify my heart against him I have never known,
                                                                            Whose blow can defeat a strong breastplate.
 
                                                                            So, too see them no more, I shall go far off
                                                                            To live on the edge of some lonely sea;
                                                                            Yet still I’m afraid it will be wasted effort,
 
                                                                           That guest in my heart stays there night and day;
                                                                            You might well make a long voyage on the sea
                                                                            But you can’t change your heart or your love.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 2:39 (madrigal)

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Another of those poems whose form Marty-Laveaux and Blanchemain disagree about:

Maistresse, de mon cœur vous emportez la clef,
La clef de mes pensers et la clef de ma vie :
Et toutesfois (helas ! ) je ne leur porte envie,
Pourveu que vous ayez pitié de leur meschef.
 
Vous me laissez tout seul en un tourment si gref,
Que je mourray de dueil d’ire et de jalousie :
Tout seul je le voudrois, mais une compagnie
Vous me donnez de pleurs qui coulent de mon chef.
 
Que maudit soit le jour que la fleche cruelle
M’engrava dans le cœur vostre face si belle,
Voz cheveux vostre front vos yeux et vostre port,
Qui servent à ma vie et de Fare et d’estoille !
 
Je devois mourir lors sans plus craindre la mort,
Le despit m’eust servy pour me conduire au port,
Mes pleurs servy de fleuve, et mes souspirs de voile.
 
 
                                                                            Mistress, you carry the key of my heart,
                                                                            The key of my thoughts and the key of my life ;
                                                                            And yet, alas, I don’t envy them
                                                                            Since you have pity on their misfortune.
 
                                                                            You leave me all alone in torment so grievous
                                                                            That I shall die of grief, anger and jealousy ;
                                                                            All alone, I’d like that, but you give me
                                                                            A company of tears which flow down my face.
 
                                                                            Cursed be the day that the cruel dart
                                                                            Engraved in my heart your beautiful face,
                                                                            Your hair, your brow, your eyes and your bearing,
                                                                            Which serve as my life’s Pharos and star !
 
                                                                            I should die now without fearing death more,
                                                                            Scorn has served to lead me to port,
                                                                            My tears served as the river, my sighs as the sail.
 
 
We’re back in the poems for Marie, so classical references are occasional rather than freely-scattered. Here, only the Pharos, the famous lighthouse of Alexandria. (Did you know it stood guard over the harbour there until the late middle ages??) 
 
This is one of the ‘Sinope’ poems: as Blanchemain’s footnote reminds us, “Belleau gives the explanation of this name Sinope, applied to Marie [i.e. that Sinope was simply a pseudonym for Marie]. In the 1560 edition he says on the contrary that this name is to hide a lady of illustrious birth, beloved of the poet ‘with a furious passion’.”  So, Blanchemain’s version opens with Sinope’s name not Marie’s: “Sinope, de mon cœur vous emportez la clef…”.   Blanchemain’s earlier version also ends with something far simpler than the extravagant metaphor of the later version; and (with one less line) is a sonnet not the ‘madrigal’ of 15 lines which Marty-Laveaux prints (4+4+3+3, not 4+4+4+3). His version does not have line 12, the one about the Pharos, and then his sestet reads:
 
Je devois mourir lors sans plus tarder une heure;
Le temps que j’ay vescu depuis telle blesseure
Aussi bien n’a servi qu’à m’allonger la mort.  
 
                                                                            I should die now without waiting another hour;
                                                                            The time that I’ve lived quite well
                                                                            Since such a wound, has served only to push back my death.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Madrigal (Amours 1.200a)

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Un sot Vulcan ma Cyprine fachoit :
Elle en pleurant qui son courroux ne cele,
L’un de ses yeux arma d’une etincelle,
De l’autre une eau sur sa joüe épanchoit.
 
Tandis Amour, qui petit se cachoit
Comme un oiseau dans le sein de la belle,
En l’œil humide alloit baignant son aile,
Puis en l’ardant ses plumes il sechoit.
 
Ainsi voit-on d’une face diverse
Rire et pleurer tout en un mesme temps
Douteusement le Soleil du printemps,
Quand une nuë à demi le traverse.
 
Quel dueil ensemble et quel plaisir c’estoit
De voir son geste, et les pleurs qu’elle verse
Pleins de regrets que le Ciel escoutoit ?
 
 
 
 
                                                                            A stupid Vulcan annoyed my Cyprian [Venus] :
                                                                            As she cried, not concealing her anger,
                                                                            One of her eyes she armed with a flashing spark,
                                                                            From the other a tear flowed onto her cheek.
 
                                                                            So Love, hiding his tiny self
                                                                            Like a bird within the beauty’s breast,
                                                                            Flew into the wet eye, bathing his wings,
                                                                            Then in the burning one he dried his feathers.
 
                                                                            Thus you might see with a divided appearance,
                                                                            Both laughing and crying at the same time
                                                                            Uncertainly, the Sun in spring
                                                                            When a cloud half-crosses it.
 
                                                                            What grief and what pleasure together it was
                                                                            To see how she acted, and the tears she cried
                                                                            Full of regret, that the Heavens might hear.
 
 
 
For Ronsard, a madrigal is, as you’ll recall, simply a sonnet with a bonus line or two. Here, his opening image is taken from classical myth, the unhappy marriage of Vulcan and Venus; but that is simply scene-setting. Vulcan here is obviously Ronsard who in his clumsy foolishness has upset Cassandre.
 
In Blanchemain, this is a (numbered) sonnet, simply being one line shorter: I’ve marked the spot in line 10 where in the later version above he has simply split the line and inserted 2 extra half-lines.
 
 
Un sot Vulcan ma Cyprine faschoit :
Et elle à part, qui son courroux ne celle,
L’un de ses yeux arma d’une estincelle,
De l’autre un lac sur sa joue épanchoit.
 
Tandis Amour, qui petit se cachoit
Folastrement dans le sein de la belle,
En l’œil humide alloit baignant son aile,
Puis en l’ardant ses plumes il sechoit.
 
Ainsi void-on quelquefois en un temps
Rire et pleurer [ ] le soleil du printemps,
Quand une nue à demi le traverse.
 
L’un dans les miens darda tant de liqueur,
Et l’autre, après, tant de flames au cœur,
Que fleurs et feux depuis l’heure je verse.
 
 
                                                                            A stupid Vulcan annoyed my Cyprian [Venus] :
                                                                            As she standing aside, not concealing her anger,
                                                                            Armed one of her eyes with a flashing spark,
                                                                            From the other a lake flowed onto her cheek.
 
                                                                            So Love, hiding his tiny self
                                                                            Playfully within the beauty’s breast,
                                                                            Flew into the wet eye, bathing his wings,
                                                                            Then in the burning one he dried his feathers.
 
                                                                            Thus you might see occasionally at the same time,
                                                                            Both laughing and crying the Sun in spring
                                                                            When a cloud half-crosses it.
 
                                                                            One of them shot so much water into my own [eyes],
                                                                            The other, afterwards, so many flames into my heart,
                                                                            That I’ve been pouring out flowers and fires since then. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Madrigal (160a)

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Que maudit soit le mirouër qui vous mire
Et vous fait estre ainsi fiere en beauté,
Ainsi enfler le cœur de cruauté,
Me refuzant le bien que je desire !
 
Depuis trois ans pour vos yeux je souspire :
Et si mes pleurs, ma Foy, ma Loyauté
N’ont, ô destin ! de vostre cœur osté
Ce doux orgueil qui cause mon martire.
 
Et ce-pendant vous ne cognoissez pas
Que ce beau mois et vostre âge se passe,
Comme une fleur qui languit contre-bas,
Et que le temps passé ne se ramasse.
 
Tandis qu’avez la jeunesse et la grace,
Et le temps propre aux amoureux combas,
Des doux plaisirs ne soyez jamais lasse,
Et sans aimer n’attendez le trespas.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Cursed be the mirror which reflects you
                                                                            And makes you proud in your beauty,
                                                                            And puffs up your heart with cruelty,
                                                                            Refusing me the good things I desire!
 
                                                                            For three years I have been sighing over your eyes;
                                                                            And yet my tears, my faithfulness, my loyalty
                                                                            Have not – o destiny! – lifted from your heart
                                                                            That sweet pride which causes my suffering.
 
                                                                            Nevertheless you do not recognise
                                                                            That this fair month and your age is passing by
                                                                            Like a flower which wilts over there,
                                                                            And that time passed cannot be recovered.
 
                                                                            Since you have youth and grace
                                                                            And the time is right for love’s combats,
                                                                            Never be weary of sweet pleasures
                                                                            And do not, loveless, await death.

 

 
 
 A madrigal is, in Ronsard’s terms, a sonnet with some extra lines: here, though it transforms the sonnet into a 4-stanza poem, you will note that the underlying sonnet rhyme-scheme is maintained, with the last two ‘stanzas’ expanded tercets structured differently from the opening quatrains.  I must add, this poem has a very satifying ‘arc’ from beginning to end, as well. The only real weak point is where Ronsard resorts to an exclamation in line 7; it’s relevant that this is also the only place he made a change from the earlier version in Blanchemain, which has an even weaker exclamation:  “N’ont, las ! je meurs ! de vostre cœur osté …” (‘Have not – alas, I am dying! – lifted from your heart …’).
 

 

 

 
 
 

Madrigal (55a)

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Si c’est aimer, Madame, et de jour et de nuict
Resver, songer, penser le moyen de vous plaire,
Oublier toute chose, et ne vouloir rien faire
Qu’adorer et servir la beauté qui me nuit :
 
Si c’est aimer de suivre un bon-heur qui me fuit,
De me perdre moy-mesme et d’estre solitaire,
Souffrir beaucoup de mal, beaucoup craindre et me taire,
Pleurer, crier merci et m’en voir esconduit :
 
Si c’est aimer de vivre en vous plus qu’en moy-mesme,
Cacher d’un front joyeux une langueur extrême,
Sentir au fond de l’ame un combat inegal,
Chaud, froid, comme la fiévre amoureuse me traitte :
Honteux, parlant à vous, de confesser mon mal :
 
Si cela c’est aimer, furieux je vous aime :
Je vous aime, et sçay bien que mon mal est fatal :
Le cœur le dit assez, mais la langue est muette.
 
 
 
                                                                              If it is love, my Lady, both day and night
                                                                              To dream, ponder, think of how to please you,
                                                                              To forget everything and want to do nothing
                                                                              But adore and serve the beauty which harms me;
 
                                                                              If it is love to pursue a happiness which runs from me,
                                                                              To lose myself and be alone,
                                                                              To suffer much harm, to fear much and be silent,
                                                                              To weep, call for mercy and see myself rejected;
 
                                                                              If it is love to live in you more than in myself,
                                                                              To hide with a happy face my extreme pining,
                                                                              To feel in the depths of my soul an unequal combat,
                                                                              Hot and cold as love’s fever treats me;
                                                                              Too shy in speaking with you to confess my illness;
 
                                                                              If that is love, I love you madly;
                                                                              I love you, and well know that my illness is mortal:
                                                                              My heart speaks enough, though my tongue is silent.
  
 
One of those Ronsardian ‘madrigals’, a sonnet with extra lines – here an extra couple of lines in the penultimate tercet.  And what a lovely poem it is.
 
Blanchemain has only one minor difference, in line 14 where he has “si cela est aimer” instead of “si cela c’est aimer”.  The change is purely to the sound of the line (and this time the smoother effect of avoiding hiatus between the vowels “cela_est” is the improvement Ronsard sought.