Category Archives: Poems

Poems 2.2 – to Jehan du Thier

Standard

 

A Jehan du Thier,
Seigneur de Beau-regard, Secretaire d’Estat
 
Qui fait honneur aux Rois, il fait honneur à Dieu :
Les Princes et les Rois tiennent le plus grand lieu
« Apres la Deité ; et qui revere encore
« Les serviteurs d’un Roy, le Roy mesme il honore.
Il est vray, mon du Thier, qu’un homme comme toy
Donne plus de travail à celebrer, qu’un Roy;
Car la gloire des Rois en sujet est fertille,
Et ne travaille guere une plume gentille,
Ny un espoir gaillard, s’il a reçeu tant d’heur
Que de ne s’efforcer de chanter leur grandeur.
 
D’un theme si fecond en abondance viennentt
Propos desur propos, qui la Muse entretiennent,
Comme en hyver les eaux qui s’escoulent d’un mont,
Et courans dans le mer file-à-file s’en-vont :
Mais pour louer un moindre il faut de l’artifice,
A fin que la vertu n’aparoisse estre vice.
 
Si est-ce, mon du Thier, que les plus grands honneurs
Qui sont communs en France à nos plus grands Seigneurs,
Te sont communs aussi, et si je l’osois dire,
De toy seul à bon droit on les devroit escrire
Comme propres à toy : mais ces Dieux de la Court
Me happent à la gorge, et me font taire court.
 
Comme on voit bien souvent aux mines dessous terre
Soyent d’argent soyent de fer de grands pilliers de pierre,
Qui sont veus soustenir la mine de leurs bras,
Et ahanner beaucoup, et si n’ahannent pas ;
Ce sont d’autres pillers qui loin du jour se tiennent
Dedans des coings à part, qui tout le faix soustiennent :
Ainsi les grands Seigneurs, soit en guerre ou en paix,
En credit eslevez, semblent porter le faix
Des affaires de France avec l’espaule large,
Et toutesfois c’est toy qui en portes la charge.
 
S’il arrive un paquet d’Itale, ou plus avant,
Soit de Corse ou de Grece, ou du bout de Levant,
Ils le dépliront bien, mais il te faudra mettre
En ton estude apres pour respondre à la lettre.
Car ainsi que le Ciel ne soustient qu’un Soleil,
France n’a qu’un du Thier qui n’a point de pareil,
Ou soit pour sagement les Estrangers semondre,
Ou soit pour cautement à leurs paquets respondre ;
Car soit en stile bas, ou en stile hautain,
Les Graces du François s’escoulent de ta main.
 
Nul homme ne se vante estre heureux en la prose,
Que pour certain exemple aux yeux ne se propose
Tes escrits et ton stile, et pour exerciter
Sa main, il ne travaille à te contre-imiter.
 
On dit que Geryon, qui tripla les conquestes
De la masse d’Hercule, avoit au chef trois testes :
Tu en as plus de mille, aumoins mille cerveaux
Que tu empesches tous à mille faits nouveaux.
Car soit que le Soleil abandonne la source
De son hoste Ocean, et appreste à la course
Son char à qui l’Aurore a de sa belle main
Attellé les chevaux, et rangez sous le frain :
Ou soit qu’en plein midy ses rayons il nous darde,
Et à plomb dessous luy toutes choses regarde :
Ou soit qu’en devalant plein de soif et d’ahan
Il s’aille rebaigner és flots de l’Ocean,
Et que son char en garde aux Dieux marins il baille,
Ton esprit n’a repos qui sans cesse travaille
Et ta langue, et ta main : l’esprit en inventant,
La main en escrivant, et la langue en dictant
Quelque lettre à tes clercs, ou tout seul tu dechiffres
Dedans ta chambre à part les enigmes des chiffres
Que te baille un courrier nouvellement venu,
A fin que le secret du Roy ne soit cognu.
 
Icy un Alleman des nouvelles t’apporte,
Icy un Espagnol se tient devant ta porte ;
L’Anglois, l’Italien, et l’Ecossois aussi
Font la presse à ton huis et te donnent souci :
L’un cecy, l’un cela diversement demande :
Puis il te faut signer ce que le Roy commande,
Qui selon les effets de divers argumens
Te baille en moins d’un jour mille commandemens,
De petits, de moyens et de grand importance.
 
Encor’ as-tu le soing des grands tresors de France :
Tailles, tributs, empruns, decimes et impos,
Ne laissent ton esprit un quart d’heure en repos,
Qui se plaist d’achever mille choses contraires,
Et plus est vigoureux, tant plus il a d’affaires.
Or ainsi qu’un poisson se nourrist en son eau,
Et une Salemandre au brasier d’un fourneau,
Tu te plais en ta peine, et ta verde vieillesse
Se nourrist du travail qui jamais ne te laisse.
 
Quand tu vas au matin aux affaires du Roy,
Une tourbe de gens fremist toute apres toy,
Qui deçà qui delà tes costez environnent,
Et tous divers propos à tes oreilles sonnent :
L’un te baille un placet, l’un te va conduisant
Pour luy faire donner au Roy quelque present,
L’autre (qui a de prés ton oreille approchée)
Demande si sa letter a esté despeschée :
L’un est fasché d’attendre, et n’a repos aucun
Que tousjours ne te suive et te soit importun :
L’autre plus gracieux te fait la reverence,
Et l’autre te requiert l’avoir en souvenance :
Bref la foulle te presse, et demeine un grand bruit
Tout à l’entour de toy, comme un torrent qui fuit
Bouillonnant par le fond des pierreuses valées,
Quand dessous le Printemps les neiges sont coulées.
 
Tu n’as si tost disné, qu’il ne te faille aller
Au Conseil, pour ouyr des affaires parler :
Puis au coucher du Roy, puis selon ta coustume
Presque toute la nuict veiller avec la plume.
Et pource nostre Roy d’un favorable accueil
Te prise et te cherist, et te porte bon œil,
Comme à celuy qui prend en France plus de peine :
Si fait Montmorency, et Charles de Lorraine :
Non seuls, mais tout le peuple, et ceux qui ont l’esprit
De sçavoir discerner combien vaut ton escrit :
Et moy par-dessus tous, qui de plus pres admire
Ta vertu qui me fait ceste lettre t’escrire.
Quand un homme s’esleve aupres de ces grands Dieux,
Mesprisant les petits, devient audacieux,
Et s’enflant tout le cœur d’arrogance et de gloire,
Se mocque de chacun, et si ne veut plus croire
Qu’il soit homme sujet à supporter l’assault
De Fortune qui doit luy doner un beau sault :
Mais certes à la fin une horrible tempeste
De la fureur d’un Roy luy saccage la teste :
Et plus il se vouloit aux Princes égaler,
Et plus avec risée on le fait devaler,
Par la tourbe incognuë, à fin qu’il soit exemple
D’un orgueil foudroyé, à l’œil qui le contemple.
 
Mais toy, qui as l’esprit net d’envie et d’orgueil,
Qui fais aux vertueux un honneste recueil,
Qui te sçais moderer en la fortune bonne,
Qui es homme de bien, qui n’offenses personne,
De jour en jour tu vois augmenter ton bon-heur,
Tu vois continuer ta gloire et ton honneur,
Loin de l’ambition, de fraude et de feintise :
Et c’est l’occasion pour laquelle te prise
Le peuple qui tousjours ne cesse d’espier
Les vices des Seigneurs, et de les descrier,
« Et se plaist en cela ; car de la chose faite
« Par les grands, bien ou mal, le peuple est la trompette ;
Et toutefois il t’aime, et dit que nostre Roy
N’a point de serviteur plus diligent que toy.
 
Tu ne rouilles ton cœur de l’execrable vice
De ceste orde furie et harpie Avarice,
Qui les tresors du monde attire dans sa main :
Car puis qu’il faut mourir ou ce soir ou demain,
Que sert d’amonceller tant d’escus en un coffre ?
Las ! puis que la Nature ingrate ne nous offre
Que l’usufruict du bien, que sert de desirer
Tant de possessions, que sert de deschirer
Le ventre de la terre, et hautement construire
Un Palais orgueilleux de marbre et de porfire ?
Où peut estre (ô folie !) il ne logera pas
Par la mort prevenu : où apres le trespas
Quelque prodigue enfant de cest avare pere,
Jeune, fol, desbauché, en fera bonne chere,
Vendra, jou’ra, perdra, et despendra le bien
Par son pere amassé, qui ne luy couste rien ?
« Car tout l’avoir mondain, quelque chose qu’on face
« Jamais ferme n’arreste à la troisiesme race :
« Ains fuit comme la bale, alors qu’au mois d’Esté
« Le grain bien loin du van parmy l’aire est jetté.
Mais sur tout, mon du Thier, jaloux je porte envie
A ceste liberté nourrice de ta vie,
Aux bons mots que tu dis, à ton esprit naïf,
Si prompt et si gentil, si gaillard et si vif,
Qui doctement adonne aux vers sa fantaisie,
Te faisant amoureux de nostre Poësie.
 
Tu n’es pas seulement Poëte tresparfait,
Mais si en nostre langue un gentil esprit fait
Epigramme ou Sonet, Epistre ou Elegie,
Tu luy as tout soudain ta faveur eslargie,
Et sans le decevoir tu le mets en honneur
Aupres d’un Cardinal, d’un Prince, ou d’un Seigneur,
Cela ne peut sortir que d’un noble courage,
Et d’un homme bien nay ; j’en ay pour tesmoignage
Et Salel, et tous ceux qui par les ans passez
Se sont pres du feu Roy par la Muse avancez.
 
Or je ne veux souffrir que les vistes carrieres
Des ans, perdent le bien que tu me fis n’agueres :
Et si ne veux souffrir qu’un acte grand et beau
Que tu fis à deux Grecs, aille sous le tombeau,
Deux pauvres estrangers, qui bannis de la Grece,
Avoient prins à la Cour de France leur addresse,
Incognus, sans appuy, pleins de soin et d’esmoy,
Pensans avoir support ou d’un Prince, ou d’un Roy.
Mais ce fut au contraire. Ô Princes, quelle honte
D’un peuple si sacré (helas !) ne faire conte !
Ils estoyent delaissez presque à mourir de fain,
Honteux de mendier le miserable pain,
Quand à l’extrémité portant un tresor rare,
S’addresserent à toy : c’estoit du vieil Pindare
Un livret incognu, et un livre nouveau
Du gentil Simonide esveillé du tombeau.
Toy lors, comme courtois, benin et debonnaire,
Ne fis tant seulement depescher leur affaire,
Mais tu recompensas avec beaucoup d’escus
Ces livres, qui avoyent tant de siecles veincus,
Et qui portoyent au front de la marge pour guide
Ce grand nom de Pindare et du grand Simonide,
Desquels tu as orné le sumptueux chasteau
De Beau-regard, ton œuvre, et l’en as fait plus beau
Que si des Asiens les terres despouillées
En don t’eussent baillé leurs medailles rouillées.
 
Pourquoy vay-je contant, moy François, les bienfaits
Qu’à ces Grecs estrangers, liberal, tu as faits,
Et je ne conte pas ceste faveur honneste
Que je receu du Roy n’aguere à ta requeste ?
Si je la celebrois, le vulgaire menteur,
Babillard et causeur m’appelleroit flateur,
Et diroit que tousjours ma Muse est favorable
Vers ceux qui m’ont receu d’un visage amiable,
Comme toy, mon du Thier, à qui certes je suis
Deteur de tant de bien que payer ne te puis,
Si pour estre payé tu ne prens ceste Muse
Que j’envoye chez toy pour faire mon excuse.
Tu ne la mettras pas (s’il te plaist) à mespris :
La Muse fut jadis vers les Rois en grand pris :
Des peuples elle fut autre-fois adorée,
Et de toy par sus tous maintenant honorée.
 
Elle avecques Phœbus hardiment ose entrer
Dedans ton cabinet, à fin de te montrer
Ces vers mal-façonnez qu’humblement je te donne,
Et (avecques les vers) le cœur et la personne.
 
 
 
 
He who pays honour to Kings, pays honour to God.
Princes and Kings hold the highest place
After the deity; and he who reveres also
The servants of a King, honours the King himself.
It is true my dear du Thier, that a man like you
Is harder to celebrate than a King;
For the glory of Kings is a fertile subject,
And barely troubles a noble pen
Or a lively hope, if it has received such good fortune,
To make any effort if it is to sing their greatness.
 
On so fertile a theme, in abundance comes
Idea upon idea, which the Muse takes up
As in winter the streams which flow from a mountain
Rush on, running into the sea endlessly;
But to praise a lesser man, you need skill
Lest his virtue appear to be vice.
 
 
So it is, my dear du Thier, that the greatest honours
Which are shared in France by our greatest Lords,
Are also shared by you, and if I dared say it
To you alone ought we rightly ascribe them,
As in-born in yourself; but these gods of the Court
Clutch at my throat and quickly make me shut up!
 
 
 
As you often see in mines under ground,
Whether silver or iron mines, great pillars of stone
Which you can see hold up the mine with their arms
And labour hard, yet do not labour;
And there are other pillars which, far from the light, stand
Within corners far off, which hold up the whole mass of stone;
So great Lords, whether in war or peace,
High in worth, seem to carry the mass
Of France’s affairs on their wide shoulders,
And yet it is you who bears the burden of them.
 
 
 
 
If there arrives a packet from Italy, or further afield,
Maybe Corsica or Greece, or the ends of the Levant,
They will neatly open it, but you will have to take it
To your study afterwards to reply to the letter.
For just as the heavens maintain only one Sun,
France has only one du Thier who has no equal,
Whether for wisely dealing with foreigners
Or for cunningly replying to their packets;
For both in the low style and the high,
The grace of good French flows from your hand.
 
No man boasts of being happy in prose
Who does not set before his eyes as a clear example
Your writings and your style, and while exercising
His handwriting, does not work to imitate you.
 
They say that Geryon, who tripled the conquests
Of Hercules with his massive [body], was topped by three heads;
You have more than a thousand, or at least a thousand brains
All of which you engage in a thousand novel acts.
For whether the sun is leaving the origin
Of his home the Ocean, and hastening to its course
His chariot to which Aurora with her own fair hand
Harnessed the horses, drawn up beneath the reins;
Or whether at midday he is firing his rays upon us
And seeing everything [lying] directly beneath him;
Or whether stooping to drink, thirsty and worn out,
He is off to bathe again in the waves of the Ocean,
And handing his chariot to the care of the sea-gods,
Your mind has no rest, working ceaselessly,
Like your tongue, and your hand; the mind in inventing,
The hand in writing, the tongue in dictating
Some letter to your clerks; or you decipher, alone
And apart in your room, the riddles of the codes
Which some new-come messenger has handed over,
That the secrets of the King may not be known.
 
Here a German brings you news,
Here a Spaniard stands before your door;
English, Italian and Scots also
Crowd at your door and give you trouble;
One here, one there makes various requests;
Then you must sign what the King commands,
He who, weighing the effects of various arguments,
Hands you in under a day a thousand commandments
Of small, middling and great importance.
 
As well, you have charge of the great treasures of France:
Duties, tributes, loans, tithes and taxes
Do not leave a quarter-hour of rest for your mind
Which delights in completing a thousand different things,
And the more vigorous it is the more business it has.
Indeed. just as a fish is fed by the water it swims in,
And a salamander by the heat of a furnace,
You are happy in your work, and your youthful old age
Is fed on the work which never leaves you.
 
When you go in the morning to the King’s business
A mob of people bustle along after you
Hemming you in on this side and that
And calling into your ears all sorts of plans;
One hands you a petition, another tries to get you
To let him make some present to the King,
Another, approaching close to your ear,
Asks if his letter has been hurried forward;
One is angry at waiting, and never rests from
Always following you and making demands;
Another more graciously makes his bow to you,
And another begs you to keep him in mind;
In brief, the crowd presses on you and makes a great noise
All around you, like a torrent rushing
Bubbling through the bottom of stony valleys
When in Spring the snows have melted.
 
You have barely dined when you must go
To the Council, to hear them talk about business;
Then to the King’s bed-time, then as is your custom
You stay awake almost all night with your pen.
And so our King gives you a favourable
Greeting and cherishes you, and looks well on you,
As on he who makes the greatest efforts in France;
So does Montmorency, and Charles of Lorraine;
Nor them alone, but all the people, and those who have minds
Which can understand how much your writing is worth;
And myself above all, who from close by admire
Your virtue, which makes me write you this letter.
When a man raises himself up to these great gods,
Despising the little folk, becoming over-bold,
His heart puffed up with arrogance and glory,
He scorns everyone yet cannot believe
That he is a man, subject to the attacks
Of Fortune which may yet give him a nasty surprise;
In the end, for sure, a terrible storm
Of the King’s anger will ravage his head;
And the more he considers himself the equal of princes,
The more he’ll be made to swallow the laughter
Of the nameless throng, that he might be an example
Of pride struck down, to any eye that considers him.
 
 
 
But you, who have a mind free of envy and pride,
Who make a noble object of contemplation for the virtuous,
Who know how to act moderately when fortune is good,
Who are a noble man, who attacks no-one,
From day to day you find your happiness increased,
Your glory and honour prolonged,
Far from ambition, fraud and deception;
And that’s the reason why the people
Prize you, the people who never cease spying out
The vices of Lords, and identifying them,
And enjoy that: for “Of the things done
By the great, good or bad, the people is the clarion”;
And still they love you, and say that our King
Has no servant more diligent than you.
 
 
Your heart is not blighted by execrable vice
Of that filthy, mad and rapacious Avarice
Which draws the treasures of the whole world into its hand;
For since one must die, maybe tonight or tomorrow,
What’s the use of piling up so much cash in a chest?
Ah, since ungrateful Nature offers us only
The use while we live of her goods, why desire
So many possessions, why tear open
The earth’s belly, and loftily build
A proud Palace of marble and porphyry,
In which perhaps (o folly!) you will not live,
Taken first by death, and in which after your death
Some spendthrift child of the miserly father –
Young, foolish, debauched – will drink well,
Will spend, play, lose and fritter away the goods
Heaped up by his father, which cost him nothing?
For “all worldly goods, whatever you make,
Never remains to the third generation;
It slips away like chaff, when in summer months
The grain is thrown through the air, far from the winnowing basket.”
But above all, my dear du Thier, I jealously desire
That freedom, the nursemaid of your life,
The fine words you speak, your uncomplicated spirit
So quick and noble, so jolly and lively,
Which learnedly gifts your verse with its imagination
Making you like that Poetry of ours.
 
You are not only a most perfect Poet,
But if in our tongue a noble spirit writes
An epigram or sonnet, epistle or elegy,
You immediately extend your favour to him
And without deceiving him put him in a position of honour
Close to a Cardinal, a Prince or a Lord;
That cannot come from anything but a noble courage,
And a well-born man; as witness of this I have
Salel, and all those who in past years
Were close to the late King, advanced by their Muse.
 
 
I do not want to allow the brief passage
Of a few years to forget the good that you’ve done me lately;
But also I do not want to allow a great and beautiful act
To pass into the grave, which you did for two Greeks,
Two poor strangers who, banished from Greece,
Brought to the French Court their plea,
Unknown and without influence, full of care and concern,
Hoping to gain support from a Prince or a King.
But they got the opposite. O princes, what shame
For a people so blessed, alas, to pay no attention!
They were left practically to die of hunger,
Shamefully to beg for their wretched bread,
When in their extremity bringing a rare treasure
They addressed themselves to you: it was an unknown book
Of old Pindar, and a new book
Of noble Simonides awoken from the tomb.
You then, like a courteous, benign and good-natured man,
Not only made sure to hasten on their business
But also repaid them with plenty of money
For those books, which had outlasted so many centuries
And which bore on their front edge as guide
The great name of Pindar and great Simonides,
With which you have adorned the sumptuous house
At Beau-Regard, your own work, and with them made it more beautiful
Than if the despoiled lands of the Asians
Had given you as a gift their blighted decorations.
 
Why am I pleased, me a Frenchman, at the good deeds
Which you did for these Greek visitors liberally,
And yet don’t value that generous favour
Which I received from the King lately at your request?
If I celebrated that, the vulgar liar,
Gossiper and chatterer would call me a flatterer
And say that my Muse is always favourable
To those who have received me with friendly face
Like you, my dear du Thier, to whom I am certainly
A debtor for so many benefits I cannot repay you –
Unless to be paid you accept this Muse
Whom I am sending you to make my excuses.
You will not scorn her, please;
That Muse was previously greatly prized by Kings,
And by nations she was in past times adored,
And is by you above all honoured now.
 
She with Phoebus bravely dares enter
Your study, in order to show you
These poorly-formed verses which humbly I give you,
And, with the verses, my heart and person.
 
 
A huge panegyric today. Though the sentiments are as fawning as usual in this genre of poetry, the poetry itself is wonderfully muscular and flexible.
 
Inevitably there are a few classical references, but Ronsard carefully explains them as he goes.  I could add that Geryon was a three-headed monster slain by Hercules, but Ronsard has already made that clear. (Blanchemain adds that this stanza was suppressed, but only in posthumous editions.) Pindar and Simonides? No-one seems to be able to identify the ‘poor Greeks’ bringing gifts, nor therefore the gifts they brought. Pindar and Simonides were both highly-regarded in Hellenistic Greece as lyric poets, though their works survive in fragments so to some extent we need to accept their judgement: new manuscripts of theirs would indeed be highly-prized by scholars.
 
In the stanza before the Greeks bearing gifts, Ronsard calls to witness ‘Salel’: this is Hugues Salel, abbé de Saint-Cheron. He is known for undertaking the first translation of the Iliad into French – sadly incomplete, but finished by Amadis Jamyn – at the request of François I (who is the ‘late king’ referred to a line or two later).
 
Inevitably there are a few variants between editions. Here are Blanchemain’s, which are (as you can see) minor:
 
In the first stanza,
 
Il est vray, mon Du Thier, qu’un seigneur comme toy
Donne plus de travail à celebrer qu’un Roy;
Car la gloire des Roys en sujet est fertille,
Et ne travaille guère une plume gentille,
Ny un esprit gaillard, s’il a reçeu tant d’heur
Que de ne s’effrayer de chanter leur grandeur
 
 
                                                                                         It is true my dear du Thier, that a lord like you
                                                                                         Is harder to celebrate than a King;
                                                                                         For the glory of Kings is a fertile subject,
                                                                                         And barely troubles a noble pen
                                                                                         Or a lively mind, if it has received such good fortune,
                                                                                         To have any fear if it is to sing their greatness.
 
 
In the Geryon stanza:
 
Il s’aille rebaigner aux flots de l’océan
Et que son char en garde aux Dieux marins il baille,
Ton esprit n’a repos, qui sans cesse travaille
Et ta langue et ta main : l’esprit en inventant,
La main en escrivant, et la langue en dictant
Quelque lettre à tes clercs ; ou secret tu dechiffres
Dedans ta chambre à part les enigmes de chiffres …
 
 
                                                                                         He is off to bathe again in the waves of the Ocean,
                                                                                         And handing his chariot to the care of the sea-gods,
                                                                                         Your mind has no rest, working ceaselessly,
                                                                                         Like your tongue, and your hand; the mind in inventing,
                                                                                         The hand in writing, the tongue in dictating
                                                                                         Some letter to your clerks; or you decipher, hidden
                                                                                         And apart in your room, the riddles of codes …
 
A couple of stanzas later,
 
Ainsi comme un poisson se nourrit en son eau,
Et une salemandre au brasier d’un fourneau,
Tu te plais en ta peine …
 
                                                                                         So as a fish is fed by the water it swims in,
                                                                                         And a salamander by the heat of a furnace,
                                                                                         You are happy in your work …
 
 
A couple of stanzas further on, in the stanza about Council meetings after dinner,
 
Quand un homme s’éléve auprés de ces grands Dieux,
Il devient bien souvent superbe, audacieux, …
 
                                                                                         When a man raises himself up to these great gods,
                                                                                         He very often becomes proud, over-bold, …
 
 
Then, at the end of the stanza about the Greeks bringing Pindar and Simonides,
 
Toy lors comme Courtois, benin et debonnaire,
Tu ne fis seulement dépescher leur affaire ;
Mais tu recompensas avec beaucoup d’escus
Ces livres qui avoient tant de siecles vaincus,
Et qui portoient au front de la marge pour guide
Ce grand nom de Pindare, et du grand Simonide,
Desquels tu as orné le somptueux chasteau
De Beauregard, ton œuvre, et l’en as fait plus beau
Que si Rome fouillant ses terres despouillées
En don t’eust envoyé ses medailles rouillées.
 
 
                                                                                        You then, like a courteous, benign and good-natured man,
                                                                                        Not only made sure to hasten on their business
                                                                                        But also repaid them with plenty of money
                                                                                        For those books, which had outlasted so many centuries
                                                                                        And which bore on their front edge as guide
                                                                                        The great name of Pindar and great Simonides,
                                                                                        With which you have adorned the sumptuous house
                                                                                        At Beau-Regard, your own work, and with them made it more beautiful
                                                                                        Than if Rome, ransacking its despoiled lands
                                                                                        Had sent you as a gift their blighted decorations.
 
 
And then finally in the penultimate stanza,
 
Debteur de tant de bien que payer ne le puis …
 
                                                                                        A debtor for so many benefits I cannot repay them …
 
 
 
 [ PS  my 500th post! ]
 
 
 
Advertisements

Poems 1.18 – The Marigold / Worries

Standard

Although the poem is about the marigold, the French word also means ‘cares’ or ‘worries’ – particularly in Ronsard, the troubles of a lover. Here there is a subtext throughout, a message to his lady about the pain she causes him. The title in Blanchemain’s version, ‘the marigold in the garden’, sets the expectation of a rather less ambiguous poem, perhaps.

Le Souci
 
Je veux chanter, Cherouvrier, le Souci
Qui te plaist tant et qui me plaist aussi :
Non les soucis dont Amour me fait guerre,
Mais les Soucis estoiles de la terre :
Ains les Soleils des jardins, tant ils sont
Jaunes, luisans et dorez sur le front.
 
La rose emporte (empourprant son espine)
Le premier lieu à cause d’Erycine,
Et du beau sang d’Adon qui la peingnit :
L’Oeillet apres qu’Apollon contraingnit
Joüer au disque, et qui le fist occire
Sans y penser à l’amoureux Zephire,
Et fut depuis aux Spartes un grand Dieu.
 
Ces deux, Souci, ont eu le premier lieu,
Toy le troisiesme, et s’il n’y a fleurette
Ny giroflée, ou double violette,
Genest, josmin plus odorant que toy :
Au moins, Souci, s’il n’est vray, je le croy.
 
Soit que ma Dame autrefois m’ait donnée
Ta couleur jaune, ou que l’ame inclinée
A voir, sentir et contempler ta fleur,
Sur tous parfums j’estime ton odeur :
Jamais repas ne me fut agreable,
Si ton bouton n’enfleurit une table,
Salade, pain, et toute la maison
Aux plus beaux mois de la prime saison :
Car de couleur ta couleur je ressemble,
Tu es, Souci, mon frere ce me semble.
 
Tu es tout jaune, et tout jaune je suis
Pour trop d’amour qu’effacer je ne puis.
 
Printemps, Hyver, tu gardes ta verdure :
Printemps, Hyver, le soin d’amour me dure.
 
Double est ta fleur, ta fleur est simple aussi,
Mon cœur est simple, et vit tousjours ainsi :
Mais mes pensers et mes ennuis sont doubles
Selon les yeux et farouches et troubles
De ma Maistresse, et mon soin est doublé
Si son œil est ou farouche ou troublé.
 
Quand le Soleil ton amoureux s’abaisse
Dedans le sein de Tethys son hostesse,
Allant revoir le pere de la mer,
On voit ton chef se clorre et se fermer
Palle, desfait : mais quand sa tresse blonde
De longs cheveux s’esparpille sur l’onde
Se resveillant, tu t’esveilles joyeux,
Et pour le voir tu dessilles tes yeux,
Et sa clarté est seule ton envie,
Un seul Soleil te donnant mort et vie.
 
Quand je ne voy mon beau Soleil levé,
De toutes parts un sommeil agravé
Dessus le front des tenebres me donne,
Si qu’esblouy je ne cognois personne.
 
Mais aussi tost que ses rais dessus moy
Me font un jour, des yeux du cœur je voy
Mille beautez, tant sa gentille flame
En m’esclairant me reluist dedans l’ame,
Et loin du corps dont je suis empesché,
Tient mon esprit aux Astres attaché.
 
On dit, Souci, quand au bras on te lie,
Que tu guaris de la melancholie.
Or en cela nous sommes differens :
Ce que je voy, tout triste je le rens
Ainsi que moy, tant il sort de tristesse
Hors de mes yeux pour ma rude Maistresse,
Qui froide et lente et morne en amitié
Mon pauvre cœur ne veut prendre à pitié,
Me consommant d’amour, tant elle est belle :
Et je veux bien me consommer pour elle.
 
Adieu Souci, si Cherouvrier passant
Par son jardin voit ton chef florissant,
Qui toute fleur au temps d’Hyver surpasse,
Que l’Aube engendre et qu’une nuict efface,
Te voyant naistre aussi tost que fanir :
Soir et matin fay le moy souvenir
Que nostre vie aux fleurettes resemble,
Qui presque vit et presque meurt ensemble :
Et ce-pendant qu’il est en son printemps,
Vive amoureux et n’espargne le temps.
 
Si en naissant ce grand Maistre qui donne
Heur et malheur à chacune personne,
M’avoit donné, mon Cherouvrier, ta vois
Dont tu flechis les peuples et les Rois,
Comme estant seul de France la merveille
Pour attirer une ame par l’oreille :
Je chasserois la fiévre de mon corps
Par la douceur de tant de beaux accords.
 
En lieu d’avoir ta nombreuse Musique
J’ay l’autre ardeur, la vérve poëtique,
Qui rompt ma fiévre et charme mon souci,
Ou s’il n’est vray, je me console ainsi.
 
Donq si j’avois ceste voix si divine,
Present du ciel qui sort de ta poitrine,
Je chanterois : mais ne pouvant chanter,
De l’autre ardeur il me faut contenter.
The Marigold
 
I shall sing, Cherouvrier, of the marigold
Which pleases you so, and pleases me too ;
Not the cares with which Love makes war on me
But the flowery stars of the earth,
Like suns in the garden, so yellow
Are they, shining gold on their brows.
 
The rose (em-purpling its thorns) takes
First place, because of Erycine [Venus of Mt Eryx]
And the fair blood of Adonis which colours it ;
The carnation next, which Apollo made
Play at the discus and whom Zephyr made him kill
Without considering his lover,
And was afterward a great god to the Spartans.
 
These two, marigold, have first place,
You the third, and indeed there is no flower,
Not the wallflower nor double-violet,
Broom nor jasmine more sweet-smelling than you ;
At least, marigold, that’s what I believe, true or not.
 
Whether my Lady had once given me
Your yellow tint, or whether my soul was inclined
To look at, smell and consider your flower,
Above all perfumes I esteem your odour ;
Never was a meal pleasing to me
Unless your bud flowered on the table,
Salad, bread and all the house
In the fairest months of the best season ;
Because in my colour your colour I resemble
You are, marigold, my brother, it seems.
 
You are all yellow, and I am all yellow
From too much love, nor can I wipe it away.
 
In Spring and Winter, you keep your freshness ;
In Spring and Winter, love’s cares linger in me.
 
Double is your flower, but single too ;
My heart is single, and lives always thus ;
But my thoughts and cares are doubled
Because of the timid, troubled eyes
Of my mistress, and my care is doubled
If her eyes are either timid or troubled.
 
When the sun, your lover, sets
Within the breast of Tethys his hostess,
Going to see again the father of the sea,
We see your bloom close, lock itself away
Pale and undone ; but when his yellow locks
Scatter their long hair over the waves
As he awakes again, then you wake joyfully
And open your eyes to see him
And his brightness is your only desire,
The Sun alone bringing you death and life.
 
When I do not see my own Sun arise,
From every side a painful sleep
Gives me shadows on my brow,
So that, dazzled, I recognise no-one.
 
But as soon as her rays shine daylight
Upon me, with my heart’s eyes I see
A thousand beauties, so much does her noble flame
Shining on me lighten again my soul,
And, far from the body with which I am weighted down,
Keeps my spirit bound to the stars.
 
They say, marigold, that when we tie you to our arm
You will cure melancholy.
Well, in that we are different :
Whatever I see, I make unhappy
Like I am myself, so much sadness flows
From my eyes for my harsh mistress,
Who – cold, slow and sad in loving –
Does not want to take pity on my poor heart,
Consuming me with love, so beautiful she is ;
And I’d willingly consume myself for her.
 
Farewell, marigold : if Cherouvrier passes
By your garden and sees your flowering head
Which surpasses all flowers in winter-time,
Which Dawn brings to birth and a single night extinguishes,
Seeing you born as quick as fading ;
Night and day remind him for me
That our life is like that of the flowers
Who virtually live and die at the same moment ;
And yet while he is in his springtime
Let him live, love, and not spare of his time.
 
If at birth that great Master who gives
Fortune and misfortune to each person
Had given me, my Cherouvrier, your voice
With which you sway peoples and Kings,
As if the sole wonder in France
Able to draw out the soul through the ears,
I would drive away the fever from my body
Through the sweetness of so many fine harmonies.
 
Instead of having your many-faceted Music
I have that other passion, poetic inspiration,
Which breaks my fever and charms away my cares –
Or so I console myself, even if it is not true.
 
So, if I had your god-like voice,
Which emerges from your breast like a gift from heaven,
I would sing : but being unable to sing,
With that other passion I must content myself.
 
We met Guillaume Cherouvrier a while back in one of Ronsard’s more cynical poems, so it is good to find him here as the recipient of something far less cynical!  You may recall he was a member of the Royal Chapel, hence the reference to ‘his music’ near the end of the poem.
 
Tethys in the middle of the poem is the sun’s ‘hostess’ because she is a sea-nymph, and of course the sun spends his nights in the sea. Adonis, near the beginning, is more usually associated with the blood-red anemone, though it’s obvious why the rose could also fit; he links closely to Venus (who loved him) but not especially to her cult on Mt Eryx in Sicily.  The three lines about the carnation are confusing, not least because you need to know the story to be able to work out who is doing what to whom! The carnation here replaces the hyacinth: Hyacinth was loved by Apollo, but also by Zephyr who, while Apollo and Hyacinth were throwing the discus, blew it off course so that Apollo’s throw killed Hyacinth. So here the meaning is that Apollo made Hyacinth play, Zephyr made Apollo kill him, sacrificing his own love to spite Apollo. (Apollo transformed the blood of Hyacinth into a flower, marked with his tears or the blood depending on the version of the myth and the flower it represents!)
 
I should just mention the ‘double / single’ antithesis in the middle of the poem. Ronsard’s words are “double / simple”, so that each time something is ‘single’ it is also ‘simple’. I have reluctantly chosen ‘single’, so that the antithesis works, but I feel that the other meaning, of simplicity, is really the one that should come through!
 
Let’s have a look at the variant texts offered by Blanchemain: 
 
Le Souci du Jardin
 
Au Sieur Cherouvrier
Excellent musicien
 
Je veux chanter, Cherouvrier, le Souci
Qui te plaist tant, et qui me plaist aussi ;
Non les soucys qui tout le cœur nous serre,
Mais les Soucis, estoilles d’un parterre,
Ains les soleils des jardins, tant ils sont
Jaunes, luisans, et dorez sur le front.
 
La rose emporte (empourprant son espine)
Le premier lieu à cause d’Erycine,
Et du beau sang d’Adon qui la peingnit ;
L’œillet après qu’Apollon contraingnit
Jouer au disque, et qui le fit occire
Sans y penser à l’amoureux Zephyre,
Et fut depuis aux Spartes un grand Dieu.
 
Ces deux, Soucy, ont eu le premier lieu,
Toy le troisiesme, et s’il n’y a fleurette,
Ny giroflée, ou double violette,
Genest, josmin plus odorant que toy ;
Au moins, Souci, s’il n’est vray, je le croy.
 
Soit que ma dame autresfois m’ait donnée
Ta couleur jaune, ou que l’âme inclinée
A voir, sentir, et contempler ta fleur,
Sur tous parfums j’estime ton odeur ;
Jamais repas ne me fut agreable,
Si ton bouton n’enfleurit une table,
Salade, pain, et toute la maison
Aux plus beaux mois de la prime saison ;
Car de couleur, Soucy, je te ressemble,
Tu es, Soucy, mon frere, ce me semble.
 
Tu es tout jaune, et tout jaune je suis
Pour trop d’amour qu’effacer je ne puis.
 
Printemps, hyver, tu gardes ta verdure ;
Printemps, hyver, le soin d’amour me dure.
 
Double tu es et simple. Quant à moy
J’ay simple cœur et j’ay simple la foy ;
Mais mes pensers et mes ennuis sont doubles
Selon les yeux et farouches et troubles
De ma maistresse, et mon soin est doublé
Si son œil est ou farouche ou troublé.
 
Quand le soleil, ton amoureux, s’abaisse
Dedans le sein de Tethys son hostesse,
Allant revoir le pere de la mer,
On voit ton chef se clorre et se fermer
Palle, défait ; mais quand sa tresse blonde
De longs cheveux s’esparpille sur l’onde
Se réveillant, tu t’éveilles joyeux,
Et pour le voir tu dessiles tes yeux,
Et sa clarté est seule ton envie,
Un seul soleil te donnant mort et vie.
 
Quand je ne voy les yeux de mon soleil,
De toutes parts un aggravé sommeil
Dessus le front des tenebres me donne,
Si qu’esblouy je ne cognois personne.
 
Mais aussi tost que ses rais dessus moy
Me font un jour, d’yeux et de cœur je voy
Mille beautez, tant sa gentille flame
En m’éclairant me reluit dans l’ame,
Et loin du corps dont je suis empesché,
Tient mon esprit aux astres attaché.
 
On dit, Souci, quand au bras on te lie,
Que tu guaris de la melancholie.
Or en cela nous sommes differens ;
Ce que je voy, tout triste je le rens
Ainsi que moy, tant il sort de tristesse
Hors de mes yeux pour ma rude maistresse,
Qui froide et lente, et morne en amitié
Mon pauvre cœur ne veut prendre à pitié,
Me consommant d’amour, tant elle est belle ;
Et je veux bien me consommer pour elle.
 
Adieu, Souci ! si Cherouvrier, passant
Par son jardin, voit ton chef florissant,
Qui toute fleur au temps d’hyver surpasse,
Que l’aube engendre et qu’une nuict efface,
Te voyant naistre aussi tost que fanir ;
Soir et matin fay-le-moy souvenir
Que nostre vie aux fleurettes ressemble,
Qui presque vit, et presque meurt ensemble ;
Et ce-pendant qu’il est en son printemps,
Vive amoureux et n’espargne le temps.
 
Si en naissant ce grand maistre qui donne
Heur et mal-heur à chacune personne,
M’avoit donné, mon Cherouvrier, ta vois
Dont tu flechis les peuples et les Rois,
Comme estant seul de France la merveille
Pour attirer une âme par l’aureille ;
Je chasserois la fiévre de mon corps
Par la douceur de mes divers accords.
 
En lieu d’avoir ta nombreuse musique,
J’ay l’autre ardeur, la verve poëtique,
Qui rompt ma fiévre et charme ma langueur,
Me fait gaillard et me tient en vigueur.
 
Doncq’ si j’avois ceste voix si divine,
Present du ciel, qui sort de ta poitrine,
Je chanterois ; mais ne pouvant chanter,
D’escrire en vers il me faut contenter.
The garden Marigold
 
To my lord Cherouvrier
An excellent musician
 
I shall sing, Cherouvrier, of the marigold
Which pleases you so, and pleases me too ;
Not the cares which grip our whole heart
But the flowery stars of a lawn,
Like suns in the garden, so yellow
Are they, shining gold on their brows.
 
The rose (em-purpling its thorns) takes
First place, because of Erycine
And the fair blood of Adonis which colours it ;
The carnation next, which forced Apollo
Play at the discus and made him kill
Without considering it the amorous Zephyr,
And was afterward a great god to the Spartans.
 
These two, marigold, have first place,
You the third, and indeed there is no flower,
Not the wallflower nor double-violet,
Broom nor jasmine more sweet-smelling than you ;
At least, marigold, that’s what I believe, true or not.
 
Whether my Lady had once given me
Your yellow tint, or whether my soul was inclined
To look at, smell and consider your flower,
Above all perfumes I esteem your odour ;
Never was a meal pleasing to me
Unless your bud flowered on the table,
Salad, bread and all the house
In the fairest months of the best season ;
Because my colour resembles yours, marigold,
You are, marigold, my brother, it seems.
 
You are all yellow, and I am all yellow
From too much love, nor can I wipe it away.
 
In Spring and Winter, you keep your freshness ;
In Spring and Winter, love’s cares linger in me.
 
Double you are and single too ; as for me,
I have a single heart and my faithfulness is single too ;
But my thoughts and cares are doubled
Because of the timid, troubled eyes
Of my mistress, and my care is doubled
If her eyes are either timid or troubled.
 
When the sun, your lover, sets
Within the breast of Tethys his hostess,
Going to see again the father of the sea,
We see your bloom close, lock itself away
Pale and undone ; but when his yellow locks
Scatter their long hair over the waves
As he awakes again, then you wake joyfully
And open your eyes to see him
And his brightness is your only desire,
The Sun alone bringing you death and life.
 
When I do not see the eyes of my own sun,
From every side a painful sleep
Gives me shadows on my brow,
So that, dazzled, I recognise no-one.
 
But as soon as her rays shine daylight
Upon me, with my eyes and heart I see
A thousand beauties, so much does her noble flame
Shining on me lighten again my soul,
And, far from the body with which I am weighted down,
Keeps my spirit bound to the stars.
 
They say, marigold, that when we tie you to our arm
You will cure melancholy.
Well, in that we are different :
Whatever I see, I make unhappy
Like I am myself, so much sadness flows
From my eyes for my harsh mistress,
Who – cold, slow and sad in loving –
Does not want to take pity on my poor heart,
Consuming me with love, so beautiful she is ;
And I’d willingly consume myself for her.
 
Farewell, marigold : if Cherouvrier passes
By your garden and sees your flowering head
Which surpasses all flowers in winter-time,
Which Dawn brings to birth and a single night extinguishes,
Seeing you born as quick as fading ;
Night and day remind him for me
That our life is like that of the flowers
Who virtually live and die at the same moment ;
And yet while he is in his springtime
Let him live, love, and not spare of his time.
 
If at birth that great Master who gives
Fortune and misfortune to each person
Had given me, my Cherouvrier, your voice
With which you sway peoples and Kings,
As if the sole wonder in France
Able to draw out the soul through the ears,
I would drive away the fever from my body
Through the sweetness of my varied harmonies.
 
Instead of having your many-faceted Music
I have that other passion, poetic inspiration,
Which breaks my fever and charms away my pining,
Makes me jolly and keeps me vigorous.
 
So, if I had your god-like voice,
Which emerges from your breast like a gift from heaven,
I would sing : but being unable to sing,
With writing in verse I must content myself.
 
Note that the variant of line 3 is placed by Blanchemain in a footnote and his ‘preferred’ text retains the same line 3 as in Marty-Laveaux. In mid-poem I find the text “dans l’ame” odd – it scans but only painfully, and the revised version (“dedans l’ame”) works so much more easily!

 
 
 

Poems 1.20 – the Nightingale

Standard

 

LE ROSSIGNOL
chantant et faisant son nid dedans un genèvre
 
Gay Rossignol honneur de la ramée,
Qui jour et nuit courtise ton aimée
Par mon jardin hoste de sa verdeur,
Quarante jours desgoisant ton ardeur
Et t’esclatant d’une voix qui gringote
Ores en haute ores en basse note,
A bec ouvert d’un siffletis trenchant,
Hachant coupant entrerompant ton chant
De cent fredons, tu donnes à ta femme
Un doux martel, amoureux de ma Dame.
 
Tu n’aurois point tant de faveur sinon
Que les vieux Grecs t’ont nommé d’un beau nom :
Mais bien de deux, t’appellent ce me semble,
D’un mesme mot, Chantre et Poëte ensemble.
 
Et je dirois, si j’estois un bragard,
Que Rossignol vient du nom de Ronsard.
 
Mais ce n’est moy qui ma Musique vante :
Soit bien soit mal, Rossignolet, je chante
Ainsi que toy pour me donner plaisir,
Quand j’ay Madame argent et le loisir.
Quoy ? qui t’esmeut de courtiser sans cesse
Et d’enchanter Genévre ma Maistresse ?
 
En ce Genévre où tu chantes de nuit,
Dessous l’escorce une pucelle vit,
A qui l’amour la peur et l’avanture
Ont fait changer de face et de nature.
 
Un jour ce Dieu tout bouquin par le front
La poursuivoit d’un pied de chévre pront.
Elle courant d’une fuite legere
Ainsi pria Diane bocagere :
Ou me transforme, ou bien fay moy mourir :
La seule mort me pourra secourir
Ains que l’ardeur de ce Bouquin je sente.
 
A-peine eut dit, qu’elle fut une plante :
Ses doigts longuets, ses bras veneux et beaux,
Comme ils estoyent, se changent en rameaux.
Son pied devint une morne racine,
Et une escorce entourna sa poitrine.
Puis ses cheveux de crainte reboursez
Espars se sont en fueilles herissez,
Et la palleur qu’elle avoit en sa fuite,
Vit sur l’escorce et tousjours y habite.
 
Un jour lassé de la chasse des loups,
Seul à l’escart je m’endormi dessous
L’ombre fatal de ce Genévre, et elle
En corps humain m’apparut toute telle
Qu’elle fut lors que le Bouc amoureux
La poursuivoit par un taillis ombreux,
Tant il avoit de flames dedans l’ame
Pour la beauté d’une si jeune Dame.
Depuis ce jour jamais je n’ay cessé
D’avoir le cœur de son amour blessé,
Et de languir pour un si beau visage.
 
Et toutefois brave de ton ramage
Chantant sifflant et faisant mille tours,
Tu veux tout seul jouyr de mes amours,
Que de bon cœur, Rossignol, je te laisse :
Car tu vaux mieux que ne fait ma Maistresse.
 
Et qui plus est, comme on voit un mary
Plein de finesse entre Dames nourri,
Faire secret l’amour à sa voisine :
Quand il n’a pas une femme trop fine,
La persuade avec un beau parler,
De la hanter, visiter et d’aller
Boire et manger souvent avecques elle,
A fin d’avoir (par une ruse telle)
Plus de moyen d’œillader les beaux yeux
Qui de son cœur se font victorieux.
 
Ainsi rival ta femme tu ameines
Dedans cest arbre, où d’un nid fait de laines
Mousses, duvets, ses petits elle pond,
Esclost, escouve, et qui apres se font
Ainsi que toy au retour des fueillages
Quarante jours Sereines des bocages.
 
Quoy ? Rossignol, la voix ne te defaut !
Et par despit tu t’efforces plus haut !
 
Puis qu’autrement ma verve poëtique
Ne peut gaigner ton ramage rustique,
Va, Rossignol, je laisse seul pour toy
L’arbre amoureux qui n’a souci de moy,
L’arbre gentil, et toutefois farouche,
Qui fait saigner aussi tost qu’on le touche.
 
Tandis, Girard, que la fiévre me tient
Reins, teste, flanc, la Muse m’entretient,
Et de venir à mon lit n’a point honte.
 
Or des propos que sa bouche me conte
Je t’en fais part, à fin qu’à l’advenir
De ton Ronsard te puisses souvenir.
The Nightingale
singing and making its nest in a juniper-bush
 
Happy nightingale, the branch’s pride,
Who court your beloved day and night
In my garden, the guest of its greenery,
For forty days singing of your passion
And crying out with a voice which chirps
Now with a high, now with a low note,
Your beak open in a piercing whistle,
Chopping, cutting off and interrupting your song
With a hundred twitterings, you give your wife
A sweet jealousy, beloved of my Lady.
 
You’d not have such favour if
The ancient Greeks had not given you a fine name ;
Indeed with two, it seems to me, thay named you
In a single word, Singer and Poet together.
 
And I would say – if I were a braggart –
That ‘Rossignol’ [Nightingale] comes from the name ‘Ronsard’.
 
But it’s not myself my poems boast of :
For good or bad, nightingale, I sing
Like you to give myself pleasure,
Since I have my Lady, money and leisure-time.
What or who [ moved ] you to court unceasingly
And to enchant my mistress, the Juniper ?
 
In that juniper where you sing at night,
Beneath the bark there lives a maiden
Whose form and nature have been changed
By love, fear and mischance.
 
One day that god with horns on his brow
Was pursuing her on his swift stag’s-foot.
As she ran with light fleeing steps,
She prayed thus to Diana, goddess of the woods :
« Transform me, or let me die :
Death alone can help me
Such is this Horned God’s passion I feel. »
 
She had barely spoken when she became a plant :
Her fingers long and thin, her arms veined and fair
As they were, changed into branches.
Her feet became a sad root,
And bark encircled her breast.
Then her hair, standing up in fear,
Was spread out in bristling leaves
And the pallor she had in her flight
Lived on in the bark, and still remains there.
 
One day, tired from hunting wolves,
Alone and apart i fell asleep beneath
The fatal shade of this juniper, and she
Appeared to me in human form just as
She had been when the amorous Horned God
Pursued her through a shady copse,
Such a fire had he in his soul
Because of so young a lady’s beauty.
Since that day i have never ceased
To bear a wound in my heart for her love,
And to pine for so pretty a face.
 
And yet bold in your plumage,
Singing, whistling and turning a thousand times,
You want to be the only one enjoying that love of mine
Which I happily resign to you, nightingale ;
For you are worth more than my mistress !
 
And what is more, as one sees a married man
Full of cunning, fostered among the ladies,
Making secret love to his neighbour ;
if he has a wife who is not too clever,
He persuades her with fine words
To visit and see her frequently, to go
To eat and drink often with her,
So that hem ay have (by such a ruse)
More means of looking into the fair eyes
Which have conquered his heart ;
 
Just so you are bringing your own wife as a rival
To this tree, where in a nest made of wool,
Moss, feathers she lays her little ones,
Hatches, broods them, and after that becomes
Like you, when the leaves come back,
For forty days the Sirens of the woods.
 
May your voice not fail you, nightingale !
In envious competition, force yourself higher !
 
As otherwise my poetic inspiration
Cannot beat your rustic plumage,
Go on, nightingale – I leave for you alone
The tree I love which has no care for me,
The noble tree yet still timid
Which bleeds as soon as it is touched.
 
Yet, Girard, while the fever grips my
Guts, head, body, my Muse converses with me
And is not ashamed to come to my bed.
So, the words which her mouth relates
I share with you, that in the future
You may remember your Ronsard.
 
It’s the story of Daphne, pursued by Apollo, and turned into a laurel tree, which inspires this tale of a nymph turned into a juniper tree. As far as I know there isn’t a classical myth regarding the juniper, just Ronsardian invention.
 
As a footnote, it is possible there was a real lady Genèvre, with whom Ronsard flirted – though probably some time earlier than the late 1560s when he wrote this. There are two Elegies to her (though neither is especially ‘elegiac’ in tone); and she may have been the wife of Blaise de Vigenère, diplomat, scholar, alchemist and the “perfect incarnation of erudite genius in the Renaissance”.  His name may be familiar as the inventor (or rather improver) of the Vigenère cypher, which is an excellent simple cypher still useable today. But in his time he was known as translator of a range of Roman and Greek works, and author of works on alchemy (or perhaps chemistry) and comets, among others. Perhaps it would be appropriate for Ronsard to disguise his wife under a ‘cipher’, in the form of an anagram: Vigenère –> Genièvre.
 
The poem is dedicated to Jehan Girard, a friend of Robert Garnier (the tragedian, whom we’ve met before) and a councillor in Le Mans – not the Jehan Girard who  was printing protestant books in Geneva a decade or two earlier!
 
Back to the poetry. It’s odd that something which looks so much like an oocasional poem should have attracted so much revision by Ronsard. But let’s remember that what appears a little playful address to a bird, is in fact closely modelled on episodes in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and aspires to similar heights. Blanchemain’s (early) version is set out below in full, so much variation is there. Note that this version carries a dedication to Claude Binet, poet and Ronsard’s first biographer.  But this is not the first time we’ve seen Ronsard adapt an earlier dedication to another subject later in life, reflecting the changing patterns or networks of influence and patronage over time.
 
 
LE ROSSIGNOL
chantant et faisant son nid dedans un genévre de son jardin
 
A Claude Binet
 
 
Gay Rossignol honneur de la ramée,
Qui jour et nuict courtises ton aimée
Dans mon jardin desgoisant tes amours
Au mois d’avril le père des beaux jours,
Et t’esclatant d’une voix qui gringote
Ores en haute, ores en basse note,
A gorge ouverte, à pleins poulmons trenchant,
Hachant coupant entre-rompant ton chant
De cent fredons, tu donnes à ta femme
Un doux martel. Amoureux de ma Dame,
Tu m’es rival, d’où vient cela ? sinon
Que les vieux Grecs t’ont nommé d’un beau nom :
Mais bien de deux, t’appellant ce me semble,
D’un mesme mot, Chantre et Poëte ensemble.
Et je dirois, si j’estois un bragard,
Que Rossignol vient du nom de Ronsard.
 
Mais ce n’est moy dont ma Muse se vante :
Soit bien soit mal, Rossignolet, je chante
Ainsi que toy pour me donner plaisir,
Quand j’ay maistresse, argent et le loisir.
Quoy ? qui t’esmeut de caresser sans cesse
De tes fredons Genévre ma Maistresse ?
 
En ce Genévre où tu chantes de nuit,
Dessous l’escorce une pucelle vit,
A qui l’amour la peur et l’avanture
Ont fait changer de face et de nature.
 
Un jour ce Dieu, qui a cornes au front
La poursuivoit d’un pied de chévre pront.
Elle courant, ayant recours aux larmes,
Ainsi pria : « Diane, par tes charmes
Ou me transforme, ou bien fay moy mourir :
La seule mort me pourra secourir
Ains que l’ardeur de ce Bouquin je sente. »
 
A-peine eut dit, qu’elle fut une plante :
Ses doigts longuets, ses bras veineux et beaux,
A longs fourchons se fendent en rameaux ;
Son pied devint une morne racine,
Et une escorce entourna sa poitrine.
Ses longs cheveux de crainte rebroussez,
Espars se sont en fueilles herissez,
Et la palleur qu’elle avoit en sa fuite,
Vit sur l’escorce et tousjours y habite.
 
Un jour lassé de la chasse des loups,
Seul à l’escart je m’endormi dessous
L’ombre fatal de ce Genévre, et elle
En corps humain m’apparut toute telle
Qu’elle fut lors que le Bouc amoureux
La poursuivoit par un taillis ombreux,
Tant il avoit de flames dedans l’ame
Pour la beauté d’une si jeune Dame.
Depuis ce jour jamais je n’ay cessé
D’avoir le cœur de son amour blessé,
Et de languir pour un si beau visage.
 
Et toutefois hautain de ton ramage
Chantant sifflant et faisant mille tours,
Tu veux tout seul jouyr de mes amours,
Que de bon cœur, Rossignol, je te laisse :
Car ton fredon merite ma Maistresse.
 
Et qui plus est, comme on voit un mary
Plein de finesse entre Dames nourri,
Faire secret l’amour à sa voisine :
Quand il n’a pas une femme trop fine,
La persuade avec un beau parler,
De la hanter, visiter et d’aller
Boire et manger souvent avecques elle,
A fin d’avoir (par une ruse telle)
Plus de moyen d’œillader les beaux yeux
Qui de son cœur se font victorieux.
 
Ainsi rival ta femme tu ameines
Dedans cest arbre, où d’un nid fait de laines
Mousses, duvet, ses petits elle pond,
Esclost, escouve, et abeche, qui sont
Un an après, au retour des fueillages
Quarante jours Sereines des bocages.
 
Quoy ? Rossignol, la voix ne te defaut !
Et par despit tu t’efforces plus haut !
 
Puis qu’autrement ma verve poëtique
Ne peut gaigner ton ramage rustique,
Va, Rossignol, tu auras seul pour toy
L’arbre amoureux qui n’a souci de moy,
L’arbre gentil, et toutefois farouche,
Qui fait saigner aussi tost qu’on le touche.
 
Tandis, Binet, que la fiévre me tient
Reins, teste, flanc, la Muse m’entretient,
Et de venir à mon lit n’a point honte.
 
Or des propos que sa bouche me conte
Je t’en fais part, à fin qu’à l’advenir
De ton Ronsard te puisse souvenir.
The Nightingale
singing and making its nest in a juniper-bush in his garden
 
To Claude Binet
 
 
Happy nightingale, the branch’s pride,
Who court your beloved day and night
In my garden, singing of your passion
In the month of April, father of fine days,
And crying out with a voice which chirps
Now with a high, now with a low note,
Your throat open, whistling fit to burst,
Chopping, cutting off and interrupting your song
With a hundred twitterings, you give your wife
A sweet jealousy. Beloved of my Lady,
You are my rival – why is that ? unless because
The ancient Greeks gave you a fine name ;
Indeed two, naming you, it seems to me,
In a single word, Singer and Poet together.
And I would say – if I were a braggart –
That ‘Rossignol’ [Nightingale] comes from the name ‘Ronsard’.
 
But it’s not myself my Muse boasts of :
For good or bad, nightingale, I sing
Like you to give myself pleasure,
Since I have a mistress, money and leisure-time.
What or who inspired you to caress unceasingly
With your chirping my mistress, the Juniper ?
 
In that juniper where you sing at night,
Beneath the bark there lives a maiden
Whose form and nature have been changed
By love, fear and mischance.
 
One day that god who has horns on his brow
Was pursuing her on his swift stag’s-foot.
As she ranhaving recourse to tears,
She prayed thus : « Diana, by your charms
Transform me, or let me die :
Death alone can help me
Such is this Horned God’s passion I feel. »
 
She had barely spoken when she became a plant :
Her fingers long and thin, her arms veined and fair
Split into long-forked branches.
Her feet became a sad root,
And bark encircled her breast.
Her long hair, pulled back in fear,
Was spread out in bristling leaves
And the pallor she had in her flight
Lived on in the bark, and still remains there.
 
One day, tired from hunting wolves,
Alone and apart i fell asleep beneath
The fatal shade of this juniper, and she
Appeared to me in human form just as
She had been when the amorous Horned God
Pursued her through a shady copse,
Such a fire had he in his soul
Because of so young a lady’s beauty.
Since that day i have never ceased
To bear a wound in my heart for her love,
And to pine for so pretty a face.
 
And yet proud of your plumage,
Singing, whistling and turning a thousand times,
You want to be the only one enjoying that love of mine
Which I happily resign to you, nightingale ;
For your chirping is worthy of my mistress.
 
And what is more, as one sees a married man
Full of cunning, fostered among the ladies,
Making secret love to his neighbour ;
if he has a wife who is not too clever,
He persuades her with fine words
To visit and see her frequently, to go
To eat and drink often with her,
So that hem ay have (by such a ruse)
More means of looking into the fair eyes
Which have conquered his heart ;
 
Just so you are bringing your own wife as a rival
To this tree, where in a nest made of wool,
Moss, down, she lays her little ones,
Hatches, broods and cuddles those who are
A year later, when the leaves come back,
For forty days the Sirens of the woods.
 
May your voice not fail you, nightingale !
In envious competition, force yourself higher !
 
As otherwise my poetic inspiration
Cannot beat your rustic plumage,
Go on, nightingale – you shall have for yourself alone
The tree I love which has no care for me,
The noble tree yet still timid
Which bleeds as soon as it is touched.
 
Yet, Binet, while the fever grips my
Guts, head, body, my Muse converses with me
And is not ashamed to come to my bed.
 
So, the words which her mouth relates
I share with you, that in the future
It may remind you of your Ronsard.
 
 
 
 
 

Stances lyriques (Lyric stanzas) – from the Poèmes retranchées

Standard

This one comes with variant subtitles:  in Marty-Laveaux it is simply “pour un banquet” (‘for a banquet’); but the Blanchemain version is helpfully headed “Stances promptement faites pour jouer sur la lyre, un joueur respondant à l’autre, au baptesme du fils de Monsieur de Villeroy, en faveur de Monsieur de l’Aubespine à présent” (‘Stanzas written to be played on the lyre, one player responding to the other, at the baptism of the son of M. de Villeroy …’).  Here then is a prime example of Ronsard’s concern to make his poetry adaptable to music. Many of his ‘withdrawn’ items were withdrawn simply because their rhyme-schemes no longer fitted the more advanced ideas he developed – principally, about metrical regularity in the use of masculine & feminine endings (broadly, alternating 10-syllable and 11-syllable lines, which clearly has an impact on the way a composer sets the text).

I Joueur
Autant qu’au Ciel on voit de flames
Dorer la nuict de leur clartez,
Autant voit-on icy de Dames
Orner ce soir de leurs beautez.
 
II Joueur
Autant que l’on voit une prée
Fleurir en jeunes nouveautez
Autant ceste troupe sacrée
S’enrichit de mille beautez.
 
I
La Cyprine et les Graces nuës,
Se desrobant de leur sejour,
Sont au festin icy venuës,
Pour de la nuict faire un beau jour.
 
II
Ce ne sont pas femmes mortelles
Qui vous esclairent de leurs yeux,
Ce sont Déesses eternelles,
Qui pour un soir quittent les Cieux.
 
I
Quand Amour perdroit ses flaméches
Et ses dards trempez de soucy,
Il trouveroit assez de fléches
Aux yeux de ces Dames icy.
 
II
Amour qui cause nos detresses
Par la cruauté de ses dards,
Fait son arc de leurs blondes tresses,
Et ses fléches de leurs regards.
 
I
Il ne faut point que l’on desire
Qu’autre saison puisse arriver,
Voicy un Printemps qui souspire
Ses fleurs au milieu de l’Hyver.
 
II
Ce mois de Janvier qui surmonte
Avril par la vertu des yeux
De ces Damoiselles, fait honte
Au Printemps le plus gracieux.
 
I
Ce grand Dieu, Prince du tonnerre,
Puisse sans moi l’air habiter,
Il me plaist bien de voir en terre
Ce qui peut blesser Jupiter.
 
II
Les Dieux épris comme nous sommes,
Pour l’amour quittent leur sejour :
Mais je ne voy point que les hommes
Aillent là-haut faire l’amour.
 
I
A la couleur des fleurs écloses
Ces Dames ont le teint pareil,
Aux blancs Lys, aux vermeilles roses
Qui naissent comme le Soleil.
 
II
Leur blanche main est un yvoire,
De leurs yeux les astres se font :
Amour a planté sa victoire
Sus la Majesté de leur front.
 
I
Las ! que ne suis-je en ceste trope
Un Dieu caché sous un Toreau ?
Je ravirois encore Europe
Au beau milieu de ce tropeau.
 
II
Que n’ay-je d’un Cygne la plume,
Pour joüir encore à plaisir
De ceste beauté qui m’allume
Le cœur de crainte et de desir ?
 
I
Amour qui tout void et dispense,
Ces Dames vueille contenter :
Et si la rigueur les offense,
Nouvel amy leur presenter.
 
II
Afin qu’au changer de l’année,
Et au retour des jeunes fleurs,
Une meilleure destinée
Puisse commander à leurs cœurs.
 
Just as we see the lights in heaven
Gild the night with their brightness,
So we see here ladies
Adorn the evenings with their beauty.
 
 
Just as we see a meadow
Flower with fresh newness,
So this holy band
Enriches itself with a thousand beauties.
 
 
The Cyprian goddess [Venus] and the naked Graces,
Abandoning their homes,
Have come here to the feast
To make night into fair day.
 
 
These are not mortal women
Who light you with their eyes,
These are eternal goddesses
Who have, for an evening, have left the heavens.
 
 
When love loses his fiery bolts
And his darts drenched in pain,
He will find enough arrows
In the eyes of these ladies here.
 
 
Love who causes our distress
Through the cruelty of his darts
Makes his bow from their blond tresses
And his arrows from their glances.
 
 
We need not wish
That another season might arrive,
Here is spring, breathing out
Its flowers in the midst of winter.
 
 
This month of January, which is better
Than April because of the power in the eyes
Of these maidens, makes ashamed
Even the most graceful spring.
 
 
That great god, prince of thunder,
Can live in the sky without me;
I am quite happy seeing on earth
That beauty which can wound Jupiter.
 
 
The gods, smitten as we are,
Leave their dwelling for love;
But I never see men
Going up there to make love!
 
 
Like the colour of blossoming flowers
Is the hue these Ladies have,
Like white lilies, like crimson roses,
Which grow as the sun.
 
 
Their white hands are ivory,
Of their eyes are the stars made;
Love has founded his victory
On the majesty of their brows.
 
 
Alas, why can’t I be among this troop
A god hidden beneath [the likeness of] a bull?
I would again steal away Europa
From the fair midst of this troop.
 
 
Why can’t I have the feathers of a swan,
To play again at my pleasure
With this beauty which fires my
Heart with fear and longing?
 
 
Love, who sees all and grants all,
Wishes to please these Ladies;
And if my strictness injures them
He will present them a new lover.
 
 
If only, at the turn of the year
And when the young flowers come back,
A better fate
Might control their hearts.
 
 The ‘great god of the thunder’ (i.e. Jupiter) re-appears near the end of the poem as the bull who carried off Europa, and the swan that ravished Leda.
 
(Like most items “retranchées”, there is not much to report concerning variants: in this case, “fleurer” rather than ‘fleurir’ in the second verse (a variant conjugation for the verb) is about the only interest!)
 

To Jean Galland

Standard

Because I like it – and because it starts with a ‘G’ 🙂 – here is a « fragment que Ronsard n’a peu achever, prevenu de mort. » (a fragment Ronsard was unable to finish, overtaken by death).

 
Galland, ma seconde ame, Atrebatique race,
Encor que nos ayeux ay’nt emmuré la place
De nos villes bien loin, la tienne prés d’Arras,
La mienne prés Vendosme, où le Loir de ses bras
Arrouse doucement nos collines vineuses,
Et nos champs fromentiers de vagues limoneuses,
Et la Lise des tiens qui baignent ton Artois
S’enfuit au sein du Rhin, la borne des Gaulois :
Pour estre separé de villes et d’espaces,
Cela n’empesche point que les trois belles Graces,
L’honneur et la vertu, n’ourdissent le lien
Qui serre de si prés mon cœur avec le tien.
Heureux qui peut trouver pour passer l’avanture
De ce Monde un amy de gentille nature,
Comme tu es, Galland, en qui les Cieux ont mis
Tout le parfait requis aux plus parfaits amis.
Jà mon soir s’embrunit, et déja ma journée
Fuit vers son Occident à demy retournée,
La Parque ne me veut ny me peut secourir :
Encore ta carriere est bien longue à courir,
Ta vie est en sa course, et d’une forte haleine
Et d’un pied vigoureux tu fais jaillir l’areine
Sous tes pas, aussi fort que quelque bon guerrier
Le sablon Elean pour le prix du Laurier …
 
 
 
 
                                                                             Galland, my second soul, descended from the Atrebates,
                                                                             Although our ancestors had established the walls
                                                                             Of our towns far apart, yours near Arras
                                                                             And mine near Vendôme, where the Loir with its arms
                                                                             Gently waters our vine-bearing hills
                                                                             And our fields of wheat with its muddy waves,
                                                                             While the Lise with its [arms] which bathe your Artois
                                                                             Runs down to the bosom of the Rhine, the edge of Gaul;
                                                                             Though separated by towns and distance,
                                                                             That does not prevent the three fair Graces,
                                                                             Honour and virtue from weaving the bond
                                                                             Which binds my heart so closely with yours.
                                                                             Fortunate he who can find, to share the adventure
                                                                             Of this world, a friend of noble nature
                                                                             Like you, Galland, in whom the Heavens have placed
                                                                             Everything perfect required in the most perfect friends.
                                                                             Now my evening darkens, and my daytime
                                                                             Flees westward, half-passed,
                                                                             And Fate neither can nor will help me;
                                                                             But your career has long to run,
                                                                             Your life is set in its course, and with strong lungs
                                                                             And vigorous feet you make the sand leap
                                                                             Beneath your feet, as strongly as some fine warrior
                                                                             Might the sand of Elis to take the prize, the laurel-wreath …
 
 
 
Ronsard’s trusted friend Jean Galland was principal of the Collège de Boncourt in Paris, and after Ronsard’s death both organised an annual commemoration of the poet in the chapel there, and (together with Claude Binet) edited Ronsard’s late verse and put together the ‘Tombeau de Ronsard’, a (substantial) collection of poems in Ronsard’s honour. The Collège had other links with Ronsard’s circle: tragedies by Jodelle were performed there, and Muret taught Jodelle and Belleau there. In 1688 it was Pierre Galand, then principal, who merged the Collège with the Collège de Navarre.
 
This fragment is (obviously) very classicising, and stuffed with antique references.  The Atrebates were a tribe from the Pas-de-Calais area, who established an offshoot in southern England after Caesar’s conquest. The centre of the region is now Artois, its capital Arras, from which the river (now the Scarpe) heads east towards the Rhine and the border between Gaul and Germania.
 
Elis was a state in the south of ancient Greece: within it was Olympus, seat of the Olympic Games – so running on Elean sands is running in the Olympics.
 
A minor editorial note: Blanchemain has “Pour estre separés de villes et d’espaces” in line 9. The text above in effect says ‘though I am separated from you…’, while Blanchemain’s plural says ‘though we are separated…’ – I leave you to choose which you prefer.
 
 
 
 

Baiser (A kiss)

Standard

Ronsard closes his book of poems to Cassandre with a kiss:

Quand hors de tes lèvres décloses
(Comme entre deux fleuris sentiers)
Je sens ton haleine de roses,
Les miennes les avant portiers
Du baiser, se rougissent d’aise,
Et de mes souhaits tous entiers
Me font jouyr, quand je te baise.
Car l’humeur du baiser appaise,
S’escoulant au cœur peu à peu,
Ceste chaude amoureuse braise,
Dont tes yeux allumoient le feu.
 
 
                                                                               When from your unclosed lips
                                                                              (As between two flowery paths)
                                                                              I feel your rose-scented breath,
                                                                              My own lips, the door-keepers
                                                                              Of the kiss, redden easily,
                                                                              And all my longing
                                                                              Makes me happy when I kiss you.
                                                                              For the mood for kissing calms me,
                                                                              Flowing little by little to my heart,
                                                                              In whose warm and loving embers
                                                                              Your eyes could light a fire.
 
 
Though prominently placed, this poem post-dates the first collected edition – in fact it dates from 1572.  Blanchemain nevertheless includes it in his text; as so often with poems prominently placed, Ronsard came back and re-worked them in later editions, so Blanchemain’s early version begins rather differently:
 
 
Quand de ta lèvre à demi close,
(Comme entre deux fleuris sentiers)
Je sens ton haleine de rose,
Mes lèvres, les avant-portiers…
 
                                                                              When from your lips, half-closed,
                                                                              (As between two flowery paths)
                                                                              I feel your rose-scented breath,
                                                                              My lips, the door-keepers…
 
 
 
 

Another Peletier poem!

Standard

While breaking my rules and putting up another poet’s work, why not add a second? As a Latinist as well, I enjoyed Peletier’s thoughts on the value of the humanist renaissance of Latin poetry-writing!

A un poete qui n’escrivoit qu’en Latin.
 
J’escri en langue maternelle,
Et tasche a la metter en valeur :
Affin de la rendre eternelle,
Comme les vieux ont fait la leur :
Et soutien que c’est grand malheur
Que son propre bien mespriser
Pour l’autruy tant favoriser.
 
Si les Grecz sont si fort fameux,
Si les Latins sont aussi telz,
Pourquoy ne faisons nous come eux,
pour estre comme eux immortelz ?
Toy qui si fort exercé t’es,
Et qui en Latin escriz tant,
Qu’es tu sinon qu’un imitant ?
 
Croiz tu que ton Poeme approche
De ce que Virgile escrivoit ?
Certes non pas (tout sans reproche)
Du moindre qui du temps vivoit.
Mais le François est seul qui voit
Ce que j’escri : et si demeure
En la France, or j’ay peur qu’il meure.
 
Je respons, quoy que tu escrives
Pour l’envoyer en lointains lieux,
Sans ce que les tiens tu en prives,
On pense tousjours que des vieux
Le style vaut encores mieux :
Puis nostre langue n’est si lourde,
Que bien hault elle ne se sourde.
 
 
 
                                                                         To a poet who writes only in Latin
 
                                                                         I write in my mother tongue
                                                                         And try to give it value and power,
                                                                         So as to render it immortal
                                                                         As the ancients did theirs;
                                                                         I think it is a great pity
                                                                         For someone to scorn his own
                                                                         And to favour another’s so much.
 
                                                                         If the Greeks are so extremely well-known,
                                                                         If the Latins are known just as much,
                                                                         Why don’t we do as they did
                                                                         To be like them immortal?
                                                                         You who are so very skilled
                                                                         And who write so much in Latin,
                                                                         What are you, in the end, but an imitator?
 
                                                                         Do you believe that your poetry approaches
                                                                         That which Virgil wrote?
                                                                         Certainly not (I mean it without censure)
                                                                         No less than those who lived in his time.
                                                                         But Frenchmen are the only ones who see
                                                                         What I write: and so it remains
                                                                         In France alone – am I afraid that it might die?
 
                                                                         I reply, whatever you write
                                                                         To send to distant lands,
                                                                         You are depriving your own land of it;
                                                                         People always think that the style
                                                                         Of the ancients has such great value;
                                                                         But our own language is not so heavy
                                                                         That it too cannot rise so high.