After the success of his first books of Amours, and the Odes and Hymns, Ronsard returned to the sonnet form in the 1570s with two books of Sonnets pour Hélène. Unlike the first two books of Amours, which recall real love affairs which Ronsard went through, Hélène appears (to me at least) to be an imagined love – an example of chivalric or courtly love. Nevertheless Helen seems to be a real person – Hélène de Fonsèque (1546 – 1618), who came from Surgères (see sonnet 7 of book 1) and was a demoiselle d’honneur to the Queen Catherine de Medici. There is a suggestion that Ronsard wrote the poems as a form of therapy for her after her husband was killed in the wars.
The second book contains perhaps Ronsard’s most famous sonnet of all, “Quand vous serez bien vieille“. Poems from both books will appear here; I should also direct your attention to the attractive English verse translations of the whole two books by Humbert Wolfe. Second hand copies are easy to come by on the web!