Tag Archives: Acontius

Sonnet 145

J’avois l’esprit tout morne et tout pesant,
Quand je receu du lieu qui me tourmente,
La orenge d’or comme moy jaunissante
Du mesme mal qui nous est si plaisant.
Les Pommes sont de l’Amour le present :
Tu le sçais bien, ô guerriere Atalante,
Et Cydippé qui encor se lamente
De l’escrit d’or qui luy fut si cuisant.
Les Pommes sont de l’Amour le vray signe.
Heureux celuy qui de la pomme est digne !
Tousjours Venus a des pommes au sein.
Depuis Adam desireux nous en sommes :
Tousjours la Grace en a dedans la main :
Et bref l’Amour n’est qu’un beau jeu de pommes
                                                                            My spirit was so sad and heavy
                                                                            Until I received from the place of my torment
                                                                            The golden orange, yellow like myself
                                                                            With the same illness which is so sweet to me.
                                                                            Apples are the gift of Love;
                                                                            You know it well, o Atalanta, warrior-maid,
                                                                            And Cydippe who still laments
                                                                            Over the golden writing which burned her so.
                                                                            Apples are the true sign of Love.
                                                                            Happy he who is worthy of an apple!
                                                                            Venus always has apples at her breast.
                                                                            Since Adam, we desire them;
                                                                            Grace always holds one in her hand;
                                                                            In brief, Love is nothing but a pretty game of apples.




 Ronsard’s apple theme is explained by Muret:  ‘All kinds of apples are dedicated to Desire/Lust (la Volupté), to the Graces, and to Love. All that which is the most delicate and charming in love draws on roundness: the head, the eyes, the chin, the cheeks (which the Latins call ‘malas’, as if ‘mala’ [apples]); the breasts, the curve of the stomach, the knees, the roundness of the thighs, and the other fair parts of woman.’  That may be so, but Ronsard is more interested it seems in the myths that use apples as a sign of love – cf. line 9!
I have no idea why he decided to change the apple in line 3 to an orange in this late version: Blanchemain’s version of line 3 begins “La pomme d’or…”. Obviously an orange is more exotic, but less ‘yellow’ than an apple and more orange, which is perhaps not the colour a rejected lover would go…? Perhaps he’s thinking of unripe oranges, as this is probably how he’d have seen them. (Interesting too that in this period the orange had a hidden aspirate at the front – a h’orange – judging from the way he writes line 3.
A brief glance at the myths Ronsard refers to. 
In line 6, Atalanta’s tale is well-known: (from Wikipedia) ‘Atalanta, uninterested in marriage, agreed to marry only if her suitors could outrun her in a footrace. Those who lost would be killed … Hippomenes asked the goddess Aphrodite for help, and she gave him three golden apples in order to slow Atalanta down. The apples were irresistible, so every time Atalanta got ahead of Hippomenes, he rolled an apple ahead of her, and she would run after it. In this way, Hippomenes won the footrace and came to marry Atalanta.‘ 
The story of Cydippe is far less well-known, but features in Ovid whose poetry was considerably more fashionable (and better known) in the renaissance than today: ‘During the festival of Artemis at Delos, Acontius saw Cydippe, a well-born Athenian maiden of whom he was enamoured, sitting in the temple of the goddess. He wrote on an apple the words, “I swear by Artemis that I will marry Acontius”, and threw it at her feet. She picked it up, and mechanically read the words aloud, which amounted to a solemn undertaking to carry them out. Unaware of this, she treated Acontius with contempt; Raphaël_-_Les_Trois_Grâces_-_Google_Art_Project_2 but, although she was betrothed more than once, she always fell ill before the wedding took place. The Delphic oracle at last declared the cause of her illnesses to be the wrath of the offended goddess; whereupon her father consented to her marriage with Acontius
As for Grace (or rather the Graces) holding apples, I can do no better than point you to Raphael (another borrowing from Wikipedia):
Blanchemain’s version has a less allusive version of the Cydippe myth in line 7-8:
Et Cydippé, qui encor se lamente
D’elle et d’Aconce et d’Amour si nuisant
                                                                            And Cydippe who still laments
                                                                            Over herself and Acontius and over such harmful love
He also offers a small change in line 10 – “Heureux celuy qui de tel bien est digne” (‘Happy he who is worthy of such a reward’)