Tag Archives: Cassandre

Amours book 2 – Elégie à son livre

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Although it’s been months since my last post, I find myself still in book 2 of the Amours! This is really the very last poem from book 2 I’ll be posting, though: the lengthy Elegy which Ronsard prefixed to the book as he sent it out into the world.

Mon fils, si tu sçavois ce qu’on dira de toy,
Tu ne voudrois jamais desloger de chez moy,
Enclos en mon estude : et ne voudrois te faire
Salir ny fueilleter aux mains du populaire.
Quand tu seras parti, sans jamais retourner,
Estranger loin de moy te faudra sejourner :
« Car ainsi que le vent sans retourner s’envole,
« Sans espoir de retour s’eschappe la parole.
 
Or tu es ma parole, à qui de nuict et jour
J’ay conté les propos que me contoit Amour,
Pour les mettre en ces vers qu’en lumiere tu portes,
Crochetant maugré moy de ma chambre les portes,
Pauvret! qui ne sçais pas que nos citoyens sont
Plus subtils par le nez que le Rhinoceront.
 
Donc avant que tenter la mer et le naufrage,
Voy du port la tempeste, et demeure au rivage.
« Tard est le repentir de tost s’estre embarqué.
 
Tu seras tous les jours des médisans moqué
D’yeux, et de hausse-becs, et d’un branler de teste.
« Sage est celuy qui croit à qui bien l’amoneste.
 
Tu sçais (mon cher enfant) que je ne te voudrois
Tromper, contre nature impudent je faudrois,
Et serois un Serpent de farouche nature
Si je voulois trahir ma propre geniture :
Car tout tel que tu es, n’agueres je te fis,
Et je ne t’aime moins qu’un pere aime son fils.
 
Quoy? tu veux donc partir : et tant plus je te cuide
Retenir au logis, plus tu hausses la bride.
Va donc puis qu’il te plaist, mais je te suppliray
De respondre à chacun ce que je te diray,
Afin que toy (mon fils) tu gardes en l’absence
De moy le pere tien, l’honneur et l’innocence.
 
Si quelque dame honneste et gentille de cœur
(Qui aura l’inconstance et le change en horreur)
Me vient, en te lisant, d’un gros sourcil reprendre
Dequoy je ne devois oublier ma Cassandre,
Qui la premiere au cœur le trait d’amour me mist,
Et que le bon Petrarque un tel peché ne fist,
Qui fut trente et un an amoureux de sa dame,
Sans qu’une autre jamais luy peust eschauffer l’ame :
Respons-luy je te pri’, que Petrarque sur moy
N’avoit authorité pour me donner sa loy,
Ny à ceux qui viendroyent apres luy, pour les faire
Si long temps amoureux sans leur lien desfaire.
 
Luy-mesme ne fut tel : car à voir son escrit
Il estoit esveillé d’un trop gentil esprit
Pour estre sot trente ans, abusant sa jeunesse
Et sa Muse au giron d’une vieille maistresse :
Ou bien il jouyssoit de sa Laurette, ou bien
Il estoit un grand fat d’aimer sans avoir rien.
Ce que je ne puis croire, aussi n’est-il croyable :
Non, il en jouyssoit : puis la fist admirable,
« Chaste, divine, saincte : aussi l’amoureux doit
« Celebrer la beauté dont plaisir il reçoit :
« Car celuy qui la blasme apres la jouissance
« N’est homme, mais d’un Tygre il a prins sa naissance.
Quand quelque jeune fille est au commencement
Cruelle, dure, fiere à son premier amant,
Constant il faut attendre : il peut estre qu’une heure
Viendra sans y penser, qui la rendra meilleure.
Mais quand elle devient voire de jour en jour
Plus dure et plus rebelle, et plus rude en amour,
On s’en doit esloigner, sans se rompre la teste
De vouloir adoucir une si sotte beste.
Je suis de tel advis : me blasme de ceci,
M’estime qui voudra, je le conseille ainsi.
 
Les femmes bien souvent sont cause que nous sommes
Volages et legers, amadoüans les hommes
D’un espoir enchanteur, les tenant quelquefois
Par une douce ruse, un an, ou deux, ou trois,
Dans les liens d’Amour sans aucune allegeance :
Ce-pendant un valet en aura joüissance,
Ou bien quelque badin emportera ce bien
Que le fidele amy à bon droit cuidoit sien.
Et si ne laisseront, je parle des rusées
Qui ont au train d’amour leurs jeunesses usées,
(C’est bien le plus grand mal qu’un homme puisse avoir
Que servir une femme accorte à decevoir)
D’enjoindre des travaux qui sont insupportables,
Des services cruels, des tâches miserables :
Car sans avoir esgard à la simple amitié
De leurs pauvres servans, cruelles n’ont pitié,
Non plus qu’un fier Corsaire en arrogance braves,
N’a pitié des captifs aux environs esclaves.
Il faut vendre son bien, il faut faire presens
De chaisnes, de carquans, de diamans luisans :
Il faut donner la Perle, et l’habit magnifique,
Il faut entretenir la table et la musique,
Il faut prendre querelle, il faut les suporter.
Certes j’aimerois mieux dessus le dos porter
La hotte, pour curer les estables d’Augée,
Que me voir serviteur d’une Dame rusée.
« La mer est bien à craindre, aussi est bien le feu,
« Et le Ciel quand il est de tonnerres esmeu,
« Mais trop plus est à craindre une femme clergesse,
« Sçavante en l’art d’amour, quand elle est tromperesse :
« Par mille inventions mille maux elle fait,
« Et d’autant qu’elle est femme, et d’autant qu’elle sçait.
Quiconque fut le Dieu qui la mit en lumiere
Il fut premier autheur d’une grande misere.
 
Il falloit par presens consacrez aux autels
Acheter nos enfans des grands Dieux immortels,
Et non user sa vie avec ce mal aimable,
Les femmes, passion de l’homme miserable,
Miserable et chetif d’autant qu’il est vassal,
Durant le temps qu’il vit, d’un si fier animal.
Mais je vous pri’, voyez comment par fines ruses
Elles sçavent trouver mille feintes excuses,
Apres qu’ell’ ont failly ! voyez Helene apres
Qu’Ilion fut bruslé de la flamme des Grecs,
Comme elle amadoüa d’une douce blandice
Son badin de mary, qui luy remit son vice,
Et qui plus que devant de ses yeux fut épris,
Qui scintilloient encor les amours de Pâris.
Que dirons-nous d’Ulysse ? encores qu’une trope
De jeunes poursuyvans aimassent Penelope,
Devorans tout son bien, si est-ce qu’il brusloit
D’embrasser son espouse, et jamais ne vouloit
Devenir immortel avec Circe la belle,
Pour ne revoir jamais Penelope, laquelle
Pleurant luy rescrivoit de son fascheux sejour,
Pendant qu’en son absence elle faisoit l’amour :
Si bien que le Dieu Pan de ses jeux print naissance,
(D’elle et de ses muguets la commune semence)
Envoyant tout expres, pour sa commodité,
Le fils chercher le père en Sparte la cité.
« Voilà comment la femme avec ses ruses donte
« L’homme, de qui l’esprit toute beste surmonte.
 
Quand on peut par hazard heureusement choisir
Quelque belle maistresse, et l’avoir à plaisir,
Soit de haut ou bas lieu, pourveu qu’elle soit fille
Humble, courtoise, honneste, amoureuse et gentille,
Sans fard, sans tromperie, et qui sans mauvaitié
Garde de tout son cœur une simple amitié,
Aimant trop mieux cent fois à la mort estre mise,
Que de rompre sa foy quand elle l’a promise :
Il la faut honorer tant qu’on sera vivant,
Comme un rare joyau qu’on treuve peu souvent.
« Celuy certainement merite sur la teste
« Le feu le plus ardent d’une horrible tempeste,
« Qui trompe une pucelle et mesmement alors
« Qu’elle se donne à nous, et de cœur et de cors.
 
N’est-ce pas un grand bien quand on fait un voyage,
De rencontrer quelcun qui d’un pareil courage
Veut nous acompagner, et comme nous passer
Les torrens, les rochers, fascheux à traverser ?
Aussi n’est-ce un grand bien de trouver une amie,
Qui nous aide à passer cette chetive vie,
Qui sans estre fardée ou pleine de rigueur,
Traite fidellement de son amy le cueur ?
 
Dy leur, si de fortune une belle Cassandre
Vers moy se fust monstrée un peu courtoise et tendre,
Et pleine de pitié eust cherché à guarir
Le mal dont ses beaux yeux dix ans m’ont fait mourir,
Non seulement du corps, mais sans plus d’une œillade
Eust voulu soulager mon pauvre cœur malade,
Je ne l’eusse laissée, et m’en soit à tesmoin
Ce jeune enfant ailé qui des amours a soin.
 
Mais voiant que tousjours elle marchoit plus fiere,
Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere,
Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou,
Où maintenant Amour me detient sous le jou :
Laquelle tout soudain je quitteray, si elle
M’est comme fut Cassandre, orgueilleuse et rebelle,
Pour en chercher une autre, à fin de voir un jour
De pareille amitié recompenser m’amour,
Sentant l’affection d’une autre dans moymesme :
« Car un homme est bien sot d’aimer si on ne l’aime.
 
Or’ si quelqu’un apres me vient blasmer, dequoy
Je ne suis plus si grave en mes vers que j’estoy
A mon commencement, quand l’humeur Pindarique
Enfloit empoulément ma bouche magnifique :
Dy luy que les amours ne se souspirent pas
D’un vers hautement grave, ains d’un beau stille bas,
Populaire et plaisant, ainsi qu’a fait Tibulle,
L’ingenieux Ovide, et le docte Catulle.
Le fils de Venus hait ces ostentations :
Il suffist qu’on luy chante au vray ses passions
Sans enflure ny fard, d’un mignard et doux stile,
Coulant d’un petit bruit, comme une eau qui distile.
Ceux qui font autrement, ils font un mauvais tour
A la simple Venus, et à son fils Amour.
 
S’il advient quelque jour que d’une voix hardie
J’anime l’eschafaut par une tragedie
Sentencieuse et grave, alors je feray voir
Combien peuvent les nerfs de mon petit sçavoir.
Et si quelque furie en mes vers je rencontre,
Hardi j’opposeray mes Muses alencontre :
Et feray resonner d’un haut et grave son
(Pour avoir part au bouc) la tragique tançon.
Mais ores que d’Amour les passions je pousse,
Humble je veux user d’une Muse plus douce.
 
Je ne veux que ce vers d’ornement indigent
Entre dans une escole, ou qu’un brave regent
Me lise pour parade : il suffist si m’amie
Le touche de la main dont elle tient ma vie.
Car je suis satisfait, si elle prend à gré
Ce labeur que je voüe à ses pieds consacré.
My son, if you knew what they’ll say of you,
You’d never want to leave my home,
But stay shut away in my study; you wouldn’t want yourself
Dirtied or leafed thorough by the crowd’s hands.
When you’ve gone, never to return,
You’ll have to live like a stranger far from me :
“For as the wind flies off without returning,
So, without hope of returning, the word escapes.”
 
And you are my word, to whom night and day
I have told the ideas which Love told me,
So I could put them into these verses which you take into the light,
Picking the locks of the doors of my room in defiance of me,
Poor thing, who know not that our citizens have
Sharper noses than the rhinoceros.
 
So, before trying the sea and shipwreck,
See the storm from port, and stay on the shore.
“Early to board, late to repent.”
 
Every day you’ll be mocked by ill-wishers,
With their eyes, their lifted noses, and a shake of the head.
“Wise the man who believes a person who gives good advice.”
 
You know, my dear child, that I have no desire
To deceive you: I would have to be shameless, contrary to nature
And a serpent with an untamed nature
If I sought to betray my own offspring,
For just as you are, I recently made you,
And I love you no less than a father loves his son.
 
Yet you still wish to go? And the more I wish
To keep you at home, the more you pull at the bit.
Go on then, since you want to, but I beg you
To answer everyone as I will tell you,
So that you, my son, protect in my absence
Your father’s – my own! – honour and innocence.
 
If some honest lady of noble heart,
Who is horrified by inconstancy and change,
On reading you reproves me with a heavy frown
That I ought not to have forgotten my Cassandre,
Who was first to shoot the arrow of love into my heart,
And that good old Petrarch committed no such sin,
Being thirty-one years in love with his lady
Without any other ever being able to set his soul ablaze,
Then reply to her, I beg, that Petrarch had
No authority over me to subject me to his law,
Nor those others who came after him, to make us
Love so long a time without breaking our ties.
 
He himself was not like that; for if you look at what he wrote
He was a sharp man, with too noble a spirit
To be a fool for thirty years, wasting his youth
And his Muse in the lap of an old mistress.
Either he enjoyed his little Laura, or he was
Indeed a great fool to love but not have her at all.
I can’t believe that, nor is it believable;
No, he enjoyed her, then made her out to be admirable,
Chaste, divine, holy: “The lover should also
Celebrate the beauty from whom he gains his pleasure;
For he who blames her after enjoying her
Is no man, but was born of a tiger.”
 
When some young girl is at the beginning
Cruel, harsh and proud to her first lover,
He must remain constant; it may be that the time
Will come, unexpectedly, which will make her better.
But when she becomes from day to day
Harsher and more contrary, and coarser in love,
You should distance yourself, without wearying yourself
Trying to soften so foolish a beast.
That’s my advice: blame me for it
Or praise me who will, I counsel him thus.
 
Women are often the reason we are
Light and flighty, coaxing men
With bewitching hope, sometimes keeping them
With sweet tricks for a year, or two, or three,
In love’s bonds without relief;
And yet a servant will enjoy them,
Or perhaps some wag will run off with the delight
Which the faithful lover rightly thought his own.
And still they won’t stop, I mean those sly girls
Who have spent their youths in Love’s train,
(It’s certainly the greatest trouble a man can have
To serve a woman used to deception)
[They won’t stop] demanding work which is insupportable,
Cruel service, wretched tasks;
For without regard to the simple love
Of their poor servants, they cruelly have no pity,
No more than a proud corsair, brave and arrogant,
Has pity on the captives in his slave-quarters.
[The lover] has to sell his goods, make presents
Of chains, purses, and shining diamonds;
He must give pearls and magnificent clothes,
He must look after the table and the music,
He must take up her quarrels, and endure them.
Certainly I’d prefer to carry on my back
A basket and clean the Augean stables,
Than to become the servant of a sly Lady.
“The sea really should be feared, the fire as well,
And the sky when it is shaken with thunder,
But much more to be feared is a learned woman
Well-versed in the art of love, when she is a deceiver;
By a thousand tricks she makes a thousand evils,
And she’s as wise as she is a woman.”
Whichever was the god who brought her to life,
He was the prime author of great misery.
 
We ought, with presents consecrated at their altars
To offer bribes for our children with the great, immortal gods,
So they don’t waste their lives with that pleasant evil
Woman, the passion of wretched men,
Wretched and weak insofar as they’re vassals
During their lives of so proud a beast.
I beg you, see how by subtle tricks
They are able to find a thousand fake excuses
After they’ve deceived! Look at Helen after
Troy was burned by the Greeks’ fire,
How she wheedled with sweet flattery
Her fool of a husband, who forgave her vice
And fell in love more than before with her eyes
Which sparkled still with love for Paris.
And what shall we say of Ulysses? While a troop
Of young suitors was making love to Penelope,
Devouring all his goods, yet still he burned
To kiss his wife, and never wished
To become immortal with the beautiful Circe
So as never again to see Penelope, whom
Weeping he wanted to tell about his wearisome journey,
While in his absence she was making love:
So much so that the god Pan was born from their frolics
(The common seed of her and her dandies)
As she immediately sent, to make things easier for her,
The son to seek his father in the city of Sparta.
“That is how woman with her cunning defeats
Man, whose spirit overcomes all the animals.”
 
If by chance you might fortunately choose
Some fair mistress, and have her for your pleasure,
No matter if she’s from a high or low place provided she is
A humble, courteous, honest, loving and gentle girl,
Without disguise, without trickery, who without wickedness
Keeps with all her heart her simple love,
Much preferring to be put to death a hundred times
Than to break her word when she has promised it;
Then you must honour her while you live
As a rare jewel most infrequently found.
“He certainly deserves the hottest fires
Of terrible storms upon his head
Who deceives a maid, especially when
She gives herself to us heart and body.“
 
Isn’t it a great delight when we’re travelling
To meet someone who with equal bravery
Wishes to a company us and like us to journey
Over torrents and rocks, tiresome to cross?
And isn’t it a great delight to find a girl
Who helps us on this life’s wretched journey,
Who without being burdened or full of harshness
Treats her lover’s heart faithfully?
 
Tell them, then, if perchance the fair Cassandre
Had showed herself a little courteous and tender towards me,
And full of pity had sought to cure
The ills with which her fair eyes had put me to death those ten years;
If not with her body but with just a single glance
She’d been willing to soothe my poor, ill heart,
I’d not have left her, let my witness be
That young winged child who watches over love-affairs.
 
But seeing how she always continued more proud
I unbound myself from all my first love
To love with it another in the country of Anjou,
Where Love now keeps me under his yoke.
[A love] which I will immediately abandon if she
Is to me as Cassandre was, proud and rebellious,
To find another, so that one day I may see
My love returned with an equal love,
Feeling the affection of another within myself:
“For a man is a complete fool to love if he isn’t loved.”
 
So, if someone afterwards chooses to blame me that
I am no more as grave in my verse as I was
At the beginning, when the Pindaric mood
Puffed up in swollen words my magniloquent voice;
Then tell him that love does not sigh
In high-flown grave verse, but in a fine low style,
Pleasant and popular, like that of Tibullus,
The ingenious Ovid and the learned Catullus.
The son of Venus hates ostentation:
Enough that we sing his passions to him truly
Without bombast or disguise, in a charming sweet style
Flowing with a gentle sound like a tinkling spring.
Those who do otherwise do a bad turn
To simple Venus and her son Love.
 
If it should happen one day that with bold voice
I enliven the stage with some tragedy
Grave and sententious, then I shall show
How loud the strings of my little learning can sound.
And if I encounter passion in my verse
I shall boldly set my Muses against it,
And make a tragic dialogue resound with high-flown
And serious tones (assuming the tragic buskin).
But while I focus on the passions of Love,
In lower style I prefer to employ a sweeter Muse.
 
I do not want these verses, stripped of ornament,
To enter some school, or a worthy regent
To read me for show; it’s enough if my beloved
Touches it with the hand in which she holds my life.
For I am satisfied if she approves
This work which I dedicate, consecrated, at her feet.
 
 
 

 

A few words of commentary on these 200 lines:- the rhinoceros (or, in the earlier version, elephant) has a ‘subtle’ nose, one good for smelling out the good and the bad: ‘sharp’, we could more easily say in English, but while it’s obvious which sort of ‘sharpness’ the elephant’s nose has, it’s perhaps less so for the rhinoceros where a ‘sharp’ nose could refer to its horn not its sensitivity.- Ronsard’s cynicism about Petrarch’s chaste relationship with Laura is perhaps also a corrective to those scholars who think Ronsard’s own affairs were more imagined than real?  His harsh words about women, implicitly applied to Cassandra, should not be taken too literally: he speaks elsewhere of still loving her.

– there’s a cluster of classical references in the middle of the poem:  the Augean stables, cleaning whose filth was one of Heracles’ ‘impossible’ tasks;  Helen of Troy, taken back by Menelaus after Troy’s fall as she was still the most beautiful woman in the world, though her continuing love for Paris is largely a Ronsardian invention (in Homer, she and Menelaus are genuinely reconciled)

– Ronsard invents, too, Penelope’s unfaithfulness to Odysseus with her troop of suitors – in the Odyssey she famously remains loyal; his son Telemachus journeys to Sparta seeking information from Menelaus at the goddess Athene’s prompting, not sent away by Penelope; and Circe did not offer Odysseus immortality but threatened to turn him into a pig like his followers!  Ronsard has, ironically because it would be obvious to all his readers, twisted the Greek tale on its head. However, at the same time he demonstrates his wide and deep reading: in a pretty obscure Pindar fragment, but as far as I know nowhere else, Penelope is indeed said to be Pan’s mother (the father, though, Apollo not one or several human suitors!)

– where Ronsard turns to his new love in Anjou, he says “Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere, / Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou“; that “en” technically means that he is giving Marie his first love, transferring it from Cassandre: this is not a new love, but the old one with a new subject.

– for the really interested, “empoulément” is ampoulément, from the same root as ampoule, a ‘swollen’ bulb of glass.

– Ronsard contrasts the style of Pindar – the great Greek poet of Odes – with that of Tibullus, Ovid and Catullus: Romans, but principally contrasted as love-poets and slightly licentious ones at that. (The ‘son of Venus’ is of course Cupid, god of love.)

 

 

See the next post for Blanchemain’s earlier version with its many variants.

 

Élégie à Cassandre (Am. 1.227b)

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Mon œil, mon cœur, ma Cassandre, ma vie,
Hé! qu’à bon droit tu dois porter d’envie
A ce grand Roy, qui ne veut plus souffrir
Qu’à mes chansons ton nom se vienne offrir.
C’est luy qui veut qu’en trompette j’echange
Mon luth, afin d’entonner sa louange,
Non de luy seul mais de tous ses ayeux
Qui sont là hault assis au rang des Dieux.
 
Je le feray puis qu’il me le commande :
Car d’un tel Roy la puissance est si grande,
Que tant s’en faut qu’on la puisse eviter,
Qu’un camp armé n’y pourroit resister.
 
Mais que me sert d’avoir tant leu Tibulle,
Properce, Ovide, et le docte Catulle,
Avoir tant veu Petrarque et tant noté,
Si par un Roy le pouvoir m’est oté
De les ensuyvre, et s’il faut que ma Iyre
Pendue au croc ne m’ose plus rien dire ?
 
Doncques en vain je me paissois d’espoir
De faire un jour à la Tuscane voir,
Que nostre France, autant qu’elle, est heureuse
A souspirer une pleinte amoureuse :
Et pour monstrer qu’on la peut surpasser,
J’avois desja commencé de trasser
Mainte Elegie à la façon antique,
Mainte belle Ode, et mainte Bucolique.
 
Car, à vray dire, encore mon esprit
N’est satisfait de ceux qui ont escrit
En nostre langue, et leur amour merite
Ou du tout rien, ou faveur bien petite.
 
Non que je sois vanteur si glorieux
D’oser passer les vers laborieux
De tant d’amans qui se pleignent en France :
Mais pour le moins j’avoy bien esperance,
Que si mes vers ne marchoient les premiers,
Qu’ils ne seroient sans honneur les derniers.
Car Eraton qui les amours descœuvre,
D’assez bon œil m’attiroit à son œuvre.
 
L’un trop enflé les chante grossement,
L’un enervé les traine bassement,
L’un nous depeint une Dame paillarde,
L’un plus aux vers qu’aux sentences regarde,
Et ne peut onq tant se sceut desguiser,
Apprendre l’art de bien Petrarquiser.
 
Que pleures-tu, Cassandre, ma douce ame ?
Encor Amour ne veut couper la trame
Qu’en ta faveur je pendis au métier,
Sans achever l’ouvrage tout entier.
 
Mon Roy n’a pas d’une beste sauvage
Succé le laict, et son jeune courage,
Ou je me trompe, a senti quelquefois
Le trait d’Amour qui surmonte les Rois.
 
S’il l’a senti, ma coulpe est effacee,
Et sa grandeur ne sera corroucee
Qu’à mon retour des horribles combas,
Hors de son croc mon Luth j’aveigne à-bas,
Le pincetant, et qu’en lieu des alarmes
Je chante Amour, tes beautez et mes larmes.
« Car l’arc tendu trop violentement,
« Ou s’alentit, ou se rompt vistement.
 
Ainsi Achille apres avoir par terre
Tant fait mourir de soudars en la guerre,
Son Luth doré prenoit entre ses mains
Teintes encor de meurdres inhumains,
Et vis à vis du fils de Menetie,
Chantoit l’amour de Brisëis s’amie :
Puis tout soudain les armes reprenoit,
Et plus vaillant au combat retoumoit.
 
Ainsi, apres que l’ayeul de mon maistre
Hors des combats retirera sa dextre,
Se desarmant dedans sa tente à part,
Dessus le Luth à l’heure ton Ronsard
Te chantera : car il ne se peut faire
Qu’autre beauté luy puisse jamais plaire,
Ou soit qu’il vive, ou soit qu’outre le port,
Leger fardeau, Charon le passe mort.
My eyes, my heart, my Cassandre, my life,
Oh, how rightly you must be envious
Of that great King who no longer wishes to suffer
Your name to put itself forward in my songs.
It is he who wishes that I should change my lute
For a trumpet, to sing out his praises,
And not only his own but those of his ancestors
Who are seated above in the ranks of the gods.
 
I shall do it, as he commands it :
For the power of such a King is so great
That it is as hard to keep out of its way
As for an armed force to resist it.
 
What use for me to have read so much of Tibullus,
Propertius, Ovid, and the learned Catullus ;
To have looked over and noted so much of Petrarch,
If by a King the power is taken from me
Of following them, and if my lyre must
Hang from a hook and dare no longer speak ?
 
I have therefore vainly fed the hope
Of one day seeing Tuscany,
When our France, as much as it, is happy
To sigh a lover’s plaint ;
And, to show [Italy] can be surpassed
I had already begun to set down
Many an Elegy in the antique fashion,
Many a fine Ode, many a Pastoral.
 
For to speak the truth, my soul is still
Not satisfied with those who have written
In our language, and their love deserves
Either nothing at all, or very little favour.
 
Not that I am so vainglorious a boaster
As to venture to surpass the laborious poetry
Of so many lovers who have made their plaints in France ;
But at least I have a fair hope
That, even if my verse does not go first,
It will not be dishonourably last.
For Erato, who discloses love-affairs,
Drew me with a clear eye to her work.
 
One puffed-up poet sings grossly of love,
Another nervous one drags on in too mean a style ;
One depicts a Lady who is lewd,
Another takes more care over his verse than his meaning
And can never, however he tries to conceal it,
Learn the art of Petrarch-ising well.
 
Why do you weep, Cassandre, my sweet soul ?
Love does not yet seek to cut off the warp and weft
Which I have hung on my loom for you,
Without completing the whole of my work.
 
My King has not sucked the milk of some
Savage beast, and his youthful courage too,
Unless I am mistaken, has sometimes felt
The wound of Love which can overcome Kings.
 
If he has felt it, my [ error ] is erased
And his greatness will not be angered
If, on my return from terrible battles,
I take my lute down from its hook
And pluck it, and instead of loud war
I sing of Love, your beauty, and my tears.
« For the bow which is drawn too tightly
Either weakens [slows] or quickly breaks. »
 
Just so Achilles, after having across the world
Put so many soldiers to death in war,
Took his golden lute in his hands –
Still stained with inhuman massacres –
And sitting opposite the son of Menetius
Sang of his love for Briseis, his beloved ;
Then as suddenly took up arms again
And returned, more courageous, to battle.
 
And so, after my master’s ancestor
Withdraws his hand from battle,
Disarming himself within his tent away from the field,
Upon his lute just then your Ronsard will sing
To you ; for it cannot be
That another beauty could ever please him
While he is alive or when, beyond this harbour,
Charon carries his light burden, dead.
 
 
The conclusion of the first book of Amours brings with it some weightier material to give it a firm feeling of ending – rather like Beethoven’s 5th, which iterates and reiterates the thumping C-major chords to emphasise that this really is the end of the piece, Ronsard feels (rightly) that he cannot simply end the long run of sonnets without something more definitely marking a conclusion. Perhaps there is, nonetheless, a sense of loss as Ronsard explains how he must stop writing love poetry to focus, by royal command, on his epic Franciad.
 
The Elegy to Cassandre is an elegy in the classical sense – a description of its form, rather than its mood (as we use it today to mean ‘something noble but sad, in remembrance’). Accordingly, it is full of classical (and neo-classical) references:
 – Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid, and Catullus are all Latin love-poets; and we might detect a glancing reference to one of Horace’s odes in the lines about ‘hanging his lyre on a hook’;
 – Petrarch is of course the shining example of (relatively) modern love-poetry, Tuscany his home;
 – Erato is the muse of lyric poetry;
 – in the Iliad Achilles sings of the slave-girl Briseis whom he loves (and who plays a pivotal role in the development of the action); his other (male) love is Patroclus, the son of Menoetius;
 – Charon is of course the boatman who ferries the dead across the river Styx.
 
Muret suggests that, in the last ‘stanza’, Ronsard is using the word “ayeul” (ancestor, grandfather) to refer to Francus, the mythical ancestor of the kings of France – and thus to the Franciad, the commission for which has drawn Ronsard forcibly away from writing love-poems.  (The ‘great king’ at the time of the publication of the Amours in the 1550s was Henri II; his direct ancestors were noble rather than royal, his father having come to the throne by virtue of his marriage to Louis XII’s daughter.)
 
 
The earlier Blanchemain version has only minor differences:
 – in stanza 3, the list of Roman poets is “Tibulle, / Gallus, Ovide, et Properce et Catulle,” – Cornelius Gallus was a lyric poet contemporary with the others;
 – in stanza 5, the line is “En nostre langue, et leur Muse merite” (‘and their Muse deserves’ instead of ‘their love’);
– towards the end, “Mon Roy n’a pas d’une tigre sauvage …” (a savage tiger’s milk rather than a savage beast’s).
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.196

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Au plus profond de ma poitrine morte
Il m’est advis qu’une main je reçoy,
Qui me pillant entraine avecque soy
Mon cœur captif, que maistresse elle emporte.
 
Coustume inique, et de mauvaise sorte,
Malencontreuse et miserable loy,
Tu m’as tué, tant tu es contre moy,
Loy des humains, bride trop dure et forte.
 
Faut-il que veuf, seul entre mille ennuis,
Mon lict desert je couve tant de nuits ?
Hà ! que je porte et de haine et d’envie
 
A ce Vulcan ingrat et sans pitié,
Qui s’opposant aux raiz de ma moitié,
Fait eclipser le Soleil de ma vie.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            In the deepest place in my dead breast
                                                                            I seem to feel a hand
                                                                            Which as it plunders me drags with it
                                                                            My captive heart, and takes it to be its mistress.
 
                                                                            Iniquitous custom, wicked fate,
                                                                            Unlucky and wretched law,
                                                                            You have killed me, so much you are against me,
                                                                            Law of mankind, bridle too harsh and strong.
 
                                                                            Must I bereft, alone among a thousand troubles,
                                                                            Brood on my deserted bed for so many nights?
                                                                            Ah, what hate and jealousy I bear
 
                                                                            Towards that ungrateful and pitiless Vulcan
                                                                            Who, setting himself against the light of my other half,
                                                                            Eclipsed the Sun of my life.
 
 
 
Muret, footnoting the Amours, tells us: ‘Vulcan, husband of Venus, was a jealous god. This sonnet has nothing to do with Cassandre, as with several others in this book.’ Vulcan as the husband of Venus, who found her in bed with Mars; are we to assume that Ronsard has been playing with a married lady? Or is this a less-precise reference, which would fit Cassandre better, to another lover competing for her hand and making off with her – perhaps, her husband-to-be rather than a husband? Or is Muret right in saying this has nothing to do with Cassandre – for, after all, we have already encountered many a sonnet addressed to Sinope, Marguerite and other ladies?
 
In the end, does it matter?! Poetry does not, after all, have to be subjected to the analysis which a strict biographer might apply. It is an attractive poem with a novel image in the opening quatrain and some unusual phrases in the second.
 
In both, there are variants in the earlier Blanchemain edition: of these I think we can safely say the older versions of lines 2 and 7 are weaker, but that does not make the version less interesting.
 
 
Au plus profond de ma poitrine morte
Sans me tuer une main je reçoy,
Qui, me pillant, entraine avecques soy
Mon cœur captif, que, maistresse, elle emporte.
 
Coustume inique et de mauvaise sorte,
Malencontreuse et miserable loy,
Tant à grand tort, tant tu es contre moy,
Loy sans raison miserablement forte.
 
 
                                                                            In the deepest place in my dead breast
                                                                            I feel a hand which does not kill me,
                                                                            Which as it plunders me drags with it
                                                                            My captive heart, and takes it to be its mistress.
 
                                                                            Iniquitous custom, wicked fate,
                                                                            Unlucky and wretched law,
                                                                            So wrongly, so much you are against me,
                                                                            Law without reason, wretchedly strong.
 
 
 
 

Amours retranch. 49 – A Song for Cassandre

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Il me semble que la journée
Dure plus longue qu’une année,
Quand par malheur je n’ay ce bien
De voir la grand’ beauté de celle
Qui tient mon cœur, et sans laquelle
Vissé-je tout, je ne voy rien.
 
Quiconques fut jadis le Sage
Qui dit que l’amoureux courage
Vit de ce qu’il ayme, il dit vray ;
Ailleurs vivant il ne peut estre,
Ny d’autre viande se paistre :
J’en suis seur, j’en ay fait l’essay.
 
Tousjours l’amant vit en l’aimée :
Pour cela mon ame affamée
Ne se veut souler que d’amour,
De l’amour elle est si friande,
Que sans plus de telle viande
Se veut repaistre nuit et jour.
 
Si quelqu’un dit que je m’abuse,
Voye luy-mesme la Meduse
Qui d’un rocher m’a fait le cœur ;
Et l’ayant veuë je m’asseure
Qu’il sera fait sur la mesme heure
Le compagnon de mon malheur.
 
Car est-il homme que n’enchante
La voix d’une Dame sçavante,
Et fust-il Scythe en cruauté ?
Il n’est point de plus grand’ magie
Que la docte voix d’une amie,
Quand elle est jointe à la beauté.
 
Or j’aime bien, je le confesse,
Et plus j’iray vers la vieillesse,
Et plus constant j’aimeray mieux :
Je n’oubliray, fussé-je en cendre,
La douce amour de ma Cassandre,
Qui loge mon cœur dans ses yeux.
 
Adieu liberté ancienne,
Comme chose qui n’est plus mienne,
Adieu ma chere vie, adieu :
Ta fuite ne me peut desplaire,
Puis que ma perte volontaire
Se retreuve en un si beau lieu.
 
Chanson, va-t’en où je t’adresse
Dans la chambre de ma Maistresse,
Dy-luy, baisant sa blanche main,
Que pour en santé me remettre,
Il ne luy faut sinon permettre
Que tu te caches dans son sein.
 
 
It seems to me that a day
Lasts longer than a year
When by mischance I do not have the benefit
Of seeing the great beauty of her
Who holds my heart, and without whom
Even if I see everything I see nothing.
 
Whoever was in olden days the wise man
Who said that a lover’s courage
Lives on the one he loves, spoke truly;
He could not live in any other way,
Nor feed on any other food.
I’m sure of it: I’ve tried it.
 
The lover lives all the time in the beloved;
For that reason my famished soul
Wishes to drink deeply of Love alone;
It is so partial to love
That on such food and nothing more
It wishes to dine both night and day.
 
If anyone wants to claim I’m deceiving myself,
Let him look upon the Medusa
Who has made my heart into a rock;
Having seen her, I am sure
That he will be made that same moment
A fellow in my troubles.
 
For is there a man whom the voice
Of a wise woman cannot enchant,
Even if he were like a Scythian in cruelty?
There is no greater magic
Than the cunning voice of your beloved
When it is joined with beauty.
 
Still, I love it, I confess,
And the further I go towards old age
The more, and the more constantly, I shall love it.
I will not forget, even were I mere dust,
The sweet love of my Cassandre
Who keeps me heart in her eyes.
 
Farewell my old freedom,
Like something no longer mine,
Farewell my dear life, farewell:
Your loss cannot displease me
Since my own voluntary ruin
Has landed me in so fair a place.
 
Away, my song, go where I send you
Into the chamber of my mistress,
And tell her, kissing her white hand,
That to return me to health
She need only allow
You to hide in her breast.
 
 
The heading, “Chanson pour Cassandre”, is pretty self-explanatory; and there’s little in the poem which needs commentary. Medusa (4th stanza) of course turned everything she set eyes on into stone; Scythians (next stanza) were famously barbaric and therefore cruel. The last stanza is reminiscent of several other poems we’ve seen in which a bird is sent to Cassandre.
 
 
 
 

Amours retranch. 2

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A ton frere Pâris tu sembles en beauté,
A ta sœur Polyxene en chaste conscience,
A ton frere Helenin en prophete science,
A ton parjure ayeul en peu de loyauté,
 
A ton père Priam en brave Royauté,
Au viellard Antenor en mielleuse eloquence,
A ta tante Antigone en superbe arrogance,
A ton grand frere Hector en fiere cruauté.
 
Neptune n’assit onc une pierre si dure
Dedans le mur Troyen, que toy pour qui j’endure
Un million de morts, ny Ulysse vainqueur
 
N’emplit tant Ilion de feux, de cris, et d’armes,
De souspirs, et de pleurs, que tu combles mon cœur,
Sans l’avoir mérité, de sanglots, et de larmes
 
 
 
 
                                                                            You are like your brother Paris in beauty,
                                                                            Your sister Polyxena in chaste conscience,
                                                                            Your brother Helenus in prophetic skill,
                                                                            Your perjured grandfather [Laomedon] in faithlessness,
 
                                                                            Your father Priam in regal pride,
                                                                            Old Antenor in honeyed speech,
                                                                            Your aunt Antigone in magnificent arrogance,
                                                                            Your great brother Hector in proud cruelty.
 
                                                                            Neptune never placed a stone so hard
                                                                            In Troy’s walls as you, for whom I endure
                                                                            A million deaths, nor did conquering Ulysses
 
                                                                            Fill Ilium so full of fires, cries, arms,
                                                                            Sighs and laments, as you fill my heart –
                                                                            Which does not deserve it – with sobs and tears.

 

 

After that recent poem on reading Homer, another which demonstrates the effect of that reading! It’s possible that the family tree of the royal house of Troy may not be too familiar to you(!) so here’s a very useful quick summary:  several of the names above are highlighted to make navigation easy. The basic assumption is that ‘you’ (=Cassandre) are equivalent to the prophetess Cassandra of Troy.
 
Many of the references are not just to the characters but to the relevant myths:
 – Paris, so handsome that he was chosen to judge the goddesses’ beauty & gained Helen’s love;
 – Polyxena, whose calm wisdom encouraged Achilles (having captured her) to trust her with the information that led to his death, and who (in Euripides) nobly accepts her death as a sacrifice to Achilles’ ghost;
 – Helenus, Cassandra’s twin and also endowed with prophetic powers;
 – Laomedon, perjured because he persuaded Neptune to build Troy’s great walls (see line 9) but then refused to give the promised reward;
 – Priam, whose pride kept the war going (but who was capable of humbling himself before Achilles, to recover his son Hector’s body, in a truly noble/regal way);
 – Antenor, not a family member but Priam’s closest and wisest advisor (and an advocate for peace in the war);
 – Antigone, whose ‘arrogance’ is the centre of Sophocles’ play as her stubbornness leads to confrontation with the state and general tragedy;
 – Hector, generally considered a noble hero, but who of course has a long list of victims in the Iliad. Generally, Achilles not Hector is seen as the proudly cruel one!
 
Which leaves us only with the reference to Ulysses, who is responsible for the fall of Troy because he came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse.
 
Unusually for a poem that has been set aside, there is a variant in Blanchemain’s version at the beginning of the last line:
 
                          … que tu combles mon cœur,
De brasiers et de morts, de sanglots, et de larmes
 
                                                                                                    … as you fill my heart
                                                                            With fire and death, with sobs and tears.
 
 
 
 

Amours retranch. 43

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Je veux lire en trois jours l’Iliade d’Homere,
Et pour-ce, Corydon, ferme bien l’huis sur moy :
Si rien me vient troubler, je t’asseure ma foy
Tu sentiras combien pesante est ma colere.
 
Je ne veux seulement que nostre chambriere
Vienne faire mon lit, ton compagnon, ny toy,
Je veux trois jours entiers demeurer à requoy,
Pour follastrer apres une sepmaine entiere.
 
Mais si quelqu’un venoit de la part de Cassandre,
Ouvre-luy tost la porte, et ne le fais attendre,
Soudain entre en ma chambre, et me vien accoustrer.
 
Je veux tant seulement à luy seul me monstrer :
Au reste, si un Dieu vouloit pour moy descendre
Du Ciel, ferme la porte, et ne le laisse entrer.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            I want to read Homer’s Iliad in three days :
                                                                            So, Corydon, close tight the door upon me.
                                                                            If anything comes to trouble me, I give you my word
                                                                            You will feel how heavy my anger is.
 
                                                                            I do not just wish our chambermaid won’t
                                                                            Come and make my bed, nor your fellows, nor you :
                                                                            I want to stay in peace for three whole days,
                                                                            To have some fun after this last week.
 
                                                                            But if someone should come from Cassandre,
                                                                            Quickly open the door to him, don’t make him wait !
                                                                            Rush into my room, come and get me dressed :
 
                                                                            To him alone am I willing to show myself.
                                                                            For the rest, if a god chose to come down to me
                                                                            From heaven, shut the door and don’t let him in !
 
 
Lovely. Ronsard the litterateur, keen to read his Homer; but also Ronsard the tongue-in-cheek love-poet – Cassandre, yes, a mere god, no …   Yet another poem where I wonder, why did he withdraw it?! More importantly, yet another poem which reminds us that the withdrawn poems are as well-worth reading as the sets Ronsard selected in the various complete editions.
 
 
 
 
 

To Cassandre – Ode 2:5

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La Lune est coustumiere
Renaistre tous les mois ;
Mais, quand nostre lumiere
Sera morte une fois,
Longtemps sans réveiller
Nous faudra sommeiller.
 
Tandis que vivons ores,
Un baiser donne moy ;
Donne-m’en mille encores :
Amour n’a point de loy ;
A sa grand’ deité
Convient l’infinité.
 
Ah ! vous m’avez, maistresse
De la dent entamé
La langue chanteresse
De vostre nom aimé.
Quoi ! est-ce là le prix
Du labeur qu’elle a pris,
 
Elle qui voz louanges
Dessus le luth vantoit,
Et aux peuples estranges
Vos mérites chantoit,
Ne faisant l’air si non
Bruire de votre nom.
 
De vos tetins d’yvoire
(Joyaux de l’Orient)
Elle chantoit la gloire,
Et de votre œil friant,
Pour la récompenser
La faut-il offenser ?
 
Las ! de petite chose
Je me plains durement :
La playe en l’ame enclose
Me cuit bien autrement,
Que ton œil m’y laissa
Le jour qu’il me blessa.
The moon is accustomed
To being reborn every month;
But when our light
Is once dead,
For long without waking
We’ll have to sleep.
 
While we live, though,
Give me a kiss,
Give me a thousand more;
Love has no rules,
Infinity suits
His great godhood.
 
Ah, mistress, you have
Overcome me with your teeth,
Your enchantress’s tongue,
Your beloved name;
What? Is that the prize
For the task she undertook,
 
She, who extolled
Your praises on the lute,
And sang to unknown peoples
Your merits
Making the air
Resound with your name.
 
She sang of the glory
Of your ivory breasts,
The jewels of the Orient,
And of your dainty eyes;
So to recompense her
Should we offend her?
 
Alas, of little things
I complain harshly;
The wound hidden in my soul
Burns me very differently
Than when your eyes left me it
On the day when they wounded me.

 

Who is the ‘she’ of the middle of the poem? Grammatically, it can only refer back to “sa grand’ deité”, the ‘great godhood’ of Love; so I could have used the male pronoun and had Love singing, praising etc.
 
Blanchemain offers us also a variant text, replacing stanza 4 (‘she who extolled your praises on the lute’) with two stanzas as follows:
 
 
Elle par qui vous estes
Déesse entre les dieux,
Qui vos beautez parfaites
Celebroit jusqu’aux cieux,
Ne faisant l’air sinon
Bruire de vostre nom,
 
De vostre belle face,
Le beau logis d’amour,
Où Venus et la Grace
Ont choisi leur sejour,
Et de vostre œil, qui fait
Le soleil moins parfait.
 
 
                                                                 She through whom you are
                                                                 A goddess among the gods,
                                                                 Who laud your perfect
                                                                 Beauty to the skies,
                                                                 Making the air simply
                                                                 Resound with your name,
 
                                                                 With your fair face:
                                                                 The fair home of love,
                                                                 Where Venus and Grace
                                                                 Have chosen to stay,
                                                                 And with your eyes, which make
                                                                 The sun less perfect.