Tag Archives: Charon

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).
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Odes 2.18 – A son laquais (To his servant)

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J’ay l’esprit tout ennuyé
D’avoir trop estudié
Les Phenomenes d’Arate :
Il est temps que je m’esbate
Et que j’aille aux champs jouer.
Bons dieux ! qui voudroit louer
Ceux qui, collez sur un livre,
N’ont jamais soucy de vivre ?
 
Que nous sert l’estudier,
Sinon de nous ennuyer
Et soing dessus soing accrestre,
A nous qui serons peut-estre,
Ou ce matin, ou ce soir,
Victime de l’orque noir,
De l’orque qui ne pardonne,
Tant il est fier, à personne ?
 
Corydon, marche devant ;
Sçache où le bon vin se vend.
Fais après à ma bouteille,
Des feuilles de quelque treille,
Un tapon pour la boucher.
Ne m’achete point de chair,
Car, tant soit-elle friande,
L’esté je hay la viande.
 
Achete des abricôs,
Des pompons, des artichôs,
Des fraises et de la crème :
C’est en esté ce que j’aime,
Quand, sur le bord d’un ruisseau,
Je les mange au bruit de l’eau,
Estendu sur le rivage
Ou dans un antre sauvage.
 
Ores que je suis dispos,
Je veux boire sans repos
De peur que la maladie
Un de ces jours ne me die,
Me happant à l’imporveu :
« Meurs, gallant, c’est assez beu. »
My spirit is quite bored
From having studied too hard
The Phenomena of Aratus:
It’s time I frolicked
And went out to play.
Good grief! Who’d want to praise
Those who, stuck to a book,
Never have any interest in living?
 
What use to us is studying,
Except to bore us
And to pile up care upon care
Upon us, who may perhaps be
This morning, or this evening,
Victims of the black bark,
The bark which grants no pardon,
So proud is it, to anyone.
 
Corydon, go in front:
You know where the good wine is sold.
Then make up for my bottle
From the leaves from some vine
A spout to drink from.
Buy me no meat
For, tasty as it is,
In summer I hate meat.
 
Buy apricots,
Melons, artichokes,
Strawberries and cream;
That’s what I love in summer
When, on a river bank,
I eat them by the sound of the stream,
Stretched out on the bank
Or in a wild cavern.
 
Now that I’m settled,
I want to drink without a break
For fear that illness
One of these days will say to me
Catching me by surprise,
“Die, my boy, that’s enough drinking!”
 
Once more the transition from classical learning to the delights of food – you perhaps remember the artichokes and melons from Tours (the “pompons”) from a recent post!
 
Aratus was one of those classical authors who took some detailed science and turned it into a poem so that it could be more easily memorised. For Aratus, it was the constellations and the weather (Darwin’s father Erasmus did the same in the early nineteenth century for botany… ) You can imagine Ronsard being a bit bored by it – though Aratus was revered in antiquity.
 
Corydon in verse 3 is a ‘pastoral’ name used regularly by Ronsard; in verse 2 the ‘bark which grants no pardon’ is of course Charon’s bark which ferries the dead across the Styx.
 
Although I am only using Blanchemain as a source for the Odes, there are still a couple of variants to report (from his footnotes):  in the third stanza
 
 

Corydon, marche devant ;
Sçache où le bon vin se vend.

Fay refreschir ma bouteille,

Cerche une fueilleuse treille
Et des fleurs pour me coucher.
                                                                      Corydon, go in front:
                                                                      You know where the good wine is sold.

                                                                      Get me a new bottle,

                                                                      Look for a leafy vine
                                                                      And some flowers for me to lie on.
 
 
And the last two lines which read:
 
« Je t’ay maintenant veincu.
Meurs, galland : c’est trop vescu. »
 
                                                                      “I’ve got you now.
                                                                      Die, my boy; you’ve lived too long.”
 
 
 
 
 

Odes 4:5

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Guy, nos meilleurs ans coulent
Comme les eaux qui roulent
D’un cours sempiternel ;
La mort pour sa sequelle
Nous ameine avec elle
Un exil éternel.
 
Nulle humaine priere
Ne repousse en arriere
Le bateau de Charon,
Quand l’ame nue arrive
Vagabonde en la rive
De Styx et d’Acheron.
 
Toutes choses mondaines
Qui vestent nerfs et veines
La mort égale prend,
Soient pauvres ou soient princes ;
Car sur toutes provinces
Sa main large s’estend.
 
La puissance tant forte
Du grand Achille est morte,
Et Thersite, odieux
Aux Grecs, est mort encores ;
Et Minos qui est ores
Le conseiller des dieux.
 
Jupiter ne demande
Que des bœufs pour offrande ;
Mais son frere Pluton
Nous demande, nous hommes,
Qui la victime sommes
De son enfer glouton.
 
Celuy dont le Pau baigne
Le tombeau nous enseigne
N’esperer rien de haut,
Et celuy que Pegase
(Qui fit soucer Parnase)
Culbuta d’un grand saut.
 
Las ! on ne peut cognaistre
Le destin qui doit naistre,
Et l’homme en vain poursuit
Conjecturer la chose
Que Dieu sage tient close
Sous une obscure nuit.
 
Je pensois que la trope
Que guide Calliope,
Troupe mon seul confort,
Soustiendroit ma querelle,
Et qu’indonté par elle
Je donterois la mort.
 
Mais une fiévre grosse
Creuse déjà ma fosse
Pour me banir là bas,
Et sa flame cruelle
Se paist de ma mouelle,
Miserable repas.
 
Que peu s’en faut, ma vie,
Que tu ne m’es ravie
Close sous le tombeau,
Et que mort je ne voye
Où Mercure convoye
Le debile troupeau !
 
[Et ce Grec qui les peines
Dont les guerres sont pleines
Va là bas racontant,
Poëte qu’une presse
Des épaules espaisse
Admire en l’écoutant.]
 
A bon droit Prométhée
Pour sa fraude inventée
Endure un tourment tel,
Qu’un aigle sur la roche
Luy ronge d’un bec croche
Son poumon immortel.
 
Depuis qu’il eut robée
La flame prohibée,
Pour les dieux despiter,
Les bandes incogneues
Des fiévres sont venues
Parmi nous habiter.
 
Et la mort despiteuse,
Auparavant boiteuse,
Fut légère d’aller ;
D’ailes mal-ordonnées
Aux hommes non données
Dedale coupa l’air.
 
L’exécrable Pandore
Fut forgée, et encore
Astrée s’en-vola,
Et la boîte féconde
Peupla le pauvre monde
De tant de maux qu’il a.
 
Ah ! le meschant courage
Des hommes de nostre âge
N’endure pas ses faits ;
Que Jupiter estuye
Sa foudre, qui s’ennuye
Venger tant de mesfaits !
Guy, our best years rush by
Like streams flowing
In their everlasting race ;
Death, as the sequel,
Brings us with it
Eternal exile.
 
No human prayer
Can push back
Charon’s boat
When the naked soul arrives
A wanderer at the river
Styx and Acheron.
 
All wordly things
Equipped with nerves and veins
Death takes equally,
Be they poor men or princes ;
For over all the empires
Its wide hand extends.
 
The strength, though great,
Of mighty Achilles is dead ;
And Thersites, hated
By the Greeks, is dead too ;
And Minos too, who was once
Advisor to the gods.
 
Jupiter requires only
Cattle as an offering ;
But his brother Pluto
Requires us, us men,
Who are the victims
Of his greedy hell.
 
He, whose tomb the Pau [Po]
Bathes, teaches us
To hope for nothing from on high,
And he too, whom Pegasus
(Who disquieted Parnassus)
Knocked down with his great leap.
 
Alas ! we cannot know
The fate which must come to us,
And man in vain seeks
To conjecture what thing
Our wise God keeps hidden
Beneath dark night.
 
I thought that the troop
Whom Calliope leads,
The troop which is my sole comfort,
Would support my complaint
And that, untamed by them,
I would tame death.
 
But a great fever
Is already digging my grave
To banish me down there,
And its cruel flame
Is feeding on my marrow,
A wretched repast.
 
How little is needed, mt life,
For you to be taken from me,
Shut in beneath my tomb,
And for me to see death
Where Mercury brings
The feeble troop !
 
[And that Greek who
Continually recounts down there
The pains with which war is filled,
The poet whom a crowd
Of wide shoulders
Admires as they listen.]
 
Rightly does Prometheus
For that trick he contrived
Endure such torment,
As, on his rock, an eagle
With its crooked beak gnaws
His immortal guts.
 
Since he stole away
The forbidden fire
To spite the gods,
The unknown bonds
Of fevers have come
To live among us ;
 
And resentful death,
Before that limping slowly,
Has become light on his feet.
With clumsy wings
Not granted to man
Daedalus cut through the air.
 
Cursed Pandora
Was forged and, still
A star, flew off
While the fruitful box
Peopled this poor world
With all the evils it had.
 
Ah, the paltry courage
Of the men of our age
Cannot endure their deeds ;
May Jupiter hold back
His thunderbolts, bored with
Avenging so many misdeeds !

 

This Ode is dedicated to Guy Pacate, prior of Sougé – a small village in the Loir region. Even today it consists of little more than one street and a church. Pacate had been one of the little group around Daurat in the 1540s, including Ronsard, du Bellay and Denisot, from which sprang the Pléiade. Among them he was apparently known for his learning and his gift for Latin poetry; though beyond their circle he seems obscure.  Perhaps it is relevant that, in the posthumous editions of Ronsard the dedication was to Jean Daurat himself, rather than this little-known satellite of his.
 
It’s certainly relevant that Pacate knew his classics: there is an array of classical references here rarely seen in such number in Ronsard’s poems! But at the same time Ronsard contrives an inward-looking reflection on death rather than a grand, public poem, suitable to the relative obscurity of the dedicatee.
 
Stanza 2 refers to the journey to the afterlife: souls would come down to the river Styx where they awaited Charon’s boat to ferry them over to Hades. (Mercury guided souls to the underworld – stanza 10.)
 
Stanza 4 contrasts Achilles with Thersites, the former the hero of the Iliad, the latter an annoying, cowardly tell-tale also on the Greek side; and adds Minos, once a king on earth, but tricked and killed in his bath by his daughters.
 
In stanza 6, Pau is famous as the birthplace of “noste Enric” (‘our Henry’), Henry IV of France; and earlier was the base of Gaston Fébus, whose Renaissance court paralleled that of Italian city-states. But this Pau is in fact the Po in north Italy, reputed to be where Phaethon fell when struck down by Jupiter’s thunderbolt. The second half of the stanza is about Perseus; other editions have “sourcer” rather than the (unique?) “soucer” which I have treated as if it were “soucier”: “Qui fit sourcer Parnase” would mean something like “who made a spring come from Parnassus”, the spring being the Hippocrene spring which was created when Pegasus stamped his foot, and which became sacred to the Muses.
 
The troop of Calliope in stanza 8 is the Muses – Calliope is the muse of epic poetry. In stanza 11, the poet is no doubt Homer; we have met Prometheus (stanzas 12-13), punished by the gods for bringing fire to man, regularly. In stanza 14 I have to admit the presence of Daedalus confuses me: there is no link to Pandora, nor did his flight lead to his own death. I assume that Ronsard is offering a simile – like Daedalus taking wing, death too became swifter.
 
Finally, in the penultimate stanza, Pandora is ‘forged’ because she the first woman, was made by Vulcan on Jupiter’s instructions. The story of the evils contained in Pandora’s box is well-known.
 
 
 
 
 

Amours diverses: chanson 1 (12a)

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(Numbered as ‘chanson 1’, this comes after sonnet 12, hence the 12a numbering.)

Petite Nymfe folâtre,
Nymphette que j’idolâtre,
Ma mignonne, dont les yeux
Logent mon pis et mon mieux :
Ma doucette, ma sucrée,
Ma Grace, ma Citherée,
Tu me dois pour m’appaiser
Mille fois le jour baiser. 
 
Tu m’en dois au matin trente,
Puis apres disner cinquante,
Et puis vingt apres souper.
Et quoy ? me veux-tu tromper ?  
 
Avance mes quartiers, belle,
Ma tourtre, ma colombelle :
Avance-moy les quartiers
De mes paymens tous entiers. 
 
Demeure, où fuis-tu Maistresse ?
Le desir qui trop me presse,
Ne sçauroit arrester tant,
S’il n’est payé tout contant. 
 
Revien revien mignonette,
Mon doux miel, ma violette,
Mon oeil, mon cœur, mes amours,
Ma cruelle, qui tousjours
Trouves quelque mignardise,
Qui d’une douce feintise
Peu à peu mes forces fond,
Comme on voit dessus un mont
S’escouler la neige blanche :
Ou comme la rose franche
Perd le vermeil de son teint,
Des rais du soleil esteint.
 
Où fuis-tu mon Angelette,
Ma vie, mon amelette ?
Appaise un peu ton courroux,
Assy-toy sur mes genoux,
Et de cent baisers appaise
De mon cœur la chaude braise. 
 
Donne moy bec contre bec,
Or’ un moite, ores un sec,
Or’ un babillard, et ores
Un qui soit plus long encores
Que ceux des pigeons mignars,
Couple à couple fretillars. 
 
Hà Dieu ! ma douce Guerriere,
Tire un peu ta bouche arriere :
Le dernier baiser donné
A tellement estonné
De mille douceurs ma vie,
Que du sein me l’a ravie,
Et m’a fait voir à demi
Le Nautonnier ennemy,
Et les plaines où Catulle,
Et les rives où Tibulle,
Pas à pas se promenant,
Vont encore maintenant
De leurs bouchettes blesmies
Rebaisotans leurs amies.
Frolicsome little Nymph,
Nymphette I idolize,
my sweetheart in whose eyes
I see my best and my worst,
my darling, my sweet,
my graceful one, my Cytherea:
to calm me you must kiss me
a thousand times a day.
 
You owe me thirty of them in the morning,
Then after dinner fifty,
And then twenty after supper.
What? Are you trying to cheat me?!
 
Pay me my quarters in advance, my fair one,
My turtledove;
Advance me all of the quarters
Of my payment!
 
Wait! Where are you going, mistress?
The desire which presses on me so
Cannot stop like that
If it is not happy with its payment.
 
Come back, come back, sweetie,
My honey, my violet,
Apple of my eye, my heart, my love:
O my cruel one, who always
Find some charming trick
Which with its sweet deception
Bit by bit overcomes my strength,
Just as you see atop a mountain
The white snow suddenly rush down,
Or as the fresh rose
Loses the redness of its colour,
Faded by the sun’s rays.
 
Where are you going, my little angel,
My life, my soul?
Calm your anger a little,
Sit on my knees,
And with a hundred kisses calm
The burning fire in my heart.
 
Give me lips against lips,
One moist, one dry,
One babbling, and one
Which is still longer
Than those of loving doves
Fluttering couple by couple.
 
Oh god! my sweet warrior,
Draw back your mouth a little:
That last kiss you gave
Has so overwhelmed
My life with a thousand pleasures
That it has torn it from my breast,
And has made me half-see
The Boatman, our enemy
And the plains where Catullus
And the banks where Tibullus
Wandered pace by pace,
And still go now
Again, with their pallid lips
Giving their lovers gentle kisses.

Another of Ronsard’s very famous songs. Incidentally, it became a cause célèbre when Nabokov’s Lolita emerged and was credited with introducing the word ‘nymphette’ into the language; French students actually demonstrated in public reclaiming the word for their own poet Ronsard!

The classical references in the final stanza are all to the classical underworld, where the Boatman (Charon) would ferry dead souls over to Hades. The Roman lyric poets Catullus and Tibullus are envisaged as among the privileged souls of poets who wander able still to recall their loves on earth.
 
There are some variants in Blanchemain. He [brackets] the second stanza (“Tu m’en dois…”) as this was added in 1578, after the date of the edition he takes as ‘standard’. Four stanzas later he has
 
Où fuis-tu mon Angelette,
Mon diamant, ma perlette ?
Là reviens, mon sucre doux,
Sur mon sein, sur mes genoux …
 
                                                                           Where are you going, my little angel,
                                                                           My diamond, my little pearl?
                                                                           Come back here, my sweetheart,
                                                                           Onto my breast, onto my knees …
 
Then there are minor changes at the start of the next stanza (“Donne m’en bec contre bec”, ‘Give me them lips against lips’) and the following one (“Hà ! ma douce guerriere”, ‘Ho there! my sweet warrior’); and in the middle of that final stanza
 
Le dernier baiser donné
A tellement estonné
De mille douceurs ma vie,
Qu’il me l’a presque ravie, …
 
                                                                           That last kiss you gave
                                                                           Has so overwhelmed
                                                                           My life with a thousand pleasures
                                                                           That it has practically torn it from me …
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 70

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Skipping once more over a poem we’ve posted earlier, we come to …

De quelle plante, ou de quelle racine,
De quel unguent, ou de quelle liqueur
Oindroy-je bien la playe de mon cœur
Qui d’os en os incurable chemine ?
 
Ny vers charmez, pierre, ny medecine,
Drogue ny jus ne romproient ma langueur,
Tant je sen moindre et moindre ma vigueur
Ja me trainer en la barque voisine.
 
Amour, qui sçais des herbes le pouvoir,
Et qui la playe au cœur m’as fait avoir,
Guary mon mal, ton art fay moy cognoistre.
 
Pres d’Ilion tu blessas Apollon :
J’ay dans le cœur senty mesme aiguillon :
Ne blesse plus l’écholier et le maistre.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            With what plant, what root,
                                                                            What unguent, what potion
                                                                            Shall I anoint the wound in my heart
                                                                            Which runs through my bones incurably?
 
                                                                            Not magic rhymes, stone nor medicine,
                                                                            Drug nor juice will defeat my languor,
                                                                            So much can I feel my strength lessen and lessen,
                                                                            Already dragging me off into the bark which is nearby.
 
                                                                            Love, you know the power of herbs
                                                                            And you have made this wound in my heart:
                                                                            Heal my ills, help me understand your arts.
 
                                                                            Beside Troy you wounded Apollo;
                                                                            I have felt the same sting in my heart;
                                                                            Do not wound again the scholar and the teacher.

 

 

In line 8, the nearby bark is the boat of Charon which ferries the dead across the river Styx.   I think Ronsard is conflating two stories in the reference to Apollo and Troy: Apollo was the father of Troilus by Hecuba, wife of Trojan King Priam; and (separately, in Thessaly) Apollo loved Daphne after being shot with a dart by Cupid. In the final line, to state the obvious, Ronsard is the scholar in love, but it’s curious to see unsuccessful Apollo (who failed to win over Daphne) as the teacher! There’s clearly a message about similar unsuccessful pursuits of the beloved, but odd to frame this as a learned behaviour…
 
Blanchemain’s earlier version does not pose these mythological conundrums – Cassandre is the magician, the one who causes the wounded heart and the one who can heal it. Another example of the older Ronsard over-complicating things?  Here’s Blanchemain’s closing sestet:
 
 
Las ! toi qui sçais des herbes le pouvoir,
Et qui la playe au cœur m’as fait avoir,
Guary le mal que ta beauté me livre :
 
De tes beaux yeux allége mon souci,
Et par pitié retiens encore ici
Ce pauvre amant qu’Amour soule de vivre.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Alas, you who know the power of herbs
                                                                           And who have made this wound in my heart:
                                                                           Heal the ill which your beauty gives me;
 
                                                                           With your fair eyes lighten my pain,
                                                                           And in pity keep here still
                                                                           The poor lover whom Love intoxicates with life.
 
 
 
 
 

Ode 4: 32

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Verson ces roses en ce vin,
En ce bon vin versons ces roses,
Et boivon l’un à l’autre, afin
Qu’au cœur nos tristesses encloses
Prennent en boivant quelque fin.
 
La belle rose du printemps,
Aubert, admoneste les hommes
Passer joyeusement le temps,
Et pendant que jeunes nous sommes,
Esbattre la fleur de nos ans.
 
Car ainsi qu’elle défleurit
A bas en une matinée,
Ainsi nostre âge se flestrit,
Las ! et en moins d’une journée
Le printemps d’un homme perit.
 
Ne veis-tu pas hier Brinon
Parlant et faisant bonne chere,
Lequel aujourd’hui n’est sinon
Qu’un peu de poudre en une bière,
Qui de luy n’a rien que le nom ?
 
Nul ne desrobe son trespas,
Caron serre tout en sa nasse,
Roys et pauvres tombent là bas ;
Mais ce-pendant le temps se passe,
Rose, et je ne te chante pas.
 
La rose est l’honneur d’un pourpris,
La rose est des fleurs la plus belle,
Et dessus toutes a le pris :
C’est pour cela que je l’appelle
La violette de Cypris.
 
Le rose est le bouquet d’amour,
La rose est le jeu des Charites,
La rose blanchit tout autour
Au matin de perles petites
Qu’elle emprunte du poinct du jour.
 
La rose est le parfum des dieux,
La rose est l’honneur des pucelles,
Qui leur sein beaucoup aiment mieux
Enrichir de roses nouvelles,
Que d’un or tant soit precieux.
 
Est-il rien sans elle de beau ?
La rose embellit toutes choses,
Venus de roses a la peau,
Et l’Aurore a les doigts de roses,
Et le front le Soleil nouveau.
 
Les nymphes de rose ont le sein,
Les coudes, les flancs et les hanches ;
Hebé de roses a la main,
Et les Charites, tant soient blanches,
Ont le front de roses tout plein.
 
Que le mien en soit couronné,
Ce m’est un laurier de victoire :
Sus, appelon le deux-fois-né,
Le bon pere, et le faisons boire,
De cent roses environné.
 
Bacchus, espris de la beauté
Des roses aux fueilles vermeilles,
Sans elles n’a jamais esté,
Quand en chemise sous les treilles
Il boit au plus chaud de l’esté.
Pour these roses into the wine,
Into this fine wine pour these roses,
And drink one to another, that
Those sad things we keep in our hearts
May meet in drinking some kind of end.
 
The fair rose of spring,
Aubert, admonishes men
To spend their time joyously
And, while we’re young,
To frolic away the flower of our years.
 
For just as her petals fall
Down in a morning,
So our age is blighted:
Alas, in less than a day
A man’s springtime perishes.
 
Didn’t you see Brinon yesterday
Chattering and making good cheer,
Who is nothing today but
A little powder in a beer
Which has nothing of him but his name?
 
None can avoid his death,
Charon closes his net on us all,
Kings and paupers fall down below;
But – time is passing,
O Rose, and I am not singing of you!
 
The Rose is the most distinguished of crimsons,
The Rose is of flowers most beautiful,
And above all others takes the prize:
That’s why I call it
The violet of Cypris (=Venus).
 
Rose is the scent of love
The Rose is the plaything of the Graces,
The Rose makes all around it fade,
In the morning, with tiny pearls
She borrows from the dawn.
 
The Rose is the perfume of the gods,
The Rose is the symbol of virgins,
Who love far more to enrich
Their breast with fresh roses
Than with gold however precious.
 
Is there anything beautiful without her?
The Rose enhances all things,
Venus has skin like roses,
And Dawn is rosy-fingered
And the morning Sun is rose-pink.
 
The nymphs have rosy breasts,
Arms, bodies, legs;
Hebe has a rosy hand,
And the Graces, though fair-skinned,
Have all-rosy brows.
 
Would that mine was so crowned,
That would be for me a laurel of victory;
Up then, call the twice-born,
The good father, and let’s make him drink,
Encircled by a hundred roses.
 
Bacchus, enamoured of the beauty
Of roses with their crimson petals,
Has never been without them
When in shirt-sleeves he drinks
Beneath the arbour in the hottest days of summer.
 
 In the 5th stanza, Charon is the boatman who ferries dead souls across the river Styx; I can’t recall anywhere else where the image is of him fishing them up in his net!  In the 9th stanza, ‘rosy-fingered Dawn’ is how Homer always terms her.  In the penultimate stanza the ‘twice-born’ is Dionysus, or Bacchus as in the final stanza. Why twice-born? Well, Bacchus was the child of Jupiter and Semele; those who know the Handel opera will know Semele died as a result of seeing Jupiter in all his glory – before giving birth. Jupiter then took her unborn child (a ‘six-month child’ according to some Greek writers) and sewed it into his thigh to complete its growth until ready to be born. Hence ‘twice-born’, once from Semele’s womb, once from Jupiter’s thigh.
 
Aubert in the 2nd stanza is Guillaume Aubert, friend of du Bellay & posthumous editor of his works.
 
 
 
 
 

Stances (Stanzas) – 135a

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In book 1, also, Ronsard inserts occasional lyrics which do not conform to sonnet form. This one is a lovely frisky light-hearted one!

Quand au temple nous serons
Agenouillez, nous ferons
Les devots selon la guise
De ceux qui pour loüer Dieu
Humbles se courbent au lieu
Le plus secret de l’Eglise.
 
Mais quand au lict nous serons
Entrelassez, nous ferons
Les lascifs selon les guises
Des Amans qui librement
Pratiquent folastrement
Dans les draps cent mignardises.
 
Pourquoy donque quand je veux
Ou mordre tes beaux cheveux,
Ou baiser ta bouche aimee,
Ou toucher à ton beau sein,
Contrefais-tu la nonnain
Dedans un cloistre enfermee ?
 
Pour qui gardes-tu tes yeux
Et ton sein delicieux,
Ton front, ta lèvre jumelle ?
En veux-tu baiser Pluton
Là bas, apres que Charon
T’aura mise en sa nacelle ?
 
Apres ton dernier trespas,
Gresle, tu n’auras là bas
Qu’une bouchette blesmie :
Et quand mort je te verrois
Aux Ombres je n’avou’rois
Que jadis tu fus m’amie.
 
Ton test n’aura plus de peau,
Ny ton visage si beau
N’aura veines ny arteres :
Tu n’auras plus que les dents
Telles qu’on les voit dedans
Les testes des cimeteres.
 
Donque tandis que tu vis,
Change, Maistresse, d’avis,
Et ne m’espargne ta bouche :
Incontinent tu mourras,
Lors tu te repentiras
De m’avoir esté farouche.
 
Ah je meurs !  Ah baise moy !
Ah, Maistresse, approche toy !
Tu fuis comme un Fan qui tremble :
Au-moins souffre que ma main
S’esbate un peu dans ton sein,
Ou plus bas, si bon te semble.
When we are in the temple [church]
Kneeling, we will look like
The devout, the very image
Of those who, to worship God,
Humbly bow towards the
Most holy part of the church.
 
But when we are in bed
Entwined, we will look like
The lascivious, the very image
Of lovers who freely
And friskily perform
A hundred little acts of love under the sheets.
 
So why, when I want
To bite your lovely hair
Or to kiss your beloved lips
Or to brush against your lovely breast,
Do you pretend to be a little nun
In an enclosed convent?
 
For whom are you keeping your eyes
And your delicious breast,
Your brow, your twin lips?
Do you want to kiss Pluto with them
Down below, after Charon
Has taken you into his little boat?
 
After your eventual death,
Down there you’ll be spindly, with nothing
But a deathly-pale mouth;
And when I’m dead and see you
In the Shades I will not recognise
That you were formerly my beloved.
 
Your head will no longer have skin on it
Your face – oh so beautiful ! –
Won’t have its veins and arteries;
You will just have teeth left,
Like those you see inside
The skulls in cemeteries.
 
So, while you are alive,
Change your mind, my mistress,
And don’t be sparing with your lips;
All at once you will be dead,
And then you will repent
Of having been shy with me.
 
I’m dying, so kiss me.
Oh Mistress, come near me.
Like a quaking fawn you flee.
At least allow my hand to rest,
All a-tremble, on your breast,
Or farther down still, if may be.
 
 in Greek myth, Charon’s boat took the dead across the River Styx to Hades, where Pluto ruled.
 
 Blanchemain varies the middle of the fourth stanza:
 
 
Pour qui gardes-tu tes yeux
Et ton sein delicieux,
Ta joue et ta bouche belle ?
 
                                                                       For whom are you keeping your eyes
                                                                      And your delicious breast,
                                                                      Your cheeks, your lovely mouth? …
 
And there is one minor change later on, where he deletes the “un” in the 3rd line of the last stanza:  “Tu fuis comme Fan qui tremble”.  It is worth noting that these ‘stanzas’ were imported into ‘Cassandre’ after starting life elsewhere: though Blanchemain includes them there, in his 1560 edition they actually appeared among the Odes!