Tag Archives: Daphne

Amours 1.223

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Mets en oubly, Dieu des herbes puissant,
Le mauvais tour que non loin d’Hellesponte
Te fit m’amie, et vien d’une main pronte
Guarir son teint de fiévres pallissant.
 
Tourne en santé son beau corps perissant !
Ce te sera, Phebus, une grand’honte,
Si la langeur sans ton secours surmonte
L’œil, qui te tient si long temps languissant.
 
En ma faveur si tu as pitié d’elle,
Je chanteray comme l’errante Dele
S’enracina par ton commmandement :
 
Que Python fut ta premiere conqueste,
Et comme Dafne aux tresses de ta teste
Donna l’honneur du premier ornement.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Forget, God of powerful herbs,
                                                                            The wicked trick which, not far from the Hellespont,
                                                                            My beloved did you, and come with ready hand
                                                                            To cure her complexion, pallid with fever.
 
                                                                            Return to health her fair but perishing body !
                                                                            It would be great shame on you, Phoebus,
                                                                            If this weakness, without your help, overcame
                                                                            Those eyes which kept you for so long weak-kneed.
 
                                                                            If to please me you have pity on her
                                                                            I shall sing how the wandering Delos
                                                                            Rooted itself at your command ;
 
                                                                            That Python was your first conquest,
                                                                            And how Daphne gave to the tresses of your head
                                                                            The glory of their first ornament.
 
 
Plenty of mythological reference here, as Ronsard begs Apollo, god of healing (‘powerful herbs’), to cure his beloved.Cassandre’s Trojan namesake, the priestess, was originally ‘cursed’ with prophetic madness by Apollo after she refused his advances (or, worse, led him on and then tricked him). Python links to the oracular side of Apollo as well, being the dragon-deity associated with the oracle at Delphi, defeated by Apollo so that the Delphic oracle became his – and was served by a ‘Pythian’ priestess.According to Ronsard, Delos (the island) rooted itself at Apollo’s command: more generally, legend has it that the wandering island was eventually fixed in its position – equidistant from the mainland to north and west, the Greek islands on the coast of Turkey in the east, and Crete to the south – by Poseidon, and subsequently became Apollo’s birthplace. And Daphne picks up the theme of ‘becoming rooted’, as she was the nymph turned into a laurel tree to avoid Apollo’s advances. (Whence the laurel wreath as a symbol of victory in competition is associated with Apollo.)

Note that the two mythical girls in the poem are both failed conquests of Apollo, who received terrible punishments!

In lines 7-8 I have tried to find a parallel for “langueur … languissant” and settled on ‘weak’ words: I’m not sure Ronsard would approve of ‘weak at the knees’ though!

Blanchemain’s version has a variant in lines 11-12:

 
                         … comme l’errante Dele
S’enracina sous ta voix, et comment
Python sentit ta premiere conqueste
 

                                                                                       … how the wandering Delos
                                                                            Rooted itself at your call, and how
                                                                            Python felt your first conquest
  

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Amours 1.194

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Quelle langueur ce beau front des-honore ?
Quel voile obscur embrunist ce flambeau ?
Quelle palleur dépourpre ce sein beau,
Qui per à per combat avec l’Aurore?
 
Dieu medecin, si en toy vit encore
L’antique feu du Thessale arbrisseau,
Vien au secours de ce teint damoiseau,
Et son liz palle en œillets recolore.
 
Et toy Barbu, fidele gardien
Des Rhagusins, peuple Epidaurien,
Fais amortir le tison de ma vie :
 
S’il vit je vy, s’il meurt je ne suis riens :
Car tant son ame à la mienne est unie,
Que ses destins seront suivis des miens.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            What langour dishonours that fair brow?
                                                                            What shadowy veil darkens that torch?
                                                                            What pallor un-reddens that fair breast,
                                                                            Which competes on equal terms with the Dawn?
 
                                                                            O doctor-god, if in you still lives
                                                                            The antique fire of the Thessalian bush,
                                                                            Come to the aid of this maiden tint
                                                                            And re-colour her pale lilies as pinks.
 
                                                                            And you, Bearded God, faithful guardian
                                                                            Of the Rhagusians, a people of Epidaurum,
                                                                            Un-deaden the fire-brand of my life;
 
                                                                            If she lives, I live; if she dies, I am nothing;
                                                                            For her soul is so united to mine
                                                                            That her fate will be followed by mine.
 
 
 
 
Some neologisms from Ronsard in this lovely ‘get well soon’ message:  ‘un-redden’ in line 3, ‘un-deaden’ in line 11 – “amortir” usually means to reduce, but here it is “a-mort-ir”.  Ragusa is Dubrovnik, founded by Illyrians from Epidaurum (or Epidaurus, but not the one where the famous theatre is). Epidaurum was some 15km south of Dubrovnik, both on the Dalmatian coast. Its patron god was Asclepius/Aesculapius, the ‘bearded god’ of line 9 whose image can be found carved into a column in the portico of the Rector’s Palace in Dubrovnik today. Asclepius is also associated with Thessaly (it was there he was supposedly born), and in particular with Epidaurus (the one with the theatre!) where there is a temple to him.  So in lines 5-6 Ronsard may be referring to another aspect of the same deity, as well as making a link between the two Epidauruses. Alternatively, he may mean Apollo (father of Asclepius) whose association with the ‘Thesalian bush’ recalls Daphne, turned into a bush to escape his lustful pursuit.
 
Note that in line 12, Ronsard actually writes ‘if it [the torch or fire-brand] lives…’; I have personalised his simile to make it clearer.
 
Blanchemain’s text offers us another neologism in line 11 – “Déflamme aussi le tizon de ma vie” (‘Un-flame too the fire-brand…’); no doubt Ronsard adjusted this image as it is confusing to imagine the flames of a torch being put out but the torch still living… In line 7, Blanchemain’s text has “Las ! prends pitié de ce teint damoiseau”, adjusted in the later version to eliminate the weak exclamation.
 
 
 
 
 

Poems 1.20 – the Nightingale

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

Sonnet 161

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Que n’ay-je, Amour, cette Fere aussi vive
Entre mes bras, qu’elle est vive en mon cœur ?
Un seul moment guariroit ma langueur,
Et ma douleur feroit aller à rive.
 
Plus elle court, et plus elle est fuitive
Par le sentier d’audace et de rigueur :
Plus je me lasse, et recreu de vigueur
Je marche apres d’une jambe tardive.
 
Au moins escoute, et ralente tes pas :
Comme veneur je ne te poursuy pas,
Ou comme archer qui blesse à l’impourveuë.
 
Mais comme amy de ton amour touché,
Navré du coup qu’Amour m’a décoché,
Forgeant ses traits des beaux rais de ta veuë.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Why do I not have, o Love, this wild animal as alive
                                                                            Within my arms, as she is within my heart?
                                                                            A single moment would cure my listlessness,
                                                                            And make my sadness go by the board.
 
                                                                            The more she runs away, and the more she flies
                                                                            Along the path of boldness and harshness,
                                                                            The more I become tired and, recovering my strength,
                                                                            I walk after her with slow limbs.
 
                                                                            At least hear me, and slow your pace;
                                                                            I do not pursue you like a hunter,
                                                                            Or an archer who wounds unexpectedly;
 
                                                                            But like a lover, wounded by your love,
                                                                            Struck down by the blow which Love loosed on me,
                                                                            Forging his darts from the fair rays of your glance.

 

 

 
 Another satisfying arc to the poem, but why the switch from 3rd to 2nd person halfway through? Odd, though far from unusual in Ronsard!
 
Only minor variants from the Blanchemain version: the very opening, “Puissé-je avoir ceste fere aussi vive …” (‘Oh that I might have this wild animal as alive …’); and in lines 12-13 he is “comme amy de ton amour touché / Du fer cruel qu’Amour m’a décoché”. That could be translated either with the two clauses in juxtaposition – – ‘like a lover, wounded by your love, / By the cruel weapon which Love loosed on me’ – – but if we prefer to enjamb the lines and make a proper sentence out of it, we have something along the lines of ”as one who loves being in love with you, wounded by the cruel weapon …’ (and contrariwise, the Marty-Laveaux version can be read with the verbs juxtaposed as ‘as one who loves being in love with you, wounded and struck down by the blow …’) Though that second option makes sense, context suggests the first version.
 
Muret reminds us that Ronsard is alluding to a well-known passage in Ovid’s metamorphoses in the sestet:  in Dryden’s translation, Apollo calls to Daphne
 
Stay Nymph, he cry’d, I follow, not a foe.
Thus from the lyon trips the trembling doe;
Thus from the wolf the frighten’d lamb removes,
And, from pursuing faulcons, fearful doves;
Thou shunn’st a God, and shunn’st a God, that loves.
 
He adds that the opening two lines are adapted from Pietro Bembo; Ronsard’s poem however goes off in a different direction thereafter. Bembo’s poem is below; my translation is again approximate.

 

La fera che scolpita nel cor tengo,
Così l’avess’ io viva entro le braccia:
Fuggì sì leve, ch’io perdei la traccia,
Né freno il corso, né la sete spengo.
 
Anzo così tra due vivo e sostengo
L’anima forsennata, che procaccia
Far d’una tigre sciolta preda in caccia,
Traendo me, che seguir lei convengo.
 
E so ch’io movo indarno, o penser casso,
E perdo inutilmente il dolce tempo
De la mia vita, che giamai non torna.
 
Ben devrei ricovrarmi, or ch’i’ m’attempo
Et ho forse vicin l’ultimo passo:
Ma piè mosso dal ciel nulla distorna.
 
 
 
                                                                            The wild beast which I keep engraved in my heart,
                                                                            Oh that I thus had her alive within my arms;
                                                                            She flees so lightly that I lose the track,
                                                                            Nor slow my course nor sate my thirst.
 
                                                                            Yet thus between the two I live and my soul
                                                                            Remains crazed, as it tries
                                                                            To make a free-roaming tigress its prey in the hunt,
                                                                            Dragging me along as I agree to pursue her.
 
                                                                            And I know I pursue in vain, my thoughts shattered,
                                                                            And uselessly waste the sweet time
                                                                            Of my life, which will never return.
 
                                                                            I must indeed recover, or at least attempt it,
                                                                            And I am perhaps close to that last step;
                                                                            But a step away from heaven can never turn back.
 
 
 

Sonnet 71

Standard
Ja desja Mars ma trompe avoit choisie,
Et dans mes vers ja Francus devisoit :
Sur ma fureur ja sa lance aiguisoit,
Epoinçonnant ma brave poësie :
 
Ja d’une horreur la Gaule estoit saisie,
Et sous le fer ja Sene tre-luisoit,
Et ja Francus à Paris conduisoit
Le nom Troyen et l’honneur de l’Asie :
 
Quand l’Archerot emplumé par le dos,
D’un trait certain me playant jusqu’à l’os,
De ses secrets le ministre m’ordonne.
 
Armes adieu, le Myrte Pafien
Ne cede point au Laurier Delfien,
Quand de sa main Amour mesme le donne.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Now already Mars had outwitted me
                                                                            And now in my verse Francus was chattering away ;
                                                                            Now he was sharpening his lance on my passion,
                                                                            Skewering my bold poetry;
 
                                                                            Now Gaul was seized with horror,
                                                                            The Seine now glinting beneath the blades,
                                                                            Francus now bringing to Paris
                                                                            The name of Troy and Asia’s honour;
 
                                                                            When the little Archer, feathers on his back,
                                                                            Wounding me to the bone with a sure dart
                                                                            Ordained me as minister of his secrets.
 
                                                                            Farewell arms! The myrtle of Paphos
                                                                            Yields nothing to the laurel of Delphi
                                                                            When Love himself gives it with his own hand.

 

 

  
It’s hard to think of Ronsard as a poet of war and epic poetry – the Franciad notwithstanding – yet here he is claiming that he was already at work on such an epic when he was diverted towards love poetry. Maybe this is a ‘classicizing’ defence of love poetry, for epic is of course – like tragedy – considered greater than ‘mere’ love poetry. But it is believed true that he had begun work on his epic Franciad in the 1540s, before turning to love poetry, the Franciad having to wait till the 1570s for publication in its partially-complete state.
 
The hero Francus is an entirely made-up French origin myth, originating in the medieval period: Francus is Astyanax, Hector’s son, mysteriously surviving the death he suffered in the various Greek epics of Troy (in the Little Iliad he is thrown from the walls, in the Ilioupersis, he is killed and the King Priam – his grandfather – is beaten to death with his body!). Escaping to Europe, Astyanax/Francus becomes the origin of the Franks, and founder of the Merovingian dynasty (Charlemagne’s line).
 
Paphos and myrtle are both associated with Venus: Paphos because, after her birth at sea, she came ashore in a seashell there (cf. the famous Botticelli painting); and myrtle is sacred to Venus in classical religion.  Delphi and the laurel are linked with Apollo:  Delphi for the famous Oracle, the laurel as sacred to him and the plant into which Daphne was changed to save her from Apollo’s advances (alluded to in the previous sonnet).
 
The original version (in Blanchemain) has a few small variants:  his lines 7-8 read
 
 
Et ja Francus à son bord conduisoit
Les os d’Hector forbannis de l’Asie,
 
                                                                           Francus now bringing to its banks
                                                                           The bones of Hector exiled from Asia;
 
and his line 11 reads “De sa grandeur le saint prestre m’ordonne” (‘By his greatness ordained me his holy priest’ or ‘Ordained me holy priest of his greatness’).
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 70

Standard

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.
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 29

Standard
J’aime la fleur de Mars, j’aime la belle rose,
L’une qui est sacrée à Venus la Deesse,
L’autre qui a le nom de ma belle maistresse,
Pour qui troublé d’esprit en paix je ne repose.
 
J’aime trois oiselets, l’un qui la plume arrose
De la pluye de May, et vers le Ciel se dresse :
L’autre qui veuf au bois lamente sa destresse :
L’autre qui pour son fils mille versets compose.
 
J’aime un pin de Bourgueil, où Venus apendit
Ma jeune liberté, quand prise elle rendit
Mon cœur qui doucement un bel œil emprisonne.
 
J’aime un jeune laurier de Phebus l’arbrisseau,
Dont ma belle maistresse en pliant un rameau
Lié de ses cheveux me fist une couronne.
 
 
 
                                                                                            I love the March flowers [or, the flower of Mars], I love the fair rose,
                                                                                            The one which is sacred to the goddess Venus,
                                                                                            The other which has the name of my fair mistress
                                                                                            For whom, troubled in spirit, I cannot rest in peace.
 
                                                                                            I love three birds, one which sprinkles its feathers
                                                                                            With May’s rains and draws itself up towards the heavens,
                                                                                            Another which, widowed, bewails its grief in the woods,
                                                                                            The other which composes a thousand songs for its child.
 
                                                                                            I love a pine in Bourgueil, where Venus hung up
                                                                                            My youth’s freedom when, captured, she returned
                                                                                            My heart, which a fair eye had sweetly imprisoned.
 
                                                                                            I love a fair laurel, the tree of Apollo,
                                                                                            With which my fair mistress, bending a twig
                                                                                            Tied with her hair, made me a crown.
 
 
Belleau adds a footnote to tell us the 3 birds of the second stanza are “the lark, the turtle-dove and the nightingale“. In the first stanza, the rose is obvious but the ‘fleur de Mars’ less so. It’s another of Ronsard’s diificult-to-translate moments: is it, in the company of Venus, ‘the flower of Mars’? Or is it ‘the flowers in March’? Or a specific ‘flower of March’?   A spring flower, the wood violet is often called the ‘fleur de Mars’ – but it doesn’t carry Marie’s name. On the other hand, a variety of thistle, the ‘silybum marianum’, is known in French as ‘Chardon-Marie’. For me, though, the most likely is the “marguerite” or daisy: so I think the meaning is “I love the March flowers, especially the daisy”.
 
Apollo is associated with the laurel because the nymph Daphne whom he was pursuing for love was changed into one. Venus is associated with the pine, because pinecones were a symbol of fertility.
 
Blanchemain offers minor variants, which are easier to indicate in his text than to spell out laboriously here:
 
 
J’aime la fleur de Mars, j’aime la belle rose,
L’une qui est sacrée à Venus la Deesse,
L’autre qui a le nom de ma belle maistresse,
Pour qui ne nuit, ne jour en paix je ne repose.
 
J’aime trois oiselets, l’un qui la plume arrose
De la pluye de May, et vers le Ciel se dresse :
L’autre qui veuf au bois lamente sa destresse :
L’autre qui pour son fils mille versets compose.
 
J’aime un pin de Bourgueil, où Venus apendit
Ma jeune liberté, quand pris elle rendit
Mon cœur que doucement un bel œil emprisonne.
 
J’aime un gentil laurier de Phebus l’arbrisseau,
Dont ma belle maistresse en tordant un rameau
Lié de ses cheveux me fist une couronne.
 
 
                                                                                             I love the flower of Mars, I love the fair rose,
                                                                                             The one which is sacred to the goddess Venus,
                                                                                             The other which has the name of my fair mistress
                                                                                             For whom neither night nor day can I rest in peace.
 
                                                                                             I love three birds, one which sprinkles its feathers
                                                                                             With May’s rains and draws itself up towards the heavens,
                                                                                             Another which, widowed, bewails its grief in the woods,
                                                                                             The other which composes a thousand songs for its child.
 
                                                                                             I love a pine in Bourgueil, where Venus hung up
                                                                                             My youth’s freedom when she returned my captured
                                                                                             Heart, which a fair eye had sweetly imprisoned.
 
                                                                                             I love a noble laurel, the tree of Apollo,
                                                                                             With which my fair mistress, twisting a twig
                                                                                             Tied with her hair, made me a crown.