Tag Archives: Estienne Jodelle

To Robert Garnier (4)

Le vieil cothurne d’Euripide
Est en procez entre Garnier
Et Jodelle, qui le premier
Se vante d’en estre le guide.
Il faut que ce procez on vuide,
Et qu’on adjuge le laurier
A qui mieux d’un docte gosier
A beu de l’onde Aganippide.
S’il faut espelucher de prés
Le vieil artifice des Grecs,
Les vertus d’une œuvre et les vices,
Le sujet et le parler haut,
Et les mots bien choisis ; il faut
Que Garnier paye les espices.
                                                                            The ancient buskin of Euripides
                                                                            Is being contested between Garnier
                                                                            And Jodelle, who first
                                                                            Boasted of being our guide in this art.
                                                                            We must abandon this trial,
                                                                            And award the laurel
                                                                            To him who with learned throat
                                                                            Has drunk best of Aganippe’s waters.
                                                                            If we must examine closely
                                                                            The ancient art of the Greeks,
                                                                            The virtues and vices of a body of work,
                                                                            Subjects and grand style
                                                                            And words well-chosen, then must
                                                                            Garnier take the prize.


After yesterday’s Alexandrines for Aeschylus, we have octosyllables (tetrameters) for Euripides!  (Note, incidentally, that we have also had decasyllables (pentameters) in one of these sonnets – Ronsard is keen to show his virtuosity in the context of framing Garnier’s tragedies!)  Estienne Jodelle, another friend of Ronsard’s represents the earlier school of French drama; it is generally agreed that Garnier’s work was a major step forward from Jodelle’s. Aganippe is the name of the spring at the foot of Mount Helicon, home of the Muses; in fact, the Muses were sometimes called the ‘Aganippides’ (children of Aganippe) & it would be perfectly possible to translate “l’onde Aganippide” as ‘the Muses’ waters’.
The last line deserves a brief note:  literally, “Garnier must pay the spices”:  although judgement was supposed to be free at the time, it had become the custom for the winnder of a trial to reward the judge in spices or other rare foods. For some reason the fact that it was food not money seems to have made it seem acceptable and not a form of bribery! So, as Garnier must pay over the spices to the judge, he must be the winner of the legal contest. While Ronsard is thus consistent in his use of a legal metaphor throughout, I have opted for ‘take the prize’ which is better suited to a sporting contest: apologies for mixing my metaphors and misrepresenting Ronsard!
That brings us to the end of this set of 4 sonnets.  Now it must be time to take up the first book of Amours, for Cassandre, again and return to the poetry with which Ronsard made his name.

Sonnet 3

Jodelle, l’autre jour l’enfant de Cytherée
Au combat m’appella courbant son arc Turquois :
Et lors comme hardi je vesti le harnois,
Pour avoir contre luy la chair plus asseurée.
Il me tira premier une fleche acerée
Droit au coeur puis une autre et puis tout à la fois
Il decocha sur moy les traits de son carquois,
Sans qu’il eust d’un seul coup ma poitrine enserrée.
Mais quand il vit son arc de fleches desarmé,
Tout despit s’est luy-mesme en fleche transformé,
Puis en moy se rua d’une puissance extresme.
Quand je me vey vaincu, je me desarmay lors :
Car rien ne m’eust servi de m’armer par dehors,
Puisque mon ennemi estoit dedans moy-mesme.
                                                                      Jodelle, the other day Cytherea’s child
                                                                      Called me to battle, bending his Turkish bow;
                                                                      Then like a rash man I put on my harness,
                                                                      To keep my flesh the safer against him. 
                                                                      He shot at me first a sharp arrow,
                                                                      Straight at my heart, then another, then he loosed
                                                                      On me all the darts at once from his quiver,
                                                                      Without hitting my tight-bound breast with a single shot. 
                                                                      But when he saw his bow had run out of arrows,
                                                                      All his spite was itself changed into an arrow
                                                                      Then rushed upon me with extreme force.  
                                                                      When I saw I was beaten, I disarmed myself;
                                                                      For it would have been no use for me to armour my outside,
                                                                      Since my enemy was within me.
Cytherea is Venus; so her child is Cupid.  I’m not sure why his bow is Turkish especially.  Belleau tells us that Ronsard “dedicates the sonnet to Estienne Jodelle of Paris, Latin and French poet”.
It’s an interesting poem: charming in its way, but then why say he was immune to love until Cupid gathered all his spite & shot him with that? It’s a variant on a common enough theme, but reads to me like a rather reluctant lover?  Blanchemain’s version changes only the last word of line 8: replacing “ma poitrine enserrée” (‘my tight-bound breast’) with “ma poitrine enferrée” (‘my iron-clad breast’).