Tag Archives: France

Amours 1.229

Standard
J‘alloy roulant ces larmes de mes yeux,
Or’ plein de doute ore plein d’esperance,
Lors que Henry loing des bornes de France
Vengeoit l’honneur de ses premiers ayeux :
 
Lors qu’il trenchoit d’un bras victorieux
Au bord du Rhin l’Espagnole vaillance,
Ja se traçant de l’aigu de sa lance
Un beau sentier pour s’en aller aux cieux.
 
Vous sainct troupeau, mon soustien et ma gloire,
Dont le beau vol m’a l’esprit enlevé,
Si autrefois m’avez permis de boire
 
Les eaux qui ont Hesiode abreuvé,
Soit pour jamais ce souspir engravé
Au plus sainct lieu du temple de Memoire.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            I have been continually pouring these tears from my eyes,
                                                                            Now full of doubt, now of hope,
                                                                            While Henri, far from the bounds of France,
                                                                            Has avenged the honour of his first ancestors ;
 
                                                                            While he has broken with his victorious arm
                                                                            Spain’s valour, on the banks of the Rhine,
                                                                            Marking out with the point of his lance
                                                                            A fair path to raise himself to the heavens.
 
                                                                            Oh holy troop, my support and my glory,
                                                                            Whose lovely flight has lifted my spirits,
                                                                            If previously you have allowed me to drink
 
                                                                            The waters which generously you gave Hesiod,
                                                                            May this my plaint be for ever engraved
                                                                            In the holiest place in Memory’s temple. 
 
 
Simplicity, as Ronsard closes his first book of sonnets. And also a glance at the ‘real world’ around him: for this was not a time of peace and love in European politics! The Italian wars were a major feature of Henri II’s reign, all the way through the 1550s, and early victories led ultimately to the embarrassing Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis… The Spanish on the Rhine are, incidentally, the Habsburgs – for that family controlled Austro-Germanic Europe as well as Iberian Europe.
 
So, Ronsard acknowledges that love poetry may not seem the right thing at this time, while gently swinging the balance back towards the pre-eminence of poetry at the end. (Hesiod claimed inspiration from drinking at the fountain of the ‘holy troop’ of Muses on Mt Helicon.)
 
Blanchemain’s version shows considerable variation in the sestet: the opening octet was not changed.
 
 
Vous sainct troupeau qui desus Pinde errez,
Et qui de grâce ouvrez et desserrez
Vos doctes eaux à ceux qui les vont boire
 
Si quelquefois vous m’avez abreuvé,
Soit pour jamais ce souspir engravé
Au plus sainct lieu du temple de Memoire
 
 
                                                                                        Oh holy troop who wander upon Pindus
                                                                                       And who by grace open and release
                                                                                       Your learned waters to those who come to drink them,
 
                                                                                       If sometimes you have given me to drink
                                                                                       May this my plaint be for ever engraved
                                                                                       In the holiest place in Memory’s temple.
 
 
 
  Note how in this earlier version Ronsard does not refer back to Hesiod, but simply offers his own name as proof enough of the Muses’ generosity! There remains one other variant of the later version at the top of the page: in line 12, where yet another great poet enters: “L’eau dont amour a Petrarque abreuvé…” (‘The waters which love generously gave to Petrarch…’)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Advertisements

Élégie à Cassandre (Am. 1.227b)

Standard

 

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 1.228

Standard
Mon Des-Autels, qui avez dés enfance
Puisé de l’eau qui coule sur le mont,
Où les neuf Sœurs dedans un antre font
Seules à part leur saincte demeurance :
 
Si autrefois, l’amoureuse puissance
Vous a planté le myrte sur le front,
Enamoure de ces beaux yeux qui sont
Par vos escrits l’honneur de nostre France :
 
Ayez pitié de ma pauvre langueur,
Et de vos sons adoucissez le cœur
D’une qui tient ma franchise en contrainte.
 
Si quelquefois en Bourgoigne je suis,
Je flechiray par mes vers, si je puis,
La cruauté de vostre belle Saincte.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                            My dear Des Autels, you who have since childhood
                                                                            Drawn from the waters which flow on the mount
                                                                            Where the nine sisters, within a cave, make
                                                                            Alone and apart their holy residence ;
 
                                                                            If once the power of love
                                                                            Placed laurels upon your brow,
                                                                            Enamoured of those fair eyes which are
                                                                            Through your writings the credit of our France ;
 
                                                                            [Now] have pity on my weak pining
                                                                            And with your music soften the heart
                                                                            Of the one who holds my liberty in chains.
 
                                                                            And if sometime I am in Burgundy
                                                                            I shall turn aside with my verse, if I can,
                                                                            The cruelty of your fair Saint. 
 
 
 
Amidst the chansons and elegies which conclude the first book, there are a couple of final sonnets. This is one of them, a quick tribute to Ronsard’s friend Guillaume Des Autels, “gentilhomme Charrolois”. He was a cousin of Pontus de Tyard and, through the literary circle around him in Lyons became a sometime member of the Pleiade. Indeed, most of Des Autels’ poetry comes from the 1550s, when he was in his twenties. His birthplace is uncertain, though clearly in or near the city of Charolles in Burgundy; the date of his death likewise unknown. Des Autels always referred to his beloved as ‘his Saint’ in his verse, echoed here by Ronsard. Ronsard’s book of “Discours” opens with an elegy to Des Autels, one of several tributes to his fellow-poet.
 
The nine sisters of the opening stanza are of course the Muses, whose home was on Mount Helicon; though they are normally associated with the springs and sacred grove there, not a cave. The Corcyrian cave on mount Parnassus is, however, sacred to the Muses; and there is a stray reference in Pausanias to a rck ‘worked like a cave’ in the grove on Helicon. Perhaps Ronsard amalgamated the two!
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
                                                                             
 
 

Poems 2.2 – to Jehan du Thier

Standard

 

A Jehan du Thier,
Seigneur de Beau-regard, Secretaire d’Estat
 
Qui fait honneur aux Rois, il fait honneur à Dieu :
Les Princes et les Rois tiennent le plus grand lieu
« Apres la Deité ; et qui revere encore
« Les serviteurs d’un Roy, le Roy mesme il honore.
Il est vray, mon du Thier, qu’un homme comme toy
Donne plus de travail à celebrer, qu’un Roy;
Car la gloire des Rois en sujet est fertille,
Et ne travaille guere une plume gentille,
Ny un espoir gaillard, s’il a reçeu tant d’heur
Que de ne s’efforcer de chanter leur grandeur.
 
D’un theme si fecond en abondance viennentt
Propos desur propos, qui la Muse entretiennent,
Comme en hyver les eaux qui s’escoulent d’un mont,
Et courans dans le mer file-à-file s’en-vont :
Mais pour louer un moindre il faut de l’artifice,
A fin que la vertu n’aparoisse estre vice.
 
Si est-ce, mon du Thier, que les plus grands honneurs
Qui sont communs en France à nos plus grands Seigneurs,
Te sont communs aussi, et si je l’osois dire,
De toy seul à bon droit on les devroit escrire
Comme propres à toy : mais ces Dieux de la Court
Me happent à la gorge, et me font taire court.
 
Comme on voit bien souvent aux mines dessous terre
Soyent d’argent soyent de fer de grands pilliers de pierre,
Qui sont veus soustenir la mine de leurs bras,
Et ahanner beaucoup, et si n’ahannent pas ;
Ce sont d’autres pillers qui loin du jour se tiennent
Dedans des coings à part, qui tout le faix soustiennent :
Ainsi les grands Seigneurs, soit en guerre ou en paix,
En credit eslevez, semblent porter le faix
Des affaires de France avec l’espaule large,
Et toutesfois c’est toy qui en portes la charge.
 
S’il arrive un paquet d’Itale, ou plus avant,
Soit de Corse ou de Grece, ou du bout de Levant,
Ils le dépliront bien, mais il te faudra mettre
En ton estude apres pour respondre à la lettre.
Car ainsi que le Ciel ne soustient qu’un Soleil,
France n’a qu’un du Thier qui n’a point de pareil,
Ou soit pour sagement les Estrangers semondre,
Ou soit pour cautement à leurs paquets respondre ;
Car soit en stile bas, ou en stile hautain,
Les Graces du François s’escoulent de ta main.
 
Nul homme ne se vante estre heureux en la prose,
Que pour certain exemple aux yeux ne se propose
Tes escrits et ton stile, et pour exerciter
Sa main, il ne travaille à te contre-imiter.
 
On dit que Geryon, qui tripla les conquestes
De la masse d’Hercule, avoit au chef trois testes :
Tu en as plus de mille, aumoins mille cerveaux
Que tu empesches tous à mille faits nouveaux.
Car soit que le Soleil abandonne la source
De son hoste Ocean, et appreste à la course
Son char à qui l’Aurore a de sa belle main
Attellé les chevaux, et rangez sous le frain :
Ou soit qu’en plein midy ses rayons il nous darde,
Et à plomb dessous luy toutes choses regarde :
Ou soit qu’en devalant plein de soif et d’ahan
Il s’aille rebaigner és flots de l’Ocean,
Et que son char en garde aux Dieux marins il baille,
Ton esprit n’a repos qui sans cesse travaille
Et ta langue, et ta main : l’esprit en inventant,
La main en escrivant, et la langue en dictant
Quelque lettre à tes clercs, ou tout seul tu dechiffres
Dedans ta chambre à part les enigmes des chiffres
Que te baille un courrier nouvellement venu,
A fin que le secret du Roy ne soit cognu.
 
Icy un Alleman des nouvelles t’apporte,
Icy un Espagnol se tient devant ta porte ;
L’Anglois, l’Italien, et l’Ecossois aussi
Font la presse à ton huis et te donnent souci :
L’un cecy, l’un cela diversement demande :
Puis il te faut signer ce que le Roy commande,
Qui selon les effets de divers argumens
Te baille en moins d’un jour mille commandemens,
De petits, de moyens et de grand importance.
 
Encor’ as-tu le soing des grands tresors de France :
Tailles, tributs, empruns, decimes et impos,
Ne laissent ton esprit un quart d’heure en repos,
Qui se plaist d’achever mille choses contraires,
Et plus est vigoureux, tant plus il a d’affaires.
Or ainsi qu’un poisson se nourrist en son eau,
Et une Salemandre au brasier d’un fourneau,
Tu te plais en ta peine, et ta verde vieillesse
Se nourrist du travail qui jamais ne te laisse.
 
Quand tu vas au matin aux affaires du Roy,
Une tourbe de gens fremist toute apres toy,
Qui deçà qui delà tes costez environnent,
Et tous divers propos à tes oreilles sonnent :
L’un te baille un placet, l’un te va conduisant
Pour luy faire donner au Roy quelque present,
L’autre (qui a de prés ton oreille approchée)
Demande si sa letter a esté despeschée :
L’un est fasché d’attendre, et n’a repos aucun
Que tousjours ne te suive et te soit importun :
L’autre plus gracieux te fait la reverence,
Et l’autre te requiert l’avoir en souvenance :
Bref la foulle te presse, et demeine un grand bruit
Tout à l’entour de toy, comme un torrent qui fuit
Bouillonnant par le fond des pierreuses valées,
Quand dessous le Printemps les neiges sont coulées.
 
Tu n’as si tost disné, qu’il ne te faille aller
Au Conseil, pour ouyr des affaires parler :
Puis au coucher du Roy, puis selon ta coustume
Presque toute la nuict veiller avec la plume.
Et pource nostre Roy d’un favorable accueil
Te prise et te cherist, et te porte bon œil,
Comme à celuy qui prend en France plus de peine :
Si fait Montmorency, et Charles de Lorraine :
Non seuls, mais tout le peuple, et ceux qui ont l’esprit
De sçavoir discerner combien vaut ton escrit :
Et moy par-dessus tous, qui de plus pres admire
Ta vertu qui me fait ceste lettre t’escrire.
Quand un homme s’esleve aupres de ces grands Dieux,
Mesprisant les petits, devient audacieux,
Et s’enflant tout le cœur d’arrogance et de gloire,
Se mocque de chacun, et si ne veut plus croire
Qu’il soit homme sujet à supporter l’assault
De Fortune qui doit luy doner un beau sault :
Mais certes à la fin une horrible tempeste
De la fureur d’un Roy luy saccage la teste :
Et plus il se vouloit aux Princes égaler,
Et plus avec risée on le fait devaler,
Par la tourbe incognuë, à fin qu’il soit exemple
D’un orgueil foudroyé, à l’œil qui le contemple.
 
Mais toy, qui as l’esprit net d’envie et d’orgueil,
Qui fais aux vertueux un honneste recueil,
Qui te sçais moderer en la fortune bonne,
Qui es homme de bien, qui n’offenses personne,
De jour en jour tu vois augmenter ton bon-heur,
Tu vois continuer ta gloire et ton honneur,
Loin de l’ambition, de fraude et de feintise :
Et c’est l’occasion pour laquelle te prise
Le peuple qui tousjours ne cesse d’espier
Les vices des Seigneurs, et de les descrier,
« Et se plaist en cela ; car de la chose faite
« Par les grands, bien ou mal, le peuple est la trompette ;
Et toutefois il t’aime, et dit que nostre Roy
N’a point de serviteur plus diligent que toy.
 
Tu ne rouilles ton cœur de l’execrable vice
De ceste orde furie et harpie Avarice,
Qui les tresors du monde attire dans sa main :
Car puis qu’il faut mourir ou ce soir ou demain,
Que sert d’amonceller tant d’escus en un coffre ?
Las ! puis que la Nature ingrate ne nous offre
Que l’usufruict du bien, que sert de desirer
Tant de possessions, que sert de deschirer
Le ventre de la terre, et hautement construire
Un Palais orgueilleux de marbre et de porfire ?
Où peut estre (ô folie !) il ne logera pas
Par la mort prevenu : où apres le trespas
Quelque prodigue enfant de cest avare pere,
Jeune, fol, desbauché, en fera bonne chere,
Vendra, jou’ra, perdra, et despendra le bien
Par son pere amassé, qui ne luy couste rien ?
« Car tout l’avoir mondain, quelque chose qu’on face
« Jamais ferme n’arreste à la troisiesme race :
« Ains fuit comme la bale, alors qu’au mois d’Esté
« Le grain bien loin du van parmy l’aire est jetté.
Mais sur tout, mon du Thier, jaloux je porte envie
A ceste liberté nourrice de ta vie,
Aux bons mots que tu dis, à ton esprit naïf,
Si prompt et si gentil, si gaillard et si vif,
Qui doctement adonne aux vers sa fantaisie,
Te faisant amoureux de nostre Poësie.
 
Tu n’es pas seulement Poëte tresparfait,
Mais si en nostre langue un gentil esprit fait
Epigramme ou Sonet, Epistre ou Elegie,
Tu luy as tout soudain ta faveur eslargie,
Et sans le decevoir tu le mets en honneur
Aupres d’un Cardinal, d’un Prince, ou d’un Seigneur,
Cela ne peut sortir que d’un noble courage,
Et d’un homme bien nay ; j’en ay pour tesmoignage
Et Salel, et tous ceux qui par les ans passez
Se sont pres du feu Roy par la Muse avancez.
 
Or je ne veux souffrir que les vistes carrieres
Des ans, perdent le bien que tu me fis n’agueres :
Et si ne veux souffrir qu’un acte grand et beau
Que tu fis à deux Grecs, aille sous le tombeau,
Deux pauvres estrangers, qui bannis de la Grece,
Avoient prins à la Cour de France leur addresse,
Incognus, sans appuy, pleins de soin et d’esmoy,
Pensans avoir support ou d’un Prince, ou d’un Roy.
Mais ce fut au contraire. Ô Princes, quelle honte
D’un peuple si sacré (helas !) ne faire conte !
Ils estoyent delaissez presque à mourir de fain,
Honteux de mendier le miserable pain,
Quand à l’extrémité portant un tresor rare,
S’addresserent à toy : c’estoit du vieil Pindare
Un livret incognu, et un livre nouveau
Du gentil Simonide esveillé du tombeau.
Toy lors, comme courtois, benin et debonnaire,
Ne fis tant seulement depescher leur affaire,
Mais tu recompensas avec beaucoup d’escus
Ces livres, qui avoyent tant de siecles veincus,
Et qui portoyent au front de la marge pour guide
Ce grand nom de Pindare et du grand Simonide,
Desquels tu as orné le sumptueux chasteau
De Beau-regard, ton œuvre, et l’en as fait plus beau
Que si des Asiens les terres despouillées
En don t’eussent baillé leurs medailles rouillées.
 
Pourquoy vay-je contant, moy François, les bienfaits
Qu’à ces Grecs estrangers, liberal, tu as faits,
Et je ne conte pas ceste faveur honneste
Que je receu du Roy n’aguere à ta requeste ?
Si je la celebrois, le vulgaire menteur,
Babillard et causeur m’appelleroit flateur,
Et diroit que tousjours ma Muse est favorable
Vers ceux qui m’ont receu d’un visage amiable,
Comme toy, mon du Thier, à qui certes je suis
Deteur de tant de bien que payer ne te puis,
Si pour estre payé tu ne prens ceste Muse
Que j’envoye chez toy pour faire mon excuse.
Tu ne la mettras pas (s’il te plaist) à mespris :
La Muse fut jadis vers les Rois en grand pris :
Des peuples elle fut autre-fois adorée,
Et de toy par sus tous maintenant honorée.
 
Elle avecques Phœbus hardiment ose entrer
Dedans ton cabinet, à fin de te montrer
Ces vers mal-façonnez qu’humblement je te donne,
Et (avecques les vers) le cœur et la personne.
 
 
 
 
He who pays honour to Kings, pays honour to God.
Princes and Kings hold the highest place
After the deity; and he who reveres also
The servants of a King, honours the King himself.
It is true my dear du Thier, that a man like you
Is harder to celebrate than a King;
For the glory of Kings is a fertile subject,
And barely troubles a noble pen
Or a lively hope, if it has received such good fortune,
To make any effort if it is to sing their greatness.
 
On so fertile a theme, in abundance comes
Idea upon idea, which the Muse takes up
As in winter the streams which flow from a mountain
Rush on, running into the sea endlessly;
But to praise a lesser man, you need skill
Lest his virtue appear to be vice.
 
 
So it is, my dear du Thier, that the greatest honours
Which are shared in France by our greatest Lords,
Are also shared by you, and if I dared say it
To you alone ought we rightly ascribe them,
As in-born in yourself; but these gods of the Court
Clutch at my throat and quickly make me shut up!
 
 
 
As you often see in mines under ground,
Whether silver or iron mines, great pillars of stone
Which you can see hold up the mine with their arms
And labour hard, yet do not labour;
And there are other pillars which, far from the light, stand
Within corners far off, which hold up the whole mass of stone;
So great Lords, whether in war or peace,
High in worth, seem to carry the mass
Of France’s affairs on their wide shoulders,
And yet it is you who bears the burden of them.
 
 
 
 
If there arrives a packet from Italy, or further afield,
Maybe Corsica or Greece, or the ends of the Levant,
They will neatly open it, but you will have to take it
To your study afterwards to reply to the letter.
For just as the heavens maintain only one Sun,
France has only one du Thier who has no equal,
Whether for wisely dealing with foreigners
Or for cunningly replying to their packets;
For both in the low style and the high,
The grace of good French flows from your hand.
 
No man boasts of being happy in prose
Who does not set before his eyes as a clear example
Your writings and your style, and while exercising
His handwriting, does not work to imitate you.
 
They say that Geryon, who tripled the conquests
Of Hercules with his massive [body], was topped by three heads;
You have more than a thousand, or at least a thousand brains
All of which you engage in a thousand novel acts.
For whether the sun is leaving the origin
Of his home the Ocean, and hastening to its course
His chariot to which Aurora with her own fair hand
Harnessed the horses, drawn up beneath the reins;
Or whether at midday he is firing his rays upon us
And seeing everything [lying] directly beneath him;
Or whether stooping to drink, thirsty and worn out,
He is off to bathe again in the waves of the Ocean,
And handing his chariot to the care of the sea-gods,
Your mind has no rest, working ceaselessly,
Like your tongue, and your hand; the mind in inventing,
The hand in writing, the tongue in dictating
Some letter to your clerks; or you decipher, alone
And apart in your room, the riddles of the codes
Which some new-come messenger has handed over,
That the secrets of the King may not be known.
 
Here a German brings you news,
Here a Spaniard stands before your door;
English, Italian and Scots also
Crowd at your door and give you trouble;
One here, one there makes various requests;
Then you must sign what the King commands,
He who, weighing the effects of various arguments,
Hands you in under a day a thousand commandments
Of small, middling and great importance.
 
As well, you have charge of the great treasures of France:
Duties, tributes, loans, tithes and taxes
Do not leave a quarter-hour of rest for your mind
Which delights in completing a thousand different things,
And the more vigorous it is the more business it has.
Indeed. just as a fish is fed by the water it swims in,
And a salamander by the heat of a furnace,
You are happy in your work, and your youthful old age
Is fed on the work which never leaves you.
 
When you go in the morning to the King’s business
A mob of people bustle along after you
Hemming you in on this side and that
And calling into your ears all sorts of plans;
One hands you a petition, another tries to get you
To let him make some present to the King,
Another, approaching close to your ear,
Asks if his letter has been hurried forward;
One is angry at waiting, and never rests from
Always following you and making demands;
Another more graciously makes his bow to you,
And another begs you to keep him in mind;
In brief, the crowd presses on you and makes a great noise
All around you, like a torrent rushing
Bubbling through the bottom of stony valleys
When in Spring the snows have melted.
 
You have barely dined when you must go
To the Council, to hear them talk about business;
Then to the King’s bed-time, then as is your custom
You stay awake almost all night with your pen.
And so our King gives you a favourable
Greeting and cherishes you, and looks well on you,
As on he who makes the greatest efforts in France;
So does Montmorency, and Charles of Lorraine;
Nor them alone, but all the people, and those who have minds
Which can understand how much your writing is worth;
And myself above all, who from close by admire
Your virtue, which makes me write you this letter.
When a man raises himself up to these great gods,
Despising the little folk, becoming over-bold,
His heart puffed up with arrogance and glory,
He scorns everyone yet cannot believe
That he is a man, subject to the attacks
Of Fortune which may yet give him a nasty surprise;
In the end, for sure, a terrible storm
Of the King’s anger will ravage his head;
And the more he considers himself the equal of princes,
The more he’ll be made to swallow the laughter
Of the nameless throng, that he might be an example
Of pride struck down, to any eye that considers him.
 
 
 
But you, who have a mind free of envy and pride,
Who make a noble object of contemplation for the virtuous,
Who know how to act moderately when fortune is good,
Who are a noble man, who attacks no-one,
From day to day you find your happiness increased,
Your glory and honour prolonged,
Far from ambition, fraud and deception;
And that’s the reason why the people
Prize you, the people who never cease spying out
The vices of Lords, and identifying them,
And enjoy that: for “Of the things done
By the great, good or bad, the people is the clarion”;
And still they love you, and say that our King
Has no servant more diligent than you.
 
 
Your heart is not blighted by execrable vice
Of that filthy, mad and rapacious Avarice
Which draws the treasures of the whole world into its hand;
For since one must die, maybe tonight or tomorrow,
What’s the use of piling up so much cash in a chest?
Ah, since ungrateful Nature offers us only
The use while we live of her goods, why desire
So many possessions, why tear open
The earth’s belly, and loftily build
A proud Palace of marble and porphyry,
In which perhaps (o folly!) you will not live,
Taken first by death, and in which after your death
Some spendthrift child of the miserly father –
Young, foolish, debauched – will drink well,
Will spend, play, lose and fritter away the goods
Heaped up by his father, which cost him nothing?
For “all worldly goods, whatever you make,
Never remains to the third generation;
It slips away like chaff, when in summer months
The grain is thrown through the air, far from the winnowing basket.”
But above all, my dear du Thier, I jealously desire
That freedom, the nursemaid of your life,
The fine words you speak, your uncomplicated spirit
So quick and noble, so jolly and lively,
Which learnedly gifts your verse with its imagination
Making you like that Poetry of ours.
 
You are not only a most perfect Poet,
But if in our tongue a noble spirit writes
An epigram or sonnet, epistle or elegy,
You immediately extend your favour to him
And without deceiving him put him in a position of honour
Close to a Cardinal, a Prince or a Lord;
That cannot come from anything but a noble courage,
And a well-born man; as witness of this I have
Salel, and all those who in past years
Were close to the late King, advanced by their Muse.
 
 
I do not want to allow the brief passage
Of a few years to forget the good that you’ve done me lately;
But also I do not want to allow a great and beautiful act
To pass into the grave, which you did for two Greeks,
Two poor strangers who, banished from Greece,
Brought to the French Court their plea,
Unknown and without influence, full of care and concern,
Hoping to gain support from a Prince or a King.
But they got the opposite. O princes, what shame
For a people so blessed, alas, to pay no attention!
They were left practically to die of hunger,
Shamefully to beg for their wretched bread,
When in their extremity bringing a rare treasure
They addressed themselves to you: it was an unknown book
Of old Pindar, and a new book
Of noble Simonides awoken from the tomb.
You then, like a courteous, benign and good-natured man,
Not only made sure to hasten on their business
But also repaid them with plenty of money
For those books, which had outlasted so many centuries
And which bore on their front edge as guide
The great name of Pindar and great Simonides,
With which you have adorned the sumptuous house
At Beau-Regard, your own work, and with them made it more beautiful
Than if the despoiled lands of the Asians
Had given you as a gift their blighted decorations.
 
Why am I pleased, me a Frenchman, at the good deeds
Which you did for these Greek visitors liberally,
And yet don’t value that generous favour
Which I received from the King lately at your request?
If I celebrated that, the vulgar liar,
Gossiper and chatterer would call me a flatterer
And say that my Muse is always favourable
To those who have received me with friendly face
Like you, my dear du Thier, to whom I am certainly
A debtor for so many benefits I cannot repay you –
Unless to be paid you accept this Muse
Whom I am sending you to make my excuses.
You will not scorn her, please;
That Muse was previously greatly prized by Kings,
And by nations she was in past times adored,
And is by you above all honoured now.
 
She with Phoebus bravely dares enter
Your study, in order to show you
These poorly-formed verses which humbly I give you,
And, with the verses, my heart and person.
 
 
A huge panegyric today. Though the sentiments are as fawning as usual in this genre of poetry, the poetry itself is wonderfully muscular and flexible.
 
Inevitably there are a few classical references, but Ronsard carefully explains them as he goes.  I could add that Geryon was a three-headed monster slain by Hercules, but Ronsard has already made that clear. (Blanchemain adds that this stanza was suppressed, but only in posthumous editions.) Pindar and Simonides? No-one seems to be able to identify the ‘poor Greeks’ bringing gifts, nor therefore the gifts they brought. Pindar and Simonides were both highly-regarded in Hellenistic Greece as lyric poets, though their works survive in fragments so to some extent we need to accept their judgement: new manuscripts of theirs would indeed be highly-prized by scholars.
 
In the stanza before the Greeks bearing gifts, Ronsard calls to witness ‘Salel’: this is Hugues Salel, abbé de Saint-Cheron. He is known for undertaking the first translation of the Iliad into French – sadly incomplete, but finished by Amadis Jamyn – at the request of François I (who is the ‘late king’ referred to a line or two later).
 
Inevitably there are a few variants between editions. Here are Blanchemain’s, which are (as you can see) minor:
 
In the first stanza,
 
Il est vray, mon Du Thier, qu’un seigneur comme toy
Donne plus de travail à celebrer qu’un Roy;
Car la gloire des Roys en sujet est fertille,
Et ne travaille guère une plume gentille,
Ny un esprit gaillard, s’il a reçeu tant d’heur
Que de ne s’effrayer de chanter leur grandeur
 
 
                                                                                         It is true my dear du Thier, that a lord like you
                                                                                         Is harder to celebrate than a King;
                                                                                         For the glory of Kings is a fertile subject,
                                                                                         And barely troubles a noble pen
                                                                                         Or a lively mind, if it has received such good fortune,
                                                                                         To have any fear if it is to sing their greatness.
 
 
In the Geryon stanza:
 
Il s’aille rebaigner aux flots de l’océan
Et que son char en garde aux Dieux marins il baille,
Ton esprit n’a repos, qui sans cesse travaille
Et ta langue et ta main : l’esprit en inventant,
La main en escrivant, et la langue en dictant
Quelque lettre à tes clercs ; ou secret tu dechiffres
Dedans ta chambre à part les enigmes de chiffres …
 
 
                                                                                         He is off to bathe again in the waves of the Ocean,
                                                                                         And handing his chariot to the care of the sea-gods,
                                                                                         Your mind has no rest, working ceaselessly,
                                                                                         Like your tongue, and your hand; the mind in inventing,
                                                                                         The hand in writing, the tongue in dictating
                                                                                         Some letter to your clerks; or you decipher, hidden
                                                                                         And apart in your room, the riddles of codes …
 
A couple of stanzas later,
 
Ainsi comme un poisson se nourrit en son eau,
Et une salemandre au brasier d’un fourneau,
Tu te plais en ta peine …
 
                                                                                         So as a fish is fed by the water it swims in,
                                                                                         And a salamander by the heat of a furnace,
                                                                                         You are happy in your work …
 
 
A couple of stanzas further on, in the stanza about Council meetings after dinner,
 
Quand un homme s’éléve auprés de ces grands Dieux,
Il devient bien souvent superbe, audacieux, …
 
                                                                                         When a man raises himself up to these great gods,
                                                                                         He very often becomes proud, over-bold, …
 
 
Then, at the end of the stanza about the Greeks bringing Pindar and Simonides,
 
Toy lors comme Courtois, benin et debonnaire,
Tu ne fis seulement dépescher leur affaire ;
Mais tu recompensas avec beaucoup d’escus
Ces livres qui avoient tant de siecles vaincus,
Et qui portoient au front de la marge pour guide
Ce grand nom de Pindare, et du grand Simonide,
Desquels tu as orné le somptueux chasteau
De Beauregard, ton œuvre, et l’en as fait plus beau
Que si Rome fouillant ses terres despouillées
En don t’eust envoyé ses medailles rouillées.
 
 
                                                                                        You then, like a courteous, benign and good-natured man,
                                                                                        Not only made sure to hasten on their business
                                                                                        But also repaid them with plenty of money
                                                                                        For those books, which had outlasted so many centuries
                                                                                        And which bore on their front edge as guide
                                                                                        The great name of Pindar and great Simonides,
                                                                                        With which you have adorned the sumptuous house
                                                                                        At Beau-Regard, your own work, and with them made it more beautiful
                                                                                        Than if Rome, ransacking its despoiled lands
                                                                                        Had sent you as a gift their blighted decorations.
 
 
And then finally in the penultimate stanza,
 
Debteur de tant de bien que payer ne le puis …
 
                                                                                        A debtor for so many benefits I cannot repay them …
 
 
 
 [ PS  my 500th post! ]
 
 
 

Odes 1.3

Standard

Today one of Ronsard’s early Odes, very formally structured in the classical style with strophes & antistrophes repeating a metrical scheme, and then epodes acting as a ‘refrain’ structure in between pairs of these.

A LA ROYNE
 
Strophe 1
 
Je suis troublé de fureur,
Le poil me dresse d’horreur,
D’un effroy mon ame est pleine,
Mon estomac est pantois,
Et par son canal ma vois
Ne se desgorge qu’à peine.
Une deité m’emmeine ;
Fuyez, peuple, qu’on me laisse,
Voicy venir la deesse ;
Fuyez, peuple, je la voy.
Heureux ceux qu’elle regarde,
Et plus heureux qui la garde
Dans l’estomac comme moy !
 
Antistrophe 1
 
Elle, esprise de mes chants,
Loin me guide par les champs
Où jadis sur le rivage
Apollon Florence aima,
Lorsque jeune elle s’arma
Pour combattre un loup sauvage.
L’art de filer ny l’ouvrage
Ne plurent à la pucelle,
Ny le lit mignard ; mais elle,
Devant le jour s’éveillant,
Cherchoit des loups le repaire,
Pour les bœufs d’Arne son père
Sans repos se travaillant.
 
Epode 1
 
Ce Dieu, qui du ciel la vit
Si valeureuse et si belle,
Pour sa femme la ravit,
Et surnomma du nom d’elle
La ville qui te fit naistre,
Laquelle se vante d’estre
Mere de nostre Junon,
Et qui par les gens étranges
Pour ses plus grandes louanges
Ne celebre que ton nom.
 
Strophe 2
 
Là les faits de tes ayeux
Vont flamboyant comme aux cieux
Flamboye l’aurore claire ;
Là l’honneur de ton Julien
Dans le ciel italien
Comme une planette esclaire.
Par luy le gros populaire
Pratiqua l’experience
De la meilleure science,
Et là reluisent aussi
Tes deux grands papes, qui ores
Du ciel, où ils sont encores,
Te favorisent icy.
 
Antistrophe 2
 
On ne compte les moissons
De l’esté, ni des glaçons
Qui, l’hiver, tiennent la trace
Des eaux roides à glisser :
Ainsi je ne puis penser
Les louanges de ta race.
Le Ciel t’a peint en la face
Je ne sçay quoy qui nous monstre,
Dès la premiere rencontre,
Que tu passes par grand-heur
Les princesses de nostre âge,
Soit en force de courage,
Soit en royale grandeur.
 
Epode 2
 
Le comble de ton sçavoir
Et de tes vertus ensemble
Dit que l’on ne peut icy voir
Rien que toy qui te resemble.
Quelle dame a la pratique
De tant de mathematique ?
Quelle princesse entend mieux
Du grand monde la peinture,
Les chemins de la nature
Et la musique des cieux ?
 
Strophe 3
 
Ton nom, que mon vers dira,
Tout le monde remplira
De ta loüange notoire :
Un tas qui chantent de toy
Ne sçavent si bien que moy
Comme il faut sonner ta gloire.
Jupiter, ayant mémoire
D’une vieille destinée
Autrefois determinée
Par l’oracle de Themis,
A commandé que Florence
Dessous les loix de la France
Se courbe le chef soumis.
 
Antistrophe 3
 
Mais il veut que ton enfant
En ait honneur triomphant,
D’autant qu’il est tout ensemble
Italien et François,
Qui de front, d’yeux et de vois,
A père et mere resemble.
Déjà tout colere il semble
Que sa main tente les armes,
Et qu’au milieu des alarmes
Jà desdaigne les dangers ;
Et, servant aux siens de guide,
Vainqueur, attache une bride
Aux royaumes estrangers.
 
Epode 3
 
Le Ciel, qui nous l’a donné
Pour estre nostre lumiere,
Son empire n’a borné
D’un mont ou d’une riviere.
Le destin veut qu’il enserre
Dans sa main toute la terre,
Seul roy se faisant nommer,
D’où Phébus les Indes laisse,
Et d’où son char il abbaisse
Tout panché dedans la mer.
To the Queen
 
 
 
I am assailed by madness,
My hair stands up with horror,
Panic fills my soul,
My heart is stunned,
And my voice can barely
Pass through my throat.
A deity has seized me.
Run, people, please leave me,
See, here comes the goddess !
Run, people, I see her !
Fortunate the men on whom she looks,
More fortunate the man who keeps her
In his heart, like me !
 
 
 
In love with my songs, she
Guides me far among the fields
Where once on the riverbank
Apollo loved Florence,
When the young [nymph] armed herself
To fight a savage wolf.
Not the art of spinning nor its works
Could please the maid,
Nor her pretty bed ; but she,
Before the breaking day
Would seek the dens of wolves,
Working without rest
For the cattle of her father Arno.
 
 
 
This god, who from heaven saw her
So bold and so fair,
Seized her as his wife
And named from her name
The town which gave you birth.
That town boasts of being
Mother of our Juno [queen],
And amongst foreign peoples
For her greater praise
Celebrates only your name.
 
 
 
There the deeds of your ancestors
Rise blazing, as in the heavens
Blazes the bright dawn ;
There [blazes] the glory of your Guiliano
In the Italian skies
Like a bright planet.
Through him, the rude commons
Gained understanding
Of the best learning,
And there shone forth too
Your two great Popes, who still
From heaven, where they are now,
Favour you here.
 
 
 
We cannot count the harvest
Of summer, nor the icicles
Which in winter mark the route
Of waters stubborn in flowing ;
Just so I cannot encompass
The praises of your family.
Heaven painted something
In your appearance which has shown us,
Since first we met,
That you surpass in the greatnes of your destiny
The princesses of our age,
Whether in the force of your courage
Or in royal grandeur.
 
 
 
The sum of your learning
And of all your virtues
Tells us that we cannot see here
Anyone but you, who is like you.
What lady has the skill
Of so much mathematics ?
What princess understands better
The design of the great world,
The paths of nature
And the music of the heavens ?
 
 
 
Your name, which my verse shall praise,
Will fill the whole world
With your well-known praise ;
A mass of those who sing of you
Do not know as well as I
How we should sound your glory.
Jupiter, recalling
An ancient fate
Once determined
By the oracle of Themis,
Commanded that Florence
Beneath the laws of France
Should bend its submissive head.
 
 
 
But he wanted your child
To have triumphant honour from it
As he is, at the same time,
Italian and French,
His brow, eyes and voice
Resembling his father’s and mother’s.
Already full of anger it seems
That his hand tries out arms
And in the midst of alarms
Already disdains danger ;
And, acting as a guide to his men,
As victor places a bridle
On foreign kingdoms.
 
 
 
Heaven, which gave us him
To be our light,
Has not bounded his empire
With hill or river.
Fate wants him to grip
In his hand the whole earth,
Giving him the name of king alone,
From where Phoebus leaves the Indies
To where he brings down his chariot
Sinking into the sea.
 
We’ve seen Ronsard in panegyric mode before. Obviously it was important to lavish priase on potential patrons, especially royalty; what I think distinguishes Ronsard’s work in this vein is the way he knits so many ideas together into a complex and sophisticated hymn of (undeserved) praise.
 
So here he adopts a very classical style, with a very un-classical theme; and indeed opens with the singer being ‘possessed’ by a god in a theme harking back to Greek tragedy. Indeed the whole form of the poem echoes tragic choruses in Greek plays.
 
Antistrophe 1 invents a foundation myth for Florence. The poem is ddressed to Queen Catherine (de Medici), whose family famously rules Florence for much of the renaissance.  Ronsard himself offered some footnotes to help us through the invented myth:  “as in Pausanias Apollo loved the maiden Bolina, after whom is named a town in Achaea. In the style of the ancients, the poet disguises true things with fictions and fables, and invents a nymph who gave her name to the town of Florence, a daughter of Arno, loved and raped by Apollo; which in effect means that this town is full of courage and learning, as in truth many admirable spirits & many great captains have come from it.” Note that, for all his praise of Florence, Ronsard praises France more for having seized the city – strophe 3!
 
The authorial footnote is less helpful in strophe 2, where – regarding the reference to “Julien” he tells us only ‘See here the history of Florence’!  There are two famous Giuliano de Medicis – brother and son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The former is famous for being assassinated in the Duomo (cathedral) in Florence; the latter for marrying into the royal family of Savoy and being made Duke of Nemours by king Francis I (of France), before dying prematurely. Both are buried side by side in the Medici chapel in Florence, beneath monuments designed by Michelangelo. I suspect Ronsard is referring to the Duke of Nemours – Catherine’s father’s uncle; but it could be either.
 
The two great Popes are also, of course, Medicis:  Clement VII, alias Giulio de Medici, the posthumous son of the assassinated Giuliano; and Leo X, alias Giovanni de Medici, nephew of the same Giuliano. Both feature in Raphael’s famous portarit of Leo X (Giulio as a cardinal).
 
Epode 2 brings an unexpected appearance of the word ‘mathematics’ in poetry…! While the praises here are overdone, there is no doubting that Catherine was cultured and knowledgeable: her patronage of the arts and of public spectacles has left little to remember, but she also spent enormous sums on building programmes, and no doubt took a close interest in the architectural designs (which would have been mathematically proportioned). The authorial footnote in any case tells us that ‘mathematics covers all kinds of science, geometry, astronomy and the others, which are all called mathematics’. Some have read the remaining lines as further evidence of scientific learning: ‘the painting of the great world’ (as it translates literally) might be cosmography, but could equally be a reference to her understanding of the art of perspective etc in painting; the ‘paths of nature’ might refer to an understanding of natural phenomena as much as the knowledge of physics (or perhaps alchemy/chemistry) suggested by some; and the ‘music of the spheres’ need not imply metaphysics any more than an understanding of ‘musical proportion’ etc. But however we read it the message is clear: a clever, learned and cultured queen.
 
Although the prophecy in strophe 3 is invented, Themis is invoked as the classical (or pre-classical) model of what is ‘right’. The footnote tells us ‘this ancient goddess is, high in the heavens for the gods, what justice is here below for men on the earth’. Themis can be translated as ‘right’, though it carries strong connotations of divine order, natural law, the right way of doing things, the will of the gods…  All of which Ronsard is invoking through his reference, as ordaining France’s conquest of Florence – so that France’s king, Catherine’s son, might have the best of French and Italian spirit and courage.  In the 1550s, this would have been a clear reference to Francis II; but in the following 30 years Catherine was a major power behind the throne for three of her sons, Francis being followed by Charles IX and then Henri III as the Valois dynasty tottered towards its collapse. Ronsard’s decision not to name her son here proved very handy, and kept the poem up-to-date through the rest of his life (Catherine died 4 years after him).
 
 
Strophe 3 and Epode 2 (in that order) form the text of Lassus’s 1571 musical setting which, though not openly naming Catherine or dedicated to her, retains the reference to Florence as well as France. As Charles IX had married the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1570, we can be pretty confident that he expected the song to be recognised as a tribute to the most powerful Queen in Europe, and a powerful supporter of the Catholic faith at a time when much of northern Europe was riven by the Protestant-Catholic troubles.
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.175

Standard
Je ne suis point, Muses, accoustumé
De voir vos sauts sous la tarde serée :
Je n’ay point beu dedans l’onde sacrée,
Fille du pied du cheval emplumé.
 
De tes beaux rais vivement allumé,
Je fu Poëte : et si ma voix recrée,
Et si ma lyre en t’enchantant t’agrée,
Ton œil en soit, non Parnasse, estimé.
 
Certes le Ciel te devoit à la France,
Quand le Thuscan, et Sorgue, et sa Florence,
Et son Laurier engrava dans les cieux :
 
Ore trop tard, beauté plus que divine,
Tu vois nostre age, helas ! qui n’est pas digne
Tant seulement de parler de tes yeux.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            I am not at all accustomed, Muses,
                                                                            To watch you leaping in the late evening ;
                                                                            I have not drunk from the sacred waters,
                                                                            Springing from the foot of the winged horse.
 
                                                                            Excited and aroused by your fair eyes, [my love],
                                                                            I became a poet ; and if my voice entertains,
                                                                            And my lyre as it sings to you pleases you,
                                                                            Your eyes, not Parnassus, deserve the praise.
 
                                                                            Surely heaven owed France your presence,
                                                                            Since the Tuscan [Petrarch] had engraved in the heavens
                                                                            The Sorgue, his Florence, and his laurels.
 
                                                                            Yet too late, more-than-divine beauty,
                                                                            You see our age which, alas, is not worthy
                                                                            Even just to speak of your eyes.
 
 
 
Here Ronsard stakes his claim to be firmly in the line of the great poets: though typically he does it while undermining the traditional classical image and placing himself in the petrarchan line of love poets. So (first quatrain) he denies inspiration from the Muses – whose Hippocrene spring on Mount Helicon was created when Pegasus struck the ground with his hoof –  while (second quatrain) deriving it from his lady-love – or, as we might say in English, his ‘muse’… In English the transition from “vous / Muses” to “tu / Cassandre” is not obvious, so I have added a few words at the end of line 5 to make the translation clear. Parnassus, like Helicon, is home to the Muses.
 
In the sestet, the focus moves forward to the Italian renaissance, with Petrarch as the comparator. Though mostly associated with Florence, Petrarch lived for many years in Avignon (seat of the anti-Popes), and the Sorgue flows through Avignon. His ‘laurels’ are both the laurels won by the greatest poets (hence ‘poet laureate’), and a reference to Laura, his lady and ‘muse’. The final tercet point to the length of time between Petrarch and Ronsard – some two centuries – and another hint of a classical theme with the ‘golden age’ descending to a later ‘silver age’ and so forth, the later ages clearly not as great or as worthy as the former.
 
Blanchemain’s version offers variants in the octet:
 
 
Je ne suis point, Muses, accoustumé
Voir vostre bal sous la tarde serée ;
Je n’ay point beu dedans l’onde sacrée,
Fille du pied du cheval emplumé.
 
De tes beaux rais chastement allumé,
Je fu poëte ; et si ma voix recrée,
Et si ma lyre aucunement agrée,
Ton œil en soit, non Parnasse, estimé
 
 
                                                                            I am not at all accustomed, Muses,
                                                                            To watch your dance in the late evening ;
                                                                            I have not drunk from the sacred waters,
                                                                            Springing from the foot of the winged horse.
 
                                                                            Chastely aroused by your fair eyes, [my love],
                                                                            I became a poet ; and if my voice entertains
                                                                            And my lyre pleases a little,
                                                                            Your eyes, not Parnassus, deserve the praise.
 
 
Worth noting that in line 7, “agrée” teeters between both ‘to please’ and ‘to harmonise’ – whereas in the revised version at the top of this post there is less room for ambiguity, though perhaps “harmonises with you” is just about implied…
 
 
 
 
 

Mascarades 12

Standard

This is another of Ronsard’s poems to be recited by two singers, alternately; or rather, as he specifies, two ‘players of the lyre’.

I
Le Soleil et nostre Roy
Sont semblables de puissance,
L’un gouverne dessous soy
Le Ciel et l’autre la France.
 
II
L’un du Ciel tient le milieu,
Des Astres clairté premiere ;
Et l’autre comme un grand Dieu
Aux terres donne lumiere.
 
I
L’un n’est jamais offensé
D’orages ny de tempeste :
L’obscur est tousjours percé
Des beaux rayons de sa teste.
 
II
L’autre a tousjours combatu
Les guerres et les envies
Et fait sentir sa vertu
Aux puissances ennemies.
 
I
L’un est autheur de la paix
Chassant le discord du monde,
Illustrant de ses beaux rais
La terre, le ciel et l’onde.
 
II
Et l’autre ayant du discord
La puissance rencontrée,
A mis les guerres à mort,
Et la paix en sa contrée.
 
I
Tout Astre prend du Soleil
Sa lumiere tant soit haute :
Car c’est l’Astre nompareil
Liberal sans avoir faute.
 
II
Du Roy vient force et vigueur
Honneur et grandeur royale,
Et tout homme de bon cœur
Cognoist sa main liberale.
 
I
Le Soleil est couronné
De feux qu’en terre il nous darde :
Et tout Astre bien tourné
Nostre bon Prince regarde
 
II
 De nostre Roy la grandeur
Pareil au Soleil ressemble,
Qui jette plus de splendeur
Que les estoiles ensemble.
 
I
Bref le Soleil esclairant
Par tout, qui point ne repose,
De Charles n’est differant
Seulement que d’une chose.
 
II
C’est que le Soleil mourra
Apres quelque temps d’espace,
Et Charles au Ciel ira
Du Soleil prendre la place.
 
The Sun and our King
Are similar in power,
The one governs beneath himself
The Heavens, and the other France.
 
 
The one has the midst of heaven,
The brightest of the stars,
And the other like a great god
Gives light to the earth.
 
 
The one is never struck
By storms or tempests,
The darkness is always pierced
By the fair rays of his head;
 
 
The other has always fought
War and Envy
And made his virtue known
To hostile powers.
 
 
The one is author of peace,
Chasing discord from the world,
Brightening with his fair rays
Earth, heaven and sea;
 
 
And the other, having encountered
The power of discord,
Has put wars to death
And peace in his country.
 
 
Every star takes from the Sun
His light, however bright it is,
For he is the unequalled Star,
Liberal without fault;
 
 
From the King comes force and strength,
Honour and royal grandeur,
And every man with a good heart
Knows his liberal hand.
 
 
The Sun is crowned
With fires which he darts at us on earth,
And every finely-turned Star
Watches our good Prince;
 
 
The greatness of our King
Seems equal to the Sun
Who casts more splendour
Than the stars together
 
 
In short, the Sun shining its light
Everywhere, and never resting,
Is no different from Charles
Except only in one thing:
 
 
Which is, that the Sun will die
After some time of space,
And Charles will go to Heaven
To take the Sun’s place.
 
Oddly, the sun dies ‘after some time of space’ rather than ‘after some space of time’ – for Ronsard, it’s driven by the scansion, but I’ve left the odd form in the English version as well; if French readers (perhaps) trip over their version, why shouldn’t English readers too? 🙂
 
Blanchemain’s version has some changes in the penultimate pair of stanzas:
 
 
I
… Et tout astre bien-tourné
Pour son guide le regarde
 
II
De notre Roy la bonté
Mille grand seigneurs assemble,
Qui jettent plus de clarté
Que les estoiles ensemble.
 
 
                                                              … And every finely-turned Star
                                                              Watches him as its guide;
 
 
                                                              The goodness of our King
                                                              Assembles a thousand great Lords
                                                              Who cast more light
                                                              Than the stars together.