Tag Archives: Greek

Amours 2:47

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Vos yeux estoient moiteux d’une humeur enflammee,
Qui m’ont gasté les miens d’une semblable humeur,
Et pource que vos yeux aux miens ont fait douleur,
Je vous ay d’un nom Grec Sinope surnommee :
 
Mais cest’ humeur mauvaise au cœur est devallee,
Et là comme maistresse a pris force et vigueur,
Gastant mon pauvre sang d’une blesme langueur,
Qui ja par tout le corps lente s’est escoulee.
 
Mon cœur environné de ce mortel danger,
En voulant resister au malheur estranger,
A mon sang converty en larmes et en pluye :
 
Afin que par les yeux autheurs de mon souci
Mon malheur fust noyé, ou que par eux aussi
Fuyant devant le feu j’espuisasse ma vie.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Your eyes were weeping with an inflammation
                                                                            And they have spoiled mine with a similar infection,
                                                                            And since your eyes have made mine ill
                                                                            I’ve surnamed you with the Greek name Sinope.
 
                                                                            But this illness has hurtled down to my heart,
                                                                            And there like its mistress gained strength and vigour,
                                                                            Spoiling my poor blood with a pallid inertia
                                                                            Which has now slowly flowed through all my body.
 
                                                                            My heart, besieged by this mortal danger
                                                                            And wanting to resist the foreign illness,
                                                                            Has converted my blood into tears and weeping;
 
                                                                            So that through my eyes, the creators of my trouble,
                                                                            My illness might be drowned, or through them too,
                                                                            Fleeing before the fire, I might extinguish my life.
 
 
 
 

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Marie’s eye condition: this is the poem which Belleau annotates, as I mentioned there, with an explanation of the name ‘Sinope’; and also the one in which Ronsard offers the most explicit of links between Marie and Sinope – unless of course you believe that the Sinope poems were addressed to another lady, and then simply transferred to the Marie set. He does not, after all, explicitly name Marie…  Belleau’s footnote in full:  ‘Marie had trouble with her eyes, and as the poet watched her intently the illness in those afflicted eyes entering his own made them ill too. And so he called Marie Sinope, which is to say ‘losing the eyes’.’

 
Like the last poem I posted, Blanchemain’s earlier version varies only in two places, and one of them is the first line!  In his version, Marie/Sinope’s eyes have been ‘struck’ with illness rather than the more precise ‘weeping’ in the later version: “Vos yeux estoient blessez d’une humeur enflammée“. The other change, in line 11, is mostly about sound and rhythm, inverting some of the words:  “A couvert mon sang en larmes et en pluye” (‘Has covered my blood with tears and weeping’); but the change from a rather odd ‘covering’ image to the sharper ‘converted’ may have been Ronsard’s initial spur to change.

 
 
 
 
 
 
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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.
 
 
 
 
 

Chanson (Am. 1:227d)

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D’un gosier masche-laurier
     J’oy crier
Dans Lycofron ma Cassandre,
Qui prophetize aux Troyens
     Les moyens
Qui les reduiront en cendre.
 
Mais ces pauvres obstinez
     Destinez
Pour ne croire à leur Sibylle,
Virent, bien que tard, apres
     Les feux Grecs
Forcener parmy leur ville.
 
Ayant la mort dans le sein,
     De la main
Plomboient leur poitrine nue,
Et tordant leurs cheveux gris,
     De longs cris
Pleuroient qu’ils ne l’avoient creuëe.
 
Mais leurs cris n’eurent pouvoir
     D’esmouvoir
Les Grecs si chargez de proye,
Qu’ils ne laisserent sinon
     Que le nom
De ce qui fut jadis Troye.
 
Ainsi pour ne croire pas,
     Quand tu m’as
Predit ma peine future :
Et que je n’aurois en don,
     Pour guerdon
De t’aimer, que la mort dure :
 
Un grand brasier sans repos,
     Et mes os,
Et mes nerfs, et mon cœur brûle :
Et pour t’amour j’ay receu
     Plus de feu,
Que ne fit Troye incredule.
With her laurel-chewing throat
     I hear calling
In Lycophron my Cassandra,
Prophesying to the Trojans
     The way
They’ll be reduced to ashes.
 
But those poor obstinate men,
     Destined
Not to believe their Sybil,
Saw afterwards, though too late,
     Greek fire
Raging through their town.
 
With death in their hearts,
     With their hands
They sheathed their naked breasts in lead
And tearing their grey hairs
     With long cries
They wept that they had not believed her.
 
But their cries had no power
     To move
The Greeks, so laden with loot
That they left nothing
     But the name
Of what once was Troy.
 
So, for not believing
     When you told me
Of my future pain,
And that I should gain only,
     As trophy
For loving you, the gift of harsh death,
 
A great fire ceaselessly
     Burns
My bones and nerves and heart,
And for your love I’ve had
     More fire
Than made Troy astonished.

 

I’m uncomfortable with the opening line: Ronsard’s “masche-laurier” is hard to capture I feel  (EDIT – see below & Patrice’s useful clarification in the comments). But it would be a pity not to attempt the poem: it’s a marvellous one, I think, with the balance between 4 stanzas of Troy and two of Cassandre (or 2+2+2 if you prefer) and the clear link between the ‘ancient’ Cassandra and the ‘modern’, and the literal burning and the metaphorical.  Most of this is a straightforward and familiar recital of the Trojan legend, but Muret helps us with the odd reference to Lycophron:  ‘Lycophron, a native of Chalcis, was one of the seven poets who flourished in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, and who were called the Pleiade. This Lycophron wrote a poem called Cassandra, which alone has survived to this day, in which he depicts her predicting the evils which are to come to the town of Troy’.  Thus we see Ronsard managing to refer back to the original Pleaid of Alexandrian poets in the Hellenistic period of Greece, which gave its name to the ‘modern’ Pleiade of Ronsard, Baif and the others.
 
No variants to report from Blanchemain’s earlier version (!)
 
======
 
More on the opening line:  following Patrice’s hint, I have gone and looked up Lycophron. As often with Ronsard, the learned reference isn’t as difficult to locate as you might think: in fact, it’s in the 6th line of the 1500 line poem… The opening, in a Victorian translation I’ve borrowed from www.theoi.com, goes: “All will I tell truly that thou askest from the utter beginning, and if the tale be prolonged, forgive me, master. For not quietly as of old did the maiden loose the varied voice of her oracles, but poured forth a weird confused cry, and uttered wild words from her bay-chewing mouth, imitating the speech of the dark Sphinx.”  The Greek word is “Daphne-phagon” – laurel- or bay-eating – at the beginning of line 6 below
 
lyco_daphnephagon
Further edit:  Ronsard also used this concept in Odes 1.11, strophe 5, where he writes of Phoebus (Apollo):
 
Lequel m’encharge de chanter
Son Du-Bellay, pour le vanter
Sur tous ses enfans qui ont bien
Masché du Laurier Delphien.
 
                                                           He who charged me to sing
                                                           Of his Du Bellay, to praise him
                                                           Above all those of his children who have
                                                           Well-chewed the Delphic laurel.
 
 
 
 
 

Le Chant des Sereines (Amours 2:67e)

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“The Song of the Sirens” is based around the episode in the Odyssey (in book 12) when Odysseus – Ulysses to the Romans – sails past the Sirens’ island but, while his men are warned to stop up their ears so they cannot hear the alluring song, Odysseus has himself bound tightly to the mast and keeps his ears open…
 
Fameux Ulysse, honneur de tous les Grecs,
De nostre bord approche toy plus pres,
Ne single point sans prester les oreilles
A noz chansons, et tu oirras merveilles.
 
Nul estranger de passer a soucy
Par ceste mer sans aborder icy,
Et sans contraindre un petit son voyage,
Pour prendre port à nostre beau rivage :
Puis tout joyeux les ondes va tranchant,
Ravy d’esprit, tant doux est nostre chant,
Ayant appris de nous cent mille choses,
Que nous portons en l’estomach encloses.
 
Nous sçavons bien tout cela qui s’est fait,
Quand Ilion par les Grecs fut desfait :
Nous n’ignorons une si longue guerre,
Ny tout cela qui se fait sur la terre.
Doncques retiens ton voyage entrepris,
Tu apprendras, tant sois-tu bien appris.
 
Ainsi disoit le chant de la Serene,
Pour arrester Ulysse sur l’arene,
Qui attaché au mast ne voulut pas
Se laisser prendre à si friands apas :
Mais en fuyant la voix voluptueuse,
Hasta son cours sur l’onde tortueuse,
Sans par l’oreille humer cette poison
Qui des plus grands offense la raison.
 
Ainsi, Jamin, pour sauver ta jeunesse,
Suy le conseil du fin soldat de Grece :
N’aborde point au rivage d’Amour,
Pour y vieillir sans espoir de retour.
« L’Amour n’est rien qu’ardante frenesie,
« Qui de fumee emplist la fantaisie
« D’erreur, de vent et d’un songe importun :
« Car le songer et l’Amour ce n’est qu’un.
Famous Ulysses, honour of all the Greeks,
Approach now nearer our borders,
Sail no more without lending your ears
To our songs, and you will hear marvellous things.
 
No stranger cares to pass
Over this sea without landing here,
And without delaying his journey a little
To seek port on our fair shores;
Then most happy he leaves slicing through the waves,
His spirit delighted, so sweet is our song,
After learning from us a hundred thousand things
Which we carry locked up in our breasts.
 
We know well all that happened
When Troy was destroyed by the Greeks;
We are not unaware of so long a war,
Nor all that which is done on earth.
So, defer the voyage you’ve undertaken,
You will learn much, however learned you are.
 
So spoke the song of the Siren,
To halt Ulysses on the sands,
He who, attached to the mast, did not wish
To allow himself such delightful attractions;
But fleeing the voluptuous voice
He hurried his journey on the winding seas,
Without drinking in through his ears that poison
Which assaults the reason of the greatest.
 
So, Jamin, to rescue your youth,
Follow the counsel of the fine soldier of Greece;
Do not land on the shores of Love,
To grow old there without hope of return.
“Love is nothing but burning madness,
Which fills the imagination with smoke,
Mistakes, empty wind and nagging dreams;
For dreaming and Love are the same thing.”
 
 
Ronsard addresses the poem to Amadis Jamyn (last stanza). Amadis Jamyn was “an excellent poet who translated into [French] verse Homer’s Iliad and part of the Odyssey”, as a learned footnote tells us – thus giving us the reason why the subject is from the Odyssey.
 
Inevitably there are a few differences in Blanchemain’s version, but only a few:  the 6th line of the 2nd stanza becomes “S’en retournant ravy de nostre chant” (‘Looking back delighted with our song’); and in the 4th stanza, Odysseus is very vividly “garroté au mast” (less vividly, ‘bound tight to the mast’ – but obviously the literal meaning is ‘garroted’, tied around the throat so tightly he would choke), and he hurries away “sur l’onde poissonneuse” (‘over the fishy sea’).
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 142

Standard
De ton beau poil en tresses noircissant
Amour ourdit de son arc la ficelle :
Il fit son feu de ta vive etincelle,
Il fit son trait de ton œil brunissant.
 
Son premier coup me rendoit perissant :
Mais son second de la mort me rappelle,
Qui mon ulcere en santé renouvelle,
Et par son coup le coup va guarissant.
 
Ainsi jadis sur la poudre Troyenne,
Du soudart Grec la hache Pelienne,
Du Mysien mit la douleur à fin :
 
Ainsi le trait que ton bel œil me rue,
D’un mesme coup me guarist et me tue.
Hé quelle Parque a filé mon destin !
 
 
 
 
                                                                            From your lovely hair, dark in its braids,
                                                                            Love wove the string of his bow;
                                                                            He made his fire from your bright spark,
                                                                            He made his arrow from your brown eyes.
 
                                                                            His first blow brought me close to dying;
                                                                            But his second called me back from death,
                                                                            It restored to health my wound,
                                                                            And by its blow cured the blow.
 
                                                                            So of old on Trojan soil
                                                                            The Greek soldier’s Pelian axe
                                                                            Put an end to the sadness of the Mysian;
 
                                                                            And so the wound that your fair eyes flung on me
                                                                            With the same blow cured me and killed me.
                                                                            Ah, what Fate has spun my destiny!

 

 

In lines 1 & 4, the “-issant” ending implies that her hair is ‘darkening’, her eyes ‘getting browner’ – but I have used the simple adjective, as I don’t think that’s what Ronsard meant…  (Note – below – that at first Cassandre’s hair was blonde, but later in life Ronsard adjusts the colour to dark! )
 
The reference in lines 10-11 is pretty obscure – another of Ronsard’s learned asides – the more so as it refers to a Trojan War episode outside Homer. Blanchemain’s note tells us “The axe (hache=hatchet) of Achilles, son of Peleus, cured the wounds that it had made”. This is from a story that Achilles first landed at Mysia, some way down the coast from Troy, but mistook it for Troy and attacked it. The Mysian king, Telephus, was wounded by Achilles but the wound would not heal. The Delphic oracles told Telephus that what made the wound would heal it, so he sought Achilles’ help – and, touched by the spear [not the axe!] that made the wound, it was healed. Nowadays the mythical image that might come to mind is Wagner’s Parsifal myth! 
 
Today for a change we have a poem whose ending Ronsard left untouched, but whose beginning was re-crafted. There is a tiny change in line 12 – “Ainsi le trait de ton bel œil me rue” – which swings the meaning around a little to become ‘And so the wound from your fair eyes threw me down’. Otherwise the sestet is identical. Here are the two quatrains in Blanchemain’s version;  I admire the way he re-thought line 3 so completely with only a small change, building the very effective pairing of lines 3-4 in the version at the top.
 
 
 
De ton poil d’or en tresses blondissant
Amour ourdit de son arc la fiscelle ;
Il me tira de ta vive etincelle
Le doux fier trait qui me tient languissant.
 
Du premier coup j’eusse été perissant,
Sans l’autre coup d’une fleche nouvelle
Qui mon ulcere en santé renouvelle,
Et par son coup le coup va guarissant.

 

 
 
                                                                            From your golden locks in their blonde braids,
                                                                            Love wove the string of his bow;
                                                                            He drew for me from your bright spark
                                                                            The sweet noble wound which keeps me pining.
 
                                                                            From the first blow I had been close to dying,
                                                                            Without the other blow from a new arrow
                                                                            Which restored to health my wound,
                                                                            And by its blow cured the blow.

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 87

Standard
Si l’escrivain de la Gregeoise armée
Eust veu tes yeux qui serf me tiennent pris,
Les faits de Mars n’eust jamais entrepris,
Et le Duc Grec fust mort sans renommée.
 
Et si Paris qui veit en la valée
La Cyprienne et d’elle fut épris,
T’eust veu quatriesme, il t’eust donné le pris,
Et sans honneur Venus s’en fust allée.
 
Mais s’il advient ou par le vueil des Cieux,
Ou par le trait qui sort de tes beaux yeux,
Que d’un haut vers je chante ta conqueste
 
Et nouveau cygne on m’entende crier,
Il n’y aura ny myrte ny laurier
Digne de toy, ny digne de ma teste.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            If the poet of the Grecian army
                                                                            Had seen your eyes, which hold me bound as a serf,
                                                                            He would never have undertaken the deeds of Mars [war]
                                                                            And the Greek general would have died without fame.
 
                                                                            And if Paris, who glimpsed in the garden
                                                                            The Cyprian [Venus] and fell in love with her,
                                                                            Had seen you as the fourth, he would have given you the prize
                                                                            And Venus would have left without reward.
 
                                                                            But if it happens, by the will of Heaven
                                                                            Or by the wound given by your fair eyes,
                                                                            That in fine poetry I sing of your conquest
 
                                                                            And like a new swan I am heard singing,
                                                                            There will be no myrtle or laurel
                                                                            Worthy of you, nor worthy as my crown.

 

 

Ronsard has a way of turning a compliment, doesn’t he – and often deftly turning it to himself! If ever a poet was secure in his knowledge of his own worth, it’s Ronsard. But of course this poem is about the surpassing charms of Cassandre, greater than any inspiration to any poet before…
 
The ‘poet of the Grecian army’ is of course Homer, the war is the Trojan War, his poem the Iliad, and the Greek general who dies is Achilles. Paris was chosen to judge the contest between Juno, Venus and Minerva and naturally decided the prettiest was best – so Ronsard says Cassandre is prettier than the goddess of love herself. Myrtles and laurels are the prize for poets, and indeed the victors of any contest, in the classical world – though not good enough as a prize for Ronsard apparently!
 
I must admit to some paraphrasing in this translation:  in line 5 Paris actually “saw [Venus] in the valley”, but ‘glimpsed … garden’ offers an alliterative effect similar to “veit en la valée”.  In line 14 Ronsard actually says no myrtle is ‘worthy of you, nor worthy of my head’, but I have changed this (with less excuse) to the more explanatory ‘crown’.
 
Blanchemain’s version shows how Ronsard’s self-confidence had grown later in life: for in this version he ends by receiving (and being pleased to receive) the best of myrtle crowns…
 
 
 
Si l’escrivain de la Gregeoise armée
Eust veu tes yeux qui serf me tiennent pris,
Les faits de Mars il n’eust jamais empris,
Et le duc grec fust mort sans renommée.
 
Et si Pâris, qui vit en la valée
La grand’ beauté dont son cœur fut épris,
Eust veu la tienne, il t’eust donné le pris,
Et sans honneur Venus s’en fust allée.
 
Mais s’il advient, ou par le vueil des cieux,
Ou par le trait qui sort de tes beaux yeux,
Qu’en publiant ma prise et ta conqueste,
 
Outre la Tane on m’entende crier,
Io ! Io ! quel myrte ou quel laurier
Sera bastant pour enlacer ma teste !
 
 
 
                                                                            If the poet of the Grecian army
                                                                            Had seen your eyes, which hold me bound as a serf,
                                                                            He would never have taken up the deeds of Mars [war]
                                                                            And the Greek general would have died without fame.
 
                                                                            And if Paris, who glimpsed in the garden
                                                                            That great beauty by which his heart was seized,
                                                                            Had seen yours, he would have given you the prize
                                                                            And Venus would have left without reward.
 
                                                                            But if it happens, by the will of Heaven
                                                                            Or by the wound given by your fair eyes,
                                                                            That in speaking out of my capture and your conquest,
 
                                                                            Beyond Tanais they hear me singing
                                                                            “Io! Io!”, what myrtle or what laurel
                                                                            Will be woven to twine around my head!
 
 
 
 In the second quatrain his first version is more allusive than the later one – perhaps unusually! – explaining itself only in line 8; but the later version, while making the allusion clearer in line 5, does end up repeating itself if we recognise Cypris and Venus to be the same person. In the final lines, Blanchemain says ‘I believe “la Tane” is Tanais’; this was a city at the southern end of the [modern] river Don, that is to say NE of the Crimea at the top-right of the Black Sea – – or, in classical terms, the far end of the known world. So those beyond Tanais are in effect at or beyond the edges of the known world.  ‘Io’ was a representation of the shouting (or ululation) of Bacchantes and others in the throes of some form of ecstatic dance-trance – again, associated with the mystic east.
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 73

Standard
Pipé d’Amour, ma Circe enchanteresse
Dedans ses fers m’arreste emprisonné,
Non par le goust d’un vin empoisonné,
Non par le jus d’une herbe pecheresse.
 
Du fin Gregeois l’espée vangeresse,
Et le Moly par Mercure ordonné,
En peu de temps du breuvage donné
Peurent forcer la force charmeresse :
 
Si qu’à la fin le Dulyche troupeau
Reprint l’honneur de sa premiere peau,
Et sa prudence au-paravant peu caute.
 
Mais pour mon sens remettre en mon cerveau,
Il me faudroit un Astolphe nouveau,
Tant ma raison est aveugle en sa faute.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Snared by Love, my enchantress, my Circe
                                                                            Holds me imprisoned within her chains;
                                                                            She did not use the taste of poisoned wine,
                                                                            Nor the juice of a sinful herb.
 
                                                                            The avenging sword of the wily Greek
                                                                            And the cure for the enchantment ordained by Mercury
                                                                            In a short while were able to overpower
                                                                            The power of the charm in the drink they were given;
 
                                                                            So that, in the end, the Dulychean troop
                                                                            Recovered the honour of its original shape
                                                                            And its prudence, though formerly so incautious.
 
                                                                            But to put my sense back in my brain
                                                                            I would need a new Astolpho,
                                                                            So blind is my reason to its failing.

 

 

Circe is the enchantress who transforms Odysseus’ crew into pigs in the 10th book of the ‘Odyssey’.  She uses a potion and a magic wine-cup. Note that the pigs run free, and are not kept chained; but they are metaphorically chained by the enchantment. They are rescued by Odysseus (the wily Greek) who – at Mercury’s recommendation – uses the plant ‘molu’ or ‘moly’ to prevent the witch’s magic affecting him.  [Some argue that the men were only metaphorically transformed into pigs, their humanity taken away by a hallucinogen of some kind; the snowdrop has anti-hallucinogenic properties (apparently!) so may be ‘moly’.] Dulichium was one of the islands of which Odysseus was king; possibly one of the Echinades, or nearby Cephalonia?
 
Astolpho takes us to a rather more modern epic – Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioso’. Astolpho is the powerful champion who restores Orlando to his senses after he has been maddened by love. Originally one of Charlemagne’s paladins, Astolpho/Astolfo in Ariosto has acquired a range of magical weapons and steeds. He flies on a hippogriff, meets St John the Apostle, then takes Elijah’s chariot to the moon, where he finds Orlando’s lost wits in a bottle…!
 
Blanchemain’s version has only 3 minor changes – though one affects the very beginning of the poem!  The early version begins “Du tout changé, ma Circe…” (‘Changed in every way, my Circe holds me…’). In line 8 Odysseus’ sword and ‘moly’ “Forcèrent bien la force charmeresse” (‘overpowered easily the power of the charm’) – not noticeably better or worse than the alternative repetition of ‘forcer’! And in line 10 the troop “reprit” instead of “reprint” (recovered) its honour – a difference only between treating ‘troop’ as plural or singular.