Tag Archives: Helen of Troy

Helen 2:10

Standard
Adieu belle Cassandre, et vous belle Marie,
Pour qui je fu trois ans en servage à Bourgueil :
L’une vit, l’autre est morte, et ores de son œil
Le ciel se resjouist dont la terre est marrie.
 
Sur mon premier Avril, d’une amoureuse envie
J’adoray vos beautez : mais vostre fier orgueil
Ne s’amollit jamais pour larmes ny pour dueil,
Tant d’une gauche main la Parque ourdit ma vie.
 
Maintenant en Automne encore malheureux
Je vy comme au Printemps de nature amoureux,
A fin que tout mon âge aille au gré de la peine.
 
Ores que je deusse estre affranchi du harnois,
Mon maistre Amour m’envoye à grands coups de carquois,
R’assieger Ilion pour conquerir Heleine.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Farewell my lovely Cassandre, and you, lovely Marie,
                                                                            For whom I spent three years of servitude in Bourgueil ;
                                                                            The one lives on, the other is dead, and now heaven
                                                                            Rejoices in her eyes, to the earth’s regret.
 
                                                                            In the April of my youth I adored your beauties
                                                                            With an eager love ; but your arrogant pride
                                                                            Never softened for tears or grief :
                                                                            Fate has so left-handedly woven my life.
 
                                                                            Now in my autumn, still unfortunate,
                                                                            I live as in Spring amorous by nature,
                                                                            So that all my age goes at trouble’s wish.
 
                                                                            Now, when I ought to be free of war’s harness,
                                                                            Love my master sends me with great blows from his quiver
                                                                            To besiege Troy again, to conquer Helen.
 
 
If you ask me, this is not only a fine poem but the neatest of Ronsard’s summaries of his poetic career.
 
I’ve no intention of pulling it apart, but here’s a couple of small notes. In mythology Fate ‘weaves’ (line 8) the thread of everyone’s lives; weaving left-handed – like the word ‘sinister’ (left-hand in Latin) – brings misfortune. And you don’t need the reference to Helen of Troy explained again … But Richelet does so anyway: “Troy, where Helen was held. He speaks in several places of this love-affair as if his mistress was the Helen of Greece who stirred up so many wars. Thus Petrarch speaks of his Laura as that Daphne with whom Apollo was in love.”
 
 
Blanchemain’s version offers minor changes in the last tercet:
 
Et, ore que je deusse estre exempt du harnois,
Mon colonnel m’envoye à grands coups de carquois,
Rassieger Ilion pour conquerir Heleine.

 
 

                                                                            And now, when I ought to be free of war’s harness,
                                                                            My colonel sends me with great blows from his quiver
                                                                            To besiege Troy again, to conquer Helen.
 
 
“Ores que” is better than “Et ore que” with its hiatus, consistent with Ronsard’s desire to make the near-perfect that much more perfect. That it was not a straight-line process is made clear by the variant of line 4 Blanchemain also provides from 1578:  “Le ciel se resjouist dans la terre est Marie” (‘Heaven rejoices, Marie is in the ground’). Frankly, it’s a terrible soundalike for the line in the ‘definitive version’, not just because it sounds as if Heaven is rejoicing because Marie is dead, but also because rhyming ‘Marie’ with ‘Marie’ is undeniably feeble.
 
 
 
 
 
Advertisements

Helen 2:19

Standard
Helene fut occasion que Troye
Se vit brusler d’un feu victorieux :
Vous me bruslez du foudre de vos yeux,
Et aux Amours vous me donnez en proye.
 
En vous servant vous me monstrez la voye
Par vos vertus de m’en-aller aux Cieux,
Ravy du nom qu’Amour malicieux
Me tire au cœur, quelque part que je soye.
 
Nom tant de fois par Homere chanté,
Seul tout le sang vous m’avez enchanté :
O beau visage engendré d’un beau Cygne,
 
De mes pensers la fin et le milieu !
Pour vous aimer mortel je ne suis digne :
A la Deesse il appartient un Dieu.
 
 
 
                                                                            Helen was the cause that Troy
                                                                            Found itself burning in victorious fire;
                                                                            You burn me with the lightning of your eyes
                                                                            And give me over as prey to Cupid.
 
                                                                            In serving you, you show me the way
                                                                            To reach heaven by your virtues,
                                                                            Enraptured by the name which malicious Cupid
                                                                            Has shot into my heart, wherever I might be.
 
                                                                            O name so often sung by Homer,
                                                                            You alone have enchanted all my blood;
                                                                            O fair face born of a fair Swan,
 
                                                                            Beginning and end of all my thoughts!
                                                                            To love you I, a mortal, am not worthy;
                                                                            To this goddess should belong some god.
 
 
 
Although this poem has many attractive features, in my view there are some really weak ‘filler’ moments. For instance, why would Troy be burning in ‘victorious’ fire – obviously the fire overcomes Troy, but it requires a sudden shift of perspective to follow. Worse, īthe second half of line 8 has no real meaning,doubly so in the context of the first half: pure ‘filler’. Line 12 – though here I’m niggling – also literally says that Helen’s face is the “end and middle” of his thoughts; even allowing for poetic inversion, I’m not sure ‘middle and end’ is driven by anything other than metre.
 
Well, enough complaining! In other respects a neat, classically-allusive tribute to his fair lady. The references to Troy being burned because of Helen, and to Homer’s frequent mentions of Helen, need no more explanation;bu it might be useful to be reminded that Helen was said to be the daughter of Leda, who was famously wooed by Jupiter in the form of a swan (line 11).
 
Blanchemain’s edition moves this poem to the ‘retranchées’, and substitutes a completely different text. Maybe he (and Ronsard) were also struck by the weaknesses of this one …

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Helen 2:9

Standard
Ny la douce pitié, ny le pleur lamentable
Ne t’ont baillé ton nom : ton nom Grec vient d’oster,
De ravir, de tuer, de piller, d’emporter
Mon esprit et mon cœur, ta proye miserable.
 
Homere en se joüant de toy fist une fable,
Et moy l’histoire au vray. Amour, pour te flater,
Comme tu fis à Troye, au cœur me vient jetter
Le feu qui de mes oz se paist insatiable.
 
La voix, que tu feignois à l’entour du Cheval
Pour decevoir les Grecs, me devoit faire sage :
Mais l’homme de nature est aveugle à son mal,
 
Qui ne peut se garder ny prevoir son dommage.
Au pis-aller je meurs pour ce beau nom fatal,
Qui mit tout l’Asie et l’Europe en pillage.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Neither sweet pity nor grievous weeping
                                                                            Gave you your name ; your Greek name has just now taken away,
                                                                            Seized, killed, pillaged, carried off
                                                                            My spirit and my heart as your wretched prey.
 
                                                                            Homer, enjoying himself, made a myth of you,
                                                                            But I have told the true story. Love, to flatter you,
                                                                            Has just thrown into my heart, as you did into Troy,
                                                                            A fire which feeds insatiably on my bones.
 
                                                                            The misleading words you used, as you circled the Horse,
                                                                            To deceive the Greeks should have made me wise ;
                                                                            But man is by nature blind to his own ills
 
                                                                            And cannot guard himself nor foresee what will hurt him.
                                                                            The worst part is, I am dying for this fair, deadly name
                                                                            Which put all Asia and Europe to pillage.
 
 
Lengthy footnotes today from Ronsard’s editor, Richelet, to explain the slightly tortuous meaning in several places in the poem.
 
In lines 1-2, Richelet explains, “the name she has was not given because of any sweetness in her, [nor] as coming from the word ‘eleein’ [Greek ελεειν, to weep], but rather from ‘helein’ [ελειν, to seize], ‘helinnuein’ [ελιννευειν, to rest], ‘helissein’ [ελισσειν, to whirl around], ‘helkein’ [ελκειν, to drag off] which are all words of ruin and damage.” (Though, as you can see, Liddell & Scott don’t agree that one of them – ‘helinneuein’ – falls into this category!) Note however that Ronsard’s French amounts to a set of meanings for just two of those words (‘helein’ and ‘helkein’) . I imagine we owe the inclusion of the other two, more obscure, words (one of which is doubtful) more to Richelet than to Ronsard.
 
At line 7, Blanchemain reminds us that Helen, with Sinon, gave the signal to the Greeks to emerge from the Trojan Horse and thus to burn Troy; though Richelet expounds at length on lines 9-11 which seem to refer to a slightly earlier episode: “after the Greeks had, by the counsel of Minerva, placed the horse in Troy, Venus, knowing their plan and wishing to have it discovered by the Trojans, came at night on the garb of an old woman to Helen, to give her information about the horse, in which among others was her husband Menelaus. At this report, as soon as she’d leapt from her bed, she came to the horse and spoke to the Greeks who were hidden insde, which frightened them so much that she thought she had put them in danger”. But this, it seems to me, does not fit with “que tu feignois” (the phrase to which Richelet attached the explanation): for Ronsard is clearly saying Helen ‘feigned’ another’s voice or said something misleading to the Greeks – as if she not Minerva were in disguise, or she was seeking to deceive the Greeks in the horse – which is not at all what Richelet describes. Rather, Ronsard is referring to Homer’s Odyssey (book 4, 270-290) where Menelaus tells Helen he knows how she came to the Horse “bidden by some god” to try to trick the Greeks into giving themselves away by imitating the voices of their wives and lovers. Sorry, Richelet: wrong this time.
 
Two minor variants in Blanchemain’s version: in line 2, “Helene vient d’oster” (‘Helen has just now taken away’); and at the beginning of line 8, “Ton feu…” (‘Your fire’)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Helen 2:7

Standard
Ha que ta Loy fut bonne, et digne d’estre apprise,
Grand Moise, grand Prophete, et grand Minos de Dieu,
Qui sage commandas au vague peuple Hebrieu,
Que la liberté fust apres sept ans remise !
 
Je voudrois grand Guerrier, que celle que j’ay prise
Pour Dame, et qui se sied de mon cœur au milieu,
Voulust qu’en mon endroit ton ordonnance eust lieu,
Et qu’au bout de sept ans m’eust remis en franchise.
 
Sept ans sont ja passez qu’en servage je suis ;
Servir encor sept ans de bon cœur je la puis,
Pourveu qu’au bout du temps de son cœur je jouïsse.
 
Mais ceste Grecque Helene ayant peu de souci
Des statuts des Hebrieux, d’un courage endurci
Contre les loix de Dieu n’affranchit mon service.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Ah, how good and worth being learned is your Law,
                                                                            Great Moses, great prophet, great judge from God,
                                                                            Who wisely instructed the wandering Hebrew people
                                                                            That liberty would be given back to them after seven years.
 
                                                                            I wish, great warrior, that she whom I’ve chosen
                                                                            As my Lady, and who sits in the midst of my heart,
                                                                            Would agree that your command applied in my case,
                                                                            And at the end of seven years had given me back my freedom.
 
                                                                            Seven years have now passed while I’ve been in servitude;
                                                                            I could happily serve another seven years
                                                                            Provided that, at the end of that time, I’d won her heart.
 
                                                                            But this Greek Helen has little regard for
                                                                            The statutes of the Hebrews, and with hardened courage
                                                                            Contravening the laws of God she does not free me from my service.
 
 
 
It’s quite unusual for Ronsard to build a poem around Biblical rather than classical stories: so much so that we might wonder if there was a special reason to demonstrate his orthodoxy. Of course, the religious wars in France were rumbling on for much of his adult life, and there is a great quantity of poetry and prose by Ronsard defending the Catholic side against its Protestant attackers. But to link the poems to Helen with this background seems faintly absurd.
 
The story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt is well-known (from phrases like “Let my people go!”, “the Promised Land”, to films like “The Ten Commandments”). What is also well-known is that, after offending God at Mt Sinai when Moses was receiving the Ten Commandmnets, the tribes of Israel were condemned to wander in the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. How odd, then, that Ronsard should choose the ‘magic’ number 7 instead. It is of course the number of perfection in Catholic numerology: so perhaps Ronsard is contrasting that perfection with the imperfection of his love? It may even be that 7 years really did fit his relationship with Helen – but we saw in poem 5 that he also claimed it was 5 years… (Again being faintly absurd, is it relevant that in poem 5 it’s 5 years; and in poem 7 it’s 7 years…?)
 
Other incidental notes: in line 2, note that Moses is indeed a ‘Judge’, the first of the Biblical judges (there is of course a whole book about his successors); but perhaps this is also a reference to classical mythologies, where Minos rules in the Underworld as ‘judge’ of the dead, with the suggestion here that helen will pay for her misdemeanours one way or another!
 
Blanchemain’s authorised text contaions only one variant:  at the beginning of line 13, the younger Ronsard has “De la loy des Hebrieux”, repeating ‘law’ from line 1 instead of finding a synonym as his older self did. But Blanchemain also footnotes another, larger, variant in lines 3-4:
 
 
Qui, grand legislateur, commandas à l’Hebrieu
Qu’après sept ans passez liberté fust acquise.
                                                                            The great legislator who instructed the Hebrew [people]
                                                                            That after seven years had passed their freedom would be gained.
 
This offers an alternative view of the Biblical ‘7 years’: no longer ‘wandering’ in the desert, Moses might here be talking to the Israelites at the beginning of his campaign for freedom, before the plagues of Egypt. But it must be said there is (as far as I know) no suggestion elsewhere that the 10 plagues of Egypt spanned 7 years …
 
 
 
 
 

Amours book 2 – Elégie à son livre

Standard

Although it’s been months since my last post, I find myself still in book 2 of the Amours! This is really the very last poem from book 2 I’ll be posting, though: the lengthy Elegy which Ronsard prefixed to the book as he sent it out into the world.

Mon fils, si tu sçavois ce qu’on dira de toy,
Tu ne voudrois jamais desloger de chez moy,
Enclos en mon estude : et ne voudrois te faire
Salir ny fueilleter aux mains du populaire.
Quand tu seras parti, sans jamais retourner,
Estranger loin de moy te faudra sejourner :
« Car ainsi que le vent sans retourner s’envole,
« Sans espoir de retour s’eschappe la parole.
 
Or tu es ma parole, à qui de nuict et jour
J’ay conté les propos que me contoit Amour,
Pour les mettre en ces vers qu’en lumiere tu portes,
Crochetant maugré moy de ma chambre les portes,
Pauvret! qui ne sçais pas que nos citoyens sont
Plus subtils par le nez que le Rhinoceront.
 
Donc avant que tenter la mer et le naufrage,
Voy du port la tempeste, et demeure au rivage.
« Tard est le repentir de tost s’estre embarqué.
 
Tu seras tous les jours des médisans moqué
D’yeux, et de hausse-becs, et d’un branler de teste.
« Sage est celuy qui croit à qui bien l’amoneste.
 
Tu sçais (mon cher enfant) que je ne te voudrois
Tromper, contre nature impudent je faudrois,
Et serois un Serpent de farouche nature
Si je voulois trahir ma propre geniture :
Car tout tel que tu es, n’agueres je te fis,
Et je ne t’aime moins qu’un pere aime son fils.
 
Quoy? tu veux donc partir : et tant plus je te cuide
Retenir au logis, plus tu hausses la bride.
Va donc puis qu’il te plaist, mais je te suppliray
De respondre à chacun ce que je te diray,
Afin que toy (mon fils) tu gardes en l’absence
De moy le pere tien, l’honneur et l’innocence.
 
Si quelque dame honneste et gentille de cœur
(Qui aura l’inconstance et le change en horreur)
Me vient, en te lisant, d’un gros sourcil reprendre
Dequoy je ne devois oublier ma Cassandre,
Qui la premiere au cœur le trait d’amour me mist,
Et que le bon Petrarque un tel peché ne fist,
Qui fut trente et un an amoureux de sa dame,
Sans qu’une autre jamais luy peust eschauffer l’ame :
Respons-luy je te pri’, que Petrarque sur moy
N’avoit authorité pour me donner sa loy,
Ny à ceux qui viendroyent apres luy, pour les faire
Si long temps amoureux sans leur lien desfaire.
 
Luy-mesme ne fut tel : car à voir son escrit
Il estoit esveillé d’un trop gentil esprit
Pour estre sot trente ans, abusant sa jeunesse
Et sa Muse au giron d’une vieille maistresse :
Ou bien il jouyssoit de sa Laurette, ou bien
Il estoit un grand fat d’aimer sans avoir rien.
Ce que je ne puis croire, aussi n’est-il croyable :
Non, il en jouyssoit : puis la fist admirable,
« Chaste, divine, saincte : aussi l’amoureux doit
« Celebrer la beauté dont plaisir il reçoit :
« Car celuy qui la blasme apres la jouissance
« N’est homme, mais d’un Tygre il a prins sa naissance.
Quand quelque jeune fille est au commencement
Cruelle, dure, fiere à son premier amant,
Constant il faut attendre : il peut estre qu’une heure
Viendra sans y penser, qui la rendra meilleure.
Mais quand elle devient voire de jour en jour
Plus dure et plus rebelle, et plus rude en amour,
On s’en doit esloigner, sans se rompre la teste
De vouloir adoucir une si sotte beste.
Je suis de tel advis : me blasme de ceci,
M’estime qui voudra, je le conseille ainsi.
 
Les femmes bien souvent sont cause que nous sommes
Volages et legers, amadoüans les hommes
D’un espoir enchanteur, les tenant quelquefois
Par une douce ruse, un an, ou deux, ou trois,
Dans les liens d’Amour sans aucune allegeance :
Ce-pendant un valet en aura joüissance,
Ou bien quelque badin emportera ce bien
Que le fidele amy à bon droit cuidoit sien.
Et si ne laisseront, je parle des rusées
Qui ont au train d’amour leurs jeunesses usées,
(C’est bien le plus grand mal qu’un homme puisse avoir
Que servir une femme accorte à decevoir)
D’enjoindre des travaux qui sont insupportables,
Des services cruels, des tâches miserables :
Car sans avoir esgard à la simple amitié
De leurs pauvres servans, cruelles n’ont pitié,
Non plus qu’un fier Corsaire en arrogance braves,
N’a pitié des captifs aux environs esclaves.
Il faut vendre son bien, il faut faire presens
De chaisnes, de carquans, de diamans luisans :
Il faut donner la Perle, et l’habit magnifique,
Il faut entretenir la table et la musique,
Il faut prendre querelle, il faut les suporter.
Certes j’aimerois mieux dessus le dos porter
La hotte, pour curer les estables d’Augée,
Que me voir serviteur d’une Dame rusée.
« La mer est bien à craindre, aussi est bien le feu,
« Et le Ciel quand il est de tonnerres esmeu,
« Mais trop plus est à craindre une femme clergesse,
« Sçavante en l’art d’amour, quand elle est tromperesse :
« Par mille inventions mille maux elle fait,
« Et d’autant qu’elle est femme, et d’autant qu’elle sçait.
Quiconque fut le Dieu qui la mit en lumiere
Il fut premier autheur d’une grande misere.
 
Il falloit par presens consacrez aux autels
Acheter nos enfans des grands Dieux immortels,
Et non user sa vie avec ce mal aimable,
Les femmes, passion de l’homme miserable,
Miserable et chetif d’autant qu’il est vassal,
Durant le temps qu’il vit, d’un si fier animal.
Mais je vous pri’, voyez comment par fines ruses
Elles sçavent trouver mille feintes excuses,
Apres qu’ell’ ont failly ! voyez Helene apres
Qu’Ilion fut bruslé de la flamme des Grecs,
Comme elle amadoüa d’une douce blandice
Son badin de mary, qui luy remit son vice,
Et qui plus que devant de ses yeux fut épris,
Qui scintilloient encor les amours de Pâris.
Que dirons-nous d’Ulysse ? encores qu’une trope
De jeunes poursuyvans aimassent Penelope,
Devorans tout son bien, si est-ce qu’il brusloit
D’embrasser son espouse, et jamais ne vouloit
Devenir immortel avec Circe la belle,
Pour ne revoir jamais Penelope, laquelle
Pleurant luy rescrivoit de son fascheux sejour,
Pendant qu’en son absence elle faisoit l’amour :
Si bien que le Dieu Pan de ses jeux print naissance,
(D’elle et de ses muguets la commune semence)
Envoyant tout expres, pour sa commodité,
Le fils chercher le père en Sparte la cité.
« Voilà comment la femme avec ses ruses donte
« L’homme, de qui l’esprit toute beste surmonte.
 
Quand on peut par hazard heureusement choisir
Quelque belle maistresse, et l’avoir à plaisir,
Soit de haut ou bas lieu, pourveu qu’elle soit fille
Humble, courtoise, honneste, amoureuse et gentille,
Sans fard, sans tromperie, et qui sans mauvaitié
Garde de tout son cœur une simple amitié,
Aimant trop mieux cent fois à la mort estre mise,
Que de rompre sa foy quand elle l’a promise :
Il la faut honorer tant qu’on sera vivant,
Comme un rare joyau qu’on treuve peu souvent.
« Celuy certainement merite sur la teste
« Le feu le plus ardent d’une horrible tempeste,
« Qui trompe une pucelle et mesmement alors
« Qu’elle se donne à nous, et de cœur et de cors.
 
N’est-ce pas un grand bien quand on fait un voyage,
De rencontrer quelcun qui d’un pareil courage
Veut nous acompagner, et comme nous passer
Les torrens, les rochers, fascheux à traverser ?
Aussi n’est-ce un grand bien de trouver une amie,
Qui nous aide à passer cette chetive vie,
Qui sans estre fardée ou pleine de rigueur,
Traite fidellement de son amy le cueur ?
 
Dy leur, si de fortune une belle Cassandre
Vers moy se fust monstrée un peu courtoise et tendre,
Et pleine de pitié eust cherché à guarir
Le mal dont ses beaux yeux dix ans m’ont fait mourir,
Non seulement du corps, mais sans plus d’une œillade
Eust voulu soulager mon pauvre cœur malade,
Je ne l’eusse laissée, et m’en soit à tesmoin
Ce jeune enfant ailé qui des amours a soin.
 
Mais voiant que tousjours elle marchoit plus fiere,
Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere,
Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou,
Où maintenant Amour me detient sous le jou :
Laquelle tout soudain je quitteray, si elle
M’est comme fut Cassandre, orgueilleuse et rebelle,
Pour en chercher une autre, à fin de voir un jour
De pareille amitié recompenser m’amour,
Sentant l’affection d’une autre dans moymesme :
« Car un homme est bien sot d’aimer si on ne l’aime.
 
Or’ si quelqu’un apres me vient blasmer, dequoy
Je ne suis plus si grave en mes vers que j’estoy
A mon commencement, quand l’humeur Pindarique
Enfloit empoulément ma bouche magnifique :
Dy luy que les amours ne se souspirent pas
D’un vers hautement grave, ains d’un beau stille bas,
Populaire et plaisant, ainsi qu’a fait Tibulle,
L’ingenieux Ovide, et le docte Catulle.
Le fils de Venus hait ces ostentations :
Il suffist qu’on luy chante au vray ses passions
Sans enflure ny fard, d’un mignard et doux stile,
Coulant d’un petit bruit, comme une eau qui distile.
Ceux qui font autrement, ils font un mauvais tour
A la simple Venus, et à son fils Amour.
 
S’il advient quelque jour que d’une voix hardie
J’anime l’eschafaut par une tragedie
Sentencieuse et grave, alors je feray voir
Combien peuvent les nerfs de mon petit sçavoir.
Et si quelque furie en mes vers je rencontre,
Hardi j’opposeray mes Muses alencontre :
Et feray resonner d’un haut et grave son
(Pour avoir part au bouc) la tragique tançon.
Mais ores que d’Amour les passions je pousse,
Humble je veux user d’une Muse plus douce.
 
Je ne veux que ce vers d’ornement indigent
Entre dans une escole, ou qu’un brave regent
Me lise pour parade : il suffist si m’amie
Le touche de la main dont elle tient ma vie.
Car je suis satisfait, si elle prend à gré
Ce labeur que je voüe à ses pieds consacré.
My son, if you knew what they’ll say of you,
You’d never want to leave my home,
But stay shut away in my study; you wouldn’t want yourself
Dirtied or leafed thorough by the crowd’s hands.
When you’ve gone, never to return,
You’ll have to live like a stranger far from me :
“For as the wind flies off without returning,
So, without hope of returning, the word escapes.”
 
And you are my word, to whom night and day
I have told the ideas which Love told me,
So I could put them into these verses which you take into the light,
Picking the locks of the doors of my room in defiance of me,
Poor thing, who know not that our citizens have
Sharper noses than the rhinoceros.
 
So, before trying the sea and shipwreck,
See the storm from port, and stay on the shore.
“Early to board, late to repent.”
 
Every day you’ll be mocked by ill-wishers,
With their eyes, their lifted noses, and a shake of the head.
“Wise the man who believes a person who gives good advice.”
 
You know, my dear child, that I have no desire
To deceive you: I would have to be shameless, contrary to nature
And a serpent with an untamed nature
If I sought to betray my own offspring,
For just as you are, I recently made you,
And I love you no less than a father loves his son.
 
Yet you still wish to go? And the more I wish
To keep you at home, the more you pull at the bit.
Go on then, since you want to, but I beg you
To answer everyone as I will tell you,
So that you, my son, protect in my absence
Your father’s – my own! – honour and innocence.
 
If some honest lady of noble heart,
Who is horrified by inconstancy and change,
On reading you reproves me with a heavy frown
That I ought not to have forgotten my Cassandre,
Who was first to shoot the arrow of love into my heart,
And that good old Petrarch committed no such sin,
Being thirty-one years in love with his lady
Without any other ever being able to set his soul ablaze,
Then reply to her, I beg, that Petrarch had
No authority over me to subject me to his law,
Nor those others who came after him, to make us
Love so long a time without breaking our ties.
 
He himself was not like that; for if you look at what he wrote
He was a sharp man, with too noble a spirit
To be a fool for thirty years, wasting his youth
And his Muse in the lap of an old mistress.
Either he enjoyed his little Laura, or he was
Indeed a great fool to love but not have her at all.
I can’t believe that, nor is it believable;
No, he enjoyed her, then made her out to be admirable,
Chaste, divine, holy: “The lover should also
Celebrate the beauty from whom he gains his pleasure;
For he who blames her after enjoying her
Is no man, but was born of a tiger.”
 
When some young girl is at the beginning
Cruel, harsh and proud to her first lover,
He must remain constant; it may be that the time
Will come, unexpectedly, which will make her better.
But when she becomes from day to day
Harsher and more contrary, and coarser in love,
You should distance yourself, without wearying yourself
Trying to soften so foolish a beast.
That’s my advice: blame me for it
Or praise me who will, I counsel him thus.
 
Women are often the reason we are
Light and flighty, coaxing men
With bewitching hope, sometimes keeping them
With sweet tricks for a year, or two, or three,
In love’s bonds without relief;
And yet a servant will enjoy them,
Or perhaps some wag will run off with the delight
Which the faithful lover rightly thought his own.
And still they won’t stop, I mean those sly girls
Who have spent their youths in Love’s train,
(It’s certainly the greatest trouble a man can have
To serve a woman used to deception)
[They won’t stop] demanding work which is insupportable,
Cruel service, wretched tasks;
For without regard to the simple love
Of their poor servants, they cruelly have no pity,
No more than a proud corsair, brave and arrogant,
Has pity on the captives in his slave-quarters.
[The lover] has to sell his goods, make presents
Of chains, purses, and shining diamonds;
He must give pearls and magnificent clothes,
He must look after the table and the music,
He must take up her quarrels, and endure them.
Certainly I’d prefer to carry on my back
A basket and clean the Augean stables,
Than to become the servant of a sly Lady.
“The sea really should be feared, the fire as well,
And the sky when it is shaken with thunder,
But much more to be feared is a learned woman
Well-versed in the art of love, when she is a deceiver;
By a thousand tricks she makes a thousand evils,
And she’s as wise as she is a woman.”
Whichever was the god who brought her to life,
He was the prime author of great misery.
 
We ought, with presents consecrated at their altars
To offer bribes for our children with the great, immortal gods,
So they don’t waste their lives with that pleasant evil
Woman, the passion of wretched men,
Wretched and weak insofar as they’re vassals
During their lives of so proud a beast.
I beg you, see how by subtle tricks
They are able to find a thousand fake excuses
After they’ve deceived! Look at Helen after
Troy was burned by the Greeks’ fire,
How she wheedled with sweet flattery
Her fool of a husband, who forgave her vice
And fell in love more than before with her eyes
Which sparkled still with love for Paris.
And what shall we say of Ulysses? While a troop
Of young suitors was making love to Penelope,
Devouring all his goods, yet still he burned
To kiss his wife, and never wished
To become immortal with the beautiful Circe
So as never again to see Penelope, whom
Weeping he wanted to tell about his wearisome journey,
While in his absence she was making love:
So much so that the god Pan was born from their frolics
(The common seed of her and her dandies)
As she immediately sent, to make things easier for her,
The son to seek his father in the city of Sparta.
“That is how woman with her cunning defeats
Man, whose spirit overcomes all the animals.”
 
If by chance you might fortunately choose
Some fair mistress, and have her for your pleasure,
No matter if she’s from a high or low place provided she is
A humble, courteous, honest, loving and gentle girl,
Without disguise, without trickery, who without wickedness
Keeps with all her heart her simple love,
Much preferring to be put to death a hundred times
Than to break her word when she has promised it;
Then you must honour her while you live
As a rare jewel most infrequently found.
“He certainly deserves the hottest fires
Of terrible storms upon his head
Who deceives a maid, especially when
She gives herself to us heart and body.“
 
Isn’t it a great delight when we’re travelling
To meet someone who with equal bravery
Wishes to a company us and like us to journey
Over torrents and rocks, tiresome to cross?
And isn’t it a great delight to find a girl
Who helps us on this life’s wretched journey,
Who without being burdened or full of harshness
Treats her lover’s heart faithfully?
 
Tell them, then, if perchance the fair Cassandre
Had showed herself a little courteous and tender towards me,
And full of pity had sought to cure
The ills with which her fair eyes had put me to death those ten years;
If not with her body but with just a single glance
She’d been willing to soothe my poor, ill heart,
I’d not have left her, let my witness be
That young winged child who watches over love-affairs.
 
But seeing how she always continued more proud
I unbound myself from all my first love
To love with it another in the country of Anjou,
Where Love now keeps me under his yoke.
[A love] which I will immediately abandon if she
Is to me as Cassandre was, proud and rebellious,
To find another, so that one day I may see
My love returned with an equal love,
Feeling the affection of another within myself:
“For a man is a complete fool to love if he isn’t loved.”
 
So, if someone afterwards chooses to blame me that
I am no more as grave in my verse as I was
At the beginning, when the Pindaric mood
Puffed up in swollen words my magniloquent voice;
Then tell him that love does not sigh
In high-flown grave verse, but in a fine low style,
Pleasant and popular, like that of Tibullus,
The ingenious Ovid and the learned Catullus.
The son of Venus hates ostentation:
Enough that we sing his passions to him truly
Without bombast or disguise, in a charming sweet style
Flowing with a gentle sound like a tinkling spring.
Those who do otherwise do a bad turn
To simple Venus and her son Love.
 
If it should happen one day that with bold voice
I enliven the stage with some tragedy
Grave and sententious, then I shall show
How loud the strings of my little learning can sound.
And if I encounter passion in my verse
I shall boldly set my Muses against it,
And make a tragic dialogue resound with high-flown
And serious tones (assuming the tragic buskin).
But while I focus on the passions of Love,
In lower style I prefer to employ a sweeter Muse.
 
I do not want these verses, stripped of ornament,
To enter some school, or a worthy regent
To read me for show; it’s enough if my beloved
Touches it with the hand in which she holds my life.
For I am satisfied if she approves
This work which I dedicate, consecrated, at her feet.
 
 
 

 

A few words of commentary on these 200 lines:- the rhinoceros (or, in the earlier version, elephant) has a ‘subtle’ nose, one good for smelling out the good and the bad: ‘sharp’, we could more easily say in English, but while it’s obvious which sort of ‘sharpness’ the elephant’s nose has, it’s perhaps less so for the rhinoceros where a ‘sharp’ nose could refer to its horn not its sensitivity.- Ronsard’s cynicism about Petrarch’s chaste relationship with Laura is perhaps also a corrective to those scholars who think Ronsard’s own affairs were more imagined than real?  His harsh words about women, implicitly applied to Cassandra, should not be taken too literally: he speaks elsewhere of still loving her.

– there’s a cluster of classical references in the middle of the poem:  the Augean stables, cleaning whose filth was one of Heracles’ ‘impossible’ tasks;  Helen of Troy, taken back by Menelaus after Troy’s fall as she was still the most beautiful woman in the world, though her continuing love for Paris is largely a Ronsardian invention (in Homer, she and Menelaus are genuinely reconciled)

– Ronsard invents, too, Penelope’s unfaithfulness to Odysseus with her troop of suitors – in the Odyssey she famously remains loyal; his son Telemachus journeys to Sparta seeking information from Menelaus at the goddess Athene’s prompting, not sent away by Penelope; and Circe did not offer Odysseus immortality but threatened to turn him into a pig like his followers!  Ronsard has, ironically because it would be obvious to all his readers, twisted the Greek tale on its head. However, at the same time he demonstrates his wide and deep reading: in a pretty obscure Pindar fragment, but as far as I know nowhere else, Penelope is indeed said to be Pan’s mother (the father, though, Apollo not one or several human suitors!)

– where Ronsard turns to his new love in Anjou, he says “Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere, / Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou“; that “en” technically means that he is giving Marie his first love, transferring it from Cassandre: this is not a new love, but the old one with a new subject.

– for the really interested, “empoulément” is ampoulément, from the same root as ampoule, a ‘swollen’ bulb of glass.

– Ronsard contrasts the style of Pindar – the great Greek poet of Odes – with that of Tibullus, Ovid and Catullus: Romans, but principally contrasted as love-poets and slightly licentious ones at that. (The ‘son of Venus’ is of course Cupid, god of love.)

 

 

See the next post for Blanchemain’s earlier version with its many variants.

 

Amourette (2:67b)

Standard

I guess “amourette” is best translated, ‘a little love-song’…

Or’ que l’hyver roidist la glace épesse,
Réchaufons nous ma gentille maistresse,
Non acroupis pres le foyer cendreux,
Mais aux plaisirs des combats amoureux.
Assison-nous sur ceste molle couche :
Sus baisez-moy, tendez-moy vostre bouche,
Pressez mon col de vos bras despliez,
Et maintenant vostre mere oubliez.
 
Que de la dent vostre tetin je morde,
Que vos cheveux fil à fil je destorde :
Il ne faut point en si folastres jeux,
Comme au dimanche arrenger ses cheveux.
 
Approchez donc, tournez-moy vostre jouë.
Vous rougissez ? il faut que je me jouë.
Vous sou-riez : avez-vous point ouy
Quelque doux mot qui vous ait resjouy ?
Je vous disois que la main j’allois mettre
Sur vostre sein : le voulez-vous permettre ?
Ne fuyez pas sans parler : je voy bien
A vos regards que vous le voulez bien.
Je vous cognois en voyant vostre mine.
Je jure Amour que vous estes si fine,
Que pour mourir de bouche ne diriez
Qu’on vous baisast bien que le desiriez :
Car toute fille encor’ qu’elle ait envie
Du jeu d’aimer desire estre ravie.
Tesmoin en est Helene qui suivit
D’un franc vouloir Pâris qui la ravit.
 
Je veux user d’une douce main forte.
Hà vous tombez : vous faites ja la morte.
Hà quel plaisir dans le cœur je reçoy :
Sans vous baiser vous mocqueriez de moy
En vostre lit quand vous seriez seulette.
Or sus c’est fait ma gentille brunette :
Recommençon afin que nos beaux ans
Soyent reschauffez de combats si plaisans.
 
 
                                                                            Now that winter gnaws the thick ice,
                                                                            Let us re-warm ourselves, my gentle mistress,
                                                                            Not crouched near the cinder-filled fireplace,
                                                                            But in the pleasures of love’s contests.
                                                                            Let’s sit on this soft couch;
                                                                            Come, kiss me, offer me your lips,
                                                                            Squeeze my neck in your enlaced arms,
                                                                            And now forget your mother!
 
                                                                            How I shall nibble your breast with my teeth,
                                                                            How I shall unknot your hair, strand by strand;
                                                                            One cannot, in wild games like these,
                                                                            Keep one’s hair Sunday-tidy.
 
                                                                            Come here, then, turn to me your cheek.
                                                                            You’re blushing? But I must play with it.
                                                                            You are smiling: have you not heard
                                                                            Any of the soft words which made you happy.
                                                                            I told you that I was going to put my hand
                                                                            On your breast: will you allow me?
                                                                            Don’t run off without speaking; I clearly see
                                                                            From your looks that you really want it.
                                                                            I understand you from looking at your face.
                                                                            I swear by Love that you are so prim
                                                                            That even if you died, you would not say with your mouth
                                                                            That someone could kiss you even though you wanted it;
                                                                            For every girl, as she desires to play
                                                                            The game of love, wants to be ravished.
                                                                            Witnesses say that it was Helen who followed
                                                                            Of free will Paris who had ravished her.
 
                                                                            I want to use a hand that’s soft but strong.
                                                                            Ah, you fall, you are now silent.
                                                                            Ah, what pleasure I get in my heart!
                                                                            If I didn’t kiss you, you would mock me
                                                                            When you were alone in your bed.
                                                                            Up then, it’s done, my gentle brunette;
                                                                            Let’s begin, so that our beautiful years
                                                                            May be warmed up by such pleasant contests!
 
 
One of the rare poems in which Ronsard approaches the physicality of love-making – though even here he leaves unspoken how far his love-making goes. Perhaps we should think of the “Elegy to his Book” with which Ronsard begins this second set of Amours: there, Ronsard says Petrarch would have been a fool for continuing to write love-poems without having ‘enjoyed’ his Laura…
 
Ou bien il jouyssoit de sa Laurette, ou bien
Il estoit un grand fat d’aimer sans avoir rien.
 
                                                                            Either he enjoyed his little Laura, or else
                                                                            He was a great fool for loving without getting anything.
 
There are a few clumsinesses in here I’m surprised survived to the end of Ronsard’s life – “bien” as the rhyme word in 2 consecutive lines, with no grammatical difference to excuse it (as in “jouë…jouë” or “mettre…permettre”); or “ravit” followed by “ravie” 2 lines later (both prominent as rhyme words). And one of them (“bien..bien”) was even added in the course of re-writing! It’s nice to see, though, the older Ronsard more daringly putting his hand on her breast rather than her knee…  Note also that Blanchemain’s version, unlike the later one, is ‘edited’ into 2 homogeneous groupings: 4+4+4; 8+8+8.  Here’s the substantially-varying early version:
 
Or’ que l’hyver roidit la glace épesse,
Réchaufons-nous, ma gentille maistresse,
Non accroupis dans la fouyer cendreux,
Mais au plaisir des combats amoureux.
 
Assisons-nous sur ceste molle couche :
Sus, baisez-moy de vostre belle bouche,
Pressez mon col de vos bras deliez,
Et maintenant vostre mere oubliez.
 
Que de la dent vostre tetin je morde,
Que vos cheveux fil à fil je destorde :
Il ne faut point en si folastres jeux,
Comme au dimanche arranger ses cheveux.
 
Approchez-vous, tendez-moy vostre oreille :
Hà ! vous avez la couleur plus vermeille
Que par avant : avez-vous point ouy
Quelque doux mot qui vous ait resjouy ?
Je vous disois que la main j’allois mettre
Sur vos genoux : le voulez-vous permettre ?
Vous rougissez, maistresse: je voy bien
A vostre front que je vous fais grand bien.
 
Quoi ! vous faut-il cognoistre à vostre mine.
Je jure Amour que vous estes si fine,
Que pour mourir de bouche ne diriez
Qu’on vous le fist bien que le desiriez :
Car toute fille encor’ qu’elle ait envie
Du jeu d’aimer desire estre ravie.
Tesmoin en est Helene qui suivit
D’un franc vouloir Pâris qui la ravit.
 
Or je vay donc user d’une main forte
Pour vous avoir. Ha ! vous faites la morte !
Sus, endurez ce doux je ne sais quoy !
Car autrement vous mocqueriez de moy
En vostre lict quand vous seriez seulette.
Or sus, c’est fait, ma gentille brunette :
Recommençons, a’ fin que nos beaux ans
Soyent réchauffez en combats si plaisants.
 
 
                                                                            Now that winter gnaws the thick ice,
                                                                            Let us re-warm ourselves, my gentle mistress,
                                                                            Not crouched in the cinder-filled fireplace,
                                                                            But in the pleasure of love’s contests.
 
                                                                            Let’s sit on this soft couch;
                                                                            Come, kiss me with your lovely lips,
                                                                            Squeeze my neck in your loosed arms,
                                                                            And now forget your mother!
 
                                                                            How I shall nibble your breast with my teeth,
                                                                            How I shall unknot your hair, strand by strand;
                                                                            One cannot, in wild games like these,
                                                                            Keep one’s hair Sunday-tidy.
 
                                                                            Come here, then, turn to me your ear.
                                                                            Ah, your colour is more crimson
                                                                            Than before!  Have you not heard
                                                                            Any of the soft words which made you happy.
                                                                            I told you that I was going to put my hand
                                                                            On your knee: will you allow me?
                                                                            You’re blushin, mistress; I clearly see
                                                                            In your face that I’m greatly pleasing you.
 
                                                                            Oh yes, I have to understand you by your face.
                                                                            I swear by Love that you are so prim
                                                                            That even if you died, you would not say with your mouth
                                                                            That someone could do it even though you wanted it;
                                                                            For every girl, as she desires to play
                                                                            The game of love, wants to be ravished.
                                                                            Witnesses say that it was Helen who followed
                                                                            Of free will Paris who had ravished her.
 
                                                                            So I’m going to use a strong hand
                                                                            To have you. Ah, you are now silent.
                                                                            Come on, enjoy this sweet something!
                                                                            For otherwise you would mock me
                                                                            When you were alone in your bed.
                                                                            Up then, it’s done, my gentle brunette;
                                                                            Let’s begin, so that our beautiful years
                                                                            May be warmed up in such pleasant contests!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.215

Standard
De ses Maris, l’industrieuse Heleine,
L’esguille en main retraçoit les combas
Dessus sa toile : en ce poinct tu t’esbas
D’ouvrer le mal duquel ma vie est pleine.
 
Mais tout ainsi, Maistresse, que ta leine
Et ton fil noir desseignent mon trespas,
Tout au rebours pourquoy ne peins-tu pas
De quelque verd un espoir à ma peine ?
 
Mon œil ne voit sur ta gaze rangé
Sinon du noir, sinon de l’orangé,
Tristes tesmoins de ma longue souffrance.
 
O fier destin ! son œil ne me desfait
Tant seulement, mais tout ce qu’elle fait,
Ne me promet qu’une desesperance.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Her husbands’ battles the industrious Helen,
                                                                            Needle in hand, retraced
                                                                            Upon her cloth; in the same way you enjoy yourself
                                                                            Laying open the pain with which my life is filled.
 
                                                                            But even as, mistress, your wool
                                                                            And your black thread depict my death,
                                                                            Instead why do you not paint
                                                                            With some green a hope in my pain?
 
                                                                            My eyes see nothing arrayed upon your gauze
                                                                            But black and orange colours,
                                                                            Sad witnesses of my long suffering.
 
                                                                            O proud fate! Her eyes do not defeat me
                                                                            By themselves, but everything that she does
                                                                            Promises me nothing but despair.
 
 
 
The allusion to a wife embroidering a husband’s battles perhaps brings more readily to mind Penelope making (and un-making) her tapestry while awaiting the return of Odysseus in Homer’s epic. But here it is the dutiful Helen (hardly our image of her!) who is sitting weaving. The scene comes from Iliad book 3, where the rainbow goddess Iris comes as messenger of the gods to Helen, and finds her weaving scenes of the Trojan War which (Helen recognises) is a fight for possession of her. (Her husband at this point is Paris, though Iris instils a longing for her former husband Menelaus – another reason for Ronsard to speak of her weaving both husbands’ battles … )
 
Of course the precise details are not the point: Ronsard merely needs the image of a wife weaving her husband’s tale – to contrast it with his own tale of woe being woven by Cassandre.
 
Blanchemain’s earlier version differs in a number of details. In line 1, technically both Achaeans and Trojans were ‘Greeks’, although we tend to think of it as a war between ‘Greeks’ and ‘Trojans’. In line 3 Ronsard replaces the vaguely-mediaeval ‘gauze’ with the more common ‘cloth’; and in line 6 also he opts for less recondite words in his later version.
 
 
Des maris grecs l’industrieuse Heleine,
L’aiguille en main retraçoit les combas ;
Dessus ta gaze en ce poinct tu t’esbas,
Traçant le mal duquel ma vie est pleine.
 
Mais tout ainsi, Maistresse, que ta leine
D’un filet noir figure mon trespas,
Tout au rebours pourquoy ne peins-tu pas
De quelque verd un espoir à ma peine ?
 
Las ! je ne vois sur ta gaze rangé
Sinon du noir, sinon de l’orangé,
Tristes tesmoins de ma longue souffrance.
 
O fier destin ! son œil ne me desfait
Tant seulement, mais tout ce qu’elle fait,
Ne me promet qu’une desesperance.
 
 
                                                                            Her Greek husbands’ battles the industrious Helen,
                                                                            Needle in hand, retraced ;
                                                                            Upon your gauze in the same way you enjoy yourself
                                                                            Drawing the pain with which my life is filled.
 
                                                                            But even as, mistress, your wool
                                                                            With its black thread represents my death,
                                                                            Instead why do you not paint
                                                                            With some green a hope in my pain?
 
                                                                            Alas, I see nothing arrayed upon your gauze
                                                                            But black and orange colours,
                                                                            Sad witnesses of my long suffering.
 
                                                                            O proud fate! Her eyes do not defeat me
                                                                            By themselves, but everything that she does
                                                                            Promises me nothing but despair.