Tag Archives: Hélène

Helen 2:6

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Tu es seule mon cœur, mon sang et ma Deesse,
Ton œil est le filé et le RÉ bien-heureux,
Qui prend quand il luy plaist les hommes genereux,
Et se prendre des sots jamais il ne se laisse. 
 
Aussi honneur vertu prevoyance et sagesse,
Logent en ton esprit, lequel rend amoureux
Tous ceux qui de nature ont un cœur desireux
D’honorer les beautez d’une docte Maistresse. 
 
Les noms ont efficace et puissance et vertu;
Je le voy par le tien lequel m’a combatu
Et l’esprit et le corps par armes non legeres. 
 
Son destin m’a causé mon amoureux souci.
Voila comme de nom d’effect tu es aussi
LE RÉ DES GENEREUX, Elene de Surgeres.

 

 
                                                                            Anagram
 
                                                                            You alone are my heart, my blood, my goddess;
                                                                            Your eye is the happy line and net
                                                                            Which catches noble men whenever it wants
                                                                            And never allows itself to be caught by fools.
 
                                                                            Honour too, and virtue, foresight and wisdom
                                                                            Live within your soul, which makes all those
                                                                            Fall in love who naturally have a heart eager
                                                                            To honour the beauties of a learned mistress.
 
                                                                            Names have effect and power and magic;
                                                                            I see this through yours, which has overcome
                                                                            Me, body and soul, with its substantial weapons.
 
                                                                            It was the fate which caused my wound of love.
                                                                            So too by effectual name you are
                                                                            THE NET OF NOBLE SOULS, Elene de Surgeres.
 
 
A neat anagram.  Both Marty-Laveaux and Blanchemain print LE RÉ DES GENEREUX, but actually it needs to be LE RÉ DES GENEREUS (a common plural form in Ronsard anyway) for the anagram to work!
 
Elsewhere Blanchemain’s version diverges from Marty-Laveaux’s, with changes at the start of each ‘stanza’ but the first:
 
 
Tu es seule mon cœur, mon sang et ma deesse,
Ton œil est le filé et le ré bien-heureux
Qui prend, quand il lui plaist, les hommes genereux,
Et se prendre des sots jamais il ne se laisse. 
 
L’honneur, la chasteté, la vertu, la sagesse,
Logent en ton esprit, lequel rend amoureux
Tous ceux qui de nature ont un cœur desireux
D’honorer les beautez d’une docte maistresse. 
 
Les noms (a dit Platon) ont très grande vertu ;
Je le voy par le tien, lequel m’a combatu,
Et l’esprit et le corps par armes non legeres. 
 
Sa deïté causa mon amoureux soucy.
Voila comme de nom, d’effect tu es aussi
LE RÉ DES GENEREUX, Elene de Surgeres.
 
 
 
                                                                           You alone are my heart, my blood, my goddess;
                                                                           Your eye is the happy line and net
                                                                           Which catches noble men whenever it wants
                                                                           And never allows itself to be caught by fools.
 
                                                                           Honour, chastity, virtue, wisdom
                                                                           Live within your soul, which makes all those
                                                                           Fall in love who naturally have a heart eager
                                                                           To honour the beauties of a learned mistress.
 
                                                                           Names (said Plato) have very great magic;
                                                                           I see this through yours, which has overcome
                                                                           Me, body and soul, with its substantial weapons.
 
                                                                           It was the deity which caused my wound of love.
                                                                           So too by effectual name you are
                                                                           THE NET OF NOBLE SOULS, Elene de Surgeres.
 
 
 
Blanchemain also offers a second variant of line 12 (the opening of the final tercet): “Sa force à moy fatale a causé mon soucy” (‘Its power, fatal to me, caused my wound’).
 
 
 
 
 
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Sonnet 52

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Dessus l’autel d’Amour planté sur vostre table
Me fistes un serment, je vous le fis aussi,
Que d’un cœur mutuel à s’aimer endurcy
Nostre amitié promise iroit inviolable.

Je vous juray ma foy, vous feistes le semblable,
Mais vostre cruauté, qui des Dieux n’a soucy,
Me promettoit de bouche, et me trompoit ainsi :
Ce-pendant vostre esprit demeuroit immuable.

O jurement fardé sous l’espece d’un Bien !
O perjurable autel ! ta Deité n’est rien.
O parole d’amour non jamais asseuree !

J’ay pratiqué par vous le proverbe des vieux :
Jamais des amoureux la parole juree
N’entra (pour les punir) aux oreilles des Dieux.

 

 
 
 
                                                                              Upon the altar of Love, stood on your table,
                                                                              You made me a vow and I made you one too,
                                                                              That with mutual hearts, strengthened to love one another,
                                                                              Our promised love would be inviolable.
 
                                                                              I swore you my oath, you swore the same,
                                                                              But your cruelty which cares not for the gods
                                                                              Made me the promise with your mouth only, and so deceived me;
                                                                              Your spirit yet remains unchangeable.
 
                                                                              O prison-sentence disguised beneath the appearance of Good!
                                                                              O betraying altar! your divinity is nothing.
                                                                              O word of love, never certain!
 
                                                                              I have experienced through you the proverb of the ancients:
                                                                              Never shall the sworn word of lovers
                                                                              Reach (as their punishment) the ears of the gods.
  
 
 
The earlier Blanchemain version has a minor variant of line 2: “Vous me fistes serment, et je le fis aussi” (‘You made me a vow, and I made it too’). 
 
Richelet offers an explanatory footnote:  ‘Helene and [Ronsard] had made an oath to love one another with inviolable love. [Claude] Binet told me that this oath was sworn on a table carpeted in laurels, symbol of eternity, to mark the mutual linkage of their love proceeding from Virtue, which is immortal.‘ 
 
This of course contradicts my view that Ronsard’s love for Helene was essentially platonic and poetic!  I might hide behind a defence that Binet is merely reporting what Ronsard imagined as a background for his poem.  But I suspect you will find that that is stretching my disbelief a little too far…… 🙂
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 51

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Amour a tellement ses fleches enfermees
En mon ame, et ses coups y sont si bien enclos,
Qu’Helene est tout mon cœur, mon sang et mes propos,
Tant j’ay dedans l’esprit ses beautés imprimees.
 
Si les François avoient les ames allumees
D’amour ainsi que moy nous serions en repos :
Les champs de Montcontour n’eussent pourry nos os,
Ny Dreux ny Jazeneuf n’eussent veu nos armees.
 
Venus, va mignarder les moustaches de Mars :
Conjure ton guerrier de tes benins regars,
Qu’il nous donne la paix, et de tes bras l’enserre.
 
Pren pitié des François, race de tes Troyens,
A fin que nous facions en paix la mesme guerre
Qu’Anchise te faisoit sur les monts Ideens.
 
 
 
                                                                              Love has so firmly buried his arrows
                                                                              In my soul, and his blows are so well fixed there
                                                                              That Helen is all my heart, my blood and my thoughts,
                                                                              So much are her beauties imprinted in my spirit.
 
                                                                              If the French had souls burning
                                                                              With love like mine, we would be at peace;
                                                                              The battlefield of Montcontour would not be rotting our bones,
                                                                              Nor would Dreux and Jazeneuf have seen our armies.
 
                                                                              Venus, go and pet Mars’s moustaches,
                                                                              Beg your warrior with your pleasing glances
                                                                              That he might give us peace; hold him tightly in your arms.
 
                                                                              Take pity on the French, descended from your Trojans,
                                                                              That we might make in peace that same war
                                                                              Which Anchises made on you, on the Idaean mountains.
  
 
Richelet helpfully adds a footnote that lines 7-8 refer to ‘places in France marked by the misery of our civil wars‘. There were only 7 major battles in the Wars of Religion. The Battle of Moncontour (in Poitou) was the penultimate and took place on 3 October 1569 – largely between foreign merecenary forces! – with the surrender of 8000 Huguenots; Dreux (near Ronsard’s beloved Loir) was the site of the first major battle of the Wars of Religion on 19 December 1562, which brought the Catholics another hard-won victory; and Jazeneuf (or Jazeneuil) was the third, in late 1568, a relatively minor and even skirmish though it was followed by heavy casualties as the armies over-wintered close to each other.
 
Venus is called on, as Mars’s wife, to calm his desire for war. Venus favoured the Trojans in the Trojan War, and was particularly associated (for instance in Virgil’s Aeneid) with the family of Aeneas, her half-divine son by Anchises.
 
Blanchemain has only one minor variant:  “à repos” for “en repos” in line 6, which has only a slight inflexional difference in meaning.
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 26

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Je fuy les pas frayez du meschant populaire,
Et les villes où sont les peuples amassez :
Les rochers, les forests desja sçavent assez
Quelle trampe a ma vie estrange et solitaire.

Si ne suis-je si seul, qu’Amour mon secretaire
N’accompagne mes pieds debiles et cassez :
Qu’il ne conte mes maux et presens et passez
A ceste voix sans corps, qui rien ne sçauroit taire.

Souvent plein de discours, pour flatter mon esmoy,
Je m’arreste, et je dy, Se pourroit-il bien faire
Qu’elle pensast, parlast, ou se souvint de moy ?

Qu’à sa pitié mon mal commençast à desplaire ?
Encor que je me trompe, abusé du contraire,
Pour me faire plaisir, Helene, je le croy.

 
 
 
 
                                                                                I avoid the paths well-trodden by the wicked generality
                                                                                And towns where peoples are gathered;
                                                                                The rocks and forests already know well enough
                                                                                The route of my strange and solitary life.
 
                                                                                Would I were not so alone, that Love my secretary
                                                                                Did not accompany my weak and broken steps,
                                                                                That he did not count my ills, present and past,
                                                                                In that disembodied voice which none can silence.
 
                                                                                Often fed up with the debate, to calm my agitation,
                                                                                I stop myself and say: “Could it really be
                                                                                That she thinks, speaks or remembers me?
 
                                                                                That my ills begin to be displeasing to her pity?”
                                                                                And so again I fool myself, deceived by the opposite –
                                                                                But to give myself happiness, Hélène, I believe it.

 

 
 
One of Ronsard’s better-known poems, and rightly so.  And little varied: Blanchemain’s text is identical.  He does however footnote a different version of the first line:  “Je fuy les grands chemins frayez du populaire” (‘I avoid the big roads well-trodden by the generality’) which to me seems a better line than the ‘official’ one, where the alliterative ‘f’s cluster in the first half of the line and disrupt the flow, rather than tying the two halves of the line together. But I am clearly in a minority here!! 🙂
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 19

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Tant de fois s’appointer, tant de fois se fascher,
Tant de fois rompre ensemble et puis se renoüer,
Tantost blasmer Amour et tantost le loüer,
Tant de fois se fuyr, tant de fois se chercher,
 
Tant de fois se monstrer, tant de fois se cacher,
Tantost se mettre au joug, tantost le secouer,
Advouer sa promesse et la desadvouer,
Sont signes que l’Amour de pres nous vient toucher.
 
L’inconstance amoureuse est marque d’amitié.
Si donc tout à la fois avoir haine et pitié,
Jurer, se parjurer, sermens faicts et desfaicts,
 
Esperer sans espoir, confort sans reconfort,
Sont vrais signes d’Amour, nous entr’aimons bien fort :
Car nous avons tousjours ou la guerre, ou la paix.
 
 
 
                                                                              So many times caring for each other, so many times irritated with each other;
                                                                              So many times breaking up, then getting back together;
                                                                              So often condemning Love, an so often praising him;
                                                                              So often walking away from each other, so often seeking each other;
 
                                                                              So many times seeing each other, so many times hiding from each other;
                                                                              So often submitting to the yoke, so often shaking it off;
                                                                              Avowing our love then disavowing it;
                                                                              These are signs that Love has come close and struck us.
 
                                                                              A lover’s inconstancy is the mark of being in love.
                                                                              If then hating and having compassion at the same time,
                                                                              Making and breaking promises, oaths sworn and unsworn,
 
                                                                              Hoping without hope, comfort without return,
                                                                              [If these] are true signs of Love, then we are deeply in love!
                                                                              For we are always at war or at peace.
 
 
Blanchemain’s text is identical; here was a poem that satisfied the older Ronsard as well as the younger!  And indeed, it has a lovely balance: the first half in pairs of contrasting half-lines, the second half taking the idea further, again with contrasting pairs – or rather, incompatible pairs! – but in a freer form. Lovely – one of my favourites.
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 12

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Deux Venus en Avril (puissante Deité)
Nasquirent, l’une en Cypre, et l’autre en la Saintonge :
La Venus Cyprienne est des Grecs la mensonge,
La chaste Saintongeoise est une verité.

L’Avril se resjouist de telle nouveauté,
Et moy qui jour ny nuict d’autre Dame ne songe,
Qui le fil amoureux de mon destin allonge
Ou l’accourcist, ainsi qu’il plaist à sa beauté,

Je me sens bien-heureux d’estre nay de son âge.
Si tost que je la vy, je fus mis en servage
De ses yeux, que j’estime un sujet plus qu’humain,

Ma Raison sans combatre abandonna la place,
Et mon cœur se vit pris comme un poisson à l’hain :
Si j’ay failly, ma faute est bien digne de grace.

 
 
 
 
                                                                                Two Venuses (that powerful goddess) in April
                                                                                Were born, one in Cyprus, the other in Saintonge;
                                                                                The Cypriot Venus is just a tale of the Greeks,
                                                                                But the chaste lady of Saintonge is real.
 
                                                                                April rejoiced at this novelty
                                                                                And I who dream of no other lady day or night
                                                                                Whom the ties of love and fate drive away
                                                                                Or bring close to her as her beauty pleases,
 
                                                                                I feel myself happy to have been born in her time.
                                                                                As soon as I saw her, I was placed in the service
                                                                                Of her eyes, which I consider super-human;
 
                                                                                My reason gave way without a struggle
                                                                                And my heart recognised it was caught like a fish on a line.
                                                                                If I was in error, my error is surely worthy of forgiveness.

 

 
 
Blanchemain’s text varies in a couple of places: the opening line is one of them, where Blanchemain prints “Deux Venus en Avril de mesme deité…” (‘From the same godhead, two Venuses in April…’). Though Blanchemain opts for the same first line of the sestet (line 9) as Marty-Laveaux, he also offers an alternative in a footnote: “Je suis trois fois un Dieu, d’estre nay de son âge” (‘I am three times a god to have been born in her time.’) Though the ‘three gods’ picks up the ‘two Venuses’, it is a bit awkward & I can see why the other (later?) version is preferred.
 
There is one other minor difference between the two versions: in line 3 Blanchemain prints “le mensonge” while the evrsion above has “la mensonge” – curiously, as ‘mensonge’ is (normally) masculine.
 
Saintonge is a province on the Atlantic coast just north of Gascony (and also bordered by Poitou & Limousin), in which lies the city of Surgères, Hélène’s home.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 10

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Ce siecle où tu nasquis ne te cognoist Helene :
S’il sçavoit tes vertus, tu aurois en la main
Un sceptre à commander dessus le genre humain,
Et de ta majesté la terre seroit pleine.

Mais luy tout embourbé d’avarice vilaine,
Qui met comme ignorant les vertus à desdain,
Ne te cognut jamais : je te cognu soudain
A ta voix, qui n’estoit d’une personne humaine.

Ton esprit en parlant à moy se descouvrit,
Et ce-pendant Amour l’entendement m’ouvrit
Pour te faire à mes yeux un miracle apparoistre.

Je tiens (je le sens bien) de la divinité,
Puisque seul j’ay cogneu que peut ta Deité,
Et qu’un autre avant moy ne l’avoit peu cognoistre.

 

 
 
 
                                                                                This age in which you were born does not recognise you, Helen;
                                                                                If it knew your virtues, you would have had in your hand
                                                                                A sceptre to exercise power over humankind,
                                                                                And the earth would have been filled with your majesty.
 
                                                                                But it is completely besotted with wicked avarice
                                                                                And like a fool holds virtues in disdain,
                                                                                And never recognised you; I recognised you suddenly
                                                                                By your voice, which was not that of an ordinary mortal.
 
                                                                                Your spirit disclosed itself as you spoke with me,
                                                                                And at that Love opened my understanding
                                                                                To make you appear as a miracle to my eyes.
 
                                                                                I have been granted you by the godhead, I truly sense it,
                                                                                Since I alone have known what power your divinity has,
                                                                                And that none before me had succeeded in knowing it.

 

 
 
Blanchemain’s text is identical except that the opening line begins “Le siecle…” (‘The age…’)