Tag Archives: Hercules

Élégie à Muret (Amours 1:227c)

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Non Muret, non ce n’est pas du jourd’huy,
Que l’Archerot qui cause nostre ennuy,
Cause l’erreur qui retrompe les hommes :
Non Muret, non, les premiers nous ne sommes,
A qui son arc d’un petit trait veinqueur,
Si grande playe a caché sous le cœur :
Tous animaux, ou soient ceux des campagnes,
Soient ceux des bois, ou soient ceux des montagnes
Sentent sa force, et son feu doux-amer
Brusle sous l’eau les Monstres de la mer.
 
Hé ! qu’est-il rien que ce garçon ne brûle ?
Ce porte-ciel, ce tu’-geant Hercule
Le sentit bien : je dy ce fort Thebain
Qui le sangler estrangla de sa main,
Qui tua Nesse, et qui de sa massue
Morts abbatit les enfans de la Nue :
Qui de son arc toute Lerne estonna,
Qui des enfers le chien emprisonna,
Qui sur le bord de l’eau Thermodontee
Prit le baudrier de la vierge dontee :
Qui tua l’Ourque, et qui par plusieurs fois
Se remocqua des feintes d’Achelois :
Qui fit mourir la pucelle de Phorce,
Qui le Lion desmachoira par force,
Qui dans ses bras Anthee acravanta,
Qui deux piliers pour ses marques planta.
 
Bref, cest Herôs correcteur de la terre,
Ce cœur sans peur, ce foudre de la guerre,
Sentit ce Dieu, et l’amoureuse ardeur
Le matta plus que son Roy commandeur.
Non pas espris comme on nous voit esprendre,
Toy de ta Janne ou moy de ma Cassandre :
Mais de tel Tan amour l’aiguillonnoit,
Que tout son cœur sans raison bouiilonnoit
Au souffre ardent qui luy cuisoit les veines :
Du feu d’amour elles fumoient si pleines,
Si pleins ses os, ses muscles et ses ners,
Que dans Hercul’ qui purgea l’univers,
Ne resta rien sinon une amour fole,
Que Iuy versoient les deux beaux yeux d’Iole.
 
Tousjours d’Iole il aimoit les beaux yeux,
Fust que le char qui donne jour aux cieux
Sortist de l’eau, ou fust que devalee
Tournast sa rouë en la plaine salee,
De tous humains accoisant les travaux,
Mais non d’Hercul’ les miserables maux.
 
Tant seulement il n’avoit de sa dame
Les yeux fichez au plus profond de l’ame :
Mais son parler, sa grace, et sa douceur
Tousjours colez s’attachoient à son cœur.
 
D’autre que d’elle en son ame ne pense :
Tousjours absente il la voit en presence.
Et de fortune, Alcid’, si tu la vois,
Dans ton gosier begue reste ta voix,
Glacé de peur voyant la face aimee :
Ore une fiévre amoureuse allumee
Ronge ton ame, et ores un glaçon
Te fait trembler d’amoureuse frisson.
 
Bas à tes pieds ta meurdriere massue
Gist sans honneur, et bas la peau velue,
Qui sur ton doz roide se herissoit,
Quand ta grand’main les Monstres punissoit.
 
Plus ton sourcil contre eux ne se renfrongne :
O vertu vaine, ô bastarde vergongne,
O vilain blasme, Hercule estant donté
(Apres avoir le monde surmonté)
Non d’Eurysthée, ou de Junon cruelle,
Mais de la main d’une simple pucelle.
 
Voyez pour Dieu, quelle force a l’Amour,
Quand une fois elle a gaigné la tour
De la raison, ne nous laissant partie
Qui ne soit toute en fureur convertie.
 
Ce n’est pas tout : seulement pour aimer,
Il n’oublia la façon de s’armer,
Ou d’empoigner sa masse hazardeuse,
Ou d’achever quelque emprinse douteuse :
Mais lent et vain anonchalant son cœur,
Qui des Tyrans l’avoit rendu veinqueur,
Terreur du monde (ô plus lasche diffame)
Il s’habilla des habits d’une femme,
Et d’un Heros devenu damoiseau,
Guidoit l’esguille, et tournoit le fuseau,
Et vers le soir, comme une chambriere,
Rendoit sa tasche à sa douce joliere,
Qui le tenoit en ses fers plus serré
Qu’un prisonnier dans les ceps enferré.
 
Grande Junon, tu es assez vengee
De voir sa vie en paresse changee,
De voir ainsi devenu filandier
Ce grand Alcid’ des Monstres le meurdrier,
Sans adjouster à ton ire indomtee
Les mandemens de son frere Eurysthee.
 
Que veux-tu plus ? Iôle le contraint
D’estre une femme : il la doute, il la craint.
Il craint ses mains plus qu’un valet esclave
Ne craint les coups de quelque maistre brave.
 
Et ce-pendant qu’il ne fait que penser
A s’atiffer, à s’oindre, à s’agencer,
A dorloter sa barbe bien rongnee,
A mignoter sa teste bien pignée,
Impuniment les Monstres ont loisir
D’assujettir la terre à leur plaisir,
Sans plus cuider qu’Hercule soit au monde :
Aussi n’est-il : car la poison profonde,
Qui dans son cœur s’alloit trop derivant,
L’avoit tué dedans un corps vivant.
 
Nous doncq, Muret, à qui la mesme rage
Peu cautement affole le courage,
S’il est possible, evitons le lien
Que nous ourdist l’enfant Cytherien :
Et rabaisson la chair qui nous domine,
Dessous le joug de la raison divine,
Raison qui deust au vray bien nous guider,
Et de nos sens maistresse presider.
 
Mais si l’amour de son traict indomtable
A desja fait nostre playe incurable,
Tant que le mal peu subject au conseil
De la raison desdaigne l’appareil,
Vaincuz par luy, faisons place à l’envie,
Et sur Alcid’ desguisons nostre vie :
En ce-pendant que les rides ne font
Cresper encor l’aire de nostre front,
Et que la neige en vieillesse venue
Encor ne fait nostre teste chenue,
Qu’un jour ne coule entre nous pour neant
Sans suivre Amour : il n’est pas mal-seant,
Mais grand honneur au simple populaire,
Des grands seigneurs imiter l’exemplaire.
No Muret, no : it is not in our days
That the little Archer who causes our pain
Has created the delusion which still fools men ;
No Muret, no : we are not the first
In whom his bow with its little conquering dart
Has concealed so great a wound beneath the heart :
All creatures, whether those of the fields
Or of the woods, or of the mountains
Feel his power, and his bitter-sweet fire
Burns the monsters of the sea below the waters.
 
Ah, is there none this child does not burn ?
Hercules, sky-bearer and giant-slayer,
Felt him strongly ; I tell you, that strong Theban
Who strangled the boar with his hands,
Who killed Nessus, and with his club
Struck dead the children of the Cloud;
Who with his bow amazed all of Lerna,
Who imprisoned the dog from Hell,
Who on the banks of the Thermodontian waters
Seized the belt of the defeated maiden ;
Who killed the sea-monster, and time and again
Mockingly overcame the tricks of Achelous;
Who put to death the maid of Phorcis,
Who ripped the jaws off the Lion with his strength,
Who crushed in his arms Antaeus,
Who planted two pillars as his mark.
 
In short, this hero, amender of the world,
This heart without fear, this thunderclap of war,
Felt that God, and love’s passion
Flattened him more than his King and commander.
Not in love as people see we are,
You with your Janne and me with my Cassandre,
Rather Love pricked him with such a blow
That his whole heart boiled, his reason failed,
At the ardent suffering which burned his veins ;
They steamed, so full of the fire of love,
His bones, muscles and nerves so full too
That in Hercules, who had cleaned up the world,
Remained nothing but the crazed love
Which the two fair eyes of Iole had poured into him.
 
Still he loved the fair eyes of Iole
Whether the chariot which gives day to the heavens
Left the seas, or whether rushing down
It turned its wheels back to the salty plain
Giving rest to the labours of all men
But not to the wretched troubles of Hercules.
 
He did not have only his lady’s
Gaze fixed in the deeps of his soul;
But her speech, her grace, her sweetness
Were always attached, stuck to his heart.
 
He thought of no other than her in his soul;
Always when she was away he saw her present.
And if you saw her by chance, Alcides,
Your voice remained dumb in your throat
Frozen with fear at seeing the beloved face;
Now love’s fever, aflame,
Clawed your soul; and now an icicle
Made you tremble with a shiver of love.
 
Down at your feet your murderous club
Stands without honour, and the shaggy skin
Which bristled stiffly on your back
When your mighty hand punished monsters.
 
Your brow no longer frowns upon them:
O empty virtue, o impure shame,
O sordid blame, Hercules being overcome
(After overcoming the world)
Not by Eurystheus or cruel Juno,
But by the hand of just a maiden.
 
See, by heaven, what power Love has
When she has once won the tower
Of reason, not leaving us any part
Which cannot be changed entirely into madness.
 
That’s not all: simply from love
He did not forget how to arm himself
Or to grip his dangerous club in his fist
Or to achieve some uncertain task;
But slowly and vainly making listless his heart
Which had made him conqueror of tyrants,
The terror of the world – so unmanly a tale –
Dressed himself in the garments of a woman
And, from hero become a maid,
Plied his needle and twisted the spindle
And towards evening, like a chambermaid,
Handed his work to his pretty jailer
Who held him tighter in her chains
Than a prisoner chained in the stocks.
 
Great Juno, you have taken revenge enough
In seeing his life changed to laziness,
In seeing thus the great Alcides
Become weaver, after being murderer of monsters,
Without adding on to your unconquered anger
The commands of his brother Eurystheus.
 
What more do you want? Iole forced him
To be a woman; he doubted her, he feared her,
He feared her hands more than a slave-servant
Fears the blows of his good master.
 
And while he thought of nothing but
Dressing up, anointing and arranging himself,
Of pampering his nicely-trimmed beard,
Of cosseting his well-oiled hair,
Those monsters had leisure with immunity
To subject the earth at their pleasure,
No longer believing that Hercules was alive;
Nor was he, for the deep poison
Which coursed in his heart, overflowing,
Had killed him though his body still lived.
 
So we, Muret, in whom the same madness
So casually makes courage foolish,
If possible let us avoid the bonds
Which the child of Cythera prepares for us:
And let’s put the flesh which masters us
Beneath the yoke of divine reason,
Reason which ought indeed to guide us
And rule as mistress of our senses.
 
But love with his unbeatable wound
Has already made our wound incurable,
Since the illness, hardly subject to Reason’s
Counsel, scorns the medicine:
So, conquered by him, let’s make room for desire
And on Alcides’ example model our lives:
As long as wrinkles no longer make
Our brows look furrowed,
And the snow which comes with age
Has not yet made hoary our hair,
Let’s aim that no day should pass for nothing
Without following love: it is not improper
But a great honour for us simple folk
To copy the example of great lords.
 
Ronsard rounds off his first book with poems to several friends; the last of them I’ve got to, but not the last int he book, is this one to Marc-Antoine Muret. It is of course Muret who provided the first commentary on book 1 – he is quite restrained in his comments about this poem’s dedication! Despite its learned references (below), this is a true ode to love in keeping with the book it rounds off. And as usual Ronsard is careful to be consistent : here it is Cupid, the ‘child of the Cytherian’ Venus, who is the villain both at the beginning and at the end of the poem.
 
Ronsard appeals to classical exempla, as so often: in this case, he focuses on Hercules, the hero whose great deeds are complemented, if not overshadowed, by the furious moments of madness associated with his various loves. First come the heroic deeds:
 – Hercules is introduced as “sky-bearer and giant-slayer” (both references return later): among his 12 Labours, he had to retrieve the Golden aApples of the Hesperides, which he did by holding up the sky while Atlas fetched the apples (see also the ‘variant’ Blanchemain prints further down the poem in the earlier version below); he also killed the three-headed Geryon in order to bring back his cattle, but I think ‘giant-slayer’ refers instead to his defeat of Antaeus, who was undefeatable so long as he was in contact with the earth and whom Hercules therefore had to lift off the ground to beat;
 – then we have a number of the other Labours:  the Erymanthean boar, the ‘children of the cloud’ which I assume to mean the Stymphalian birds, the Lernaean Hydra, the three-headed hell-dog Cerberus, the magical belt of Hippolyta (queen of the Amazons, who were supposed to live by the river Terme – the ‘Thermodontian waters’), the ‘maid of Phorcis’ (apparently a reference to the dragon guarding the golden apples of the Hesperides, Ladon, which was Phorcys’s child but which is usually male), and the Nemean lion;
 – intermixed with this list are Nessus the centaur, killed by Hercules after he stole away Deianeira, Hercules’ wife; the sea-monster which was threatening Hesione, the daughter of Laomedon of Troy (Laomedon had persuaded Apollo and Poseidon to build Troy’s walls, but then refused their reward; Poseidon sent the sea-monster to take revenge; Hercules later abducted Hesione when Laomedon also refused him his promised reward!); Achelous, whom Hercules defeated to claim Deianeira as his wife; and last Antaeus again, and the Pillars of Hercules.

 

Then we move on to the lover’s madness: Ronsard focuses on his love for Iole (though, as we have seen, he had other wives too!), which was more powerful than the commands of King Eurystheus (the ‘king and commander’ for whom Hercules undertook the Labours, and also his cousin – not ‘brother’ as Ronsard terms him). Juno appears, because in her jealousy she had driven Hercules (or ‘Alcides’) mad so that he killed his earlier wife Megara: it was to atone for this that he was tasked with the Twelve Labours. Ronsard however melds the story of Iole with that of Omphale, for it was her he served (as yet another penance) dressed as woman, while she wore his lion-skin.
 
 
========
 
As usual the earlier version, printed by Blanchemain, has plenty of minor variants; but there’s nothing substantial. So, as usual, the best way to show them is to re-print the full text, rather than scatter dozens of line references here. They are mostly ‘corrections’ for euphony – e.g. in the 3rd stanza where “ce heros” is replaced by “cest heros” (which runs on more easily) – though “Sentit ce dieu” (in place of “Sentit Amour” – removing the ‘t’ sound) raplces it with a rather insistent ‘s’ repetition instead.

 

Non Muret, non ce n’est pas du jourd’huy,
Que l’Archerot qui cause nostre ennuy,
Cause l’erreur qui retrompe les hommes :
Non Muret, non, les premiers nous ne sommes,
A qui son arc d’un petit trait veinqueur,
Si grande playe a caché sous le cœur :
Tous animaux, ou soient ceux des campagnes,
Soient ceux des bois, ou soient ceux des montagnes
Sentent sa force, et son feu doux-amer
Brusle sous l’eau les Monstres de la mer.
 
Hé ! qu’est-il rien que ce garçon ne brûle ?
Ce porte-ciel, ce tu’-geant Hercule
Le sentit bien : je dy ce fort Thebain
Qui le sanglier estrangla de sa main,
Qui tua Nesse, et qui de sa massue
Morts abbatit les enfans de la Nue :
Qui de son arc toute Lerne estonna,
Qui des enfers le chien emprisonna,
Qui sur le bord de l’eau Thermodontee
Print le baudrier de la vierge dontee :
Qui tua l’Ourque, et qui par plusieurs fois
Se remocqua des feintes d’Achelois :
Qui fit mourir la pucelle de Phorce,
Qui le Lion desmachoira par force,
Qui dans ses bras Anthee acravanta,
Et qui deux mons pour ses marques planta.
 
Bref, ce héros correcteur de la terre,
Ce cœur sans peur, ce foudre de la guerre,
Sentit Amour, et l’amoureuse ardeur
Le matta plus que son Roy commandeur.
Non pas espris comme on nous voit esprendre,
Toy de ta Janne ou moy de ma Cassandre :
Mais de tel Tan amour l’aiguillonnoit,
Que tout son cœur sans raison bouiilonnoit
Au souffre ardent qui luy cuisoit les veines :
Du feu d’amour elles fumoient si pleines,
Si pleins ses os, ses muscles et ses ners,
Que dans Hercul’ qui dompta l’univers,
Ne resta rien sinon une amour fole,
Que Iuy versoient les deux beaux yeux d’Iole.
 
Tousjours d’Iole il aimoit les beaux yeux,
Fust que le char qui donne jour aux cieux
Sortist de l’eau, ou fust que devalee
Tournast sa rouë en la plaine salee,
De tous humains accoisant les travaux,
Mais non d’Hercul’ les miserables maux.
 
Tant seulement il n’avoit de sa dame
Les yeux fichez au plus profond de l’ame :
Mais son parler, sa grace, et sa douceur
Tousjours colez s’attachoient à son cœur.
 
D’autre que d’elle en son cœur il ne pense :
Tousjours absente il la voit en presence.
Et de fortune, Alcid’, si tu la vois,
Dans ton gosier begue reste ta voix,
Glacé de peur voyant la face aimee :
Ore une fiévre ardamment allumee
Ronge ton ame, et ores un glaçon
Te fait trembler d’amoureuse frisson.
 
Bas à tes pieds ta meurdriere massue
Gist sans honneur, et bas la peau velue,
Qui sur ton doz roide se herissoit,
Quand ta grand’main les Monstres punissoit.
 
Plus ton sourcil contre eux ne se renfrongne :
O vertu vaine, ô honteuse vergongne,
O deshonneur, Hercule estant donté
(Apres avoir le monde surmonté)
    [var :
     Après avoir le ciel courbe porté.]
Non d’Eurysthée, ou de Junon cruelle,
Mais de la main d’une simple pucelle.
 
Voyez pour Dieu, quelle force a l’Amour,
Quand une fois elle a gaigné la tour
De la raison, ne nous laissant partie
Qui ne soit toute en fureur convertie.
 
Ce n’est pas tout : seulement pour aimer,
Il n’oublia la façon de s’armer,
Ou d’empoigner sa masse hazardeuse,
Ou d’achever quelque emprise douteuse :
Mais lent et vain abatardant son cœur,
Et son esprit, qui l’avoit fait vainqueur
De tout le monde (ô plus lasche diffame)
Il s’habilla des habits d’une femme,
Et d’un Heros devenu damoiseau,
Guidoit l’aiguille ou tournoit le fuseau,
Et vers le soir, comme une chambriere,
Rendoit sa tasche à sa douce geolière,
Qui le tenoit en ses lacs plus serré
Qu’un prisonnier dans les ceps enferré.
 
Vraiment, Junon, tu es assez vengee
De voir ainsi sa vie estre changée,
De voir ainsi devenu filandier
Ce grand Alcid’ des Monstres le meurdrier,
Sans adjouster à ton ire indomtee
Les mandemens de son frere Eurysthee.
 
Que veux-tu plus ? Iôle le contraint
D’estre une femme : il la doute, il la craint.
Il craint ses mains plus qu’un valet esclave
Ne craint les coups de quelque maistre brave.
 
Et ce-pendant qu’il ne fait que penser
A s’atiffer, à s’oindre, à s’agencer,
A dorloter sa barbe bien rongnee,
A mignoter sa teste bien pignee,
Impuniment les Monstres ont plaisir
D’assujettir la terre à leur loisir,
Sans plus cuider qu’Hercule soit au monde :
Aussi n’est-il : car la poison profonde,
Qui dans son cœur s’alloit trop derivant,
L’avoit tué dedans un corps vivant.
 
Nous doncq, Muret, à qui la mesme rage
Peu cautement affole le courage,
S’il est possible, evitons le lien
Que nous ourdist l’enfant Cytherien :
Et rabaisson la chair qui nous domine,
Dessous le joug de la raison divine,
Raison qui deust au vray bien nous guider,
Et de nos sens maistresse presider.
 
Mais si l’Amour, las ! las ! trop misérable !
A desja fait nostre playe incurable,
Tant que le mal peu subject au conseil
De la raison desdaigne l’appareil,
Vaincuz par luy, faisons place à l’envie,
Et sur Alcid’ desguisons nostre vie :
En ce-pendant que les rides ne font
Cresper encor le champ de nostre front,
Et que la neige avant l’age venue
Ne fait encor nostre teste chenue,
Qu’un jour ne coule entre nous pour neant
Sans suivre Amour : car il n’est mal-seant,
Pour quelquefois, au simple populaire,
Des grands seigneurs imiter l’exemplaire.
No Muret, no : it is not in our days
That the little Archer who causes our pain
Has created the delusion which still fools men ;
No Muret, no : we are not the first
In whom his bow with its little conquering dart
Has concealed so great a wound beneath the heart :
All creatures, whether those of the fields
Or of the woods, or of the mountains
Feel his power, and his bitter-sweet fire
Burns the monsters of the sea below the waters.
 
Ah, is there none this child does not burn ?
Hercules, sky-bearer and giant-slayer,
Felt him strongly ; I tell you, that strong Theban
Who strangled the boar with his hands,
Who killed Nessus, and with his club
Struck dead the children of the Cloud;
Who with his bow amazed all of Lerna,
Who imprisoned the dog from Hell,
Who on the banks of the Thermodontian waters
Seized the belt of the defeated maiden ;
Who killed the sea-monster, and time and again
Mockingly overcame the tricks of Achelous;
Who put to death the maid of Phorcis,
Who ripped the jaws off the Lion with his strength,
Who crushed in his arms Antaeus,
And who planted two mounds as his mark.
 
In short, this hero, amender of the world,
This heart without fear, this thunderclap of war,
Felt Love, and love’s passion
Flattened him more than his King and commander.
Not in love as people see we are,
You with your Janne and me with my Cassandre,
Rather Love pricked him with such a blow
That his whole heart boiled, his reason failed,
At the ardent suffering which burned his veins ;
They steamed, so full of the fire of love,
His bones, muscles and nerves so full too
That in Hercules, who conquered everything,
Remained nothing but the crazed love
Which the two fair eyes of Iole had poured into him.
 
Still he loved the fair eyes of Iole
Whether the chariot which gives day to the heavens
Left the seas, or whether rushing down
It turned its wheels back to the salty plain
Giving rest to the labours of all men
But not to the wretched troubles of Hercules.
 
He did not have only his lady’s
Gaze fixed in the deeps of his soul;
But her speech, her grace, her sweetness
Were always attached, stuck to his heart.
 
He thought of no other than her in his heart;
Always when she was away he saw her present.
And if you saw her by chance, Alcides,
Your voice remained dumb in your throat
Frozen with fear at seeing the beloved face;
Now a fever, fiercely flaming,
Clawed your soul; and now an icicle
Made you tremble with a shiver of love.
 
Down at your feet your murderous club
Stands without honour, and the shaggy skin
Which bristled stiffly on your back
When your mighty hand punished monsters.
 
Your brow no longer frowns upon them:
O empty virtue, o shameful immodesty,
O dishonour, Hercules being overcome
(After overcoming the world)
    [var:
      After bearing the curved skies]
Not by Eurystheus or cruel Juno,
But by the hand of just a maiden.
 
See, by heaven, what power Love has
When she has once won the tower
Of reason, not leaving us any part
Which cannot be changed entirely into madness.
 
That’s not all: simply from love
He did not forget how to arm himself
Or to grip his dangerous club in his fist
Or to achieve some uncertain task;
But slowly and vainly bastardising his heart
And spirit, which had made him a conqueror
Of all the world – so unmanly a tale –
Dressed himself in the garments of a woman
And, from hero become a maid,
Plied his needle or twisted the spindle
And towards evening, like a chambermaid,
Handed his work to his pretty jailer
Who held him tighter in her snares
Than a prisoner chained in the stocks.
 
Truly, Juno, you have taken revenge enough
In seeing his life so changed,
In seeing thus the great Alcides
Become weaver, after being murderer of monsters,
Without adding on to your unconquered anger
The commands of his brother Eurystheus.
 
What more do you want? Iole forced him
To be a woman; he doubted her, he feared her,
He feared her hands more than a slave-servant
Fears the blows of his good master.
 
And while he thought of nothing but
Dressing up, anointing and arranging himself,
Of pampering his nicely-trimmed beard,
Of cosseting his well-oiled hair,
Those monsters had pleasure with immunity
To subject the earth at their leisure,
No longer believing that Hercules was alive;
Nor was he, for the deep poison
Which coursed in his heart, overflowing,
Had killed him though his body still lived.
 
So we, Muret, in whom the same madness
So casually makes courage foolish,
If possible let us avoid the bonds
Which the child of Cythera prepares for us:
And let’s put the flesh which masters us
Beneath the yoke of divine reason,
Reason which ought indeed to guide us
And rule as mistress of our senses.
 
But love – alas, alas, how wretched! –
Has already made our wound incurable,
Since the illness, hardly subject to Reason’s
Counsel, scorns the medicine:
So, conquered by him, let’s make room for desire
And on Alcides’ example model our lives:
As long as wrinkles no longer make
The plains of our forehea furrowed,
And the snow arriving before its time
Has not yet made hoary our hair,
Let’s aim that no day should pass for nothing
Without following love: for it is not improper
For us simple folk sometimes
To copy the example of great lords.
 
 
 
 
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Poems 2.2 – to Jehan du Thier

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

Amours 1.172

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Je veux brusler pour m’en-voler aux cieux,
Tout l’imparfait de mon escorce humaine,
M’éternisant comme le fils d’Alcméne,
Qui tout en feu s’assit entre les Dieux.
 
Ja mon esprit desireux de son mieux,
Dedans ma chair, rebelle, se promeine,
Et ja le bois de sa victime ameine
Pour s’immoler aux rayons de tes yeux.
 
O saint brazier, ô flame entretenue
D’un feu divin, avienne que ton chaud
Brusle si bien ma despouille connuë,
 
Que libre et nu je vole d’un plein saut
Outre le ciel, pour adorer là haut
L’autre beauté dont la tienne est venuë.
 
 
 
                                                                            I’d like to burn off, in order to fly to the heavens,
                                                                            All the imperfections of my mortal form,
                                                                            Eternalising myself like the son of Alcmene
                                                                            Who, all afire, sat down amongst the gods.
 
                                                                            Already my spirit, eager to gain what’s best,
                                                                            Ranges within my flesh, rebellious,
                                                                            And already gathers up wood for its victim
                                                                            To sacrifice itself in the rays of your eyes.
 
                                                                            O holy furnace, o flame maintained
                                                                            By divine fire, may your heat
                                                                            Burn my well-known flesh so well
 
                                                                            That I may fly free and naked in one great leap
                                                                            Beyond the sky, to adore up there
                                                                            The other beauty from which yours has come.
 
 
 
I’ve kept Ronsard’s noun-to-verb formation of ‘eternalising’ to give the impression his readers must have had of the novelty of the word. The ‘son of Alcmene’ is Hercules (again), this time remembered for the manner of his death – ‘all afire’ because he was killed by putting on the poisoned clothes prepared by his ex-wife, which burned into his skin.
 
Blanchemain offers  range of changes, from the minor to the substantial. Here’s his text.
 
 
 
Je veux brusler, pour m’en-voler aux Cieux,
Tout l’imparfait de ceste escorce humaine,
M’éternisant comme le fils d’Alcmeine,
Qui tout en feu s’assit entre les Dieux.
 
Ja mon esprit, chatouillé de son mieux,
Dedans ma chair, rebelle se promeine,
Et ja le bois de sa victime ameine
Pour s’enflammer aux rayons de tes yeux.
 
O saint brasier ! ô feu chastement beau !
Las ! brule moi d’un si chaste flambeau,
Qu’abandonnant ma depouille connue,
 
Net, libre et nud, je vole d’un plein saut
Jusques au Ciel, pour adorer là haut
L’autre beauté dont la tienne est venuë !
 
 
 
                                                                            I’d like to burn off, in order to fly to the heavens,
                                                                            All the imperfections of this mortal form,
                                                                            Eternalising myself like the son of Alcmene
                                                                            Who, all afire, sat down amongst the gods.
 
                                                                            Already my spirit, [ flattered out of its ??? ] best,
                                                                            Ranges within my flesh, rebellious,
                                                                            And already gathers up wood for its victim
                                                                            To set itself afire in the rays of your eyes.
 
                                                                            O holy furnace, o fire chastely beautiful !
                                                                            Ah, burn me with so chaste a torch
                                                                            That abandoning my well-known flesh
 
                                                                            Clean, free and naked I may fly in one great leap
                                                                            Up to the sky, to adore up there
                                                                            The other beauty from which yours has come.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.171

Standard
Tousjours des bois la cyme n’est chargée
Du faix negeux d’un hyver eternel :
Tousjours des Dieux le foudre criminel
Ne darde en bas sa menace enragée.
 
Tousjours les vents, tousjours la mer Egée
Ne gronde pas d’un orage cruel :
Mais de la dent d’un soin continuel
Ma pauvre vie est tousjours outragée.
 
Plus je me force à le vouloir tuer,
Plus il renaist pour mieux s’évertuer
De feconder une guerre en moy-mesme.
 
O fort Thebain, si ta serve vertu
Avoit encor ce monstre combatu,
Ce seroit bien de tes faits le treiziesme.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Now at last the tops of the trees are not laden
                                                                           With the snowy burden of an eternal winter;
                                                                           Now the vicious lightning of the gods
                                                                           No longer fires down here its angry threats;
 
                                                                           Now the winds and now the Aegean sea
                                                                           No longer groan under a cruel storm;
                                                                           But by the bite of continual grief
                                                                           My poor life is still attacked.
 
                                                                           The more I force myself to try to kill it
                                                                           The more it is re-born, to strive even harder
                                                                           To nourish a war within me.
 
                                                                           O brave Theban, if your enslaved strength
                                                                           Had yet defeated this monster,
                                                                           That would truly have been the thirteenth of your deeds.
 
 
 
As I sit here in the first really warm spell of spring, I feel I might have missed the moment for poisting this poem! Never mind: here it is anyway, to remind us we’re moving fast out of winter.  Of course, this isn’t really a poem about the weather, but (again) about love: why the ‘Theban’ – Hercules – in the final tercet? Though we remember Hercules for his 12 Labours, in fact there are heaps of stories about his loves. He married 4 times(!), one of them in heaven, and could thus hardly be said to have withstood love’s assaults very effectively. (He was also killed by his wife Deianeira as a result of his affections wandering again, which may have something to do with the picture Ronsard is painting…)
 
Blanchemain’s version differs in detail only, but here’s the whole poem for reference:
 
 
Tousjours des bois la cyme n’est chargée
Sous les toisons d’un Hyver eternel ;
Toujours des Dieux le foudre criminel
Ne darde en bas sa menace enragée ;
 
Tousjours les vents, tousjours la mer Egée
Ne gronde pas d’un orage cruel ;
Mais de la dent d’un soin continuel
Tousjours, toujours, ma vie est outragée.
 
Plus je me force à le vouloir tuer,
Plus il renaist pour mieux s’évertuer
De feconder une guerre à moy-mesme.
 
O fort Thebain, si ta serve vertu
Avoit encor ce monstre combatu,
Ce seroit bien de tes faits le treziesme.
 
 
 
                                                                           Now at last the tops of the trees are not laden
                                                                           With the fleeces of an eternal winter;
                                                                           Now the vicious lightning of the gods
                                                                           No longer fires down here its angry threats;
 
                                                                           Now the winds and now the Aegean sea
                                                                           No longer groan under a cruel storm;
                                                                           But by the bite of continual grief
                                                                           My life is each and every day attacked.
 
                                                                           The more I force myself to try to kill it
                                                                           The more it is re-born, to strive even harder
                                                                           To nourish a war against myself.
 
                                                                           O brave Theban, if your enslaved strength
                                                                           Had yet defeated this monster,
                                                                           That would truly have been the thirteenth of your deeds. 
 
 
Personally I think line 2 works better in this less finicky version, though ‘laden/Under the fleeces’ (a literal rendering) is awkward in French as in English. Note the small difference in line 11 which shifts the meaning; and the doubled, but differently spelled, “tou(s)jours” in line 8. I have assumed the different spellings are more than an affectation (or error) of Blanchemain’s, and therefore not translated it simply as ‘Always, always…’
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 156

Standard
De soins mordans et de soucis divers
Soit sans repos ta paupiere esveillée,
Ta lévre soit de noir venin moüillée,
Tes cheveux soyent de viperes couvers :
 
Du sang infet de ces gros lezars vers
Soit ta poitrine et ta gorge soüillée,
Et d’une œillade obliquement rouillée,
Tant que voudras guigne moy de travers,
 
Tousjours au Ciel je leveray la teste,
Et d’un escrit qui bruit comme tempeste,
Je foudroiray de tes monstres l’effort :
 
Autant de fois que tu seras leur guide
Pour m’assaillir, ou pour sapper mon Fort
Autant de fois me sentiras Alcide.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            With biting cares and varied worries
                                                                            May your eyelids, without rest, be wakeful;
                                                                            May your lips be soaked in black poison,
                                                                            Your hair covered with vipers;
 
                                                                            With blood infected by those overweight leprous verses
                                                                            May your breast and throat be defiled,
                                                                            And with a crooked and blighted eye
                                                                            May you, as much as you please, look at me crossways;
 
                                                                            I shall always raise my head to heaven
                                                                            And with my writing which thunders like the tempest
                                                                            I shall overwhelm your monstrous attempts;
 
                                                                            As often as you are their leader
                                                                            In attacking me, or undermining my fortress,
                                                                            So often will you find I am an Alcides [Hercules].

 

 

 

What is this sonnet doing in the middle of the Amours?! Muret tells us ‘this sonnet was written against some minor secretaries, dandies and darlings of the court, who, having too feeble a mind to understand the author’s writings, tried to criticise and scorn that which they did not understand’. That still doesn’t explain why it’s here!
 
In line 5 I have assumed in line 5 that “lezars” is related to “lazars” (lepers/leprous) though that is my intuition rather than something I have found confirmed in a dictionary!
 
Minor differences in Blanchemain: in line 7 “d’une œillade envieuse et rouillée” (‘with an envious, blighted eye’); and line 13 becomes “Pour m’assaillir dans le cœur de mon fort” (‘In attacking me within the heart of my fortress’).
 
 
 

 

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 57

Standard
Divin Bellay, dont les nombreuses lois
Par un ardeur du peuple separée,
Ont revestu l’enfant de Cytherée
D’arcs, de flambeaux, de traits, et de carquois :
 
Si le doux feu dont jeune tu ardois,
Enflambe encor ta poitrine sacrée,
Si ton oreille encore se recrée,
D’ouir les plaints des amoureuses vois :
 
Oy ton Ronsard qui sanglote et lamente,
Pâle de peur, pendu sur la tourmente,
Croizant en vain ses mains devers les Cieux,
 
En fraile nef, sans mast, voile ne rame,
Et loin du havre où pour astre Madame
Me conduisoit du Fare de ses yeux.
 
 
 
                                                                           Divine Bellay, whom numerous statutes
                                                                           For your ardour distinct from the norm
                                                                           Have invested as the son of Venus
                                                                           With bows, torches, arrows and quiver;
 
                                                                           If the soft fire with which you burned when young
                                                                           Still flames within your holy breast,
                                                                           If your ear still enjoys
                                                                           Hearing the woes of lovers’ tongues;
 
                                                                           Then hear your Ronsard, who sobs and weeps,
                                                                           Pale with fear, suspended in torment,
                                                                           Holding his hands up in vain to Heaven,
 
                                                                           In a frail ship without mast, sail or oar,
                                                                           Far from the harbour where, like a star, my Lady
                                                                           Leads me with the beacon of her eyes.
 
 
 
Here is Ronsard writing a sonnet to his friend Joachim du Bellay, in response to one du Bellay had written him in his “Olive” (the first book of French love sonnets and inspiration for Ronsard’s own “Amours”). But, as will appear, it is not a direct response, for it is a carefully-constructed love poem about Cassandre while addressed to du Bellay.  Bellay’s, by contrast, is in praise of Ronsard himself. Should we read too much into that? I don’t think so: there’s no intended slight on du Bellay simply because Ronsard doesn’t tell him he too is marvellous! After all, both call the other ‘divine’.
 
Let’s have a look at du Bellay’s sonnet to Ronsard:
 
 
Divin Ronsard, qui de l’arc à sept cordes
Tiras premier au but de la Memoire
Les traits ailez de la françoise gloire,
Que sur ton luth hautement tu accordes.
 
Fameux harpeur et prince de nos odes,
Laisse ton Loir, hautain de ta victoire,
Et vien sonner au rivage de Loire
De tes chansons les plus nouvelles modes.
 
Enfonce l’arc du vieil Thebain archer,
Où nul que toi ne sceut onc encocher
Des doctes sœurs les sagettes divines.
 
Porte pour moy parmy le ciel des Gaules
Le sainct honneur des nymphes angevines,
Trop pesant faix pour mes foibles espaules.
 
 
 
                                                                           Divine Ronsard, who with the seven-stringed bow
                                                                           First shot at the target of Memory
                                                                           The winged arrows of French glory
                                                                           Which you tune precisely  on your lute;
 
                                                                           Famous harper and prince of our [French] odes,
                                                                           Leave your Loir, proud in your victory,
                                                                           And come to sing on the banks of the Loire
                                                                           The newest strains of your songs.
 
                                                                           Bend the bow of the old Theban archer,
                                                                           On which none but you have ever been able to notch
                                                                           The divine arrows of the learned Sisters.
 
                                                                           Bear for me among the Gallic heavens
                                                                           The holy honour of the nymphs of Anjou,
                                                                           Too weighty a deed for my feeble shoulders.
 
 
Wonderful as this poem is, it’s immediately obvious that it’s in a far more ‘learned’ style, replete with classical allusions: we know Ronsard can do this too if he wants to, so it is worth noticing that he didn’t. That is, perhaps, what sets Ronsard apart in his earliest poetry – the cultivation of a more natural style, a new way of writing French poetry which retains the art but broadens the range of subjects, of themes and of language.
 
Just how complex du Bellay’s classical references are, is worth a brief digression. In fact, trying to pinpoint them requires a digression! In lines 9-11 we have the ‘Theban archer’ and the ‘divine arrows of the learned Sisters’. Neither seem (to me) to translate simply into an obvious classical figure…
 
So, Theban archer?  Well, Ulysses famously had a bow that could not be bent by anyone else (end of the Odyssey); but he’s not Theban. Philoctetes (in Sophocles’ play) has to be lured back to the Trojan War because only he can use the essential bow; but he’s not Theban either. Diana/Artemis joins with her brother Apollo in killing Niobe’s children – Niobe was Theban, but not the gods. I think the likeliest candidate is Hercules – who is also not Theban.  Philoctetes is keeper of the bow of Hercules, which only he can draw; and Hercules married Megara, the daughter of the Theban king, before killing their children in a divinely-induce rage and thus having to undertake the twelve Labours. The children (and, some say, Megara) were venerated at, and  said to be buried in, a ‘heroon’ (hero’s tomb) at Thebes in classical times.
 
The how about the ‘divine arrows of the learned sisters’?  Well, Apollo and Artemis certainly have divine arrows – see Niobe’s fate above – but they are not ‘learned sisters’. Equally, the Muses are learned but not in the arts of war. Other groups of siblings might include the Graiai and Moirai (Fates) but they don’t use arrows. And of course the arrows in du Bellay’ metaphor are the arrows of art & poetry. So, my own hunch – no more than that – is that du Bellay is conflating the Muses and Apollo, for Apollo was ‘mousagetes’, the leader of the Muses:  Apollo brings the bow, the ‘arrows’ are the attainments of the Muses.
 
His vocabulary is also deliberately demanding of the reader:  in line 2 the target “Memoire” is clearly Remembrance or being remembered, the target of gaining a Memorial, rather than simple Memory. And in what way does du Bellay want Ronsard to sing his ‘newest modes’ on the Loire – is that new poetic forms (ode, elegy, hymn); or the stylistic innovations mentioned above; or simply ‘come and write your new poems here on the Loire’? 
 
Well, enough about du Bellay’s complexity. Let’s return to Ronsard’s artful simplicity, and look at the minor variants in Blanchemain’s earlier version:
 
 
Divin Bellay, dont les nombreuses lois
Par une ardeur du peuple separée,
Ont revestu l’enfant de Cytherée
D’arc, de flambeau, de traits, et de carquois :
 
Si le doux feu dont jeune tu ardois,
Enflambe encor ta poitrine sacrée,
Si ton oreille encore se recrée,
D’ouir les plaints des amoureuses vois :
 
Oy ton Ronsard qui sanglote et lamente,
Pâle, agité des flots de la tourmente,
Croizant en vain ses mains devers les Cieux,
 
En fraile nef, et sans voile et sans rame,
Et loin du bord où pour astre sa dame
Le conduisoit du Fare de ses yeux.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Divine Bellay, whom numerous statutes
                                                                           For your ardour distinct from the norm
                                                                           Have invested as the son of Venus
                                                                           With bow, torch, arrows and quiver;
 
                                                                           If the soft fire with which you burned when young
                                                                           Still flames within your holy breast,
                                                                           If your ear still enjoys
                                                                           Hearing the woes of lovers’ tongues;
 
                                                                           Then hear your Ronsard, who sobs and weeps,
                                                                           Pale and tossed by waves of torment,
                                                                           Holding his hands up in vain to Heaven,
 
                                                                           In a frail ship, without either sail or oar,
                                                                           Far from the shore where, like a star, his lady
                                                                           Leads him with the beacon of her eyes.
 
 
Notably (to me at least) the early version of the ending is consistently third-person – Ronsard is ‘he’. In the later version at the top of the page, he is third-person in the first tercet but switches awkwardly to first-person in the second tercet.  That could have been easily remedied:  “Croizant en vain les mains devers les Cieux” would have done the trick. It is interesting to see that Ronsard puts the poetic effect of the repeated ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds – and the visual effect of the other ‘s’s in the line – ahead of a strictly consistent pictorial or grammatical approach.
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 48

Standard
Ton extreme beauté par ses rais me retarde
Que je n’ose mes yeux sur les tiens asseurer,
Debile je ne puis leurs regards endurer.
Plus le Soleil esclaire, et moins on le regarde.

Helas ! tu es trop belle, et tu dois prendre garde
Qu’un Dieu si grand thresor ne puisse desirer,
Qu’il ne t’en-vole au ciel pour la terre empirer.
« La chose precieuse est de mauvaise garde. »

Les Dragons sans dormir tous pleins de cruauté,
Gardoient les pommes d’or pour leur seule beauté :
Le visage trop beau n’est pas chose trop bonne.

Danaé le sceut bien, dont l’or se fist trompeur.
Mais l’or qui domte tout, davant tes yeux s’estonne,
Tant ta chaste vertu le fait trembler de peur.

 

 
 
                                                                              Your extreme beauty holds me back by its rays
                                                                              So that I dare not fix my eyes on yours,
                                                                              I am weak and cannot endure their glances.
                                                                              The more the Sun shines, the less one can look upon him.
 
                                                                              Alas, you are too fair, you must take care
                                                                              That a god does not desire so great a treasure,
                                                                              That he does not steal you away to heaven, to make the earth a worse place.
                                                                              “A precious treasure is poorly guarded.”
 
                                                                              Sleepless Dragons full of cruelty
                                                                              Guarded the golden apples for their beauty alone;
                                                                              A face too fair is not something too good [for them].
 
                                                                              Danaë knew it well, she whom gold itself deceived.
                                                                              But the gold which rules everything stops astounded before your eyes,
                                                                              So much does your chaste virtue make it tremble with fear.
  
 
 
I do love it when Ronsard really gets the classical ‘bug’ and writes a tour de  force of classicizing fantasy!  And here he lets us know in the opening words we are in for a treat – how often is beauty ‘extreme’??  But he builds his poem carefully too – 4 lines of earthly normality, 4 of generalised fantasy about the gods, then 2×3 lines of classicizing with specific references to classical myth.
 
The ‘sleeping dragons’ guarding the ‘golden apples’ of the Hesperides (the nymphs of the evening) recall the 11th labour of Hercules, tasked with obtaining the golden apples. In mythology the dragons were a singular but multi-headed dragon – but I think the plural allowable! Danae is of course the lady often depicted in Renaissance art welcoming Jupiter transformed into a shower of gold, by which she became pregnant with Perseus (who, incidentally, also later visited the Hesperides, but for weapons to fight Medusa not to retrieve apples; I certainly wouldn’t put it past Ronsard to be expecting us readers to see the ‘extra’ link to the Hesperides here).
 
Blanchemain offers us only one variant, in line 12 where he has
 
Danaé le sceut bien, qui sentit l’or trompeur
 
                                                                              Danaë knew it well, she who felt gold’s deception
 
‘Felt’ is far too weak a translation of “sentit”, which has all sorts of other meaning wrapped up in it – perceiving/understanding, a sexual sense of penetration, a hint of suspecting, a sensuous implication of gently stroking…