Tag Archives: Joachim du Bellay

Amours 2 — dedicatory sonnet

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[A] ROBERT GARNIER, Prince des poëtes tragicques.
 
SONNET
 
Tu gravois dans le ciel les victoires de France,
Et de nos roys sceptrez ta lyre se paissoit,
Quand ce monarque Amour, qu’elle ne cognoissoit,
Eut vouloir de luy faire entonner sa puissance.
 
Bruslant de ce desir, une fleche il eslance
Que ta jeune poitrine imprudente reçoit ;
Puis, comme le travail en flattant te deçoit,
Tu te plais à chanter le cruel qui t’offence.
 
Son nom, qui ne rouloit sur le parler françois,
Maintenant plus enflé par ta gaillarde voix
Remplit l’air estranger de sa fameuse gloire ;
 
Si que luy, amorcé de ce premier honneur,
Frappe tous ceux qu’il voit dedans Pegase boire,
Pour trouver (mais en vain) encor un tel sonneur.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            [To] Robert Garnier, prince of tragic poets:
 
 
                                                                            You wrote in the heavens the victories of France,
                                                                            And your lyre was nourished by our sceptred kings,
                                                                            When that monarch Love, which it did not recognise,
                                                                            Chose to make it thunder of his power.
 
                                                                            Burning with this desire, he shot an arrow
                                                                            Which struck your careless youthful breast ;
                                                                            Then, as the work flattered to deceive you,
                                                                            You pleased yourself in singing of the cruel one who struck you.
 
                                                                            His name, which was not spoken in the French tongue,
                                                                            Now made greater by your cheerful voice
                                                                            Fills foreign air with his renowned glory;
 
                                                                            So much that he, beginning with this first trophy,
                                                                            Shoots all those whom he sees drinking from the Pegasis,
                                                                            To find (but yet in vain) another such singer.
 
 
 
Marty-Laveaux doesn’t print this dedicatory sonnnet to Garnier in his book; so this is Blanchemain’s version. We’ve met Garnier before: Ronsard wrote a series of sonnets to go at the front of Garnier’s own works as they were published; here is one dedicating Amours 2 to him. Garnier responded after Ronsard’s death with a magnificent elegy.
 
Ronsard shows how he takes ideas that many another poet has played with, and re-knits them into a work that is entirely new and fresh – while still managing to flatter and extol the dedicatee! Though Garnier is best known as a tragic poet (as Ronsard’s dedication reminds us), his first published work was the “Plaintes amoureuses” of 1565 – three years before his first tragedy, and written while he was still a 21-year-old law student. (The book has now been lost.) In fact, apart from his “Hymne de la Monarchye” (and his “Elegy to Ronsard”) poetry by Garnier outside his tragedies is still hard to find.
 
(In fact, even though the latter part of the Elegy has been anthologised over the centuries, and can be found on the web, I’ve been unable to find the original Elegy – as published immediately after Ronsard’s death along with a flood of other poetry in honour of the great man – re-printed in full since the sixteenth century. I feel another post coming on…)
 
So, in extraordinarily disingenuous fashion, given that du Bellay’s “L’Olive” appeared in 1549 and he himself had written 220 love sonnets in his 1st book of Amours in the early 1550s, Ronsard credits Garnier with introducing love-poetry into France … !  (Let us ignore, for the moment, the love poems not in sonnet form of all the preceding generations of poets, from Saint-Gelais to Marot to Villon to Christine de Pisan to Machaut …. !)
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Le Voyage de Tours: ou, Les amoureux

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The next 120 lines of the Voyage …

Six ans sont ja passez, toutefois dans l’oreille
J’entens encor’ le son de ta voix nompareille,
Qui me gaigna le coeur, et me souvient encor
De ta vermeille bouche et de tes cheveux d’or,
De ta main, de tes yeux, et si le temps qui passe
A depuis desrobé quelque peu de leur grace,
Helas je ne suis moins de leurs graces ravy
Que je fus sur le Clain, le jour que je te vy
Surpasser en beauté toutes les pastourelles,
Que les jeunes pasteurs estimoient les plus belles.
Car je n’ay pas esgard à cela que tu es,
Mais à ce que tu fus, tant les amoureux traits
Te graverent en moy, voire de telle sorte
Que telle que tu fus telle au sang je te porte.
 
Dés l’heure que le cœur de l’œil tu me perças,
Pour en sçavoir la fin je fis tourner le Sas
Par une Janeton, qui au bourg de Crotelles
Soit du bien, soit du mal, disoit toutes nouvelles.
 
Apres qu’elle eut trois fois craché dedans son sein,
Trois fois esternué, elle prist du levain,
Le retaste en ses doigts, et en fist une image
Qui te sembloit de port de taille et de visage :
Puis tournoyant trois fois, et trois fois marmonnant,
De sa gertiere alla tout mon col entournant,
Et me dit, Je ne tiens si fort de ma gertiere
Ton col, que ta vie est de malheur heritiere,
Captive de Francine, et seulement la mort
Desnou’ra le lien qui te serre si fort :
Et n’espere jamais de vouloir entreprendre
D’eschauffer un glaçon qui te doit mettre en cendre.
 
Las! je ne la creu pas, et pour vouloir adonc
En estre plus certain, je fis couper le jonc
La veille de sainct Jean : mais je vy sur la place
Le mien, signe d’ Amour, croistre plus d’une brasse,
Le tien demeurer court, signe que tu n’avois
Soucy de ma langueur, et que tu ne m’aimois,
Et que ton amitié qui n’est point asseurée,
Ainsi que le jonc court, est courte demeurée.
 
Je mis pour t’essayer encores davant-hier
Dans le creux de ma main des fueilles de coudrier :
Mais en tappant dessus, nul son ne me rendirent,
Et flaques sans sonner sur la main me fanirent,
Vray signe que je suis en ton amour moqué,
Puis qu’en frapant dessus elles n’ont point craqué :
Pour monstrer par effet que ton cœur ne craquette
Ainsi que fait le mien d’une flame segrette.
 
O ma belle Francine, ô ma fiere, et pourquoy
En dansant, de tes mains ne me prens-tu le doy ?
Pourquoy lasse du bal entre ces fleurs couchée,
N’ay-je sur ton giron ou la teste panchée,
Ou mes yeux sur les tiens, ou ma bouche dessus
Tes deux tetins de neige et d’yvoire conceus ?
Te semblay-je trop vieil ? encor la barbe tendre
Ne fait que commencer sur ma jouë à s’estendre,
Et ta bouche qui passe en beauté le coural,
S’elle veut me baiser, ne se fera point mal :
Mais ainsi qu’un Lezard se cache sous l’herbette,
Sous ma blonde toison cacheras ta languette :
Puis en la retirant, tu tireras à toy
Mon cœur, pour te baiser, qui sortira de moy.
 
Helas prens donc mon cœur, avecques ceste paire
De ramiers que je t’offre, ils sont venus de l’aire
De ce gentil ramier dont je t’avois parlé :
Margot m’en a tenu plus d’une heure acollé,
Les pensant emporter pour les mettre en sa cage.
Mais ce n’est pas pour elle : et demain davantage
Je t’en rapporteray, avecques un pinson
Qui desja sçait par coeur une belle chanson,
Que je fis l’autre jour dessous une aubespine,
Dont le commencement est Thoinet et Francine.
Hà, cruelle, demeure, et tes yeux amoureux
Ne destourne de moy : hà je suis malheureux !
Car je cognois mon mal, et si cognois encore
La puissance d’ Amour, qui le sang me devore.
Sa puissance est cruelle, et n’a point d’autre jeu,
Sinon de rebrusler nos cœurs à petit feu,
Ou de les englacer, comme ayant pris son estre
D’une glace ou d’un feu ou d’un rocher champestre.
Ha ! que ne suis-je abeille, ou papillon, j’irois
Maugré toy te baiser, et puis je m’assirois
Sur tes tetins, afin de succer de ma bouche
Ceste humeur qui te fait contre moy si farouche.
 
O belle au doux regard, Francine au beau sourcy,
Baise-moy je te prie, et m’embrasses ainsy
Qu’un arbre est embrassé d’une vigne bien forte.
« Souvent un vain baiser quelque plaisir apporte. »
Je meurs ! tu me feras despecer ce bouquet,
Que j’ay cueilly pour joy, de Thym et de Muguet,
Et de la rouge-fleur qu’on nomme Cassandrette,
Et de la blanche-fleur qu’on appelle Olivette,
A qui Bellot donna et la vie et le nom,
Et de celle qui prend de ton nom son surnom.
 
Las ! où fuis tu de moy ? hà ma fiere ennemie,
Je m’en vois despouiller jaquette et souquenie,
Et m’en courray tout nud au haut de ce rocher,
Où tu vois ce garçon à la ligne pescher,
Afin de me lancer à corps perdu dans Loire,
Pour laver mon soucy, ou afin de tant boire
D’escumes et de flots, que la flamme d’aimer,
Par l’eau contraire au feu se puisse consumer.
 
Ainsi disoit Thoinet, qui se pasma sur l’herbe,
Presque transi de voir sa dame si superbe,
Qui rioit de son mal, sans daigner seulement
D’un seul petit clin d’œil appaiser son tourment.
 
J’ouvrois desja la lévre apres Thoinet pour dire
De combien Marion m’estoit encores pire,
Quand j’avise sa mere en haste gagner l’eau,
Et sa fille emmener avec elle au bateau,
Qui se joüant sur l’onde attendoit ceste charge,
Lié contre le tronc d’un saule au feste large.
 
Ja les rames tiroient le bateau bien pansu,
Et la voile en enflant son grand reply bossu
Emportoit le plaisir qui mon cœur tient en peine,
Quand je m’assis au bord de la premiere arene :
Et voyant le bateau qui s’enfuyoit de moy,
Parlant à Marion je chantay ce convoy:
Six years have already passed, and still in my ears
I hear the sound of your matchless voice
Which won my heart, and reminds me still
Of your crimson lips and golden hair,
Of your hand, your eyes, and if passing time
Has stolen away some part of their grace,
Ah, I am no less in love with their gracefulness,
Than I was on the Clain, the day I saw you
Surpass in beauty all the [ poems/shepherdesses ]
Which the young shepherds thought most beautiful.
For I pay no regard to what you are,
But to what you were, so deeply are your lovely features
Graven in me, in such a way
That that which you were, is what I carry in my blood.
 
Since the moment when you pierced my heart with your eye
To figure out the end of it, I had the riddle considered
By an old dame at the town of Crotelles, who
Might tell the whole story, whether good or bad.
 
After she’d hawked three times in her breast,
Three times spat, she took some dough,
Shaped it in her fingers and made from it an image
Which resembled you in its manner and looks,
Turning three times and thrice murmuring
Twining all around my neck with her garter
She said to me: “I do not hold your neck with my garter
As firmly as your life is the inheritor of ill-luck,
Francine’s prisoner, and only death
Will loose the bond which holds you so tight:
Never hope you’ll be able to undertake
To make that icicle warm, which should turn you to cinders.”
 
Alas, I didn’t believe her, and so wishing
To be more certain of it, I tried cutting of straws
On the eve of St John’s day ; but right then I saw
Mine, the sign of Love, grow more than arm’s length
While yours stayed short – a sign that you had
No care for my pain, and that you didn’t love me,
And that your love which is not at all fixed,
Like the short straw, has remained short.
 
Again the day before yesterday, to try you again, I put
In the hollow of my hand some hazel-leaves ;
But tapping on them, no sound did they give me,
And flopping soundlessly on my hand they withered,
A true sign that I am mocked in your love
Since in tapping on them they crackled not a bit:
Showing by this means that your heart does not crackle
As mine does with a secret flame.
 
O my fair Francine, my proud lass, why
As you dance, do you not take my hand in yours?
Why, tired from the dance, lying in these flowers,
Do I not have either my head laid in your lap,
Or my eyes on yours, or my lips upon
Your two breasts born of snow and ivory?
Do I look to you too old? My young beard has still
Only begun to spread across my cheek,
And your lips which surpass the coral’s beauty
Would suffer, if they chose to kiss me, no harm:
But just like a lizard hides itself beneath the grass
You will hide your tongue beneath my blond hair;
Then, withdrawing it, you will take to yourself
My heart, which will leave me to kiss you.
 
Ah, take then my heart along with this pair
Of wood-pigeons which I offer you; they came from a nest
In that noble tree of which I’ve spoken to you;
Margot hung around my neck for them for more than an hour,
Thinking to take them to put in her cage.
But they aren’t for her: and tomorrow
I will bring back more for you, with a finch
Which already has learned by heart a fair song
Which I made the other day under a pine-tree,
Whose beginning is “Tony and Francine”.
Oh cruel one, stay, and turn not your loving
Eyes from me: ah, I am unhappy
For I recognise my illness, even recognise
The power of Love who devours my blood.
His power is cruel and has no other pleasure
Than burning our hearts with his little fire
Or icing them over, as if taking his essence
From ice or fire or some rock in the countryside.
Ah, if I were a bee or a butterfly, I would try
Despite you to kiss you, and then would sit
On your breasts, to suck out with my mouth
That humour which makes you so savage towards me.
 
O fair lady with the sweet glance, Francine with the fair brow,
Kiss me I pray, and embrace me as
A tree is embraced by some strong vine.
“A meaningless kiss often brings pleasure.”
I’m dying! you’ll make me shred this bouquet
Which I picked for you, of thyme and lily-of-the-valley
And that red flower we call ‘little Cassandre’,
And the white flower we call ‘little Olive’
To which Bellot gave both life and name,
And that one which takes its name from yours.
 
Oh, where are you running? My proud enemy,
I see myself stripped of jacket and smock,
I’ll run naked to the top of that rock
Where you see that boy fishing with his line
So I can throw my lost body into the Loire
To wash away my pain, or to drink so much
Of the foam and waves that the flame of loving
May, with water opposed to fire, be consumed.
 
So said Tony, as he fainted on the grass
Almost overcome at seeing his lady so proud
Laughing at his pain, without deigning even
With just one wink of the eye to soften his torment.
 
I was just opening my lips after Tony to say
How much worse Marion was to me,
When I spotted her mother hastily getting into the water
And taking away her daughter with her in a boat
Which, bobbing on the waves, was waiting for this task
Tied to the trunk of a wide-crowned willow.
 
The oars were already drawing the wide-bellied boat,
And the sail, filling his great rounded folds
Was carrying off the pleasure which keeps my heart in pain,
As I sat down on the bank at the edge of the sand:
And seeing the boat running away from me
I sang this farewell-song to Marion:
 
Half-a-dozen lines in, Ronsard puns gently on “pastourelles”: the most beautiful of ‘shepherdesses’ of course, but in a poem, why should the lady not surpass all poetry in beauty too – or at least all pastoral poetry?
 
Once again Remy Belleau’s commentary offers helpful notes.  Crotelles is  a village near to Poictiers “where they make a thousand noble things, like painted distaffs, boxes & other similar things”.  In the section towards the end of Thoinet’s complaint, various flowers are listed, several (re-)named after various poetic loves: Belleau says “our author, to give his first mistress [Cassandre] immortal praise, named with her name a beautiful red flower which is generally called “bell-flower”. Du Bellay did something similar, naming a white flower which is usually called “Our Lady’s flower” [a white violet] and which blooms in February, an « olivette » from the name of his beloved Olive. He says he has thus named with Francine’s name a beautiful flower which is now called « francinette », previously called by its Greek name anemone or ground-cherry.”
 
Belleau also informs us that the second half of the complaint, beginning “O ma belle Francine, ô ma fiere”, is imitated from Theocritus eclogue 3′ – though we now call them the Idylls of Theocritus.
 
Finally, ‘the eve of St John’s day’ is Midsummer Day, June 24th.
 
There are as usual several changes in this part of the poem, as Ronsard tidied up and improved his poem. I must say, though, that in at least one case I am astonished at the choice of replacement line: where first her eyes take their freezing or burning effect ‘from ice or fire that we will never comprehend’, the revised version has their freezing and burning coming ‘from ice or fire or some rock in the countryside‘?!?!  I’m also amused by how Ronsard’s later more prudish self removes the line about Thoinet having his hand under Francine’s skirt!
 
Six ans sont ja passez, et si dedans l’oreille
J’entens encor’ le son de ta voix nompareille,
Qui me gaigna le coeur, et me souvient encor
De ta vermeille bouche et de tes cheveux d’or,
De ta main, de tes yeux, et si le temps qui passe
A depuis desrobé quelque peu de leur grace,
Si est-ce que de toi je ne suis moins ravy
Que je fus sur le Clain, le jour que je te vy
Surpasser en beauté toutes les pastourelles,
Que les jeunes pasteurs estimoient les plus belles.
Car je n’ay pas esgard à cela que tu es,
Mais à ce que tu fus, tant les amoureux traits
Te graverent en moy, voire de telle sorte
Que telle que tu fus telle au cœur je te porte.
 
Dés l’heure que le cœur des yeux tu me perças,
Pour en sçavoir la fin je fis tourner le Sas
Par une Janeton, qui au bourg de Crotelles
Soit du bien, soit du mal, disoit toutes nouvelles.
 
Apres qu’elle eut trois fois craché dedans son sein,
Trois fois esternué, elle prist du levain,
Le retaste en ses doigts, et en fist une image
Qui te sembloit de port de taille et de visage :
Puis tournoyant trois fois, et trois fois marmonnant,
De sa gertiere alla tout mon col entournant,
Et me dit, Je ne tiens si fort de ma gertiere
Ton col, que ta vie est tenu prisonniere
Par les mains de Francine, et seulement la mort
Desnou’ra le lien qui te serre si fort :
Et n’espere jamais de vouloir entreprendre
D’eschauffer un glaçon qui te doit mettre en cendre.
 
Las! je ne la creu pas, et pour vouloir adonc
En estre plus certain, je fis couper le jonc
La veille de sainct Jean : mais je vy sur la place
Le mien, signe d’ Amour, croistre plus d’une brasse,
Le tien demeurer court, signe que tu n’avois
Soucy de ma langueur, et que tu ne m’aimois,
Et que ton amitié qui n’est point asseurée,
Ainsi que le jonc court, est courte demeurée.
 
Je mis pour t’essayer encores davant-hier
Dans le creux de ma main des fueilles de coudrier :
Mais en tappant dessus, nul son ne me rendirent,
Et, flasques, sans sonner sur la main me fanirent,
Vray signe que je suis en ton amour moqué,
Puis qu’en frapant dessus elles n’ont point craqué :
Pour monstrer par effet que ton cœur ne craquette
Ainsi que fait le mien d’une flame segrette.
 
O ma belle Francine, ô ma fiere, et pourquoy
En dansant, de tes mains ne me prens-tu le doy ?
Pourquoy lasse du bal entre ces fleurs couchée,
N’ay-je sur ton giron ou la teste panchée,
Ou la main sous ta cotte, ou la levre dessus
Ton tetin, par lequel ton prisonnier je fus ?
Te semble-je trop vieil ? encor la barbe tendre
Ne fait que commencer sur ma jouë à s’estendre,
Et ta bouche qui passe en beauté le coural,
S’elle veut me baiser, ne se fera point mal :
Mais ainsi qu’un Lezard se cache sous l’herbette,
Sous ma blonde toison cacheras ta languette :
Puis en la retirant, tu tireras à toy
Mon cœur, pour te baiser, qui sortira de moy.
 
Helas prens donc mon cœur, avecques ceste paire
De ramiers que je t’offre, ils sont venus de l’aire
De ce gentil ramier dont je t’avois parlé :
Margot m’en a tenu plus d’une heure acollé,
Les pensant emporter pour les mettre en sa cage.
Mais ce n’est pas pour elle : et demain davantage
Je t’en rapporteray, avecques un pinson
Qui desja sçait par cœur une belle chanson,
Que je fis l’autre jour dessous une aubespine,
Dont le commencement est Thoinet et Francine.
Hà, cruelle, demeure, et tes yeux amoureux
Ne destourne de moy : hà je suis malheureux !
Car je cognois mon mal, et si ai cognoissance
D’Amour et de sa mere, et quelle est leur puissance.
Leur puissance est cruelle, et n’ont point d’autre jeu,
Sinon que de brusler nos cœurs à petit feu,
Ou de les englacer, comme ayant pris leur estre
D’une glace ou d’un feu qu’on ne sauroit cognoistre.
Ha ! que ne suis-je abeille, ou papillon, j’irois
Maugré toy te baiser, et puis je m’assirois
Sur tes tetins, afin de succer de ma bouche
Ceste humeur qui te fait contre moy si farouche.
 
O belle au doux regard, Francine au beau sourcy,
Baise-moy je te prie, et m’embrasses ainsy
Qu’un arbre est embrassé d’une vigne bien forte.
« Souvent un vain baiser quelque plaisir apporte. »
Je meurs ! tu me feras despecer ce bouquet,
Que j’ay cueilly pour joy, de Thym et de Muguet,
Et de la rouge-fleur qu’on nomme Cassandrette,
Et de la blanche-fleur qu’on appelle Olivette,
A qui Bellot donna et la vie et le nom,
Et de celle qui prend de ton nom son surnom.
 
Las ! où fuis tu de moy ? hà ma fiere ennemie,
Je m’en vais despouiller jaquette et souquenie,
Et m’en courray tout nud au haut de ce rocher,
Où tu vois ce garçon à la ligne pescher,
Afin de me lancer à corps perdu dans Loire,
Pour laver mon soucy, ou afin de tant boire
D’escumes et de flots, que la flamme d’aimer,
Par l’eau contraire au feu se puisse consumer.
 
Ainsi disoit Thoinet, qui se pasma sur l’herbe,
Presque transi de voir sa dame si superbe,
Qui rioit de son mal, sans daigner seulement
D’un seul petit clin d’œil appaiser son tourment.
 
J’ouvrois desja la lévre apres Thoinet pour dire
De combien Marion m’estoit encores pire,
Quand j’avise sa mere en haste gagner l’eau,
Et sa fille emmener avec elle au bateau,
Qui se joüant sur l’onde attendoit ceste charge,
Lié contre le tronc d’un saule au feste large.
 
Ja les rames tiroient le bateau bien pansu,
Et la voile en enflant son grand reply bossu
Emportoit le plaisir qui mon cœur tient en peine,
Quand je m’assis au bord de la premiere arene :
Et voyant le bateau qui s’enfuyoit de moy,
Parlant à Marion je chantay ce convoy:
Six years have already passed, and still within my ears
I hear the sound of your matchless voice
Which won my heart, and reminds me still
Of your crimson lips and golden hair,
Of your hand, your eyes, and if passing time
Has stolen away some part of their grace,
Still am I no less in love with you,
Than I was on the Clain, the day I saw you
Surpass in beauty all the [ poems/shepherdesses ]
Which the young shepherds thought most beautiful.
For I pay no regard to what you are,
But to what you were, so deeply are your lovely features
Graven in me, in such a way
That that which you were, is what I carry in my heart.
 
Since the moment when you pierced my heart with your eyes
To figure out the end of it, I had the riddle considered
By an old dame at the town of Crotelles, who
Might tell the whole story, whether good or bad.
 
After she’d hawked three times in her breast,
Three times spat, she took some dough,
Shaped it in her fingers and made from it an image
Which resembled you in its manner and looks,
Turning three times and thrice murmuring
Twining all around my neck with her garter
She said to me: “I do not hold your neck with my garter
As firmly as your life is held prisoner
By the hands of Francine, and only death
Will loose the bond which holds you so tight:
Never hope you’ll be able to undertake
To make that icicle warm, which should turn you to cinders.
 
Alas, I didn’t believe her, and so wishing
To be more certain of it, I tried cutting of straws
On the eve of St John’s day ; but right then I saw
Mine, the sign of Love, grow more than arm’s length
While yours stayed short – a sign that you had
No care for my pain, and that you didn’t love me,
And that your love which is not at all fixed,
Like the short straw, has remained short.
 
Again the day before yesterday, to try you again, I put
In the hollow of my hand some hazel-leaves ;
But tapping on them, no sound did they give me,
And flopping soundlessly on my hand they withered,
A true sign that I am mocked in your love
Since in tapping on them they crackled not a bit:
Showing by this means that your heart does not crackle
As mine does with a secret flame.
 
O my fair Francine, my proud lass, why
As you dance, do you not take my hand in yours?
Why, tired from the dance, lying in these flowers,
Do I not have either my head laid in your lap,
Or my hand beneath your skirt, or my lips upon
Your breast, which made me your prisoner?
Do I look to you too old? My young beard has still
Only begun to spread across my cheek,
And your lips which surpass the coral’s beauty
Would suffer, if they chose to kiss me, no harm:
But just like a lizard hides itself beneath the grass
You will hide your tongue beneath my blond hair;
Then, withdrawing it, you will take to yourself
My heart, which will leave me to kiss you.
 
Ah, take then my heart along with this pair
Of wood-pigeons which I offer you; they came from a nest
In that noble tree of which I’ve spoken to you;
Margot hung around my neck for them for more than an hour,
Thinking to take them to put in her cage.
But they aren’t for her: and tomorrow
I will bring back more for you, with a finch
Which already has learned by heart a fair song
Which I made the other day under a pine-tree,
Whose beginning is “Tony and Francine”.
Oh cruel one, stay, and turn not your loving
Eyes from me: ah, I am unhappy
For I recognise my illness, even have understanding
Of Love and his mother, and what their power is.
Their power is cruel, and they have no other pleasure
Except to burn our hearts with their little fire
Or to ice them over, as if taking their essence
From ice or fire that we will never comprehend.
Ah, if I were a bee or a butterfly, I would try
Despite you to kiss you, and then would sit
On your breasts, to suck out with my mouth
That humour which makes you so savage towards me.
 
O fair lady with the sweet glance, Francine with the fair brow,
Kiss me I pray, and embrace me as
A tree is embraced by some strong vine.
“A meaningless kiss often brings pleasure.”
I’m dying! you’ll make me shred this bouquet
Which I picked for you, of thyme and lily-of-the-valley
And that red flower we call ‘little Cassandre’,
And the white flower we call ‘little Olive’
To which Bellot gave both life and name,
And that one which takes its name from yours.
 
Oh, where are you running? My proud enemy,
I’m going to strip myself of jacket and smock,
I’ll run naked to the top of that rock
Where you see that boy fishing with his line
So I can throw my lost body into the Loire
To wash away my pain, or to drink so much
Of the foam and waves that the flame of loving
May, with water opposed to fire, be consumed.
 
So said Tony, as he fainted on the grass
Almost overcome at seeing his lady so proud
Laughing at his pain, without deigning even
With just one wink of the eye to soften his torment.
 
I was just opening my lips after Tony to say
How much worse Marion was to me,
When I spotted her mother hastily getting into the water
And taking away her daughter with her in a
Which, bobbing on the waves, was waiting for this task
Tied to the trunk of a wide-crowned willow.
 
The oars were already drawing the wide-bellied boat,
And the sail, filling his great rounded folds
Was carrying off the pleasure which keeps my heart in pain,
As I sat down on the bank at the edge of the sand:
And seeing the boat running away from me
I sang this farewell-song to Marion:
 
 
For the enthusiast, here is the Theocritus poem Ronsard adapted: you’ll certainly recognise some considerable overlaps. The translation is by Charles Stuart Calverley (1908).
Κωμάσδω ποτὶ τὰν ᾿Αμαρυλλίδα, ταὶ δέ μοι αἶγες
βόσκονται κατ᾽ ὄρος, καὶ ὁ Τίτυρος αὐτὰς ἐλαύνει.
Τίτυρ᾽ ἐμὶν τὸ καλὸν πεφιλαμένε, βόσκε τὰς αἶγας,
καὶ ποτὶ τὰν κράναν ἄγε Τίτυρε, καὶ τὸν ἐνόρχαν
τὸν Λιβυκὸν κνάκωνα φυλάσσεο, μή τι κορύψῃ.
̂̓Ω χαρίεσσ᾽ ᾿Αμαρυλλί, τί μ᾽ οὐκέτι τοῦτο κατ᾽ ἄντρον
παρκύπτοισα καλεῖς τὸν ἐρωτύλον; ἦ ῥά με μισεῖς;
ἦ ῥά γέ τοι σιμὸς καταφαίνομαι ἐγγύθεν ἦμεν,
νύμφα, καὶ προγένειος; ἀπάγξασθαί με ποησεῖς.
 
ἠνίδε τοι δέκα μᾶλα φέρω: τηνῶθε καθεῖλον,
ὧ μ᾽ ἐκέλευ καθελεῖν τύ: καὶ αὔριον ἄλλά τοι οἰσῶ.
θᾶσαι μὰν θυμαλγὲς ἐμὸν ἄχος: αἴθε γενοίμαν
ἁ βομβεῦσα μέλισσα καὶ ἐς τεὸν ἄντρον ἱκοίμαν
τὸν κισσὸν διαδὺς καὶ τὰν πτέριν, ᾇ τὺ πυκάσδῃ.
νῦν ἔγνων τὸν ῎Ερωτα: βαρὺς θεός: ἦ ῥα λεαίνας
μαζὸν ἐθήλαζε, δρυμῷ τέ νιν ἔτρεφε μάτηρ,
ὅς με κατασμύχων καὶ ἐς ὀστίον ἄχρις ἰάπτει.
ὦ τὸ καλὸν ποθορεῦσα, τὸ πᾶν λίθος: ὦ κυάνοφρυ
νύμφα, πρόσπτυξαί με τὸν αἰπόλον, ὥς τυ φιλάσω.
ἔστι καὶ ἐν κενεοῖσι φιλάμασιν ἁδέα τέρψις.
τὸν στέφανον τῖλαί με κατ᾽ αὐτίκα λεπτὰ ποησεῖς,
τόν τοι ἐγὼν ᾿Αμαρυλλὶ φίλα κισσοῖο φυλάσσω
ἀμπλέξας καλύκεσσι καὶ εὐόδμοισι σελίνοις.–
῎Ωμοι ἐγώ, τί πάθω; τί ὁ δύσσοος; οὐχ ὑπακούεις;–
 
τὰν βαίταν ἀποδὺς ἐς κύματα τηνῶ ἁλεῦμαι,
ὧπερ τὼς θύννως σκοπιάζεται ῎Ολπις ὁ γριπεύς:
καἴκα δἠποθάνω, τό γε μὰν τεὸν ἁδὺ τέτυκται.
ἔγνων πρᾶν, ὅκα μευ μεμναμένω, εἰ φιλέεις με,
οὐδὲ τὸ τηλέφιλον ποτεμάξατο, τὸ πλατάγημα,
ἀλλ᾽ αὔτως ἁπαλῷ ποτὶ πάχεος ἐξεμαράνθη.
εἶπε καὶ ἀγροιῶτις ἀλαθέα κοσκινόμαντις,
ἁ πρᾶν ποιολογεῦσα Παραιβάτις, οὕνεκ᾽ ἐγὼ μὲν
τὶν ὅλος ἔγκειμαι, τὺ δέ μευ λόγον οὐδένα ποιῇ.
ἦ μάν τοι λευκὰν διδυματόκον αἶγα φυλάσσω,
τάν με καὶ ἁ Μέρμνωνος ἐριθακὶς ἁ μελανόχρως
αἰτεῖ, καὶ δωσῶ οἱ, ἐπεὶ τύ μοι ἐνδιαθρύπτῃ.
῞Αλλεται ὀφθαλμός μευ ὁ δεξιός: ἦ ῥά γ᾽ ἰδησῶ
αὐτάν; ᾀσεῦμαι ποτὶ τὰν πίτυν ὧδ᾽ ἀποκλινθείς,
καί κέ μ᾽ ἴσως ποτίδοι, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἀδαμαντίνα ἐστίν.
 
῾Ιππομένης ὅκα δὴ τὰν παρθένον ἤθελε γᾶμαι,
μᾶλ᾽ ἐν χερσὶν ἑλὼν δρόμον ἄνυεν: ἁ δ᾽ ᾿Αταλάντα
ὡς ἴδεν, ὡς ἐμάνη, ὡς ἐς βαθὺν ἅλατ᾽ ἔρωτα.
τὰν ἀγέλαν χὡ μάντις ἀπ᾽ ῎Οθρυος ἆγε Μελάμπους
ἐς Πύλον: ἁ δὲ Βίαντος ἐν ἀγκοίναισιν ἐκλίνθη,
μάτηρ ἁ χαρίεσσα περίφρονος ᾿Αλφεσιβοίης.
τὰν δὲ καλὰν Κυθέρειαν ἐν ὤρεσι μᾶλα νομεύων
οὐχ οὑτῶς ὥδωνις ἐπὶ πλέον ἄγαγε λύσσας,
ὥστ᾽ οὐδὲ φθίμενόν νιν ἄτερ μαζοῖο τίθητι;
ζαλωτὸς μὲν ἐμὶν ὁ τὸν ἄτροπον ὕπνον ἰαύων
᾿Ενδυμίων, ζαλῶ δὲ φίλα γύναι ᾿Ιασίωνα,
ὃς τοσσῆν᾽ ἐκύρησεν, ὅσ᾽ οὐ πευσεῖσθε βέβαλοι.
᾿Αλγέω τὰν κεφαλάν, τὶν δ᾽ οὐ μέλει. οὐκέτ᾽ ἀείδω,
κεισεῦμαι δὲ πεσών, καὶ τοὶ λύκοι ὧδέ μ᾽ ἔδονται.
ὡς μέλι τοι γλυκὺ τοῦτο κατὰ βρόχθοιο γένοιτο.
 
I pipe to Amaryllis; while my goats,
Tityrus their guardian, browse along the fell.
O Tityrus, as I love thee, feed my goats:
And lead them to the spring, and Tityrus, ’ware
The lifted crest of yon gray Libyan ram.
 
Ah winsome Amaryllis! Why no more
Greet’st thou thy darling, from the caverned rock
Peeping all coyly? Think’st thou scorn of him?
Hath a near view revealed him satyr-shaped
Of chin and nostril? I shall hang me soon.
See here ten apples: from thy favourite tree
1 plucked them: I shall bring ten more anon.
Ah witness my heart-anguish! Oh were I
A booming bee, to waft me to thy lair,
Threading the fern and ivy in whose depths
Thou nestlest! I have learned what Love is now:
Fell god, he drank the lioness’s milk,
In the wild woods his mother cradled him,
Whose fire slow-burns me, smiting to the bone.
O thou whose glance is beauty and whose heart
All marble: O dark-eyebrowed maiden mine!
Cling to thy goatherd, let him kiss thy lips,
For there is sweetness in an empty kiss.
Thou wilt not? Piecemeal I will rend the crown,
The ivy-crown which, dear, I guard for thee,
Inwov’n with scented parsley and with flowers:
Oh I am desperate — what betides me, what? —
Still art thou deaf? I’ll doff my coat of skins
And leap into yon waves, where on the watch
For mackerel Olpis sits: tho’ I ‘scape death,
That I have all but died will pleasure thee.
That learned I when (I murmuring “loves she me?”)
The Love-in-absence, crushed, returned no sound,
But shrank and shrivelled on my smooth young wrist.
I learned it of the sieve-divining crone
Who gleaned behind the reapers yesterday:
“Thou’rt wrapt up all,” Agraia said, “in her;
She makes of none account her worshipper.”
 
Lo! a white goat, and twins, I keep for thee:
Mermnon’s lass covets them: dark she is of skin:
But yet hers be they; thou but foolest me.
 
She cometh, by the quivering of mine eye.
I’ll lean against the pine-tree here and sing.
She may look round: she is not adamant.
 
[he sings] Hippomenes, when he a maid would wed,
Took apples in his hand and on he sped.
Famed Atalanta’s heart was won by this;
She marked, and maddening sank in Love’s abyss.
 
Prom Othrys did the seer Melampus stray
To Pylos with his herd: and lo there lay
In a swain’s arms a maid of beauty rare;
Alphesiboea, wise of heart, she bare.
 
Did not Adonis rouse to such excess
Of frenzy her whose name is Loveliness,
(He a mere lad whose wethers grazed the hill)
That, dead, he’s pillowed on her bosom still?
 
Endymion sleeps the sleep that changeth not:
And, maiden mine, I envy him his lot!
Envy Iasion’s: his it was to gain
Bliss that I dare not breathe in ears profane.
 
My head aches. What reck’st thou? I sing no more:
E’en where I fell I’ll lie, until the wolves
Rend me — may that be honey in thy mouth!
 

Odes 4:5

Standard

 

Guy, nos meilleurs ans coulent
Comme les eaux qui roulent
D’un cours sempiternel ;
La mort pour sa sequelle
Nous ameine avec elle
Un exil éternel.
 
Nulle humaine priere
Ne repousse en arriere
Le bateau de Charon,
Quand l’ame nue arrive
Vagabonde en la rive
De Styx et d’Acheron.
 
Toutes choses mondaines
Qui vestent nerfs et veines
La mort égale prend,
Soient pauvres ou soient princes ;
Car sur toutes provinces
Sa main large s’estend.
 
La puissance tant forte
Du grand Achille est morte,
Et Thersite, odieux
Aux Grecs, est mort encores ;
Et Minos qui est ores
Le conseiller des dieux.
 
Jupiter ne demande
Que des bœufs pour offrande ;
Mais son frere Pluton
Nous demande, nous hommes,
Qui la victime sommes
De son enfer glouton.
 
Celuy dont le Pau baigne
Le tombeau nous enseigne
N’esperer rien de haut,
Et celuy que Pegase
(Qui fit soucer Parnase)
Culbuta d’un grand saut.
 
Las ! on ne peut cognaistre
Le destin qui doit naistre,
Et l’homme en vain poursuit
Conjecturer la chose
Que Dieu sage tient close
Sous une obscure nuit.
 
Je pensois que la trope
Que guide Calliope,
Troupe mon seul confort,
Soustiendroit ma querelle,
Et qu’indonté par elle
Je donterois la mort.
 
Mais une fiévre grosse
Creuse déjà ma fosse
Pour me banir là bas,
Et sa flame cruelle
Se paist de ma mouelle,
Miserable repas.
 
Que peu s’en faut, ma vie,
Que tu ne m’es ravie
Close sous le tombeau,
Et que mort je ne voye
Où Mercure convoye
Le debile troupeau !
 
[Et ce Grec qui les peines
Dont les guerres sont pleines
Va là bas racontant,
Poëte qu’une presse
Des épaules espaisse
Admire en l’écoutant.]
 
A bon droit Prométhée
Pour sa fraude inventée
Endure un tourment tel,
Qu’un aigle sur la roche
Luy ronge d’un bec croche
Son poumon immortel.
 
Depuis qu’il eut robée
La flame prohibée,
Pour les dieux despiter,
Les bandes incogneues
Des fiévres sont venues
Parmi nous habiter.
 
Et la mort despiteuse,
Auparavant boiteuse,
Fut légère d’aller ;
D’ailes mal-ordonnées
Aux hommes non données
Dedale coupa l’air.
 
L’exécrable Pandore
Fut forgée, et encore
Astrée s’en-vola,
Et la boîte féconde
Peupla le pauvre monde
De tant de maux qu’il a.
 
Ah ! le meschant courage
Des hommes de nostre âge
N’endure pas ses faits ;
Que Jupiter estuye
Sa foudre, qui s’ennuye
Venger tant de mesfaits !
Guy, our best years rush by
Like streams flowing
In their everlasting race ;
Death, as the sequel,
Brings us with it
Eternal exile.
 
No human prayer
Can push back
Charon’s boat
When the naked soul arrives
A wanderer at the river
Styx and Acheron.
 
All wordly things
Equipped with nerves and veins
Death takes equally,
Be they poor men or princes ;
For over all the empires
Its wide hand extends.
 
The strength, though great,
Of mighty Achilles is dead ;
And Thersites, hated
By the Greeks, is dead too ;
And Minos too, who was once
Advisor to the gods.
 
Jupiter requires only
Cattle as an offering ;
But his brother Pluto
Requires us, us men,
Who are the victims
Of his greedy hell.
 
He, whose tomb the Pau [Po]
Bathes, teaches us
To hope for nothing from on high,
And he too, whom Pegasus
(Who disquieted Parnassus)
Knocked down with his great leap.
 
Alas ! we cannot know
The fate which must come to us,
And man in vain seeks
To conjecture what thing
Our wise God keeps hidden
Beneath dark night.
 
I thought that the troop
Whom Calliope leads,
The troop which is my sole comfort,
Would support my complaint
And that, untamed by them,
I would tame death.
 
But a great fever
Is already digging my grave
To banish me down there,
And its cruel flame
Is feeding on my marrow,
A wretched repast.
 
How little is needed, mt life,
For you to be taken from me,
Shut in beneath my tomb,
And for me to see death
Where Mercury brings
The feeble troop !
 
[And that Greek who
Continually recounts down there
The pains with which war is filled,
The poet whom a crowd
Of wide shoulders
Admires as they listen.]
 
Rightly does Prometheus
For that trick he contrived
Endure such torment,
As, on his rock, an eagle
With its crooked beak gnaws
His immortal guts.
 
Since he stole away
The forbidden fire
To spite the gods,
The unknown bonds
Of fevers have come
To live among us ;
 
And resentful death,
Before that limping slowly,
Has become light on his feet.
With clumsy wings
Not granted to man
Daedalus cut through the air.
 
Cursed Pandora
Was forged and, still
A star, flew off
While the fruitful box
Peopled this poor world
With all the evils it had.
 
Ah, the paltry courage
Of the men of our age
Cannot endure their deeds ;
May Jupiter hold back
His thunderbolts, bored with
Avenging so many misdeeds !

 

This Ode is dedicated to Guy Pacate, prior of Sougé – a small village in the Loir region. Even today it consists of little more than one street and a church. Pacate had been one of the little group around Daurat in the 1540s, including Ronsard, du Bellay and Denisot, from which sprang the Pléiade. Among them he was apparently known for his learning and his gift for Latin poetry; though beyond their circle he seems obscure.  Perhaps it is relevant that, in the posthumous editions of Ronsard the dedication was to Jean Daurat himself, rather than this little-known satellite of his.
 
It’s certainly relevant that Pacate knew his classics: there is an array of classical references here rarely seen in such number in Ronsard’s poems! But at the same time Ronsard contrives an inward-looking reflection on death rather than a grand, public poem, suitable to the relative obscurity of the dedicatee.
 
Stanza 2 refers to the journey to the afterlife: souls would come down to the river Styx where they awaited Charon’s boat to ferry them over to Hades. (Mercury guided souls to the underworld – stanza 10.)
 
Stanza 4 contrasts Achilles with Thersites, the former the hero of the Iliad, the latter an annoying, cowardly tell-tale also on the Greek side; and adds Minos, once a king on earth, but tricked and killed in his bath by his daughters.
 
In stanza 6, Pau is famous as the birthplace of “noste Enric” (‘our Henry’), Henry IV of France; and earlier was the base of Gaston Fébus, whose Renaissance court paralleled that of Italian city-states. But this Pau is in fact the Po in north Italy, reputed to be where Phaethon fell when struck down by Jupiter’s thunderbolt. The second half of the stanza is about Perseus; other editions have “sourcer” rather than the (unique?) “soucer” which I have treated as if it were “soucier”: “Qui fit sourcer Parnase” would mean something like “who made a spring come from Parnassus”, the spring being the Hippocrene spring which was created when Pegasus stamped his foot, and which became sacred to the Muses.
 
The troop of Calliope in stanza 8 is the Muses – Calliope is the muse of epic poetry. In stanza 11, the poet is no doubt Homer; we have met Prometheus (stanzas 12-13), punished by the gods for bringing fire to man, regularly. In stanza 14 I have to admit the presence of Daedalus confuses me: there is no link to Pandora, nor did his flight lead to his own death. I assume that Ronsard is offering a simile – like Daedalus taking wing, death too became swifter.
 
Finally, in the penultimate stanza, Pandora is ‘forged’ because she the first woman, was made by Vulcan on Jupiter’s instructions. The story of the evils contained in Pandora’s box is well-known.
 
 
 
 
 

Chanson (Am. 1:227d)

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

 

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

Ode 3:13 – to Joachim du Bellay

Standard
Nous avons quelque fois grand faute
Soit de biens, soit de faveur haute,
Comme l’affaire nous conduit,
Mais tousjours tandis que nous sommes
Ou morts, ou mis au rang des hommes,
Nous avons besoing de bon bruit.
 
Car la louange emmiellée
Au sucre des Muses mellée
Nous perçe l’aureille en riant
Je di louange qui ne cede
A l’or que Pactole possede
Ny aux perles de l’Orient.
 
La vertu qui n’a cognoissance
Combien la Muse a de puissance
Languit en tenebreux sejour
Et en vain elle est soupirante
Que sa clarté n’est apparante
Pour se monstrer au raiz du jour.
 
France sous Henry fleurist comme
Sous August’ fleurist Romme,
Elle n’est plaine seulement
D’hommes qui animent le cuïvre,
Ny de peintres qui en font vivre
Deux ensamble eternellement ;
 
Mais grosse de sçavoir enfante
Des filz dont el’ est triumphante,
Qui son nom rendent honoré :
L’un chantre d’amour la decore
L’autre Mars, et l’autre encore,
De Phoebus au beau crin doré.
 
Entre lesquelz le ciel ordonne
Que le premier lieu l’on te donne,
Si tu monstres au jour tes vers
Entés dans le tronc d’une Olive,
Qui hausse sa perrucque vive
Jusque à l’esgal des lauriers vers.
We have sometimes a great lack
Either of goods or of high favour,
As matters lead us,
But always while we are
Either dead or placed among the ranks of men,
We have need of good report.
 
For honeyed praise
Mixed with the sugar of the Muses
Pierces our ears amidst laughter;
 I sing a praise which does not give place
To the gold which Pactolus owns
Nor to the pearls of the Orient.
 
Virtue, which takes no note
How powerful is the Muse,
Pines in a shadowy place
And in vain it sighs
That its brightness is not bright enough
To show itself in the light of day.
 
France under Henry flourishes as
Rome flourished under Augustus;
It is not full only
Of men who bring life to brass,
Nor of painters who make the two of them
Together live eternally;
 
But pregnant with knowledge it gives birth
To sons in whom she is triumphant,
Who make her name honoured;
One ornaments her as a singer of love,
Another of war, another still
Of Phoebus with his fair golden hair.
 
Among these, heaven ordains
That we give you the first place,
If you show the daylight your verse
Grafted on the trunk of an Olive,
Which raises its living crown
Up to level with the green laurels.

 

 Today, a lovely & beautifully-built ode to his friend du Bellay, praising his ‘Olive’ (the first book of sonnets in French). Along the way Ronsard manages to get in a brief but telling patriotic gesture of praise to Henri II’s France, another Rome in the golden age of Augustus. As each stanza moves us one step closer to the goal, in a very carefully-calculated but artful way, there is a definite sense of climax.
 
 
 
 
 

Ode 5:3

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The mention of Nicolas Denisot in a recent post sent me off looking for more information. I was fascinated to discover that Ronsard had been one of several Pleiade poets (others were du Bellay and Baif) who contributed poems to a book Denisot saw through the presses in 1551. It was of course early days for the Pleaide poets but it’s still an impressive list! And it secured Denisot’s reputation as a poet.

The book was the Tombeau de Marguerite de Valois Royne de Navarre; you can read it here. But this book was itself a translation (or rather a set of translations) by these French poets of the Hecatodistichon composed by Denisot’s erstwhile pupils in England. For he had spent two or three years there as their tutor before being recalled to France, and their poem in memory of Margaret of Navarre, who died late in 1549 shortly after Denisot’s return to France, no doubt reflected Denisot’s own style and preferences as much as their own. At any rate, Denisot enthusiastically saw the Hecatodistichon through the presses in 1550, and then prevailed on his humanist friends to pull together the Tombeau, whose subtitle is: “Composed first in Latin Distichs by three sisters and Princesses in England; then translated into Greek, Italian and French by several excellent poets of France.” Daurat provided the Greek translation; du Bellay, Denisot and Baif the French; and Jean Pierre de Mesme (who had previously translated Ariosto into French) provided the Italian.

The three princesses were the Seymour sisters – Anne, Margaret and Jane; it’s believed their father hoped to marry Jane to Edward VI, so the family certainly did move in the highest circles. Ronsard’s ode sets their work up as the dawn of culture in England, hitherto ‘barbarous’, and he indicates hopes for an Anglo-French literary rapprochement built on these foundations. Richelet adds notes on the ode (re-published in 1552 in Ronsard’s book 5) to the effect that the ode is “for three learned daughters of England, instructed and taught by Denisot, count of Alsinois”; “because at that time these three ladies had composed a book in Christian distichs, in Latin, terrifically well written, which were soon translated into Greek, Italian and French, and were dedicated to Mme Marguerite, only sister of king Henry II”.

 

Quand les filles d’Achelois,
Les trois belles chanteresses,
Qui des homme par leurs vois
Estoient les enchanteresses,
Virent jaunir la toison,
Et les soldars de Jason
Ramer la barque argienne
Sur la mer Sicilienne,
 
Elles, d’ordre, flanc à flanc,
Oisives au front des ondes,
D’un peigne d’yvoire blanc
Frisotoient leurs tresses blondes,
Et mignotant de leurs yeux
Les attraits delicieux,
Aguignoient la nef passante
D’une œillade languissante.
 
Puis souspirerent un chant
De leurs gorges nompareilles,
Par douce force alléchant
Les plus gaillardes aureilles ;
Afin que le son pipeur
Fraudast le premier labeur
Des chevaliers de la Grece
Amorcés de leur caresse.
 
Ja ces demi-dieux estoient
Prests de tomber en servage,
Et jà domptés se jettoient
Dans la prison du rivage,
Sans Orphée, qui, soudain
Prenant son luth en la main,
Opposé vers elles, joue
Loin des autres sur la proue,
 
Afin que le contre-son
De sa repoussante lyre
Perdist au vent la chanson
Premier qu’entrer au navire,
Et qu’il tirast des dangers
Ces demi-dieux passagers
Qui devoient par la Libye
Porter leur mere affoiblie.
 
Mais si ce harpeur fameux
Oyoit le luth des Serenes
Qui sonne aux bords escumeux
Des Albionnes arenes,
Son luth payen il fendroit
Et disciple se rendroit
Dessous leur chanson chrestienne
Dont la voix passe la sienne.
 
Car luy, enflé de vains mots,
Devisoit à l’aventure
Ou des membres du Chaos
Ou du sein de la Nature ;
Mais ces vierges chantent mieux
Le vray manouvrier des cieux,
Et sa demeure eternelle,
Et ceux qui vivent en elle.
 
Las ! ce qu’on void de mondain
Jamais ferme ne se fonde,
Ains fuit et refuit soudain
Comme le branle d’une onde
Qui ne cesse de rouler,
De s’avancer et couler,
Tant que rampant il arrive
D’un grand heurt contre la rive.
 
La science, auparavant
Si long temps orientale,
Peu à peu marchant avant,
S’apparoist occidentale,
Et sans jamais se borner
N’a point cessé de tourner,
Tant qu’elle soit parvenue
A l’autre rive incogneue.
 
Là de son grave sourcy
Vint affoler le courage
De ces trois vierges icy,
Les trois seules de nostre âge,
Et si bien les sceut tenter,
Qu’ores on les oit chanter
Maint vers jumeau qui surmonte
Les nostres, rouges de honte.
 
Par vous, vierges de renom,
Vrais peintres de la mémoire,
Des autres vierges le nom
Sera clair en vostre gloire.
Et puis que le ciel benin
Au doux sexe feminin
Fait naistre chose si rare
D’un lieu jadis tant barbare,
 
Denisot se vante heuré
D’avoir oublié sa terre,
Et passager demeuré
Trois ans en vostre Angleterre,
Et d’avoir cogneu vos yeux,
Où les amours gracieux
Doucement leurs fleches dardent
Contre ceux qui vous regardent.
 
Voire et d’avoir quelquefois
Tant levé sa petitesse,
Que sous l’outil de sa vois
Il polit vostre jeunesse,
Vous ouvrant les beaux secrets
Des vieux Latins et les Grecs,
Dont l’honneur se renouvelle
Par vostre muse nouvelle.
 
Io, puis que les esprits
D’Angleterre et de la France,
Bandez d’un ligue, ont pris
Le fer contre l’ignorance,
Et que nos roys se sont faits
D’ennemis amis parfaits,
Tuans la guerre cruelle
Par une paix mutuelle,
 
Advienne qu’une de vous,
Nouant la mer passagere,
Se joigne à quelqu’un de nous
Par une nopce estrangere ;
Lors vos escrits avancez
Se verront recompensez
D’une chanson mieux sonnée,
Qui cri’ra vostre hymenée.
When the daughters of Achelous,
The three fair singers
Who were with their voices
Enchantresses of men,
Saw the fleece growing golden,
And Jason’s soldiers
Rowing the ship, the Argo,
On the Sicilian sea,
 
Lined up side by side
Lazily at the front of the waves,
With combs of white ivory
They were curling their blonde tresses
And, hinting with their eyes
At their delicious attractions,
Making signs to the passing ship
With a languishing look.
 
Then they sigh a song
From their peerless throats,
With its sweet force alluring
The strongest ears;
So that the snaring sound
Draws the Greek knights
From their primary task,
Attracted by their caresses.
 
Now would those half-gods have been
Ready to fall into slavery,
Now overcome would they have thrown themselves
Into the river’s prison,
Unless Orpheus, suddenly
Taking up his lute in his hand,
Opposing the ladies had played
Far from the others on the [ship’s] prow,
 
So that the counter-tune
Of his lyre, repelling it,
Lost in the wind the song
Which first came aboard the ship,
And drew away from danger
Those half-god travellers
Who needed to take
Through Libya their enfeebled mother.
 
But if that famous harper
Heard the lute of the Sirens
Which plays on the foamy edges
Of Albion’s sands,
His pagan lute he would break
And would become a disciple
Of their Christian song
Whose tones surpass his own.
 
For he, full of empty words,
Invented at random
Out of the limbs of Chaos
Or the heart of Nature;
But these maids sing better
Of the true maker of the heavens
And his eternal home
And those who live in it.
 
Alas, what you see in the world
Never rests firm on its foundations,
But ebbs and flows suddenly
Like the motion of the waves
Which never stop rolling,
Advancing and falling back,
As long as they come crashing
With a great shock against the shore.
 
Knowledge, hitherto
For so long a thing of the East,
Little by little moving forward
Now appeared in the West,
And without ever limiting itself
Never stopped changing,
So that it arrived
At the other shore unknown.
 
There with its haughty gravity
It arrived to bewilder the courage
Of these three maids here,
The only three of our age,
And so well did it tempt them
That soon you could hear them singing
Many a paired verse which outdid
Our own, which blush with shame.
 
Through you, maidens of renown,
True painters of memory,
The fame of other maidens
Will be bright in your glory.
And since benign heaven
Made to be born so rare a thing
In the sweet feminine sex,
And in a place hitherto so barbarous,
 
Denisot boasts himself happy
To have forgotten his own land
And remained a traveller
For three years in your England,
And to have known your eyes
From which gracious cupids
Softly dart their arrows
Against those who look on you.
 
Indeed sometimes [he boasts] of having
So raised up his own littleness
That with the tool of his own talent
He polished up your youthfulness,
Opening to you the fair secrets
Of the ancient Latins and Greeks,
Whose honour is renewed
In your new muse.
 
Ah, since the spirits
Of England and of France,
Bound in a league, have taken up
Arms against ignorance,
And since our kings have become,
Instead of enemies, perfect friends
Killing cruel war
Through a mutual peace,
 
May it come about that one of you,
Swimming the passage of the sea,
Might join herself with some one of us
In a foreign marriage;
Then your precocious writings
Will see themselves rewarded
With a song better played,
Which will announce your wedding.

(Let me admit that the second line of that last stanza is a bit of a paraphrase! “Nouer” was an antique word even in Ronsard’s day, equivalent to “nager” (‘to swim’).)

The poem falls into three equal sections: the classical introduction, the generalities about the awakening of culture in England; and then the specific praise of the three ladies. In the classical opening, Achelous was the chief river-deity of classical myth and father of the Sirens.  The legend of Jason and the Argonauts, in search of the Golden Fleece, is well-known, though it’s usually the meeting of Odysseus and the Sirens we read; less well-known is that Orpheus was one of the Argonauts.

 

 

 

Sonnet 88

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Pour celebrer des astres dévestus
L’heur qui s’escoule en celle qui me lime,
Et pour loüer son esprit qui n’estime
Que le parfait des plus rares vertus,
 
Et ses regars, ains traits d’amours pointus,
Que son bel œil au fond du cœur m’imprime,
Il me faudroit non l’ardeur de ma ryme,
Mais l’Enthousiasme aiguillon de Pontus.
 
Il me faudroit une lyre Angevine,
Et un Daurat Sereine Limousine,
Et un Belleau, qui vivant fut mon bien,
 
De mesmes mœurs d’estude et de jeunesse,
Qui maintenant des morts accroist la presse,
Ayant fini son soir avant le mien.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            To celebrate the fortune, stripped from the stars,
                                                                            Which flows in her who has snared me,
                                                                            And to praise her spirit, which values
                                                                            Only perfection among the rarest of virtues,
 
                                                                            And her glances, like sharp arrows of love
                                                                            Which her fair eye lodges deep in my heart,
                                                                            I would need not the warmth of my poetry
                                                                            But the Enthusiasm which spurs Pontus.
 
                                                                            I would need the lyre of Anjou,
                                                                            And a Daurat, the Siren of Limoges,
                                                                            And a Belleau, who was everything good to me while he lived,
 
                                                                            With the same habits of study and of youth,
                                                                            Who now augments the crowd of the dead,
                                                                            Having finished the evening [of his life] before mine.

 

 

 After the certainty of his importance in the last poem, next is an equally-typical piece of Ronsard’s modesty, and admiration for his friends and fellow-poets of the Pleiade. Muret (whose notes are reprinted by Blanchemain tells) us that line 8 refers to ‘the poet Pontus de Tyard, Lord of Bissy’; that ‘Daurat is a very excellent poet in Greek and Latin, native of Limoges, the author’s instructor’; and that ‘Belleau was the close friend of our author, and was tutor of the late M. le duc d’Elboeuf, prince in the house of Lorraine’.  What he doesn’t tell us is that the ‘lyre of Anjou’ is Joachim du Bellay, who was born at Liré, in Anjou; but that is partly because in the version Blanchemain prints, du Bellay is more directly identified through reference to “L’Olive”, France’s first book of love sonnets. Jean Daurat (or Dorat, or D’Aurat) was the teacher and inspiration of many of the Pleaide poets; shwoing that this is a late version of the poem, Remy Belleau – close friend of Ronsard – died in 1577, before he was 50.
 
Not surprisingly, the early version in Blanchemain has some quite significant differences, particularly in the final tercet! His list of poets is also different.
 
 
 
Pour celebrer des astres dévestus
L’heur escoulé dans celle qui me lime,
Et pour loüer son esprit qui n’estime
Que le divin des divines vertus,
 
Et ses regars, ains traits d’Amour pointus,
Que son bel œil au fond du cœur m’imprime,
Il me faudroit non l’ardeur de ma ryme,
Mais la fureur du Masconnois Pontus.
 
Il me faudroit cette chanson divine
Qui transforma sur la rive angevine
L’Olive pale en un teint plus naïf.
 
Et me faudroit un Des-Autels encore,
Et celui-là qui sa Meline adore
En vers dorés, le bien disant Baïf.

 

 

                                                                            To celebrate the fortune, stripped from the stars,
                                                                            Flowing in her who has snared me,
                                                                            And to praise her spirit, which values
                                                                            Only the divine among divine virtues,
 
                                                                            And her glances, like sharp arrows of Love
                                                                            Which her fair eye lodges deep in my heart,
                                                                            I would need not the warmth of my poetry
                                                                            But the passion of Pontus, the man from Mâcon.
 
                                                                            I would need that divine poetry
                                                                            Which transformed, on the river at Anjou,
                                                                            The pale Olive to a more artless complexion.
 
                                                                            And I’d need a Des Autels as well,
                                                                            And that one who is loved by his Meline
                                                                            In golden verses, the fine-speaking Baïf.
 
 
This time we have a different list, of poets who were bigger names in the 1550-60s, rather than in the 1580s and later.  As well as Pontus and du Bellay, here we have Guillaume Desautels and Jean Antoine de Baif, who wrote ‘to Meline’. We’ve met the Baif family before – Ronsard went on an embassy to Germany with the father in his youth – but Des Autels is new to us here. He was distantly related to Pontus de Tyard, and like him linked to the prominent Guise family. More a political than poetical figure, Des Autrels was nonetheless cultured and learned (a Latin and Greek connoisseur as well as a writer in French and Latin); he championed Old French style and orthography and may thus have found himself slightly at odds with Ronsard’s exuberant coinage of new words, but the two were nonetheless close friends.