Tag Archives: Juno

Amours 2:56

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Ne me suy point, Belleau, allant à la maison
De celle qui me tient en douleur nompareille :
Ignores-tu les vers chantez par la Corneille
A Mopse qui suivoit la trace de Jason ?
 
Prophete, dist l’oiseau, tu n’as point de raison
De suivre cest amant qui tout seul s’appareille
« D’aller voir ses amours : malheureux qui conseille,
« Et qui suit un amant quand il n’en est saison.
 
Pour ton profit, Belleau, que ton regard ne voye
Celle qui par les yeux la playe au cœur m’envoye,
De peur qu’il ne reçoive un mal au mien pareil.
 
Il suffist que sans toy je sois seul miserable :
Reste sain je te pri’ pour estre secourable
A ma douleur extreme, et m’y donner conseil.
 
 
 
                                                                            Don’t follow me, Belleau, as I go to the home
                                                                            Of the lady who keeps me in unequalled sadness.
                                                                            Do you not know the song sung by the crow
                                                                            To Mopsus, as he was following Jason’s footsteps ?
 
                                                                            “Prophet,” said the bird, “you are completely wrong
                                                                            To follow this lover who is sailing alone
                                                                            To visit his beloved : ‘misfortune to him who advises
                                                                            And who follows a lover at the wrong times’.”
 
                                                                            For your profit, Belleau, may your eyes not see
                                                                            Her who through her eyes sent this wound into my heart,
                                                                            For fear that yours may receive troubles equal to mine.
 
                                                                            Enough that I alone, and not you, am wretched:
                                                                            Stay healthy, I beg, to be a help
                                                                            In my extreme sadness, and to give me advice.
 
 
Although Ronsard claimed he was being less sophisticated in his classical allusions when writing the Marie poems, it seems he could not stop himself! Fortunately Belleau comes to the rescue, telling us in his commentary what we are supposed to understand from the allusion: “In the third book of the Argonauts [Argonautica], Apollonius Rhodius tells how Jason, having planned one day to see Medea, took with him Mopsus the great seer. However Juno, who favoured Jason, knowing he would get no courtesy from Medea if she found he was accompanied, made a crow and taught it to sing Greek verse, so that Mopsus had to retire.” 
 
Blanchemain also notes that Ronsard uses this same story in the Franciade, when Francus is setting off to meet Hyante. (I must add, it amuses me that France’s greatest classical playwright, another master of the language, was named after so un-lyrical a bird as the crow… )
 
Blanchemain offers a few stylistic variants but essentially the same poem:
 
 
Ne me suy point, Belleau, allant à la maison
De celle qui me tient en douleur nompareille :
Ignores-tu les vers chantez par la corneille
A Mopse qui suivoit la trace de Jason ?
 
« Prophete, dit l’oiseau, tu n’as point de raison
De suivre cest amant qui tout seul s’appareille
D’aller voir ses amours : peu sage est qui conseille,
Et qui suit un amant quand il n’en est saison. »
 
Pour ton profit, Belleau, je ne veuil que tu voye
Celle qui par les yeux la playe au cœur m’envoye,
De peur que tu ne prenne un mal au mien pareil.
 
Il suffist que sans toy je sois seul miserable :
Reste sain je te pri’ pour estre secourable
A ma douleur extreme, et m’y donner conseil.
 
 

 
 
                                                                            Don’t follow me, Belleau, as I go to the home
                                                                            Of the lady who keeps me in unequalled sadness.
                                                                            Do you not know the song sung by the crow
                                                                            To Mopsus, as he was following Jason’s footsteps ?
 
                                                                            “Prophet,” said the bird, “you are completely wrong
                                                                            To follow this lover who is sailing alone
                                                                            To visit his beloved : ‘little wisdom has he who advises
                                                                            And who follows a lover at the wrong times’.”
 
                                                                            For your profit, Belleau, I do not wish you to see
                                                                            Her who through her eyes sent this wound into my heart,
                                                                            For fear that you may win troubles equal to mine.
 
                                                                            Enough that I alone, and not you, am wretched:
                                                                            Stay healthy, I beg, to be a help
                                                                            In my extreme sadness, and to give me advice.
 
 
 
 
 

Elégie à Janet, Peintre du Roy – Elegy, to Janet the King’s artist (Am. 1:228b)

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Today, nearly 200 lines of charming verse – twice!

Pein-moy, Janet, pein-moy je te supplie
Sur ce tableau les beautez de m’amie
De la façon que je te les diray.
Comme importun je ne te suppliray
D’un art menteur quelque faveur luy faire.
Il suffit bien si tu la sçais portraire
Telle qu’elle est, sans vouloir desguiser
Son naturel pour la favoriser :
Car la faveur n’est bonne que pour celles
Qui se font peindre, et qui ne sont pas belles.
 
Fay-luy premier les cheveux ondelez,
Serrez, retors, recrespez, annelez,
Qui de couleur le cedre representent :
Ou les allonge, et que libres ils sentent
Dans le tableau, si par art tu le peux,
La mesme odeur de ses propres cheveux :
Car ses cheveux comme fleurettes sentent,
Quand les Zephyrs au printemps les éventent.
 
Que son beau front ne soit entre-fendu
De nul sillon en profond estendu,
Mais qu’il soit tel qu’est l’eau de la marine,
Quand tant soit peu le vent ne la mutine,
Et que gisante en son lict elle dort,
Calmant ses flots sillez d’un somne mort.
 
Tout au milieu par la gréve descende
Un beau ruby, de qui l’esclat s’espande
Par le tableau, ainsi qu’on voit de nuit
Briller les raiz de la Lune, qui luit
Dessus la neige au fond d’un val coulée,
De trace d’homme encore non foulée.
 
Apres fay luy son beau sourcy voutis
D’Ebene noir, et que son ply tortis
Semble un Croissant, qui monstre par la nuë
Au premier mois sa vouture cornuë :
Ou si jamais tu as veu l’arc d’Amour,
Pren le portrait dessus le demy-tour
De sa courbure à demy-cercle close :
Car l’arc d’Amour et luy n’est qu’une chose.
 
Mais las! Janet, helas je ne sçay pas
Par quel moyen, ny comment tu peindras
(Voire eusses-tu l’artifice d’Apelle)
De ses beaux yeux la grace naturelle,
Qui font vergongne aux estoilles des Cieux.
Que l’un soit doux, l’autre soit furieux,
Que l’un de Mars, l’autre de Venus tienne :
Que du benin toute esperance vienne,
Et du cruel vienne tout desespoir :
L’un soit piteux et larmoyant à voir,
Comme celuy d’Ariadne laissée
Aux bords de Die, alors que l’insensee
Pres de la mer, de pleurs se consommoit,
Et son Thesée en vain elle nommoit :
L’autre soit gay, comme il est bien croyable
Que l’eut jadis Penelope louable
Quand elle vit son mary retourné,
Ayant vingt ans loing d’elle sejourné.
 
Apres fay luy sa rondelette oreille
Petite, unie, entre blanche et vermeille,
Qui sous le voile apparoisse à l’egal
Que fait un lis enclos dans un crystal,
Ou tout ainsi qu’apparoist une rose
Tout fraischement dedans un verre enclose.
 
Mais pour neant tu aurois fait si beau
Tout l’ornement de ton riche tableau,
Si tu n’avois de la lineature
De son beau nez bien portrait la peinture.
Pein-le moy donc ny court, ny aquilin,
Poli, traitis, où l’envieux malin
Quand il voudroit n’y sçauroit que reprendre,
Tant proprement tu le feras descendre
Parmi la face, ainsi comme descend
Dans une plaine un petit mont qui pend.
 
Apres au vif pein moy sa belle joüe
Pareille au teint de la rose qui noüe
Dessus du laict, ou au teint blanchissant
Du lis qui baise un œillet rougissant.
 
Dans le milieu portrais une fossette,
Fossette, non, mais d’Amour la cachette,
D’où ce garçon de sa petite main
Lasche cent traits et jamais un en vain,
Que par les yeux droit au cœur il ne touche.
 
Helas ! Janet, pour bien peindre sa bouche,
A peine Homere en ses vers te diroit
Quel vermillon egaler la pourroit :
Car pour la peindre ainsi qu’elle merite,
Peindre il faudroit celle d’une Charite.
Pein-la moy doncq, qu’elle semble parler,
Ores sou-rire, ores embasmer l’air
De ne sçay quelle ambrosienne haleine :
Mais par sur tout fay qu’elle semble pleine
De la douceur de persuasion.
Tout à l’entour attache un milion
De ris, d’attraits, de jeux, de courtoisies,
Et que deux rangs de perlettes choisies
D’un ordre egal en la place des dents
Bien poliment soyent arrangez dedans.
 
Pein tout autour une lévre bessonne,
Qui d’elle-mesme en s’elevant semonne
D’estre baisée, ayant le teint pareil
Ou de la rose, ou du coural vermeil :
Elle flambante au Printemps sur l’espine,
Luy rougissant au fond de la marine.
 
Pein son menton au milieu fosselu,
Et que le bout en rondeur pommelu
Soit tout ainsi que lon voit apparoistre
Le bout d’un coin qui ja commence à croistre.
 
Plus blanc que laict caillé dessus le jonc
Pein luy le col, mais pein-le un petit long,
Gresle et charnu, et sa gorge doüillette
Comme le col soit un petit longuette.
 
Apres fay luy par un juste compas,
Et de Junon les coudes et les bras,
Et les beaux doigts de Minerve, et encore
La main egale à celle de l’Aurore.
 
Je ne sçay plus, mon Janet, où j’en suis :
Je suis confus et muet : je ne puis
Comme j’ay fait, te declarer le reste
De ses beautez qui ne m’est manifeste :
Las ! car jamais tant de faveurs je n’u,
Que d’avoir veu ses beaux tetins à nu.
Mais si lon peut juger par conjecture,
Persuadé de raisons je m’asseure
Que la beauté qui ne s’apparoit, doit
Estre semblable à celle que lon voit.
Donque pein-la, et qu’elle me soit faite
Parfaite autant comme l’autre est parfaite.
 
Ainsi qu’en bosse esleve moy son sein
Net, blanc, poli, large, entre-ouvert et plein,
Dedans lequel mille rameuses veines
De rouge sang tressaillent toutes pleines.
 
Puis, quand au vif tu auras descouvers
Dessous la peau les muscles et les ners,
Enfle au dessus deux pommes nouvelettes,
Comme l’on void deux pommes verdelettes
D’un orenger, qui encores du tout
Ne font qu’à l’heure à se rougir au bout.
 
Tout au plus haut des espaules marbrines,
Pein le sejour des Charites divines,
Et que l’Amour sans cesse voletant
Tousjours les couve et les aille esventant,
Pensant voler avec le Jeu son frere
De branche en branche és vergers de Cythere.
 
Un peu plus bas en miroir arrondi,
Tout potelé, grasselet, rebondi,
Comme celuy de Venus, pein son ventre :
Pein son nombril ainsi qu’un petit centre,
Le fond duquel paroisse plus vermeil
Qu’un bel œillet favoris du Soleil.
 
Qu’atten’s-tu plus ? portray moy l’autre chose
Qui est si belle, et que dire je n’ose,
Et dont l’espoir impatient me poind :
Mais je te pry, ne me l’ombrage point,
Si ce n’estoit d’un voile fait de soye
Clair et subtil, à fin qu’on l’entre-voye.
 
Ses cuisses soyent comme faites au Tour
A pleine chair, rondes tout à l’entour,
Ainsi qu’un Terme arrondi d’artifice
Qui soustient ferme un royal edifice.
 
Comme deux monts enleve ses genous,
Douillets, charnus, ronds, delicats et mous,
Dessous lesquels fay luy la gréve pleine,
Telle que l’ont les vierges de Lacene,
Quand pres d’Eurote en s’accrochant des bras
Luttent ensemble et se jettent à bas :
Ou bien chassant à meutes decouplees
Quelque vieil cerf és forests Amyclees.
 
Puis pour la fin portray-luy de Thetis
Les pieds estroits, et les talons petis.
 
Ha, je la voy ! elle est presque portraite :
Encore un trait, encore un, elle est faite.
Leve tes mains, hà mon Dieu, je la voy !
Bien peu s’en faut qu’elle ne parle à moy.
Paint me, Janet, paint me I pray
In this picture the beauties of my beloved
In the manner I’ll tell you them.
I shall not ask as a beggar
That you do her any favours with lying art.
It will be enough if you can portray her
Just as she is, without trying to disguise
Her natural looks to favour her :
For favour is no good but for those
Who have themselves painted but are not fair.
 
First, make her hair in waves,
Tied up, swept back, curled in ringlets,
Which have the colour of cedar ;
Or make it long and free, scented
In the picture, if you can do it with art,
With the same scent her own hair has ;
For her hair smells like flowers
When the spring Zephyrs fan them.
 
Make sure her fair brow is not lined
By any furrow long-extended,
But that it looks like the waters of the sea
When the wind does not disturb them in the slightest,
And when it sleeps, lying on its bed,
Calming its waves sunk in deepest sleep.
 
Down the middle of this strand make descend
A fair ruby, whose brightness should spread
Throughout the picture, as at night you see
Shining the rays of the moon, spreading light
Over the snow in the deeps of a sunken valley
Still untrodden by the foot of man.
 
Then make her fair arched eyebrow
Of black ebony, so that its curve
Resembles a crescent moon, showing through cloud
Its horned arc at the beginning of the month ;
Or, if you have ever seen Love’s bow,
Use its image above, the half-turn
Of its curve makig a half-circle ;
For Love’s bow and herself are but one thing.
 
But ah, Janet, ah ! I do not know
In what way or how you will paint
(Even if you had the skill of Apelles)
The natural grace of her lovely eyes
Which make the stars of Heaven ashamed.
Make one sweet, the other furious,
One having something of Mars, the other of Venus :
That from the kind one, every hope should come,
And from the cruel one, every despair ;
Let one be pitiful to see, in tears,
Like that of Ariadne abandoned
On the shores of Dia, while maddened
She was consumed in tears beside the sea
And called on her Theseus in vain ;
Let the other be happy, as we can believe
The praiseworthy Penelope was formerly
When she saw her husband returned
After staying for twenty years far from her.
 
Next, make her rounded ear,
Small, elegant, between white and pink,
Which should appear beneath its veil exactly
As a lily does, enclosed in crystal,
Or just a a rose would appear,
Completely fresh, enclosed in a vase.
 
But you would have painted so well
Every ornament of your rich picture, for nothing
If you had not well-depicted the line
Of her fair nose.
Paint me it, then, not short nor aquiline,
Elegant and well-made, so the wicked or envious
Even if he wanted could not reprove,
So exactly you’ll have made it descend
In the midst of her face, just as descends
Over a plain a little raised mound.
 
Then as in life paint me her fair cheek,
Equal to the tint of a rose which swims
Upon milk, or to the white tint
Of the lily kissing a blushing pink.
 
In the middle,portray a small dimple –
No not a dimple, but the hiding-place of Love
From which that boy with his little hand
Launches a hundred arrows and never one in vain
Which does not through the eyes go straight to the heart.
 
Ah, Janet ! to paint her mouth well
Homer himself in his verse could barely say
What crimson could equal it ;
For to paint it as it deserves
You would need to paint a Grace’s.
So, paint me it as she seems to be talking,
Now smiling, now perfuming the air
With some kind of ambrosial breath ;
But above all make her appear full
Of the sweetness of persuasion.
All around, attach a million
Smiles, attractiveness, jokes, courtesies ;
And let there be two rows of choice little pearls
In a neat line, in place of teeth,
Elegantly arrayed within.
 
Paint all round them those twin lips
Which, rising up, themselves invite
Being kissed, their colour equal
To a rose’s or crimson coral’s ;
The one flaming in spring on its thorn,
The other reddening at the bottom of the sea.
 
Paint her chin dimpled in the middle
And make the tip bud into roundness
Just as if we were seeing appear
The tip of a quince just beginning to grow.
 
Whiter than clotted cream on rushes
Paint her neck, but paint it a little long,
Slender but plump, and her soft throat
Like her neck should be a little long.
 
Then make her, accurately drawn,
The arms and elbows of Juno
And the lovely fingers of Minerva, and too
Hands equal to the Dawn’s.
 
I no longer know, Janet, where I am :
I am confused, dumb : I cannot
As I have done tell you the rest
Of her beauties which have not been shown me.
Ah, I have never had the good favour
To have seen her fair breasts naked,
But if we may judge by conjecture
With good reason I am convinced
That the beauty which is unseen should
Be like that we see.
So paint her, and let her be made
Perfect just as the lady herself is perfect.
 
As if embossed, raise up her breast
Clear, white, elegant, wide, half-uncovered, full,
Within which a thousand branchy veins
Filled with red blood quiver.
 
Then when as in life you have revealed
Beneath the skin the muscles and nerves,
Make swell on top two fresh apples,
Just as you night see two green apples
In an orchard, which still and all
Just grow redder by the moment at the tip.
 
Right above her marble shoulders
Paint the divine Graces resting,
And let Love ceaselessly flying around
Gaze on them always and keep fanning them,
Thinking he’s flying with Jest, his brother,
From branch to branch in the orchards of Cythera.
 
A little below, rounded like a mirror,
All rounded, plump and shapely,
Like that of Venus, paint her belly ;
Paint its button like a little target
The depths of which should appear more crimson
Than the lovely carnation, the Sun’s favourite.
 
What are you waiting for ? Paint me that other part
Which is so lovely, and which I dare not mention,
And impatient hope for which pricks me :
But I beg you, do not cover it over
Unless it be with a veil made of silk,
Clear and fine, that you can party see through.
 
Her thighs should be made like towers
Full-fleshed, rounded all about,
Just as a column artfully rounded
Which firmly holds up a royal building.
 
Like two hills raise up her knees
Downy, plump, round, delicate and soft ;
Beneath them make her calves full
As were those of the maids of Laconia
When near Eurotas, gripping their arms
They fought together and threw one another down ;
Or indeed hunting with unleashed hounds
Some old stag in the forests of Amyclae.
 
Then, finally, portray her with Thetis’
Narrow feet and small toes.
 
Ha, I see her ! she is almost portayed :
But one stroke more, justl one and she is done.
Raise your hands, ah my god, I see her !
She all but speaks to me.
 
We’ve met the painter Janet – a.k.a. François Clouet, known as Janet (‘Johnny’) as his father had been – before.
 
At the end of book 1, in two long Elegies, Ronsard puts on a firework display of classical names and references. But the two are done very differently: the Elegy to Muret (learned classicist and poet) is full of very obscure and learned references to Achilles; this poem (to Clouet) is full of readily-accessible classical references which point to well-known representations in art and (sometimes) literature, appropriate to a non-specialist like Clouet – and us! Let’s skim through them:
 – Zephyrs, that is to say just ‘gentle breezes’
 – Apelles is the ‘type’ of a great painter
 – Mars and Venus simply personify war and love
 – Ariadne & Theseus on Dia, another well-known image of the lady abandoned as her lover sails into the rising sun
 – Penelope and her husband Odysseus, famously separated for 20 years by his involvement in the Trojan War (Iliad) and then his adventures on the way home (Odyssey)
 – Homer, the ‘type’ of a great poet for his Iliad and Odyssey
 – the Graces, simply personifying ‘grace’ here
 – Juno and Minerva, ‘types’ for beauty because of their competition with Venus for the title of most beautiful in the ‘Judgement of Paris’
 – Dawn’s hands, because Homer always refers to ‘rosy-fingered Dawn’
 – Venus was born (and sometimes lived in) Cythera, with her son Cupid or Love; his brother is usually Anteros, the go of requited (as opposed to unrequited) love – not a god of games or jokes, as Ronsard seems to imply here. But clearly games and happiness in love are what is really going on here
 – the ‘maids of Laconia’ are those hardy Spartan lasses who used to do fighting and hunting like the Spartan boys. The city of Amyclae and the river Eurotas are in Sparta (the Peloponnese)
 – Thetis, a sea-goddess, leading Nereid and mother of Achilles, was surnamed ‘Silver-footed’ in classical times, and her feet are regularly used as a ‘type’ of beauty.
 
Overall, a lovely easy-going poem: Ronsard of course uses the form of the body to create expectation through the poem – we know he’s leading up to the breasts, and later the ‘part he dares not mention’, and that in itself gives the poem a certain sense of rise and fall.
 
The earlier version of course differs in detail, but also includes a whole extra ‘paragraph’ early in the description, later removed:
 
Pein-moy, Janet, pein-moy je te supplie
Sur ce tableau les beautez de m’amie
De la façon que je te les diray.
Comme importun je ne te suppliray
D’un art menteur quelque faveur luy faire.
Il suffit bien si tu la sçais portraire
Telle qu’elle est, sans vouloir desguiser
Son naturel pour la favoriser :
Car la faveur n’est bonne que pour celles
Qui se font peindre, et qui ne sont pas belles.
 
Fay-luy premier les cheveux ondelez,
Nouez, retors, recrespez, annelez,
Qui de couleur le cedre representent :
Ou les allonge, et que libres ils sentent
Dans le tableau, si par art tu le peux,
La mesme odeur de ses propres cheveux :
Car ses cheveux comme fleurettes sentent,
Quand les Zephyrs au printemps les éventent.
 
[Fais-lui le front en bosse revoûté,
Sur lequel soient d’un et d’autre côté
Peints gravement, sur trois sièges d’ivoire
A majesté, la vergogne at la gloire.]
 
Que son beau front ne soit entre-fendu
De nul sillon en profond estendu,
Mais qu’il soit tel qu’est la calme marine,
Quand tant soit peu le vent ne la mutine,
Et que gisante en son lict elle dort,
Calmant ses flots sillez d’un somne mort.
 
Tout au milieu par la gréve descende
Un beau ruby, de qui l’esclat s’espande
Par le tableau, ainsi qu’on voit de nuit
Briller les raiz de la Lune, qui luit
Dessus la neige au fond d’un val coulée,
De trace d’homme encore non foulée.
 
Apres fay luy son beau sourcy voutis
D’Ebene noir, et que son ply tortis
Semble un Croissant, qui monstre par la nuë
Au premier mois sa vouture cornuë :
Ou si jamais tu as veu l’arc d’Amour,
Pren le portrait dessus le demy-tour
De sa courbure à demy-cercle close :
Car l’arc d’Amour et luy n’est qu’une chose.
 
Mais las! mon Dieu, mon Dieu, je ne sçay pas
Par quel moyen, ny comment tu peindras
(Voire eusses-tu l’artifice d’Apelle)
De ses beaux yeux la grace naturelle,
Qui font vergongne aux estoilles des Cieux.
Que l’un soit doux, l’autre soit furieux,
Que l’un de Mars, l’autre de Venus tienne :
Que du benin toute esperance vienne,
Et du cruel vienne tout desespoir :
Ou que l’un soit pitoyable a le voir,
Comme celuy d’Ariadne laissée
Aux bords de Die, alors que l’insensee
Voyant la mer, de pleurs se consommoit,
Et son Thesée en vain elle nommoit :
L’autre soit gay, comme il est bien croyable
Que l’eut jadis Penelope louable
Quand elle vit son mary retourné,
Ayant vingt ans loing d’elle sejourné.
 
Apres fay luy sa rondelette oreille
Petite, unie, entre blanche et vermeille,
Qui sous le voile apparoisse à l’egal
Que fait un lis enclos dans un crystal,
Ou tout ainsi qu’apparoist une rose
Tout fraischement dedans un verre enclose.
 
Mais pour neant tu aurois fait si beau
Tout l’ornement de ton riche tableau,
Si tu n’avois de la lineature
De son beau nez bien portrait la peinture.
Pein-le moy donc gresle, long, aquilin,
Poli, traitis, où l’envieux malin
Quand il voudroit n’y sçauroit que reprendre,
Tant proprement tu le feras descendre
Parmi la face, ainsi comme descend
Dans une plaine un petit mont qui pend.
 
Apres au vif pein moy sa belle joüe
Pareille au teint de la rose qui noüe
Dessus du laict, ou au teint blanchissant
Du lis qui baise un œillet rougissant.
 
Dans le milieu portrais une fossette,
Fossette, non, mais d’Amour la cachette,
D’où ce garçon de sa petite main
Lasche cent traits et jamais un en vain,
Que par les yeux droit au cœur il ne touche.
 
Helas ! Janet, pour bien peindre sa bouche,
A peine Homere en ses vers te diroit
Quel vermillon egaler la pourroit :
Car pour la peindre ainsi qu’elle merite,
Peindre il faudroit celle d’une Charite.
Pein-la moy doncq, qu’elle semble parler,
Ores sou-rire, ores embasmer l’air
De ne sçay quelle ambrosienne haleine :
Mais par sur tout fay qu’elle semble pleine
De la douceur de persuasion.
Tout à l’entour attache un milion
De ris, d’attraits, de jeux, de courtoisies,
Et que deux rangs de perlettes choisies
D’un ordre egal en la place des dents
Bien poliment soyent arrangez dedans.
 
Pein tout autour une lévre bessonne,
Qui d’elle-mesme en s’elevant semonne
D’estre baisée, ayant le teint pareil
Ou de la rose, ou du coural vermeil :
Elle flambante au Printemps sur l’espine,
Luy rougissant au fond de la marine.
 
Pein son menton au milieu fosselu,
Et que le bout en rondeur pommelu
Soit tout ainsi que lon voit apparoistre
Le bout d’un coin qui ja commence à croistre.
 
Plus blanc que laict caillé dessus le jonc
Pein luy le col, mais pein-le un petit long,
Gresle et charnu, et sa gorge doüillette
Comme le col soit un petit longuette.
 
Apres fay luy par un juste compas,
Et de Junon les coudes et les bras,
Et les beaux doigts de Minerve, et encore
La main pareille à celle de l’Aurore.
 
Je ne sçay plus, mon Janet, où j’en suis :
Je suis confus et muet : je ne puis
Comme j’ay fait, te declarer le reste
De ses beautez qui ne m’est manifeste :
Las ! car jamais tant de faveurs je n’eu,
Que d’avoir veu ses beaux tetins à nu.
Mais si l’on peut juger par conjecture,
Persuadé de raisons je m’asseure
Que la beauté qui ne s’apparoit, doit
Estre semblable à celle que lon voit.
Donque pein-la, et qu’elle me soit faite
Parfaite autant comme l’autre est parfaite.
 
Ainsi qu’en bosse esleve moy son sein
Net, blanc, poli, large, profond et plein,
Dedans lequel mille rameuses veines
De rouge sang tressaillent toutes pleines.
 
Puis, quand au vif tu auras descouvers
Dessous la peau les muscles et les ners,
Enfle au dessus deux pommes nouvelettes,
Comme l’on void deux pommes verdelettes
D’un orenger, qui encores du tout
Ne font alors que se rougir au bout.
 
Tout au plus haut des espaules marbrines,
Pein le sejour des Charites divines,
Et que l’Amour sans cesse voletant
Tousjours les couve et les aille esventant,
Pensant voler avec le Jeu son frere
De branche en branche és vergers de Cythere.
 
Un peu plus bas en miroir arrondi,
Tout potelé, grasselet, rebondi,
Comme celuy de Venus, pein son ventre :
Pein son nombril ainsi qu’un petit centre,
Le fond duquel paroisse plus vermeil
Qu’un bel œillet entr’ouvert au Soleil.
 
Qu’atten’s-tu plus ? portray moy l’autre chose
Qui est si belle, et que dire je n’ose,
Et dont l’espoir impatient me poind :
Mais je te pry, ne me l’ombrage point,
Si ce n’estoit d’un voile fait de soye
Clair et subtil, à fin qu’on l’entre-voye.
 
Ses cuisses soyent comme faites au Tour
En grelissant, rondes tout à l’entour,
Ainsi qu’un Terme arrondi d’artifice
Qui soustient ferme un royal edifice.
 
Comme deux monts enleve ses genous,
Douillets, charnus, ronds, delicats et mous,
Dessous lesquels fay luy la gréve pleine,
Telle que l’ont les vierges de Lacene,
Quand pres d’Eurote en s’accrochant des bras
Luttent ensemble et se jettent à bas :
Ou bien chassant à meutes decouplees
Quelque vieil cerf és forests Amyclees.
 
Puis pour la fin portray-luy de Thetis
Les pieds estroits, et les talons petis.
 
Ha, je la voy ! elle est presque portraite :
Encore un trait, encore un, elle est faite.
Leve tes mains, hà mon Dieu, je la voy !
Bien peu s’en faut qu’elle ne parle à moy.
Paint me, Janet, paint me I pray
In this picture the beauties of my beloved
In the manner I’ll tell you them.
I shall not ask as a beggar
That you do her any favours with lying art.
It will be enough if you can portray her
Just as she is, without trying to disguise
Her natural looks to favour her :
For favour is no good but for those
Who have themselves painted but are not fair.
 
First, make her hair in waves,
Knotted up, swept back, curled in ringlets,
Which have the colour of cedar ;
Or make it long and free, scented
In the picture, if you can do it with art,
With the same scent her own hair has ;
For her hair smells like flowers
When the spring Zephyrs fan them.
 
[Make her brow projecting in an arc
On which should be, on each side,
Painted gravely modesty and glory
In majesty on three ivory thrones.
 
Make sure her fair brow is not lined
By any furrow long-extended,
But that it looks like the calm sea
When the wind does not disturb them in the slightest,
And when it sleeps, lying on its bed,
Calming its waves sunk in deepest sleep.
 
Down the middle of this strand make descend
A fair ruby, whose brightness should spread
Throughout the picture, as at night you see
Shining the rays of the moon, spreading light
Over the snow in the deeps of a sunken valley
Still untrodden by the foot of man.
 
Then make her fair arched eyebrow
Of black ebony, so that its curve
Resembles a crescent moon, showing through cloud
Its horned arc at the beginning of the month ;
Or, if you have ever seen Love’s bow,
Use its image above, the half-turn
Of its curve makig a half-circle ;
For Love’s bow and herself are but one thing.
 
But ah, my God, my God, I do not know
In what way or how you will paint
(Even if you had the skill of Apelles)
The natural grace of her lovely eyes
Which make the stars of Heaven ashamed.
Make one sweet, the other furious,
One having something of Mars, the other of Venus :
That from the kind one, every hope should come,
And from the cruel one, every despair ;
Or, let one be pitiful to see,
Like that of Ariadne abandoned
On the shores of Dia, while maddened
She was consumed in tears watching the sea
And called on her Theseus in vain ;
Let the other be happy, as we can believe
The praiseworthy Penelope was formerly
When she saw her husband returned
After staying for twenty years far from her.
 
Next, make her rounded ear,
Small, elegant, between white and pink,
Which should appear beneath its veil exactly
As a lily does, enclosed in crystal,
Or just a a rose would appear,
Completely fresh, enclosed in a vase.
 
But you would have painted so well
Every ornament of your rich picture, for nothing
If you had not well-depicted the line
Of her fair nose.
Paint me it, then, slender, long, aquiline,
Elegant and well-made, so the wicked or envious
Even if he wanted could not reprove,
So exactly you’ll have made it descend
In the midst of her face, just as descends
Over a plain a little raised mound.
 
Then as in life paint me her fair cheek,
Equal to the tint of a rose which swims
Upon milk, or to the white tint
Of the lily kissing a blushing pink.
 
In the middle,portray a small dimple –
No not a dimple, but the hiding-place of Love
From which that boy with his little hand
Launches a hundred arrows and never one in vain
Which does not through the eyes go straight to the heart.
 
Ah, Janet ! to paint her mouth well
Homer himself in his vere could barely say
What crimson could equal it ;
For to paint it as it deserves
You would need to paint a Grace’s.
So, paint me it as she seems to be talking,
Now smiling, now perfuming the air
With some kind of ambrosial breath ;
But above all make her appear full
Of the sweetness of persuasion.
All around, attach a million
Smiles, attractiveness, jokes, courtesies ;
And let there be two rows of choice little pearls
In a neat line, in place of teeth,
Elegantly arrayed within.
 
Paint all round them those twin lips
Which, rising up, themselves invite
Being kissed, their colour equal
To a rose’s or crimson coral’s ;
The one flaming in spring on its thorn,
The other reddening at the bottom of the sea.
 
Paint her chin dimpled in the middle
And make the tip bud into roundness
Just as if we were seeing appear
The tip of a quince just beginning to grow.
 
Whiter than clotted cream on rushes
Paint her neck, but paint it a little long,
Slender but plump, and her soft throat
Like her neck should be a little long.
 
Then make her, accurately drawn,
The arms and elbows of Juno
And the lovely fingers of Minerva, and too
Hands like the Dawn’s.
 
I no longer know, Janet, where I am :
I am confused, dumb : I cannot
As I have done tell you the rest
Of her beauties which have not been shown me.
Ah, I have never had the good favour
To have seen her fair breasts naked,
But if we may judge by conjecture
With good reason I am convinced
That the beauty which is unseen should
Be like that we see.
So paint her, and let her be made
Perfect just as the lady herself is perfect.
 
As if embossed, raise up her breast
Clear, white, elegant, wide, deep, full,
Within which a thousand branchy veins
Filled with red blood quiver.
 
Then when as in life you have revealed
Beneath the skin the muscles and nerves,
Make swell on top two fresh apples,
Just as you night see two green apples
In an orchard, which still and all
Just grow redder at the tip.
 
Right above her marble shoulders
Paint the divine Graces resting,
And let Love ceaselessly flying around
Gaze on them always and keep fanning them,
Thinking he’s flying with Jest, his brother,
From branch to branch in the orchards of Cythera.
 
A little below, rounded like a mirror,
All rounded, plump and shapely,
Like that of Venus, paint her belly ;
Paint its button like a little target
The depths of which should appear more crimson
Than the lovely carnation, half-open to the Sun.
 
What are you waiting for ? Paint me that other part
Which is so lovely, and which I dare not mention,
And impatient hope for which pricks me :
But I beg you, do not cover it over
Unless it be with a veil made of silk,
Clear and fine, that you can party see through.
 
Her thighs should be made like towers
Becoming slenderer, rounded all about,
Just as a column artfully rounded
Which firmly holds up a royal building.
 
Like two hills raise up her knees
Downy, plump, round, delicate and soft ;
Beneath them make her calves full
As were those of the maids of Laconia
When near Eurotas, gripping their arms
They fought together and threw one another down ;
Or indeed hunting with unleashed hounds
Some old stag in the forests of Amyclae.
 
Then, finally, portray her with Thetis’
Narrow feet and small toes.
 
Ha, I see her ! she is almost portayed :
But one stroke more, justl one and she is done.
Raise your hands, ah my god, I see her !
She all but speaks to me.
 
 
 
 

Odes 1.3

Standard

Today one of Ronsard’s early Odes, very formally structured in the classical style with strophes & antistrophes repeating a metrical scheme, and then epodes acting as a ‘refrain’ structure in between pairs of these.

A LA ROYNE
 
Strophe 1
 
Je suis troublé de fureur,
Le poil me dresse d’horreur,
D’un effroy mon ame est pleine,
Mon estomac est pantois,
Et par son canal ma vois
Ne se desgorge qu’à peine.
Une deité m’emmeine ;
Fuyez, peuple, qu’on me laisse,
Voicy venir la deesse ;
Fuyez, peuple, je la voy.
Heureux ceux qu’elle regarde,
Et plus heureux qui la garde
Dans l’estomac comme moy !
 
Antistrophe 1
 
Elle, esprise de mes chants,
Loin me guide par les champs
Où jadis sur le rivage
Apollon Florence aima,
Lorsque jeune elle s’arma
Pour combattre un loup sauvage.
L’art de filer ny l’ouvrage
Ne plurent à la pucelle,
Ny le lit mignard ; mais elle,
Devant le jour s’éveillant,
Cherchoit des loups le repaire,
Pour les bœufs d’Arne son père
Sans repos se travaillant.
 
Epode 1
 
Ce Dieu, qui du ciel la vit
Si valeureuse et si belle,
Pour sa femme la ravit,
Et surnomma du nom d’elle
La ville qui te fit naistre,
Laquelle se vante d’estre
Mere de nostre Junon,
Et qui par les gens étranges
Pour ses plus grandes louanges
Ne celebre que ton nom.
 
Strophe 2
 
Là les faits de tes ayeux
Vont flamboyant comme aux cieux
Flamboye l’aurore claire ;
Là l’honneur de ton Julien
Dans le ciel italien
Comme une planette esclaire.
Par luy le gros populaire
Pratiqua l’experience
De la meilleure science,
Et là reluisent aussi
Tes deux grands papes, qui ores
Du ciel, où ils sont encores,
Te favorisent icy.
 
Antistrophe 2
 
On ne compte les moissons
De l’esté, ni des glaçons
Qui, l’hiver, tiennent la trace
Des eaux roides à glisser :
Ainsi je ne puis penser
Les louanges de ta race.
Le Ciel t’a peint en la face
Je ne sçay quoy qui nous monstre,
Dès la premiere rencontre,
Que tu passes par grand-heur
Les princesses de nostre âge,
Soit en force de courage,
Soit en royale grandeur.
 
Epode 2
 
Le comble de ton sçavoir
Et de tes vertus ensemble
Dit que l’on ne peut icy voir
Rien que toy qui te resemble.
Quelle dame a la pratique
De tant de mathematique ?
Quelle princesse entend mieux
Du grand monde la peinture,
Les chemins de la nature
Et la musique des cieux ?
 
Strophe 3
 
Ton nom, que mon vers dira,
Tout le monde remplira
De ta loüange notoire :
Un tas qui chantent de toy
Ne sçavent si bien que moy
Comme il faut sonner ta gloire.
Jupiter, ayant mémoire
D’une vieille destinée
Autrefois determinée
Par l’oracle de Themis,
A commandé que Florence
Dessous les loix de la France
Se courbe le chef soumis.
 
Antistrophe 3
 
Mais il veut que ton enfant
En ait honneur triomphant,
D’autant qu’il est tout ensemble
Italien et François,
Qui de front, d’yeux et de vois,
A père et mere resemble.
Déjà tout colere il semble
Que sa main tente les armes,
Et qu’au milieu des alarmes
Jà desdaigne les dangers ;
Et, servant aux siens de guide,
Vainqueur, attache une bride
Aux royaumes estrangers.
 
Epode 3
 
Le Ciel, qui nous l’a donné
Pour estre nostre lumiere,
Son empire n’a borné
D’un mont ou d’une riviere.
Le destin veut qu’il enserre
Dans sa main toute la terre,
Seul roy se faisant nommer,
D’où Phébus les Indes laisse,
Et d’où son char il abbaisse
Tout panché dedans la mer.
To the Queen
 
 
 
I am assailed by madness,
My hair stands up with horror,
Panic fills my soul,
My heart is stunned,
And my voice can barely
Pass through my throat.
A deity has seized me.
Run, people, please leave me,
See, here comes the goddess !
Run, people, I see her !
Fortunate the men on whom she looks,
More fortunate the man who keeps her
In his heart, like me !
 
 
 
In love with my songs, she
Guides me far among the fields
Where once on the riverbank
Apollo loved Florence,
When the young [nymph] armed herself
To fight a savage wolf.
Not the art of spinning nor its works
Could please the maid,
Nor her pretty bed ; but she,
Before the breaking day
Would seek the dens of wolves,
Working without rest
For the cattle of her father Arno.
 
 
 
This god, who from heaven saw her
So bold and so fair,
Seized her as his wife
And named from her name
The town which gave you birth.
That town boasts of being
Mother of our Juno [queen],
And amongst foreign peoples
For her greater praise
Celebrates only your name.
 
 
 
There the deeds of your ancestors
Rise blazing, as in the heavens
Blazes the bright dawn ;
There [blazes] the glory of your Guiliano
In the Italian skies
Like a bright planet.
Through him, the rude commons
Gained understanding
Of the best learning,
And there shone forth too
Your two great Popes, who still
From heaven, where they are now,
Favour you here.
 
 
 
We cannot count the harvest
Of summer, nor the icicles
Which in winter mark the route
Of waters stubborn in flowing ;
Just so I cannot encompass
The praises of your family.
Heaven painted something
In your appearance which has shown us,
Since first we met,
That you surpass in the greatnes of your destiny
The princesses of our age,
Whether in the force of your courage
Or in royal grandeur.
 
 
 
The sum of your learning
And of all your virtues
Tells us that we cannot see here
Anyone but you, who is like you.
What lady has the skill
Of so much mathematics ?
What princess understands better
The design of the great world,
The paths of nature
And the music of the heavens ?
 
 
 
Your name, which my verse shall praise,
Will fill the whole world
With your well-known praise ;
A mass of those who sing of you
Do not know as well as I
How we should sound your glory.
Jupiter, recalling
An ancient fate
Once determined
By the oracle of Themis,
Commanded that Florence
Beneath the laws of France
Should bend its submissive head.
 
 
 
But he wanted your child
To have triumphant honour from it
As he is, at the same time,
Italian and French,
His brow, eyes and voice
Resembling his father’s and mother’s.
Already full of anger it seems
That his hand tries out arms
And in the midst of alarms
Already disdains danger ;
And, acting as a guide to his men,
As victor places a bridle
On foreign kingdoms.
 
 
 
Heaven, which gave us him
To be our light,
Has not bounded his empire
With hill or river.
Fate wants him to grip
In his hand the whole earth,
Giving him the name of king alone,
From where Phoebus leaves the Indies
To where he brings down his chariot
Sinking into the sea.
 
We’ve seen Ronsard in panegyric mode before. Obviously it was important to lavish priase on potential patrons, especially royalty; what I think distinguishes Ronsard’s work in this vein is the way he knits so many ideas together into a complex and sophisticated hymn of (undeserved) praise.
 
So here he adopts a very classical style, with a very un-classical theme; and indeed opens with the singer being ‘possessed’ by a god in a theme harking back to Greek tragedy. Indeed the whole form of the poem echoes tragic choruses in Greek plays.
 
Antistrophe 1 invents a foundation myth for Florence. The poem is ddressed to Queen Catherine (de Medici), whose family famously rules Florence for much of the renaissance.  Ronsard himself offered some footnotes to help us through the invented myth:  “as in Pausanias Apollo loved the maiden Bolina, after whom is named a town in Achaea. In the style of the ancients, the poet disguises true things with fictions and fables, and invents a nymph who gave her name to the town of Florence, a daughter of Arno, loved and raped by Apollo; which in effect means that this town is full of courage and learning, as in truth many admirable spirits & many great captains have come from it.” Note that, for all his praise of Florence, Ronsard praises France more for having seized the city – strophe 3!
 
The authorial footnote is less helpful in strophe 2, where – regarding the reference to “Julien” he tells us only ‘See here the history of Florence’!  There are two famous Giuliano de Medicis – brother and son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The former is famous for being assassinated in the Duomo (cathedral) in Florence; the latter for marrying into the royal family of Savoy and being made Duke of Nemours by king Francis I (of France), before dying prematurely. Both are buried side by side in the Medici chapel in Florence, beneath monuments designed by Michelangelo. I suspect Ronsard is referring to the Duke of Nemours – Catherine’s father’s uncle; but it could be either.
 
The two great Popes are also, of course, Medicis:  Clement VII, alias Giulio de Medici, the posthumous son of the assassinated Giuliano; and Leo X, alias Giovanni de Medici, nephew of the same Giuliano. Both feature in Raphael’s famous portarit of Leo X (Giulio as a cardinal).
 
Epode 2 brings an unexpected appearance of the word ‘mathematics’ in poetry…! While the praises here are overdone, there is no doubting that Catherine was cultured and knowledgeable: her patronage of the arts and of public spectacles has left little to remember, but she also spent enormous sums on building programmes, and no doubt took a close interest in the architectural designs (which would have been mathematically proportioned). The authorial footnote in any case tells us that ‘mathematics covers all kinds of science, geometry, astronomy and the others, which are all called mathematics’. Some have read the remaining lines as further evidence of scientific learning: ‘the painting of the great world’ (as it translates literally) might be cosmography, but could equally be a reference to her understanding of the art of perspective etc in painting; the ‘paths of nature’ might refer to an understanding of natural phenomena as much as the knowledge of physics (or perhaps alchemy/chemistry) suggested by some; and the ‘music of the spheres’ need not imply metaphysics any more than an understanding of ‘musical proportion’ etc. But however we read it the message is clear: a clever, learned and cultured queen.
 
Although the prophecy in strophe 3 is invented, Themis is invoked as the classical (or pre-classical) model of what is ‘right’. The footnote tells us ‘this ancient goddess is, high in the heavens for the gods, what justice is here below for men on the earth’. Themis can be translated as ‘right’, though it carries strong connotations of divine order, natural law, the right way of doing things, the will of the gods…  All of which Ronsard is invoking through his reference, as ordaining France’s conquest of Florence – so that France’s king, Catherine’s son, might have the best of French and Italian spirit and courage.  In the 1550s, this would have been a clear reference to Francis II; but in the following 30 years Catherine was a major power behind the throne for three of her sons, Francis being followed by Charles IX and then Henri III as the Valois dynasty tottered towards its collapse. Ronsard’s decision not to name her son here proved very handy, and kept the poem up-to-date through the rest of his life (Catherine died 4 years after him).
 
 
Strophe 3 and Epode 2 (in that order) form the text of Lassus’s 1571 musical setting which, though not openly naming Catherine or dedicated to her, retains the reference to Florence as well as France. As Charles IX had married the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1570, we can be pretty confident that he expected the song to be recognised as a tribute to the most powerful Queen in Europe, and a powerful supporter of the Catholic faith at a time when much of northern Europe was riven by the Protestant-Catholic troubles.
 
 
 
 

Amours 2:42

Standard
Si j’estois Jupiter, Marie, vous seriez
Mon espouse Junon : si j’estois Roy des ondes,
Vous seriez ma Tethys, Roine des eaux profondes,
Et pour vostre maison les ondes vous auriez.
 
Si la terre estoit mienne, avec moy vous tiendriez
L’empire sous vos mains, dame des terres rondes,
Et dessus un beau Coche en belles tresses blondes
Par le peuple en honneur Deesse vous iriez.
 
Mais je ne suis pas Dieu, et si ne le puis estre :
Le ciel pour vous servir seulement m’a fait naistre,
De vous seule je prens mon sort avantureux.
 
Vous estes tout mon bien, mon mal, et ma fortune.
S’il vous plaist de m’aimer, je deviendray Neptune,
Tout Jupiter tour Roy tout riche et tout heureux. 
 
 
 
                                                                            If I were Jupiter, Marie, you would be
                                                                            My wife Juno ; if I were king of the waves,
                                                                            You would be my Tethys, queen of the deep waters
                                                                            And would have as your home the waves ;
 
                                                                            If the earth were mine, you would hold with me
                                                                            Power in your hands, lady of the round world,
                                                                            And in a fine coach, with your beautiful blonde hair,
                                                                            You would go like a goddess, honoured by the people.
 
                                                                            But I am not a god, nor can I become one :
                                                                            Heaven had me born only to serve you,
                                                                            From you alone I receive my venturesome fate.
 
                                                                            You are all my good, my ills, my fortune.
                                                                            If it pleases you to love me, I shall become Neptune,
                                                                            Jupiter entire, and King, and rich, and happy.
 
 
Jupiter and Juno as king and queen of heaven are probably familiar; but you (like me) might have tripped over the reference to Tethys. Here, Ronsard goes back to the ‘old’ gods, the Titans: Tethys was the sister and wife of Oceanus, the personification (and ruler) of the seas before the dynastic wars in which the classical (Olympian) gods defeated the Titans from whom they were descended.  There’s a suggestion in the poem that Ronsard may not have been so specific, since at the end where he reflects back the opening stanza, he uses Neptune’s name as if he – being king of the sea – were the (unnamed) consort of Tethys.As you will see below, he confuses the picture further in his earlier version, since there the Ocean is a home not a husband!
 
Turning then to Blanchemain’s version, we find substantial variants, so much so that it is addressed to a different lady, and 50% of the poem is different! Sinope is the addressee of some 14 (earlier versions of) his poems, later re-addressed in the collected books to Marie. It seems that he had a brief liaison in 1558-9 with ‘Sinope’ (if that was her name). Laumonier explains how Belleau, in his 1560 commentary, makes clear that she and Marie are different people, although after Marie’s death in 1578 Ronsard modified Belleau’s notes to suggest that Sinope was just a nickname for Marie.
 
We can tell it’s an early poem, incidentally, as he refers to his “bonnet rond”, the sign of the priesthood – an odd thing to find in a love poem, and that is no doubt one reason why the older, wiser, and much more conservative Ronsard changed it…  More disappointingly he also removed the wonderfully erotic image of the final stanza below, and replaced it with a considerably more staid and stately ending we see above. 
 
Here is the earlier version complete:
 
 
Si j’estois Jupiter, Sinope, vous seriez
Mon espouse Junon : si j’estois roy des ondes,
Vous seriez ma Tethys, royne des eaux profondes,
Et pour vostre maison l’Océan vous auriez.
 
Si la terre estoit mienne, avec moy vous tiendriez
L’empire de la terre aux mammelles fecondes,
Et, dessus une coche en belles tresses blondes,
Par le peuple en honneur deesse vous iriez.
 
Mais je ne suis pas Dieu, et si ne le puis estre :
Pour telles dignités le ciel ne m’a fait naistre ;
Mais je voudrois avoir changé mon bonnet rond,
 
Et vous avoir chez moi pour ma chère espousée ;
Tout ainsi que la neige au doux soleil se fond,
Je me fondrois en vous d’une douce rousée.
 
 
 
                                                                            If I were Jupiter, Sinope, you would be
                                                                            My wife Juno ; if I were king of the waves,
                                                                            You would be my Tethys, queen of the deep waters
                                                                            And would have as your home the Ocean ;
 
                                                                            If the earth were mine, you would hold with me
                                                                            Power over the earth with its fertile breasts,
                                                                            And in a coach, with your beautiful blonde hair,
                                                                            You would go like a goddess, honoured by the people.
 
                                                                            But I am not a god, nor can I become one :
                                                                            For such honours heaven did not have me born.
                                                                            But I wish I could have exchanged my round priest’s hat
 
                                                                            And had you in my home as my dear wife ;
                                                                            Just as the snow melts in the soft sunshine,
                                                                            So I would melt into you like the soft dew.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 160

Standard
Or’ que Jupin espoint de sa semence,
Veut enfanter ses enfans bien-aimez,
Et que du chaud de ses reins allumez
L’humide sein de Junon ensemence :
 
Or’ que la mer, or’ que la vehemence
Des vents fait place aux grans vaisseaux armez,
Et que l’oiseau parmi les bois ramez,
Du Thracien les tançons recommence :
 
Or’ que les prez et ore que les fleurs
De mille et mille et de mille couleurs
Peignent le sein de la terre si gaye :
 
Seul et pensif aux rochers plus segrets
D’un cœur muet je conte mes regrets,
Et par les bois je vay celant ma playe.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                           When Jupiter, aching with his seed,
                                                                           Wishes to give birth to his well-loved children,
                                                                           And with the warmth of his heated hips
                                                                           Sows it in Juno’s moist body;
 
                                                                           When the sea and the violence
                                                                           Of the winds makes space for great armed vessels,
                                                                           And the bird amongst the branchy woods
                                                                           Begins again her dispute with the Thracian;
 
                                                                           When the meadows and when the flowers
                                                                           With thousands and thousands and thousands of colours
                                                                           Paint the earth’s breast so gaily;
 
                                                                           [Then,] alone and thoughtful among the most hidden rocks
                                                                           With silent heart I tell of my regrets,
                                                                           And within the woods I hide my wound.

 

 

There are two ways to look at the Thracian in line 8. Perhaps he is Orpheus, whose singing traditionally competes with that of birds.  Or, as Muret learnedly tells us, perhaps ‘the bird is Philomela, changed into a nightingale, who complains of the assault of Tereus, king of Thrace, her brother in law (in Ovid Metamorphoses book 6)‘. Ronsard’s opening quatrain is based on a Vergilian original (of which more in a moment), but is surprisingly ‘graphic’ in its imagery – I can’t immediately think of another poem in which he virtually describes sexual intercourse as opposed to alluding to it! Perhaps it’s OK because it’s a classical allusion … !  It’s interesting too that he personalises the image much more than Vergil; Jupiter and Juno (a married couple of course – nothing untoward here!) rather than Vergil’s Heaven and Earth – an image which goes back all the way to the Egyptians and beyond.
 
To put it in context, here’s Vergil’s original (Georgics 2, lines 323-8):
 
Ver adeo frondi nemorum, ver utile silvis ;
Vere tument terrae et genitalia semina poscunt.
Tum pater omnipotens fecundis imbribus Aether
Coniugis in gremium laetae descendit, et omnes
Magnus alit magno commixtus corpore fetus.
Avia tum resonant avibus virgulta canoris, …
 
 
                                                                           Spring is so desired by the leaves of the groves, by the woods;
                                                                           Indeed the earth heaves and demands the life-bearing seed.
                                                                           Then the Heaven, the all-powerful father, with his rich rains
                                                                           Descends into the lap of his joyful bride, and the mighty god
                                                                           Joined with her mighty body nourishes all her offspring.
                                                                           Then the pathless woods resound to birdsong …
 
 
For all that Vergil is more impersonal, or less explicit, about the sexual dimension, it’s worth noticing his vocabulary:  the earth’s ‘heaving’ is not far from the the English ‘tumescent’, the ‘lap’ is regularly used as a polite synonym in sexual allusions, ‘commixtus’ (compare ‘commingling’ in English is a standard poetic word for sex, and ‘genitalia’ and ‘semina’ (from ‘semen’) pretty obviously carry similar associations!  So Ronsard in some ways hasn’t stepped far beyond his model… (And, in this context, I find it amusing that poetic allusion requires Jupiter to seed Juno’s ‘breast’ or ‘bosom’ (“sein”) which is q word still further removed than the ‘lap’ that Vergil uses!)
 
What’s interesting is how far we are supposed to reflect on this opening, after the middle sections of the poem slide the focus slightly onto more general springtime events, when we reach the conclusion. The solitude and silence directly reflect the middle of the poem, rather than the lusty opening; but there is clearly a subtext that solitude is more than just the absence of the beloved, it’s the absence of a sexual partner.
 
 There’s not much variation in Blanchemain’s version: the opening quatrain goes as follows:
 
 
Or’ que Jupin, espoint de sa semence,
Hume à longs traits les feux accoustumez,
Et que le chaud de ses reins allumez
L’humide sein de Junon ensemence;
 
 
                                                                            When Jupiter, aching with his seed,
                                                                            Breathes in long breaths of the well-known fires,
                                                                            And when the warmth of his heated hips
                                                                            Seeds Juno’s moist body;

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 64

Standard

Sonnet 63 is already posted (here) so let’s skip to no. 64…

 
Tant de couleurs l’Arc-en-ciel ne varie
Contre le front du Soleil radieux,
Lors que Junon par un temps pluvieux
Renverse l’eau dont la terre est nourrie :
 
Ne Jupiter armant sa main marrie
En tant d’éclairs ne fait rougir les cieux,
Lors qu’il punit d’un foudre audacieux
Les monts d’Epire, ou l’orgueil de Carie :
 
Ny le Soleil ne rayonne si beau
Quand au matin il nous monstre un flambeau
Tout crespu d’or, comme je vy ma Dame
 
Diversement les beautez accoustrer,
Flamber ses yeux, et claire se monstrer,
Le premier jour qu’elle ravit mon ame.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           The rainbow does not range so many colours
                                                                           On the brow of the radiant sun
                                                                           When Juno in rainy weather
                                                                           Pours out the water which nourishes the earth;
 
                                                                           Jupiter arming his marring hand
                                                                           Does not so light up the heavens with his lightning
                                                                           When he punishes with daring thunder
                                                                           The mountains of Epirus or the pride of Caria;
 
                                                                           The Sun does not shine so beautifully
                                                                           When in the morning he shows us his fire
                                                                           Fringed with gold, as I saw my Lady
 
                                                                           Variously dress her beauties,
                                                                           And make her eyes shine and appear so bright,
                                                                           On the first day that she stole my soul.
 
 
Although the Cassandre sonnets are often portrayed as more naive, more confident than the later (Helen) sonnets, in fact I’ve found they’re often just as cynical or just as tongue-in-cheek as the later, arguably more disillusioned, sets. Yet there are certainly occasions when Ronsard offers us a sunny, bright poem that has not a trace of cynicism or disillusionment about it: and here’s one.  So neat it is, that even the older Ronsard found nothing in his first thoughts which needed improving!
 
Some comments on the mythological aspects of the poem. Juno strikes me as an odd choice in the first quatrain: she is not (to my mind) usually associated with rain, but with war, youth and strength, maybe the moon and women and fertility. I suppose it is in this last role that she is invoked here, but I wonder if the choice was driven by poetic reasons (and metre!) as much as mythology? With Jupiter and his thunderbolts we are on safer ground; I’ve assumed that Ronsard is using “marrie” transitively rather than in its usual meaning of “sad” or “unhappy”. But why Epirus and Caria? Well, Jupiter (Zeus) had a sanctuary in Dodona, Epirus, so there is a connection; but Ronsard is almost certainly half-quoting Silus Italicus, whose ‘Punica’ contains the line “intonat ipse, quod tremat et Rhodope Taurusque et Pindus et Atlas” – ‘[Jupiter] himself thundered, and Rhodope and Taurus and Pindus and Atlas shook’.  I have to admit I can’t think of or find any obvious link to Caria – but I’m sure there is something equally recondite there to be found…
 
[Edit:  thanks to Gregorio for pointing me to Muret’s notes, which suggest the ‘pride of Caria’ is a reference to the Mausoleum, the enormous tomb-monument built for Mausolus and his wife, one of the ‘seven wonders of the world’. I can see that this might be ‘the pride of Caria’, but lightning didn’t destroy the Mausoleum – it was brought down by a series of medieval earthquakes. So either Ronsard or Muret is stretching a point here … ]
 

 

 
 
 
 

Sonnet 61

Standard
Madame se levoit un beau matin d’Esté,
Quand le Soleil attache à ses chevaux la bride :
Amour estoit present avec sa trousse vuide,
Venu pour la remplir des traicts de sa clairté.

J’entre-vy dans son sein deux pommes de beauté,
Telles qu’on ne voit point au verger Hesperide :
Telles ne porte point la Deesse de Gnide,
Ny celle qui a Mars des siennes allaité.

Telle enflure d’yvoire en sa voûte arrondie,
Tel relief de Porphyre, ouvrage de Phidie,
Eut Andromede alors que Persée passa,

Quand il la vit liée à des roches marines,
Et quand la peur de mort tout le corps luy glaça,
Transformant ses tetins en deux boules marbrines.

 
 
 
                                                                              My Lady arose one fine morning in Summer
                                                                              When the sun was harnessing his horses ;
                                                                              Love was present with his quiver empty,
                                                                              Come to refill it with the arrows of her brightness.
 
                                                                              I glimpsed in her bosom two apples of beauty
                                                                              Such as one could not find in the Hesperides’ orchard ;
                                                                              Such as the goddess of Cnidus does not bear,
                                                                              Nor she who gave Mars milk from hers.
 
                                                                              Such a swelling of ivory in its rounded arch,
                                                                              Such a relief in porphyry, the work of Phidias,
                                                                              Had Andromeda when Perseus passed by,
 
                                                                              When he saw her bound to sea-board rocks,
                                                                              And when the fear of death made her whole body like ice,
                                                                              Transforming her breasts into two marble-like globes.

 

  
 
A crescendo of classical allusion as we near the end of the book! The garden of the Hesperides was where the golden apples grew – a wedding gift from Juno to Jupiter;  Juno is also Mars’s mother.  The goddess of Cnidos is Venus – the ‘Venus of Cnidos’ was also the most famous statue of Praxiteles (picture here), one of the foremost Greek sculptors. Phidias was the other great sculptor of antiquity, whose name is a byword for quality.  Andromeda was rescued by Perseus from a sea-monster after being chained naked to a rock as a sacrifice – hence a classic example of the nude female form (several examples on her Wikipedia page!)