Tag Archives: laurier

Ode retranch. 4

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O Pucelle plus tendre
Qu’un beau bouton vermeil
Que le rosier engendre
Au lever du soleil,
D’une part verdissant
De l’autre rougissant !
 
Plus fort que le lierre
Qui se gripe à l’entour
Du chesne aimé, qu’il serre
Enlassé de maint tour,
Courbant ses bras épars
Sus luy de toutes parts,
 
Serrez mon col, maistresse,
De vos deux bras pliez ;
D’un neud qui tienne et presse
Doucement me liez ;
Un baiser mutuel
Nous soit perpetuel.
 
Ny le temps, ny l’envie
D’autre amour desirer
Ne pourra point ma vie
De vos lèvres tirer ;
Ains serrez demourrons,
Et baisant nous mourrons.
 
En mesme an et mesme heure,
Et en mesme saison,
Irons voir la demeure
De la palle maison,
Et les champs ordonnez
Aux amans fortunez.
 
Amour par les fleurettes
Du printemps eternel
Voirra nos amourettes
Sous le bois maternel ;
Là nous sçaurons combien
Les amans ont de bien.
 
Le long des belles plaines
Et parmy les prez vers,
Les rives sonnent pleines
De maints accords divers ;
L’un joue, et l’autre au son
Danse d’une chanson.
 
Là le beau ciel décueuvre
Tousjours un front benin,
Sur les fleurs la couleuvre
Ne vomit son venin,
Et tousjours les oyseaux
Chantent sur les rameaux ;
 
Tousjours les vens y sonnent
Je ne sçay quoy de doux,
Et les lauriers y donnent
Tousjours ombrages moux ;
Tousjours les belles fleurs
Y gardent leurs couleurs.
 
Parmy le grand espace
De ce verger heureux,
Nous aurons tous deux place
Entre les amoureux,
Et comme eux sans soucy
Nous aimerons aussi.
 
Nulle amie ancienne
Ne se dépitera,
Quand de la place sienne
Pour nous deux s’ostera,
Non celles dont les yeux
Prirent le cœur des dieux.
O maid more tender
Than a fair crimson bud
To which the rosebush gives birth
At the rising of the sun,
Partly growing fresh and youthful,
Partly blushing redder!
 
Stronger than the ivy
Which climbs around
Its beloved oak, which it hugs
Wound in many a twist,
Curving its wide-spread arms
Above it on all sides,
 
Embrace my neck, mistress,
With your two bent arms;
In a knot which holds and squeezes
Sweetly bind me;
May our shared kiss
Be everlasting.
 
Neither time, nor the longing
To enjoy some other love
Can in any way pull my life
Back from your lips;
So let’s stay embracing
And we’ll die kissing.
 
In the same year, the same hour,
The same season,
We’ll go and see the dwellings
Of that pale house,
And the fields ordained
For happy lovers.
 
Love with the flowers
Of eternal springtime
Will see our love-dalliance
In our maternal woods;
There we shall discover how many
Good things lovers enjoy.
 
Along the fair plains
And among the green meadows,
The rivers play their music, full
Of many varied harmonies;
One plays, and the other
Dances to the sound of the song.
 
There the fair sky constantly
Shows a mild brow;
The grass-snake does not vomit
His venom on the flowers;
The birds are always
Singing in the branches;
 
The winds there are always making
Some sweet sound;
The laurels there always give
Their moist shade;
The beautiful flowers there always
Retain their colours.
 
Amid the great space
Of this happy orchard
We shall both take our place
Among the lovers,
And like them without a care
We too shall make love.
 
No ancient lover
Will be vexed
When from her spot
For us two she will remove herself,
Not even those whose eyes
Captured the hearts of the gods.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Chanson (Am. 1:227d)

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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.
 
 
 
 
 

Hymn for King Henry III, King of France, for the Victory at Montcontour (Hymn 1:9)

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For those who prefer poetry to music, here’s one of Ronsard’s hymns. Apparently the king liked this one so much he learned it by heart and would recite it regularly to his courtiers – or enjoy hearing others recite it!

Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
   Fier et fort,
Dessous l’aile de sa mere,
Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
   Aux Dragons
Fait guerre sortant de l’aire :
 
Tel qu’un jeune Lyonneau
   Tout nouveau
Quittant caverne et bocage,
Pour premier combat assaut
   D’un cœur haut
Quelque grand Taureau sauvage :
 
Tel aux desens de vos dos,
   Huguenos
Sentistes ce jeune Prince,
Fils de Roy, frere de Roy,
   Dont la Foy
Merite une autre Province.
 
A peine sur son menton
   Un cotton
De soye se laisse espandre ;
Jeune trompant le trompeur,
   S’est sans peur
Monstré digne d’Alexandre.
 
Il a guidant ses guerriers,
   De Lauriers
Orné son front et sa bande :
Et Capitaine parfait,
   Sa main fait
Ce qu’aux autres il commande.
 
Il a tranché le lien
   Gordien
Pour nos bonnes destinées :
Il a coupé le licol
   Qui au col
Nous pendoit des huit années.
 
Il a d’un glaive trenchant
   Au mechant
Coupé la force et l’audace,
Il a des ennemis morts
   Les grans corps
Fait tomber dessus la place.
 
Ils ont esté combatus,
    Abbatus,
Terrassez dessus la poudre,
Comme chesnes esbranchez,
   Trebuchez
Dessous l’esclat d’une foudre.
 
De sang gisent tous couverts
   A l’envers,
Tesmoins de sa main vaillante :
Ilz ont esté foudroyez,
   Poudroyez,
Sur les bors de la Charante.
 
Charante qui prend son nom
   D’Acheron,
A tels esprits sert de guide,
Les passant comme en bateau
   Par son eau
Au rivage Acherontide.
 
Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
   Le repas
Des mastins sans sepulture,
Et sans honneur de tombeaux 
   Les corbeaux
Mangent leur chair pour pasture.
 
Ny le tranchant coutelas,
   Ny le bras,
Ny force à la guerre adextre
Ne sert de rien à la fin
   Au plus Fin,
Quand il se prend à son maistre.
 
Du fort pere vient l’enfant
   Trionfant :
Le cheval ensuit sa race,
Le chien qui de bon sang part,
   Va gaillard
De luy-mesmes à la chasse.
 
Ainsi Pyrrhe Achillien
   Du Troyen
Coupa la guerre ancienne,
Ruant en l’âge où tu es
   Les feux Grecs
Dedans la ville Troyenne.
 
Ainsi Prince valeureux,
   Et heureux,
Tu mets fin à nostre guerre,
Qui depuis huit ans passez
   Oppressez
Nous tenoit les cœurs en serre.
 
Ce que les vieux n’avoyent sceu,
   Tu l’as peu
Parachever en une heure ;
Aussi Prince de bon-heur,
   Tout l’honneur
Sans compagnon t’en demeure.
 
A Dieu grace nous rendons,
   Et fendons
L’air sous l’hynne de victoire,
Poussant gaillars et joyeux
   Jusqu’aux Cieux,
Ton nom tes faits et ta gloire.
 
Et soit au premier resveil
   Du Soleil,
Soit qu’en la mer il s’abaisse,
Tousjours nous chantons Henry
   Favori
De Mars et de la jeunesse.
As a little eagle comes out,
   Bold and strong,
From beneath its mother’s wing
And with long, hooked talons
   Makes war
On dragons, coming from the air;
 
As a young lion,
   New-grown,
Quiting cave and woodland
For its first fight attacks
   With high courage
Some great, savage bull;
 
So, to the cost of your hides,
   Huguenots,
You felt this young Prince:
The son of a King, the brother of a King
   Whose faithfulness
Deserves another demesne.
 
Hardly on his chin
   Had the silken
Fluff begun to sprout;
Young, deceiving the deceiver,
   He fearlessly showed
Himself worthy of Alexander.
 
Guiding his warriors, he has
   With laurels
Adorned his brow and his troop,
And, the perfect captain,
   His hand does
What he commands others to do.
 
He cut the knot
   Of Gordium
To make our future good,
He cut the halter
   Which for eight years
Has hung around our necks.
 
With his slicing blade he has
   Cut off
The strength and daring of the wicked,
He has made the dead enemies’
   Great corpses
Fall upon the ground.
 
They were fought,
   Beaten down,
Crushed into the dust
Like oaks lopped down,
   Battered
Under a bursting thunderbolt.
 
Covered in blood they all lie
   Overturned,
Witnesses to his valiant hand.
They were crushed,
   Turned to dust,
On the banks of the Charente.
 
The Charente, which takes its name
   From Acheron,
Acted as guide to those spirits,
Passing them, as if in boats,
   Through its waters
To the banks of Acheron.
 
They are catapulted down,
   A meal
For dogs, without burial
And without the honour of tombs;
   Crows
Feast on their flesh.
 
Neither the slicing cutlass,
   Nor an arm
Or strength suited to war
Offer any help in the end
   To the finest
When he takes himself to his master.
 
From a powerful father comes a son
   Triumphant;
The horse follows his breeding,
The dog which comes from a good bloodline
   Happily goes
Off to the hunt by himself.
 
Thus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles,
   Cut short
The ancient war of the Trojan,
Hurling down in the age in which you are
   Those who once were Greek
Within the city of Troy.
 
So, valorous and fortunate
   Prince,
You have made an end of our wars
Which for the last eight years
   Oppressed
Us all, squeezing our hearts.
 
What the ancients could not do,
   You have managed
To complete in a single hour;
So Prince of good fortune,
   All the glory
Rests with you and you alone.
 
To God we give thanks
   And shatter
The air with our victory song;
Shouting gaily and joyously
   To the heavens
Your name, your deeds and your glory.
 
Whether at the first rising
   Of the sun,
Or when he sets in the sea,
We continuously sing of Henry,
   Favourite
Of Mars and of our youth.

 

 Plenty of classical and other learning in here, so let’s add a few notes. 
 
Stanzas 3-4 reminds us that this was a period of considerable Catholic-Protestant tension. The Battle of Montcontour was in 1569, during the Third War of Religion, and was (as suggested in stanza 16) decisive. Sadly it did not end the strife; the famous St Bartholomew’s Day massacre took place three years later in 1572 (when Ronsard was in his late 40s). Henry, who was only 18 at the time of the battle, came to the throne in 1574.
 
In stanza 6, the reference to Gordium goes back to Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot – a symbol of future rule over Asia and of future victories, hence its appropriate use here. But the knot is also proverbially used as a symbol of insoluble problems; and any claim that Henry III resolved the Wars of Religion at Montcontour can only be considered optimistic…!
 
In stanzas 9-10 Ronsard makes the fanciful claim that the river Charente derives its name from Acheron, the river of Hades. It gives him a good image but seems unlikely. (Montcontour is in the Poitou-Charentes region.)
 
Pyrrhus (in stanza 14) is another name for Neoptolemus, the rather angry and aggressive son of Achilles who killed old men, boys & women (Priam, Astyanax & Polyxena) in the sack of Troy. I doubt Ronsard is suggesting Henry III is quite so savage or ruthless; the link is rather the decisiveness of the victories.
 
 
There are some minor variants in editions: Blanchemain’s opening stanza goes
 
      Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
         Fier et fort,
      De dessous l’aile à sa mere,
      Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
         Aux dragons
      Fait guerre sortant de l’aire
 
– the changed third line can be translated identically, or could mean the eagle comes out ‘from beneath the wing to its mother’.  Then stanzas 10-11 go:
 
      Charante qui prend son nom
         D’Acheron,
      Leur sert de port et de guide,
      Les passant comme en bateau
         Par son eau
      Au rivage Acherontide.
 
      Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
         Le repas
      Des mastins, sans sepulture,
      Et sans honneur de tombeaux ;
         Les corbeaux
      De leur chair font leur pasture.
 
 
(The Charente ‘acts as their port and guide’; and crows ‘make their feast on their flesh’).
 
 
 
 

Ode 3:13 – to Joachim du Bellay

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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.
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 165

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Sonnets 163 and 164 are already available, so our journey through book 1 continues with no. 165 …

Saincte Gastine, ô douce secretaire
De mes ennuis, qui respons en ton bois,
Ores en haute ores en basse voix,
Aux longs souspirs que mon cœur ne peut taire :
 
Loir, qui refreins la course volontaire
Des flots roulant par nostre Vandomois,
Quand accuser ceste beauté tu m’ois,
De qui tousjours je m’affame et m’altere :
 
Si dextrement l’augure j’ay receu,
Et si mon œil ne fut hier deceu
Des doux regards de ma douce Thalie,
 
Maugré la mort Poëte me ferez
Et par la France appellez vous serez
L’un mon Laurier, l’autre ma Castalie.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Holy Gastine, sweet minister
                                                                            Of my troubles, who reply in your wood
                                                                            Now with loud, now with quiet voice
                                                                            To the long sighs which my heart cannot silence;
 
                                                                            Loir, who restrain the headstrong course
                                                                            Of your waves running through our Vendôme,
                                                                            When you hear me accusing that beauty
                                                                            For whom I’m always hungry and thirsty;
 
                                                                            If I’ve rightly understood the prophecy,
                                                                            And if my eye was not deceived yesterday
                                                                            By the sweet glances of my sweet Thalia,
 
                                                                            In spite of death you will make me a Poet,
                                                                            And throughout France one of you will be called
                                                                            My Laurel, the other my Castalia.
 
 
 
Here again Ronsard connects his own small aprt of the Vendome with the classical sites well-known to all his readers: the forest of Gastine, and the little river Loir, become the equivalents of the victory-crowning laurel, and the Castalian spring which emerges beside the Delphic oracle – though here Ronsard is thinking less of the oracle’s link with prophecy than its link with Apollo who inspires poets. Thalia (as he calls Cassandre here) was the muse associated with pastoral poetry – but also, less relevantly, with comedy!
 
Once more there are only minor changes between versions. Blanchemain offers in line 1 “Saincte Gastine, heureuse secretaire” (‘happy minister’); in lines 5-6 “la course volontaire / Du plus courant de tes flots vendomois” (‘the headstrong course / Of the fastest-running of your waters of Vendome’); and in line 12 “Dorenavant poëte me ferez,” (‘Henceforward you will make me a Poet’).

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 87

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Si l’escrivain de la Gregeoise armée
Eust veu tes yeux qui serf me tiennent pris,
Les faits de Mars n’eust jamais entrepris,
Et le Duc Grec fust mort sans renommée.
 
Et si Paris qui veit en la valée
La Cyprienne et d’elle fut épris,
T’eust veu quatriesme, il t’eust donné le pris,
Et sans honneur Venus s’en fust allée.
 
Mais s’il advient ou par le vueil des Cieux,
Ou par le trait qui sort de tes beaux yeux,
Que d’un haut vers je chante ta conqueste
 
Et nouveau cygne on m’entende crier,
Il n’y aura ny myrte ny laurier
Digne de toy, ny digne de ma teste.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            If the poet of the Grecian army
                                                                            Had seen your eyes, which hold me bound as a serf,
                                                                            He would never have undertaken the deeds of Mars [war]
                                                                            And the Greek general would have died without fame.
 
                                                                            And if Paris, who glimpsed in the garden
                                                                            The Cyprian [Venus] and fell in love with her,
                                                                            Had seen you as the fourth, he would have given you the prize
                                                                            And Venus would have left without reward.
 
                                                                            But if it happens, by the will of Heaven
                                                                            Or by the wound given by your fair eyes,
                                                                            That in fine poetry I sing of your conquest
 
                                                                            And like a new swan I am heard singing,
                                                                            There will be no myrtle or laurel
                                                                            Worthy of you, nor worthy as my crown.

 

 

Ronsard has a way of turning a compliment, doesn’t he – and often deftly turning it to himself! If ever a poet was secure in his knowledge of his own worth, it’s Ronsard. But of course this poem is about the surpassing charms of Cassandre, greater than any inspiration to any poet before…
 
The ‘poet of the Grecian army’ is of course Homer, the war is the Trojan War, his poem the Iliad, and the Greek general who dies is Achilles. Paris was chosen to judge the contest between Juno, Venus and Minerva and naturally decided the prettiest was best – so Ronsard says Cassandre is prettier than the goddess of love herself. Myrtles and laurels are the prize for poets, and indeed the victors of any contest, in the classical world – though not good enough as a prize for Ronsard apparently!
 
I must admit to some paraphrasing in this translation:  in line 5 Paris actually “saw [Venus] in the valley”, but ‘glimpsed … garden’ offers an alliterative effect similar to “veit en la valée”.  In line 14 Ronsard actually says no myrtle is ‘worthy of you, nor worthy of my head’, but I have changed this (with less excuse) to the more explanatory ‘crown’.
 
Blanchemain’s version shows how Ronsard’s self-confidence had grown later in life: for in this version he ends by receiving (and being pleased to receive) the best of myrtle crowns…
 
 
 
Si l’escrivain de la Gregeoise armée
Eust veu tes yeux qui serf me tiennent pris,
Les faits de Mars il n’eust jamais empris,
Et le duc grec fust mort sans renommée.
 
Et si Pâris, qui vit en la valée
La grand’ beauté dont son cœur fut épris,
Eust veu la tienne, il t’eust donné le pris,
Et sans honneur Venus s’en fust allée.
 
Mais s’il advient, ou par le vueil des cieux,
Ou par le trait qui sort de tes beaux yeux,
Qu’en publiant ma prise et ta conqueste,
 
Outre la Tane on m’entende crier,
Io ! Io ! quel myrte ou quel laurier
Sera bastant pour enlacer ma teste !
 
 
 
                                                                            If the poet of the Grecian army
                                                                            Had seen your eyes, which hold me bound as a serf,
                                                                            He would never have taken up the deeds of Mars [war]
                                                                            And the Greek general would have died without fame.
 
                                                                            And if Paris, who glimpsed in the garden
                                                                            That great beauty by which his heart was seized,
                                                                            Had seen yours, he would have given you the prize
                                                                            And Venus would have left without reward.
 
                                                                            But if it happens, by the will of Heaven
                                                                            Or by the wound given by your fair eyes,
                                                                            That in speaking out of my capture and your conquest,
 
                                                                            Beyond Tanais they hear me singing
                                                                            “Io! Io!”, what myrtle or what laurel
                                                                            Will be woven to twine around my head!
 
 
 
 In the second quatrain his first version is more allusive than the later one – perhaps unusually! – explaining itself only in line 8; but the later version, while making the allusion clearer in line 5, does end up repeating itself if we recognise Cypris and Venus to be the same person. In the final lines, Blanchemain says ‘I believe “la Tane” is Tanais’; this was a city at the southern end of the [modern] river Don, that is to say NE of the Crimea at the top-right of the Black Sea – – or, in classical terms, the far end of the known world. So those beyond Tanais are in effect at or beyond the edges of the known world.  ‘Io’ was a representation of the shouting (or ululation) of Bacchantes and others in the throes of some form of ecstatic dance-trance – again, associated with the mystic east.
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 71

Standard
Ja desja Mars ma trompe avoit choisie,
Et dans mes vers ja Francus devisoit :
Sur ma fureur ja sa lance aiguisoit,
Epoinçonnant ma brave poësie :
 
Ja d’une horreur la Gaule estoit saisie,
Et sous le fer ja Sene tre-luisoit,
Et ja Francus à Paris conduisoit
Le nom Troyen et l’honneur de l’Asie :
 
Quand l’Archerot emplumé par le dos,
D’un trait certain me playant jusqu’à l’os,
De ses secrets le ministre m’ordonne.
 
Armes adieu, le Myrte Pafien
Ne cede point au Laurier Delfien,
Quand de sa main Amour mesme le donne.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Now already Mars had outwitted me
                                                                            And now in my verse Francus was chattering away ;
                                                                            Now he was sharpening his lance on my passion,
                                                                            Skewering my bold poetry;
 
                                                                            Now Gaul was seized with horror,
                                                                            The Seine now glinting beneath the blades,
                                                                            Francus now bringing to Paris
                                                                            The name of Troy and Asia’s honour;
 
                                                                            When the little Archer, feathers on his back,
                                                                            Wounding me to the bone with a sure dart
                                                                            Ordained me as minister of his secrets.
 
                                                                            Farewell arms! The myrtle of Paphos
                                                                            Yields nothing to the laurel of Delphi
                                                                            When Love himself gives it with his own hand.

 

 

  
It’s hard to think of Ronsard as a poet of war and epic poetry – the Franciad notwithstanding – yet here he is claiming that he was already at work on such an epic when he was diverted towards love poetry. Maybe this is a ‘classicizing’ defence of love poetry, for epic is of course – like tragedy – considered greater than ‘mere’ love poetry. But it is believed true that he had begun work on his epic Franciad in the 1540s, before turning to love poetry, the Franciad having to wait till the 1570s for publication in its partially-complete state.
 
The hero Francus is an entirely made-up French origin myth, originating in the medieval period: Francus is Astyanax, Hector’s son, mysteriously surviving the death he suffered in the various Greek epics of Troy (in the Little Iliad he is thrown from the walls, in the Ilioupersis, he is killed and the King Priam – his grandfather – is beaten to death with his body!). Escaping to Europe, Astyanax/Francus becomes the origin of the Franks, and founder of the Merovingian dynasty (Charlemagne’s line).
 
Paphos and myrtle are both associated with Venus: Paphos because, after her birth at sea, she came ashore in a seashell there (cf. the famous Botticelli painting); and myrtle is sacred to Venus in classical religion.  Delphi and the laurel are linked with Apollo:  Delphi for the famous Oracle, the laurel as sacred to him and the plant into which Daphne was changed to save her from Apollo’s advances (alluded to in the previous sonnet).
 
The original version (in Blanchemain) has a few small variants:  his lines 7-8 read
 
 
Et ja Francus à son bord conduisoit
Les os d’Hector forbannis de l’Asie,
 
                                                                           Francus now bringing to its banks
                                                                           The bones of Hector exiled from Asia;
 
and his line 11 reads “De sa grandeur le saint prestre m’ordonne” (‘By his greatness ordained me his holy priest’ or ‘Ordained me holy priest of his greatness’).