Tag Archives: Loir

Garnier’s tribute to Ronsard

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It is SO long since I posted anything here: I hope to get going again & finish off Helen 2 at least. Meanwhile, it felt right to include Garnier’s tribute to the dead Ronsard – not least because my own attempt to preserve his memory has faltered …

This elegy was originally published in Binet’s memorial volume, Discours de la Vie de Pierre de Ronsard, in 1586. It was picked up and anthologised in 1778, in volume 8 of the Annales poétiques, ou Almanach des Muses, after which it reappeared several times elsewhere, copied from that anthology,and can now be found in several places on the web. But the 1778 anthologisers quietly abbreviated Garnier’s text – removing approximately 50% of it! So the versions found elsewhere are likewise abbreviated and I think this is the first time the full original text has been reproduced online.

Elégie sur le trespas de feu Monsieur de Ronsard
 
A monsieur des Portes Abbé de Thiron
 
 
Nature est aux humains sur tous autres cruelle,
On ne voit animaux
En la terre et au ciel, ny en l’onde infidele,
Qui souffrent tant de maux.
 
Le rayon eternel de l’essence divine,
Qu’en naissant nous avons,
De mille passions noz tristes jours épine
Tandis que nous vivons :
 
Et non pas seulement vivants il nous torture,
Mais nous blesse au trespas,
Car pour prevoir la mort, elle nous est plus dure
Qu’elle ne seroit pas.
 
Si tost que nostre esprit dans le cerveau raisonne,
Nous l’alons redoutant,
Et sans cette frayeur que la raison nous donne,
On ne la craindroit tant.
 
Nous creignons de mourir, de perdre la lumiere
Du Soleil radieus,
Nous creignons de passer sur les ais d’une biere
Le fleuve stygieus.
 
Nous creignons de laisser noz maisons delectables,
Noz biens et noz honneurs,
Ces belles dignitez, qui nous font venerables
Remarquer des seigneurs.
 
Les peuples des forests, de l’air et des rivieres,
Qui ne voyent si loing,
Tombent journellement aux mortelles pantieres
Sans se gesner de soing.
 
Leur vie est plus heureuse, et moins sujette aus peines,
Et encombres divers,
Que nous souffrons chetifs en noz ames humaines,
De desastres couverts.
 
Ores nous poind l’amour, Tyran de la jeunesse,
Ores l’avare faim
De l’or injurieus, qui fait que chacun laisse
La vertu pour le gain.
 
Cetuy-cy se tourmente apres les grandeurs vaines,
Enflé d’ambition,
De cetuy-la l’envie empoisonne les veines
Cruelle passion.
 
La haine, le courroux, le depit, la tristesse,
L’outrageuse rancœur,
Et la tendre pitié du foeble qu’on oppresse,
Nous bourellent le cœur.
 
Et voila nostre vie, ô miserables hommes !
Nous semblons estre nez
Pour estre, cependant qu’en ce monde nous sommes,
Tousjours infortunez.
 
Et enquore, où le ciel en une belle vie
Quelque vertus enclost,
La chagrineuse mort qui les hommes envye
Nous la pille aussi tost.
 
Ainsi le verd email d’une riante prée
Est soudain effacé,
Ainsi l’aymable teint d’une rose pourprée
Est aussi tost passé.
 
La jeunesse de l’an n’est de longue durée,
Mais l’Hyver aux dois gours,
Et l’Esté embruny de la torche etherée
Durent [orig : durant] presque toujours.
 
Mais las ! ô doux Printems, vostre verdeur fanie
Retourne en mesme point,
Mais quand nostre jeunesse une fois est finie
Elle ne revient point.
 
La vieillesse nous prend maladive et facheuse,
Hostesse de la mort,
Qui pleins de mal nous pousse en une tombe creuse
D’où jamais on ne sort.
 
Des Portes, que la Muse honore et favorise
Entre tous ceux qui ont
Suivy le saint Phebus, et sa science aprise
Dessur le double mont.
 
Vous voyez ce Ronsard, merveilles de nostre age,
L’honneur de l’Univers,
Paitre de sa chair morte, inevitable outrage,
Une source de vers.
 
De rien vostre Apollon, ny les Muses pucelles
Ne luy ont profité,
Bien qu’ils eussent pour luy les deux croppes jumelles
De Parnasse quitté :
 
Et qu’ils eust conduits aux accords de sa Lire
Dans ce François sejour,
Pour chanter de noz Roys, et leurs victoires dire,
Ou sonner de l’amour.
 
C’est grand cas, que ce Dieu, qui des enfance l’aime,
Afranchit du trespas
Ses divines chansons, et que le chantre mesme
N’en affranchisse pas.
 
Vous en serez ainsi : car bien que vostre gloire,
Espandue en tous lieux,
Ne descende estoufée en une tombe noire
Comme un peuple otieux,
 
Et que voz sacrez vers, qui de honte font taire
Les plus grands du metier,
Nous facent choir des mains, quand nous en cuidons faire,
La plume et le papier.
 
Si verres vous le fleuve où tout le monde arrive,
Et payrez le denier
Que prend pour nous passer jusques à l’autre rive
L’avare Nautonnier.
 
Que ne ressemblons nous aus vagueuses rivieres
Qui ne changent de cours ?
Ou au branle eternel des ondes marinieres
Qui reflotent toujours ?
 
Et n’est-ce pas pitié, que ces roches pointues,
Qui semblent depiter,
De vents, de flots, d’oraige, et de foudres batues,
L’ire de Jupiter,
 
Vivent incessament, incessament demeurent
Dans leurs membres pierreux,
Et que des hommes, tels que ce grand Ronsard, meurent
Par un sort rigoureux ?
 
O destin lamentable ! un homme qui approche
De la divinité
Est ravy de ce monde, et le front d’une roche
Dure un eternité.
 
Qui pourra desormais d’une alaine assez forte
Entonner comme il faut
La gloir de mon Roy, puisque la muse est morte
Qui le chantoit si haut ?
 
Qui dira ses combats ? ses batailles sanglantes ?
Quand jeune, Duc d’Anjou,
De sa main foudroya les troupes protestantes
Aux plaines de Poictou ?
 
Des portes qui sera-ce ? une fois vostre Muse,
Digne d’estre en son lieu,
Fuyant l’honneur profane aujourdhuy ne s’amuse
Qu’au loüanges de Dieu.
 
Et qui sera-ce donc ? quelle voix suffisante,
Pour sonner gravement
Joyeuse nostre Achil, dont la gloire naissante
S’acroist journellement ?
 
Qui dira son courage, indomtable à la peine,
Indomtable à la peur,
Et comme il appareille avec une ame humaine
Un magnanime cœur ?
 
Comme il est de l’honneur, du seul honneur avare,
D’autres biens liberal,
Cherissant un chacun, fors celuy qui s’egare
Du service royal ?
 
Ne permette Clion et Phebus ne permette
Que Ronsard abattu
Par l’ennuyeuse mort, ne se treuve Poëte
Qui chante sa vertu.
 
Adieu, mon cher Ronsard, l’abeille en vostre tombe
Face tousjour son miel,
Que le baume Arabic à tout jamais y tombe,
Et la manne du ciel.
 
Le Laurier y verdisse avec le lierre
Et le Mirthe amoureus,
Riche en mille boutons, de toutes parts l’enserre
Le Rosier odoreus :
 
Le tin, le baselic, la franche Marguerite,
Et nostre Lis François,
Et cette rouge fleur, où la pleinte est escrite
Du malcontent Gregeois.
 
Les Nymphes de Gâtine, et les Nayades sainctes,
Qui habitent le Loir,
Le venant arroser de larmettes epreintes,
Ne cessent de douloir.
 
Las ! Cloton a tranché le fil de vostre vie
D’une piteuse main,
La voyant de vieillesse et de goutes suyvie,
Torturage inhumain.
 
Voyant la povre France en son corps outragee
Par le sanglant effort
De ses enfans, qui l’ont tant de foys ravagee,
Soupirer à la mort :
 
Le Souysse aguerry, qui aus combats se loüe,
L’Anglois fermé de flots,
Ceux qui boivent le Pau, le Tage et la Danoüe,
Fondre dessus son dos.
 
Ainsi que le Vautour, qui de griffes bourelles
Va sans fin tirassant
De Promethé le foye, en patures nouvelles
Coup sur coup renaissant.
 
Les meurtres inhumains se font entre les freres,
Spectacle plein d’horreur,
Et deja les enfans courent contre leurs peres
D’une aveugle fureur :
 
Le cœur des Citoyens se remplit de furies,
Les Paysans ecartez
Meurent comme une haye : on ne voit que turies
Par les chams desertez.
 
Et puis alez chanter l’honneur de nostre France
En siecles si maudits,
Attendez-vous qu’aucun vos labeurs recompense
Comme on faisait jadis ?
 
La triste povreté noz chansons accompaigne,
La Muse, les yeus bas,
Se retire de nous, voyant que lon dedaigne
Ses antiques ebats.
 
Vous estes donque heureus, et vostre mort heureuse,
O Cigne des François,
Ne lamentez que nous, dont la vie ennuyeuse
Meurt le jour mile fois.
 
Vous errez maintenant aux campaignes d’Elise,
A l’ombre des Vergers,
Où chargent en tout tems, asseurez de la Bise,
Les jaunes Orengers :
 
Où les prez sont toujours tapissez de verdure,
Les vignes de raisins,
Et les petits oyseaus, gasoüillans au murmure
Des ruisseaus cristalins.
 
Là le Cedre gommeus odoreusement sue,
Et l’arbre du Liban,
Et l’Ambre, et Myrrhe, au lit de son Pere receüe,
Pleure le long de l’an.
 
En grand’ foule acourus, autour de vous se pressent
Les heros anciens,
Qui boyvent le nectar, d’ambrosie se paissent,
Aux bords Elisiens :
 
Sur tous le grand Eumolpe, et le divin Orphee,
Et Line, et Amphion,
Et Musee, et celuy, dont la plume eschauffee
Mist en cendre Ilion.
 
Le loüengeur Thebain, le chantre de Mantoüe,
Le Lyrique latin,
Et aveques Seneque, honneur grand de Cordoüe,
L’amoureus Florentin :
 
Tous vont battant des mains, sautellent de liesse,
S’entredisant entre eux,
Voyla celuy, qui donte et l’Itale et la Grece
En poëmes nombreus :
 
L’un vous donne sa lyre, et l’au[t]re sa trompette,
L’autre vous veut donner
Son Myrthe, son Lierre, ou son Laurier profette,
Pour vous en couronner.
 
Ainsi vivez heureuse, ame toute divine,
Tandis que le destin
Nous reserve aus malheurs de la France, voysine
De sa derniere fin.
 
Elegy on the death of the late M.de Ronsard
 
To M. Desportes, abbot of Thiron
 
 
Nature is to men above all others cruel,
We do not see animals
On earth or in the skies, or in the treacherous seas,
Suffering so many ills.
 
The eternal ray of the divine essence
Which we receive at birth
With a hundred passions troubles our sad days
While we live.
 
And not only while we live does it torture us,
But injures us at our death,
For foreseeing death is to us harder
Than the event itself will be.
 
As soon as our spirit reasons within our brains,
We begin to fear it,
And without this terror which reason gives us
We would not be so frightened of it.
 
We are frightened of dying, of losing the light
Of the radiant Sun,
We are frightened of crossing, on the planks of a bier,
The Stygian river;
 
We are frightened of leaving our delightful homes,
Our goods and our honours,
Those fine dignities which make us respected
And noticed by lords.
 
The inhabitants of the forests, the air and the rivers
Who do not see so far,
Fall daily to death-dealing snares
Without troubling themselves with worries.
 
Their life is happier, and less subject to the troubles
And various burdens
Which we weakly suffer in our human souls,
Overcome by disasters.
 
Sometimes love afflicts us, that tyrant of our youth,
Sometimes the greedy hunger
For harmful gold, which makes everyone abandon
Virtue for gain.
 
This man torments himself seeking empty greatness,
Puffed up with ambition,
That man’s veins are poisoned by envy,
That cruel passion.
 
Hatred, anger, spite, sorrow,
Hurtful bitterness,
And tender pity for the weak who are oppressed
Bubble away in our hearts.
 
And that’s our life, o wretched men!
We seem to be born
To be, while we are in this world,
Always unfortunate.
 
And even when heaven includes
Some happiness in a good life,
Sorrowful death which envies men
Steals it from us soon enough.
 
Just so the fresh mosaic of a gay meadow
Is suddenly wiped away,
Just so the lovely tint of a crimson rose
Is soon enough past.
 
The year’s youth does not last long,
But Winter with his stiff fingers
And Summer scorched by the heavenly flame
Last almost forever.
 
Alas, sweet Spring, your faded freshness
Returns to the same state [each year]
But when once our youth is finished
It does not return.
 
Old age takes us, sickly and disagreeable,
Death’s hostess,
And, full of ills, pushes us into a dug grave
From which none ever escapes.
 
Desportes, whom the Muse honours and favours
Among all those of us who have
Followed holy Apollo and learned his wisdom
Upon the double mount:
 
You see this Ronsard, the marvel of our age,
The glory of the world,
Feeding with his dead flesh – an inescapable indignity –
A stream of worms.
 
Nothing have your Apollo and his maiden Muses
Profited him,
Although for him they abandoned
The twin mounts of Parnassus,
 
And although they have spent time, to the harmonies of his lyre,
In this France of ours,
To sing of our Kings and announce their victories,
Or to celebrate love.
 
It’s very clear that the god who loved him from infancy
Excepted from death
His divine songs, and yet could not except from it
The singer himself.
 
It will be the same for you: for although your glory,
Spreading to every place,
Will not descend, smothered, into a dark tomb
Like unproductive folk’s,
 
And though your sacred verse, which for shame makes
The greatest in the business fall silent,
Makes the pen and paper fall from our hands,
When we wish to use them:
 
Yet still you will see the river where every man arrives,
And you will pay the penny
Which the greedy Boatman takes
That we may pass to the other side.
 
Why are we not like the rippling waters
Which don’t change their course?
Or the eternal movement of the sea’s waves
Which break and break again?
 
Isn’t it a pity that those sharp rocks
Which seem to despise
The winds, the tides, storms and battering of lightning,
The anger of Jupiter,
 
Live on eternally, remain eternally
In their stony forms,
And that men like the great Ronsard die
By harsh fate?
 
O grievous destiny! A man who approaches
The divine
Is stolen from this world, and a rock-face
Lasts an eternity.
 
Who will be able henceforth with so strong a voice
To thunder as they should
Of my King’s glory, since the muse is dead
Who sang it so loudly?
 
Who shall sing of his combats? Of his bloody battles?
Who when young, as the Duke of Anjou,
Overthrew with his might the protestant troops
On the plains of Poitou …
 
Deportes, who will it be? Once, perhaps, your muse
Was worthy to be in his place;
But fleeing worldly honours today she employs herself
Only in the praise of God.
 
So who will it be? What voice sufficient
To celebrate gravely
Our joyous Achilles, whose budding glory
Grows daily?
 
Who shall speak of his courage, unconquered by strife,
Unconquered by fear,
And how it equipped with a human soul
A magnanimous heart?
 
How it is hungry for honour, for honour alone,
Liberal with other good things,
Cherishes everyone, even those who fall away
From the king’s service?
 
Do not permit, Clio, and Apollo do not permit
That Ronsard, defeated
By grievous death, should not find a Poet
To sing of his worth.
 
Farewell, my dear Ronsard, may the bees always
Make their honey on your tomb,
May balm from Arabia forever fall there
With manna from heaven.
 
May the laurel flourish there, along with ivy
And lovers’ myrtle,
Rich with a thousand buds, and on all sides may
The perfumed rose-bush embrace it,
 
And thyme, basil, the simple daisy,
Our lily of France,
And that red flower on which is written the plaint
Of the unhappy Greek.
 
May the nymphs of Gastine and the holy water-nymphs
Who live in the Loir
Having just poured out and expressed their tears for you
Not cease from grieving.
 
Alas! Clotho has cut the thread of your life
With her pitying hand,
Seeing it accompanied by old age and gout,
Those inhuman tortures,
 
And seeing our poor France, wounded in her body
By the bloody struggles
Of her children, who have so many times ravaged her,
Sighing for death;
 
And Switzerland at war, giving itself over to strife,
England enclosed by the seas,
And those who drink from the Po, Tagus and Danube
Drowning beneath their waters;
 
Just like the vulture, which with its executioner’s claws
Endlessly rakes
The liver of Prometheus, in new pastures
Renewing blow on blow,
 
Inhuman murders take place between brothers,
A horrific sight,
And now children rush upon their fathers
In blind madness;
 
The hearts of city-dwellers are filled with Furies,
The country-folk, swept aside,
Die in their rows; we see nothing but killings
Throughout the deserted countryside.
 
And yet you go on singing of the honour of our France
In times so accursed:
Do you expect anyone to reward your labours
As they did in the past?
 
Wretched poverty accompanies our songs;
The Muse, her eyes lowered,
Leaves us, seeing that we disdain
Her former amusements.
 
So, you are fortunate, and your death fortunate,
O Swan of the French,
Lament only for us, whose troubled lives
Die a thousand times every day.
 
You now wander in the fields of Elysium,
In the shade of the orchards
Where at all times, secure from cold northerly winds,
The tawny orange-trees are laden;
 
Where the meadows are always carpeted in green,
The vines with grapes,
And the little birds go chattering to the murmur
Of crystalline streams.
 
There the cedar sweats its perfumed gum,
And the tree of Lebanon
Weeps both amber and myrrh, received at its father’s bed,
All year long.
 
Running up in a great crowd, around you press
The ancient heroes
Who drink nectar and feed on ambrosia
On the banks of Elysium,
 
Above all great Eumolpe and godlike Orpheus
And Linus and Amphion
And Musaeus, and he whose burning pen
Set fire to Troy;
 
The Theban praise-singer, the poet of Mantua,
The Latin lyricist
And, with Seneca the great glory of Cordoba,
The Florentine love-poet,
 
All of them clapping their hands, leaping with joy,
Saying to one another,
“There he is, the man who surpassed Italy and Greece
In many a poem”.
 
One of them gives you his lyre, another his trumpet,
Another tries to give you
His myrtle, his ivy, or his prophetic laurel
To crown you with them.
 
So, live on happily, godlike soul,
While fate keeps us back
For the misfortunes of France, close
To her final end.
 

 

(In verse 15, I have amended one word slightly, to form a proper sentence – though Garnier may have been deliberately leaving the sentence hanging.)
 
As one would expect, Garnier’s tribute ranges over the areas Ronsard himself wrote about – the King and the civil wars, classical myth, nature, love poetry, Ronsard’s home on the Loir … So there are plenty of relatively obscure references perhaps worth amplifying:
 – the dedication is to Ronsard’s “successor”, Philippe Desportes – a lesser poet, but one whose fame eclipsed Ronsard’s in the latter portion of his life;
 – verse 5, the “Stygian river”, the Styx, is the river between the living world and Hades, across which Charon the ferryman or boatman (verse 25) takes all dead souls;
 – verses 18 & 20, Parnassus (the ‘double mount’, at right – photo credit Rens van der Sluijs) is the traditional home of the Muses. Ovid called it ‘biceps’, that is ‘two-headed’, and between its twin peaks was Delphi, the ‘omphalos’ (navel, centre) of the world;
 – verse 33, ‘Achilles’ (the great soldier) means of course the King
 – verse 37, Clio is usually the Muse of history, but sometimes also the Muse of lyre-playing: both seem appropriate here;
 – verse 40, the ‘unhappy Greek’ is not Narcissus but Hyacinthus, whose flower bears the Greek letters AIAI (‘alas’, ‘woe’);
 – verse 41, the Gastine & Loir are familiar as part of Ronsard’s beloved estates;
 – verse 42, Clotho is one of the Fates who determine the length of a man’s life – though note that Clotho is normally the Fate who spins the thread of life, Atropos the one who cuts it …
 – verse 45, the story of Prometheus eternally having his liver torn out by the eagle (or vulture) by day only for it to re-grow overnight, is well-known;
 – verse 53, I confess I have no idea what the end of line 3 (“received at its father’s bed”) is referring to … Ideas welcome. Amber and myrrh (like frankincense too) are resinous – and therefore associated with the resin-rich cedars of Lebanon, though myrrh in particular comes form small thorn-trees not huge cedars;
 –  verse 55-56 list many of the greatest poets of the past, legendary and historical.
     – Eumolpe (or Eumolpos – which means ‘beautiful song’) was founder of the Eleusininan mysteries in ancient Athens;
     – ‘godlike Orpheus’ is still well-known to us if only for carelessly losing Eurydice after charming Cerberus, the hell-dog, and Hades himself with his song;
     – Linus, sometimes viewed as Orpheus’s brother, was the inventor of lyric song and/or the harp;
     – Amphion, one of the founders of Thebes, was taught music by the god Hermes himself – and has a modern poetic form named after him;
     – Musaeus, lawgiver of Athens, was also was held to have been one of the great poets by Athenians – Socrates in the Apology links his name with three others in this list: “What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer?”;
     – Homer indeed is the next on the list, he “whose burning pen Set fire to Troy”;
     – the “Theban praise-singer” is Hesiod, associated with Mt. Helicon in Boeotia.
Bringing us from legendary to historical poets, “the poet of Mantua” is Virgil and the “Latin lyricist” is Horace. Seneca, although we think of him as Roman, was indeed born in Spain, in Cordoba; and last in the list and the only ‘modern’, the love-poet from Florence is of course Petrarch.

 

Helen 2:8

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Je plante en ta faveur cest arbre de Cybelle,
Ce Pin, où tes honneurs se liront tous les jours :
J’ay gravé sur le tronc nos noms et nos amours,
Qui croistront à l’envy de l’escorce nouvelle.
 
Faunes qui habitez ma terre paternelle,
Qui menez sur le Loir vos danses et vos tours,
Favorisez la plante et luy donnez secours,
Que l’Esté ne la brusle, et l’Hyver ne la gelle.
 
Pasteur, qui conduiras en ce lieu ton troupeau,
Flageolant une Eclogue en ton tuyau d’aveine,
Attache tous les ans à cest arbre un tableau,
 
Qui tesmoigne aux passans mes amours et ma peine :
Puis l’arrosant de laict et du sang d’un agneau,
Dy, Ce Pin est sacré, c’est la plante d’Helene.
 
 
                                                                            I’m planting this tree of Cybele for you,
                                                                            This pine on which your glories will be read every day ;
                                                                            I have carved on the trunk our names and our love
                                                                            Which will get bigger despite the new bark.
 
                                                                            You fauns who inhabit my family’s lands,
                                                                            Who dance and trip upon the Loir,
                                                                            Make this plant your favourite and give it your aid
                                                                            So that summer does not burn nor winter freeze it.
 
                                                                            And you, shepherd who steer your flock to this place
                                                                            Fluting an eclogue on your oat-stalk pipe,
                                                                            Fix a picture to this tree every year
 
                                                                            To witness to passers-by of my love and my pain ;
                                                                            Then, pouring on it milk and the blood of a lamb,
                                                                            Say, “This pine is sacred, it is Helen’s tree.”
 
Nothing very radical here, one might think, though the presence of fauns on the Loir is unusual and a reminder that, for Ronsard, classical mythology was not confined to the Greek landscape – the deities and heroes were also very present for him in his contemporary landscape.
 
Blanchemain offers two footnotes, both of which simply remind us that the Loir, and Ronsard’s ancestral home, are in the Vendôme …
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 2:69

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Cesse tes pleurs, mon livre : il n’est pas ordonné
Du destin, que moy vif tu sois riche de gloire :
Avant que l’homme passe outre la rive noire,
L’honneur de son travail ne luy est point donné.
 
Quelqu’un apres mille ans de mes vers estonné
Voudra dedans mon Loir, comme en Permesse, boire,
Et voyant mon pays, à peine pourra croire
Que d’un si petit lieu tel Poëte soit né.
 
Pren, mon livre, pren cœur : la vertu precieuse
« De l’homme, quand il vit, est toujours odieuse :
« Apres qu’il est absent, chacun le pense un Dieu.
 
« La rancueur nuit tousjours à ceux qui sont en vie :
« Sur les vertus d’un mort elle n’a plus de lieu,
« Et la posterité rend l’honneur sans envie.
 
 
 
                                                                            Cease your tears, my book : it was not ordained
                                                                            By fate that, while I am alive, you should be rich in glory ;
                                                                            Before any man passes beyond the black river,
                                                                            The honour due his work is never given to him.
 
                                                                            Someone, astonished by my verse after a thousand years,
                                                                            Will want to drink from my Loir, as from Permessus,
                                                                            And seeing my homeland will hardly be able to believe
                                                                            That from so small a place was such a poet born.
 
                                                                            Take heart, my book: “The precious virtue
                                                                            Of a man, while he lives, is always disliked;
                                                                            After he is gone, everyone thinks him a god.
 
                                                                            Rancour only harms those who are alive;
                                                                            It has no power over the virtues of the dead,
                                                                            And posterity renders honour without envy.”
 
 
 
A gently-classicising poem to end book 2 as originally conceived.  The black river in line 3 is the Styx, the border of the underworld; Permessus in line 6 is the spring on Mt Helicon, home of the Muses. Both do not demand great learning from Marie! Ronsard remains full of certainty about his eventual acceptance as France’s pre-eminent poet…!
 
Blanchemain’s early version has the usual array of variants in the first half: in the opening stanza the honour is due his book, not him, which is slightly more modest!  (The change in line 3 is one of those where Ronsard rejects a poetic inversion (“passé j’aye”) even though the replacement is rather prosaic by comparison: a pity.)

 
 
Cesse tes pleurs, mon livre : il n’est pas ordonné
Du destin que, moy vif, tu reçoives la gloire ;
Avant que passé j’aye outre la rive noire,
L’honneur que l’on te doit ne te sera donné.
 
Quelqu’un, apres mil ands, de mes vers estonné,
Voudra dedans mon Loir comme en Permesse boire,
Et, voyant mon pays, à peine voudra croire
Que d’un si petit champ tel poëte soit né.
 
Pren, mon livre, pren cœur : la vertu precieuse
De l’homme, quand il vit, est tousjours odieuse.
Après qu’il est absent, chacun le pense un dieu.
 
La rancueur nuit tousjours à ceux qui sont en vie ;
Sur les vertus d’un mort elle n’a plus de lieu,
Et la posterité rend l’honneur sans envie.
 
 
 
                                                                            Cease your tears, my book : it was not ordained
                                                                            By fate that, while I am alive, you should receive glory;
                                                                            Before I have passed beyond the black river,
                                                                            The honour people owe you will not be given you.
 
                                                                            Someone, astonished by my verse after a thousand years,
                                                                            Will want to drink form my Loir, as from Permessus,
                                                                            And seeing my homeland will hardly want to believe
                                                                            That from so small a countryside was such a poet born.
 
                                                                            Take heart, my book: “The precious virtue
                                                                            Of a man, while he lives, is always disliked;
                                                                            After he is gone, everyone thinks him a god.
 
                                                                            Rancour only harms those who are alive;
                                                                            It has no power over the virtues of the dead,
                                                                            And posterity renders honour without envy.”
 
 
 
And so we reach the end of book 2: merry Christmas! 
 
 
 

Elégie à Marie (Amours 2:68a )

Standard

 

Ma seconde ame à fin que le siecle advenir
De nos jeunes amours se puisse souvenir,
Et que vostre beauté que j’ay long temps aimee
Ne se perde au tombeau par les ans consumee,
Sans laisser quelque marque apres elle de soy :
Je vous consacre icy le plus gaillard de moy,
L’esprit de mon esprit qui vous fera revivre
Ou long temps ou jamais par l’âge de ce livre.
 
Ceux qui liront les vers que j’ay chantez pour vous
D’un stile varié entre l’aigre et le dous
Selon les passions que vous m’avez donnees,
Vous tiendront pour Deesse : et tant plus les annees
En volant s’enfuiront, et plus vostre beauté
Contre l’âge croistra vieille en sa nouveauté.
 
O ma belle Angevine, ô ma douce Marie,
Mon œil mon cœur mon sang mon esprit et ma vie,
Dont la vertu me monstre un droit chemin aux cieux :
Je reçoy tel plaisir quand je baise vos yeux,
Quand je languis dessus, et quand je les regarde,
Que sans une frayeur qui la main me retarde,
Je me serois occis, qu’impuissant je ne puis
Vous monstrer par effect combien vostre je suis.
 
Or’ cela que je puis, je le veux icy faire :
Je veux en vous chantant vos louanges parfaire,
Et ne sentir jamais mon labeur engourdy
Que tout l’ouvrage entier pour vous ne soit ourdy.
 
Si j’estois un grand Roy, pour eternel exemple
De fidelle amitié, je bastirois un temple
Desur le bord de Loire, et ce temple auroit nom
Le temple de Ronsard et de sa Marion.
De marbre Parien seroit vostre effigie,
Vostre robe seroit à plein fons eslargie
De plis recamez d’or, et vos cheveux tressez
Seroient de filets d’or par ondes enlassez.
D’un crespe canellé seroit la couverture
De vostre chef divin, et la rare ouverture
D’un reth de soye et d’or, fait de l’ouvriere main
D’Arachne ou de Pallas, couvriroit vostre sein.
Vostre bouche seroit de roses toute pleine,
Respandant par le temple une amoureuse haleine.
Vous auriez d’une Hebé le maintien gracieux,
Et un essain d’Amours sortiroit de vos yeux :
Vous tiendriez le haut bout de ce temple honorable,
Droicte sur le sommet d’un pillier venerable.
 
Et moy d’autre costé assis au mesme lieu,
Je serois remerquable en la forme d’un Dieu :
J’aurois en me courbant dedans la main senestre
Un arc demy-vouté, tout tel qu’on voit renaistre
Aux premiers jours du mois le reply d’un croissant :
Et j’aurois sur la corde un beau trait menassant,
Non le serpent Python, mais ce sot de jeune homme,
Qui maintenant sa vie et son ame vous nomme,
Et qui seul me fraudant, est Roy de vostre cœur,
Qu’en fin en vostre amour vous trouverez mocqueur.
 
Quiconque soit celuy, qu’en vivant il languisse,
Et de chacun haï luy mesme se haysse,
Qu’il se ronge le cœur, et voye ses dessains
Tousjours lui eschapper comme vent de ses mains,
Soupçonneux et resveur arrogant, solitaire,
Et luy-mesme se puisse à luy-mesme desplaire.
 
J’aurois desur le chef un rameau de Laurier,
J’aurois desur le flanc un beau poignard guerrier,
Mon espé’ seroit d’or, et la belle poignée
Ressembleroit à l’or de ta tresse peignée :
J’aurois un cystre d’or, et j’aurois tout aupres
Un Carquois tout chargé de flames et de traits.
 
Ce temple frequenté de festes solennelles
Passeroit en honneur celuy des immortelles,
Et par vœux nous serions invoquez tous les jours,
Comme les nouveaux Dieux des fidelles amours.
 
D’âge en âge suivant au retour de l’annee
Nous aurions pres le temple une feste ordonnee,
Non pour faire courir, comme les anciens,
Des chariots couplez aus jeux Olympiens,
Pour saulter pour lutter ou de jambe venteuse
Franchir en haletant la carriere poudreuse :
Mais tous les jouvenceaux des pays d’alentour,
Touchez au fond du cœur de la fleche d’Amour,
Aiant d’un gentil feu les ames allumees,
S’assembleroient au temple avecques leurs aimees :
Et là, celuy qui mieux sa lévre poseroit
Dessus la lévre aimee, et plus doux baiseroit,
Ou soit d’un baiser sec ou d’un baiser humide,
D’un baiser court ou long, ou d’un baiser qui guide
L’ame desur la bouche, et laisse trespasser
Le baiseur qui ne vit sinon que du penser,
Ou d’un baiser donné comme les colombelles,
Lors qu’ils se font l’amour de la bouche et des ailes.
 
Celuy qui mieux seroit en tels baisers appris,
Sur tous les jouvenceaux emporteroit le prix,
Seroit dit le veinqueur des baisers de Cythere,
Et tout chargé de fleurs s’en iroit à sa mere.
Aux pieds de mon autel en ce temple nouveau
Luiroit le feu veillant d’un eternel flambeau,
Et seroient ces combats nommez apres ma vie
Les jeux que fit Ronsard pour sa belle Marie.
 
O ma belle Maistresse, hé que je voudrois bien
Qu’Amour nous eust conjoint d’un semblable lien,
Et qu’apres nos trespas dans nos fosses ombreuses
Nous fussions la chanson des bouches amoureuses :
Que ceux de Vandomois dissent tous d’un accord,
(Visitant le tombeau sous qui je serois mort)
Nostre Ronsard quittant son Loir et sa Gastine,
A Bourgueil fut espris d’une belle Angevine :
Et que les Angevins dissent tous d’une vois,
Nostre belle Marie aimoit un Vandomois :
Les deux n’avoient qu’un cœur, et l’amour mutuelle
Qu’on ne voit plus icy leur fut perpetuelle :
Siecle vrayment heureux, siecle d’or estimé,
Où tousjours l’amoureux se voyoit contre-aimé.
 
Puisse arriver apres l’espace d’un long âge,
Qu’un esprit vienne à bas sous le mignard ombrage
Des Myrthes, me conter que les âges n’ont peu
Effacer la clairté qui luist de nostre feu :
Mais que de voix en voix de parole en parole
Nostre gentille ardeur par la jeunesse vole,
Et qu’on apprend par cœur les vers et les chansons
Qu’Amour chanta pour vous en diverses façons,
Et qu’on pense amoureux celuy qui rememore
Vostre nom et le mien et nos tumbes honore.
 
Or il en adviendra ce que le ciel voudra,
Si est-ce que ce Livre immortel apprendra
Aux hommes et aux temps et à la renommee
Que je vous ay six ans plus que mon cœur aimee.
My second soul, so that the coming age
May remember our youthful love,
And that your beauty which I have long loved
May not be lost in the tomb, consumed by years,
Without leaving some mark of you behind itself,
I consecrate here to you the liveliest part of me,
The spirit of my spirit, which will make you live again
For a long time or forever, as long as this book lasts.
 
Those who will read the verse I have sung for you
In a varied style, a mix of bitter and sweet
In accord with the passions you’ve aroused in me,
Will consider you a goddess; and the more the years
Fly fleeting by, the more your beauty
In despite of age will grow old in its novelty.
 
O my fair lass of Anjou, o my sweet Marie,
My eyes, my heart, my blood, my spirit and my life,
Whose virtue shows me a path straight to heaven,
I get such pleasure when I kiss your eyes,
When I linger over them, when I look at them,
That, if it were not for a fear which holds back my hand,
I would have killed myself since I have no power
To show you in deed how much I am yours.
 
Still, what I can do I want to do here:
I want to perfect your praises as I sing of you,
And never to feel my work paralysed
So that my whole work for you should not be heard.
 
If I were a great king, as an eternal example
Of faithful love, I would build a temple
Upon the bank of the Loire, and this temple would be called
The temple of Ronsard and of his Marion.
Your effigy would be of Parian marble,
Your dress would be spread out with deep-carved
Folds embroidered with gold, your piled-up hair
Would be enlaced in waves with golden fillets.
With crisp cinnamon would be covered
Your divine head, and the rare openings
Of a net of silk and gold, made by the hardworking hand
Of Arachne or of Pallas, would cover your breast.
Your mouth would be filled with roses,
Breathing throughout the temple a lovely scent.
You would have the gracious bearing of a Hebe,
And a swarm of cupids would fly from your eyes,
You would hold up the high top of his honourable temple
Right on top of a venerable pillar.
 
And I, seated on the other side of the same space
Would be prominent in the form of a god;
I would have curved in my left hand
A half-moon bow, just as you see reborn
In the first days of the month the curve of a crescent moon,
And I’d have on the bowstring a fine arrow menacing
Not the serpent Python but that foolish young man
Who now calls you his life and his soul
And who alone, cheating me, is king of your heart,
And who you’ll fond in the end is deceiving your love.
 
Whoever he is, may he fade away as he lives;
May he, hated by everyone, hate himself;
May he gnaw his heart, and see his designs
Always escape like wind from his hands;
Suspicious and arrogant dreamer, may he be lonely
And always displeasing to himself!
 
I’d have on my head a laurel branch,
I’d have at my side a fine warlike sabre,
My sword would be gold, and the fine hilt
Would resemble the gold of your combed hair:
I would have a golden lyre, and next to it I’d have
A quiver filled with flaming darts.
 
This temple, host of many a solemn feast,
Would surpass in glory that of the immortals,
And we would be invoked in vows every day
Like the new gods of faithful love.
 
From age to following age, at the return of the year,
We would have ordained a festival by the temple
Not for racing, like the ancients,
Coupled chariots in the Olympic games,
Or for jumping, wrestling, or with flying limbs
Negotiating the dusty race, panting;
Instead, all the young people from the surrounding countryside,
Struck deep in their hearts by the dart of Love,
Their souls warmed by its gentle fire,
Would assemble at the temple with their girlfriends;
And there, he who best placed his lips
Upon his beloved’s lips, and most sweetly kissed –
Whether with a dry or a wet kiss,
A long or a short kiss, with a kiss which leads
The soul onto the lips and leaves the kisser
Dying, who lives only on the memory,
Or with a kiss given like the doves
When they make love with beaks and wings.
 
He who has learned to kiss the best
Would take the prizeabove all the other youths,
Would be called the winner of Cytherea’s kisses,
And covered in flowers would go home to his mother.
At the feet of my altar in this new temple
Would burn the watch-fire of an eternal torch,
And these contests would be named after my life
The games which Ronsard made for his fair Marie.
 
O my fair mistress, how wish
That Love had joined us with similar ties,
And that after our deaths, in our shadowy graves,
We might be the song of amorous lips:
That the people of the Vendôme might say with one accord,
Visiting the tomb under which I would be dead,
“Our Ronsard, leaving his Loir and Gastine,
Fell in love at Bourgueil with a fair lass of Anjou”;
And that the people of Anjou might say with one voice,
“Our fair Marie loved a man from Vendôme,
The two had but one heart, and their mutual love
Which we no longer see here was for them everlasting;
O truly fortunate age, age considered golden,
In which a lover always found himself loved in return.”
 
May it happen that, after the space of a long age,
A spirit might come down below the dear shade
Of the myrtle, to tell me that the ages have not been able
To efface the brightness which shines from our fire;
But that from voice to voice, from speech to speech,
Our gentle ardour flies among the young people,
And that they learn by heart the verse and songs
Which Love sang for you in varying forms,
And that they consider a lover is he who recalls
Your name and mine and honours our tombs.
 
Then will result what heaven wishes,
That this immortal book should teach
Men and their times and fame
That I have loved you more than my heart for six years.
 
 
 
Ronsard in his elegies and longer poems often reminds us that the sixteenth century was a different age: less hurried, perhaps, certainly less concerned to make a point simply and quickly when it can be made several times in different ways! Here as he brings to a close the second book, he allows himself an extravagant classicising dream – a temple of love, statues of himself and Marie as gods of love, a new Olympics based around games of love, … Most importantly, these images are integrated with the evelasting fame Ronsard’s poetry will guarantee them both: Ronsard demonstrates he is hard-headed about fame, not reliant on soft-focus images of classical memorials.
 
Aimed at Marie, the classical references are not complex or profound:  Parian marble is a byword for quality now as then; the needlework skills of Arachne and Athene are well-known through the story of their competition which resulted in Arachne the weaver being turned into a spider; the reference to Python situate neatly within a phrase which makes the memory of Apollo’s victory easy to recall, particularly as it is also associated with the Delphic Oracle, most famous of Apollo references; Cytherea a well-known reference to Venus of Cythera; and myrtles are commonly associted with the afterworld.
 
Some references though are odd: cinnamon curls on her head, a lyre mixed in with the military armoury?  Maybe I have misunderstood Ronsard’s meanings. I think it likely, however, that Marie’s “virtue” in the third ‘stanza’ has a classical aura to it, implying power as well as virtue in the modern sense.
 
The earlier version printed by Blanchemain has variants scattered throughout, sometimes isolated changes, sometimes larger areas. So, although it makes for a long post, here’s the whole poem again in its earlier incarnation.
 
 Marie, à celle fin que le siecle à venir
De nos jeunes amours se puisse souvenir,
Et que vostre beauty, que j’ay long temps aimée
Ne se perde au tombeau, par les ans consumée,
Sans laisser quelque marque après elle de soy,
Je vous consacre icy le plus gaillard de moy,
L’esprit de mon esprit, qui vous fera revivre
Ou long temps, ou jamais, par l’âge de ce livre.
 
Ceux qui liront les vers que j’ay chantez pour vous
D’un stile qui varie entre l’aigre et le doux,
Selon les passions que vous m’avez données,
Vous tiendront pour déesse ; et tant plus les années
En volant s’enfuiront, et plus vostre beauté
Contre l’âge croistra, vieille en sa nouveauté.
 
O ma belle Angevine ! ô ma douce Marie !
Mon œil, mon cœur, mon sang, mon esprit et ma vie,
Dont la vertu me monstre un droit chemin aux cieux !
Je reçoy tant de bien quand je baise vos yeux,
Quand je languis dessus et quand je les regarde,
Que, sans une frayeur qui la main me retarde,
Je me serois occis de dueil que je ne peux
Vous monstrer par effect le bien que je vous veux.
 
Or cela que je puis, pour vous je le veux faire :
Je veux, en vous chantant, vos louanges parfaire,
Et ne sentir jamais mon labeur engourdy
Que tout l’ouvrage entier pour vous ne soit ourdy.
 
Si j’estois un grand roy, pour eternel exemple
De fidelle amitié, je bastirois un temple
Dessus le bord de Loire, et ce temple auroit nom
Le temple de Ronsard et de sa Marion.
De marbre parien seroit vostre effigie,
Vostre robe seroit à plein fons eslargie
De plis recamez d’or, et vos cheveux tressez
Seroient de filets d’or par ondes enlassez.
D’un crespe canelé seroit la couverture
De vostre chef divin, et la rare ouverture
D’un reth de soye et d’or, fait de l’ouvriere main
D’Arachne ou de Pallas, couvriroit vostre sein ;
Vostre bouche seroit de roses toute pleine,
Respandant par le temple une amoureuse haleine ;
Vous auriez d’une Hebé le maintien gracieux,
Et un essein d’Amours sortiroit de vos yeux ;
Vous tiendriez le haut bout de ce temple honorable,
Droicte sur le sommet d’un pilier venerable.
 
Et moy, d’autre costé, assis au plus bas lieu,
Je serois remarquable en la forme d’un dieu ;
J’aurois, en me courbant, dedans la main senestre
Un arc demy-vouté, tel que l’on voit renaistre
Aux premiers jours du mois le reply d’un croissant,
Et j’aurois sur la corde un beau traict menassant,
Non le serpent Python, mais ce sot de jeune homme
Qui maintenant sa vie et son ame vous nomme,
Et qui seul, me fraudant, est roy de vostre cœur,
Qu’en fin en vostre amour vous trouverez mocqueur.
 
Quiconque soit celuy, qu’en vivant il languisse,
Et de chacun hay luy-mesme se haysse ;
Qu’il se ronge le cœur, et voye ses dessains
Tousjours luy eschapper comme vent de ses mains,
Soupçonneux et réveur, arrogant, solitaire,
Et luy-mesme se puisse à luy-mesme desplaire.
 
J’aurois dessur le chef un rameau de laurier,
J’aurois dessur le flanc un beau poignard guerrier ;
La lame seroit d’or, et la belle poignée
Ressembleroit à l’or de ta tresse peignée ;
J’aurois un cistre d’or, et j’aurois tout auprès
Un carquois tout chargé de flammes et de traits.
 
Ce temple, frequenté de festes solennelles,
Passeroit en honneur celuy des immortelles,
Et par vœux nous serions invoquez tous les jours,
Comme les nouveaux dieux des fidelles amours.
 
D’âge en âge suivant, au retour de l’année
Nous aurions près le temple une feste ordonnée,
Non pour faire courir, comme les anciens,
Des chariots couplez aus jeux olympiens,
Pour saulter, pour lutter, ou de jambe venteuse
Franchir en haletant la carriere poudreuse ;
Mais tous les jouvenceaux des pays d’alentour,
Touchez au fond du cœur de la fleche d’Amour,
Aiant d’un gentil feu les ames allumees,
S’assembleroient au temple avecques leurs aimées ;
Et là celuy qui mieux sa lévre poseroit
Sur la lévre amoureuse, et qui mieux baiseroit,
Ou soit d’un baiser sec ou d’un baiser humide,
D’un baiser court ou long, ou d’un baiser qui guide
L’ame dessur la bouche, et laisse trespasser
Le baiseur, qui ne vit sinon que du penser,
Ou d’un baiser donné comme les colombelles,
Lors qu’elles font l’amour et du bec et des ailes ;
Celuy qui mieux seroit en tels baisers appris
Sur tous les jouvenceaux emporteroit le prix,
Seroit dit le vainqueur des baisers de Cythere,
Et tout chargé de fleurs s’en-iroit à sa mere.
 
[Aux pieds de mon autel, en ce temple nouveau,
Luiroit le feu veillant d’un eternel flambeau,
Et seroient ces combats nommez, apres ma vie,
Les jeux que fit Ronsard pour sa belle Marie.]
 
O ma belle maistresse ! hé ! que je voudrois bien
Qu’Amour nous eust conjoint d’un semblable lien,
Et qu’après nos trespas, dans nos fosses ombreuses,
Nous fussions la chanson des bouches amoureuses ;
Que ceux de Vendomois dissent tous d’un accord,
Visitant le tombeau sous qui je serois mort :
« Nostre Ronsard, quittant son Loir et sa Gastine,
A Bourgueil fut épris d’une belle Angevine »,
Et que ceux-là d’Anjou dissent tous d’une vois :
« Nostre belle Marie aimoit un Vendomois ;
Tous les deux n’estoient qu’un, et l’amour mutuelle,
Qu’on ne void plus icy, leur fut perpetuelle.
Leur siecle estoit vrayment un siecle bienheureux,
Où tousjours se voyoit contre-aimé l’amoureux ! »
 
Puisse arriver, apres l’espace d’un long âge,
Qu’un esprit vienne à bas, sous l’amoureux ombrage
Des myrtes, me conter que les âges n’ont peu
Effacer la clarté qui luist de nostre feu,
Mais que de voix en voix, de parole en parole,
Nostre gentille amour par la jeunesse vole,
Et qu’on apprend par cœur les vers et les chansons
Que j’ai tissus pour vous en diverses façons,
Et qu’on pense amoureux celuy qui rememore
Vostre nom et le mien et nos tombes honore !
 
Or les dieux en feront cela qu’il leur plaira ;
Si est-ce que ce livre après mille ans dira
Aux hommes et au temps, et à la Renommée,
Que je vous ay six ans plus que mon cœur aimée.
Marie, to the end that the age to come
May remember our youthful love,
And that your beauty which I have long loved
May not be lost in the tomb, consumed by years,
Without leaving some mark of you behind itself,
I consecrate here to you the liveliest part of me,
The spirit of my spirit, which will make you live again
For a long time or forever, as long as this book lasts.
 
Those who will read the verse I have sung for you
In a style which varies between bitter and sweet
In accord with the passions you’ve aroused in me,
Will consider you a goddess; and the more the years
Fly fleeting by, the more your beauty
In despite of age will grow old in its novelty.
 
O my fair lass of Anjou, o my sweet Marie,
My eyes, my heart, my blood, my spirit and my life,
Whose virtue shows me a path straight to heaven,
I get so much good from kissing your eyes,
When I linger over them, when I look at them,
That, if it were not for a fear which holds back my hand,
I would have killed myself from grief that I cannot
Show you in deed the good that I wish you.
 
Still, what I can do I want to do for you:
I want to perfect your praises as I sing of you,
And never to feel my work paralysed
So that my whole work for you should not be heard.
 
If I were a great king, as an eternal example
Of faithful love, I would build a temple
Upon the bank of the Loire, and this temple would be called
The temple of Ronsard and of his Marion.
Your effigy would be of Parian marble,
Your dress would be spread out with deep-carved
Folds embroidered with gold, your piled-up hair
Would be enlaced in waves with golden fillets.
With crisp cinnamon would be covered
Your divine head, and the rare openings
Of a net of silk and gold, made by the hardworking hand
Of Arachne or of Pallas, would cover your breast.
Your mouth would be filled with roses,
Breathing throughout the temple a lovely scent.
You would have the gracious bearing of a Hebe,
And a swarm of cupids would fly from your eyes,
You would hold up the high top of his honourable temple
Right on top of a venerable pillar.
 
And I, seated on the other side in a lower place
Would be prominent in the form of a god;
I would have curved in my left hand
A half-moon bow, such as you see reborn
In the first days of the month the curve of a crescent moon,
And I’d have on the bowstring a fine arrow menacing
Not the serpent Python but that foolish young man
Who now calls you his life and his soul
And who alone, cheating me, is king of your heart,
And who you’ll fond in the end is deceiving your love.
 
Whoever he is, may he fade away as he lives;
May he, hated by everyone, hate himself;
May he gnaw his heart, and see his designs
Always escape like wind from his hands;
Suspicious and arrogant dreamer, may he be lonely
And always displeasing to himself!
 
I’d have on my head a laurel branch,
I’d have at my side a fine warlike sabre,
The blade would be gold, and the fine hilt
Would resemble the gold of your combed hair:
I would have a golden lyre, and next to it I’d have
A quiver filled with flaming darts.
 
This temple, host of many a solemn feast,
Would surpass in glory that of the immortals,
And we would be invoked in vows every day
Like the new gods of faithful love.
 
From age to following age, at the return of the year,
We would have ordained a festival by the temple
Not for racing, like the ancients,
Coupled chariots in the Olympic games,
Or for jumping, wrestling, or with flying limbs
Negotiating the dusty race, panting;
Instead, all the young people from the surrounding countryside,
Struck deep in their hearts by the dart of Love,
Their souls warmed by its gentle fire,
Would assemble at the temple with their girlfriends;
And there, he who best placed his lips
Upon his beloved’s lips, and who kissed the best –
Whether with a dry or a wet kiss,
A long or a short kiss, with a kiss which leads
The soul onto the lips and leaves the kisser
Dying, who lives only on the memory,
Or with a kiss given like the doves
When they make love with beak and wings.
He who has learned to kiss the best
Would take the prizeabove all the other youths,
Would be called the winner of Cytherea’s kisses,
And covered in flowers would go home to his mother.
 
[At the feet of my altar in this new temple
Would burn the watch-fire of an eternal torch,
And these contests would be named after my life
The games which Ronsard made for his fair Marie.]
 
O my fair mistress, how wish
That Love had joined us with similar ties,
And that after our deaths, in our shadowy graves,
We might be the song of amorous lips:
That the people of the Vendôme might say with one accord,
Visiting the tomb under which I would be dead,
“Our Ronsard, leaving his Loir and Gastine,
Fell in love at Bourgueil with a fair lass of Anjou”;
And that those from Anjou might say with one voice,
“Our fair Marie loved a man from Vendôme,
The two were but one, and their mutual love
Which we no longer see here was for them everlasting;
Their age was truly a happy age,
In which the lover always found himself loved in return.”
 
May it happen that, after the space of a long age,
A spirit might come down below the loving shade
Of the myrtle, to tell me that the ages have not been able
To efface the brightness which shines from our fire;
But that from voice to voice, from speech to speech,
Our gentle love flies among the young people,
And that they learn by heart the verse and songs
Which I’ve created for you in varying forms,
And that they consider a lover is he who recalls
Your name and mine and honours our tombs.
 
Then the gods can do with it what they want,
Since this book a thousand years hence will tell
Men and their times, and Fame too,
That I have loved you more than my heart for six years.
 
 
It’s worth noting that in this earlier version Marie’s place in the temple is higher than Ronsard’s: he places himself there as an equal in the later version. Blanchemain also includes the four lines beginning “Aux pieds de mon autel…” in parentheses, admitting in a footnote that they were added in the 1584 edition (a quarter-century after the edition he is supposed to be using!).
 
 
 

 

 
 

Amours 1.225

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Si hors du cep où je suis arresté,
Cep où l’Amour de ses fleches m’enclouë,
J’eschappe franc, et du reth qui me nouë,
En libre col je me voy dé-rheté :
 
Au cœur d’un pré loing des gens escarté,
Qu’à bras fourchus l’eau du Loir entrenoüe,
De gazons d’herbe un temple je te voüe,
Heureuse saincte et alme Liberté.
 
Là je veux pendre au plus haut chœur du temple
Un sainct tableau, qui servira d’exemple
A tous amans, qu’ils ne m’aillent suyvant.
 
Et pour garder que plus je n’y retombe,
Je veux tuer aux Dieux une Hecatombe.
« Belle fin fait qui s’amende en vivant.
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                            If out of the vine in which I was caught,
                                                                            The vine in which Love with his arrows bound me,
                                                                            I can clean escape, and from the net which twists around me
                                                                            I can see myself un-netted, my neck freed:
 
                                                                            Then, in the heart of a meadow far remote from people
                                                                            Which the forked arms of the Loir’s waters twist around,
                                                                            On grassy lawns I shall dedicate a temple to you,
                                                                            Happy, holy, divine Liberty.
 
                                                                            There I intend to hang in the highest choirs of the temple
                                                                            A holy image, which will serve as an example
                                                                            To all lovers not to follow me.
 
                                                                            And to make sure I do not fall back,
                                                                            I intend to sacrifice to the gods a hecatomb:
                                                                            “A fine end makes he who mends his ways while alive.”
 
 
 
Some fine neologisms from Ronsard, neatly placed by Ronsard so their meaning is inescapable: I love “dé-rheté” in line 4, half a line after the noun appeared. Muret still felt the need to expound its meaning in his notes, though… (Muret also felt the need to explain that ‘vine’ in line 1 is intended as a synonym for ‘bond’.) This poem is also one of Ronsard’s lovely joinings of the classical and the contemporary – here, he’s offering Greek sacrifices (‘hecatomb’ is direct from Homer) in a temple of Liberty, right beside the Loir in France. He also reflects Horace, who memorably wrote of hanging up his lover’s weeds and making way for a more fortunate lover. It’s not obvious that any o the poems around this one – though it comes near the end of the book – mark an end to his love, or liberty from it. But that doesn’t stop it being a fine poem, carefully placed as a fitting classicising farewell to this book of the non-classical sonnets Ronsard had taken up instead of classical odes simply because they were more popular!
 
The second half was radically different in the earlier version, not least becasue it does NOT celebrate freedome, but the ‘liberty’ of Love’s chains:
 
 
Si hors du cep où je suis arresté,
Cep où l’Amour de ses fleches m’enclouë,
J’eschappe franc, et du reth qui me nouë,
En libre col je me voy dé-rheté :
 
Au cœur d’un pré loing des gens escarté,
Qu’à bras fourchus l’eau du Loir entrenoüe,
De gazons verts un temple je te voüe,
Heureuse saincte et alme Liberté.
 
j’apprendrai le soin et les ennuis,
Les faux plaisirs, les mensonges des nuits,
Le vain espoir, les soupirs et l’envie ;
 
Là, tous les ans, je te paîrai mes vœux,
Et sous tes pieds j’immolerai cent bœufs,
Pour le bienfait d’avoir sauvé ma vie. 
 
 
 
                                                                            If out of the vine in which I was caught,
                                                                            The vine in which Love with his arrows bound me,
                                                                            I can clean escape, and from the net which twists around me
                                                                            I can see myself un-netted, my neck freed:
 
                                                                            Then, in the heart of a meadow far remote from people
                                                                            Which the forked arms of the Loir’s waters twist around,
                                                                            On green lawns I shall dedicate a temple to you,
                                                                            Happy, holy, divine Liberty.
 
                                                                            There I shall learn of care and troubles,
                                                                            False pleasures, night’s deceptions,
                                                                            Empty hope, sighs and longing;
 
                                                                            There every year I shall pay my vows to you
                                                                            And beneath your feet massacre a hundred bulls
                                                                            For the kindness of having saved my life.
 
 
 Blanchemain also prints the later sestet, though with the dramatic (and classicising) word “macter” (‘slaughter’) for the rather tamer “tuer” in line 13.
 
 
 

Amours 1.207

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Sœur de Pâris, la fille au Roy d’Asie,
A qui Phebus en doute fit avoir
Peu cautement l’aiguillon du sçavoir,
Dont sans profit ton ame fut saisie :
 
Tu variras vers moy de fantaisie,
Puis qu’il te plaist (bien que tard) de vouloir
Changer ton Loire au sejour de mon Loir,
Pour y fonder ta demeure choisie.
 
En ma faveur le Ciel te guide ici,
Pour te monstrer de plus pres le souci
Qui peint au vif de ses couleurs ma face.
 
Vien Nymphe vien, les rochers et les bois,
Qui de pitié s’enflamment sous ma voix,
Pleurant ma peine, eschaufferont ta glace.  
 
 
 
                                                                            Sister of Paris, daughter to the King of Asia,
                                                                            To whom Phoebus, doubting, gave
                                                                            Incautiously the goad of knowledge,
                                                                            By which your soul was without profit seized ;
 
                                                                            You will change your ideas towards me
                                                                            Since you choose (though late) to consider
                                                                            Exchanging your Loire to stay on my Loir
                                                                            And to found there your chosen home.
 
                                                                            For my benefit is Heaven guiding you here
                                                                            To show you more closely the pain
                                                                            Which paints my face so vividly with its colours.
 
                                                                            Come, Nymph, come : the rocks and woods
                                                                            Which blaze up in pity at my voice,
                                                                            Weeping for my pain, will warm up your ice.
 
 
 
 
Classical allusiion to the fore again, though here Ronsard’s use of a roundabout way to identify Cassandre is fairly obvious – he rapidly gives us as much information as possible (sister of Paris, daughter of Priam, prophetic mouthpiece of Apollo … ah yes, that would be Cassandra!) In line 3 the “aiguillon” (goad, or prick, or sting, or really anything sharp and painful) perhaps calls to mind a more Christian image, that of St Paul “kicking against the pricks” as the King James version so wonderfully puts it. (Have you ever noticed how many of Jesus’s turns of phrase and stories are the language of a farmer in the fields, not that of a carpenter? If he did follow his father’s trade, he can only have done so part-time!)  Whether an intended reference or not, it is clearly the same metaphor: just as cattle were goaded with sharp sticks to keep them from wandering in the wrong direction, so here prophetic knowledge is both painful and also leaves no choice – Cassandra must prophesy, no matter that it hurts.
 
But then, in the rest of the poem, we abandon that image and the pains (or otherwise) of knowledge – because it becomes clear that was all just an elaborate way to say “Cassandre”. There is no real suggestion in the first tercet that Heaven’s guiding is in any way painful to Cassandre, as it was to her Trojan namesake; nor that the need to understand lies behind any decision to move closer to his home. And that is probably why I find this sonnet a bit irritating. There are thematic links between the opening and the rest, but those links seem accidental and un-purposed, which is un-satisfactory in a poet of Ronsard’s quality.
 
The earlier version printed by Blanchemain does not offer any substantive changes. In lines 7-8 he becomes slightly less certain of her intentions:
 
Changer ton Loire au rives de mon Loir,
Voire y fonder ta demeure choisie.
 
                                                                            Exchanging your Loire for the banks of my Loir,
                                                                            Maybe even founding there your chosen home. 
 
and in the final line becomes “De leurs soupirs eschauferont ta glace” (‘the rocks and woods … With their sighs will warm up your ice’)
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.212

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Lest it seem I’ve forgotten Ronsard in my enthusiasm for the music, let’s have another sonnet!

 
D’une vapeur enclose sous la terre
Ne s’est conceu un air si ventueux :
Ny de ses flôs le Loir impetueux
Perdant noz bleds, les campagnes n’enserre.
 
Le Prince Eole en ces mois ne deterre
L’esclave orgueil des vents tumultueux,
Ny l’Ocean des flots tempestueux
De sa grand clef les sources ne desserre.
 
Seuls mes souspirs ont ce vent enfanté,
Et de mes pleurs le Loir s’est augmenté
Pour le depart d’une beauté si fiere :
 
Et m’esbahis de tant continuer
Souspirs et pleurs, que je n’ay veu muer
Les uns en vent, les autres en riviere.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            From no vapour shut up beneath the earth
                                                                            Was such a tempestuous breeze conceived ;
                                                                            Nor with his waves does the impetuous Loir,
                                                                            Destroying our sheep, enclose our fields.
 
                                                                            Prince Aeolus in those months does not unearth
                                                                            The slavish pride of the tumultuous winds,
                                                                            Nor does Ocean unfasten the springs
                                                                            Of his tempestous waves with his great key.
 
                                                                            Only my sighs have given birth to this wind,
                                                                            And with my tears the Loir has overflowed
                                                                            At the departure of so proud a beauty ;
 
                                                                            And it amazes me, as so many sighs and tears
                                                                            Continue, that I have not seen them change
                                                                            The ones into wind, the others into a river.
 
 
 
Ronsard enjoys nature, and shows himself keenly interested in his images of the Loir in particular. I have to say I’m not so taken by the first tercet, which seems a bit weak, but the rest of the poem is less formulaic and far better than a cursory reading might suggest.
 
Aeolus ‘unearths’ the wnids because he keeps them trapped in his cave until releasing them.
 
Strangely, in view of my comments above, it’s the opening that got re-worked by Ronsard! And rather considerably improved, I think.
 
 
D’une vapeur enclose sous la terre
Ne s’est pas fait cet esprit ventueux,
Ny par les champs le Loir impetueux
De neige cheute à toutes brides n’erre ;
 
Le Prince Eole en ces mois ne deterre
L’esclave orgueil des vents tumultueux,
Ny l’Ocean des flots tempestueux
De sa grand’ clef les sources ne desserre.
 
Seuls mes souspirs ont ce vent enfanté,
Et de mes pleurs le Loir s’est augmenté
Pour le depart d’une beauté si fiere :
 
Et m’esbahis de tant continuer
Souspirs et pleurs, que je n’ay veu muer
Mon cœur en vent et mes yeux en riviere.
 
 
 
                                                                            From no vapour shut up beneath the earth
                                                                            Was made this tempestuous spirit ;
                                                                            Nor across the fields does the impetuous Loir
                                                                            Wander, his bridle loosed with the fallen snow;
 
                                                                            Prince Aeolus in those months does not unearth
                                                                            The slavish pride of the tumultuous winds,
                                                                            Nor does Ocean unfasten the springs
                                                                            Of his tempestous waves with his great key.
 
                                                                            Only my sighs havaae given birth to this wind,
                                                                            And with my tears the Loir has overflowed
                                                                            At the departure of so proud a beauty ;
 
                                                                            And it amazes me, as so many sighs and tears
                                                                            Continue, that I have not seen
                                                                            My heart change into wind and my eyes into a river.