Tag Archives: Marc Antoine de Muret

Amours 2:60

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A Phebus, Patoillet, tu es du tout semblable
De face et de cheveux et d’art et de sçavoir :
A tous deux dans le cœur Amour a fait avoir
Pour une belle Dame une playe incurable.
 
Ny herbe ny onguent contre Amour n’est valable :
« Car rien ne peut forcer de Venus le pouvoir :
Seulement tu peux bien par tes vers recevoir
A ta playe amoureuse un secours allegeable.
 
En chantant, Patoillet, on charme le soucy :
Le Cyclope Ætnean se guarissoit ainsi,
Chantant sur son flageol sa belle Galatée.
 
La peine descouverte adoucit nostre ardeur :
« Ainsi moindre devient la plaisante langueur
« Qui vient de trop aimer quand elle est bien chantée.
 
 
 
                                                                            Patoillet, you are just like Phoebus
                                                                            In face and hair and art and knowledge ;
                                                                            Love has given both of you in your heart
                                                                            An incurable wound for a fair lady.
 
                                                                            No herb or unguent has any worth against Love,
                                                                            “For nothing can force Venus’s power”.
                                                                            Only you can obtain through your verse
                                                                            Some aid to lighten your lover’s wound.
 
                                                                            By singing, Patoillet, we can charm care :
                                                                            The cyclops of Etna cured himself that way
                                                                            Singing with his flute about his fair Galatea.
 
                                                                            Pain revealed reduces our passion:
                                                                            “And so becomes less the pleasant pining
                                                                            Which comes from loving too much, when it is well-sung.”
 
 
 
I’m not sure I can think of another poem we’ve looked at in which he compares one of his (male) friends to a god! His mistresses, yes, it’s virtually a given in love poetry; but to compare his friend to Apollo, not just for his situation but for his appearance and his art? Impressive. So who was this Patoillet? Belleau’s commentary tells us:  “Jean Patoillet, one of our best and loyalest friends, (was) a man of great judgement, great reading, and best-versed in the knowledge of languages, history and other good learning.” To this we can add that he was a native of Dijon, eldest of seven children, never married (though left one illegitimate child, later legitimated by royal order), and died in 1585. He was a protonotary apostolic (a very high papal official), and as a local notable was also the dedicatee of a contemporary history of Dijon. His epitaph recorded that he could recite from memory large chunks of the major classical authors; and he was supposed to have worked on a History though nothing seems to have survived. In other words, a good solid Renaissance man!
 
Ironically, however, the poem was originally addressed to someone else: see below!  Jacques Grévin was a playwright and poet, and a member of Ronsard’s circle until they fell out. Like so many others, he wrote a book of sonnets (L’Olimpe, addressed to his fiancée, though they subsequently parted); though he is remembered more for his plays. His first major success, on Julius Caesar, was imitated from a Latin play by Muret. Younger, a poet, and more showy than Patoillet, the opening comparison with Apollo fits better! Why did his name disappear? Although Belleau simply says that Ronsard was ‘angry’ with him, in fact they fell out over religion, taking different sides in the struggles between the Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants) in the Wars of Religion.
 
The classical reference, to Polyphemus the cyclops and Galatea, is perhaps best known to us these days through Handel’s “Acis and Galatea”.
 
Blanchemain also has a few minor text variants beyond the change of name:
 
 
A Phebus, mon Grevin, tu es du tout semblable
De face et de cheveux et d’art et de sçavoir :
A tous deux dans le cœur Amour a fait avoir
Pour une belle Dame une playe incurable.
 
Ny herbe ny onguent ne t’est point secourable,
Car rien ne peut forcer de Venus le pouvoir :
Seulement tu peux bien par tes vers recevoir
A ta playe amoureuse un secours profitable.
 
En chantant, mon Grevin, on charme le soucy :
Le Cyclope Ætnean se guarissoit ainsi,
Chantant sur son flageol sa belle Galatée.
 
La peine descouverte allege nostre cœur:
Ainsi moindre devient la plaisante langueur
Qui vient de trop aimer quand elle est bien chantée.
 
 
 
                                                                            My Grévin, you are just like Phoebus
                                                                            In face and hair and art and knowledge ;
                                                                            Love has given both of you in your heart
                                                                            An incurable wound for a fair lady.
 
                                                                            No herb or unguent is any help to you,
                                                                            “For nothing can force Venus’s power”.
                                                                            Only you can obtain through your verse
                                                                            Some gainful aid for your lover’s wound.
 
                                                                            By singing, my Grévin, we can charm care :
                                                                            The cyclops of Etna cured himself that way
                                                                            Singing with his flute about his fair Galatea.
 
                                                                            Pain revealed lightens our heart:
                                                                            “And so becomes less the pleasant pining
                                                                            Which comes from loving too much, when it is well-sung.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Élégie à Muret (Amours 1:227c)

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

 

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

 

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

Élégie à Cassandre (Am. 1.227b)

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Mon œil, mon cœur, ma Cassandre, ma vie,
Hé! qu’à bon droit tu dois porter d’envie
A ce grand Roy, qui ne veut plus souffrir
Qu’à mes chansons ton nom se vienne offrir.
C’est luy qui veut qu’en trompette j’echange
Mon luth, afin d’entonner sa louange,
Non de luy seul mais de tous ses ayeux
Qui sont là hault assis au rang des Dieux.
 
Je le feray puis qu’il me le commande :
Car d’un tel Roy la puissance est si grande,
Que tant s’en faut qu’on la puisse eviter,
Qu’un camp armé n’y pourroit resister.
 
Mais que me sert d’avoir tant leu Tibulle,
Properce, Ovide, et le docte Catulle,
Avoir tant veu Petrarque et tant noté,
Si par un Roy le pouvoir m’est oté
De les ensuyvre, et s’il faut que ma Iyre
Pendue au croc ne m’ose plus rien dire ?
 
Doncques en vain je me paissois d’espoir
De faire un jour à la Tuscane voir,
Que nostre France, autant qu’elle, est heureuse
A souspirer une pleinte amoureuse :
Et pour monstrer qu’on la peut surpasser,
J’avois desja commencé de trasser
Mainte Elegie à la façon antique,
Mainte belle Ode, et mainte Bucolique.
 
Car, à vray dire, encore mon esprit
N’est satisfait de ceux qui ont escrit
En nostre langue, et leur amour merite
Ou du tout rien, ou faveur bien petite.
 
Non que je sois vanteur si glorieux
D’oser passer les vers laborieux
De tant d’amans qui se pleignent en France :
Mais pour le moins j’avoy bien esperance,
Que si mes vers ne marchoient les premiers,
Qu’ils ne seroient sans honneur les derniers.
Car Eraton qui les amours descœuvre,
D’assez bon œil m’attiroit à son œuvre.
 
L’un trop enflé les chante grossement,
L’un enervé les traine bassement,
L’un nous depeint une Dame paillarde,
L’un plus aux vers qu’aux sentences regarde,
Et ne peut onq tant se sceut desguiser,
Apprendre l’art de bien Petrarquiser.
 
Que pleures-tu, Cassandre, ma douce ame ?
Encor Amour ne veut couper la trame
Qu’en ta faveur je pendis au métier,
Sans achever l’ouvrage tout entier.
 
Mon Roy n’a pas d’une beste sauvage
Succé le laict, et son jeune courage,
Ou je me trompe, a senti quelquefois
Le trait d’Amour qui surmonte les Rois.
 
S’il l’a senti, ma coulpe est effacee,
Et sa grandeur ne sera corroucee
Qu’à mon retour des horribles combas,
Hors de son croc mon Luth j’aveigne à-bas,
Le pincetant, et qu’en lieu des alarmes
Je chante Amour, tes beautez et mes larmes.
« Car l’arc tendu trop violentement,
« Ou s’alentit, ou se rompt vistement.
 
Ainsi Achille apres avoir par terre
Tant fait mourir de soudars en la guerre,
Son Luth doré prenoit entre ses mains
Teintes encor de meurdres inhumains,
Et vis à vis du fils de Menetie,
Chantoit l’amour de Brisëis s’amie :
Puis tout soudain les armes reprenoit,
Et plus vaillant au combat retoumoit.
 
Ainsi, apres que l’ayeul de mon maistre
Hors des combats retirera sa dextre,
Se desarmant dedans sa tente à part,
Dessus le Luth à l’heure ton Ronsard
Te chantera : car il ne se peut faire
Qu’autre beauté luy puisse jamais plaire,
Ou soit qu’il vive, ou soit qu’outre le port,
Leger fardeau, Charon le passe mort.
My eyes, my heart, my Cassandre, my life,
Oh, how rightly you must be envious
Of that great King who no longer wishes to suffer
Your name to put itself forward in my songs.
It is he who wishes that I should change my lute
For a trumpet, to sing out his praises,
And not only his own but those of his ancestors
Who are seated above in the ranks of the gods.
 
I shall do it, as he commands it :
For the power of such a King is so great
That it is as hard to keep out of its way
As for an armed force to resist it.
 
What use for me to have read so much of Tibullus,
Propertius, Ovid, and the learned Catullus ;
To have looked over and noted so much of Petrarch,
If by a King the power is taken from me
Of following them, and if my lyre must
Hang from a hook and dare no longer speak ?
 
I have therefore vainly fed the hope
Of one day seeing Tuscany,
When our France, as much as it, is happy
To sigh a lover’s plaint ;
And, to show [Italy] can be surpassed
I had already begun to set down
Many an Elegy in the antique fashion,
Many a fine Ode, many a Pastoral.
 
For to speak the truth, my soul is still
Not satisfied with those who have written
In our language, and their love deserves
Either nothing at all, or very little favour.
 
Not that I am so vainglorious a boaster
As to venture to surpass the laborious poetry
Of so many lovers who have made their plaints in France ;
But at least I have a fair hope
That, even if my verse does not go first,
It will not be dishonourably last.
For Erato, who discloses love-affairs,
Drew me with a clear eye to her work.
 
One puffed-up poet sings grossly of love,
Another nervous one drags on in too mean a style ;
One depicts a Lady who is lewd,
Another takes more care over his verse than his meaning
And can never, however he tries to conceal it,
Learn the art of Petrarch-ising well.
 
Why do you weep, Cassandre, my sweet soul ?
Love does not yet seek to cut off the warp and weft
Which I have hung on my loom for you,
Without completing the whole of my work.
 
My King has not sucked the milk of some
Savage beast, and his youthful courage too,
Unless I am mistaken, has sometimes felt
The wound of Love which can overcome Kings.
 
If he has felt it, my [ error ] is erased
And his greatness will not be angered
If, on my return from terrible battles,
I take my lute down from its hook
And pluck it, and instead of loud war
I sing of Love, your beauty, and my tears.
« For the bow which is drawn too tightly
Either weakens [slows] or quickly breaks. »
 
Just so Achilles, after having across the world
Put so many soldiers to death in war,
Took his golden lute in his hands –
Still stained with inhuman massacres –
And sitting opposite the son of Menetius
Sang of his love for Briseis, his beloved ;
Then as suddenly took up arms again
And returned, more courageous, to battle.
 
And so, after my master’s ancestor
Withdraws his hand from battle,
Disarming himself within his tent away from the field,
Upon his lute just then your Ronsard will sing
To you ; for it cannot be
That another beauty could ever please him
While he is alive or when, beyond this harbour,
Charon carries his light burden, dead.
 
 
The conclusion of the first book of Amours brings with it some weightier material to give it a firm feeling of ending – rather like Beethoven’s 5th, which iterates and reiterates the thumping C-major chords to emphasise that this really is the end of the piece, Ronsard feels (rightly) that he cannot simply end the long run of sonnets without something more definitely marking a conclusion. Perhaps there is, nonetheless, a sense of loss as Ronsard explains how he must stop writing love poetry to focus, by royal command, on his epic Franciad.
 
The Elegy to Cassandre is an elegy in the classical sense – a description of its form, rather than its mood (as we use it today to mean ‘something noble but sad, in remembrance’). Accordingly, it is full of classical (and neo-classical) references:
 – Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid, and Catullus are all Latin love-poets; and we might detect a glancing reference to one of Horace’s odes in the lines about ‘hanging his lyre on a hook’;
 – Petrarch is of course the shining example of (relatively) modern love-poetry, Tuscany his home;
 – Erato is the muse of lyric poetry;
 – in the Iliad Achilles sings of the slave-girl Briseis whom he loves (and who plays a pivotal role in the development of the action); his other (male) love is Patroclus, the son of Menoetius;
 – Charon is of course the boatman who ferries the dead across the river Styx.
 
Muret suggests that, in the last ‘stanza’, Ronsard is using the word “ayeul” (ancestor, grandfather) to refer to Francus, the mythical ancestor of the kings of France – and thus to the Franciad, the commission for which has drawn Ronsard forcibly away from writing love-poems.  (The ‘great king’ at the time of the publication of the Amours in the 1550s was Henri II; his direct ancestors were noble rather than royal, his father having come to the throne by virtue of his marriage to Louis XII’s daughter.)
 
 
The earlier Blanchemain version has only minor differences:
 – in stanza 3, the list of Roman poets is “Tibulle, / Gallus, Ovide, et Properce et Catulle,” – Cornelius Gallus was a lyric poet contemporary with the others;
 – in stanza 5, the line is “En nostre langue, et leur Muse merite” (‘and their Muse deserves’ instead of ‘their love’);
– towards the end, “Mon Roy n’a pas d’une tigre sauvage …” (a savage tiger’s milk rather than a savage beast’s).
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.203

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Celuy qui fist le monde façonné
Sur le compas de son parfait exemple,
Le couronnant des voûtes de son temple,
M’a par destin ton esclave ordonné.
 
Comme l’esprit qui saintement est né
Pour voir son Dieu, quand sa face il contemple,
Plus heureux bien, recompense plus ample
Que de le voir, ne luy est point donné ;
 
Ainsi je pers ma peine coustumiere,
Quand à longs traits j’œillade la lumiere
De ton bel œil, chef-d’œuvre nompareil.
 
Voila pourquoy, quelque part qu’il sejourne,
Tousjours vers luy maugré moy je me tourne,
Comme un Souci aux rayons du Soleil.
 
 
 
                                                                            He who made the world fashioned
                                                                            On the measure of his perfect example,
                                                                            Crowning it with the vaults of his temple,
                                                                            Has ordained me by fate as your slave.
 
                                                                            Like a spirit which is born holy
                                                                            To see its God, when it contemplates His face
                                                                            Is given no greater good, no repayment
                                                                            More ample, than to see Him;
 
                                                                            Just so I lose my accustomed pain
                                                                            When in long draughts I drink in the light
                                                                            Of your fair eye, an unequalled masterpiece.
 
                                                                            That is why, wherever it is,
                                                                            I always despite myself turn towards it
                                                                            As a marigold turns to the rays of the sun.
 
 
 
 As Muret tells us, this poem is ‘almost a translation of Bembo’s sonnet‘ (below); and, this time, this is more literally true than elsewhere when Ronsard borrows ideas but offers a different poem.  Here Ronsard’s poem – while clearly a Ronsard poem, and with ‘in-fill’ which is his own – remains faithfully very close to the original.
 
Here’s Bembo – rime 38:
 
L’alta cagion, che da principio diede
A le cose create ordine e stato,
Dispose ch’io v’amassi e dielmi in fato,
Per far di sé col mondo exemplo e fede.
 
Che sì come virtù da lei procede,
Che ‘l tempra e regge, e come è sol beato
A cui per grazia il contemplarla è dato,
Et essa è d’ogni affanno ampia mercede,
 
Così ‘l sostegno mio da voi mi vene
Od in atti cortesi od in parole,
E sol felice son, quand’io vi miro.
 
Né maggior guiderdon de le mie pene
Posso aver di voi stessa, ond’io mi giro
Pur sempre a voi, come elitropio al sole.
 
 
                                                                            The high Cause, who from the beginning gave
                                                                            To created things their order and station,
                                                                            Arranged that I should love you and handed me to the fates
                                                                            To make of this an example of faithfulness for the world.
 
                                                                            That, as virtue flows from Him
                                                                            Who tempers and rules it, and as it is with the blessed sun,
                                                                            So by Him the gift of looking upon her is given by grace,
                                                                            And she is the ample reward for all labour;
 
                                                                            So, my support comes to me from you
                                                                            Whether in acts of courtesy or in words,
                                                                            And I am only happy when I gaze upon you.
 
                                                                            No greater reward for my troubles
                                                                            Could I have from you yourself, hence I turn myself
                                                                            Always and only toward you, as the heliotrope does the sun.
 
 
That did not stop Ronsard improving his version between editions! In Blanchemain’s edition, lines 6- 7 read “quand sa face il contemple, / De tous maux un salaire plus ample …” (‘when it contemplates His face, / For all its troubles no greater payment / Than to see Him is given to it.’)
 

 

 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.190

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Tousjours l’erreur qui seduit les Menades,
Ne deçoit pas leurs cerveaux estonnez :
Tousjours au son des cornets entonnez
Les monts Troyens ne foulent de gambades.
 
Tousjours le Dieu des vineuses Thyades
N’affolle pas leurs cœurs espoinçonnez,
Et quelquefois leurs esprits forcenez
Cessent leur rage, et ne sont plus malades.
 
Le Corybante a quelquefois repos,
Et le Curet sous les armes dispos,
Ne sent tousjours le Tan de sa Deesse :
 
Mais la fureur de celle qui me joint,
En patience une heure ne me laisse,
Et de ses yeux tousjours le cœur me poind.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Not always does the error which led the Maenads astray
                                                                            Deceive their stunned brains;
                                                                            Not always to the sound of braying trumpets
                                                                            Do they throng the Trojan hills with their capers;
 
                                                                            Not always does the god of the wine-soaked Thyades
                                                                            Madden their excited hearts,
                                                                            And sometimes their frenzied minds
                                                                            Cease their madness, and are ill no more.
 
                                                                            The Corybant sometimes rests,
                                                                            And the Curete, under arms,
                                                                            Does not always feel the mark of her goddess;
 
                                                                            But the madness for her which encloses me
                                                                            Leaves me not an hour at peace,
                                                                            And with her eyes my heart always wounds me. 
 
 
Ronsard’s “tousjours” I have translated as ‘always’ – but there is a subsidiary meaning in the French which only gets eliminated towards the end, which is ‘still’ – ‘the Maenads are not still running around the hills of Troy, the Thyades are no longer maddened…’ But with the sestet it becomes clear that he is not contrasting ‘then’ and ‘now’, but ‘not always’ and ‘always’. (Incidentally, while “tousjours … ne” works in French, ‘always doesn’t’ seems to me to mean something slightly different from ‘doesn’t always’ in English!)
 
What of all these names? The Maenads are famous from Euripides’ play of the same name: followers of Dionysus/Bacchus, as were the ‘wine-soaked Thyades’. Maenads (=’maddened ones’) certainly came from or worshipped in the hills, but not specifically Trojan hills. Both were known for the frenzy of their celebrations, ecstatic dancing leading to trance and the loss of inhibition – often leading to violent excess. Corybants were followers of Cybele (another Asian goddess – the Greeks always viewed Asia with suspicion), and Curetes of Rhea – who is often in turn associated with Cybele. They too were known for their ecstatic rites, or as Muret footnotes it ‘when they sacrificed they were seized by a madness which made them run, shout & jump as if out of their minds’.
 
Minor variants in Blanchemain: here’s the whole poem again to avoid a string of picky amendments. Note how in lines 2 and 7 this earlier version had in-line alliteration which Ronsard later chose to make much more subtle by simply switching the words.
 
 
Tousjours l’erreur qui seduit les Ménades
Ne deçoit pas leurs esprits estonnez ;
Toujours au son des cornets entonnez
Les monts troyens ne foulent de gambades.
 
Tousjours le Dieu des vineuses Thyades
N’affolle pas leurs cœurs espoinçonnez,
Et quelquefois leurs cerveaux forcenez
Cessent leur rage, et ne sont plus malades.
 
Le Corybante a quelquefois repos,
Et le Curet, sous les armes dispos,
Sent par saisons le tan de sa déesse ;
 
Mais la fureur de celle qui me joint
En patience une heure ne me laisse,
Et de ses yeux tousjours le cœur me point.
 
 
                                                                            Not always does the error which led the Maenads astray
                                                                            Deceive their stunned minds;
                                                                            Not always to the sound of braying trumpets
                                                                            Do they throng the Trojan hills with their capers;
 
                                                                            Not always does the god of the wine-soaked Thyades
                                                                            Madden their excited hearts,
                                                                            And sometimes their frenzied brains
                                                                            Cease their madness, and are ill no more.
 
                                                                            The Corybant sometimes rests,
                                                                            And the Curete, under arms,
                                                                            From time to time feels the mark of her goddess;
 
                                                                            But the madness for her which encloses me
                                                                            Leaves me not an hour at peace,
                                                                            And with her eyes my heart always wounds me.
 
 
 Blanchemain also offers us a variant of the final tercet:
 
Mais la beauté qui me pousse en erreur
En patience une heure ne me laisse :
« Le sang qui boust est toujours en fureur. »
 
                                                                            But the beauty which drives me to errors
                                                                            Leaves me not an hour at peace:
                                                                            “The blood which boils is always maddened.” 
 
 
 

Amours 1.183

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Au fond d’un val esmaillé tout au rond
De mille fleurs, de loin j’avisay celle,
Dont la beauté dedans mon cœur se cele,
Et les douleurs m’apparoissent au front :
 
De bois touffus voyant le lieu profond,
J’armay mon cœur d’asseurance nouvelle,
Pour luy chanter les maux que j’ay pour elle,
Et les tourmens que ses beaux yeux me font.
 
En cent façons desja ma foible langue
Estudioit sa premiere harangue,
Pour soulager de mes peines le faix :
 
Quand un Centaure envieux de ma vie,
L’ayant en croppe, au galop l’a ravie,
Me laissant seul et mes cris imparfais.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            At the bottom of a vale dotted all round
                                                                            With a thousand flowers, from far off I saw her,
                                                                            The one whose beauty conceals itself in my heart
                                                                            While sadness appears on my brow:
 
                                                                            Seeing the spot deep in bushy woods
                                                                            I armed my heart with new confidence
                                                                            To sing her the ills I suffer for her
                                                                            And the torments her fair eyes give me.
 
                                                                            In a hundred ways already my feeble tongue
                                                                            Was trying out its first lecture
                                                                            To soften the burden of my troubles,
 
                                                                            When a Centaur, jealous of my life,
                                                                            Took her off at the gallop, sitting on his back,
                                                                            And left me alone and my cries unfinished.
 
 
 
A tragi-comic mood from Ronsard today: he builds up the expectation as he summons his courage to sing of love, or at least announce himself to his lady – who is then swept away by another, leaving our poet rather comically stranded. And it’s a mythological ‘other’, as well, consistent with the heightened tone of the poem b ut not perhaps with everyday reality. Is Ronsard relating a mini-myth, or telling us a poetic version of a true story? He leaves us in doubt. Muret didn’t seem to see the joke, or at least wanted to rationalise it, and explained that the ‘centaur’ in the final tercet is what Ronsard calls ‘the one who carries off his lady on his crupper’, i.e. just an ordinary rival on horseback, rather than a mythological one. I prefer Ronsard’s amused ambiguity to Muret’s prosaic rationalising…
 
Blanchemain offers a number of minor variants, mostly showing that in the later version above Ronsard was doing the usual things: replacing exclamations etc which are only there for metrical reasons, and so improving the poetry; or looking for different vocabulary; or (perhaps) looking for a more learned effect. I’d put the change in line 1 in that category: the later “Au fond,…” has the ‘merit’ of providing an internal rhyme (with “rond” at the end of the line) and alliteration with the “fleurs” at the beginning of line 2; but I have to say I prefer “Au coeur”…!
 
 
Au cœur d’un val esmaillé tout au rond
De mille fleurs, de loin j’avisay celle
Dont la beauté dedans mon cœur se cele,
Et les douleurs m’apparoissent au front.
 
Des bois touffus voyant le lieu profond,
J’armay mon cœur d’asseurance nouvelle
Pour luy chanter les maux que j’ay pour elle
Et les tourmens que ses beaux yeux me font.
 
En cent façons desja, desja ma langue
Avant-pensoit l’amoureuse harangue,
Jà soulageant de mes peines le faix,
 
Quand un Centaure, envieux de ma vie,
L’ayant en croppe, au galop l’a ravie,
Me laissant seul et mes cris imparfaits.
 
 
                                                                            At the heart of a vale dotted all round
                                                                            With a thousand flowers, from far off I saw her,
                                                                            The one whose beauty conceals itself in my heart
                                                                            While sadness appears on my brow:
 
                                                                            Seeing the spot deep in the bushy woods
                                                                            I armed my heart with new confidence
                                                                            To sing her the ills I suffer for her
                                                                            And the torments her fair eyes give me.
 
                                                                            In a hundred ways already now my tongue
                                                                            Was planning out its lecture of love,
                                                                            Already softening the burden of my troubles,
 
                                                                            When a Centaur, jealous of my life,
                                                                            Took her off at the gallop, sitting on his back,
                                                                            And left me alone and my cries unfinished.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.196

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Au plus profond de ma poitrine morte
Il m’est advis qu’une main je reçoy,
Qui me pillant entraine avecque soy
Mon cœur captif, que maistresse elle emporte.
 
Coustume inique, et de mauvaise sorte,
Malencontreuse et miserable loy,
Tu m’as tué, tant tu es contre moy,
Loy des humains, bride trop dure et forte.
 
Faut-il que veuf, seul entre mille ennuis,
Mon lict desert je couve tant de nuits ?
Hà ! que je porte et de haine et d’envie
 
A ce Vulcan ingrat et sans pitié,
Qui s’opposant aux raiz de ma moitié,
Fait eclipser le Soleil de ma vie.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            In the deepest place in my dead breast
                                                                            I seem to feel a hand
                                                                            Which as it plunders me drags with it
                                                                            My captive heart, and takes it to be its mistress.
 
                                                                            Iniquitous custom, wicked fate,
                                                                            Unlucky and wretched law,
                                                                            You have killed me, so much you are against me,
                                                                            Law of mankind, bridle too harsh and strong.
 
                                                                            Must I bereft, alone among a thousand troubles,
                                                                            Brood on my deserted bed for so many nights?
                                                                            Ah, what hate and jealousy I bear
 
                                                                            Towards that ungrateful and pitiless Vulcan
                                                                            Who, setting himself against the light of my other half,
                                                                            Eclipsed the Sun of my life.
 
 
 
Muret, footnoting the Amours, tells us: ‘Vulcan, husband of Venus, was a jealous god. This sonnet has nothing to do with Cassandre, as with several others in this book.’ Vulcan as the husband of Venus, who found her in bed with Mars; are we to assume that Ronsard has been playing with a married lady? Or is this a less-precise reference, which would fit Cassandre better, to another lover competing for her hand and making off with her – perhaps, her husband-to-be rather than a husband? Or is Muret right in saying this has nothing to do with Cassandre – for, after all, we have already encountered many a sonnet addressed to Sinope, Marguerite and other ladies?
 
In the end, does it matter?! Poetry does not, after all, have to be subjected to the analysis which a strict biographer might apply. It is an attractive poem with a novel image in the opening quatrain and some unusual phrases in the second.
 
In both, there are variants in the earlier Blanchemain edition: of these I think we can safely say the older versions of lines 2 and 7 are weaker, but that does not make the version less interesting.
 
 
Au plus profond de ma poitrine morte
Sans me tuer une main je reçoy,
Qui, me pillant, entraine avecques soy
Mon cœur captif, que, maistresse, elle emporte.
 
Coustume inique et de mauvaise sorte,
Malencontreuse et miserable loy,
Tant à grand tort, tant tu es contre moy,
Loy sans raison miserablement forte.
 
 
                                                                            In the deepest place in my dead breast
                                                                            I feel a hand which does not kill me,
                                                                            Which as it plunders me drags with it
                                                                            My captive heart, and takes it to be its mistress.
 
                                                                            Iniquitous custom, wicked fate,
                                                                            Unlucky and wretched law,
                                                                            So wrongly, so much you are against me,
                                                                            Law without reason, wretchedly strong.