Tag Archives: Mars

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

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Today, nearly 200 lines of charming verse – twice!

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

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.
 
 
 
 

Odes 3.21

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A GASPAR D’AUVERGNE
 
Gaspar, qui, loin de Pegase,
As les filles de Parnase
Conduites en ta maison,
Ne sçais-tu que moy, poête,
De mon Phoebus je souhéte
Quand je fais une oraison ?
 
Les moissons je ne quiers pas
Que le faux arrange à bas
Sur la Beauce fructueuse ;
Ny tous les cornus troupeaux
Qui sautent sur les coupeaux
De l’Auvergne montueuse ;
 
Ny l’or sans forme qu’ameine
La mine pour nostre peine ;
Ny celuy qui est formé
Portant d’un roy la figure
Ou la fiere pourtraiture
De quelque empereur armé ;
 
Ny l’ivoire marqueté
En l’Orient acheté
Pour parade d’une sale ;
Ny les cousteux diamans
Magnifiques ornemens
D’une majesté royale ;
 
Ny tous les champs que le fleuve
Du Loir lentement abreuve ;
Ny tous les prez emmurez
Des plis de Braye argentine ;
Ny tous les bois dont Gastine
Void ses bras en-verdurez ;
 
Ny le riche accoustrement
D’une laine qui dément
Sa teinture naturelle
Ez chaudrons du Gobelin,
S’yvrant d’un rouge venin
Pour se disguiser plus belle
 
Que celuy dans une coupe
Toute d’or boive à la troupe
De son vin de Prepatour,
A qui la vigne succede,
Et près Vendôme en possede
Deux cents arpens en un tour.
 
Que celuy qui aime Mars
S’enrolle entre les soldars,
Et face sa peau vermeille
D’un beau sang pour son devoir,
Et que la trompette, au soir,
D’un son luy raze l’aureille.
 
Le marchant hardiment vire
Par le mer de sa navire
La proue et la poupe encor ;
Ce n’est moy, bruslé d’envie,
A tels despens de ma vie,
Rapporter des lingots d’or.
 
Tous ces biens je ne quiers point,
Et mon courage n’est poingt
De telle gloire excessive.
Manger o mon compagnon
Ou la figue d’Avignon,
Ou la provençale olive,
 
L’artichôt et la salade,
L’asperge et le pastenade,
Et les pompons tourangeaux,
Me sont herbes plus friandes
Que les royales viandes
Qui se servent à monceaux.
 
Puis qu’il faut si tost mourir,
Que me vaudroit d’acquerir
Un bien qui ne dure guere,
Qu’un heritier qui viendroit
Après mon trespas vendroit
Et en feroit bonne chere ?
 
Tant seulement je desire
Une santé qui n’empire ;
Je desire un beau sejour,
Une raison saine et bonne
Et une lyre qui sonne
Tousjours le vin et l’amour.
TO GASPAR OF AUVERGNE
 
Gaspar, who – without Pegasus –
Has brought the daughters of Parnassus
Into your home,
Do you not know what I, a poet,
Ask of my Apollo
When I make him a prayer ?
 
Crops I don’t request,
Those which the scythe cuts down
Upon the fruitful Beauce ;
Nor do I ask for all the horned troop
Which leap upon the scarps
Of the mountainous Auvergne ;
 
Nor shapeless gold which the mine
Provides for our trouble ;
Nor do I ask to be one made
To bear a king’s figure
Or the proud appearance
Of some armed emperor ;
 
Nor inlaid ivory
Bought in the East
For some dishonest woman’s display ;
Nor costly diamonds,
Magnificent ornaments
Of royal majesty ;
 
Nor all the fields which the river
Loir slowly waters ;
Nor all the meadows walled in
By the bends of the silvery Braye ;
Nor all the woods with which Gastine
Sees his arms greened ;
 
Nor the rich clothing
Of wool which gives the lie to
Its natural colour
In Gobelin’s cauldrons,
Drinking in the red poison
To disguise itself, more beautiful
 
Than his wine of Prepatour,
Which he himself, in a cup
Made all of gold, drinks to his troop –
The vines to which he succeded
And possesses near Vendome
Two hundred acres of them.
 
Let he who loves Mars [war]
Enrol among his soldiers,
And print his pink skin
With bright blood for his work,
And let the evening trumpet
With its call crash on his ear.
 
Let the merchant boldly steer
Over the sea his ship’s
Prow and poop too ;
It’s not for me, burning with desire
At such cost to my life,
To bring back golden ingots.
 
All these good things I seek not at all,
And my courage is not pricked
To such excessive glory.
Eating with my friend
Figs from Avignon
Or olives from Provence,
 
Artichokes and salad,
Asparagus and parsnip
And melons from Tours,
These are tastier foods
Than the king’s meat
Which is served in mountains.
 
Since we must die so soon,
What use to me is gaining
Some good thing which hardly lasts,
Which my inheritor will come
After my death and sell
And make a great deal from ?
 
I simply desire
Health which doesn’t worsen ;
I desire a fine time here,
My reason unimpaired,
And a lyre which sings
Always of wine and love.
 
 
Blanchemain reprints several footnotes from Richelet’s commentary.In the 4th stanza, he notes that “tous les champs” are ‘the fields of his Vendome region’ (as we’d have guessed from the references to the Braye & Gastine); in the following stanza he tells us that Gobelin was  ‘formerly the famous & rich dyer of Paris’, though we now think of his Belgin tapestry factory; and explains that the “rouge venin” (‘red poison’) is scarlet dye in which the wool is soaked for a long time. A stanza later, he epxlains that Prepatour is ‘an excellent wine, whose vine belongs to the king & is in his domain in the Vendome’.
 
The stanzas 3rd & 4th from last also deserve a note or two: Ronsard says “Manger o mon compagnon”, which I guess to be Provençal dialect (“o” for “au”?), suited to the Avignon/Provencal food mentioned in the following lines, and or the Auvergne form which Gaspar hails. “Pastenade” is also Provençal, and there is even today a special variety of melon (“pompon”) grown around Tours: see here.
 
And what of Gaspar himself? Ronsard’s friend Gaspar (or Gaspard) was another of that learned circle of humanists, known among other things for translating Machiavelli into French – particularly ‘Le Prince’ and “Les discours de l’estat de paix et de guerre”, the former apparently undertaken between 1547 and 1553 but not published till the 1560s, one of three roughly contemporary translations of the notorious work.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.180

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Amour et Mars sont presque d’une sorte :
L’un en plein jour, l’autre combat de nuit,
L’un aux rivaux, l’autre aux gendarmes nuit,
L’un rompt un huis, l’autre rompt une porte :
 
L’un finement trompe une ville forte,
L’autre coiment une maison seduit :
L’un le butin, l’autre le gain poursuit,
L’un deshonneur, l’autre dommage apporte.
 
L’un couche à terre, et l’autre gist souvent
Devant un huis à la froideur du vent :
L’un boit mainte eau, l’autre boit mainte larme.
 
Mars va tout seul, les Amours vont tous seuls :
Qui voudra donc ne languir paresseux,
Soit l’un ou l’autre, amoureux, ou gendarme.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Love and Mars are nearly alike :
                                                                            One fights his battles by day, the other at night ;
                                                                            One harms the enemy, the other his own soldiers ;
                                                                            One breaks down the door, the other the gate ;
 
                                                                            One shrewdly deceives a well-fortified town,
                                                                            The other quietly seduces a home ;
                                                                            One seeks booty, the other profit ;
                                                                            One brings dishonour, the other injury ;
 
                                                                            One sleeps on the ground, the other often lodges
                                                                            In front of a door in the cold wind ;
                                                                            One drinks plenty of water, the other plenty of tears ;
 
                                                                            Mars goes alone, Love goes alone.
                                                                            Let he who prefers not to lie lazily around
                                                                            Be one or the other, lover or soldier.
 
 
 
A self-explanatory metaphor, attractively worked-out; and no variants in Blanchemain to report.

 
 

Gayetez et Epigrammes (48)

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After that last poem, maybe something related…

SUR LES SEPT AGES DE L’HOMME
 
    ENFANCE
L’âge premier de l’homme Enfance est appellé ;
Son cours est de quatre ans, maistrisé par la lune ;
Auquel il s’agrandit, desja serf de fortune,
Humide, delicat, d’ignorance voilé.
 
    LA PUERILITÉ
La Puerilité est nostre âge second ;
Son regne est de dix ans, gouverné par Mercure.
Vollage, sans arrest, est lors nostre nature,
Et l’esprit au sçavoir se veut rendre facond.
 
    ADOLESCENCE
Le tiers est de huict ans, par Venus gouverné,
Qui rend homme amoureux en son Adolescence,
Son naturel enclin aux jeux et à la dance,
De flammes et de feux son cœur environné.
 
    JEUNESSE
La Jeunesse est le quart, guidé par le soleil,
Regnant dix et neuf ans, poussant au mariage
L’homme qui veult (vivant) colloquer son mesnage,
Desireux de richesse, en force sans pareil.
 
    LE VIRIL
Le quint est le Viril, suivant l’aspect de Mars ;
Son cours est de quinze ans, sa nature fascheuse,
Magnanime, constante, avare, dangereuse,
Rendant l’homme guerrier suivant ses estendars.
 
    VIEILLESSE
Le six, soubs Jupiter, dans douze ans faict son cours,
Jusqu’en l’an soixante-huit, âge nommé Vieillesse.
L’homme alors vers le ciel tout repentant s’adresse.
Soigneux de son salut, des humbles le secours.
 
    LE CADUC
Le Caduc est le sept des âges le dernier,
Où Saturne commande, arrestant sa carriere
En l’an quatre-vingt-huit. Nature à sa premiere
Foiblesse le conduit, retournant au premier.
On the Seven Ages of Man
 
    Infancy
The first age of man is called Infancy ;
It runs for four years, under the moon’s governance,
In which he grows bigger, already a slave to fortune,
Moist, delicate, veiled in ignorance.
 
    Childhood
Childhood is our second age ;
Its reign is ten years long, governed by Mercury.
Flighty, not stopping, is then our nature
And the spirit tries to become fluent in learning.
 
    Adolescence
The third is eight years long, governed by Venus
Who makes men fall in love in their Adolescence,
Their natures inclined to games and the dance,
Their hearts beset by flames and fires.
 
    Youth
Youth is the fourth, guided by the Sun,
Reigning for nineteen years, driving to marriage
The man who wishes, while alive, to establish his household,
Desiring riches, unequalled in strength.
 
    Manhood
The fifth is Manhood, following the aspect of Mars.
It runs for fifteen years, its nature irritable,
Kind-hearted, constant, greedy, eager for danger,
Making man a warrior following the standards.
 
    Old age
The sixth, under Jupiter, runs its course in twelve years
Up to the age of 68, the period called Old age.
Man then, repentant, directs himself to Heaven,
Careful of his salvation, the help of humble men.
 
    Decrepitude
Decrepitude is the seventh and last age,
Where Saturn holds sway, cutting short its career
In his 88th year. Nature leads him back
To his first feebleness, returning to the start.
 
Associating periods of life with different zodiacal signs or governing planets is nothing unusual in renaissance Catholicism, even if today Christianity generally excludes astrology. On the other hand, the popularity of Holst’s “Planets” suggests there is a continuing nostalgia for the days when we could believe the stars guided our lives…
 
This is an occasional piece which Blanchemain prints at the end of the Gayetez and Epigrammes, with a lengthy footnote, from which the following is excerpted: 
“I owe to M. Rathery, learned librarian, the reference to a volume preserved in the Imperial Library. This book, among many fine engravings by Martin de Voos and other engravers of the 16th century, contains a series of plates preceded by the title:
Figures and portraits of the seven ages of man, with texts in quatrains by the late M. de Ronsard at the foot of each. Drawn and engraved on principles set out by the late M. Baptiste Pellerin – 1595, Paris. …”
 
If you are interested, you can look through the plates on the Gallica website.
ronsard_youth
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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

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

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

 

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

Ode 3:13 – to Joachim du Bellay

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

 

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