Tag Archives: Medusa

Amours 2:57

Standard
Si j’avois un haineux qui machinast ma mort,
Pour me contre-venger d’un si fier adversaire,
Je voudrois qu’il aimast les yeux de ma contraire,
Qui si fiers contre moy me font si doux effort.
 
Ceste punition, tant son regard est fort,
Luy seroit un enfer et se voudroit desfaire :
Ny le mesme plaisir ne luy sçauroit plus plaire,
Seulement au trespas seroit son reconfort.
 
Le regard monstrueux de la Meduse antique
N’est rien au pris du sien que fable Poëtique :
Meduse seulement tournoit l’homme en rocher :
 
Mais ceste-ci en-roche, en-eauë, en-fouë, en-glace
Ceux qui de ses regars osent bien approcher.
De quel monstre, Lecteur, at-elle pris sa race ?
 
 
 
                                                                             If I had someone who hated me and plotted my death,
                                                                             To avenge myself on so bold an adversary
                                                                             I would like him to fall in love with my contrary lady’s eyes
                                                                             Which, so bold against me, make on me so sweet an effect.
 
                                                                             This punishment, so powerful is her gaze,
                                                                             Would be hell for him and he would want to release himself ;
                                                                             Nor could the same pleasures please him any more,
                                                                             Only in death would there be comfort for him.
 
                                                                             The monstrous gaze of ancient Medusa
                                                                             Is nothing compared to hers but a poetic fable:
                                                                             Medusa only turned men into rocks,
 
                                                                             But this lady turns to rock, to water, to fire, to ice
                                                                             Those who dare to come near her glance.
                                                                             From which monster, o Reader, is she descended?
 
 
From one Greek image to another, much more familiar one. Our commentators tell us that each of the verbs in line 12 is a Ronsardian innovation – though perhaps only the third (‘turn into fire’) is unusual. In the last line of the Marty-Laveux version above, “a-t-elle” (as we would spell it today) is apparently also an innovation by Ronsard, to avoid the hiatus in “a-elle”: it’s so much a part of the language now, it’s hard to realise someone invented it – and yet here is it’s first appearance.
 
Blanchemain’s version is rather different in detail throughout: you can see why he would (for instance) have re-worked “du sien n’est rien” in line 10; the reference to hell in line 6 is (perhaps) a rare moment of the later Ronsard being more vivid than the younger; and the later last line is much more effective!
 
 
Si j’avois un haineux qui me voulust la mort,
Pour me venger de luy je ne voudrois luy faire
Que regarder les yeux de ma douce contraire,
Qui, si fiers contre moy, me font si doux effort.
 
Ceste punition, tant son regard est fort,
Luy seroit une horreur, et se voudroit défaire ;
Ny le mesme plaisir ne luy sçauroit plus plaire,
Seulement au trespas seroit son reconfort.
 
Le regard monstrueux de la Meduse antique
Au prix du sien n’est rien que fable poëtique :
Meduse seulement tournoit l’homme en rocher :
 
Mais ceste-cy en-roche, en-eauë, en-glace, en-foue,
Ceux qui de ses regards osent bien approcher,
Et si en les tuant la mignonne se joue.
 
 
 
                                                                             If I had someone who hated me, who wanted me dead,
                                                                             To avenge myself on him I’d only want to make him
                                                                             Gaze upon my sweet, contrary lady’s eyes
                                                                             Which, so bold against me, make on me so sweet an effect.
 
                                                                             This punishment, so powerful is her gaze,
                                                                             Would be a horror for him and he would want to release himself ;
                                                                             Nor could the same pleasures please him any more,
                                                                             Only in death would there be comfort for him.
 
                                                                             The monstrous gaze of ancient Medusa
                                                                             Compared with hers is nothing but a poetic fable:
                                                                             Medusa only turned men into rocks,
 
                                                                             But this lady turns to rock, to water, to ice, to fire
                                                                             Those who dare to come near her glance,
                                                                             And yet, as she kills them, the darling enjoys herself.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Advertisements

Amours retranch. 49 – A Song for Cassandre

Standard

 

Il me semble que la journée
Dure plus longue qu’une année,
Quand par malheur je n’ay ce bien
De voir la grand’ beauté de celle
Qui tient mon cœur, et sans laquelle
Vissé-je tout, je ne voy rien.
 
Quiconques fut jadis le Sage
Qui dit que l’amoureux courage
Vit de ce qu’il ayme, il dit vray ;
Ailleurs vivant il ne peut estre,
Ny d’autre viande se paistre :
J’en suis seur, j’en ay fait l’essay.
 
Tousjours l’amant vit en l’aimée :
Pour cela mon ame affamée
Ne se veut souler que d’amour,
De l’amour elle est si friande,
Que sans plus de telle viande
Se veut repaistre nuit et jour.
 
Si quelqu’un dit que je m’abuse,
Voye luy-mesme la Meduse
Qui d’un rocher m’a fait le cœur ;
Et l’ayant veuë je m’asseure
Qu’il sera fait sur la mesme heure
Le compagnon de mon malheur.
 
Car est-il homme que n’enchante
La voix d’une Dame sçavante,
Et fust-il Scythe en cruauté ?
Il n’est point de plus grand’ magie
Que la docte voix d’une amie,
Quand elle est jointe à la beauté.
 
Or j’aime bien, je le confesse,
Et plus j’iray vers la vieillesse,
Et plus constant j’aimeray mieux :
Je n’oubliray, fussé-je en cendre,
La douce amour de ma Cassandre,
Qui loge mon cœur dans ses yeux.
 
Adieu liberté ancienne,
Comme chose qui n’est plus mienne,
Adieu ma chere vie, adieu :
Ta fuite ne me peut desplaire,
Puis que ma perte volontaire
Se retreuve en un si beau lieu.
 
Chanson, va-t’en où je t’adresse
Dans la chambre de ma Maistresse,
Dy-luy, baisant sa blanche main,
Que pour en santé me remettre,
Il ne luy faut sinon permettre
Que tu te caches dans son sein.
 
 
It seems to me that a day
Lasts longer than a year
When by mischance I do not have the benefit
Of seeing the great beauty of her
Who holds my heart, and without whom
Even if I see everything I see nothing.
 
Whoever was in olden days the wise man
Who said that a lover’s courage
Lives on the one he loves, spoke truly;
He could not live in any other way,
Nor feed on any other food.
I’m sure of it: I’ve tried it.
 
The lover lives all the time in the beloved;
For that reason my famished soul
Wishes to drink deeply of Love alone;
It is so partial to love
That on such food and nothing more
It wishes to dine both night and day.
 
If anyone wants to claim I’m deceiving myself,
Let him look upon the Medusa
Who has made my heart into a rock;
Having seen her, I am sure
That he will be made that same moment
A fellow in my troubles.
 
For is there a man whom the voice
Of a wise woman cannot enchant,
Even if he were like a Scythian in cruelty?
There is no greater magic
Than the cunning voice of your beloved
When it is joined with beauty.
 
Still, I love it, I confess,
And the further I go towards old age
The more, and the more constantly, I shall love it.
I will not forget, even were I mere dust,
The sweet love of my Cassandre
Who keeps me heart in her eyes.
 
Farewell my old freedom,
Like something no longer mine,
Farewell my dear life, farewell:
Your loss cannot displease me
Since my own voluntary ruin
Has landed me in so fair a place.
 
Away, my song, go where I send you
Into the chamber of my mistress,
And tell her, kissing her white hand,
That to return me to health
She need only allow
You to hide in her breast.
 
 
The heading, “Chanson pour Cassandre”, is pretty self-explanatory; and there’s little in the poem which needs commentary. Medusa (4th stanza) of course turned everything she set eyes on into stone; Scythians (next stanza) were famously barbaric and therefore cruel. The last stanza is reminiscent of several other poems we’ve seen in which a bird is sent to Cassandre.
 
 
 
 

Amours 1:189

Standard
Son chef est d’or, son front est un tableau,
Où je voy peint le gain de mon dommage :
Belle est sa main qui me fait devant l’âge
Changer de teint, de cheveux et de peau.
 
Belle est sa bouche et son soleil jumeau,
De neige et feu s’embellist son visage,
Pour qui Jupin reprendroit le plumage
Ore d’un Cygne, or’ le poil d’un Toreau.
 
Doux est son ris, qui la Meduse mesme
Endurciroit en quelque roche blesme,
Vengeant d’un coup cent mille cruautez.
 
Mais tout ainsi que le Soleil efface
Les moindres feux, ainsi ma foy surpasse
Le plus parfait de toutes ses beautez.
 
 
 
                                                                            Her hair is golden, her brow a picture
                                                                            On which I see painted my getting this wound ;
                                                                            Fair is her hand which makes me, before my time,
                                                                            Change colour, both of hair and skin.
 
                                                                            Fair is her mouth and her twin suns,
                                                                            With snow and fire is her face embellished ;
                                                                            For it, Jupiter would again take on the plumage
                                                                            Of a swan, or the hide of a bull.
 
                                                                            Sweet is her smile, though may Medusa
                                                                            Harden it into some pale rock,
                                                                            Repaying in one moment a hundred thousand cruelties !
 
                                                                            But just as the sun overpowers
                                                                            Smaller fires, so my faithfulness surpasses
                                                                            The most perfect of all her beauties.
 
 
 
 
Lines 7-8 refer to the stories of Europa (carried off by Jupiter in the form of a bull) and Leda (raped by Jupiter in swan’s form).  In line 9 Medusa is of course the monster who turns anyone who sees her face into stone.
 
No changes between versions to report.
 
 
 

Sonnet 112

Standard
Heureux le jour, l’an, le mois et la place,
L’heure et le temps où vos yeux m’ont tué,
Sinon tué, à tout le moins mué
Comme Meduse, en une froide glace.
 
Il est bien vray que le trait de ma face
Me reste encor, mais l’esprit deslié
Pour vivre en vous, a son corps oublié,
Me laissant seul comme une froide masse.
 
Aucunefois quand vous tournez un peu
Vos yeux sur moy, je sens un petit feu
Qui me r’anime et rechauffe les veines :
 
Et fait au froid quelque petit effort.
Mais vos regars n’allongent que mes peines,
Tant le premier fut cause de ma mort !
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Happy the day, the year, the month and place,
                                                                            The hour and time when your eyes slew me,
                                                                            Or if not slew, in any case changed [me]
                                                                            Like Medusa into frozen ice.
 
                                                                            It is indeed true that I still have the usual appearance
                                                                            Of my face, but my spirit is set loose
                                                                            To live in you, forgotten by its body,
                                                                            Leaving me alone like a frozen lump.
 
                                                                            Every single time when you turn – just slightly –
                                                                            Your eyes on me, I feel a little fire
                                                                            Which brings me back to life and warms my veins again;
 
                                                                            And makes some small effort against the cold.
                                                                            But your glances only push back my troubles,
                                                                            So much was the first [of them] the cause of my death!

 

 

 

 Medusa of course changed her victims to stone rather than ice, but we’ll let that pass; the image of iciness is one picked up again later in the poem. In line 11 I ought to have paralleled “ranime et rechauffe” in my translation – something like ‘enlivens me again and warms me again’ – but I couldn’t find an elegant solution.  Blanchemain’s version is identical apart from line 8, where he offers “N’estant plus rien sans esprit qu’une masse” (‘Which is no longer anything, without the spirit, but a lump’). Personally I find both versions a little awkward, and feel Ronsard hadn’t quite resolved his problem satisfactorily in this verse.
 
Blanchemain points out that this poem is based upon a famous sonnet of Petrarch (no. 61) – or at least that the opening lines are closely modelled on it. Ronsard of course aims to produce a more complex poem, compared to the more ‘one-dimensional’ emotions of Petrarch.  (I’ve translated “Benedetto sia…” as ‘Happy (be)…’ to match my Ronsard version above, though of course Petrarch’s phrase is strictly ‘Blessed be…’)   [Singers may recognise the text as the second of the ‘three sonnets of Petrarch’ set by Liszt.]
 
 
 
Benedetto sia ‘l giorno, et ‘l mese, et l’anno,
Et la stagione, e ‘l tempo, et l’ora, e ‘l punto,
E ‘l bel paese, e ‘l loco ov’io fui giunto
Da’duo begli occhi che legato m’ànno;
 
Et benedetto il primo dolce affanno
Ch’i’ ebbi ad esser con Amor congiunto,
Et l’arco, et le saette ond’i’ fui punto,
Et le piaghe che ‘nfin al cor mi vanno.
 
Benedette le voci tante ch’io
Chiamando il nome de mia donna ò sparte,
E i sospiri, et le lagrime, e ‘l desio;
 
Et benedette sian tutte le carte
Ov’io fama l’acquisto, e ‘l pensier mio,
Ch’è sol di lei, sí ch’altra non v’à parte.

 

 
 
 
                                                                            Happy the day, the month, the year,
                                                                           The season, the time, the hour, the moment,
                                                                           The beautiful countryside, and the place where I was joined
                                                                           By two fair eyes that have bound me;
 
                                                                           And happy the first sweet suffering
                                                                           That I had in being joined with Love,
                                                                           The bow, the darts by which I was struck,
                                                                           The wounds that go to the bottom of my heart.
 
                                                                           Happy those many words which I,
                                                                           Calling the name of my lady, have scattered,
                                                                           The sighs, the tears, the desire;
 
                                                                           And happy all the books
                                                                           In which I have gained fame, and my thoughts
                                                                           That are only of her, of whom no other has any part of.

 

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 77

Standard
Le sang fut bien maudit de la Gorgonne face,
Qui premier engendra les serpens venimeux !
Ha ! tu devois, Helene, en marchant dessus eux,
Non écrazer leurs reins mais en perdre la race.
 
Nous estions l’autre jour en une verte place
Cueillans m’amie et moy des bouquets odoreux :
Un pot de cresme estoit au milieu de nous deux,
Et du laict sur du jonc cailloté comme glace :
 
Quand un serpent tortu de venin tout couvert,
Par ne sçay quel malheur sortit d’un buisson vert
Contre le pied de celle à qui je fay service,
 
Tout le cœur me gela, voyant ce monstre infait :
Et lors je m’escriay, pensant qu’il nous eust fait
Moy, un second Orphée et elle une Eurydice.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            That blood was truly cursed which, from the Gorgon’s head,
                                                                            First formed venomous serpents!
                                                                            Ah, Helen, you should as you walked over them
                                                                            Not have crushed their guts but destroyed their race.
 
                                                                            We were the other day in a green spot,
                                                                            My love and I, picking sweet-smelling bouquets;
                                                                            There was a pot of cream between us two
                                                                            And milk on a reed mat, clotted like ice;
 
                                                                            When a twisting serpent all covered in venom
                                                                            By some ill-chance, leaving a green bush,
                                                                            Struck the foot of her to whom I make my service;
 
                                                                            My heart froze, seeing that wicked beast ;
                                                                            And then I cried out, thinking that he would have made of us
                                                                            Me a second Orpheus and her another Eurydice.

 

 

Take a moment to savour the only 12-syllable lines in the Amours de Cassandre (apparently!).
 
The snaky hair of the Gorgons (led by Medusa) is well known. Less well known is the very obscure story of Helen (of Troy) crushing an African snake, thus causing the species’ strange halting movement, on the way home to Sparta after the fall of Troy…  And, though Euridice died of a snake bite, Ronsard is also thinking of the great love of Orpheus for her.
 
Ronsard tinkered with this sonnet as much as any he didn’t re-write substantially, so here is the complete Blanchemain (early) version with changes marked. Blanchemain, probably rightly, feels the first line in this version is so obscure it needs a footnote to point us in the direction of Medusa.
 
 
Le sang fut bien maudit de la hideuse face,
Qui premier engendra les serpens venimeux !
Tu ne devois, Helene, en marchant dessus eux,
Leur écrazer leurs reins et en perdre la race.
 
Nous estions l’autre jour en une verte place
Cueillans m’amie et moy les fraisiers savoureux :
Un pot de cresme estoit au milieu de nous deux,
Et sur du jonc du laict cailloté comme glace :
 
Quand un vilain serpent de venin tout couvert,
Par ne sçay quel malheur sortit d’un buisson vert
Contre le pied de celle à qui je fay service,
 
Pour la blesser à mort de son venin infait ;
Et lors je m’escriay, pensant qu’il nous eust fait
Moy, un second Orphée et elle une Eurydice.
 
 
 
                                                                           That blood was truly cursed which, from the hideous head,
                                                                           First formed venomous serpents!
                                                                           Helen, you should as you walked over them
                                                                           Have crushed their guts and destroyed their race.
 
                                                                           We were the other day in a green spot,
                                                                           My love and I, picking tasty strawberries;
                                                                           There was a pot of cream between us two
                                                                           And milk on a reed mat, clotted like ice;
 
                                                                           When a wretched serpent all covered in venom
                                                                           By some ill-chance, leaving a green bush,
                                                                           Struck the foot of her to whom I make my service,
 
                                                                           To wound her to death with its wicked venom;
                                                                           And then I cried out, thinking that he would have made of us
                                                                           Me a second Orpheus and her another Eurydice.

 

  [Edit:  I have returned to line 8 after reading Louise Rogers Lalaurie’s discussion paper on translation. She points out that ‘laits caillotés’ were like little blancmanges, we might say ‘set’ rather than ‘clotted’. So it might be clearer to translate as something like ‘A pale blancmange mound, like an ice-cream, upon rushes’? ]
 
 
 

Sonnet 58

Standard
Je sens une douceur à conter impossible,
Dont ravy je jouïs par le bien du penser,
Qu’homme ne peut escrire ou langue prononcer,
Quand je baise ta main en amour invincible.

Contemplant tes beaux yeux ma pauvre ame passible
En se pasmant se perd, lors je sens amasser
Un sang froid sur mon cœur, qui garde de passer
Mes esprits, et je reste une image insensible.

Voila que peut ta main et ton œil, où les trais
D’Amour sont si ferrez, si chauds et si espais
Au regard Medusin qui en rocher me mue.

Mais bien que mon malheur procede de les voir,
Je voudrois et mille yeux et mille mains avoir,
Pour voir et pour toucher leur beauté qui me tue.

 
 
 
                                                                              I feel a sweetness impossible to relate
                                                                              Ravished by which I rejoice in the happiness of thoughts
                                                                              Which man cannot write or tongue pronounce
                                                                              Whenever, invincible in love, I kiss your hand.
 
                                                                              Contemplating your fair eyes my poor guilty soul
                                                                              Is lost, fainting, as I feel a coldness in my blood
                                                                              Piling up on my heart, which prevents my spirit
                                                                              From getting through, and I remain an insensible statue.
 
                                                                              That is what your hand and eye can do, when the blows
                                                                              Of Love are so steely, so hot, so thickly-falling
                                                                              In that Medusa-like look which turns me to stone.
 
                                                                              But though my troubles spring from seeing them,
                                                                              I’d like a thousand eyes and a thousand hands
                                                                              To see and touch that beauty of theirs which is killing me.

 

  
 
 
Blanchemain has minor variants, one of which looks to me like a printer’s attempt to ‘correct’ a mis-spelling. After all, written with a long s, there’s little to choose between ‘ferrez’ and ‘ſerrez’ in line 12.  Yet “serrez” (‘so tightly-packed’) is no better in meaning than “ferrez”, but is almost duplicated by “epais” and clutters up the line with rather too much assonance. It may be a less unusual word, but I still think “ferrez” is the better reading.
 
 
Je sens une douceur à conter impossible,
Dont ravy je jouïs par le bien du penser,
Qu’homme ne peut escrire ou langue prononcer,
Quand je baise ta main contre amour invincible.

Contemplant tes beaux yeux ma pauvre ame passible
En se pasmant se perd, lors je sens amasser
Un sang froid sur mon cœur, qui garde de passer
Mes esprits, et je reste une image insensible.

Voila que peut ta main et ton œil, où les trais
D’Amour sont si serrez, si chauds et si espais
Au regard Medusin qui en rocher me mue.

Mais bien que mon malheur procede de les voir,
Je voudrois mille mains, et autant d’yeux avoir,
Pour voir et pour toucher leur beauté qui me tue.

 
 
 

                                                                              I feel a sweetness impossible to relate
                                                                              Ravished by which I rejoice in the happiness of thoughts
                                                                              Which man cannot write or tongue pronounce
                                                                              Whenever I kiss your hand, in the face of invincible love.
 
                                                                              Contemplating your fair eyes my poor guilty soul
                                                                              Is lost, fainting, as I feel a coldness in my blood
                                                                              Piling up on my heart, which prevents my spirit
                                                                              From getting through, and I remain an insensible statue.
 
                                                                              That is what your hand and eye can do, when the blows
                                                                              Of Love are so tightly-packed, so hot, so thickly-falling
                                                                              In that Medusa-like look which turns me to stone.
 
                                                                              But though my troubles spring from seeing them,
                                                                              I’d like to have a thousand hands and as many eyes
                                                                              To see and touch that beauty of theirs which is killing me.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 48

Standard
Ton extreme beauté par ses rais me retarde
Que je n’ose mes yeux sur les tiens asseurer,
Debile je ne puis leurs regards endurer.
Plus le Soleil esclaire, et moins on le regarde.

Helas ! tu es trop belle, et tu dois prendre garde
Qu’un Dieu si grand thresor ne puisse desirer,
Qu’il ne t’en-vole au ciel pour la terre empirer.
« La chose precieuse est de mauvaise garde. »

Les Dragons sans dormir tous pleins de cruauté,
Gardoient les pommes d’or pour leur seule beauté :
Le visage trop beau n’est pas chose trop bonne.

Danaé le sceut bien, dont l’or se fist trompeur.
Mais l’or qui domte tout, davant tes yeux s’estonne,
Tant ta chaste vertu le fait trembler de peur.

 

 
 
                                                                              Your extreme beauty holds me back by its rays
                                                                              So that I dare not fix my eyes on yours,
                                                                              I am weak and cannot endure their glances.
                                                                              The more the Sun shines, the less one can look upon him.
 
                                                                              Alas, you are too fair, you must take care
                                                                              That a god does not desire so great a treasure,
                                                                              That he does not steal you away to heaven, to make the earth a worse place.
                                                                              “A precious treasure is poorly guarded.”
 
                                                                              Sleepless Dragons full of cruelty
                                                                              Guarded the golden apples for their beauty alone;
                                                                              A face too fair is not something too good [for them].
 
                                                                              Danaë knew it well, she whom gold itself deceived.
                                                                              But the gold which rules everything stops astounded before your eyes,
                                                                              So much does your chaste virtue make it tremble with fear.
  
 
 
I do love it when Ronsard really gets the classical ‘bug’ and writes a tour de  force of classicizing fantasy!  And here he lets us know in the opening words we are in for a treat – how often is beauty ‘extreme’??  But he builds his poem carefully too – 4 lines of earthly normality, 4 of generalised fantasy about the gods, then 2×3 lines of classicizing with specific references to classical myth.
 
The ‘sleeping dragons’ guarding the ‘golden apples’ of the Hesperides (the nymphs of the evening) recall the 11th labour of Hercules, tasked with obtaining the golden apples. In mythology the dragons were a singular but multi-headed dragon – but I think the plural allowable! Danae is of course the lady often depicted in Renaissance art welcoming Jupiter transformed into a shower of gold, by which she became pregnant with Perseus (who, incidentally, also later visited the Hesperides, but for weapons to fight Medusa not to retrieve apples; I certainly wouldn’t put it past Ronsard to be expecting us readers to see the ‘extra’ link to the Hesperides here).
 
Blanchemain offers us only one variant, in line 12 where he has
 
Danaé le sceut bien, qui sentit l’or trompeur
 
                                                                              Danaë knew it well, she who felt gold’s deception
 
‘Felt’ is far too weak a translation of “sentit”, which has all sorts of other meaning wrapped up in it – perceiving/understanding, a sexual sense of penetration, a hint of suspecting, a sensuous implication of gently stroking…