Tag Archives: Minerva

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.
 
 
 
 
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Amours 1.187

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Mechante Aglaure, ame pleine d’envie,
Langue confitte en caquet indiscret,
D’avoir osé publier le secret
Que je tenois aussi cher que ma vie.
 
Fiere à ton col Tisiphone se lie,
Qui d’un remors, d’un soin, et d’un regret,
D’un feu, d’un foet, d’un serpent, et d’un trait,
Sans se lasser punisse ta folie.
 
Pour me venger, ce vers injurieux
Suive l’horreur du despit furieux
Dont Archiloch aiguisa son Jambe :
 
Mon fier courroux t’ourdisse le licol
Du fil meurtrier, que l’envieux Lycambe,
Pour se sauver, estraignit à son col.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            You wicked Aglauros, you soul full of jealousy,
                                                                            You tongue steeped in indiscreet chatter,
                                                                            To have dared to make public the secret
                                                                            Which I kept as dear as my life.
 
                                                                            May proud Tisiphone bind herself around your neck,
                                                                            And with remorse, care, regret,
                                                                            With fire, whips, snakes and wounds
                                                                            May she tirelessly punish your folly!
 
                                                                            To avenge me, may this injurious verse
                                                                            Copy the fearful, furious spite
                                                                            With which Archilochus sharpened his iambics;
 
                                                                            May my proud wrath wind you in the halter
                                                                            Of the murderous cord which jealous Lycambes
                                                                            Tightened round his throat to save himself.
 
 
 
Let’s begin with the classical allusions:
 – Aglauros:  when Erechthonius was born (accidentally) from the union of Vulcan & Gaia (the Earth), Minerva hid him away. Aglauros was one of the inquisitive keepers of the hidden Erechthonius, who could not keep herself from looking to see what they were guarding, and was sent mad as a result. So here, she is a model for Cassandre recklessly and indiscreetly revealing Ronsard’s secret;
 – Tisiphone is one of the Furies, who pursue wrong-doers;
 – Archilochus was a Greek poet. Lycambes betrothed his daughter to Archilochus. but then broke the engagement; in response, Archilochus wrote a lot of angry verse about it, and Lycambes and his daughter – and perhaps others in the family – committed suicide as a result of the publicity.
 
The poem itself is a very good one, in my view. As usual, it took a while to reach this form; here is Blanchemain’s earlier version, in line 4 of which we have a characteristic new verb-from-adjective coinage by Ronsard which (also characteristically) he eliminated in later years. Note that the opening quatrain works completely differently, now a series of invocations of punishment rather than a statement of guilt. Why would a heart ‘rust’? It would be made of cold, hard iron – or at least that is the insult which I imagine Ronsard is implying.
 
 
Seconde Aglaure, avienne que l’envie
Rouille ton cœur traitrement indiscret,
D’avoir osé publier le secret
Qui bienheuroit le plaisir de ma vie.
 
Fiere à ton col Tisiphone se lie,
Qui d’un remors, d’un soin et d’un regret,
Et d’un foüet, d’un serpent et d’un trait,
Sans se lasser punisse ta folie.
 
Pour me venger, ce vers injurieux
Suive l’horreur du despit furieux
Dont Archiloch aiguisa son iambe ;
 
Et mon courroux t’ourdisse le licol
Du fil meurtrier que le mechant Lycambe
Pour se sauver estreignit à son col.
 
 
 
                                                                            You second Aglauros, may jealousy come and
                                                                            Rust your treacherously-indiscreet heart,
                                                                            For having dared to make public the secret
                                                                            Which brought good fortune and pleasure to my life.
 
                                                                            May proud Tisiphone bind herself around your neck,
                                                                            And with remorse, care, regret,
                                                                            And with whips, snakes and wounds
                                                                            May she tirelessly punish your folly!
 
                                                                            To avenge me, may this injurious verse
                                                                            Copy the fearful, furious spite
                                                                            With which Archilochus sharpened his iambics;
                                                                             
                                                                            And may my wrath wind you in the halter
                                                                            Of the murderous cord which jealous Lycambes
                                                                            Tightened round his throat to save himself.
 
 
 
 
 

To Estienne Pasquier (Odes 4:29)

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Tu me fais mourir de me dire
Qu’il ne faut sinon qu’une lyre
Pour m’amuser, et que tousjours
Je ne veux chanter que d’amours.
 
Tu dis vray, je le te confesse ;
Mais il ne plaist a la déesse
Qui mesle un plaisir d’un souci
Que je vive autrement qu’ainsi.
 
Car quand Amour un coup enflame
De son feu quelque gentille ame,
Impossible est de l’oublier
Ni de ses rets se deslier.
 
Mais toy, Pasquier, en qui Minerve
A tant mis de biens en reserve,
Qui as l’esprit ardent et vif,
Et nay pour n’estre point oisif ;
 
Eleve au ciel par ton histoire
De nos rois les faits et la gloire,
Et pren sous ta diserte voix
La charge des honneurs françois ;
 
Et desormais vivre me laisse
Sans gloire au sein de ma maistresse,
Et parmy ses ris et ses jeux
Laisse grisonner mes cheveux.
You kill me by saying
That I only need a lyre
To amuse me, and that always
I want only to sing of love.
 
You tell the truth, I admit it to you,
But it doesn’t please the goddess
Who mixes pleasure with pain
That I should live any other way than this.
 
For when love ignites a shaft
Of his fire in some noble soul,
It is impossible to forget him
Or to escape his nets.
 
But you, Pasquier, in whom Minerva
Has reserved so many good things,
You have a spirit ardent and lively,
Born to be in no way idle.
 
Raise to heaven through your history
The deeds and glory of our Kings,
And take charge, with your eloquent voice,
Of the honours of France;
 
And let me live henceforth
Without glory on the breast of my mistress,
And among her smiles and her games
Let my hair grow grey.

 

Estienne Pasquier is a figure we’ve met before: here, Belleau notes ‘Advocate general of the Chambre des Comptes in Paris, of whom we can offer no better evidence than his own [poetical] works provide, and our poet in this place who has truly pinpointed his talent’. It’s a nice self-denying poem by ROnsard, praising his friend for his high-flown, learned poetry (Minerva is the goddess of wisdom), while putting himself down as a mere love-poet.
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 105

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Apres ton cours je ne haste mes pas
Pour te souiller d’une amour deshonneste :
Demeure donq, le Locrois m’admonneste
Aux bors Gyrez de ne te forcer pas.
 
Neptune oyant ses blasphemes d’abas,
Luy accabla son impudique teste
D’un grand rocher au fort de la tempeste :
« Le meschant court luy mesme à son trespas. »
 
Il te voulut le meschant violer,
Lors que la peur te faisoit accoler
Les pieds vangeurs de la Greque Minerve :
 
Et je ne veux qu’à ton autel offrir
Mon chaste cœur, s’il te plaist de souffrir
Qu’en l’immolant de victime il te serve.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            I do not hurry behind you
                                                                            To soil you with a dishonourable love;
                                                                            Stay then, the Locrian warns me
                                                                            At the borders of Gyrea not to compel you.
 
                                                                            Neptune hearing his swearing from down in the deeps
                                                                            Heaped on his shameless head
                                                                            A great rock in a powerful tempest;
                                                                            “The wicked man rushes to his own death.”
 
                                                                            He wanted – that wicked man – to rape you
                                                                            When fear made you embrace
                                                                            The avenging feet of Grecian Minerva;
 
                                                                            Yet I wish only to offer at your altar
                                                                            My chaste heart, if it will please you to allow
                                                                            It, sacrificed as victim, to serve you.

 

 

 

Some commentary first:  ‘the Locrian’ in line 3 is Ajax the Lesser (of Locris), one of the warriors who conquered Troy. In so doing he raped Cassandra – the Trojan one – before the altar in a temple, and so outraged the gods. Variants of his death exist, but one of them has him shipwrecked and cast onto a sharp rock, then buried by Neptune under a mountain or rocks. Muret, in his footnote (quoted by Blanchemain) refers to this version of the story: ‘Ajax, son of Oileus, for having tried to rape Cassandra who had hidden in the temple of Minerva, was on his return to Greece struck down by the goddess and crushed beneath a part of some rocks which were called the ‘Gyrez’ rocks.’  After much searching I’ve been unable to locate any ‘Gyrean’ rocks. The place where Ajax was wrecked is generally said to be cape Capharea (modern: Cafirias) at the southern end of the island of Euboea (Evia), and I think it’s safe to assume this is what Ronsard is thinking of. (As an aside, ‘gyrez’ to modern Greeks is likely to call to mind ‘gyros’ which are the vertical spits on which kebabs rotate and cook, and by extension the meal-in-a-pitta-bread snacks that are served by those kebab bars!)
 
Personally I find it slightly surprising that Ronsard feels ‘safe’ contrasting himself and Cassandre so bluntly with Cassandre’s namesake & her rapist! But the rhetoric of the poem is beautifully balanced, to refer so bluntly to the rape and dwell on the violence associated with it, then swing back via the fear of Cassandra to the harmlessness of the present-day situation.
 
I may be wrong in detecting a fleeting reference to one of Horace’s most famous Odes in the final lines: in Odes 1.5, Horace imagines (in a tightly-structured poem not unlike a sonnet) his ‘ex’ enjoying herself with a younger lover, and ends with a metaphor for his retreat from the energetic passions of her love, in which he imagines an old sailor hanging up a sacrificial offering in Neptune’s temple to thank him for safe return from the seas. With Neptune appearing a little earlier in Ronsard’s sonnet, I wonder if he is hinting at the exhaustingly-passionate love he would like to share with Cassandre?!
 
What of Blanchemain’s earlier version? Happily, Ronsard  didn’t feel the need for major change in this poem, for it is a fine poem. His changes are designed to improve the poetry, rather than change the sense (and in my view do just that). In line 8 there is a different version of the homily: “Le Ciel conduit le meschant au trespas” (‘Heaven brings the wicked man to his death’). In line 4 there are “rocz Gyrez” (‘Gyrean rocks’) instead of “bors Gyrez”. And in the last tercet some minor textuakl variants only:  “Moi, je ne veux qu’à ta grandeur offrir / Ce chaste cœur…” (‘I myself wish only to offer to your greatness / This chaste heart…’)

 

 
 
 

Discours – à Pierre L’Escot

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This ought to be, approximately, the 300th poem I’ve posted. So to mark this ‘special occasion’ I thought I’d post a tongue-in-cheek follow-up to Ronsard’s autobiographical Elegy which was my 200th post.  This time it’s from book 2 of his “Poems”, and one of many longer poems which Ronsard called ‘discours’ – discourses. Here his father lectures him – in perfect Alexandrines! – about why almost anything is better than being a poet…

It’s addressed to Pierre L’Escot, architect and friend of Ronsard. In Marty-Laveaux’s edition he is identified just as ‘Pierre L’Escot, Lord of Clany’, but in the earlier edition he is given a longer set of titles: ‘Abbot of Cleremont, Lord of Clany, chaplain in ordinary to the King’. Blanchemain further adds: ‘This piece is addressed to Lord L’Escot of Clany, who designed the pavilion of the Louvre. In the 1572 edition, it begins the 2nd book of Poems, which is dedicated as a whole to Pierre L’Escot.’

(I hope this layout works – I’m having trouble getting the ‘stanzas’ lined up 🙂 )
 
Puis que Dieu ne m’a fait pour supporter les armes,
Et mourir tout sanglant au milieu des alarmes
En imitant les faits de mes premiers ayeux,
Si ne veux-je pourtant demeurer ocieux :
Ains comme je pourray, je veux laisser memoire
Que j’allay sur Parnasse acquerir de la gloire,
Afin que mon renom des siecles non veincu,
Rechante à mes neveux qu’autrefois j’ay vescu
Caressé d’Apollon et des Muses aimées,
Que j’ay plus que ma vie en mon âge estimées.
Pour elles à trente ans j’avois le chef grison,
Maigre, palle. desfait, enclos en la prison
D’une melancolique et rheumatique estude,
Renfrongné, mal-courtois, sombre, pensif, et rude,
A fin qu’en me tuant je peusse recevoir
Quelque peu de renom pour un peu de sçavoir.
 
Je fus souventesfois retansé de mon pere
Voyant que j’aimois trop les deux filles d Homere,
Et les enfans de ceux qui doctement ont sceu
Enfanter en papier ce qu’ils avoient conceu :
Et me disoit ainsi, Pauvre sot, tu t’amuses
A courtizer en vain Apollon et les Muses :
Que te sçauroit donner ce beau chantre Apollon,
Qu’une lyre, un archet, une corde, un fredon,
Qui se respand au vent ainsi qu’une fumée,
Ou comme poudre en l’air vainement consumée ?
Que te sçauroient donner les Muses qui n’ont rien ?
Sinon au-tour du chef je ne sçay quel lien
De myrte, de lierre, ou, d’une amorce vaine
T’allecher tout un jour au bord d’une fontaine,
Ou dedans un vieil antre, à fin d’y reposer
Ton cerveau mal-rassis, et béant composer
Des vers qui te feront, comme pleins de manie,
Appeller un bon fol en toute compagnie ?
 
Laisse ce froid mestier, qui jamais en avant
N’a poussé l’artizan, tant fust-il bien sçavant :
Mais avec sa fureur qu’il appelle divine,
Meurt tousjours accueilly d’une palle famine :
Homere que tu tiens si souvent en tes mains,
Qu’en ton cerveau mal-sain comme un Dieu tu te peins,
N’eut jamais un liard ; sa Troyenne vielle,
Et sa Muse qu’on dit qui eut la voix si belle,
Ne le sceurent nourrir, et falloit que sa fain
D’huis en huis mendiast le miserable pain.
 
Laisse-moy, pauvre sot, ceste science folle :
Hante-moy les Palais, caresse-moy Bartolle,
Et d’une voix dorée au milieu d’un parquet
Aux despens d’un pauvre homme exerce ton caquet,
Et fumeux et sueux d’une bouche tonnante
Devant un President mets-moy ta langue en vente :
On peut par ce moyen aux richesses monter,
Et se faire du peuple en tous lieux bonneter.
 
Ou bien embrasse-moy l’argenteuse science
Dont le sage Hippocras eut tant d’experience,
Grand honneur de son isle : encor que son mestier
Soit venu d’Apollon, il s’est fait heritier
Des biens et des honneurs, et à la Poësie
Sa sœur n’a rien laissé qu’une lyre moisie.
 
Ne sois donq paresseux d’apprendre ce que peut
La Nature en nos corps, tout cela qu’elle veut,
Tout cela qu’elle fuit : par si gentille adresse
En secourant autruv on gaigne la richesse.
 
Ou bien si le desir genereux et hardy,
En t’eschauffant le sang, ne rend acoüardy
Ton cœur à mespriser les perils de la terre,
Pren les armes au poing, et va suivre la guerre,
Et d’une belle playe en l’estomac ouvert
Meurs dessus un rempart de poudre tout couvert :
Par si noble moyen souvent on devient riche,
Car envers les soldats un bon Prince n’est chiche.
 
Ainsi en me tansant mon pere me disoit,
Ou fust quand le Soleil hors de l’eau conduisoit
Ses coursiers gallopans par la penible trette,
Ou fust quand vers le soir il plongeoit sa charrette,
Fust la nuict, quand la Lune avec ses noirs chevaux
Creuse et pleine reprend l’erre de ses travaux.
 
« O qu’il est mal-aisé de forcer la nature !
« Tousjours quelque Genie, ou l’influence dure
« D’un Astre nous invite à suivre maugré tous
« Le destin qu’en naissant il versa desur nous.
 
Pour menace ou priere, ou courtoise requeste
Que mon pere me fist, il ne sceut de ma teste
Oster la Poesie, et plus il me tansoit,
Plus à faire des vers la fureur me poussoit.
 
Je n’avois pas douze ans qu’au profond des vallées,
Dans les hautes forests des hommes recullées,
Dans les antres secrets de frayeur tout-couvers,
Sans avoir soin de rien je composois des vers :
Echo me respondoit, et les simples Dryades,
Faunes, Satyres, Pans, Napées, Oreades,
Aigipans qui portoient des cornes sur le front,
Et qui ballant sautoient comme les chévres font,
Et le gentil troupeau des fantastiques Fées
Autour de moy dansoient à cottes degrafées.
 
Je fu premierement curieux du Latin :
Mais voyant par effect que mon cruel destin
Ne m’avoit dextrement pour le Latin fait naistre,
Je me fey tout François, aimant certes mieux estre
En ma langue ou second, ou le tiers, ou premier,
Que d’estre sans honneur à Rome le dernier. 
 
Donc suivant ma nature aux Muses inclinée,
Sans contraindre ou forcer ma propre destinée,
J’enrichy nostre France, et pris en gré d’avoir,
En servant mon pays, plus d’honneur que d’avoir. 
 
Toy, L’Escot, dont le nom jusques aux Astres vole,
As pareil naturel : car estant à l’escole,
On ne peut le destin de ton esprit forcer
Que tousjours avec l’encre on ne te vist tracer
Quelque belle peinture, et ja fait Geomettre,
Angles, lignes et poincts sur une carte mettre :
Puis estant parvenu au terme de vingt ans,
Tes esprits courageux ne furent pas contans
Sans doctement conjoindre avecques la Peinture
L’art de Mathematique et de l’Architecture,
Où tu es tellement avec honneur monté,
Que le siecle ancien est par toy surmonté. 
 
Car bien que tu sois noble et de mœurs et de race,
Bien que dés le berceau l’abondance te face
Sans en chercher ailleurs, riche en bien temporel,
Si as-tu franchement suivi ton naturel :
Et tes premiers Regens n’ont jamais peu distraire
Ton cœur de ton instinct pour suivre le contraire. 
 
On a beau d’une perche appuyer les grands bras
D’un arbre qui se plie, il tend tousjours en bas :
La nature ne veut en rien estre forcée,
Mais suivre le destin duquel elle est poussée.
 
Jadis le Roy François des Lettres amateur,
De ton divin esprit premier admirateur,
T’aima par dessus tous : ce ne fut en son âge
Peu d’honneur d’estre aimé d’un si grand personnage,
Qui soudain cognoissoit le vice et la vertu,
Quelque desguisement dont l’homme fust vestu.
 
Henry qui apres luy tint le sceptre de France,
Ayant de ta valeur parfaite cognoissance
Honora ton sçavoir, si bien que ce grand Roy
Ne vouloit escouter un autre homme que toy,
Soit disnant et soupant, et te donna la charge
De son Louvre enrichi d’edifice plus large,
Ouvrage somptueux, à fin d’estre montré
Un Roy tres-magnifique en t’ayant rencontré.
 
Il me souvient un jour que ce Prince à la table
Parlant de ta vertu comme chose admirable,
Disoit que tu avois de toy-mesmes appris,
Et que sur tous aussi tu emportois le pris,
Comme a fait mon Ronsard, qui à la Poësie
Maugré tous ses parens a mis sa fantaisie.
 
Et pour cela tu fis engraver sur le haut
Du Louvre, une Déesse, à qui jamais ne faut
Le vent à joüe enflée au creux d’une trompete,
Et la monstras au Roy, disant qu’elle estoit faite
Expres pour figurer la force de mes vers,
Qui comme vent portoyent son nom par l’Univers.
 
Or ce bon Prince est mort, et pour faire cognoistre
Que nous avons servi tous deux un si grand maistre,
Je te donne ces vers pour eternelle foy,
Que la seule vertu m’accompagna de toy.
Although God did not make me to take up arms
And die all bloodied in the midst of alarms
Mimicking the deeds of my earliest ancestors,
Yet do I not want to remain useless:
However I can I want to leave a memorial
That I went up Parnassus to gain glory,
That my fame, unconquered by the centuries,
Should sing to my descendants that I lived
Cherished by Apollo and his beloved Muses,
Whom I have honoured more than my life in this age.
For them, I was grey-haired at thirty,
Thin, pale, defeated, shut up in the prison
Of melancholic and arthritic study,
Scowling, discourteous, gloomy, pensive and coarse,
So that in killing myself I might have gained
Some little fame for little understanding.
 
 
 
I was many times scolded by my father
Who saw I loved too much Homer’s two daughters,
And the children of those who learnedly were able
To give birth on paper to what they’d conceived;
And he would say to me, “You poor fool, you amuse yourself
With courting – in vain! – Apollo and the Muses ;
What can he give you, that fine singer Apollo,
But a lyre, a bow on a string, a murmur
Which will be lost in the wind like smoke,
Or like ash in the air burned up without gain?
What can the Muses give you, who have nothing themselves?
Perhaps around your head some thread
Of myrtle, or ivy? Or with empty attraction
Luring you all day beside a fountain,
Or in some ancient cave, so that there you can rest
Your un-calm head, and gaping compose
Some verses which, as if full of madness, will get you
Called a right fool in all company?
 
 
 
 
“Leave this cold career, which has never brought
To the fore the artisan, however skilled he is;
But rather, in that passion he calls divine,
He always dies, welcomed by pale famine.
That Homer you have so often in your hands,
Whom you paint as some sort of god in your unsound brain,
Never had a farthing; his Trojan fiddle,
And his Muse whom they say had so fair a voice,
Could not feed him, and his hunger had
To beg from door to door for the wretched pain.
 
 
“Leave this foolish study for me, you poor fool;
Haunt palaces for me, caress Bartolle for me;,
Either carry on your cackle with your golden voice
In the middle of the floor [=centre-stage?] at the expense of some poor man,
Or smoky and sweaty, with thundering lips,
Put your tongue on sale for me before some president;
In this way one can arrive at riches
And make oneself lionised by people in all places.
 
 
“Or else embrace for me that silvery learning
Of which the wise Hippocras had such experience,
The great honour of his island; though his path too
Came from Apollo, he became the heir
Of goods and honours, while to Poetry
His sister left nothing but a mildewed lyre.
 
 
“Or be not idle in learning what Nature
Can do in our bodies, all that she favours,
All that she rejects; through noble address
In helping others, you can win riches.
 
 
“Or even, if noble and bold desire
Does not, as it warms your blood, make your heart
Too afraid to undertake earthly dangers.
Take arms in your fist, go follow war,
And with a fine wound opened in your stomach
Die upon some rampart, covered in dust;
By such noble means people often become rich,
For to his soldiers a good Prince is not stingy.”
 
 
 
Reproaching me thus my father spoke to me,
Whether when the Sun leads from the waters
His chargers galloping on their arduous course,
Or when towards evening he submerges his chariot,
Or at night, when the Moon with her dark horses,
Both hollow and full, takes up the course of her labours.
 
 
 
“Oh how uncomfortable it is to force nature!
Always some spirit, or the harsh influence
Of some star, invites us to follow, despite everything,
The fate which it poured upon us at our birth.”
 
Whatever threat or prayer or courteous request
My father made me, he could not drive
Poetry from my head, and the more he reproached me,
The more the passion to write verse drove me on.
 
I was not yet twelve when, in deep valleys,
In the high forests from which men shrink,
In hidden caves entirely swathed in dread,
Without a care for anything I composed verses;
Echo replied to me, and the simple Dryads,
Fauns, Satyrs, Pans, Naiads, Oreads,
Goat-Pans who bear horns on their brows
And who in their dances leap as stags do,
And the gentle troop of fantastical Fairies
Danced around me, their skirts unfastened.
 
 
I was at first intrigued by Latin;
But seeing by trying that my cruel fate
Had not made me naturally skilful in Latin,
I made myself entirely French, preferring far to be
In my own tongue the second, or third, or first,
Than to be the last, and without honour, in Rome.
 
 
So, following my nature inclined to the Muses,
Without constraining or forcing my own fate,
I enriched our France, and made the choice to have
In serving my country more honour than wealth.
 
 
You too, L’Escot, whose name flies high as the stars,
Have a similar nature: for when you were at school
They could not compel your mind’s destiny,
So that you could always be seen with ink tracing
Some fine painting, or now doing Geometry,
Making angles, lines and points upon some sheet;
Then when you reached the end of twenty years,
Your brave spirits were not content
Till learnedly joining together with Painting
The arts of Mathematics and Architecture,
In which you have risen so high with honour
That ancient times are surpassed by you.
 
 
 
For though you are noble in manner and family,
Although since the cradle abundance has been yours
Without seeking it from outside, rich in worldly goods,
Yet have you boldly followed your nature;
And your first regents never could distract
Your heart from your instinct to oppose them.
 
 
 
 
One might as well prop up with a pole the great limbs
Of a tree which bends over, it will still tend downwards;
Nature does not wish anywhere to be compelled,
But to follow the destiny by which she is impelled.
 
 
Previously King François, a lettered man,
The first admirer of your divine spirit,
Loved you above all others; there was not in his time
Little honour in being loved by so great a personage
Who could immediately recognise vice and virtue
Whatever disguise a man was dressed in.
 
 
Henry who after him took up the sceptre of France,
Having perfect understanding of your worth,
Honoured your learning so well that that great King
Wanted to hear no other man than you,
Whether at dinner or supper, and gave you the charge
Of enriching his Louvre with a larger building,
A sumptuous work, that he might be shown to be
A most magnificent King in having encountered you.
 
I recall a day when that Prince, speaking
At table of your virtue as a thing to be wondered at,
Said that you had learned from yourself
And that beyond all others too you took the prize,
As has done my Ronsard who to Poetry
Despite all his family has set his imagination.
 
And therefore you had sculpted at the top
Of the Louvre a goddess, never short of breath,
Her cheek puffed out at the mouthpiece of a trumpet,
And showed it to the King, saying that she had been made
Expressly to symbolise the power of my verse,
Which like the wind bore his name throughout the world.
 
 
Now that good Prince is dead, and that it should be known
That both of us have served so great a master
I give you these verses as an everlasting oath
That virtue alone accompanies me from you.
 
 
In the second ‘stanza’, Homer’s two daughters are the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. In the fourth, the advice to ‘caress Bartolle’ apparently refers to a ‘spiky’ senior lawyer (he’s referred to elsewhere as “l’espineux Bartolle”). 
 
In the 5th ‘stanza’, Marty-Laveaux’s text has “Hippocras”: hippocras is a drink, but Ronsard (or his father) here clearly means Hippocrates the Greek physician. I’m not sure whose mistake this is – I suppose Ronsard is making fun of his father for not quite getting the name right?! Blanchemain’s version has “Hippocrate” so Ronsard (or his father, or Blanchemain) obviously had got the right one at some stage… The island Hippocrates honours is Cos, where he was born. His medical learning comes from Apollo, because Aesculapius was Apollo’s son; Apollo’s sister is Minerva.
 
In ‘stanza’ 7, I enjoy his father saying ‘go and die in battle – that’s a good way to get rich’… Ronsard poking a little fun at his father again…
 
The statue placed by L’Escot on the Louvre represents Fame. Though Ronsard says that the King ‘gave you the charge / Of enriching his Louvre with a larger building’, he doesn’t say that the original work was undertaken by L’Escot’s rival, Philibert de Lorme, whom Ronsard apparently disliked (perhaps out of loyalty to L’Escot!). In  poems 2.3 he writes
 
Maintenant je ne suis ny veneur, ny maçon
Pour acquerir du bien en si basse façon,
Et si j’ay fait service autant à ma contrée
Qu’une vile truelle à trois crosses tymbrée !
 
 
                                                                         Now I am neither a hunter [ overtones of ‘venal’, arriviste’] nor a mason
                                                                         To gain riches in so base a fashion,
                                                                         And yet I have done as good service to my country
                                                                         As a vile trowel stamped with three bishoprics!
 
The last line is an allusion to the three abbeys enjoyed by Philibert de Lorme; and note that “timbré” also means ‘crack-brained’…
 
 
 

Variants

Naturally there are also plenty of variants in Blanchemain’s version. These are:
 
‘stanza’ 1
line 2, “Et pour mourir sanglant …” (‘And to die bleeding …’)
line 6, “Que les Muses jadis m’ont acquis de la gloire” (‘I want to leave a memorial / That the Muses once gained me glory’)
 
‘stanza’ 3
«  Laisse ce froid mestier qui ne pousse en avant
Celuy qui par sus tous y est le plus sçavant ;
Mais avec sa fureur qu’il appelle divine,
Tout sot se laisse errer accueilly de famine.
Homère, que tu tiens si souvent en tes mains,
Que dans ton cerveau creux comme un Dieu tu te peins,
N’eut jamais un liard ; si bien que sa vielle,
Et sa Muse qu’on dit qui eut la voix si belle,
Ne le sceurent nourrir, et falloit que sa faim
D’huis en huis mendiast le miserable pain.
 
 
                                                                         “Leave this cold career, which does not bring to the fore
                                                                          He who above all others is the most skilled;
                                                                          But rather, in that passion he calls divine,
                                                                          All those fools allow themselves to wander in error, welcomed by famine.
                                                                          That Homer you have so often in your hands,
                                                                          Whom you paint as some sort of god in your empty brain,
                                                                          Never had a farthing; so much so that his fiddle,
                                                                          And his Muse whom they say had so fair a voice,
                                                                          Could not feed him, and his hunger had
                                                                          To beg from door to door for the wretched pain.
 
Later on, the Sun’s chargers are “haletans de la penible trette” (‘panting from their arduous pulling’); and the fairies dance “à cottes agrafées” (‘their skirts pinned up’). As for Ronsard’s Latin, “Mais cognoissant, helas! que mon cruel destin … ” (‘But recognising, alas, that my cruel fate / Had not made me naturally skilful…).
 
When he arrives at the description of L’Escot’s youth, he says:
 
Toy, L’Escot, dont le nom jusques aux astres vole,
En as bien fait ainsi ; car estant à l’escole,
Jamais on ne te peut ton naturel forcer
Que tousjours avec l’encre on ne te vist tracer
Quelque belle peinture, et ja fait geomettre,
Angles, lignes et poincts sur une carte mettre ;
Puis arrivant ton âge au terme de vingt ans,
Tes esprits courageux ne furent pas contens …
 
 
                                                                          You too, L’Escot, whose name flies high as the stars,
                                                                          Have rightly done the same: for when you were at school
                                                                          They could never compel your nature,
                                                                          So that you could always be seen with ink tracing
                                                                          Some fine painting, or now doing Geometry,
                                                                          Making angles, lines and points upon some sheet;
                                                                          Then when your age arrived at the term of twenty years,
                                                                          Your brave spirits were not content …
 
and later “Toutefois si as-tu suivi ton naturel ” (‘Yet always have you followed your nature’).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Sonnet 32

Standard
Quand en naissant la Dame que j’adore,
De ses beautez vint embellir les cieux,
Le fils de Rhée appella tous les Dieux,
Poure faire d’elle encore une Pandore.
 
Lors Apollon de quatre dons l’honore,
Or’ de ses rais luy façonnant les yeux,
Or’ luy donnant son chant melodieux,
Or’ son oracle et ses beaux vers encore.
 
Mars luy donna sa fiere cruauté,
Venus son ris, Dione sa beauté,
Pithon sa voix, Cerés son abondance,
 
L’Aube ses doits et ses crins deliés,
Amour son arc, Thetis donna ses piés,
Clion sa gloire, et Pallas sa prudence.

 

 
 
 
                                                                      When the lady I love, at her birth,
                                                                      Had just embellished the heavens with her beauty,
                                                                      The son of Rhea called all the gods
                                                                      To make of her a second Pandora.
 
                                                                      So Apollo honoured her with four gifts:
                                                                      Forming her eyes from his rays,
                                                                      Giving her his tuneful song,
                                                                      His prophetic gift, and his beautiful poetry too.
 
                                                                      Mars gave her his proud cruelty,
                                                                      Venus her smile, Dione her beauty,
                                                                      Python his voice, Ceres her fruitfulness,
 
                                                                      Dawn her rosy fingers and unloosed hair,
                                                                      Love his bow; Thetis gave  her feet,
                                                                      Clio her glory and Pallas her good sense.
 
 
Phew! For those of you who don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Greco-Roman myth, the following info on the various gods & goddesses named here might be useful:
 – the ‘son of Rhea’ is Jupiter, king of the gods
 – Pandora famously opened ‘Pandora’s box’ and released evils and illnesses on men – but her name means “gifted with everything”, and it is this meaning Ronsard is using. And the box may perhaps have been one of her gifts (after all, wicked fairies whose invitations are forgotten, but who bring a dangerous gift anyway, is hardly a modern invention.
 – Apollo is god of the Sun (as Phoebus Apollo), of music and poetry, and is the god ‘behind’ Python at the Delphic oracle.
 – Mars is god of war
 – Venus is goddess of love and by extension beauty
 – Dione was the mother of Venus; Blanchemain (below) has ‘Diane’ or Diana, (beautiful) goddess of the hunt
 – Python was the snake-god at Delphi whose voice spoke the ‘Delphic Oracles’
 – Ceres is the corn goddess, the goddess of spring and re-growth
 – Dawn always has the epithet ‘rosy-fingered’ in Homer, which must be what Ronsard refers to here
 – Love is of course Cupid with his bow
 – Thetis is a sea-nymph whose epithet is “silver-footed”
 – Clio is the muse of history, but Ronsard’s reference is more to the meaning of her name – which can mean either to “recount” (as in history) or “to make famous”
 – Pallas is Minerva (Athene in Greece), the goddess of wisdom.
 
 
Apart from substituting the more obvious Diana for the rather obscure Dione, Blanchemain has several minor variants in the first five lines:
 
 
Quand au premier la dame que j’adore
De ses beautez vint embellir les cieux,
Le fils de Rhée appela tous les Dieux,
Poure faire encor d’elle une autre Pandore.
 
Lors Apollon richement la décore, …

 

 
                                                                     When first the lady I love
                                                                     Had just embellished the heavens with her beauty,
                                                                     The son of Rhea called all the gods
                                                                     To make of her another Pandora.
 
                                                                     So Apollo richly decorated her, …