[A] ROBERT GARNIER, Prince des poëtes tragicques. SONNET Tu gravois dans le ciel les victoires de France, Et de nos roys sceptrez ta lyre se paissoit, Quand ce monarque Amour, qu’elle ne cognoissoit, Eut vouloir de luy faire entonner sa puissance. Bruslant de ce desir, une fleche il eslance Que ta jeune poitrine imprudente reçoit ; Puis, comme le travail en flattant te deçoit, Tu te plais à chanter le cruel qui t’offence. Son nom, qui ne rouloit sur le parler françois, Maintenant plus enflé par ta gaillarde voix Remplit l’air estranger de sa fameuse gloire ; Si que luy, amorcé de ce premier honneur, Frappe tous ceux qu’il voit dedans Pegase boire, Pour trouver (mais en vain) encor un tel sonneur. [To] Robert Garnier, prince of tragic poets: You wrote in the heavens the victories of France, And your lyre was nourished by our sceptred kings, When that monarch Love, which it did not recognise, Chose to make it thunder of his power. Burning with this desire, he shot an arrow Which struck your careless youthful breast ; Then, as the work flattered to deceive you, You pleased yourself in singing of the cruel one who struck you. His name, which was not spoken in the French tongue, Now made greater by your cheerful voice Fills foreign air with his renowned glory; So much that he, beginning with this first trophy, Shoots all those whom he sees drinking from the Pegasis, To find (but yet in vain) another such singer. Marty-Laveaux doesn’t print this dedicatory sonnnet to Garnier in his book; so this is Blanchemain’s version. We’ve met Garnier before: Ronsard wrote a series of sonnets to go at the front of Garnier’s own works as they were published; here is one dedicating Amours 2 to him. Garnier responded after Ronsard’s death with a magnificent elegy. Ronsard shows how he takes ideas that many another poet has played with, and re-knits them into a work that is entirely new and fresh – while still managing to flatter and extol the dedicatee! Though Garnier is best known as a tragic poet (as Ronsard’s dedication reminds us), his first published work was the “Plaintes amoureuses” of 1565 – three years before his first tragedy, and written while he was still a 21-year-old law student. (The book has now been lost.) In fact, apart from his “Hymne de la Monarchye” (and his “Elegy to Ronsard”) poetry by Garnier outside his tragedies is still hard to find.
(In fact, even though the latter part of the Elegy has been anthologised over the centuries, and can be found on the web, I’ve been unable to find the original Elegy – as published immediately after Ronsard’s death along with a flood of other poetry in honour of the great man – re-printed in full since the sixteenth century. I feel another post coming on…)
So, in extraordinarily disingenuous fashion, given that du Bellay’s “L’Olive” appeared in 1549 and he himself had written 220 love sonnets in his 1st book of Amours in the early 1550s, Ronsard credits Garnier with introducing love-poetry into France … ! (Let us ignore, for the moment, the love poems not in sonnet form of all the preceding generations of poets, from Saint-Gelais to Marot to Villon to Christine de Pisan to Machaut …. !)