Tag Archives: Neptune

Amours 1.188

En nul endroit, comme a chanté Virgile,
La foy n’est seure, et me l’a fait sçavoir
Ton jeune cœur, mais vieil pour decevoir,
Rompant la sienne en amour si fragile.
Tu ne sçaurois, comme femme inutile,
Assujettir les cœurs à ton pouvoir,
Jouët à vent, flot prompt à s’esmouvoir,
Beauté trop belle en ame trop mobile.
Escoute, Amour, si tu as quelquefois
Haussé ton vol sous le vent de ma voix,
Jamais mon cœur de son cœur ne racointes.
Puisse le Ciel sur sa langue envoyer
Le plus aigu de sa foudre à trois pointes
Pour le payment de son juste loyer.
                                                                            In no place, as Virgil sang,
                                                                            Is faith certain, and your young heart
                                                                            Has made me know this truth – young, but old in deception,
                                                                            Breaking its own [faith] in a love so fragile.
                                                                            You’d know, like a useless woman,
                                                                            How to subject hearts to your power,
                                                                            A plaything for the wind, a stream quick to move,
                                                                            A beauty too fair in a soul too flighty.
                                                                            Hear, Love, if you have sometimes
                                                                            Taken wing, lifted on the breeze of my song,
                                                                            Never re-acquaint my heart with her heart.
                                                                            May Heaven send upon her tongue
                                                                            The sharpest of its thunderbolts, triple-pointed,
                                                                            As payment of what she’s rightly owed.
Virgil, in Aeneid 4, famously talks of “vana fides” (’empty faith’) – I’m not sure he talks about ‘uncertain faith’ (“incerta fides”) – but the accuracy of a semi-quotation is hardly the point here! In line 13, we might also quibble about three-pointed thunderbolts, recalling some strange mix of Neptune’s trident with Jupiter’s thunderbolt; but again that would be missing the point…
More importantly, I have no idea why in line 5 Ronsard chose the epithet “inutile” (‘useless’) – he clearly mean something like ‘skilled in pointless things’, but is this a case of him pushing the vocabulary further, or is it simply a strange word to choose?  It is, at least, a better stab at it than his earlier version:
Tu es vraiment et sotte et mal habile
D’assujettir les cœurs …
                                                                             You are truly foolish and clumsy
                                                                            In subjecting hearts …
Blanchemain’s edition also opens line 9 with one of his ‘fall-back’ exclamations, definitely improved in the later version above:
Helas ! Amour, si tu as quelquefois …
                                                                             Alas, Love, if you have sometimes …

Amours 2:42

Si j’estois Jupiter, Marie, vous seriez
Mon espouse Junon : si j’estois Roy des ondes,
Vous seriez ma Tethys, Roine des eaux profondes,
Et pour vostre maison les ondes vous auriez.
Si la terre estoit mienne, avec moy vous tiendriez
L’empire sous vos mains, dame des terres rondes,
Et dessus un beau Coche en belles tresses blondes
Par le peuple en honneur Deesse vous iriez.
Mais je ne suis pas Dieu, et si ne le puis estre :
Le ciel pour vous servir seulement m’a fait naistre,
De vous seule je prens mon sort avantureux.
Vous estes tout mon bien, mon mal, et ma fortune.
S’il vous plaist de m’aimer, je deviendray Neptune,
Tout Jupiter tour Roy tout riche et tout heureux. 
                                                                            If I were Jupiter, Marie, you would be
                                                                            My wife Juno ; if I were king of the waves,
                                                                            You would be my Tethys, queen of the deep waters
                                                                            And would have as your home the waves ;
                                                                            If the earth were mine, you would hold with me
                                                                            Power in your hands, lady of the round world,
                                                                            And in a fine coach, with your beautiful blonde hair,
                                                                            You would go like a goddess, honoured by the people.
                                                                            But I am not a god, nor can I become one :
                                                                            Heaven had me born only to serve you,
                                                                            From you alone I receive my venturesome fate.
                                                                            You are all my good, my ills, my fortune.
                                                                            If it pleases you to love me, I shall become Neptune,
                                                                            Jupiter entire, and King, and rich, and happy.
Jupiter and Juno as king and queen of heaven are probably familiar; but you (like me) might have tripped over the reference to Tethys. Here, Ronsard goes back to the ‘old’ gods, the Titans: Tethys was the sister and wife of Oceanus, the personification (and ruler) of the seas before the dynastic wars in which the classical (Olympian) gods defeated the Titans from whom they were descended.  There’s a suggestion in the poem that Ronsard may not have been so specific, since at the end where he reflects back the opening stanza, he uses Neptune’s name as if he – being king of the sea – were the (unnamed) consort of Tethys.As you will see below, he confuses the picture further in his earlier version, since there the Ocean is a home not a husband!
Turning then to Blanchemain’s version, we find substantial variants, so much so that it is addressed to a different lady, and 50% of the poem is different! Sinope is the addressee of some 14 (earlier versions of) his poems, later re-addressed in the collected books to Marie. It seems that he had a brief liaison in 1558-9 with ‘Sinope’ (if that was her name). Laumonier explains how Belleau, in his 1560 commentary, makes clear that she and Marie are different people, although after Marie’s death in 1578 Ronsard modified Belleau’s notes to suggest that Sinope was just a nickname for Marie.
We can tell it’s an early poem, incidentally, as he refers to his “bonnet rond”, the sign of the priesthood – an odd thing to find in a love poem, and that is no doubt one reason why the older, wiser, and much more conservative Ronsard changed it…  More disappointingly he also removed the wonderfully erotic image of the final stanza below, and replaced it with a considerably more staid and stately ending we see above. 
Here is the earlier version complete:
Si j’estois Jupiter, Sinope, vous seriez
Mon espouse Junon : si j’estois roy des ondes,
Vous seriez ma Tethys, royne des eaux profondes,
Et pour vostre maison l’Océan vous auriez.
Si la terre estoit mienne, avec moy vous tiendriez
L’empire de la terre aux mammelles fecondes,
Et, dessus une coche en belles tresses blondes,
Par le peuple en honneur deesse vous iriez.
Mais je ne suis pas Dieu, et si ne le puis estre :
Pour telles dignités le ciel ne m’a fait naistre ;
Mais je voudrois avoir changé mon bonnet rond,
Et vous avoir chez moi pour ma chère espousée ;
Tout ainsi que la neige au doux soleil se fond,
Je me fondrois en vous d’une douce rousée.
                                                                            If I were Jupiter, Sinope, you would be
                                                                            My wife Juno ; if I were king of the waves,
                                                                            You would be my Tethys, queen of the deep waters
                                                                            And would have as your home the Ocean ;
                                                                            If the earth were mine, you would hold with me
                                                                            Power over the earth with its fertile breasts,
                                                                            And in a coach, with your beautiful blonde hair,
                                                                            You would go like a goddess, honoured by the people.
                                                                            But I am not a god, nor can I become one :
                                                                            For such honours heaven did not have me born.
                                                                            But I wish I could have exchanged my round priest’s hat
                                                                            And had you in my home as my dear wife ;
                                                                            Just as the snow melts in the soft sunshine,
                                                                            So I would melt into you like the soft dew.

Amours retranch. 2

A ton frere Pâris tu sembles en beauté,
A ta sœur Polyxene en chaste conscience,
A ton frere Helenin en prophete science,
A ton parjure ayeul en peu de loyauté,
A ton père Priam en brave Royauté,
Au viellard Antenor en mielleuse eloquence,
A ta tante Antigone en superbe arrogance,
A ton grand frere Hector en fiere cruauté.
Neptune n’assit onc une pierre si dure
Dedans le mur Troyen, que toy pour qui j’endure
Un million de morts, ny Ulysse vainqueur
N’emplit tant Ilion de feux, de cris, et d’armes,
De souspirs, et de pleurs, que tu combles mon cœur,
Sans l’avoir mérité, de sanglots, et de larmes
                                                                            You are like your brother Paris in beauty,
                                                                            Your sister Polyxena in chaste conscience,
                                                                            Your brother Helenus in prophetic skill,
                                                                            Your perjured grandfather [Laomedon] in faithlessness,
                                                                            Your father Priam in regal pride,
                                                                            Old Antenor in honeyed speech,
                                                                            Your aunt Antigone in magnificent arrogance,
                                                                            Your great brother Hector in proud cruelty.
                                                                            Neptune never placed a stone so hard
                                                                            In Troy’s walls as you, for whom I endure
                                                                            A million deaths, nor did conquering Ulysses
                                                                            Fill Ilium so full of fires, cries, arms,
                                                                            Sighs and laments, as you fill my heart –
                                                                            Which does not deserve it – with sobs and tears.



After that recent poem on reading Homer, another which demonstrates the effect of that reading! It’s possible that the family tree of the royal house of Troy may not be too familiar to you(!) so here’s a very useful quick summary:  several of the names above are highlighted to make navigation easy. The basic assumption is that ‘you’ (=Cassandre) are equivalent to the prophetess Cassandra of Troy.
Many of the references are not just to the characters but to the relevant myths:
 – Paris, so handsome that he was chosen to judge the goddesses’ beauty & gained Helen’s love;
 – Polyxena, whose calm wisdom encouraged Achilles (having captured her) to trust her with the information that led to his death, and who (in Euripides) nobly accepts her death as a sacrifice to Achilles’ ghost;
 – Helenus, Cassandra’s twin and also endowed with prophetic powers;
 – Laomedon, perjured because he persuaded Neptune to build Troy’s great walls (see line 9) but then refused to give the promised reward;
 – Priam, whose pride kept the war going (but who was capable of humbling himself before Achilles, to recover his son Hector’s body, in a truly noble/regal way);
 – Antenor, not a family member but Priam’s closest and wisest advisor (and an advocate for peace in the war);
 – Antigone, whose ‘arrogance’ is the centre of Sophocles’ play as her stubbornness leads to confrontation with the state and general tragedy;
 – Hector, generally considered a noble hero, but who of course has a long list of victims in the Iliad. Generally, Achilles not Hector is seen as the proudly cruel one!
Which leaves us only with the reference to Ulysses, who is responsible for the fall of Troy because he came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse.
Unusually for a poem that has been set aside, there is a variant in Blanchemain’s version at the beginning of the last line:
                          … que tu combles mon cœur,
De brasiers et de morts, de sanglots, et de larmes
                                                                                                    … as you fill my heart
                                                                            With fire and death, with sobs and tears.

Sonnets diverses 1 – to King Henri II


Au Roy Henry II de ce nom    (To King Henry, second of that name)


Je vous donne le Ciel pour vos estrenes, SIRE.
Je ferois à la France, et à vous un grand tort,
A vous, sain et dispos, jeune, gaillard et fort ;
A la France qui seul pour son Roy vous desire ;
De vous donner la Mer : que vous vaudroit l’Empire
Des vagues et des vents ? De vous donner le sort
Qui survint à Pluton, que vous vaudroit le port
De l’Enfer odieux, des trois Mondes le pire ?
La France vous suffit, vous estes estrené :
Vos fils puisnez sont Ducs, Roy vostre fils aisné :
Et vos filles bien tost vous feront le grand-père
D’enfans, qui porteront le Sceptre en divers lieux,
Ainsi doresnavant vous serez dit le Père
Des Rois dont la grandeur vaut bien celle des Dieux
                                                                            If I give you the heavens as your new-year’s gift, Sire,
                                                                            I would do France and you a great wrong:
                                                                            You, as you are healthy and fit, young, merry and strong;
                                                                            France, as it wants you alone for its King.
                                                                            If I gave you the sea, what use to you would be the rule
                                                                            Of its waves and winds? If I gave you the lot
                                                                            Which fell to Pluto, what use to you would be the harbour
                                                                            Of hateful Hell, the worst of the three worlds?
                                                                            France is enough for you; there, that is your gift:
                                                                            Your younger children are Dukes, your eldest a King;
                                                                            And your daughters will soon make you the grandfather
                                                                            Of children who will bear the Sceptre in various places;
                                                                            And hereafter you will be called the Father
                                                                            Of Kings, whose greatness is like that of the gods.



A couple of notes:  Pluto was alloted Hades, while Jupiter got the heavens and Neptune the seas to rule.  Ronsard alludes to all three in the opening stanzas. In line 10, the ‘eldest child’ is Francis, later Francis II of France briefly, who at the time was King Consort of Scotland through his marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots (there is a beautiful double-portrait in Catherine de Medici’s book of hours.) . His death at the end of 1560 left her (briefly Queen Consort of France) a widow still in her teens, and free to pursue the chaotic course of her Scottish career with Darnley and Bothwell.
There is one small but significant difference in Blanchemain’s version, at the very beginning:  “De vous donner le ciel …”. He obviously changed it to avoid beginning the 2 quatrains with the same words. But the change was not a great one otherwise: while the original opening (“De vous donner le ciel …”) clearly means ‘If I gave you the heavens…’, I have been a little naughty in translating the revised version (“Je vous donne…”) the same way. In fact, it seems to me that grammatically the new version should be saying something like:  ‘I give you the heavens, Sire. I would be doing you & France wrong to give you the sea.’ But that upsets the balance of the quatrains as well as making lines 5-6 mostly repetition. So I think we have to read Ronsard’s new version as saying ‘I give you the heavens. (But no – ) I would be doing you & France a great wrong…”
I have put this in the Sonnets diverses – which is where Blanchemain prints it – though Marty-Laveaux includes it among the various “sonnets retranchées” in his final volume.




De la defloration de Lede (Odes 3:20)


Time for one of Ronsard’s longer poems, I think! This is one of his mythological extravaganzas, and its topic is the ‘Defloration of Leda’ – it is dedicated to Cassandre(!)

Ronsard divides it into 3 ‘pauses’ or parts; and there are two alternative openings (the later 1587 one printed by Blanchemain in a footnote). For simplicity I’ve shown the two at the beginning of the poem. I’ve also added a number of ‘footnotes’, indicated in the text to make it easier to locate them.

Premier pause
Le cruel Amour, vainqueur
De ma vie, sa sujette,
M’a si bien écrit au cœur
Votre nom de sa sagette,
Que le temps, qui peut casser
Le fer et la pierre dure,
Ne le sauroit effacer
Qu’en moi vivant il ne dure.
[alternative opening (1587) :
Amour, dont le traict vainqueur
Fait en mon sang sa retraite,
M’a si bien escrit au cœur
Le nom de ma Cassandrette,
Que le tombeau mange-chair,
Logis de la pourriture,
Ne pourra point arracher
De mon cœur sa pourtraiture.]
Mon luth, qui des bois oyans
Souloit alléger les peines,
Las ! de mes yeux larmoyans
Ne tarit point les fontaines ;
Et le soleil ne peut voir,
Soit quand le jour il apporte,
Ou quand il se couche au soir,
Une autre douleur plus forte.
Mais vostre cœur obstiné,
Et moins pitoyable encore
Que l’Ocean mutine
Qui baigne la rive more,
Ne prend mon service à gré,
Ains d’immoler envie
Le mien, à luy consacré
Des premiers ans de ma vie.
Jupiter, espoinçonné
De telle amoureuse rage,
A jadis abandonné
Et son trône et son orage ;
Car l’œil qui son cœur estraint,
Comme estraints ores nous sommes
Ce grand seigneur a contraint
De tenter l’amour des hommes.
Impatient du desir
Naissant de sa flame esprise,
Se laissa d’amour saisir,
Comme une despouille prise.
Puis il a, bras, teste et flanc,
Et sa poitrine cachée
Sous un plumage plus blanc
Que le laict sur la jonchée.
Et son col mit un carcan
Avec une chaîne où l’œuvre
Du laborieux Vulcan
Admirable se descœuvre.
D’or en estoient les cerceaux,
Piolez d’émail ensemble.
A l’arc qui note les eaux
Ce bel ouvrage ressemble.
L’or sur la plume reluit
D’une semblable lumiere
Que le clair œil de la nuit
Dessus la neige premiere.
Il fend le chemin des cieux
Par un voguer de ses ailes,
Et d’un branle spatieux
Tire ses rames nouvelles.
Comme l’aigle fond d’en haut,
Ouvrant l’espais de la nue,
Sur l’aspic qui leche au chaud
Sa jeunesse revenue,
Ainsi le cygne voloit
Contre-bas, tant qu’il arrive
Dessus l’estang où souloit
Jouer Lede sur la rive.
Quand le ciel eut allumé
Le beau jour par les campagnes,
Elle au bord accoustumé
Mena jouer ses compagnes ;
Et, studieuse des fleurs
En sa main un pannier porte
Peint de diverse couleurs
Et peint de diverse sorte.
Seconde pause
D’un bout du pannier s’ouvroit,
Entre cent nues dorées,
Une aurore qui couvroit
Le ciel de fleurs colorées ;
Ses cheveux vagoient errans,
Souflez du vent des narines
Des prochains chevaux tirans
Le soleil des eaux marines.
Comme au ciel il fait son tour
Par sa voye courbe et torte,
Il tourne tout a l’entour
De l’anse en semblable sorte.
Les nerfs s’enflent aux chevaux
Et leur puissance indontée
Se lasse sous les travaux
De la penible montée.
La mer est peinte plus bas,
L’eau ride si bien sur elle,
Qu’un pescheur ne nieroit pas
Qu’elle ne fust naturelle.
Ce soleil tombant au soir
Dedans l’onde voisine entre
A chef bas se laissant cheoir
Jusqu’au fond de ce grand ventre.
Sur le sourci d’un rocher
Un pasteur le loup regarde,
Qui se haste d’approcher,
Du couard peuple qu’il garde ;
Mais de cela ne luy chaut,
Tant un limas luy agrée,
Qui lentement monte au haut
D’un lis au bas de la prée.
Un satyre tout follet,
Larron, en folastrant tire
La panetiere et le laict
D’un autre follet satyre.
L’un court après tout ireux,
L’autre defend sa despouille,
Le laict se verse sur eux,
Qui sein et menton leur souille.
Deux beliers qui se heurtoient
Le haut de leurs testes dures
Pourtraits aux deux bords estoient
Pour la fin de ses peintures.
Tel pannier en ses mains mist
Lede, qui sa troupe excelle,
Le jour qu’un oiseau la fist
Femme en lieu d’une pucelle.
L’une arrache d’un doigt blanc
Du beau Narcisse les larmes,
Et la lettre teinte au sang
Du Grec marry pour les armes.
De crainte l’œillet vermeil
Pallist entre ces pillardes,
Et la fleur que toy, Soleil,
Des cieux encor tu regardes.
A l’envi sont jà cueillis
Les verds tresors de la plaine,
Les bassinets et les lis,
La rose et la marjolaine,
Quand la vierge dit ainsi,
De son destin ignorante :
« De tant de fleurs que voicy
Laissons la proye odorante.
« Allons, troupeau bien-heureux,
Que j’aime d’amour naïve,
Ouyr l’oiseau douloureux
Qui se plaint sur nostre rive. »
Et elle, en hastant le pas,
Fuit par l’herbe d’un pied vite ;
Sa troupe ne la suit pas,
Tant sa carriere est subite ;
Du bord luy tendit la main,
Et l’oiseau, qui tressaut d’aise,
S’en approche tout humain,
Et le blanc yvoire baise.
Ores l’adultere oiseau,
Au bord par les fleurs se joue,
Et ores au haut de l’eau
Tout mignard près d’elle noue.
Puis, d’une gaye façon,
Courbe au dos l’une et l’autre aile,
Et au bruit de sa chanson
Il apprivoise la belle.
La nicette en son giron
Reçoit les flammes secrettes,
Faisant tout à l’environ
Du cygne un lict de fleurettes.
Luy, qui fut si gracieux,
Voyant son heure opportune,
Devint plus audacieux,
Prenant au poil la fortune.
De son col comme ondes long
Le sein de la vierge touche,
Et son bec luy mit adonc
Dedans sa vermeille bouche.
Il va ses ergots dressant
Sur les bras d’elle qu’il serre,
Et de son ventre pressant
Contraint la rebelle à terre.
Sous l’oiseau se debat fort,
Le pince et le mord, si est-ce
Qu’au milieu de tel effort
Ell’ sent ravir sa jeunesse.
Le cinabre çà et là
Couloura la vergongneuse.
A la fin elle parla
D’une bouche desdaigneuse :
« D’où es-tu, trompeur volant ?
D’où viens-tu, qui as l’audace
D’aller ainsi violant
Les filles de noble race ? 
« Je cuidois ton cœur, helas !
Semblable à l’habit qu’il porte,
Mais (hè pauvrette ! ) tu l’as,
A mon dam, d’une autre sorte.
O ciel ! qui mes cris entens,
Morte puissé-je estre enclose
Là bas, puis que mon printemps
Est despouillé de sa rose !
« Plustost vien pour me manger,
O veufve tigre affamèe,
Que d’un oiseau estranger
Je sois la femme nommée. »
Ses membres tombent peu forts,
Et dedans la mort voisine
Ses yeux jà nouoient, alors
Que luy respondit le cygne :
Troisiesme pause
« Vierge, dit-il, je ne suis
Ce qu’à me voir il te semble ;
Plus grande chose je puis
Qu’un cygne à qui je ressemble :
Je suis le maistre des cieux,
Je suis celuy qui desserre
Le tonnerre audacieux
Sur les durs flancs de la terre.
« La contraignante douleur
Du tien, plus chaud, qui m’allume,
M’a fait prendre la couleur
De ceste non mienne plume.
Ne te va donc obstinant
Contre l’heur de ta fortune :
Tu seras incontinant
La belle-sœur de Neptune,
« Et si tu pondras deux œufs
De ma semence feconde,
Ainçois deux triomphes neufs,
Futurs ornemens du monde.
L’un deux jumeaux esclorra :
Pollux, vaillant à l’escrime,
Et son frere, qu’on loûra
Pour des chevaliers le prime ;
« Dedans l’autre germera
La beauté, au ciel choisie,
Pour qui un jour s’armera
L’Europe contre l’Asie. »
A ces mots, elle consent,
Recevant telle avanture,
Et jà de peu à peu sent
Haute eslever sa ceinture.
Cruel Love, conqueror
Of my life, his subject,
Has written so well in my heart
Your name with his arrow
That time, which can break
Iron and hard stone,
Could not wipe it away
Such that it will not last in me while alive.
Love, whose conquering dart
Has made its home in my blood,
Has so well written in my heart
The name of my little Cassandre
That the flesh-eating tomb,
Where decay lives,
Could not take any part
From my heart of her portrait.
My lute, which is accustomed
To lessening the woes of the listening woods,
Alas, dries not the fountains
Of my weeping eyes;
And the sun cannot see,
Either when he brings the day
Or when he goes to bed at night,
Any other grief more strong.
But your stubborn heart,
Less pitiful still
Than the unruly ocean
Which bathes the Moorish coast,
Does not like my service,
But wants to sacrifice
My own, consecrated to it
From the earliest years of my life.
Jupiter, excited
By a similar passionate love,
Once abandoned
His throne and his storm;
For his eye, which compelled his heart
As sometimes our hearts are compelled,
Compelled this great lord
To try a human love.
Impatient with the desire
Growing from his love-struck flame,
He gave himself over to love
Like the captured spoils of war.
Then his arms, head and flanks
And his breast he head
Beneath a plumage whiter
Than milk on scattered rushes.
And his neck wore a collar
With a chain, on which the work
Of hard-working Vulcan
Could be seen and admired.
The hoops were of gold
Together with enamel of many colours.
The bow which the waters draw
This lovely piece of work resembled.
Gold shone out on his feathers
With a light like
The bright eye of the night
On a first snow.
He cleaved his path through the heavens
With the sail of his wings,
And with a measured beat
He pulled his new oarage.
As the eagle swoops from on high,
Making an opening in the thick clouds,
Upon the asp which, in the heat, licks
Its recovered youthfulness;1
So the swan flew
Down here to arrive
Upon the pool where Leda
Was accustomed to play on the bank.
When fair day had lit
The sky over the fields,
She led her companions to play
On the usual bank
And fascinated by flowers
She bore in her hand a basket
Painted in many colours
And painted many ways.
On one end of the basket was shown2
Amidst a hundred golden clouds
A Dawn which covered
The sky with colourful flowers;
Her waving hair flying,
Blown by the breath from the nostrils
Of the nearby horses drawing
The sun from the waters of the sea.3
As it makes its journey in the heavens
On its curved, twisting route,
It turns entirely around
The handle [of the basket] in a similar way;
The sinews on the horses swell
And their undaunted power
Tires under the labours
Of the arduous climb.
The sea is painted below,
The water ripples so well on it
That a fisherman would not deny
That it was natural;
And the sun sinking at evening
Into the waves beside, goes in
With head lowered, letting itself fall
Right to the bottom of its great belly.
On the brow of a rock
A shepherd watches a wolf
Which hastens to get near
The cowardly race which he guards;
But he cares not about that
So much he is amused by a snail
That slowly climbs to the top
Of a lily, at the bottom of the meadow.
A frolicking satyr,
A thief, as he frolics steals
A basket and milk
From another frolicking satyr;
The one runs after him, utterly livid,
The other defends his spoils,
The milk gets tipped over them
And soils their breasts and chins.
Two rams crashing together
The tops of their hard heads
Shown at the two edges were
The last of its pictures.
Such was the basket which Leda took
In her hands, she who outshines her followers,
On the day when a bird would make her
A woman instead of a maid.
One [of the ladies] picked with her white fingers
The tears of fair Narcissus,
And the letters painted by the blood
Of the Greek distraught over the armour. 4
In fear the pink carnation
Pales amidst these looters,
And so too the flower which you, o Sun,
Still watch over from the heavens.
As competitively they were picking
The green treasures of the plain,
The buttercup and lily,
The rose and marjoram,
The maid spoke thus,
Ignorant of her fate:
“Leave your perfumed prey,
The flowers that are so many here.
Come, my happy band
Whom I love with an artless love,
Come and hear the sad bird
Who laments upon our riverbank.”
And she, hurrying her steps,
Ran through the grass with quick feet;
Her band did not follow,
So sudden was her flight.
On the bank, she held out her hand to it
And the bird, which was fidgeting with pleasure,
Approached her, entirely like a man,
And kissed her white ivory.
Sometimes the false bird 5
Played on the bank amidst the flowers,
Sometimes on top of the water
It swam, all daintily, near her.
Then in a jolly fashion
It curved both wings over its back,
And with the sound of its singing
It tamed the fair maid.
The silly girl felt
His hidden fire in her lap,
Making all around
The swan little flowers of light.
He, from being so gracious,
As he saw his opportune moment
Became more daring,
Going with fortune’s flow.
With long waves of his neck
He touched the maid’s breast
And then placed his beak
Within her crimson mouth.
Putting his spurs upon
The arms of her he grasped,
And pressing down with his belly,
He forced her, unwilling, to the ground.
Beneath the swan she fought hard,
Pinching and biting him, yet it was
That in the midst of her efforts
She felt her youth stolen away.
Cinnabar here and there
Coloured the shamed lass.
In the end she spoke
In a disdainful voice:
“Where are you from, you flying deceiver?
Where do you come from, who dare
To go around thus raping
Girls of noble race?
I thought your heart, alas,
Was like the colours you wear,
But – poor me! – you have one
Of another sort, to my destruction.
O heavens, who hear my cries,
I would rather be dead and shut up
Down below, since my springtime
Has been stripped of its rose!
Rather come and eat me,
Some hungry widowed tigress,
Than that I should be called the wife
Of some unknown bird.”
Her limbs fell strengthless
And her eyes were already swimming
In death, her neighbout, when
The swan replied thus to her:
“Maiden,” he said, “I am not
What I seem to you as you see me;
Greater things can I do
Than the swan I appear;
I am the master of the heavens,
I am he who looses
The insolent thunderbolts
Upon the hard flanks of the earth.
A painful compulsion
For your warmer [colour], which excites me,
Made me take on the colour
Of these feathers which are not mine.
So do not go on complaining
About the misfortune of your fate;
You will forthwith be
Neptune’s sister-in-law,
And so you will lay two eggs
From my fruitful seed,
And with them two new triumphs,
Future ornaments of the world.
One will disclose two twins:
Pollux, valiant in the swordfight,
And his brother who will be praised
As the finest of horsemen;
Within the other will grow
The beauty, chosen for heaven,
For whom one day Europe
Will take arms against Asia.”
At these words, she accepted,
Gaining such an outcome,
And then little by little felt
Her belt rising higher.
 1 i.e. its new skin after shedding the old2 the description of what is painted on the basket, which fills the remainder of the poem, is a gentle parody of the descriptions of heroes’ shields in Homer and Virgil.

3 i.e. the sun’s chariot, pulled by fiery horses, rising from the sea at dawn

4 the narcissus grew from the tears of Narcissus; the ‘flower of Ajax’ [perhaps a fritillary (lily) or a larkspur] grew from the blood spilled at his suicide on failing to win the arms of Achilles, and the Greeks read its markings as the letters AI (= ‘ah, woe!’)

5 the French word means both ‘fake’ and ‘adulterous’; ‘false’ carries something of the same effect in English

 Those unfamiliar with the myth – which was a major source of inspiration to Renaissance artists – should glance at Wikipedia, or this indicative set of images! The reference in the last stanza is to Helen of Troy.

« La Trophée d’Amour » (from Mascarades)


« La Trophée d’Amour », the Trophy (or monument) of Love, is dedicated “à la Comedie de Fontaine-bleau” (‘to the Comedy [Theatre] at Fontainebleau’). It’s a light-hearted portrait of Cupid.


Je suis Amour le grand maistre des Dieux,
Je suis celuy qui fait mouvoir les Cieux,
Je suis celuy qui gouverne le monde,
Qui le premier hors de la masse esclos
Donnay lumiere et fendis le Chaos
Dont fut basti ceste machine ronde.
Rien ne sçauroit à mon arc resister,
Rien ne pourroit mes fleches eviter,
Et enfant nud je fais toujours la guerre :
Tout m’obeyst, les oiseaux esmaillez,
Et de la mer les poissons escaillez,
Et les mortels heritiers sur la terre.
La paix, la tréve, et la guerre me plaist,
Du sang humain mon appetit se paist,
Et volontiers je m’abreuve de larmes :
Les plus hautains sont pris à mon lien,
Le corselet au soldart ne sert rien
Et le harnois ne defend les gend’armes.
Je tourne et change et renverse et desfais
Ce que je veux, et puis je le refais,
Et de mon feu toute ame est eschaufée :
Je suis de tous le Seigneur et le Roy :
Rois et Seigneurs vont captifs devant moy,
Et de leurs cœurs j’enrichis mon trofée.
De Jupiter le Sçeptre j’ay donté,
Jusqu’aux enfers j’ai Pluton surmonté,
Et de Neptune ay blessé la poitrine :
De rien ne sert aux ondes la froideur,
Que les Tritons ne sentent mon ardeur,
Et que mon feu n’embrase la marine.
La Volupté, la Jeunesse me suit,
L’oisiveté en pompe me conduit,
Je suis aveugle, et si ay bonne veuë,
Je suis enfant et suis pere des Dieux,
Foible, puissant, superbe, gracieux,
Et sans viser je frappe à l’imporveüe.
L’homme est de plomb, de rocher et de bois
Qui n’a senti les traits de mon carquois :
Seul je le fais et courtois et adestre :
Les cœurs sans moi languissent refroidis,
Je les rends chauds, animez et hardis,
Et bref je suis de toute chose maistre.
Qui ne me voit, au monde ne voit rien :
Je suis du mondeet le mal et le bien,
Je suis le doux et l’amer tout ensemble,
Je n’ay patron ny exemple que moy,
Je suis mon tout, ma puissance et ma loy,
Et seulement à moi seul je ressemble.
I am Love, great master of the gods,
I am he who makes the heavens move,
I am he who rules the world,
Who first, blossoming from the masses,
Gave light and split Chaos apart,
By whom this round engine [the world] was built.
None can resist my bow,
None can avoid my arrows,
And always as a naked child I make war;
Everyone obeys me – the glittering birds,
The scaly fish in the sea,
And the mortals who’ve inherited the earth.
Peace, truce and war please me,
With human blood is my appetite satisfied,
And I happily drink my fill of tears;
The haughtiest are caught in my bonds,
A breastplate is no use to the soldier
Nor can armour defend the man-at-arms.
I twist and change, reverse and undo
Whatever I want, and then re-do it;
With my fire every soul is warmed.
I am the lord and king of all men,
Kings and lords go captive before me
And with their hearts I enrich my monument.
I have subdued Jupiter’s sceptre,
I’ve overcome Pluto in Hades,
I’ve wounded Neptune’s breast,
The cold of the waves is no use
To keep the Tritons from feeling my warmth,
And my fire from burning the sea.
Pleasure and Youth follow me;
Idleness escorts me in procession;
I am blind yet I see well,
I am a child yet I am the father of the gods,
Weak and powerful, proud and gracious,
Without aiming I strike unexpectedly
The man is made of lead, stone, or wood
Who has not felt wounds from my quiver,
I alone make them, both courteous and skilful;
Without me, hearts languish, frozen;
I make them hot, excited and bold,
And in brief I am master of all.
He who cannot see me in the world, sees nothing;
I am the good and bad in the world,
The sweet and the bitter together;
I have no boss, no example but myself;
I am all I need, my own power and my own law,
And I resemble only myself.
Minor variants only in Blanchemain:  at the end of the fourth stanza, he has
Je suis de tout le Seigneur et le Roy :
Rois et Seigneurs vont captifs devant moy,
Et de leurs cœurs je bastis mon trofée.
                                                                                           I am the lord and king of all things,
                                                                                           Kings and lords go captive before me
                                                                                           And from their hearts I build my monument.


and a couple of stanzas from the end he has the line “Foible et puissant, superbe et gracieux”, which has a subtly different weight.

Sonnet 105

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…’)