Tag Archives: Ovid

Garnier’s tribute to Ronsard

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It is SO long since I posted anything here: I hope to get going again & finish off Helen 2 at least. Meanwhile, it felt right to include Garnier’s tribute to the dead Ronsard – not least because my own attempt to preserve his memory has faltered …

This elegy was originally published in Binet’s memorial volume, Discours de la Vie de Pierre de Ronsard, in 1586. It was picked up and anthologised in 1778, in volume 8 of the Annales poétiques, ou Almanach des Muses, after which it reappeared several times elsewhere, copied from that anthology,and can now be found in several places on the web. But the 1778 anthologisers quietly abbreviated Garnier’s text – removing approximately 50% of it! So the versions found elsewhere are likewise abbreviated and I think this is the first time the full original text has been reproduced online.

Elégie sur le trespas de feu Monsieur de Ronsard
 
A monsieur des Portes Abbé de Thiron
 
 
Nature est aux humains sur tous autres cruelle,
On ne voit animaux
En la terre et au ciel, ny en l’onde infidele,
Qui souffrent tant de maux.
 
Le rayon eternel de l’essence divine,
Qu’en naissant nous avons,
De mille passions noz tristes jours épine
Tandis que nous vivons :
 
Et non pas seulement vivants il nous torture,
Mais nous blesse au trespas,
Car pour prevoir la mort, elle nous est plus dure
Qu’elle ne seroit pas.
 
Si tost que nostre esprit dans le cerveau raisonne,
Nous l’alons redoutant,
Et sans cette frayeur que la raison nous donne,
On ne la craindroit tant.
 
Nous creignons de mourir, de perdre la lumiere
Du Soleil radieus,
Nous creignons de passer sur les ais d’une biere
Le fleuve stygieus.
 
Nous creignons de laisser noz maisons delectables,
Noz biens et noz honneurs,
Ces belles dignitez, qui nous font venerables
Remarquer des seigneurs.
 
Les peuples des forests, de l’air et des rivieres,
Qui ne voyent si loing,
Tombent journellement aux mortelles pantieres
Sans se gesner de soing.
 
Leur vie est plus heureuse, et moins sujette aus peines,
Et encombres divers,
Que nous souffrons chetifs en noz ames humaines,
De desastres couverts.
 
Ores nous poind l’amour, Tyran de la jeunesse,
Ores l’avare faim
De l’or injurieus, qui fait que chacun laisse
La vertu pour le gain.
 
Cetuy-cy se tourmente apres les grandeurs vaines,
Enflé d’ambition,
De cetuy-la l’envie empoisonne les veines
Cruelle passion.
 
La haine, le courroux, le depit, la tristesse,
L’outrageuse rancœur,
Et la tendre pitié du foeble qu’on oppresse,
Nous bourellent le cœur.
 
Et voila nostre vie, ô miserables hommes !
Nous semblons estre nez
Pour estre, cependant qu’en ce monde nous sommes,
Tousjours infortunez.
 
Et enquore, où le ciel en une belle vie
Quelque vertus enclost,
La chagrineuse mort qui les hommes envye
Nous la pille aussi tost.
 
Ainsi le verd email d’une riante prée
Est soudain effacé,
Ainsi l’aymable teint d’une rose pourprée
Est aussi tost passé.
 
La jeunesse de l’an n’est de longue durée,
Mais l’Hyver aux dois gours,
Et l’Esté embruny de la torche etherée
Durent [orig : durant] presque toujours.
 
Mais las ! ô doux Printems, vostre verdeur fanie
Retourne en mesme point,
Mais quand nostre jeunesse une fois est finie
Elle ne revient point.
 
La vieillesse nous prend maladive et facheuse,
Hostesse de la mort,
Qui pleins de mal nous pousse en une tombe creuse
D’où jamais on ne sort.
 
Des Portes, que la Muse honore et favorise
Entre tous ceux qui ont
Suivy le saint Phebus, et sa science aprise
Dessur le double mont.
 
Vous voyez ce Ronsard, merveilles de nostre age,
L’honneur de l’Univers,
Paitre de sa chair morte, inevitable outrage,
Une source de vers.
 
De rien vostre Apollon, ny les Muses pucelles
Ne luy ont profité,
Bien qu’ils eussent pour luy les deux croppes jumelles
De Parnasse quitté :
 
Et qu’ils eust conduits aux accords de sa Lire
Dans ce François sejour,
Pour chanter de noz Roys, et leurs victoires dire,
Ou sonner de l’amour.
 
C’est grand cas, que ce Dieu, qui des enfance l’aime,
Afranchit du trespas
Ses divines chansons, et que le chantre mesme
N’en affranchisse pas.
 
Vous en serez ainsi : car bien que vostre gloire,
Espandue en tous lieux,
Ne descende estoufée en une tombe noire
Comme un peuple otieux,
 
Et que voz sacrez vers, qui de honte font taire
Les plus grands du metier,
Nous facent choir des mains, quand nous en cuidons faire,
La plume et le papier.
 
Si verres vous le fleuve où tout le monde arrive,
Et payrez le denier
Que prend pour nous passer jusques à l’autre rive
L’avare Nautonnier.
 
Que ne ressemblons nous aus vagueuses rivieres
Qui ne changent de cours ?
Ou au branle eternel des ondes marinieres
Qui reflotent toujours ?
 
Et n’est-ce pas pitié, que ces roches pointues,
Qui semblent depiter,
De vents, de flots, d’oraige, et de foudres batues,
L’ire de Jupiter,
 
Vivent incessament, incessament demeurent
Dans leurs membres pierreux,
Et que des hommes, tels que ce grand Ronsard, meurent
Par un sort rigoureux ?
 
O destin lamentable ! un homme qui approche
De la divinité
Est ravy de ce monde, et le front d’une roche
Dure un eternité.
 
Qui pourra desormais d’une alaine assez forte
Entonner comme il faut
La gloir de mon Roy, puisque la muse est morte
Qui le chantoit si haut ?
 
Qui dira ses combats ? ses batailles sanglantes ?
Quand jeune, Duc d’Anjou,
De sa main foudroya les troupes protestantes
Aux plaines de Poictou ?
 
Des portes qui sera-ce ? une fois vostre Muse,
Digne d’estre en son lieu,
Fuyant l’honneur profane aujourdhuy ne s’amuse
Qu’au loüanges de Dieu.
 
Et qui sera-ce donc ? quelle voix suffisante,
Pour sonner gravement
Joyeuse nostre Achil, dont la gloire naissante
S’acroist journellement ?
 
Qui dira son courage, indomtable à la peine,
Indomtable à la peur,
Et comme il appareille avec une ame humaine
Un magnanime cœur ?
 
Comme il est de l’honneur, du seul honneur avare,
D’autres biens liberal,
Cherissant un chacun, fors celuy qui s’egare
Du service royal ?
 
Ne permette Clion et Phebus ne permette
Que Ronsard abattu
Par l’ennuyeuse mort, ne se treuve Poëte
Qui chante sa vertu.
 
Adieu, mon cher Ronsard, l’abeille en vostre tombe
Face tousjour son miel,
Que le baume Arabic à tout jamais y tombe,
Et la manne du ciel.
 
Le Laurier y verdisse avec le lierre
Et le Mirthe amoureus,
Riche en mille boutons, de toutes parts l’enserre
Le Rosier odoreus :
 
Le tin, le baselic, la franche Marguerite,
Et nostre Lis François,
Et cette rouge fleur, où la pleinte est escrite
Du malcontent Gregeois.
 
Les Nymphes de Gâtine, et les Nayades sainctes,
Qui habitent le Loir,
Le venant arroser de larmettes epreintes,
Ne cessent de douloir.
 
Las ! Cloton a tranché le fil de vostre vie
D’une piteuse main,
La voyant de vieillesse et de goutes suyvie,
Torturage inhumain.
 
Voyant la povre France en son corps outragee
Par le sanglant effort
De ses enfans, qui l’ont tant de foys ravagee,
Soupirer à la mort :
 
Le Souysse aguerry, qui aus combats se loüe,
L’Anglois fermé de flots,
Ceux qui boivent le Pau, le Tage et la Danoüe,
Fondre dessus son dos.
 
Ainsi que le Vautour, qui de griffes bourelles
Va sans fin tirassant
De Promethé le foye, en patures nouvelles
Coup sur coup renaissant.
 
Les meurtres inhumains se font entre les freres,
Spectacle plein d’horreur,
Et deja les enfans courent contre leurs peres
D’une aveugle fureur :
 
Le cœur des Citoyens se remplit de furies,
Les Paysans ecartez
Meurent comme une haye : on ne voit que turies
Par les chams desertez.
 
Et puis alez chanter l’honneur de nostre France
En siecles si maudits,
Attendez-vous qu’aucun vos labeurs recompense
Comme on faisait jadis ?
 
La triste povreté noz chansons accompaigne,
La Muse, les yeus bas,
Se retire de nous, voyant que lon dedaigne
Ses antiques ebats.
 
Vous estes donque heureus, et vostre mort heureuse,
O Cigne des François,
Ne lamentez que nous, dont la vie ennuyeuse
Meurt le jour mile fois.
 
Vous errez maintenant aux campaignes d’Elise,
A l’ombre des Vergers,
Où chargent en tout tems, asseurez de la Bise,
Les jaunes Orengers :
 
Où les prez sont toujours tapissez de verdure,
Les vignes de raisins,
Et les petits oyseaus, gasoüillans au murmure
Des ruisseaus cristalins.
 
Là le Cedre gommeus odoreusement sue,
Et l’arbre du Liban,
Et l’Ambre, et Myrrhe, au lit de son Pere receüe,
Pleure le long de l’an.
 
En grand’ foule acourus, autour de vous se pressent
Les heros anciens,
Qui boyvent le nectar, d’ambrosie se paissent,
Aux bords Elisiens :
 
Sur tous le grand Eumolpe, et le divin Orphee,
Et Line, et Amphion,
Et Musee, et celuy, dont la plume eschauffee
Mist en cendre Ilion.
 
Le loüengeur Thebain, le chantre de Mantoüe,
Le Lyrique latin,
Et aveques Seneque, honneur grand de Cordoüe,
L’amoureus Florentin :
 
Tous vont battant des mains, sautellent de liesse,
S’entredisant entre eux,
Voyla celuy, qui donte et l’Itale et la Grece
En poëmes nombreus :
 
L’un vous donne sa lyre, et l’au[t]re sa trompette,
L’autre vous veut donner
Son Myrthe, son Lierre, ou son Laurier profette,
Pour vous en couronner.
 
Ainsi vivez heureuse, ame toute divine,
Tandis que le destin
Nous reserve aus malheurs de la France, voysine
De sa derniere fin.
 
Elegy on the death of the late M.de Ronsard
 
To M. Desportes, abbot of Thiron
 
 
Nature is to men above all others cruel,
We do not see animals
On earth or in the skies, or in the treacherous seas,
Suffering so many ills.
 
The eternal ray of the divine essence
Which we receive at birth
With a hundred passions troubles our sad days
While we live.
 
And not only while we live does it torture us,
But injures us at our death,
For foreseeing death is to us harder
Than the event itself will be.
 
As soon as our spirit reasons within our brains,
We begin to fear it,
And without this terror which reason gives us
We would not be so frightened of it.
 
We are frightened of dying, of losing the light
Of the radiant Sun,
We are frightened of crossing, on the planks of a bier,
The Stygian river;
 
We are frightened of leaving our delightful homes,
Our goods and our honours,
Those fine dignities which make us respected
And noticed by lords.
 
The inhabitants of the forests, the air and the rivers
Who do not see so far,
Fall daily to death-dealing snares
Without troubling themselves with worries.
 
Their life is happier, and less subject to the troubles
And various burdens
Which we weakly suffer in our human souls,
Overcome by disasters.
 
Sometimes love afflicts us, that tyrant of our youth,
Sometimes the greedy hunger
For harmful gold, which makes everyone abandon
Virtue for gain.
 
This man torments himself seeking empty greatness,
Puffed up with ambition,
That man’s veins are poisoned by envy,
That cruel passion.
 
Hatred, anger, spite, sorrow,
Hurtful bitterness,
And tender pity for the weak who are oppressed
Bubble away in our hearts.
 
And that’s our life, o wretched men!
We seem to be born
To be, while we are in this world,
Always unfortunate.
 
And even when heaven includes
Some happiness in a good life,
Sorrowful death which envies men
Steals it from us soon enough.
 
Just so the fresh mosaic of a gay meadow
Is suddenly wiped away,
Just so the lovely tint of a crimson rose
Is soon enough past.
 
The year’s youth does not last long,
But Winter with his stiff fingers
And Summer scorched by the heavenly flame
Last almost forever.
 
Alas, sweet Spring, your faded freshness
Returns to the same state [each year]
But when once our youth is finished
It does not return.
 
Old age takes us, sickly and disagreeable,
Death’s hostess,
And, full of ills, pushes us into a dug grave
From which none ever escapes.
 
Desportes, whom the Muse honours and favours
Among all those of us who have
Followed holy Apollo and learned his wisdom
Upon the double mount:
 
You see this Ronsard, the marvel of our age,
The glory of the world,
Feeding with his dead flesh – an inescapable indignity –
A stream of worms.
 
Nothing have your Apollo and his maiden Muses
Profited him,
Although for him they abandoned
The twin mounts of Parnassus,
 
And although they have spent time, to the harmonies of his lyre,
In this France of ours,
To sing of our Kings and announce their victories,
Or to celebrate love.
 
It’s very clear that the god who loved him from infancy
Excepted from death
His divine songs, and yet could not except from it
The singer himself.
 
It will be the same for you: for although your glory,
Spreading to every place,
Will not descend, smothered, into a dark tomb
Like unproductive folk’s,
 
And though your sacred verse, which for shame makes
The greatest in the business fall silent,
Makes the pen and paper fall from our hands,
When we wish to use them:
 
Yet still you will see the river where every man arrives,
And you will pay the penny
Which the greedy Boatman takes
That we may pass to the other side.
 
Why are we not like the rippling waters
Which don’t change their course?
Or the eternal movement of the sea’s waves
Which break and break again?
 
Isn’t it a pity that those sharp rocks
Which seem to despise
The winds, the tides, storms and battering of lightning,
The anger of Jupiter,
 
Live on eternally, remain eternally
In their stony forms,
And that men like the great Ronsard die
By harsh fate?
 
O grievous destiny! A man who approaches
The divine
Is stolen from this world, and a rock-face
Lasts an eternity.
 
Who will be able henceforth with so strong a voice
To thunder as they should
Of my King’s glory, since the muse is dead
Who sang it so loudly?
 
Who shall sing of his combats? Of his bloody battles?
Who when young, as the Duke of Anjou,
Overthrew with his might the protestant troops
On the plains of Poitou …
 
Deportes, who will it be? Once, perhaps, your muse
Was worthy to be in his place;
But fleeing worldly honours today she employs herself
Only in the praise of God.
 
So who will it be? What voice sufficient
To celebrate gravely
Our joyous Achilles, whose budding glory
Grows daily?
 
Who shall speak of his courage, unconquered by strife,
Unconquered by fear,
And how it equipped with a human soul
A magnanimous heart?
 
How it is hungry for honour, for honour alone,
Liberal with other good things,
Cherishes everyone, even those who fall away
From the king’s service?
 
Do not permit, Clio, and Apollo do not permit
That Ronsard, defeated
By grievous death, should not find a Poet
To sing of his worth.
 
Farewell, my dear Ronsard, may the bees always
Make their honey on your tomb,
May balm from Arabia forever fall there
With manna from heaven.
 
May the laurel flourish there, along with ivy
And lovers’ myrtle,
Rich with a thousand buds, and on all sides may
The perfumed rose-bush embrace it,
 
And thyme, basil, the simple daisy,
Our lily of France,
And that red flower on which is written the plaint
Of the unhappy Greek.
 
May the nymphs of Gastine and the holy water-nymphs
Who live in the Loir
Having just poured out and expressed their tears for you
Not cease from grieving.
 
Alas! Clotho has cut the thread of your life
With her pitying hand,
Seeing it accompanied by old age and gout,
Those inhuman tortures,
 
And seeing our poor France, wounded in her body
By the bloody struggles
Of her children, who have so many times ravaged her,
Sighing for death;
 
And Switzerland at war, giving itself over to strife,
England enclosed by the seas,
And those who drink from the Po, Tagus and Danube
Drowning beneath their waters;
 
Just like the vulture, which with its executioner’s claws
Endlessly rakes
The liver of Prometheus, in new pastures
Renewing blow on blow,
 
Inhuman murders take place between brothers,
A horrific sight,
And now children rush upon their fathers
In blind madness;
 
The hearts of city-dwellers are filled with Furies,
The country-folk, swept aside,
Die in their rows; we see nothing but killings
Throughout the deserted countryside.
 
And yet you go on singing of the honour of our France
In times so accursed:
Do you expect anyone to reward your labours
As they did in the past?
 
Wretched poverty accompanies our songs;
The Muse, her eyes lowered,
Leaves us, seeing that we disdain
Her former amusements.
 
So, you are fortunate, and your death fortunate,
O Swan of the French,
Lament only for us, whose troubled lives
Die a thousand times every day.
 
You now wander in the fields of Elysium,
In the shade of the orchards
Where at all times, secure from cold northerly winds,
The tawny orange-trees are laden;
 
Where the meadows are always carpeted in green,
The vines with grapes,
And the little birds go chattering to the murmur
Of crystalline streams.
 
There the cedar sweats its perfumed gum,
And the tree of Lebanon
Weeps both amber and myrrh, received at its father’s bed,
All year long.
 
Running up in a great crowd, around you press
The ancient heroes
Who drink nectar and feed on ambrosia
On the banks of Elysium,
 
Above all great Eumolpe and godlike Orpheus
And Linus and Amphion
And Musaeus, and he whose burning pen
Set fire to Troy;
 
The Theban praise-singer, the poet of Mantua,
The Latin lyricist
And, with Seneca the great glory of Cordoba,
The Florentine love-poet,
 
All of them clapping their hands, leaping with joy,
Saying to one another,
“There he is, the man who surpassed Italy and Greece
In many a poem”.
 
One of them gives you his lyre, another his trumpet,
Another tries to give you
His myrtle, his ivy, or his prophetic laurel
To crown you with them.
 
So, live on happily, godlike soul,
While fate keeps us back
For the misfortunes of France, close
To her final end.
 

 

(In verse 15, I have amended one word slightly, to form a proper sentence – though Garnier may have been deliberately leaving the sentence hanging.)
 
As one would expect, Garnier’s tribute ranges over the areas Ronsard himself wrote about – the King and the civil wars, classical myth, nature, love poetry, Ronsard’s home on the Loir … So there are plenty of relatively obscure references perhaps worth amplifying:
 – the dedication is to Ronsard’s “successor”, Philippe Desportes – a lesser poet, but one whose fame eclipsed Ronsard’s in the latter portion of his life;
 – verse 5, the “Stygian river”, the Styx, is the river between the living world and Hades, across which Charon the ferryman or boatman (verse 25) takes all dead souls;
 – verses 18 & 20, Parnassus (the ‘double mount’, at right – photo credit Rens van der Sluijs) is the traditional home of the Muses. Ovid called it ‘biceps’, that is ‘two-headed’, and between its twin peaks was Delphi, the ‘omphalos’ (navel, centre) of the world;
 – verse 33, ‘Achilles’ (the great soldier) means of course the King
 – verse 37, Clio is usually the Muse of history, but sometimes also the Muse of lyre-playing: both seem appropriate here;
 – verse 40, the ‘unhappy Greek’ is not Narcissus but Hyacinthus, whose flower bears the Greek letters AIAI (‘alas’, ‘woe’);
 – verse 41, the Gastine & Loir are familiar as part of Ronsard’s beloved estates;
 – verse 42, Clotho is one of the Fates who determine the length of a man’s life – though note that Clotho is normally the Fate who spins the thread of life, Atropos the one who cuts it …
 – verse 45, the story of Prometheus eternally having his liver torn out by the eagle (or vulture) by day only for it to re-grow overnight, is well-known;
 – verse 53, I confess I have no idea what the end of line 3 (“received at its father’s bed”) is referring to … Ideas welcome. Amber and myrrh (like frankincense too) are resinous – and therefore associated with the resin-rich cedars of Lebanon, though myrrh in particular comes form small thorn-trees not huge cedars;
 –  verse 55-56 list many of the greatest poets of the past, legendary and historical.
     – Eumolpe (or Eumolpos – which means ‘beautiful song’) was founder of the Eleusininan mysteries in ancient Athens;
     – ‘godlike Orpheus’ is still well-known to us if only for carelessly losing Eurydice after charming Cerberus, the hell-dog, and Hades himself with his song;
     – Linus, sometimes viewed as Orpheus’s brother, was the inventor of lyric song and/or the harp;
     – Amphion, one of the founders of Thebes, was taught music by the god Hermes himself – and has a modern poetic form named after him;
     – Musaeus, lawgiver of Athens, was also was held to have been one of the great poets by Athenians – Socrates in the Apology links his name with three others in this list: “What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer?”;
     – Homer indeed is the next on the list, he “whose burning pen Set fire to Troy”;
     – the “Theban praise-singer” is Hesiod, associated with Mt. Helicon in Boeotia.
Bringing us from legendary to historical poets, “the poet of Mantua” is Virgil and the “Latin lyricist” is Horace. Seneca, although we think of him as Roman, was indeed born in Spain, in Cordoba; and last in the list and the only ‘modern’, the love-poet from Florence is of course Petrarch.

 

Amours book 2 – Elégie à son livre

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Although it’s been months since my last post, I find myself still in book 2 of the Amours! This is really the very last poem from book 2 I’ll be posting, though: the lengthy Elegy which Ronsard prefixed to the book as he sent it out into the world.

Mon fils, si tu sçavois ce qu’on dira de toy,
Tu ne voudrois jamais desloger de chez moy,
Enclos en mon estude : et ne voudrois te faire
Salir ny fueilleter aux mains du populaire.
Quand tu seras parti, sans jamais retourner,
Estranger loin de moy te faudra sejourner :
« Car ainsi que le vent sans retourner s’envole,
« Sans espoir de retour s’eschappe la parole.
 
Or tu es ma parole, à qui de nuict et jour
J’ay conté les propos que me contoit Amour,
Pour les mettre en ces vers qu’en lumiere tu portes,
Crochetant maugré moy de ma chambre les portes,
Pauvret! qui ne sçais pas que nos citoyens sont
Plus subtils par le nez que le Rhinoceront.
 
Donc avant que tenter la mer et le naufrage,
Voy du port la tempeste, et demeure au rivage.
« Tard est le repentir de tost s’estre embarqué.
 
Tu seras tous les jours des médisans moqué
D’yeux, et de hausse-becs, et d’un branler de teste.
« Sage est celuy qui croit à qui bien l’amoneste.
 
Tu sçais (mon cher enfant) que je ne te voudrois
Tromper, contre nature impudent je faudrois,
Et serois un Serpent de farouche nature
Si je voulois trahir ma propre geniture :
Car tout tel que tu es, n’agueres je te fis,
Et je ne t’aime moins qu’un pere aime son fils.
 
Quoy? tu veux donc partir : et tant plus je te cuide
Retenir au logis, plus tu hausses la bride.
Va donc puis qu’il te plaist, mais je te suppliray
De respondre à chacun ce que je te diray,
Afin que toy (mon fils) tu gardes en l’absence
De moy le pere tien, l’honneur et l’innocence.
 
Si quelque dame honneste et gentille de cœur
(Qui aura l’inconstance et le change en horreur)
Me vient, en te lisant, d’un gros sourcil reprendre
Dequoy je ne devois oublier ma Cassandre,
Qui la premiere au cœur le trait d’amour me mist,
Et que le bon Petrarque un tel peché ne fist,
Qui fut trente et un an amoureux de sa dame,
Sans qu’une autre jamais luy peust eschauffer l’ame :
Respons-luy je te pri’, que Petrarque sur moy
N’avoit authorité pour me donner sa loy,
Ny à ceux qui viendroyent apres luy, pour les faire
Si long temps amoureux sans leur lien desfaire.
 
Luy-mesme ne fut tel : car à voir son escrit
Il estoit esveillé d’un trop gentil esprit
Pour estre sot trente ans, abusant sa jeunesse
Et sa Muse au giron d’une vieille maistresse :
Ou bien il jouyssoit de sa Laurette, ou bien
Il estoit un grand fat d’aimer sans avoir rien.
Ce que je ne puis croire, aussi n’est-il croyable :
Non, il en jouyssoit : puis la fist admirable,
« Chaste, divine, saincte : aussi l’amoureux doit
« Celebrer la beauté dont plaisir il reçoit :
« Car celuy qui la blasme apres la jouissance
« N’est homme, mais d’un Tygre il a prins sa naissance.
Quand quelque jeune fille est au commencement
Cruelle, dure, fiere à son premier amant,
Constant il faut attendre : il peut estre qu’une heure
Viendra sans y penser, qui la rendra meilleure.
Mais quand elle devient voire de jour en jour
Plus dure et plus rebelle, et plus rude en amour,
On s’en doit esloigner, sans se rompre la teste
De vouloir adoucir une si sotte beste.
Je suis de tel advis : me blasme de ceci,
M’estime qui voudra, je le conseille ainsi.
 
Les femmes bien souvent sont cause que nous sommes
Volages et legers, amadoüans les hommes
D’un espoir enchanteur, les tenant quelquefois
Par une douce ruse, un an, ou deux, ou trois,
Dans les liens d’Amour sans aucune allegeance :
Ce-pendant un valet en aura joüissance,
Ou bien quelque badin emportera ce bien
Que le fidele amy à bon droit cuidoit sien.
Et si ne laisseront, je parle des rusées
Qui ont au train d’amour leurs jeunesses usées,
(C’est bien le plus grand mal qu’un homme puisse avoir
Que servir une femme accorte à decevoir)
D’enjoindre des travaux qui sont insupportables,
Des services cruels, des tâches miserables :
Car sans avoir esgard à la simple amitié
De leurs pauvres servans, cruelles n’ont pitié,
Non plus qu’un fier Corsaire en arrogance braves,
N’a pitié des captifs aux environs esclaves.
Il faut vendre son bien, il faut faire presens
De chaisnes, de carquans, de diamans luisans :
Il faut donner la Perle, et l’habit magnifique,
Il faut entretenir la table et la musique,
Il faut prendre querelle, il faut les suporter.
Certes j’aimerois mieux dessus le dos porter
La hotte, pour curer les estables d’Augée,
Que me voir serviteur d’une Dame rusée.
« La mer est bien à craindre, aussi est bien le feu,
« Et le Ciel quand il est de tonnerres esmeu,
« Mais trop plus est à craindre une femme clergesse,
« Sçavante en l’art d’amour, quand elle est tromperesse :
« Par mille inventions mille maux elle fait,
« Et d’autant qu’elle est femme, et d’autant qu’elle sçait.
Quiconque fut le Dieu qui la mit en lumiere
Il fut premier autheur d’une grande misere.
 
Il falloit par presens consacrez aux autels
Acheter nos enfans des grands Dieux immortels,
Et non user sa vie avec ce mal aimable,
Les femmes, passion de l’homme miserable,
Miserable et chetif d’autant qu’il est vassal,
Durant le temps qu’il vit, d’un si fier animal.
Mais je vous pri’, voyez comment par fines ruses
Elles sçavent trouver mille feintes excuses,
Apres qu’ell’ ont failly ! voyez Helene apres
Qu’Ilion fut bruslé de la flamme des Grecs,
Comme elle amadoüa d’une douce blandice
Son badin de mary, qui luy remit son vice,
Et qui plus que devant de ses yeux fut épris,
Qui scintilloient encor les amours de Pâris.
Que dirons-nous d’Ulysse ? encores qu’une trope
De jeunes poursuyvans aimassent Penelope,
Devorans tout son bien, si est-ce qu’il brusloit
D’embrasser son espouse, et jamais ne vouloit
Devenir immortel avec Circe la belle,
Pour ne revoir jamais Penelope, laquelle
Pleurant luy rescrivoit de son fascheux sejour,
Pendant qu’en son absence elle faisoit l’amour :
Si bien que le Dieu Pan de ses jeux print naissance,
(D’elle et de ses muguets la commune semence)
Envoyant tout expres, pour sa commodité,
Le fils chercher le père en Sparte la cité.
« Voilà comment la femme avec ses ruses donte
« L’homme, de qui l’esprit toute beste surmonte.
 
Quand on peut par hazard heureusement choisir
Quelque belle maistresse, et l’avoir à plaisir,
Soit de haut ou bas lieu, pourveu qu’elle soit fille
Humble, courtoise, honneste, amoureuse et gentille,
Sans fard, sans tromperie, et qui sans mauvaitié
Garde de tout son cœur une simple amitié,
Aimant trop mieux cent fois à la mort estre mise,
Que de rompre sa foy quand elle l’a promise :
Il la faut honorer tant qu’on sera vivant,
Comme un rare joyau qu’on treuve peu souvent.
« Celuy certainement merite sur la teste
« Le feu le plus ardent d’une horrible tempeste,
« Qui trompe une pucelle et mesmement alors
« Qu’elle se donne à nous, et de cœur et de cors.
 
N’est-ce pas un grand bien quand on fait un voyage,
De rencontrer quelcun qui d’un pareil courage
Veut nous acompagner, et comme nous passer
Les torrens, les rochers, fascheux à traverser ?
Aussi n’est-ce un grand bien de trouver une amie,
Qui nous aide à passer cette chetive vie,
Qui sans estre fardée ou pleine de rigueur,
Traite fidellement de son amy le cueur ?
 
Dy leur, si de fortune une belle Cassandre
Vers moy se fust monstrée un peu courtoise et tendre,
Et pleine de pitié eust cherché à guarir
Le mal dont ses beaux yeux dix ans m’ont fait mourir,
Non seulement du corps, mais sans plus d’une œillade
Eust voulu soulager mon pauvre cœur malade,
Je ne l’eusse laissée, et m’en soit à tesmoin
Ce jeune enfant ailé qui des amours a soin.
 
Mais voiant que tousjours elle marchoit plus fiere,
Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere,
Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou,
Où maintenant Amour me detient sous le jou :
Laquelle tout soudain je quitteray, si elle
M’est comme fut Cassandre, orgueilleuse et rebelle,
Pour en chercher une autre, à fin de voir un jour
De pareille amitié recompenser m’amour,
Sentant l’affection d’une autre dans moymesme :
« Car un homme est bien sot d’aimer si on ne l’aime.
 
Or’ si quelqu’un apres me vient blasmer, dequoy
Je ne suis plus si grave en mes vers que j’estoy
A mon commencement, quand l’humeur Pindarique
Enfloit empoulément ma bouche magnifique :
Dy luy que les amours ne se souspirent pas
D’un vers hautement grave, ains d’un beau stille bas,
Populaire et plaisant, ainsi qu’a fait Tibulle,
L’ingenieux Ovide, et le docte Catulle.
Le fils de Venus hait ces ostentations :
Il suffist qu’on luy chante au vray ses passions
Sans enflure ny fard, d’un mignard et doux stile,
Coulant d’un petit bruit, comme une eau qui distile.
Ceux qui font autrement, ils font un mauvais tour
A la simple Venus, et à son fils Amour.
 
S’il advient quelque jour que d’une voix hardie
J’anime l’eschafaut par une tragedie
Sentencieuse et grave, alors je feray voir
Combien peuvent les nerfs de mon petit sçavoir.
Et si quelque furie en mes vers je rencontre,
Hardi j’opposeray mes Muses alencontre :
Et feray resonner d’un haut et grave son
(Pour avoir part au bouc) la tragique tançon.
Mais ores que d’Amour les passions je pousse,
Humble je veux user d’une Muse plus douce.
 
Je ne veux que ce vers d’ornement indigent
Entre dans une escole, ou qu’un brave regent
Me lise pour parade : il suffist si m’amie
Le touche de la main dont elle tient ma vie.
Car je suis satisfait, si elle prend à gré
Ce labeur que je voüe à ses pieds consacré.
My son, if you knew what they’ll say of you,
You’d never want to leave my home,
But stay shut away in my study; you wouldn’t want yourself
Dirtied or leafed thorough by the crowd’s hands.
When you’ve gone, never to return,
You’ll have to live like a stranger far from me :
“For as the wind flies off without returning,
So, without hope of returning, the word escapes.”
 
And you are my word, to whom night and day
I have told the ideas which Love told me,
So I could put them into these verses which you take into the light,
Picking the locks of the doors of my room in defiance of me,
Poor thing, who know not that our citizens have
Sharper noses than the rhinoceros.
 
So, before trying the sea and shipwreck,
See the storm from port, and stay on the shore.
“Early to board, late to repent.”
 
Every day you’ll be mocked by ill-wishers,
With their eyes, their lifted noses, and a shake of the head.
“Wise the man who believes a person who gives good advice.”
 
You know, my dear child, that I have no desire
To deceive you: I would have to be shameless, contrary to nature
And a serpent with an untamed nature
If I sought to betray my own offspring,
For just as you are, I recently made you,
And I love you no less than a father loves his son.
 
Yet you still wish to go? And the more I wish
To keep you at home, the more you pull at the bit.
Go on then, since you want to, but I beg you
To answer everyone as I will tell you,
So that you, my son, protect in my absence
Your father’s – my own! – honour and innocence.
 
If some honest lady of noble heart,
Who is horrified by inconstancy and change,
On reading you reproves me with a heavy frown
That I ought not to have forgotten my Cassandre,
Who was first to shoot the arrow of love into my heart,
And that good old Petrarch committed no such sin,
Being thirty-one years in love with his lady
Without any other ever being able to set his soul ablaze,
Then reply to her, I beg, that Petrarch had
No authority over me to subject me to his law,
Nor those others who came after him, to make us
Love so long a time without breaking our ties.
 
He himself was not like that; for if you look at what he wrote
He was a sharp man, with too noble a spirit
To be a fool for thirty years, wasting his youth
And his Muse in the lap of an old mistress.
Either he enjoyed his little Laura, or he was
Indeed a great fool to love but not have her at all.
I can’t believe that, nor is it believable;
No, he enjoyed her, then made her out to be admirable,
Chaste, divine, holy: “The lover should also
Celebrate the beauty from whom he gains his pleasure;
For he who blames her after enjoying her
Is no man, but was born of a tiger.”
 
When some young girl is at the beginning
Cruel, harsh and proud to her first lover,
He must remain constant; it may be that the time
Will come, unexpectedly, which will make her better.
But when she becomes from day to day
Harsher and more contrary, and coarser in love,
You should distance yourself, without wearying yourself
Trying to soften so foolish a beast.
That’s my advice: blame me for it
Or praise me who will, I counsel him thus.
 
Women are often the reason we are
Light and flighty, coaxing men
With bewitching hope, sometimes keeping them
With sweet tricks for a year, or two, or three,
In love’s bonds without relief;
And yet a servant will enjoy them,
Or perhaps some wag will run off with the delight
Which the faithful lover rightly thought his own.
And still they won’t stop, I mean those sly girls
Who have spent their youths in Love’s train,
(It’s certainly the greatest trouble a man can have
To serve a woman used to deception)
[They won’t stop] demanding work which is insupportable,
Cruel service, wretched tasks;
For without regard to the simple love
Of their poor servants, they cruelly have no pity,
No more than a proud corsair, brave and arrogant,
Has pity on the captives in his slave-quarters.
[The lover] has to sell his goods, make presents
Of chains, purses, and shining diamonds;
He must give pearls and magnificent clothes,
He must look after the table and the music,
He must take up her quarrels, and endure them.
Certainly I’d prefer to carry on my back
A basket and clean the Augean stables,
Than to become the servant of a sly Lady.
“The sea really should be feared, the fire as well,
And the sky when it is shaken with thunder,
But much more to be feared is a learned woman
Well-versed in the art of love, when she is a deceiver;
By a thousand tricks she makes a thousand evils,
And she’s as wise as she is a woman.”
Whichever was the god who brought her to life,
He was the prime author of great misery.
 
We ought, with presents consecrated at their altars
To offer bribes for our children with the great, immortal gods,
So they don’t waste their lives with that pleasant evil
Woman, the passion of wretched men,
Wretched and weak insofar as they’re vassals
During their lives of so proud a beast.
I beg you, see how by subtle tricks
They are able to find a thousand fake excuses
After they’ve deceived! Look at Helen after
Troy was burned by the Greeks’ fire,
How she wheedled with sweet flattery
Her fool of a husband, who forgave her vice
And fell in love more than before with her eyes
Which sparkled still with love for Paris.
And what shall we say of Ulysses? While a troop
Of young suitors was making love to Penelope,
Devouring all his goods, yet still he burned
To kiss his wife, and never wished
To become immortal with the beautiful Circe
So as never again to see Penelope, whom
Weeping he wanted to tell about his wearisome journey,
While in his absence she was making love:
So much so that the god Pan was born from their frolics
(The common seed of her and her dandies)
As she immediately sent, to make things easier for her,
The son to seek his father in the city of Sparta.
“That is how woman with her cunning defeats
Man, whose spirit overcomes all the animals.”
 
If by chance you might fortunately choose
Some fair mistress, and have her for your pleasure,
No matter if she’s from a high or low place provided she is
A humble, courteous, honest, loving and gentle girl,
Without disguise, without trickery, who without wickedness
Keeps with all her heart her simple love,
Much preferring to be put to death a hundred times
Than to break her word when she has promised it;
Then you must honour her while you live
As a rare jewel most infrequently found.
“He certainly deserves the hottest fires
Of terrible storms upon his head
Who deceives a maid, especially when
She gives herself to us heart and body.“
 
Isn’t it a great delight when we’re travelling
To meet someone who with equal bravery
Wishes to a company us and like us to journey
Over torrents and rocks, tiresome to cross?
And isn’t it a great delight to find a girl
Who helps us on this life’s wretched journey,
Who without being burdened or full of harshness
Treats her lover’s heart faithfully?
 
Tell them, then, if perchance the fair Cassandre
Had showed herself a little courteous and tender towards me,
And full of pity had sought to cure
The ills with which her fair eyes had put me to death those ten years;
If not with her body but with just a single glance
She’d been willing to soothe my poor, ill heart,
I’d not have left her, let my witness be
That young winged child who watches over love-affairs.
 
But seeing how she always continued more proud
I unbound myself from all my first love
To love with it another in the country of Anjou,
Where Love now keeps me under his yoke.
[A love] which I will immediately abandon if she
Is to me as Cassandre was, proud and rebellious,
To find another, so that one day I may see
My love returned with an equal love,
Feeling the affection of another within myself:
“For a man is a complete fool to love if he isn’t loved.”
 
So, if someone afterwards chooses to blame me that
I am no more as grave in my verse as I was
At the beginning, when the Pindaric mood
Puffed up in swollen words my magniloquent voice;
Then tell him that love does not sigh
In high-flown grave verse, but in a fine low style,
Pleasant and popular, like that of Tibullus,
The ingenious Ovid and the learned Catullus.
The son of Venus hates ostentation:
Enough that we sing his passions to him truly
Without bombast or disguise, in a charming sweet style
Flowing with a gentle sound like a tinkling spring.
Those who do otherwise do a bad turn
To simple Venus and her son Love.
 
If it should happen one day that with bold voice
I enliven the stage with some tragedy
Grave and sententious, then I shall show
How loud the strings of my little learning can sound.
And if I encounter passion in my verse
I shall boldly set my Muses against it,
And make a tragic dialogue resound with high-flown
And serious tones (assuming the tragic buskin).
But while I focus on the passions of Love,
In lower style I prefer to employ a sweeter Muse.
 
I do not want these verses, stripped of ornament,
To enter some school, or a worthy regent
To read me for show; it’s enough if my beloved
Touches it with the hand in which she holds my life.
For I am satisfied if she approves
This work which I dedicate, consecrated, at her feet.
 
 
 

 

A few words of commentary on these 200 lines:- the rhinoceros (or, in the earlier version, elephant) has a ‘subtle’ nose, one good for smelling out the good and the bad: ‘sharp’, we could more easily say in English, but while it’s obvious which sort of ‘sharpness’ the elephant’s nose has, it’s perhaps less so for the rhinoceros where a ‘sharp’ nose could refer to its horn not its sensitivity.- Ronsard’s cynicism about Petrarch’s chaste relationship with Laura is perhaps also a corrective to those scholars who think Ronsard’s own affairs were more imagined than real?  His harsh words about women, implicitly applied to Cassandra, should not be taken too literally: he speaks elsewhere of still loving her.

– there’s a cluster of classical references in the middle of the poem:  the Augean stables, cleaning whose filth was one of Heracles’ ‘impossible’ tasks;  Helen of Troy, taken back by Menelaus after Troy’s fall as she was still the most beautiful woman in the world, though her continuing love for Paris is largely a Ronsardian invention (in Homer, she and Menelaus are genuinely reconciled)

– Ronsard invents, too, Penelope’s unfaithfulness to Odysseus with her troop of suitors – in the Odyssey she famously remains loyal; his son Telemachus journeys to Sparta seeking information from Menelaus at the goddess Athene’s prompting, not sent away by Penelope; and Circe did not offer Odysseus immortality but threatened to turn him into a pig like his followers!  Ronsard has, ironically because it would be obvious to all his readers, twisted the Greek tale on its head. However, at the same time he demonstrates his wide and deep reading: in a pretty obscure Pindar fragment, but as far as I know nowhere else, Penelope is indeed said to be Pan’s mother (the father, though, Apollo not one or several human suitors!)

– where Ronsard turns to his new love in Anjou, he says “Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere, / Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou“; that “en” technically means that he is giving Marie his first love, transferring it from Cassandre: this is not a new love, but the old one with a new subject.

– for the really interested, “empoulément” is ampoulément, from the same root as ampoule, a ‘swollen’ bulb of glass.

– Ronsard contrasts the style of Pindar – the great Greek poet of Odes – with that of Tibullus, Ovid and Catullus: Romans, but principally contrasted as love-poets and slightly licentious ones at that. (The ‘son of Venus’ is of course Cupid, god of love.)

 

 

See the next post for Blanchemain’s earlier version with its many variants.

 

Amours 2:48

Standard
Ha ! que je porte et de haine et d’envie
Au medecin qui vient soir et matin
Sans nul propos tastonner le tetin,
Le sein le ventre et les flancs de m’amie.
 
Las ! il n’est pas si songneux de sa vie
Comme elle pense, il est mechant et fin :
Cent fois le jour il la visite, afin
De voir son sein qui d’aimer le convie.
 
Vous qui avez de sa fiévre le soin,
Parens, chasser ce medecin bien loin,
Ce medecin amoureux de Marie,
 
Qui fait semblant de la venir penser.
Que pleust à Dieu pour l’en recompenser,
Qu’il eust mon mal, et qu’elle fust guarie !
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Oh what hatred and envy I bear
                                                                            Towards the doctor who comes morning and night
                                                                            With no excuse to touch my love’s
                                                                            Breast, chest, stomach and sides.
 
                                                                            Ah, he’s not so worried for her life
                                                                            As she thinks, he is wicked and cunning;
                                                                            A hundred times a day he visits her, to
                                                                            Look at her breasts, eager to make love to them.
 
                                                                            You who have the care of her fever,
                                                                            Her parents, chase this doctor far away,
                                                                            This doctor who’s in love with Marie,
 
                                                                            Who pretends to come and put a dressing on her.
                                                                            May God please to pay him back
                                                                            With my illness, while she is cured!
 
 
 
 It seems that Marie did not just have an eye condition: here a doctor is visiting to check on a chest complaint. This time, though, the malady may be fictional, because the poem is based on one by Ovid – one of the Heroides, a series of invented letters between famous mythological characters.
 
Blanchemain offers some minor variants. In lines 7-8 he has

 
Cent fois le jour ne la vient voir qu’afin
De voir son sein qui d’aimer le convie.
 
                                                                            A hundred times a day he comes to see her only to
                                                                            Look at her breasts, eager to make love to them.
 

 

The later change (above) removes the clumsy “voir … voir” (which I’ve hidden by using two different words in the translation!). Then in line 10 the early version has “Je vous supply de me chasser bien loin” (‘ I beg you to chase this doctor far away for [or ‘from’] me’).  Blanchemain helpfully re-spells the word “panser/penser” in line 12: no change in meaning, simply one of orthography. Clearly there was no (or very little) difference in pronunciation, though the meaning is conveyed more clearly when the word is not spelled the same as “penser”=’to think’!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Élégie à Cassandre (Am. 1.227b)

Standard

 

Mon œil, mon cœur, ma Cassandre, ma vie,
Hé! qu’à bon droit tu dois porter d’envie
A ce grand Roy, qui ne veut plus souffrir
Qu’à mes chansons ton nom se vienne offrir.
C’est luy qui veut qu’en trompette j’echange
Mon luth, afin d’entonner sa louange,
Non de luy seul mais de tous ses ayeux
Qui sont là hault assis au rang des Dieux.
 
Je le feray puis qu’il me le commande :
Car d’un tel Roy la puissance est si grande,
Que tant s’en faut qu’on la puisse eviter,
Qu’un camp armé n’y pourroit resister.
 
Mais que me sert d’avoir tant leu Tibulle,
Properce, Ovide, et le docte Catulle,
Avoir tant veu Petrarque et tant noté,
Si par un Roy le pouvoir m’est oté
De les ensuyvre, et s’il faut que ma Iyre
Pendue au croc ne m’ose plus rien dire ?
 
Doncques en vain je me paissois d’espoir
De faire un jour à la Tuscane voir,
Que nostre France, autant qu’elle, est heureuse
A souspirer une pleinte amoureuse :
Et pour monstrer qu’on la peut surpasser,
J’avois desja commencé de trasser
Mainte Elegie à la façon antique,
Mainte belle Ode, et mainte Bucolique.
 
Car, à vray dire, encore mon esprit
N’est satisfait de ceux qui ont escrit
En nostre langue, et leur amour merite
Ou du tout rien, ou faveur bien petite.
 
Non que je sois vanteur si glorieux
D’oser passer les vers laborieux
De tant d’amans qui se pleignent en France :
Mais pour le moins j’avoy bien esperance,
Que si mes vers ne marchoient les premiers,
Qu’ils ne seroient sans honneur les derniers.
Car Eraton qui les amours descœuvre,
D’assez bon œil m’attiroit à son œuvre.
 
L’un trop enflé les chante grossement,
L’un enervé les traine bassement,
L’un nous depeint une Dame paillarde,
L’un plus aux vers qu’aux sentences regarde,
Et ne peut onq tant se sceut desguiser,
Apprendre l’art de bien Petrarquiser.
 
Que pleures-tu, Cassandre, ma douce ame ?
Encor Amour ne veut couper la trame
Qu’en ta faveur je pendis au métier,
Sans achever l’ouvrage tout entier.
 
Mon Roy n’a pas d’une beste sauvage
Succé le laict, et son jeune courage,
Ou je me trompe, a senti quelquefois
Le trait d’Amour qui surmonte les Rois.
 
S’il l’a senti, ma coulpe est effacee,
Et sa grandeur ne sera corroucee
Qu’à mon retour des horribles combas,
Hors de son croc mon Luth j’aveigne à-bas,
Le pincetant, et qu’en lieu des alarmes
Je chante Amour, tes beautez et mes larmes.
« Car l’arc tendu trop violentement,
« Ou s’alentit, ou se rompt vistement.
 
Ainsi Achille apres avoir par terre
Tant fait mourir de soudars en la guerre,
Son Luth doré prenoit entre ses mains
Teintes encor de meurdres inhumains,
Et vis à vis du fils de Menetie,
Chantoit l’amour de Brisëis s’amie :
Puis tout soudain les armes reprenoit,
Et plus vaillant au combat retoumoit.
 
Ainsi, apres que l’ayeul de mon maistre
Hors des combats retirera sa dextre,
Se desarmant dedans sa tente à part,
Dessus le Luth à l’heure ton Ronsard
Te chantera : car il ne se peut faire
Qu’autre beauté luy puisse jamais plaire,
Ou soit qu’il vive, ou soit qu’outre le port,
Leger fardeau, Charon le passe mort.
My eyes, my heart, my Cassandre, my life,
Oh, how rightly you must be envious
Of that great King who no longer wishes to suffer
Your name to put itself forward in my songs.
It is he who wishes that I should change my lute
For a trumpet, to sing out his praises,
And not only his own but those of his ancestors
Who are seated above in the ranks of the gods.
 
I shall do it, as he commands it :
For the power of such a King is so great
That it is as hard to keep out of its way
As for an armed force to resist it.
 
What use for me to have read so much of Tibullus,
Propertius, Ovid, and the learned Catullus ;
To have looked over and noted so much of Petrarch,
If by a King the power is taken from me
Of following them, and if my lyre must
Hang from a hook and dare no longer speak ?
 
I have therefore vainly fed the hope
Of one day seeing Tuscany,
When our France, as much as it, is happy
To sigh a lover’s plaint ;
And, to show [Italy] can be surpassed
I had already begun to set down
Many an Elegy in the antique fashion,
Many a fine Ode, many a Pastoral.
 
For to speak the truth, my soul is still
Not satisfied with those who have written
In our language, and their love deserves
Either nothing at all, or very little favour.
 
Not that I am so vainglorious a boaster
As to venture to surpass the laborious poetry
Of so many lovers who have made their plaints in France ;
But at least I have a fair hope
That, even if my verse does not go first,
It will not be dishonourably last.
For Erato, who discloses love-affairs,
Drew me with a clear eye to her work.
 
One puffed-up poet sings grossly of love,
Another nervous one drags on in too mean a style ;
One depicts a Lady who is lewd,
Another takes more care over his verse than his meaning
And can never, however he tries to conceal it,
Learn the art of Petrarch-ising well.
 
Why do you weep, Cassandre, my sweet soul ?
Love does not yet seek to cut off the warp and weft
Which I have hung on my loom for you,
Without completing the whole of my work.
 
My King has not sucked the milk of some
Savage beast, and his youthful courage too,
Unless I am mistaken, has sometimes felt
The wound of Love which can overcome Kings.
 
If he has felt it, my [ error ] is erased
And his greatness will not be angered
If, on my return from terrible battles,
I take my lute down from its hook
And pluck it, and instead of loud war
I sing of Love, your beauty, and my tears.
« For the bow which is drawn too tightly
Either weakens [slows] or quickly breaks. »
 
Just so Achilles, after having across the world
Put so many soldiers to death in war,
Took his golden lute in his hands –
Still stained with inhuman massacres –
And sitting opposite the son of Menetius
Sang of his love for Briseis, his beloved ;
Then as suddenly took up arms again
And returned, more courageous, to battle.
 
And so, after my master’s ancestor
Withdraws his hand from battle,
Disarming himself within his tent away from the field,
Upon his lute just then your Ronsard will sing
To you ; for it cannot be
That another beauty could ever please him
While he is alive or when, beyond this harbour,
Charon carries his light burden, dead.
 
 
The conclusion of the first book of Amours brings with it some weightier material to give it a firm feeling of ending – rather like Beethoven’s 5th, which iterates and reiterates the thumping C-major chords to emphasise that this really is the end of the piece, Ronsard feels (rightly) that he cannot simply end the long run of sonnets without something more definitely marking a conclusion. Perhaps there is, nonetheless, a sense of loss as Ronsard explains how he must stop writing love poetry to focus, by royal command, on his epic Franciad.
 
The Elegy to Cassandre is an elegy in the classical sense – a description of its form, rather than its mood (as we use it today to mean ‘something noble but sad, in remembrance’). Accordingly, it is full of classical (and neo-classical) references:
 – Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid, and Catullus are all Latin love-poets; and we might detect a glancing reference to one of Horace’s odes in the lines about ‘hanging his lyre on a hook’;
 – Petrarch is of course the shining example of (relatively) modern love-poetry, Tuscany his home;
 – Erato is the muse of lyric poetry;
 – in the Iliad Achilles sings of the slave-girl Briseis whom he loves (and who plays a pivotal role in the development of the action); his other (male) love is Patroclus, the son of Menoetius;
 – Charon is of course the boatman who ferries the dead across the river Styx.
 
Muret suggests that, in the last ‘stanza’, Ronsard is using the word “ayeul” (ancestor, grandfather) to refer to Francus, the mythical ancestor of the kings of France – and thus to the Franciad, the commission for which has drawn Ronsard forcibly away from writing love-poems.  (The ‘great king’ at the time of the publication of the Amours in the 1550s was Henri II; his direct ancestors were noble rather than royal, his father having come to the throne by virtue of his marriage to Louis XII’s daughter.)
 
 
The earlier Blanchemain version has only minor differences:
 – in stanza 3, the list of Roman poets is “Tibulle, / Gallus, Ovide, et Properce et Catulle,” – Cornelius Gallus was a lyric poet contemporary with the others;
 – in stanza 5, the line is “En nostre langue, et leur Muse merite” (‘and their Muse deserves’ instead of ‘their love’);
– towards the end, “Mon Roy n’a pas d’une tigre sauvage …” (a savage tiger’s milk rather than a savage beast’s).
 
 
 
 
 
 

Poems 1.20 – the Nightingale

Standard

 

LE ROSSIGNOL
chantant et faisant son nid dedans un genèvre
 
Gay Rossignol honneur de la ramée,
Qui jour et nuit courtise ton aimée
Par mon jardin hoste de sa verdeur,
Quarante jours desgoisant ton ardeur
Et t’esclatant d’une voix qui gringote
Ores en haute ores en basse note,
A bec ouvert d’un siffletis trenchant,
Hachant coupant entrerompant ton chant
De cent fredons, tu donnes à ta femme
Un doux martel, amoureux de ma Dame.
 
Tu n’aurois point tant de faveur sinon
Que les vieux Grecs t’ont nommé d’un beau nom :
Mais bien de deux, t’appellent ce me semble,
D’un mesme mot, Chantre et Poëte ensemble.
 
Et je dirois, si j’estois un bragard,
Que Rossignol vient du nom de Ronsard.
 
Mais ce n’est moy qui ma Musique vante :
Soit bien soit mal, Rossignolet, je chante
Ainsi que toy pour me donner plaisir,
Quand j’ay Madame argent et le loisir.
Quoy ? qui t’esmeut de courtiser sans cesse
Et d’enchanter Genévre ma Maistresse ?
 
En ce Genévre où tu chantes de nuit,
Dessous l’escorce une pucelle vit,
A qui l’amour la peur et l’avanture
Ont fait changer de face et de nature.
 
Un jour ce Dieu tout bouquin par le front
La poursuivoit d’un pied de chévre pront.
Elle courant d’une fuite legere
Ainsi pria Diane bocagere :
Ou me transforme, ou bien fay moy mourir :
La seule mort me pourra secourir
Ains que l’ardeur de ce Bouquin je sente.
 
A-peine eut dit, qu’elle fut une plante :
Ses doigts longuets, ses bras veneux et beaux,
Comme ils estoyent, se changent en rameaux.
Son pied devint une morne racine,
Et une escorce entourna sa poitrine.
Puis ses cheveux de crainte reboursez
Espars se sont en fueilles herissez,
Et la palleur qu’elle avoit en sa fuite,
Vit sur l’escorce et tousjours y habite.
 
Un jour lassé de la chasse des loups,
Seul à l’escart je m’endormi dessous
L’ombre fatal de ce Genévre, et elle
En corps humain m’apparut toute telle
Qu’elle fut lors que le Bouc amoureux
La poursuivoit par un taillis ombreux,
Tant il avoit de flames dedans l’ame
Pour la beauté d’une si jeune Dame.
Depuis ce jour jamais je n’ay cessé
D’avoir le cœur de son amour blessé,
Et de languir pour un si beau visage.
 
Et toutefois brave de ton ramage
Chantant sifflant et faisant mille tours,
Tu veux tout seul jouyr de mes amours,
Que de bon cœur, Rossignol, je te laisse :
Car tu vaux mieux que ne fait ma Maistresse.
 
Et qui plus est, comme on voit un mary
Plein de finesse entre Dames nourri,
Faire secret l’amour à sa voisine :
Quand il n’a pas une femme trop fine,
La persuade avec un beau parler,
De la hanter, visiter et d’aller
Boire et manger souvent avecques elle,
A fin d’avoir (par une ruse telle)
Plus de moyen d’œillader les beaux yeux
Qui de son cœur se font victorieux.
 
Ainsi rival ta femme tu ameines
Dedans cest arbre, où d’un nid fait de laines
Mousses, duvets, ses petits elle pond,
Esclost, escouve, et qui apres se font
Ainsi que toy au retour des fueillages
Quarante jours Sereines des bocages.
 
Quoy ? Rossignol, la voix ne te defaut !
Et par despit tu t’efforces plus haut !
 
Puis qu’autrement ma verve poëtique
Ne peut gaigner ton ramage rustique,
Va, Rossignol, je laisse seul pour toy
L’arbre amoureux qui n’a souci de moy,
L’arbre gentil, et toutefois farouche,
Qui fait saigner aussi tost qu’on le touche.
 
Tandis, Girard, que la fiévre me tient
Reins, teste, flanc, la Muse m’entretient,
Et de venir à mon lit n’a point honte.
 
Or des propos que sa bouche me conte
Je t’en fais part, à fin qu’à l’advenir
De ton Ronsard te puisses souvenir.
The Nightingale
singing and making its nest in a juniper-bush
 
Happy nightingale, the branch’s pride,
Who court your beloved day and night
In my garden, the guest of its greenery,
For forty days singing of your passion
And crying out with a voice which chirps
Now with a high, now with a low note,
Your beak open in a piercing whistle,
Chopping, cutting off and interrupting your song
With a hundred twitterings, you give your wife
A sweet jealousy, beloved of my Lady.
 
You’d not have such favour if
The ancient Greeks had not given you a fine name ;
Indeed with two, it seems to me, thay named you
In a single word, Singer and Poet together.
 
And I would say – if I were a braggart –
That ‘Rossignol’ [Nightingale] comes from the name ‘Ronsard’.
 
But it’s not myself my poems boast of :
For good or bad, nightingale, I sing
Like you to give myself pleasure,
Since I have my Lady, money and leisure-time.
What or who [ moved ] you to court unceasingly
And to enchant my mistress, the Juniper ?
 
In that juniper where you sing at night,
Beneath the bark there lives a maiden
Whose form and nature have been changed
By love, fear and mischance.
 
One day that god with horns on his brow
Was pursuing her on his swift stag’s-foot.
As she ran with light fleeing steps,
She prayed thus to Diana, goddess of the woods :
« Transform me, or let me die :
Death alone can help me
Such is this Horned God’s passion I feel. »
 
She had barely spoken when she became a plant :
Her fingers long and thin, her arms veined and fair
As they were, changed into branches.
Her feet became a sad root,
And bark encircled her breast.
Then her hair, standing up in fear,
Was spread out in bristling leaves
And the pallor she had in her flight
Lived on in the bark, and still remains there.
 
One day, tired from hunting wolves,
Alone and apart i fell asleep beneath
The fatal shade of this juniper, and she
Appeared to me in human form just as
She had been when the amorous Horned God
Pursued her through a shady copse,
Such a fire had he in his soul
Because of so young a lady’s beauty.
Since that day i have never ceased
To bear a wound in my heart for her love,
And to pine for so pretty a face.
 
And yet bold in your plumage,
Singing, whistling and turning a thousand times,
You want to be the only one enjoying that love of mine
Which I happily resign to you, nightingale ;
For you are worth more than my mistress !
 
And what is more, as one sees a married man
Full of cunning, fostered among the ladies,
Making secret love to his neighbour ;
if he has a wife who is not too clever,
He persuades her with fine words
To visit and see her frequently, to go
To eat and drink often with her,
So that hem ay have (by such a ruse)
More means of looking into the fair eyes
Which have conquered his heart ;
 
Just so you are bringing your own wife as a rival
To this tree, where in a nest made of wool,
Moss, feathers she lays her little ones,
Hatches, broods them, and after that becomes
Like you, when the leaves come back,
For forty days the Sirens of the woods.
 
May your voice not fail you, nightingale !
In envious competition, force yourself higher !
 
As otherwise my poetic inspiration
Cannot beat your rustic plumage,
Go on, nightingale – I leave for you alone
The tree I love which has no care for me,
The noble tree yet still timid
Which bleeds as soon as it is touched.
 
Yet, Girard, while the fever grips my
Guts, head, body, my Muse converses with me
And is not ashamed to come to my bed.
So, the words which her mouth relates
I share with you, that in the future
You may remember your Ronsard.
 
It’s the story of Daphne, pursued by Apollo, and turned into a laurel tree, which inspires this tale of a nymph turned into a juniper tree. As far as I know there isn’t a classical myth regarding the juniper, just Ronsardian invention.
 
As a footnote, it is possible there was a real lady Genèvre, with whom Ronsard flirted – though probably some time earlier than the late 1560s when he wrote this. There are two Elegies to her (though neither is especially ‘elegiac’ in tone); and she may have been the wife of Blaise de Vigenère, diplomat, scholar, alchemist and the “perfect incarnation of erudite genius in the Renaissance”.  His name may be familiar as the inventor (or rather improver) of the Vigenère cypher, which is an excellent simple cypher still useable today. But in his time he was known as translator of a range of Roman and Greek works, and author of works on alchemy (or perhaps chemistry) and comets, among others. Perhaps it would be appropriate for Ronsard to disguise his wife under a ‘cipher’, in the form of an anagram: Vigenère –> Genièvre.
 
The poem is dedicated to Jehan Girard, a friend of Robert Garnier (the tragedian, whom we’ve met before) and a councillor in Le Mans – not the Jehan Girard who  was printing protestant books in Geneva a decade or two earlier!
 
Back to the poetry. It’s odd that something which looks so much like an oocasional poem should have attracted so much revision by Ronsard. But let’s remember that what appears a little playful address to a bird, is in fact closely modelled on episodes in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and aspires to similar heights. Blanchemain’s (early) version is set out below in full, so much variation is there. Note that this version carries a dedication to Claude Binet, poet and Ronsard’s first biographer.  But this is not the first time we’ve seen Ronsard adapt an earlier dedication to another subject later in life, reflecting the changing patterns or networks of influence and patronage over time.
 
 
LE ROSSIGNOL
chantant et faisant son nid dedans un genévre de son jardin
 
A Claude Binet
 
 
Gay Rossignol honneur de la ramée,
Qui jour et nuict courtises ton aimée
Dans mon jardin desgoisant tes amours
Au mois d’avril le père des beaux jours,
Et t’esclatant d’une voix qui gringote
Ores en haute, ores en basse note,
A gorge ouverte, à pleins poulmons trenchant,
Hachant coupant entre-rompant ton chant
De cent fredons, tu donnes à ta femme
Un doux martel. Amoureux de ma Dame,
Tu m’es rival, d’où vient cela ? sinon
Que les vieux Grecs t’ont nommé d’un beau nom :
Mais bien de deux, t’appellant ce me semble,
D’un mesme mot, Chantre et Poëte ensemble.
Et je dirois, si j’estois un bragard,
Que Rossignol vient du nom de Ronsard.
 
Mais ce n’est moy dont ma Muse se vante :
Soit bien soit mal, Rossignolet, je chante
Ainsi que toy pour me donner plaisir,
Quand j’ay maistresse, argent et le loisir.
Quoy ? qui t’esmeut de caresser sans cesse
De tes fredons Genévre ma Maistresse ?
 
En ce Genévre où tu chantes de nuit,
Dessous l’escorce une pucelle vit,
A qui l’amour la peur et l’avanture
Ont fait changer de face et de nature.
 
Un jour ce Dieu, qui a cornes au front
La poursuivoit d’un pied de chévre pront.
Elle courant, ayant recours aux larmes,
Ainsi pria : « Diane, par tes charmes
Ou me transforme, ou bien fay moy mourir :
La seule mort me pourra secourir
Ains que l’ardeur de ce Bouquin je sente. »
 
A-peine eut dit, qu’elle fut une plante :
Ses doigts longuets, ses bras veineux et beaux,
A longs fourchons se fendent en rameaux ;
Son pied devint une morne racine,
Et une escorce entourna sa poitrine.
Ses longs cheveux de crainte rebroussez,
Espars se sont en fueilles herissez,
Et la palleur qu’elle avoit en sa fuite,
Vit sur l’escorce et tousjours y habite.
 
Un jour lassé de la chasse des loups,
Seul à l’escart je m’endormi dessous
L’ombre fatal de ce Genévre, et elle
En corps humain m’apparut toute telle
Qu’elle fut lors que le Bouc amoureux
La poursuivoit par un taillis ombreux,
Tant il avoit de flames dedans l’ame
Pour la beauté d’une si jeune Dame.
Depuis ce jour jamais je n’ay cessé
D’avoir le cœur de son amour blessé,
Et de languir pour un si beau visage.
 
Et toutefois hautain de ton ramage
Chantant sifflant et faisant mille tours,
Tu veux tout seul jouyr de mes amours,
Que de bon cœur, Rossignol, je te laisse :
Car ton fredon merite ma Maistresse.
 
Et qui plus est, comme on voit un mary
Plein de finesse entre Dames nourri,
Faire secret l’amour à sa voisine :
Quand il n’a pas une femme trop fine,
La persuade avec un beau parler,
De la hanter, visiter et d’aller
Boire et manger souvent avecques elle,
A fin d’avoir (par une ruse telle)
Plus de moyen d’œillader les beaux yeux
Qui de son cœur se font victorieux.
 
Ainsi rival ta femme tu ameines
Dedans cest arbre, où d’un nid fait de laines
Mousses, duvet, ses petits elle pond,
Esclost, escouve, et abeche, qui sont
Un an après, au retour des fueillages
Quarante jours Sereines des bocages.
 
Quoy ? Rossignol, la voix ne te defaut !
Et par despit tu t’efforces plus haut !
 
Puis qu’autrement ma verve poëtique
Ne peut gaigner ton ramage rustique,
Va, Rossignol, tu auras seul pour toy
L’arbre amoureux qui n’a souci de moy,
L’arbre gentil, et toutefois farouche,
Qui fait saigner aussi tost qu’on le touche.
 
Tandis, Binet, que la fiévre me tient
Reins, teste, flanc, la Muse m’entretient,
Et de venir à mon lit n’a point honte.
 
Or des propos que sa bouche me conte
Je t’en fais part, à fin qu’à l’advenir
De ton Ronsard te puisse souvenir.
The Nightingale
singing and making its nest in a juniper-bush in his garden
 
To Claude Binet
 
 
Happy nightingale, the branch’s pride,
Who court your beloved day and night
In my garden, singing of your passion
In the month of April, father of fine days,
And crying out with a voice which chirps
Now with a high, now with a low note,
Your throat open, whistling fit to burst,
Chopping, cutting off and interrupting your song
With a hundred twitterings, you give your wife
A sweet jealousy. Beloved of my Lady,
You are my rival – why is that ? unless because
The ancient Greeks gave you a fine name ;
Indeed two, naming you, it seems to me,
In a single word, Singer and Poet together.
And I would say – if I were a braggart –
That ‘Rossignol’ [Nightingale] comes from the name ‘Ronsard’.
 
But it’s not myself my Muse boasts of :
For good or bad, nightingale, I sing
Like you to give myself pleasure,
Since I have a mistress, money and leisure-time.
What or who inspired you to caress unceasingly
With your chirping my mistress, the Juniper ?
 
In that juniper where you sing at night,
Beneath the bark there lives a maiden
Whose form and nature have been changed
By love, fear and mischance.
 
One day that god who has horns on his brow
Was pursuing her on his swift stag’s-foot.
As she ranhaving recourse to tears,
She prayed thus : « Diana, by your charms
Transform me, or let me die :
Death alone can help me
Such is this Horned God’s passion I feel. »
 
She had barely spoken when she became a plant :
Her fingers long and thin, her arms veined and fair
Split into long-forked branches.
Her feet became a sad root,
And bark encircled her breast.
Her long hair, pulled back in fear,
Was spread out in bristling leaves
And the pallor she had in her flight
Lived on in the bark, and still remains there.
 
One day, tired from hunting wolves,
Alone and apart i fell asleep beneath
The fatal shade of this juniper, and she
Appeared to me in human form just as
She had been when the amorous Horned God
Pursued her through a shady copse,
Such a fire had he in his soul
Because of so young a lady’s beauty.
Since that day i have never ceased
To bear a wound in my heart for her love,
And to pine for so pretty a face.
 
And yet proud of your plumage,
Singing, whistling and turning a thousand times,
You want to be the only one enjoying that love of mine
Which I happily resign to you, nightingale ;
For your chirping is worthy of my mistress.
 
And what is more, as one sees a married man
Full of cunning, fostered among the ladies,
Making secret love to his neighbour ;
if he has a wife who is not too clever,
He persuades her with fine words
To visit and see her frequently, to go
To eat and drink often with her,
So that hem ay have (by such a ruse)
More means of looking into the fair eyes
Which have conquered his heart ;
 
Just so you are bringing your own wife as a rival
To this tree, where in a nest made of wool,
Moss, down, she lays her little ones,
Hatches, broods and cuddles those who are
A year later, when the leaves come back,
For forty days the Sirens of the woods.
 
May your voice not fail you, nightingale !
In envious competition, force yourself higher !
 
As otherwise my poetic inspiration
Cannot beat your rustic plumage,
Go on, nightingale – you shall have for yourself alone
The tree I love which has no care for me,
The noble tree yet still timid
Which bleeds as soon as it is touched.
 
Yet, Binet, while the fever grips my
Guts, head, body, my Muse converses with me
And is not ashamed to come to my bed.
 
So, the words which her mouth relates
I share with you, that in the future
It may remind you of your Ronsard.
 
 
 
 
 

Amours retranch. 11

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Je ne suis seulement amoureux de Marie,
Anne me tient aussi dans les liens d’Amour ;
Ore l’une me plaist, ore l’autre à son tour :
Ainsi Tibulle aymoit Nemesis et Delie. 
 
Un loyal me dira que c’est une folie
D’en aymer, inconstant, deux ou trois en un jour,
Voire, et qu’il faudroit bien un homme de sejour,
Pour, gaillard, satisfaire à une seule amie. 
 
Je respons, Cherouvrier, que je suis amoureux,
Et non pas joüissant de ce bien doucereux
Que tout amant souhaitte avoir à sa commande. 
 
Quant à moy, seulement je leur baise la main,
Les yeux, le front, le col, les levres, et le sein,
Et rien que ces biens-là, Cherouvrier, ne demande.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            I’m not just in love with Marie
                                                                            Anne too holds me in the bonds of love.
                                                                            Now one pleases me, then the other in her turn.
                                                                            Thus did Tibullus love Nemesis and Delia.
 
                                                                            A loyal friend will tell me this is folly
                                                                            To love two or three of them a day, inconstantly,
                                                                            Indeed, that it needs a man with plenty of leisure time
                                                                            To stay lively and satisfy just one sweetheart.
 
                                                                            I reply, Cherouvrier, that I am in love
                                                                            And, not enjoying those sweet good things
                                                                            Which all lovers wish to have at their command,
 
                                                                            As for me I just kiss their hand
                                                                            Their eyes, brow, neck, lips and breast
                                                                            And ask for nothing but those treats, Cherouvrier.

 

 

I do enjoy a good piece of cynicism. And here is Ronsard being more cynical than usual! But it’s a charmer, along with the way Ronsard admits that (as a teenager might put it) he’s not going all the way, let alone 2 or 3 times a night, but in fact is only getting kisses from his ladies.
Maybe it adds a little spice to know that Anne was Marie’s sister – or so it is said. It seems to me likely that the poem pre-dates the whole ‘Marie’ set and refers to a different pair of sisters. In any case, hardly the poem to include in the ‘Amours de Marie’, maybe that’s why it ended up in the collection of discarded pieces…  There is however a little story worth telling here about the composer Anthoine de Bertrand, who set this poem in his books of Ronsard sonnets: it seems that Bertrand’s first wife Marie died and he re-married, to Anne Carrière (she is mentioned as his widow in a document of 1583)… So when he set this text, he was offering a compliment to both ladies, rather than being cynical. Tibullus, in line 4, was a Roman poet of the last years BC – the time of the collapse of the Republic and the age of Augustus. His surviving work consists of two books of love poetry, the first addressed to Delia, the second to Nemesis. His fellow-poet Ovid wrote (in his ‘Amores’): “Sic Nemesis longum sic Delia nomen habebunt, / Altera cura recens, altera primus amor” – ‘thus Nemesis and Delia will long be famous, the latter his recent love, the former his first’.

Blanchemain’s edition has only one variant; and that is in line 9 which reads “Je respons, mon Choiseul, …”

Line 9 has a long history. In 1555 (the original publication) this read “Je respons à cela, que je suis amoureux” (‘I reply to that, that I am in love’). In 1560 – the edition Blanchemain bases his text on – it became “Je respons, mon Choiseul, que…”:  Choiseul is Christophe (or Chretophle) de Choiseul.This appears to have been a nod in the direction of Belleau, who was writing the commentary on this book, and whose friend Choiseul was. Belleau appended a remarkable note to Ronsard’s text: ‘He addresses this sonnet to Chretofle de Choiseul, one of the finest and firmest of friends, whose virtue and integrity (not to speak of his ancient lineage) is well-known among his own friends, and among those professing to be lettered, and to whom (after God) I owe most obedience and humble service for having fed and kept me for ten years, and having given me means to assure the rest of my life against the efforts and violence of necessity.”

Yet in 1567, long before Belleau’s death, and in an edition still nominally commented by Belleau, he changed it to the text above: to which the note reads, “He addresses this sonnet to [Guillaume] Cherouvrier, one of his best and closest friends, whose virtue and integrity is well-known to those who profess to be musical or lettered.” It’s not clear what was going on here, in relation to Belleau and his protector Choiseul, though some have used it as evidence that Belleau was not involved in the notes to the 1567 edition despite his name apprearing on them!  Though very little more seems to be known about Cherouvrier, his name does appear in various royal accounts where he is paid as “chantre de la chambre et chappelle” (chamber & chapel singer) during the 1570s and into the 1580s. Ronsard also addressed ‘Le Souci du Jardin‘ (in Poems book 1) to ‘Sieur Cherouvrier, excellent musicien’ in the late 1560s or early 1570s.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 161

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Que n’ay-je, Amour, cette Fere aussi vive
Entre mes bras, qu’elle est vive en mon cœur ?
Un seul moment guariroit ma langueur,
Et ma douleur feroit aller à rive.
 
Plus elle court, et plus elle est fuitive
Par le sentier d’audace et de rigueur :
Plus je me lasse, et recreu de vigueur
Je marche apres d’une jambe tardive.
 
Au moins escoute, et ralente tes pas :
Comme veneur je ne te poursuy pas,
Ou comme archer qui blesse à l’impourveuë.
 
Mais comme amy de ton amour touché,
Navré du coup qu’Amour m’a décoché,
Forgeant ses traits des beaux rais de ta veuë.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Why do I not have, o Love, this wild animal as alive
                                                                            Within my arms, as she is within my heart?
                                                                            A single moment would cure my listlessness,
                                                                            And make my sadness go by the board.
 
                                                                            The more she runs away, and the more she flies
                                                                            Along the path of boldness and harshness,
                                                                            The more I become tired and, recovering my strength,
                                                                            I walk after her with slow limbs.
 
                                                                            At least hear me, and slow your pace;
                                                                            I do not pursue you like a hunter,
                                                                            Or an archer who wounds unexpectedly;
 
                                                                            But like a lover, wounded by your love,
                                                                            Struck down by the blow which Love loosed on me,
                                                                            Forging his darts from the fair rays of your glance.

 

 

 
 Another satisfying arc to the poem, but why the switch from 3rd to 2nd person halfway through? Odd, though far from unusual in Ronsard!
 
Only minor variants from the Blanchemain version: the very opening, “Puissé-je avoir ceste fere aussi vive …” (‘Oh that I might have this wild animal as alive …’); and in lines 12-13 he is “comme amy de ton amour touché / Du fer cruel qu’Amour m’a décoché”. That could be translated either with the two clauses in juxtaposition – – ‘like a lover, wounded by your love, / By the cruel weapon which Love loosed on me’ – – but if we prefer to enjamb the lines and make a proper sentence out of it, we have something along the lines of ”as one who loves being in love with you, wounded by the cruel weapon …’ (and contrariwise, the Marty-Laveaux version can be read with the verbs juxtaposed as ‘as one who loves being in love with you, wounded and struck down by the blow …’) Though that second option makes sense, context suggests the first version.
 
Muret reminds us that Ronsard is alluding to a well-known passage in Ovid’s metamorphoses in the sestet:  in Dryden’s translation, Apollo calls to Daphne
 
Stay Nymph, he cry’d, I follow, not a foe.
Thus from the lyon trips the trembling doe;
Thus from the wolf the frighten’d lamb removes,
And, from pursuing faulcons, fearful doves;
Thou shunn’st a God, and shunn’st a God, that loves.
 
He adds that the opening two lines are adapted from Pietro Bembo; Ronsard’s poem however goes off in a different direction thereafter. Bembo’s poem is below; my translation is again approximate.

 

La fera che scolpita nel cor tengo,
Così l’avess’ io viva entro le braccia:
Fuggì sì leve, ch’io perdei la traccia,
Né freno il corso, né la sete spengo.
 
Anzo così tra due vivo e sostengo
L’anima forsennata, che procaccia
Far d’una tigre sciolta preda in caccia,
Traendo me, che seguir lei convengo.
 
E so ch’io movo indarno, o penser casso,
E perdo inutilmente il dolce tempo
De la mia vita, che giamai non torna.
 
Ben devrei ricovrarmi, or ch’i’ m’attempo
Et ho forse vicin l’ultimo passo:
Ma piè mosso dal ciel nulla distorna.
 
 
 
                                                                            The wild beast which I keep engraved in my heart,
                                                                            Oh that I thus had her alive within my arms;
                                                                            She flees so lightly that I lose the track,
                                                                            Nor slow my course nor sate my thirst.
 
                                                                            Yet thus between the two I live and my soul
                                                                            Remains crazed, as it tries
                                                                            To make a free-roaming tigress its prey in the hunt,
                                                                            Dragging me along as I agree to pursue her.
 
                                                                            And I know I pursue in vain, my thoughts shattered,
                                                                            And uselessly waste the sweet time
                                                                            Of my life, which will never return.
 
                                                                            I must indeed recover, or at least attempt it,
                                                                            And I am perhaps close to that last step;
                                                                            But a step away from heaven can never turn back.