Tag Archives: Pan

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.

 

Poems 1.20 – the Nightingale

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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.
 
 
 
 
 

Discours – à Pierre L’Escot

Standard

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

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

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

Variants

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

 

Sonnet 25

Standard
Cache pour ceste nuit ta corne, bonne Lune :
Ainsin Endymion soit tousjours ton amy,
Ainsi soit-il tousjours en ton sein endormy,
Ainsi nul enchanteur jamais ne t’importune.
 
Le jour m’est odieux, la nuit m’est opportune,
Je crains de jour l’aguet d’un voisin ennemy :
De nuit plus courageux je traverse parmy
Les espions, couvert de ta courtine brune.
 
Tu sçais, Lune, que peut l’amoureuse poison :
Le Dieu Pan pour le prix d’une blanche toison
Peut bien flechir ton cœur. Et vous Astres insignes,
 
Favorisez au feu qui me tient allumé :
Car s’il vous en souvient, la plus part de vous, Signes,
N’a place dans le ciel que pour avoir aimé.
 
 
                                                                                            Hide your horns for tonight, kind Moon;

                                                                                            So may Endymion always be your friend,
                                                                                            So may he always remain asleep in your bosom,
                                                                                            So does no enchanter ever beg of you.
 
                                                                                           Day is hateful to me, night is opportune,
                                                                                           I fear in day the alert of a nearby enemy;
                                                                                           At night, braver, I pass amongst
                                                                                           Spies, concealed beneath your dark curtain.
 
                                                                                           You know, Moon, what a lover’s poison can do;
                                                                                           The god Pan, for the price of a white fleece,
                                                                                           Can easily influence your heart. And you bright Stars,
 
                                                                                           Show your favour to the fire which burns in me;
                                                                                           For if you remember, the greater part of you, o Signs,
                                                                                           Have your place in the heavens only for having loved.
 
 
Blanchemain offers minor variants in the quatrains. In line 3, he asks for Endymion that he remain “Et sans se réveiller en ton sein endormy” (‘And without waking stay asleep in your bosom’).  Line 8, at the end of the next quatrain, is changed so that the quatrain now ends:
 
De nuit plus courageux je traverse parmy
Le camp des espions, defendu de ta brune.
 
                                                                                             At night, braver, I pass through
                                                                                             The spies’ encampment, protected by your darkness.