Tag Archives: Parque (Fate)

Amours 2:46

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Astres qui dans le ciel rouez vostre voyage,
D’où vient nostre destin de la Parque ordonné ?
Si ma muse autrefois vos honneurs a sonné,
Destournez (s’il vous plaist) mon malheureux presage.
 
Ceste nuict en dormant sans faire aucun outrage
A l’anneau que Marie au soir m’avoit donné,
S’est rompu dans mon doigt, et du faict estonné,
J’ay senty tout mon cœur bouillonner d’une rage.
 
Si ma Dame perjure a peu rompre sa foy
Ainsi que cest anneau s’est rompu dans mon doy,
Astres, je veux mourir, envoyez moy le Somme,
 
Somme aux liens de fer, ennemy du Soleil,
Et faites, s’il est vray, que mes yeux il assomme
Pour victime eternelle au frere du sommeil.
 
 
 
                                                                            O stars who wheel on your way in the heavens,
                                                                            Where does our destiny, ordained by Fate, come from?
                                                                            If my muse in the past made your honour resound
                                                                            Turn aside – please! – my unhappy future.
 
                                                                            Tonight as I slept, without doing any damage
                                                                            To the ring which Marie had given me that evening,
                                                                            It broke on my finger, and astonished by that
                                                                            Infect my whole heart boiling with anger.
 
                                                                            If my forsworn lady could break her faith
                                                                            Just as this ring of hers broke on my finger,
                                                                            O stars, I’d rather die; send me Sleep
 
                                                                            The sleep with iron cords, enemy of the Sun,
                                                                            And, if it is true, make him strike down my eyes
                                                                            As eternal victims for sleep’s brother.
 
 
Ronsard as always is very precise in his mythology: “sleep’s brother” is clearly Death (Thanatos), who is indeed the brother of Hypnos, god of sleep. Nowadays we’re more likely to think of Morpheus, but he was god of dreams not sleep, and the son of Hypnos.
 
The way in which Ronsard leaps to the conclusion that Marie is unfaithful seems here rather unmotivated, calling on sleep to kill him immediately “if it is true”: in the earlier Blanchemain version – which is the same until the final tercet – we get a rather stronger line of thought, with sleep being invoked initially as a test, a check on the ‘oracle’:
 
 
                    … envoyez moy le Somme,
 
Afin d’interpreter la doute de mon sort,
Et faites, s’il est vray, que mes yeux il assomme
Sans plus les réveiller, au dormir de la mort.
 
 
                                                                                                                    … send me Sleep

 

                                                                           To interpret the uncertainty of my fate,

                                                                            And, if it is true, make him strike down my eyes,
                                                                            No more to wake, with the sleep of death.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 62

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Quand ces beaux yeux jugeront que je meure,
Avant mes jours me bannissant là bas,
Et que la Parque aura porté mes pas
A l’autre bord de la rive meilleure :
 
Antres et prez, et vous forests, à l’heure,
Pleurant mon mal, ne me dédaignez pas :
Ains donnez moy sous l’ombre de vos bras,
Une eternelle et paisible demeure.
 
Puisse avenir qu’un poëte amoureux,
Ayant pitié de mon sort malheureux,
Dans un cyprès note cet epigramme :
 
CI DESSOUS GIST UN AMANT VANDOMOIS
QUE LA DOULEUR TUA DEDANS CE BOIS
POUR AIMER TROP LES BEAUX YEUX DE SA DAME.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           When those fair eyes determine I shall die,
                                                                           Banishing me down below before my time,
                                                                           And when Fate has borne my steps
                                                                           To the far bank of that better river;
 
                                                                           Then, caves and meadows and forests, then
                                                                           Weeping over my misfortune, do not scorn me,
                                                                           But give me in the shade of your arms
                                                                           Eternal and peaceful rest.
 
                                                                           And may a poet in love,
                                                                           Pitying my unhappy fate,
                                                                           Place this epigram on a cypress:
 
                                                                           BENEATH THERE LIES A LOVER FROM VENDOME
                                                                           KILLED BY GRIEF WITHIN THESE WOODS
                                                                           FOR LOVING TOO MUCH HIS LADY’S FAIR EYES.
 
  
Regarding line 11, Blanchemain reminds us in a footnote that ‘in Greek an epigram signifies any inscription’ – but an epigram could also be a three line mini-poem such as the last tercet so I’m not sure that it’s necessary to see Ronsard making a Greek allusion here!  On the other hand line 4 clearly is a classical allusion, since only in classical myth is the afterlife bordered by a river (the Styx) – and of course ‘below’ rather than in heaven ‘above’.
 
There are only a couple of variants in Blanchemain, both in the second quatrain, where Ronsard chose new effects without modifying the sense. That quatrain reads:
 
 
Antres et prez, et vous forests, à l’heure,
Je vous suppli, ne me dédaignez pas :
Ains donnez moy sous l’ombre de vos bras,
Pour tout jamais eternelle demeure.
 
 
                                                                           Then, caves and meadows and forests, then
                                                                           I beg you, do not scorn me,
                                                                           But give me in the shade of your arms
                                                                           For all time eternal rest.
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 56

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Quel sort malin, quel astre me fit estre
Jeune et si fol, et de malheur si plein ?
Quel destin fit que tousjours je me plain
De la rigueur d’un trop rigoureux maistre ?
 
Quelle des Sœurs à l’heure de mon estre
Pour mon malheur noircit mon fil humain ?
Quel des Démons m’eschauffant en son sein,
En lieu de laict, de soin me fit repaistre ?
 
Heureux les corps dont la terre a les os !
Bien-heureux ceux que la nuit du Chaos
Presse au giron de sa masse brutale !
 
Sans sentiment, leur repos est heureux :
Que suis-je, las ! moy chetif amoureux,
Pour trop sentir, qu’un Sisyphe ou Tantale ?
 
 
 
 
                                                                           What malign fate, what star made me
                                                                           Young and so foolish, and so full of misfortune?
                                                                           What destiny made me always complain
                                                                           Of the harshness of a too-strict master?
 
                                                                           Which of the Sisters at the time of my creation
                                                                           Blackened the thread of my life to my misfortune?
                                                                           Which of the Demons, warming me at his breast,
                                                                           Fed me with hard care in place of milk?
 
                                                                           Fortunate those corpses whose bones are in the earth!
                                                                           So fortunate those whom the night of Chaos
                                                                           Presses to the bosom of his rough form!
 
                                                                           This is not sentiment: their rest is happy;
                                                                           But I, alas, the wretched lover – what am I
                                                                           From having too much feeling, but Sisyphus or Tantalus?
 
 
 
Another sonnet with which the older Ronsard tinkered; I have for instance translated line 7 above to follow line 5 (‘Which of the …’) even though that feels a little awkward in line 7, only because in the earlier version (below) Ronsard does not deliberately parallel the beginning of the lines!  (Interesting that he removes the insistent duplication of “Heureux ceux-là” in lines 9-10, but adds the less insistent duplication of lines 7 & 9.) The Sisters are a well-defined group – the three Graiai whom Perseus visits, sometimes identified with the Moirai or Fates who spin the threads of man’s life; ‘the Demons’ are a far less clearly-defined group – ‘which demon’ (in Blanchmain’s version) carries that sense of a less-defined group better.
 
In other respects the change in the second stanza seems clearly (to me) to move away from the easy writing of the early version towards a more tortured, deliberately complex and obscure style – Ronsard (again) trying too hard in his old age to eliminate elements of youthful simplicity from his poems?
 
Sisyphus and Tantalus in the final line are famous images of the torments of Hell – Sisyphus always rolling his great rock uphill but never reaching the top, Tantalus always ‘tantalised’ by food and water just out of reach.
 
Again, as changes occur throughout, and so that you can take your own view on the versions of the second stanza, here is the complete Blanchemain (early) version:
 
 
 
Quel Dieu malin, quel astre, me fit estre
Et de misére et de tourment si plein ?
Quel destin fit que tousjours je me plain
De la rigueur d’un trop rigoureux maistre ?
 
Quelle des Sœurs, à l’heure de mon estre
Noircit le fil de mon sort inhumain ?
Et quel démon d’une senestre main,
Berça mon corps quand le ciel me fit naistre ?
 
Heureux ceux-là dont la terre a les os !
Heureux ceux-là que la nuict du chaos
Presse au giron de sa masse brutale !
 
Sans sentiment, leur repos est heureux :
Que suis-je,  las ! moy chetif amoureux,
Pour trop sentir, qu’un Sisyphe ou Tantale ?
 
 
 
 
                                                                           What malign god, what star made me
                                                                           So full of sorrow and pain?
                                                                           What destiny made me always complain
                                                                           Of the harshness of a too-strict master?
 
                                                                           Which of the Sisters at the time of my creation
                                                                           Blackened the thread of my inhuman fate?
                                                                           And which Demon with ominous hand
                                                                           Cradled my limbs when heaven had me born?
 
                                                                           Fortunate those whose bones are in the earth!
                                                                           Fortunate those whom the night of Chaos
                                                                           Presses to the bosom of his rough form!
 
                                                                           This is not sentiment: their rest is happy;
                                                                           But I, alas, the wretched lover – what am I
                                                                           From having too much feeling, but Sisyphus or Tantalus?

 

 
 
 
 

To Jean Galland

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Because I like it – and because it starts with a ‘G’ 🙂 – here is a « fragment que Ronsard n’a peu achever, prevenu de mort. » (a fragment Ronsard was unable to finish, overtaken by death).

 
Galland, ma seconde ame, Atrebatique race,
Encor que nos ayeux ay’nt emmuré la place
De nos villes bien loin, la tienne prés d’Arras,
La mienne prés Vendosme, où le Loir de ses bras
Arrouse doucement nos collines vineuses,
Et nos champs fromentiers de vagues limoneuses,
Et la Lise des tiens qui baignent ton Artois
S’enfuit au sein du Rhin, la borne des Gaulois :
Pour estre separé de villes et d’espaces,
Cela n’empesche point que les trois belles Graces,
L’honneur et la vertu, n’ourdissent le lien
Qui serre de si prés mon cœur avec le tien.
Heureux qui peut trouver pour passer l’avanture
De ce Monde un amy de gentille nature,
Comme tu es, Galland, en qui les Cieux ont mis
Tout le parfait requis aux plus parfaits amis.
Jà mon soir s’embrunit, et déja ma journée
Fuit vers son Occident à demy retournée,
La Parque ne me veut ny me peut secourir :
Encore ta carriere est bien longue à courir,
Ta vie est en sa course, et d’une forte haleine
Et d’un pied vigoureux tu fais jaillir l’areine
Sous tes pas, aussi fort que quelque bon guerrier
Le sablon Elean pour le prix du Laurier …
 
 
 
 
                                                                             Galland, my second soul, descended from the Atrebates,
                                                                             Although our ancestors had established the walls
                                                                             Of our towns far apart, yours near Arras
                                                                             And mine near Vendôme, where the Loir with its arms
                                                                             Gently waters our vine-bearing hills
                                                                             And our fields of wheat with its muddy waves,
                                                                             While the Lise with its [arms] which bathe your Artois
                                                                             Runs down to the bosom of the Rhine, the edge of Gaul;
                                                                             Though separated by towns and distance,
                                                                             That does not prevent the three fair Graces,
                                                                             Honour and virtue from weaving the bond
                                                                             Which binds my heart so closely with yours.
                                                                             Fortunate he who can find, to share the adventure
                                                                             Of this world, a friend of noble nature
                                                                             Like you, Galland, in whom the Heavens have placed
                                                                             Everything perfect required in the most perfect friends.
                                                                             Now my evening darkens, and my daytime
                                                                             Flees westward, half-passed,
                                                                             And Fate neither can nor will help me;
                                                                             But your career has long to run,
                                                                             Your life is set in its course, and with strong lungs
                                                                             And vigorous feet you make the sand leap
                                                                             Beneath your feet, as strongly as some fine warrior
                                                                             Might the sand of Elis to take the prize, the laurel-wreath …
 
 
 
Ronsard’s trusted friend Jean Galland was principal of the Collège de Boncourt in Paris, and after Ronsard’s death both organised an annual commemoration of the poet in the chapel there, and (together with Claude Binet) edited Ronsard’s late verse and put together the ‘Tombeau de Ronsard’, a (substantial) collection of poems in Ronsard’s honour. The Collège had other links with Ronsard’s circle: tragedies by Jodelle were performed there, and Muret taught Jodelle and Belleau there. In 1688 it was Pierre Galand, then principal, who merged the Collège with the Collège de Navarre.
 
This fragment is (obviously) very classicising, and stuffed with antique references.  The Atrebates were a tribe from the Pas-de-Calais area, who established an offshoot in southern England after Caesar’s conquest. The centre of the region is now Artois, its capital Arras, from which the river (now the Scarpe) heads east towards the Rhine and the border between Gaul and Germania.
 
Elis was a state in the south of ancient Greece: within it was Olympus, seat of the Olympic Games – so running on Elean sands is running in the Olympics.
 
A minor editorial note: Blanchemain has “Pour estre separés de villes et d’espaces” in line 9. The text above in effect says ‘though I am separated from you…’, while Blanchemain’s plural says ‘though we are separated…’ – I leave you to choose which you prefer.
 
 
 
 

Elegy XVI (Ronsard’s autobiography) – epic 200th post :-)

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This is my 200th post (though not yet the 200th poem), so I wanted to do something special. In the end it has snowballed a bit and this post is going to be monstrously long…!!  Hope you enjoy it anyway.

In his Elegies, Ronsard included a poem – addressed to his old friend Remy Belleau – which provides his family background and details of his early life – sometimes uncorroborated details we only learn here but often events we can triangulate against other records. So, here is his Elegy XVI (or in Blanchemain’s numbering Elegy XX), with translations, annotations and added biographical detail…   🙂

It is worth noting before we start, though, that this poem was published in the Bocage in 1554 addressed to his friend Pierre de Pascal [Paschal] “du bas païs de Languedoc” (‘from the low country of Languedoc’), not to Remy Belleau!  In that version Durbam/Durban [Michel-Pierre de Mauléon, protonotary of Durban], not Baïf, is the 3rd in their group in the final line…

1 – the poem

As usual, in Marty-Laveaux’s edition (Ronsard’s latest thoughts) first:

Je veux, mon cher Belleau, que tu n’ignores point
D’où, ne qui est celuy, que les Muses ont joint
D’un nœud si ferme à toy, afin que des années,
A nos neveux futurs, les courses retournées
Ne celent que Belleau et Ronsard n’estoient qu’un,
Et que tous deux avoient un mesme cœur commun.
 
 
 
Or quant à mon ancestre, il a tiré sa race
D’où le glacé Danube est voisin de la Thrace :
Plus bas que la Hongrie, en une froide part,
Est un Seigneur nommé le Marquis de Ronsart,
Riche d’or et de gens, de villes et de terre.
Un de ses fils puisnez ardant de voir la guerre,
Un camp d’autres puisnez assembla hazardeux,
Et quittant son pays, faict Capitaine d’eux
Traversa la Hongroie et la basse Allemaigne.
Traversa la Bourgongne et la grasse Champaigne,
Et hardy vint servir Philippes de Valois,
Qui pour lors avoit guerre encontre les Anglois.
 
Il s’employa si bien au service de France,
Que le Roy luy donna des biens à suffisance
Sur les rives du Loir : puis du tout oubliant
Freres, pere et pays, François se mariant
Engendra les ayeux dont est sorty le pere
Par qui premier je vy ceste belle lumiere.
 
 
Mon pere fut tousjours en son vivant icy
Maistre-d’hostel du Roy, et le suivit aussi
Tant qu’il fut prisonnier pour son pere en Espaigne :
Faut-il pas qu’un servant son Seigneur accompaigne
Fidele à sa fortune, et qu’en adversité
Luy soit autant loyal qu’en la felicité ?

Du costé maternel j’ay tiré mon lignage
De ceux de la Trimouille, et de ceux du Bouchage,
Et de ceux des Roüaux, et de ceux des Chaudriers
Qui furent en leurs temps si vertueux guerriers,
Que leur noble vertu que Mars rend eternelle
Reprint sur les Anglois les murs de la Rochelle,
Où l’un fut si vaillant qu’encores aujourd’huy
Une rue à son los porte le nom de luy.
 
Mais s’il te plaist avoir autant de cognoissance
(Comme de mes ayeux) du jour de ma naissance,
Mon Belleau, sans mentir je diray verité
Et de l’an et du jour de ma nativité.
 
 
L’an que le Roy François fut pris devant Pavie,
Le jour d’un Samedy, Dieu me presta la vie
L’onzieme de Septembre, et presque je me vy
Tout aussi tost que né, de la Parque ravy.
 
 
Je ne fus le premier des enfants de mon pere,
Cinq davant ma naissance en enfanta ma mere :
Deux sont morts au berceau, aux trois vivans en rien
Semblable je ne suis ny de mœurs ny de bien.
 
Si tost que j’eu neuf ans, au college on me meine :
Je mis tant seulement un demy an de peine
D’apprendre les leçons du regent de Vailly,
Puis sans rien profiter du college sailly.
Je vins en Avignon, où la puissante armée
Du Roy François estoit fierement animée
Contre Charles d’Autriche, et là je fus donné
Page au Duc d’Orleans : apres je fus mené
Suivant le Roi d’Escosse en l’Escossoise terre,
Où trente mois je fus, et six en Angleterre.
 
 
A mon retour ce Duc pour page me reprint :
Long temps à l’Escurie en repos ne me tint
Qu’il me renvoyast en Flandres et Zelande,
Et depuis en Escosse, où la tempeste grande
Avecques Lassigni, cuida faire toucher
Poussée aux bords Anglois la nef contre un rocher.
 
Plus de trois jours entiers dura ceste tempeste,
D’eau, de gresle et d’esclairs nous menassant la teste :
A la fin arrivez sans nul danger au port,
La nef en cent morceaux se rompt contre le bord,
Nous laissant sur la rade, et point n’y eut de perte
Sinon elle qui fut des flots salez couverte,
Et le bagage espars que le vent secoüoit,
Et qui servoit flottant aux ondes de jouet.
 
 
D’Escosse retourné, je fus mis hors de page,
Et à peine seize ans avoient borné mon âge,
Que l’an cinq cens quarante avec Baïf je vins
En la haute Allemaigne, où la langue j’apprins.
 
Mais làs ! à mon retour une aspre maladie
Par ne sçay quel destin me vint boucher l’ouie,
Et dure m’accabla d’assommement si lourd,
Qu’encores aujourd’huy j’en reste demy-sourd.
L’an d’apres en Avril, Amour me fist surprendre,
Suivant la Cour à Blois, des beaux yeux de Cassandre
Soit le nom faux ou vray, jamais le temps veinqueur
N’effacera ce nom du marbre de mon cœur.
 
 
 
 
Convoiteux de sçavoir, disciple je vins estre
De d’Aurat à Paris, qui cinq ans fut mon maistre
En Grec et en Latin : chez luy premierement
Nostre ferme amitié print son commencement,
Laquelle dans mon ame à tout jamais, et celle
De nostre amy Baïf sera perpetuelle.
 
I’d like, my dear Belleau, for you not to be in any way uninformed
About where he’s from, and who he is, this man whom the Muses have bound
With so firm a knot to you, such that the years’
Course turning will not hide from our future descendants
That Belleau and Ronsard were but one person,
The two joined by one shared heart.
 
So, as for my first ancestor, he came from roots
Where the freezing Danube runs beside Thrace;
Lower down than Hungary, in a cold region,
There was a Lord named Marquis of Ronsart,
Rich in gold and retainers, in towns and lands.
One of his younger sons, eager to see war,
Assembled a band of other daring younger sons
And, leaving his country, as their Captain
Crossed Hungary and lower Germany,
Crossed Burgundy and rich Champagne,
And boldly came to serve Philip of Valois
Who for some time had been at war with the English.
 
He acted so well in the service of France
That the King gave him plentiful holdings
On the banks of the Loir; then forgetting all about
Brothers, father and homeland, as a Frenchman he married
And bore the ancestors from whom descended the father
Through whom I first saw this fair light.
 
My father was always while living here
In charge of the King’s household, and he followed him
Even when he was a prisoner in Spain for his father;
Shouldn’t a servant accompany his Lord,
Loyal to his fate, and in bad times
Be as loyal to him as in good?
 
On my mother’s side, I take my lineage
From the people of Trimouille, of Bouchage,
Of Rouaux, and of Chaudriers;
They were in their time such brave warriors
That their noble bravery (may Mars make it everlasting)
Re-took from the English the walls of La Rochelle,
Where one of them was so valiant that even today
In his honour a street bears his name.
 
But if it would please you to have as much information
About the date of my birth, as about my ancestors,
Dear Belleau, then without falsifying anything I shall tell you the true
Date, both the year and the day, of my birth.
 
The year in which King Francis was taken before Pavia,
On a Saturday, God granted me life –
The 11th September it was – and I very nearly found myself
As soon as born, torn away by Fate.
 
I was not the first of my father’s children,
My mother had produced five children before my birth:
Two died in the cradle, and to the three living am I
In no way similar in either way of life or wealth.
 
As soon as I was nine, they sent me to college,
But I spent only half a year troubling
To learn the lessons of the master, de Vailly.
Then I left having gained nothing from college.
I came to Avignon, where the powerful army
Of King Francis was proudly in action
Against Charles of Austria; and there I was granted
The role of page to the Duke of Orleans; afterwards I was sent
In the King of Scotland’s entourage to Scotland
Where I spent 30 months, and six in England.
 
On my return the Duke took me back as page,
But I did not stay quietly in the Royal Mews for long
Before he sent me to Flanders and Zeeland
And then to Scotland, where a great storm
Tried to drive the ship, along with Lassigni,
Onto the rocks, after blowing it to the coast of England.
 
More than three whole days the storm lasted,
Menacing our lives with water, hail and lightning;
In the end, as we arrived with no danger at port,
The ship broke into a hundred pieces on the coast
Leaving us in the harbour with no losses
Except the ship herself, sunk in the salty waves,
And our widely-scattered baggage blown about by the wind
Which used it as a plaything as it floated on the waves.
 
Returned from Scotland I lost my job as page
And had barely reached the age of sixteen
When in 1540 I went with Baïf
To Upper Germany, where I learned the language.
 
But alas, on my return a terrible illness
For some end unknown came and stopped up my hearing,
And hit me hard with a blow so heavy
That still today I remain half-deaf as a result.
The year after, in April, love took me unawares
As I followed the Court to Blois, through the fair eyes of Cassandre.
Whether that name is her true one or not, never will conquering time
Wipe that name from the marble [memorial] in my heart.
 
Eager to learn, I came to be the disciple
Of d’Aurat in Paris, and he was for five years my teacher
In Greek and Latin; it was at his home that first
Our firm friendship began
And it shall for all time in my soul, along with that
For our friend Baïf, be everlasting.
 
 

Inevitably, there are varants in Blanchemain’s edition (Ronsard’s first version):  for simplicity here is the whole poem with changes marked in red:

ELEGIE XX
A REMY BELLEAU
Excellent Poëte françois
 
Je veux, mon cher Belleau, que tu n’ignores point
D’où, ne qui est celuy, que les Muses ont joint
D’un nœud si ferme à toy, afin que des années,
A nos neveux futurs, les courses retournées
Ne celent que Belleau et Ronsard n’estoient qu’un,
Et que tous deux avoient un mesme cœur commun.
 
 
 
Or quant à mon ancestre, il a tiré sa race
D’où le glacé Danube est voisin de la Thrace :
Plus bas que la Hongrie, en une froide part,
Est un Seigneur nommé le Marquis de Ronsart,
Riche d’or et de gens, de villes et de terre.
Un de ses fils puisnez ardant de voir la guerre,
Un camp d’autres puisnez assembla hazardeux,
Et quittant son pays, faict Capitaine d’eux
Traversa la Hongrie et la basse Allemaigne.
Traversa la Bourgongne et toute la Champaigne,
Et soudard vint servir Philippes de Valois,
Qui pour lors avoit guerre encontre les Anglois.
 
Il s’employa si bien au service de France,
Que le Roy luy donna des biens à suffisance
Sur les rives du Loir : puis du tout oubliant
Freres, pere et pays, François se mariant
Engendra les ayeux dont est sorty le pere
Par qui premier je vy ceste belle lumiere.
 
 
Mon pere de Henry gouverna la maison,
Fils du grand Roy François, quand il fut en prison
Servant de seur hostage à son pere en Espagne:
Faut-il pas qu’un servant son Seigneur accompaigne
Fidele à sa fortune, et qu’en adversité
Luy soit autant loyal qu’en la felicité ?
 
 
Du costé maternel j’ay tiré mon lignage
De ceux de la Trimouille, et de ceux du Bouchage,
Et de ceux des Roüaux, et de ceux des Chaudriers
Qui furent en leurs temps si vertueux guerriers,
Que leur noble prouesse, au fait des armes belle
Reprint sur les Anglois les murs de la Rochelle,
Où l’un fut si vaillant qu’encores aujourd’huy
Une rue à son los porte le nom de luy.
 
Mais s’il te plaist avoir autant de cognoissance
(Comme de mes ayeux) du jour de ma naissance,
Mon Belleau, sans mentir je diray verité
Et de l’an et du jour de ma nativité.
 
 
L’an que le Roy François fut pris devant Pavie,
Le jour d’un Samedy, Dieu me presta la vie
L’onziesme de Septembre, et presque je me vy
Tout aussi tost que né, de la Parque ravy.
 
 
Je ne fus le premier des enfants de mon père,
Cinq avant moy longtemps en enfanta ma mere :
Deux sont morts au berceau, aux trois vivans en rien
Semblable je ne suis ny de mœurs ny de bien.
 
Si tost que j’eu neuf ans, au college on me meine :
Je mis tant seulement un demy an de peine
D’apprendre les leçons du regent de Vailly,
Puis sans rien profiter du college sailly,
Je vins en Avignon, où la puissante armée
Du Roy François estoit fierement animée
Contre Charles d’Austriche, et là je fus donné
Page au Duc d’Orleans : apres je fus mené
Suivant le Roy d’Escosse en l’Escossoise terre,
Où trente mois je fus, et six en Angleterre.
 
 
A mon retour ce Duc pour Pape me reprint :
Et guere à l’Escurie en repos ne me tint
Qu’il me renvoyast en Flandres et Zelande,
Et encore en Escosse, où la tempeste grande
Avecques Lassigni, cuida faire toucher
Poussée aux bords Anglois ma nef contre un rocher.
 
 
 
Plus de trois jours entiers dura ceste tempeste,
D’eau, de gresle et d’esclairs nous menassant la teste :
A la fin arrivez sans nul danger au port,
La nef en cent morceaux se rompt contre le bord,
Nous laissant sur la rade, et point n’y eut de perte
Sinon elle qui fut des flots salez couverte,
Et le bagage espars que le vent secoüoit,
Et qui servoit flottant aux ondes de jouet.
 
 
D’Escosse retourné, je fus mis hors de page,
Et à peine seize ans avoient borné mon âge,
Que l’an cinq cens quarante avec Baïf je vins
En la haute Allemaigne, où la langue j’apprins.
 
Mais làs ! à mon retour une aspre maladie
Par ne sçay quel destin me vint boucher l’ouie,
Et dure m’accabla d’assommement si lourd,
Qu’encores aujourd’huy j’en reste demy-sourd.
L’an d’apres en Avril, Amour me fist surprendre,
Suivant la Cour à Blois, des beaux yeux de Cassandre
Soit le nom faux ou vray, jamais le temps veinqueur
N’ostera ce beau nom du marbre de mon cœur.
 
 
 
 
 
Incontinent apres disciple je vins estre
A Paris, de Daurat qui cinq ans fut mon maistre
En Grec et en Latin : chez luy premierement
Nostre ferme amitié print son commencement,
Laquelle dans mon ame à tout jamais, et celle
De nostre amy Baïf sera perpetuelle.
 
ELEGY 20
TO REMY BELLEAU
Excellent poet of France
 
I’d like, my dear Belleau, for you not to be in any way uninformed
About where he’s from, and who he is, this man whom the Muses have bound
With so firm a knot to you, such that the years’
Course turning will not hide from our future descendants
That Belleau and Ronsard were but one person,
The two joined by one shared heart.
 
So, as for my first ancestor, he came from roots
Where the freezing Danube runs beside Thrace;
Lower down than Hungary, in a cold region,
There was a Lord named Marquis of Ronsart,
Rich in gold and retainers, in towns and lands.
One of his younger sons, eager to see war,
Assembled a band of other daring younger sons
And, leaving his country, as their Captain
Crossed Hungary and lower Germany,
Crossed Burgundy and all of Champagne,
And came as a mercenary to serve Philip of Valois
Who for some time had been at war with the English.
 
He acted so well in the service of France
That the King gave him plentiful holdings
On the banks of the Loir; then forgetting all about
Brothers, father and homeland, as a Frenchman he married
And bore the ancestors from whom descended the father
Through whom I first saw this fair light.
 
My father managed the household of Henry,
Son of the great King Francis, serving his lord
When he was in prison as a hostage for his father in Spain;
Shouldn’t a servant accompany his Lord,
Loyal to his fate, and in bad times
Be as loyal to him as in good?
 
On my mother’s side, I take my lineage
From the people of Trimouille, of Bouchage,
Of Rouaux, and of Chaudriers;
They were in their time such brave warriors
That their noble prowess, fair in deeds of arms,
Re-took from the English the walls of La Rochelle,
Where one of them was so valiant that even today
In his honour a street bears his name.
 
But if it would please you to have as much information
About the date of my birth, as about my ancestors,
Dear Belleau, then without falsifying anything I shall tell you the true
Date, both the year and the day, of my birth.
 
The year in which King Francis was taken before Pavia,
On a Saturday, God granted me life –
The 11th September it was – and I very nearly found myself
As soon as born, torn away by Fate.
 
I was not the first of my father’s children,
My mother had produced five long before me;
Two died in the cradle, and to the three living am I
In no way similar in either way of life or wealth.
 
As soon as I was nine, they sent me to college,
But I spent only half a year troubling
To learn the lessons of the master, de Vailly.
Then I left having gained nothing from college.
I came to Avignon, where the powerful army
Of King Francis was proudly in action
Against Charles of Austria; and there I was granted
The role of page to the Duke of Orleans; afterwards I was sent
In the King of Scotland’s entourage to Scotland
Where I spent 30 months, and six in England.
 
On my return the Duke took me back [on the Pope’s behalf??]
   [surely a misprint for ‘page’?!]
But barely had I stopped quietly in the Royal Mews
Before he sent me to Flanders and Zeeland
And again to Scotland, where a great storm
Tried to drive my ship, along with Lassigni,
Onto the rocks, after blowing it to the coast of England.
 
More than three whole days the storm lasted,
Menacing our lives with water, hail and lightning;
In the end, as we arrived with no danger at port,
The ship broke into a hundred pieces on the coast
Leaving us in the harbour with no losses
Except the ship herself, sunk in the salty waves,
And our widely-scattered baggage blown about by the wind
Which used it as a plaything as it floated on the waves.
 
Returned from Scotland I lost my job as page
And had barely reached the age of sixteen
When in 1540 I went with Baïf
To Upper Germany, where I learned the language.
 
But alas, on my return a terrible illness
For some end unknown came and stopped up my hearing,
And hit me hard with a blow so heavy
That still today I remain half-deaf as a result.
The year after, in April, love took me unawares
As I followed the Court to Blois, through the fair eyes of Cassandre.
Whether that name is her true one or not, never will conquering time
Remove that fair name from the marble [memorial] in my heart.
 
Immediately afterwards, I came to be the disciple
Of Daurat in Paris, and he was for five years my teacher
In Greek and Latin; it was at his home that first
Our firm friendship began
And it shall for all time in my soul, along with that
For our friend Baïf, be everlasting.

(As noted in the text, I assume the printing of “Pape” instead of “page” is a typo. My approximation of what the Pope might be doing in there is really not a translation of what the French says in any case!)

2 – biographical notes

(i) Blanchemain

Blanchemain litters his text with footnotes: as he puts it “we have retained (‘conservé’) all the notes on this piece…” – though I am not sure which early edition he’s “conserved” them from. So here are the relevant lines from the translation of his edition (above), paired with his notes. My own additions or clarifications are in [brackets]:
So, as for my first ancestor, he came from roots
Where the freezing Danube runs beside Thrace;
Lower down than Hungary, in a cold region,
There was a Lord named Marquis of Ronsart,
Rich in gold and retainers, in towns and lands.
One of his younger sons, eager to see war,
Assembled a band of other daring younger sons
And, leaving his country, as their Captain
Crossed Hungary and lower Germany,
Crossed Burgundy and all of Champagne,
And came as a mercenary to serve Philip of Valois
Who for some time had been at war with the English.
He acted so well in the service of France
That the King gave him plentiful holdings
On the banks of the Loir;
This ancestor of our poet, who came from the lower Danube to offer his services to Philip of Valois, was called Marucini or Mârâcinâ like his father, who added to his name the title of Bano (Ban). Once settled in France he translated his paternal name and title literally, changing ‘bano’ into Marquis and Marucini (=Ronces – bramble; or Roncière – bramble-bush) into Ronsard. Source: Ubicini 1855, Romanian Popular Songs collected by Alecsandri [see further the notes below about Alecsandri’s contribution on this origins story].
My father managed the household of Henry,
Son of the great King Francis, serving his lord
When he was in prison as a hostage for his father in Spain;

Henry = Henry II, then Duke of Orleans. It was a great thing at that time to be in charge of the king’s household; for his responsibilities were given only to noble folk and there were no valets [grooms] who were not gentlemen.

King Francis I, who was captured before Pavia covered in dust and blood, returned to France [in exchange for] leaving his two sons, Francis the dauphin & Henry Duke of Orleans (later king) as hostages in Spain.

On my mother’s side, I take my lineage
From the people of Trimouille, of Bouchage,
Of Rouaux, and of Chaudriers;

Trimouille: the princess, mother of the Prince of Condé, bore this name.  Bouchage: of the house of Joyeuse, father of madame de Guise, mother of mlle. De Montpensier.  Rouaux: from which came that great warrior Joachim Roüaut [Rouault], marshal of France under Charles VII [actually, under Louis XI in 1461 rather than under Charles; Jeanne Chaudrier, Ronsard’s mother, was a descendant].  Chaudriers: an ancient house [going back to the Mayor of la Rochelle c1300;  Ronsard’s mother was also Dame du Bouchaige].

 … and I very nearly found myself
As soon as born, torn away by Fate.

The maid carrying him when they were taking him to baptism dropped him on a meadow, specified as the pré Bouju by Cohen(!).

Two died in the cradle, and to the three living am I
In no way similar in either way of life or wealth.

Descended from the eldest brother and still alive in 1623, his grandsons, were de la Poissonière & the knight Ronsard, and several girls descended from one or the other of the children.

 As soon as I was nine, they sent me to college,

He studied at the college in Navarre under a man called de Vailly, beneath whom also studied the Cardinal of Lorraine [a member of the influential Guise family].

 I came to Avignon, where the powerful army
Of King Francis was proudly in action
Against Charles of Austria; and there I was granted
The role of page to the Duke of Orleans; afterwards I was sent
In the King of Scotland’s entourage to Scotland
Where I spent 30 months, and six in England.

Charles = Charles V, [Holy Roman] Emperor and King of Spain, who attacked Provence and who boasted he’d hold Paris like Madrid.

Orleans = Henry II, being Dauphin on the death of his brother, poisoned at Tournon by the Count of Montecuculo [Count Sebastiano de Montecuccoli, secretary to the Dauphin, was executed for his murder though it is likely the Dauphin died of tuberculosis].

Ronsard made the journey to Scotland in 1536, in the entourage of James V who had just married Madeleine, daughter of Francis I, in Paris. That king married secondly [Mary of Guise] the sister of M de Guise, Francis of Lorraine; from whence comes the blood-relationship between the Guise family & the king of England.

Before he sent me to Flanders and Zeeland
And again to Scotland, where a great storm
Tried to drive my ship, along with Lassigni,
Onto the rocks,

Flanders: the Duke of Orleans sent Ronsard, who was his page, to Flanders and Zeeland, with several letters of credit that he sent to his mistress, niece of the Emperor.

Lassigni: a French lord.

When in 1540 I went with Baïf
To Upper Germany,

This was Lazare Baïf, a gentleman of Anjou, related to those [gentlemen] de Laval [an important family, producing several marshals of France in mid-1400s] and de Guimené; the king’s ambassador in Germany as he had been in Venice; a very learned man, witness the books he wrote De re navali [About naval matters] and De re vestiaria [Concerning clothes]. He was father of Jean Antoine Baïf, excellent poet.

(ii) additional notes

“My father was always while living here
In charge of the King’s household “
“My father managed the household of Henry,
Son of the great King Francis, serving his lord
When he was in prison as a hostage for his father in Spain;”

Loys de Ronsard served Louis XII with distinction in the Italian wars between 1495 and 1515 – being present at the taking of Milan in 1499 and Genoa in 1507, the capture of Ludovico Sforza in 1500, and the battles of Agnadello (1509) and Marignano (1515). After the King’s death Loys became maître-d’hotel and then premier maître-d’hotel to King Francis I and remained in France, but following the disastrous battle of Pavia when the King was captured he spent the years 1526-30 in Spain with the hostages who had been swapped for the King’s freedom after Pavia: the dauphin Francis and his younger brother Henry, later Henry II. He brought back a fair bit of Renaissance sculpture from Italy to adorn his home (the Château de la Poissonière, near Vendôme, where his son Pierre was later born), among the earlier Frenchmen to appreciate the new art burgeoning in Italy.

 “The year in which King Francis was taken before Pavia,
On a Saturday, God granted me life –
The 11th September it was”

Ronsard’s birthdate is a cause of endless confusion, argument and uncertainty. It amuses me that the biography on Wikipedia.fr states three different dates in three different places… We know where he was born (the Château de la Poissonière, near Vendôme), but not quite when. Ronsard says here he was born on Saturday 11th September 1524.  However, the 11th September was in fact a Sunday in 1524.  (And, because 1524 was a leap year, it was a Friday the year before; and thus 11th September was never a Saturday in the 1520s!)  Other dates suggested therefore include Saturday 10th; as well as Friday 2nd or even late at night on Saturday 10th as it was just turning into Sunday(!). Perhaps  from a mis-reading of the poem, a tradition grew up that he was born on the date of the Battle of Pavia, 25th February 1525, as well. [Note: this is still ‘in the same year’ as his birth because new year was at the beginning of March at this time.] The 2nd September 1525, and even 6th September 1522 – both of which are Saturdays – have also been suggested. The fact is, we will never know: but a date in early September 1524 seems likeliest.

 “I was not the first of my father’s children,
My mother had produced five long before me;
Two died in the cradle”

We know that Ronsard had a sister and two brothers: Louise (b. 1514), Claude (b. 1515) and Charles (b. 1519) who entered the church. He was the last born – and (as he says here) a ‘long time’, five years, after the other children. However, Chalandon writing in 1875 mentions also a fifth surviving child, another Loys, who became abbé at Tyron; I haven’t been able to track down anything more about this claim, which seems an extraordinary one – would Ronsard have forgotten or attempted to erase the existence of one of his brothers?

 “As soon as I was nine, they sent me to college,
But I spent only half a year troubling
To learn the lessons of the master, de Vailly”

Ronsard went to the Collège de Navarre (part of the university of Paris) in the autumn of 1533, perhaps in preparation for a career in the Catholic church to which, as a younger son, his father may have destined him.  He left quickly, though it is not clear why: perhaps because the teaching was bad, more probably because he didn’t like the idea of a church career and wanted to see some excitement with the Court and the army. Simonin’s 1990 biography also suggests he left college (or perhaps was removed by his family?) because of agitation there by the Protestant reformer Gérard Roussel. This was of course a period of immense tensions in France, as in the rest of Europe, between the established church and protestant reformers. While he was there, though, Ronsard apparently made the acquaintance of Charles de Guise, later Cardinal of Lorraine, and as a Guise a member of a powerful and influential family. Another, Mary of Guise, later married James V of Scotland and precipitated Ronsard’s return to France.

It is interesting to note that one of the great theologians of the time, Mathurin Cordier, had been master at the college a few years earlier, though he had moved on to another college by this time.

 “there I was granted
The role of page to the Duke of Orleans; afterwards I was sent
In the King of Scotland’s entourage to Scotland
Where I spent 30 months, and six in England”

Ronsard was appointed a page at Court in 1536, initially to the Dauphin but when he died soon afterwards he joined (as he says) the suite of Charles, Duke of Orleans.  When the King’s daughter, Madeleine (sister of Charles) was married to King James V of Scotland in January 1537, Ronsard was given to Madeleine by Charles and went to Scotland in her service. She died in June the same year, and was thus known as the ‘Summer Queen’ by the Scots. The boy Ronsard was then attached to the Court of King James. There is little corroborating detail for Ronsard’s claim to have spent 3 years abroad; some doubt the whole story. But it seems probable that he stayed in Scotland until 1538, when the king re-married; and thus it seems likely (to me at least) that his 3 years in England and Scotland includes time later when he travelled in the suite of Lassigny (below). It’s not clear why he spent 6 months in England; but there are later links with the Renaissance court there and it is possible the precocious teenage Ronsard was extending his knowledge of humanist poetry and poetic forms at Henry VIII’s court?

 “But barely had I stopped quietly in the Royal Mews
Before he sent me to Flanders and Zeeland
And again to Scotland where a great storm
Tried to drive my ship, along with Lassigni,
Onto the rocks, after blowing it to the coast of England”

Returning to France, Ronsard joined the other pages in the Écurie or Stable (we might perhaps say the Royal Mews), where all the pages were housed. Scholars tend to say he then joined the suite of Claude d’Humières, Seigneur de Lassigny, who was an equerry in charge of the pages (at an annual remuneration of 400 livres) and with him travelled in Flanders. Cohen states that they left on 24th December 1538. Then in 1539-40 Ronsard was again in England and Scotland. Notably, though, Ronsard only links Lassigny with the shipwreck in England. So perhaps (with Blanchemain, and following Ronsard’s lead) we might conclude that the missions to Flanders and Zeeland were in the service of the Duke of Orleans instead?  (Nothing beyond Ronsard’s own account seems to exist to add detail about the place of the shipwreck, nor his missions in Flanders and Scotland.)

“And had barely reached the age of sixteen
When in 1540 I went with Baïf
To Upper Germany, where I learned the language”

Again a page to the Duke of Orleans in 1539, Ronsard joined the embassy sent to Germany in 1540. This was led by Lazare de Baïf, whose son Jean-Antoine also accompanied him. It is possible that Ronsard was sent by the Duke to keep an eye on things; the embassy was designed to try to detach some of the German princes from Charles V’s side and perhaps bring them into alliance with France, and no doubt the Duke would have liked to have his own sources of information as well as the ‘official’ sources. (The embassy is sometimes referred to as going to the Diet of Speyer; the Diet was though convened by Charles V, so this mission might have been rather delicate – if the Diet had been in session in 1540, which it wasn’t. Cohen however says the embassy stayed in Haguenau, in the Alsace – nearby, and perhaps a more obvious target for French alliances.)

Cohen doubts that Ronsard bothered to learn German; it wasn’t a very useful language at the time!

“on my return a terrible illness
For some end unknown came and stopped up my hearing,
And hit me hard with a blow so heavy
That still today I remain half-deaf as a result”

Struck by illness (Cohen postulates a possible venereal origin!), Ronsard retired to Poissonière for a lengthy recovery. Half-deaf he decided to abandon a politico-military career and turned again to study, perhaps with a view to some sort of church career. He in fact took the tonsure in 1543; this did not make him a priest but it did make him eligible for a number of church posts from which he could have drawn (and later did draw) income. In the event, though, he remained in the service of Charles of Orleans and attached to the Court.

“The year after, in April, love took me unawares
As I followed the Court to Blois, through the fair eyes of Cassandre”

“The year after” – after what?  If it was the year after visiting Germany as Ronsard’s text implies that would be 1541 – which is too early.  So it’s likely to be a year after his illness and convalescence – implying a 2-3 period for these (see above). While Ronsard is certain he met Cassandre at Blois in April 1546, court records apparently show that the court did not go to Blois in 1546! There was however a ball held there in 1545, so it seems likely the two met in that year – and Ronsard’s memory was at fault…

 “Immediately afterwards, I came to be the disciple
Of d’Aurat in Paris”

So when did Ronsard move to Paris? Immediately after what?  (Or perhaps the later change to the text means it wasn’t ‘immediately after’?) Ronsard’s parents both died in 1544, and Lazare de Baïf apparently stepped in to offer the young man the chance to study in Paris, with the younger Baïf under Jean Dorat (D’Aurat). Initially the pair lived at the Baïf residence, as did Dorat who had been engaged to tutor Jean-Antoine; but Lazare died in 1547, and it is likely that at this point Dorat installed himself at the Collège de Coqueret where he became principal around this time. The ‘five years’ spent under Dorat would therefore include those initial years when they studied privately with him.

“… it was at his home that first
Our firm friendship began”

Although after Lazare de Baïf’s death Ronsard and the younger Baïf moved out and apparently joined Dorat, it is not clear that they attended his Collège. That is hardly “chez luy”.  Indeed Ronsard entered into a contract to rent no.2, rue de la Poterie, at Easter 1548 jointly with a minor cleric – interesting evidence also of a continued involvement in ecclesiastical circles.  Baïf and Ronsard were joined under Dorat’s tutelage by Belleau, and then by du Bellay, at this time – the core of the Pléiade. At least one source refers to the Pléiade arising from ‘teaching/learning [enseignement] at Chef Saint-Jean’ – Dorat’s own home. Perhaps then the group met informally at Dorat’s house rather than formally at the Collège. And it was from this context that du Bellay launched the Pléiade’s “manifesto” Défense et illustration de la langue française in 1549 and Ronsard exploded the bombshell of his first major collection, the Odes I-IV, in 1550.

3 – a Romanian (or Bulgarian) ancestor?

“So, as for my first ancestor, he came from roots
Where the freezing Danube runs beside Thrace;
Lower down than Hungary, in a cold region,
There was a Lord named Marquis of Ronsart,”

Did Mârâcinâ Ban exist, and was he Ronsard’s ancestor? The probable answer is no: this was quite possibly a family tradition which Ronsard reports – though it has also been suggested it might be pure imagination on his part!

The romantic tradition of Ronsard’s Romanian origins was not just popular in France. A French teacher and activist working in Romania during the 1830s -40s, Jean Vaillant, adopted Ronsard’s story in his 1844 book La Roumanie, using him as a symbol of the links between France and Romania.  Then the Romanian poet Vasile Alecsandri, writing in Paris after the failure of the 1848 Wallachian revolution, produced Banul Mărăcină in 1855 (though it was not published till 1861). This developed the bare bones of Ronsard’s story with circumstantial detail: Alecsandri made Mărăcină a boyar, lord of Ronsart, governor of Craiova (70 miles west of Bucharest, now Romania’s 6th largest city); and specified a troop of 50 younger sons coming to liberate France. It interests me that Blanchemain used Alecsandri’s “research” (indirectly) as a source for his footnote providing the story.

But romantic legends are not facts.

Further scholarly activity in France established that Ronsard’s grandfather was Olivier Ronsart or Roussart, who was an enfeoffed sergeant (sergent fieffé) in Gastine forest. Though some have said this title is, in modern terms, a gamekeeper it is worth noting that Loys de Ronsard carried the same title; I think it would therefore be better to see him as ‘warden of the forest’ or equivalent, a minor noble rather than a mere gamekeeper. He was a vassal of the Du Bellay family, ancestors of Joachim du Bellay.

Minor gentility does not of course invalidate a romantic Romanian origin, several generations further back. And scholars have identified a tradition which might be relevant: “a certain Baudoin Rossart came to France with John of Bohemia to fight the English at Crécy in 1346. King Philip of Valois apparently gave him as a sign of his recognition a domain in the Vendômois, where the brave gallant established himself.”  (Alliot & Baillou 1926, in a quatercentenary volume on Ronsard)  The same scholars also turned up an 11th century cartulary mentioning a ‘moulin Ronzart’ (Ronzart mill), however; which might suggest that the family had French origins several centuries older than the ‘Romanian link’.

And perhaps Romania is the wrong place to look anyway? At the end of the 19th century a Hungarian suggested that the lower Danubian area in question is Bulgaria – and even pointed to a town called Tarnovo which could (just) be translated as ‘Ronces’ (brambles). Today, there is a Musée Ronsard in Tarnovo…

Where does this leave us? For some scholars Olivier Ronsart’s ‘humble’ title of sergent fieffé means the Romanian/Bulgarian story cannot be true; others find no reason to argue against a possible East European root for the family. For myself, I rather like the Baudoin Rossart story but am not convinced.

In the end, does it matter? Ronsard came from minor noble stock; whether those minor nobles were home-grown, or came from dashing romantic Balkan stock racing across Europe in a crusade to ‘liberate France’, is really only a question of how colourful the story of his ancestry is!

My source for much of the detail in this section is:  N Popa  La Légende des Origines Roumaines de Ronsard in Lumières de la Pléiade (9ème Stage International d’Etudes Huamnistes, Tours 1965. Special thanks to nikolchina for providing a link to http://www.patev.net/origironsard.htm which – for French readers – provides substantially more detail on the controversy over Ronsard’s Bulgarian roots, and takes a slightly less ambivalent attitude to the possibility. It also has some helpful maps!

Élégie – part 3

Standard
Pourroy-je raconter le mal que je senty,
Oyant vostre trespas ? mon cœur fut converty
En rocher insensible, et mes yeux en fonteines :
Et si bien le regret s’escoula par mes veines,
Que pasmé je me feis la proye du torment,
N’ayant que vostre nom pour confort seulement.
 
Bien que je resistasse, il ne me fut possible
Que mon cœur, de nature à la peine invincible,
Peust cacher sa douleur : car plus il la celoit,
Et plus dessus le front son mal estinceloit.
En fin voyant mon ame extremement attainte,
Je desliay ma bouche, et feis telle complainte.
 
Ah faux Monde trompeur, que tu m’as bien deceu !
Amour, tu es enfant : par toy j’avois receu
La divine beauté qui surmontoit l’envie,
Que maugré toy la Mort en ton regne a ravie.
Je desplais à moymesme, et veux quitter le jour,
Puis que je voy la Mort triompher de l’amour,
Et luy ravir son mieux, sans faire resistance.
Malheureux qui te croit, et qui suit ton enfance !
 
Et toy Ciel, qui te dis le père des humains,
Tu ne devois tracer un tel corps de tes mains
Pour si tost le reprendre : et toy mere Nature,
Pour mettre si soudain ton œuvre en sepulture.
 
Maintenant à mon dam je cognois pour certain,
Que tout cela qui vit sous ce globe mondain,
N’est que songe et fumee, et qu’une vaine pompe,
Qui doucement nous rit et doucement nous trompe.
 
Hà, bien-heureux esprit fait citoyen des cieux,
Tu es assis au rang des Anges precieux
En repos eternel, loin de soin et de guerres :
Tu vois dessous tes pieds les hommes et les terres,
Et je ne voy qu’ennuis, que soucis, et qu’esmoy,
Comme ayant emporté tout mon bien avec toy.
Je ne te trompe point : du ciel tu vois mes peines,
Si tu as soin là haut des affaires humaines.
 
Que doy-je faire, Amour ? que me conseilles-tu ?
J’irois comme un Sauvage en noir habit vestu
Volontiers par les bois, et mes douleurs non feintes
Je dirois aus forests : mais ils sçavent mes plaintes.
 
Il vaut mieux que je meure au pied de ce rocher,
Nommant tousjours son nom qui me sonne si cher,
Sans chercher par la peine apres elle de vivre,
Gaignant le bruit d’ingrat de ne la vouloir suivre.
Aussi toute la terre, où j’ay perdu mon bien,
Apres son fascheux vol ne me semble plus rien
Sinon qu’horreur, qu’effroy, qu’une obscure poussiere,
Au ciel est mon Soleil, au ciel est ma lumiere :
Le monde ny ses laqs n’y ont plus de pouvoir :
Il faut haster ma mort, si je la veux revoir :
La mort en a la clef, et par sa seule porte
Je revoiray le jour qui ma nuict reconforte.
 
Or quand la dure Parque aura le fil coupé,
Qui retient en mon corps l’esprit envelopé,
J’ordonne que mes os pour toute couverture
Reposent pres des siens sous mesme sepulture :
Que des larmes du ciel le tumbeau soit lavé,
Et tout à l’environ de ces vers engravé :
 
Passant, de cest amant enten l’histoire vraye,
De deux traicts differens il receut double playe :
L’une que feit Amour ne versa qu’amitié,
L’autre que feit la Mort ne versa que pitié.
Ainsi mourut navré d’une double tristesse,
Et tout pour aimer trop une jeune maistresse.
Will I be able to tell of the pain I felt
Hearing of your death?  My heart was changed
Into an unfeeling stone, my eyes into fountains;
And loss flowed so strongly in my veins
That fainting I became the prey of torments
Having only your name for my comfort.
 
Although I resisted, for me it was not possible
That my heart, by nature invincible to pain,
Could hide its grief; for the more it hid it
The more its hurt shone out upon my face
At last, seeing my soul so fearfully wounded,
I opened my mouth and made this lament:
 
Ah, false deceiving world, how thoroughly you have deceived me!
Love, you are a child; through you I had received
The divine beauty which surpassed desire,
Which despite you death has stolen away to his kingdom.
I offend myself, and wish to leave life
As I see death triumph over love
And steal his best from him without being resisted.
Unhappy he who believes in you, and seeks your care!
 
And you, Heaven, who call yourself father of mankind,
You should not have designed such a form with your hands
Only to take it back so soon: and you, mother Nature,
To place your work so suddenly in a tomb.
 
Now to my harm I realise for certain
That all that which lives upon this world’s globe
Is nothing but dreams and smoke, and empty show,
Which sweetly mocks us and sweetly deceives us.
 
 Ah, happy spirit made a citizen of heaven,
You are seated in the ranks of precious angels
In eternal rest, far from care and war;
You see beneath your feet men and lands,
While I see only worries, cares, troubles,
As one who has packed off all my good with you.
I make no mistake: from heaven you see my pain,
If you have care up there for human affairs.
 
What must I do, Love? What do you advise?
I shall go like a Savage, dressed in black clothes,
Of my own will into the woods, and with unfeigned grief
I shall speak to the forests; but they know my woes.
 
 Better that I should die at the foot of this rock,
Continually naming her name which sounds so dear to me,
Without seeking to live on through my pain after her,
Winning an ingrate’s reputation for not wanting to follow her.
So all the earth, where I have lost my good,
Seems to me, after her painful flight, no more
Than horror, than dismay, than gloomy dust.
In heaven is my Sun, in heaven is my light;
The world and its attractions no longer have power there.
I must hasten my death if I want to see her again;
Death has the key to it, and through her doorway alone
Shall I see again the day which comforts my night.
 
 So, when Fate will have cut the thread
Which keeps my spirit encased in my body,
I command that my bones for their covering
Should repose next to hers beneath the same tomb;
May the tomb be washed with tears from heaven,
And all round it, these lines engraved:
 
Passer-by, hear the true history of this lover:
He was doubly-wounded by two different strokes,
The one which Love made bled only its love,
The other which Death made bled only pity.
So he died, grieved by a double sadness,
And all for loving too much a young mistress.
 
 
The remainder of the poem.   There are some minor variants in Blanchemain, and a major re-write of one stanza.  
 
In the second stanza above Blanchemain omits the “me” in the middle of the line – ‘Although I resisted, it was not possible…‘;  then, at the end of the next stanza, the final line becomes “Malheureux qui le suit et vit sous son enfance” (‘Unhappy he who follows him and lives beneath his care‘).
 
The major change is towards the end of the section:  according to Blanchemain’s note, Ronsard felt the following was too close to an image he’d used in the Elegy at the end of the Amours de Marie, so he changed it wholesale for the version above.  (In fact, although there is a jousting image in the other Elegy, it is not an image of combat but of kissing!)
 
 
Que doy-je faire, Amour ? que me conseilles-tu ?
J’irois comme un Sauvage en noir habit vestu
Volontiers par les bois, et mes douleurs non feintes
Je dirois aus rochers: mais ils sçavent mes plaintes.
Il vaut mieux d’un grand temple honorer son tombeau,
Et dedans eslever, d’artifice nouveau,
Cent autels dediez à la mémoire d’elle,
Esclairez jour et nuit d’une lampe éternelle,
Et devant le portail, comme les anciens
Célébroient les combats aux jeux olympiens,
Sacrer en son honneur, au retour de l’année,
Une feste chomable, à la jouste ordonnée.
Là tous les jouvenceaux au combat mieux appris
Le funeste cyprès emporteront pour prix,
Et seront appelez longtemps après ma vie
Les jeux que fist Ronsard pour sa belle Marie.
 
Puis, quand l’une des sœurs aura le fil coupé, …
 
 
 
                                                                                                      What must I do, Love? What do you advise?
                                                                                                      I shall go like a Savage, dressed in black clothes,
                                                                                                      Of my own will into the woods, and with unfeigned grief
                                                                                                      I shall speak to the rocks; but they know my woes.
                                                                                                      Better to honour her tomb with a great temple,
                                                                                                      And within it to raise, by novel artifice,
                                                                                                      A hundred altars dedicated to her memory,
                                                                                                      Lighting day and night with an everlasting lamp;
                                                                                                      And before the portal, just as the ancients
                                                                                                      Used to celebrate with contests at the Olympic games,
                                                                                                      To consecrate in her honour, at the anniversary,
                                                                                                      A holiday feast dedicated to the joust.
                                                                                                      There all the young men most learned in arms
                                                                                                      Will win as prize funereal cypress,
                                                                                                      And will be called for long after my lifetime
                                                                                                      The games which Ronsard arranged for his fair Marie.

                                                                                                      Then, when one of the Sisters will have cut the thread
 
 
Blanchemain prints the later text in his footnote, except that he has one further variant to offer: in the last line of the big stanza, he has “Je doy passer au jour qui ma nuict reconforte” (‘… through her doorway alone / Must I pass to the day …‘) instead of “Je revoiray le jour …” (‘… Shall I see again the day …‘).
 

As before, a complete version of this Elegy is available in a Word doc here.

Élégie – part 1

Standard

Another long poem as the book draws to an end. Unlike the ‘Stanzas’ at the beginning of the book, this elegy gradually disintegrates from its initially-standard stanza-form into a series of shorter & longer segments. I guess the more erratic length is suposed to ‘unbalance’ the reader and convey distress. Personally, I find it slightly annoying, but that’s just my opinion!

Like the ‘Stances’, I have decided to ‘publish’ this 150-line poem in several parts.

Le jour que la beauté du monde la plus belle
Laissa dans le cercueil sa despouille mortelle
Pour s’en-voler parfaite entre les plus parfaits,
Ce jour Amour perdit ses flames et ses traits,
Esteignit son flambeau, rompit toutes ses armes,
Les jetta sur la tombe, et l’arrousa de larmes :
Nature la pleura, le Ciel en fut fasché
Et la Parque d’avoir un si beau fil trenché.
 
Depuis le jour couchant jusqu’à l’Aube vermeille
Phenix en sa beauté ne trouvoit sa pareille,
Tant de graces au front et d’attraits elle avoit :
Ou si je me trompois, Amour me decevoit.
Si tost que je la vey, sa beauté fust enclose
Si avant en mon cœur, que depuis nulle chose
Je n’ay veu qui m’ait pleu, et si fort elle y est,
Que toute autre beauté encores me desplaist.
 
 Dans mon sang elle fut si avant imprimee,
Que tousjours en tous lieux de sa figure aimee
Me suivoit le portrait, et telle impression
D’une perpetuelle imagination
M’avoit tant desrobé l’esprit et la cervelle,
Qu’autre bien je n’avois que de penser en elle,
En sa bouche en son ris en sa main en son œil,
Qu’encor je sens au cœur, bien qu’ils soient au cercueil.
 
J’avois au-paravant, veincu de la jeunesse,
Autres dames aimé (ma faute je confesse) :
Mais la playe n’avoit profondement saigné,
Et le cuir seulement n’estoit qu’esgratigné,
Quand Amour, qui les Dieux et les hommes menace,
Voyant que son brandon n’eschauffoit point ma glace,
Comme rusé guerrier ne me voulant faillir,
La print pour son escorte et me vint assaillir.
 
Encor, ce me dit-il, que de maint beau trofee
D’Horace, de Pindare, Hesiode et d’Orfee,
Et d’Homere qui eut une si forte vois,
Tu as orné la langue et l’honneur des François,
Voy ceste dame icy : ton cœur tant soit il brave,
Ira sous son empire, et fera son esclave.
Ainsi dit, et son arc m’enfonçant de roideur,
Ensemble dame et traict m’envoya dans le cœur.
 
 Lors ma pauvre raison des rayons esblouye
D’une telle beauté se perd esvanouye,
Laissant le gouvernail aux sens et au desir,
Qui depuis ont conduit la barque à leur plaisir.
 
Raison, pardonne-moy : un plus caut en finesse
S’y fust bien englué, tant une douce presse
De graces et d’amours la suivoient tout ainsi
Que les fleurs le Printemps, quand il retourne ici.
The day on which the most beautiful of the world’s beauty
Left in the coffin her mortal remains
To fly off, perfect among the most perfect,
On that day Love lost his flame and his arrows,
Put out his torch, broke all his weapons,
Threw them on the tomb and bedewed it with tears:
Nature wept for her, Heaven was angered
And Fate too, at having cut so fair a thread.
 
From sunset to rosy dawn
Phoenix could not find her equal in beauty,
Such grace and charms she had in her face;
Or, if I’m wrong, Love deceives me.
As soon as I saw her, her beauty was kept
So much at the front of my mind [heart] that since then nothing
Have I seen which pleased me, and there it is so strong
That all other beauty still  displeases me.
 
In my blood she was imprinted so far to the front
That always in all places the image of her
Beloved form follows me, and such an impression
Of this perpetual fancy
Has so robbed me of spirit and rational thought
That I have no other benefit than thinking of her,
Of her lips, her smile, her hand, her eye
Which I still feel in my heart though they are in the grave.
 
 I have in the past, conquered by youthful desire,
Loved other ladies – I confess my fault;
But the wound did not bleed so deeply
And my hide was just scratched,
When Love, who threatens gods and men,
Seeing that his torch was not warming my ice at all
And like a cunning warrior not wanting to lose me,
Took her for his escort and came to besiege me.
 
 Although, he said to me, with many a fair trophy
From Horace, Pindar, Hesiod and Orpheus
And Homer too who was so powerful a voice,
You have embellished the language and the glory of the French people,
See this lady here: your heart however brave it is
Will fall under her power, and become her slave.
So he said, and his bow crushing me with its violence
Sent both dart and lady together into my heart.
 
Then my weak reason, dazzled by the glare
Of such a beauty, fainted and was lost,
Leaving control to feeling and desire,
Which since then have steered my boat at their pleasure.
 
Reason, forgive me: one more cunning in subtlety
Would easily have been caught like this, so sweet a crowd
Of graces and loves followed her just like
The flowers follow Spring, when it returns here.
 
 
There is only one variant in Blanchemain’s text of this section – of the last line and a half.  Blanchemain has:
 
                                        …tant une douce presse
De graces et d’amours en volant la suivoient,
Et de ses doux regards ainsi que moy vivoient.
 
 
                                                                                                                 … so sweet a crowd
                                                                              Of graces and loves follow her in flight
                                                                              And live on her sweet glances, as I do.
 
 
 Perhaps a quick word on the various classical allusions.  In the first stanza, and again at the end of the poem (in the third section as blogged here) Fate (la Parque) is invked with the image of ‘cutting the thread’ of life; the three Fates span a thread for every man’s life & when the third sister Atropos cut that thread that ended the man’s life. Phoenix was a brother of Europa who, after she was carried off by Jupiter, set off to seek her; eventually settling in Phoenicia, he was believed to have fathered children by many mothers.
 
The list of poets includes the traditionally greatest poets of the classical world: Homer and Hesiod, the archetypes of Greek epic and pastoral poetry; Pindar, originator of the ode; Horace the greatest of the Latin lyrical poets. Orpheus of course was the legendary singer whose songs were powerful enough to raise the dead.