|Guy, nos meilleurs ans coulent Comme les eaux qui roulent D’un cours sempiternel ; La mort pour sa sequelle Nous ameine avec elle Un exil éternel. Nulle humaine priere Ne repousse en arriere Le bateau de Charon, Quand l’ame nue arrive Vagabonde en la rive De Styx et d’Acheron. Toutes choses mondaines Qui vestent nerfs et veines La mort égale prend, Soient pauvres ou soient princes ; Car sur toutes provinces Sa main large s’estend. La puissance tant forte Du grand Achille est morte, Et Thersite, odieux Aux Grecs, est mort encores ; Et Minos qui est ores Le conseiller des dieux. Jupiter ne demande Que des bœufs pour offrande ; Mais son frere Pluton Nous demande, nous hommes, Qui la victime sommes De son enfer glouton. Celuy dont le Pau baigne Le tombeau nous enseigne N’esperer rien de haut, Et celuy que Pegase (Qui fit soucer Parnase) Culbuta d’un grand saut. Las ! on ne peut cognaistre Le destin qui doit naistre, Et l’homme en vain poursuit Conjecturer la chose Que Dieu sage tient close Sous une obscure nuit. Je pensois que la trope Que guide Calliope, Troupe mon seul confort, Soustiendroit ma querelle, Et qu’indonté par elle Je donterois la mort. Mais une fiévre grosse Creuse déjà ma fosse Pour me banir là bas, Et sa flame cruelle Se paist de ma mouelle, Miserable repas. Que peu s’en faut, ma vie, Que tu ne m’es ravie Close sous le tombeau, Et que mort je ne voye Où Mercure convoye Le debile troupeau ! [Et ce Grec qui les peines Dont les guerres sont pleines Va là bas racontant, Poëte qu’une presse Des épaules espaisse Admire en l’écoutant.] A bon droit Prométhée Pour sa fraude inventée Endure un tourment tel, Qu’un aigle sur la roche Luy ronge d’un bec croche Son poumon immortel. Depuis qu’il eut robée La flame prohibée, Pour les dieux despiter, Les bandes incogneues Des fiévres sont venues Parmi nous habiter. Et la mort despiteuse, Auparavant boiteuse, Fut légère d’aller ; D’ailes mal-ordonnées Aux hommes non données Dedale coupa l’air. L’exécrable Pandore Fut forgée, et encore Astrée s’en-vola, Et la boîte féconde Peupla le pauvre monde De tant de maux qu’il a. Ah ! le meschant courage Des hommes de nostre âge N’endure pas ses faits ; Que Jupiter estuye Sa foudre, qui s’ennuye Venger tant de mesfaits !||Guy, our best years rush by Like streams flowing In their everlasting race ; Death, as the sequel, Brings us with it Eternal exile. No human prayer Can push back Charon’s boat When the naked soul arrives A wanderer at the river Styx and Acheron. All wordly things Equipped with nerves and veins Death takes equally, Be they poor men or princes ; For over all the empires Its wide hand extends. The strength, though great, Of mighty Achilles is dead ; And Thersites, hated By the Greeks, is dead too ; And Minos too, who was once Advisor to the gods. Jupiter requires only Cattle as an offering ; But his brother Pluto Requires us, us men, Who are the victims Of his greedy hell. He, whose tomb the Pau [Po] Bathes, teaches us To hope for nothing from on high, And he too, whom Pegasus (Who disquieted Parnassus) Knocked down with his great leap. Alas ! we cannot know The fate which must come to us, And man in vain seeks To conjecture what thing Our wise God keeps hidden Beneath dark night. I thought that the troop Whom Calliope leads, The troop which is my sole comfort, Would support my complaint And that, untamed by them, I would tame death. But a great fever Is already digging my grave To banish me down there, And its cruel flame Is feeding on my marrow, A wretched repast. How little is needed, mt life, For you to be taken from me, Shut in beneath my tomb, And for me to see death Where Mercury brings The feeble troop ! [And that Greek who Continually recounts down there The pains with which war is filled, The poet whom a crowd Of wide shoulders Admires as they listen.] Rightly does Prometheus For that trick he contrived Endure such torment, As, on his rock, an eagle With its crooked beak gnaws His immortal guts. Since he stole away The forbidden fire To spite the gods, The unknown bonds Of fevers have come To live among us ; And resentful death, Before that limping slowly, Has become light on his feet. With clumsy wings Not granted to man Daedalus cut through the air. Cursed Pandora Was forged and, still A star, flew off While the fruitful box Peopled this poor world With all the evils it had. Ah, the paltry courage Of the men of our age Cannot endure their deeds ; May Jupiter hold back His thunderbolts, bored with Avenging so many misdeeds !|
This Ode is dedicated to Guy Pacate, prior of Sougé – a small village in the Loir region. Even today it consists of little more than one street and a church. Pacate had been one of the little group around Daurat in the 1540s, including Ronsard, du Bellay and Denisot, from which sprang the Pléiade. Among them he was apparently known for his learning and his gift for Latin poetry; though beyond their circle he seems obscure. Perhaps it is relevant that, in the posthumous editions of Ronsard the dedication was to Jean Daurat himself, rather than this little-known satellite of his. It’s certainly relevant that Pacate knew his classics: there is an array of classical references here rarely seen in such number in Ronsard’s poems! But at the same time Ronsard contrives an inward-looking reflection on death rather than a grand, public poem, suitable to the relative obscurity of the dedicatee. Stanza 2 refers to the journey to the afterlife: souls would come down to the river Styx where they awaited Charon’s boat to ferry them over to Hades. (Mercury guided souls to the underworld – stanza 10.) Stanza 4 contrasts Achilles with Thersites, the former the hero of the Iliad, the latter an annoying, cowardly tell-tale also on the Greek side; and adds Minos, once a king on earth, but tricked and killed in his bath by his daughters. In stanza 6, Pau is famous as the birthplace of “noste Enric” (‘our Henry’), Henry IV of France; and earlier was the base of Gaston Fébus, whose Renaissance court paralleled that of Italian city-states. But this Pau is in fact the Po in north Italy, reputed to be where Phaethon fell when struck down by Jupiter’s thunderbolt. The second half of the stanza is about Perseus; other editions have “sourcer” rather than the (unique?) “soucer” which I have treated as if it were “soucier”: “Qui fit sourcer Parnase” would mean something like “who made a spring come from Parnassus”, the spring being the Hippocrene spring which was created when Pegasus stamped his foot, and which became sacred to the Muses. The troop of Calliope in stanza 8 is the Muses – Calliope is the muse of epic poetry. In stanza 11, the poet is no doubt Homer; we have met Prometheus (stanzas 12-13), punished by the gods for bringing fire to man, regularly. In stanza 14 I have to admit the presence of Daedalus confuses me: there is no link to Pandora, nor did his flight lead to his own death. I assume that Ronsard is offering a simile – like Daedalus taking wing, death too became swifter. Finally, in the penultimate stanza, Pandora is ‘forged’ because she the first woman, was made by Vulcan on Jupiter’s instructions. The story of the evils contained in Pandora’s box is well-known.