Tag Archives: Petrarch

Helen 2:2

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A fin qu’à tout jamais de siecle en siecle vive
La parfaite amitié que Ronsard vous portoit,
Comme vostre beauté la raison luy ostoit,
Comme vous enchaisnez sa liberté captive :
 
A fin que d’âge en âge à noz neveux arrive,
Que toute dans mon sang vostre figure estoit,
Et que rien sinon vous mon cœur ne souhaitoit,
Je vous fais un present de ceste Sempervive.
 
Elle vit longuement en sa jeune verdeur :
Long temps apres la mort je vous feray revivre,
Tant peut le docte soin d’un gentil serviteur,
 
Qui veut en vous servant toutes vertus ensuivre.
Vous vivrez (croyez-moy) comme Laure en grandeur,
Au moins tant que vivront les plumes et le livre.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            That for ever, from age to age, may live on
                                                                            The perfect love which Ronsard bears you,
                                                                            Since your beauty has stolen his reason,
                                                                            Since you keep in chains his captive liberty ;
 
                                                                            That from age to age to our descendants may be known
                                                                            How your picture was everywhere in my blood,
                                                                            And how my heart desired nothing but you,
                                                                            I make you a gift of this sempervivum
 
                                                                            It lives long in its youthful freshness :
                                                                            A long time after death I shall make you live again,
                                                                            So far as the learned care of a noble servant
 
                                                                            Who wishes in serving you to follow all the virtues.
                                                                            You shall live, believe me, like Laura in greatness,
                                                                            At least as long as live pens and books.
 
 
 

An ordinary offering – a succulent houseplant – generates the conceit of ‘ever-living’ through the memorial of poetry; and suddenly we are back in the world of Petrarch and Laura. As we give up pens and books for online messaging and e-books, it would be nice to think Ronsard will survive the changeover 🙂

Nicolas Richelet, early editor of the Helen poems, offers this footnote on the sempervivum:  “A kind of simple which takes its name from its nature. It is not without cause that he makes this present, sempervivum is also used to make someone fall in love. That’s why in ancient times it was attached to house doors, to chase away all hatred and hostility.”
 
(This use of sempervivum was apparently unknown to Culpepper, whose Herbal says ‘Our ordinary Houseleek is good for all inward heats, as well as outward, and in the eyes or other parts of the body: a posset made of the juice is singularly good in all hot agues, for it cooleth and tempereth the blood and spirits and quencheth the thirst; and is also good to stay all defluction or sharp and salt rheums in the eyes, the juice being dropped into them. If the juice be dropped into the ears, it easeth pain…. It cooleth and restraineth all hot inflammations, St. Anthony’s fire (Erysipelas), scaldings and burnings, the shingles, fretting ulcers, ringworms and the like; and much easeth the pain and the gout.’ – from Wikipedia.)
 
Blanchemain has only two variants, plus a third hidden in a footnote. In line 4 he has a chnage of tense, “Comme vous enchaisniez … ” (‘Since you have kept in chains …’); and in line 13 “Vous vivrez et croistrez …” (‘You shall live and increase like Laura in greatness’), which is perhaps better in meaning but has none of the rhythmic complexity of the revised version. The footnote offers a variant of the opening, “A fin qu’en renaissant …” (‘That through being reborn from age to age may live on …’), which offers two slightly different ways of reading the opening: being reborn from age to age, in order to live on; or living on from age to age through being reborn.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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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.

 

Amourette (2:67b)

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I guess “amourette” is best translated, ‘a little love-song’…

Or’ que l’hyver roidist la glace épesse,
Réchaufons nous ma gentille maistresse,
Non acroupis pres le foyer cendreux,
Mais aux plaisirs des combats amoureux.
Assison-nous sur ceste molle couche :
Sus baisez-moy, tendez-moy vostre bouche,
Pressez mon col de vos bras despliez,
Et maintenant vostre mere oubliez.
 
Que de la dent vostre tetin je morde,
Que vos cheveux fil à fil je destorde :
Il ne faut point en si folastres jeux,
Comme au dimanche arrenger ses cheveux.
 
Approchez donc, tournez-moy vostre jouë.
Vous rougissez ? il faut que je me jouë.
Vous sou-riez : avez-vous point ouy
Quelque doux mot qui vous ait resjouy ?
Je vous disois que la main j’allois mettre
Sur vostre sein : le voulez-vous permettre ?
Ne fuyez pas sans parler : je voy bien
A vos regards que vous le voulez bien.
Je vous cognois en voyant vostre mine.
Je jure Amour que vous estes si fine,
Que pour mourir de bouche ne diriez
Qu’on vous baisast bien que le desiriez :
Car toute fille encor’ qu’elle ait envie
Du jeu d’aimer desire estre ravie.
Tesmoin en est Helene qui suivit
D’un franc vouloir Pâris qui la ravit.
 
Je veux user d’une douce main forte.
Hà vous tombez : vous faites ja la morte.
Hà quel plaisir dans le cœur je reçoy :
Sans vous baiser vous mocqueriez de moy
En vostre lit quand vous seriez seulette.
Or sus c’est fait ma gentille brunette :
Recommençon afin que nos beaux ans
Soyent reschauffez de combats si plaisans.
 
 
                                                                            Now that winter gnaws the thick ice,
                                                                            Let us re-warm ourselves, my gentle mistress,
                                                                            Not crouched near the cinder-filled fireplace,
                                                                            But in the pleasures of love’s contests.
                                                                            Let’s sit on this soft couch;
                                                                            Come, kiss me, offer me your lips,
                                                                            Squeeze my neck in your enlaced arms,
                                                                            And now forget your mother!
 
                                                                            How I shall nibble your breast with my teeth,
                                                                            How I shall unknot your hair, strand by strand;
                                                                            One cannot, in wild games like these,
                                                                            Keep one’s hair Sunday-tidy.
 
                                                                            Come here, then, turn to me your cheek.
                                                                            You’re blushing? But I must play with it.
                                                                            You are smiling: have you not heard
                                                                            Any of the soft words which made you happy.
                                                                            I told you that I was going to put my hand
                                                                            On your breast: will you allow me?
                                                                            Don’t run off without speaking; I clearly see
                                                                            From your looks that you really want it.
                                                                            I understand you from looking at your face.
                                                                            I swear by Love that you are so prim
                                                                            That even if you died, you would not say with your mouth
                                                                            That someone could kiss you even though you wanted it;
                                                                            For every girl, as she desires to play
                                                                            The game of love, wants to be ravished.
                                                                            Witnesses say that it was Helen who followed
                                                                            Of free will Paris who had ravished her.
 
                                                                            I want to use a hand that’s soft but strong.
                                                                            Ah, you fall, you are now silent.
                                                                            Ah, what pleasure I get in my heart!
                                                                            If I didn’t kiss you, you would mock me
                                                                            When you were alone in your bed.
                                                                            Up then, it’s done, my gentle brunette;
                                                                            Let’s begin, so that our beautiful years
                                                                            May be warmed up by such pleasant contests!
 
 
One of the rare poems in which Ronsard approaches the physicality of love-making – though even here he leaves unspoken how far his love-making goes. Perhaps we should think of the “Elegy to his Book” with which Ronsard begins this second set of Amours: there, Ronsard says Petrarch would have been a fool for continuing to write love-poems without having ‘enjoyed’ his Laura…
 
Ou bien il jouyssoit de sa Laurette, ou bien
Il estoit un grand fat d’aimer sans avoir rien.
 
                                                                            Either he enjoyed his little Laura, or else
                                                                            He was a great fool for loving without getting anything.
 
There are a few clumsinesses in here I’m surprised survived to the end of Ronsard’s life – “bien” as the rhyme word in 2 consecutive lines, with no grammatical difference to excuse it (as in “jouë…jouë” or “mettre…permettre”); or “ravit” followed by “ravie” 2 lines later (both prominent as rhyme words). And one of them (“bien..bien”) was even added in the course of re-writing! It’s nice to see, though, the older Ronsard more daringly putting his hand on her breast rather than her knee…  Note also that Blanchemain’s version, unlike the later one, is ‘edited’ into 2 homogeneous groupings: 4+4+4; 8+8+8.  Here’s the substantially-varying early version:
 
Or’ que l’hyver roidit la glace épesse,
Réchaufons-nous, ma gentille maistresse,
Non accroupis dans la fouyer cendreux,
Mais au plaisir des combats amoureux.
 
Assisons-nous sur ceste molle couche :
Sus, baisez-moy de vostre belle bouche,
Pressez mon col de vos bras deliez,
Et maintenant vostre mere oubliez.
 
Que de la dent vostre tetin je morde,
Que vos cheveux fil à fil je destorde :
Il ne faut point en si folastres jeux,
Comme au dimanche arranger ses cheveux.
 
Approchez-vous, tendez-moy vostre oreille :
Hà ! vous avez la couleur plus vermeille
Que par avant : avez-vous point ouy
Quelque doux mot qui vous ait resjouy ?
Je vous disois que la main j’allois mettre
Sur vos genoux : le voulez-vous permettre ?
Vous rougissez, maistresse: je voy bien
A vostre front que je vous fais grand bien.
 
Quoi ! vous faut-il cognoistre à vostre mine.
Je jure Amour que vous estes si fine,
Que pour mourir de bouche ne diriez
Qu’on vous le fist bien que le desiriez :
Car toute fille encor’ qu’elle ait envie
Du jeu d’aimer desire estre ravie.
Tesmoin en est Helene qui suivit
D’un franc vouloir Pâris qui la ravit.
 
Or je vay donc user d’une main forte
Pour vous avoir. Ha ! vous faites la morte !
Sus, endurez ce doux je ne sais quoy !
Car autrement vous mocqueriez de moy
En vostre lict quand vous seriez seulette.
Or sus, c’est fait, ma gentille brunette :
Recommençons, a’ fin que nos beaux ans
Soyent réchauffez en combats si plaisants.
 
 
                                                                            Now that winter gnaws the thick ice,
                                                                            Let us re-warm ourselves, my gentle mistress,
                                                                            Not crouched in the cinder-filled fireplace,
                                                                            But in the pleasure of love’s contests.
 
                                                                            Let’s sit on this soft couch;
                                                                            Come, kiss me with your lovely lips,
                                                                            Squeeze my neck in your loosed arms,
                                                                            And now forget your mother!
 
                                                                            How I shall nibble your breast with my teeth,
                                                                            How I shall unknot your hair, strand by strand;
                                                                            One cannot, in wild games like these,
                                                                            Keep one’s hair Sunday-tidy.
 
                                                                            Come here, then, turn to me your ear.
                                                                            Ah, your colour is more crimson
                                                                            Than before!  Have you not heard
                                                                            Any of the soft words which made you happy.
                                                                            I told you that I was going to put my hand
                                                                            On your knee: will you allow me?
                                                                            You’re blushin, mistress; I clearly see
                                                                            In your face that I’m greatly pleasing you.
 
                                                                            Oh yes, I have to understand you by your face.
                                                                            I swear by Love that you are so prim
                                                                            That even if you died, you would not say with your mouth
                                                                            That someone could do it even though you wanted it;
                                                                            For every girl, as she desires to play
                                                                            The game of love, wants to be ravished.
                                                                            Witnesses say that it was Helen who followed
                                                                            Of free will Paris who had ravished her.
 
                                                                            So I’m going to use a strong hand
                                                                            To have you. Ah, you are now silent.
                                                                            Come on, enjoy this sweet something!
                                                                            For otherwise you would mock me
                                                                            When you were alone in your bed.
                                                                            Up then, it’s done, my gentle brunette;
                                                                            Let’s begin, so that our beautiful years
                                                                            May be warmed up in such pleasant contests!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 2:53

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Veux-tu sçavoir, Bruez, en quel estat je suis ?
Je te le veux conter : d’un pauvre miserable
Il n’y a nul malheur, tant soit-il pitoyable,
Que je n’aille passant d’un seul de mes ennuis.
 
Je tien tout je n’ay rien je veux et si ne puis,
Je revy je remeurs ma playe est incurable :
Qui veut servir Amour, ce Tyran execrable,
Pour toute recompense il reçoit de tels fruis.
 
Pleurs larmes et souspirs accompagnent ma vie,
Langueur douleur regret soupçon et jalousie,
Transporté d’un penser qui me vient decevoir.
 
Je meurs d’impatience : et plus je ne sens vivre
L’esperance en mon cœur, mais le seul desespoir
Qui me guide à la mort, et je le veux bien suivre.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Do you want to know, Bruez, the state I’m in ?
                                                                            I want to tell you : a wretched pauper
                                                                            Has no ills, however pitiful,
                                                                            That a single one of my own troubles doesn’t surpass.
 
                                                                            I have everything and nothing, I want but cannot,
                                                                            I live and die again and again, my wound is incurable;
                                                                            Whoever wants to serve Love, that cursed tyrant,
                                                                            Receives as all his payment just such fruits.
 
                                                                            Tears, weeping and sighs accompany my life,
                                                                            Pining, sadness, regret, suspicion, jealousy,
                                                                            All carried on a thought which has just deceived me.
 
                                                                            I’m dying of impatience, I no longer feel hope
                                                                            Living in my heart, but only despair
                                                                            Which leads me to death – and I’m ready to follow.
 
 
 
Belleau’s commentary tells us that Brués, as the dedicatee seems to have spelled it, was “learned in law and philosophy, author of dialogues”. Indeed you can still read, courtesy of Google Books, the Dialogues of Guy de Brués, “against the new Academicians”, featuring invented dialogues in the renaissance style between the men of letters Ronsard, Baif, Guillaume Aubert (dedicatee of “Versons ces roses“) and Jean Nicot (who introduced tobacco to France, and is the source of ‘nicotine’!)  In later editions, this sonnet is addressed to Claude Binet who was, says Belleau, “a very learned man and among the best-versed in understanding of law and poetry”. Binet was in fact Ronsard’s closest friend and amanuensis in his old age.
 
There are some minor variants scattered through Blanchemain’s earlier version: here’s his version of the opening quatrain,
 
 
Veux-tu sçavoir, Brués, en quel estat je suis ?
Je te le conteray : d’un pauvre miserable
Il n’y a nul estat, tant soit-il pitoyable,
Que je n’aille passant d’un seul de mes ennuis.
 
                                                                            Do you want to know, Bruez, the state I’m in ?
                                                                            I will tell you : a wretched pauper’s
                                                                            Condition, however pitiful, is nothing
                                                                            That a single one of my own troubles doesn’t surpass.
 
 
and of lines 11-12,
 
Avecques un penser qui ne me laisse avoir
Un moment de repos : et plus je ne sens vivre
 
                                                                            With a thought which lets me have
                                                                            No moment of rest; I no longer feel hope …
 
 
This is another poem ‘translated’ from Petrarch; and this time it does indeed follow the original closely, though Ronsard’s opening quatrain is not paralleled in the Italian.
 
 
Pace non trovo, et non ò da far guerra;
e temo, et spero; et ardo, et son un ghiaccio;
et volo sopra ‘l cielo, et giaccio in terra;
et nulla stringo, et tutto ‘l mondo abbraccio.
 
Tal m’à in pregion, che non m’apre né serra,
né per suo mi riten né scioglie il laccio;
et non m’ancide Amore, et non mi sferra,
né mi vuol vivo, né mi trae d’impaccio.
 
Veggio senza occhi, et non ò lingua et grido;
et bramo di perir, et cheggio aita;
et ò in odio me stesso, et amo altrui.
 
Pascomi di dolor, piangendo rido;
egualmente mi spiace morte et vita:
in questo stato son, donna, per voi.
 
 
 
                                                                            I cannot find peace, yet cannot make war;
                                                                            I both fear and hope; I burn and am ice;
                                                                            I fly above the heavens and fall to earth;
                                                                            I hold nothing and embrace the whole world.
 
                                                                            Such a lady is she who keeps me in prison, but neither frees nor binds me,
                                                                            Neither keeps me for herself nor unlooses the knot;
                                                                            Love does not kill me, does not unleash me,
                                                                            Neither wants me to live, nor rescues me from my troubles.
 
                                                                            I see without eyes, I cry out without a tongue,
                                                                            I yearn to perish and seek help,
                                                                            I hate myself and love another.
 
                                                                            I feed on grief, I laugh as I cry,
                                                                            Death and life displease me equally:
                                                                            I am in this state, my lady, because of you.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 2:49

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Chacun qui voit ma couleur triste et noire,
Me dit, Ronsard, vous estes amoureux :
Mais ce bel œil qui me fait langoreux,
Le sçait, le voit, et si ne le veut croire.
 
Dequoy me sert que mon mal soit notoire
Quand à mon dam son œil trop rigoureux,
Par ne sçay quel desastre malheureux
Voit bien ma playe, et si la prend à gloire ?
 
J’ay beau pleurer protester et jurer,
J’ay beau promettre et cent fois asseurer
Qu’autre jamais n’aura sus moy puissance,
 
Qu’elle s’esbat de me voir en langueur :
Et plus de moy je luy donne asseurance,
Moins me veut croire, et m’appelle un moqueur.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            Everyone who sees my sad, dark colour
                                                                            Tells me, “Ronsard, you are in love !”
                                                                            But that fair eye which makes me pine
                                                                            Knows it, sees it, yet won’t believe it.
 
                                                                            What use to me that my misfortune is well-known
                                                                            When to my hurt her eyes, so harsh,
                                                                            See clearly the wound I got through
                                                                            Whatever unhappy disaster, yet glory in it?
 
                                                                            In vain I’ve wept, protested, sworn,
                                                                            In vain I’ve promised and assured her a hundred times
                                                                            That no other will ever have power over me,
 
                                                                            But she rejoices to see me pining;
                                                                            And the more I give her assurances about myself
                                                                            The less she believes me, and calls me a mocker.
 
 
 
There’s not much to coment on in the text; though I am intrigued that here Ronsard is ‘dark’ with illness not pale as usual! (Nothing to do with the rhyme of course…)  Blanchemain offers a number of variants, which I’ll put in context below:
 
 
Chacun qui voit ma couleur triste et noire,
Me dit, Ronsard, vous estes amoureux :
Mais ce bel œil qui me fait langoreux,
Le sçait, le voit, et si ne le veut croire.
 
Hé ! que me sert que mon mal soit notoire
A un chacun, quand son trait rigoureux,
Par ne sçay quel desastre malheureux
Me fait la playe, et si la prend à gloire ?
 
J’ay beau pleurer protester et jurer,
J’ay beau promettre et cent fois asseurer
Qu’autre jamais n’aura sus moy puissance,
 
Elle s’esbat de me voir en langueur :
Et plus de moy je luy donne asseurance,
Moins me veut croire, et m’appelle un moqueur.
 
 
                                                                            Everyone who sees my sad, dark colour
                                                                            Tells me, “Ronsard, you are in love !”
                                                                            But that fair eye which makes me pine
                                                                            Knows it, sees it, yet won’t believe it.
 
                                                                            What use to me that my misfortune is well-known
                                                                            To each and every one, when her harsh blow,
                                                                            Through whatever unhappy disaster,
                                                                            Gave me this wound, yet glories in it?
 
                                                                            In vain I’ve wept, protested, sworn,
                                                                            In vain I’ve promised and assured her a hundred times
                                                                            That no other will ever have power over me;
 
                                                                            She rejoices to see me pining;
                                                                            And the more I give her assurances about myself
                                                                            The less she believes me, and calls me a mocker.
 
 
In line 5 Ronsard has as usual swapped out an exclamation, and found a neat way or replacing it. I rather like the earlier version of the rest of the stanza! And he tidies up the grammar in lines 9-12, another late-Ronsard feature.
 
His commentators tell us this derives from a Petrarchan original; but as so often it takes ideas from the original without really ‘translating’ it. In fact Ronsard’s poem corresponds to the first half of Petrarch’s: apologies for the slightly loose translation, I’m not sure I have really understood all of Petrarch’s Italian!
 
 
Lasso, ch’i’ ardo, et altri non me ‘l crede;
sí crede ogni uom, se non sola colei
che sovr’ogni altra, et ch’i’ sola, vorrei:
ella non par che ‘l creda, et sí sel vede.
 
Infinita bellezza et poca fede,
non vedete voi ‘l cor nelli occhi mei?
Se non fusse mia stella, i’ pur devrei
al fonte di pietà trovar mercede.
 
Quest’arder mio, di che vi cal sí poco,
e i vostri honori, in mie rime diffusi,
ne porian infiammar fors’anchor mille:
 
ch’i’ veggio nel penser, dolce mio foco,
fredda una lingua et duo belli occhi chiusi
rimaner, dopo noi, pien’ di faville.
 
 
 
                                                                            Alas, how I burn, yet others won’t believe me;
                                                                            And if every man believed, yet still she alone does not
                                                                            Who is above all others, and whom alone I wish to.
                                                                            She seems not to believe it, and yet she sees…
 
                                                                            Infinite beauty and little faith,
                                                                            Don’t you see my heart in my eyes?
                                                                            If it were not my destiny, surely I ought
                                                                            At the fountain of pity to find my reward [mercy?].
 
                                                                            This burning passion of mine, about which you care so little,
                                                                            And your praises spread throughout my verse
                                                                            Might yet, perhaps, inflame a thousand others;
 
                                                                            What I see in my thoughts, o sweet flame,
                                                                            Is one cold tongue and two fair closed eyes
                                                                            Remaining after us, full of sparks.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Odelette à sa maitresse

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Today, a ‘little ode’ Ronsard wrote, chiding his mistress, around 1555. Originally in the Meslanges, this was ‘retranchée’ to a Ronsardian appendix in later editions.

Je veux aymer ardentement :
Aussi veus-je qu’egallement
On m’ayme d’une amour ardente :
Toute amitié froidement lente
Qui peut dissimuler son bien
Ou taire son mal, ne vaut rien,
Car faire en amours bonne mine,
De n’aymer point, c’est le vray sine.
 
Les amants si frois en esté
Admirateurs de chasteté,
Et qui morfondus petrarquisent,
Sont toujours sots, car ils ne prisent
Amour qui de sa nature est
Ardent et prompt, et à qui plest
De faire qu’une amitié dure
Quand elle tient de sa nature.
 
 
                                                                             I hope to love ardently ;
                                                                            And I hope too that equally
                                                                            She’ll love me with ardent love.
                                                                            Every affair which is cold and slow,
                                                                            Which can hide the good things
                                                                            Or be silent about the bad, is worth nothing;
                                                                            For putting on a good face in love
                                                                            Is the true sign of loving not at all.
 
                                                                            Those lovers, so cold in summer,
                                                                            Admirers of chastity,
                                                                            Who feeling dejected make Petrarchan rhymes,
                                                                            They’re always fools, for they do not prize
                                                                            Love, who by nature is
                                                                            Ardent and eager, and who is happy
                                                                            To make affairs long-lasting
                                                                            When they are of his kind.
 
 
Ronsard invents the word (or re-uses his previously-invented word) ‘to Petrarch-ise’, implying of course inferior copyists rather than those who, like Ronsard, can imitate Petrarch’s quality as well as style!
 
Blanchemain’s version has only one minor variant: “Ces” for “Les” at the start of the second stanza. Oddly, Blanchemain prints it among the “Oeuvres inédites” (unpublished works) with a footnote explaining it was published in the second (1555) edition of the ‘Meslanges’…?!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.229

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J‘alloy roulant ces larmes de mes yeux,
Or’ plein de doute ore plein d’esperance,
Lors que Henry loing des bornes de France
Vengeoit l’honneur de ses premiers ayeux :
 
Lors qu’il trenchoit d’un bras victorieux
Au bord du Rhin l’Espagnole vaillance,
Ja se traçant de l’aigu de sa lance
Un beau sentier pour s’en aller aux cieux.
 
Vous sainct troupeau, mon soustien et ma gloire,
Dont le beau vol m’a l’esprit enlevé,
Si autrefois m’avez permis de boire
 
Les eaux qui ont Hesiode abreuvé,
Soit pour jamais ce souspir engravé
Au plus sainct lieu du temple de Memoire.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            I have been continually pouring these tears from my eyes,
                                                                            Now full of doubt, now of hope,
                                                                            While Henri, far from the bounds of France,
                                                                            Has avenged the honour of his first ancestors ;
 
                                                                            While he has broken with his victorious arm
                                                                            Spain’s valour, on the banks of the Rhine,
                                                                            Marking out with the point of his lance
                                                                            A fair path to raise himself to the heavens.
 
                                                                            Oh holy troop, my support and my glory,
                                                                            Whose lovely flight has lifted my spirits,
                                                                            If previously you have allowed me to drink
 
                                                                            The waters which generously you gave Hesiod,
                                                                            May this my plaint be for ever engraved
                                                                            In the holiest place in Memory’s temple. 
 
 
Simplicity, as Ronsard closes his first book of sonnets. And also a glance at the ‘real world’ around him: for this was not a time of peace and love in European politics! The Italian wars were a major feature of Henri II’s reign, all the way through the 1550s, and early victories led ultimately to the embarrassing Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis… The Spanish on the Rhine are, incidentally, the Habsburgs – for that family controlled Austro-Germanic Europe as well as Iberian Europe.
 
So, Ronsard acknowledges that love poetry may not seem the right thing at this time, while gently swinging the balance back towards the pre-eminence of poetry at the end. (Hesiod claimed inspiration from drinking at the fountain of the ‘holy troop’ of Muses on Mt Helicon.)
 
Blanchemain’s version shows considerable variation in the sestet: the opening octet was not changed.
 
 
Vous sainct troupeau qui desus Pinde errez,
Et qui de grâce ouvrez et desserrez
Vos doctes eaux à ceux qui les vont boire
 
Si quelquefois vous m’avez abreuvé,
Soit pour jamais ce souspir engravé
Au plus sainct lieu du temple de Memoire
 
 
                                                                                        Oh holy troop who wander upon Pindus
                                                                                       And who by grace open and release
                                                                                       Your learned waters to those who come to drink them,
 
                                                                                       If sometimes you have given me to drink
                                                                                       May this my plaint be for ever engraved
                                                                                       In the holiest place in Memory’s temple.
 
 
 
  Note how in this earlier version Ronsard does not refer back to Hesiod, but simply offers his own name as proof enough of the Muses’ generosity! There remains one other variant of the later version at the top of the page: in line 12, where yet another great poet enters: “L’eau dont amour a Petrarque abreuvé…” (‘The waters which love generously gave to Petrarch…’)