Tag Archives: Priam

Amours 1.207

Sœur de Pâris, la fille au Roy d’Asie,
A qui Phebus en doute fit avoir
Peu cautement l’aiguillon du sçavoir,
Dont sans profit ton ame fut saisie :
Tu variras vers moy de fantaisie,
Puis qu’il te plaist (bien que tard) de vouloir
Changer ton Loire au sejour de mon Loir,
Pour y fonder ta demeure choisie.
En ma faveur le Ciel te guide ici,
Pour te monstrer de plus pres le souci
Qui peint au vif de ses couleurs ma face.
Vien Nymphe vien, les rochers et les bois,
Qui de pitié s’enflamment sous ma voix,
Pleurant ma peine, eschaufferont ta glace.  
                                                                            Sister of Paris, daughter to the King of Asia,
                                                                            To whom Phoebus, doubting, gave
                                                                            Incautiously the goad of knowledge,
                                                                            By which your soul was without profit seized ;
                                                                            You will change your ideas towards me
                                                                            Since you choose (though late) to consider
                                                                            Exchanging your Loire to stay on my Loir
                                                                            And to found there your chosen home.
                                                                            For my benefit is Heaven guiding you here
                                                                            To show you more closely the pain
                                                                            Which paints my face so vividly with its colours.
                                                                            Come, Nymph, come : the rocks and woods
                                                                            Which blaze up in pity at my voice,
                                                                            Weeping for my pain, will warm up your ice.
Classical allusiion to the fore again, though here Ronsard’s use of a roundabout way to identify Cassandre is fairly obvious – he rapidly gives us as much information as possible (sister of Paris, daughter of Priam, prophetic mouthpiece of Apollo … ah yes, that would be Cassandra!) In line 3 the “aiguillon” (goad, or prick, or sting, or really anything sharp and painful) perhaps calls to mind a more Christian image, that of St Paul “kicking against the pricks” as the King James version so wonderfully puts it. (Have you ever noticed how many of Jesus’s turns of phrase and stories are the language of a farmer in the fields, not that of a carpenter? If he did follow his father’s trade, he can only have done so part-time!)  Whether an intended reference or not, it is clearly the same metaphor: just as cattle were goaded with sharp sticks to keep them from wandering in the wrong direction, so here prophetic knowledge is both painful and also leaves no choice – Cassandra must prophesy, no matter that it hurts.
But then, in the rest of the poem, we abandon that image and the pains (or otherwise) of knowledge – because it becomes clear that was all just an elaborate way to say “Cassandre”. There is no real suggestion in the first tercet that Heaven’s guiding is in any way painful to Cassandre, as it was to her Trojan namesake; nor that the need to understand lies behind any decision to move closer to his home. And that is probably why I find this sonnet a bit irritating. There are thematic links between the opening and the rest, but those links seem accidental and un-purposed, which is un-satisfactory in a poet of Ronsard’s quality.
The earlier version printed by Blanchemain does not offer any substantive changes. In lines 7-8 he becomes slightly less certain of her intentions:
Changer ton Loire au rives de mon Loir,
Voire y fonder ta demeure choisie.
                                                                            Exchanging your Loire for the banks of my Loir,
                                                                            Maybe even founding there your chosen home. 
and in the final line becomes “De leurs soupirs eschauferont ta glace” (‘the rocks and woods … With their sighs will warm up your ice’)

Amours retranch. 2

A ton frere Pâris tu sembles en beauté,
A ta sœur Polyxene en chaste conscience,
A ton frere Helenin en prophete science,
A ton parjure ayeul en peu de loyauté,
A ton père Priam en brave Royauté,
Au viellard Antenor en mielleuse eloquence,
A ta tante Antigone en superbe arrogance,
A ton grand frere Hector en fiere cruauté.
Neptune n’assit onc une pierre si dure
Dedans le mur Troyen, que toy pour qui j’endure
Un million de morts, ny Ulysse vainqueur
N’emplit tant Ilion de feux, de cris, et d’armes,
De souspirs, et de pleurs, que tu combles mon cœur,
Sans l’avoir mérité, de sanglots, et de larmes
                                                                            You are like your brother Paris in beauty,
                                                                            Your sister Polyxena in chaste conscience,
                                                                            Your brother Helenus in prophetic skill,
                                                                            Your perjured grandfather [Laomedon] in faithlessness,
                                                                            Your father Priam in regal pride,
                                                                            Old Antenor in honeyed speech,
                                                                            Your aunt Antigone in magnificent arrogance,
                                                                            Your great brother Hector in proud cruelty.
                                                                            Neptune never placed a stone so hard
                                                                            In Troy’s walls as you, for whom I endure
                                                                            A million deaths, nor did conquering Ulysses
                                                                            Fill Ilium so full of fires, cries, arms,
                                                                            Sighs and laments, as you fill my heart –
                                                                            Which does not deserve it – with sobs and tears.



After that recent poem on reading Homer, another which demonstrates the effect of that reading! It’s possible that the family tree of the royal house of Troy may not be too familiar to you(!) so here’s a very useful quick summary:  several of the names above are highlighted to make navigation easy. The basic assumption is that ‘you’ (=Cassandre) are equivalent to the prophetess Cassandra of Troy.
Many of the references are not just to the characters but to the relevant myths:
 – Paris, so handsome that he was chosen to judge the goddesses’ beauty & gained Helen’s love;
 – Polyxena, whose calm wisdom encouraged Achilles (having captured her) to trust her with the information that led to his death, and who (in Euripides) nobly accepts her death as a sacrifice to Achilles’ ghost;
 – Helenus, Cassandra’s twin and also endowed with prophetic powers;
 – Laomedon, perjured because he persuaded Neptune to build Troy’s great walls (see line 9) but then refused to give the promised reward;
 – Priam, whose pride kept the war going (but who was capable of humbling himself before Achilles, to recover his son Hector’s body, in a truly noble/regal way);
 – Antenor, not a family member but Priam’s closest and wisest advisor (and an advocate for peace in the war);
 – Antigone, whose ‘arrogance’ is the centre of Sophocles’ play as her stubbornness leads to confrontation with the state and general tragedy;
 – Hector, generally considered a noble hero, but who of course has a long list of victims in the Iliad. Generally, Achilles not Hector is seen as the proudly cruel one!
Which leaves us only with the reference to Ulysses, who is responsible for the fall of Troy because he came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse.
Unusually for a poem that has been set aside, there is a variant in Blanchemain’s version at the beginning of the last line:
                          … que tu combles mon cœur,
De brasiers et de morts, de sanglots, et de larmes
                                                                                                    … as you fill my heart
                                                                            With fire and death, with sobs and tears.

Hymn for King Henry III, King of France, for the Victory at Montcontour (Hymn 1:9)


For those who prefer poetry to music, here’s one of Ronsard’s hymns. Apparently the king liked this one so much he learned it by heart and would recite it regularly to his courtiers – or enjoy hearing others recite it!

Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
   Fier et fort,
Dessous l’aile de sa mere,
Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
   Aux Dragons
Fait guerre sortant de l’aire :
Tel qu’un jeune Lyonneau
   Tout nouveau
Quittant caverne et bocage,
Pour premier combat assaut
   D’un cœur haut
Quelque grand Taureau sauvage :
Tel aux desens de vos dos,
Sentistes ce jeune Prince,
Fils de Roy, frere de Roy,
   Dont la Foy
Merite une autre Province.
A peine sur son menton
   Un cotton
De soye se laisse espandre ;
Jeune trompant le trompeur,
   S’est sans peur
Monstré digne d’Alexandre.
Il a guidant ses guerriers,
   De Lauriers
Orné son front et sa bande :
Et Capitaine parfait,
   Sa main fait
Ce qu’aux autres il commande.
Il a tranché le lien
Pour nos bonnes destinées :
Il a coupé le licol
   Qui au col
Nous pendoit des huit années.
Il a d’un glaive trenchant
   Au mechant
Coupé la force et l’audace,
Il a des ennemis morts
   Les grans corps
Fait tomber dessus la place.
Ils ont esté combatus,
Terrassez dessus la poudre,
Comme chesnes esbranchez,
Dessous l’esclat d’une foudre.
De sang gisent tous couverts
   A l’envers,
Tesmoins de sa main vaillante :
Ilz ont esté foudroyez,
Sur les bors de la Charante.
Charante qui prend son nom
A tels esprits sert de guide,
Les passant comme en bateau
   Par son eau
Au rivage Acherontide.
Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
   Le repas
Des mastins sans sepulture,
Et sans honneur de tombeaux 
   Les corbeaux
Mangent leur chair pour pasture.
Ny le tranchant coutelas,
   Ny le bras,
Ny force à la guerre adextre
Ne sert de rien à la fin
   Au plus Fin,
Quand il se prend à son maistre.
Du fort pere vient l’enfant
   Trionfant :
Le cheval ensuit sa race,
Le chien qui de bon sang part,
   Va gaillard
De luy-mesmes à la chasse.
Ainsi Pyrrhe Achillien
   Du Troyen
Coupa la guerre ancienne,
Ruant en l’âge où tu es
   Les feux Grecs
Dedans la ville Troyenne.
Ainsi Prince valeureux,
   Et heureux,
Tu mets fin à nostre guerre,
Qui depuis huit ans passez
Nous tenoit les cœurs en serre.
Ce que les vieux n’avoyent sceu,
   Tu l’as peu
Parachever en une heure ;
Aussi Prince de bon-heur,
   Tout l’honneur
Sans compagnon t’en demeure.
A Dieu grace nous rendons,
   Et fendons
L’air sous l’hynne de victoire,
Poussant gaillars et joyeux
   Jusqu’aux Cieux,
Ton nom tes faits et ta gloire.
Et soit au premier resveil
   Du Soleil,
Soit qu’en la mer il s’abaisse,
Tousjours nous chantons Henry
De Mars et de la jeunesse.
As a little eagle comes out,
   Bold and strong,
From beneath its mother’s wing
And with long, hooked talons
   Makes war
On dragons, coming from the air;
As a young lion,
Quiting cave and woodland
For its first fight attacks
   With high courage
Some great, savage bull;
So, to the cost of your hides,
You felt this young Prince:
The son of a King, the brother of a King
   Whose faithfulness
Deserves another demesne.
Hardly on his chin
   Had the silken
Fluff begun to sprout;
Young, deceiving the deceiver,
   He fearlessly showed
Himself worthy of Alexander.
Guiding his warriors, he has
   With laurels
Adorned his brow and his troop,
And, the perfect captain,
   His hand does
What he commands others to do.
He cut the knot
   Of Gordium
To make our future good,
He cut the halter
   Which for eight years
Has hung around our necks.
With his slicing blade he has
   Cut off
The strength and daring of the wicked,
He has made the dead enemies’
   Great corpses
Fall upon the ground.
They were fought,
   Beaten down,
Crushed into the dust
Like oaks lopped down,
Under a bursting thunderbolt.
Covered in blood they all lie
Witnesses to his valiant hand.
They were crushed,
   Turned to dust,
On the banks of the Charente.
The Charente, which takes its name
   From Acheron,
Acted as guide to those spirits,
Passing them, as if in boats,
   Through its waters
To the banks of Acheron.
They are catapulted down,
   A meal
For dogs, without burial
And without the honour of tombs;
Feast on their flesh.
Neither the slicing cutlass,
   Nor an arm
Or strength suited to war
Offer any help in the end
   To the finest
When he takes himself to his master.
From a powerful father comes a son
The horse follows his breeding,
The dog which comes from a good bloodline
   Happily goes
Off to the hunt by himself.
Thus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles,
   Cut short
The ancient war of the Trojan,
Hurling down in the age in which you are
   Those who once were Greek
Within the city of Troy.
So, valorous and fortunate
You have made an end of our wars
Which for the last eight years
Us all, squeezing our hearts.
What the ancients could not do,
   You have managed
To complete in a single hour;
So Prince of good fortune,
   All the glory
Rests with you and you alone.
To God we give thanks
   And shatter
The air with our victory song;
Shouting gaily and joyously
   To the heavens
Your name, your deeds and your glory.
Whether at the first rising
   Of the sun,
Or when he sets in the sea,
We continuously sing of Henry,
Of Mars and of our youth.


 Plenty of classical and other learning in here, so let’s add a few notes. 
Stanzas 3-4 reminds us that this was a period of considerable Catholic-Protestant tension. The Battle of Montcontour was in 1569, during the Third War of Religion, and was (as suggested in stanza 16) decisive. Sadly it did not end the strife; the famous St Bartholomew’s Day massacre took place three years later in 1572 (when Ronsard was in his late 40s). Henry, who was only 18 at the time of the battle, came to the throne in 1574.
In stanza 6, the reference to Gordium goes back to Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot – a symbol of future rule over Asia and of future victories, hence its appropriate use here. But the knot is also proverbially used as a symbol of insoluble problems; and any claim that Henry III resolved the Wars of Religion at Montcontour can only be considered optimistic…!
In stanzas 9-10 Ronsard makes the fanciful claim that the river Charente derives its name from Acheron, the river of Hades. It gives him a good image but seems unlikely. (Montcontour is in the Poitou-Charentes region.)
Pyrrhus (in stanza 14) is another name for Neoptolemus, the rather angry and aggressive son of Achilles who killed old men, boys & women (Priam, Astyanax & Polyxena) in the sack of Troy. I doubt Ronsard is suggesting Henry III is quite so savage or ruthless; the link is rather the decisiveness of the victories.
There are some minor variants in editions: Blanchemain’s opening stanza goes
      Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
         Fier et fort,
      De dessous l’aile à sa mere,
      Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
         Aux dragons
      Fait guerre sortant de l’aire
– the changed third line can be translated identically, or could mean the eagle comes out ‘from beneath the wing to its mother’.  Then stanzas 10-11 go:
      Charante qui prend son nom
      Leur sert de port et de guide,
      Les passant comme en bateau
         Par son eau
      Au rivage Acherontide.
      Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
         Le repas
      Des mastins, sans sepulture,
      Et sans honneur de tombeaux ;
         Les corbeaux
      De leur chair font leur pasture.
(The Charente ‘acts as their port and guide’; and crows ‘make their feast on their flesh’).

Sonnet 71

Ja desja Mars ma trompe avoit choisie,
Et dans mes vers ja Francus devisoit :
Sur ma fureur ja sa lance aiguisoit,
Epoinçonnant ma brave poësie :
Ja d’une horreur la Gaule estoit saisie,
Et sous le fer ja Sene tre-luisoit,
Et ja Francus à Paris conduisoit
Le nom Troyen et l’honneur de l’Asie :
Quand l’Archerot emplumé par le dos,
D’un trait certain me playant jusqu’à l’os,
De ses secrets le ministre m’ordonne.
Armes adieu, le Myrte Pafien
Ne cede point au Laurier Delfien,
Quand de sa main Amour mesme le donne.
                                                                            Now already Mars had outwitted me
                                                                            And now in my verse Francus was chattering away ;
                                                                            Now he was sharpening his lance on my passion,
                                                                            Skewering my bold poetry;
                                                                            Now Gaul was seized with horror,
                                                                            The Seine now glinting beneath the blades,
                                                                            Francus now bringing to Paris
                                                                            The name of Troy and Asia’s honour;
                                                                            When the little Archer, feathers on his back,
                                                                            Wounding me to the bone with a sure dart
                                                                            Ordained me as minister of his secrets.
                                                                            Farewell arms! The myrtle of Paphos
                                                                            Yields nothing to the laurel of Delphi
                                                                            When Love himself gives it with his own hand.



It’s hard to think of Ronsard as a poet of war and epic poetry – the Franciad notwithstanding – yet here he is claiming that he was already at work on such an epic when he was diverted towards love poetry. Maybe this is a ‘classicizing’ defence of love poetry, for epic is of course – like tragedy – considered greater than ‘mere’ love poetry. But it is believed true that he had begun work on his epic Franciad in the 1540s, before turning to love poetry, the Franciad having to wait till the 1570s for publication in its partially-complete state.
The hero Francus is an entirely made-up French origin myth, originating in the medieval period: Francus is Astyanax, Hector’s son, mysteriously surviving the death he suffered in the various Greek epics of Troy (in the Little Iliad he is thrown from the walls, in the Ilioupersis, he is killed and the King Priam – his grandfather – is beaten to death with his body!). Escaping to Europe, Astyanax/Francus becomes the origin of the Franks, and founder of the Merovingian dynasty (Charlemagne’s line).
Paphos and myrtle are both associated with Venus: Paphos because, after her birth at sea, she came ashore in a seashell there (cf. the famous Botticelli painting); and myrtle is sacred to Venus in classical religion.  Delphi and the laurel are linked with Apollo:  Delphi for the famous Oracle, the laurel as sacred to him and the plant into which Daphne was changed to save her from Apollo’s advances (alluded to in the previous sonnet).
The original version (in Blanchemain) has a few small variants:  his lines 7-8 read
Et ja Francus à son bord conduisoit
Les os d’Hector forbannis de l’Asie,
                                                                           Francus now bringing to its banks
                                                                           The bones of Hector exiled from Asia;
and his line 11 reads “De sa grandeur le saint prestre m’ordonne” (‘By his greatness ordained me his holy priest’ or ‘Ordained me holy priest of his greatness’).

Sonnet 70


Skipping once more over a poem we’ve posted earlier, we come to …

De quelle plante, ou de quelle racine,
De quel unguent, ou de quelle liqueur
Oindroy-je bien la playe de mon cœur
Qui d’os en os incurable chemine ?
Ny vers charmez, pierre, ny medecine,
Drogue ny jus ne romproient ma langueur,
Tant je sen moindre et moindre ma vigueur
Ja me trainer en la barque voisine.
Amour, qui sçais des herbes le pouvoir,
Et qui la playe au cœur m’as fait avoir,
Guary mon mal, ton art fay moy cognoistre.
Pres d’Ilion tu blessas Apollon :
J’ay dans le cœur senty mesme aiguillon :
Ne blesse plus l’écholier et le maistre.
                                                                            With what plant, what root,
                                                                            What unguent, what potion
                                                                            Shall I anoint the wound in my heart
                                                                            Which runs through my bones incurably?
                                                                            Not magic rhymes, stone nor medicine,
                                                                            Drug nor juice will defeat my languor,
                                                                            So much can I feel my strength lessen and lessen,
                                                                            Already dragging me off into the bark which is nearby.
                                                                            Love, you know the power of herbs
                                                                            And you have made this wound in my heart:
                                                                            Heal my ills, help me understand your arts.
                                                                            Beside Troy you wounded Apollo;
                                                                            I have felt the same sting in my heart;
                                                                            Do not wound again the scholar and the teacher.



In line 8, the nearby bark is the boat of Charon which ferries the dead across the river Styx.   I think Ronsard is conflating two stories in the reference to Apollo and Troy: Apollo was the father of Troilus by Hecuba, wife of Trojan King Priam; and (separately, in Thessaly) Apollo loved Daphne after being shot with a dart by Cupid. In the final line, to state the obvious, Ronsard is the scholar in love, but it’s curious to see unsuccessful Apollo (who failed to win over Daphne) as the teacher! There’s clearly a message about similar unsuccessful pursuits of the beloved, but odd to frame this as a learned behaviour…
Blanchemain’s earlier version does not pose these mythological conundrums – Cassandre is the magician, the one who causes the wounded heart and the one who can heal it. Another example of the older Ronsard over-complicating things?  Here’s Blanchemain’s closing sestet:
Las ! toi qui sçais des herbes le pouvoir,
Et qui la playe au cœur m’as fait avoir,
Guary le mal que ta beauté me livre :
De tes beaux yeux allége mon souci,
Et par pitié retiens encore ici
Ce pauvre amant qu’Amour soule de vivre.
                                                                           Alas, you who know the power of herbs
                                                                           And who have made this wound in my heart:
                                                                           Heal the ill which your beauty gives me;
                                                                           With your fair eyes lighten my pain,
                                                                           And in pity keep here still
                                                                           The poor lover whom Love intoxicates with life.

Sonnet 24

Tes yeux courtois me promettent le don
Qu’à demander je n’eusse pris l’audace :
Mais j’ay grand peur qu’ils tiennent de la race
De ton ayeul le roy Laomedon.
Au flamboyer de leur double brandon
Par le penser l’esperance m’embrasse,
Ja prevoyant abusé de leur grace,
Que mon service aura quelque guerdon.
Ta bouche seule en parlant m’espouvante,
Bouche prophete, et qui vraye me chante
Tout le rebours de tes yeux amoureux.
Ainsi je vis, ainsi je meurs en doute,
L’un me rappelle et l’autre me reboute,
D’un seul objet heureux et malheureux.
                                                                       Your courteous eyes promise me the gift
                                                                       For which I have not found the daring to ask:
                                                                       But I am so afraid that they retain [the broken promises of] the race
                                                                       Of your ancestor, King Laomedon.
                                                                       At the flaming of their double torch,
                                                                       Through my thoughts hope embraces me,
                                                                       Already anticipating, misled by their graciousness,
                                                                       That my service shall have some reward.
                                                                       Your mouth alone astonishes me as you speak,
                                                                       Prophetic mouth which truly sings to me
                                                                       The very opposite of the love in your eyes.
                                                                       So I live, so I die: in doubt,
                                                                       While one calls me back and the other rejects me,
                                                                       Made both fortunate and unfortunate by one and the same object.
 The reference to Laomedon in the first quatrain is a play on Cassandre’s name – the same as a prophetess of Troy. Blanchemain’s footnote to this line says: “That is to say, ‘I am afraid they will not keep their promise’ – he speaks to Cassandre as if she were the daughter of king Priam and grand-daughter of Laomedon, a man who perjured himself and who kept faith extremely badly.”
Of Laomedon’s bad faith, Wikipedia says: “Poseidon and Apollo, having offended Zeus, were sent to serve King Laomedon. He had them build huge walls around the city and promised to reward them well, a promise he then refused to fulfil. In vengeance, before the Trojan War, Poseidon sent a sea monster to attack Troy and Apollo sent a pestilence. Laomedon planned on sacrificing his daughter Hesione to Poseidon in the hope of appeasing him. Heracles (along with Oicles and Telamon) rescued her at the last minute and killed the monster. Laomedon had promised them the magic horses as a reward for their deeds, but when he again broke his word, Heracles and his allies took vengeance by putting Troy to siege, killing Laomedon and all his sons save Podarces, who saved his own life by giving Heracles a golden veil Hesione had made (and therefore was afterwards called Priam, from priamai ‘to buy’).”
Ronsard undertook some fairly substantial re-writing in this sonnet: I’ve put Blanchemain’s version in full below as the changes affect almost all but the last tercet.
Tes yeux divins me promettent le don
Qui d’un espoir me renflamme et renglace.
Las! mais j’ay peur qu’ils tiennent de la race
De ton ayeul le roy Laomedon.
Au flamboyer de leur double brandon
De peu à peu l’esperance m’embrasse,
Ja prevoyant par l’accueil de leur grace,
Que mon service aura quelque guerdon.
Tant seulement ta bouche m’espouvante,
Bouche vrayment qui, prophete, me chante
Tout le rebours de tes yeux amoureux.
Ainsi je vis, ainsi je meurs en doute;
L’un me rappelle et l’autre me reboute,
D’un seul objet heureux et mal-heureux.
                                                                       Your divine eyes promise me the gift
                                                                       Which re-heats and re-freezes me with hope.
                                                                       Alas, I am afraid that they retain [the broken promises of] the race
                                                                       Of your ancestor, King Laomedon.
                                                                       With the burning of their double torch
                                                                       Little by little hope embraces me,
                                                                       Already anticipating, through their gracious welcome,
                                                                       That my service will get some reward.
                                                                       Only – your mouth astonishes me so
                                                                       That mouth which indeed prophetically sings to me
                                                                       Exactly the opposite of the love in your eyes.
                                                                       So I live, so I die: in doubt,
                                                                       While one calls me back and the other rejects me,
                                                                       Made both fortunate and unfortunate by one and the same object.