Tag Archives: Robert Garnier

Amours 2 — dedicatory sonnet

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[A] ROBERT GARNIER, Prince des poëtes tragicques.
 
SONNET
 
Tu gravois dans le ciel les victoires de France,
Et de nos roys sceptrez ta lyre se paissoit,
Quand ce monarque Amour, qu’elle ne cognoissoit,
Eut vouloir de luy faire entonner sa puissance.
 
Bruslant de ce desir, une fleche il eslance
Que ta jeune poitrine imprudente reçoit ;
Puis, comme le travail en flattant te deçoit,
Tu te plais à chanter le cruel qui t’offence.
 
Son nom, qui ne rouloit sur le parler françois,
Maintenant plus enflé par ta gaillarde voix
Remplit l’air estranger de sa fameuse gloire ;
 
Si que luy, amorcé de ce premier honneur,
Frappe tous ceux qu’il voit dedans Pegase boire,
Pour trouver (mais en vain) encor un tel sonneur.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            [To] Robert Garnier, prince of tragic poets:
 
 
                                                                            You wrote in the heavens the victories of France,
                                                                            And your lyre was nourished by our sceptred kings,
                                                                            When that monarch Love, which it did not recognise,
                                                                            Chose to make it thunder of his power.
 
                                                                            Burning with this desire, he shot an arrow
                                                                            Which struck your careless youthful breast ;
                                                                            Then, as the work flattered to deceive you,
                                                                            You pleased yourself in singing of the cruel one who struck you.
 
                                                                            His name, which was not spoken in the French tongue,
                                                                            Now made greater by your cheerful voice
                                                                            Fills foreign air with his renowned glory;
 
                                                                            So much that he, beginning with this first trophy,
                                                                            Shoots all those whom he sees drinking from the Pegasis,
                                                                            To find (but yet in vain) another such singer.
 
 
 
Marty-Laveaux doesn’t print this dedicatory sonnnet to Garnier in his book; so this is Blanchemain’s version. We’ve met Garnier before: Ronsard wrote a series of sonnets to go at the front of Garnier’s own works as they were published; here is one dedicating Amours 2 to him. Garnier responded after Ronsard’s death with a magnificent elegy.
 
Ronsard shows how he takes ideas that many another poet has played with, and re-knits them into a work that is entirely new and fresh – while still managing to flatter and extol the dedicatee! Though Garnier is best known as a tragic poet (as Ronsard’s dedication reminds us), his first published work was the “Plaintes amoureuses” of 1565 – three years before his first tragedy, and written while he was still a 21-year-old law student. (The book has now been lost.) In fact, apart from his “Hymne de la Monarchye” (and his “Elegy to Ronsard”) poetry by Garnier outside his tragedies is still hard to find.
 
(In fact, even though the latter part of the Elegy has been anthologised over the centuries, and can be found on the web, I’ve been unable to find the original Elegy – as published immediately after Ronsard’s death along with a flood of other poetry in honour of the great man – re-printed in full since the sixteenth century. I feel another post coming on…)
 
So, in extraordinarily disingenuous fashion, given that du Bellay’s “L’Olive” appeared in 1549 and he himself had written 220 love sonnets in his 1st book of Amours in the early 1550s, Ronsard credits Garnier with introducing love-poetry into France … !  (Let us ignore, for the moment, the love poems not in sonnet form of all the preceding generations of poets, from Saint-Gelais to Marot to Villon to Christine de Pisan to Machaut …. !)
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Poems 1.20 – the Nightingale

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LE ROSSIGNOL
chantant et faisant son nid dedans un genèvre
 
Gay Rossignol honneur de la ramée,
Qui jour et nuit courtise ton aimée
Par mon jardin hoste de sa verdeur,
Quarante jours desgoisant ton ardeur
Et t’esclatant d’une voix qui gringote
Ores en haute ores en basse note,
A bec ouvert d’un siffletis trenchant,
Hachant coupant entrerompant ton chant
De cent fredons, tu donnes à ta femme
Un doux martel, amoureux de ma Dame.
 
Tu n’aurois point tant de faveur sinon
Que les vieux Grecs t’ont nommé d’un beau nom :
Mais bien de deux, t’appellent ce me semble,
D’un mesme mot, Chantre et Poëte ensemble.
 
Et je dirois, si j’estois un bragard,
Que Rossignol vient du nom de Ronsard.
 
Mais ce n’est moy qui ma Musique vante :
Soit bien soit mal, Rossignolet, je chante
Ainsi que toy pour me donner plaisir,
Quand j’ay Madame argent et le loisir.
Quoy ? qui t’esmeut de courtiser sans cesse
Et d’enchanter Genévre ma Maistresse ?
 
En ce Genévre où tu chantes de nuit,
Dessous l’escorce une pucelle vit,
A qui l’amour la peur et l’avanture
Ont fait changer de face et de nature.
 
Un jour ce Dieu tout bouquin par le front
La poursuivoit d’un pied de chévre pront.
Elle courant d’une fuite legere
Ainsi pria Diane bocagere :
Ou me transforme, ou bien fay moy mourir :
La seule mort me pourra secourir
Ains que l’ardeur de ce Bouquin je sente.
 
A-peine eut dit, qu’elle fut une plante :
Ses doigts longuets, ses bras veneux et beaux,
Comme ils estoyent, se changent en rameaux.
Son pied devint une morne racine,
Et une escorce entourna sa poitrine.
Puis ses cheveux de crainte reboursez
Espars se sont en fueilles herissez,
Et la palleur qu’elle avoit en sa fuite,
Vit sur l’escorce et tousjours y habite.
 
Un jour lassé de la chasse des loups,
Seul à l’escart je m’endormi dessous
L’ombre fatal de ce Genévre, et elle
En corps humain m’apparut toute telle
Qu’elle fut lors que le Bouc amoureux
La poursuivoit par un taillis ombreux,
Tant il avoit de flames dedans l’ame
Pour la beauté d’une si jeune Dame.
Depuis ce jour jamais je n’ay cessé
D’avoir le cœur de son amour blessé,
Et de languir pour un si beau visage.
 
Et toutefois brave de ton ramage
Chantant sifflant et faisant mille tours,
Tu veux tout seul jouyr de mes amours,
Que de bon cœur, Rossignol, je te laisse :
Car tu vaux mieux que ne fait ma Maistresse.
 
Et qui plus est, comme on voit un mary
Plein de finesse entre Dames nourri,
Faire secret l’amour à sa voisine :
Quand il n’a pas une femme trop fine,
La persuade avec un beau parler,
De la hanter, visiter et d’aller
Boire et manger souvent avecques elle,
A fin d’avoir (par une ruse telle)
Plus de moyen d’œillader les beaux yeux
Qui de son cœur se font victorieux.
 
Ainsi rival ta femme tu ameines
Dedans cest arbre, où d’un nid fait de laines
Mousses, duvets, ses petits elle pond,
Esclost, escouve, et qui apres se font
Ainsi que toy au retour des fueillages
Quarante jours Sereines des bocages.
 
Quoy ? Rossignol, la voix ne te defaut !
Et par despit tu t’efforces plus haut !
 
Puis qu’autrement ma verve poëtique
Ne peut gaigner ton ramage rustique,
Va, Rossignol, je laisse seul pour toy
L’arbre amoureux qui n’a souci de moy,
L’arbre gentil, et toutefois farouche,
Qui fait saigner aussi tost qu’on le touche.
 
Tandis, Girard, que la fiévre me tient
Reins, teste, flanc, la Muse m’entretient,
Et de venir à mon lit n’a point honte.
 
Or des propos que sa bouche me conte
Je t’en fais part, à fin qu’à l’advenir
De ton Ronsard te puisses souvenir.
The Nightingale
singing and making its nest in a juniper-bush
 
Happy nightingale, the branch’s pride,
Who court your beloved day and night
In my garden, the guest of its greenery,
For forty days singing of your passion
And crying out with a voice which chirps
Now with a high, now with a low note,
Your beak open in a piercing whistle,
Chopping, cutting off and interrupting your song
With a hundred twitterings, you give your wife
A sweet jealousy, beloved of my Lady.
 
You’d not have such favour if
The ancient Greeks had not given you a fine name ;
Indeed with two, it seems to me, thay named you
In a single word, Singer and Poet together.
 
And I would say – if I were a braggart –
That ‘Rossignol’ [Nightingale] comes from the name ‘Ronsard’.
 
But it’s not myself my poems boast of :
For good or bad, nightingale, I sing
Like you to give myself pleasure,
Since I have my Lady, money and leisure-time.
What or who [ moved ] you to court unceasingly
And to enchant my mistress, the Juniper ?
 
In that juniper where you sing at night,
Beneath the bark there lives a maiden
Whose form and nature have been changed
By love, fear and mischance.
 
One day that god with horns on his brow
Was pursuing her on his swift stag’s-foot.
As she ran with light fleeing steps,
She prayed thus to Diana, goddess of the woods :
« Transform me, or let me die :
Death alone can help me
Such is this Horned God’s passion I feel. »
 
She had barely spoken when she became a plant :
Her fingers long and thin, her arms veined and fair
As they were, changed into branches.
Her feet became a sad root,
And bark encircled her breast.
Then her hair, standing up in fear,
Was spread out in bristling leaves
And the pallor she had in her flight
Lived on in the bark, and still remains there.
 
One day, tired from hunting wolves,
Alone and apart i fell asleep beneath
The fatal shade of this juniper, and she
Appeared to me in human form just as
She had been when the amorous Horned God
Pursued her through a shady copse,
Such a fire had he in his soul
Because of so young a lady’s beauty.
Since that day i have never ceased
To bear a wound in my heart for her love,
And to pine for so pretty a face.
 
And yet bold in your plumage,
Singing, whistling and turning a thousand times,
You want to be the only one enjoying that love of mine
Which I happily resign to you, nightingale ;
For you are worth more than my mistress !
 
And what is more, as one sees a married man
Full of cunning, fostered among the ladies,
Making secret love to his neighbour ;
if he has a wife who is not too clever,
He persuades her with fine words
To visit and see her frequently, to go
To eat and drink often with her,
So that hem ay have (by such a ruse)
More means of looking into the fair eyes
Which have conquered his heart ;
 
Just so you are bringing your own wife as a rival
To this tree, where in a nest made of wool,
Moss, feathers she lays her little ones,
Hatches, broods them, and after that becomes
Like you, when the leaves come back,
For forty days the Sirens of the woods.
 
May your voice not fail you, nightingale !
In envious competition, force yourself higher !
 
As otherwise my poetic inspiration
Cannot beat your rustic plumage,
Go on, nightingale – I leave for you alone
The tree I love which has no care for me,
The noble tree yet still timid
Which bleeds as soon as it is touched.
 
Yet, Girard, while the fever grips my
Guts, head, body, my Muse converses with me
And is not ashamed to come to my bed.
So, the words which her mouth relates
I share with you, that in the future
You may remember your Ronsard.
 
It’s the story of Daphne, pursued by Apollo, and turned into a laurel tree, which inspires this tale of a nymph turned into a juniper tree. As far as I know there isn’t a classical myth regarding the juniper, just Ronsardian invention.
 
As a footnote, it is possible there was a real lady Genèvre, with whom Ronsard flirted – though probably some time earlier than the late 1560s when he wrote this. There are two Elegies to her (though neither is especially ‘elegiac’ in tone); and she may have been the wife of Blaise de Vigenère, diplomat, scholar, alchemist and the “perfect incarnation of erudite genius in the Renaissance”.  His name may be familiar as the inventor (or rather improver) of the Vigenère cypher, which is an excellent simple cypher still useable today. But in his time he was known as translator of a range of Roman and Greek works, and author of works on alchemy (or perhaps chemistry) and comets, among others. Perhaps it would be appropriate for Ronsard to disguise his wife under a ‘cipher’, in the form of an anagram: Vigenère –> Genièvre.
 
The poem is dedicated to Jehan Girard, a friend of Robert Garnier (the tragedian, whom we’ve met before) and a councillor in Le Mans – not the Jehan Girard who  was printing protestant books in Geneva a decade or two earlier!
 
Back to the poetry. It’s odd that something which looks so much like an oocasional poem should have attracted so much revision by Ronsard. But let’s remember that what appears a little playful address to a bird, is in fact closely modelled on episodes in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and aspires to similar heights. Blanchemain’s (early) version is set out below in full, so much variation is there. Note that this version carries a dedication to Claude Binet, poet and Ronsard’s first biographer.  But this is not the first time we’ve seen Ronsard adapt an earlier dedication to another subject later in life, reflecting the changing patterns or networks of influence and patronage over time.
 
 
LE ROSSIGNOL
chantant et faisant son nid dedans un genévre de son jardin
 
A Claude Binet
 
 
Gay Rossignol honneur de la ramée,
Qui jour et nuict courtises ton aimée
Dans mon jardin desgoisant tes amours
Au mois d’avril le père des beaux jours,
Et t’esclatant d’une voix qui gringote
Ores en haute, ores en basse note,
A gorge ouverte, à pleins poulmons trenchant,
Hachant coupant entre-rompant ton chant
De cent fredons, tu donnes à ta femme
Un doux martel. Amoureux de ma Dame,
Tu m’es rival, d’où vient cela ? sinon
Que les vieux Grecs t’ont nommé d’un beau nom :
Mais bien de deux, t’appellant ce me semble,
D’un mesme mot, Chantre et Poëte ensemble.
Et je dirois, si j’estois un bragard,
Que Rossignol vient du nom de Ronsard.
 
Mais ce n’est moy dont ma Muse se vante :
Soit bien soit mal, Rossignolet, je chante
Ainsi que toy pour me donner plaisir,
Quand j’ay maistresse, argent et le loisir.
Quoy ? qui t’esmeut de caresser sans cesse
De tes fredons Genévre ma Maistresse ?
 
En ce Genévre où tu chantes de nuit,
Dessous l’escorce une pucelle vit,
A qui l’amour la peur et l’avanture
Ont fait changer de face et de nature.
 
Un jour ce Dieu, qui a cornes au front
La poursuivoit d’un pied de chévre pront.
Elle courant, ayant recours aux larmes,
Ainsi pria : « Diane, par tes charmes
Ou me transforme, ou bien fay moy mourir :
La seule mort me pourra secourir
Ains que l’ardeur de ce Bouquin je sente. »
 
A-peine eut dit, qu’elle fut une plante :
Ses doigts longuets, ses bras veineux et beaux,
A longs fourchons se fendent en rameaux ;
Son pied devint une morne racine,
Et une escorce entourna sa poitrine.
Ses longs cheveux de crainte rebroussez,
Espars se sont en fueilles herissez,
Et la palleur qu’elle avoit en sa fuite,
Vit sur l’escorce et tousjours y habite.
 
Un jour lassé de la chasse des loups,
Seul à l’escart je m’endormi dessous
L’ombre fatal de ce Genévre, et elle
En corps humain m’apparut toute telle
Qu’elle fut lors que le Bouc amoureux
La poursuivoit par un taillis ombreux,
Tant il avoit de flames dedans l’ame
Pour la beauté d’une si jeune Dame.
Depuis ce jour jamais je n’ay cessé
D’avoir le cœur de son amour blessé,
Et de languir pour un si beau visage.
 
Et toutefois hautain de ton ramage
Chantant sifflant et faisant mille tours,
Tu veux tout seul jouyr de mes amours,
Que de bon cœur, Rossignol, je te laisse :
Car ton fredon merite ma Maistresse.
 
Et qui plus est, comme on voit un mary
Plein de finesse entre Dames nourri,
Faire secret l’amour à sa voisine :
Quand il n’a pas une femme trop fine,
La persuade avec un beau parler,
De la hanter, visiter et d’aller
Boire et manger souvent avecques elle,
A fin d’avoir (par une ruse telle)
Plus de moyen d’œillader les beaux yeux
Qui de son cœur se font victorieux.
 
Ainsi rival ta femme tu ameines
Dedans cest arbre, où d’un nid fait de laines
Mousses, duvet, ses petits elle pond,
Esclost, escouve, et abeche, qui sont
Un an après, au retour des fueillages
Quarante jours Sereines des bocages.
 
Quoy ? Rossignol, la voix ne te defaut !
Et par despit tu t’efforces plus haut !
 
Puis qu’autrement ma verve poëtique
Ne peut gaigner ton ramage rustique,
Va, Rossignol, tu auras seul pour toy
L’arbre amoureux qui n’a souci de moy,
L’arbre gentil, et toutefois farouche,
Qui fait saigner aussi tost qu’on le touche.
 
Tandis, Binet, que la fiévre me tient
Reins, teste, flanc, la Muse m’entretient,
Et de venir à mon lit n’a point honte.
 
Or des propos que sa bouche me conte
Je t’en fais part, à fin qu’à l’advenir
De ton Ronsard te puisse souvenir.
The Nightingale
singing and making its nest in a juniper-bush in his garden
 
To Claude Binet
 
 
Happy nightingale, the branch’s pride,
Who court your beloved day and night
In my garden, singing of your passion
In the month of April, father of fine days,
And crying out with a voice which chirps
Now with a high, now with a low note,
Your throat open, whistling fit to burst,
Chopping, cutting off and interrupting your song
With a hundred twitterings, you give your wife
A sweet jealousy. Beloved of my Lady,
You are my rival – why is that ? unless because
The ancient Greeks gave you a fine name ;
Indeed two, naming you, it seems to me,
In a single word, Singer and Poet together.
And I would say – if I were a braggart –
That ‘Rossignol’ [Nightingale] comes from the name ‘Ronsard’.
 
But it’s not myself my Muse boasts of :
For good or bad, nightingale, I sing
Like you to give myself pleasure,
Since I have a mistress, money and leisure-time.
What or who inspired you to caress unceasingly
With your chirping my mistress, the Juniper ?
 
In that juniper where you sing at night,
Beneath the bark there lives a maiden
Whose form and nature have been changed
By love, fear and mischance.
 
One day that god who has horns on his brow
Was pursuing her on his swift stag’s-foot.
As she ranhaving recourse to tears,
She prayed thus : « Diana, by your charms
Transform me, or let me die :
Death alone can help me
Such is this Horned God’s passion I feel. »
 
She had barely spoken when she became a plant :
Her fingers long and thin, her arms veined and fair
Split into long-forked branches.
Her feet became a sad root,
And bark encircled her breast.
Her long hair, pulled back in fear,
Was spread out in bristling leaves
And the pallor she had in her flight
Lived on in the bark, and still remains there.
 
One day, tired from hunting wolves,
Alone and apart i fell asleep beneath
The fatal shade of this juniper, and she
Appeared to me in human form just as
She had been when the amorous Horned God
Pursued her through a shady copse,
Such a fire had he in his soul
Because of so young a lady’s beauty.
Since that day i have never ceased
To bear a wound in my heart for her love,
And to pine for so pretty a face.
 
And yet proud of your plumage,
Singing, whistling and turning a thousand times,
You want to be the only one enjoying that love of mine
Which I happily resign to you, nightingale ;
For your chirping is worthy of my mistress.
 
And what is more, as one sees a married man
Full of cunning, fostered among the ladies,
Making secret love to his neighbour ;
if he has a wife who is not too clever,
He persuades her with fine words
To visit and see her frequently, to go
To eat and drink often with her,
So that hem ay have (by such a ruse)
More means of looking into the fair eyes
Which have conquered his heart ;
 
Just so you are bringing your own wife as a rival
To this tree, where in a nest made of wool,
Moss, down, she lays her little ones,
Hatches, broods and cuddles those who are
A year later, when the leaves come back,
For forty days the Sirens of the woods.
 
May your voice not fail you, nightingale !
In envious competition, force yourself higher !
 
As otherwise my poetic inspiration
Cannot beat your rustic plumage,
Go on, nightingale – you shall have for yourself alone
The tree I love which has no care for me,
The noble tree yet still timid
Which bleeds as soon as it is touched.
 
Yet, Binet, while the fever grips my
Guts, head, body, my Muse converses with me
And is not ashamed to come to my bed.
 
So, the words which her mouth relates
I share with you, that in the future
It may remind you of your Ronsard.
 
 
 
 
 

To Robert Garnier (4)

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Le vieil cothurne d’Euripide
Est en procez entre Garnier
Et Jodelle, qui le premier
Se vante d’en estre le guide.
 
Il faut que ce procez on vuide,
Et qu’on adjuge le laurier
A qui mieux d’un docte gosier
A beu de l’onde Aganippide.
 
S’il faut espelucher de prés
Le vieil artifice des Grecs,
Les vertus d’une œuvre et les vices,
 
Le sujet et le parler haut,
Et les mots bien choisis ; il faut
Que Garnier paye les espices.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            The ancient buskin of Euripides
                                                                            Is being contested between Garnier
                                                                            And Jodelle, who first
                                                                            Boasted of being our guide in this art.
 
                                                                            We must abandon this trial,
                                                                            And award the laurel
                                                                            To him who with learned throat
                                                                            Has drunk best of Aganippe’s waters.
 
                                                                            If we must examine closely
                                                                            The ancient art of the Greeks,
                                                                            The virtues and vices of a body of work,
 
                                                                            Subjects and grand style
                                                                            And words well-chosen, then must
                                                                            Garnier take the prize.

 

 
 
After yesterday’s Alexandrines for Aeschylus, we have octosyllables (tetrameters) for Euripides!  (Note, incidentally, that we have also had decasyllables (pentameters) in one of these sonnets – Ronsard is keen to show his virtuosity in the context of framing Garnier’s tragedies!)  Estienne Jodelle, another friend of Ronsard’s represents the earlier school of French drama; it is generally agreed that Garnier’s work was a major step forward from Jodelle’s. Aganippe is the name of the spring at the foot of Mount Helicon, home of the Muses; in fact, the Muses were sometimes called the ‘Aganippides’ (children of Aganippe) & it would be perfectly possible to translate “l’onde Aganippide” as ‘the Muses’ waters’.
 
The last line deserves a brief note:  literally, “Garnier must pay the spices”:  although judgement was supposed to be free at the time, it had become the custom for the winnder of a trial to reward the judge in spices or other rare foods. For some reason the fact that it was food not money seems to have made it seem acceptable and not a form of bribery! So, as Garnier must pay over the spices to the judge, he must be the winner of the legal contest. While Ronsard is thus consistent in his use of a legal metaphor throughout, I have opted for ‘take the prize’ which is better suited to a sporting contest: apologies for mixing my metaphors and misrepresenting Ronsard!
 
That brings us to the end of this set of 4 sonnets.  Now it must be time to take up the first book of Amours, for Cassandre, again and return to the poetry with which Ronsard made his name.
 
 
 
 

To Robert Garnier (3)

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Quel son masle et hardy, quelle bouche héroique,
Et quel superbe vers enten-je icy sonner ?
Le lierre est trop bas pour ton front couronner,
Et le bouc est trop peu pour ta Muse tragique.
 
Si Bacchus retournoit au manoir Plutonique,
Il ne voudroit Eschyle au monde redonner,
Il te choisiroit seul, qui seul peux estonner
Le theatre François de ton cothurne antique.
 
Les premiers trahissoient l’infortune des Rois,
Redoublant leur malheur d’une trop basse voix :
La tienne comme foudre en la France s’écarte.
 
Heureux en bons esprits ce siecle plantureux :
Auprés toy, mon Garnier, je me sens bien-heureux,
De quoy mon petit Loir est voisin de ta Sarte.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            What sound, manly and bold, what heroic voice,
                                                                            And what proud verse do I hear ringing out here?
                                                                            The ivy is too poor to crown your brow,
                                                                            And the ram too little for your tragic Muse.
 
                                                                            If Bacchus returned to Pluto’s domain
                                                                            He would not want to give Aeschylus back to the world,
                                                                            He would choose only you, who alone can astonish
                                                                            French theatre with your antique buskin.
 
                                                                            Earlier writers betrayed the misfortune of kings,
                                                                            Redoubling their misfortunes with too poor a voice:
                                                                            Yours, like thunder, rolls forth across France.
 
                                                                            Blessed with great spirits is this bounteous age;
                                                                            Beside you, my Garnier, I feel myself fortunate
                                                                            That my little Loir neighbours your Sarte.

 

 
 
As with the previous poem, Ronsard writes here in his usual Alexandrines. They seem appropriate for a poem proclaiming the voice of thunder with which Garnier speaks, and for comparing him with Aeschylus, perhaps the most noble and high-flown of the three great Greek tragedians and the most natural compaarator (in my view) for the French grand style. (By contrast, Shakespeare is comfortable in Sophoclean or Euripidean style, though he can rise to Aeschylean heights when he wants to:  French tragedy cannot descend to the commonplace of Euripides, and rarely to the middle ground of Sophocles!)  Incidentally this is the first time one of the ancient Greek tragedians has been mentioned in a poem (as opposed to a footnote) on this blog.
 
Having said which, it is pretty obvious that the compliment is over-blown… and Ronsard’s self-deprecation in the final line doesn’t of course stop him making sure we know exactly who has written this encomium!  I imagine Ronsard with his tongue in his cheek; and I have to say I like his style here!
 
In the first stanza the ivy wreath or laurel wreath is an ancient tragic prize; the ram is a sacrifice appropriate to the gods of ancient Greece, but as Ronsard says here too small to say thank you for so great a talent as Garnier…
 
 
 
 

To Robert Garnier (2)

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Il me souvient, Garnier, que je prestay la main
Quant ta Muse accoucha, je le veux faire encore :
Le parrain bien souvent par l’enfant se decore,
Par l’enfant bien souvent s’honore le parrain.
 
Ton ouvrage, Garnier, Tragique et Souverain,
Qui fils, parrain ensemble, et toute France honore,
Fera voller ton nom du Scythe jusque au More,
Plus dur contre les ans que marbre ny qu’airain.
 
Réjoüy-toy, mon Loir, ta gloire est infinie,
Huyne et Sarte tes sœurs te feront compagnie,
Faisant Garnier, Belleau et Ronsard estimer :
 
Trois fleuves qu’Appollon en trois esprits assemble.
Quand trois fleuves, Garnier, se desgorgent ensemble,
Bien qu’ils ne soient pas grands, font une grande mer.
 
 
 
 
                                                                             I am reminded, Garnier, that I lent a hand
                                                                             When your Muse was giving birth, I would like to do it again;
                                                                             The godfather often gains glory through the child,
                                                                             Through the child the godfather is often honoured.
 
                                                                             Your oeuvre, Garnier, tragic and regal,
                                                                             Which child, godfather, and all of France together honour,
                                                                             Will make your name known from Scythia to the Moor,
                                                                             Stronger against the years than marble or bronze.
 
                                                                             Rejoice, my Loir, your fame is infinite,
                                                                             Your sisters the Huyne and Sarte will bear you company,
                                                                             Making Garnier, Belleau and Ronsard renowned;
 
                                                                             Three rivers which Apollo gathered in three spirits.
                                                                             When three rivers flow together, Garnier,
                                                                             Even if they are not great, they make a great sea.

 

 
 
I find the beginning strangely attractive – ‘il me souvient’ not ‘je me souviens’.  I’ve tried to capture something of its oddness by saying not ‘I remember’ but ‘I am reminded’. In line 7 his name/renown is to ‘fly’ as far as Scythia in the east and the Moorish peoples in the south.
 
 
 
 

Sonnet to Robert Garnier

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The Galland poem reminded me of the Garnier dedications… These 4 sonnets come from Ronsard’s ‘uncollected works’ which is to say they are dedicatory poems written to go in the front of books of Garnier’s works. They demonstrate that Ronsard could exaggerate and be adulatory with the best (or worst) of them, and provide some amusing but often frankly beautiful little poems well worth seeing more of.  Marty-Laveaux collected these & others into an “Autre recueil des sonnets” (‘another collection of sonnets’), Blanchemain into “Sonnets diverses” (‘various sonnets’) – neither very inspired titles. Of the 4 Garnier sonnets to come, only the first two are in Marty-Laveaux.

 
A ROBERT GARNIER,
Prince des Tragiques.
 
Je suis ravi quand ce brave sonneur
Donte en ses vers la Romaine arrogance,
Quand il bastit Athenes en la France,
Par le cothurne acquerant de l’honneur :
 
Le bouc n’est pas digne de son bon-heur,
La liërre est trop basse recompense,
Le Temps certain qui les hommes avance,
De ses vertus sera le guerdonneur.
 
Par toy, Garnier, la Scene des François
Se change en or, qui n’estoit que de bois,
Digne où les Grands lamentent leur fortune.
 
Sur Helicon tu grimpes des derniers,
Mais tels derniers souvent sont les premiers
En ce bel art où la gloire est commune.
 
 
 
 
                                                                             TO ROBERT GARNIER
                                                                             Prince of Tragedians
 
                                                                             I am swept away when this great poet
                                                                             Tames in his verse the arrogance of Rome,
                                                                             When he builds Athens in France,
                                                                             Gaining honour through the tragic buskin;
 
                                                                             The ram is not a worthy [prize] for his good fortune,
                                                                             The ivy is too little reward,
                                                                             But unvarying Time which advances men
                                                                             Will honour him for his virtues.
 
                                                                             Through you, Garnier, the French stage,
                                                                             Which once was wood, is changed to gold,
                                                                             Worthy for the greats to lament their fate.
 
                                                                             You are climbing Helicon among the latest,
                                                                             But such latecomers are often the first
                                                                             In this fair art in which glory is common.

 

 
 
The “cothorne” (‘cothurnus’ or buskin) is the traditional footwear of antique actors – rather like the leather boots strapped up the calf or lower leg which you see in pictures of Roman soldiers.  Helicon is of course the home of the Muses and therefore the home of Art in all its forms. I love the last line: Ronsard says ‘glory is common’, perhaps meaning glory is shared by many great writers, but it’s hard not to see him as hinting strongly that it’s just too easy to gain glory with stage works, where the quality of the poetry may be overlooked amongst so many distractions…!