Tag Archives: Ronsard

Garnier’s tribute to Ronsard

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It is SO long since I posted anything here: I hope to get going again & finish off Helen 2 at least. Meanwhile, it felt right to include Garnier’s tribute to the dead Ronsard – not least because my own attempt to preserve his memory has faltered …

This elegy was originally published in Binet’s memorial volume, Discours de la Vie de Pierre de Ronsard, in 1586. It was picked up and anthologised in 1778, in volume 8 of the Annales poétiques, ou Almanach des Muses, after which it reappeared several times elsewhere, copied from that anthology,and can now be found in several places on the web. But the 1778 anthologisers quietly abbreviated Garnier’s text – removing approximately 50% of it! So the versions found elsewhere are likewise abbreviated and I think this is the first time the full original text has been reproduced online.

Elégie sur le trespas de feu Monsieur de Ronsard
 
A monsieur des Portes Abbé de Thiron
 
 
Nature est aux humains sur tous autres cruelle,
On ne voit animaux
En la terre et au ciel, ny en l’onde infidele,
Qui souffrent tant de maux.
 
Le rayon eternel de l’essence divine,
Qu’en naissant nous avons,
De mille passions noz tristes jours épine
Tandis que nous vivons :
 
Et non pas seulement vivants il nous torture,
Mais nous blesse au trespas,
Car pour prevoir la mort, elle nous est plus dure
Qu’elle ne seroit pas.
 
Si tost que nostre esprit dans le cerveau raisonne,
Nous l’alons redoutant,
Et sans cette frayeur que la raison nous donne,
On ne la craindroit tant.
 
Nous creignons de mourir, de perdre la lumiere
Du Soleil radieus,
Nous creignons de passer sur les ais d’une biere
Le fleuve stygieus.
 
Nous creignons de laisser noz maisons delectables,
Noz biens et noz honneurs,
Ces belles dignitez, qui nous font venerables
Remarquer des seigneurs.
 
Les peuples des forests, de l’air et des rivieres,
Qui ne voyent si loing,
Tombent journellement aux mortelles pantieres
Sans se gesner de soing.
 
Leur vie est plus heureuse, et moins sujette aus peines,
Et encombres divers,
Que nous souffrons chetifs en noz ames humaines,
De desastres couverts.
 
Ores nous poind l’amour, Tyran de la jeunesse,
Ores l’avare faim
De l’or injurieus, qui fait que chacun laisse
La vertu pour le gain.
 
Cetuy-cy se tourmente apres les grandeurs vaines,
Enflé d’ambition,
De cetuy-la l’envie empoisonne les veines
Cruelle passion.
 
La haine, le courroux, le depit, la tristesse,
L’outrageuse rancœur,
Et la tendre pitié du foeble qu’on oppresse,
Nous bourellent le cœur.
 
Et voila nostre vie, ô miserables hommes !
Nous semblons estre nez
Pour estre, cependant qu’en ce monde nous sommes,
Tousjours infortunez.
 
Et enquore, où le ciel en une belle vie
Quelque vertus enclost,
La chagrineuse mort qui les hommes envye
Nous la pille aussi tost.
 
Ainsi le verd email d’une riante prée
Est soudain effacé,
Ainsi l’aymable teint d’une rose pourprée
Est aussi tost passé.
 
La jeunesse de l’an n’est de longue durée,
Mais l’Hyver aux dois gours,
Et l’Esté embruny de la torche etherée
Durent [orig : durant] presque toujours.
 
Mais las ! ô doux Printems, vostre verdeur fanie
Retourne en mesme point,
Mais quand nostre jeunesse une fois est finie
Elle ne revient point.
 
La vieillesse nous prend maladive et facheuse,
Hostesse de la mort,
Qui pleins de mal nous pousse en une tombe creuse
D’où jamais on ne sort.
 
Des Portes, que la Muse honore et favorise
Entre tous ceux qui ont
Suivy le saint Phebus, et sa science aprise
Dessur le double mont.
 
Vous voyez ce Ronsard, merveilles de nostre age,
L’honneur de l’Univers,
Paitre de sa chair morte, inevitable outrage,
Une source de vers.
 
De rien vostre Apollon, ny les Muses pucelles
Ne luy ont profité,
Bien qu’ils eussent pour luy les deux croppes jumelles
De Parnasse quitté :
 
Et qu’ils eust conduits aux accords de sa Lire
Dans ce François sejour,
Pour chanter de noz Roys, et leurs victoires dire,
Ou sonner de l’amour.
 
C’est grand cas, que ce Dieu, qui des enfance l’aime,
Afranchit du trespas
Ses divines chansons, et que le chantre mesme
N’en affranchisse pas.
 
Vous en serez ainsi : car bien que vostre gloire,
Espandue en tous lieux,
Ne descende estoufée en une tombe noire
Comme un peuple otieux,
 
Et que voz sacrez vers, qui de honte font taire
Les plus grands du metier,
Nous facent choir des mains, quand nous en cuidons faire,
La plume et le papier.
 
Si verres vous le fleuve où tout le monde arrive,
Et payrez le denier
Que prend pour nous passer jusques à l’autre rive
L’avare Nautonnier.
 
Que ne ressemblons nous aus vagueuses rivieres
Qui ne changent de cours ?
Ou au branle eternel des ondes marinieres
Qui reflotent toujours ?
 
Et n’est-ce pas pitié, que ces roches pointues,
Qui semblent depiter,
De vents, de flots, d’oraige, et de foudres batues,
L’ire de Jupiter,
 
Vivent incessament, incessament demeurent
Dans leurs membres pierreux,
Et que des hommes, tels que ce grand Ronsard, meurent
Par un sort rigoureux ?
 
O destin lamentable ! un homme qui approche
De la divinité
Est ravy de ce monde, et le front d’une roche
Dure un eternité.
 
Qui pourra desormais d’une alaine assez forte
Entonner comme il faut
La gloir de mon Roy, puisque la muse est morte
Qui le chantoit si haut ?
 
Qui dira ses combats ? ses batailles sanglantes ?
Quand jeune, Duc d’Anjou,
De sa main foudroya les troupes protestantes
Aux plaines de Poictou ?
 
Des portes qui sera-ce ? une fois vostre Muse,
Digne d’estre en son lieu,
Fuyant l’honneur profane aujourdhuy ne s’amuse
Qu’au loüanges de Dieu.
 
Et qui sera-ce donc ? quelle voix suffisante,
Pour sonner gravement
Joyeuse nostre Achil, dont la gloire naissante
S’acroist journellement ?
 
Qui dira son courage, indomtable à la peine,
Indomtable à la peur,
Et comme il appareille avec une ame humaine
Un magnanime cœur ?
 
Comme il est de l’honneur, du seul honneur avare,
D’autres biens liberal,
Cherissant un chacun, fors celuy qui s’egare
Du service royal ?
 
Ne permette Clion et Phebus ne permette
Que Ronsard abattu
Par l’ennuyeuse mort, ne se treuve Poëte
Qui chante sa vertu.
 
Adieu, mon cher Ronsard, l’abeille en vostre tombe
Face tousjour son miel,
Que le baume Arabic à tout jamais y tombe,
Et la manne du ciel.
 
Le Laurier y verdisse avec le lierre
Et le Mirthe amoureus,
Riche en mille boutons, de toutes parts l’enserre
Le Rosier odoreus :
 
Le tin, le baselic, la franche Marguerite,
Et nostre Lis François,
Et cette rouge fleur, où la pleinte est escrite
Du malcontent Gregeois.
 
Les Nymphes de Gâtine, et les Nayades sainctes,
Qui habitent le Loir,
Le venant arroser de larmettes epreintes,
Ne cessent de douloir.
 
Las ! Cloton a tranché le fil de vostre vie
D’une piteuse main,
La voyant de vieillesse et de goutes suyvie,
Torturage inhumain.
 
Voyant la povre France en son corps outragee
Par le sanglant effort
De ses enfans, qui l’ont tant de foys ravagee,
Soupirer à la mort :
 
Le Souysse aguerry, qui aus combats se loüe,
L’Anglois fermé de flots,
Ceux qui boivent le Pau, le Tage et la Danoüe,
Fondre dessus son dos.
 
Ainsi que le Vautour, qui de griffes bourelles
Va sans fin tirassant
De Promethé le foye, en patures nouvelles
Coup sur coup renaissant.
 
Les meurtres inhumains se font entre les freres,
Spectacle plein d’horreur,
Et deja les enfans courent contre leurs peres
D’une aveugle fureur :
 
Le cœur des Citoyens se remplit de furies,
Les Paysans ecartez
Meurent comme une haye : on ne voit que turies
Par les chams desertez.
 
Et puis alez chanter l’honneur de nostre France
En siecles si maudits,
Attendez-vous qu’aucun vos labeurs recompense
Comme on faisait jadis ?
 
La triste povreté noz chansons accompaigne,
La Muse, les yeus bas,
Se retire de nous, voyant que lon dedaigne
Ses antiques ebats.
 
Vous estes donque heureus, et vostre mort heureuse,
O Cigne des François,
Ne lamentez que nous, dont la vie ennuyeuse
Meurt le jour mile fois.
 
Vous errez maintenant aux campaignes d’Elise,
A l’ombre des Vergers,
Où chargent en tout tems, asseurez de la Bise,
Les jaunes Orengers :
 
Où les prez sont toujours tapissez de verdure,
Les vignes de raisins,
Et les petits oyseaus, gasoüillans au murmure
Des ruisseaus cristalins.
 
Là le Cedre gommeus odoreusement sue,
Et l’arbre du Liban,
Et l’Ambre, et Myrrhe, au lit de son Pere receüe,
Pleure le long de l’an.
 
En grand’ foule acourus, autour de vous se pressent
Les heros anciens,
Qui boyvent le nectar, d’ambrosie se paissent,
Aux bords Elisiens :
 
Sur tous le grand Eumolpe, et le divin Orphee,
Et Line, et Amphion,
Et Musee, et celuy, dont la plume eschauffee
Mist en cendre Ilion.
 
Le loüengeur Thebain, le chantre de Mantoüe,
Le Lyrique latin,
Et aveques Seneque, honneur grand de Cordoüe,
L’amoureus Florentin :
 
Tous vont battant des mains, sautellent de liesse,
S’entredisant entre eux,
Voyla celuy, qui donte et l’Itale et la Grece
En poëmes nombreus :
 
L’un vous donne sa lyre, et l’au[t]re sa trompette,
L’autre vous veut donner
Son Myrthe, son Lierre, ou son Laurier profette,
Pour vous en couronner.
 
Ainsi vivez heureuse, ame toute divine,
Tandis que le destin
Nous reserve aus malheurs de la France, voysine
De sa derniere fin.
 
Elegy on the death of the late M.de Ronsard
 
To M. Desportes, abbot of Thiron
 
 
Nature is to men above all others cruel,
We do not see animals
On earth or in the skies, or in the treacherous seas,
Suffering so many ills.
 
The eternal ray of the divine essence
Which we receive at birth
With a hundred passions troubles our sad days
While we live.
 
And not only while we live does it torture us,
But injures us at our death,
For foreseeing death is to us harder
Than the event itself will be.
 
As soon as our spirit reasons within our brains,
We begin to fear it,
And without this terror which reason gives us
We would not be so frightened of it.
 
We are frightened of dying, of losing the light
Of the radiant Sun,
We are frightened of crossing, on the planks of a bier,
The Stygian river;
 
We are frightened of leaving our delightful homes,
Our goods and our honours,
Those fine dignities which make us respected
And noticed by lords.
 
The inhabitants of the forests, the air and the rivers
Who do not see so far,
Fall daily to death-dealing snares
Without troubling themselves with worries.
 
Their life is happier, and less subject to the troubles
And various burdens
Which we weakly suffer in our human souls,
Overcome by disasters.
 
Sometimes love afflicts us, that tyrant of our youth,
Sometimes the greedy hunger
For harmful gold, which makes everyone abandon
Virtue for gain.
 
This man torments himself seeking empty greatness,
Puffed up with ambition,
That man’s veins are poisoned by envy,
That cruel passion.
 
Hatred, anger, spite, sorrow,
Hurtful bitterness,
And tender pity for the weak who are oppressed
Bubble away in our hearts.
 
And that’s our life, o wretched men!
We seem to be born
To be, while we are in this world,
Always unfortunate.
 
And even when heaven includes
Some happiness in a good life,
Sorrowful death which envies men
Steals it from us soon enough.
 
Just so the fresh mosaic of a gay meadow
Is suddenly wiped away,
Just so the lovely tint of a crimson rose
Is soon enough past.
 
The year’s youth does not last long,
But Winter with his stiff fingers
And Summer scorched by the heavenly flame
Last almost forever.
 
Alas, sweet Spring, your faded freshness
Returns to the same state [each year]
But when once our youth is finished
It does not return.
 
Old age takes us, sickly and disagreeable,
Death’s hostess,
And, full of ills, pushes us into a dug grave
From which none ever escapes.
 
Desportes, whom the Muse honours and favours
Among all those of us who have
Followed holy Apollo and learned his wisdom
Upon the double mount:
 
You see this Ronsard, the marvel of our age,
The glory of the world,
Feeding with his dead flesh – an inescapable indignity –
A stream of worms.
 
Nothing have your Apollo and his maiden Muses
Profited him,
Although for him they abandoned
The twin mounts of Parnassus,
 
And although they have spent time, to the harmonies of his lyre,
In this France of ours,
To sing of our Kings and announce their victories,
Or to celebrate love.
 
It’s very clear that the god who loved him from infancy
Excepted from death
His divine songs, and yet could not except from it
The singer himself.
 
It will be the same for you: for although your glory,
Spreading to every place,
Will not descend, smothered, into a dark tomb
Like unproductive folk’s,
 
And though your sacred verse, which for shame makes
The greatest in the business fall silent,
Makes the pen and paper fall from our hands,
When we wish to use them:
 
Yet still you will see the river where every man arrives,
And you will pay the penny
Which the greedy Boatman takes
That we may pass to the other side.
 
Why are we not like the rippling waters
Which don’t change their course?
Or the eternal movement of the sea’s waves
Which break and break again?
 
Isn’t it a pity that those sharp rocks
Which seem to despise
The winds, the tides, storms and battering of lightning,
The anger of Jupiter,
 
Live on eternally, remain eternally
In their stony forms,
And that men like the great Ronsard die
By harsh fate?
 
O grievous destiny! A man who approaches
The divine
Is stolen from this world, and a rock-face
Lasts an eternity.
 
Who will be able henceforth with so strong a voice
To thunder as they should
Of my King’s glory, since the muse is dead
Who sang it so loudly?
 
Who shall sing of his combats? Of his bloody battles?
Who when young, as the Duke of Anjou,
Overthrew with his might the protestant troops
On the plains of Poitou …
 
Deportes, who will it be? Once, perhaps, your muse
Was worthy to be in his place;
But fleeing worldly honours today she employs herself
Only in the praise of God.
 
So who will it be? What voice sufficient
To celebrate gravely
Our joyous Achilles, whose budding glory
Grows daily?
 
Who shall speak of his courage, unconquered by strife,
Unconquered by fear,
And how it equipped with a human soul
A magnanimous heart?
 
How it is hungry for honour, for honour alone,
Liberal with other good things,
Cherishes everyone, even those who fall away
From the king’s service?
 
Do not permit, Clio, and Apollo do not permit
That Ronsard, defeated
By grievous death, should not find a Poet
To sing of his worth.
 
Farewell, my dear Ronsard, may the bees always
Make their honey on your tomb,
May balm from Arabia forever fall there
With manna from heaven.
 
May the laurel flourish there, along with ivy
And lovers’ myrtle,
Rich with a thousand buds, and on all sides may
The perfumed rose-bush embrace it,
 
And thyme, basil, the simple daisy,
Our lily of France,
And that red flower on which is written the plaint
Of the unhappy Greek.
 
May the nymphs of Gastine and the holy water-nymphs
Who live in the Loir
Having just poured out and expressed their tears for you
Not cease from grieving.
 
Alas! Clotho has cut the thread of your life
With her pitying hand,
Seeing it accompanied by old age and gout,
Those inhuman tortures,
 
And seeing our poor France, wounded in her body
By the bloody struggles
Of her children, who have so many times ravaged her,
Sighing for death;
 
And Switzerland at war, giving itself over to strife,
England enclosed by the seas,
And those who drink from the Po, Tagus and Danube
Drowning beneath their waters;
 
Just like the vulture, which with its executioner’s claws
Endlessly rakes
The liver of Prometheus, in new pastures
Renewing blow on blow,
 
Inhuman murders take place between brothers,
A horrific sight,
And now children rush upon their fathers
In blind madness;
 
The hearts of city-dwellers are filled with Furies,
The country-folk, swept aside,
Die in their rows; we see nothing but killings
Throughout the deserted countryside.
 
And yet you go on singing of the honour of our France
In times so accursed:
Do you expect anyone to reward your labours
As they did in the past?
 
Wretched poverty accompanies our songs;
The Muse, her eyes lowered,
Leaves us, seeing that we disdain
Her former amusements.
 
So, you are fortunate, and your death fortunate,
O Swan of the French,
Lament only for us, whose troubled lives
Die a thousand times every day.
 
You now wander in the fields of Elysium,
In the shade of the orchards
Where at all times, secure from cold northerly winds,
The tawny orange-trees are laden;
 
Where the meadows are always carpeted in green,
The vines with grapes,
And the little birds go chattering to the murmur
Of crystalline streams.
 
There the cedar sweats its perfumed gum,
And the tree of Lebanon
Weeps both amber and myrrh, received at its father’s bed,
All year long.
 
Running up in a great crowd, around you press
The ancient heroes
Who drink nectar and feed on ambrosia
On the banks of Elysium,
 
Above all great Eumolpe and godlike Orpheus
And Linus and Amphion
And Musaeus, and he whose burning pen
Set fire to Troy;
 
The Theban praise-singer, the poet of Mantua,
The Latin lyricist
And, with Seneca the great glory of Cordoba,
The Florentine love-poet,
 
All of them clapping their hands, leaping with joy,
Saying to one another,
“There he is, the man who surpassed Italy and Greece
In many a poem”.
 
One of them gives you his lyre, another his trumpet,
Another tries to give you
His myrtle, his ivy, or his prophetic laurel
To crown you with them.
 
So, live on happily, godlike soul,
While fate keeps us back
For the misfortunes of France, close
To her final end.
 

 

(In verse 15, I have amended one word slightly, to form a proper sentence – though Garnier may have been deliberately leaving the sentence hanging.)
 
As one would expect, Garnier’s tribute ranges over the areas Ronsard himself wrote about – the King and the civil wars, classical myth, nature, love poetry, Ronsard’s home on the Loir … So there are plenty of relatively obscure references perhaps worth amplifying:
 – the dedication is to Ronsard’s “successor”, Philippe Desportes – a lesser poet, but one whose fame eclipsed Ronsard’s in the latter portion of his life;
 – verse 5, the “Stygian river”, the Styx, is the river between the living world and Hades, across which Charon the ferryman or boatman (verse 25) takes all dead souls;
 – verses 18 & 20, Parnassus (the ‘double mount’, at right – photo credit Rens van der Sluijs) is the traditional home of the Muses. Ovid called it ‘biceps’, that is ‘two-headed’, and between its twin peaks was Delphi, the ‘omphalos’ (navel, centre) of the world;
 – verse 33, ‘Achilles’ (the great soldier) means of course the King
 – verse 37, Clio is usually the Muse of history, but sometimes also the Muse of lyre-playing: both seem appropriate here;
 – verse 40, the ‘unhappy Greek’ is not Narcissus but Hyacinthus, whose flower bears the Greek letters AIAI (‘alas’, ‘woe’);
 – verse 41, the Gastine & Loir are familiar as part of Ronsard’s beloved estates;
 – verse 42, Clotho is one of the Fates who determine the length of a man’s life – though note that Clotho is normally the Fate who spins the thread of life, Atropos the one who cuts it …
 – verse 45, the story of Prometheus eternally having his liver torn out by the eagle (or vulture) by day only for it to re-grow overnight, is well-known;
 – verse 53, I confess I have no idea what the end of line 3 (“received at its father’s bed”) is referring to … Ideas welcome. Amber and myrrh (like frankincense too) are resinous – and therefore associated with the resin-rich cedars of Lebanon, though myrrh in particular comes form small thorn-trees not huge cedars;
 –  verse 55-56 list many of the greatest poets of the past, legendary and historical.
     – Eumolpe (or Eumolpos – which means ‘beautiful song’) was founder of the Eleusininan mysteries in ancient Athens;
     – ‘godlike Orpheus’ is still well-known to us if only for carelessly losing Eurydice after charming Cerberus, the hell-dog, and Hades himself with his song;
     – Linus, sometimes viewed as Orpheus’s brother, was the inventor of lyric song and/or the harp;
     – Amphion, one of the founders of Thebes, was taught music by the god Hermes himself – and has a modern poetic form named after him;
     – Musaeus, lawgiver of Athens, was also was held to have been one of the great poets by Athenians – Socrates in the Apology links his name with three others in this list: “What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer?”;
     – Homer indeed is the next on the list, he “whose burning pen Set fire to Troy”;
     – the “Theban praise-singer” is Hesiod, associated with Mt. Helicon in Boeotia.
Bringing us from legendary to historical poets, “the poet of Mantua” is Virgil and the “Latin lyricist” is Horace. Seneca, although we think of him as Roman, was indeed born in Spain, in Cordoba; and last in the list and the only ‘modern’, the love-poet from Florence is of course 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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1: “Vow”

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The second of the two dedicatory sonnets included at the front of book 1. In the last line, Ronsard clearly imagines this poem appearing opposite the picture engraved at the front of the book, showing Cassandre (see top of my Amours 1 page.)

 

Divines Sœurs, qui sur les rives molles
De Castalie, et sur le mont Natal,
Et sur le bord du chevalin crystal
M’avez d’enfance instruit en vos escoles :
 
Si tout ravy des saults de vos caroles,
D’un pied nombreux j’ay guidé vostre bal :
Plus dur qu’en fer, qu’en cuivre et qu’en metal,
Dans vostre Temple engravez ces paroles :
 
RONSARD, AFIN QUE LE SIECLE AVENIR
DE TEMPS EN TEMPS SE PUISSE SOUVENIR
QUE SA JEUNESSE A L’AMOUR FIST HOMAGE :
 
DE LA MAIN DEXTRE APAND A VOSTRE AUTEL
L’HUMBLE PRESENT DE SON LIVRE IMMORTEL,
SON CŒUR DE L’AUTRE AUX PIEDS DE CESTE IMAGE. 
 
 
.                                                                            Divine sisters, who on the soft streams
.                                                                            Of Castalia, and on your native mount
.                                                                            And on the banks of the equine waters
                                                                           Have taught me since childhood in your school ;
 
.                                                                            If, swept away by leaping in your round-dances
                                                                           I have led your dances with many a step ;
.                                                                            [Then], stronger than in iron, in bronze or in metal
.                                                                            Engrave these words within your temple :
 
                                                                           Ronsard, so that future ages
                                                                           May from time to time recall
                                                                           That his youth paid homage to Love,
 
.                                                                            With his right hand places on your altar
.                                                                            The humble gift of his immortal book,
.                                                                            With the other his heart at the feet of this image.
 
 
 
An appeal to the Muses (and their Castalian spring), as so often in the poems in the book. We’ve already noted elsewhere that the spring is also associated with Pegasus, whose (equine) hoof stamping the ground caused it to flow. There’s also a reminiscence of Horace and his odes specifying dedications in temples. Note that, even at the start of his career, Ronsard is already sure his book will be ‘immortal’ – even while it is ‘humble’!
 
Blanchemain’s version is nearer in time to the beginning of the career, of course:
 
 
Divines Sœurs, qui sur les rives molles
Du fleuve Eurote et sur le mont natal
Et sur le bord du chevalin crystal
M’avez nourri maître de vos escoles :
 
Si mille fois en vos douces carolles,
Le guide-danse, ay conduit vostre bal :
Plus dur qu’en fer, qu’en cuivre et qu’en metal,
En vostre Temple engravez ces paroles :
 
Ronsard, afin que le siecle à venir
De père en fils se puisse souvenir
D’une beauté qui sagement affole,
 
De la main dextre append à nostre autel
L’humble discours de son livre immortel,
Son cœur de l’autre aux pieds de ceste idole.
 
 
 
.                                                                            Divine sisters, who on the soft streams
.                                                                            Of river the river Eurotas, and on your native mount
.                                                                            And on the banks of the equine waters
.                                                                            Have brought me up as a master in your lessons ;
 
.                                                                            If a thousand times in your sweet round-dances
.                                                                            I have steered your balls as leader of the dance ;
.                                                                            [Then], stronger than in iron, in bronze or in metal
.                                                                            Engrave these words in your temple :
 
.                                                                            Ronsard, so that the age to come
.                                                                            May recall from father to son
.                                                                            A beauty who wisely made men mad,
 
.                                                                            With his right hand places on our altar
.                                                                            The humble words of his immortal book,
.                                                                            With the other his heart at the feet of this idol.
 
 
 
Here the Muses are located by the river Eurotas – whose spring is in (the real, southern Greek) Arcadia. Note too that Ronsard is not just participating in, but leading, the Muses’ dances!  Devotees of Ronsard’s variants may also enjoy this version which Blanchemain footnotes, again showing the (lesser) variants from the late Marty-Laveaux version:
 
 
Divin troupeau, qui sur les rives molles
De Castalie, et sur le mont Natal,
Et sur le bord du chevalin crystal
Assis, tenez vos plus saintes escoles
 
Si quelquefois, aux sauts de vos carolles,
M’avez receu par un astre fatal :
Plus dur qu’en fer, qu’en cuivre et qu’en metal,
Dans vostre Temple engravez ces paroles :
 
RONSARD, AFIN QUE LE SIECLE AVENIR
MAUGRE LE TEMPS, SE PUISSE SOUVENIR
QUE SA JEUNESSE A L’AMOUR FIST HOMAGE :
 
DE LA MAIN DEXTRE APAND A VOSTRE AUTEL
L’HUMBLE PRESENT DE SON LIVRE IMMORTEL,
SON CŒUR DE L’AUTRE AUX PIEDS DE CESTE IMAGE. 
 
 
.                                                                            Divine company, who on the soft streams
.                                                                            Of Castalia, and on your native mount
.                                                                            And seated on the banks of the equine waters
.                                                                            Hold your most holy lessons
 
.                                                                            If sometimes in the leaps of your round-dances
.                                                                            You have accepted me by some fateful star,
.                                                                            [Then], stronger than in iron, in bronze or in metal
.                                                                            Engrave these words within your temple :
 
                                                                           Ronsard, so that future ages
                                                                           Despite time’s [passing], may recall
                                                                           That his youth paid homage to Love,
 
.                                                                            With his right hand places on your altar
.                                                                            The humble gift of his immortal book,
.                                                                            With the other his heart at the feet of this image.
 
 
 
 **EDIT**  complete Cassndre poems (Amours 1) now available as a pdf here.
 

Ode 5:3

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The mention of Nicolas Denisot in a recent post sent me off looking for more information. I was fascinated to discover that Ronsard had been one of several Pleiade poets (others were du Bellay and Baif) who contributed poems to a book Denisot saw through the presses in 1551. It was of course early days for the Pleaide poets but it’s still an impressive list! And it secured Denisot’s reputation as a poet.

The book was the Tombeau de Marguerite de Valois Royne de Navarre; you can read it here. But this book was itself a translation (or rather a set of translations) by these French poets of the Hecatodistichon composed by Denisot’s erstwhile pupils in England. For he had spent two or three years there as their tutor before being recalled to France, and their poem in memory of Margaret of Navarre, who died late in 1549 shortly after Denisot’s return to France, no doubt reflected Denisot’s own style and preferences as much as their own. At any rate, Denisot enthusiastically saw the Hecatodistichon through the presses in 1550, and then prevailed on his humanist friends to pull together the Tombeau, whose subtitle is: “Composed first in Latin Distichs by three sisters and Princesses in England; then translated into Greek, Italian and French by several excellent poets of France.” Daurat provided the Greek translation; du Bellay, Denisot and Baif the French; and Jean Pierre de Mesme (who had previously translated Ariosto into French) provided the Italian.

The three princesses were the Seymour sisters – Anne, Margaret and Jane; it’s believed their father hoped to marry Jane to Edward VI, so the family certainly did move in the highest circles. Ronsard’s ode sets their work up as the dawn of culture in England, hitherto ‘barbarous’, and he indicates hopes for an Anglo-French literary rapprochement built on these foundations. Richelet adds notes on the ode (re-published in 1552 in Ronsard’s book 5) to the effect that the ode is “for three learned daughters of England, instructed and taught by Denisot, count of Alsinois”; “because at that time these three ladies had composed a book in Christian distichs, in Latin, terrifically well written, which were soon translated into Greek, Italian and French, and were dedicated to Mme Marguerite, only sister of king Henry II”.

 

Quand les filles d’Achelois,
Les trois belles chanteresses,
Qui des homme par leurs vois
Estoient les enchanteresses,
Virent jaunir la toison,
Et les soldars de Jason
Ramer la barque argienne
Sur la mer Sicilienne,
 
Elles, d’ordre, flanc à flanc,
Oisives au front des ondes,
D’un peigne d’yvoire blanc
Frisotoient leurs tresses blondes,
Et mignotant de leurs yeux
Les attraits delicieux,
Aguignoient la nef passante
D’une œillade languissante.
 
Puis souspirerent un chant
De leurs gorges nompareilles,
Par douce force alléchant
Les plus gaillardes aureilles ;
Afin que le son pipeur
Fraudast le premier labeur
Des chevaliers de la Grece
Amorcés de leur caresse.
 
Ja ces demi-dieux estoient
Prests de tomber en servage,
Et jà domptés se jettoient
Dans la prison du rivage,
Sans Orphée, qui, soudain
Prenant son luth en la main,
Opposé vers elles, joue
Loin des autres sur la proue,
 
Afin que le contre-son
De sa repoussante lyre
Perdist au vent la chanson
Premier qu’entrer au navire,
Et qu’il tirast des dangers
Ces demi-dieux passagers
Qui devoient par la Libye
Porter leur mere affoiblie.
 
Mais si ce harpeur fameux
Oyoit le luth des Serenes
Qui sonne aux bords escumeux
Des Albionnes arenes,
Son luth payen il fendroit
Et disciple se rendroit
Dessous leur chanson chrestienne
Dont la voix passe la sienne.
 
Car luy, enflé de vains mots,
Devisoit à l’aventure
Ou des membres du Chaos
Ou du sein de la Nature ;
Mais ces vierges chantent mieux
Le vray manouvrier des cieux,
Et sa demeure eternelle,
Et ceux qui vivent en elle.
 
Las ! ce qu’on void de mondain
Jamais ferme ne se fonde,
Ains fuit et refuit soudain
Comme le branle d’une onde
Qui ne cesse de rouler,
De s’avancer et couler,
Tant que rampant il arrive
D’un grand heurt contre la rive.
 
La science, auparavant
Si long temps orientale,
Peu à peu marchant avant,
S’apparoist occidentale,
Et sans jamais se borner
N’a point cessé de tourner,
Tant qu’elle soit parvenue
A l’autre rive incogneue.
 
Là de son grave sourcy
Vint affoler le courage
De ces trois vierges icy,
Les trois seules de nostre âge,
Et si bien les sceut tenter,
Qu’ores on les oit chanter
Maint vers jumeau qui surmonte
Les nostres, rouges de honte.
 
Par vous, vierges de renom,
Vrais peintres de la mémoire,
Des autres vierges le nom
Sera clair en vostre gloire.
Et puis que le ciel benin
Au doux sexe feminin
Fait naistre chose si rare
D’un lieu jadis tant barbare,
 
Denisot se vante heuré
D’avoir oublié sa terre,
Et passager demeuré
Trois ans en vostre Angleterre,
Et d’avoir cogneu vos yeux,
Où les amours gracieux
Doucement leurs fleches dardent
Contre ceux qui vous regardent.
 
Voire et d’avoir quelquefois
Tant levé sa petitesse,
Que sous l’outil de sa vois
Il polit vostre jeunesse,
Vous ouvrant les beaux secrets
Des vieux Latins et les Grecs,
Dont l’honneur se renouvelle
Par vostre muse nouvelle.
 
Io, puis que les esprits
D’Angleterre et de la France,
Bandez d’un ligue, ont pris
Le fer contre l’ignorance,
Et que nos roys se sont faits
D’ennemis amis parfaits,
Tuans la guerre cruelle
Par une paix mutuelle,
 
Advienne qu’une de vous,
Nouant la mer passagere,
Se joigne à quelqu’un de nous
Par une nopce estrangere ;
Lors vos escrits avancez
Se verront recompensez
D’une chanson mieux sonnée,
Qui cri’ra vostre hymenée.
When the daughters of Achelous,
The three fair singers
Who were with their voices
Enchantresses of men,
Saw the fleece growing golden,
And Jason’s soldiers
Rowing the ship, the Argo,
On the Sicilian sea,
 
Lined up side by side
Lazily at the front of the waves,
With combs of white ivory
They were curling their blonde tresses
And, hinting with their eyes
At their delicious attractions,
Making signs to the passing ship
With a languishing look.
 
Then they sigh a song
From their peerless throats,
With its sweet force alluring
The strongest ears;
So that the snaring sound
Draws the Greek knights
From their primary task,
Attracted by their caresses.
 
Now would those half-gods have been
Ready to fall into slavery,
Now overcome would they have thrown themselves
Into the river’s prison,
Unless Orpheus, suddenly
Taking up his lute in his hand,
Opposing the ladies had played
Far from the others on the [ship’s] prow,
 
So that the counter-tune
Of his lyre, repelling it,
Lost in the wind the song
Which first came aboard the ship,
And drew away from danger
Those half-god travellers
Who needed to take
Through Libya their enfeebled mother.
 
But if that famous harper
Heard the lute of the Sirens
Which plays on the foamy edges
Of Albion’s sands,
His pagan lute he would break
And would become a disciple
Of their Christian song
Whose tones surpass his own.
 
For he, full of empty words,
Invented at random
Out of the limbs of Chaos
Or the heart of Nature;
But these maids sing better
Of the true maker of the heavens
And his eternal home
And those who live in it.
 
Alas, what you see in the world
Never rests firm on its foundations,
But ebbs and flows suddenly
Like the motion of the waves
Which never stop rolling,
Advancing and falling back,
As long as they come crashing
With a great shock against the shore.
 
Knowledge, hitherto
For so long a thing of the East,
Little by little moving forward
Now appeared in the West,
And without ever limiting itself
Never stopped changing,
So that it arrived
At the other shore unknown.
 
There with its haughty gravity
It arrived to bewilder the courage
Of these three maids here,
The only three of our age,
And so well did it tempt them
That soon you could hear them singing
Many a paired verse which outdid
Our own, which blush with shame.
 
Through you, maidens of renown,
True painters of memory,
The fame of other maidens
Will be bright in your glory.
And since benign heaven
Made to be born so rare a thing
In the sweet feminine sex,
And in a place hitherto so barbarous,
 
Denisot boasts himself happy
To have forgotten his own land
And remained a traveller
For three years in your England,
And to have known your eyes
From which gracious cupids
Softly dart their arrows
Against those who look on you.
 
Indeed sometimes [he boasts] of having
So raised up his own littleness
That with the tool of his own talent
He polished up your youthfulness,
Opening to you the fair secrets
Of the ancient Latins and Greeks,
Whose honour is renewed
In your new muse.
 
Ah, since the spirits
Of England and of France,
Bound in a league, have taken up
Arms against ignorance,
And since our kings have become,
Instead of enemies, perfect friends
Killing cruel war
Through a mutual peace,
 
May it come about that one of you,
Swimming the passage of the sea,
Might join herself with some one of us
In a foreign marriage;
Then your precocious writings
Will see themselves rewarded
With a song better played,
Which will announce your wedding.

(Let me admit that the second line of that last stanza is a bit of a paraphrase! “Nouer” was an antique word even in Ronsard’s day, equivalent to “nager” (‘to swim’).)

The poem falls into three equal sections: the classical introduction, the generalities about the awakening of culture in England; and then the specific praise of the three ladies. In the classical opening, Achelous was the chief river-deity of classical myth and father of the Sirens.  The legend of Jason and the Argonauts, in search of the Golden Fleece, is well-known, though it’s usually the meeting of Odysseus and the Sirens we read; less well-known is that Orpheus was one of the Argonauts.

 

 

 

Sonnet 57

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Divin Bellay, dont les nombreuses lois
Par un ardeur du peuple separée,
Ont revestu l’enfant de Cytherée
D’arcs, de flambeaux, de traits, et de carquois :
 
Si le doux feu dont jeune tu ardois,
Enflambe encor ta poitrine sacrée,
Si ton oreille encore se recrée,
D’ouir les plaints des amoureuses vois :
 
Oy ton Ronsard qui sanglote et lamente,
Pâle de peur, pendu sur la tourmente,
Croizant en vain ses mains devers les Cieux,
 
En fraile nef, sans mast, voile ne rame,
Et loin du havre où pour astre Madame
Me conduisoit du Fare de ses yeux.
 
 
 
                                                                           Divine Bellay, whom numerous statutes
                                                                           For your ardour distinct from the norm
                                                                           Have invested as the son of Venus
                                                                           With bows, torches, arrows and quiver;
 
                                                                           If the soft fire with which you burned when young
                                                                           Still flames within your holy breast,
                                                                           If your ear still enjoys
                                                                           Hearing the woes of lovers’ tongues;
 
                                                                           Then hear your Ronsard, who sobs and weeps,
                                                                           Pale with fear, suspended in torment,
                                                                           Holding his hands up in vain to Heaven,
 
                                                                           In a frail ship without mast, sail or oar,
                                                                           Far from the harbour where, like a star, my Lady
                                                                           Leads me with the beacon of her eyes.
 
 
 
Here is Ronsard writing a sonnet to his friend Joachim du Bellay, in response to one du Bellay had written him in his “Olive” (the first book of French love sonnets and inspiration for Ronsard’s own “Amours”). But, as will appear, it is not a direct response, for it is a carefully-constructed love poem about Cassandre while addressed to du Bellay.  Bellay’s, by contrast, is in praise of Ronsard himself. Should we read too much into that? I don’t think so: there’s no intended slight on du Bellay simply because Ronsard doesn’t tell him he too is marvellous! After all, both call the other ‘divine’.
 
Let’s have a look at du Bellay’s sonnet to Ronsard:
 
 
Divin Ronsard, qui de l’arc à sept cordes
Tiras premier au but de la Memoire
Les traits ailez de la françoise gloire,
Que sur ton luth hautement tu accordes.
 
Fameux harpeur et prince de nos odes,
Laisse ton Loir, hautain de ta victoire,
Et vien sonner au rivage de Loire
De tes chansons les plus nouvelles modes.
 
Enfonce l’arc du vieil Thebain archer,
Où nul que toi ne sceut onc encocher
Des doctes sœurs les sagettes divines.
 
Porte pour moy parmy le ciel des Gaules
Le sainct honneur des nymphes angevines,
Trop pesant faix pour mes foibles espaules.
 
 
 
                                                                           Divine Ronsard, who with the seven-stringed bow
                                                                           First shot at the target of Memory
                                                                           The winged arrows of French glory
                                                                           Which you tune precisely  on your lute;
 
                                                                           Famous harper and prince of our [French] odes,
                                                                           Leave your Loir, proud in your victory,
                                                                           And come to sing on the banks of the Loire
                                                                           The newest strains of your songs.
 
                                                                           Bend the bow of the old Theban archer,
                                                                           On which none but you have ever been able to notch
                                                                           The divine arrows of the learned Sisters.
 
                                                                           Bear for me among the Gallic heavens
                                                                           The holy honour of the nymphs of Anjou,
                                                                           Too weighty a deed for my feeble shoulders.
 
 
Wonderful as this poem is, it’s immediately obvious that it’s in a far more ‘learned’ style, replete with classical allusions: we know Ronsard can do this too if he wants to, so it is worth noticing that he didn’t. That is, perhaps, what sets Ronsard apart in his earliest poetry – the cultivation of a more natural style, a new way of writing French poetry which retains the art but broadens the range of subjects, of themes and of language.
 
Just how complex du Bellay’s classical references are, is worth a brief digression. In fact, trying to pinpoint them requires a digression! In lines 9-11 we have the ‘Theban archer’ and the ‘divine arrows of the learned Sisters’. Neither seem (to me) to translate simply into an obvious classical figure…
 
So, Theban archer?  Well, Ulysses famously had a bow that could not be bent by anyone else (end of the Odyssey); but he’s not Theban. Philoctetes (in Sophocles’ play) has to be lured back to the Trojan War because only he can use the essential bow; but he’s not Theban either. Diana/Artemis joins with her brother Apollo in killing Niobe’s children – Niobe was Theban, but not the gods. I think the likeliest candidate is Hercules – who is also not Theban.  Philoctetes is keeper of the bow of Hercules, which only he can draw; and Hercules married Megara, the daughter of the Theban king, before killing their children in a divinely-induce rage and thus having to undertake the twelve Labours. The children (and, some say, Megara) were venerated at, and  said to be buried in, a ‘heroon’ (hero’s tomb) at Thebes in classical times.
 
The how about the ‘divine arrows of the learned sisters’?  Well, Apollo and Artemis certainly have divine arrows – see Niobe’s fate above – but they are not ‘learned sisters’. Equally, the Muses are learned but not in the arts of war. Other groups of siblings might include the Graiai and Moirai (Fates) but they don’t use arrows. And of course the arrows in du Bellay’ metaphor are the arrows of art & poetry. So, my own hunch – no more than that – is that du Bellay is conflating the Muses and Apollo, for Apollo was ‘mousagetes’, the leader of the Muses:  Apollo brings the bow, the ‘arrows’ are the attainments of the Muses.
 
His vocabulary is also deliberately demanding of the reader:  in line 2 the target “Memoire” is clearly Remembrance or being remembered, the target of gaining a Memorial, rather than simple Memory. And in what way does du Bellay want Ronsard to sing his ‘newest modes’ on the Loire – is that new poetic forms (ode, elegy, hymn); or the stylistic innovations mentioned above; or simply ‘come and write your new poems here on the Loire’? 
 
Well, enough about du Bellay’s complexity. Let’s return to Ronsard’s artful simplicity, and look at the minor variants in Blanchemain’s earlier version:
 
 
Divin Bellay, dont les nombreuses lois
Par une ardeur du peuple separée,
Ont revestu l’enfant de Cytherée
D’arc, de flambeau, de traits, et de carquois :
 
Si le doux feu dont jeune tu ardois,
Enflambe encor ta poitrine sacrée,
Si ton oreille encore se recrée,
D’ouir les plaints des amoureuses vois :
 
Oy ton Ronsard qui sanglote et lamente,
Pâle, agité des flots de la tourmente,
Croizant en vain ses mains devers les Cieux,
 
En fraile nef, et sans voile et sans rame,
Et loin du bord où pour astre sa dame
Le conduisoit du Fare de ses yeux.
 
 
 
 
                                                                           Divine Bellay, whom numerous statutes
                                                                           For your ardour distinct from the norm
                                                                           Have invested as the son of Venus
                                                                           With bow, torch, arrows and quiver;
 
                                                                           If the soft fire with which you burned when young
                                                                           Still flames within your holy breast,
                                                                           If your ear still enjoys
                                                                           Hearing the woes of lovers’ tongues;
 
                                                                           Then hear your Ronsard, who sobs and weeps,
                                                                           Pale and tossed by waves of torment,
                                                                           Holding his hands up in vain to Heaven,
 
                                                                           In a frail ship, without either sail or oar,
                                                                           Far from the shore where, like a star, his lady
                                                                           Leads him with the beacon of her eyes.
 
 
Notably (to me at least) the early version of the ending is consistently third-person – Ronsard is ‘he’. In the later version at the top of the page, he is third-person in the first tercet but switches awkwardly to first-person in the second tercet.  That could have been easily remedied:  “Croizant en vain les mains devers les Cieux” would have done the trick. It is interesting to see that Ronsard puts the poetic effect of the repeated ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds – and the visual effect of the other ‘s’s in the line – ahead of a strictly consistent pictorial or grammatical approach.
 
 
 
 
 

To Robert Garnier (2)

Standard
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.