Tag Archives: Scythian

Amours 1.205

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Just back after a short holiday. Let’s have a sonnet.

 
Comme on souloit si plus on ne me blasme
D’avoir l’esprit et le corps ocieux,
L’honneur en soit au trait de ces beaux yeux,
Qui m’ont poli l’imparfait de mon ame.
 
Le seul rayon de leur gentille flame
Dressant en l’air mon vol audacieux
Pour voir le Tout m’esleva jusqu’aux Cieux,
Dont ici bas la partie m’enflame.
 
Par le moins beau qui mon penser aila,
Au sein du beau mon penser s’en vola,
Espoinçonné d’une manie extresme :
 
Là du vray beau j’adore le parfait,
Là, d’ocieux actif je me suis fait,
Là je cogneu ma maistresse et moy-mesme.
 
 
 
 
                                                                            If, as they used to, people no longer blame me
                                                                            For having a lazy mind and body,
                                                                            The honour for it is in the wound of those fair eyes
                                                                            Which have polished the imperfections of my soul.
 
                                                                            The ray of their noble flame alone,
                                                                            Supporting in the air my daring flight
                                                                            To see the All, raised me to heaven –
                                                                            Down here, [just] a part inflames me.
 
                                                                            By that less-fair way which gave my thoughts wings,
                                                                            My thoughts flew to the bosom of the Fair,
                                                                            Tortured by extreme obsession ;
 
                                                                            There I adore the perfection of true Beauty,
                                                                            There I become active, not lazy,
                                                                            There I have found my mistress and myself.
 
 
 
Charmingly, Ronsard acknowledges that a writer’s life draws its share of criticism (‘laziness’), but also – and equally charmingly – lays a claim to fame and worth for his work, in that people no longer criticise him for spending his time writing! And, still charmingly, he deflects the implicit charge of pride by pointing the attention (of course) at Cassandre. All neatly done in a couple of lines. Brilliant.
 
His first version took a slightly different route, and one which less-effectively avoids the charge of pride: this time it is Ronsard, not his readers, who acknowledges Cassandre’s primary role:
 
 
Comme on souloit si plus on ne me blasme
D’avoir l’esprit et le corps ocieux,
Je t’en rends grace, heureux traits de ces yeux,
Qui m’as poli l’imparfait de mon ame.
 
 
                                                                            If as they did, people no longer blame me
                                                                            For having a lazy mind and body,
                                                                            I give you thanks for it, lucky darts of those eyes,
                                                                            You who have polished the imperfections of my soul.
 
 
 There’s also a small change in line 5, which reads “de si gentille flame” (‘ of so noble a flame’).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours 1.216

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Amour, que j’aime à baiser les beaux yeux
De ma maistresse, et à tordre en ma bouche
De ses cheveux l’or fin qui s’escarmouche
Dessus son front astré comme les cieux !
 
C’est à mon gré le meilleur de son mieux
Que son bel œil, qui jusqu’au cœur me touche,
Dont le beau nœud d’un Scythe plus farouche
Rendroit le cœur courtois et gracieux.
 
Son beau poil d’or, et ses sourcis encore
De leurs beautez font vergoingner l’Aurore,
Quand au matin elle embellit le jour.
 
Dedans son œil une vertu demeure,
Qui va jurant par les fleches d’Amour
De me guarir : mais je ne m’en asseure.
 
 
 
                                                                            Love, how I love kissing the beautiful eyes
                                                                            Of my mistress, and twisting in my mouth
                                                                            The fine gold of her hair which skirmishes
                                                                            Over her brow, starry like the heavens!
 
                                                                            In my opinion, the best of her best
                                                                            Is her fair eye, which touches me deep in my heart,
                                                                            And her fair Scythian knot, still wilder,
                                                                            Makes my heart courteous and graceful.
 
                                                                            Her fair golden hair, her eyebrows too
                                                                            With their beauties make the Dawn blush
                                                                            When in the morning she beautifies the day.
 
                                                                            Within her eye lives a power
                                                                            Which keeps swearing by Love’s arrows
                                                                            To cure me; but I won’t rely on it.
 
 
 
Again, Ronsard takes tropes he’s ued and re-used many times, and makes something fresh and vibrant out of them. I do like this poem, and the ending especially wraps up a marvellous complex of feelings both positive and negative about the condition of love in just a few words.
 
 Although the earlier version shares a recognisable set of ideas with this later version, in detail it is a different poem! (Fortunately, the different opening words signal there’s change to watch out for.) Note how some re-punctuation around line 7’s Scythian completely shifts the meaning.
 
 
Mon Dieu, que j’aime à baiser les beaux yeux
De ma maistresse, et à tordre en ma bouche
De ses cheveux l’or fin qui s’escarmouche
Si gayement dessus deux petits cieux !
 
C’est à mon gré ce qui lui sied le mieux
Que ce bel œil, qui jusqu’au cœur me touche,
Et ce beau poil, qui d’un Scythe farouche
Prendroit le cœur en ses plis gracieux.
 
Ses longs cheveux, et ses sourcis encore
De leurs beautez font vergongner l’Aurore,
Quand plus crineuse elle embellit le ciel,
 
Et dans cet œil je ne sais quoi demeure
Qui me peut faire en amour à toute heure
Le sucre fiel et le riagas miel. 
 
 
                                                                            My god, how I love kissing the beautiful eyes
                                                                            Of my mistress, and twisting in my mouth
                                                                            The fine gold of her hair which skirmishes
                                                                            So gaily above those two small heavens.
 
                                                                            In my opinion, the things which suit her best,
                                                                            Are that fair eye, which touches me deep in my heart,
                                                                            And that beautiful hair, which would seize the heart
                                                                            Of a wild Scythian in its graceful folds.
 
                                                                            Her long hair, her eyebrows too
                                                                            With their beauties make the Dawn blush
                                                                            When with hair spread wide she beautifies the sky.
 
                                                                            And in that eye lives some unknown
                                                                            Bitter sugar and honey-sweet poison
                                                                            Which can make me be in love all the time. 
 
 
Blanchemain also offers us another complete re-write of the final tercet, from 1587 (Marty-Laveaux’s is the 1584 text), which shows that Ronsard never really felt any of his poems, even the delightfully-good ones, were a finished statement:
 
En son œil vole une image vestue
D’aile et de traits : je croy que c’est Amour,
Je le cognois, il me blesse, il me tue. 
 
                                                                            In her eye floats an image clothed
                                                                            With wings and barbs; I believe it is Love,
                                                                            I recognise him – he wounds me, he kills me.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours retranch. 49 – A Song for Cassandre

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Il me semble que la journée
Dure plus longue qu’une année,
Quand par malheur je n’ay ce bien
De voir la grand’ beauté de celle
Qui tient mon cœur, et sans laquelle
Vissé-je tout, je ne voy rien.
 
Quiconques fut jadis le Sage
Qui dit que l’amoureux courage
Vit de ce qu’il ayme, il dit vray ;
Ailleurs vivant il ne peut estre,
Ny d’autre viande se paistre :
J’en suis seur, j’en ay fait l’essay.
 
Tousjours l’amant vit en l’aimée :
Pour cela mon ame affamée
Ne se veut souler que d’amour,
De l’amour elle est si friande,
Que sans plus de telle viande
Se veut repaistre nuit et jour.
 
Si quelqu’un dit que je m’abuse,
Voye luy-mesme la Meduse
Qui d’un rocher m’a fait le cœur ;
Et l’ayant veuë je m’asseure
Qu’il sera fait sur la mesme heure
Le compagnon de mon malheur.
 
Car est-il homme que n’enchante
La voix d’une Dame sçavante,
Et fust-il Scythe en cruauté ?
Il n’est point de plus grand’ magie
Que la docte voix d’une amie,
Quand elle est jointe à la beauté.
 
Or j’aime bien, je le confesse,
Et plus j’iray vers la vieillesse,
Et plus constant j’aimeray mieux :
Je n’oubliray, fussé-je en cendre,
La douce amour de ma Cassandre,
Qui loge mon cœur dans ses yeux.
 
Adieu liberté ancienne,
Comme chose qui n’est plus mienne,
Adieu ma chere vie, adieu :
Ta fuite ne me peut desplaire,
Puis que ma perte volontaire
Se retreuve en un si beau lieu.
 
Chanson, va-t’en où je t’adresse
Dans la chambre de ma Maistresse,
Dy-luy, baisant sa blanche main,
Que pour en santé me remettre,
Il ne luy faut sinon permettre
Que tu te caches dans son sein.
 
 
It seems to me that a day
Lasts longer than a year
When by mischance I do not have the benefit
Of seeing the great beauty of her
Who holds my heart, and without whom
Even if I see everything I see nothing.
 
Whoever was in olden days the wise man
Who said that a lover’s courage
Lives on the one he loves, spoke truly;
He could not live in any other way,
Nor feed on any other food.
I’m sure of it: I’ve tried it.
 
The lover lives all the time in the beloved;
For that reason my famished soul
Wishes to drink deeply of Love alone;
It is so partial to love
That on such food and nothing more
It wishes to dine both night and day.
 
If anyone wants to claim I’m deceiving myself,
Let him look upon the Medusa
Who has made my heart into a rock;
Having seen her, I am sure
That he will be made that same moment
A fellow in my troubles.
 
For is there a man whom the voice
Of a wise woman cannot enchant,
Even if he were like a Scythian in cruelty?
There is no greater magic
Than the cunning voice of your beloved
When it is joined with beauty.
 
Still, I love it, I confess,
And the further I go towards old age
The more, and the more constantly, I shall love it.
I will not forget, even were I mere dust,
The sweet love of my Cassandre
Who keeps me heart in her eyes.
 
Farewell my old freedom,
Like something no longer mine,
Farewell my dear life, farewell:
Your loss cannot displease me
Since my own voluntary ruin
Has landed me in so fair a place.
 
Away, my song, go where I send you
Into the chamber of my mistress,
And tell her, kissing her white hand,
That to return me to health
She need only allow
You to hide in her breast.
 
 
The heading, “Chanson pour Cassandre”, is pretty self-explanatory; and there’s little in the poem which needs commentary. Medusa (4th stanza) of course turned everything she set eyes on into stone; Scythians (next stanza) were famously barbaric and therefore cruel. The last stanza is reminiscent of several other poems we’ve seen in which a bird is sent to Cassandre.
 
 
 
 

Amours retranch. 34

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Quand je serois un Turc, un Arabe, ou un Scythe,
Pauvre captif, malade, et d’honneur dévestu,
Laid, vieillard, impotent, encor’ ne devrois-tu
Estre, comme tu es, envers moy si dépite :
 
Je suis bien asseuré que mon cœur ne merite
D’aimer en si bon lieu, mais ta seule vertu
Me force de ce faire ; et plus je suis batu
De ta fiere rigueur, plus ta beauté m’incite.
 
Si tu penses trouver un serviteur qui soit
Digne de ta beauté, ton penser te deçoit,
Car un Dieu (tant s’en faut un homme) n’en est digne.
 
Si tu veux donc aimer, il faut changer de cœur :
Ne sçais-tu que Venus (bien qu’elle fust divine)
Jadis pour son amy choisit bien un pasteur ?
 
 
 
 
                                                                            If I were a Turk, an Arab, or a Scyth,
                                                                            A poor captive, ill and dishonoured,
                                                                            Vile, old, powerless – still you ought not
                                                                            To be as spiteful as you are towards me!
 
                                                                            I am firmly assured that my heart does not deserve
                                                                            To be in love in so good a place, but your virtue alone
                                                                            Forces me to do this, and the more I am beaten down
                                                                            By your proud harshness, the more your beauty urges me on.
 
                                                                            If you think you’ll find a servant who is
                                                                            Worthy of your beauty, your thoughts deceive you
                                                                            For a god – let alone a man – is not worthy of it.
 
                                                                            If you wish then to be in love, you must change your heart:
                                                                            Do you not know that Venus, though she was divine,
                                                                            Once even chose as her lover a shepherd.
 
 
 
The classical allusion at the end of the poem is to Anchises, father of Aeneas. Readers of Virgil book 2 will know that Venus was his mother; Anchises, his father, was seduced by her and she later presented him with a son. So, although a shepherd, he was not exactly an ordinary shepherd!

 

 
 
 

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 206

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Fier Aquilon horreur de la Scythie,
Le chasse-nue, et l’esbranle-rocher,
L’irrite-mer, et qui fais approcher
Aux enfers l’une, aux cieux l’autre partie:
 
S’il te souvient de la belle Orithye,
Toy de l’Hiver le ministre et l’archer,
Fais à mon Loir ses mines relascher,
Tant que ma Dame à rive soit sortie.
 
Ainsi ton front ne soit jamais moiteux,
Et ton gosier horriblement venteux
Mugle tousjours dans les cavernes basses :
 
Ainsi les bras des chesnes les plus vieux,
Ainsi la terre et la mer et les cieux
Tremblent d’effroy, quelque part où tu passes.
 
 
 
 
                                                                              Noble north wind, horror of Scythia,
                                                                              Pursuer of the naked, shaker of rocks,
                                                                              Stirrer of the seas, you who bring close
                                                                              On one side hell, on the other heaven;
 
                                                                              If you remember the fair Orithyia,
                                                                              O agent and archer of Winter,
                                                                              Make my Loir relax her complexion
                                                                              As my Lady goes out upon her bank.
 
                                                                              Then, may your brow never be damp,
                                                                              May your terribly windy throat
                                                                              Bellow still within deep caverns;
 
                                                                              Then may the arms of the ancient oaks,
                                                                              Then may the earth and sea and sky
                                                                              Tremble in fear, wherever you pass.
 
  
 
By contrast with several recent posts, here we have a poem which remains unchanged between early and late editions!  Blanchemain offers us a footnote explaining the reference to Orithyia:  this “is the name of a daughter of king Erechtheus, with whom the North Wind Boreas was in love and whom he ravished”. To which we might add that their sons were Calaïs and Zetes, the winged heroes who joined the expedition of the Argonauts.
 
 
 
 

Chanson (25b)

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Fleur Angevine de quinze ans,
Ton front monstre assez de simplesse :
Mais ton cœur ne cache au-dedans
Sinon que malice et finesse,
Celant sous ombre d’amitié
Une jeunette mauvaistié.
 
Ren moy (si tu as quelque honte)
Mon cœur que je t’avois donné,
Dont tu ne fais non-plus de conte
Que d’un esclave emprisonné,
T’esjouyssant de sa misere,
Et te plaisant de luy desplaire.
 
Une autre moins belle que toy,
Mais bien de meilleure nature,
Le voudroit bien avoir de moy.
Elle l’aura, je te le jure :
Elle l’aura, puis qu’autrement
Il n’a de toy bon traitement.
 
Mais non :  j’aime trop mieux qu’il meure
Sans esperance en ta prison :
J’aime trop mieux qu’il y demeure
Mort de douleur contre raison,
Qu’en te changeant jouïr de celle
Qui m’est plus douce, et non si belle.
 
 
                                                                      My fifteen-year-old flower of Anjou,
                                                                      Your brow shows simplicity enough;
                                                                      But your heart hides nothing inside
                                                                      But malice and cunning,
                                                                      Hiding, beneath the appearance of love,
                                                                      A childish wickedness.
 
                                                                      Give me back, if you have any shame,
                                                                      My heart which I gave you,
                                                                      Which is of no more account to you
                                                                      Than an imprisoned slave,
                                                                      Since you rejoice in its wretchedness
                                                                      And please yourself by displeasing it.
 
                                                                      Another less lovely than yourself
                                                                      But much better-natured
                                                                      Would surely like to have it from me.
                                                                      She will have it, I swear it to you:
                                                                      She will have it, if from now on
                                                                      It does not have better treatment from you.
 
                                                                      But no! I much prefer that it should die
                                                                      Hopeless in your prison;
                                                                      I much prefer that it should stay
                                                                      Dead of grief beyond reason,
                                                                      Than that, in exchanging you, it should enjoy her
                                                                      Who is kinder to me, but not so lovely.
 
 
What a charming song!   It’s hard to think Ronsard would have played around with so charming a piece, but in fact Blanchemain’s version is different almost throughout.  Here’s his text, marked up as usual.
 
 
Belle et jeune fleur de quinze ans,
Qui sens encore ton enfance,
Mais bien qui caches au dedans
Un cœur rempli de decevance,
Celant sous ombre d’amitié
Une jeunette mauvaistié.
 
Ren moy (si tu as quelque honte)
Mon cœur que tu m’as emmené,
Dont tu ne fais non-plus de conte
Que d’un prisonnier enchaisné,
Ou d’un valet, ou d’un forcere
Qui est esclave d’un corsaire.
 
Une autre moins belle que toy,
Mais plus que toi courtoise et bonne,
Le veut de grace avoir de moy.
Me priant que je le luy donne.
Elle l’aura, puis qu’autrement
Il n’a de toy bon traitement.
 
Mais non :  j’aime trop mieux qu’il meure
Dedans la prison de tes mains :
J’aime trop mieux qu’il y demeure
Tourmenté de maux inhumains,
Qu’en te changeant jouïr de celle
Qui m’est plus douce, et non si belle.
 
 
 
                                                                      Fair young flower aged fifteen,
                                                                      Who still feel you are in your childhood,
                                                                      But who indeed hide inside you
                                                                      A heart filled with deception,
                                                                      Hiding beneath the appearance of love
                                                                      A childish wickedness.
 
                                                                      Give me back, if you have any shame,
                                                                      My heart which you took from me,
                                                                      Which is of no more account to you
                                                                      Than a chained prisoner,
                                                                      Or a manservant, or a drudge
                                                                      Who is a pirate’s slave.
 
                                                                      Another less lovely than yourself
                                                                      But more courteous and kind than you
                                                                      Would like, please, to have it from me
                                                                      And begs me to give her it.
                                                                      She will have it, if from now on
                                                                      It does not have better treatment from you.
 
                                                                      But no! I much prefer that it should die
                                                                      Within the prison of your hands;
                                                                      I much prefer that it should stay
                                                                      Tortured by inhuman evils,
                                                                      Than that, in exchanging you, it should enjoy her
                                                                      Who is kinder to me, but not so lovely.
 
 
This also one of the poems of Marullus ‘translated’ by Ronsard into a substantially different French poem: the compression of some parts of Marullus’s original, and expansion of others, make this a re-imagining of the poem rather than a real translation:
 
 
Puella mure delicatior Scytha
    foliive serici comis
vel educata rure Paestano rosa
    vel anseris pluma levi,
eademque duris dura cautibus magis,
    quas tundit hibernum mare,
cum nubilosis Africus pennis gravis,
    saevit Ligustico sinu :
remitte cor, siquis pudor, mihi meum,
    quod mille cepisti dolis
 (dum nunc ocello dulce subrides nigro,
    nunc fronte spem certa facis),
quod nunc habes in vinculis quasi Syrum
    aut comparatum Sarmatam ;
verum remitte, dura, non ultra tuum :
    jam enim rogat melior sibi,
quae nos ocellis diligit suis magis,
    neque hoc neque illud imputat.
An tu putabas scilicet firmum tibi
    tot barbare affectum modis ?
Quanquam beati centies et amplius,
    siquos tenaci compede
quae prima vix dum puberes junxit fides,
    eadem extulit pios senes !
 
 
                                                                      O girl more delicate than a Scythian mouse
                                                                      Or the leaves of the silk-trees,
                                                                      Or a rose grown in Paestum’s fields,
                                                                      Or the soft feather of a goose;
                                                                      And at the same time more hard than hard crags
                                                                      Which the wintry sea buffets
                                                                      When the oppressive African [Sou’westerly] wind on its cloudy wings
                                                                      Rages in a Ligurian bay:
                                                                      Give me back my heart, if you have any shame,
                                                                      Which you captured with a thousand tricks
                                                                      (One time you would smile sweetly with your dark eyes,
                                                                      Another you’d offer hope with an assuring look)
                                                                      And which you now hold in chains like a Syrian
                                                                      Or the Sarmatian matched with him;
                                                                      Give it back indeed, harsh one, it is no longer yours:
                                                                      Now indeed one better than you asks for it,
                                                                      Who prefers me to her own eyes,
                                                                      And does not reckon up this or that to my account.
                                                                      Did you perhaps think it would be loyal to you
                                                                      After being barbarously wronged in so many ways?
                                                                      Yet they are blessed a hundred times and more,
                                                                      Those whom first love bound with tight fetters
                                                                      While they were barely grown ,
                                                                      And whom the same love buries when they are pious old folk!
 
 
Some commentary may help: I’m not sure that Scythian mice are known to be specially soft; but the part of Italy round Paestum (Campania, the region of Naples) is traditionally a fertile region. The coast of Liguria (running from Nice round past Genoa and towards Lucca) generally faces south/south west, so a SW wind will blow straight into many of the harbours and bays there. The Syrian and Sarmatian are ‘matched’ or ‘linked’ because of Ovid: the Roman poet lived in exile on the Black Sea & in his poems (the ‘Tristia’ and ‘Ex Ponto’) referred to the barbarians he was surrounded by as both Syrians and Sarmatians.