A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Marie’s eye condition: this is the poem which Belleau annotates, as I mentioned there, with an explanation of the name ‘Sinope’; and also the one in which Ronsard offers the most explicit of links between Marie and Sinope – unless of course you believe that the Sinope poems were addressed to another lady, and then simply transferred to the Marie set. He does not, after all, explicitly name Marie… Belleau’s footnote in full: ‘Marie had trouble with her eyes, and as the poet watched her intently the illness in those afflicted eyes entering his own made them ill too. And so he called Marie Sinope, which is to say ‘losing the eyes’.’Like the last poem I posted, Blanchemain’s earlier version varies only in two places, and one of them is the first line! In his version, Marie/Sinope’s eyes have been ‘struck’ with illness rather than the more precise ‘weeping’ in the later version: “Vos yeux estoient blessez d’une humeur enflammée“. The other change, in line 11, is mostly about sound and rhythm, inverting some of the words: “A couvert mon sang en larmes et en pluye” (‘Has covered my blood with tears and weeping’); but the change from a rather odd ‘covering’ image to the sharper ‘converted’ may have been Ronsard’s initial spur to change.
Another of the Marie/Sinope poems, this time focusing on her sweet-smelling breath rather than her eye-problems! Much more gallant …Blanchemain’s version again keeps Sinope’s name not Marie’s at the beginning (“Sinope, que je sers en trop cruel destin”); otherwise the only change is at the start of the sestet, where Ronsard replaced his first thoughts, the more vivid “vos tetins“, with the less tactile and perhaps less titillating “vostre sein” (above).
Another of those poems whose form Marty-Laveaux and Blanchemain disagree about:Maistresse, de mon cœur vous emportez la clef, La clef de mes pensers et la clef de ma vie : Et toutesfois (helas ! ) je ne leur porte envie, Pourveu que vous ayez pitié de leur meschef. Vous me laissez tout seul en un tourment si gref, Que je mourray de dueil d’ire et de jalousie : Tout seul je le voudrois, mais une compagnie Vous me donnez de pleurs qui coulent de mon chef. Que maudit soit le jour que la fleche cruelle M’engrava dans le cœur vostre face si belle, Voz cheveux vostre front vos yeux et vostre port, Qui servent à ma vie et de Fare et d’estoille ! Je devois mourir lors sans plus craindre la mort, Le despit m’eust servy pour me conduire au port, Mes pleurs servy de fleuve, et mes souspirs de voile. Mistress, you carry the key of my heart, The key of my thoughts and the key of my life ; And yet, alas, I don’t envy them Since you have pity on their misfortune. You leave me all alone in torment so grievous That I shall die of grief, anger and jealousy ; All alone, I’d like that, but you give me A company of tears which flow down my face. Cursed be the day that the cruel dart Engraved in my heart your beautiful face, Your hair, your brow, your eyes and your bearing, Which serve as my life’s Pharos and star ! I should die now without fearing death more, Scorn has served to lead me to port, My tears served as the river, my sighs as the sail. We’re back in the poems for Marie, so classical references are occasional rather than freely-scattered. Here, only the Pharos, the famous lighthouse of Alexandria. (Did you know it stood guard over the harbour there until the late middle ages??) This is one of the ‘Sinope’ poems: as Blanchemain’s footnote reminds us, “Belleau gives the explanation of this name Sinope, applied to Marie [i.e. that Sinope was simply a pseudonym for Marie]. In the 1560 edition he says on the contrary that this name is to hide a lady of illustrious birth, beloved of the poet ‘with a furious passion’.” So, Blanchemain’s version opens with Sinope’s name not Marie’s: “Sinope, de mon cœur vous emportez la clef…”. Blanchemain’s earlier version also ends with something far simpler than the extravagant metaphor of the later version; and (with one less line) is a sonnet not the ‘madrigal’ of 15 lines which Marty-Laveaux prints (4+4+3+3, not 4+4+4+3). His version does not have line 12, the one about the Pharos, and then his sestet reads: Je devois mourir lors sans plus tarder une heure; Le temps que j’ay vescu depuis telle blesseure Aussi bien n’a servi qu’à m’allonger la mort. I should die now without waiting another hour; The time that I’ve lived quite well Since such a wound, has served only to push back my death.
For no particular reason other than I was reading something other than Helen, here’s a beautiful sonnet from the Marie set:
Marie, baisez-moy : non, ne me baisez pas, Mais tirez moy le cœur de vostre douce haleine : Non, ne le tirez pas, mais hors de chaque veine Succez-moy toute l’ame esparse entre vos bras : Non, ne la succez pas : car apres le trespas Que serois-je sinon une semblance vaine, Sans corps desur la rive, où l’amour ne demeine (Pardonne moy Pluton) qu’en feintes ses esbas ? Pendant que nous vivons, entr’aimons nous, Marie, Amour ne regne point sur la troupe blesmie Des morts, qui sont sillez d’un long somme de fer. C’est abus que Pluton ait aimé Proserpine, Si doux soing n’entre point en si dure poitrine : Amour regne en la terre et non point en enfer.
Marie, kiss me ; no, don’t kiss me But draw out my heart with your sweet breath; No, don’t draw it out, but from each vein Suck out my whole soul, spread within your arms; No, don’t suck it out; for after my death What would I be but an empty shade With no body, upon the river where love dances (Pardon me, Pluto) its frolics only in sham. While we live, let us love one another, Marie, Love does not reign at all over the pallid company Of the dead, who are buried in a long, iron-hard sleep. It’s a lie that Pluto loved Proserpina; So sweet a care never entered so harsh a breast; Love reigns with the ladies, never in Hades. Ronsard’s friend Remy Belleau, in his edition of Ronsard’s Marie (quoted by Blanchemain), said “this sonnet is among the most beautiful to be found, for being full of noble, contrary repetitions”. The last line I have translated freely: literally it should be something like ‘Love reigns in the world, never in the underworld’, to try (clumsily) to catch that internal half-rhyme on ‘terre/enfer’. But I read that as rather a sly, tongue in cheek, half-rhyme, which is why I’ve gone with a less accurate but livelier rhyme in my text 🙂 The story of Pluto running away with Proserpina (Persephone), the daughetr of Ceres, is a well-known legend, a trope for the changing seasons: Persephone returns to her mother in Spring, the corn (Ceres) happily re-grows, and then in autumn Pluto takes Persephone back under the ground while winter hardens the ground and nothing grows. It is perhaps strange that Ronsard should be so rude to Pluto in the last tercet, after begging his pardon a few lines earlier. Once again, late tinkering is to blame, for in the earlier version (below) there is no begging of pardon. Naturally Blanchemain’s text has some other minor changes too, perhaps most surprisingly (given this is in the middle of the Amours de Marie), in addressing the poem to Sinope not Marie! Mythologically, Sinope is a minor legendary figure, ancestor of the race of the Syrians; but in Ronsard she is an older, fading beauty to whom he addresses a short cycle of sonnets. As the changes in Blanchemain’s version are scattered through the text it will do least violence to your enjoyment of the poem if I print it in full in his version: Sinope, baisez-moy : non, ne me baisez pas, Mais tirez moy le cœur de vostre douce haleine : Non, ne le tirez pas, mais hors de chaque veine Succez-moy toute l’ame esparse entre vos bras : Non, ne la succez pas : car apres le trespas Que serois-je sinon une semblance vaine, Sans corps desur la rive, où l’amour ne demeine Comme il fait icy haut, qu’en feintes ses esbas ? Pendant que nous vivons, entr’aimons nous, Sinope ; Amour ne regne point sur la debile trope Des morts, qui sont sillez d’un long somme de fer. C’est abus que Pluton ait aimé Proserpine, Si doux soing n’entre point en si dure poitrine : Amour regne en la terre et non point en enfer. Sinope, kiss me ; no, don’t kiss me But draw out my heart with your sweet breath; No, don’t draw it out, but from each vein Suck out my whole soul, spread within your arms; No, don’t suck it out; for after my death What would I be but an empty shade With no body, upon the river where love dances, As it doesn’t up here, its frolics only in sham. While we live, let us love one another, Sinope, Love does not reign at all over the feeble company Of the dead, who are buried in a long, iron-hard sleep. It’s a lie that Pluto loved Proserpina; So sweet a care never entered so harsh a breast; Love reigns with the ladies, never in Hades. [ PS I’m sure that Ronsard had a wry smile on his face as he re-wrote the opening of line 8 to echo the beginning of this poem in his Cassandre set. The echo is entirely deliberate, I am certain. ]