Tag Archives: Styx

Élégie à Cassandre (Am. 1.227b)



Mon œil, mon cœur, ma Cassandre, ma vie,
Hé! qu’à bon droit tu dois porter d’envie
A ce grand Roy, qui ne veut plus souffrir
Qu’à mes chansons ton nom se vienne offrir.
C’est luy qui veut qu’en trompette j’echange
Mon luth, afin d’entonner sa louange,
Non de luy seul mais de tous ses ayeux
Qui sont là hault assis au rang des Dieux.
Je le feray puis qu’il me le commande :
Car d’un tel Roy la puissance est si grande,
Que tant s’en faut qu’on la puisse eviter,
Qu’un camp armé n’y pourroit resister.
Mais que me sert d’avoir tant leu Tibulle,
Properce, Ovide, et le docte Catulle,
Avoir tant veu Petrarque et tant noté,
Si par un Roy le pouvoir m’est oté
De les ensuyvre, et s’il faut que ma Iyre
Pendue au croc ne m’ose plus rien dire ?
Doncques en vain je me paissois d’espoir
De faire un jour à la Tuscane voir,
Que nostre France, autant qu’elle, est heureuse
A souspirer une pleinte amoureuse :
Et pour monstrer qu’on la peut surpasser,
J’avois desja commencé de trasser
Mainte Elegie à la façon antique,
Mainte belle Ode, et mainte Bucolique.
Car, à vray dire, encore mon esprit
N’est satisfait de ceux qui ont escrit
En nostre langue, et leur amour merite
Ou du tout rien, ou faveur bien petite.
Non que je sois vanteur si glorieux
D’oser passer les vers laborieux
De tant d’amans qui se pleignent en France :
Mais pour le moins j’avoy bien esperance,
Que si mes vers ne marchoient les premiers,
Qu’ils ne seroient sans honneur les derniers.
Car Eraton qui les amours descœuvre,
D’assez bon œil m’attiroit à son œuvre.
L’un trop enflé les chante grossement,
L’un enervé les traine bassement,
L’un nous depeint une Dame paillarde,
L’un plus aux vers qu’aux sentences regarde,
Et ne peut onq tant se sceut desguiser,
Apprendre l’art de bien Petrarquiser.
Que pleures-tu, Cassandre, ma douce ame ?
Encor Amour ne veut couper la trame
Qu’en ta faveur je pendis au métier,
Sans achever l’ouvrage tout entier.
Mon Roy n’a pas d’une beste sauvage
Succé le laict, et son jeune courage,
Ou je me trompe, a senti quelquefois
Le trait d’Amour qui surmonte les Rois.
S’il l’a senti, ma coulpe est effacee,
Et sa grandeur ne sera corroucee
Qu’à mon retour des horribles combas,
Hors de son croc mon Luth j’aveigne à-bas,
Le pincetant, et qu’en lieu des alarmes
Je chante Amour, tes beautez et mes larmes.
« Car l’arc tendu trop violentement,
« Ou s’alentit, ou se rompt vistement.
Ainsi Achille apres avoir par terre
Tant fait mourir de soudars en la guerre,
Son Luth doré prenoit entre ses mains
Teintes encor de meurdres inhumains,
Et vis à vis du fils de Menetie,
Chantoit l’amour de Brisëis s’amie :
Puis tout soudain les armes reprenoit,
Et plus vaillant au combat retoumoit.
Ainsi, apres que l’ayeul de mon maistre
Hors des combats retirera sa dextre,
Se desarmant dedans sa tente à part,
Dessus le Luth à l’heure ton Ronsard
Te chantera : car il ne se peut faire
Qu’autre beauté luy puisse jamais plaire,
Ou soit qu’il vive, ou soit qu’outre le port,
Leger fardeau, Charon le passe mort.
My eyes, my heart, my Cassandre, my life,
Oh, how rightly you must be envious
Of that great King who no longer wishes to suffer
Your name to put itself forward in my songs.
It is he who wishes that I should change my lute
For a trumpet, to sing out his praises,
And not only his own but those of his ancestors
Who are seated above in the ranks of the gods.
I shall do it, as he commands it :
For the power of such a King is so great
That it is as hard to keep out of its way
As for an armed force to resist it.
What use for me to have read so much of Tibullus,
Propertius, Ovid, and the learned Catullus ;
To have looked over and noted so much of Petrarch,
If by a King the power is taken from me
Of following them, and if my lyre must
Hang from a hook and dare no longer speak ?
I have therefore vainly fed the hope
Of one day seeing Tuscany,
When our France, as much as it, is happy
To sigh a lover’s plaint ;
And, to show [Italy] can be surpassed
I had already begun to set down
Many an Elegy in the antique fashion,
Many a fine Ode, many a Pastoral.
For to speak the truth, my soul is still
Not satisfied with those who have written
In our language, and their love deserves
Either nothing at all, or very little favour.
Not that I am so vainglorious a boaster
As to venture to surpass the laborious poetry
Of so many lovers who have made their plaints in France ;
But at least I have a fair hope
That, even if my verse does not go first,
It will not be dishonourably last.
For Erato, who discloses love-affairs,
Drew me with a clear eye to her work.
One puffed-up poet sings grossly of love,
Another nervous one drags on in too mean a style ;
One depicts a Lady who is lewd,
Another takes more care over his verse than his meaning
And can never, however he tries to conceal it,
Learn the art of Petrarch-ising well.
Why do you weep, Cassandre, my sweet soul ?
Love does not yet seek to cut off the warp and weft
Which I have hung on my loom for you,
Without completing the whole of my work.
My King has not sucked the milk of some
Savage beast, and his youthful courage too,
Unless I am mistaken, has sometimes felt
The wound of Love which can overcome Kings.
If he has felt it, my [ error ] is erased
And his greatness will not be angered
If, on my return from terrible battles,
I take my lute down from its hook
And pluck it, and instead of loud war
I sing of Love, your beauty, and my tears.
« For the bow which is drawn too tightly
Either weakens [slows] or quickly breaks. »
Just so Achilles, after having across the world
Put so many soldiers to death in war,
Took his golden lute in his hands –
Still stained with inhuman massacres –
And sitting opposite the son of Menetius
Sang of his love for Briseis, his beloved ;
Then as suddenly took up arms again
And returned, more courageous, to battle.
And so, after my master’s ancestor
Withdraws his hand from battle,
Disarming himself within his tent away from the field,
Upon his lute just then your Ronsard will sing
To you ; for it cannot be
That another beauty could ever please him
While he is alive or when, beyond this harbour,
Charon carries his light burden, dead.
The conclusion of the first book of Amours brings with it some weightier material to give it a firm feeling of ending – rather like Beethoven’s 5th, which iterates and reiterates the thumping C-major chords to emphasise that this really is the end of the piece, Ronsard feels (rightly) that he cannot simply end the long run of sonnets without something more definitely marking a conclusion. Perhaps there is, nonetheless, a sense of loss as Ronsard explains how he must stop writing love poetry to focus, by royal command, on his epic Franciad.
The Elegy to Cassandre is an elegy in the classical sense – a description of its form, rather than its mood (as we use it today to mean ‘something noble but sad, in remembrance’). Accordingly, it is full of classical (and neo-classical) references:
 – Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid, and Catullus are all Latin love-poets; and we might detect a glancing reference to one of Horace’s odes in the lines about ‘hanging his lyre on a hook’;
 – Petrarch is of course the shining example of (relatively) modern love-poetry, Tuscany his home;
 – Erato is the muse of lyric poetry;
 – in the Iliad Achilles sings of the slave-girl Briseis whom he loves (and who plays a pivotal role in the development of the action); his other (male) love is Patroclus, the son of Menoetius;
 – Charon is of course the boatman who ferries the dead across the river Styx.
Muret suggests that, in the last ‘stanza’, Ronsard is using the word “ayeul” (ancestor, grandfather) to refer to Francus, the mythical ancestor of the kings of France – and thus to the Franciad, the commission for which has drawn Ronsard forcibly away from writing love-poems.  (The ‘great king’ at the time of the publication of the Amours in the 1550s was Henri II; his direct ancestors were noble rather than royal, his father having come to the throne by virtue of his marriage to Louis XII’s daughter.)
The earlier Blanchemain version has only minor differences:
 – in stanza 3, the list of Roman poets is “Tibulle, / Gallus, Ovide, et Properce et Catulle,” – Cornelius Gallus was a lyric poet contemporary with the others;
 – in stanza 5, the line is “En nostre langue, et leur Muse merite” (‘and their Muse deserves’ instead of ‘their love’);
– towards the end, “Mon Roy n’a pas d’une tigre sauvage …” (a savage tiger’s milk rather than a savage beast’s).

Amours 1.178

O traits fichez jusqu’au fond de mon ame,
O folle emprise, ô pensers repensez,
O vainement mes jeunes ans passez,
O miel, ô fiel, dont me repaist ma Dame :
O chaud, ô froid, qui m’englace et m’enflame,
O prompts desirs d’esperance cassez,
O douce erreur, ô pas en vain trassez,
O monts, ô rocs, que ma douleur entame !
O terre, ô mer, chaos, destins et cieux,
O nuict, ô jour, ô Manes stygieux,
O fiere ardeur, ô passion trop forte :
O vous Daimons, ô vous divins esprits,
Si quelque amour quelquefois vous a pris,
Voyez, pour Dieu, quelle peine je porte !
                                                                           O wounds fixed right in the bottom of my soul,
                                                                           O foolish influence, o thoughts re-thought,
                                                                           O my years of youth passed in vain,
                                                                           O the sweetness, the bitterness, which my Lady feeds me;
                                                                           O heat, o cold, which freeze and inflame me,
                                                                           O swift wishes for hope, now broken,
                                                                           O sweet error, o paths taken in vain,
                                                                           O hills and rocks, the beginnings of my sadness!
                                                                           O earth, sea, chaos, fate and heavens,
                                                                           O night and day, o Stygian shades,
                                                                           O proud ardour, o passion too strong;
                                                                           O fates, o divine spirits,
                                                                           If any love ever seized you,
                                                                           See, for God’s sake, the pain I bear!
A few days ago we had Ronsard’s ijitation of Gesualdo, “Ny… ny… ny…”; today, another one, this time “O… o… o…”! The bravura technical challenge is the same, and the result is too. Charming, brilliant, and yet at the same time a little tongue-in-cheek…
In line 12 I’ve translated “Daimons” as ‘fates’, since the reference seems to be more to the Greek ‘daimon’ than to the more medieval ‘demon’. But in Blanchemain’s version, the only variant is the spelling here: “O vous démons !” which translates more obviously as ‘O demons’…
Ronsard’s immediate source, as before, was Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo. To show his sophistication, Ronsard places another unrelated poem between his two imitations; going one better than Gesualdo, whose two poems follow each other directly in the Rime diverse.  Here’s the Italian original:
O viva fiamma, o miei sospiri ardenti
O miserabil duol, o spirti lassi,
O pensier d’ogni speme ignudi & cassi,
O strali nel mio cuor fieri & pungenti;
O bei desir de l’honorate menti,
O vane imprese, o dolorosi passi,
O selve, o piaggie, o fonti, o fiume, o sassi
O spietata cagion de miei tormenti:
O gloriosi allori, o verdi mirti,
O luogo un tempo à me dolce, & giocondo,
Ove io gia sparsi dilettoso canto;
O voi leggiadri, et amorosi spirti,
S’alcun vive qua giu nel basso mondo
Pietà vi prenda del mio acerbo pianto.
                                                                            O living flame, o my ardent sighs,
                                                                            O wretched grief, o fading spirits,
                                                                            O thoughts of every hope denuded and demolished,
                                                                            O proud and stinging shafts in my heart,
                                                                            O beautiful desires of honoured minds,
                                                                            O vain undertakings, o steps illed with sadness,
                                                                            O woods, o shores, o founts, o rivers, o rocks,
                                                                            O ruthless cause of my torments,
                                                                            O glorious laurels, o green myrtles,
                                                                            O place once sweet to me and happy
                                                                            Where I once scattered delightful songs,
                                                                            O you graceful and loving spirits,
                                                                            If any [of you] live down here in the base world,
                                                                            Take pity on my bitter weeping.
Notice how, in line 11, Gesualdo adapts his theme slightly by opening the line not with “O” but with “Ove” –  a neat and clever touch!
This time, both Ronsard and Gesualdo are basing their poems on a Petrarchan original (Canzoniere 161), though typically the “O” motif is used more, and more brilliantly, by the two refined, showy and definitely more sophisticated followers in the late renaissance.
O passi sparsi, o pensier’ vaghi et pronti,
O tenace memoria, o fero ardore,
O possente desire, o debil core,
O i occhi miei, occhi non già, ma fonti!
O fronde, honor de le famose fronti,
O sola insegna al gemino valore!
O faticosa vita, o dolce errore,
Che mi fate ir cercando piagge et monti!
O bel viso ove Amor inseme pose
Gli sproni e ‘l fren ond’el mi punge et volve,
Come a lui piace, et calcitrar non vale!
O anime gentili et amorose,
S’alcuna à ‘l mondo, et voi nude ombre et polve,
Deh ristate a veder quale è ‘l mio male.
                                                                            O wandering steps! O vague and busy dreams!
                                                                            O changeless memory! O fierce desire!
                                                                            O passion strong! heart weak with its own fire;
                                                                            O eyes of mine! not eyes, but living streams;
                                                                            O laurel boughs! whose lovely garland seems
                                                                            The sole reward that glory’s deeds require;
                                                                            O haunted life! delusion sweet and dire,
                                                                            That all my days from slothful rest redeems;
                                                                            O beauteous face! where Love has treasured well
                                                                            His whip and spur, the sluggish heart to move
                                                                            At his least will; nor can it find relief.
                                                                            O souls of love and passion! if ye dwell
                                                                            Yet on this earth, and ye, great Shades of Love!
                                                                            Linger, and see my passion and my grief.
                                                                            (Translation by Thomas Wentworth Higginson)

Odes 2.18 – A son laquais (To his servant)



J’ay l’esprit tout ennuyé
D’avoir trop estudié
Les Phenomenes d’Arate :
Il est temps que je m’esbate
Et que j’aille aux champs jouer.
Bons dieux ! qui voudroit louer
Ceux qui, collez sur un livre,
N’ont jamais soucy de vivre ?
Que nous sert l’estudier,
Sinon de nous ennuyer
Et soing dessus soing accrestre,
A nous qui serons peut-estre,
Ou ce matin, ou ce soir,
Victime de l’orque noir,
De l’orque qui ne pardonne,
Tant il est fier, à personne ?
Corydon, marche devant ;
Sçache où le bon vin se vend.
Fais après à ma bouteille,
Des feuilles de quelque treille,
Un tapon pour la boucher.
Ne m’achete point de chair,
Car, tant soit-elle friande,
L’esté je hay la viande.
Achete des abricôs,
Des pompons, des artichôs,
Des fraises et de la crème :
C’est en esté ce que j’aime,
Quand, sur le bord d’un ruisseau,
Je les mange au bruit de l’eau,
Estendu sur le rivage
Ou dans un antre sauvage.
Ores que je suis dispos,
Je veux boire sans repos
De peur que la maladie
Un de ces jours ne me die,
Me happant à l’imporveu :
« Meurs, gallant, c’est assez beu. »
My spirit is quite bored
From having studied too hard
The Phenomena of Aratus:
It’s time I frolicked
And went out to play.
Good grief! Who’d want to praise
Those who, stuck to a book,
Never have any interest in living?
What use to us is studying,
Except to bore us
And to pile up care upon care
Upon us, who may perhaps be
This morning, or this evening,
Victims of the black bark,
The bark which grants no pardon,
So proud is it, to anyone.
Corydon, go in front:
You know where the good wine is sold.
Then make up for my bottle
From the leaves from some vine
A spout to drink from.
Buy me no meat
For, tasty as it is,
In summer I hate meat.
Buy apricots,
Melons, artichokes,
Strawberries and cream;
That’s what I love in summer
When, on a river bank,
I eat them by the sound of the stream,
Stretched out on the bank
Or in a wild cavern.
Now that I’m settled,
I want to drink without a break
For fear that illness
One of these days will say to me
Catching me by surprise,
“Die, my boy, that’s enough drinking!”
Once more the transition from classical learning to the delights of food – you perhaps remember the artichokes and melons from Tours (the “pompons”) from a recent post!
Aratus was one of those classical authors who took some detailed science and turned it into a poem so that it could be more easily memorised. For Aratus, it was the constellations and the weather (Darwin’s father Erasmus did the same in the early nineteenth century for botany… ) You can imagine Ronsard being a bit bored by it – though Aratus was revered in antiquity.
Corydon in verse 3 is a ‘pastoral’ name used regularly by Ronsard; in verse 2 the ‘bark which grants no pardon’ is of course Charon’s bark which ferries the dead across the Styx.
Although I am only using Blanchemain as a source for the Odes, there are still a couple of variants to report (from his footnotes):  in the third stanza

Corydon, marche devant ;
Sçache où le bon vin se vend.

Fay refreschir ma bouteille,

Cerche une fueilleuse treille
Et des fleurs pour me coucher.
                                                                      Corydon, go in front:
                                                                      You know where the good wine is sold.

                                                                      Get me a new bottle,

                                                                      Look for a leafy vine
                                                                      And some flowers for me to lie on.
And the last two lines which read:
« Je t’ay maintenant veincu.
Meurs, galland : c’est trop vescu. »
                                                                      “I’ve got you now.
                                                                      Die, my boy; you’ve lived too long.”

Odes 4:5



Guy, nos meilleurs ans coulent
Comme les eaux qui roulent
D’un cours sempiternel ;
La mort pour sa sequelle
Nous ameine avec elle
Un exil éternel.
Nulle humaine priere
Ne repousse en arriere
Le bateau de Charon,
Quand l’ame nue arrive
Vagabonde en la rive
De Styx et d’Acheron.
Toutes choses mondaines
Qui vestent nerfs et veines
La mort égale prend,
Soient pauvres ou soient princes ;
Car sur toutes provinces
Sa main large s’estend.
La puissance tant forte
Du grand Achille est morte,
Et Thersite, odieux
Aux Grecs, est mort encores ;
Et Minos qui est ores
Le conseiller des dieux.
Jupiter ne demande
Que des bœufs pour offrande ;
Mais son frere Pluton
Nous demande, nous hommes,
Qui la victime sommes
De son enfer glouton.
Celuy dont le Pau baigne
Le tombeau nous enseigne
N’esperer rien de haut,
Et celuy que Pegase
(Qui fit soucer Parnase)
Culbuta d’un grand saut.
Las ! on ne peut cognaistre
Le destin qui doit naistre,
Et l’homme en vain poursuit
Conjecturer la chose
Que Dieu sage tient close
Sous une obscure nuit.
Je pensois que la trope
Que guide Calliope,
Troupe mon seul confort,
Soustiendroit ma querelle,
Et qu’indonté par elle
Je donterois la mort.
Mais une fiévre grosse
Creuse déjà ma fosse
Pour me banir là bas,
Et sa flame cruelle
Se paist de ma mouelle,
Miserable repas.
Que peu s’en faut, ma vie,
Que tu ne m’es ravie
Close sous le tombeau,
Et que mort je ne voye
Où Mercure convoye
Le debile troupeau !
[Et ce Grec qui les peines
Dont les guerres sont pleines
Va là bas racontant,
Poëte qu’une presse
Des épaules espaisse
Admire en l’écoutant.]
A bon droit Prométhée
Pour sa fraude inventée
Endure un tourment tel,
Qu’un aigle sur la roche
Luy ronge d’un bec croche
Son poumon immortel.
Depuis qu’il eut robée
La flame prohibée,
Pour les dieux despiter,
Les bandes incogneues
Des fiévres sont venues
Parmi nous habiter.
Et la mort despiteuse,
Auparavant boiteuse,
Fut légère d’aller ;
D’ailes mal-ordonnées
Aux hommes non données
Dedale coupa l’air.
L’exécrable Pandore
Fut forgée, et encore
Astrée s’en-vola,
Et la boîte féconde
Peupla le pauvre monde
De tant de maux qu’il a.
Ah ! le meschant courage
Des hommes de nostre âge
N’endure pas ses faits ;
Que Jupiter estuye
Sa foudre, qui s’ennuye
Venger tant de mesfaits !
Guy, our best years rush by
Like streams flowing
In their everlasting race ;
Death, as the sequel,
Brings us with it
Eternal exile.
No human prayer
Can push back
Charon’s boat
When the naked soul arrives
A wanderer at the river
Styx and Acheron.
All wordly things
Equipped with nerves and veins
Death takes equally,
Be they poor men or princes ;
For over all the empires
Its wide hand extends.
The strength, though great,
Of mighty Achilles is dead ;
And Thersites, hated
By the Greeks, is dead too ;
And Minos too, who was once
Advisor to the gods.
Jupiter requires only
Cattle as an offering ;
But his brother Pluto
Requires us, us men,
Who are the victims
Of his greedy hell.
He, whose tomb the Pau [Po]
Bathes, teaches us
To hope for nothing from on high,
And he too, whom Pegasus
(Who disquieted Parnassus)
Knocked down with his great leap.
Alas ! we cannot know
The fate which must come to us,
And man in vain seeks
To conjecture what thing
Our wise God keeps hidden
Beneath dark night.
I thought that the troop
Whom Calliope leads,
The troop which is my sole comfort,
Would support my complaint
And that, untamed by them,
I would tame death.
But a great fever
Is already digging my grave
To banish me down there,
And its cruel flame
Is feeding on my marrow,
A wretched repast.
How little is needed, mt life,
For you to be taken from me,
Shut in beneath my tomb,
And for me to see death
Where Mercury brings
The feeble troop !
[And that Greek who
Continually recounts down there
The pains with which war is filled,
The poet whom a crowd
Of wide shoulders
Admires as they listen.]
Rightly does Prometheus
For that trick he contrived
Endure such torment,
As, on his rock, an eagle
With its crooked beak gnaws
His immortal guts.
Since he stole away
The forbidden fire
To spite the gods,
The unknown bonds
Of fevers have come
To live among us ;
And resentful death,
Before that limping slowly,
Has become light on his feet.
With clumsy wings
Not granted to man
Daedalus cut through the air.
Cursed Pandora
Was forged and, still
A star, flew off
While the fruitful box
Peopled this poor world
With all the evils it had.
Ah, the paltry courage
Of the men of our age
Cannot endure their deeds ;
May Jupiter hold back
His thunderbolts, bored with
Avenging so many misdeeds !


This Ode is dedicated to Guy Pacate, prior of Sougé – a small village in the Loir region. Even today it consists of little more than one street and a church. Pacate had been one of the little group around Daurat in the 1540s, including Ronsard, du Bellay and Denisot, from which sprang the Pléiade. Among them he was apparently known for his learning and his gift for Latin poetry; though beyond their circle he seems obscure.  Perhaps it is relevant that, in the posthumous editions of Ronsard the dedication was to Jean Daurat himself, rather than this little-known satellite of his.
It’s certainly relevant that Pacate knew his classics: there is an array of classical references here rarely seen in such number in Ronsard’s poems! But at the same time Ronsard contrives an inward-looking reflection on death rather than a grand, public poem, suitable to the relative obscurity of the dedicatee.
Stanza 2 refers to the journey to the afterlife: souls would come down to the river Styx where they awaited Charon’s boat to ferry them over to Hades. (Mercury guided souls to the underworld – stanza 10.)
Stanza 4 contrasts Achilles with Thersites, the former the hero of the Iliad, the latter an annoying, cowardly tell-tale also on the Greek side; and adds Minos, once a king on earth, but tricked and killed in his bath by his daughters.
In stanza 6, Pau is famous as the birthplace of “noste Enric” (‘our Henry’), Henry IV of France; and earlier was the base of Gaston Fébus, whose Renaissance court paralleled that of Italian city-states. But this Pau is in fact the Po in north Italy, reputed to be where Phaethon fell when struck down by Jupiter’s thunderbolt. The second half of the stanza is about Perseus; other editions have “sourcer” rather than the (unique?) “soucer” which I have treated as if it were “soucier”: “Qui fit sourcer Parnase” would mean something like “who made a spring come from Parnassus”, the spring being the Hippocrene spring which was created when Pegasus stamped his foot, and which became sacred to the Muses.
The troop of Calliope in stanza 8 is the Muses – Calliope is the muse of epic poetry. In stanza 11, the poet is no doubt Homer; we have met Prometheus (stanzas 12-13), punished by the gods for bringing fire to man, regularly. In stanza 14 I have to admit the presence of Daedalus confuses me: there is no link to Pandora, nor did his flight lead to his own death. I assume that Ronsard is offering a simile – like Daedalus taking wing, death too became swifter.
Finally, in the penultimate stanza, Pandora is ‘forged’ because she the first woman, was made by Vulcan on Jupiter’s instructions. The story of the evils contained in Pandora’s box is well-known.

Sonnet 81

Pardonne moy, Platon, si je ne cuide
Que sous le rond de la voute des Dieux,
Soit hors du monde, ou au profond des lieux
Que Styx entourne, il n’y ait quelque vuide.
Si l’air est plein en sa voute liquide,
Qui reçoit donc tant de pleurs de mes yeux,
Tant de soupirs que je sanglote aux cieux,
Lors qu’à mon dueil Amour lasche la bride ?
Il est du vague, ou si point il n’en est,
D’un air pressé le comblement ne naist :
Plus-tost le ciel, qui piteux se dispose
A recevoir l’effet de mes douleurs,
De toutes parts se comble de mes pleurs,
Et de mes vers qu’en mourant je compose.
                                                                            Pardon me, Plato, if i do not believe
                                                                            That beneath the circle of the Heavens’ vault,
                                                                            Whether beyond the world or in the depths of the parts
                                                                            Which Styx surrounds, there is no void [vacuum].
                                                                            If the air is full in its watery vault,
                                                                            Where is there room for so many tears from my eyes,
                                                                            So many sighs which I sob to the heavens,
                                                                            Since Love gave rein to my grief ?
                                                                            Is it from emptiness, or if not from there,
                                                                            From air under pressure, that its full-ness is born?
                                                                            No: rather heaven, which is pitiful and willing
                                                                            To receive the effect of my depair,
                                                                            Is filled in all parts with my tears,
                                                                            And with my verse which, dying, I compose.



Some philosophy-cum-science from Ronsard:  Plato did not believe in the existence of a vacuum (or perhaps rather any ‘void’/emptiness) in the world, Ronsard answers that there must be or he’ll over-fill everything with his tears. (I’ve copied his double-negative in the opening quatrain:  I must say working through the grammar here was rather testing!) Plato held that the universe was continually ‘becoming’ – self-generating – so that any temporary gaps between matter would be filled by this process; at the beginning of the sestet Ronsard is referring to these arguments about the nature of its ‘becoming’. As always, he turns the intellectual discussion to an extravagant love metaphor, in a charming fashion.
Fortunately the earlier Blanchemain version is substantially similar, with only minor variants in the language. In line 4, the Styx “emmure” (‘walls in’ rather than ‘surrounds’) the underworld; in line 5 the air is filled “en sa courbure humide” (‘in its wet curvature’ instead of ‘in its watery vault’); and in line 9 “Il est du vague, ou certes, s’il n’en est” (‘It is from emptiness, or certainly if not’, rather than ‘if not from there’).
The next sonnet, no.82, can be found here.
 [ PS.  I am amused to see the opening phrase re-used, with a twist, half way through this sonnet in the Marie set! I’m sure that’s entirely deliberate.]

Sonnet 70


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

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



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

Sonnet 62

Quand ces beaux yeux jugeront que je meure,
Avant mes jours me bannissant là bas,
Et que la Parque aura porté mes pas
A l’autre bord de la rive meilleure :
Antres et prez, et vous forests, à l’heure,
Pleurant mon mal, ne me dédaignez pas :
Ains donnez moy sous l’ombre de vos bras,
Une eternelle et paisible demeure.
Puisse avenir qu’un poëte amoureux,
Ayant pitié de mon sort malheureux,
Dans un cyprès note cet epigramme :
                                                                           When those fair eyes determine I shall die,
                                                                           Banishing me down below before my time,
                                                                           And when Fate has borne my steps
                                                                           To the far bank of that better river;
                                                                           Then, caves and meadows and forests, then
                                                                           Weeping over my misfortune, do not scorn me,
                                                                           But give me in the shade of your arms
                                                                           Eternal and peaceful rest.
                                                                           And may a poet in love,
                                                                           Pitying my unhappy fate,
                                                                           Place this epigram on a cypress:
                                                                           BENEATH THERE LIES A LOVER FROM VENDOME
                                                                           KILLED BY GRIEF WITHIN THESE WOODS
                                                                           FOR LOVING TOO MUCH HIS LADY’S FAIR EYES.
Regarding line 11, Blanchemain reminds us in a footnote that ‘in Greek an epigram signifies any inscription’ – but an epigram could also be a three line mini-poem such as the last tercet so I’m not sure that it’s necessary to see Ronsard making a Greek allusion here!  On the other hand line 4 clearly is a classical allusion, since only in classical myth is the afterlife bordered by a river (the Styx) – and of course ‘below’ rather than in heaven ‘above’.
There are only a couple of variants in Blanchemain, both in the second quatrain, where Ronsard chose new effects without modifying the sense. That quatrain reads:
Antres et prez, et vous forests, à l’heure,
Je vous suppli, ne me dédaignez pas :
Ains donnez moy sous l’ombre de vos bras,
Pour tout jamais eternelle demeure.
                                                                           Then, caves and meadows and forests, then
                                                                           I beg you, do not scorn me,
                                                                           But give me in the shade of your arms
                                                                           For all time eternal rest.