Tag Archives: Trojan war

Amours book 2 – Elégie à son livre

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Although it’s been months since my last post, I find myself still in book 2 of the Amours! This is really the very last poem from book 2 I’ll be posting, though: the lengthy Elegy which Ronsard prefixed to the book as he sent it out into the world.

Mon fils, si tu sçavois ce qu’on dira de toy,
Tu ne voudrois jamais desloger de chez moy,
Enclos en mon estude : et ne voudrois te faire
Salir ny fueilleter aux mains du populaire.
Quand tu seras parti, sans jamais retourner,
Estranger loin de moy te faudra sejourner :
« Car ainsi que le vent sans retourner s’envole,
« Sans espoir de retour s’eschappe la parole.
 
Or tu es ma parole, à qui de nuict et jour
J’ay conté les propos que me contoit Amour,
Pour les mettre en ces vers qu’en lumiere tu portes,
Crochetant maugré moy de ma chambre les portes,
Pauvret! qui ne sçais pas que nos citoyens sont
Plus subtils par le nez que le Rhinoceront.
 
Donc avant que tenter la mer et le naufrage,
Voy du port la tempeste, et demeure au rivage.
« Tard est le repentir de tost s’estre embarqué.
 
Tu seras tous les jours des médisans moqué
D’yeux, et de hausse-becs, et d’un branler de teste.
« Sage est celuy qui croit à qui bien l’amoneste.
 
Tu sçais (mon cher enfant) que je ne te voudrois
Tromper, contre nature impudent je faudrois,
Et serois un Serpent de farouche nature
Si je voulois trahir ma propre geniture :
Car tout tel que tu es, n’agueres je te fis,
Et je ne t’aime moins qu’un pere aime son fils.
 
Quoy? tu veux donc partir : et tant plus je te cuide
Retenir au logis, plus tu hausses la bride.
Va donc puis qu’il te plaist, mais je te suppliray
De respondre à chacun ce que je te diray,
Afin que toy (mon fils) tu gardes en l’absence
De moy le pere tien, l’honneur et l’innocence.
 
Si quelque dame honneste et gentille de cœur
(Qui aura l’inconstance et le change en horreur)
Me vient, en te lisant, d’un gros sourcil reprendre
Dequoy je ne devois oublier ma Cassandre,
Qui la premiere au cœur le trait d’amour me mist,
Et que le bon Petrarque un tel peché ne fist,
Qui fut trente et un an amoureux de sa dame,
Sans qu’une autre jamais luy peust eschauffer l’ame :
Respons-luy je te pri’, que Petrarque sur moy
N’avoit authorité pour me donner sa loy,
Ny à ceux qui viendroyent apres luy, pour les faire
Si long temps amoureux sans leur lien desfaire.
 
Luy-mesme ne fut tel : car à voir son escrit
Il estoit esveillé d’un trop gentil esprit
Pour estre sot trente ans, abusant sa jeunesse
Et sa Muse au giron d’une vieille maistresse :
Ou bien il jouyssoit de sa Laurette, ou bien
Il estoit un grand fat d’aimer sans avoir rien.
Ce que je ne puis croire, aussi n’est-il croyable :
Non, il en jouyssoit : puis la fist admirable,
« Chaste, divine, saincte : aussi l’amoureux doit
« Celebrer la beauté dont plaisir il reçoit :
« Car celuy qui la blasme apres la jouissance
« N’est homme, mais d’un Tygre il a prins sa naissance.
Quand quelque jeune fille est au commencement
Cruelle, dure, fiere à son premier amant,
Constant il faut attendre : il peut estre qu’une heure
Viendra sans y penser, qui la rendra meilleure.
Mais quand elle devient voire de jour en jour
Plus dure et plus rebelle, et plus rude en amour,
On s’en doit esloigner, sans se rompre la teste
De vouloir adoucir une si sotte beste.
Je suis de tel advis : me blasme de ceci,
M’estime qui voudra, je le conseille ainsi.
 
Les femmes bien souvent sont cause que nous sommes
Volages et legers, amadoüans les hommes
D’un espoir enchanteur, les tenant quelquefois
Par une douce ruse, un an, ou deux, ou trois,
Dans les liens d’Amour sans aucune allegeance :
Ce-pendant un valet en aura joüissance,
Ou bien quelque badin emportera ce bien
Que le fidele amy à bon droit cuidoit sien.
Et si ne laisseront, je parle des rusées
Qui ont au train d’amour leurs jeunesses usées,
(C’est bien le plus grand mal qu’un homme puisse avoir
Que servir une femme accorte à decevoir)
D’enjoindre des travaux qui sont insupportables,
Des services cruels, des tâches miserables :
Car sans avoir esgard à la simple amitié
De leurs pauvres servans, cruelles n’ont pitié,
Non plus qu’un fier Corsaire en arrogance braves,
N’a pitié des captifs aux environs esclaves.
Il faut vendre son bien, il faut faire presens
De chaisnes, de carquans, de diamans luisans :
Il faut donner la Perle, et l’habit magnifique,
Il faut entretenir la table et la musique,
Il faut prendre querelle, il faut les suporter.
Certes j’aimerois mieux dessus le dos porter
La hotte, pour curer les estables d’Augée,
Que me voir serviteur d’une Dame rusée.
« La mer est bien à craindre, aussi est bien le feu,
« Et le Ciel quand il est de tonnerres esmeu,
« Mais trop plus est à craindre une femme clergesse,
« Sçavante en l’art d’amour, quand elle est tromperesse :
« Par mille inventions mille maux elle fait,
« Et d’autant qu’elle est femme, et d’autant qu’elle sçait.
Quiconque fut le Dieu qui la mit en lumiere
Il fut premier autheur d’une grande misere.
 
Il falloit par presens consacrez aux autels
Acheter nos enfans des grands Dieux immortels,
Et non user sa vie avec ce mal aimable,
Les femmes, passion de l’homme miserable,
Miserable et chetif d’autant qu’il est vassal,
Durant le temps qu’il vit, d’un si fier animal.
Mais je vous pri’, voyez comment par fines ruses
Elles sçavent trouver mille feintes excuses,
Apres qu’ell’ ont failly ! voyez Helene apres
Qu’Ilion fut bruslé de la flamme des Grecs,
Comme elle amadoüa d’une douce blandice
Son badin de mary, qui luy remit son vice,
Et qui plus que devant de ses yeux fut épris,
Qui scintilloient encor les amours de Pâris.
Que dirons-nous d’Ulysse ? encores qu’une trope
De jeunes poursuyvans aimassent Penelope,
Devorans tout son bien, si est-ce qu’il brusloit
D’embrasser son espouse, et jamais ne vouloit
Devenir immortel avec Circe la belle,
Pour ne revoir jamais Penelope, laquelle
Pleurant luy rescrivoit de son fascheux sejour,
Pendant qu’en son absence elle faisoit l’amour :
Si bien que le Dieu Pan de ses jeux print naissance,
(D’elle et de ses muguets la commune semence)
Envoyant tout expres, pour sa commodité,
Le fils chercher le père en Sparte la cité.
« Voilà comment la femme avec ses ruses donte
« L’homme, de qui l’esprit toute beste surmonte.
 
Quand on peut par hazard heureusement choisir
Quelque belle maistresse, et l’avoir à plaisir,
Soit de haut ou bas lieu, pourveu qu’elle soit fille
Humble, courtoise, honneste, amoureuse et gentille,
Sans fard, sans tromperie, et qui sans mauvaitié
Garde de tout son cœur une simple amitié,
Aimant trop mieux cent fois à la mort estre mise,
Que de rompre sa foy quand elle l’a promise :
Il la faut honorer tant qu’on sera vivant,
Comme un rare joyau qu’on treuve peu souvent.
« Celuy certainement merite sur la teste
« Le feu le plus ardent d’une horrible tempeste,
« Qui trompe une pucelle et mesmement alors
« Qu’elle se donne à nous, et de cœur et de cors.
 
N’est-ce pas un grand bien quand on fait un voyage,
De rencontrer quelcun qui d’un pareil courage
Veut nous acompagner, et comme nous passer
Les torrens, les rochers, fascheux à traverser ?
Aussi n’est-ce un grand bien de trouver une amie,
Qui nous aide à passer cette chetive vie,
Qui sans estre fardée ou pleine de rigueur,
Traite fidellement de son amy le cueur ?
 
Dy leur, si de fortune une belle Cassandre
Vers moy se fust monstrée un peu courtoise et tendre,
Et pleine de pitié eust cherché à guarir
Le mal dont ses beaux yeux dix ans m’ont fait mourir,
Non seulement du corps, mais sans plus d’une œillade
Eust voulu soulager mon pauvre cœur malade,
Je ne l’eusse laissée, et m’en soit à tesmoin
Ce jeune enfant ailé qui des amours a soin.
 
Mais voiant que tousjours elle marchoit plus fiere,
Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere,
Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou,
Où maintenant Amour me detient sous le jou :
Laquelle tout soudain je quitteray, si elle
M’est comme fut Cassandre, orgueilleuse et rebelle,
Pour en chercher une autre, à fin de voir un jour
De pareille amitié recompenser m’amour,
Sentant l’affection d’une autre dans moymesme :
« Car un homme est bien sot d’aimer si on ne l’aime.
 
Or’ si quelqu’un apres me vient blasmer, dequoy
Je ne suis plus si grave en mes vers que j’estoy
A mon commencement, quand l’humeur Pindarique
Enfloit empoulément ma bouche magnifique :
Dy luy que les amours ne se souspirent pas
D’un vers hautement grave, ains d’un beau stille bas,
Populaire et plaisant, ainsi qu’a fait Tibulle,
L’ingenieux Ovide, et le docte Catulle.
Le fils de Venus hait ces ostentations :
Il suffist qu’on luy chante au vray ses passions
Sans enflure ny fard, d’un mignard et doux stile,
Coulant d’un petit bruit, comme une eau qui distile.
Ceux qui font autrement, ils font un mauvais tour
A la simple Venus, et à son fils Amour.
 
S’il advient quelque jour que d’une voix hardie
J’anime l’eschafaut par une tragedie
Sentencieuse et grave, alors je feray voir
Combien peuvent les nerfs de mon petit sçavoir.
Et si quelque furie en mes vers je rencontre,
Hardi j’opposeray mes Muses alencontre :
Et feray resonner d’un haut et grave son
(Pour avoir part au bouc) la tragique tançon.
Mais ores que d’Amour les passions je pousse,
Humble je veux user d’une Muse plus douce.
 
Je ne veux que ce vers d’ornement indigent
Entre dans une escole, ou qu’un brave regent
Me lise pour parade : il suffist si m’amie
Le touche de la main dont elle tient ma vie.
Car je suis satisfait, si elle prend à gré
Ce labeur que je voüe à ses pieds consacré.
My son, if you knew what they’ll say of you,
You’d never want to leave my home,
But stay shut away in my study; you wouldn’t want yourself
Dirtied or leafed thorough by the crowd’s hands.
When you’ve gone, never to return,
You’ll have to live like a stranger far from me :
“For as the wind flies off without returning,
So, without hope of returning, the word escapes.”
 
And you are my word, to whom night and day
I have told the ideas which Love told me,
So I could put them into these verses which you take into the light,
Picking the locks of the doors of my room in defiance of me,
Poor thing, who know not that our citizens have
Sharper noses than the rhinoceros.
 
So, before trying the sea and shipwreck,
See the storm from port, and stay on the shore.
“Early to board, late to repent.”
 
Every day you’ll be mocked by ill-wishers,
With their eyes, their lifted noses, and a shake of the head.
“Wise the man who believes a person who gives good advice.”
 
You know, my dear child, that I have no desire
To deceive you: I would have to be shameless, contrary to nature
And a serpent with an untamed nature
If I sought to betray my own offspring,
For just as you are, I recently made you,
And I love you no less than a father loves his son.
 
Yet you still wish to go? And the more I wish
To keep you at home, the more you pull at the bit.
Go on then, since you want to, but I beg you
To answer everyone as I will tell you,
So that you, my son, protect in my absence
Your father’s – my own! – honour and innocence.
 
If some honest lady of noble heart,
Who is horrified by inconstancy and change,
On reading you reproves me with a heavy frown
That I ought not to have forgotten my Cassandre,
Who was first to shoot the arrow of love into my heart,
And that good old Petrarch committed no such sin,
Being thirty-one years in love with his lady
Without any other ever being able to set his soul ablaze,
Then reply to her, I beg, that Petrarch had
No authority over me to subject me to his law,
Nor those others who came after him, to make us
Love so long a time without breaking our ties.
 
He himself was not like that; for if you look at what he wrote
He was a sharp man, with too noble a spirit
To be a fool for thirty years, wasting his youth
And his Muse in the lap of an old mistress.
Either he enjoyed his little Laura, or he was
Indeed a great fool to love but not have her at all.
I can’t believe that, nor is it believable;
No, he enjoyed her, then made her out to be admirable,
Chaste, divine, holy: “The lover should also
Celebrate the beauty from whom he gains his pleasure;
For he who blames her after enjoying her
Is no man, but was born of a tiger.”
 
When some young girl is at the beginning
Cruel, harsh and proud to her first lover,
He must remain constant; it may be that the time
Will come, unexpectedly, which will make her better.
But when she becomes from day to day
Harsher and more contrary, and coarser in love,
You should distance yourself, without wearying yourself
Trying to soften so foolish a beast.
That’s my advice: blame me for it
Or praise me who will, I counsel him thus.
 
Women are often the reason we are
Light and flighty, coaxing men
With bewitching hope, sometimes keeping them
With sweet tricks for a year, or two, or three,
In love’s bonds without relief;
And yet a servant will enjoy them,
Or perhaps some wag will run off with the delight
Which the faithful lover rightly thought his own.
And still they won’t stop, I mean those sly girls
Who have spent their youths in Love’s train,
(It’s certainly the greatest trouble a man can have
To serve a woman used to deception)
[They won’t stop] demanding work which is insupportable,
Cruel service, wretched tasks;
For without regard to the simple love
Of their poor servants, they cruelly have no pity,
No more than a proud corsair, brave and arrogant,
Has pity on the captives in his slave-quarters.
[The lover] has to sell his goods, make presents
Of chains, purses, and shining diamonds;
He must give pearls and magnificent clothes,
He must look after the table and the music,
He must take up her quarrels, and endure them.
Certainly I’d prefer to carry on my back
A basket and clean the Augean stables,
Than to become the servant of a sly Lady.
“The sea really should be feared, the fire as well,
And the sky when it is shaken with thunder,
But much more to be feared is a learned woman
Well-versed in the art of love, when she is a deceiver;
By a thousand tricks she makes a thousand evils,
And she’s as wise as she is a woman.”
Whichever was the god who brought her to life,
He was the prime author of great misery.
 
We ought, with presents consecrated at their altars
To offer bribes for our children with the great, immortal gods,
So they don’t waste their lives with that pleasant evil
Woman, the passion of wretched men,
Wretched and weak insofar as they’re vassals
During their lives of so proud a beast.
I beg you, see how by subtle tricks
They are able to find a thousand fake excuses
After they’ve deceived! Look at Helen after
Troy was burned by the Greeks’ fire,
How she wheedled with sweet flattery
Her fool of a husband, who forgave her vice
And fell in love more than before with her eyes
Which sparkled still with love for Paris.
And what shall we say of Ulysses? While a troop
Of young suitors was making love to Penelope,
Devouring all his goods, yet still he burned
To kiss his wife, and never wished
To become immortal with the beautiful Circe
So as never again to see Penelope, whom
Weeping he wanted to tell about his wearisome journey,
While in his absence she was making love:
So much so that the god Pan was born from their frolics
(The common seed of her and her dandies)
As she immediately sent, to make things easier for her,
The son to seek his father in the city of Sparta.
“That is how woman with her cunning defeats
Man, whose spirit overcomes all the animals.”
 
If by chance you might fortunately choose
Some fair mistress, and have her for your pleasure,
No matter if she’s from a high or low place provided she is
A humble, courteous, honest, loving and gentle girl,
Without disguise, without trickery, who without wickedness
Keeps with all her heart her simple love,
Much preferring to be put to death a hundred times
Than to break her word when she has promised it;
Then you must honour her while you live
As a rare jewel most infrequently found.
“He certainly deserves the hottest fires
Of terrible storms upon his head
Who deceives a maid, especially when
She gives herself to us heart and body.“
 
Isn’t it a great delight when we’re travelling
To meet someone who with equal bravery
Wishes to a company us and like us to journey
Over torrents and rocks, tiresome to cross?
And isn’t it a great delight to find a girl
Who helps us on this life’s wretched journey,
Who without being burdened or full of harshness
Treats her lover’s heart faithfully?
 
Tell them, then, if perchance the fair Cassandre
Had showed herself a little courteous and tender towards me,
And full of pity had sought to cure
The ills with which her fair eyes had put me to death those ten years;
If not with her body but with just a single glance
She’d been willing to soothe my poor, ill heart,
I’d not have left her, let my witness be
That young winged child who watches over love-affairs.
 
But seeing how she always continued more proud
I unbound myself from all my first love
To love with it another in the country of Anjou,
Where Love now keeps me under his yoke.
[A love] which I will immediately abandon if she
Is to me as Cassandre was, proud and rebellious,
To find another, so that one day I may see
My love returned with an equal love,
Feeling the affection of another within myself:
“For a man is a complete fool to love if he isn’t loved.”
 
So, if someone afterwards chooses to blame me that
I am no more as grave in my verse as I was
At the beginning, when the Pindaric mood
Puffed up in swollen words my magniloquent voice;
Then tell him that love does not sigh
In high-flown grave verse, but in a fine low style,
Pleasant and popular, like that of Tibullus,
The ingenious Ovid and the learned Catullus.
The son of Venus hates ostentation:
Enough that we sing his passions to him truly
Without bombast or disguise, in a charming sweet style
Flowing with a gentle sound like a tinkling spring.
Those who do otherwise do a bad turn
To simple Venus and her son Love.
 
If it should happen one day that with bold voice
I enliven the stage with some tragedy
Grave and sententious, then I shall show
How loud the strings of my little learning can sound.
And if I encounter passion in my verse
I shall boldly set my Muses against it,
And make a tragic dialogue resound with high-flown
And serious tones (assuming the tragic buskin).
But while I focus on the passions of Love,
In lower style I prefer to employ a sweeter Muse.
 
I do not want these verses, stripped of ornament,
To enter some school, or a worthy regent
To read me for show; it’s enough if my beloved
Touches it with the hand in which she holds my life.
For I am satisfied if she approves
This work which I dedicate, consecrated, at her feet.
 
 
 

 

A few words of commentary on these 200 lines:- the rhinoceros (or, in the earlier version, elephant) has a ‘subtle’ nose, one good for smelling out the good and the bad: ‘sharp’, we could more easily say in English, but while it’s obvious which sort of ‘sharpness’ the elephant’s nose has, it’s perhaps less so for the rhinoceros where a ‘sharp’ nose could refer to its horn not its sensitivity.- Ronsard’s cynicism about Petrarch’s chaste relationship with Laura is perhaps also a corrective to those scholars who think Ronsard’s own affairs were more imagined than real?  His harsh words about women, implicitly applied to Cassandra, should not be taken too literally: he speaks elsewhere of still loving her.

– there’s a cluster of classical references in the middle of the poem:  the Augean stables, cleaning whose filth was one of Heracles’ ‘impossible’ tasks;  Helen of Troy, taken back by Menelaus after Troy’s fall as she was still the most beautiful woman in the world, though her continuing love for Paris is largely a Ronsardian invention (in Homer, she and Menelaus are genuinely reconciled)

– Ronsard invents, too, Penelope’s unfaithfulness to Odysseus with her troop of suitors – in the Odyssey she famously remains loyal; his son Telemachus journeys to Sparta seeking information from Menelaus at the goddess Athene’s prompting, not sent away by Penelope; and Circe did not offer Odysseus immortality but threatened to turn him into a pig like his followers!  Ronsard has, ironically because it would be obvious to all his readers, twisted the Greek tale on its head. However, at the same time he demonstrates his wide and deep reading: in a pretty obscure Pindar fragment, but as far as I know nowhere else, Penelope is indeed said to be Pan’s mother (the father, though, Apollo not one or several human suitors!)

– where Ronsard turns to his new love in Anjou, he says “Je desliay du tout mon amitié premiere, / Pour en aimer une autre en ce païs d’Anjou“; that “en” technically means that he is giving Marie his first love, transferring it from Cassandre: this is not a new love, but the old one with a new subject.

– for the really interested, “empoulément” is ampoulément, from the same root as ampoule, a ‘swollen’ bulb of glass.

– Ronsard contrasts the style of Pindar – the great Greek poet of Odes – with that of Tibullus, Ovid and Catullus: Romans, but principally contrasted as love-poets and slightly licentious ones at that. (The ‘son of Venus’ is of course Cupid, god of love.)

 

 

See the next post for Blanchemain’s earlier version with its many variants.

 

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Amours 2:59

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Amour voulut le corps de ceste mousche prendre,
Qui fait courir les bœufs en esté par les bois,
Puis il choisit un trait de ceux de son carquois,
Qui piquant sçait le mieux dedans les cœurs descendre.
 
Il eslongna ses mains, et feit son arc estendre
En croissant, qui se courbe aus premiers jours du mois,
Puis me lascha le trait contre qui le harnois
D’Achille ny d’Hector ne se pourroit defendre.
 
Apres qu’il m’eut blessé en riant s’en-vola,
Et par l’air mon penser avec luy s’en-alla.
Penser va-t’en au Ciel, la terre est trop commune.
 
Adieu Amour adieu, adieu penser adieu :
Ny l’un ny l’autre en moy vous n’aurez plus de lieu :
Tousjours l’un me maistrise, et l’autre m’importune.
 
 
 
                                                                            Love decided to take on the body of that fly
                                                                            Which makes cattle run through the woods in the summer,
                                                                            Then he chose an arrow from those in his quiver,
                                                                            A sharp one which is best at sinking into the heart.
 
                                                                            He stretched out his hands, and made his bow stretch
                                                                            Like the moon curving in the first days of the month,
                                                                            Then he released at me his arrow, against which the armour
                                                                            Of Achilles or Hector could not defend.
 
                                                                            After he’d wounded me he flew off laughing
                                                                            And my thoughts went off into the air with him.
                                                                            Thoughts, go off to heaven, the earth is too common.
 
                                                                            Farewell Love, farewell; farewell thoughts, farewell.
                                                                            Neither the one nor the other of you will any longer have a place in me.
                                                                            Always one is telling me what to do, the other begging me.
 
 
 
An entirely gratuitous Iliad reference in the second quatrain, Achilles and Hector being the heroes on each side of the Trojan War; but here representative purely of any armoured figure. And, although beginning with the image of the gadfly, Ronsard ignores it after the opening couplet. So, in the end, a relatively standard presentation of the image of love and his arrows – the main interest therefore being in the final tercet with its unusual outcome!
 
Blanchemain sees this poem as a ‘madrigal’, i.e. it has an extra line (4-4-3-4 instead of 4-4-3-3). Apart from a minor adjustment in line 3 (“Puis il choisit un trait sur tous ceux du carquois…”, ‘Then he chose an arrow from all those in his quiver’), he offers a completely different, but much more ‘standard’ (and less surprising) ending. Here’s the second jalf of the poem again in his version:
 
Apres qu’il m’eut blessé en riant s’en-vola,
Et par l’air mon penser avec luy s’en-alla ;
Mais toutesfois au cœur me demoura la playe,
 
Laquelle pour néant cent fois le jour j’essaye
De la vouloir guerir ; mais tel est son effort
Que je voy bien qu’il faut que maugré moy je l’aye,
Et que pour la guerir le remede est la mort.
 
 

                                                                            After he’d wounded me he flew off laughing

                                                                            And my thoughts went off into the air with him.
                                                                            But still the wound remained in my heart,
 
                                                                            Which I fruitlessly try a hundred times a day
                                                                            To get it cured; but such is its strength
                                                                            That I well see I’ll have to keep it despite myself,

                                                                            And that the remdey for curing it is death.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amours retranch. 2

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A ton frere Pâris tu sembles en beauté,
A ta sœur Polyxene en chaste conscience,
A ton frere Helenin en prophete science,
A ton parjure ayeul en peu de loyauté,
 
A ton père Priam en brave Royauté,
Au viellard Antenor en mielleuse eloquence,
A ta tante Antigone en superbe arrogance,
A ton grand frere Hector en fiere cruauté.
 
Neptune n’assit onc une pierre si dure
Dedans le mur Troyen, que toy pour qui j’endure
Un million de morts, ny Ulysse vainqueur
 
N’emplit tant Ilion de feux, de cris, et d’armes,
De souspirs, et de pleurs, que tu combles mon cœur,
Sans l’avoir mérité, de sanglots, et de larmes
 
 
 
 
                                                                            You are like your brother Paris in beauty,
                                                                            Your sister Polyxena in chaste conscience,
                                                                            Your brother Helenus in prophetic skill,
                                                                            Your perjured grandfather [Laomedon] in faithlessness,
 
                                                                            Your father Priam in regal pride,
                                                                            Old Antenor in honeyed speech,
                                                                            Your aunt Antigone in magnificent arrogance,
                                                                            Your great brother Hector in proud cruelty.
 
                                                                            Neptune never placed a stone so hard
                                                                            In Troy’s walls as you, for whom I endure
                                                                            A million deaths, nor did conquering Ulysses
 
                                                                            Fill Ilium so full of fires, cries, arms,
                                                                            Sighs and laments, as you fill my heart –
                                                                            Which does not deserve it – with sobs and tears.

 

 

After that recent poem on reading Homer, another which demonstrates the effect of that reading! It’s possible that the family tree of the royal house of Troy may not be too familiar to you(!) so here’s a very useful quick summary:  several of the names above are highlighted to make navigation easy. The basic assumption is that ‘you’ (=Cassandre) are equivalent to the prophetess Cassandra of Troy.
 
Many of the references are not just to the characters but to the relevant myths:
 – Paris, so handsome that he was chosen to judge the goddesses’ beauty & gained Helen’s love;
 – Polyxena, whose calm wisdom encouraged Achilles (having captured her) to trust her with the information that led to his death, and who (in Euripides) nobly accepts her death as a sacrifice to Achilles’ ghost;
 – Helenus, Cassandra’s twin and also endowed with prophetic powers;
 – Laomedon, perjured because he persuaded Neptune to build Troy’s great walls (see line 9) but then refused to give the promised reward;
 – Priam, whose pride kept the war going (but who was capable of humbling himself before Achilles, to recover his son Hector’s body, in a truly noble/regal way);
 – Antenor, not a family member but Priam’s closest and wisest advisor (and an advocate for peace in the war);
 – Antigone, whose ‘arrogance’ is the centre of Sophocles’ play as her stubbornness leads to confrontation with the state and general tragedy;
 – Hector, generally considered a noble hero, but who of course has a long list of victims in the Iliad. Generally, Achilles not Hector is seen as the proudly cruel one!
 
Which leaves us only with the reference to Ulysses, who is responsible for the fall of Troy because he came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse.
 
Unusually for a poem that has been set aside, there is a variant in Blanchemain’s version at the beginning of the last line:
 
                          … que tu combles mon cœur,
De brasiers et de morts, de sanglots, et de larmes
 
                                                                                                    … as you fill my heart
                                                                            With fire and death, with sobs and tears.
 
 
 
 

Le Chant des Sereines (Amours 2:67e)

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“The Song of the Sirens” is based around the episode in the Odyssey (in book 12) when Odysseus – Ulysses to the Romans – sails past the Sirens’ island but, while his men are warned to stop up their ears so they cannot hear the alluring song, Odysseus has himself bound tightly to the mast and keeps his ears open…
 
Fameux Ulysse, honneur de tous les Grecs,
De nostre bord approche toy plus pres,
Ne single point sans prester les oreilles
A noz chansons, et tu oirras merveilles.
 
Nul estranger de passer a soucy
Par ceste mer sans aborder icy,
Et sans contraindre un petit son voyage,
Pour prendre port à nostre beau rivage :
Puis tout joyeux les ondes va tranchant,
Ravy d’esprit, tant doux est nostre chant,
Ayant appris de nous cent mille choses,
Que nous portons en l’estomach encloses.
 
Nous sçavons bien tout cela qui s’est fait,
Quand Ilion par les Grecs fut desfait :
Nous n’ignorons une si longue guerre,
Ny tout cela qui se fait sur la terre.
Doncques retiens ton voyage entrepris,
Tu apprendras, tant sois-tu bien appris.
 
Ainsi disoit le chant de la Serene,
Pour arrester Ulysse sur l’arene,
Qui attaché au mast ne voulut pas
Se laisser prendre à si friands apas :
Mais en fuyant la voix voluptueuse,
Hasta son cours sur l’onde tortueuse,
Sans par l’oreille humer cette poison
Qui des plus grands offense la raison.
 
Ainsi, Jamin, pour sauver ta jeunesse,
Suy le conseil du fin soldat de Grece :
N’aborde point au rivage d’Amour,
Pour y vieillir sans espoir de retour.
« L’Amour n’est rien qu’ardante frenesie,
« Qui de fumee emplist la fantaisie
« D’erreur, de vent et d’un songe importun :
« Car le songer et l’Amour ce n’est qu’un.
Famous Ulysses, honour of all the Greeks,
Approach now nearer our borders,
Sail no more without lending your ears
To our songs, and you will hear marvellous things.
 
No stranger cares to pass
Over this sea without landing here,
And without delaying his journey a little
To seek port on our fair shores;
Then most happy he leaves slicing through the waves,
His spirit delighted, so sweet is our song,
After learning from us a hundred thousand things
Which we carry locked up in our breasts.
 
We know well all that happened
When Troy was destroyed by the Greeks;
We are not unaware of so long a war,
Nor all that which is done on earth.
So, defer the voyage you’ve undertaken,
You will learn much, however learned you are.
 
So spoke the song of the Siren,
To halt Ulysses on the sands,
He who, attached to the mast, did not wish
To allow himself such delightful attractions;
But fleeing the voluptuous voice
He hurried his journey on the winding seas,
Without drinking in through his ears that poison
Which assaults the reason of the greatest.
 
So, Jamin, to rescue your youth,
Follow the counsel of the fine soldier of Greece;
Do not land on the shores of Love,
To grow old there without hope of return.
“Love is nothing but burning madness,
Which fills the imagination with smoke,
Mistakes, empty wind and nagging dreams;
For dreaming and Love are the same thing.”
 
 
Ronsard addresses the poem to Amadis Jamyn (last stanza). Amadis Jamyn was “an excellent poet who translated into [French] verse Homer’s Iliad and part of the Odyssey”, as a learned footnote tells us – thus giving us the reason why the subject is from the Odyssey.
 
Inevitably there are a few differences in Blanchemain’s version, but only a few:  the 6th line of the 2nd stanza becomes “S’en retournant ravy de nostre chant” (‘Looking back delighted with our song’); and in the 4th stanza, Odysseus is very vividly “garroté au mast” (less vividly, ‘bound tight to the mast’ – but obviously the literal meaning is ‘garroted’, tied around the throat so tightly he would choke), and he hurries away “sur l’onde poissonneuse” (‘over the fishy sea’).
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 142

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De ton beau poil en tresses noircissant
Amour ourdit de son arc la ficelle :
Il fit son feu de ta vive etincelle,
Il fit son trait de ton œil brunissant.
 
Son premier coup me rendoit perissant :
Mais son second de la mort me rappelle,
Qui mon ulcere en santé renouvelle,
Et par son coup le coup va guarissant.
 
Ainsi jadis sur la poudre Troyenne,
Du soudart Grec la hache Pelienne,
Du Mysien mit la douleur à fin :
 
Ainsi le trait que ton bel œil me rue,
D’un mesme coup me guarist et me tue.
Hé quelle Parque a filé mon destin !
 
 
 
 
                                                                            From your lovely hair, dark in its braids,
                                                                            Love wove the string of his bow;
                                                                            He made his fire from your bright spark,
                                                                            He made his arrow from your brown eyes.
 
                                                                            His first blow brought me close to dying;
                                                                            But his second called me back from death,
                                                                            It restored to health my wound,
                                                                            And by its blow cured the blow.
 
                                                                            So of old on Trojan soil
                                                                            The Greek soldier’s Pelian axe
                                                                            Put an end to the sadness of the Mysian;
 
                                                                            And so the wound that your fair eyes flung on me
                                                                            With the same blow cured me and killed me.
                                                                            Ah, what Fate has spun my destiny!

 

 

In lines 1 & 4, the “-issant” ending implies that her hair is ‘darkening’, her eyes ‘getting browner’ – but I have used the simple adjective, as I don’t think that’s what Ronsard meant…  (Note – below – that at first Cassandre’s hair was blonde, but later in life Ronsard adjusts the colour to dark! )
 
The reference in lines 10-11 is pretty obscure – another of Ronsard’s learned asides – the more so as it refers to a Trojan War episode outside Homer. Blanchemain’s note tells us “The axe (hache=hatchet) of Achilles, son of Peleus, cured the wounds that it had made”. This is from a story that Achilles first landed at Mysia, some way down the coast from Troy, but mistook it for Troy and attacked it. The Mysian king, Telephus, was wounded by Achilles but the wound would not heal. The Delphic oracles told Telephus that what made the wound would heal it, so he sought Achilles’ help – and, touched by the spear [not the axe!] that made the wound, it was healed. Nowadays the mythical image that might come to mind is Wagner’s Parsifal myth! 
 
Today for a change we have a poem whose ending Ronsard left untouched, but whose beginning was re-crafted. There is a tiny change in line 12 – “Ainsi le trait de ton bel œil me rue” – which swings the meaning around a little to become ‘And so the wound from your fair eyes threw me down’. Otherwise the sestet is identical. Here are the two quatrains in Blanchemain’s version;  I admire the way he re-thought line 3 so completely with only a small change, building the very effective pairing of lines 3-4 in the version at the top.
 
 
 
De ton poil d’or en tresses blondissant
Amour ourdit de son arc la fiscelle ;
Il me tira de ta vive etincelle
Le doux fier trait qui me tient languissant.
 
Du premier coup j’eusse été perissant,
Sans l’autre coup d’une fleche nouvelle
Qui mon ulcere en santé renouvelle,
Et par son coup le coup va guarissant.

 

 
 
                                                                            From your golden locks in their blonde braids,
                                                                            Love wove the string of his bow;
                                                                            He drew for me from your bright spark
                                                                            The sweet noble wound which keeps me pining.
 
                                                                            From the first blow I had been close to dying,
                                                                            Without the other blow from a new arrow
                                                                            Which restored to health my wound,
                                                                            And by its blow cured the blow.

 

 
 
 

Sonnet 51

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Amour a tellement ses fleches enfermees
En mon ame, et ses coups y sont si bien enclos,
Qu’Helene est tout mon cœur, mon sang et mes propos,
Tant j’ay dedans l’esprit ses beautés imprimees.
 
Si les François avoient les ames allumees
D’amour ainsi que moy nous serions en repos :
Les champs de Montcontour n’eussent pourry nos os,
Ny Dreux ny Jazeneuf n’eussent veu nos armees.
 
Venus, va mignarder les moustaches de Mars :
Conjure ton guerrier de tes benins regars,
Qu’il nous donne la paix, et de tes bras l’enserre.
 
Pren pitié des François, race de tes Troyens,
A fin que nous facions en paix la mesme guerre
Qu’Anchise te faisoit sur les monts Ideens.
 
 
 
                                                                              Love has so firmly buried his arrows
                                                                              In my soul, and his blows are so well fixed there
                                                                              That Helen is all my heart, my blood and my thoughts,
                                                                              So much are her beauties imprinted in my spirit.
 
                                                                              If the French had souls burning
                                                                              With love like mine, we would be at peace;
                                                                              The battlefield of Montcontour would not be rotting our bones,
                                                                              Nor would Dreux and Jazeneuf have seen our armies.
 
                                                                              Venus, go and pet Mars’s moustaches,
                                                                              Beg your warrior with your pleasing glances
                                                                              That he might give us peace; hold him tightly in your arms.
 
                                                                              Take pity on the French, descended from your Trojans,
                                                                              That we might make in peace that same war
                                                                              Which Anchises made on you, on the Idaean mountains.
  
 
Richelet helpfully adds a footnote that lines 7-8 refer to ‘places in France marked by the misery of our civil wars‘. There were only 7 major battles in the Wars of Religion. The Battle of Moncontour (in Poitou) was the penultimate and took place on 3 October 1569 – largely between foreign merecenary forces! – with the surrender of 8000 Huguenots; Dreux (near Ronsard’s beloved Loir) was the site of the first major battle of the Wars of Religion on 19 December 1562, which brought the Catholics another hard-won victory; and Jazeneuf (or Jazeneuil) was the third, in late 1568, a relatively minor and even skirmish though it was followed by heavy casualties as the armies over-wintered close to each other.
 
Venus is called on, as Mars’s wife, to calm his desire for war. Venus favoured the Trojans in the Trojan War, and was particularly associated (for instance in Virgil’s Aeneid) with the family of Aeneas, her half-divine son by Anchises.
 
Blanchemain has only one minor variant:  “à repos” for “en repos” in line 6, which has only a slight inflexional difference in meaning.
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 17

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(the 100th post – apparently! – though not the 100th poem; and it’s good to have a poem in which Ronsard really throws himself into the emotions of the blighted lover, with which to celebrate it)

 
Fuyon, mon coeur, fuyon, que mon pied ne s’arreste
Un quart d’heure à Bourgueil, où par l’ire des Dieux
Sur mon vingt et un an, le feu de deux beaux yeux
(Souvenir trop amer) me foudroya la teste.
 
Le Grec qui a senty la meurdriere tempeste
Des rochers Cafarés, abomine tels lieux,
Et s’il les apperçoit, ils luy sont odieux,
Et pour n’y aborder tient sa navire preste.
 
Adieu donc ville adieu, puis qu’en toy je ne fais
Que re-semer le mal dont tousjours je me pais,
Et tousjours refraischir mon ancienne playe.
 
Vivon, mon coeur, vivon sans desirer la mort :
Je ne cours plus fortune, il est temps que j’essaye
Apres tant de rochers de rencontrer le port.
 
 
                                                                      Flee, flee, my heart! May my foot not pause
                                                                      In Bourgueil even for a quarter-hour, or by the anger of the gods
                                                                      On my twenty-one years, the fire of two fair eyes
                                                                      (Too bitter a memory) will strike my head.
 
                                                                      The Greek who felt the murderous tempest
                                                                      At the rocks of Caphareus, abominates such places,
                                                                      And if he ever sees them they are hateful to him
                                                                      And he hastily steers his ship so as not to approach them.
 
                                                                      Farewell then my town, since in you I shall only
                                                                      Re-seed the ills on which I’m always feeding,
                                                                      And always refreshing my old wound.
 
                                                                      Live, live, my heart, without wishing for death;
                                                                      I no longer pursue fortune, it is time to try
                                                                      After so many rocks to reach port.
 
 
The “rochers Cafarés” (“Capharez” in Blanchemain) are the rocks of Caphareus, a cape on the SE coast of the island of Euboea (Greece) where the fleet returning from the Trojan War was shipwrecked; they are thus a symbol of mortal dangers [note by Roland Guillot, to “Oeuvres poetiques de Clovis Hesteau de Nuysement” (1994) ]  ‘The Greek’ in this case is therefore general – any Greek helmsman – though perhaps Ronsard is thinking specifically of Ulysses who avoided shipwreck here but ended up travelling widely before getting home, in the Odyssey.
 
Blanchemain has a different line 2 – see below – which prompts him to add the note “the latest editions mention Bourgueil, this is because the sonnet was written in Blois and originally addressed to Cassandre; it was only later applied to Marie.”  
 
Once again, with variations throughout, it is perhaps easiest to give the whole sonnet again, with the differences highlighted – except where Blanchemain simply re-spells or re-punctuates:
 
 
Fuyons, mon coeur, fuyons ; que mon pied ne s’arreste
Une heure en cette ville, où, par l’ire des Dieux,
Sur mes vingt et un ans le feu de deux beaux yeux
(Souvenir trop amer ! ) me foudroya la teste.
 
Le Grec qui a senty la meurdriere tempeste
Des rochers Capharez abomine tels lieux,
Et, s’il les voit de loin, ils luy sont odieux,
Et pour les eviter tient sa navire preste.
 
Adieu donc, ville, adieu, puis qu’en toy je ne fais
Que tousjours re-semer le mal dont je me pais,
Et tousjours refraischir mon ancienne playe.
 
Vivons, mon coeur, vivons sans desirer la mort ;
C‘est trop souffert de peine, il est temps que j’essaye
Apres mille perils de rencontrer le port.
 
 
                                                                      Flee, flee, my heart! May my foot not pause
                                                                      In this town even for an hour, or by the anger of the gods
                                                                      On my twenty-one years, the fire of two fair eyes
                                                                      (Too bitter a memory!) will strike my head.
 
                                                                      The Greek who felt the murderous tempest
                                                                      At the rocks of Caphareus, abominates such places,
                                                                      And if he sees them far off they are hateful to him
                                                                      And he hastily steers his ship to avoid them.
 
                                                                      Farewell then my town, since in you I shall only
                                                                      Re-seed the ills on which I’m always feeding,
                                                                      And always refreshing my old wound.
 
                                                                      Live, live, my heart, without wishing for death;
                                                                      Too much pain has been suffered, it is time to try
                                                                      After a thousand dangers to reach port.