Tag Archives: Troy

Helen 2:10

Adieu belle Cassandre, et vous belle Marie,
Pour qui je fu trois ans en servage à Bourgueil :
L’une vit, l’autre est morte, et ores de son œil
Le ciel se resjouist dont la terre est marrie.
Sur mon premier Avril, d’une amoureuse envie
J’adoray vos beautez : mais vostre fier orgueil
Ne s’amollit jamais pour larmes ny pour dueil,
Tant d’une gauche main la Parque ourdit ma vie.
Maintenant en Automne encore malheureux
Je vy comme au Printemps de nature amoureux,
A fin que tout mon âge aille au gré de la peine.
Ores que je deusse estre affranchi du harnois,
Mon maistre Amour m’envoye à grands coups de carquois,
R’assieger Ilion pour conquerir Heleine.
                                                                            Farewell my lovely Cassandre, and you, lovely Marie,
                                                                            For whom I spent three years of servitude in Bourgueil ;
                                                                            The one lives on, the other is dead, and now heaven
                                                                            Rejoices in her eyes, to the earth’s regret.
                                                                            In the April of my youth I adored your beauties
                                                                            With an eager love ; but your arrogant pride
                                                                            Never softened for tears or grief :
                                                                            Fate has so left-handedly woven my life.
                                                                            Now in my autumn, still unfortunate,
                                                                            I live as in Spring amorous by nature,
                                                                            So that all my age goes at trouble’s wish.
                                                                            Now, when I ought to be free of war’s harness,
                                                                            Love my master sends me with great blows from his quiver
                                                                            To besiege Troy again, to conquer Helen.
If you ask me, this is not only a fine poem but the neatest of Ronsard’s summaries of his poetic career.
I’ve no intention of pulling it apart, but here’s a couple of small notes. In mythology Fate ‘weaves’ (line 8) the thread of everyone’s lives; weaving left-handed – like the word ‘sinister’ (left-hand in Latin) – brings misfortune. And you don’t need the reference to Helen of Troy explained again … But Richelet does so anyway: “Troy, where Helen was held. He speaks in several places of this love-affair as if his mistress was the Helen of Greece who stirred up so many wars. Thus Petrarch speaks of his Laura as that Daphne with whom Apollo was in love.”
Blanchemain’s version offers minor changes in the last tercet:
Et, ore que je deusse estre exempt du harnois,
Mon colonnel m’envoye à grands coups de carquois,
Rassieger Ilion pour conquerir Heleine.


                                                                            And now, when I ought to be free of war’s harness,
                                                                            My colonel sends me with great blows from his quiver
                                                                            To besiege Troy again, to conquer Helen.
“Ores que” is better than “Et ore que” with its hiatus, consistent with Ronsard’s desire to make the near-perfect that much more perfect. That it was not a straight-line process is made clear by the variant of line 4 Blanchemain also provides from 1578:  “Le ciel se resjouist dans la terre est Marie” (‘Heaven rejoices, Marie is in the ground’). Frankly, it’s a terrible soundalike for the line in the ‘definitive version’, not just because it sounds as if Heaven is rejoicing because Marie is dead, but also because rhyming ‘Marie’ with ‘Marie’ is undeniably feeble.

Helen 2:19

Helene fut occasion que Troye
Se vit brusler d’un feu victorieux :
Vous me bruslez du foudre de vos yeux,
Et aux Amours vous me donnez en proye.
En vous servant vous me monstrez la voye
Par vos vertus de m’en-aller aux Cieux,
Ravy du nom qu’Amour malicieux
Me tire au cœur, quelque part que je soye.
Nom tant de fois par Homere chanté,
Seul tout le sang vous m’avez enchanté :
O beau visage engendré d’un beau Cygne,
De mes pensers la fin et le milieu !
Pour vous aimer mortel je ne suis digne :
A la Deesse il appartient un Dieu.
                                                                            Helen was the cause that Troy
                                                                            Found itself burning in victorious fire;
                                                                            You burn me with the lightning of your eyes
                                                                            And give me over as prey to Cupid.
                                                                            In serving you, you show me the way
                                                                            To reach heaven by your virtues,
                                                                            Enraptured by the name which malicious Cupid
                                                                            Has shot into my heart, wherever I might be.
                                                                            O name so often sung by Homer,
                                                                            You alone have enchanted all my blood;
                                                                            O fair face born of a fair Swan,
                                                                            Beginning and end of all my thoughts!
                                                                            To love you I, a mortal, am not worthy;
                                                                            To this goddess should belong some god.
Although this poem has many attractive features, in my view there are some really weak ‘filler’ moments. For instance, why would Troy be burning in ‘victorious’ fire – obviously the fire overcomes Troy, but it requires a sudden shift of perspective to follow. Worse, īthe second half of line 8 has no real meaning,doubly so in the context of the first half: pure ‘filler’. Line 12 – though here I’m niggling – also literally says that Helen’s face is the “end and middle” of his thoughts; even allowing for poetic inversion, I’m not sure ‘middle and end’ is driven by anything other than metre.
Well, enough complaining! In other respects a neat, classically-allusive tribute to his fair lady. The references to Troy being burned because of Helen, and to Homer’s frequent mentions of Helen, need no more explanation;bu it might be useful to be reminded that Helen was said to be the daughter of Leda, who was famously wooed by Jupiter in the form of a swan (line 11).
Blanchemain’s edition moves this poem to the ‘retranchées’, and substitutes a completely different text. Maybe he (and Ronsard) were also struck by the weaknesses of this one …


Amours 1.190

Tousjours l’erreur qui seduit les Menades,
Ne deçoit pas leurs cerveaux estonnez :
Tousjours au son des cornets entonnez
Les monts Troyens ne foulent de gambades.
Tousjours le Dieu des vineuses Thyades
N’affolle pas leurs cœurs espoinçonnez,
Et quelquefois leurs esprits forcenez
Cessent leur rage, et ne sont plus malades.
Le Corybante a quelquefois repos,
Et le Curet sous les armes dispos,
Ne sent tousjours le Tan de sa Deesse :
Mais la fureur de celle qui me joint,
En patience une heure ne me laisse,
Et de ses yeux tousjours le cœur me poind.
                                                                            Not always does the error which led the Maenads astray
                                                                            Deceive their stunned brains;
                                                                            Not always to the sound of braying trumpets
                                                                            Do they throng the Trojan hills with their capers;
                                                                            Not always does the god of the wine-soaked Thyades
                                                                            Madden their excited hearts,
                                                                            And sometimes their frenzied minds
                                                                            Cease their madness, and are ill no more.
                                                                            The Corybant sometimes rests,
                                                                            And the Curete, under arms,
                                                                            Does not always feel the mark of her goddess;
                                                                            But the madness for her which encloses me
                                                                            Leaves me not an hour at peace,
                                                                            And with her eyes my heart always wounds me. 
Ronsard’s “tousjours” I have translated as ‘always’ – but there is a subsidiary meaning in the French which only gets eliminated towards the end, which is ‘still’ – ‘the Maenads are not still running around the hills of Troy, the Thyades are no longer maddened…’ But with the sestet it becomes clear that he is not contrasting ‘then’ and ‘now’, but ‘not always’ and ‘always’. (Incidentally, while “tousjours … ne” works in French, ‘always doesn’t’ seems to me to mean something slightly different from ‘doesn’t always’ in English!)
What of all these names? The Maenads are famous from Euripides’ play of the same name: followers of Dionysus/Bacchus, as were the ‘wine-soaked Thyades’. Maenads (=’maddened ones’) certainly came from or worshipped in the hills, but not specifically Trojan hills. Both were known for the frenzy of their celebrations, ecstatic dancing leading to trance and the loss of inhibition – often leading to violent excess. Corybants were followers of Cybele (another Asian goddess – the Greeks always viewed Asia with suspicion), and Curetes of Rhea – who is often in turn associated with Cybele. They too were known for their ecstatic rites, or as Muret footnotes it ‘when they sacrificed they were seized by a madness which made them run, shout & jump as if out of their minds’.
Minor variants in Blanchemain: here’s the whole poem again to avoid a string of picky amendments. Note how in lines 2 and 7 this earlier version had in-line alliteration which Ronsard later chose to make much more subtle by simply switching the words.
Tousjours l’erreur qui seduit les Ménades
Ne deçoit pas leurs esprits estonnez ;
Toujours au son des cornets entonnez
Les monts troyens ne foulent de gambades.
Tousjours le Dieu des vineuses Thyades
N’affolle pas leurs cœurs espoinçonnez,
Et quelquefois leurs cerveaux forcenez
Cessent leur rage, et ne sont plus malades.
Le Corybante a quelquefois repos,
Et le Curet, sous les armes dispos,
Sent par saisons le tan de sa déesse ;
Mais la fureur de celle qui me joint
En patience une heure ne me laisse,
Et de ses yeux tousjours le cœur me point.
                                                                            Not always does the error which led the Maenads astray
                                                                            Deceive their stunned minds;
                                                                            Not always to the sound of braying trumpets
                                                                            Do they throng the Trojan hills with their capers;
                                                                            Not always does the god of the wine-soaked Thyades
                                                                            Madden their excited hearts,
                                                                            And sometimes their frenzied brains
                                                                            Cease their madness, and are ill no more.
                                                                            The Corybant sometimes rests,
                                                                            And the Curete, under arms,
                                                                            From time to time feels the mark of her goddess;
                                                                            But the madness for her which encloses me
                                                                            Leaves me not an hour at peace,
                                                                            And with her eyes my heart always wounds me.
 Blanchemain also offers us a variant of the final tercet:
Mais la beauté qui me pousse en erreur
En patience une heure ne me laisse :
« Le sang qui boust est toujours en fureur. »
                                                                            But the beauty which drives me to errors
                                                                            Leaves me not an hour at peace:
                                                                            “The blood which boils is always maddened.” 

Amours retranch. 2

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.

Chanson (Am. 1:227d)

D’un gosier masche-laurier
     J’oy crier
Dans Lycofron ma Cassandre,
Qui prophetize aux Troyens
     Les moyens
Qui les reduiront en cendre.
Mais ces pauvres obstinez
Pour ne croire à leur Sibylle,
Virent, bien que tard, apres
     Les feux Grecs
Forcener parmy leur ville.
Ayant la mort dans le sein,
     De la main
Plomboient leur poitrine nue,
Et tordant leurs cheveux gris,
     De longs cris
Pleuroient qu’ils ne l’avoient creuëe.
Mais leurs cris n’eurent pouvoir
Les Grecs si chargez de proye,
Qu’ils ne laisserent sinon
     Que le nom
De ce qui fut jadis Troye.
Ainsi pour ne croire pas,
     Quand tu m’as
Predit ma peine future :
Et que je n’aurois en don,
     Pour guerdon
De t’aimer, que la mort dure :
Un grand brasier sans repos,
     Et mes os,
Et mes nerfs, et mon cœur brûle :
Et pour t’amour j’ay receu
     Plus de feu,
Que ne fit Troye incredule.
With her laurel-chewing throat
     I hear calling
In Lycophron my Cassandra,
Prophesying to the Trojans
     The way
They’ll be reduced to ashes.
But those poor obstinate men,
Not to believe their Sybil,
Saw afterwards, though too late,
     Greek fire
Raging through their town.
With death in their hearts,
     With their hands
They sheathed their naked breasts in lead
And tearing their grey hairs
     With long cries
They wept that they had not believed her.
But their cries had no power
     To move
The Greeks, so laden with loot
That they left nothing
     But the name
Of what once was Troy.
So, for not believing
     When you told me
Of my future pain,
And that I should gain only,
     As trophy
For loving you, the gift of harsh death,
A great fire ceaselessly
My bones and nerves and heart,
And for your love I’ve had
     More fire
Than made Troy astonished.


I’m uncomfortable with the opening line: Ronsard’s “masche-laurier” is hard to capture I feel  (EDIT – see below & Patrice’s useful clarification in the comments). But it would be a pity not to attempt the poem: it’s a marvellous one, I think, with the balance between 4 stanzas of Troy and two of Cassandre (or 2+2+2 if you prefer) and the clear link between the ‘ancient’ Cassandra and the ‘modern’, and the literal burning and the metaphorical.  Most of this is a straightforward and familiar recital of the Trojan legend, but Muret helps us with the odd reference to Lycophron:  ‘Lycophron, a native of Chalcis, was one of the seven poets who flourished in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, and who were called the Pleiade. This Lycophron wrote a poem called Cassandra, which alone has survived to this day, in which he depicts her predicting the evils which are to come to the town of Troy’.  Thus we see Ronsard managing to refer back to the original Pleaid of Alexandrian poets in the Hellenistic period of Greece, which gave its name to the ‘modern’ Pleiade of Ronsard, Baif and the others.
No variants to report from Blanchemain’s earlier version (!)
More on the opening line:  following Patrice’s hint, I have gone and looked up Lycophron. As often with Ronsard, the learned reference isn’t as difficult to locate as you might think: in fact, it’s in the 6th line of the 1500 line poem… The opening, in a Victorian translation I’ve borrowed from www.theoi.com, goes: “All will I tell truly that thou askest from the utter beginning, and if the tale be prolonged, forgive me, master. For not quietly as of old did the maiden loose the varied voice of her oracles, but poured forth a weird confused cry, and uttered wild words from her bay-chewing mouth, imitating the speech of the dark Sphinx.”  The Greek word is “Daphne-phagon” – laurel- or bay-eating – at the beginning of line 6 below
Further edit:  Ronsard also used this concept in Odes 1.11, strophe 5, where he writes of Phoebus (Apollo):
Lequel m’encharge de chanter
Son Du-Bellay, pour le vanter
Sur tous ses enfans qui ont bien
Masché du Laurier Delphien.
                                                           He who charged me to sing
                                                           Of his Du Bellay, to praise him
                                                           Above all those of his children who have
                                                           Well-chewed the Delphic laurel.

Hymn for King Henry III, King of France, for the Victory at Montcontour (Hymn 1:9)


For those who prefer poetry to music, here’s one of Ronsard’s hymns. Apparently the king liked this one so much he learned it by heart and would recite it regularly to his courtiers – or enjoy hearing others recite it!

Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
   Fier et fort,
Dessous l’aile de sa mere,
Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
   Aux Dragons
Fait guerre sortant de l’aire :
Tel qu’un jeune Lyonneau
   Tout nouveau
Quittant caverne et bocage,
Pour premier combat assaut
   D’un cœur haut
Quelque grand Taureau sauvage :
Tel aux desens de vos dos,
Sentistes ce jeune Prince,
Fils de Roy, frere de Roy,
   Dont la Foy
Merite une autre Province.
A peine sur son menton
   Un cotton
De soye se laisse espandre ;
Jeune trompant le trompeur,
   S’est sans peur
Monstré digne d’Alexandre.
Il a guidant ses guerriers,
   De Lauriers
Orné son front et sa bande :
Et Capitaine parfait,
   Sa main fait
Ce qu’aux autres il commande.
Il a tranché le lien
Pour nos bonnes destinées :
Il a coupé le licol
   Qui au col
Nous pendoit des huit années.
Il a d’un glaive trenchant
   Au mechant
Coupé la force et l’audace,
Il a des ennemis morts
   Les grans corps
Fait tomber dessus la place.
Ils ont esté combatus,
Terrassez dessus la poudre,
Comme chesnes esbranchez,
Dessous l’esclat d’une foudre.
De sang gisent tous couverts
   A l’envers,
Tesmoins de sa main vaillante :
Ilz ont esté foudroyez,
Sur les bors de la Charante.
Charante qui prend son nom
A tels esprits sert de guide,
Les passant comme en bateau
   Par son eau
Au rivage Acherontide.
Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
   Le repas
Des mastins sans sepulture,
Et sans honneur de tombeaux 
   Les corbeaux
Mangent leur chair pour pasture.
Ny le tranchant coutelas,
   Ny le bras,
Ny force à la guerre adextre
Ne sert de rien à la fin
   Au plus Fin,
Quand il se prend à son maistre.
Du fort pere vient l’enfant
   Trionfant :
Le cheval ensuit sa race,
Le chien qui de bon sang part,
   Va gaillard
De luy-mesmes à la chasse.
Ainsi Pyrrhe Achillien
   Du Troyen
Coupa la guerre ancienne,
Ruant en l’âge où tu es
   Les feux Grecs
Dedans la ville Troyenne.
Ainsi Prince valeureux,
   Et heureux,
Tu mets fin à nostre guerre,
Qui depuis huit ans passez
Nous tenoit les cœurs en serre.
Ce que les vieux n’avoyent sceu,
   Tu l’as peu
Parachever en une heure ;
Aussi Prince de bon-heur,
   Tout l’honneur
Sans compagnon t’en demeure.
A Dieu grace nous rendons,
   Et fendons
L’air sous l’hynne de victoire,
Poussant gaillars et joyeux
   Jusqu’aux Cieux,
Ton nom tes faits et ta gloire.
Et soit au premier resveil
   Du Soleil,
Soit qu’en la mer il s’abaisse,
Tousjours nous chantons Henry
De Mars et de la jeunesse.
As a little eagle comes out,
   Bold and strong,
From beneath its mother’s wing
And with long, hooked talons
   Makes war
On dragons, coming from the air;
As a young lion,
Quiting cave and woodland
For its first fight attacks
   With high courage
Some great, savage bull;
So, to the cost of your hides,
You felt this young Prince:
The son of a King, the brother of a King
   Whose faithfulness
Deserves another demesne.
Hardly on his chin
   Had the silken
Fluff begun to sprout;
Young, deceiving the deceiver,
   He fearlessly showed
Himself worthy of Alexander.
Guiding his warriors, he has
   With laurels
Adorned his brow and his troop,
And, the perfect captain,
   His hand does
What he commands others to do.
He cut the knot
   Of Gordium
To make our future good,
He cut the halter
   Which for eight years
Has hung around our necks.
With his slicing blade he has
   Cut off
The strength and daring of the wicked,
He has made the dead enemies’
   Great corpses
Fall upon the ground.
They were fought,
   Beaten down,
Crushed into the dust
Like oaks lopped down,
Under a bursting thunderbolt.
Covered in blood they all lie
Witnesses to his valiant hand.
They were crushed,
   Turned to dust,
On the banks of the Charente.
The Charente, which takes its name
   From Acheron,
Acted as guide to those spirits,
Passing them, as if in boats,
   Through its waters
To the banks of Acheron.
They are catapulted down,
   A meal
For dogs, without burial
And without the honour of tombs;
Feast on their flesh.
Neither the slicing cutlass,
   Nor an arm
Or strength suited to war
Offer any help in the end
   To the finest
When he takes himself to his master.
From a powerful father comes a son
The horse follows his breeding,
The dog which comes from a good bloodline
   Happily goes
Off to the hunt by himself.
Thus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles,
   Cut short
The ancient war of the Trojan,
Hurling down in the age in which you are
   Those who once were Greek
Within the city of Troy.
So, valorous and fortunate
You have made an end of our wars
Which for the last eight years
Us all, squeezing our hearts.
What the ancients could not do,
   You have managed
To complete in a single hour;
So Prince of good fortune,
   All the glory
Rests with you and you alone.
To God we give thanks
   And shatter
The air with our victory song;
Shouting gaily and joyously
   To the heavens
Your name, your deeds and your glory.
Whether at the first rising
   Of the sun,
Or when he sets in the sea,
We continuously sing of Henry,
Of Mars and of our youth.


 Plenty of classical and other learning in here, so let’s add a few notes. 
Stanzas 3-4 reminds us that this was a period of considerable Catholic-Protestant tension. The Battle of Montcontour was in 1569, during the Third War of Religion, and was (as suggested in stanza 16) decisive. Sadly it did not end the strife; the famous St Bartholomew’s Day massacre took place three years later in 1572 (when Ronsard was in his late 40s). Henry, who was only 18 at the time of the battle, came to the throne in 1574.
In stanza 6, the reference to Gordium goes back to Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot – a symbol of future rule over Asia and of future victories, hence its appropriate use here. But the knot is also proverbially used as a symbol of insoluble problems; and any claim that Henry III resolved the Wars of Religion at Montcontour can only be considered optimistic…!
In stanzas 9-10 Ronsard makes the fanciful claim that the river Charente derives its name from Acheron, the river of Hades. It gives him a good image but seems unlikely. (Montcontour is in the Poitou-Charentes region.)
Pyrrhus (in stanza 14) is another name for Neoptolemus, the rather angry and aggressive son of Achilles who killed old men, boys & women (Priam, Astyanax & Polyxena) in the sack of Troy. I doubt Ronsard is suggesting Henry III is quite so savage or ruthless; the link is rather the decisiveness of the victories.
There are some minor variants in editions: Blanchemain’s opening stanza goes
      Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
         Fier et fort,
      De dessous l’aile à sa mere,
      Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
         Aux dragons
      Fait guerre sortant de l’aire
– the changed third line can be translated identically, or could mean the eagle comes out ‘from beneath the wing to its mother’.  Then stanzas 10-11 go:
      Charante qui prend son nom
      Leur sert de port et de guide,
      Les passant comme en bateau
         Par son eau
      Au rivage Acherontide.
      Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
         Le repas
      Des mastins, sans sepulture,
      Et sans honneur de tombeaux ;
         Les corbeaux
      De leur chair font leur pasture.
(The Charente ‘acts as their port and guide’; and crows ‘make their feast on their flesh’).

Le Chant des Sereines (Amours 2:67e)

“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’).