Sunday, January 29, 2012


Song of the Vineyard Knife

Clément Marot (1496-1544), Chanson XXXII, tr. R.N. Currey:
Song of the Vineyard Knife

Enough of love; let's leave for something new
All that to-do, and sing the vineyard knife;
No grower of vines but has recourse to you,
Makes use of you to prune his vines; O knife,
My vineyard knife, my little vineyard knife,
Renewing life, you make my good vines grow,
From which year after year the rich wines flow!

Vulcan, the high gods' blacksmith, did design
This shape divine, in heaven hammered out
The white-hot steel, and dipped it in old wine
To give the fine edge temper; and the shout
Bacchus gave out proclaimed beyond a doubt
That even devout old Noah could not find
A knife for pruning vines more to his mind.

With vine leaves crowned, young Bacchus brings his slim
Curved blade to trim and bless the fruitful vine;
With flagons old Silenus follows him
And from each rim, in one unbroken line,
Pours down the wine, tries dancing, lies supine;
And for a sign his nose is cherry-red;
Of his great family many men are bred.
Hilaire Belloc, Avril: Being Essays on the Poetry of the French Renaissance (London: Duckworth and Co., 1904), p. 111, commenting on this poem:
Here is Marot's best—even though many of his native critics will not admit it so; but to feel it in full one must be exiled from the vines.

It is a tapestry of the Renaissance; the jolly gods of the Renaissance, the old gods grown Catholic moving across a happier stage. Bacchus in long robes and with solemnity blessing the vine, Silenus and the hobbling smith who smithied the Serpe, the Holy Vineyard Knife in heaven, all these by their diction and their flavour recall the Autumn in Herault and the grapes under a pure sky, pale at the horizon, and labourers and their carts in the vineyard, and these set in the frame of that great time when Saturn did return.

All the poem is wine. It catches its rhymes and weaves them in and in, and moves rapid and careless in a fugue, like the march from Asia when the Panthers went before and drew the car. The internal rhythm and pulse is the clapping of hands in barns at evening and the peasants' feet dancing freely on the beaten earth. It is a very good song; it remembers the treading of the grapes and is refreshed by the mists that rise at evening when the labour is done.
The French:
Changeons propos, c'est trop chanté d'amours:
Ce sont clamours, chantons de la serpette:
Tous vignerons ont à elle recours.
C'est leur secours pour tailler la vignette;
O serpilette, ô la serpillonnette,
La vignolette est par toy mise sus,
Dont les bons vins tous les ans sont yssus.

Le dieu Vulcain, forgeron des haults dieux,
Forgea aux cieulx la serpe bien taillante,
De fin acier trempé en bon vin vieulx,
Pour tailler mieulx et estre plus vaillante.
Bacchus la vante, et dit qu'elle est séante
Et convenante à Noé le bon hom
Pour en tailler la vigne en la saison.

Bacchus alors chappeau de treille avoit,
Et arrivoit pour benistre la vigne;
Avec flascons Silenus le suyvoit,
Lequel beuvoit aussi droict qu'une ligne;
Puis il trepigne, et se faict une bigne;
Comme une guigne estoit rouge son nez;
Beaucoup de gens de sa race sont nez.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?