Sunday, May 05, 2013


Ronsard, Odes IV.13

Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), Odes IV.13 (tr. Norman R. Shapiro):
Gone is my strength, sweet youth is fled,
My teeth are black, and white my head;
Sickly, my nerves are weaker growing;
So cold am I that in my veins
No blood of ruddy hue remains:
Naught but a reddish liquid flowing.

Farewell my lyre, farewell my belles,
You, once my tender damosels;
Farewell, I sense my days' decline:
Old age, alas, has borne away
The pastimes of a younger day,
Leaving but hearth, and bed, and wine.

Head bowed with ills and many a year—
Indeed, too many of both, I fear—
I feel the biting agony
Of care—here, there, within, without—
And ever turn my face
To see if Death is stalking me;

Death, who will lead me, when he please,
Where one called Pluto takes his ease,
Welcoming to his dismal den
Any and all who venture thence;
Easy to enter, ah! but whence
Never does one return again.
The French, transcribed from Ronsard's Oeuvres (Paris: Gabriel Buon, 1584), p. 357:
Ma douce iouuance est passée,
Ma premiere force est cassée,
I'ay la dent noire & le chef blanc,
Mes nerfs sont dissous, & mes veines,
Tant i'ay le corps froid, ne sont pleines
Que d'vne eau rousse en lieu de sang.

Adieu ma lyre, adieu fillettes,
Iadis mes douces amourettes,
Adieu, ie sens venir ma fin:
Nul passetemps de ma ieunesse
Ne m'accompagne en la vieillesse,
Que le feu, le lict & le vin.

I'ay la teste toute eslourdie
De trop d'ans & de maladie,
De tous costez le soin me mord:
Et soit que i'aille ou que ie tarde,
Tousiours apres moi ie regarde
Si ie verray venir la Mort:

Qui doit, ce me semble, à toute heure
Me mener là bas où demeure
Ie ne sçay quel Pluton, qui tient
Ouuert à tous venans vn antre,
Où bien facilement on entre,
Mais d'où iamais on ne reuient.
The same, tr. Fred Chappell:
My pliant youthfulness is gone,
  My stamina all broken down,
  My teeth are black, and white my head,
  My heart is weak, my nerves are shot
  And through my veins runs nothing but
  Icy water instead of blood.

Adieu to poetry, adieu
  To all the girls that are and were;
  Goodbye, I feel the end come on.
  Three joys only of younger days
  Remain with me as constancies:
  My bed, my fire, my glass of wine.

Numerous years and numberless days
  Weigh me down with illnesses,
  Fears gnaw my every hope;
  Though I fly onward like the wind
  Every time I glance behind
  I find that Death is catching up.

This Death, who means to take my hand
  And lead me to an unknown land,
  Whose final purpose I cannot learn,
  Holds that door open through which we go
  To some dark land beyond, below,
  The door admitting no return.
The same, tr. John Payne:
My pleasant youth is passed away;
Spent is the strength in me to-day;
Black are my teeth and white my head;
My nerves are slack and in my veins,
So cold my body is, remains,
In lieu of blood, but water red.

Adieu, my lyre and lasses fair,
That were my winsome loves whilere!
Adieu! I feel mine end draw nigh.
No pastime of that youth of mine,
Save only bed and fire and wine,
To comfort me in age, have I.

All with infirmities and weight
Of years astonied is my pate:
Cares from all quarters bite on me;
And still, where'er I go or stand,
I fearful look on every hand,
Lest Death upon my track I see,

Death, anytide which may, God wot,
Bear me where harbours I know not
What manner Pluto, who an inn
For all keeps open, high and low,
Whereas one enters eath enow,
But whence none ever out might win.
Ronsard's ode is an imitation of Anacreon, fragment 44 (tr. C.M. Bowra):
My temples are already hoary, and my head is white; no longer is graceful youth with me, and my teeth are old. No more is a long span of sweet life left to me. Often in fear of Tartarus I lament this; for dread is the pit of death, and hard the way down to it. For there is no way by which a man who has gone down can come up.

πολιοὶ μὲν ἡμὶν ἤδη
κρόταφοι κάρη τε λευκόν,
χαρίεσσα δ' οὐκέτ' ἥβη
πάρα, γηραλέοι δ' ὀδόντες,
γλυκεροῦ δ' οὐκέτι πολλὸς
βιότου χρόνος λέλειπται.

διὰ ταῦτ' ἀνασταλύζω
θαμὰ Τάρταρον δεδοικώς·
Ἀίδεω γάρ ἐστι δεινὸς
μυχός, ἀργαλῆ δ' ἐς αὐτὸν
κάτοδος· καὶ γὰρ ἑτοῖμον
καταβάντι μὴ ἀναβῆναι.


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