Saturday, June 20, 2015


An Unanswered Prayer to Venus

Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), Amours Diverses, no. XLIX (my translation):
Prayer to Venus, to defend Cyprus against the Army of the Turk.

Beautiful goddess, passionate Cyprian,
Mother of Dalliance, of the Graces, and of Love,
You bring forth everything that sees the light of day,
You are, as it were, the source and root of all.

Worshipped at Idalium, at Amathus, at Eryx,
From heaven protect Cyprus, your fair home.
Kiss your Mars, and around his neck
Entwine your arms, and hold his breast tight.

Don't let a barbarian lord
Destroy your isle and besmirch your dignity:
Drive war elsewhere, away from your birthplace.

You will accomplish this, for with a glance of your eyes
You can overpower men and gods,
Sky and sea, hell and earth.
In French:
Veu à Venus pour garder Cypre de l'armée du Turc.

Belle Déesse, amoureuse Cyprine,
Mère du Jeu, des Grâces, & d'Amour,
Qui fais sortir tout ce qui voit le jour,
Comme du Tout le germe & la racine.

Idalienne, Amathonte, Erycine,
Garde du ciel Cypre ton beau séjour.
Baize ton Mars, & tes bras à l'entour
De son col plye, & serre sa poictrine.

Ne permetz point qu'un barbare Seigneur
Perde ton Isle & souille ton honneur:
De ton berceau chasse autre-part la guerre.

Tu le feras, car d'un trait de tes yeux
Tu peux fléchir les hommes & les Dieux,
Le Ciel, la Mer, les Enfers & la Terre.
On lines 3-4, cf. Lucretius 1.4-5: per te quoniam genus omne animantum / concipitur visitque exortum lumina solis.

For a verse translation see Lyrics of Pierre de Ronsard, Vandomois. Chosen and Translated by Charles Graves (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1967), p. 47:

Goddess of Beauty, amorous Cyprian,
Love's mother and the nurturer of bliss,
From whom all things without the realm of Dis
Proceed; O, thou in whom all things began:

Idalian, Erycine, Amathian,
Keep Cyprus from the Turk, for yours it is;
Besiege your Mars and snare him with a kiss,
Make love to him as only Love's Queen can.

And, for the fame of your peculiar isle,
Let no rude lord possess it and defile:
Bid war avoid the cradle of your birth.

Yours is the power, your eyes alone know how
To make both god and man before you bow,
The sea, the sky; yea, even Hell and Earth.

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