Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Waddington, ed. > The Sonnets of Europe
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Samuel Waddington, comp.  The Sonnets of Europe.  1888.
 
Voici Le Bois
By Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585)
 
Translated by Robert, Earl of Lytton

HERE 1 is the wood that freshened to her song;
  See here, the flowers that keep her footprints yet;
  Where, all alone, my saintly Angelette
Went wandering, with her maiden thoughts, along.
 
Here is the little rivulet where she stopp’d;        5
  And here the greenness of the grass shows where
  She lingered through it, searching here and there
Those daisies dear, which in her breast she dropp’d.
 
Here did she sing, and here she wept, and here
Her smile came back; and here I seem to hear        10
  Those faint half-words with which my thoughts are rife;
 
Here did she sit; here, childlike, did she dance,
To some vague impulse of her own romance—
  Ah, love, on all these thoughts, winds out my life!
 
Note 1. Pierre Ronsard was born in 1524, at the Château de la Poissonière, in the province of Vendôme, and at the age of nine he was sent to the Collége de Navarre at Paris. He was afterwards removed by his father to Avignon, and placed in the service of Francis, the eldest son of the French king, and subsequently in that of James V. of Scotland. An illness which produced total deafness caused him to withdraw from public life and devote himself to literary pursuits, in which he soon became illustrious, and was judged by Francis the First to be a greater poet than Mellin de Saint-Gelais.
  Very various, however, have been the opinions and judgments of critics respecting him; and while Pasquier declared that Rome never produced a greater poet than Ronsard, Boileau sarcastically observed that “his Muse in French spoke Greek and Latin.” “His epic, the Franciade,” writes Mr. Andrew Lang, “is as tedious as other artificial epics, and his odes are almost unreadable. We are never allowed to forget that he is the poet who read the ‘Iliad’ through in three days. He is, as has been said of Le Brun, more mythological than Pindar. His constant allusion to his grey hair, an affectation which may be noticed in Shelley, is borrowed from Anacreon. Many of the sonnets in which he ‘petrarquizes,’ retain the faded odour of the roses he loved; and his songs have fire and melancholy and a sense as of perfume from ‘a closet long to quiet vowed, with method and dropping arras hung.’ Ronsard’s great fame declined when Malherbe came to ‘bind the sweet influences of the Pleiad,’ but he has been duly honoured by the newest school of French poetry.”
  Pedantry and affectation were his faults, and the faults of the age in which he lived; and it has been said that he displayed so much erudition in his verses, that his mistresses, in order to understand them, had to resort to the very dangerous aid of foreign commentators. Yet, all this notwithstanding, his sonnets have a pathos, elegance, and delicate fragrance, and one is not astonished to be told that his verse consoled the unhappy Mary Stuart in her imprisonment, and that she presented to him a silver Parnassus, inscribed with the words,—
  “A Ronsard, l’Apollon de la source des Muses.”
We may, however, be surprised to learn that Queen Elizabeth was also one of his admirers, and compared him to a valuable diamond, of which she made him a present.
  As a writer of sonnets there are few among the French poets who are at all comparable with Ronsard, and to the translations which are given in our selection, the following by the poet, John Keats, should be added. It may be mentioned that the last two lines are by Lord Houghton, and that the translation, as originally written by Keats, ended at the twelfth line. It is taken from the Life, Letters, and Literary Remains, edited by Lord Houghton, and is included by Keats in a letter to his friend, Reynolds:—
  “Nature withheld Cassandra in the skies
For more adornment, a full thousand years;
She took their cream of Beauty’s fairest dies,
And shaped and tinted her above all Peers:
Meanwhile Love kept her dearly with his wings,
And underneath their shadow fill’d her eyes
With such a richness that the cloudy Kings
Of high Olympus uttered slavish sighs.
When from the Heavens I saw her first descend,
My heart took fire, and only burning pains—
They were my pleasures—they my Life’s sad end;
Love pour’d her beauty into my warm veins,
[So that her image in my soul upgrew,
The only thing adorable and true].”
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