Dedans le gué d’une beauté si belle
I was in a lyrical mood back in July/August but never got around to posting this. Since I’ve been on an Alcina high all weekend (and it’s stormy – or at least, unbearably rainy – again) I thought now might be a good time to publish it. So:
My recent post on Alcina1 and the odd weather brought on by Hurricane Bertha caused my mind to turn to boats negotiating stormy seas and assorted Baroque cliches. Sailing the calmer seas of WordPress Reader, I ran into Ronsard’s Sonnet 125, which combines both:
From the fire of love, impatient Ruggiero
(Snared by the trickery of some sly magic)
To cool down your new passion
You came to lie on the bed of Alcina.
Determined to assuage your burning,
Now floating, now swimming near her,
Between the arms of a Lady so fair,
You recognised how to avenge yourself on Love and on her.
In a short time the graceful Zephyr,
Filling your sails with a lucky breeze,
Made your love’s port come into view;
But when my ship is ready to come in,
Some awful tempest always drives it
Far off in the sea, so unlucky am I.
The blog’s owner posts two versions of the first two verses and I agree the second one is neater (similar to Ariosto’s angle and it features more swimming). You can discover for yourself if you click the link above. This is his translation and he admits it’s far from poetic as he chose clarity instead. I didn’t temper with it either because although my contemporary French is passable I’m not so sure about my 16th century French 😉 I assume you need to know what kinda subtext was carried by all these metaphors back in the 1500s. I got a glimpse from a reference to swimming which appears in the same context in Ariosto’s original:
When the successor of Astolpho spies
Those smiling stars above him, at the sight
A flame, like that of kindled sulphur, flies
Through his full veins, as ravished by delight
Out of himself; and now up to the eyes
Plunged in a sea of bliss, he swims outright.
He leaps from bed and folds her to his breast,
Nor waits until the lady he undressed.
Back to Ronsard, I see explicit (and amusing in the last two lines) sex in the sonnet’s lines in italics but I give Ronsard the benefit of the doubt 😉 Maybe he really was talking about communication failures with his ladies instead of mechanical malfunctions…