Saturday, May 03, 2014

Ferme la porte, et ne le laisse entrer

Je veus lire en trois jours l'Iliade d'Homere
by Pierre de Ronsard

Je veus lire en trois jours l'Iliade d'Homere,
Et pour-ce, Corydon, ferme bien l'huis sur moy.
Si rien me vient troubler, je t'asseure ma foy
Tu sentiras combien pesante est ma colere.

Je ne veus seulement que nostre chambriere
Vienne faire mon lit, ton compagnon, ny toy,
Je veus trois jours entiers demeurer à requoy,
Pour follastrer apres une sepmaine entiere.

Mais si quelqu'un venoit de la part de Cassandre,
Ouvre lui tost la porte, et ne le fais attendre,
Soudain entre en ma chambre, et me vien accoustrer.

Je veus tant seulement à luy seul me monstrer :
Au reste, si un Dieu vouloit pour moy descendre
Du ciel, ferme la porte, et ne le laisse entrer.

Very, very roughly translated:

I want to read in three days Homer's Iliad,
And for that, Corydon, close fast the door on me.
If anyone comes to bother me, I assure you, by heaven,
You will feel how heavy my wrath is.

I wish not even that our chambermaid
Should come to make my bed, your friend, nor you,
I wish three whole days to dwell quietly,
To frivol afterward an entire week.

But if anyone comes on behalf of Cassandra,
Open the door swiftly to them, and do not make him wait;
Enter my room instantly, and come dress me.

I only want to him alone to show myself:
For the rest -- if a God should want to descend on me
From heaven, close the door and do not let him in.

The first tristich happens to be quoted in passing by one of the secondary characters in Sayers's Have His Carcase. It's a sixteenth-century poem, Old French. Ronsard's work has a curious literary history -- French criticism has gone from adoring to deploring to adoring to deploring him. I'm not sure which it is these days, but you probably could get some consensus that he was the greatest of the poets among the early modern French humanists. It tells you something about Sayers that he's just casually thrown in as a side joke.

Pierre de Ronsard, incidentally, turns out to have a variety of rose named after him; quite a lovely one, in fact.


  1. Itinérante1:00 AM

    Monsieur Brandon, vous parlez Français?
    C'est un très beau poème là! Merci pour le post!

  2. branemrys12:13 PM

    De rien!

    I read it much better than I speak or write it.

  3. MrsDarwin10:46 AM

    Fascinated by the word "sepmaine" in the eighth line. I'm assuming it's an older French variant of "semaine", in which one sees the etymology of the word for week with "sep" as an abbreviated form of "sept"?

  4. branemrys10:51 AM

    I'm pretty sure it is. One of the Latin words for 'week' is 'septimana', so I'm pretty sure what we've got here is an intermediate form.


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