Monday, August 24, 2015

translated from zee Fraintch

This 16th-century Ronsard poem, seen over at Michael Gilleland's fine blog:

Certes si je n'avois une certaine foy
Que Dieu par son esprit de grace a mise en moy,
Voyant la Chrestienté n'estre plus que risée,
J’aurois honte d’avoir la teste baptisée:
Je me repentirois d'avoir esté Chrestien,
Et comme les premiers je deviendrois Payen.

La nuict j'adorerois les rayons de la Lune,
Au matin le Soleil la lumière commune,
L'oeil du monde, et si Dieu au chef porte des yeux,
Les rayons du Soleil sont les siens radieux,
Qui donnent vie à tous, nous conservent et gardent,
Et les faits des humains en ce monde regardent.


J'adorerois Cerés qui les bleds nous apporte,
Et Bacchus qui le coeur des hommes reconforte,
Neptune le sejour des vents et des vaisseaux,
Les Faunes et les Pans et les Nymphes des eaux,
Et la Terre hospital de toute creature,
Et ces Dieux que l’on feint ministres de Nature.

The translation (see Mr. Gilleland's site) is ably done, but it loses the aabbccdd... rhyme scheme. Can I do better? Well, let's find out, shall we?

Truly, had I of sure faith not a trace
That the Father in me had left, by His grace
Seeing all Christendom, now scandalized
Shamed would I be, to have had head baptized
Repent would I then, of Christian having been
Pagan would I become, like those very first men

At night would I cherish the rays of the moon
Each morning, the sun, its aurora sky-strewn
The world-eye—and had this God eyes in His mien
Radiant and glowing, effulgent His beams
That give life to all, that protect and preserve
And the deeds of the men of this world observe


Ceres would I worship, who brings us the corn
And Bacchus, who comforts all hearts that are torn
Neptune, domain of the wind and of ships
The Fauns and the Pans, and the sleek water nymphs
And Earth, the great sanctum of all things alive
And these gods, whom we claim nature needs to survive

I took several liberties, but my biggest liberty was taken in the poem's final line about the gods and nature. The original French says, "Et ces Dieux que l’on feint ministres de Nature." The verb feindre has several meanings; in modern French, it's closest in meaning to the English feign or feint, i.e., to fake, or to fake out. But with a bit of semantic bending and twisting, it can be related to other French verbs like prétendre (to claim). If we render feindre as claim, then the last line literally reads, "And these Gods whom we claim as ministers of Nature." A "minister of nature" is a caretaker of nature, or, in overtly Christian language, a steward. Without the steward, the living things under the steward's responsibility can't survive, and that explains how I reinterpreted that final line.

To be honest, I'm sure I failed in successfully rendering the poem, but then again, this took me all of thirty minutes to puzzle over and re-translate on my own. Imagine the result had I spent a few days on it instead of just a few minutes.


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