Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 346
Pierre de Ronsard’s figures of speech and allusions tend to be rather conventional, but he combines them in interesting ways. Classical references, which his audience would have readily understood, abound.
Ronsard uses a lightning simile, for example, to comment on the power in Hélène’s eyes and contrasts her whiteness to the red of his blood. He extends the white analogy through reference to the swan, playing on her namesake, Helen, with Helen of Troy, whose parents were Zeus in swan form and the mortal woman Leda (Book I, Number 9).
Your glance entered my heart and blood, just like
A flash of lightning through the clouds . . .
If your fair hand had not made a sign to me then,
White hand that makes you a daughter of the swan,
I’d have died, Helen, of the rays from your eyes.
The poet’s use of repetition and contrast within an ultra-simple structure is a technique that calls attention to the uneven quality of romantic relationships (I: 19).
So often forging peace, so often fighting,
So often breaking up, and then re-forming . . .
So often under the yoke, so often freeing,
Making our promises and then retracting,
Are signs that Love strikes at our very being.
Ronsard talks about the urgency of love by presenting images of the future: she will be old and no longer beautiful; he will be dead and buried. He uses the familiar metaphor of “gathering roses” to encourage his beloved to live in the present and not spurn his love (II: 18).
When you are truly old, beside the evening candle,
Sitting by the fire, winding wool and spinning,
Murmuring my verses, you’ll marvel then, in saying,
“Long ago, Ronsard sang me, when I was beautiful . . .”
I’ll be under the earth, a boneless phantom,
At rest in the myrtle groves of the dark kingdom:
You’ll be an old woman hunched over the fire,
Regretting my love for you, your fierce disdain,
So live, believe me: don’t wait for another day,
Gather them now the roses of life, and desire.
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