Pierre de Ronsard
Translated and Introduced by Henry Weinfield
Renaissance and Medieval Studies
Edited by Charles Stanley Ross
Information and Pricing
978-1-64317-230-9 (paperback, $24.99); 978-1-64317-231-6 (PDF, $14.99) © 2021 by Parlor Press. 256 pages in English and French, with an introduction and notes.
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What People Are Saying
Eric MacPhail, author of Religious Tolerance from Renaissance to Enlightenment: Atheist's Progress
“Hailed as the Prince of Poets of the French Renaissance, Pierre de Ronsard composed a rich body of love poetry that has captivated audiences and challenged scholars for many centuries through its undulating, liquid forms and powerful metamorphic imagination. Blending oneiric fantasy and mythological profusion . . . this poetry appeals to readers steeped in the classical tradition and receptive to an esthetic of vitality and abundance rather than the brooding self-pity more characteristic of Petrarchism. This new translation captures the essence of a poetic legacy whose exuberance and emotion can still be deeply felt today.”
Terence Cave, Emeritus Professor of French Literature, University of Oxford, and Emeritus Research Fellow, St John's College
"Ronsard is a towering figure in the history of European poetry, but his work is little read these days other than in the form of single-line quotations. Henry Weinfield has made a substantial selection that reflects different aspects of Ronsard’s immense output from his earliest love-sonnets to his death-bed meditations. Translating sixteenth-century French poetry into English verse while remaining close to the original is a formidable task, but Weinfield’s sensitivity and ingenuity are equal to the challenge: he has found an idiom which both retains the flavor of the Renaissance and remains fluent and transparent to modern ears. The French text is provided on facing pages so that even those unfamiliar with early modern French will be able to explore the original. This is an important act of cultural transference that will give Ronsard’s extraordinary poetic imagination a new lease of life for readers of the twenty-first century."
Paul Auster, Editor, The Random House Book of Twentieth-Century French Poetry
“First came Henry Weinfield’s irreplaceable versions of Mallarmé in 1994, and now comes a second masterpiece of translation with this new selection of Ronsard. Weinfield has a supernatural talent for rendering the most difficult poets into clear, cadenced, and beautiful English. The man is a wizard.”
The purpose of this book is to provide English-language versions of the poems of Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), a poet who is not only the greatest of all French poets but one of the greatest lyric poets of the European tradition. Ronsard’s most important theme, especially in his sonnets, is love and erotic desire, and the translations attempt to convey his passionate intensity as well as the lyrical beauty of his language. Ronsard is an extraordinary intellect, a poet with deep knowledge of Plato and Aristotle, who, at the same time that he is expressing his desire for the women he addresses, is capable of formulating serious philosophical conceptions. Ronsard is no longer as well known to an English audience as he was formerly (to the English Romantics, say), and the purpose of this book is to acquaint or reacquaint English readers of poetry with a very great Renaissance poet who might previously have been outside their ken. The book begins with an introduction that focuses on Ronsard’s development as a poet, on some of his central themes, on his engagement with the classical tradition and especially Ovid, on how Ronsard (in a quite radical manner) uses Ovid and pagan mythology to distance himself from Christianity (although at the same time, paradoxically, he remains a committed Catholic), and on how Ronsard’s poetry changes in the sonnets addressed respectively to Cassandra, Marie, and Hélène. As the attempt in these translations is to convey Ronsard’s lyricism and poetic intensity, the introduction also includes a discussion (from a practical rather than a theoretical point of view) of how I approach the translation process. The text of the book includes selections from Les amours de Cassandre (The love poems addressed to Cassandra), Les amours de Marie, and the two books of sonnets addressed to Hélène. The book also contains two elegies, one addressed to Hélène and a second addressed to the court poet Philippe Desportes. In addition, it includes a translation of Ronsard’s lengthy “Discourse on the Misery of These Times,” a pro-Catholic diatribe against the Protestants and a lament for the religious strife embroiling France during the 1560s. The translations include explanatory notes. The French text of the poems appears en face.
About the Translator
Henry Weinfield is Professor Emeritus of Liberal Studies and English at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught from 1991 to 2019. In 2018 he received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts to complete this translation. His verse translations include versions of the Collected Poems of Stéphane Mallarmé, Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, and The Chimeras by Gérard de Nerval. His translations of Mallarmé are included in The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Weinfield is also the author of three literary studies. He lives in New York City.
Photo of Henry Weinfield by Lois Greenfield. Used by permission.
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