with no more authority or force than pale, stripped branches
RG# 95-GP Records of the Forest Service General Subject Files Negative Number:502147

Language: French
Poet: Pierre de Ronsard
Translator: Diane Furtney

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with no more authority or force
than pale, stripped branches

Two poems by the 16th century French poet Pierre de Ronsard, translated by Diane Furtney

Pierre de Ronsard (ca. 1524–1585).  From an aristocratic family, Ronsard served as a royal page before his worsening deafness forced him to abandon plans for a military career. While court poet to Charles IX, he organized the Brigade, a revolutionary literary group later known as the Pleiades, to promote the artistic value of vernacular French. His prolific lyrics celebrating the countryside of Touraine were a breakthrough in nature poetry. His last love, unrequited, for a young lady-in-waiting inspired Les Amours d’Hélène, which culminated his work as one of the greatest of love poets.

After her Tulsa upbringing and with a psychology degree from Vassar College, Diane Furtney worked a year in Israel (1967), then took an assortment of jobs, sometimes in clinical psychology, in several U.S. cities. Besides nonfiction ghostwriting, she has authored two prize-winning poetry chapbooks (Destination Rooms and It Was a Game) and two comic mystery novels (including Murder at the MLA—pseudonym D.J.H. Jones). Her poems and translations (French, Japanese) appear in numerous journals in the U.S. and England, including Able Muse Review, The Virginia Quarterly ReviewPoetry International and Stand. Her first collection, Science And, was published in 2014 by FutureCycle Press.

A La Royne Catherine de Medicis

. . . L’autre jour que j’etois au temple à Sainct Denis,
Regardant tant de Rois en leurs cachottes mis,
Que n’agueres faisaient trembler toute la France,
Qui tous enflex d’orgueil, de pompe et d’esperance
Menoient un camp armé, tuoient et commandoient,
Et de leur peuple avoient les biens qu’ils demandoient,
Et les voyant couchez, n’ayans plus que l’escorce,
Comme buches de bois sans puissance ny force,
            Je disois à par moy:  Ce n’est rien que des Rois:
D’un nombre que voicy, à peine ou deux ou trois
Vivent apres leur mort, pour n’avoir este chiches
Vers les bons escrivains et les avoir fait riches. . .

To Queen Catherine de Medici

…The other day, when I’d stepped inside
the church of Saint Denis and saw them, side by side

in their shallow niches, so many great
rulers lying in state

in stone, each inside a jail of death,
though everyone in France took a startled breath,

sometime, at the sight of his flying
colors—each leading out his armed camp, trying

for glory, and always receiving more
goods and help from his people than he’d asked for—

seeing them lying there, my lady,
on their backs, finally

unescorted, unhorsed,
with no more authority or force

than pale, stripped branches,
just rows and rows of impotence,

I said to myself, “There’s nothing
in here but Kings,

and quite a few of them.  No more than three
or two live on in anyone’s memory,

and only because it did not occur
—not to these monarchs—not to be meager

toward their writers, but rather make much
of them—even make them rich.”

Sonnet

Les villes et les bourgs me sont si odieux
Que je meurs, si je voy quelque tracette humaine:
Seulet dedans les bois pensif je me promeine,
Et rein ne m’est plaisant que les sauvages lieux.

Il n’y a dans ces bois sangliers si furieux,
Ni roc si endurci, ny ruisseau, ni fontaine,
Ny arbre tant soit sourd, que ne sache ma peine,
Et qui ne soit marri de mon mal ennuyeux.

Un penser, que renaist d’un autre, m’accompaigne
Avec un pleur amer qui tout le sein me baigne,
Travaillé de soupirs qui compaignons me sont:

Si bien, que si quelcun me trouvoit au bocage,
Voyant mon poil rebours, et l’horreur de mon front,
Ne me diroit, pas homme, ains un monstre sauvage.

A Thought

The villages and cities
are so odious to me,

I feel myself dying
if I see even a sign

of a human being.  I stay
in the deep woods, away,

and nothing pleases me except extreme,
savage places.  And yet, no scream

of a boar is furious enough,
no boulder dense enough,

no stream or waterfall or tree
deaf enough to stop the grief in me

and this evil weariness.  A thought
brings up another thought,

and with them tears that wet
my chest, pushed out by sighs that

stay my only companions.
If any person

crossed my tracks and noticed,
through the twigs, this

tangled hair
and the horror

on my face, he’d say, “That’s not a man,
it’s a monster!  Monsters have come again!