Today we go back to the mid-1500s, at the height of the European Renaissance, and look at another poem by Pierre de Ronsard, one of the most famed and talented French court poets of the time. And this is one of his best-known poems, entitled “Ode to Cassandra”; in it we can find the intertwined themes of love, nature, impermanence and carpe diem, fairly stock poetic themes of this or any age, but beautifully constructed and very moving in this particular poem.
Ode a Cassandre
Mignonne, allons voir si la rose
Qui ce matin avoit desclose
Sa robe de pourpre au Soleil,
A point perdu ceste vesprée
Les plis de sa robe pourprée,
Et son teint au vostre pareil.
Las ! voyez comme en peu d’espace,
Mignonne, elle a dessus la place
Las ! las ses beautez laissé cheoir !
Ô vrayment marastre Nature,
Puis qu’une telle fleur ne dure
Que du matin jusques au soir !
Donc, si vous me croyez, mignonne,
Tandis que vostre âge fleuronne
En sa plus verte nouveauté,
Cueillez, cueillez vostre jeunesse :
Comme à ceste fleur la vieillesse
Fera ternir vostre beauté.
Pierre de Ronsard
The poem adresses a pretty young woman “Mignonne”, and invites her to go and inspect a rose in the evening to see if it has lost any of its beautiful colours and its smooth skin since the morning. And of course they find that the rose petals are beginning to fall and its beauty has faded. Hence the exhortation at the end of the poem to the pretty young lady to enjoy her youth and beauty while she can, before time and nature cause them to wither away. Of course this is never a disinterested plea on behalf of the poet, the unwritten plea is for the young lady to bestow her charms on the poet himself.
This is very comparable in theme to some of the poems of Shakespeare, Marvell and even Apollinaire and Fitzgerald which I have already posted, and there will be many more examales to come, I am sure.
There are clever rhymes and repetitions in this poem which add to its playfulness and simple charm. As with the best poems this repays reading out loud, preferably with a pretty girl at hand to listen.
The Poetry Dude