A lot of poetic ink has been used up with poems about Paris. I know I have posted quite a few on this blog, such as from Apollinaire, Deschamps, Marot, Nerval, Rimbaud, Senghor and Verlaine. Well today we can add another to this body of work, from the seventeenth century poet, Isaac de Benserade. A sonnet, about Paris.
Isaac de BENSERADE (1613-1691)
Sur la ville de Paris
Rien n’égale Paris ; on le blâme, on le louë ;
L’un y suit son plaisir, l’autre son interest ;
Mal ou bien, tout s’y fait, vaste grand comme il est
On y vole, on y tuë, on y pend, on y rouë.
On s’y montre, on s’y cache, on y plaide, on y jouë ;
On y rit, on y pleure, on y meurt, on y naist :
Dans sa diversité tout amuse, tout plaist,
Jusques à son tumulte et jusques à sa bouë.
Mais il a ses défauts, comme il a ses appas,
Fatal au courtisan, le roy n’y venant pas ;
Avecque sûreté nul ne s’y peut conduire :
Trop loin de son salut pour être au rang des saints,
Par les occasions de pécher et de nuire,
Et pour vivre long-temps trop prés des médecins.
In the fourteen lines of the sonnet, Benserade portrays the city of Paris fittingly as a contrast between a place of great vitality and opportunity and a place of squalor and disappointment. All human life and experience can be found, as is set out in the fist four lines, with the contrast between those pursuing fun or self-interest with those killing and stealing, being hanged or broken on the wheel. The second four lines reinforce these contrasts and the diversity of the city from the places of pleasure to the mud in the gutters.
The final six lines give some specific examples of the tribulations of life in Paris – the courtier is at a loss if the king is not present in the city, while anyone seeking sainthood is too close to sin to achieve it, and those who wish for a long life are too close to doctors to survive them in a city like Paris.
But for all the turbulence and contrasts, Paris remains a fascinating city and I am sure the poet would not have swapped it for anywhere else.
The Poetry Dude