Posting this entry on October 15th 2016, I realise that this date corresponds to Isaac de Benserade’s birthday (unless some change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar messes up the calculation, as it always seems to with the date of the Russian revolution), and that he would be 404 years old, if he had lived to today. Having said that, he did seem to live a full and prosperous life, dying at the age of 79, after having been a court favourite in France for most of his life because of his poetry, his plays and his ballets.
This sonnet is on the theme of a particular form of disappointment in love – not the pining of a lover whose loved one disdains or rejects him, but a lover who sees his loved one welcoming the attentions of all his rivals, as well as his own. The term of art is “coquette”, so effectively resuscitated by Proust in his description of Odette de Crecy, before she became Madame Swann.
Anyway, this coquette’s behaviour is making the poet tear his hair out…This is how love transforms into jealousy, which is exactly the narrative progression of the poem.
Sur une coquette – Sonnet
Une foule d’amants, que chez vous on tolère,
De vos facilités cherche à s’avantager ;
La patience même en serait en colère,
Etes-vous un butin qu’il faille partager ?
N’avez-vous rien à craindre, et rien à ménager ?
Quoi ! tous également attendent leur salaire ;
Avez-vous résolu de me faire enrager
A force de vouloir éternellement plaire ?
Enfin, si je suis las de ce que cent rivaux
Se disputent le prix qu’on doit à mes travaux,
Vous devez l’être aussi de ce qu’on en caquette ;
Votre honneur est en proie aux escrocs, aux filous ;
Et si vous excellez en l’art d’être coquette,
Je n’excelle pas moins en l’art d’être jaloux.
A cautionary tale, indeed.
The Poetry Dude