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.

A La Royne Catherine de Medicis  

by Pierre de Ronsard

. . . 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  

by Pierre de Ronsard

. . . 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.”

translated from French by Diane Furtney


by Pierre de Ronsard


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

by Pierre de Ronsard

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!”



translated from French by Diane Furtney