Sunday, June 17, 2018

On Translating Pierre de Ronsard’s Most Famous Poem

In his lovely and very well known poem, When you are old, W.B. Yeats made no effort to translate another lovely and famous poem, a sonnet by Pierre de Ronsard that begins: “Quand vous serez bien vieille.”  Yeats was indubitably inspired by Ronsard’s sonnet, but he wrote a very different poem.

Traduttore, traditore” is an Italian saying reflecting a common view of translation, especially of translating poetry: a translator is a traitor.  For me this attempt seems very midsummer madness, yet here is my halting homage to both those beautiful poems.


Translated from Ronsard’s “Quand vous serez bien vieille”

When you are very old, in a candle-lit eve
As, seated by the fire, some yarns you sort and weave,
You will recite my verses marvelling: Such praise
Of my beauty Ronsard spoke, in those long lost days.

Never a maid of yours, nodding at her labour,
But will waken with a start to hear you murmur
My name, whose verse on yours this blessing did bestow
My words gave to your beauty an immortal glow.

Buried in the earth, a boneless ghost I will be,
Taking my repose shaded by a myrtle tree:
Beside a hearth you will crouch, old and bent, and grey,

My love you will then miss, your proud disdain regret.
Live now, do believe me; and tomorrow forget;
Haste to gather roses life offers you today.

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

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