“Mignonne, allons voir si la rose…”

“Mignonne, allons voir si la rose…”

meen-yun, aa-law vwaar see lah roze… Click below to hear this. 

“Darling, let’s go see if the rose…”

Pierre de Ronsard was a French poet who lived from 1524 to 1585. He was a powerful voice in the French Renaissance, proving among other things that the French language was as well suited to poetry as Latin had previously been considered. Many of his odes were delicate, lyrical tributes to beauty in nature and feminine beauty. This poem is surely one of his most famous:

Mignonne, allons voir si la rose

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.

The spelling, as you can see, has not been modernized. I thought maybe you’d like to see an example of 16th-century French. It’s not as hard to decipher as you might imagine, if you make a few mental adjustments. For example, you’ll find the letter s popped into words at unexpected places. Just ignore those–you don’t need them. And the endings of verbs in the imperfect end in -ois and –oit instead of -ais and -ait, but the endings were pronounced /-way/, not /-wah/ as those spellings would be pronounced in modern French. By the way, I’ve chosen to read the poem with modern pronunciation on the audio file.

You’ll also notice that the word order can be switched around to accommodate the rhyme scheme and the meter, especially in the first stanza. There are a few archaic or obsolete words, but surprisingly, not many. Ronsard was a great modernizer of the language, so his poetry remains accessible even to this day, with a little attention.

Tomorrow, I’ll publish a translation of the poem into English, along with a few comments about the poem. For today, just enjoy the music of the language, even if your French isn’t up to understanding the entire poem!

Alternate audio file link: mignonne-allons-voir-si-la-rose

One response to ““Mignonne, allons voir si la rose…”

  1. Pingback: “Mignonne, allons voir si la rose…” (bis) | Spk Frnch

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