“Mignonne, allons voir si la rose…” (bis)

“Mignonne, allons voir si la rose…” (bis)

meen-yun, aa-law vwaar see lah roze… Click this link to hear and see the entire poem.

Darling, let’s go see if the rose…

The other day, I promised you the English translation of this super-famous poem by Pierre de Ronsard. Here it is. I have not tried to maintain or imitate the rhyme scheme or the meter; this is a purely utilitarian translation:

Darling, let’s go see if the rose
Which had unfurled this morning
Its crimson dress to the Sun,
Has this evening has lost
The folds of its crimson dress,
And its complexion like yours.

Alas! See how, in a short space,
Darling, it has in this place,
Alas! alas, let its beauty fall!
Oh truly cruel Mother Nature,
Since such a flower lasts
Only from morning till evening!

So, if you believe me, darling,
While your age is flowering
In its greenest newness,
Gather, gather your youth
Since, as with this flower, old age
Will tarnish your beauty.

A few notes on the language:

First of all, the color pourpre is not purple, however much it may look that way. It is crimson. Secondly, marastre (in modern French, marâtre) means cruel mother (as in wicked stepmother–that sort of thing). I translated cruel Mother Nature. Thirdly, in modern French, mignon(ne) means cute, while in Renaissance French, it had a meaning more like dear and pretty all rolled into one. In this poem, it certainly implies that the poet is addressing a pretty girl in the full bloom of youth.

The carpe diem theme (Latin for seize the day) was common in Renaissance literature. In a day when there were no facelifts, no Botox, no dentistry to speak of, and a life expectancy closer to 40 years than to 80 or 90 years, women and men could expect to lose their attractiveness much earlier in life. Sexist or reality? It’s true that it’s usually a male poet reminding a girl that she will be ugly before she knows it.

Finally, we talked about recueillir and se recueillir. Here, cueillir means to gather. The word often goes with roses. Now you know why. In this poem, youth and roses are inextricably bound together.

2 responses to ““Mignonne, allons voir si la rose…” (bis)

  1. Hi Ruth – one of my favorite poems. Do you remember “Les Lianes du Temps” by Maxime Leforestier (1973)? Check out the reference to this poem.

    • I have not read that one, Deborah! I’d better go find a copy somewhere! Glad I hit on one of your favorites…I love it too!

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