November 2019

“A Cassandre,” Pierre de Ronsard

Mignonne, allons voir si la rose                                           My sweet, let us go to see if the rose
Qui ce matin avoit disclose                                                  Who this morning showed
Sa robe de pourpre au Soleil,                                              The sun her purple gown,
A point perdu ceste vesprée                                                Has lost at dusk
Les plis de sa robe pourprée,                                               Its pleats of mauve
Et son teint au vostre pareil.                                                And its blush so like your own.

Las ! voyez comme en peu d’espace,                                 Alas! see in this brief interval
Mignonne, elle a dessus la place                                        My sweet, she - here on the ground
Las ! las ses beautez laissé cheoir !                                    Alas! – has let her loveliness fall!
Ô vrayment marastre Nature,                                              Nature – truly wicked stepmother,
Puis qu’une telle fleur ne dure                                            That such a flower can but endure
Que du matin jusques au soir !                                           From early morn until sundown!

Donc, si vous me croyez, mignonne,                                  So, if you believe me, my sweet
Tandis que vostre âge fleuronne                                         As your age blooms
En sa plus verte nouveauté,                                                Into its most verdant newness,
Cueillez, cueillez vostre jeunesse :                                     Pluck! Pluck your youth:
Comme à ceste fleur la vieillesse                                        For as to this flower old age
Fera ternir vostre beauté.                                                    Will come to sour your beauty.       (tr. JCB)

Pierre de Ronsard was in his 16th century lifetime considered the “prince” of French Renaissance poets. Booker and I have just returned from ten days in Italy, which we spent, in part, wandering around art museums and churches that do service as art museums. I was challenged to recall traces of what I once learned about the development of European art and history – including the Renaissance. Ronsard’s poem, which I memorized in high school, crept into my mind.

The main purpose of our visit was familial, rather than historical, artistic, or touristic. We went to see our grandchildren, the eldest of whom is Kassandra, age 14. She is, like her namesake in the poem, blossoming into her own most verdant newness. Having all of them so far away is, like the season’s diminishing daylight, a reminder of how short is the interval from dawn to sundown.

Ronsard’s “To Cassandra” is a fall poem. With wisdom for all of us, however many petals may still cling at the top of the stem. “Cueillez, cueillez …” Seize the time that is now. This moment, here and now. Ours to notice, ours in which to grow and serve, ours out of which to make meaning, ours in which to stand in wonder at late October’s glories, ours to share with those we love.

Our November theme is vision. It gives us many rich questions to ponder and explore. I am blessed to be able to ponder and explore with you.
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