Qui d'un poëte entend suivre la trace
by Jacques Pelletier du Mans, 1517-1582

Qui d'un poëte entend suivre la trace
En traduisant, et proprement rimer,
Ainsi qu'il faut la diction limer,
Et du François garder la bonne grace.

Par un moyen luy conviendra qu'il face
Egale au vif la peinture estimer
L'art en tous pointz la Nature exprimer
Et d'un corps naistre un corps de mesme face:

Mais par sus tout met son honneur en gage,
Et de grand'peine emporte peu d'estime
Qui fait parler Petrarque autre langage,
Le translatant en vers rime pour rime:

Que pleust aux Dieux et Muses consentir
Qu'il en vinst un qui me peust dementir.

Literal translation:
[He] Who intends to follow a poet's path
In translation, and rhyming properly,
As well one must trim the diction,
And of the French/King to keep the good grace.

By one means, it will suit him to try to
Equal to the living estimate the painting
Nature explains art in all its points
And from one body produce a body with the same face.

But additionally, all put their honor in hock
And from great difficulty they take little esteem
Who make Petrarch speak another language,
Translating him in verses rhyme for rhyme:

Which cry to the gods and the muses to consent
That one comes from them who may contradict me.

Literal translation by J. Friedman

Poetic translation:
He who intends to hear the poet's call,
And translate cleanly, with the proper rhyme,
Must trim his diction, count the rightful time,
And keep the grace of God, of King, and all.

How arduous the task to him doth fall:
To make the portrait live, the copy breathe,
To make in art what Nature did bequeath,
And give the first a twin that stands as tall.

Humility his sense of pride will quench;
Through much toil, he'll earn little in esteem
From making Petrarch speak again, in French,
Translating him in verses, rhyme, and scheme.

Though he may cry to God and Muse and King,
The critics pick on every little thing.

Poetic translation by J. Friedman

Jacques Pelletier du Mans was born in Le Mans, 1517, to a bourgeois family, making him the only poet in my project who was not connected with nobility. He lived during the time of François I, and studied law in Paris, then became secretary to Bishop Rene du Bellay in Le Mans. He translated poems of Horace from Latin to French early in his career. In 1547 he published his Oevres Poetiques. He was a friend of the prominent poet Ronsard and knew many other poets and writers of his time.

What luck: in my aimless ramblings through the library, researching a project about translating poetry, I stumbled on this poem about translating poetry. The author knew whereof he spoke; this sonnet introduced a series of 12 sonnets of Petrarch that Pelletier du Mans translated into French. I had trouble interpreting the meaning of this poem, and am still fuzzy on the last few lines. So I invented a sentiment that goes with the feeling of the rest of the poem.

Notice the possible pun in line 4: "Et du François garder la bonne grace". "François" was capitalized in the facsimile version that I found, but lowercase in a 20th century edition. He could have been referring to King François, or to the French language, commonly spelled "françois" rather than "français" in that time period. But it makes sense that as a poet, he would like his work to be in the good graces of both his King and his mother tongue!

This is also the only poem on which I had to fudge the rhyme scheme; I introduced a new rhyme in the middle of the second verse, which should have been the same rhyme as the middle of the first verse, but ironically, I ran out of words that rhymed with "rhyme".

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Last modified: 11/4/04