Pierre de Ronsard is among the earliest known French poet. He was born in 1524, in a family of nobles. He was considered to be the lead-ing light of the Renaissance movement, Les Pléiades. His wrote a lot of homages to men and women of power, he celebrated the beauty of France but after five centuries he is best known for his slightly hectoring poems to youth, I include his two best-known short pieces.

An early edition of his Poèmes de Ronsard

Mignonne, allons voir si la rose

Qui ce matin avait déclose

Sa robe de pourpre au soleil,

A point perdu cette vesprée,

Les plis de sa robe pourprée,

Et son teint au vôtre pareil.

Las ! voyez comme en peu d’espace,

Mignonne, elle a dessus la place

Las ! las ! ses beautés laissé choir !

Ô vraiment marâtre Nature,

Puis qu’une telle fleur ne dure

Que du matin jusques au soir !

Donc, si vous me croyez, mignonne,

Tandis que vôtre âge fleuronne

En sa plus verte nouveauté,

Cueillez, cueillez votre jeunesse :

Comme à cette fleur la vieillesse

Fera ternir votre beauté.

Sweetie, let’s go see

If the rose which this morning

Had its glorious opening

Flouting its purple array

To the sun’s ray

Has lost by this evening

The folds of its crimson clothing

And its hue so like you.

Alas see what little time it takes

Sweetie, before her beauty fades

Oh verily vengeful nature

Might thou not let such a flower endure

More than from sunrise to sundown

So sweetie be advised to take this down

While your youth is in full flushIn its greenest blush

Gather, your youthful splendour

For like this flower

Old age your beauty will disfigure

Pierre de Ronsard

Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir à la chandelle,

Assise auprès du feu, dévidant et filant,

Direz chantant mes vers, en vous émerveillant :

« Ronsard me célébrait du temps que j’étais belle. »

Lors vous n’aurez servante oyant telle nouvelle,

Déjà sous le labeur à demi sommeillant,

Qui au bruit de mon nom ne s’aille réveillant,

Bénissant votre nom, de louange immortelle.

Je serai sous la terre et, fantôme sans os,

Par les ombres myrteux je prendrai mon repos

Vous serez au foyer une vieille accroupie,

Regrettant mon amour et votre fier dédain.

Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain

Cueillez dès aujourd’hui les roses de la vie.

When your teeth are gone and snow-white your hair

Seated in front of your hearth by candlelight

You’ll recall the lines I wrote with delight:

Ronsard paid homage to me when young and fair

No even an unschooled maid on hearing my name

Though drowsy and bent-double by toils back-breaking

Would fail to put up a fair fight against waking

So she can praise your beauty and extol your fame

I would be six feet under, fleshless and boneless

Shadows of myrtles watching while I take my rest

Whilst you my dear trapped in your hearth wilt and wither

Too late regretting my love and your proud disdain

Don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t let me preach in vain

You must today the sweet roses of life gather

Prizewinning playwright. Mathematician. Teacher. Professional Siesta addict.