But Ronsard does not live in literature mainly as a flatterer. Nor is he remembered as a keeper of the conscience of princes, or as a religious controversialist. If nothing but his love-poems had survived, we should have almost all his work that is of literary importance. He fell in love in the grand manner three times, and from these three passions most of his good poetry flowed. First there was Cassandre, the beautiful girl of Florentine extraction, whom he saw singing to her lute, when he was only twenty-two, and loved to distraction. She married another and became the star of Ronsard’s song. She was the irruptive heroine of that witty and delightful sonnet on the Iliad:—
Je veux lire en trois jours
Et pour ce, Corydon, ferme bien l’huis sur moi;
Si rien me vient troubler, je t’assure ma foi,
Tu sentiras combien pesante est ma colere.
Je ne veux seulement que notre
Vienne faire mon lit, ton compagnon ni toi;
Je veux trois jours entiers demeurer a recoi,
Pour folatrer apres une semaine entiere.
Mais, si quelqu’un venait
de la part de Cassandre,
Ouvre-lui tot la porte, et ne le fais attendre,
Soudain entre en ma chambre et me viens accoutrer.
Je veux tant seulement a lui
seul me montrer;
Au reste, si un dieu voulait pour moi descendre
Du ciel, ferme la porte et ne le laisse entrer.
Nine years after Cassandre came Marie, the fifteen-year-old daughter of an Angevin villager, nut-brown, smiling, and with cheeks the colour of a May rose. She died young, but not before she had made Ronsard suffer by coquetting with another lover. What is more important still, not before she had inspired him to write that sonnet which has about it so much of the charm of the morning:—
Mignonne, levez-vous, vous
Ja la gaie alouette au ciel a fredonne,
Et ja le rossignol doucement jargonne,
Dessus l’epine assis, sa complainte amoureuse.
Sus! debout allons voir l’herbelette
Et votre beau rosier de boutons couronne,
Et vos oeillets aimes auxquels aviez donne
Hier au soir de l’eau d’une main si soigneuse.