Agrippa d’Aubigné
Stances, 1573

À longs filets de sang ce lamentable corps

À longs filets de sang ce lamentable corps
Tire du lieu qu’il fuit le lien de son âme,
Et séparé du coeur qu’il a laissé dehors,
Dedans les forts liens et aux mains de sa dame,
Il s’enfuit de sa vie et cherche mille morts.

Plus les rouges destins arrachent loin du coeur
Mon estomac pillé, j’épanche mes entrailles
Par le chemin qui est marqué de ma douleur.
La beauté de Diane ainsi que des tenailles
Tirent l’un d’un côté, l’autre suit le malheur.

Qui me voudra trouver détourne par mes pas,
Par les buissons rougis, mon corps de place en place,
Comme un vaneur baissant la tête contre bas
Suit le sanglier blessé aisément à la trace,
Et le poursuit à l’oeil jusqu’au lieu du trépas.

Diane, qui voudra me poursuivre en mourant,
Qu’on écoute les rocs résonner mes querelles,
Qu’on suive pour mes pas de larmes un torrent,
Tant qu’on trouve séché de mes peines cruelles
Un coffre, ton portrait, et rien au demeurant.

Les champs sont abreuvés après moi de douleurs,
Le souci, l’encolie, et les tristes pensées
Renaissent de mon sang et vivent de mes pleurs,
Et des cieux les rigueurs contre moi courroucées
Font servir mes soupirs à éventer ses fleurs.

Un bandeau de fureur épais presse mes yeux
Qui ne discernent plus le danger ni la voie,
Mais ils vont effrayant de leur regard les lieux
Où se trame ma mort, et ma présence effraie
Ce qu’embrassent la terre et la voûte des cieux.

Retrieved from public domain

Through long trickles of blood this pathetic bound

Through long trickles of blood this pathetic bound
Finds its soul bound to the place it flees,
And pulled apart from the heart it left outside,
In the strong bounds and in the hands of its lady,
It is leaving life and seeking a thousand deaths.

The red destinies tear my plundered stomach
Off away from the heart, I pour forth my entrails
Through the path which is marked with my pain.
Like pliers, the beauty of Diana
Pulls one to one side, the other follows misfortune.

The one who would like to find me will have to divert, following my steps,
Following the reddened bushes, my body from place to place,
Like a peasant bending his head bellow
Closely and easily tracks the harmed wild boar
And chase it until it dies.

Diana, who would like to come after me as she dies,
Listen to the rocks echoing my quarrels,
Follow a torrent made of my tears,
As long as you find dried from my cruel sorrows
A chest, your portrait, and nothing as it happens.

The fields are watered with pains after me,
Marigold, aquilegia and sad thoughts
Rise from my blood and live of my tears,
And from the heavens the rigors against me wrathful
Use my sighs to fan its flowers.

A thick blindfold of fury cover my eyes
Which don’t perceive the danger nor the way any longer,
But their expression they frighten the places
Were my death takes place, and my presence frightens
What kisses earth and the vault of heavens.

Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné (1552-1630) was a French poet, soldier and chronicler. As a protestant, French Wars of Religion (1562-1598) affected him deeply. In most of works, he denounces and condemns the violent persecutions of protestants through the use of words and images just as violent. As a poet, d’Aubigné presents himself as the enemy of the catholic Church and of the King of France.

His epic poem Les Tragiques (1616) is widely regarded as his masterpiece. It relates, with macabre precision, the persecutions of the protestants of France and the massacres perpetrated against them during Wars of Religion, Saint Bartholomew’s day being the bloody climax of the conflict. D’Aubigné, as a prophet, appeals to the judgement of God for justice, he promises his fellow protestants that Christians will be punished in the Apocalypse which is to come.

Violence is what defines d’Aubigné’s work. In this particular poem, the poet focuses on his own dead body. He describes his mutilated, dismembered body. He is a cadaver, the multiple pieces of his body are scattered throughout the forest, and throughout the poem, in each stanza. Both the forest and the poem are covered in blood. D’Aubigné’s intent is to force the reader to look at the massacre, to become the witness of an awful, violent, barbaric death. D’Aubigné’s himself witnessed such atrocity in the very streets of Paris, where many protestants were slaughtered and thrown into the Seine river during Saint Bartholomew’s day.

It is highly significant that the poet uses the imagery of the hunt. The winnower, a worker, generally a peasant, who separates grain from chaff, is explicitly described as a hunter. The poet, that is to say a protestant, is his prey. This powerful image implies that protestants are never safe, they are not only hunted by the catholic King, but by all his catholic subjects. D’Aubigné also refers to Diana as his loved one. Diana, in Roman mythology, is the goddess of the hunt, nature, wild animals and woodland. The poet is bound to Diana as a prey being perpetually hunted by the same enemy with a thousand faces.

The poet does not represent himself as a passive victim. By the end of the poem, he becomes one with nature, which is the manifestation of God. This poem has a very organic dimension. The decaying body of the poet feeds flowers and plants. It seems that they only feed on his pain and sufferings. They carry the memory of what happened to him, the persecutions cannot be silenced nor forgotten because they are now engraved in every flower and every blade of grass. The last line is explicit, the poet’s threatening presence can be felt in the place where he died, that is to say the whole forest as his body was scattered everywhere. Nature, and by analogy God, becomes the living testimony of his death and sufferings, which echoes the power of the poem which will carry the memory of the barbaric massacre of protestants through centuries.

Translation and comment prepared by Margaux Renvoisé

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