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I am bilingual English/Spanish, and learned quite a bit of French when I lived in Spain as a child. I am trying to translate the lyrics to "Divine Amaryllis", an anonymous song set to music by Antoine de Böesset (1568-1643).

I have most of it but a few phrases are puzzling:

French:

Divine Amaryllis,
ton teint brun comme il est fait honte à tous les lys
Ta grace est admirable:
Mais ta vertu qui passe ta beauté,
Dessous le ciel n'a rien de comparable
Que ma fidelité.

Tes attraits sont pareils,
Tes yeux que justement on nomme des soleils,
Ont un ésclat semblable
Mais ta vertu qui passe ta beauté,
Dessous le ciel n'a rien de comparable
Que ma fidelité.

Bel astre des mortelz!
Le ciel n'est point jaloux de te voir des autelz:
N'est tu pas adorable?
Et ta vertu qui passe ta beauté,
Void elle rien qui luy soit comparable
Que ma fidelité.

My translation attempt with questionable phrases in brackets

Divine Amaryllis,
How your [teint brun?] puts the lilies to shame
Your gracefulness is admirable [excellent?]
But your virtue, which surpasses your beauty
Under the sun has no equal
But my faithfulness [loyalty?]

Your charms are similar[ly splendid?]
Your eyes, which are rightly called suns
Have a similar [brightness/sparkle/brilliance/splendor?]
But your virtue...

Beautiful star among mortals
The sky is not jealous to see [?? altars ??]
Are you not adorable?
And your virtue, which surpasses your beauty
Has no equal
But my faithfulness [loyalty?]

The only bit I'm completely stumped by is teint brun which is brown complexion, but that doesn't seem to fit so maybe it's an archaic usage?

Also, I went with under the sun as it's more idiomatic in English than under the sky.

Thanks

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A teint in poetry is more general than just complexion: shade, hue, coloration, tint.

Comme il est in the second line I don't read as an intensifying "How it puts all the lilies to shame!" but as "Your teint brun, just as it is, puts all the lilies to shame" or "Your teint, brown though it is, puts all the lilies to shame."

Éclat (here ésclat) is probably closest to "brilliance".

The te in te voir des autelz seems like a complement for autelz. "The sky/heaven is not jealous to see altars to you." On the same note, I think it's an older, more austere meaning of adorer that's meant here: "to worship" rather than "to adore". (Compare "O Come Let Us Adore Him".)

I think the translation of Void elle rien qui luy soit comparable by Has no equal loses something.

On the whole, it's quite accurate, but once you've nailed down all the terminologies I suggest doing one or two more passes, perhaps even without continued reference to the French, with the intent of choosing idiomatic, poetic English phrases to capture those meanings. What's poetic in French isn't necessarily poetic in English in the same terms. (Maybe you already have that in mind and are just showing us the literal stage. If so, ignore my comment!)

For the same reason, trading "under the sky" for "under the sun" seems to me like the right choice, too.

  • Wow, that was fast! And you've pointed out some really interesting nuances I completely missed. This is a lute song (see Paul O'Dette Ancient Airs and Dances) and I wanted to give my singer an accurate understanding of what the song is about, so a more literal translation would be sufficient. I'm by no means a poet and hadn't considered making English poetry out of this, but with your hints I might just put some more effort into it :-) Thanks for taking the time to answer thoughtfully. – Jim Garrison Nov 5 '17 at 2:06
  • Any idea about the sky and the altars in verse 3? – Jim Garrison Nov 5 '17 at 2:09
  • @JimGarrison Oh, I missed that! I've added a paragraph. And makes sense re: the literal translation. – Luke Sawczak Nov 5 '17 at 2:26
  • Wish I could give you a few more upvotes. Thanks! – Jim Garrison Nov 5 '17 at 16:27

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