Friday, August 22, 2014

Raising Funny Kids 44: Ma Mignonne

Ma mignonne

A une Damoyselle malade

Ma mignonne,
Je vous donne
Le bon jour;
Le séjour
C'est prison.
Puis ouvrez
Votre porte
Et qu'on sorte
Car Clément
le vous mande.
Va, friande
Da ta bouche,
Que se couche
En danger
Pour manger
Si tu dures
Trop malade,
Couleur fade
Tu prendras,
Et perdras
Dieu te doint
Santé bonne,
Ma mignonne.

Marot's seemingly simple poem is charming as it is disarming. What is made simple is invariably that which only a master of a given craft can present for our amusement. 

Marot's poem in English (this literal translation by D. Hofstadter, whose magnum opus Le Ton beau de Marot is indispensable if one seeks to delve deeper into this poem), lacks the beautiful rhyming couplets (AA, BB, CC), the carefully scrutinized and chosen wording, and the musical nature which the French original offers. 

For those who do not speak or who cannot faithfully read in French, the eloquence of this poem cannot be fully appreciated - though it can be internalized. If one speaks French, this poem is delight to the senses. 

Originally penned in October 1527 for a future queen, Jeanne d'Albret de Navarre, it is one of my favorite poems, intimately speaking to my experience of being a mother. 

Queen Jeanne d'Albret de Navarre
François Clouet

To a Sick Damsel

My sweet,
I bid you
A good day;
The stay
Is prison.
Then open
Your door,
And go out
For Clément
Tells you to.
Go, indulger
Of thy mouth,
Lying abed
In danger,
Off to eat
Fruit preserves;
If thou stay'st
Too sick,
Pale shade
Thou wilt acquire,
And wilt lose
Thy plump form.
God grant thee
Good health,
My sweet.

Marot's poem is refreshingly whimsical, notably respectful, and appropriately personal for court artist to bequeath a young child of noble birth. 

Transporting ourselves to a village in France, dans le sein du beau Quercy, near the old Pont Valentré whose stony towers and stately arches stand astride itself, cradling a little town once called "Divona" by a tribe once called "Cadourques", we recognize the precarious aftereffects when a child of noble birth fell ill. 

We can also transport ourselves to a space where softness of manner and eloquence of tongue is the transitional divide between our humanity and the nobility of spirit. For those who are moved by the arts of the prophets, who seek beauty as a companion, who soar on wings that carry the mind to the threshold of its imagination, who delight in charm and gaiety and who speak a similar language, this is one of those poems that serve us, a nice accompaniment to life - and parenthood.

This poem is a delight to recite aloud. When one wishes to express a sincere fondness for youthful innocence, few poems reach the pinnacle of Marot's verses. When read faithfully, the inflection carries with it a sweet-sounding, mellifluous tone, but to be read masterfully, it must be read from one's personal connection with or subjective memories of childhood in conjunction with one's intimate relation to childhood as a caring, nurturing adult. 

In raising funny kids, one must first raise happy children. Happiness is found on an individual level and nearly always includes an element of beauty for inspiration. The beauty found in Marot's poem is one such nicety that can be shared in the intimacy known by a very simple word: home.

Ma Mignonne, the title I prefer, is a beloved poem that can be passed down for generations, just as it has been for over half a millennium.

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