Joachim du Bellay

Joachim du Bellay

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Joachim du Bellay was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

, and a member of the Pléiade
La Pléiade
The Pléiade is the name given to a group of 16th-century French Renaissance poets whose principal members were Pierre de Ronsard, Joachim du Bellay and Jean-Antoine de Baïf. The name was a reference to another literary group, the original Alexandrian Pleiad of seven Alexandrian poets and...



He was born at the Château of La Turmelière, not far from Liré
Liré is a commune in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France. It was the home of the sixteenth-century French poet Joachim du Bellay and is mentioned in his poem "Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage"....

, near Angers
Angers is the main city in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France about south-west of Paris. Angers is located in the French region known by its pre-revolutionary, provincial name, Anjou, and its inhabitants are called Angevins....

, being the son of Jean du Bellay, Lord of Gonnor, first cousin of the cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 Jean du Bellay
Jean du Bellay
Jean du Bellay was a French cardinal and diplomat, younger brother of Guillaume du Bellay, and bishop of Bayonne in 1526, member of the privy council in 1530, and bishop of Paris in 1532.-Biography:...

 and of Guillaume du Bellay
Guillaume du Bellay
Guillaume du Bellay, seigneur de Langey , from a notable Angevin family was a French diplomat and general under King Francis I....


Both his parents died while he was still a child, and he was left to the guardianship of his elder brother, René du Bellay, who neglected his education, leaving him to run wild at La Turmelière. When he was twenty-three, however, he received permission to study law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 at Poitiers
Poitiers is a city on the Clain river in west central France. It is a commune and the capital of the Vienne department and of the Poitou-Charentes region. The centre is picturesque and its streets are interesting for predominant remains of historical architecture, especially from the Romanesque...

, no doubt with a view to his obtaining preferment through his kinsman the Cardinal Jean du Bellay. At Poitiers he came in contact with the humanist
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 Marc Antoine Muret, and with Jean Salmon Macrin
Jean Salmon Macrin
Jean Salmon Macrin was a Neo-Latin poet of French nationality. His poetry sold massively well, and was thought of as quite influential during his lifetime; however his fame did not live on, and his poetry was never republished after the 16th century.Macrin was born in Loudun, and retained an...

 (1490–1557), a Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 poet famous in his day. There too he probably met Jacques Peletier du Mans
Jacques Peletier du Mans
Jacques Pelletier du Mans, also spelled Peletier, in Latin: Peletarius , was a humanist, poet and mathematician of the French Renaissance....

, who had published a translation of the Ars Poetica of Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

, with a preface in which much of the program advocated later by La Pléiade
La Pléiade
The Pléiade is the name given to a group of 16th-century French Renaissance poets whose principal members were Pierre de Ronsard, Joachim du Bellay and Jean-Antoine de Baïf. The name was a reference to another literary group, the original Alexandrian Pleiad of seven Alexandrian poets and...

 is to be found in outline.

It was probably in 1547 that du Bellay met Ronsard
Pierre de Ronsard
Pierre de Ronsard was a French poet and "prince of poets" .-Early life:...

 in an inn on the way to Poitiers, an event which may justly be regarded as the starting-point of the French school of Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 poetry. The two had much in common, and became fast friends. Du Bellay returned with Ronsard to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 to join the circle of students of the humanities attached to Jean Dorat
Jean Daurat
Jean Daurat was a French poet, scholar, and a member of a group known as The Pléiade.-Early life:...

 at the Collège de Coqueret.

While Ronsard and Jean-Antoine de Baïf
Jean-Antoine de Baïf
Jean Antoine de Baïf was a French poet and member of the Pléiade.-Life:He was born in Venice, the natural son of the scholar Lazare de Baïf, who was at that time French ambassador at Venice...

 were most influenced by Greek models, du Bellay was more especially a Latinist, and perhaps his preference for a language so nearly connected with his own had some part in determining the more national and familiar note of his poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

. In 1548 appeared the Art poétique of Thomas Sébillet
Thomas Sébillet
Thomas Sébillet was a French jurist and grammarian. He is now remembered for his Art Poétique from 1548, on French verse. He was strongly contradicted later by Joachim du Bellay, whose art poétique became normative. This "decapitation of richesse" lead to a centralisation of language, too...

, who enunciated many of the ideas that Ronsard and his followers had at heart, though with essential differences in the point of view, since he held up as models Clément Marot
Clément Marot
Clément Marot was a French poet of the Renaissance period.-Youth:Marot was born at Cahors, the capital of the province of Quercy, some time during the winter of 1496-1497. His father, Jean Marot , whose more correct name appears to have been des Mares, Marais or Marets, was a Norman from the Caen...

 and his disciples. Ronsard and his friends dissented violently from Sébillet on this and other points, and they doubtless felt a natural resentment at finding their ideas forestalled and, moreover, inadequately presented.

The famous manifesto of the Pléiade, the Défense et illustration de la langue française (Defense and Illustration of the French Language, 1549), was at once a complement and a refutation of Sébillet's treatise. This book (inspired in part by Sperone Speroni
Sperone Speroni
Sperone Speroni degli Alvarotti was an Italian Renaissance humanist, scholar and dramatist. He was one of the central members of Padua's literary academy Accademia degli Infiammati and wrote on both moral and literary matters.-Biography:...

's Dialogo delle lingue, 1542) was the expression of the literary principles of the Pléiade as a whole, but although Ronsard was the chosen leader, its redaction was entrusted to du Bellay. To obtain a clear view of the reforms aimed at by the Pléiade, the Defence should be further considered in connection with Ronsard's Abrégé d'art poétique and his preface to the Franciade. Du Bellay maintained that the French language as it was then constituted was too poor to serve as a medium for the higher forms of poetry, but he contended that by proper cultivation it might be brought on a level with the classical tongues. He condemned those who despaired of their mother tongue, and used Latin for their more serious and ambitious work. For translations from the ancients he would substitute imitations, though he does not in the Defense explain precisely how one is to go about this. Not only were the forms of classical poetry to be imitated, but a separate poetic language and style, distinct from those employed in prose, were to be used. The French language was to be enriched by a development of its internal resources and by discreet borrowing from Italian, Latin and Greek. Both du Bellay and Ronsard laid stress on the necessity of prudence in these borrowings, and both repudiated the charge of wishing to Latinize their mother tongue. The book was a spirited defence of poetry and of the possibilities of the French language; it was also a declaration of war on those writers who held less heroic views.

The violent attacks made by du Bellay on Marot and his followers, and on Sébillet, did not go unanswered. Sébillet replied in the preface to his translation of the Iphigenia of Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

; Guillaume des Autels, a Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

nese poet, reproached du Bellay with ingratitude to his predecessors, and showed the weakness of his argument for imitation as opposed to translation in a digression in his Réplique aux furieuses defenses de Louis Meigret (Lyons, 1550); Barthélemy Aneau
Barthélémy Aneau
Barthélémy Aneau was a French poet and humanist. He is known for his novel Alector, ou le Coq, and his work on emblems.He born in Bourges. He taught rhetoric, and became principal of the Collège de la Trinité in Lyon, from 1542....

, regent of the Collège de la Trinité at Lyons, attacked him in his Quintil Horatian (Lyons, 1551), the authorship of which was commonly attributed to Charles Fontaine. Aneau pointed out the obvious inconsistency of inculcating imitation of the ancients and depreciating native poets in a work professing to be a defence of the French language
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...


Du Bellay replied to his various assailants in a preface to the second edition (1550) of his sonnet sequence Olive, with which he also published two polemical poems, the Musagnaeomachie, and an ode addressed to Ronsard, Contre les envieux fioles. Olive, a collection of love-sonnets written in close imitation of Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

, first appeared in 1549. With it were printed thirteen odes entitled Vers lyriques. Olive has been supposed to be an anagram for the name of a Mlle Viole, but there is little evidence of real passion in the poems, and they may perhaps be regarded as a Petrarchan exercise, especially as, in the second edition, the dedication to his lady is exchanged for one to Marguerite de Valois
Marguerite de Valois
Margaret of Valois was Queen of France and of Navarre during the late sixteenth century...

, daughter of Henry II
Henry II of France
Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559.-Early years:Henry was born in the royal Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, the son of Francis I and Claude, Duchess of Brittany .His father was captured at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 by his sworn enemy,...

. Du Bellay did not actually introduce the sonnet into French poetry, but he acclimatized it; and when the fashion of sonneteering became a mania he was one of the first to ridicule its excesses.

About this time du Bellay had a serious illness of two years' duration, from which dates the beginning of his deafness. He had further anxieties in the guardianship of his nephew. The boy died in 1553, and Joachim, who had up to this time borne the title of sieur de Liré, became seigneur of Gonnor. In 1549 he had published a Recueil de poésies dedicated to the Princess Marguerite. This was followed in 1552 by a version of the fourth book of the Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

, with other translations and some occasional poems.

In the next year he went to Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 as one of the secretaries of Cardinal du Bellay. To the beginning of his four and a half years' residence in Italy belong the forty-seven sonnets of his Antiquités de Rome, which were rendered into English by Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

 (The Ruins of Rome, 1591). These sonnets were more personal and less imitative than the Olive sequence, and struck a note which was revived in later French literature by Volney and Chateaubriand
François-René de Chateaubriand
François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand was a French writer, politician, diplomat and historian. He is considered the founder of Romanticism in French literature.-Early life and exile:...

. His stay in Rome was, however, a real exile. His duties were those of an attendant. He had to meet the cardinal's creditors and to find money for the expenses of the household. Nevertheless he found many friends among Italian scholars, and formed a close friendship with another exiled poet whose circumstances were similar to his own, Olivier de Magny.

Towards the end of his sojourn in Rome he fell violently in love with a Roman lady called Faustine, who appears in his poetry as Columba and Columbelle. This passion finds its clearest expression in the Latin poems. Faustine was guarded by an old and jealous husband, and du Bellay's eventual conquest may have had something to do with his departure for Paris at the end of August 1557. In the next year he published the poems he had brought back with him from Rome, the Latin Poemata, the Antiquités de Rome, the Divers Jeux Rustiques, and the 191 sonnets of the Regrets, the greater number of which were written in Italy. The Regrets show that he had moved away from the theories of the Défence.

The simplicity and tenderness specially characteristic of du Bellay appear in the sonnets telling of his unlucky passion for Faustine, and of his nostalgia for the banks of the Loire. Among them are some satirical sonnets describing Roman manners, and the later ones written after his return to Paris are often appeals for patronage. His intimate relations with Ronsard were not renewed, but he formed a close friendship with the scholar Jean de Morel, whose house was the centre of a learned society. In 1559 du Bellay published at Poitiers La Nouvelle Manière de faire son profit des lettres, a satirical epistle translated from the Latin of Adrien Turnèbe
Adrianus Turnebus
Adrianus Turnebus was a French classical scholar.-Life:Turnebus was born at Les Andelys in Normandy. At the age of twelve he was sent to Paris to study, and attracted great notice by his remarkable abilities...

, and with it Le Poète courtisan, which introduced the formal satire into French poetry. The Nouvelle Manière is believed to be directed at Pierre de Paschal, who was elected as royal historiographer, and who had promised to write Latin biographies of the great, but who in fact never wrote anything of the sort. Both works were published under the pseudonym of J Quintil du Troussay, and the courtier-poet was generally supposed to be Mellin de Saint-Gelais
Mellin de Saint-Gelais
Mellin de Saint-Gelais was a French poet of the Renaissance and Poet Laureate of Francis I of France.- Life :...

, with whom du Bellay had always, however, been on friendly terms.

A long and eloquent Discours au roi (detailing the duties of a prince, and translated from a Latin original written by Michel de l'Hôpital
Michel de l'Hôpital
Michel de l'Hôpital was a French statesman.-Biography:De l'Hôpital was born near Aigueperse in Auvergne ....

, now lost) was dedicated to Francis II in 1559, and is said to have secured for the poet a tardy pension. In Paris he was still in the employ of the cardinal, who delegated to him the lay patronage which he still retained in the diocese. In the exercise of these functions Joachim quarrelled with Eustache du Bellay
Eustache du Bellay
Eustache du Bellay was Bishop of Paris from 1551 to 1563.-Biography:Eustache du Bellay was the nephew of Jean du Bellay, who was Bishop of Paris from 1532 to 1541. In 1551, Henry II of France selected Eustache du Bellay as the new Bishop of Paris. He was consecrated as a bishop on 15 November 1551...

, bishop of Paris, who prejudiced his relations with the cardinal, less cordial since the publication of the outspoken Regrets. His chief patron, Marguerite de Valois, to whom he was sincerely attached, had gone to Savoy
Savoy is a region of France. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps situated between Lake Geneva in the north and Monaco and the Mediterranean coast in the south....

. Du Bellay's health was weak; his deafness seriously hindered his official duties; and on the 1st of January 1560 he died. There is no evidence that he was in priest's orders, but he was a clerk, and as such held various preferments. He had at one time been a canon of Notre Dame
Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris , also known as Notre Dame Cathedral, is a Gothic, Roman Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. It is the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris: that is, it is the church that contains the cathedra of...

 of Paris, and was accordingly buried in the cathedral. The statement that he was nominated archbishop of Bordeaux during the last year of life is unauthenticated by documentary evidence and is in itself extremely improbable.

Du Bellay died in Paris at the age of 38.

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