Pierre de Ronsard

Pierre de Ronsard

Overview
Pierre de Ronsard (11 September 1524 – December 1585) was a French
France
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...

 poet
Poet
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...

 and "prince of poets
Prince des poètes
Prince des poètes is an honorific and unofficial title given in France to many poets after the death of their predecessor.-List:*Pierre de Ronsard, born in 1524.*…*1885-1894 : Charles Marie René Leconte de Lisle, born in 1818....

" (as his own generation in France called him).

Pierre de Ronsard was born at the Manoir de la Possonnière, in the village of Couture-sur-Loir
Couture-sur-Loir
Couture-sur-Loir is a commune in the Loir-et-Cher department of central France.It is situated in the north west of the Loir-et-Cher département, to the west of Vendôme...

, Loir-et-Cher
Loir-et-Cher
Loir-et-Cher is a département in north-central France named after the rivers Loir and Cher.-History:Loir-et-Cher is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Orléanais and...

. Baudouin de Ronsard or Rossart was the founder of the French branch of the house, and made his mark in the early stages of the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

. The poet's father was named Louis de Ronsard, and his mother was Jeanne de Chaudrier, of a family not only noble in itself but well connected.
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Encyclopedia
Pierre de Ronsard (11 September 1524 – December 1585) was a French
France
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...

 poet
Poet
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...

 and "prince of poets
Prince des poètes
Prince des poètes is an honorific and unofficial title given in France to many poets after the death of their predecessor.-List:*Pierre de Ronsard, born in 1524.*…*1885-1894 : Charles Marie René Leconte de Lisle, born in 1818....

" (as his own generation in France called him).

Early life


Pierre de Ronsard was born at the Manoir de la Possonnière, in the village of Couture-sur-Loir
Couture-sur-Loir
Couture-sur-Loir is a commune in the Loir-et-Cher department of central France.It is situated in the north west of the Loir-et-Cher département, to the west of Vendôme...

, Loir-et-Cher
Loir-et-Cher
Loir-et-Cher is a département in north-central France named after the rivers Loir and Cher.-History:Loir-et-Cher is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Orléanais and...

. Baudouin de Ronsard or Rossart was the founder of the French branch of the house, and made his mark in the early stages of the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

. The poet's father was named Louis de Ronsard, and his mother was Jeanne de Chaudrier, of a family not only noble in itself but well connected. Pierre was the youngest son. Loys de Ronsard was maître d'hôtel du roi to Francis I
Francis I of France
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...

, whose captivity after Pavia
Pavia
Pavia , the ancient Ticinum, is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 km south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It is the capital of the province of Pavia. It has a population of c. 71,000...

 had just been softened by treaty, and he had to quit his home shortly after Pierre's birth.

The future poet was educated at home in his earliest years and sent to the Collège de Navarre
Collège de Navarre
The College of Navarre was one of the colleges of the historic University of Paris, rivaling the Sorbonne and renowned for its library. It was founded by Queen Joan I of Navarre in 1305, who provided for three departments, the arts with 20 students, philosophy with 30 and theology with 20...

 in Paris at the age of nine. When Madeleine of France was married to James V
James V of Scotland
James V was King of Scots from 9 September 1513 until his death, which followed the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Solway Moss...

 of Scotland
Kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

, Ronsard was attached as a page
Page (servant)
A page or page boy is a traditionally young male servant, a messenger at the service of a nobleman or royal.-The medieval page:In medieval times, a page was an attendant to a knight; an apprentice squire...

 in the Scottish court, where he was encouraged in the idea of making French vernacular translations of classical authors. A year after the death of the queen, he returned to France, travelling back through England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

.

Further travel took him to Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, Holland, and again, for a short time, Scotland, on diplomatic missions under Claude d'Humieres, seigneur de Lassigny
Lassigny
Lassigny is a village in northern France. It is designated municipally as a commune within the département of Oise....

, until he was attached as secretary to the suite of Lazare de Baïf
Lazare de Baïf
Lazare de Baïf was a French diplomat and humanist. His natural son, Jean-Antoine de Baïf, was born in Venice, while Lazare was French ambassador there....

, the father of his future colleague in 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...

 and his companion on this occasion, Antoine de Baïf, at the diet of Speyer. Afterwards he was attached in the same way to the suite of the cardinal du Bellay-Langey, and his mythical quarrel with François Rabelais
François Rabelais
François Rabelais was a major French Renaissance writer, doctor, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes and songs...

 dates from this period.

Studies


His apparently promising diplomatic career was, however, cut short by an attack of deafness which no physician could cure, and he determined to devote himself to study. The institution which he chose for the purpose among the numerous schools and colleges of Paris was the Collège Coqueret, the principal of which was Jean Daurat
Jean Daurat
Jean Daurat was a French poet, scholar, and a member of a group known as The Pléiade.-Early life:...

 — afterwards the "dark star" (as he has been called from his silence in French) of the Pléiade, and already an acquaintance of Ronsard's from his having held the office of tutor in the Baïf household. 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...

, Daurat's pupil, accompanied Ronsard; Belleau shortly followed; Joachim du Bellay
Joachim du Bellay
Joachim du Bellay was a French poet, critic, and a member of the Pléiade.-Biography:He was born at the Château of La Turmelière, not far from Liré, near Angers, being the son of Jean du Bellay, Lord of Gonnor, first cousin of the cardinal Jean du Bellay and of Guillaume du Bellay.Both his parents...

, the second of the seven, joined not much later. Muretus
Muretus
Muretus is the Latinized name of Marc Antoni Muret , a French humanist who was among the revivers of a Ciceronian Latin style and is among the usual candidates for the best Latin prose stylist of the Renaissance.-Biography:He was born at Muret near Limoges...

 (Marc Antoine de Muret), a great scholar and by means of his Latin
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...

 plays a great influence in the creation of French tragedy, was also a student here.

Ronsard's period of study occupied seven years, and the first manifesto of the new literary movement, which was to apply to the vernacular
Vernacular
A vernacular is the native language or native dialect of a specific population, as opposed to a language of wider communication that is not native to the population, such as a national language or lingua franca.- Etymology :The term is not a recent one...

 the principles of criticism and scholarship learnt from the classics, came not from him but from Du Bellay. The Défense et illustration de la langue française of the latter appeared in 1549, and the Pléiade (or Brigade, as it was first called) may be said to have been then launched. It consisted, as its name implies, of seven writers whose names are sometimes differently enumerated, though the orthodox canon is beyond doubt composed of Ronsard, Du Bellay, Baïf, Remy Belleau
Remy Belleau
Remy Belleau , was a poet of the French Renaissance. He is most known for his paradoxical poems of praise for simple things and his poems about precious stones....

, Pontus de Tyard
Pontus de Tyard
Pontus de Tyard was a French poet and priest, a member of "La Pléiade".He was born at Bissy-sur-Fley in Burgundy, of which he was seigneur, but the exact year of his birth is uncertain. He became a friend of Antoine Héroet and Maurice Scève...

 (a man of rank and position who had exemplified the principles of the friends earlier), Jodelle
Étienne Jodelle
Étienne Jodelle, seigneur de Limodin , French dramatist and poet, was born in Paris of a noble family.He attached himself to the poetic circle of the Pléiade and proceeded to apply the principles of the reformers to dramatic composition...

 the dramatist, and Daurat. Ronsard's own work came a little later, and a rather idle story is told of a trick of Du Bellay's which at last determined him to publish. Some single and minor pieces, an epithalamium
Epithalamium
Epithalamium refers to a form of poem that is written specifically for the bride on the way to her marital chamber...

 on Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne de Navarre (1550), a "Hymne de la France" (1549), an "Ode a la Paix," preceded the publication in 1550 of the four first books ("first" is characteristic and noteworthy) of the Odes of Pierre de Ronsard.

This was followed in 1552 by the publication of his Amours de Cassandre with the fifth book of Odes, dedicated to the 15-year-old Cassandre Salviati, whom he had met at Blois
Blois
Blois is the capital of Loir-et-Cher department in central France, situated on the banks of the lower river Loire between Orléans and Tours.-History:...

 and followed to her father's Château de Talcy
Château de Talcy
The Château de Talcy lies on the left bank of the Loire River, in the Loire Valley, famous for its 16th-century châteaux. It was commissioned toward 1520 by Bernardo Salviati, a Florentine banker with connections to the Medici family...

. These books excited a violent literary quarrel. 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...

 was dead, but he left numerous followers, some of whom saw in the stricter literary critique of the Pléiade, in its outspoken contempt of merely vernacular and medieval forms, in its strenuous advice to French poetry to "follow the ancients," and so forth, an insult to the author of the Adolescence Clémentine and his school.

Fame


His popularity in his own time was overwhelming and immediate, and his prosperity was unbroken. He published his Hymns, dedicated to Margaret de Valois, in 1555; the conclusion of the Amours, addressed to another heroine, in 1556; and then a collection of Œuvres completes, said to be due to the invitation of Mary Stuart, Queen of Francis II
Francis II of France
Francis II was aged 15 when he succeeded to the throne of France after the accidental death of his father, King Henry II, in 1559. He reigned for 18 months before he died in December 1560...

, in 1560; with Elégies, mascarades et bergeries in 1565. To this same year belongs his most important and interesting Abrégé de l'art poétique français.

The rapid change of sovereigns did Ronsard no harm. Charles IX, King of France
Charles IX of France
Charles IX was King of France, ruling from 1560 until his death. His reign was dominated by the Wars of Religion. He is best known as king at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.-Childhood:...

, who succeeded his brother after a very short time, was even better inclined to him than Henry and Francis. He gave him rooms in the palace; he bestowed upon him divers abbacies and priories; and he called him and regarded him constantly as his master in poetry. Neither was Charles IX a bad poet. This royal patronage, however, had its disagreeable side. It excited violent dislike to Ronsard on the part of the Huguenots, who wrote constant pasquinade
Pasquinade
Pasquino or Pasquin is the name used by Romans to describe a battered Hellenistic-style statue dating to the 3rd century BC, which was unearthed in the Parione district of Rome in the 15th century...

s against him, strove (by a ridiculous exaggeration of the Dionysiac festival at Arcueil, in which the friends had indulged to celebrate the success of the first French tragedy, Jodelle's Cleopatre) to represent him as a libertine
Libertine
A libertine is one devoid of most moral restraints, which are seen as unnecessary or undesirable, especially one who ignores or even spurns accepted morals and forms of behavior sanctified by the larger society. Libertines, also known as rakes, placed value on physical pleasures, meaning those...

 and an atheist, and (which seems to have annoyed him more than anything else) set up his follower Du Bartas as his rival.

According to some words of his own, which are quite credible considering the ways of the time, they were not contented with this variety of argument, but attempted to have him assassinated. During this period Ronsard's work was considerable but mostly occasional, and the one work of magnitude upon which Charles put him, the Franciade (1572), has never been ranked, even by his most devoted admirers, as a chief title to fame. The metre (the decasyllable
Decasyllable
Decasyllable is a poetic meter of ten syllables used in poetic traditions of syllabic verse...

) which the king chose could not but contrast unfavourably with the magnificent alexandrine
Alexandrine
An alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables. Alexandrines are common in the German literature of the Baroque period and in French poetry of the early modern and modern periods. Drama in English often used alexandrines before Marlowe and Shakespeare, by whom it was supplanted...

s which Du Bartas and Agrippa d'Aubigné
Agrippa d'Aubigné
Théodore-Agrippa d'Aubigné was a French poet, soldier, propagandist and chronicler. His epic poem Les Tragiques is widely regarded as his masterpiece.-Life:...

 were shortly to produce; the general plan is feebly classical, and the very language has little or nothing of that racy mixture of scholarliness and love of natural beauty which distinguishes the best work of the Pléiade. The poem could never have had an abiding success, but at its appearance it had the singular bad luck almost to coincide with the massacre of St Bartholomew, which had occurred about a fortnight before its publication. One party in the state were certain to look coldly on the work of a minion of the court at such a juncture, the other had something else to think of.

The death of Charles made, indeed, little difference in the court favour which Ronsard enjoyed, but, combined with his increasing infirmities, it seems to have determined him to quit court life. During his last days he lived chiefly at a house which he possessed in Vendôme
Vendôme
Vendôme is a commune in the Centre region of France.-Administration:Vendôme is the capital of the arrondissement of Vendôme in the Loir-et-Cher department, of which it is a sub-prefecture. It has a tribunal of first instance.-Geography:...

, the capital of his native province, at his abbey at Croix-Val in the same neighbourhood, or else at Paris, where he was usually the guest of Jean Galland, well known as a scholar, at the College de Boncourt. It seems also that he had a town house of his own in the Fauhourg Saint-Marcel. At any rate his preferments made him in perfectly easy circumstances, and he seems neither to have derived nor wished for any profit from his books. A half-jocular suggestion that his publishes should give him money to buy "du bois pour se chauffer" in return for his last revision of his Œuvres complètes is the only trace of any desire of the kind. On the other hand, he received not merely gifts and endowments from his own sovereign but presents from many others, including Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 of England. Mary, Queen of Scots addressed him from her prison, and Tasso
Torquato Tasso
Torquato Tasso was an Italian poet of the 16th century, best known for his poem La Gerusalemme liberata , in which he depicts a highly imaginative version of the combats between Christians and Muslims at the end of the First Crusade, during the siege of Jerusalem...

 consulted him on the Gerusalemme.

Final years


His last years were, however, saddened not merely by the death of many of his most intimate friends, but by constant and increasing ill-health. This did not interfere with his literary work in point of quality, for he was rarely idle, and some of his latest work is among his best. But he indulged (what few poets have wisely indulged) the temptation of constantly altering his work, and many of his later alterations are by no means for the better. Towards the end of 1585 his condition of health grew worse and worse, and he seems to have moved restlessly from one of his houses to another for some months. When the end came, which, though in great pain, he met in a resolute and religious manner, he was at his priory of Saint-Cosme at Tours, and he was buried in the church of that name on Friday, 27 December.

Works


The character and fortunes of Ronsard's works are among the most remarkable in literary history, and supply in themselves a kind of illustration of the progress of French literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 during the last three centuries. It was long his fortune to be almost always extravagantly admired or violently attacked. At first, as has been said, the enmity, not altogether unprovoked, of the friends and followers of Marot fell to his lot, then the still fiercer antagonism of the Huguenot faction, who, happening to possess a poet of great merit in Du Bartas, were able to attack Ronsard in his tenderest point. But fate had by no means done its worst with him in his lifetime. After his death the classical reaction set in under the auspices of Malherbe
François de Malherbe
François de Malherbe was a French poet, critic, and translator.-Life:Born in Le-Locheur , his family was of some position, though it seems not to have been able to establish to the satisfaction of heralds the claims which it made to nobility older than the 16th century.He was the eldest son of...

, who seems to have been animated with a sort of personal hatred of Ronsard, though it is not clear that they ever met. After Malherbe, the rising glory of Corneille
Pierre Corneille
Pierre Corneille was a French tragedian who was one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine...

 and his contemporaries obscured the tentative and unequal work of the Pléiade, which was, moreover, directly attacked by Boileau
Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux
Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux was a French poet and critic.-Biography:Boileau was born in the rue de Jérusalem, in Paris, France. He was brought up to the law, but devoted to letters, associating himself with La Fontaine, Racine, and Molière...

 himself, the dictator of French criticism in the last half of the 17th century.

Then Ronsard was, except by a few men of taste, such as Jean de La Bruyère
Jean de La Bruyère
Jean de La Bruyère was a French essayist and moralist.-Ancestry:He was born in Paris, not, as was once thought, at Dourdan in 1645...

 and Fénelon
François Fénelon
François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, more commonly known as François Fénelon , was a French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer...

, forgotten when he was not sneered at. In this condition he remained during the whole 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th. The Romantic revival, seeing in him a victim of its special bête noire Boileau, and attracted by his splendid diction, rich metrical faculty, and combination of classical and medieval peculiarities, adopted his name as a kind of battle-cry, and for the moment exaggerated his merits somewhat. The critical work, however, first of Sainte-Beuve
Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve was a literary critic and one of the major figures of French literary history.-Early years:...

 in his Tableau de la littérature francaise au 16ème siècle, and since of others, has established Ronsard pretty securely in his right place, a place which may be defined in a few sentences.

Ronsard was the acknowledged chief of the Pléiade and its most voluminous poet. He was probably also its best, though a few isolated pieces of Belleau excel him in airy lightness of touch. Several sonnets of Du Bellay exhibit what may be called the intense and voluptuous melancholy of the Renaissance more perfectly than anything of his, and the finest passages of the Tragiques and the Divine Sep'Maine surpass his work in command of the alexandrine and in power of turning it to the purposes of satirical invective and descriptive narration. But that work is, as has been said, very extensive (we possess at a rough guess not much short of a hundred thousand lines of his), and it is extraordinarily varied in form. He did not introduce the sonnet into France, but he practised it very soon after its introduction and with admirable skill - the famous "Quand vous serez bien vieille" being one of the acknowledged gems of French literature.
His odes, which are very numerous, are also very interesting and in their best shape very perfect compositions. He began by imitating the strophic arrangement of the ancients, but very soon had the wisdom to desert this for a kind of adjustment of the Horatian ode to rhyme, instead of exact quantitative metre. In this latter kind he devised some exquisitely melodious rhythms of which, till our own day, the secret died with the 17th century. His more sustained work sometimes displays a bad selection of measure; and his occasional poetry
Occasional poetry
Occasional poetry is poetry composed for a particular occasion. In the history of literature, it is often studied in connection with orality, performance, and patronage. As a term of literary criticism, "occasional poetry" describes the work's purpose and the poet's relation to subject matter...

--epistles, eclogue
Eclogue
An eclogue is a poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject. Poems in the genre are sometimes also called bucolics.The form of the word in contemporary English is taken from French eclogue, from Old French, from Latin ecloga...

s, elegies, etc.--is injured by its vast volume. But the preface to the Franciade is a very fine piece of verse, far superior (it is in alexandrines) to the poem itself. Generally speaking, Ronsard is best in his amatory verse (the long series of sonnets and odes to Cassandre, Pikles, Marie, Genévre, Héléne—Héléne de Surgeres, a later and mainly "literary" love—etc.), and in his descriptions of the country (the famous "Mignonne, allons voir si la rosehttp://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/%C2%AB_Mignonne,_allons_voir_si_la_rose_%C2%BB," the "Fontaine Bellerie," the "Forêt de Gastine," and so forth), which have an extraordinary grace and freshness. No one used with more art than he the graceful diminutives which his school set in fashion. He knew well too how to manage the gorgeous adjectives ("marbrine," "cinabrine," "ivoirine" and the like) which were another fancy of the Pléiade, and in his hands they rarely become stiff or cumbrous. In short, Ronsard shows eminently the two great attractions of French 16th-century poetry as compared with that of the two following ages - magnificence of language and imagery and graceful variety of metre.

Criticism


External links