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PIERRE DE RONSARD. There is no poet I am acquainted Pierre de Ronsard descended from with, ancient or modern, who has a noble family, was born on Saturday impressed his own character so mi- the eleventh of September, 1524, the nutely and strongly on his writings as year in which Francis I. was made Ronsard. His loyalty to his sove- prisoner in the battle of Pavia.t reigns, accompanied by the most The first of his ancestors who came perfect frankness; the openness of his into France, was the younger son of heart, equally disposed to form friend- an opulent and powerful nobleman ships, and constant in preserving settled on the banks of the Danube. them ; his generosity and placability; This man, incited by a spirit of enhis great learning, that unhappily terprize, left his home with a band served, for the most part, only to of companions, who, like himself, make him ridiculous; the high value were younger brothers; and entering he set on his noble birth,* which, as into the service of Philip of Valois, he said, enabled him to imitate Pin- then at war with the English, satisdar, when Horace had failed in the fied the French king so well, that he attempt on accouut of his wanting was rewarded with an ample estate that advantage; his gallantry, made on the banks of the Loire, where he up of pedantry and passion; his and his posterity continued to reside. hearty love of the country in its The father of our poet was thought natural and unembellished state; his a fit person to accompany Henry, the zeal for the poetic art, to which son of Francis I. when he was sent every thing else was subordinate;- as a hostage for his father into Spain ; all these, like so many quarterings and to be entrusted with the main a coat of armour, are on his pages nagement of the young prince's blazoned at full and in their proper household. Pierre, who was the colours. From the account which sixth son, having been brought up his affectionate friend Claude Binet till he was nine years old at the has given of his life, corrected by Chateau de la Poissoniere, his nasuch notices as he has left of him- tive place, in the lower Vendomois, self, I have extracted some of the was then sent to the Royal College principal incidents, and shall place of Navarre at Paris; but not bearing them here as the best introduction to the restraint laid on him by his prethe remarks which I have to make ceptors, he was brought by his faon his writings.
ther to Avignon, and placed in the Odes, B. I. O. xi. Epode iv.
+ See his twentieth Elegy, addressed to Remy Belleau. VOL. V.
service of Francis, eldest son of the version of the Plutus of Aristophanes, French king. That prince dying part of which still remains. It was soon after, Ronsard was transferred represented on the French theatre; to the train of his brother Charles, and from such a beginning, we can, Duke of Orleans, by whom he was in some measure, account for the exagain passed over to the retinue of cellence at which the French have James V. king of Scotland, who had since arrived in this species of comcome to marry Madelaine, daughter position. He was next desirous of of the French king: By James he trying his strength with Pindar, was taken to Scotland, where he whose manner he was so studious of passed two years and a half. He imitating, that he drew on himself the then spent six months in England, sarcasms of his contemporaries. So where he learnt our language; and far did he carry his admiration of afterwards returned to his former every thing that had the most remaster the Duke of Orleans, who mote connection with his favourite now retained him as his page. Being poets of Greece, that he is said to master of the accomplishments usual have been influenced in the choice of at his age, he was despatched on a mistress to celebrate in his verses, some affairs to Flanders and Zealand, by the accidental circumstance of her whence he was charged to proceed bearing the name of Cassandra, the on a mission to Scotland. On his daughter of Priam. But in the second visit to that country, he nar. Epistle to Remy Belleau, he leaves rowly escaped shipwreck. He re- it doubtful whether this was the turned at the early age of sixteen. real or fictitious name of a young Henry, who was afterwards king, lady, of whom he became enamoured then placed him in the suite of La- when he was following the court at zare de Baïf, who at that time was Blois. ambassador to the Diet at Spires. His idolatry for the antients was On this journey he acquired the not such as to make him neglect the German language. His next service means which his own country afto his country led him to Piedmont, forded him for enriching its vernawith the Capitaine de Langey. But cular tongue. He is said, like Burke, these exertions were disproportioned to have visited the shops of artisans, to his time of life, and occasioned a and to have made himself acquainted fever, with a defluxion on the brain, with all sorts of handicrafts, in order that in the end deprived him of his that he might learn the different hearing. This misfortune, however, terms which were employed in them, served only to determine him to the and derive illustrations whereby to pursuit of those studies to which he diversify and ornament his diction. had not hitherto had time to apply In his Abregé de l'Art Poetique, and himself. His love of letters is said in the Preface to the Franciade, he to have been awakened by one of himself recommends this practice; his brother pages, who had always and at the same time advises the poet a Virgil in his hand, and who used to appropriate the most significant to explain to him passages in that words that he can collect from the poet. In the Preface to the Fran- different dialects of France. ciade, he says, that his master at About 1549, on his return from school had taught him Virgil ; and Poitiers to Paris, he chanced to fall that having learnt him by heart from in with Joachim du Bellay; and his infancy, he could not forget him. joining together on the journey, To the Latin poet he now added the fellow-travellers were so much Jean le Maire de Belges, the Romant pleased with one another, that they de la Rose, and the works of Cle- determined to reside under the same ment Marot. By Dorat, who was roof. In this party, Jan Antoine de the preceptor of young Baïf, Ron- Baïf made a third. It did not, sard was encouraged to the study of however, continue uninterrupted by Greek, in which he made such a jealousy. Ronsard accused Bellay proficiency, as to translate the Pro- of wishing to forestal the favour of metheús of Æschylus; at the same the public, by a collection of poems time asking his master, why he had which he had closely copied from so long kept such treasures concealed some of his own. He even instifrom hin? His next attempt was a tuted a suit, as Binet relates, for the
recovery of some papers, of which it so effectually, that the monarch du Bellay had surreptitiously ob- afterwards thought himself honoured tained possession for this purpose, by possessing so great a genius in and gained his cause. But so little his dominions; and gave proofs that resentment was harboured on either he did so, by the honours and penside, that they renewed the intimacy; sions which he conferred on him, and Ronsard encouraged his rival to though not in such measure as to the cultivation of the art to which satisfy the expectations of Ronsard. he was himself so much attached, The sage Michel de l'Hôpital, Chanby means at once more honourable, cellor to this lady, as he afterwards and more likely to ensure success- was of France, also undertook his namely, by trusting to the resources defence; and wrote a Latin poem in of his own mind. Another instance his praise. In return, Ronsard adof his noble temper showed itself in dressed a long and laboured ode (the his forgiveness of Mellin de Saint tenth of the first book) to l'Hôpital. Gelais, who, after having disparaged The Cardinal de Chatillon, Charles the works of Ronsard, as he had Cardinal of Lorraine, and other great reason to believe, in the presence of men of the day, now enlisted themthe King, afterwards sought his selves in the number of his patrons friendship; whereupon the injured and riends; and the Presidents of poet not only altered a passage in the Jeux Floraux, not thinking the one of his poems, in which he had customary prize of the eglantine expressed his sense of this malignity, sufficient for his deserts, sent him a but honoured him with those praises figure of Minerva in silver, which he to which he thought the merit of presented to the King: Saint Gelais entitled him.* In answer At the death of Henry II. and to the charges brought against him during the religious dissentions which of obscurity and unconnectedness, he followed at the succession of Francis haughtily declared his indifference to II. Ronsard, in his defence of the the taste of the vulgar; and com- established form of worship, exposed pared his enemies at the court to himself to some rough treatment dogs that bite at the stone which from the Reformers. Amongst other they cannot digest.
things, they accused him of heathenMais que ferai-je à ce vulgaire,
ism, for having assisted at the saA qui jamais je n'ay sceu plaire, crifice of a he-goat; an affair that Ny ne plais, ny plaire ne veux ? turned out to be a frolic, in which he
L. v. 0. ii. and some of his literary companions At the end of ten years he quitted engaged, in consequence of a tragedy his Cassandra, thinking, perhaps, by Jodelle being represented before that having stood as long a siege as the King. However he might think Troy without yielding, there was no
himself bound to support the ancient further chance of winning her af- religion of his country, that he was fections. A young damsel of Anjou, no bigot I am disposed to believe named Mary, was the next object of from the following lines in an Ode to his poetical courtship. To her he one of his friends :altered his style, and condescended Ne romps ton tranquille repos to speak his passion in plainer terms. Pour Papaux ny pour Huguenots, Margaret, Duchess of Savoy, is
amy d'eux, ni adversaire, said to have changed the opinion of
Croyant que Dieu Pere tres-dous the French King with respect to the
(Qui n'est partial comme nous) merit of Ronsard, and to have done
Scait ce qui nous est necessaire.
L. v. 0. xxviii.
* In the Odes, L. iv. 0. xxi. it appears that Mellin had disavowed the calumnies which it was reported that he had uttered in the presence of the King against Ronsard; and that their friendship was restored.
When the short reign of Francis he was much afflicted with the gout. II. was terminated by the death The Sieur Galland, chief of the Acaof that King, his brother, Charles demy of Boncourt, was the friend in IX. did not suffer Ronsard to quit whose society he now found most him, by which the poet was much comfort, calling him his “second gratified. Amongst other subjects, soul.” To him, on the twenty-seto which Charles directed his pen, cond of October before his death, he were such vices in his people as he wrote :-" Qu'il etoit devenu fort should think deserving of his satire, foible et maigre depuis quinze jours, at the same time, desiring him not to qu'il craignit que les feuilles d'Aua spare what he found worthy of repre- tomne ne le vissent tomber avec hension in himself. Ronsard was hardy elles ; que la volonté de Dieu soit enough to take him at his word, and so faite, et qu'aussi bien parmi tant de fortunate as to escape the fate which douleurs nerveux, ne se pouvant soubefel the monitor of the Archbishop of tenir, il n'etoit plus qu'un inutile Grenada. The King in his turn kept fardeau sur la terre, le priant au the bard in good order, declaring reste de l'aller trouver, estimant sa that poets were to be used like good presence lui etre un remede.” “That steeds, to have sufficient food al- for the last fortnight he had become lowed them, but not to be pampered. very emaciated and feeble; that he The courtiers availed themselves of feared the leaves of Autumn would the fertility of his Muse; and bor- see him fall with them; that his rowed his pen for the celebration of prayer, however, was God's will be their mistresses. The Queen Mother, done; and that moreover, not being Catherine de' Medici, directed him able to support himself amid such to make choice of one of the ladies nervous pangs as he endured, he was of the chamber, whose name no longer any thing but a useless Helene de Surgeres, descended of a burden to the earth; for the rest, Spanish family, to receive the ho- that he entreated him to come and mage of his own person, and bade see him, for that he thought his prehim address her in the pure and re- sence would be a cordial to him." fined style of Petrarch, as most Hoping for some ease from change suitable to his age and gravity. Be- of place and objects, he removed tween the dicipline thus imposed on from one of his benefices to another. him by his royal master and mistress, His piety was fervent and unreit is likely that the poet must have mitting; and his repentance for the felt himself under some constraint. excesses of his earlier life, into which He continued, however, to warble the court had led him, earnest and many a sonnet in his cage; and as a sincere. He manifested no uneasireward of his submission and doci- ness, except in a frequent desire, lity, was presented with the Abbey which accompanied him to the last, of Bellozane, and some priories. At of dictating the verses that presented the succession of Henry III. to whom themselves to his mind. The last he used the same freedom as he had were two sonnets, in which he exdone to his predecessor, he com- horted his spirit to confidence in his plained that he was no longer ca- Saviour; and thus he expired on the ressed, as he had been by Charles. twenty-seventh of December, 1585, He found some consolation in the with his hands joined in prayer. attentions of the two rival queens, According to his own directions, Elizabeth of England, and Mary he was buried in the choir of the Stewart,—the former of whom com- church of Saint Cosme en l'Isle, one pared him to a valuable diamond of of his priories, where he died.which she made him a present,—and Claude Binet caused, as he says, a the latter, from her prison, sent him little monument to be erected, on in 1583, two years before his death, which the following epitaph was ina casket containing two thousand scribed :crowns, together with a vase repre- Κόσμος άκοσμος έην, ότε κόσμιος ο senting Parnassus and Pegasus, and
Κόσμον έκόσμησεν κόσμω έων έπέων, . A Ronsard l'Apollon de la Source des Muses. Νύν δε θανόντος έχει τύμβος Κοσμά “ To Ronsard, Apollo of the Muses'
évi vaw Fountain."
Οσία της φήμης μνήμα δε κόσμος During the latter part of his life
This is such a string of puns as, woods and the Seine ; or at Gentilly, if they were once slipped out of Hercueil, Saint Cloud, and Vanves, their Greek setting, it would be im- for the sake of the rivulet of Biévre possible to thread again.
and its fountains. He took delight His biographer observes, that Eu- also in the sister arts of painting, rope lost several of her most illus- sculpture, and music, and was skilltrious men about the same time: ed enough in the latter to sing his one of them was Antoine de Muret, own verses. whom Ronsard had reckoned among The poems that stand first in his his friends, and who united with collection are the Amours de CasRemy Belleau in writing annotations sandre, consisting, besides a few on his poems.
other pieces, of two hundred and The French poets, whom he es- twenty-two sonnets, one only of teemed as having begun to write which is in the Alexandrine, the rest well in that language, were Maurice are in the vers communs, or decaSceve, Hugues Salel, Antoine He- syllabick measure. In the Preface roet, Mellin de Saint Gelais, Jacques to the Franciade he says, that he Pelletier, and Guillaume Autels. "To had changed his mind as to the them succeeded a set of writers who Alexandrine measure, which he no were in some measure, though older longer considered as the proper hesome of them than himself, influenced roic. His reason is, that it savours by his example, and who have been too much of an extremely easy prose, already mentioned as constituting, and is too enervated and flagging; together with him, the French Pleiad. except it be for translations, in which Others, whom he highly esteemed, it is useful, on account of its length, were Estienne Pasquier; Olivier de for expressing the sense of an author. Magny; Jean de la Peruse; Amadis He thought differently when he wrote Jamyn, whom he had educated as his his Art Poetique, as may be seen by page ; Robert Garnier, a tragic wri- referring to the chapter on versiter; Florent Chrestien; Scevole de fication. Sainte Marthe; Jean Passerat; Phi- Ronsard must sometimes have lippe Desportes; the Cardinal du puzzled Cassandra, unless she was Perron; and Bertaud. Among those tolerably learned, and well read in learned foreigners who paid their Aristotle. Thus in Sonnet 68, he tribute to the excellence of Ronsard, asks heroccur the distinguished names of
O lumiere ! enrichie Julius Cæsar Scaliger, Pietro Vettori, D'un feu divin, qui m'ard si vivement, and Sperone Speroni.
Pour me donner l'etre et le mouvement, His conversation is said to have Etes vous pas ma seul entelechie ? been easy and pleasant.
“O light! in whom I see himself free, open, and simple ; and The fire divine, that burns me to bestow associated willingly with none who
Whate'er of being or of life I know, who were otherwise, being a de
Say art not thou my sole entelechy ?" clared enemy to every thing like af- In the 104th, he reminds her of fectation. In short, Claude Binet the violation of her person by Ajax, considered him in manners and ap
the son of Oileus. pearance as the model of a true His attempt to mould the French French gentleman.
language to the purposes of poetry His usual residence was at Saint did not succeed. When, in imitation Cosme, a delightful spot, (l'oeillet of Petrarch, he says, de la Touraine) the pink of Tou- Le seul Avril, de son jeune printemps raine, itself the garden of France; Endore, emperle, enfrange notre temps. or at Bourgueil, where he went for
Son. 121. the sake of sporting, in which he Vedi quant'arte ’ndora e'mperla e’nnostra took much pleasure ; and here he L'abito eletto. kept the dogs given him by Charles the French being the language of IX., a falcon, and a goshawk (un Europe, will not easily endure such tiercelet d'autour). Another of his innovations as these, which tend to amusements was gardening, in which make it less generally intelligible. he had considerable skill. When at The fifty-second sonnet is no unParis, his favourite retirements were favourable specimen of his Platonic at Meudon, for the sake of the manner :