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Ronsard, Pierre (of)
Seam-on-dormouse, 1524 - Saint-Cosme-in-the Isle, 1585
© Hachette Multimédia/Hachette Livre



 


Pierre de Ronsard

French poet

Prince of the poets and poet of the princes, appreciated by Henri II, pensioned by Charles IX, Pierre de Ronsard knew glory and fortune. With the group of the Pleiad, it was given for task to renew the inspiration and the form of the poetry, whose it practiced all the kinds, of the light song to the epopee, of the anthem to the masquerade, the poem of circumstance to the lampoon.

 

Forgotten after its death, sometimes despized - to the XVII E century, Large Arnauld will speak about its “pitiful poetries” -, Ronsard will be rediscovered by Holy-Beuve and will be celebrated by the romantic ones. It is that it will have taken two centuries to find such a sincerity of lyricism. Released from its references érudites, mythological and courtesans, the poetry of Ronsard remains also young person, as eternal as what she sings best: love and nature.


The gentleman courtier-poet

It is in this Touraine of which it will not cease exciting the beauty that Pierre de Ronsard was born, in 1524, with the castle of Possonnière, Seam-on-Dormouse.

 

A morbid childhood

Registered to Paris with the college of Navarre, the child returns in his parents after six months, either that it had of the evil to follow, or that the disease obstructed its studies. His/her father, cultivated gentleman, the fact of admitting, at the twelve years age, like page at the court of France, which it will leave for Scotland, in the continuation of Madeleine de France, wife of king Jacques Stuart, then for Alsace, before being made rider. But the teenager is of a fragile health: afflicted with a chronic otitis, it becomes deaf before reaching twenty years. This infirmity prohibiting soldiering to him, it receives the tonsure. Clerk, he will be never priest but will be able to be made allot by Henri II the benefit of some cures.

 

The poet of the princes

Come to Paris, it follows the lesson of humanistic Dorat, with the college of Coqueret, with the future members of the Pleiad. Its talent, its energy and also its ambition place it from the start in charge of this school. Its poetic art from now on is fixed, and it publishes its first poems: parts of circumstance dedicated to large of the court and odes. At ten years of interval (1545 and 1555), it also met two very young girls, Cassandre Salviati and Marie the From Angers one, which will inspire its first books to him: the Loves (1552), the Continuation of the Loves (1555), the New Continuation of the Loves (1556). Promising works which know a rather large repercussion so that Charles IX is made the guard of their author and devotes it official poet of the court. Without breaking with the tradition of the poet courtier, Ronsard celebrates the combat and the victories royal. It obtains a chaplaincy then a canonicat.

 

At this point in time in France the wars of religion break out, that assassinations and massacres between catholics and Protestants multiply. Ronsard takes party for the catholics clearly and puts his feather at the service of the fight against the Huguenot ones. It defends the royal policy in the Speeches of miseries of this time and the Remonstrance with the people of France. These political poems are worth obviously enmities to him, which he will answer in new poems (Answers to the insults).


The “prince of the poets”

Ronsard is then at the top of its glory. He is recognized “prince of the poets”, largely pensioned by the court and equipped with several priories and canonicats. If it spends most clearly its time in Vendômois, it is less there to fulfill the functions of its load that by love for this ground, where it was always rained and where a low health obliges it to remain.

 

Anxious to deepen the imposing vein to which its ambition pushes it and to assume its role of first poet of France, he wants to give an epopee to his country and puts in building site Franciade, works pompous and without exit whose he prefers to give up the composition after four songs. It is true that the death of Charles IX, to whom it poem was dedicated, does not encourage it to persevere.


A half-disgrace

New king, Henri III, is more carried towards a brilliant and easier poetry. If it maintains the pension which its predecessor had granted to Ronsard, it prefers to make sure the services of Desportes like official poet. From now on far away from the court, Ronsard is withdrawn in one of its many priories of Touraine and is diverted erudite poetry. This half-disgrace does not start of anything its fortune, and its fame passes the borders now. It met in the entourage of Catherine de Médicis the beautiful Helene de Surgères, for whom, notwithstanding a great difference in age, it composes 130 sonnets in love. In this elegiac vein, that the age and disappointments color bitterness, it finds and gives best itself. They are last fires of the poet. He has nearly sixty years and the disease leaves him little respite. From 1578 to 1583, it passes to the marketing year five years which one knows badly with what it occupies them. It still finds time to develop an edition its works.

 

Suffering from the drop and insomnia, it dictates its last poems, of moving sonnets haunted by the pain and the proximity by death. He dies chrétiennement, in his priory of Saint-Cosme-in-the Isle, close to Turns, in 1585. Paris makes him solemn funeral.


Between lyricism and preciousness

Ronsard, man of the Rebirth, are a humanistic poet. In its desire of universality, there is no topic which it forgot to treat: love, nature, death, philosophy, the religion, the policy, the war, the fatherland. The same concern pushes it to acclimatize the ancient culture to the French genius or to compete with the Italian poets. But there also its weakness resides. Pétrarque and Pietro Bembo, Horace, Anacréon or Pindare are not only for him references or sources of inspiration but of the objects of imitation, so much so that certain parts resemble fabrics of loans. It is necessary to add to that the mythological implements and the display of scholarship which could call, of living even of Ronsard, notes and comments. The influence which he wants to have on the language leads it to neologisms, Latinisms and diminutives which end up pouring in the preciosity. In the same way , obliged to celebrate the royal important facts and to provide in worms the festivals of the court, it is at the edge of being lost in the pump and rhetoric.

 

A personal technique

However, at Ronsard, the pomposity is seldom free from power, the preciousness of grace, and the imitation does not manage to mask the personal inspiration. In the Anthems as in the Speeches the impressed fragments of a true size abound, the strong images, the maxims struck in bronze, full rates. The Odes are played with ease of the rhythms most various and excellent to create in some worms a delicate atmosphere or a picturesque scene. The Sonnets for Helene, the Sonnets on the death of Marie or the Last Worms directly seem to express an emotion so much the control of the technique knew to make the language transparent. It is Ronsard which the most contributed to fix the form of the sonnet and to place the alexandrine at the first rank of the French meters.

 

A musical poetry

Besides if it were necessary to retain only one of its qualities, it is probably its gift of the harmony and the musical quality which would have to be proposed. This deaf poet wrote in his poetic Art: “The ear is judge of the structure of the worms like the eye of painting of the tables.” This sensitivity already verlainienne to the matter even of the poem is expressed in each worms so much the rhythms and sonorities are employed there with art, so much Ronsard can play on the keyboard of the language to make some vibrate all the registers. Besides one tends to neglect that the form of the poems was guided by employment that would make the composers of them and that many poems were intended to be sung: “Poetry without the instruments is by no means pleasant”, he still writes.


Eternal topics

The topics of predilection of Ronsard, those which it generally treated and with the most personality, are the eternal topics which retain any poet, who touch us more: time, death, nature, love, often used together to serve the same matter. The poet shows to the beloved the spectacle of nature to convince it that time passes, that death approaches and that it must thus… be given to him without delay (for example, “I send a bouquet to you that my hand…”)! The Carpus diem of Épicure (“Picking the day, benefits from the life”) is its continual and pressing council. Death is however not dreadful nothing.

 

In the Anthem with death as well as in the Last ones Towards, it is the liberator, that which delivers the heart of the body, and the body of the pains. The poet more fears the passage of the time, which makes it age and makes him lose the love of the young girls. And those, like the pinks, have to fade. At least nature each reappears spring. The spectacle of water, the birds and wood is source of emotions always sharp and always renewed, source of melancholy also since natural major cycle recalls the fugacity of our passage over ground. And the condition of mortal is not nowhere more quivering, more impatient than in the feeling in love. Admittedly the love can seem at Ronsard a pure topic literary, the lady becoming object of inaccessible perfection, goddess, concept. But the woman is also object of flesh and desire, and it then reveals at the poet a sensuality and a taste of the pleasure which can go until the bawdiness.


A capricious posterity

This is why, if it is necessary to still summarize, one could say that Ronsard is the poet of the beauty and death. It is in any case as fixed it the posterity, a posterity on which it counted and which was capricious towards him. Little time after its death, Ronsard falls in disgrace. Malherbe condemns it for the luxuriance of its language; the traditional ones find there nothing of what they like: measurement, reason, the rigor and good taste; Voltaire the “barbarian” judge. It should be awaited the romantic ones so that are again appreciated the lyricism of Ronsard, the perfect alloy of a style and a sensitivity.

 

Still this rehabilitation is not it unanimous. Michelet devotes to him, in its French history, some cruel pages: “It typed as a deaf person on the poor French language.” But if the MUSE erudite of the poet, who could only age, lost his grace, in the poems where it was sincere, spontaneous and simple, where it was thus truest, time remains, as on the feelings which it expresses, without catch.



 
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