France Literature From 1515 to 1598 Part III

France Literature From 1515 to 1598 3

According to OXFORDASTRONOMY, the name Brigade they assume early on (1549-52) is an indication of their ambitions. Their manifesto, the Deffence et illustration de la langue françoise by Du Bellay (1549) closes with a vibrant appeal to the French to plunder once more the Capitol and the temple of Delphi and decorate their temples and altars with “bare servants”. Du Bellay is, or thinks he is, the introducer of the Italian sonnet in France; Ronsard introduces the great Pindaric ode and prepares to endow France with the great poem, the epic poem. In 1552 the Cléopâtre del Jodelle gives the impetus to classical theater. The important strand, French and foreign, of neo-Latin poetry flows into the Pléiade, to transform itself into French poetry. Problems of practical technique, grammar and linguistics are faced with ardor. In a few years, due to its almost general success, the Pléiade accomplishes the classicist education of the public and literally completes the separation from the Middle Ages. Youthful party of rhythms, orchestration of erudite themes, but in a time that erudition was joy and life, the work of artists not without an intimate lyrical personality of their own, his poetry on the whole fulfills the initial dream: it provided the first examples of large, severe, harmonious construction and with Ronsard gave to the waiting public the poet predicted by Deffence. But it is not, after all, for his poetic production that the Pléiade belongs to the Renaissance. Soon you forget about the primitive program – the construction of an art equal in form and value to the old – the individual poets have come close to that “easy nature” against which they had risen in the name of a more laborious art and have left that their intimate sentiment, their little world of voluptuous Petrarchans, triumphed over erudite reminiscences. In that way Ronsard reaches the thoughtful originality of the Hymns and Du Bellay the suggestive sadness of the Regrets ; but on the whole the great dreamed work is resolved above all in a flood of love verses (Olive by Du Bellay; Amours of Ronsard, of Baïf, of Jodelle, of Magny; Erreurs amoureuses by P. de Tyard, etc.). The great Pindaric odes remain an isolated fact in Ronsard’s own activity. The work is adapting itself to the needs of the individual temperament and, what is worse, lowering itself to the level of the courtesan mentality. With Belleau one already falls into descriptive frivolity (Petites inventions, 1557). The Pléiade belongs to the Renaissance above all for its ideas. By formulating a doctrine, by establishing a hierarchy of literary genres, by opening the higher spheres of poetry to the vulgar, by preaching respect for technique and work, it was, in the hour of common enthusiasm, the conscience literary of the nation. The aesthetic ideal that it forms, under the charm of classical models and in the flood of Italian imports, is in contrast with the first trends of the Renaissance: it consecrates, after the lyrical sincerity of a Margherita, of a Rabelais, d’un Marot, the canon of imitation (in the modern sense of adaptation and plagiarism), after the broad and human realism of a Rabelais, the vision of an aristocratic, erudite art,, the utopia of a language to be perfected in and of itself as a tool for future masterpieces. But that is the ideal that the Renaissance left to the future and which three centuries of French literature will remain imprinted on: the three classical centuries. For her, the Renaissance leaves to France, with all the prejudices that are connected to it, the deadly concept that only the works of which a classical prototype already exists belong to literature.

From 1559 to 1598. – The terrible political-social crisis that opens with the death of Henry II and ends only with the peace of Vervins and with the edict of Nantes, has repercussions in various ways in literary life. The civil war and foreign invasions do not stop the intellectual movement: on the contrary, they help its lay and rationalistic direction. The new and more rigid measures of the conservative powers against science and the spirit of rebirth are offset by the impetus that liberal and revolutionary theories take in the conflict and revolt of consciences. In this regard, the relations with the previous period are so close that they can become current works, weapons in the passionate struggle, the Contre un of La Boétie, the sleepy Isle by Rabelais (perhaps residuals, in part, of the material for the fourth book). But the France of civil wars goes further. Not only is a true doctrine of French freedoms elaborated (Hotman, Duplessis-Mornay for Protestants; Bodin for Catholics), not only does one arrive at the idea of ​​the contract and deposition (Boucher, Du droit de déposer les rois, 1591), but the concept of regicide becomes common and normal. The same poem is associated with the regicide enhancers: see Judith by Du Bartas (whatever the poet said against this interpretation). The practical necessities of the struggle and the renewed national spirit create a wide interest in homeland history (E. Pasquier, France Hotman, Du Tillet, Cl. Fauchet, the two Pithou, Du Haillant, P. Masson, etc.) and give originated from the first studies on French law (Du Moulin).

France Literature From 1515 to 1598 3