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I

POEMS PUBLISHED BEFORE OR DURING THE

YEAR 1550

Ronsard began writing poetry and also imitation of Virgil at a very early age:

Je n'avois pas douze ans qu'au profond des vallées...
Sans avoir soin de rien je composois des vers 1.

Such are the words which Ronsard wrote in his Discours à P. L'Escot, Seigneur de Cluny (1560), and although they may give his age as a trifle too young, they are at least approximately true. His early efforts, however, were not in French, but in Latin:

Je fu premierement curieux du Latin 2.

These Latin works have been lost, but that there was some imitation of Virgil in them may be seen in such a remark as,

Si autre-fois sous l'ombre Gastine

Avons joué quelque chanson Latine
D'Amarille enamouré,... 3

1. Lau., V, 176; Bl., VI, 191.

2. Lau., V, 177; Bl., VI, 191. Binet (ed. of Lau., 49) testifies to this : En sa premiere jeunesse il s'estoit addonné la Muse latine, et de fait nous avons veu quelques vers latins de sa façon assez passables...

3. Lau., VI, 130; Bl., II, 394. In later editions the Virgilian name « Amɑrille » is changed to « Cassandre ». Ronsard could not have taken the name from Theocritus, since he did not know Greek at this time.

In other words, Ronsard under the influence of his beautiful sylvan surroundings wrote eclogues in imitation of Virgil. How numerous or how close to Virgil the imitations were we shall probably never know.

In the first of Ronsard's odes written in French and primarily inspired by Horace, there are many reminiscences of Virgil, but since the chronological order of these odes is uncertain because of their tardy publication, we shall begin our discussion of the direct borrowings of Ronsard from Virgil with the Hymne de France, published in 1549 1. This poem of 224 lines is based almost entirely on Virgil's 41 line eulogy of Italy in Georgics II, 136-176. The first thirty lines appeal to his luth to sing for the pleasure of Frenchmen and declare his intention of singing the glory of France. In this section there are but two Virgilian passages, a translation of a line of the Georgics:

Voler par les bouches des hommes 2.

and a reminiscence of the Eclogues :

Le sainct troupeau des pucelles chenues,
Du hault du ciel en terre revenues,

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Then begins the actual eulogy, as does Virgil's, with a negative statement that foreign lands and rivers cannot vie with France:

Il ne faut point que l'Arabie heureuse,
Ne par son Nil l'Ægypte plantureuse,
Ne l'Inde riche en mercerie estrange,
Fasse à la tienne egale sa louange.

1. As mentioned above (p. 14) it is one of the six poems published before 1550.

2. Lau., VI, 79; Geor., III, 9. .3. Lau., VIII, 14; Ec., IV, 6-7.

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Sed neque Medorum silvæ, ditissima terra
nec pulcher Ganges atque auro turbidus Hermus
laudibus Italiæ certent, non Bactra neque Indi
totaque turiferis Panchaia pinguis harenis 1.

Although

...

le doux miel ne suinte en noz rameaux,...
Des fiers lions la semence superbe

En est bien loin, et le serpent par l'herbe,
Tel qu'en l'Affrique, horrible n'espovante
Le seur pasteur : ne l'amour vehemente
Qui s'enfle au front du poulain n'y est pas
Mixtionnée es amoureux apas.

Mellaque decussit foliis...

at rabidas tigres absunt et sæva leonum
semina, nec miseros fallunt aconita legentis,
nec rapit immensos orbis per humum neque tanto
squameus in spiram tractu se colligit anguis...
quæritur et nascentis equi de fronte revolsus
et matri præreptus amor 2.

Four lines of Virgil beginning with a negative idea and ending with an adversative clause are developed into twelve lines:

Noz champs Jason de ses taureaux ardans

Ne laboura, pour y jetter dedans

D'un grand serpent les machoires terribles :
Ne la moisson de tant de gens horribles,

Hors de la terre à force desserrez,

S'est herissée en corselets ferrez :
Mais au contraire ils enfantent un blé,
Nous le rendant d'usure redoublé :

Et dont jamais la premiere apparence
Du laboureur n'a trompé l'esperance.
Plus qu'en nul lieu Dame Cerés la blonde
Et le donteur des Indes y abonde.

Hæc loca non tauri spirantes naribus ignem
invertere satis immanis dentibus hydri

nec galeis densisque virum seges horruit hastis,

1. Lau., VI, 80; Geor., II, 136-139.

2. Lau., VI, 80-81; Geor., I, 131 (or Ec., IV, 30); Geor., II, 151-154; Aen., IV, 515-516.

sed gravidæ fruges et Bacchi Massicus umor

implevere1.

Joyful flocks and olive trees grace France as well as Italy, but it takes many more lines to describe them in French than in Latin, which fact is likewise the case of the « cheval belliqueur » described in eight lines in French and one in Latin 2. Virgil's « ver assiduum » is developed in six lines:

Que dirons-nous de la saison des temps,
Et des tiedeurs du volage printemps?
La cruauté des vents malicieux

N'y regne point, ne les monstres des cieux,
Ny tout cela qui plein de felonnie

Tient les sablons d'Afrique, ou d'Hyrcanie 3.

France, too, has minerals,

as in the Eneid:

gold, silver, and bronze 4, and,

Jupiter à main gauche a tonné,
Favorisant le Françoys, qu'il estime

Enfant d'Hector, sa race legitime :

and just as he promised Venus that her son had a brilliant future, so

de là haut nous a transmis ses loix,
Et a juré de nous donner des Rois,
Qui planteront le lis jusqu'à la rive
Où du Soleil le long labeur arrive 6.

In a rhetorical question, as in Virgil, the lakes and seas are mentioned:

Que diray plus des lacs et des fontaines,

Des bois tondus et des forests hautaines ?
De ces deux mers, qui d'un large et grand tour,
Vont presque France emmurant tout autour ?

1. Lau., VI, 81; Geor., II, 140-144.

2. Lau., VI, 81-82; Geor., II, 144-145.

3. Lau., VI, 82; Geor. II, 149. Virgil does not use a rhetorical question here.

4. Lau., VI, 82; Geor., II, 165-166.

5. Lau., VI, 82; Aen., II, 693.

6. Lau., VI, 82; Aen., I, 286-288.

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