Pierre de Ronsard - Studies

Studies

His apparently promising diplomatic career was, however, cut short by an attack of deafness that no physician could cure, and he determined to devote himself to study. The institution he chose for the purpose among the numerous schools and colleges of Paris was the Collège Coqueret, the principal of which was Jean Daurat — 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 having held the office of tutor in the Baïf household. Antoine de Baïf, Daurat's pupil, accompanied Ronsard; Belleau shortly followed; Joachim du Bellay, the second of the seven, joined not much later. Muretus (Marc Antoine de Muret), a great scholar and by means of his Latin 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 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, Pontus de Tyard (a man of rank and position who had exemplified the principles of the friends earlier), Jodelle 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 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 and followed to her father's Château de Talcy. These books excited a violent literary quarrel. Marot 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.

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