Pierre de Ronsard

Katherine Maynard

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online May 2016 | | DOI:
Pierre de Ronsard

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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Perhaps no poet of the French Renaissance has known as much fame, in both his own lifetime and through his legacy, as Pierre de Ronsard (b. 1524–d. 1585). Born at the manor of La Possonnière in the Vendômois region of France to a father who served François I, the noble Ronsard participated in the royal diplomatic corps before turning to poetry under the tutelage of Jean Dorat at his Collège de Coqueret in Paris. Here, Ronsard studied with the poet Joachim Du Bellay, and the two became the founding members of a poetic coterie, “the Brigade,” later known as “the Pléiade.” With Ronsard at the helm, the group inaugurated a poetic movement that aspired to break with French poets of the past by promoting the study of Ancient Roman and Greek poetry as a source of inspiration and imitation. In so doing, Ronsard and his comrades hoped to raise the reputation of French poetry to compete with France’s cultural rivals the Italians. From the mid-16th century to his death in 1585, the prolific Ronsard adopted numerous poetic forms from Antiquity and Renaissance Italy and adapted them to French poetry, all the while remaining responsive to contemporary trends and current events. He made waves in 1550 with his first collection of poetry, Les quatre premiers livres des Odes, which was largely inspired by his readings of Pindar and, to a lesser extent, Horace. His first book of Amours, which demonstrated his skill as a Petrarchan sonneteer, followed two years later. Ronsard was also a court poet closely associated with the last Valois kings, and, in particular, Charles IX (b. 1550–d. 1574, r. 1560–1574), the second son of Henri II and Catherine de’ Medici, to whom the poet dedicated an epic poem La Franciade in 1572. Throughout the course of the Wars of Religion, Ronsard supported the king and the royalist Catholic cause, most dramatically in the early 1560s with a series of poems that became the Discours des Misères de ce Temps. Finally, Ronsard is noteworthy for his interest in the emerging media of print. His collected works were published for the first time in 1560, and he continued to edit and republish them throughout his life. In addition, Ronsard published new poems in separate volumes, and he would then revise and re-publish them within his complete works. Ronsard’s practices in safeguarding his poetic legacy thus paint a fascinating picture of the development of printing and editing in the 16th century.

Article.  5611 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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