Arthur Augustus Tilley.

The literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) online

. (page 25 of 34)
Online LibraryArthur Augustus TilleyThe literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) → online text (page 25 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


2 ib. 118.

3 ib. 101. It is interesting to compare this with the portrait of the Histoire
Universelle quoted above {ante, p. 249).



xxv i] d'aubign£



?6i



such as the account of how Charles IX on the day of the
St Bartholomew giboyait aux passans trop tardif a noyer.

The close of Les Fers is a fine piece of rhetoric, there is
true pathos in the account of the martyrdom of Philippe de
Luns, Mme de Graveron in Les Feux\ and there is exquisite
beauty in the following lines from La Chambrc dorie:
Les cendres des bruslez sont precieuses graines,
Qui apres les hyvers noirs d'orage et de pleurs,
Ouvrent au doux printemps d'un million de fleurs
Le baume salutaire, et sont nouvelles plantes
Au millieu des parvis de Sion fleurissantes.
D'Aubigne excels also in single lines and couplets
such as :

Chasque goutte de sang que le feu fict voller
Porta le nom de Dieu et aux coeurs vint parler.

Comme un nageur venant du profond de son plonge,
Tous sortent de la mort comme Ton sort d'un songe 2 .

Une rose d'automne est plus d'une autre exquise.

Rompu et corrompu au trictrac des affaires,

and the magnificent

Et Dieu seul, au desert pauvrement heberge",
A basti tout le monde et n'y est pas loge.

Of lines such as these D'Aubigne might well say,

l'acier de mes vers
Burinoit vostre histoire aux yeux de 1'univers.

In fact, had D'Aubigne written social satires, in the
manner of Juvenal, he might have equalled or surpassed his
model, for to the concentrated energy, the lofty declamation,
the descriptive power of the Roman poet he would have
added a greater sincerity and a more intimate knowledge "|
the world. But he never found his true literary vocation ; he
tried many kinds of writing but he did not give himself up to
any ; he has left some splendid fragments, but no masterpii
The best part of his life was given to the service of his party ;
his noblest monument is the History in which th.it part}
enshrined.

1 (Euvres, IV. p. 147.

2 Cf. La Fontaine's Sortons ce ces rich

Comme Ton sortiroit d'un son| {FadUt, x. 10.)



262 d'aubign£ [ch.

bibliography.

Editions.

Les Tragiques, donnez au public par le larcin de Promethee, Au Dezert
[MaiUe"] par L.B.D.D. {Le boitc du Desert), 4 to , 1616 (see Le Petit, p. 112) ;
Les Tragiques, ci-devant donnez au public par le larcin de Pwnethee, et
depuis avouez et enriches par le sieur d'Aubigne, 8 V0 (without place or
date, but probably printed at the same press as the preceding and there-
fore before D'Aubigne left France for Geneva, which he did in the autumn
of 1602 ; there is a copy in the Arsenal Library) 1 ; ed. L. Lalanne {Bib.
elze'v.), 1857 ; ed. Ch. Read, 1872. Lalanne's edition is printed from that
of 1616; Read's and the text in the (Euvres completes (see below) from
the Tronchin MS. But M. Bedier, Etudes critiques, 1903, points out that
none of the editors have taken for their basis the best text, namely that
of the second edition, which was prepared for the press by D'Aubigne"
himself, and which represents his latest improvements. He argues that
a future editor of the Tragiques should base his text upon this edition,
correcting its mistakes with the help of the MS. This has been done for
the first book {Miseres) in a critical edition by H. Bourgin and other
pupils of the Ecole normale (1896). There is another MS. in the British
Museum, but it is only a careless and unintelligent copy of the Tron-
chin MS.

Histoire Universelle, 3 vols. fo. MaiUe, 1 616- 1620; Seconde edition,
augmentee, &c, Amsterdam [Geneva], fo. 1626 ; ed. A. de Ruble for the
Soc. de Phist. de Prance, 9 vols. 1886- 1897.

Les A ventures du Baron de Fames te {premiere et seconde par tie),
MaiUe - , 1617 ; troisieme parlie, ib. 1619 ; en quatre parties, Au Dezert
[Geneva], 1630 ; with notes by Le Duchat, 2 vols. Cologne [Brussels],
1729 ; The Hague and Amsterdam [Paris], 1731 ; ed. Prosper Merimee,
1855.

Confession Catholique du Sieur de Sancy in the Recueil de cUverses
pieces servant a P histoire de Henry III, Cologne [Brussels], 1660 ; avec
les remarques de Le Duchat, 2 vols. Cologne [Amsterdam], 1693 ; ib.
1699.

Histoire secrete, in the same volume with the Avenlures de Pcrueste,
Cologne [Brussels], 1729, and Amsterdam [Paris], 1731 ; under the title of
Memoires, Amsterdam [Paris], 173 1, and ed. L. Lalanne, 1854.

1 I have not seen either of these editions ; M. Muller, one of the conservateurs
of the Arsenal Library, informs me that they are printed in different type, that of
the 4'° edition being considerably larger. There were copies of both in M. de
Ruble's library (Cat. Ruble, Xos. 219, 220).



XXVI] D'AUBIGNtf 263

Le Printemps, ed. Ch. Read, from a MS. of the 16th cent., 1874.

(Euvres completes, edd. E. Reaume, F. de Caussade and A. Legouez,
6 vols. 1873-1892 (in spite of the title, without the Histoirc Universelle).
Vol. v. contains a biographical and literary notice, and an excellent
bibliography, including an account of the MSS. in the Tronchin collection
at the chateau de Bessinges, near Geneva.

Some writers (Ch. Read, H. Bordier and others) attribute to DAubigne
Le divorce satyrique on les amours de la reyne Marguerite on the strength
of four commonplace lines which occur in it and also in his Printemps.
But the lines might easily have come to the knowledge of the writer of
the pamphlet, the style of which with its long, cumbrous sentences seems
to me decisive against DAubigne's authority. MM. Reaume and Ca
print it under protest (II. 653 ff.) ; see the former's Etude, p. 100.



TO BE CONSULTED.

E. Geruzez, Essais a? histoirc litteraire, 1839. A. Sayous, Etudes litte-
raires sur les ecrivains francais de la Reformation, II. 1841; 2nd ed.,
1 88 1 (good). L. Feugere, Caracteres et portraits liltcraircs, 11
new ed. 1875. C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du Lundi, x. 1854 masterly,
but deals only with the Histoire universelle). A. Poirson, Histoirc du
regne de Henri IV, IV. 290 ff., 333 ff., 382 ff., 3rd ed. 1866. Paul de
Saint-Victor, Homines et dieux, 423 ff., 1867. E. and E. Haag, La France
Protestante, 2nd ed. 1877. H. Pergameni, La satire au XVI* Steele et les
Tragiques, Brussels, 1882. E. Reaume, Etude historic/ lie et littiraire sur
A. d Aubigne, 1883. P. Morillot, Discours sur la vie et les ceuvr
d'Audigne, 1884. E. Faguet, Scizicme siecle, 1894. H. C. Macdowall,
Henry of Guise and other portraits, 1898 (a well-written and
study).



CHAPTER XXVII

THE YEARS OF TRANSITION

The entry of Henry IV into his capital on March 22, 1594,
followed by his conversion, and by his absolution in the follow-
ing year, led to the rapid submission of the rebellious nobles
and the final pacification of the kingdom. When the Edict of
Nantes (April 15, 1598) had secured for the Protestants as
much toleration as it was possible to grant them, and the Peace
of Vervins (May 2, 1598) had raised France once more to a
footing of equality with Spain, it became possible for Henry
and Sully to take in hand one of the most arduous tasks that
had ever fallen to a king and his minister — the restoration of
order and prosperity to a kingdom impoverished by nearly
forty years of civil war and misgovernment. The new social
and political conditions of the country naturally reacted upon
its literature. As a consequence the eleven years from the
publication of the Satire Me'nippee (1594) to the arrival of
Malherbe at Paris (1605) may be regarded as a period of
transition during which French literature, without consciously
breaking from the traditions of the Renaissance, acquires
certain well-defined characteristics which herald the approach
of a new era.

The first characteristic is best expressed in the words of
M. Lanson 1 , La litterature, comme la France, se repose. There

1 I had determined to devote a separate chapter to this period of transition
before reading M. Lanson's book, but I must acknowledge my debt to his admirable
treatment of it, especially on pp. 343-345. Of the writers dealt with by M. Lanson
under this period I have already discussed Vauquelin de la Fresnaye and Mont-
chrestien, while I prefer to leave Regnier for another chapter. There remains
Francois de Sales, whose style has certain sixteenth-century characteristics ; but it






CH. XXVII] THE YEARS OF TRANSITION 265

is an end to the lofty ambitions of the early days of the
Pleiad ; writers are now content with lesser aims and more
tranquil emotions. Order and peace in literature reflect the
restoration of order and peace in the state. Bertaut's poetry
shines with a mild and equable radiance: even in his young
days he seemed to Ronsard to be too sage for a poet 1 .
Charron systematises Montaigne, the most unsystematic of
philosophers 2 . A second characteristic is a further increase
of that seriousness of purpose which I have already noticed.
Charron and Du Vair are professed moralists ; the official
poems of Bertaut and Du Perron are written in a grave
moralising spirit, far removed from the fantastic tone of
Ronsard's court eclogues and masquerades, or from the gay
frivolity of Desportes's songs. On the other hand both poetry
and prose are marked by a colder sensibility and a 1
fertile imagination. These qualities are giving place to reason,
to that reason which was to reign paramount in French
literature for two centuries.

Throughout this period of transition Desportes was still
acknowledged as Ronsard's successor on the throne of
Parnassus, but he had ceased to write. The working head,
the official laureate, pending the appearance on the scene of
Francois Malherbe, was Jean Bertaut, the son of a professor
at the University of Caen :{ . After serving as tutor in the
family of the Marechal de Matignon he was appointed in
1575, chiefly on the recommendation of Desportes. tutor t>>
the Comte d'Auvergne (afterwards the Due d'AngoulSme), tin-
natural son of Charles IX and Marie Touchet. This brought
him to the Court, and soon afterwards he also received the
appointment of reader to the king and secretary t<> his

would be difficult to treat him satisfactorily without going into tin- whole question
of the religious revival. Moreover his Introduction <) la not

published till the year 1608. I shall therefore omit him altogethei Iron
survey.

1 Regnier, Sat. v.

2 " Qua/id Charron ecrit, une autre
esprits tend a tout mettre en ordre, Henri //
une discipline.'' (i. Guizot, Montaigne, |>- 175-

3 b. at Donnay, 1552— d. 1611. Hi- father went to livi al Caen, when he
was in his second year (Grente, p. 2).






266 THE YEARS OF TRANSITION [CH.

chamber. In 1576 he was joined by his friend and fellow-
Norman, Jacques Davy du Perron 1 .

The two Normans became in their different ways as
complete courtiers as Desportes himself, though the energetic
and pushing Du Perron soon outstripped his more cautious
and retiring companion. When Ronsard died in 1585
Du Perron delivered a funeral oration and Bertaut wrote a
long panegyrical poem. During the next ten years every
notable death at the French court was the occasion for a
poem from the friendly rivals. Joyeuse, Catharine de' Medici,
and Henry III all received in turn their tribute of song,
the last being mourned with the sincerity of placemen who
have lost their benefactor. Both rallied to Henry IV and
both, according to the measure of their talents, helped to
smooth the path for his conversion. They were duly rewarded
for these services, Du Perron with the bishopric of Evreux,
and Bertaut with the Abbey of Aunay in the diocese of
Bayeux 2 . But while Du Perron was henceforth too much
occupied with public affairs to have leisure for poetry 3 , Bertaut,
who was not yet in orders, continued to follow his original
calling. His poem on the death of Gabrielle d'Estrees was
one of his most famous productions, and it is indeed
impossible to admire too highly the skill with which the poet
has found means to conciliate every conflicting interest and
emotion.

Par nos feux qui brusloient d'vne flame si pure,

Et par ta propre foy, ie te prie et coniure

De ne plus engager la saincte liberte

Que ma mort t'a rendue, a nulle autre beaute,

Ou'a celle que les dieux t'ont desja destinee

Pour attacher ton coeur des chaisnes d'Hymenee.

Accorde moy ce bien pour comble de mes voeux

Que ie sois la derniere, apres tant d'autres nosuds,

Qui t'aye estreint des laqs dont la beaute" nous presse

Au volontaire joug d'vne simple maistresse 4 .

1 b. at Saint-L6, 1556 — d. r6i8.

2 Da Perron was appointed in 1593, and Bertaut in 1594.

3 He however translated after this date a portion of the ALneid and wrote a few
sacred poems.

4 QLuvres, p. 177.



XXVII] THE YEARS OF TRANSITION 26/

The King's marriage with Marie de' Medici naturally
demanded another official poem, and on this occasion Bertaut
had a new rival in his fellow-townsman Malherbe 1 . In 1601
he published a collected edition of his graver poems, and
this was followed a year later by a volume of love-poetrv
written in his youth and published without his name. The
pervading tone of this latter volume is a gentle melancholy,
which finds expression in the following stanzas, the best-
known of all Bertaut's work :

Felicite passee
Qui ne peut revenir:
Tourment de ma pensee,
Que n'ay-je en te perdant perdu le souvenir!
Helas ! il ne me reste
De mes contentements
Ou'un souvenir funeste,
Qui me les conuertit a toute heure en tourments-.

If these lines remind one of Dante, the following recall a
well-known passage in Shakespeare :

On ne se souvient que du mal,
L'ingratitude regne au monde :
L'injure se grave en metal,
Et le bien-fait s'escrit en l'onde.

The rest of the poem, however 3 , and indeed the greater
part of Bertaut's work, does not shew the same power of
natural and concise expression. If his conceits are less
fantastic than Desportes's, they are even more laboured and
artificial. If he is a more careful writer than his contemporary,

J A good commentary on Bertaut's two poems is furnished by the following
extracts from the letters of Henry IV :— April 15, 1599. to his sister, La
mon amour est tnorte, elle ne rejettera plus. — Oct, 5, 1599, to the Marquise de
Verneuil, Mon caur, jevous aime si fort queje ne puis pltu vivrt abi
Nov. 27, 1599, to Marie de' Medici, Tenez vous saine et gaillarde,
vous aime extr'emement. Sitr cette veriti, je vou /• ,, nt m 1 . r6oi,

to the Marquise de Verneuil, Aimez-moi ckirement, et croyet ma /.
pour vous, que je baise un million defois.

2 (Euvres, p. 357. Cary, op. fit. p. \- T <u writing between iS:i and
confirms what Sainte-Beuve says about the popularity ol these lines al th<

of the nineteenth century.

3 Defense de Vamour accuse" par M. D. P. (M. du Perron), Q.



2 68 THE YEARS OF TRANSITION [CH.

he has none of his happy audacities. Perhaps the best
complete poem in the volume is the first elegy. It has the
merit of being short and it contains a comparison between two
lovers and two palm-trees which, though not original, Sainte-
Beuve pronounced to be Bertaut's only really fine passage :

On dit qu'en Idumee, es confins de Syrie,
Ou bien souuent la palme au palmier se marie,
II semble a regarder ces arbres bien-heureux
Qu'ils viuent animez d'vn esprit amoureux.
Car le masle courbe" vers sa chere femelle
Monstre de ressentir le bien d'estre aupres d'elle :
Elle fait le semblable, et pour sentr'embrasser
On les voit leurs rameaux l'vn vers l'autre auancer
De ces embrassements leurs branches reuerdissent,
Le Ciel y prend plaisir, les astres les benissent :
Et l'haleine des vents souspirants a l'entour
Loiie en son doux murmure vne si saincte amour.
Que si l'impiete de quelque main barbare
Par le trenchant du fer ce beau couple separe,
Ou transplante autre-part leurs tiges desolez,
Les rendant pour iamais l'vn de l'autre exilez :
Iaunissants de l'ennuy que chacun d'eux endure
lis font mourir le teint de leur belle verdure,
Ont en haine la vie, et pour leur aliment
N'attirent plus l'humeur du terrestre element 1 .

The association of Bertaut with Desportes in Boileau's
well-known line has led some critics to consider him chiefly
as a disciple of that writer, but Boileau is historically far more
correct when in his Reflexions on Longinus he joins him with
Malherbe " as having caught in serious poetry the true note
of the French language 2 ." In fact Bertaut's official poems
approximate in spirit much more closely to those of Malherbe
than to those of Ronsard and Du Bellay. They shew the

1 (Etwres, p. 381. Sainte-Beuve's separate chapter on Bertaut {Tableau,
PP- 359 ff-) was written partly to modify the severe judgment which he had passed
on him in the first edition of the Tableau. It is an excellent piece of criticism, but
it leaves Bertaut much where he was.

2 Ayant attrape dans le genre serieux le vrai genie de la langue francaise.
Reflexions sur Longin, vn. (quoted by F. Brunetiere in Lh'olution des genres,
P- 134)-



XXVII] THE YEARS OF TRANSITION



i6g



same desire to improve the occasion and to escape from the
atmosphere of mere panegyric into a higher one of general
morality and public duty.

These official poems, of which the most important are
funeral panegyrics, naturally find a place in the volume to
which Bertaut put his name and which contains his later
work from 1585 onwards. The rest of the volume testifies
equally to the change which had come over the spirit of
French poetry. It is composed of paraphrases of Psalms, a
narrative poem entitled Timandre, a translation ;/;/ peu para-
phrasee of a book of the Aineid, and there are only twenty-
seven sonnets. The serious tone of the volume is heightened
by the prevailing use of the Alexandrine metre for the lyrical
poems, another link between Bertaut and Malherbe 1 . Three
stanzas from the paraphrase of Psalm CXLV1II. will give an
idea of Bertaut's capacity for lofty and sonorous verse :

Heureux hostes du ciel, sainctes legions d'Anges,
Guerriers qui triomphez du vice surmonte,
Celebrez a iamais du Seigneur les loiianges,
Et d'vn hymne eternel honorez sa bonte.

Orageux tourbillons qui portez les naufrages
Aux vagabonds vaisseaux des tremblants matelots,
Te'moignez son pouuoir a ses moindres ouurages,
Semant par l'vniuers la grandeur de son Ios.

Faittes-la dire aux bois dont vos fronts se couronnent
Grands monts, qui comme Rois les plaines maistrisez :
Et vous humbles coustaux ou les pampres foisonnent,
Et vous ombreux vallons, de sources arrou

But after citing these stanzas one must add that it is only
in occasional flights that Bertaut reaches so high a level. He
has even less power than the generality of the poets "f the
Pleiad school to distinguish, at least in his own productii
between good and bad verse. When his inspiration deserts
him he sinks to the flattest prose. On the other hand he

1 The curious pamphlet, Les Hermaphrodites, written about l600,
poem in stanzas of four Alexandrines.

2 (Euvres, pp. 23, 24.



2 jo THE YEARS OF TRANSITION [CH.

more careful writer than the majority of his school ; he would
have escaped from Malherbe's ruler with far fewer raps over
the knuckles than Desportes did. Malherbe indeed spoke of
him with a certain approval.

Finally he owes much less than his predecessors to Italian
models, and when he does turn to Italy for inspiration it is
neither to the Petrarchian school of Bembo nor to the fifteenth
century concettisti and their later imitators, but to Tasso,
whose Gerusalemme liberata and Aminta had appeared just
before Bertaut's Muse began to assume a graver tone 1 . This
beginning of Tasso's influence on non-dramatic poetry in
France (we have already seen the stimulus given by the
Aminta to pastoral drama) is worthy of attention. For Tasso
was the chief Italian representative of the reaction from pagan
to Christian sources of inspiration in poetry, and when France,
restored to peace and order, had leisure to work out on her
own lines a Catholic revival, his Jerusalem delivered became
the model of numerous Christian epics. But apart from the
tendencies of the age the Italian poet's gentle and melancholy
temperament and his definitely Christian standpoint must
have touched in Bertaut a sympathetic chord.

Thus Bertaut, alike in his preference for serious and
national subjects, and in his comparative independence of
foreign models, reproduces in poetry the same characteristics
that we have noticed chiefly in the prose of our third period.
Further the prosaic character of his verse when his inspiration
deserts him is another premonition of the narrowing of the
boundary line between verse and prose which was to take
place under Malherbe's guidance. Yet the breath of inspiration
still plays round Bertaut ; in his hands the lamp of true
poetry has not quite burned down 2 .

It is not so with Du Perron. His poetry is of the head,
not of the heart. Even his images spring from the in-
tellect rather than from the imagination. His language is

1 See J. Vianey in Rev. dhist. lift. XI. (1904), 161. The Gerusalemme
liberata and the Aminta were published in 1581.

- Bertaut was appointed to the bishopric of Seez in Normandy in 1606; he
died in 161 1.



XXVII] THE YEARS OF TRANSITION 2 J\

correct and his rhymes are rich ; he is lucid and ingenious ;
but his well-turned verses leave the reader cold. In his own
day he had an even greater reputation as a writer of prose
than as a writer of verse, and he held a high rank as orator.
rhetorician, and controversialist. His style varies with the
character of his work. Thus in the Bref tnute de V Euckaristie,
which he wrote for the conversion of M. de Sancy 1 , it is simple
and business-like even to baldness, while in his sermons and
other oratorical discourses it is decked out with a display of
learning and metaphor not always in good taste. But it is
perhaps in the Traite de V Eloquence- that we find his most
characteristic style. It is the work of a rhetorician who is not
averse to empty commonplace, but it is not badly written.
The somewhat long sentences and the redundant language,
modelled on Cicenr, are sixteenth-century features, but the
well-balanced periods, the clear and logical reasoning, and the
absence of metaphor point forward to seventeenth-century
prose. Yet if one compares Du Perron even with Jean Cine/.
de Balzac one sees a marked inferiority in the workmanship,
and one realises that though Balzac's first collection of letters
appeared only six years after Du Perron's death (1618),
French prose had still much to learn in its passage from
Montaigne to Pascal.

The most famous controversy in which Du Perron was
engaged was that with Philippe Du Plessis-Mornay*, the
" Pope of the Huguenots," at Fontainebleau on the subje< t of
the latter's book on the Eucharist 8 . The vanquished in that
controversy is one of the noblest figures of his age, but
though he wrote, or perhaps rather because he wrote, ei
to fill forty stout volumes, he has only attained to .1 pla<
the outskirts of French literature. Vet besides the Vindiciae



1 Les diverses CEuvres, 3rd ed. 16.5,;, pp. 846 AT. ; and see ante, p

2 id. 759 ff.

3 Du Perron translated Cicero's first v > tion.

4 b. 1549, d. 1623.

5 See Feret, 2nd ed., pp. 150 ff. and, on the opposite side, M. Pa
Casaubon, 2nd ed. 1S92, pp. 1376"., [875 ; also P. de I'Estoile, > u 1
— 227 ; 364 — 376. The conference look place on May 4, i'ioo.



272 THE YEARS OF TRANSITION [CH.

contra tyrannos which, as we have seen, is almost certainly to
be regarded as his work, one of his treatises, De la verite de la
religion chrestiennc, deserves at least a passing mention 1 .
Begun, though not completed, before the publication of the
first edition of Montaigne's Essais, it is, like the work of
Raymond Sebond, an attempt to establish the truth of
Christianity on the basis of reason. An examination of its
arguments belongs to the history of Christian Apologetic, but
two general features may be noticed here. First, the learning,
which ranges over a wide extent of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin
literature, is remarkable in an author who was only thirty-two
when his work was published and who for the last five years
had been actively employed in the service of the King of
Navarre. But we are told that from the age of fourteen
to that of eighteen he worked fourteen hours a day, and
his learning, though multifarious, was doubtless uncritical.
Secondly, the style is essentially that of the Protestant school.
Built on a solid framework of dialectic, it is clear, concise, and
somewhat austere. Like D'Aubigne, Mornay seems to have
been a student of Tacitus, for in the interesting letter to



Online LibraryArthur Augustus TilleyThe literature of the French renaissance (Volume 2) → online text (page 25 of 34)