his knowledge in glorifying and enriching his own poverty-stricken language. It seemed at that time as if poetry in France was henceforward to be employed, as Marot employed it, in genial commonplace, or devoted, as the ballad-mongers devoted it, to conventional essays in dreariness; that the language had grown anaemic for lack of healthy exercise and sweet air. New blood was needed, and Ronsard found it, as Dante had found it before him, and as André Chénier would find it at the end of another epoch when verse had grown stale, in the poets of Greece and Rome. Style was what was needed, -- style, and a language which should express noble and delicate emotions, uniting the wistful beauty of Theocritus and the Georgics with the resonant ardour of Pindar and the Aeneid. The Renaissance was full of fine ambitions, and this poet's dream was not the least splendid of them.

The official manifesto of the Pléiade, La Deffence et Illustration de la Langue Françoyse, was written by Du Bellay and appeared in 1549. We learn from it the means which Ronsard was to employ in order to redeem French poetry from the prison which had Marot for governor. New themes of inspiration must be found instead of the old hackneyed subjects, and new genres instead of the épisseries of the balladists. These new genres must be derived mainly from the Greek and Latin writers; the poet is to cultivate the epic poem; the idyll, as Theocritus wrote it; the ode, majestic as that of Pindar or lyrical as that of Anacreon; the tragedy of Sophocles; the satire of Horace in place of the coq à l'asne of Marot; the epigram of Martial and the pitoyables élégies of Ovid, Tibullus, and Propertius. Then the language must be enriched by new loan-words from the Greek and Latin; and not from Greek and Latin only, but by grafting from old French, and by collecting curious words from the special vocabularies of hunting, and falconry, and the various handicrafts. Mere translation from the classics is deprecated, and so is writing in Latin and Greek instead of French; but it is the reformer's duty to steep himself in those ancient literatures. Lis donques et relis premièrement, ô poète futur! feuillette de main nocturne et journelle les exemplaires grecz et latins, puis me laisse toutes ces vieilles poésies Françoyses ...

It may seem surprising to some readers that the compilers of such a formidable edifice of rules should ever after have written anything in the least resembling poetry. It is not impossible that the elaborate study of form demanded by the Deffence had a fatal effect on the inspiration of the less robust members of the Pléiade; that Jodelle, with his tedious tragedy, and Baïf with his pedantic Mimes and attempts at a new orthography, are sad examples of an elegiac poet wasting all his strength in dramatic attempts, and of a scholar trying to become a poet by rule. Even Ronsard himself, that master of the lyric, leaves us with the impression that, though he often sings because he must, he often also sings because he knows the rules of singing. There is much in Le Bocage Royal to remind us that Malherbe, the perfidious Malherbe, learnt his art from the poet whose verse, as we are told in a certain scandalous story, he erased altogether; we have a chilly premonition, when we read it, of the pseudo-Arcadian shepherds and shepherdesses of the seventeenth century with their high heels and their crooks: --

Houlette de Louis, houlette de Marie
Dont le fatal appui met notre bergerie
     Hors du pouvoir des loups.

But the marvel is not that there should be any insipid exercises of the kind in the work of Ronsard, but that there are so few; that the favourite of kings and the self-ordained reformer of French poetry never lost his exquisite sense of the beauty of youth and the spring, and the pathos of winter in the fields and winter in the heart. We are apt, I suppose, to look on old poetry to a certain extent with the benevolent eye of the antiquary; but how seldom the shorter lyrics of Ronsard give us the chance of this attitude! A poem such as Mignonne, allons voir si la rose has all the freshness and fragrance of a summer day at dawn; it is impossible to contemplate it with intelligent interest as a specimen of sixteenth-century poetry; we might as well try to refuse to be thrilled by the coming of spring because the spring happens to be a million years old. Ronsard may have gone to the Greeks for this quality, and to the Latins for the other, and to Petrarch for a third, but the real sources of his inspiration are betrayed by the visions that the verses keep for us; sunshine and bright rain, changeful skies and awakening flowers. The immortal novelty of great art is a trite theme, but it is worth reiterating when even Pater writes of these poems as if they were specimens of remarkable tapestry in a museum.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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