In enumerating the characteristics of humanism, we spoke of its abiding consciousness of the brevity of life and love. That sense is the canker which lies in the heart of intellectual paganism, the pathos of

        Beauty that must die;
And Joy whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu ...

The sudden thought of `the night of perpetual sleep' breaking in like a cruel intruder amid the loveliness of the long safe summer days; the bewildering tragedy of early death, -- these are the phantoms that begin to haunt the poets of the Renaissance, and lend to French poetry a new note of wistfulness.

Si périssable est toute chose née,
Que songes-tu, mon âme emprisonnée?

Ronsard finds no answer to that question; if he hopes at all, it is for an eternity of fame, and for repose par les ombres myrteux; Du Bellay, at least when he writes under the influence of Petrarch, yearns for un plus clair séjour, where he can meet the ideal beauty, as Dante met Beatrice, in a heaven too full of strange light to have colour and warmth. The points of view may be limited and literary, but they are expressed, as far as Ronsard is concerned, in two sonnets of exquisite and immortal loveliness, the Quand vous serez bien vieille and Comme on void sur la branche au mois de Mai la rose.

In the prolific nature of his genius and his passionate curiosity for new metres and old words Ronsard is a typical son of the Renaissance; Du Bellay, with his melancholy, his petulance, his wayward gentleness, seems like a poet of our own time, and his verse probably appeals more intimately to Englishmen than the greater but less personal art of his friend. His first collection of poems, L'Olive, was written when he was manifestly under the influence of Petrarch, but he renounced this influence early in his short life, and his satire Contre les Pétrarquistes contains an excellent summary of all the characteristic mannerisms affected by the disciples of the great Italian at Lyons and elsewhere. The greater part of his work is extraordinarily personal and virile; it is largely autobiographical; we can follow him step by step in his pilgrimage of love and despair, just as we follow Byron; but Du Bellay at least never gives us the impression that he is secretly rather pleased with the rôle of a misunderstood lost angel. His pessimism is never languid; and his ironical power -- at its best in the sonnets that narrate the election of a pope-- is amazing. He was a scholar; it was not the literature, however, but the visible remnant of a mighty age which evoked the great series of sonnets that remains his supreme achievement. If any one ever imagines that a city is not merely a collection of houses and palaces and temples, but has a strange life of its own, he will imagine it when he looks across Rome at sunset from the Pincian. The place will seem to him the prison of some fettered Titan, a colossal Prometheus who has incurred the anger of a jealous god, and been hurled to the earth and bound there, and so lain for centuries, buffeted and wounded, but immortal. This is the impression that Du Bellay has enshrined in the Antiquitez de Rome. He has looked beyond the gloom and grandeur of the Caesarean palaces, the mouldering amphitheatres and forsaken temples, and has seen the vast and deathless spirit of the city, and heard it weeping for its ruined splendour.

The other stars of the Pléiade are of lesser magnitude. Rémi Belleau has left a few delicate lyrics; Daurat, the master of Ronsard and Baïf, wrote in Latin; Baïf went astray in pedantic wildernesses, and Jodelle and Pontus du Tyard are only pleasing to the lover of literary bric-à-brac. The learned ladies of Lyons and their circle are more interesting. Sçève's Délie was responsible for the influence of Petrarch on the Pléiade; and Louise Labé, that fair Amazon, wrote intensely passionate poetry full of the obscure symbolism that was being cultivated in Italy. The Lyons school, indeed, had definitely broken with the traditions of the previous age, and had developed a mystical cult of beauty that was based on the Platonic theory of Ideas. But the spirit of the Pléiade is on the whole hostile to obscurity in thought and in language. Ronsard realized that French had all the delicate and accurate clearness of tone that belongs to a perfectly- tuned violin; that it possessed, beyond all languages but Greek, a power of expression that could be sharply definite without losing its harmony; and to him, as to all great poets, expression seemed finer than mystification.

Malherbe was crowned king of the realm of `classical' poetry, but it was Ronsard who conquered its domain and built its palaces. It has been said that every movement of reform contains perceptibly the germ of

  By PanEris using Melati.

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