A Short History of French Literature, by George Saintsbury

Chapter 2.

Marot and His Contemporaries.

Hybrid School of Poetry.

The beginnings of the Renaissance in France manifest, as we should expect, a mixture of the characteristics of the later middle ages and of the new learning. In those times the influence of reforms of any kind filtered slowly through the dense crust of custom which covered the national life of each people, and there is nothing surprising in the fact that while Italy felt the full influence of the influx of classical culture in the fifteenth century, that influence should be only partially manifest in France during the first quarter of the sixteenth, while it was not until the century was more than half over that it showed itself in England. The complete manifestation of the combined tendencies of mediaeval and neo-pagan thought was only displayed in Shakespeare, but by that time, as is the wont of all such things, it had already manifested itself partially, though in each part more fully and characteristically, elsewhere. It is in the literature of France that we find the most complete exposition of these partial developments. Marot, Ronsard, Rabelais, Calvin, Garnier, Montaigne, will not altogether make up a Shakespeare, yet of the various ingredients which go to make up the greatest of literary productions each of them had shown, before Shakespeare began to write, some complete and remarkable embodiment. It is this fact which gives the French literature of the sixteenth century its especial interest. Italy had almost ceased to be animated by the genius of the middle ages before her literature became in any way perfect in form, and the survival of the classical spirit was so strong there that mediaeval influence was never very potent in the moulding of the national letters. England had lost the mediaeval differentia, owing to religious and political causes, before the Renaissance made its way to her shores. But in France the two currents met, though the earlier had lost most of its force, and, according to the time-honoured parallel, flowed on long together before they coalesced. In the following chapters we shall trace the history of this process, and here we shall trace the first stage of it in reference to French poetry. In the period of which Marot is the representative name, the earlier force was still dominant in externals; in that of which Ronsard is the exponent, the Greek and Latin element shows itself as, for the moment, all-powerful.

Jean le Maire.
Jehan du Pontalais.

Between the rhétoriqueurs proper, the Chastellains and the Crétins and the Molinets on the one hand, and Marot and his contemporaries and disciples on the other, a school of poets, considerable at least in numbers, intervened. The chief of these was Jean le Maire des Belges165. He was the nephew of Molinet, and his birth at Belges or Bavia in Hainault, as well as his literary ancestry and predilections, inclined him to the Burgundian, or, as it was now, the Austrian side. But the strong national feeling which was now beginning to distinguish French-speaking men threw him on the side of the King of Paris, and he was chiefly occupied in his serious literary work on tasks which were wholly French. His Illustrations des Gaules is his principal prose work, and in this he displays a remarkable faculty of writing prose at once picturesque and correct. The titles of his other works (Temple d'Honneur et de Vertu, etc.) still recall the fifteenth century, and the Latinising tradition of Chartier appears strong in him. But at the same time he Latinises with a due regard to the genius of the language, and his work, pedantic and conceited as it frequently is, stands in singular contrast to the work of some of his models. Something not dissimilar, though in this case the rhétoriqueur influence is less apparent, may be said of Pierre Gringore, whose true title to a place in a history of French literature is, however, derived from his dramatic work, and who will accordingly be mentioned later. Nor had the tradition of Villon, overlaid though it was by the abundance and popularity of formal and allegorising poetry, died out in France. At least two remarkable figures, Jehan du Pontalais and Roger de Collérye, represent it in the first quarter of the century. The former indeed166 owes his place here rather to a theory than to certain information; for if M. d'Héricault's notion that Jehan du Pontalais is the author of a work entitled Contreditz du Songecreux be without foundation, Jehan falls back into the number of half mythical Bohemians, bilkers of tavern bills and successful out-witters of the officers of justice, who possess a shadowy personality in the literary history of France. Les Contreditz du Songecreux ranks among the most remarkable examples of the liberty which was accorded to the press under the reign of Louis XII., a king who inherited some affection for literature from his father, Charles d'Orléans, and a keen perception of the importance of literary co-operation in political work from his ancestor, Philippe le Bel, and his cousin Louis XI. In precision and strikingness of expression Jehan recalls Villon; in the boldness of his satire on the great and the bitterness of his attacks on the character of women he recalls Antoine de la Salle and Coquillart. A trait illustrating the former power may be found in the line descriptive of the hen-pecked man's condition —

Tous ses cinq sens lui fault retraire.

while his attacks on the nobility are almost up to the level of Burns —

Noblesse enrichie Richesse ennoblie Tiennent leurs estatz,

Qui n'a noble vie Je vous certifie Noble n'est pas.

Roger de Collérye.
Minor Predecessors of Marot.

Roger de Collérye167 was a Burgundian, living at the famous and vinous town of Auxerre, and he has celebrated his loves, his distress, his amiable tendency to conviviality, in many rondeaux and other poems, sometimes attaining a very high level of excellence. 'Je suis Bon-temps, vous le voyez' is the second line of one of his irregular ballades, and the nickname expresses his general attitude well enough. Mediaeval legacies of allegory, however, supply him with more unpleasant personages, Faute d'Argent and Plate-Bourse, for his song, and his mistress, Gilleberte de Beaurepaire, appears to have been anything but continuously kind. Collérye has less perhaps of the rhétoriqueur flavour than any poet of this time before Marot, and his verse is very frequently remarkable for directness and grace of diction. But like most verse of the kind it frequently drops into a conventionality less wearisome but not much less definite than that of the mere allegorisers. Jehan Bouchet168, a lawyer of Poitiers (not to be confounded with Guillaume Bouchet, author of the Sérées), imitated the rhétoriqueurs for the most part in form, and surpassed them in length, excelling indeed in this respect even the long-winded and long-lived poets of the close of the fourteenth century. Bouchet is said to have composed a hundred thousand verses, and even M. d'Héricault avers that he read two-thirds of the number without discovering more than six quotable lines. Such works of Bouchet as we have examined fully confirm the statement. Still, he was an authority in his way, and had something of a reputation. His fanciful nom de plume 'Le Traverseur des Voies Périlleuses' is the most picturesque thing he produced, and is not uncharacteristic of the later middle age tradition. Rabelais himself, who was a fair critic of poetry when his friends were not concerned, but who was no poet, and was even strikingly deficient in some of the characteristics of the poet, admired and emulated Bouchet in heavy verse; and a numerously attended school, hardly any of the pupils being worth individual mention, gathered round the lawyer. Charles de Bordigné is only remarkable for having, in his Légende de Pierre Faifeu, united the rhétoriqueur style with a kind of Villonesque or rather pseudo-Villonesque subject. The title of the chief poems of Symphorien Champier, Le Nef des Dames Amoureuses, sufficiently indicates his style. But Champier, though by no means a good poet, was a useful and studious man of letters, and did much to form the literary cénacle which gathered at Lyons in the second quarter of the century, and which, both in original composition, in translations of the classics, and in scholarly publication of work both ancient and modern, rendered invaluable service to literature. Gratien du Pont169 continued the now very stale mediaeval calumnies on women in his Controverses des Sexes Masculin et Féminin. Eloy d'Amerval, a Picard priest, also fell into mediaeval lines in his Livre de la Déablerie, in which the personages of Lucifer and Satan are made the mouthpieces of much social satire. Jean Parmentier, a sailor and a poet, combined his two professions in Les Merveilles de Dieu, a poem including some powerful verse. A vigorous ballade, with the refrain Car France est Cymetièreaux Anglois, has preserved the name of Pierre Vachot. But the remaining poets of this time could only find a place in a very extended literary history. Most of them, in the words of one of their number, took continual lessons ès œuvres Crétiniques et Bouchetiques, and some of them succeeded at last in imitating the dulness of Bouchet and the preposterous mannerisms of Crétin. Perhaps no equal period in all early French history produced more and at the same time worse verse than the reign of Louis XII. Fortunately, however, a true poet, if one of some limitations, took up the tradition, and showed what it could do. Marot has sometimes been regarded as the father of modern French poetry, which, unless modern French poetry is limited to La Fontaine and the poets of the eighteenth century, is absolutely false. He is sometimes regarded as the last of mediaeval poets, which, though truer, is false likewise. What he really was can be shown without much difficulty.

Clément Marot.

Clément Marot170 was a man of more mixed race than was usual at this period, when the provincial distinctions were still as a rule maintained with some sharpness. His father, Jean Marot, a poet of merit, was a Norman, but he emigrated to Quercy, and Marot's mother was a native of Cahors, a town which, from its Papal connections, as well as its situation on the borders of Gascony, was specially southern. Clément was born probably at the beginning of 1497, and his father educated him with some pains in things poetical. This, as times went, necessitated an admiration of Crétin and such like persons, and the practice of rondeaux, and of other poetry strict in form and allegorical in matter. As it happened, the discipline was a very sound one for Marot, whose natural bent was far too vigorous and too lithe to be stiffened or stunted by it, while it unquestionably supplied wholesome limitations which preserved him from mere slovenly facility. It is evident, too, that he had a sincere and genuine love of things mediaeval, as his devotion to the Roman de la Rose and to Villon's poems, both of which he edited, sufficiently shows. He 'came into France,' an expression of his own, which shows the fragmentary condition of the kingdom even at this late period, when he was about ten years old. His father held an appointment as 'Escripvain' to Anne of Brittany, and accompanied her husband to Genoa in 1507. The University of Paris, and a short sojourn among the students of law, completed Clément's education, and he then became a page to a nobleman, thus obtaining a position at court or, at least, the chance of one. It is not known when his earliest attempt at following the Crétinic lessons was composed; but in 1514, being then but a stripling, he presented his Jugement de Minos to François de Valois, soon to be king. A translation of the first Eclogue of Virgil had even preceded this. Both poems are well written and versified, but decidedly in the rhétoriqueur style. In 1519, having already received or assumed the title of 'Facteur' (poet) to Queen Claude, he became one of the special adherents of Marguerite d'Angoulême, the famous sister of Francis, from whom, a few years later, we find him in receipt of a pension. He also occupied some post in the household of her husband, the King of Navarre. In 1524 he went to Italy with Francis, was wounded and taken prisoner at Pavia, but returned to France the next year. Marguerite's immediate followers were distinguished, some by their adherence to the principles of the Reformation, others by free thought of a still more unorthodox description, and Marot soon after his return was accused of heresy and lodged in the Châtelet. He was, however, soon transferred to a place of mitigated restraint, and finally set at liberty. About this time his father died. In 1528 he obtained a post and a pension in the King's own household. He was again in difficulties, but again got out of them, and in 1530 he married. But the next year he was once more in danger on the old charge of heresy, and was again rescued from the chats fourrés by Marguerite. He had already edited the Roman de la Rose, but no regular edition of his own work had appeared. In 1533 came out not merely his edition of Villon, but a collection of his own youthful work under the pretty title Adolescence Clémentine. In 1535 the Parliament of Paris for a fourth time molested Marot. Marguerite's influence was now insufficient to protect him, and the poet fled first to Béarn and then to Ferrara. Here, under the protection of Renée de France, he lived and wrote for some time, but the persecution again grew hot. He retired to Venice, but in 1539 obtained permission to return to France. Francis gave him a house in the Faubourg Saint Germain, and here apparently he wrote his famous Psalms, which had an immense popularity; these the Sorbonne condemned, and Marot once more fled, this time to Geneva. He found this place an uncomfortable sojourn, and crossed the Alps into Piedmont, where, not long afterwards, he died in 1544.

Marot's work is sufficiently diverse in form, but the classification of it adopted in the convenient edition of Jannet is perhaps the best, though it neglects chronology. There are some dozen pieces of more or less considerable length, among which may specially be mentioned Le Temple de Cupido, an early work of rhétoriqueur character for the most part, in dizains of ten and eight syllables alternately, a Dialogue of two Lovers, an Eclogue to the King; L'Enfer, a vigorous and picturesque description of his imprisonment in the Châtelet, and some poems bearing a strong Huguenot impression. Then come sixty-five epistles written in couplets for the most part decasyllabic. These include the celebrated Coq-à-l'Âne, a sort of nonsense-verse, with a satirical tendency, which derives from the mediaeval fatrasie, and was very popular and much imitated. Another mediaeval restoration of Marot's, also very popular and also much imitated, was the blason, a description, in octosyllables. Twenty-six elegies likewise adopt the couplet, and show, as do the epistles, remarkable power over that form. Fifteen ballades, twenty-two songs in various metres, eighty-two rondeaux, and forty-two songs for music, contain much of Marot's most beautiful work. His easy graceful style escaped the chief danger of these artificial forms, the danger of stiffness and monotony; while he was able to get out of them as much pathos and melody as any other French poet, except Charles d'Orléans and Villon. Numerous étrennes recall the Xenia of Martial, and funeral poems of various lengths and styles follow. Then we have nearly three hundred epigrams, many of them excellent in point and elegance, a certain number of translations, the Psalms, fifty in number, certain prayers, and two versified renderings of Erasmus' Colloquies.

It will be seen from this enumeration that the majority of Marot's work is what is now called occasional. No single work of his of a greater length than a few hundred lines exists; and, after his first attempts in the allegorical kind, almost all his works were either addressed to particular persons, or based upon some event in his life. Marot was immensely popular in his lifetime; and though after his death a formidable rival arose in Ronsard, the elder poet's fame was sustained by eager disciples. With the discredit of the Pléiade, in consequence of Malherbe's criticisms, Marot's popularity returned in full measure, and for two centuries he was the one French poet before the classical period who was actually read and admired with genuine admiration by others besides professed students of antiquity. Since the great revival of the taste for older literature, which preceded and accompanied the Romantic movement, Marot has scarcely held this pride of place. The Pléiade on the one hand, the purely mediaeval writers on the other, have pushed him from his stool. But sane criticism, which declines to depreciate one thing because it appreciates another, will always have hearty admiration for his urbanity, his genuine wit, his graceful turn of words; and his flashes of pathos and poetry.

It is, as has been said, one of the commonplaces of the subject to speak of Marot as the father of modern French poetry; the phrase is, like all such phrases, inaccurate, but, like most such phrases, it contains a certain amount of truth. To the characteristics of the lighter French poetry, from La Fontaine to Béranger, which has always been more popular both at home and abroad than the more ambitious and serious efforts of French poets, Marot does in some sort stand in a parental relation. He retained the sprightliness and sly fun of the Fabliau-writers, while he softened their crudity of expression, he exchanged clumsiness and horse-play for the play of wit, and he emphasised fully in the language the two characteristics which have never failed to distinguish it since, elegance and urbanity. His style is somewhat pedestrian, though on occasion he can write with exquisite tenderness, and with the most delicate suggestiveness of expression. But as a rule he does not go deep; ease and grace, not passion or lofty flights, are his strong points. Representing, as he did, the reaction from the stiff forms and clumsily classical language of the rhétoriqueurs, it was not likely that he should exhibit the tendency of his own age to classical culture and imitation very strongly. He and his school were thus regarded by their immediate successors of the Pléiade as rustic and uncouth singers, for the most part very unjustly. But still Marot's work was of less general and far-reaching importance than that of Ronsard. He brought out the best aspect of the older French literature, and cleared away some disfiguring encumbrances from it, but he imported nothing new. It would hardly be unjust to say that, given the difference of a century in point of ordinary progress, Charles d'Orléans is Marot's equal in elegance and grace, and his superior in sentiment, while Marot is not comparable to Villon in passion or in humour. His limitation, and at the same time his great merit, was that he was a typical Frenchman. A famous epigram, applied to another person two centuries later, might be applied with very little difficulty or alteration to Marot. He had more than anybody else of his time the literary characteristics which the ordinary literary Frenchman has. We constantly meet in the history of literature this contrast between the men who are simply shining examples of the ordinary type, and men who cross and blend that type with new characters and excellences. Unquestionably the latter are the greater, but the former cannot on any equitable scheme miss their reward. It must be added that the positive merit of much of Marot's work is great, though, as a rule, his longer pieces are very inferior to his shorter. Many of the epigrams are admirable; the Psalms, which have been unjustly depreciated of late years by French critics, have a sober and solemn music, which is almost peculiar to the French devotional poetry of that age; the satirical ballade of Frère Lubin is among the very best things of its kind; while as much may be said of the rondeaux 'Dedans Paris' in the lighter style, and 'En la Baisant' in the graver. Perhaps the famous line —

Un doux nenny avec un doux sourire,

supposed to have been addressed to the Queen of Navarre, expresses Marot's poetical powers as well as anything else, showing as it does grace of language, tender and elegant sentiment, and suppleness, ease, and fluency of style.

The School of Marot.

Marot formed a very considerable school, some of whom directly imitated his mannerisms, and composed blasons171 and Coq-à-l'Âne in emulation of their master and of each other, while others contented themselves with displaying the same general characteristics, and setting the same poetical ideals before them. Among the idlest, but busiest literary quarrels of the century, a century fertile in such things, was that between Marot and a certain insignificant person named François Sagon, a belated rhétoriqueur, who found some other rhymers of the same kind to support him. One of Marot's best things, an answer of which his servant, Fripelipes, is supposed to be the spokesman, came of the quarrel; but of the other contributions, not merely of the principals, but of their followers, the Marotiques and Sagontiques, nothing survives in general memory, or deserves to survive. Of Marot's disciples, one, Mellin de Saint Gelais, deserves separate mention, the others may be despatched in passing. Victor Brodeau, who, like his master, held places in the courts both of Marguerite and her brother, wrote not merely a devotional work, Les Louanges de Jésus Christ notre Seigneur, which fairly illustrates the devotional side of the Navarrese literary coterie, but also epigrams and rondeaux of no small merit. Étienne Dolet, better known both as a scholar and translator, and as the publisher of Marot and (surreptitiously) of Rabelais, composed towards the end of his life poems in French, the principal of which was taken in title and idea from Marot's Enfer, and which, though very unequal, have passages of some poetical power. Marguerite herself has left a considerable collection of poems of the most diverse kind and merit, the title of which, Marguerites de la Marguerite des Princesses172, is perhaps not the worst thing about them. Farces, mysteries, religious poems, such as Le Triomphe de l'Agneau, and Le Miroir de l'Âme Pécheresse, with purely secular pieces on divers subjects, make up these curious volumes. Not a few of the poems display the same nobility of tone and stately sonorousness of verse, which has been and will be noticed as a characteristic of the serious poetry of the age, and which reached its climax in Du Bartas, D'Aubigné, and the choruses of Garnier and Montchrestien. Bonaventure des Périers, an admirable prose writer, was a poet, though not a very strong one. François Habert, 'Le Banni de Liesse,' must not be confounded with Philippe Habert, author of a remarkable Temple de la Mort in the next century. Gilles Corrozet, author of fables in verse, who, like many other literary men of the time, was a printer and publisher as well, Jacques Gohorry, a pleasant song writer, Gilles d'Aubigny, Jacques Pelletier, Étienne Forcadel, deserve at least to be named. Of more importance were Hugues Salel, Charles Fontaine, Antoine Héroet, Maurice Scève. All these were members of the Lyonnese literary coterie, and in connection with this Louise Labé also comes in. Salel, famous as the first French translator of the Iliad, or rather of Books I-XII thereof, distinguished himself as a writer of blasons in imitation of Marot, as well as by composing many small poems of the occasional kind. Charles Fontaine exhibited the fancy of the time for conceits in the entitling of books by denominating his poems Ruisseaux de la Fontaine, and was one of the chief champions on Marot's side in the quarrel with Sagon, while he afterwards defended the style Marotique against Du Bellay's announcement of the programme of the Pléiade. But perhaps he would hardly deserve much remembrance, save for a charming little poem to his new-born son, which M. Asselineau has made accessible to everybody in Crepet's Poètes Français173. He also figures in a literary tournament very characteristic of the age. La Borderie, another disciple of Marot, had written a poem entitled L'Amye de Cour, which defended libertinism, or at least worldly-mindedness in love, in reply to the Parfaite Amye of Antoine Héroet, which exhibits very well a certain aspect of the half-amorous, half-mystical sentiment of the day. Fontaine rejoined in a Contr'Amye de Cour. Maurice Scève is also a typical personage. He was, it may be said, the head of the Lyonnese school, and was esteemed all over France. He was excepted by the irreverent champions of the Pléiade from the general ridicule which they poured on their predecessors, and was surrounded by a special body of feminine devotees and followers, including his kinswomen Claudine and Sibylle Scève, Jeanne Gaillarde, and above all Louise Labé. Scève's poetical work is strongly tinged with classical affectation and Platonic mysticism; and his chief poem, De l'Objet de la plus haute Vertu, consists of some four hundred and fifty dizains written in what in England and later has been, not very happily, called a metaphysical style. Last of all comes the just-mentioned Louise Labé, 'La belle Cordière,' one of the chief ornaments of Lyons, and the most important French poetess of the sixteenth century. Louise was younger, and wrote later than most of the authors just mentioned, and in some respects she belongs to the school of Ronsard, like her supposed lover, Olivier de Magny. But the Lyons school was essentially Marotique, and much of the style of the elder master is observable in the writings of Louise174. She has left a prose Dialogue d'Amour et de Folie, three elegies, and a certain number of sonnets. Her poems are perhaps the most genuinely passionate of the time and country, and many of the sonnets are extremely beautiful. The language is on the whole simple and elegant, without the over-classicism of the Pléiade, or the obscurity of her master Scève. Strangely enough the poems of this young Lyonnese lady have in many places a singular approach to the ring of Shakespeare's sonnets and minor works, and that not merely by virtue of the general resemblance common to all the love poetry of the age, but in some very definite traits. Her surname of 'La belle Cordière' came from her marriage with a rich merchant, Ennemond Perrin by name, who was by trade a ropemaker. Her poems have had their full share of the advantages of reprints, which have of late years fallen to the lot of sixteenth-century authors in France.

Mellin de St. Gelais.

Mellin de Saint Gelais175, the last to be mentioned but the most important of the school of Marot, has been very variously judged. The mere fact that he was probably the introducer of the sonnet into France (the counter claim of Pontus de Tyard seems to be unfounded) would suffice to give him a considerable position in the history of letters. But Mellin's claims by no means rest upon this achievement. He was a man of higher position than most of the other poets of the time, being the reputed son of Octavien de Saint Gelais, and himself enjoying a good deal of royal favour. In his old age, as the representative of the school of Marot, he had to bear the brunt of the Pléiade onslaught, and knew how to defend himself, so that a truce was made. He was born in 1487, and died in 1558. His name is also spelt Merlin, and even Melusin, the Saint Gelais boasting descent from the Lusignans, and thus from the famous fairy heroine Mélusine. In his youth he spent a good deal of time in Italy, at the Universities of Bologna and Padua. On returning to France, he was at once received into favour at court, and having taken orders, obtained various benefices and appointments which assured his fortune. It is remarkable that though he violently opposed Ronsard's rising favour at court, both the Prince of Poets and Du Bellay completely forgave him, and pay him very considerable compliments, the latter praising his 'vers emmiellés,' the former speaking, even after his death, of his proficiency in the combined arts of music and poetry. Saint Gelais was a good musician, and an affecting story is told of his swan-song, for which, as for other anecdotes, there is no space here. His work, though not inconsiderable in volume, is, even more than that of Marot and other poets of the time and school, composed for the most part of very short pieces, epigrams, rondeaux, dizains, huitains, etc. These pieces display more merit than most recent critics have been disposed to allow to them. The style is fluent and graceful, free from puns and other faults of taste common at the time. The epigrams are frequently pointed, and well expressed, and the complimentary verse is often skilful and well turned. Mellin de Saint Gelais is certainly not a poet of the highest order, but as a court singer and a skilful master of language he deserves a place among his earlier contemporaries only second to that of Marot.

Miscellaneous Verse. Anciennes Poésies Françaises.

Something of the same sort may be said of all the writers in verse of the first half of the century. Their importance is chiefly relative. Few of their works are conceived or executed on a scale sufficient to entitle them to the rank of great poets, and, saving always Marot, the excellence even of the trifling compositions to which they confined themselves is very unequal and intermittent. But all are evidences of a general diffusion of the literary spirit among the people of France, and most of them in their way, and according to their powers, helped in perfecting the character of French as a literary instrument. The advance which the language experienced in this respect is perhaps nowhere better shown than in the miscellaneous and popular poetry of the time, a vast collection of which has been made accessible by the reprinting of rare or unique printed originals in the thirteen volumes of MM. de Montaiglon and de Rothschild's Anciennes Poésies Françaises, published in the Bibliothèque Elzévirienne176. This flying literature, as it is well called in French, lacks in most cases the freshness and spontaneity of mediaeval folk-song. But it has in exchange gained in point of subject a wide extension of range, and in point of form a considerable advance in elegance of language, absence of commonplace, and perfection of literary form and style. The stiffness which characterises much mediaeval and almost all fifteenth-century work has disappeared in great measure. The writers speak directly and to the point, and find no difficulty in so using their mother tongue as to express their intentions. The tools in short are more effective and more completely under the control of the worker. A certain triviality is indeed noticeable, and the tendency of the middle ages to perpetuate favourite forms and models is by no means got rid of. But much that was useless has been discarded, and of what is left a defter and more distinctly literary use is made. Had French remained as Marot left it, it would indeed have been unequal to the expression of the noblest thoughts, the gravest subjects, to the treatment and exposition of intricate and complicated problems of life and mind. But in his hands it attained perhaps the perfection of usefulness as an exponent of the pure esprit gaulois, to use a phrase which has been tediously abused by French writers, but which is expressive of a real fact in French history and French literature. It had been suppled and pointed: it remained for it to be weighted, strengthened, and enriched. This was not the appointed task of Marot and his contemporaries, but of the men who came after them. But what they themselves had to do they did, and did it well. To this day the lighter verse of France is more an echo of Clément Marot than of any other man who lived before the seventeenth century, and, with the exception of his greater follower, La Fontaine, of any man who came after him at any time177.

165 De Belges, though the less usual, is the more accurate form. We are at length promised a complete edition of him in the admirable series of the Belgian Academy, one of the best in appearance and editing, and by far the cheapest of all such series. He was born in 1475, held posts in the household of the Governors of the Netherlands, was historiographer to Louis XII., and died either in 1524 or in 1548.

166 See Poètes Français, i. 532. It is perhaps well to say that M. C. d'Héricault, though a very agreeable as well as a very learned writer, is particularly open to the charge that his geese are swans.

167 Ed. C. d'Héricault. Paris, 1855.

168 See Poètes Français, vol. i. ad fin., for the poets mentioned in this paragraph and others of their kind.

169 He was in his old age conspicuous among the enemies of Étienne Dolet. See Étienne Dolet, by R. C. Christie. London, 1880.

170 Ed Jannet et C. d'Héricault. 4 vols. Paris, 2nd ed. 1873. M. d'Héricault has prefixed a much larger study of Marot than is to be found here to his edition of the 'beauties' of the poet, published by Messrs. Garnier. The late M. Guiffrey published two volumes of a costly and splendid edition, which his death interrupted.

171 The blason (description) was a child of the mediaeval dit. Marot's examples, Le beau Tétin and Le laid Tétin, were copied ad infinitum. The first is panegyric, the second abuse.

172 Ed. Frank. 4 vols. Paris, 1873-4.

173 i. 651.

174 Ed. Tross. Paris, 1871.

175 Ed. Blanchemain, 3 vols. Paris, 1873.

176 This great collection, which awaits its completion of glossary, etc., was published between 1855 and 1878, and is invaluable to any one desiring to appreciate the general characteristics of the poetical literature of the time.

177 Much help has been received in the writing of this chapter, and indeed of this book, from the excellent work of MM. Hatzfeld and Darmesteter, Le Seizième Siècle en France (Paris, 1878), one of the best histories extant in a small compass of a brief but important period of literature. We may hope for a still more elaborate study of the same subject in English from Mr. Arthur Tilley, of King's College, Cambridge. An introductory volume to this study appeared in 1885.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/saintsbury/george/french-lit/book2.2.html

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