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(Re)visiting Delie: Maurice Sceve and Marian Poetry [*].

Si iracunda, aut avaritia, aut carnis illecebra naviculam concusserit mentis, respice ad Mariam.

Bernard, In laudibus Virginis Matris

Factat animam Vulcanus, vestes aptat Pallas, fucat Venus, & cesto cingit, ornant catera Dea, docet pessimos mores Mercurius. Et quia omni genere rerum a Diis donata esset, Pandoram appellat.

Jean Olivier, Pandora

Celle qui est la Vertu, et Ia Grace ... Monstre, qu'en soy elle a plus, que de femme.

Delie, D354 and 284

This study proposes a new reading of Delie and tries to shed a new light on the poet himself. Sceve appears here not only as the humanist we all know, but as a Christian poet, a poet as much interested in biblical and other religious sources as in Classical and Italian ones. In his canzoniere, Sceve follows very closely, and even sometimes imitates, a corpus of fixed-form poems -- rondeaux parfaits, ballades, and chants royaux -- written by poets of the two previous generations for poetic contests known as Puys. And he constantly expresses his love and describes his idol in terms, images, and symbols directly borrowed from Marian poetry. To the Christian cult of the Virgin Mary corresponds for the Lover the pagan cult of Delie.

This study contributes to the view, recently advanced by some scholars of Sceve's poetry -- Donaldson-Evans and Skenazi, among others -- that the Delie is at least as Christian in its inspiration -- if not in its purpose -- as it is Petrarchan or classical. It tries to add to this view and give a new cast to it by arguing two related points: first, that the religious language and images which characterize Sceve's work serve to associate Delie, the poet's beloved "idol," with the Virgin Mary; and second, that the specifically Marian echoes and allusions contained in some of Sceve's dizains derive mainly from a corpus of little-studied poems in praise of the Virgin, written in the previous generation for poetic contests known as puys, poetic guilds whose main raison d'etre was to celebrate each year the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 December).

This association between Delie and Mary becomes quite evident when one reads those anthologies of palinods that have been preserved in manuscripts, some magnificently illustrated, kept in St. Petersburg, Copenhagen, Carpentras, Rouen, Oxford and especially Paris -- I am thinking in particular of those illuminated jewels, manuscripts BNF fr. 145, 379, and 1537, the mere contemplation of which would convert even the most hardy atheists. It seems clear, at any rate, that even a moderately attentive examination of the poems themselves, and of the collections in which they are to be found, will quickly reveal, even to the least receptive, the most skeptical and recalcitrant of readers, the considerable role played by the Puys of Dieppe, Caen, and Rouen in the history of French poetry between the last quarter of the fifteenth century and the middle of the sixteenth century, and even beyond. This veritable treasure contains an intellectual, poetic and textual corpus of singular modernity that no sixteenth-century sc holar can any longer afford to ignore.


To begin with, we shall not look at those beautiful manuscripts -- not yet -- but at a printed collection, referred to by experts like Gerard Gros and Denie Hue as the "Recueil Vidoue." This collection of palinodic poems was published in Paris around 1525 under the title: Palinodz / Chantz royaulx // Ballades / Rondeau!x / et Epigrammes // Ihonneur de limmaculee Conception de // la toute belle mere tie dieu Marie (Patron- // ne des Normans) presentez au puy a Rouen .... The beautiful woodcut on the cover contains Latin inscriptions on the phylacteries which surround the image of the Virgin. The reader, while admiring the traditional symbols associated with Mary -- the city, the fountain, the well, the mirror, the door, the cedar, the lily, the rose, the olive tree, the sun, the moon, the star, etc. -- can do as I did and, by scanning the engraving from top to bottom and from left to right, make out the following inscriptions (see fig. 1):


ii and iii) PULC[H]RA VT LUNA, ELECTA UT SOL: Song 6:9; see also Mal. 4:2: "Et orietur vobis timentibus nomen meum Sol Justitiae."

iv) STELLA MARIS: Marie, says saint Bernard in his In laudibus Virginis Matris, Homily 2, [sections] 17, is "Maris stella." [2] According to a well-established tradition, this symbol originates in St. Jerome's Interpretation of Hebraic Names, where, concerning the etymology of the name Mariam, a distracted (or inspired) scribe accidentally wrote "stella mans" instead of "stilla mans." In any case, "Ave Mans Stella" is a hymn sung in church by the faithful, doubtlessly since the eighth century. [3] To this reference should be added Num. 24:17: "Orietur stella ex Jacob, et consurget virga de Israel."


vi) PORTA CELI: Gen. 28:17 (episode of Jacob's ladder: "Pavensque, Quam terribilis est, inquit, locus iste! non est hic aliud nisi domus Dei, etporta coli"); see also Ezek. 44:2 ("This gate shall be shut"), Matt. 7:13, Luke 13:24 (the "strait gate"); and the end of the first verse of the Manian hymn "Ave mans stella": "Ave mans stella / Dei Mater alma, / Atque semper Virgo, / Felix coli porta"; in the Litanies of the Virgin, Marie is also called Juana coli.

vii and viii) CEDRUS EXALTATA, PLANTATIO ROS[A]E: Eccles. 24:17-18.

ix) TURRIS DAVID: Song 4:4; in the said Litanies, one finds the following: "Rosa mystica, ora pro nobis. / Turris Davidica, ora pro nobis. / Turris eburnea, ora pro nobis", etc.

x) SPECULUM SINE MACULA: Wisd. of Sol. 7:25-26: "Vapor est enim virtutis Del, / et emanatio quaedam est claritatis omnipotentis Dei sincera, / et ideo nihil inquinatum in eam incurrit; / candor est enim lucis eternae, / et speculum sine macula Dei majestatis, / et imago bonitatis illius"; again in the Litanies, Marie is also described as Speculum justitito, "Mirror of Justice."

xi) OLIVA SPECIOSA: Eccles. 24:19.

xii) VIRGA JESSE FLORUIT: Num. 17:8 ("virga Aaron"); Isa. 11.1-2.

xiii and xiv) FONS [H]ORTORUM, PUTEUS AQUARUM: Song 4:15.

xv) HORTUS CONCLUSUS: Song 4:12.

xvi) CIVITAS DEI: Ps. 86.3.

One can see that the majority of these emblems (ten out of sixteen) originate either in the Song of Songs or Ecclesiastes. The following exerpts, quoted in extenso, are the most significant of these passages and are the ones that, as we will soon see, drew Sceve's poetic attention. He doubtlessly savored them above others and borrowed from them the most. As the reader will have understood, the point I wish to make here is that we need to become aware of the fact -- a fact which previous generation of scholars have tended to ignore -- that in the sixteenth century the Bible was the humanist's book par excellence, that it was the text to which writers, poets and scholars constantly referred, naturally and even spontaneously. Thus, when in our modern editions of Sceve's Delie we settle for citing Petrarch, Pliny, Virgil, or Ovid -- that is to say, texts we believe to be exclusively "pagan" -- we run the risk of not going back to the real source-text, of stopping halfway on our journey to the origins. We must in stead return to Lucien Febvre's "coeur religieux du seizieme siecle" -- Lucien Febvre who, after all, did not err on all accounts -- and remind ourselves as we embark on this study that there is perhaps in all our history no period more religiously oriented than the sixteenth century, and that it is this orientation we need to foreground if we are to meet the interpretative challenges presented to us by the texts of this period.

A) Song of Songs 2-4 -- chapters consecrated to the admirable description that the Beloved makes of the physical charms of his companion, "the most beautiful of women":

Quam pulchra es, amica mea, quam pulchra es!


Sicut turris David collum tuum,

quae aedificata est cum propugnaculis:

mille clypei pendent ex ea,

omnis armatura fortium


Donec aspiret dies, et inclinentur umbrae,

vadam ad mantem myrrhae, et ad callem thurris.

Tota pulchra es, amica mea,

et macula non est in te.


Vulnerasti cor meum, soror mea, sponsa,

vulnerasti car meum in uno oculanum tuorum

Et in uno crine colli tui.


Puichriora sunt ubera tua vino,

Et odor unguentorum tuorum super omnia aromata.


Hortus conclusus soror mea, sponsa,

hortus conclusus, fons signatus.

Emissianes tuae paradisus malorum punicorum,

cum pomorum fructibus, cypri cum nardo.

Nardus et crocus, fistula et cinnamomum,

myrrha et aloe, cum omnibus primis unguentis.

Fans hortorum, puteus aquarum viventium,

quae fluunt impetu de Libano.


Quae est ista quae progreditur quasi aurora consurgens,

pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol,

terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata!

B) Ecclesiastes 24:17-25, where Wisdom -- prefiguring Erasmus's Moria -- sings her own praises ("Sapientia laudabit animam suam": 24:1):

Quasi cedrus exaltata sum in Libano,

Et quasi cypressus in monte Sion;

quasi palma exaltata sum in Cades,

et quasi plantatio rosae in Jericho.

Quasi oliva speciosa in campis,

et quasi platanus exaltata sum juxta aquam in plateis.

Sicut cinnamomum et balsamum aromatizans odorem dedi,

quasi myrrha electa dedi suavitatem odoris;

et quasi storax, et galbanus, et ungula, et gutta,

et quasi Libanus non incisus vaporavi habitationem meam

et quasi balsamum non mistum odor meus.

Ego quasi terebinthus extendi ramos meos,

et rami mei honoris et gratiae.

Ego quasi vitis fruitficavi suavitatem odoris;

et flores mei fructus honoris et honestatis.

Ego mater pulchrae dilectionis, et timoris,

et agnitionis, et sanctae spei.

In me gratia omnis viae et veritatis;

in me omnis spes vitae et virtutis.


In addition to the "myrrha et aloe" closely linked by Solomon in his Song of Songs and this "myrrha electa" that gives off a "suave odeur," recognizable Scevian echoes to which we will return later, it is the seventh of these emblems, the "Cedrus exaltata," which first and foremost held my attention and immediately made me think of a possible link with the beginning of D372 of Delie:

Tu m'es le Cedre encontre le venin

De ce Serpent en moy continuel,

Comme ton oeil cruellement benin

Me vivifie au feu perpetuel,

Alors qu'Amour par effect mutuel

T'ouvre la bouche, et en tire voix plaine

Celle doulceur celestement humaine,

Qui m'est souvent peu moms, que rigoureuse,

Dont spire (o Dieux) trop plus suave alaine,

Que n'est Zephire en l'Arabie heureuse.

This link, suggested by a fortuitous game of free association, was at first seemingly tenuous, but the "Serpent" of the second verse lent it a whiff of plausibility that made it all the more irresistible. Opening therefore the recueil in question, I soon discovered on folios xvii-xviii, in a chant royal by Dom Nicole Lescarre, the beginning of a confirmation of the hypothesis germinating in my mind. I will cite only the first two stanzas, although the entire poem merits being read and savored for its remarkable craftsmanship:

Le filz de Amos remply de prophetie

Veit ung hault mont sur tous mons prepare

Ouquel viendroit le prophete Messye

Affin que Adam fut du tout repare /

5 Lequel estoit par peche separe

Et interdit de la grace divine,

Dont pleur survint, mort misere et ruyne

Au ge[n]re humain dolent et gemissant:

Mais dieu puissant pour son reclinatore

10 Luy ordonna ce lieu resplendissant

Mont distillant / paix / salut / grace et glore.

Le mont Thamor ou Moyse et Helye

Furent jadis bien nous a figure

Ce mont plaisant, ou Dieu tant se humilie

15 Qu'en corps humain si est transfigure.

Moralement il est prefigure

Mont de Syon preserve de vermine,

Mont de Lyban qui serpens extermine:

Par la vertu de son cedre odorant,

20 Cypre fleurant et palme de victoire

Qui le monstroit en tout fruict prosperant

Mont distillant paix / salut / grace et glore.

As the proverb puts it: when it rains it pours. On folios xxxvi-xxxvii of the same Vidoue collection, in one of Maitre Nicolle Le Vestu's chants royaux, "Le parc d'honneur / muny de toute grace," we find that the "pur corps" of the Virgin is destined to "porter fruict de grand suavite." This "parc d'honneur," writes the poet:

Bien fut plante d'arbres melliflueux

Non tortuenx: mais parfaictz en droicture,

Garny de fleurs / de cedres fructueux

Moult vertueux: contre aspique poincture.

A third reference, which consolidates the association, is found on pages 19-22 of ins. 385 of the Bibliotheque Inguimbertine in Carpentas in a chant royal by a certain Jehan Couppel. Although a mediocre work, it invokes Pliny in its "Argument" ("Pline dict que le pin oliban / Qui croist sur le mont de Liban / Estre sur tous le pur encens. . .") and incorporates into its palinode, "Pur encens chassant venin du monde," the motif of the "Vierge au Serpent" already used by Nicolle Lescarre in the chant royal I mentioned above. This motif, as all specialists in Mariology are aware, [4] is extremely common in all forms of Christian art, especially iconography.

We are all familiar with the type of commentary that accompanies D372 in our modern editions of the Delie. For example, McFarlane notes that the cedar, because it had the reputation of being "harmful to snakes," could be used as an antidote to their bites. To corroborate his claims, MacFarland quotes his predecessor Parturier: "Cedrus est arbor. . . cujus odor serpentes fuget, et interimit." More recently, Francoise Joukovsky, in her Classiques Garnier edition, supports McFarlane's reading by evoking the "huile de cedre ou pisselaeon," an oil to which Pliny refers in the fifteenth book, (ss)28, of his Natural History. All of this is, of course, interesting and yet insufficient, reductive. For one incontrovertible fact that emerges from our reading of the chants royaux in the "Recueil Vidoue" and the ms. of Carpentras is that all future commentaries on D372 should, in addition to citing Pliny or Vincent de Beauvais, also make room for Dom Nicole Lescarre, Nicole Le Vestu, and Jehan Couppel, and to stress the f act that in this dizain as in many others, Sceve discretely and, yet quite discernibly, does not hesitate to attribute to Delie -- his Delie this "object de plus haulte vertu" whom he calls his "idol" -- certain symbols previously reserved by the poets of the Puys for the Virgin Mary, the only human being to have escaped the "plague" and the "venom" of original sin.

In fact, future commentaries on this dizain should accord a special place of honor to Dom Nicolle Lescarre, laureate at the puy competition in Rouen at least seven times--in 1512, 1513, 1514, 1515, 1517,1521 and 1524 -- a record surpassed only by Pierre Apvril, who was crowned ten times, and almost equaled by three other poets: Guillaume Tasserie and Guillaume Thibault (each rewarded six times), and Guillaume Cretin (rewarded five times). In addition to his chant royal already cited, Lescarre composed another equally remarkable one, which shows how in Sceve's poetry everything fits and holds together in spite of his "eruditio inaudita & nova" [5] -- in spite, that is, of the incomparable richness of his text, steeped as it is in echoes of and references to Dante, Petrarch, Marot, Catullus, Virgil, Ovid, Plato, Erasmus, Marguerite of Navarre, Jean Olivier, Sperone Speroni, and, last but by no means least, to the Bible. This chant royal appears in several manuscripts, notably the important ms. 385 of the Biblio theque Inguimbertine at Carpentras (271) and the ms. BNF fr. 2205 (fol. 39v). Considered in relation to Sceve's work, Lescarre's refrain, "Pure licorne expellant tout venin," invites a comparison with the "Cedre" of D372 and the impresa of the first of the fifty emblems in Delie, the one which, appearing between D5 and D6, represents a woman who, in a gesture of love and pity reminiscent of the beloved of the Song of Songs 2:6 ("Laeva ejus sub capite meo, / et dextera illius amplexabitur me"), embraces a unicorn wounded by an arrow. Rarely does a text so willingly submit to the game of analysis and commentary which I am inflicting upon it here. In fact, the chant royal of Lescarre lends itself more easily to my purpose than do the device and epigram of Maurice Sceve. When coupled with the impresa of Delie's first emblem, it seems, notwithstanding the precise meaning that the poet intended to give it in his canzoniere -- where the wounded unicorn no longer represents the Virgin, but rather the Lover -- to have finally found its true purpose and raison d'etre. The presence of this mythical animal confirms something we had long suspected about the unicorn. This Marian symbol par excellence is not only a virginal and Christ-like figure of the Incarnation -- from the famous "Et verbum caro factum est" in St. John -- but also, as Gerard Gros states in his discussion of this poem, the figure of the immaculate Virgin. Furthermore, it represents "une sublimation miraculeuse de la vie charnelle" which explains the concept of purification inalterably associated with the unicorn in this myth. Above all, it is the figure and source of purity, divine remedy against temptation, pollution, or stain, against what theologians call fomes peccati. [6] Indeed, as nearly all palinodic works proclaim, whether they come from the Puy of Amiens, Dieppe or Rouen, Mary is the only human being to have escaped this universal law that Marguerite de Navarre recalls from St. Paul (Rom. 3:23): "omnes enim peccaverunt," we are all "enclos en peche ," Mary is the only one to have been miraculously saved, "preserved," exempted," from the original malediction. [7] All the poets of the Puys celebrate the "pur concept" -- in other words, the Immaculate Conception -- of one who is "parfaicte au monde." [8] Daughter of Adam, no doubt, and certainly daughter of Eve, yet blessed for all eternity; not only "esleue," but "preesleue" [9] by God to be the "Vray reconfort de l'humaine lignee" (Nicaise Sanale), "Source d'eau douce au parmy de la mer" (Geuffin Roger), "Femme qui feist l'impossible possible" (Guillaume Thibault), "Aube du jour qui le monde illumine" (Jean d'Ardre), "Mere de grace et de misericorde" (Antoine Louvel), "Royne des cieulx sans tache et toute belle" (Louis Chapperon), "Saincte cite" contre Sathan fermee" (Jacques Le Lieur), "Maison de dieu: de peche separee (Guillaume Columbe), "Seule sans si divinement tyssue" (Guillaume Cretin), "Sans vice aucun toute belle conceue" (again Jacques Le Lyeur), "Vaisseau esleu preserve de tout vice" (Nicole R avenier); [10] and, to give the last word to the two Marots, and to their colleague, friend, and mentor Guillaume Cretin, Mary is, essentially, "belle de corps et d'ame," "Pure en concept oultre loy de nature," at once the "Parc virginal exempte de vermine," "La fleur de liz preservee entre espines," "La porte close, ou peche n'eust entree," "L'humanite joincte divinite," the "saincte closture" and the "Tige d'honneur," "La digne Couche, ou be Roy reposa," "Le jardin clos, tous humains promis, I La grand Cite des haulx Cieulx regardee, / Le lys royal, I'Olive collaudee," and finally, last, but not least, "l'honneur de Ia terre et des cieux." [11] Genesis 3:15 states that after the Fall there would be enmity between woman and the serpent. As God predicted ("ipsa conteret caput tuum"), Mary is the one who came to crush the head of the "vipere" or the "aspic" (Lescarre uses "conterer," conserving the Latin verb of the Vulgate: "conterer l'orgueil serpentin"), to vanquish the seven-headed Dragon of Revelations 12 :1-4, and, as Guilbaume Cretin says in one of his palinodes, [12] to come face to face, victoriously, with the "fier regard du dragon basilique":

Chant royal [13]

Le grand veneur, qui tout mat nous pourchasse,

Portant espieux aguz et affilez,

Tant pourchassa par sa mortelle chasse

Qu'il print ung cerf en ses laqz et fillez,

5 Lesquelz avoit par grand despit fillez

Pour le surprendre au biau parc d'innocence.

Lors Ia licorne en forme et belle essence

Saillant en l'air comme royne des bestes,

Sans craindre abboy envyeux et canyn,

10 Montrer se vint au veneur a sept testes

Pure lycorne expellant tout venin.

Ce faulx veneur cornant par fiere audace

Ses chiens mordantz sur les champs a rengez,

L'esperant prendre en quelque infecte place

15 Par la fureur de telz chiens arragez,

Mais desconfictz, laz et descouragez,

De luy ont faict morsure ou violence:

Car le leon de divine excellence

La nourrissoit d'herbes et fleurs celestes,

20 En la gardant par son plaisir begnin,

Sans endurer leurs abboys et molestes,

Pure lycorne expellant tout venyn.

Sur elle estoit prevencion de grace

Portant les traictz d'innocence empanez,

25 Pour repeller la veneneuse trace

De ce chasseur et ses chiens obstinez,

Qui furent tous par elle exterminez

Sans iuy avoir infere quelque offense.

Sa dure come eslevoit pour deffense,

30 Donnant espoir aux bestes trop subjectes

A ce veneur cauteleux et mating,

Qui ne print oncq, par ses dardz et sagettes,

Pure lycorne expellant tout venin.

Ainsy saillit par dessus sa fillace

35 Et dardz poinctuz d'ach[i]er mortel ferrez,

Se retirant sur hautaine tarrace

Sans estre prinse en ses lacz et ses rethz,

Lesquels avoit fort tyssus et serrez

Pour luy tenir par sa fiere insolence.

40 Mais par doulceur et par benivolence

Rendre se vint entre les bras honnestes

De purite plaine d'amour divin,

Qui la gardoit sans taches deshonnestes

Pure lycorne expellant tout venin.

45 Pour estre es champs des bestes l'outrepasse

Et conforter tous humains desolez,

Triumphamment seule eschappe et surpasse

Ses laqz infectz par icelle adnullez.

Dont icy has nous sommes consolez

50 Par la lycorne ou gist toute affluence

D'immortel bien par celeste influence:

Car, par ses faictz et meritoires gestes,

A contere tout l'orgueil serpentin,

En se monstrant, par vertus manifestes,

55 Pure lycorne expellant tout venyn.


Veneur maudict, retourne a tes tempestes,

Va te plonger au gouffre sulphurin,

Puis que n'as prins, par tes cors et trompettes,

Pure lycorne expellant tout venyn.

As all readers of Marian poetry know, behind the archetypal fight between God, the "leon de divine excellence," and Satan, "le grand veneur," stands another struggle which is just as symbolic: namely the struggle between Eva and Ave, the ancient Eve and the new Eve. The Demon, who had defeated woman, had in his turn to be vanquished by her. Mary is therefore the strong woman," the "femme forte" sought by Solomon in his Proverbs (31:10). It is upon Her that humanity depends for its salvation; it is her mediation that brings about the restoration of innocence and victory against the enemy. It is in this specific perspective that Mary finds perhaps her most evocative and powerful symbol, the Brazen Serpent, this "Serpentem aeneum" that Moses raised in the desert upon instruction by Yahweh (Num. 21:4-9); for She is also the Force and the Light of the world, "pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol, terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata." And so it is for this reason (and this is by no means a coincidence or an accident) that Sceve uses this image to close his superb evocation in D 143: "En mon penser soubdain il te regarde, / Comme au desert son Serpent esleve"; and it is also for this very reason that, as soon as D 15, Sceve talks about his idol in terms that, though specifically Delian, could nonetheless be applied to Mary (note in particular verses 7-10, infused with allusions to the Scriptures, including Rev. 12:3 and Gen. 3:15). Mary, as the great Nicolle Lescarre had already recalled in another of his chants royaux ("Recueil Vidoue," fols. xv-xvi), never sat in the "chaire de peste," the "cathedra pestilentia" of Psalm 1. [14] She is not only the one who purified for us "L'Air putrefaict, mortel & veneneux" of sin, but she is also, most importantly, the one who was never herself offended by this "air infect" and "corrompu," this "mal contagieux" that the Serpent spread all over other creatures of the world. Following Lescarre, Sceve's adoration faithfully imitates that of the Norman devotees of the Virgin, but only the better, as we shall see, to differentiate himself from them in order to make his point better understood:

Toy seule as fait, que ce vii Siecle avare,

Et aveugle de tout saint jugement,

Contre l'utile ardemment se prepare

Pour l'esbranler a meilleur changement:

Et plus en hayt l'honneste estrangement,

Commencant ja cherir la vertu.

Aussi par toy ce grand Monstre abatu,

Qui l'univers de son odeur infecte,

T'adorera soubx tes piedz combatu,

Comme qui est entre routes parfaicte.

(D15) [15]


Let us make no mistake. What we are dealing with here in Sceve's text is not at all a coincidence, but rather a recurring practice, a strategy that is clearly deliberate and intentional. In fact, the encounter between Mary and Delie was inevitable. It was built into Sceve's very project; it was inscribed in the spirit and the letter of his canzoniere. As Pierre Fabri, spokesperson of the "devotz facteurs" of the Puy of Rouen, proclaimed in his Defensore de la Conception, a work that Sceve had no doubt closely studied, the task before them was to commemorate in solemn fashion the 8 December festival by boldly defending "l'honneur et la gloire de nostre saincte mere, patronne et advocate tresglorieuse, et sacree Vierge, mere de Dieu, Marie": Mary, lily or rose between the thorns; Mary, palm, cedar or cypress; Mary, star, sun and moon; Mary, the mirror; Mary, myrrh, aloe, and manna, harmony, balm, perfume, and incense; Mary, "benedicra (et pulcherrima) inter mulieres, rota pulchra, sine macula, gratia plena, qua si aurora consurgens, praeelecta a Deo super omnes creaturas, omnibus virtutibus ornata, exaltata super choros Angelorum ad coelestia regna." It is She who saved humanity, and She whom humanity, full of gratitude and steeped in adoration, must worship with the greatest fervor. Sceve's endeavor is similar. It consists in celebrating a miracle that is both divine and human, a Woman miraculously adorned, God and Nature supervising the process, with all the "beautes," all the "graces" and "vertus" imaginable, a woman who is as much "lune infuse dans ses veines" (see D22, 35, 106, 111, 176, 193) as "soleil de sa vie" (D79, 92, 223, 386 and 387, 409, 443). Sceve, or rather the Poet and Delie's lover, his persona, spends his existence on his knees, "incline," as he tells us himself, "Devant les piedz de [s]a divinite" (D 381), the "Deesse de [s]a vie" (D322), venerating with an "amour si saint" (D442) her "sainct nom" (D259), adoring the "divine" and "celeste face" (D124 and 207) of "cest Ange en forme humaine" (D40 9), greeting this creature who is "plus, que de femme" (D284), "la Vertu, et la Grace" incarnate (D354), describing her as "sur routes belles" (D387), "la plus belle du monde" (D399), "De corps tresbelle et d'ame bellissime...Parfaicte au corps, er en l'ame accomplie" (D424) -- admirable and subtle work of amplificatio and of variatio poetica based on the formula "pulcherrima inter mulieres" of Song of Songs 2:17. Everywhere in Delie, Sceve wills his adoration in Marian terms. He borrows the words and gestures of Christian ritual. In his canzoniere, the Office of the Virgin has as a parallel the Office of Delie; or, to say it otherwise, in the role of Mary, we find Delie. It is as if love, be it human or divine, could speak only one language, the language used by Solomon in Song of Songs. The resemblance is so strong that we often can, almost without thinking about it, substitute Mary for Delie. Moreover, Sceve is so aware of these similarities between the Christian cult of the Virgin and the pagan cult of De lie that he devotes two dizains, D241 and 242, to a comparison between the two, taking as always advantage of the occasion to voice out his difference. Perhaps never before has a writer, a poet, admitted to such a degree his dependence on others and the fact that it is they who make him what he is. You get what you ask for, he complains, but I do not. The saints to whom you pray listen; the gods whom I implore are by contrast inexorable and deaf. On the one hand, there is music and dancing, the collective joy of the chosen people, the celebration of the "souhaitz entenduz" and of the fulfillment of wishes; on the other hand, there is solitude, the "souspirs" and the "plaintz" and the "pleurs," a music that moves away and fades in the distance, towards that city from which the poet has banished himself. One understands, therefore, why Lyons, the new Jerusalem, the "fameuse cite," is "double":

Ce n'est point cy, Pellerins, que mes voeutx

Avecques vous diversement me tiennent.

Car vous vouez, comme pour moy je veulx,

A Sainctz piteux, qui voz desirs obtiennent.

Et je m'adresse a Dieux, qui me detiennent,

Comme n'ayanrz mes souhaictz entenduz.

Vous de voz vceutz heureusement renduz

Graces rendez, vous mettant dancer:

Et quand les miens iniquement perduz

Deussent finir, sont recommancer.

En ce saint lieu, Peuple devotieux,

Tu as pour toy sainctete favorable:

Et a mon bien estant negotieux,

Je l'ay trouvee a moy inexorable.

Ja recoys tu de ton Ciel amyable

Plusicurs biensfaictz, et maintz emolumentz.

Et moy plaintz, pleurs, et pour tous monumentz

Me reste un Vent de souspirs excite,

Chassant le son de voz doulx instrumentz

Jusqu'a la double, et fameuse Cite.

From this very perspective, it cannot be coincidental that the term "cloistre" -- "benoist" for the former, [16] "chaste" for the latter -- is used in the same way by Jehan Marot in one of his chants royaux, and by Maurice Sceve in D127. In Sceve's poetry, there is no room for chance. Let us first listen to Marot, whose poem, one of the masterpieces of the genre, figures in the "Recueil Vidoue," on folios x(v)-xi(v). If one assertion can be made about the relation between Sceve and Marian poetry, it is that the poet studied this "recueil" in great detail and that it shaped his canzoniere to a considerable extent:

Apres que dieu eut les haultz ciels parfaitz,

Pour les emplir fit nature angelique,

Dont Lucifer fut entre les parfaictz

Hault esleve en honneur magnifique.

5 Et neanmoins que dieu tout congnoissant

En fut facteur, peche en fut yssant

Quant presuma pareil estre a son maistre.

Dont sy peche en paradis print estre

Par ceste faulte envers dieu perpetree,

10 Pour lors n'estoyt, a ce que puys congnoistre,

La porte close ou peche n'eust entree.

Anges tombez par leurs mauldictz effectz,

Le plasmateur, par pouvoir deifique,

Adam et Eve a son ymage a faictz,

15 Purs, innocens: par quoy peche inique

Les voir tant beaulx fut triste et desplaisant.

Et de l'orgueil, qui tant luy fut nuysant,

Tant les prescha que peche vont comettre.

A double mort eust povoir de submettre

20 Eulx, leurs enfans: grace en fut sequestree,

Fors une vierge, escripte en saincte lettre,

La porte close ou peche n'eust entree.

Vela comment humains furent deffaictz

Par le peche d'Adam leur pere antique.

25 Mais le temps vient qu'ilz seront tous refaictz;

Misericorde ouvrira sa boutique.

C'est ce beau jour aux pecheurs tres doubtant

De sainct concept de la vierge plaisant,

Ou dieu voulut tous ses tresors transmettre.

30 Dieu avoir lieu, peche vint s'entremectre.

Grace divine alors a rencontree,

Qui deffendit a sa puissance dextre

La porte close ou peche n'eust entree.

Ezechiel, en ses beaulx dictz et faictz,

35 Descript un temple en esperit prophetique,

Des bastimens, et comment furent faictz.

Mais, en parlant de la porte autentique,

Dit: ceste porte est close a tout passant,

Fors au seigneur d'Israel trespuissant.

40 Vous don [c], seigneurs, dite[s] qui pourroit etre

Ce beau portail, sinon le benoist cloistre

Corps de Marie, en grace tant oultree

Qu'el[le] porta dieu sans ouvrir ne decroistre

La porte close ou peche n'eust entree.

45 Les fondemens ne furent imparfaictz,

Mais si bien faictz que la grand[e] fabrique

De ce sainct temple ont soustenu le faictz

Sans esbranler marbre, porphyre, ou brique:

Qui est figure a un chascun lysant

50 Que dieu voulut estre bien advysant

Au sainct concept de la vierge, et d'y mettre

Toutes vertus sans une seulle obmettre.

Car ains les cieulx l'avoyent enregistree

Mere a son fils, qui la trouva au maistre

55 La porte close ou peche n'eust entree.


Prince, tu as faict ta mere apparoistre

Digne trop plus que paradis terrestre,

Anges ne cieulx: car tu l'as demonstree,

En son concept, pour plus sa gloire acroistre,

60 La porte close ou peche n'eut entree.

If, for his part, Sceve did not find it appropriate to refer to the closed gate of the prophet, the gate through which only God can enter (Ezek. 44:1-3), he nonetheless preciously preserves in D127 the metaphor of the "benoist cloistre," exploiting for very personal reasons -- reasons which explain, perhaps, the substitution of "chaste" for "benoist" -- and with unequalled poetic mastery, the great mystery of the Incarnation of Christ-God in the body of a woman, this wonderful alliance between fecundity and virginity -- "Virgo fecunda, casta puerpera, mater intacta" -- which Bernard de Clairvaux found so sublime in his Homilies In laudibus Virginis matris. This fecundity is so miraculous that it unfailingly brings back to life, in the mind of the "lisant" (reader), the symbol of the inexhaustible manna; brings back as well the symbols of the "fons ortorum" and "puteus aquarum viventium" of the Scriptures. Just as the body of Mary; in order to receive Jesus, made itself "parc," "couche," "maison," "pavilion," "mont," "domicile," "trosne," "tabernacle," "arche," "siege," "cite," "jardin," etc., Delie's soul ("Ame"), this "chaste cloistre," receives and lodges in itself all of the "Graces" and all of the "Vertus" of Heaven, these graces and virtues that are showered on her from above with all the abundance of the rain or of the dew on Gideon's fleece (Judg. 6:37-40, Ps. 7:6). And just as in Jeremiah 31:22, where it is written that "[f]emina circumdabit virum," these graces "tiennent ceinctes," contain and embrace within themselves countless virtues; and these countless virtues are in turn themselves "enceintes"; the term is clearly there -- with other equally innumerable virtues. Rarely do we find a motif that has been reused, reworked, displaced, and recreated to such a point, and which yet remains at the same time so clearly recognizable. For Sceve, Delie is at once the same as Mary and her other, La meme et l'autre. In him, adoration, hyperdulie, is so strong that it almost succeeds in making the reader forget th at the poet is and wishes to be, above all, an idolater, and that the drama being played out in his canzoniere is a strictly human drama.

L'esprit, qui fait tous tes membres mouvoir

Au doux concent de tes qualitez sainctes,

A eu du Ciel ce tant heureux povoir

D'enrichir l'Ame, ou Graces tiennent ceinctes

Mille Vertus de mille aultres enceintes,

Comme tes faictz font au monde apparoistre.

Si transparent m'estoit son chaste cloistre

Pour reverer si grand' divinite,

Je verrois l'Ame, ensemble et le Corps croistre,

Avant leur temps, en leur eternite.


It is in this same spirit of appropriation and recasting, of radical displacement, that the poet once more addresses his Delie in D149. The poetic Muses and the Charites, companions of Venus, says he to his idol, will soon descend from their Helicon and their Parnassus to this "bas Caucasus" in order to see thee. And seduced by the "naif de tes graces infuses," they will hail "sans contraincte," painlessly, "La Deite en ton esprit empraincte, / Thresor des Cieulx, qui s'en vont desvestuz / Pour illustrer Nature a vice astraincte, / Ore embellie en tes rares vertus." And when, in Delie, it is not God who descends from Heaven towards his chosen creature in order to enrich her with gifts, to combine, for example, in her, as in Mary, "Chastete" with "Beaute" (D232), it is the poet, Prometheus redivivus, who from dizain to dizain -- one might even say from prayer to prayer -- painfully strives towards the great height what he says in D157 on the subject of Delie as a musician, a subject which he takes up again in D196 ("Tes doigtz tirantz non le doulx son des cordes, / Mais des haultz cieulx l'Angelique harmonie"), inspired perhaps by a recollection of the famous chant royal of Molinet, "Harpe rendant souveraine harmonie," which was in turn imitated by Nicolle Lescarre in his palinode, "Le lucz rendant souveraine harmonie" (fol. xix (v)-xx (v) of the "Recueil Vidoue"). The purely religious dimension of the experience is unmistakable. Delie's "divine harmonie" brings the poet to a mystical "ravissement," leading this "plaisant martyre" to the most delicious but unbearable "passion":

Me ravissant ta divine harmonie,

Souventesfois jusques aux Cieux me tire:

Dont transporte de si doulce manye,

Le corps tressue en si plaisant martyre,

Que plus j'escoute, et plus a soy m'attire

D'un tel concent la delectation.

Mais seulement celle prolation

Du plus doulx nom, que proferer je t'oye,

Me confond tout en si grande passion,

Que ce seul mot fait eclipser ma joye.

A similar instance occurs in D168, this time with a very mystical reference to the title of a treatise by pseudo-Dionysius Areopagiticus. As Donaldson-Evans and Skenazi have so eloquently shown, Sceve's poetry has profound affinities with "la pensee chretienne." [17] There is in it a constant elevation, an unending "esvertuement," a song which desperately seeks to tear itself away from the earth, to rid itself of its mortal body, the better to be united with Delie. But here as elsewhere (for example, in D449, where the poet refuses to distinguish between "feu" and "vertu"), "des siens deschasse," the body proclaims its rights. Consequently, and we see here that nothing in Sceve is simple, it is the spirit and the heart, albeit superior, whose "estrangement" seems reprehensible. In absolute contrast with St. Paul, Sceve does not seek to empty himself and to impoverish himself, but rather, at the cost of an incessant struggle, to harmonize the polarities within himself, to master the tensions and reduce the la pses, to unify within himself all of the instances of the subject, body, heart, soul, and spirit. [18] The topos of the "nom divin" is, moreover, so important to Sceve that he returns to it exactly one hundred dizains later, in D267, but this time in a more erotic context:

Toutes les fois qu'en mon entendement

Ton nom divin par la memoire passe,

L'esprit ravy d'un si daulx sentement,

En aultre vie, et plus doulce trespasse:

Alors le Coeur qui un tel bien compasse,

Laisse le Corps prest a estre enchasse:

Et si bien a vers l'Ame pourchasse,

Que de soy mesme, et du corps il s'estrange.

Ainsi celuy est des siens deschasse,

A qui Fortune, ou heur, ou estat change.


Au doulx record de son nom je me sens

De part en part 1'esperit transpercer

Du tout en tout, jusqu'au plus vif du sens:

Tousjours toute heure, et ainsi sans cesser

Fauldra finir ma vie, et commencer

En ceste mort inutilement vive.

Mais si les Cieulx telle prerogative

Luy ont donnee, a quoy en vain souspire?

Ja ne fault donc que de moy je la prive,

Puis qu'asses vit, qui meurt, quand il desire.




All of Delie is thus an act of perpetual adoration, an act that, as we know today, is repeated exactly as many times as, according to Lefevre d'Etaples, St. Paul pronounced the divine name of Christ in his fourteen Epistles. Just as "quatre cens quarante neuf fois ou plus, [l'Apotre] a en ses epistres nomme' le nom de Jesuchrist," Sceve, in his canzoniere, celebrates 449 times the idolatrous passion that he devotes to his Delie: the cries, the joys, the revolts, and the "deaths" that this passion renews in him. [19] This celebration acquires in his mind the imperative tone of a "juste devoir," "devoir" which for the imperfect creature consists precisely of "adorer toure perfection," its "Graces du Ciel infuses" (D182) or, again, "celle beaulte' / Dont les haultz dieux [l]'ont richement pourveue" (D162), "le parfaict d'elle" (D226), this "parfaict dont sa beaulte abonde" (D245). On the one hand, Delie is Nature's masterpiece. Nature placed in her "tout le parfaict de son divin ouvrage" (D278), says the poet of his Lady, it rendered her -- and how can one avoid here thinking of Mary? -- "en tous imparfaicte / Pour te parfaire et en toy se priser" (D247). On the other hand, God himself, as we just saw, also showered upon her all the possible "Graces" and "Vertus," to such an extent that he impoverished himself and left the heavens "devestuz:" "Plus je poursuis," notes Sceve in D288, "Plus je poursuis par le discours des yeulx / L'art et la main de telle pourtraicture, / Et plus j'admire, et adore les Cieulx, / Accomplissant si belle Creature." This close collaboration between God and Nature gives rise in Delie to the admirable Marian tableau of D2, a tableau whose rewriting and mythical counterpart can be found in D4, the creation of Pandora being there substituted for that of the Virgin. And, since everything that applies to Delie is equally appropriate for Mary, and vice versa, it is this same collaboration which forms the subject of a beautiful chant royal by Jean Marot found in the "Recueil Vidoue," folios xi (v )-xii (v). This same poem earned the poet the second prize, the laurel, in the competition of the Puy of Rouen in 1521. Since it seems quite possible that this poem by Jean Marot served as a reference point and inrertext for Sceve, we will begin with it. This will enable us, once more, to see the poet at work, to rediscover his decisive act of sovereign appropriation and of absolute mastery, of radical recasting and "correction" already exhibited in the way he handled the texts of Petrarch, Marot, or Jean Olivier. On this subject, I refer the reader to the work of Francois Rigolot, JoAnn DellaNeva, and Terence Cave, in addition to my own analysis of Sceve's use of the Prometheus-Pandora myth. [20] Where the respectful and subtle Clement Marot, and, to a lesser degree his father Jehan, destroyed none of their literary inheritance and inserted themselves discreetly into existing forms in order to make them say things they had never said before, transforming them radically from the inside, Sceve in contrast, pro ud, severe, and solitary, insists upon leaving everywhere in his work visible trace of his interventions. Unlike the poetry of Jehan and Clement Marot, his always begins with a sacrifice:

Pour traicter paix entre dieu et nature,

Jugee a mort pour son crime et forfaict,

Dame justice, esmeue par poincture

De charite, voulut vuyder ce faict.

5 Verite vint, qui narra le meffaict.

Nature pleure et le serpent accuse.

Misericorde en depriant l'excuse.

Dieu prononcea qu'il viendroit en la race

D'Adam un corps tout plain de dignite,

10 Qui porteroit, par le moyen de grace,

L'humanite joincte a divinite.

Lors quant nature entendit l'ouverture,

Conclud de faire ung chef d'oeuvre parfaict.

Mais dieu luy dist, toute ta geniture

15 Se sentira de ton peche infect.

Or en ce corps ne fault cas imparfaict,

Dont est besoing que de ma grace infuse

Soit preserve. Neanmoins ne refuse

Le tien labeur, mais j'entendz qu'il se face

20 Soubz l'action de saincte purite,

Car autrement n'y pourroit avoir place

L'humanite joincte a divinite.

Nature adonc d'une vierge trespure

Forma le corps de tous biens satisfaict.

25 Car le soleil, qui chasse nuyct obscure,

L'organisa de clarte tout reffaict.

Ciel, terre, et air, non pas air putrefaict,

Ont assiste: Venus en fut excluse.

Puis Jupiter y a sa grace incluse

30 Par ung aspect de begnivolle face

Dessoubz Virgo, signe d'amenite,

Sachant que la seroir, en briefve espace,

L'humanite joincte a divinite.

Le corps forme, vindrent en sa closture

35 Toutes vertus, et logis y ont faict.

Dont le facteur contemplant sa facture

D'amour espris, nous fist ung hault bienfaict:

C'est que par paix tout discord a deffaict.

Lors verite, sans cautelle ne ruse,

40 A baise paix qui rancune a forcluse.

Et a l'instant une alyance brasse

Du filz de Dieu, second en trinite,

Avec Marie, affin qu'en soy embrasse

L'humanite joincte a divinite.

45 Au jour prefix la divine escripture

De verite l'effect entier attraict,

Car le filz dieu prent humaine vesture

En lieu loingtain de vicieux attraict.

Comme au myrouer entre l'humain pourtraict

50 Sans fraction, avec grace diffuse

Entra Jesus. Nature s'en recuse,

Croire ne peut que tel[le] acte on parface,

Sans avoir d'elle aucune affinite.

Mais sans son sceu, fut par hault efficace,

55 L'humanite joincte a divinite.


Prince du puy, ceste hystoire dechasse

La grand erreur qui faulx semblant pourchasse

Contre Marie, ou n'eust impurite.

Ne craignez donc des mesdisantz l'audace,

60 Car vont disant, qu'en ung vil corps s'enchasse

L'humanite joincte a divinite.

As we can easily see, the real but unusual charm of Jehan Marot's chant royal comes essentially from its narrative fluidity and amiable didacticism. No doubt, this pattern makes the theological truths that it seeks to convey more accessible, as Jehan Marot brings the heavens down to earth, thus situating the drama he is unfolding on a human level. He transports the reader to the stage, to the theater, and invites us to attend a five-act play, which one hardly dares call a drama, although it is one. [21] This play begins in a court of law. Truth is transformed into the prosecutor, and God, as is logical, into the just judge. Nature, the defendant, who has undoubtedly read Quintilian, weeps and pleads not guilty, attributing to the Serpent the responsibility for her crime and preparing for the decisive intervention of Mercy who, as a good lawyer, effectively obtains her pardon. All of this proceeds at a lively poetic tempo, full of vitality and humor, completely secularized. In the second act, we witness a very instructive dialogue between on the one hand God, haughty pedagogue and preacher who is above all else interested in preserving the status quo, and on the other Nature, somewhat pretentious and scatterbrained, so incorrigible in her claims that she is told a few homely truths and is sharply reprimanded by the proprietor. In act 3, Nature, with the assistance of some duly appointed helpers (all the elements except water, and a few planets), creates her admirable and prodigious masterpiece. One might think oneself back in Vulcan's forge if Venus were not forcibly excluded ("excluse") from the proceedings. The result of this joint effort is of such perfection that it restores forever the peace between the Creator and his creatures (act 4). To Nature's great surprise -- she cannot believe her eyes and confesses to feeling completely disoriented -- the return of this peace, which was compromised by the sins of our first parents, is sanctioned by the miracle of the Incarnation, this mysterious union of the divinit y of Jesus with the humanity of Mary The miracle, beautifully expressed by the refrain, is confirmed by the metaphor of the portrait and the mirror, a variant of that of the sun and the stained glass. It is in fact through this metaphor that the miracle becomes comprehensible, and thus possible. This spectacle is all the more satisfying for the theater lover because it is discreetly imbued with a highly symbolic movement, a metamorphosis which gives it its true meaning. Harmony progressively replaces the initial discord, giving the denouement a resonance of glorious and tranquil epiphany. Nature has certainly no good reason to be surprised by the event, since what takes place happens "Au jour prefix," in order to fulfill the prophecy of divine Scripture: "At ubi venit plenitudo temporis, misit Deum Filium suum, factum ex muliere, factum sub lege, ut eos qui sub lege erant redimeret" (St. Paul, Gal. 4:4).

Naturally, in Sceve's rendition, everything changes: not only the form, which is compact, constraining, hard, and square (ten verses, ten syllables long), but also the tone, the register and the style, the stakes themselves. The playful, engaging, and somewhat prolix language of the story is replaced by the poetic and infinitely more dense language of the fabulous, the language of hyperbole and the sublime. One could almost say that, in Sceve's hands, Marot's human sermo give way to God's Verbum abbreviatum. Any edifying or didactic dimension disappears. Philosophy, cosmology and the Greek myths (Plato, Aristotle, the scholastics, Pandora, the Charites, the nine planets, and the nine Heavens) seemingly take the place of the Bible as the reference texts. The drama played out is apparently no longer eschatological and Christian. It is no longer a question of humanity's salvation or damnation. The issue is now primarily the poet's plight, for he is the only one who is not fully able to "[se] delecter," to fully enjoy the miracle that the arrival of this "ceuvre esmerveillable" provoked, in heaven and on earth. The intention is no longer to teach, to explain, to convince, and to denounce the "erreur" of the "mesdisantz" -- that is, the Dominicans, virulent and forceful adversaries of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception -- but rather to surprise, to transport, and to dazzle the reader, to incite in him the awe of the sacred. It is even less a matter of representing on stage dramatic characters and allegories, of presenting a spiritual drama by rooting it in the physical world, but to leave this world, to elevate piously and passionately one's gaze, to "s'esvertuer" towards "les haultes idees." But let us not be deceived: in spite of all the differences, these are the same actors -- God, Nature, the planets and the heavens, the gods, the human kind -- and the same hierarchy as before. And it is indeed the same drama being played and the same event being described, namely the creation of a woman so perfectly made in the image of God that the latter, seduced by his own creation, fascinated "de soy a soy" by the beauty with which he endowed her, decides, like a happy Pygmalion, to live in her flesh by becoming incarnate in her. [22] As much as Sceve transforms the atmosphere and the setting, Jehan Marot is never far from his mind, nor from that of the reader. In the dizain, just as in the chant royal, it is God, "Le Naturant," the "hault ciel Empiree," who is the great and decisive master of the work, the great architect; and it is Nature herself who, deified, sublimated, "admirable," inspired by the "vertu" of the "hautes idees" of the demiurge, accomplishes that which must be accomplished "au jour prefix." In other words, God "parfait" a body whose sublime perfection provokes the desire and the admiration of the Heavens themselves; He engenders a creature whose virtue is equal to her beauty: The spiritual and sensual contemplation (odorer) of such a creature "dissout" (that most Pauline of terms, Phil. 1:22: "desider ium habens dissolvi") the contemplator:

Le Naturant par ses haultes Idees

Rendit de soy Ia Nature admirable:

Par les vertus de sa vertu guidees

S'esvertua en aeuvre esmerveillable.

Car de tout bein voyre es Dieux desirable,

Parfeit un corps en sa perfection

Mouvant aux Cieulx telle admiration,

Qu'au premier aeil mon ame l'adora,

Comme de tous la delectation

Et de moy seul fatale Pandora.


Voulant tirer le hault ciel Empiree

De soy a soy grand' satisfaction,

Des neuf Cieulx a l'influence empiree

Pour clore en toy leur operation,

Ou se parfeit ta decoration:

Non toutesfoys sans licence des Graces,

Qui en tes maeurs affigent tant leurs faces,

Que quand je vien odorer les fleurs

De tous tes faictz, certes, quoy que tu faces,

Je me dissoulz en joies, et en pleurs.




As the clues accumulate, it becomes clear that Sceve showed a strong interest in Marian poetry. Rather that working from manuscripts that were probably still in circulation, it seems most likely that he consulted those printed works he could get hold of, the most important of these being the "Recueil Vidoue" of 1525. [23] Were it necessary to add to the examples gathered in this study, one might, for example, elaborate on the striking similarities between D418 and two chants royaux, similarities which until now have been notably ignored. It goes without saying that these two chants royaux can be found, predictably enough, in the "Recueil Vidoue." One of these is by Guillaume Cretin (fols. v-vi, "L'Altitonant supreme plasmateur"), the other by Guillaume Thibault (fols. xxxviii-xxxix, "Les ennemys de la chair virginale"). Modern commentators of Sceve's D418 -- notably McFarlane and Joukovsky -- refer with great conviction to Petrarch and the Petrarchan tradition; and they justifiably stress the section of the M icro cosine that the poet dedicates to architecture (section 3, lines 2725 sq.). While it is true that Petrarch may, at least in part, have been the source of Sceve's choice of the metaphor he uses, it is not, as Joukovsky claims, by means of the first verses of R269 ("Rotta e l'alta colonna e 'l verde lauro / che facean ombra al mio stanco pensero," etc.) but by way of verses 45-50 of the preceding canzone ("Che debb'io far? che mi consigli, Amore"), which we will now cite along with verses 145-47 of canzone 360, where appears exactly the same metaphor. Indeed, one finds in these two poems by Petrarch the origin of the exact expression used by Sceve in the last verse of his dizain. The link is all the more striking because it draws upon the most Scevian of motifs, namely the "nom divin" ("l'altra e 'l suo ciaro nome"). Following are excerpts from the two canzone of Petrarch, along with D418. The echoes between the texts are made quite clear by this juxtaposition:

Piu che mai bella er piu leggiadra donna,

tornami inanzi, come

la dove piu gradir sua vista sente.

Questa del viver mio l'una colomna,

l'altra e 'I suo ciaro nome,

che sona nel mio cor si dolcemente.

(R269, lines 45-50)

Or m'a posto in oblio con quella donna

ch'i' li die' per colonna

de la sua frale vita... [It is Love who is speaking]

(R360, lines 145-47)

Soubz le carre d'un noir tailloir couvrant

Son Chapiteau par les mains de Nature,

Et non de l'art grossierement ouvrant,

Parfaicte flit si haulte Architecture,

Ou entaillant route lineature,

Y feuilla d'or a corroyes Heliques,

Avec doulx traictz vivement Angelicques,

Plombez sur Base assise, et bien suyvie

Dessus son Plinte a creux et rondz obliques

Pour l'eriger Colomne de ma vie.


In the same way that Pandora and the Virgin Mary are united in Delie -- do they not all three share the characteristic of having seen Heaven and Nature, God or the gods, endowing them with all their gifts? -- the presence of Petrarch in D4 18 is coupled with that of Guillaume Cretin and Guillaume Thibault. Upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that Sceve does nothing more than combine two symbols which were of great importance to Puy poets. On the one hand, there is the symbol we already encountered in the parallel with Jehan Marot: God as architect and the Virgin as architecture. This motif can be traced back to Ezechiel 40-44 (the prophetic vision of the Temple of Israel), to 2 Chronicles 3 (Solomon's construction of the "House of God" made of Lebanon cedar, especially the passage consecrated to the erection of the two bronze columns), and to Proverbs 9:1 ("Sapientia aedificavit sibi domum, excidit columnas septem"), a verse which, as we shall soon see, finds a distinct echo in the chant royal of Creti n, a chant royal whose motif is architectural and in which the seven pillars of Wisdom represent for the devotees the seven virtues of the Virgin, the miraculous perfection of this Chosen Vessel. On the other hand, there is the symbol of Mary as light of the world, Sun or Stella maris, guide and guardian of souls, or to be more precise, "Colonne du Dieu vivant," "Columna dei viventis."

The origin of this trope can be found in a passage of Exodus where, after the flight from Egypt, Moses and his people escape through a desert path to the Sea of Reeds, thanks to the presence of Yahweh's "colonne de nuee et de feu" that protects and guides them night and day. It is worth citing the entire passage here, since it helps one to better understand Sceve's unswerving strategy in Delie, the continual process by which he renders sacred the love he vows to his idol and makes his readers share in the profound and painful spiritual experience, in the authentically religious dimension of his "passion." Thus the "colonne de [sa] vie" suddenly acquires a much richer meaning than that the one it had for Petrarch. What in Petrarch was a metaphor of the self broken by the death of the beloved, of the self literally attempting to remake itself, to find itself again and to reconstruct itself in a fidelity proclaimed for that which no longer exists, becomes for Sceve a striking religious symbol. Delie is for the p oet what Yahweh was for the people of Israel fleeing through the desert, an all-powerful and tutelary divinity which, while protecting and fostering like a mother, is at the same time imperious, demanding and jealous. This is the Yahweh, who, as Moses sings after the passage through the Red Sea, is "glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders," but who is also a formidable incarnation of the Law, always ready to break the Covenant with his people and to harshly punish their disobedience and their slightest grumbling. A divinity of love but also of destruction and death, holding manna in one hand and lightning in the other. With such a divinity it is not a question of asking "What will we drink?" but of obeying and marching on. Indeed, in order to understand the nature of the ties woven by Sceve between the Lover and his idol, one must read Exodus 13:20-22: [24]

Profectique de Socoth castrametati sunt in Etham. Dominus autem praecedebat eos ad ostendendam viam, per diem in columna nubis, et per noctem in columna ignis, ut dux esset itineris utroque tempore. Numquam defuit columna nubis per diem nec columna ignis per noctem, coram populo.

It is with this text in mind that Molinet, in one of his numerous "Oraison[s] a la Vierge Marie," [25] had written that she was "du mondain fabricque / Chief d'ceuvre exquis, colunne et bricque, I Precieuse pierre angulaire, / Pillier de Ia foy catholicque." And it is undoubtedly in reference to this same passage from Exodus that we should read the chant royal of Guillaume Thibault. There is no doubt that Sceve found in these texts and others ample material for admiration. And it is this admiration, more than Petrarch's canzoniere, which may also have inspired the idea of the "si haulte Architecture" with which Sceve raises his dizain up into the clouds:

Chant royal.

Columna dei viventis. de qua Exod xiii. [26]

Les ennemis de la chair virginale

Sont a grand honte abolis & vaincuz.

Le hault seigneur en bataille finale

Leur a rompu / lances / picque & escuz,

5 Et devant luy sont demourez percuz

Sur Ia coulumne ou Ia Vierge est congneue,

Portant de jour couleur de blanche nue

Et par la nuyct jectant feu lumineux.

Ses vrays amys en la nue el conforte.

10 Et garde au feu contre aspicz veneneux

Du hault seigneur: la coulumne tresforte.

La blanche nue en sentence morale

Representant grace aux cueurs d'elle infuz,

Menoit hebreux plains de fierte rurale

15 Par les desertz: qui se tenoient confuz

Si de la nue ilz eussent faict refuz

Du dieu en gloire / & en voix entendue.

Manne donnoit des haultz cieulx descendue

Pour substanter les povres crimineulx

20 Et pour monstrer I que celuy qu'elle porte

Conduyt sans choir par desertz espineux

Du hault seigneur: la coulumne tresforte.

Si forte fut sur la force infernalle

Que infernaulx sont par elle rompuz.

25 Si forte fut / par vertu cardinalle

Qu'on voit sans elle humains tous corrompuz,

Qui toutesfoys restaurez & repeuz

Se sont jadis de manne d'elle yssue.

Si forte fut que le ma1 rigoureux

30 Jadis cause de sa serpente torte

N' a faict branler par peche douloureux

Du hault seigneur: la coulumne tresforte.

Le hault seigneur plain d'amour cordialle

Voyant paine humains par faulx art deuz,

35 Descend en elle, & soubz loy specialle,

Descouvre nous ses misteres arduz,

En nous rendant biens de grace perduz

Par le transgrez d' Eve salle & poule.

C'est la coulumne en nostre esglise esleue

40 Pour vaincre erreur contre elle impectueux:

C'est la coulumne & la celeste porte,

Celle qui rompt le serpent tortueux,

Du hault seigneur: la coulumne tresforte.


Prince du Puy, pour conclusion deue,

45 Force adversaire est par elle fondue.

La main de dieu qui joint la terre aux cieux

En une vierge avecques soy s' assorte

Pour denoncer sans reprise en tous lieux

Du hault seigneur: la coulumne tresforte.

Par Guillaume Thibault

As for the architectural motif itself, Sceve no doubt found the most beautiful rendition in Guillaume Cretin's chant royal. In this poem, the act of creation is described in terms whose resonances are far more biblical than in Sceve's dizain: "temple," "paraclit," "fondement," "portail," "nef," "cueur," and so on. It is clear that Cretin is much more concerned with God, His Church, and the mysteries and miracles of dogma than with the "Angelicques traitz" and other "attraits" of Delie's body, her precious and undulating "lineature" which deploys itself "sur Base assise et bien suyvie," "creux et rondz obliques" of the "Plinte" - nothing is missing, it is all there - splendors which the eye caresses and upon which it feasts. Even the technical precision of the terms used by Sceve ("tailloir," "chapiteau," "Base," "Plinte," "Heliques," and so forth) make it impossible to forget the flesh and blood Venus inscribed and carved into this column of marble. [27] And yet it is the same symbol and the same process in both poems. We even find, in verse 16 of Cretin's chant royal - is it pure chance that it also shows up in Sceve's epigram? -- the verb eriger. Delie's bard could not have been insensitive to the fact that, like the menacing [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of Hesiod's Theogony, Mary is also the chosen receptacle of all of the gifts of heaven. She is a new Pandora, graced not only with the plenitude of the seven virtues, three rheologals and four cardinals, [28] but also with humility and truth:

L'altitonant supreme plasmateur,

Monarque & chief en l'art de architecture,

Avant qu'il fur des secles formateur

Feist un pourtraict de nouvelle structure

5 Pour reparer l'offence et fourfaicture

Du pere Adam / et lors la trinite

Preordonna ca has ung edifice

Ou decreta le filz en deite

Y desdier en sa solennite

10 Temple construict / par divin artifice.

Le paraclit de laeuvre conducteur

Tel fondement y assit er closrure

Que le malin serpent faulx seducreur

Ne sceut jamais [y] congnoistre fracture.

15 De droit compas et juste quadrature

Fut erige en telle summite

Que le renom: richesse: et dignite

Du temple ou feist Salomon sacrifice

Moult exceda: lors sacree unite

20 De dieu er homme eust en sublimite

Temple construict / par divin artifice.

D'or pur et net le portail / nef / et cueur

Murs: pavemens: pilliers: er couverture,

Furent bastis du magnifique aucteur,

25 Ouvrant sus tous a l'antique sculpture,

Tresbien gardant perspective paincture,

Au tour du cueur paignant humilite

Foy: esperance: avecques charite

Et en la nef attrempance, justice

30 Prudence et force: au surplus verite.

Pour tiltre mist l'escript d'auctorite

Temple construict / par divin artifice.

This unexpected association between pagan and christian myth comes so naturally that all Marian poets make more or less direct allusions to it and in terms that often evoke Pandora rather than the Virgin. We see this, for example, in Jehan Marot's chant royal cited earlier, "L'humanite joincte divinite," [29] where we witness the sun, the elements and the planets collaborate in the fabrication of this miraculous body, in other words playing the part assumed by the gods of Olympus (Vulcan, Venus, Pallas, Mercury, Apollo, etc.) in the Pandora myth and obeying Jupiter's orders. As the poet tells us, once this body was formed: "vindrent en sa closture / Toutes vertus, & logis y ont faict" (lines 34-35). It is this same implicit assimilation of Mary and Pandora that undoudtedly prompted Jehan Marot to write the following ballad, which at that time had not yet been published (I discovered it in two manuscripts, ms. 385 of the Bibliotheque Inguimbertine in Carpentras, pp. 331-32, and ms. BNF fr. 19369, fols. 79r-80v ). Upon inspection, this ballad shows itself to be nothing other than a rewriting, a delicate and subtle reformulation of the chant royal just cited:


Quant dieu voullut former Marie,

Il appela dame nature

Et luy dit: Il fault que marie

Mon filz a une creature

5 Que produyras par geniture

Exempte de cas vitieux,

Pour estre dicte en l'escripture

L'honneur de la terre et des cieulx.


J'enrichiray son armarie

10 De tous mes biens. J'en prens la cure.

Sur elle n'auront seigneurie

Le fier dragon, Mars ne Mercure,

Ny Saturne, planette obscure:

Car l'aspect doulx et gratieulx

15 De Jupiter si luy procure

L'honneur de la terre et des cieulx.


Ton vieil peche te contrarie

A former si belle figure.

Donc fault que de moy soit cherye

20 Par dons divins en sa facture.

Du manteau d'innocence pure

Vestiray son corps precieux,

Affin qu'il porte en sa closture

L'honneur de la terre et des cieulx.


25 Adonc chacun fit ouverture

De ses tresors a qui myeulx myeulx,

Pour bastir sans tache ou laidure

L'honneur de Ia terre et des cieulx.

This example justifies once more the need for these intertextual comparisons. The subtle echoes and similarities which, from poem to poem, put into relief the differences, allow us to discern with great clarity what we may now call the poet's signature, the trademark by which he identifies his craft, in other words his poetics and his identity. Another excellent example of this pattern of intertextual composition is found in Cretin's chant royal cited above, "Temple construict par divin artifice." At the beginning of the fourth stanza, the "supresme plasmateur," when confronted with His creation, is overcome by a feeling of vertige that is once again reminiscent of Pygmalion, [30] a vertigo that comes from the contemplation of His own power, which originates in self-love and allows us to grasp the implicit sexual dimension -- one might call it the Jupiterian, or the Arnolphian, dimension -- of the myth. After all, despite the obvious differences between the two works, neither in Sceve nor in Cretin is the dis tance between the Architect and the Lover insurmountable. Just like Delie's Lover, the aptly-named "Altitonant" of Cretin dreams of becoming one with his creation, of penetrating and installing himself there and of preventing others, namely, the "Serpent," from entering the "closture" of this exquisite "Temple." No "artifice" could be more "divine" and transparent than this one. Et vidit deus quod esset bonum:

Si plaisant fut ce temple au createur

Qu'en luy voulut se faire creature.

35 C'est le sainct corps ou nostre redempteur

Fut incarne et print sa nourriture,

C'est sa sacree et digne genitrice

De Anne conceue au terme limite

Dont le concept en toute immunite

40 Dieu preserva de crime et malefice ...



A final confirmation of the crucial role that Marian poetry plays in the "concept" of Delie may be found in the three poetic jewels which are D10, D11, and D378. These examples are all the more suggestive because they bring us back to a work that we have only referred to in passing, but which played a decisive role in the history and extension of the Puy of Rouen in the years 1515 to 1530. I am referring to a work by Pierre Fabri, orator and poetician, published in November 1514 in Rouen by Martin Morin. As Denis Hue says in his thesis, the work's title summarizes perfectly the author's project: to present "a synthesis" of the theological controversy which, "at the dawn of the sixteenth century," pitted the partisans and the adversaries of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. In other words, this book is the perfect vademecum of the little "conceptionist," of the devout Catholic, of the poet and champion of the Virgin. This vademecum, we can affirm, was undoubtedly part of Sceve's library, most likely o n the shelf beside the "Recueil Vidoue." We can also be very sure that Delie's worshiper, our idolatrous lover, read this book and meditated on it assiduously:

Ensuyt ung petit traicte' // dialogue fait en l'honneur de Dieu et de sa mere, nomme Le De // fensore de la Conception, auquel trai // te sont produictz deux personnages // C'est assavoir l'amy et le sodal qui // par maniere de argumentacion ramainent toutes les auctoritez et raisons qui sont de la part de // ceulx qui dient qu'elle est conceue en peche originel. Et l'amy les declare / glose / ou efface selon le // cas, et avec ce amaine a son pro // pos toutes les opinions et auctoritez des modernes docteurs // avec la saincte escripture et de // cretz de l'eglise comme de Balle [sic for Basle] et // de Sixte en les soustenant et de // fendant vertueusement.

Faithful to their habits, which are also unfortunately our own, the commentators of D10 generally limit themselves to exclusively classical and profane references. I shall refer only briefly to D11, a poem that, with the exception of a few details (lines 5 and 9), does not appear to present any major problems of interpretation. We have long been aware, thanks to the work of McFarlane, of the difficulties raised by the periphrasis of the first verse ("De l'Occean l'Adultaire obstine") and the mythical couple, Adonis-Clytie. We also have, thanks again to McFarlane, uncovered the presence of Petrarch in the last verse of the same dizain (see R.269, line 4: "dal borrea a l"austro, o dal mar indo al mauro"). D10, on the other hand, is of greater interest here. In reference to the incipit, "Suave odeur," McFarlane directs his reader to the pertinent and yet too allusive "suave odor" of verse 104 of Petrarch's Triumph of Love. While it is true that the importance of Petrarch in Sceve's canzoniere should not be under estimated, it is nonetheless useful to go more deeply into the origin of these references, since, as any avid reader will know, one reference can easily hide another. Joukovsky in this case has more to say and is more incisive. Of course, she also refers her readers to the inevitable Petrarch, but this time to R360, a sort of elegiac lament that enumerates the Lover's complaints about the god of Love, stressing in particular (lines 24-26) the "falsa dolcezza. d'esto ingrato," the bitterness with which this "lusinghier crudele" taints the pleasures that he parsimoniously accords to humans: "O poco mel, molto aloe con fele," a variant of the famous sentence "Pour un plaisir mille douleurs." Joukovsky has the further merit of identifying Tibulle (bk. 2, elegy 4, line 12) behind Petrarch, as well as Serafino, Ariosto, Pernette du Guillet, and even Clement Marot, citing lines 43-44 of his fourth elegy: "Sais-tu pas bien, qu'Amour a de coustume, I D'entremesler ses plaisirs d'amertume," seemingly forgetting that th e same topos appears already in the preceding elegy (lines 63-68) and in a form that relates directly to Petrarch -- once more and always Perrarch: [31]

Certainement si bien ferme vous n'estes,

Amour vaincra vos responses honnestes.

Amour est fin, et sa parole farde

Pour mieulx tromper: donnez vous en doncq garde.

Car en sa bouche il n'y a rien que Miel,

Mais en son cucur il n'y a rien que Fiel.

Although these references are of interest to any study of Sceve, they nonetheless abandon us once more midway en route to the common origin of this motif. In fact, a little more attention paid to the work of Clement Marot would have allowed Joukovsky to definitely slack our thirst. The two verses that she cites -- I note, in passing, that they belong to the fourth elegy of La Suite and not, as she writes erroneouly, to the third -- do indeed belong to a syntactic grouping of four verses, in the second part of which appears the Marian and biblical metaphor of the rose and the thorns. Marot uses for example the same image to conclude a poem written while traveling to Ferrara in 1535. The poem, an epistle, is dedicated to two mysterious and "trescheres Sceurs" from Savoy, sisters, he says, "que j'estime deux roses / Entre buisson & espines encloses." Here are the verses of Marot's fourth elegy:

Scais ru pas bien qu'Amour a de cousrume

D'entremesler ses plaisirs d'amerrume,

Ne plus ne moins comme Espines poignantes

Sont par Nature au beau Rosier joignantes?

As quickly becomes evident, the addition of the last two lines significantly modifies the text. Suddenly, the perspective ceases to be merely classical and Petrarchan; it is enriched by strong Christian tonalities, including, in this case, precise references to the Song of Songs 2:2 and to Ecclesiastes 24:14. The metaphor employed by Clement Marot results from the combination of the "lilium inter spinas" of the Song of Solomon with the "plantatio rosae in Jericho" of Ecclesiastes. Its use is quite frequent in Marian poetry. One could even say that, for reasons which are as much linked to doctrine as they are to poetry, the symbol of the rose in the thorns is, along with that of the star, the Stella mans which guides lost souls and ships to harbor, the symbol par excellence for the Virgin Mary. As Pierre Fabri obligingly explains in his Defensore of 1514, Mary and the rose share the same story, the same fate. Just as "la rose nasquist entre les espines" and without having "toutesfois de poincture," miraculous ly intact and preserved by the hand of God, the great gardener, "Ainsi il est de Marie, que combien qu'elle soit nee de l'espineuse Judee, jamains ne eut en elle quelque espine, ou esguillon de peche" (247). Jean Marot had no need of this passage of the Defensore when, most likely around 1511-1513, he composed one of his most beautiful "rondeaux parfaits," a rondeau that I discovered in ins. BNF fr. 2205, fol. 1OOr-v. The metaphor had long been familiar currency among the "conceptionists" in Rouen, Caen, and elsewhere. One also finds it, for example, in one of Lescarre's ballads, in ins. 385 of Carpentras (329), a ballad whose refrain is precisely "La rose en Hiericho plantee," and where one finds the following verses: "De ung vert esglantier espineux / Dieu produisit blanche rose." Another such example occurs in Guillaume Cretin's chant royal, "La fleur de liz preservee entre espines," found in the "Recueil Vidoue" (fols. viii-ix): "Comme est le liz d'espineuse poincture / Envyronne sans nature eschanger, / Aussy Marie est, entre Ia closture I Des filles, non asservye au danger." But let us not turn to Jehan Marot's "Rondeau parfait." It is the Virgin who speaks:

Comme la rose entre espines fleurit,

Sans de l'espine avoir quelque pointure,

En corps humain prins forme et esperit,

Sans tache avoir du forfaict de nature.

5 Du mal d'Adam je n'euz onc fracture,

Aussy mon dieu jamais ne me guerit:

Dont fut conceue exempte a forfaicture

Comme la rose entre espines fleurit.

La rose suis qui oncques ne perit

10 D'oudeur ne taint. Car j'ay prins nourriture

En Jherico, dont la belle fleur yst,

Sans de l'espine avoir quelque pointure.

Et quoy que Adam par sa malla advanture

Le puis de grace a tous humains tarit,

15 Belle de tout, par pure geniture,

En corps humain prins forme et esperit.

Adonc mon dieu tant m'ayma et cherit

Qu'en moy daygna prendre humaine bouture,

Et de ma cher (sic for "chair"] divinite couvrit

20 Sans tache avoir du forfaict de nature.

J'ay donc porte a ma saincte closture

Mon benoist dieu qui les cieulx clos ouvrit:

Dont dicte suis, en la sainct[e] escripture,

Belle sans sy, que dieu du ciel florit

25 Comme la rose.

We should not be surprised by -- nor do we need to scrutinize in detail -- the density of scriptural references into this poem, superficially so graceful and simple, and yet, which contradicts its appearance in nearly every line. This is common practice in Marian poetry, whose intention is to be faithful to the "verite" of a cause and which always seeks corroboration of its sayings in the authority of the divine loquela. Aside from the incipit and allusion in lines 11-12 to the roses "entre espines" of Jericho, lines 9-10 reveal the discrete presence of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. I will first cite from the former, Ecclesiastes 24:20-21: "Sicut cinnamomum et balsamum aromatizans odorem dedi, / quasi myrrha electa dedi suavitatem odoris; / et quasi storax, et galbanus, et ungula, et gutta, / et quasi Libanus non incisus vaporavi habitationem meam / et quasi balsamum non mistum odor meus"; and, then, 39:17-19: "In voce dicit: Obaudite me, divini fructus, / et quasi rosa plantata super rivos aquarum fructificate. / Quasi Libanus odorem suavi1tate habete. / Florete flores qua si lilium; / et date odorem, et frondete in gratiam." From the second text, the Song of Solomon, I would first like to call attention to 1:2-3 and 4:10: "fragrantia unguentis optimis, / Oleum effusum nomen tuum ... Trahe me, post te curremus, / in odorem unguentorum tuorum ... Pulchriora sunt ubera tua vino, / et odor unguentorum tuorum super omnia aromata"; to 3.6: "Quae est ista quae ascendit per desertum / sicut virgula fumi ex aromatibus myrrhae, et thuris?"; and finally, to 4:14: "Nardus et crocus, fistula et cinnamomum, / cum universis lignis Libani; / myrrha et aloe, cum omnibus primis unguentis." If the reader of Delie is to draw a lesson from this voluptuous and delicate celebration of the senses, this feast of the body, this profusion of odors, tastes, colors, forms, and perfumes, it is that, just like his predecessor Jehan Marot, Maurice Sceve was also intoxicated by these verses from the Scriptures. Everything he tells us in his epigrams (notably in D10) concerning the "Suave odeur" or the "goust trop amer" of his love, concerning also aloe and myrrh -- to say nothing yet of manna -- comes essentially from these sources. Let us therefore no longer content ourselves with thinking that these savors and perfumes are due solely to Petrarch's Trionfi or Rime sparse. Rather, we should recognize in them the disturbing charms of the Beloved in the Song of Songs, the perfumes of her body. At the same time, the reader should acknowledge the importance of Marian poetry in Delie and in its symbols. "Quasi myrrha electa dedi suavitatem odoris," says the companion of the beloved "sponsus." And the Lover to Delie:

Suave odeur: Mais le goust trop amer

Trouble la paix de ma doulce pensee,

Tant peult de soy le delicat aymer

Que raison est par la craincte offensee.

Et toutesfois voyant l'Ame incensee

Se rompre toute, ou gist l'affection:

Lors au peril de ma perdition

J'ay esprouve, que la paour me condamne.

Car grand beaulte en grand perfection

M'a faict gouster Aloes estre Manne.

Upon reading this dizain, it becomes obvious that it exceeds a simple reference to Petrarch, since the game that Sceve undertakes here is the same one that he plays in D1 and D449 with the "primo giovenile errore" of the Rime sparse and the "grave e mortifero lethargo" of the Triumph of Death: he "corrects" the "errors" of his illustrious predecessor, radically subverting what he says. If he appears at first to imitate him, remarking in the same way (line 1) "le goust trop amer" of Love -- "molto aloe con fele" -- it is only so that later he may further differentiate himself from his model. Unlike Petrarch in his canzone, Sceve does not set out to accuse the god of Love, that capricious and ungrateful god, nor does he express regret for having served this tyrant and "cruel flatterer." On the contrary, he points out to what extent the "craincte" that always characterizes "le delicat aymer" offends the "raison" of the Lover and troubles "la paix de sa doulce pensee." Here, as in all of Delie, it is not Love, th e god of Love, who stands accused and "condamne," but rather the Lover himself, the Lover who reproaches himself for his scruples and his "paour," who is clearly aware of the risks he incurs -- that of his "perdition" [32] -- but who, led on by his "Ame incensee" -- a soul

which, in other words, is burning with the desire of love (Latin incensus, incensa, from incendo) [33] -- finally decides to take the risk. It is indeed to stress this "correction" imposed upon Petrarch's text that Sceve concludes his dizain in the same way that he begins it ("M'a faict gouster Aloes estre Manne"), thus not only replacing, but reclaiming, reconfiguring and "correcting" the "goust trop amer" of the incipit. The aloe, which is implicitly present from the beginning of the poem due to the reference to Petrarch, ends by being converted into "manna," more precisely by "estre Manne." This reference is especially meaningful because it immediately shifts attention from the Rime sparse to the Bible and from Petrarch to the poets of t he Puys. Once again, the terrain is suddenly altered and enriched, since, as Nicolle Lescarre ("Recueil Vidoue," fols. xvi-xvii) makes it amply clear in one of his chants royaux, just like the cedar and the unicorn, the column, the cloister and the portal or the gate, manna--of which it is said in Exodus 16:3 1, "gustusque ejus quasi similae cum melle" -- is also a symbol of Marian poetry. In addition to the density of Scriptural references -- note in particular, in lines 40-44, the allusion made to Elijah sleeping "in umbra juniperi," an allusion which immediately evokes the immortal "Genevre" of D449 -- one remarks the skillful way in which Sceve manages to combine in this poem Petrarchan and biblical intertexts. There are more than two dozens identifiable references to the Scriptures in this poem. A biblical scholar might well find others:

Chant royal d'ung desert sacre

Que dieu pour luy a consacre

Et preserve d[u] vice immunde

Qui regne au desert de ce monde

Pinguescent speciosi deserti [34]

Baptiste sainct, de dieu herault disert, Matt. 3.1-3, Luke 3.18

Ta forte voix peult par tout annoncer

Que le hault verbe en un secret desert Luke 1.80

Se f[eis]t humain sans es ciculx renoncer, John 1.14

5 Pour paix & grace en terre pronuncer

Aux gens qui sont de bonte voluntaire: John 1.29, Luke 2.14

Car le fort vent de ce lieu salutaire /

Vint evertir la dure mansion

De aspre discord & de fureur bellique,

10 Pour exalter en haulte [region] 35 Exod. 14.2

Le sainct desert plain de manne angelicque. Exod. 16

Secte envieuse ou mainte injure appert Matt. 3.7

Jamais n'y voit par vent rompre & casser

L'enfle roseau du peche qui nous perd. Matt. 11.7

15 Car en plain cours dieu y faict surpasser

Fleuves de grace a noz maulx effacer, Rom. 5.15, 20

Qui prennent source en la pierre angulaire Matt. 16.18-19

Pour abreuver christian populaire, Exod. 15-17, Num. 20.2-11

Luy muant l'eau de contradiction

20 En large estang d'eau doulce & pacifique, Exod. 15.22-25, 17.1-7

Qui magnifie en benediction

Le sainct desert plain de manne angelicque.

Dieu du ciel manne y a plus & offert Exod. 16.15

Pour nostre fain du tout recompenser.

25 Concupiscence entree n'y a souffert

Pour aucun vice & peche y penser.

L'ost d'Israel n'y peult dieu offencer:

En sa murmure il n'est point tributaire. Exod. 9.12

Le bon Moyse, affecte secretaire

30 De dieu, n'y fait de ses loix fraction:

Veau d'or s'enfle [?] n'y cause erreur inique: Exod. 32

Parquoy blasmer ne peult detraction

Le sainct desert plain de manne angelicque.

Nous au desert de misere couvert

35 Mordz d'ung serpent sommes par transgresser: Num. 21.6

Mais ung sans mordre nous a tous recouvert Num. 21.8-9, John 3.14

Au desert sainct pour salut radresser.

Grace a tant faict cc desert engresser Ps. 64.13

Que l'oeil divin pour nous debvoir complaire,

40 Si ung triste cueur se voit dieu desplaire

Genyevre n'y sent de consolation

Ou print repos Helye homme pudique, I Kings 19.5-8

Qui desiroit en tribulation

Le sainct desert plain de manne angelicque.

45 En ce sainct lieu qui gloire & loz desert

Pharaon roy ne pourroit pourchasser Exod. 14

Le peuple sainct qui envers dieu y sert Exod. 19.6

Tant qu'il en veult la priere exaulcer

[C]e sont vertus & bienffaictz sans cesser Exod. 15.11-21 and

50 Qui font pour nous sacrifice ordinaire. Deut. 8.14-16, Lev. 1-7

Aaron sainct prebstre en ardant luminaire Exod. 28.1-5

Y offre & rend la saincte oblation. Deut. 15-1.12, Lev. 2 and 6

Devotion s[o]eur de foy catholique

Y vole & tient par contemplation

55 Le sainct desert plain de mannc angelicque.


Prince amateur du desert solitaire

Sathan le noir & cornu sagitaire

Souffler n'y peult vent de temptation Matt. 4.1-11, Luke 4.1-13

Car il estainct son regard basilique

60 Dont tout pur veoit ta meditation

Le sainct desert plain de manne angelicque.

Dom Nicolle Lescarre.

Here again, Delie is, for the Lover, that which Yahweh was for the chosen (and rebellious) people waiting in the desert after the flight from Egypt: a protecting and nourishing divinity, imperious, demanding and jealous, at once "colonne" and "manne" of his life. And it is precisely because Sceve was influenced more by the Bible than by Petrarch when writing D10, because he was under the charm of the "suave odeur" exhaled by the bewitching brown creature in the Song of Solomon, that, in the following dizain, D11, the Ovidian myths that he revives take on a decidedly Marian aspect. As in D10, the profane intertext acquires tonalities dear to the Puy poets. For example, in order to understand why "les seches fleurs en leur odeur vivront," it suffices to recall Jehan Marot's "rondeau parfait," "Comme la rose entre espines fleurit," linking with it the precision provided by lines 9-10 ("La rose suis qui oncques ne perit / D'oudeur ne taint"); or reread, alongside Maurice Sceve's dizain, one of Cretin's chants roy aux, "La fleur de liz preservee entre espines" ("Recueil Vidoue," fol. viii(v), quoted below before D11). They shall live because they are not only the heliotrope of Clytie or the anemone of Adonis, figures of pagan myth, but because, thanks to the Marian poet Maurice Sceve undoubtedly is, they have been endowed with the qualities of resistance and vivacity proper to the roses of Jericho, or to the lily, [36] these flowers, which, no doubt because they grow along the banks of streams (Eccles. 39:17: "et quasi rosa plantata super rivos aquarum fructificate"), live on eternally. Despite the sun and the weather, both equally "obstines" in their attempt to destroy the beauty of things, they maintain their original "oudeur" and "tainct." Like the Lover-Prometheus and his love for Delie, they resist death; their fate is "De non mourir, er de revivre encore

En tige & fleur non par agriculture

Perdure oudeur / & couleur sans changer

Porte le liz / er peult de sa nature

Des cueurs afflictz / les douleurs alleger.

De ceste fleur: entendz pour abreger

La fleur des fleurs sur toutes specieuse

Pour les servantz a tousjours curieuse

Grace implorer vers le roy supernel

Qui l'exempta d'espines proserpines.

Elle triumphe au royaume eternel

La fleur de lyz preservee entre espines.

De l'Occean l'Adultaire obstine

N'eut point tourne vers l'Orient sa face,

Que sur Clytie, Adonis ja cline

Perdit le plus de sa nayve grace.

Quoy que du temps tout grand oultrage face

Les seches fleurs en leur odeur vivront:

Proeuve pour ceulz, qui le bien poursuyvront

De non mourir, mais de revivre encore.

Ses vertus donc, qui ton corps ne suyvront,

Des l'Indien s'estendront jusqu'au More.

Before D449, D378 is the last dizain in Delie which is metamorphosed by the grace of the symbols of Marian poetry, a tradition that played a crucial role in Sceve's canzoniere. It also speaks of eternity and fidelity to oneself. Indeed, in this case the evidence of the relationship between Sceve and Marian poets is so clear that it seems best simply to juxtapose the dizain with the text that most certainly inspired it. In Fabri's Defensore de la Conception (242-47), one reads, on the part of "L'Amy," the following demonstration. The important passages -- those from which, it seems, Sceve composed his immortal epigram -- have been boldfaced:

Plus, la saincte & Immaculee Conception fut prefiguree, & l'a [sic for "la"] peut l'en appliquer aux figures de la saincte Escripture, laquelle la prefigurant estre sans macule: ainsi que l'en peut entendre du Temple de Salomon, & de Sancta Sanctorum, & de la saincte Arche, qui fut faicte du bois de Cethin, qui est bois incorruptible, & imputrible. Car la Vierge fut le vray Temple, & l'Arche de divinite, Exod 25. Compingite Archam de lignis Cethin, c'est Marie incorruptible, si l'en parle de Sancta Sanctorum sicut hahetur Levitici 15. & ad Hebraos nono cap. dedans lequel le grand Prestre seul estoit entre. Qui est ce grand Prestre, autre que Jesus-Christ, qui est seul entre au ventre de la Vierge prendre chair humaine? La-queue Vierge faicte du bois de Cethin, a este Temple de Jesus-Christ, sans quelque corruption. ... En l'Arche du vieil Testament fut mis in vaisseau plain de Manne devant qu'il fut mis en l'Arche, Exod. 26. Et par l'Arche, s'entend le corps de Marie: & par le vaisseau plein de Manne s'enten d l'ame de Marie, pleine de grace, saltem prioritate nature, devant qu'elle fust unie au corps....

Balaam a dit: Orietur stella ex Jacob, & consurget Virga de Israel. Certes, elle est bien comparee a une estoille, qui de sa nature est incorruptible, & invariable, & permanente in sempiternum. C'esr celle estoille qui luit la nuit, laquelle peche ne peut obvier: mais sous sa clarte tous nautonniers, ou mariniers viennent au port de salut. Parquoy l'Eglise chanre: Ave maris stella....

Et aussi Salomon en ses Cantiques demande: Que est ista, que progreditur quasi aurora consurgens. L'aurore du jour, elle commence en jour, & en jour tousjours croist, jusques a ce qu'elle soit joincte au Soleil, & jamais n'est privee de lumiere. Ainsi Marie, Vierge pure, enluminee de la divine grace, fut aurore en sa conception, & commencement de jour sans ce que jamais il y eust tenebres, ne obscurite de peche: mais tousjours creue en lumiere de grace, jusques a ce qu'elle ait este avec le Soleil de justice, son cher Fils en gloire eternelle...

L'autre figure est ainsi, que les enfans d'Israel. qui passerent la mer rouge a pied sec. Exod. 14. Aussi a Marie passe la mer de tous pechez sans estre coinquinee, ne maculee en quelque maniere. Et aussi se leurs vestemens furent preservez, & gardez de toute corruption par quarante ans Deueer. 29. Se doit l'en esbahir, se Marie a este au desert de ce monde preservee, & gardee de toute corruption? Qui est sans comparaison plus digne chose le corps de Marie, que les vestemens des enfans d'Israel.

Il y a en l'Ecclesiastique une figure, qui parle en la personne de Marie. Ego quasi myrrha electa dedi suavitatem odoris. Le myrrhe est de ceste nature, que il chasse les vers & de soy, & des autres. Et telle propriete ne conviendroit pas a Marie, se par ung temps elle eust este rongee de ver[m] de peche originel. Et encore il dit: Et quasi plantatio rose in Hiericho. La rose nasquit de entre les espines. & toutesfois elle n'en a point de pointure. Ainsi il est dit de Marie, que combien qu'elle soit nee del'espineuse Judee, jamais ne eut en elle quelque espine, ou esguillon de peche.

In addition to the obvious doctrinal interest that this text presents, it has the additional merit of exposing Sceve as he flagrantly commits imitatio. The entire content of his epigram can be found in Fabri's text, not only a few pages apart, but also in nearly the same order: the "incorruptible" Virgin, "1'Aurore du jour" that "tousjours croist, jusques ce qu'elle soit joincte au Soleil" (cf. line 2 of the dizain: "D'orner son chef d'or luisant"), the "suave odeur" of the "myrrhe," [37] and even the purifying "propriete," the truly medicinal virtue it seems to be endowed with, that of "chasser les vers & de soy, & des autres." [38] All that remains is for Scve to create, from these membra disjecta, one of his most beautiful masterpieces: note the lily

"blancheur" of the Dawn (line 1), the roses that decorate Delie's "chef' (line 2), the certitude of being able to resist victoriously, not only time, but death (line 6), the knowledge that his goddess is the only "possible" redeemer (line 7), the only one who can nullify the "fatalite" of sin. A bit of luck suffices, and suddenly, in spite of oneself, without thinking it possible and above all without having intended it, the activity known as literary criticism becomes an exact art. "Quae est ista, que progreditur quasi aurora consurgens?" It is Delie. And behind Delie is Mary:

La blanche Aurore a peine finyssoit

D'orner son chef d'or luisant, et de roses,

Quand mon Esprit, qui du tout perissoit

Au fons confus de tant diverses choses,

Revint a moy soubz les custodes closes

Pour plus me rendre envers mort invincible.

Mais toy, qui as (toy seule) le possible

De donner heur a ma fatalite,

Tu me seras la myrrhe incorruptible

Contre les vers de ma mortalite.


Given the light that Marian poetry sheds on Sceve's canzoniere, it seems quite possible that the name "Delie," this "surnom louable" (D59), was in fact itself chosen for reasons other than its onomastic properties or its assonances (Diana, Delos, Delie, "l'Idee," etc.) and its undeniable evocation of ancient myths (Hecate, Luna, Proserpina, etc.). When they approach this topic, most scholars generally recall D22 and its admirable commentary by Edwin Duval. [39] They also refer the reader to the subtle paronymic analyses of Francois Rigolot in his cratylic Poetique et onomastique of 1977. [40] As is always the case with Sceve, everything, at first glance, the atmosphere and decor, the gods, the allusions to their stories, brings us back to Henri or Robert Estienne, Ovid, Tibulle and Virgil, Servius, Nicolas Perottus and his successor Ambrosius Calepinus. It brings us back to the Latin magic and the conjuring up of spirits, or to the Commentary of Ficino on Plato's Symposium. Everything conspires to make us thi nk that Sceve is a humanist before being a Christian:

Comme Hecate tu me feras errer

Et vif, et mort cent ans parmy les Umbres:

Comme Diane au Ciel me resserrer,

D'ou descendis en ces mortelz encombres:

Comme regnante aux infernalles umbres

Amoindriras, ou accroistras mes peines.

Mais comme Lune infuse dans mes veines

Celle tu fus, es, et seras DELIE,

Qu'Amour a joinct a mes pensees vaines

Si fort, que Mort jamais ne l'en deslie.

In spite of the undeniable pertinence of the mythographical and cratylic approaches of Coleman, Duval, and Rigolot, we must ask ourselves, do they suffice to give a full account of everything that Sceve wittingly inscribed in his text? The answer is no. After all, as we discovered on the title page of the "Recueil Vidoue," Mary is "pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol," and consequently the moon, like the unicorn, the cedar, the star, the lily, the manna and the myrrh, is a Marian symbol. Therefore, it would make sense, following Lance Donaldson-Evans's reading, [41] not only to recall that the last four verses of D22 contain, in addition to a distinct echo of Revelations 16:5 ("Justus es, Domine, qui es, et qui eras"), an unmistakable reference to that most Marian of texts, the Song of Songs (8:6: "quia fortis est ut mors dilectio"), and to conclude with him that, as a result, "Delie is intimately associated not simply with 'pagan divinities' -- Hecate, Diana, Proserpina -- but also with the love of the Judeo-Chr istian God of the Bible." And even if one hesitates to follow Donaldson-Evans when he suggests that Delie's name, "in addition to all its other onomastic ramifications," could also be "a composite of De and lier: De-lie, De being a common old French form of Dieu," it is all the same true that the quote from Matthew that he uses to support his argument and to make it as credible and convincing as possible, incontestably played a major role in the Lyonnais poet's choice of the name of this "object de plus haulte vertu" which he imprudently makes his idol, this name which he admits, in a moment of despair and rancor, was "Sinistrement pour [s]on mal invente" (D394). One finds indeed in Matthew 18:18 the following statement by Jesus to Peter and the other Apostles: "Amen dico vobis, quaecumque alligaveritis super terram, erunt ligata et in caelo; et quaeumque solveritis super terram, erunt soluta et in caelo" (En verite, je vous le dis: tout ce que vous lierez sur la terre se trouvera lie dans le ciel, et tout ce ce que vous delierez sur la terre sera delie dans le ciel).

This verse did not escape the pious attention, the thirst for the "plus hault sens" and the rhetorical mastery of the poets of the puys -- especially since some of them had, so to speak, the additional advantage to be named Pierre or Jacques Le Lieur, the latter being the respectable lord of Houteville and a Canon of the Church. [42] This sufficed to cause the pens of our poets to produce interminable series of onomastic wordplay. In his book on Les Puys de palinod de Rouen et de Caen, Eugene de Robillard de Beaurepaire cites, for example (183) this passage of a chant royal by Jacques Minfaut, clearly inspired, not only by the name of the current president ("Prince") of the Puy, Jacques Le Lieur, but also by the verse in Matthew quoted above -- the "grand Lyeur" being only a pretext for these verbal fireworks, behind which is the distinct presence of the words of Christ. Because He is Love, the Logos is invincible. That which He unites ("lie") on earth, is united in heaven; that which it separates ("delie") is separated there. The powers of the Verb are indeed miraculous:

Le grant Lyeur qui tout lie et deslie

Si que ne peult vrais humains deslyer

Sans son vouloir ce que de son don lye

Et s'il deslye encore moms les lyer.

Another verbal pyrotechnician, even more dazzling than the Minfaut with whom Marot scholars are familiar -- it seems the name is Nicolas de Senynguehen [43] -- also composed a rondeau on this theme. It was so brilliant that Pierre Fabri used it as a model in his Grand et vray art de plaine rhetorique of 1521. It is reasonable to say that Sceve also owned this very important book. Without any doubt, it was conceived of by the "Norman Quintilian" as a poetic complement to his Defensore of 1514, since he expressly dedicates it to the "devotz facteurs du champ royal du Puy de l'immaculee Conception de la Vierge," in order, as he says, that they "ayent plus ardant desir de composer." [44] Moreover, this rondeau by Senynguehen contains a verse that the reader of Delie cannot help but recognize, a verse whose harmony seems forever engraved on Sceve's memory. Here is this beautifully crafted rondeau. It is once again the Virgin who speaks. But behind the Virgin, one can dearly hear Delie's Lover: [45]

Par vraye amour, qui deux cueurs en ung lye,

Mon cher amant voulant que luy me allie

S'est en ce jour avec moy allye

Et a son cueur avec le mien lye

Pour tout jamais sans que nul l'en deslye.

Combien que sois d'Eve et d'Adam saillie

D'aulcun venin ne fuz onc assaillie.

A m'en garder Dieu [s]'est humilie

Par vraye amour qui deux cueurs en ung lye.

Mon cher amant voulant que a luy me allie

S'est en ce jour avec moy allye.

Le fier serpent par la pomme cueillie

En ses liens ne m'a point accueillie.

Car Adam triste et merencolie

Par son peche du limbe ay deslie.

Grace aux humains est en moy recueillie

Par vraye amour qui deux cueurs en ung lye.

Mon cher amant voulant que a luy me allie

S'est en ce jour avec moy allye

Et a son cueur avec le mien lye

Pour tout jamais sans que nul l'en deslye.

A final touch to this Marian tableau, in the guise of a provisional conclusion. In his work entitled Le Pote, le Vierge et le Prince du Puy, Gerard Gros informs us that from 1486, the time of the official constitution of the Puy of Rouen, until 1510, one particular genre, the chant royal, stood out at the competition on 8 December. The winner was awarded the palm and the runner-up received a crown of laurels. In 1510, the Prince, Jean Le Lieur (or was it perhaps Jacques?) created the prize for the rondeau, which consisted of a "signet" or "cynet," in other words, "une marque, un cachet ou un sceau," or, by metonymy, "un anneau portant un cachet." In 1514, the "Prince regent," Jacques des Hommets, finally instituted the prize for the ballad, a rose which was awarded for the first rime that year to Pierre Apvril. [46] I believe that it is in the light of this particular detail -- the fact that the rose was given to the "facteur" who wrote the most beautiful ballad -- and in a decisively Marian perspective that it makes sense to read D251, a dizain which seems to have been written by Sceve in order to inform the reader of the unbearable, flagrant injustice to which he has just fallen victim. What was this injustice? One imagines a return to the dispute between Marot and Sagon, in which Sagon, having been crowned four times at the Puy of Rouen, triumphantly holding in his hand the "Palme, Lys, Signet [et] Rose," insolently shuts up Frippelippes and his master, the "rat pele." It is I, and not my "unworthy" rival, who deserves the prize. In its inherent mastery, its sovereign verbal density, its lucidity, at once playful and biting, the irony here is a pure miracle. The rose is not only Delie, whom the husband has taken to put in his bed -- "luy indigne, il la tient, il la touche" (D161) -- but it is also the prize awarded by the Prince of the Puy to the best poet of the year. As Guillaume de Lorris noted years before Marian poetry was in vogue and Sceve wrote his Delie, when "la rose entre espines fleurit," it is alw ays the poet whose heart is pricked:

Au commun plainct ma joye est convertie

De dueil prive et mon particulier,

Par la Fortune en mon sort compartie,

Quasi pour moy un malheur familier,

Qui m'a frustre de ce bien singulier,

Par qui raison contre debvoir opine.

Doncques voyant la trestriche rapine

En main d'aultruy, indigne d'elle, enclose,

De mon labeur me fault cueillir l'Espine

Au loz, & heur de qui a eu la Rose.

[*] My thanks (in chronological order) go to Patricia Ranum, Lance Donaldson-Evans, and Raymond C. La Charite for their precious help in translating this study into English. All remaining gallicisms are mine. I wish also to thank the three RQ readers. Their comments have been so precious to me that I have sometimes taken the liberty of inscribing them verbatim in the very text of this study. Given the decidedly intertextual nature of the enterprise, I have decided not to provide translations of the poems and texts I quote. I apologize for the possible inconvenience to English readers. Unless otherwise indicated, all italics in the texts I quote are mine.

(1.) Gros, 1992 and 1996; Hue, 2001. To be completed by the "actes" -- to be published by Champion -- of the international colloquium recently held in Rouen and organized by Jean-Claude Arnould and Thierry Mantovani: Premiere poesie de la Renaissance: Autour des puys poetiques normands.

(2.) Bernard de Clairvaux, 168-71: "In fine autem versus: Et nomen, inquit, Virginis Maria. Loquamur pauca et super hoc nomine, quod interpretatum 'Maris stella' dicitur, et Matri Virgini valde convenienter aptatur. Ipsa namque aptissime sideri comparatur quia sicut sine sui corruptione sidus suum emittit radium, sic absque sui laesione Virgo parturit Filium. Nec sideri radius suam minuit claritatem, nec Virgini Filius suam integritatem. Ipsa ergo est nobilis illa stella ex Jacob orta, cuius radius universum orbem illuminat," etc.

(3.) On this subject, see Engammare, 388. Also see Fabri. 1514, a crucial work for this matter, which will reappear later in this study and which is described respectively by Gros, 1992, 125-26, and Hue, 2001, 96-109. The latter kindly sent me a copy of the pages he dedicates to an analysis of Fabri's work.

(4.) See, for example, Vloberg, chap. 2, "La Vierge au Serpent" (41-64), a work decorated with 162 helioengravings. We learn here among ocher things, by means of images and text -- please reread the first dizain of Delie -- that "le Basilic est la bete d'Enfer par excellence." As its Latin and Greek names indicate (respectively, basileus, emperor; and regulus little king), it is, explains Vloberg, "le roi des serpents": "Il a le venin dans ses yeux qui peuvent tuer comme la foudre et qui fascinent l'oiseau en plein vol. Son souffle empoisonne l'homme, dit Honorius d'Autun . . . Il est le premier ne de la race maudite. 'Du serpent,' dit Isaiah (14:29), 'sortira un basilic et son fruit sera un dragon volant' [de radice enim colubri egredietur regulus, et semen ejus absorbens volucrem]. La plupart des commentateurs, saint Jerome Cassiodore, saint Gregoire le Grand, s'accordent a reconnaitte dans le basilic la figure de 1'envie, par laquelle la mort est entree dans l'univers." A little later, on the subject of th e puys of Amiens and Rouen, Vloberg specifies: "Aux jours de la Rogation, a Rouen, les confreres de Notre-Dame, precedes de joueurs d'instruments, menaient en procession une image de la Vierge brisant du pied la tete du dragon" (56). And he reminds us, fortuitously, that fol. 50 of the ms. palinodique rouennais BNF fr. 1537, contains a miniature which depicts the Immaculate Virgin crushing Death and the Dragon of Hell under her feet (cf. infra, fig. 2). Therefore, when, as good lay humanists, the commentators of the first dizain of Delie find it sufficient to refer us to Petrarch and Plato, to the physical Dictionary of 1657, or even to the Hieroglyphica of Horapollo, it is clear that they may be forgetting that which, for the tonsured monk that Maurice Sceve was, remained the most essential reference. In this new Christian perspective, we must remember, in relation to the "basilisque" of D1, Psalm 91(90), verse 13: "Super aspidem et basiliscum ambulabis, / et conculcabis leonem et draconem." This verse, whic h for a long time was associated with Christ, progressively, due to the association of the Mother with the Son, came to represent, for the conceptionists, the immense powers of the Virgin.

(5.) Dolet, 86: "Te iure laundant multi oh eloquentiam, / Atque eruditionem inauditam, & novam."

(6.) Gros, 1996, 288-92.

(7.) See the palinode in a chant royal of the "Maistre Jacques Lelyeur," BNF ms. fr. 379, fol. 8 (it is of course the Virgin who is at stake here): "De tout peche exempte er preservee (incipit: "Salut te rend Vierge sans vilite").

(8.) Refrain of a ballad, or rather of an anonymous "demy champ royal." See Gros, 1992, 152-53.

(9.) On the theme of pre-election, see Fabri's well-informed commentaries, 1514, 112-16: "Il ne t'a pas seulement esleue super omnes Choros Angelorum ad calestia regna, mais il t'a filcte Royne des Royaumes celestes ... Dew elegit eam et praelegit eam, & habitare cam facit in tabernaculo suo ... "A bit further (127), Fabri adds: "Et comme I'Eglise dir: Ab initio & ante sacula creata sum, &c. Eccle. 24. Proverb 8. Necdum erant abyssi, & ego jam conceptam cram." The term itself finally shows up on p. 243: "Ceste lumiere donc de Marie, a este ab atterno preesleue de Dieu, & en l'instant de sa Conception Dieu dit: Fiat lux, id est, voluit, qu'elle fist conceue lumiere du monde ...."

(10.) These palinodes are found in three primary sources: i) the lists put together by Gros in his two works, 1992 (79-97 for Amiens; 182-96 for Rouen) and 1996 (notably 192-99 and 212-22); ii) the chants royaux found in "Recueil Vidouc"; and iii) the "Table des Chants Royaux sur la Conception" in BNF ms. fr. 1537, fols. 4r-6v.

(11.) For Cretin, see "Recucil Vidoue," fols. viii-ix (incipit: "L'extreme dueil de noire couverture"); or Chesney. For Clement Marot, see "Recueil Vidoue," fols. lvii (v)-lviii(v); or Marot, 1:127-29. For Jehan Marot, see "Recueil Vidoue," fols. x(v)-xii(v); or Defaux and Mantovani, 53-56 and 179-94.

(12.) In addition, in a "Morality" of 383 lines composed for the competition of the Puy de Rouen in 1520, Guillaume Thibault depicts the most symbolic confontation between the "Dame a l'Agneau," aided by her champion "Noble Cueur," and the "Dame l'Aspic," defended on her side by "Cueur Villain." The result can easily be guessed: "Deux dames, dont l'une a l'aigneau,/L'autre un serpent en l'armarie,/Assemblerent en la prayrie/Deux gendarmes en un troppeau:/Mais l'ung d'eux y laissa la peau." For an excellent introduction to this important piece, see Gros, 1992, 174-76.

(13.) Preceded by the "Argument" -- "Champ royal d'un veneur qui come/Voullant prendre en impurite/Une pure et blanche licorne/Qui se vint rendre purite" -- the text of this chant royal figures in de Robillard de Beaurepaire, 1907,134-36.

(14.) Psalm 1:1-2: "Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum, / et in via peccatorum non stetit, / et in cathedra pestilentia non sedit; sed in lege Domini voluntas ejus / et in lege ejus meditabitur die ac nocte." In Clement Marot's translation: "Qui au conseil des malins n'a este, / Qui n'est au trac des pecheurs arreste, / Qui des moqueurs au bane place n'a prise: / Mais nuit & jour, la Loy contemple & prise / De l'Eternel, & en est desireux: / Certainement cesruy-la estheureux"; see Defaux, 1995, 101. Regarding this double theme of contagion and purification, of miraculous healing, see also the chant royal of the "Guynguart appotycaire," "L'air cler & pur: venant du port de grace," "Recueil Vidoue," fols. liii.-liiii. The 'Argument" of this poem leaves nothing unexplained (fol. liii.): "Cest air si pur que je veulx dire/ C'est Marie en concept sans tache / Et le port que je nomme grace: / J'entends le divin ciel empire: / L'air infect qui tout corps empire / C'est peche regnant lors au monde / Le tri acleur faulx & immunde: / C'est Sathan des maulvais le pire."

(15.) For an illuminating illustration of this dizain, see fig. 3.

(16.) The expression "benoist cloistre" also appears in another chant royal by Jean Marot, "Le grand pasteur jadis en ce bas estre," BNF ms. fr. 2205, fols. 9v-10v, lines 40-44: "Le grand pasteur, comme il peult apparoistre, / Est le seul dieu qui par bonte immense / Voulut l'aigneau son filz au benoist cloistre / Corps de Marie obumbrer sans descroistre / Virginite par virille semence." The metaphor of the "cloistre" is also employed by maistre Jacques du Parc, "Recueil Vidoue," fols. x/iii (v)-x/iiii (v): "Pour triumpher sur la morsure austere / Le roy des roys fut jadis fundateur / D'ung cloistre sainct & devot monastere: / Faict pour son filz, le dieu triumphateur / Lequel en fut abbe, maistre & pasteur / Et protecteur sur toute region: / Mettant dedans ordre & religion / Pour envincer [sic for "evincer"] la vipere infernalle / Et accorder avec dieu nature / Affin qu'il fut en regle virginale / Cloistre de paix: sans envye & murmure."

(17.) Donaldson-Evans, 5-15; Skenazi. See also Graff, 1980.

(18.) The best illustration of this endless struggle can perhaps be found in D387: "Toute fumee en forme d'une nue / Depart de feu avec grave maintein: / Mais tant plus hault sesleve, et se desnue, / Et plus soubdain se resoult toute en rien. I Or que seroit penetrer au bien, / Qui au parfaict d'elle jamais ne fault? / Quand seulement pensant plus, qu'il ne fault, / Et contemplant sa face mon dommage, / L'oeil, et le sens peu a peu me deffault, I Et me pers tout en sa divine image." "Ne trop ne peu," Sceve might say after Jehan Marot and Jean Lemaire de Belges.

(19.) Graff, 1980, was the first one to comment upon this striking resemblance.

(20.) On Petratch, see Rigolot, 1980, 93-106; DellaNeva, 1983; 1993, 195-202; 1994, 43-54; and Cave, 1985, 112-24. On Clement Marot, in addition to Rigolot's seminal study just quoted, see Fenoaltea, 136-49; and Defaux, 1994, 23-41. On the Prometheus-Pandora myth, see Defaux, 1993, 261-95.

(21.) Regarding the stricly theatrical dimensions of the chant royal, see Gros's pertinent remarks, 1996: "La fonction de l'Argument, la methode de construction et la dramatisation de l'idee, rapprochent de l' esthetique theatrale ce genre auquel on prete l'ambition de montrer et de demontrer. Sur le Puy, le chant royal est une allegorie en representation" (249).

(22.) On this topic, see Nash's analysis, 1991, chap. 3 ("Embodying the Sacred and Ineffable"), 65-95.

(23.) In this matter, one must question the troubling similarities between Delie and ms. BNF 1537, which in Sceve's time was among the treasures of the Bibliotheque royale. Just as Sceve's canzoniere contains fifty emblems, ms. 1537 contains fifty chants royaux, illustrated by fifty magnificent full-page miniatures. Is this a coincidence, stemming from the importance that, since St. Augustin, Christian numerology has accorded to the Jubilee? Or is it possible that Sceve had in his keeping this splendid work of art? After all, under Francois I, the court made frequent and long stays in Lyons. Nothing a priori seems to prohibit the hypothesis that Maurice Sceve might have consulted ms. 1537. According to Gros, 1992, this manuscript, previously numbered 7584, was executed in the first quarter of the sixteenth century (226). It is, Gros specifies, "une anthologie des cinquante meilleurs chants royaux presentes au Puy de la Conception, de 1519 a 1528."

(24.) Regarding the terrible, vengeful and blood-thirsty God of the Old Testament, see, for example, the admirable and violent evocation of D194, where the rhyme "dorer/adorer" recalls the baneful Pandora: "Suffise toy, o Dame, de dorer / Par tes vertus nostre bienheureux aage, / Sans efforcer le monde d'adorer / Si fervement le sainct de son image, / Qu'il faille a mainctz par un commun dommage / Mourir au joug de tes grandz cruaultez. / N'as tu horreur, estant de tous costez / Environnee et de mortz, et de tombes, / De veoir ainsi fumer sur tes Autelz / Pour t'appaiser, mille, et mille Hecarombes?"

(25.) Molinet, 1:487-88.

(26.) See also the palinode of a chant royal presented by Jean Delattre at the Puy of Amiens in 1478 (according to Gros, 1992, 87): "Du feu d'amour colunne lumineuse" (incipit: "Quand Moyse de servitude osta"). This poem appears in BNF ms. fr. 145, fol. 29, a manuscript prepared for Louise de Savoie available in facsimile (see bibliography and fig. 4).

(27.) Sceve's admirable dizain irresistibly evokes the palinode of a Chant royal reproduced by Gros, 1996, 319-21, from BNF ms. fr. 25534, fol 28-29: "Sur marbre froid une image en chair vive."

(28.) See lines 27-30. These seven virtues appear in one of the most beautiful minatures of ms. BNF fr. 1537, fol. 50 (fig. 3). Symbolically surrounded by the seven virtues is the Virgin of Light, holding under her feet Death and the Dragon of Hell. This miniature is also reproduced by Vloberg, 96. It recalls a rondeau presented at the Puy of 1533 by a certain Tourmente (BNF ins. fr. 1715). It is the Virgin who speaks, a rather marotique Virgin who has no doubt read the Deplaration de Florimond Robertet: "Pour rous humains, j'ay mys a mort la mort; / J'ay contere peche qui l'homme mord; / Destruict sera tout infernal palud: / Car mon fils vient, qui de faict absolut / Rompra enfer et briseta son fort. // Mort et enfer ont perdu leur effort, / Car leurs caprifz brief auront reconfort: I Ce jour je viens apporter le salut / Pour tous humains. // Ou est la mort, qui maint homme rend mort? / Ou est peche, dont Adam Se remord? / Mort ne me mord, peche ne me pollut: / Devant les cieulx, mon fils me preesleut, / Sa fille et mere, a esrre sceur confort / Pour tous humains."

(29.) Compare this palinode with D372, where Delie is said to be "celestement humaine."

(30.) This myth is exploited in an even more explicit fashion in the chant royal alluded to supra, note 27, and reproduced by Gras. One reads: "Ce grand ouvrier, pour faire tribut taire, / Fit tel pourtraict parfaict en ses valleurs / Que veu l'image en ses traictz et coulleurs, / Gecta dessus les yeulx de son couraige / Si qu'amourseux fut de son propre ouvrage, / Et pour pourvoir a ses grandz appetitz, / II l'embrassoit en voullant qu'elle vive...." (verse 25-33). Indeed, the God represented here is endowed with very human desires. In Genesis, God stops at regular intervals (1:4, 1:10, 1:18, 1:25, 1:31, etc.) in order to contemplate what he has just created and decides each time that "it was good": Et vidit Deus quod esset bonum ... Viditque Deus cuncta qua fecerat: et erant valde bona. It suffices for the poet of the Puy to reread these verses in a Marian perspective in order to arrive at Pygmalion.

(31.) See Marot 1:240; for "La Quatriesme Elegie, en Epistre," 1:242.

(32.) A new Prometheus, aware of the gravity of the crime that he commits agains God -- he transgresses the first commandment against idolatry -- Delie's Lover succombs to the condemnation pronounced by the Apostle, Rom. 1:20-25: "ita ut sint inexcusabiles, quia, cum cognovissent Deum, non sicut Deum glorificaverunt...; et mutaverunt gloriam incorruptibilis Dei in similitudinem imaginis corruptibilis hominis." If Sceve is undoubtedly a Christian poet, perhaps even, as surprising as it may seem, a Catholic one, Delie's Lover is definitely neither Christian nor Catholic. Audax Japeti genus....

(33.) I am here refuting the interpretation proposed by McFarlane, 371. Incensee is by no means "a common spelling for insensee, but a pure latinism. The soul of Delie's servant is on fire, it burns with desire -- with fire -- lighted by its idol. Like the Yahweh of Deuteronomy 9:3, Delie is "ignis devorans atque consumens." In fact the Lover at the end of D26 exploits Exodus 3:2-3 ("Apparuitque ei Dominus in flamma ignis de medio rubi; et videbat quod rubus arderet, er non combureretur"). "Las tousjours j'ars, et point ne me consume."

(34.) See Ps. 64 (65), verse 13: "Pinguescent speciosa deserti, / et exsultatione colles accigentur." The Osty Bible gives an inaccurrate translation (pinguesco = engraisser): "Les pacages du desert ruissellent / et les collines se ceignent d'allegresse." King James's version: "The pastures are covered with flocks; the valleys also are covered with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing." No better: tradittore. But see verse 38 of the chant royal by Lescarre: "Grace a tant faict ce desert engraisser."

(35.) The text here bears "mansion" as in line 8. Given that Lecarre is an excellent "facteur" who never falls into this sort of facilite one can conclude, as I have, that this must be a printer's error, and that this misprint should be corrected by substituting region in the place of "mansion." See Exod. 14:2: "Loquere filiis Israel: Reversi castrametentur e regione Phihahiroth, quae est inter Magdalum et mate contra Beelsephon."

(36.) On the relation between the rose and the lily in mariological poetry, see Gros's remarks, 1996, 263-69.

(37.) Gros, 1992, 96, notes that at the competition of the Puy of Amiens of 1535, when Sceve was beginning to make himself known, there was a palinodial device chosen by "Maistre" Charles Leclerc, "bachelier en Decret" and cathedral chaplain, containing this mariological symbol: "Myre donnant odeur incomparable."

(38.) The purifying virtue of myrrh was common knowledge at the time. See for example, Marguerite de Navarre, 1547, "Comedie de l'adoration des trois Roys," 2:241 (Gaspar, one of the three kings, is speaking): "J'ay en ma terre aussi la myrrhe esleue, / Qui est contraire a la corruption: / J'en porteraz, [sic] pour en dilection / Faire present a I'Enfant de value."

(39.) Duval, 7-22. See also Coleman, 1-16.

(40.) Rigolot, 1977, 105-26 ("Paronymie et semantique nominale chez Petrarque et Sceve"). et

(41.) Donaldson-Evans, 8-9. One must reread these two extremely dense pages which I merely summarize here.

(42.) This Jacques Le Lieur is an infinitely respectable Mariological poet. One of his chants royaux, "De tout peche exempte et preservee," can be found in ms. BNF fr. 379, fol. 8r-v. He also has the honor of appearing in the "Recueil Vidoure," fols. xxv(v)-xxvi(v) ("Dung povre ver triumphante vesture"), in the company, moreover, of the other Le Lieur, Pierre (fols. xxxiv(v)-xxxv(v): "Saincte cite / contre Sathan fermee"). And he figures in ms. BNF 1537, with the same chant royal (number 16), in company of other facteurs of the Puy, such as Guillaume Auber, Pierre Apvril, Pierre le Chevalier, Guillaume Cretin, Pierre Crignon, Nicole Dupuy, Nicole Lescarre, Jehan and Clement Marot, Jean Parmentier and Nicole Le Vestu. Rien que du beau monde.

(43.) See the well devised "fiche signaletique" of Gros, 1996, 363-64: "Nous connaissons deux poetes normands du nom de Senynghehen, N, peut-etre N[icolas], et Guillaume de Senynguehen: ils sont tres probablement apparentds."

(44.) "Fabri, 1969, 2:2.

(45.) Ibid., 1521, xxxix.

(46.) Gros, 1992, 132-36.


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