Imitations of immortality: Du Bellay's Les Regrets, Petrarch, Horace, and Ovid.
Dans les Regrets, une nouvelle problematique intervient pour le poete: ce quil propose comme sujet dans son texte, c'est partiellement un exterieur, la Rome hostile, le peuple romain, mais tout ceci est mis au second plan, pour que ce nouveau sujet se propose a I'attention du poete: le moi. (Gray 64)
In his 1558 collection of sonnets, Les Regrets, Joachim Du Bellay proposes to write a collection of poems that would be produced spontaneously and published in no particular order:
Je ne veulx point fouiller au seing de la nature, Je ne veulx point chercher l'esprit de l'univers, Je ne veulx point sonder les abysmes couvers, Ny desseigner du ciel la belle architecture. Je ne peins mes tableaux de si riche peinture, Et si hauts argumens ne recherche a mes vers, Mais suivant de ce lieu les accidents divers Soit de bien, soit de mal, jescris a l'adventure. Je me plains mes vers si j'ay quelque regret, Je me ris avec eulx, je leur dy mon secret, Comme estans de mon coeur les plus seurs secretaires. Aussi ne veulx-je tant les pigner & friser, Et de plus braves noms ne les veulx deguiser Que de papiers journaulx, ou bien des commentaires. (1)
How the poet could write what is, in fact, a collection of formally homogeneous and thematically related poems "a l'aventure" is never explained, nor is how the writing of such a group of poems could be known ahead of time and announced at the opening sequence. (1) Thus, from the beginning, the collection appears to be more complex than its stated program would lead the reader to expect. Furthermore, the self-conscious poetic intent which this programmatic statement bespeaks should be sufficient to subvert any unqualified acceptance of the poet's claim to spontaneous "self-expression" and instead signal the presence of a more complex and self-reflexive lyric consciousness founded on the multiple and recursive temporalities of the poetic collection (cf. Miller Lyric Texts).
This, however, has not normally been the case. Following the poet's own pronouncements, the Regrets have generally been read as an ad hoc collection of confessional poems, with no internal coherence beyond that supplied by the immediate experience of the poet himself. Unlike other Renaissance sonnet sequences, whose debt to Petrarchan convention is more apparent (such as Du Bellay's own L' Olive-, Gadoffre 35), Les Regrets is often thought of as a straightforward record of a unified subject, uncontaminated by artifice, imitation, or social posturing and unfolding along a homogeneous and univocal time line that coincides with the experience of the poet. (2) We are in the presence, we are told, of a spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling. Does not the poet plainly say, "Je me contenterary de simplement escrire / ce que la passion seulement me fait dire" (4.9-10)?
The history of Du Bellay criticism shows that programmatic statements like this have generally been taken at face value, at least since the nineteenth century when Du Bellay's verse was rediscovered by Sainte-Beuve and his contemporaries. (3) In a typical study, the occasional obvious literary allusion is noted, certain formal refinements observed, but the possibility that Les Regrets might be other than an unmediated expression of the poet's inner feelings or that the concepts of selfhood and sincerity are problematized is never seriously considered. (4) This same set of basic assumptions continues to shape the reading of Du Bellay to the present day. Different aspects of this traditional interpretation have come under criticism at different times. Nonetheless, there has yet to be a sustained attempt to rethink the nature of the Regrets in terms of a coherent collection of poems that creates complex patterns of dialogical interaction between various poems and groups of poems in the ensemble and thus projects a complex and multi-faceted lyric subjectivity.
The standard line in its essentials claims that Du Bellay, four years after writing La deffence et Illustration de la langue frangoyse, in which he had advocated the imitation of the ancients as the sole method of making French poetry the equal of its Italian counterpart, had discarded this position and become the advocate of a poetry of transparent sincerity. (5) As Henri Chamard writes in his 1899 doctoral dissertation, which inaugurated the modern study of Les regrets, "C'etait l'entier renoncement aux reves d'autrefois, l'oubli voulu des prescriptions de la Deffence" (363). The cause of this reversal, we are told, was that most romantic of ailments, nostalgia. The poet, having been taken into the service of his powerful cousin, Cardinal Jean Du Bellay, had gone with him to Rome, where he served as the cardinal's "intendant," managing his finances and supervising his servants (Dickinson 92). During this four-year stay, the melancholy and consumptive poet was shocked by the depravity of contemporary Roman mores and unprepared for the strain of practical financial life. (6) He began to yearn for his native "doulceur Angevine" (31.14). And so, his spirit in crisis, he sloughed off the artificial trappings of his earlier verse and finally wrote what he 'truly' felt.
Such is the typical introduction to a critical appreciation of the Regrets. On a number of counts, it would appear to be less than true. The Du Bellay that the testimony of his friends and his correspondence reveal was a very different man. It is known, for example, that Du Bellay, far from being an impractical innocent, was trained in the law and that his cousins sought him out, in part, because of his expertise (Gadoffre 14-15). It is also a fact that not only did he not believe himself unfit for practical life, but he openly advertised that he would gladly give up poetry if offered a suitable position. (7) In addition, it is clear that the same Du Bellay who resents having to "courtiser un banquier" ("to flatter a moneylender" but also "to treat a moneylender like a member of the court," 15.6), was not above haggling with his cousins over the money attached to various ecclesiastical appointments he oversaw for the cardinal once he returned to Paris (Gadoffre 214-15; Weber 76-77). (8) Finally, it appears that as much as the moral depravity Du Bellay found at the papal court, this proud member of the minor nobility resented the social mobility that the church and the nascent capitalist society of sixteenth century Italy provided. Particularly galling, it seems, was the fact that on occasion he was forced to treat the son of a butcher or baker as his social equal. (9) Indeed, it is this same fact that provides the ironic twist to the passage just cited from sonnet fifteen, for to "courtiser un banquier" is in a strict sense a contradiction in terms. As Gadoffre observes, "Venant dune societe terrienne et militaire, ilest egalement choque par les conditionnements sociaux et moraux d'une societe qui vit du commerce de la marchandise et de l'argent, d'un pays oil la richesse <<par usure est acquise,>> oil les codes de l'honneur des societes de tradition chevalresque n' ont pas cours" (54). (10)
It seems, then, that the unidirectional narrative which formed the basis of the traditional interpretation of the Regrets was in large part founded on the commonplaces of romantic myth, rather than a close reading of the collection or an informed understanding of its social and historical milieu. This paper formulates an alternative hermeneutic context for these poems, based on the hypothesis that the Regrets are a self-conscious lyric collection and that it is imitation which allows the poet to suture these poems together and create the complex, multi-layered dialogical unity that permits a truly lyric consciousness to emerge.
Cette profession d'originalite, de sincerite, est une condamnation de l'imitation, tout en etant une invitation a une lecture des Regrets dans leur relation avec d'autres textes. Quand Du Bellay denigre l'exemple de Ronsard, il se souvient de la lefon d'Horace ou d'Ovide, introduisant un jeu qui depend de l'entrecroisement de deux textes, celui qui commente et celui qui est commente. (Gray 112)
Et quoy (Ronsard) & quoy, si au bord estranger Ovide osa sa langue en barbare changer Afin d'estre entendu, qui me pourra reprendre D'un change plus heureux? Nul, puis que le Francois, Quoy qu'au Grec & Roman egale tu te sois, Au rivage Latin ne se peult faire entendre. (10.9-14).
This reading of the Regrets will begin with the much debated question of the role of imitation in these poems and its use to create a complex web of dialogical interaction throughout the book, and from there it will establish a basis on which to rethink other less textually specific questions provoked by the collection as a whole. I will commence with a reading of the collection's three introductory poems and then proceed with an examination of the first four poems of the collection proper. These poems are of particular importance to our understanding because of their clear programmatic content and because it is on their basis that the traditional interpretation of the Regrets has been elaborated.
From the beginning of Les Regrets, it is clear that Du Bellay's claim to write artlessly cannot be taken without qualification. Nonetheless, the ironic nature of the claim is not directly called attention to, but rather depends on the readers ability to recognize the mutually reinforcing and dialogical nature of Du Bellay's use of imitation. His allusions are often subtle and sometimes made to works unfamiliar to modern readers. Together, though, they form a complex and ramified system of intertextuality, which not only provides the collection with a principle of aesthetic ordering but also the dialectical foundation on which the poet's own "autonomous" lyric consciousness is erected. A measure of this all-pervasive intertextuality can be found in the first line of the collection's prefatory Latin poem, "Ad Lectorem":
Quem, lector, tibi nunc damus libellum? [What little book, O reader, do we now give to you?]
This line is a clear imitation of the opening of the Catullan corpus, "Cui, dono lepidum nouum libellum ... Corneli, tibi" ["To whom am I giving this elegant, new little book ... to you, O Cornelius"]. The resemblances between these lines are several. Both open with the related interrogatives cui and quem; (11) both pair a vocative noun, either lector or Corneli with the second person pronoun tibi. Both employ the synonymous and cognate verbs dare and donare, and both use the diminutive libellum at the end of their first line. Together these resemblances appear too close to have resulted from happenstance, and such a reading is corroborated by the fact that both poems are composed in the hendecasyllabic meter, one of the most common meters in the Catullan corpus. This was a meter that was not widely used by other authors of the classical period, though it was used by the neo-Latin poets of Du Bellay's time. Indeed, Du Bellay had already written in Book II, chapter 4 of La deffence, "Adopte moy aussi en la famille Franqoyse ces coulans & mignars hendecasyllabes, lexemple d'un Catulle, d'un Pontan & d'un Second." (12)
This line is only the beginning, though. The next two lines of this same poem signal the presence of another ancient text from a different genre: "Hie fellisque simul, simulque mellis, / Permixtumque salis refert saporem." ["It brings a flavor which is at once a mixture of bile, honey, and salt."]. As M.A. Screech observed, these verses appear to be a paraphrase of Juvenal 6.181, "Plus aloes, quam mellis habet," ["it is more bitter than honeysweet"], a line which in Du Bellay's time had become a proverbial description of the satiric art. Through this allusion, Du Bellay signals the presence in the collection of tropes and allusions derived from Latin satire in addition to those derived from lyric. This is made explicit in the following lines from the second dedicatory poem, "A.M. D'Avanson":
De quelque mal un chacun se lamente, Mais les moiens de plaindre sont divers: J'ay, quant a moy choisi celui des vers Pour desaigrir l'ennuy qui me tormente Et e'est pourquoy dune doulce satyre Entremelant les espines aux fleurs Pour ne fascher le monde de mes pleurs, J'appreste icy le plus souvent a rire. (76-84). (13)
Thus, returning to "Ad Lectorem," it can be seen that in its opening lines, it announces the presence of both an articulated foundation of poetic imitation around which the collection will be organized and the presence within it of a programmatic structure based on the claims of the competing genres, lyric and satire.
Furthermore, "Ad Lectorem" also appears in book 2 of Du Bellay's Poemata, a collection of Latin verse he wrote at roughly the same time as Les Regrets. In the Poemata, though, this poem bears the title "In librum Tristium, Authoris opus Gallicum." The change may be small, but its importance is clear, for it shows that in one sense the title of the collection, Les Regrets, is a translation: it is French for Tristia, the title of Ovid's first collection of exilic verse. The implication of this displaced reference to the elegies of exile is, in turn, further strengthened by Du Bellay's second dedicatory poem which in its first 72 lines is a close paraphrase or translation of the opening couplets of Tristia 4.1 (Saulnier, Du Bellay 82). A further example of the importance of Ovid's exilic poetry can be seen in the opening quatrain of the final introductory poem of Les Regrets, "A Son Livre," which begins with an imitation of the opening of Tristia 1.1. In the Ovidian original, this passage is followed by an apology for the poem's lack of polish, since, as the poet explains, his difficult situation will allow him no more than to give voice to his misery, an assertion which Du Bellay himself makes (Screech 46-47, 53; see also Tristia 1.1.3-14, 1.6.29-32, 1.7.27-30; 4.1.1-4; 5.1.3-10). This claim to produce a work that is less polished than the poet's earlier work is, however, no more true of Ovid than it is of Du Bellay, and a measure of its falsehood can be seen in Ovid's recourse throughout the exilic poetry to the same sort of learned, mythological allusions which were the stock-in-trade of his original Callimachean poetics. (14)
Moreover, these allusions to Ovid are in no way unusual in terms of the collection as a whole (Robert 454-55, 458). For the general theme they touch upon, the poet's claim that he writes only to relieve the pain of exile and not for the purpose of artistic achievement (though this claim is immediately subverted by the fact both authors published their work), is found throughout the Regrets and is also highly characteristic of Ovid's exilic poetry. (15) At the same time, this theme is also closely related to what might be termed Du Bellay's "trope of unadorned sincerity." That is to say that in terms of an intertextual reading of the Regrets Du Bellay's claim to write a poetry of pure personal expression, such as we have already seen in poem 1, is in the main a rhetorical gesture whose origin can be found both in Ovid's exilic poetry and in other ancient sources we have yet to examine. (16)
Indeed, it is possible to argue that what makes this collection original, what gives it its overwhelming sense of unmediated personal expression, is not its status as the product of a mythical romantic lyric spontaneity, but rather the author's ability to blend different sources, to mediate between divergent registers. For by this deliberate and judicious use of poetic imitation the poet is able to create a voice that both possesses the authority and resonance of tradition and at the same time is original in the sense that this particular concatenation of sources and genres had never been heard before. This synthetic voice, in turn, creates the poet's justification of his right to speak in propria persona. For the voice he projects is not just that of Joachim Du Bellay, the youngest son from a family of the petty nobility, but also that of the texts he imitates, the intelligible voice of the past. As Margaret Ferguson notes, in a sense it is the ancient texts themselves which he desires to make his lost noble ancestors and hence his validation to speak within this late-feudal society (34). All the same, these subtexts do not overwhelm the uniqueness of his verse, because through the medium of the collection and through his inimitable systematic synthesis of his sources, Du Bellay has created a voice which, though on one level derived from others, is nonetheless wholly his own.
In a sense then, it can be argued that it is the figure of the poet himself and his will to order, as the ultimate dialogical situation to which the poems refer (Miller, Lyric Texts 37-51), that functions as what Jauss terms the "dominant," the moment of generic definition which controls the other forms and genres that are alluded to in these poems (44). Thus an important part of examining how this "will" comes to be constructed will be to define the dialogical situation established between the various poems in the collection, their competing subtexts, and how these various levels are, in turn, articulated in order to produce an ensemble which projects the image of a complex and multifaceted lyric subjectivity. An initial step in that direction will be to see how those passages in which Du Bellay claims to write spontaneously are self-subverting, because they are themselves products of imitation.
Thus in the first tercet of sonnet 1, immediately after the poet's claim to write "a l'aventure" and just before the designation of the Regrets as "de papiers journaulx," the reader comes across the following programmatic statement:
Je me plains a mes vers, si j'ay quelque regret Je me ris avec eulx, je leur dy mon secret, Comme estans de mon coeur les plus seurs secretaires.
On the surface, nothing could be clearer: Les Regrets will be a straightforward record of the poet's subjective experience. Yet Du Bellay's clarity is deceptive. For one thing the use of the word secretaire and the implicit claim that the poet can only find solace in the solitude of verse recall, as Screech notes, the traditional rhetoric of the Petrarchan sonnets of the period, while at the same time developing "the trope of sincerity" derived from Ovid (55; see also Gadoffre 12-13). This recollection of Petrarch, moreover, is not at all surprising given the poetic form Du Bellay employs throughout the collection: for the generic overtones which accompanied the sonnet in this period were very strong. It should not be forgotten that it was Du Bellay who had produced the first collection of Petrarchan sonnets in France, L' Olive, at the same time that he published La deffence. By the same token, it would appear to be less than accidental that poem 1 of the Regrets opens with a recusatio. (17) ("Je ne veulx point fouiller au seing de la nature," etc.) that ironically recalls that found at the opening of L' Olive: "Je ne quiers pas la fameuse couronne, / Sainct ornement du dieu au chef dore." These recusationes are also characteristic of the Alexandrian and Latin elegiac traditions from which Ovid's exilic poetry derives. A further intimation of just how well Du Bellay understood the implications of the sonnet form and the associations it would provoke in his readers can be seen a few years later when, after the publication of L' Olive, a number of Petrarchan sonnet sequences appeared in France and Du Bellay penned a satire of these poems under the title "Contre les Petrarquistes" (Divers jeux). In this poem Du Bellay runs through the standard rhetorical devices of the Petrarchan poet, parodying each in turn. Thus, Du Bellay knew thoroughly the rhetoric of the Petrarchan sonnet sequence and was fully capable of turning it to his own account. The air was saturated with this rhetoric, and any sustained use of the sonnet form necessarily evoked it.
The Regrets are, in fact, to a certain extent a novelty, in that they are the first sonnet collection in French not to consist almost exclusively of love poems modeled on Petrarch or his Italian followers. It is not surprising then that, though they avoid the amorous subject matter typically associated with the sonnet form, many examples of traditional Petrarchan rhetoric can be found throughout the collection. Indeed, as Screech observes, even the title of the collection, while on one level a simple translation of Ovid's Tristia, on another recalls the sort of titles routinely found on Petrarchan sonnet sequences. Thus Du Bellay's friend, Olivier Magny, who also happened to be in Rome at the same time as Joachim, published upon his return a book of conventional sonnets with an analogously melancholy title, Les Souspirs. The average reader when first confronted with the title of Du Bellay's collection and possessing the knowledge of the form in which the poems were written would have had little reason to suspect anything other than a thoroughly conventional set of Petrarchan sonnets (Screech 13, 55; Wierenga 151).
By the same token, Du Bellay makes use of several typical Petrarchan tropes throughout the collection such as: paradoxes and oxymorons ("J'ayme la liberte, & languis en service" 39.1, or "la doulce force" 87.4), anaphoric repetitions (5, 11, 39, etc.), and even parodic renderings of individual Petrarchan poems or images (as in 25 and 91; cf. Katz 29; Bellenger 74-76; Wierenga, 151-53; Weber, 430; Gray 122). Moreover, Les Regrets is not the sole example of Du Bellay's using the sonnet form in conjunction with a typically Petrarchan rhetoric to talk about what would normally be non-Petrarchan material. Wayne Rehbhorn has shown that in Les Antiquitez, another collection of sonnets written during this same period, Du Bellay also makes use of traditional Petrarchan conceits. In this case, however, his purpose is to create a meditation on the history and destiny of the Roman empire, in which the ruins of ancient Rome function as the visible sign of the unattainable transcendental signified of the urbs aeterna, which remains both present and absent to the humanist poet and practitioner of divine imitation. This is the position normally occupied by the Petrarchan lover's beloved, herself the evocation of eternal beauty and divine transcendence par excellence, as well as in a strict construction of the troubadour tradition of courtly love, upon which the Petrarchan tradition is based, being someone of higher social rank than the poet and hence in feudal terms by definition beyond the poet's grasp.
A similar substitution for the figure of the mistress also occurs in the Regrets-, only in this case the role of the unattainable mistress will be played by France herself, and more particularly by the court of Henri II and the presence there of his sister Marguerite de Valois. (18) Thus the explicit equation of Du Bellay's separation from the court with a lover separated from his mistress is made in poem 24 in a deliberately Petrachizing style:
Tu n' esprouves (Baif) d'un maistre rigoureux Le severe sourcy: mais la doulce rudesse D'une belle, courtoise, & gentile maistresse. Qui fait languir ton coeur doulcement langoureux. Moy chetif ce pendant loing des yeux de mon Prince, Je vieillis malheureux en estrange province, Fuyant la pauvrete: mais las ne fuyant pas Les regrets, les ennuys, le travail & la peine. (24.5-12)
The ennui that the poet suffers as a result of his separation from court, a separation which he clearly states as having been imposed on him by his inability to obtain sufficient remuneration in the form of poetic patronage while in Paris, is in poem 7 explicitly linked with his absence from the princess Marguerite and the inspiration that she and the court provided the poet by offering him a potential audience and the opportunity to perform a service that might eventually find its material reward:
Ce pendant que la court mes ouvrages lisoit, Et que la soeur du Roy, l'unique Marguerite, Me faisant plus d'honneur que n' estoit mon merite De son bel oeil divin mes vers favorisoit, Une fureur d' esprit au ciel me conduisoit Dune aile qui la mort & les siecles evite ... Ores je suis muet, comme on voit la Prophete ne sentant plus le Dieu, qui la tenoit sujette ... Et qui ne prend plaisir qu'un Prince luy commande? L'honneur nourrit les arts, & la Muse demande Le theatre du peuple, & la faveur des Roys.
This argument in turn is supported by the series of encomiastic sonnets to Marguerite with which the collection concluded, where we find lines like the following from the octave of 180, which clearly reprise the themes articulated in 7:
De quelque autre subject, que j'escrive, Jodelle, Je sens mon coeur transi dune morne froideur, Et ne sens plus en moy ceste divine ardeur Qui t' enflamme 1'esprit de sa vive estincelle. Seulement quand je veulx toucher le loz de celle Qui est de nostre siecle & le perle, & la fleur, Je sens revivre en moy ceste antique chaleur, Et mon esprit lasse prendre force nouvelle.
This interpretation is further corroborated by the fact that Du Bellay's first sonnet collection L! Olive was dedicated to the king's sister. Indeed, there is a good case to be made that Marguerite herself is Olive, inasmuch as her coat of arms bore an olive branch upon them and, on account of her broad humanistic learning, she was often allegorically portrayed as the goddess Minerva whose symbol is also the olive branch (Saulnier, Du Bellay 58; Gray 28). Consequently, she would then be occupying the same position as Petrarch's own Laura, herself associated with the Laurel tree, and the implicit metamorphosis from beloved to tree that lies just below the surface in both collections also ties them both to Ovid's retelling of the story of Apollo and Daphne in the Metamorphoses, which Petrarch openly plays upon throughout the Canzoniere (Gray 26).
Returning, however, to the collection's title, the choice of Les Regrets can thus be seen to play on a certain ambiguity inherent in its own genealogy, since it recalls both Ovid's Tristia and the titles typical of the Petrarchan sonnet sequences which were so common at this time. This initial ambivalence, in turn, plays upon another more profound ambiguity that lies just below the surface of Du Bellay's decision to use the sonnet form in a group of poems closely tied to Ovid's exilic verse. For, in an indirect fashion, the sonnet form itself alludes to Ovid's own poetic practice. The form Ovid chose for the Tristia and Ex Ponto was the elegiac couplet, a meter that, except for the epigram, was almost exclusively used for writing love poetry. In fact, the elegists who followed Catullus had so firmly linked this amorous subject matter to the elegiac form, that the "love elegy," like the later Petrarchan sonnet, had become a recognized subgenre in the mind of their respective reading publics. Thus, when Ovid started his career, he began by producing is own sequence of love elegies, the Amores, a collection which systematically parodied the standard devices of this well known form (Kenney 124). The Amores, in turn, would exercise a determining influence on the development of the love sonnet in the early Renaissance. Their mark can be seen throughout both Petrarch's Canzoniere and the work of his disciples. (19) Their title is also directly recalled in Ronsard's first collection of sonnets, Les Amours, and in Du Bellay's own book of amorous Latin verse, the Amores. In addition, the love elegists were a strong influence both on the northern European humanists who continued to write in Latin and on the Italian poets of the period (Greene 39-40; Endres 37-53, 69-71).
After the Amores, Ovid wrote several other amorous works in the elegiac meter, including the Ars Amatoria and the Remedia Amoris. Later, he turned to other topics and wrote the Metamorphoses in dactylic hexameters. Nonetheless, once he was exiled, Ovid returned to the elegiac meter to write the Tristia and the Ex Ponto. More importantly, though, Ovid also uses on occasion in these poems, as does Du Bellay, a rhetoric characteristic of the amorous subgenre to which his form alludes. Thus in the Tristia and to a lesser extent the Ex Ponto, the form and characteristic tropes of love elegy are recycled to describe a situation which appears to be radically different from that for which they were originally devised, providing these devices with both a preordained stamp of traditional authority and a freshness which in their original context they had lost (see Tristia 1.11.11, 2.15.235, 249 inter alia). Hence, the choice of a familiar form and style for this unfamiliar material inevitably subjects Ovid's poems to a complex series of intertextual determinations producing the possibility of multiple readings for many passages depending upon the generic protocols assumed to be operative in a given passage. The same process of intertextual overdetermination is, in turn, raised to an even higher power when Du Bellay chooses the sonnet, which possesses its own analogous pattern of historical determinations, for a collection which he so clearly announces as being modelled on Ovid's poetry of exile. Consequently, his choice of forms and imitative models refers not only to the elegiac tradition as a whole, but also to the multiple analogies between that tradition and his own, which as we have seen was already strongly indebted to the love elegy of Ovid and his predecessors at Rome. The ultimate irony is, of course, that both poets create this complex network of allusion and imitation in the context of collections that on the surface pretend to be artless.
This interconnection of Petrarchan and Ovidian themes and rhetorical gestures does not however exhaust the allusive potential of the first tercet of poem 1, for it also recalls a important programmatic passage from the opening poem in Horace's second book of satires. Here Horace writes of his predecessor in the satiric genre, Lucilius, "Ille velut fidis arcana sodalibus olim / Credebat libris, neque si male cesserat, usquam / decurrens alio, neque si bene; quo fit ut omnis / votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella / vita senis. sequor hunc" ["He was accustomed to entrust to his books just as to faithful companions his inner secrets, nor did he leave off going through one thing after another, whether it was good or bad. Wherefore, the whole life of the old man is laid out as on a votive table. I'm following his example"] (2.1.30-34). These lines, of course, are in Du Bellay's case programmatic for his collection as well, and the final sentence, "sequor hunc" ["I am following his example"], applies to Du Bellay's relation to Horace as much as it does to Horace's relation to Lucilius. (20)
Poem 1 is not, however, the sole to allude to Horace's relation to Lucilius. The following programmatic statement from poem 2 gives some idea of just how pervasive and subtle the influence of Horatian satire really is:
Quant a moy, je ne veulx pour un vers alonger, M'accoursir le cerveau: ny pour polir ma ryme, Me consommer l'esprit dune songneuse lime Frapper dessus ma table, ou mes ongles ronger. Aussi veulx-je (Paschal) que ce que je compose Soit une prose en ryme, ou une ryme en prose et ne veulx pour cela le laurier meriter. (5-11)
The relation to Horace here, however, is more complex and mediated than that observed in poem 1, though as we shall see poem 2 clearly picks up where 1 left off. Screech has noted that lines 5-8 recall an earlier poem of Du Bellay's, "L'adieu aux Muses, pris du latin de Buccanan," which as the title indicates is an adaptation of a Latin poem by the famed Scottish humanist. Screech also notes that Buchanan's passage contains allusions to two passages from Roman satire, Persius Satires 1.106 and Horace Satires 1.10.71 (57). Yet, what Screech fails to note is the way this set of allusions, already refracted by the two intervening texts of Buchanan and Du Bellay, are molded into part of a coherent pattern of allusion and imitation both within poem 2 and its relation to poem 1, as well as in the collection as a whole. For Screech, while challenging the traditional view of the Regrets with regard to Du Bellay's use of imitation, retains the belief that the poems themselves are individual responses to individual situations and not part of a consciously conceived collection. Hence, while his work is very valuable for noting Du Bellay's allusions to ancient texts, he is unable to see the profoundly systematic nature of that imitation, nor the way in which these subtexts interact with one another to shape the individual poems.
Thus, starting with the lines from Horace alluded to by Buchanan and then imitated by Du Bellay, it should be noted that this passage from 1.10, like the one from 2.1 just cited in Du Bellay's poem 1, refers to Horace's relation to Lucilius and thus specifically engages the questions of historicity and the nature of literary imitation. This similarity between the allusions therefore demands that poem 2 be read in light of poem 1 and vice versa. To understand the full import of Du Bellay's allusion, however, it will first be necessary to examine the entire passage from Horace 1.10 and not just the lines directly quoted in French to establish fully the imitative context in which Du Bellay is working:
fuerit Lucilius, inquam, comis et urbanus, fuerit limatior idem quam rudis et Graecis intacti carminis auctor quamque poetarum seniorum turba: sed ille, si foret hoc nostrum fato dilatus in aevum, detereret sibi multa, recideret omne quod ultra perfectum traheretur, in versu faciendo saepe caput scaberet vivos et roderet unguis. [I grant that Lucilius was affable and urbane, that he was likewise more polished (literally "filed") than the crude author of songs untouched by Greeks and than the mob of poets who preceded him, but if he were alive today, he would on his own erase a lot of what he wrote, and he would cut out everything which overstepped perfection, and in writing verse he would often scratch his head and gnaw his living nails.] (1.10.64-71)
The overall context of this remark is also important, for earlier in book 1 Horace had accused Lucilius of haste and sloppiness in his composition:
nam fuit hoc vitiosus: in hora saepe ducentos, ut magnum, versus dictabat stans pede in uno: cum flueret lutulentus, erat quod tollere velles: garrulus atque piger scribendi ferre laborem, scribendi recte. [He was at fault in this: often, as though it were something great, he would dictate two hundred lines in an hour standing on one foot, and when he would flow like the big muddy, there was a lot you'd want to cross out. A garrulous fellow, he was lazy when it came to the labor of writing--of writing correctly that is.] (1.4.9-13).
Thus, the two passages Du Bellay has alluded to already form part of an ongoing dialogue within the Horatian corpus on the nature and history of satire. Just how conscious Du Bellay was of this dialogue can be seen if we look back at poem 2's first tercet, where he says "ce que je compose / Soit une prose en ryme ou une ryme en prose." These lines also allude directly to 1.4, though to a later passage (39-42) in which Horace claims not to be writing poetry at all--hence the title of his work, Sermones or Talks. Real poetry, he argues, requires "mens divinior atque os / magna sonaturum" ["a more inspired mind and a voice capable of sounding grand themes"] (1.4.43-44). (21) This assertion that what the poet has produced is not really poetry because it is written in a relatively simple style (which masks its real subtlety and complexity) is, of course, precisely the claim Du Bellay makes at several points throughout the opening of the Regrets, and substantially akin to the "trope of unadorned sincerity" derived from Ovid and cited in "A Son Livre."
This allusion to Horace, however, is even more complex and more deeply implicated in Du Bellay's own work than it first appears. For this same passage from Satires 1.4 disclaiming Horace's poetic vocation after a few more lines of amplification, returns to the figure of Lucilius, showing that this passage too is part of that same ongoing Horatian dialogue which Du Bellay has already alluded to both in this and the preceding poem: "ego quae nunc, / olim quae scripsit Lucilius" ["I now write what Lucilius did before" (56-7)]. Thus, while Horace begins 1.4 by criticizing Lucilius for the sloppiness of his composition and denying that he himself is really writing "poetry," he then goes on to identify his own work with that of Lucilius, so that the question of Horace's real relation to Lucilius and the status of his own work with regard to his predecessors' is left unanswered. This whole convoluted process, in turn, is simply the opening move in a longer more extended dialogue which will be continued in 1.10 and 2.1, where Horace will simultaneously claim and deny to be following in the path of his great predecessor. Meanwhile the whole of this dialogue has been alluded to on several different levels in the opening of the Regrets (1.9-11 and 2.7-8 and 9-10), all within the context of Du Bellay's claiming to write spontaneously without imitation or affectation what comes from his heart.
Ironically, it is precisely this sort of spontaneous and unpolished composition which Du Bellay speciously claims to be producing that Horace takes Lucilius to task for, even as he claims to be following in his footsteps; "sequor hunc" ["I follow him"]. Thus, on one level Du Bellay identifies himself with Lucilius as Horace presents him, but on another level, inasmuch as it is Horace's text he is imitating and not Lucilius', Du Bellay like Horace, then, is proclaiming his own poetry's superiority over the rough, unpolished verse Lucilius produced, even as he claims to be following Lucilius' example. Thus Du Bellay's renunciation of imitation in poems 1 and 2 is not only undercut by the fact that this renunciation is itself based on imitation, but also by the fact that the text he is imitating also maintains a similarly ambivalent relationship with its own subtext, producing an irreducible overdetermination of Du Bellay's relationship to them both. Furthermore, we see that Du Bellay here is engaged in a serious inquiry of what imitation and originality might be. The answer he comes up with is contradictory and ambivalent but nonetheless significant, because in a sense Du Bellay's real claim to individuality is founded precisely on the poetic imitation he claims to be eschewing. It is here that he finds the transhistorical justification for his whole project. For what he is engaged in is not a simple repetition of those founding texts but a complex dialogue in which he himself figures as an interlocutor of Horace and Lucilius, and hence as their equal (Ferguson 40). This is not the end of it though, for, at the same time, he also absorbs them into a new synthesis which re-presents them as moments in a further, more purely internalized dialogue in which he himself plays all roles: here he is Horace, there Lucilius, here their imitator and there the modern poet who eschews imitation. In this manner, Du Bellay achieves a level of poetic autonomy which would have been otherwise unimaginable.
The ambivalent nature of Du Bellay's claim becomes clear when the last tercet of poem 2 is examined:
Et peult estre que tel se pense bien habile Qui trouvant de mes vers la ryme si facile, En vain travallera, me voulant imiter.
Du Bellay signals to his reader here that there is more to the Regrets than meets the eye. He does it however without breaking the pattern the poem had already established, that is to say by alluding to yet another text of Horace. This time, however, his reference is not to a text from the Satires but from the Epistles, more specifically the Ars Poetica: Here Horace, in lines clearly reminiscent of those which earlier described Lucilius' having to pound the table and bite his nails in order to write up to the standards of Horace's contemporaries, tells how if he were to write satyr plays he would follow a new, more arduous path:
ex noto fictum carmen sequar, ut sibi quivis speret idem, sudet multum frustraque laboret ausus idem: tantum series iuncturaque pollet, tantum de medio sumptis accedit honoris. [I would not follow the known path in writing such poems, so that should anyone hope to do the same, when he tried, he would sweat and labor in vain so much he would have to polish his diction and syntax if he were to receive honors out of the ordinary]. (240-43)
Thus Du Bellay both acknowledges the deceptive simplicity which his work projects and once more firmly grounds the legitimacy of his project in the precedent set by Horace in his discursive works, the Satires and the Epistles (Screech 19-21).
This same theme turns up again later in the Regrets at poem 142 line 12 "L'artifice cache c'est le vray artifice," where the reference this time is not to Horace's Epistles but to the Ars Amatoria, the work for which Ovid was exiled in addition to his having committed some unknown crime (Screech 217). Here the context is a satirical poem on the dangers a poet incurs in his role as a courtier. The irony of evoking this theme, when considered in light of Ovid's fate, is compounded by the fact that the final sestet of the poem from which this line is drawn both acknowledges the dangers of a poet's position at the court and directly precedes Du Bellay's own courtier poems (157-91): a kind of poetry, which like that of imitation, Du Bellay had ostensibly renounced at the beginning of the collection (5.2-3):
Sur tout garde toy bien d'estre double en paroles, Et n'use sans propoz de finesses frivoles, Pour acquerir le bruit d'estre bon courtisan, L'artifice cache c'est la vray artifice: La souris bien souvent perit par son indice, Et souvent par son art se trompe Partisan. (142. 9-14)
Du Bellay's words are, of course, duplicitous throughout the collection. He does at all times precisely what he says he will not do. This duplicity (and this imitation itself) is not however merely a mannerism of style, but, as this sonnet shows, is closely linked to the social position of the poet as subject to the patronage of the court. (22) Imitation, then, cannot be conceived as simply an aesthetic choice, but must be seen as part of the post-feudal historical landscape in which the poet operates, as a founding moment of its literary mode of production. For, as the irony of the Ovidian citation at this point in the collection points out, that historical condition is a shaping influence not only on the way a poets subtexts are employed, but on his ability to speak at all. Yet to understand fully how imitation functions in the Regrets and how the opening programmatic sonnets determine its limits and uses we need to return to our close reading of the poems themselves.
Returning to poem 2 and its invocation of the Ars Poetica, these lines can also be seen as posing a problem of a more technical nature, the elucidation of which will show even more clearly both how tightly articulated Du Bellay's text is and what complex relations it maintains with its Horatian subtext. The problem turns on the question of the relation of the satyr play--a genre of light often scabrous comedies performed after a trilogy of tragedies at the festival of Dionysus in Athens--and what we know as satire. Horace, in the passage Du Bellay cites, has just finished a discussion of the requirements of the tragic genre and so has quite naturally moved on to a brief discussion of its traditional companion. The reason for Du Bellay's citing such a passage in the context of an ongoing dialogue on the relation between Horace, Lucilius, and himself is relatively simple. Shortly after the end of the classical period there grew up a confusion with regard to the etymological origins of the Latin word satura or "satire." It was, in fact, widely assumed that it was derived from the Greek word satyr, which named both the lusty half-man and half-goat creatures of mythological fame and the dramatic genre which featured them (traces of this confusion show up early in the tradition and may even begin to be visible in Horace's genealogy of satire at the beginning of 1.4 in which Lucilius is named as a descendant of the early Greek comic poets Aristophanes, Cratinus, and Eupolis). This derivation of satura from satyrus was recorded by the fourth century grammarian, Aelius Donatus, in his brief history of the comic stage, which was appended to most editions of Terence in the medieval world and Renaissance period. It is, of course, incorrect. Satura's true etymology is the same as that which provides us with the word saturation and appears in a literary context to refer to a medley in which the poet writes about whatever crosses his mind. It is probably connected to a dish served at the Roman dinner table which was stuffed full of various kinds of things, resembling a type of sausage or haggis (Miller, Latin Verse Satire 4; Van Rooy 3-27; Kernan 54-57). This folk-etymology of satire from satyr, however, was widely assumed to be true, and evidence of this confusion appears in Du Bellay. Thus whenever the poet refers to the satiric genre he always uses the spelling satyre, which is the same in French as that for the mythological character and which also recalls Horace's use of the word satyrus in the passage in question from the Ars. (23) Thus, it seems clear that when Du Bellay cited these lines from the Ars Poetica he saw them as a continuation of the dialogue he had already begun with Horace on satire rather than a turning away from it.
This dialogue as presented in poem 2, however, is not limited just to Horace, though he will be Du Bellay's most common "interlocutor" from the satiric tradition throughout the rest of the collection (Wierenga 149; Screech 30-31; Bellenger 105). For, as was mentioned before, the lines from the poem of Buchanan which formed the basis of the second quatrain also contain an allusion to Persius' first satire, "nec pluteum caedit nec demorsos sapit unguos" ("neither does he beat his desk nor does he nibble at his bitten down nails" 106), in which he lampoons the facileness with which the poets of his era composed. The line is clearly modeled on Horaces reference to Lucilius in 1.10 and there is no reason to believe that Du Bellay was not acquainted with the fact that Persius wrote after Horaces death, thus adding another layer of imitation and allusion to this already very complex game. Nor is this the sole reference to Persius to be found in poem 2. For, as Screech notes, the end of the first quatrain (Un plus S9avant que moy (Paschal) ira songer / Avecques TAscrean dessus la double cyme: / Et pour estre de ceulx dont on fait plus d'estime, / Dedans l'onde au cheval tout nud s'ira plonger) appears to be a paraphrase of the opening three lines of the prologue to Persius' satires:
Nec fonte labra prolui caballino nec in bicipiti somniasse Parnaso memini, ut repente sic poeta prodirem. [I do not remember having washed my lips in the old nag's fountain, nor having slept on two headed Parnassus, so that I might suddenly become a poet.] (24)
Strangely, Screech credits the reference to the double cyme in this poem to Ovid in the Metamorphoses rather than to Persius, to whom he attributes the next two lies, though the passage from the Metamorphoses has no relation to Du Bellay's poetic context other than the presence of the words mons biceps (Screech 56). Moreover, this passage from Persius in which he denies his being a poet stands in the same relation to the earlier passage from his first satire, criticizing the laziness of the poets of his day, as do Horace's claims to not being a true poet in relation to his criticisms of Lucilius. The fact that Persius in this latter passage is imitating Horace 1.10 and that Du Bellay is imitating them both, all in the context of disclaiming any poetic vocation, shows just how complex and articulated this tissue of dialogical allusion really is.
The complications pertaining to this poem, though, do not end here. For the opening line of poem 2 also picks up on the recusatio motif that we noted earlier in poem 1 with relation to Ovid and Petrarch. This motif also appears in Horace and particularly in Satire 2.1, where when Horaces interlocutor, Trebatius, suggests that the poet write an encomiastic poem on the "Caesaris invicti res" ["the achievements of unvanquished Caesar" 11], Horace replies "vires deficiunt" ["my talents fail me" 12-13], the implication being that the writer of so lowly a genre as saturae or sermones would not be able to undertake what was conventionally thought of as the higher and more difficult genre of encomia. This very statement is, of course, in itself a kind of implicit encomium, in that it acknowledges the magnitude of Caesar's accomplishments, and these sorts of rhetorical recusationes are common in Horace as well as in the elegists, for it was part of the Alexandrian aesthetic that both Ovid and Horace shared. (25)
By the same token, Screech's attribution of the reference to "la double cyme" in Ovid's Metamorphoses may not have been wholly incorrect. For, though it seems clear that the primary reference is to Persius, we have already noted the important role Ovid plays in the collection and more specifically the connection between the Metamorphoses' retelling of the myth of Apollo and Daphne and Petrarchs Laura. Thus it is possible that on a secondary level the double cyme does refer to Ovid as well as Persius. This possibility appears to be strengthened by the reference to "le laurier" in the final line of the first tercet in poem 2. The context makes it clear that the poet is here talking about the laurel crown that was given poets as a token of their achievements in ancient times, a tradition that was revived for Petrarch. By the same token, in the Canzioniere itself the image of the laurel alternates between symbolizing the poet's beloved, the poetry she inspires, and Petrarch's overall achievement and his being favored by Apollo. That Du Bellay understood the import of these ambiguities seems clear from the opening poem of L' Olive, where after beginning with the line "Je ne quiers pas la fameuse couronne" (i.e., the laurel) he closes with the following sestet:
O tige heureux [L' Olive], que la sage Deesse En sa tutelle et garde a voulu prendre, Pour faire honneur a son sacre autel! Orne mon chef, donne moy hardiesse De te chanter, qui espere te rendre Egal un jour au Laurier immortel.
Thus the mention of the laurel in this last line of the first tercet in poem 2 recalls the first set of Ovidian and Petrarchan texts we discussed and integrates them into the pattern set by those of Horace and Persius.
The relations between these texts are extremely complex and any attempt to reduce them to a univocal pattern would only succeed in reducing their dialogic richness and overdetermination to some preconceived notion of what their relations ought to be. What is more important is to note the intensity of their articulation, the complex patterns of cross-reference and dialogue they establish both amongst themselves and the poems in which they appear. But, perhaps the key point to bear in mind is that the controlling moment which organizes all these different poetic modes is the figure of Du Bellay himself. It is to the image of his controlling consciousness, his will to poetic composition, arrangement, and ultimately self-definition, to which all these texts and traces of texts point, even as it is those same texts in their virtually infinite recombinatory power which make any final revelation of that controlling consciousness an impossible and infinitely deferred telos of our reading.
A clear pattern in Du Bellay's use of ancient authors has begun to appear in these first five poems. The main sources on which Du Bellay draws are: Ovids exilic poetry, Latin satire, and contemporary love lyric derived from the Petrarchan tradition. We have already discussed the parallels between the elegiac and Petrarchan traditions. Similar parallels can also be drawn between the elegiac tradition as represented in the exilic poems and satire as practiced by Horace in the Sermones. Both disclaim pertaining to a truly poetic realm of discourse, and both openly proclaim their use of the plain style (Rudd 96). Hence each provides a ground for asserting the author's sincerity, and this role is then ratified by the Petrarchan tradition's conception of poetry as the confidant or "secretaire" of the poet. This sincerity, however, is not founded in opposition to the poet's use of imitation and arrangement, as the traditional romantic reading of the Regrets would have it, but rather is vouched for by it. Nor are the elegiac and satiric modes of discourse conceived of as opposed to one another as they are in modern terms. Rather, they are viewed as complementary to one another (Wierenga 149). As Du Bellay himself declares in 77:
... tu diras que mal je nomme ces regretz, Veu que le plus souvent j'use de mots pour rire Et je dy que la mer ne bruit tousjours son ire, Et que toujours Phoebus ne sagette les Grecz. Si tu rencontre done icy quelque risee, Ne baptise pourtant de plainte desguisee Les vers que je souspire au bord Ausonien. La plainte que je fais (Dilliers) est veritable: Si je ry, e'est ainsi qu'on se rid a la table, Car je ry, comme on dit, d'un riz Sardonien. (26)
Confirmation of this pattern can be found in the other passages quoted at the beginning of this chapter. Thus, "Je me contenteray de simplement escrire / Ce que la passion seulment me fait dire," from poem 4, which M.A. Screech has identified as coming from Tristia 4.1.27 "Non haec ingenio, non haec componimus arte, / Materia est propriis ingeniosa malis" ["We compose these things not through genius, not through art. The material itself gains its genius through its own evils"], (27) also bears more than a passing resemblance to Juvenals "Si natura negat, facit indignatio versum / qualecumque potest" ["If talent fails, indignation makes the verse as best as it is able"], inasmuch as both repeat the same trope of passion and sincerity overcoming a supposed lack of artistic refinement, the trope on which the collection as a whole is based. The precise nature and historical significance of that trope will be examined later. For now let it suffice to note that the text despite its own protestations not only imitates the texts of the ancient tradition, but also creates a coherent web of intertextuality out of them which comments on both the poet and his project.
Another level of complementarity between the Horatian and Ovidian subtexts can also be identified by considering the relation between Horace's Epistles and Ovid's exilic poetry. It will be recalled that, in addition to allusions to Horace's Satires 1.4, 1.10, and 2.1 in poems 1 and 2, there was also a reference to Epistles 2.3, the Ars Poetica. This is not the sole allusion to the Epistles in the Regrets, although such references are less common than those to the Satires. Indeed, a consistent pattern of citations from the Epistles is built up in the next two poems, which helps link sonnets 1-4 together into a single, coherent whole. Thus poem 3, for example, opens with a recollection of a theme found in Epistles 1.19:
N'estant, comme je suis, encor exercite Par tant & tant de maulx au jeu de la Fortune Je suivois d' Apollon la trace non commune, Dune saincte fureur sainctement agite ... Et c'est pourquoy (Seigneur) ayant perdu la trace Que suit vostre Ronsard par les champs de la Grace, Je m'adresse ouje voy le chemin plus batu. o imitatiores, servum pecus, ut mihi saepe bilem, iocum vestri movere tumultus! libera per vacuum posui vestigia princeps, non aliena meo pressi pede. qui sibi fidet dux reget examen. Parios ego primus iambos ostendi Latio, numeros animosque secutus Archilochi. (21-25) [O imitators, servile herd! How often you make me mad, often you make me laugh! I was the first to leave a free mans tracks on virgin soil, where no one else had stepped. The man who trusts in himself, rules the crowd. I was the first to bring Parian iambics into Latium, having followed the spirit and meters of Archilochus.]
Two things are important to note here. First, the Horatian passage itself occurs in the course of a discussion of imitation and so immediately establishes its relevance to the questions raised in poems 1 and 2. Second, Horace in this passage, like Du Bellay, appears to be separating himself from the ranks of those who imitate. A closer look at the passage, however reveals that Horace is using imitation in a special sense. For, the poet separates himself from the ranks of those he terms "imitators," not because he claims to be wholly original or to speak directly from the heart, but because he was the first to imitate Archilochus in Latin. In fact, what Horace condemns here is not imitation in the broad sense, but the servile copying by one poet of another poet of the same language. This, of course, is exactly what Du Bellay argues against in La deffence, where he criticizes those of his contemporaries who merely copy the work of their immediate predecessors. He also specifically cites the example of the Romans imitating the Greeks as a model for how the French can produce a great literature of their own (42-48, 92-102). Imitation for Du Bellay, then, is not a mere process of copying and citation, but a profound dialogical engagement with the texts of his ancient predecessors, an engagement which makes the lyric consciousness of the Regrets possible (Greene 41-46).
Nonetheless it could be argued that Du Bellay is only citing the example of Horace in this poem to deny it. This, however, would be a very naive reading of the poem, in that it both ignores the poem's tremendous irony and presumes that the systematic imitation which we have already documented in the three introductory poems to the Regrets as well as the first two poems of the collections main body suddenly stops, even as yet another citation is being made. For, in fact, the opening of poem 3 merely carries on a dialogue from where it left off in poem 2 with the allusion to Epistles 2.3 in the final tercet and a direct acknowledgment that these poems are more complex than they first appear. Poem 3, then picks up on this line of argument by beginning with a further citation of the Epistles, a citation which in itself is more complex than it first appears, since Du Bellay, though he denies imitating is, in fact, with regard to the Satires and Epistles doing exactly what Horace claims to have done with respect to Archilochus' iambic poetry; for Du Bellay is the first to have brought Horace's work into French, just as Horace was the first to have brought Archilochus' into Latin.
This ongoing dialogue is continued at the beginning of poem 4 where Du Bellay cites the Ars Poetica with "Je ne veulx pas fueilleter des exemplaires Grecs," which alludes to lines 268-69 in Horace's original ("Vos exemplaria Graeca / Nocturna versate manu, versate diurna" ["Day and night turn through the examples of the Greeks"]), (28) He then denies this same citation in line 2, "Je ne veulx retracer les beaux traicts d'un Horace" (Gray 64-65). The irony of juxtaposing these two lines is then deepened when in line 3 we come across still another ironic recusatio recalling again the allusions in poems 1 and 2 to Petrarch, "Et moins veulx-je imiter d'un Petrarque la grace," while line 4 then plays off a reference to Ronsard in the first tercet of poem 3, as well as the fact that Ronsard himself had just published his own Petrarchan collection, Les Amours, shortly before Du Bellay had left for Rome; "Ou la voix d'un Ronsard, pour chanter mes regrets." The next quatrain, then, recycles the allusion to the previously cited passage from Horace's Satires 1.4, in which he disclaims being a real poet. Nor is even this the end, for the final tercet returns to Horace. As Gray writes, "Ce sonnet semble etre du a un phenomene d'intertextualite; sans les lectures qui le precedent, il serait reduit a un certain vide. II se termine en effet par une autre reference a Horace, a son <<exegi monumentum>>, ce qui fait de tout le sonnet un commentaire des ecrits qu'il ne va pas imiter" (Gray 66; cf. Screech 30-31). Thus poem 4 functions as a sort of ironic summary of the entire intertextual dialogue which has been played out in the introductory poems and poems 1-3.
This reading of poems 3 and 4, in addition to providing corroboration for our earlier interpretations of poems 1 and 2 and providing further evidence of the coherence of the Regrets as a collection, should also underline the important subsidiary role Horace's Epistles play to the Sermones in constituting the Regrets' elaborate intertextual nature. The epistolary form, moreover, has a special relevance for the Regrets, most of whose sonnets have particular addressees and are written in the form of missives. Nor is this form without wider intertextual resonances for the Regrets, inasmuch as the epistolary form is also the dominant formal device in Ovid's Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto. Thus, there is a sort of covert affinity between Horace's Epistles and Ovid's elegies of exile, and it is for this reason that Du Bellay in La deffence lists both as potential models for the French poetic epistle. (29) By the same token, the unadorned almost prosaic style which normally accompanies the epistolary form is substantially akin to that of Horace's satires, which he himself labels as "sermoni propriora" ["closer to a chat"]. This apparent kinship is reinforced by the fact that Horace wrote both of these groups of poems in the same meter, the dactylic hexameter.
To summarize, then, it seems apparent that not only does Du Bellay use imitation in the Regrets, but also he has carefully and methodically selected his models. Indications of this systematicity are especially important, because one of the standard responses from critics who adhere to the traditional line of interpretation, when confronted with evidence that Du Bellay had used imitation, is to argue that imitation is a purely ad hoc phenomenon of no essential importance to the work as a whole. It is claimed that Du Bellay and the intellectual climate in which he worked were so thoroughly saturated with the Latin classics that the poet could not help but use words and phrases which recalled them. (30) Yet as we have shown, the intertextual fabric which binds the collection together is anything but an unthinking reflection of the ambient culture; rather, it is an example of sustained intellectual rigor and self-conscious composition, which ultimately leads to a transhistorical validation of the poet's right to command attention in an otherwise hierarchically closed society.
Du Bellay's own social status, of course, while not high in the feudal pyramid of social rank, was above that of the peasant or petty bourgeois shopkeeper and thus already provided some justification for his participation within the larger social discourse. Nonetheless, his dependence upon the patronage of his cousin the cardinal, King Henri II, the princess Marguerite, and other members of the upper reaches of the aristocracy meant that he personally was never able to speak from a position of authority or power, but rather had to petition those who did through his verse.
In poem 42, we see Du Bellay link the practice of elegy and satire directly with the problem of personal freedom of expression and the need for patronage in a court-centered feudal society:
La pauvrete me suit, le souci me devore, Tristes me sont les jours, & plus tristes le nucits, O que je suis comble de regrets, & dennuis! Pleust a Dieu que je fusse un Pasquin ou Marphore, Je n'aurois sentiment du malheur qui me poingt, Ma plume seroit libre, & si ne craindrois point Qu'un plus grand contre moy peust exercer son ire. Asseure toy Vineus que celuy seul est Roy, A qui mesmes les Roys nepeuvent donner loy, Et qui peult d'un chacun a son plaisir escrire. (42.5-14)
This sonnet is very complex and condensed, and we do not have the space here to go into all its subtleties, but its basic thrust is clear. The poet does not have perfect freedom to write what he wishes because he is materially dependent upon those who occupy superior positions in the social hierarchy. A variation on this theme can also be seen at the beginning of 39, "J'ayme la liberte, & languis en service,/ Je n'ayme point la court, & me fault courtiser." Yet in a way Du Bellay's poetry has already provided him with the liberty he lacks, because through it he is able both to name that which denies freedom to him and to imagine an alternative social situation of radical equality in which every man would be his own king and so free from the constraints of his social superiors.
One reason, however, that Du Bellay is able to name this situation without fear, and thus imagine alternatives to it, is that he grounds this naming gesture and its concomitant will to liberty in a series of ancient sources, which in turn provide a preexisting, validated discursive space, ready to be appropriated by the poet who can make it his own. Thus Du Bellay begins the second quatrain of 42 with two direct references to Ovid's Tristia, both when he uses the French cognate adjective triste and when he employs the noun, regret, which, as was demonstrated earlier, he uses not only as the title of his collection but also as a translation of Ovid's. At the same time, the situation which 42 describes is precisely analogous to that which led to Ovid's exile and the creation of the Tristia in the first place: for it was the writing of the Ars Amatoria (as well as the commission of another unknown offence) that brought the wrath of Augustus ("un plus grand") upon him.
Moreover, the satiric tradition itself is also specifically named in the figures of "Pasquin" and "Marphore," references to two traditional figures in contemporary Roman satire (Screech 110). And the satirist's freedom of expression, his liberte ("libertas") is a recurrent problem in Horace's satires, (31) and perhaps more importantly the one with which he opens his discussion of Lucilius in Satire 1.4:
Eupolis atque Cratinus Aristophanesque poetae atque alii quorum comoedia prisca virorum est, si quis erat dignus describi quod malus ac fur, quod moechus foret aut sicarius aut alioqui famosus, multa cum libertate notabant, hinc omnis pendet Lucilius. (1.4.1-6) [The poets Eupolis, Cratinus and Aristophanes as well as others who wrote Old Comedy noted with great freedom if anyone was worthy of being portrayed because he was evil and a thief or an adulterer or a murderer or infamous for some other reason. Lucilius derives wholly from this tradition.]
Horace then continues by telling us a few lines later that times have changed and that he unlike Lucilius is not widely read, in part because he refrains from giving public readings on account of his fears of retribution from those who would be his satirical targets, "cum mea nemo / scripta legat vulgo recitare timentis ob hanc rem / quod sunt quos genus hoc minime iuvat, utpote pluris / culpari dignos" ("since nobody reads what I write because I am afraid of public recitations, inasmuch as there are many whom this genre pleases not at all, and there are many worthy of blame") [1.4.22-25]. Implicit in this statement is also an admission of Horace's inferior social status, as the son of a freedman, to that of his predecessor. Both of these topics are then developed at a greater length later in the Sermones, particularly in 2.1, another of the Lucilius poems, where Horace jestingly portrays himself as seeking legal advice from Trebatius on whether his satires had violated statutes against "mala carmina" ("libelous verse"), to which charge Horace, playing off the double meaning of "mala," responds that his poems are not "bad,' but on the contrary very well made. It is in this context then that Trebatius suggests to Horace that he leave off writing satiric verse and instead compose praises of the achievements of "Caesaris invicti" and that Horace responds with the recusatio cited above, "Vires deficiunt." Trebatius then reminds Horace that even Lucilius had written poems of praise for his aristocratic friend and protector Scipio Aemilianus, to which Horace retorts "haud mihi deero / cum res ipsa feret: nisi dextro tempore, Flacci / verba per attentam non ibunt Caesaris aurem, / cui male si palpere recalcitrat undique tutus." ("I will not be found wanting when the moment arrives, but my words will not reach Caesar's waiting ear except at the right time: if you stroke him the wrong way, he kicks his hooves in all directions while remaining in perfect safety" [17-20]).
The predicament which Horace describes here of the poet's vulnerability to those who are more powerful than he is substantially analogous to that Du Bellay describes in 42 and thus provides yet another further motivation for his imitation of the Sermones in the Regrets. At the same time, this situation also has certain obvious resemblances to that which led to Ovid's exile, so that the level of intertextual overdetermination which mediates the relation between Horace, Ovid and Du Bellay becomes even more complex than that already sketched before and now takes on a further set of social and political determinations as well as the thematic, psychological, and formal relations already examined. Yet it would be an error to assume that the social relations Du Bellay finds himself in are homologous with those Ovid and Horace experienced. The post-feudal society placed a different series of stresses on the speaking subject than those of early imperial Rome. Indeed, Du Bellay's own portrayal of the social relations in which he operates and how he values them is on its own terms complex and contradictory. Thus, while in 42 he posits a utopian world in which each man is a king unto himself, in other poems he is far from an advocate of social egalitarianism. And indeed in poem 43 Du Bellay reaffirms the essential validity of the feudal hierarchy when he cites his faithful service to his "seigneur" as well as his obedience to Henri II as reasons why he is worthy of a "meilleure fortune" than that he suffers in Rome (43.3, 5, and 14). A fuller investigation of these contradictory valuations of the feudal hierarchy and their relation to the problem of imitation will have to wait. For now what is important is to note that the question of Du Bellay's use of imitation is only provisionally separable from the social situation in which it appears, and that in fact neither is fully understandable without the other. Rather, as in Horace, the formal and intertextual conditions which make a given collocation of poems possible is ultimately understandable only in light of the position it occupies within the social text as a whole.
In sum, then, what Du Bellay presents us with in the Regrets is not a renunciation of the principles of imitation outlined in La deffence, but in a sense those principles' highest fulfillment. The metaphor of innutrition that Du Bellay uses in the Deffence to describe his vision of imitation is one in which "the imitator simultaneously and paradoxically becomes his model and makes the model part of himself" (Greene 192). Consequently, the imitation/expression opposition so common in Du Bellay criticism is, in fact, irrelevant, because the imitated text is not viewed as foreign to the imitator; rather, the act of imitation itself presumes a profound act of self-knowledge (La Deffence 42, 106-7). As Erasmus writes in the Ciceronianus:
I approve of imitation, not the kind drawn from one model from whose lines it will not dare to depart, but rather the kind that culls from all authors what most excels in each one, selecting what accords with your genius, not immediately weaving into your speech whatever fine things you find, but taking them into your mind itself as into your stomach so that transfused into your veins, they may seem to have been born of your own genius and not begged from others, and may breathe forth the strength and disposition of your natural mind. (32)
Most profoundly, though, it could be said that it is through the collection that Du Bellay has made these texts his own. For, in the collection, every poem, every citation always exists in a complex and overdetermined relation with every other, and that relation itself cannot be derived from any one of the poet's individual models, but must ultimately point to that complex and multilayered consciousness which is his or her own lyric self. Yet even here this is not a self which can be posited as a moment which pre-exists its own textual and social inscription; rather, it is an ego which is constructed by its very nature in the interstices between its models, the poems it writes, and their collective arrangement, an ego which is, of necessity, textual. Consequently, this ego, whose presence we seem to feel so intensely, in fact, always stands metonymically for an ideal totalizing moment in the reading of the collection. That is to say that, were it to be present in a fully perceptible form, that consciousness would not be manifest as a single voice, but as an inconceivable final synthesis of all possible readings of the Regrets, a moment which could never occur unless both the collection and discourse itself had been finally exhausted.
Anderson, Perry. Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism. New York: Verso, 1974.
Anderson, William. "The Theory and Practice of Poetic Arrangement from Vergil to Ovid." Poems in their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections. Ed. Neil Freistat. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1986. 44-66.
Bellenger, Yvonne. Du Bellay: Ses "Regrets" qu'il fit dans Rome. Paris: Nizet, 1981.
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Du Bellay, Joachim. Divers jeux rustiques. Ed. V. L. Saulnier. Geneva: Droz, 1947.
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Jauss, Hans Robert. "Litterature medievale et theorie des genres." Theorie des genres. Eds. Gerard Gennette and Tzvestan Todorov. Paris: Seuil, 1986. 37-71.
Luck, Georg. "Notes on the Language and Text of Ovid's Tristial' Harvard Studies in Philology 65 (1961), 243-61.
Manley, Joan. "Ronsards Elegy." American Benedictine Review 32 (1981): 255-69.
Miller, Paul Allen. Lyric Texts and Lyric Consciousness: The Birth of a Genre From Archaic Greece to Augustan Rome. London: Routledge, 1994.
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--. Subjecting Verses: Latin Love Elegy and the Emergence of the Real. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2004.
Pater, Walter. "Joachim Du Bellay." The Renaissance. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986. 99. 113. First edition 1873.
Rebhorn, Wayne A. "Du Bellay's Imperial Mistress: Les Antiquitez de Rome as Petrarchist Sonnet Sequence." Renaissance Quarterly 4 (1980): 609-22.
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Robert, Jorg. "'Exulis haec vox est': Ovids Exildichtungen in der Lyrik des 16. Jarhunderts (Caspar Ursinus Velius, Conrad Celtis, Petrus Lotichius Secundus, Joachim Du Bellay)." Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschift 52 (2002): 437-58.
Rudd, Niall. The Satires of Horace: A Study. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1966.
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--. "L'Elegie Testamentaire de Joachim Du Bellay." Les Lumieres de la Pleiade. Neuvieme Stage International d'Etudes Humanistes, Tours 1965. Ed. Pierre Mesnard. Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1966. 113-22.
Screech, M.A., ed. Les regrets et autres oeuvres poetiques. Geneva: Droz, 1965.
Swetz, Frank. Capitalism and Arithmetic: The New Math of the Fifteenth Century. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1987.
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Vianey, Joseph. Les regrets de Du Bellay. Paris: Societe francaise deditions litteraires et techniques, 1930.
Warkentin, Germaine. "The Meeting of the Muses: Astrophil and Stella and the Mid-Tudor Poets." Sir Philip Sidney and the Interpretation of Renaissance Culture. Eds. G.F. Waller and Michael Moore. London: Croom Helm P, 1984. 17-33.
Weber, Henri. La creation poetique au XVIe siecle en France de Maurice Sceve a Agripa d'Aubigne. Paris, Librairie Nizet, 1956.
Wierenga, L. "Les Regrets de Du Bellay. Satire et Elegie? A Propos de L'Edition M. A. Screech des Regrets" Neophilologus, 57 (1973): 144-55.
Paul Allen Miller
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA
(1.) The thematic and formal coherence of Les Regrets is made clearer when it is recalled that is but one of four poetic collections the poet wrote during his stay in Rome, Les Antiquitez de Rome, Divers jeux rustiques, Poemata, and Les regrets, each of which is formally and thematically distinct from the others. If any one of them qualifies as a sort of spontaneous grab bag of whatever came to the authors fancy it is the Divers jeux rustiques, which pursues neither a single subject matter nor uses any consistent poetic form. Nonetheless, this judgment on the Regrets should not be taken as a thesis on their genesis. It appears that some of the poems were originally occasional and were only later grouped together with other poems to form a coherent whole.
(2.) See, for example, the following passage from Gray (109), "[Dans Les Regrets] il n'y a pas d'action intertextuelle proprement dite, mais seulement la reprise d'un language depouille et deja codifie qu'il propose toutefois comme strate a-poetique."
(3.) See the relevant passages from Sainte-Beuve reprinted in Bellenger (329-35). It should be noted that unlike Ronsard, Du Bellay never suffered a complete eclipse during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but nonetheless like most Renaissance poets received little critical attention until the Romantics began making forays into the pre-classical French poetic tradition. They, of course, read these poets in their own image. Symptomatic of this self-identification with the text is Pater (99-113).
(4.) Chamard (Du Bellay: 363-66; Histoire 230-39); Vianey; Weber (399); Dickinson (3-4); Saulnier Du Bellay (83); Brereton (23-28); Reid. See also Bellenger on the critical history (9-11).
(5.) To support this view, passages such as the following from poem 21, "J'escry nai'vement tout ce qu'au coeur me touche / Soit de bien, soit de mal, comme il vient a la bouche" (21.6-7) and from 47, "Et si onques tes yeux ont experimente / Les poignans esguillons dune douleur non feinte, / Voy la mienne en ces vers sans artifice peinte / Comme sans artifice est ma simplicity," (47.3-5) are often cited. There is come controversy on the extent to which Du Bellay himself was the author of the Defence and to what extent it was a collective effort to which he lent his name.
(6.) See poems 12, 14, 15, 39, 101-105, 115, and 127 among others.
(7.) Preface to the second edition of L' Olive, (Caldarini 52), "J'ayme la poesie et me tire bien souvent la Muse.. .furtivement en son oeuvre: mais je n'y suis tant affecte, que facilement je ne men retire, si la fortune me veult presenter quelque chose, ou avecques plus grand fruict je puisse occuper mon esprit."
(8.) See also the three letters to the cardinal in Rome and one other to his other cousin, Eustache Du Bellay, bishop of Paris, reprinted in Bellenger (425-40).
(9.) See poems, 101, 102, 105, 113, and 118 for explicit satiric comments on Italian social mobility. For the poet's consciousness of his own nobility see "Tumulus Sui Ipsius," reprinted in Bellenger (458), and Neminem aliena inuria miserum esse. Ad lanum Morelleum Ebredunensem Pyladem suum, II. 33-36 in Saulnier ("L'Elegie " 113). See also, Dickinson (5).
(10.) See also Swetz (1-4); and on why feudal culture never had a strong hold on Italy and faded away sooner than elsewhere in Europe, Anderson (166-67).
(11.) They are, in fact, the same word in two different grammatical cases, the dative and the accusative.
(12.) See Chamard's second edition of La deffence et illustration de la langue frangoyse (124-25). All citations of La Deffence are taken from this edition. "Pontan" is the Italian neo-Latin poet Giovanni Pontano (1426-1505) and Second is the Dutch neo-Latin poet Joannes Secundus (1511-1536).
(13.) This line repeats the notion of mixing the bitter with the sweet as seen in the pairing of fel or aloe with mel. This formula with slight variations is repeated throughout Renaissance discussions of satire. See Screech (45, 51). Juvenal's poem and the satiric genre in general is not the only place this pairing occurs in ancient literature. Screech's point, however, is that this pairing and the Juvenal passage are recurring themes in Renaissance writings on the genre.
(14.) See, for example, Ibis, which is based on a Callimachean poem of the same name, among others. In addition, see Luck; Kenney; and Miller (Subjecting 210-36).
(15.) See Les Regrets 1, 3, 5, 11, 13, 14, 16, and 21; Tristia 1.1.1-14, 35-56; 1.11.2, 9-10; 3.14.52-53; and 4.1; and Epistulae ex Ponto 4.13.17-8. The irony in Du Bellay's making use of the Tristia, of course, is that while Ovid was exiled from Rome by Augustus, Du Bellay's "exile" was to Rome itself.
(16.) As Bellenger (69) notes, "... la poesie elegiaque, <<sincere>>, personelle des Regrets est, ni plus ni moins qu'une autre poesie du XVIe siecle, une poesie d'imitation, de reminisicence et, par la, une poesie de stylisation modelee sur une tradition et non point, comme pourrait faire redouter certains commentaires maladroits, simple et fade effusion sentimentale."
(17.) A Latin term used to denote a common rhetorical figure in the work of the Latin elegists, but also found in Horace, wherein the poet claims he is either unwilling or unable to practice a higher genre (usually epic or encomium).
(18.) On France as the equivalent of Petrarch's Laura, see Chamard (Histoire 242); on Marguerite in particular, see Bovey (44). On Du Bellay's relation to Marguerite, see Bellenger (296); Katz (109,191); and Gray (75).
(19.) Warkentin (19) argues that the form of the poetic collection found in the Canzoniere is based on "the classical principle of variatio" and directly modeled on those of Ovid and Propertius.
(20.) For Du Bellay's relation to Horace in general, see Wierenga (149); for Du Bellay's use of Horace in the Vers lyriques and Les antiquitez, see Saulnier (Du Bellay 38,77-78); for the Poemata, see Demerson. The influence of the Ars Poetica on La Deffence is, of course, well known.
(21.) "primum ego me illorum dederim quibus esse poetas / excerpam numero: neque enim concludere versum / dixeris esse satis; neque si qui scribat uti nos / sermoni proprioram putes hunc esse poetam (1.4.39-42)." ["I would be the first to exclude myself from the number of those I consider to be poets, and neither would you think it sufficient simply to write in verse nor if someone wrote things which were closer to conversation than real poetry, as we do, would you think him to be a poet."] The ambiguity and duality of this passage becomes even more intense when one notes the elision between "me" and "illorum," causing them to be pronounced as "m'illorum," simultaneously reinstating Horace among the number of the poets, even as he ostensibly disqualifies himself. See Screech (18, 57).
(22.) This same theme is continued in 143, where Du Bellay after pointing out the dangers in satire of making enemies of those who should be one's "friends" (often a euphemism for patrons), writes "La louange (Bizet) est facile a chacun, / Mais la satyre n' est un ouvrage commun: / C' est, trop plus qu'on ne pense, un oeuvre industrieux" (9-11).
(23.) Nor is this limited to the Regrets, where, for example, it is found in the passage cited above in which the poet announces his intention to "entremesler" elegy with "la doulce satyre," but it is also found in La Deffence (118-20). See also his Neminem aliena inuria miserum esse. Ad lanun Morelleum Ebredunensem Pyladem suum line 319-20 in Saulnier ("L'Elegie" 122); and Screech (18).
(24.) For a full explanation of these lines, see Miller ("Persius").
(25.) See, for example, Odes, 1.6 and the final stanza of 3.3.
(26.) See Gray (145). Not surprisingly, this poem too contains an allusion to Horace, though this time to the Odes (Screech 147). For another example of Du Bellay asserting the complementary nature of elegy and satire, see Neminem aliena inuria miserum esse. Ad lanun Morelleum Ebredunensem Pyladem suum, (319-20) in Saulnier ("L'Elegie" 22), "Hanc Elegia tibi cecinit minus apta querelam,/ Quae Satyrae numeris forte canenda fuit."
(27.) Screech (59), in what must have been an editorial oversight labels this as coming from 5.1.27.
(28.) These same lines are translated word for word in La Deffence (107-8). As Screech says, "Au moment meme oil Du Bellay pretend ne pas suivre l'Horace des grand genres, il s'inspire de l'Horace satirique" (59).
(29.) In addition, there seems to have been confusion at this period as to whether there was any real difference between elegies and epistles. See La deffence (115-16); Manley (268); Clark (111).
(30.) See Weber (418), "Quand il declare renouncer a l'imitation, Du Bellay n' est-il done point tout fait sincere? Il est probable qu'il entend par imitation l'imitation systematique d'un genre, comme lode de Pindare et d'Horace ou le sonnet amoureux de Petrarque, et non pas les reminiscences de details qui se presente naturellement sous la plume humaniste."
(31.) See Anderson's discussion of how Horace's treatment of libertas in 1.4 prepares the way for 1.6's examination of his relationship with his father, a freed slave or libertinus, and with Maecenas through whose patronage he has achieved a personal libertas not dependent on his own relatively modest social status (59).
(32.) Erasmus, Ciceronianus, Opera, vol. 1, pt. 2, 704, 19-29, as translated and reprinted by Endres (64).
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|Author:||Miller, Paul Allen|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2013|
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