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Ronsard's Hymnes 


cneOievAL & RGMAissAMce 

TexTS & sTuDies 

Volume 157 

Ronsard's Hymnes 


Philip Ford 

(DcDievAL & RGMAissAKice Te>:TS & STuDies 

Tempe, Arizona 

® Copyright 1997 
Arizona Board of Regents for Arizona State University 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Ford, Philip. 

Ronsard's Hymnes : a hterary and iconographical study / by PhiHp 

p. cm. — (Medieval & Renaissance text & studies ; v. 157) 
Includes bibliographical references and index. 
ISBN 0-86698-197-7 

1. Ronsard, Pierre de, 1524-1585. Hymnes. 2. Art and literature. 
I. Title, n. Series. 
PQ1676.H9F67 1996 

841'.3— dc20 96-4062 


This book was edited and produced 

by MRTS at SUNY Binghamton. 

This book has been made to last. 

It is set in Garamond Antiqua typeface, 

smyth-sewn, and printed on acid-free paper 

to library specifications. 

Printed in the United States of America 

Table of Contents 



Chapter 1 
Chapter 2 
Chapter 3 
Chapter 4 
Chapter 5 


The Theoretical Background 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 

The Early Hymns 

The Hymns of 1555 








[The twenty-seven figures and corresponding list may be 
found following page 198] 

Chapter 6 
Chapter 7 
Chapter 8 

Appendix 1 
Appendix 2 

Texts Cited 



Le Second Livre des Hymnes 
The Seasons 

Fontainebleau: Galerie Franfois V 
Editions of the Hymnes 






For Lenore 


J^LJ o man is an island, and no artist lives and works isolated 
^-^Ll from other art forms. This was particularly true in Renais- 
^^ ^ sance Europe, where poets, humanists, artists, and musi- 
cians were expected by their patrons to collaborate in the production 
of works to celebrate their ruling dynasties. 

Despite periods of withdrawal from court life, Ronsard was no 
exception to this general principle. His poetry was frequently set to 
music, he inspired and was inspired by painters, and he associated 
with the most learned men of his century. In order to appreciate his 
work to the full, it is thus important to set him in his cultural con- 
text, to establish the parallels between his methods of composition 
and those of other contemporary artists, and to assess the reception 
of his work on his audiences. 

In this study of the Hymnes, I set out to explore both the literary 
aspects of Ronsard's poetry and the parallels between his writing and 
the world of the plastic arts. The visual qualities of his poetry have 
long been a source of fascination to me. Certain techniques in partic- 
ular appear central to his manner of composition: the use of descrip- 
tive details to suggest through their symbolism precise interpretations 
of a text; the inclusion of apparently irrelevant scenes, which act as 
parallels to the main theme of a poem; and the strongly architectural 
principles which appear to be at work in the structure of individual 
poems and collections of poems. I hope to show that underlying 
these techniques, as was often the case in the visual arts, can be found 
the philosophical principles of Neo-Platonism. As this would suggest, 
Ronsard' s text is a highly allusive one, containing multiple layers of 
meaning which only really emerge from an intertextual reading of it. 


Such a reading can add to and complement the visual and philosophi- 
cal aspects of the poetry. 

Although the days when scholars could query the extent of Ron- 
sard's knowledge of the Greek language and literature have long since 
passed, the question of whether or not he paid more than lip service 
to Neo-Platonism remains more controversial. I have become con- 
vinced that Ronsard, like many of his humanist contemporaries, did 
subscribe to a Neo-Platonizing form of Christianity, and that his 
view of pagan literature was very much colored by this outlook. 
This, I believe, has important implications for the way in which we 
read his works: allegorical interpretations, in line with traditional 
philosophical exegesis, will be of considerable importance, particular- 
ly when applied to poetry in the grand style involving the extensive 
use of myth; his vision of the world will have a strongly syncretist 
basis, reconciling the Christian and Platonic approaches; and Platonic 
harmony will be a vital organizational principle in the structure of 
his works. I shall illustrate and develop these ideas in the course of 
this study using examples from the visual arts both to demonstrate 
these principles in a graphic way, and to suggest that their acceptance 
was not simply confined to a small intellectual elite. Indeed, in many 
cases, the use of these principles in the visual arts of the Italian High 
Renaissance and their transmission through influential Italian artists 
during the reign of Francis I appear to have preceded their appear- 
ance in Ronsard's poetry, pointing to their general acceptance in the 
prestigious world of the French court. 

I should like to record here a debt of gratitude to a number of 
Renaissance scholars whose writings have inspired my own work. 
Dorothy Gabe Coleman, who died in 1993, was a source of consider- 
able inspiration to me in her close reading of texts and her numerous 
demonstrations of the importance of textual allusion for a full under- 
standing of Renaissance writers. I am indebted to another Cambridge 
colleague, Gillian Jondorf, from whose meticulous gaze and wisdom 
the early chapters of this book benefited. Among those who have 
worked in depth on Ronsard, Terence Cave's writings have been a 
constant source of stimulation, as have those of Jean Ceard, Guy 
Demerson, Gilbert Gadoffre, Germaine Lefeuille, Daniel Menager, 
and, more recently, Doranne Fenoaltea and Roberto Campo. 

Finally, I should like to record my thanks to Girton College, 
where I spent a very happy year as a research bye-fellow in 1977-78 


and started working on Ronsard, and to the British Academy, who 
provided me with a grant in 1985 to work in Paris on some of the 
iconographical aspects of this work. 



All references to Ronsard's works are to the CEuvres com- 
pletes, edited by Paul Laumonier, and revised and complet- 
ed by Isidore Silver and Raymond Lebegue, 20 vols. (Paris: 
Hachette, Droz, Marcel Didier, 1914-75), abbreviated as L, and fol- 
lowed by volume number (in roman numerals), page number (in 
arabic numerals), and, where applicable, line number. 

BHR Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 

GB-A Gazette des Beaux- Arts 

JWGl journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 

MLR Modern Language Review 

THR Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance 

TLF Textes Litteraires Fran^ais 

Chapter 1 


But Simonides calls painting "silent poetry" and poetry 
"talking painting." For literature relates and sets down as 
having happened the same events that painters represent as 
happening. And the colours and shapes of the painters and 
the words and expressions of the writers make manifest the 
same things; they differ in material and manner of imitation, 
but they both have the same goal.' 

(Plutarch, Moralia 346f.) 

She notion ut pictura poesis was well established long before 
Horace embodied it in its most concise form in his Ars 
poetica} Throughout the Renaissance, the arts of painting 
and poetry were considered to be engaged in virtually identical pur- 
suits, and because the ancient world had left a considerable corpus of 
writings on the nature of poetry and rhetoric, and little on the sub- 
ject of painting, critical theory concerning the visual arts tended to 
use rhetorical nomenclature."' Renaissance theoreticians such as 
Ludovico Dolce used terms such as inventio, dispositio, elocutio, and 
even pronuntiatio to describe the activity of the painter, and Aristote- 
lian ideas from the Poetics were later applied to the depiction of his- 

' Translated by D. A, Russell in Ancient Literary Criticism: The Principal Texts 
in New Translations, ed. D. A. Russell and M. Winterbottom (Oxford: Clarendon 
Press, 1972), 5. 

^ Ars poetica, 361. For a discussion of the ancient credentials of the idea and a 
brief consideration of its Nachlehen, see C. O. Brink, Horace on Poetry: The "Ars 
Poetica" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 368-71. 

' On this subject, see Rensselaer W. Lee, Ut Pictura Poesis: The Humanistic 
Theory of Painting (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1967). 


torical and mythological scenes/ However, the traffic was not en- 
tirely in one direction, and Renaissance poets often drew inspiration 
in their works from the world of painting.^ 

Links of this kind have been recognized by scholars in a number 
of sixteenth-century French poets;^ among these writers, Ronsard 
must be considered one of the most pictorial and visual in his man- 
ner of composition, something which has important repercussions 
for our approach to reading his poetry/ His imagery must frequent- 
ly be interpreted in an iconographical as well as in a literary sense, 
whether he is actually purporting to describe a painting or other arti- 
fact, or whether he is depicting a scene or events with no direct con- 
nection with the visual arts. Within his extensive corpus of poetry, 
the Hymnes in particular offer a wide range of examples in which vis- 

■* Dolce's Dialogo delta pittura intitolato I'Aretino, which discusses such matters, 
was first printed in Venice in 1557. For further details concerning the appUcation 
of Uterary theory to painting, see Lee, Ut Pictura Poesis, passim. 

* For a discussion of this aspect of the question in an English context, see Jean 
H. Hagstrum, The Sister Arts: The Tradition of Literary Pictorialism and English 
Poetry from Dryden to Gray (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958); and Lucy 
Gent, Picture and Poetry 1560-1620: Relations between Literature and the Visual Arts 
in the English Renaissance (Leamington Spa: James Hall, 1981). 

^ For such connections between poetry and art, see, for example. Marcel 
Raymond, La Poesie frangaise et le manierisme 1546-1610(?) (London: University of 
London Press, 1971); Claude-Gilbert Dubois, Le Manierisme (Paris: PUF, 1979); 
Franfoise Joukovsky, Le Bel Objet: les paradis artificiels de la Pleiade (Paris: Librairie 
Honore Champion, 1991); and the excellent study on Renaissance portraiture by 
Francois Lecercle, La Chimere de Zeuxis: Portrait poetique et portrait peint en France 
et en Italic a la Renaissance, Etudes litteraires fran^aises, 26 (Tubingen: Gimter Narr 
Verlag, 1987). 

'' On thematic connections between specific paintings and Ronsard poems, see 
Raymond Lebegue, "Un theme ovidien traite par Le Primatice et par Ronsard," 
GB-A 55 (1960), 301-6; R. A. Sayce, "Ronsard and Mannerism: The Elegie a Janet," 
L'Esprit Createur 6 (1966), 234-47; Phihp Ford, "Ronsard et I'emploi de I'allegorie 
dans le Second Livre des Hymnes," BHR 43 (1981), 89-106. For a more general 
discussion, see Jean Adhemar, "Ronsard et I'ecole de Fontainebleau," BHR 20 
(1958), 344-48; M. Gerard Davis, "Colour in Ronsard's Poetry," MLR 40 (1945), 
95-103; Gilbert Gadoffre, Ronsard (Paris: Seuil, 1994); Brian Barron, "'Ut Pictura 
Poesis': un lieu conmiun de la Renaissance et son importance dans I'oeuvre de 
Ronsard" (Ph.D. thesis. University of Edinburgh, 1981); Margaret McGowan, Ideal 
Forms in the Age of Ronsard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); and 
Claude-Gilbert Dubois, "Motifs scvJpturavix et decoratifs dans la poesie amoureuse 
(Recueil de 1552-3)," in Ronsard in Cambridge: Proceedings of the Cambridge Ronsard 
Colloquium 10-12 April 1985, ed. Philip Ford and GUlian Jondorf (Cambridge: 
Cambridge French Colloquia, 1986), 12-25. 


ual imagery is central, not least because in these poems, for the most 
part dedicated to the rich and influential, Ronsard is conscious of 
competing with plastic artists for both social status and financial 
reward. In addition, the Hymnes represent Ronsard's most successful 
venture into the area of high art. If his perennially popular love poet- 
ry is seen as offering a parallel with the fine portraits of the French 
Renaissance, the Hymnes may be considered the equivalent of the 
heroic frescoes which decorate Renaissance palaces, celebrating and 
immortalizing the poet's patrons, and projecting a grand vision of 
France under the Valois. Consequently, it is on these poems that this 
study concentrates. 

As an habitue of the French court, Ronsard would have been 
exposed to the works of many of the foremost artists in Europe. 
Francis I's role in attracting renowned Italian artists to France and 
amassing an impressive collection of both ancient and modern works 
of art is well known,* and if his successor, Henry II, was not an 
enthusiastic patron of literature, he nevertheless continued his fa- 
ther's work in the visual arts. By the time of the death of Franfois 
in 1547, the newly expanded palace of Fontainebleau was decorated 
with frescoes and easel paintings by resident artists such as Rosso 
Fiorentino and Primaticcio, in addition to housing an important col- 
lection of pictures by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Andrea del Sarto, 
Bronzino, Giulio Romano, and many others. Moreover, Ronsard 
seems to have been on good terms with a number of artists. He 
addresses Franfois Clouet in the Elegie a Janet peintre du roi (L. VI. 
152-60) and in sonnet 208 of Les Amours ("Telle qu'elle est, dedans 
ma souvenance . . . ," L. V. 154-55); Nicolas Denisot, the poet/paint- 
er, is mentioned in a number of poems (usually under the anagram- 
matic pseudonym "le Conte d'Alcinoys"; cf. L. III. 189, Les Bacchana- 
les ou le folatrissime voyage d'Hercueil, and L. IV, 13-14, "Le plus 
toffu d'un solitaire boys"); the architect Pierre Lescot is addressed in 
friendly terms in an elegy (L. X. 300-307); and two years before his 
death, Ronsard mentions Corneille de Lyon with approval in a 
speech to Henry III (L. XVIII. 470-79). 

* See, for example, Anthony Blunt, Art and Architecture in France, 1500-1700, 
4th edition (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd., 1980), and two articles by Jean 
Adhemar: "The Collection of Paintings of Francis I," GB-A 30 (1946), 5-16; and 
"Aretino: Artistic Adviser to Francis I," JWCI 17 (1954), 311-18. 


In addition to seeing important original works of art at first hand, 
Ronsard would also have had the opportunity of looking at copies 
and engravings, sometimes executed by artists who were eminent in 
their own right. Since Francis I was unable to acquire original works 
of ancient sculpture from Italy, he had bronze copies made of works 
such as the Laocoon, the Venus of Cnidus, and the Apollo Belvedere. 
Benvenuto Cellini relates in his autobiography how in 1543 "Bologna 
the painter [Primaticcio] . . . suggested to the King that it would be 
well if his Majesty sent him to Rome with letters of recommendation 
to the end that he might cast the foremost masterpieces of antiquity, 
namely the Laocoon, the Cleopatra [in fact, a sleeping Ariadne], the 
Venus, the Commodus [Hercules], the Zingara, and the Apollo."' 
Michelangelo's Z,e<^ and the Swan was copied by Rosso and hung for 
many years at Fontainebleau, and there were no doubt other painted 
copies of Renaissance works at hand. In addition, Ronsard would 
probably have had the opportunity of examining the numerous 
drawings of contemporary paintings which artists like Primaticcio 
and Rosso would have made in Italy, quite apart from the engravings 
of such works which, increasingly, were being printed. 

Artists had not been slow to realize the possibilities presented by 
the new technology of the printing press, and engravings began to 
flourish in the final quarter of the fifteenth century. While many 
engravers were original artists, or peintres/ graveurs, others were con- 
tent either to copy or to model their compositions on other artists, 
bringing to a general public motifs from works which would other- 
wise have been inaccessible. Thus, engravers like Marcantonio Rai- 
mondi (c. 1480-c. 1530), Marco Dente da Ravenna (d. 1527), Agos- 
tino de' Musi (fl. 1514-1536), and Giorgio Ghisi (1520-1582) helped 
popularize the works of the foremost Italian artists such as Raphael, 
Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto, Giulio Romano, and Bronzino.^° 

' The Life of Benvenuto Cellini, translated by John Addington Symonds (Geneva: 
Heron Books, 1968), bk. 2, chap. 37. The copies of these sculptures are still to be 
found in the palace of Fontainebleau. 

*° For details concerning engraving at this time, see Arthur M. Hind, A Short 
History of Engraving and Etching for the Use of Collectors and Students, 2nd edition 
(London, 1911); Adam von Bartsch, The Illustrated Bartsch (New York: Abaris, 
1979-); Henri Zerner, The School of Fontainhleau: Etchings and Engravings (London: 
Thames and Hudson, 1969); and The French Renaissance in Prints from the Biblio- 
theque Nationale de France (Los Angeles: Gnmwald Center for the Graphic Arts, 


French engravers such as Jean Duvet (1495-c. 1561), Nicolas Beatri- 
zet (c. 1515-1560), and Jean Mignon (1500-1556) also helped the dis- 
semination of Italian art, especially of designs by Michelangelo. In 
addition, it was quite common for popular paintings and designs to 
be reproduced on a whole range of artifacts, from maiolica plates and 
dishes, to armor, silverware, and fireplaces (for example, the Actaeon 
and Diana fireplace, now in the Chateau d'Ecouen, based either on 
a lost drawing by Luca Penni, or on Jean Mignon's engraving of the 
drawing. La Metamorphose d'Acteon [figs. 1 and 2]).^^ As a result, 
Ronsard, who apart from two periods spent in Scotland as a youth 
and a trip to Haguenau seems to have travelled remarkably little out- 
side his native country, must nevertheless have come into contact 
with many works of art, at least in reproduction. 

Certainly, there are a number of allusions to paintings, both real 
and imaginary, in Ronsard's works. As early as the ode A son lict (L. 
I. 257-59), there is a reference to a painting of Mars and Venus, while 
much later on in his career, as Lebegue demonstrates, Primaticcio 
(fig. 3) provided the inspiration for Le Satyre (L. XV. 67-76)}^ 
Moreover, the ecphrasis, or detailed description of a work of art, 
often inserted into a longer narrative poem, was a device which Ron- 
sard frequently exploited. Another early ode, Des Peintures contenues 
dedans un tableau (L. I. 259-64) purports to describe a complicated al- 
legorical painting concerning the rivalry between the Holy Roman 
Emperor and successive French monarchs.^^ The painting as a 
whole is almost certainly imaginary, although the description of Vul- 
can's forge, in addition to having a Virgilian source, may well have 

UCLA, 1994). See also, The Engravings of Giorgio Ghisi, introduction and entries by 
Suzanne Boorsh, Catalogue Raisonne by Michal R. E. Tewes (New York: Metro- 
politan Museum of Art, c 1984). 

^' On the relationship between the fireplace and the drawing and engraving, see The 
French Renaissance in Prints from the Bibliotheque Nationak de France, pp. 280-82. 

^^ See Lebegue, "Un theme ovidien. ..." 

'^ See Philip Ford, "Ronsard the Painter: A Reading of Des Peintures contenues 
dedans un tableau,'' French Studies 40 (1986), 32-44, and also "La Fonction de 
Vekphrasis chez Ronsard," in Ronsard en son IV centenaire: I'art de poesie, edited by 
Yvonne Bellenger et al. (Geneva: Droz, 1989), 81-89. The ode in question has been 
the subject of some scholarly interest in recent years; see in particular Patricia 
Eichel, "Quand le poete-ftctor devient pictor . . . ," BHR 53 (1991), 619-43, and 
Roberto E. Campo, "The Arts in Conflict in Ronsard's Des Peintures contenues 
dedans un tableau," Romance Quarterly 39 (1992), 411-24. 


been inspired by a Primaticcio painting in the Cabinet du Roi at 
Fontainebleau (fig. 4).^'* This is an early example of many such 
descriptions in Ronsard's works, not only of paintings, but also of 
scenes depicted on armor, flower baskets, cups, guitars and lutes, and 
even shepherds' crooks. 

However, it is but a small step from the description of an imagi- 
nary work of art to the description of a scene which claims no model 
in the visual arts but which nevertheless uses the same techniques as 
in the ecphrasis. A number of Ronsard's mythological poems, for 
example, contain details of scenery or imagery which at first sight 
appear entirely gratuitous, but which are in fact relevant to the main 
theme of the poem, in as much as they contribute to our understand- 
ing of its meaning just as the decorative elements of a mannerist 
painting can help us towards a complete iconographical interpreta- 
tion. This is hardly surprising, since Ronsard's talents as court poet 
were often called upon, in collaboration with court painters, to pro- 
vide themes for triumphal entries, masks, and other courtly celebra- 
tions.^^ Just as a knowledge of the literary allusions in Ronsard is 
necessary for a full understanding of his poetry, so too must we be 
prepared to consider descriptive elements in his poems in terms of 
the symbolic value which such motifs embodied in contemporary 

But how far can the analogy between painting and poetry be 
taken in Ronsard's writing? To what extent is he himself aware of 
following a method of composition similar to that of the visual 

On a superficial level, the comparison between the two activities 
is never far from Ronsard's mind. He makes frequent use of the verb 
peindre in a metaphorical sense to refer to the activity of the poet. 

'^ The painting no longer exists, but there is a drawing of it by Primaticcio in 
the Louvre, reproduced in Fontainebleau: I'art en France (1528-1610) (Ottawa: 
National Gallery of Canada, 1973), 24, and also in H. and C. Weber's edition of Z,e5 
Amours (Paris: Garnier, 1963), opposite p. 92. However, the theme was a popular 
one, being painted in 1536, for example, by the Flemish artist Maarten van Heems- 
kerck, now in the Narodni Gallery, Prague. The engraving on a similar theme, 
illustrated in fig. 4, is by Master LD. 

^^ On this subject, see, for example, Frances Yates, Astraea: The Imperial Theme 
in the Sixteenth Century (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1977), part 3, and J. T. 
D. Hall, "Ronsard et les fetes de cour en 1570," BHR 35 (1973), 73-77. 


For example, alluding to Simonides' idea of painting as "silent poet- 
ry" and poetry as "talking painting," Ronsard wrote in an ode to 
Rene d'Urvoi: 

Ma painture n'est pas mue 
Mais vive, & par I'univers 
Guindee en I'air se remue 
De sus I'engin de mes vers. 

Aujourdhui faut que j'ataigne 
Au parfait de mon art beau, 
Urvoi m'a dit que je paigne 
Ses vertus en ce tableau. 

(L. n. 148-49. 5-12) 

(My painting is not dumb but alive and, lifted up on high, 
moves through the universe on the wit of my poetry. Today 
I must reach the perfection of my fine art; d'Urvoi has told 
me to paint his virtues in this picture.) 

Or in the Complainte contre Fortune, in the definitive 1567 version, 
he wrote: 

C'est a vous, mon Odet, a qui je me veux pleindre, 
Et comme en un tableau ma fortune vous peindre. . . . 

(L. X. 16. 1-2) 

(It is to you, my dear Odet, that I wish to complain, and to 
paint for you my fortune as if in a picture ) 

One could cite many similar examples. ^^ However, in L'Hymne de 
I'Hyver, first published in 1563, Ronsard makes a more significant 
comparison between the two arts. Speaking of the ability of the 
poeta/vates to discover philosophical and metaphysical truths, he 

Puis afin que le peuple ignorant ne mesprise 
La verite cognue apres I'avoir aprise, 
D'un voile bien subtil (comme les paintres font 

'^ In particular, see L. Vm. 9. 85, L. XV. 252. 424, L. XV. 374. 88, and L. XVE. 
376. 9. 


Aux tableaux animez) luy couvre tout le front, 
Et laisse seulement tout au travers du voile 
Paroistre ses rayons, comme une belle estoille, 
A fin que le vulgaire ait desir de chercher 
La couverte beaute dont il n'ose approcher. 

Tel j'ay trace cet hymne, imitant Texemplaire 
Des fables d'Hesiode & de celles d'Homere. 

(L. XII. 71. 71-80) 

(Then, lest the ignorant common folk scorn acknowledged 
truth after learning it, he covers the whole of its exterior with 
a subtle veil [as painters do in lifelike pictures], and only al- 
lows its rays to appear through the veil, like a beautiful star, 
so that the common people desire to search for the concealed 
beauty which they dare not approach. In this way I have 
sketched out this hymn, following the example of the myths 
of Hesiod and those of Homer.) 

In other words, just as a skilful painter can make his subject more 
alluring by half concealing, half revealing it through the use of a veil, 
so the poet can achieve a similar effect by the recourse to mytholo- 
gy.^'' At the same time, given the allegorical nature of so many con- 
temporary paintings, it is likely that in alluding to a veil Ronsard is 
also thinking of the symbolic quality of these works. In the unfin- 
ished Hinne de Monsieur Saint Roch, referring to a painting of the 
saint, Ronsard writes, "Mais lisons ce Tableau & voyons qu'il veut 
dire" (L. XVIII. 282. 51), a clear indication that he regarded the con- 
templation of a picture as an intellectual as well as a purely aesthetic 
exercise. Indeed, he had only to look at the works of art produced 
for the French court at Fontainebleau to be confronted with highly 
elaborate allegorical paintings surrounded by equally detailed and 
exuberant stucco inquadrature. Thus, if the comparison between 
poetry and painting is more than a hollow metaphor, some fruitful 
conclusions will emerge if we consider how Ronsard may have been 
following, mutatis mutandis, the practice of Renaissance artists in 
writing narrative and descriptive poetry. 

*^ See my paper "Ronsard and Homeric Allegory," in Ronsard in Cambridge, 


One important lesson concerns the use of imagery. In his essay 
"Icones Symbohcae," Gombrich distinguishes two main currents of 
symbohsm in European culture: the didactic Aristotelian tradition, 
and the more mystic Neo-Platonic tradition. ^^ The first system 
tends to lead to personifications in the manner of Ripa's Iconologia}^ 
Various attributes are allotted to figures representing abstract con- 
cepts, often in accordance with Aristotle's theory of the analogical 
metaphor in which "the second term is related to the first as the 
fourth is to the third. . . . For example, the cup is related to Dionysus 
as the shield is to Ares; so the poet will call the cup 'Dionysus' 
shield' and the shield 'Ares' cup'." Thus, Ripa uses the column to 
represent Strength, because the column is to a building what strength 
is to man. The effect of this imagery is pleasurable to the speaator, 
and as a result, the information imparted is remembered with greater 
ease. The Neo-Platonic system, on the other hand, sees symbols as a 
revelation provided by God of the ideas that dwell in his mind. 
According to one tradition handed down by Josephus, Adam or Seth 
recorded all knowledge before the Flood on two indestructible 
columns. These passed to the Egyptians (whence they derived their 
hieroglyphs), and from them to the Greeks, thus providing a lan- 
guage of symbolism ultimately deriving from God.^° According to 
this tradition, then, symbols are an appropriate way of representing 
to mortals higher truths from the realm of ideas. 

When it comes to Renaissance art, we find both these traditions 
in evidence, sometimes merging. For example, Botticelli's personifica- 
tion of Fortitude in the Uffizi clearly belongs to the Aristotelian tra- 
dition. The armor covering the arms and torso of the enthroned fig- 
ure, along with the scepter, represent strength and authority, and 
protection against evil. The red robe would also underline the idea of 
zeal and power. Botticelli's Primavera, on the other hand, is un- 
doubtedly Neo-Platonic in concept.^^ 

" E. H. Gombrich, Symbolic Images: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance (Lon- 
don: Phaidon, 1972), 123-95. 

" Cesare Ripa, Iconologia (Rome, 1593). For Aristotle's theory of metaphor, see 
Poetics 1457b, here cited in the version in Ancient Literary Criticism, p. 120. 

^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 1. 70-71. 

^' For one interpetation, see Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance 
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), chap. 7, "Botticelli's Primavera." 


Ronsard exhibits both these tendencies in his use of poetic image- 
ry. On the one hand, he may use imagery in a clearly didactic form, 
not far removed from allegory in the medieval tradition as it was 
employed in the Roman de la Rose, or later in Clement Marot's 
poetry (e.g., Le Temple de Cupido). Such imagery is not uncommon 
in polemical poetry such as the Discours des miseres de ce temps. On 
the other hand, some of Ronsard's most successful poetry exploits 
imagery in the Neo-Platonic tradition. It is not simply something 
added to a text as an adornment or in order to convince, explain, or 
persuade. Rather, it is an integral part of the text, just like the indi- 
vidual details of the Primavera, and its function may be decorative, 
diegetic, and metaphorical all at the same time. 

Examples of imagery in both these traditions would have been 
available to members of the Pleiade to admire and study, not least as 
a result of Francis I's efforts to attract Italian artists and masterpieces 
to the French court. However, it was the arrival of Rosso Fiorentino 
in 1530 which marked the start of a continuous tradition of art 
which was to become the preeminent style of the Valois dynasty, 
centered upon the palace of Fontainebleau and dominating aesthetic 
tastes for much of the century. Rosso was followed two years later 
by Primaticcio; between them, surrounded and assisted by followers 
from both Italy and France, they established the mannerist style of 
the First School of Fontainebleau.^^ 

Both artists had, of course, been formed in Italy, although in 
quite different artistic backgrounds. Rosso was trained and worked in 
his native city of Florence until 1523, and during this time he studied 
with Andrea del Sarto, a number of whose paintings had been ac- 
quired by Francis I. (Del Sarto had spent several months in the king's 
service in 1518, but then returned to Florence with money entrusted 
to him for the acquisition of Italian works of art, and never went 
back.) In 1523, Rosso moved to Rome, where he fell under the 
influence of Raphael and Michelangelo. Blunt cites Raphael's decora- 
tion of the no longer extant Palazzo Branconio dell'Aquila in Rome 

^ For details of the careers of Rosso and Primaticcio in France, see Blunt, Art 
and Architecture in France, pp. 61ff. See also Kurt Kusenberg, Le Rosso (Paris, 1931); 
Paola Barocchi, // Rosso Fiorentino (Rome: Gismondi, 1950); and Louis Dimier, Le 
Primatice (Paris: Albin Michel, 1928). On the mannerist style in general, see John 
Shearman, Mannerism (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1967). 

Introduction 11 

as a model for the mixture of painting, stucco, and sculpture in the 
round typical of the Fontainebleau style of decoration. ^•' 

Primaticcio served his artistic apprenticeship in Mantua, where 
from 1526 he worked under Giulio Romano. The grand schemes 
designed for the Palazzo Te, with their complicated allegorical pro- 
grams, intricate decoration, and taste for the bizarre, would also pro- 
vide a model for Fontainebleau, and Primaticcio is credited by Vasari 
with being the first to introduce stucco work and frescoes to France, 
despite his arrival there two years after Rosso. ^'* 

It was not long before these artists set to work on the decoration 
of the recently built rooms of Fontainebleau: the Galerie Francois \" 
(1535-39); the Cabinet du Roi (1541-45); the Chambre de Madame 
d'Etampes (1541-44); the Porte doree (1541-44); the Chambre de la 
Reine (1533-37); the Salle de Bal (1552-56); and the Galerie d'Ulysse 
(1541-70).^^ The result was a series of highly complex iconographical 
programs celebrating various aspects of the ruling house, exploiting 
a wide range of classical mythology and history, and systematically 
establishing parallels between the French court and the divinities of 
the ancient world. Naturally, it did not take long for this style to 
become widespread, and soon other nobles were decorating their 
own chateaux in a similar manner: Anne de Montmorency at Eco- 
uen; Diane de Poitiers at Anet; the Gouffier family at Oiron; and 
Antoine III de Clermont at Ancy le Franc.^^ 

The rapid spread of such works of art cannot have failed to have 
an impact on the young members of the Pleiade in their ambition to 
establish French poetry on an equal footing with the masterpieces of 

^' Blunt, Art and Architecture in France, p. 62. 

* Ibid. On the work of Giulio Romano and his assistants in Mantua, see 
Gianna Suitner and Chiara Tellini Perina, Palazzo Te a Mantova (Milan: Electa, 

" The dating of the various decorative projects at Fontainebleau is based on 
contemporary doaunents, in particvilar the Comptes des bdtiments du roi (1528- 
1571), edited by L. de Laborde (Paris, 1877-1880). 

^ J. Androuet du Cerceau, in his Les Plus Excellens Bastimens de France, 2 vols. 
(Paris, 1576), writing on the desire of the nobihty to follow the lead of Francis Tin 
the vicinity of Fontainebleau, remarks: "En somme, que tout ce que le Roy pouuoit 
recouurer d'excellens c'estoit pour son Fontainebleau: ou il se plaisoit tant, que y 
voulant aller, il disoit qu'il alloit chez soi: qui fut cause que plusieurs grands 
seigneurs y firent bastir chacvm en son particulier, tant que pour le iourdhuy y a 
beaucoup de beaux logis, et dignes d'estre remarquez." 


the ancient world and of Renaissance Italy. The profusion of mytho- 
logical subjects in the visual arts would have marked a distinct con- 
trast with the predominantly religious and domestic art of the 
French Middle Ages, and offered a vision of the kind of grand art 
which the Pleiade would seek to emulate. Certainly, it is clear from 
his early poetry that Ronsard was a keen observer of such paintings, 
and that he found much to learn from the visual artist's approach to 
depicting grand themes. It is equally clear that he did not shy away 
from the enigmatic and erudite nature of the subjects presented in 
these works. 

Given the complexity of the decorated schemes in many Renais- 
sance palaces, the question inevitably arises as to how the owners and 
their visitors are meant to approach them. That the well-educated 
spectator would be looking for a meaning in the designs is beyond 
doubt. Cellini reports a conversation with Francis I about designs he 
had made for a doorway and a fountain, in which "the King began 
by asking me what I meant to represent by the fine fancy I had 
embodied in this design, saying that he had understood the door with- 
out explanation, but that he could not take the conception of my 
fountain, although it seemed to him most beautiful. "^^ What may 
be doubted, however, is the extent to which anyone wandering 
through the galleries at Fontainebleau would be able to comprehend 
the overall meaning and organization of the decoration. 

The first impression we receive on looking at the decoration of a 
room such as the Galerie Franfois \" is one of exuberant grandeur 
(fig. 5). There are so many small details that make up the overall 
scheme that neither the mind nor the eye seems able to take very 
much in or to make sense of it. Yet clearly there is some sense. On 
a closer look, we see that each of the central frescoes contains a scene 
which has a narrative intention. The elaborate inquadrature include 
some common elements (such as the salamander surmounting each of 
the frescoes), but also many varying motifs, which at times appear to 
be obscurely linked with the central paintings; and there is a progres- 
sion from picture to picture imposed upon us by our own progres- 
sion through the gallery. We are being invited to do more than sim- 
ply stand and wonder. 

The Life of Benvenuto Cellini, 2, chap. 22 (p. 300), my italics. 

Introduction 13 

In attempting to read and understand the iconography of the 
Galerie Francois P*" or of any such programmatic decoration, it is 
necessary to proceed through various stages.^* In looking at an indi- 
vidual bay, the fresco, as the largest single element and one which 
contains a clear narrative intention, must first hold our attention: 
what does it depict, and what transcendent meaning does it embody? 
Secondly, we should turn outwards to the inquadratura: what, if any, 
are the meanings of the elements of which it is composed, and what 
is the relationship between these motifs and the central painting? 
After this, we shall need to consider the program of the gallery as a 
whole: what is the relationship between the designs of the bays with 
one another? does the program have an overall formal and hermeneu- 
tic unity? A global understanding can only emerge if we consider the 
design as a whole, not simply concentrating on individual frescoes or 
other decorative elements. 

In the case of the decoration at Fontainebleau, we have no firm 
idea about the identity of the men who devised the iconography in 
the various rooms of the palace. However, in the case of the chateau 
d' Anet, we have the program for the decoration of one room, but no 
surviving paintings. The scheme was devised by Pontus de Tyard, the 
Pleiade's Neo-Platonic theoretician, in the mid- 1550s, and is pre- 
served in print as the Douze Fables de fleuves ou fontaines, avec la 
description pour la peinture, et les epigrammes ^' 

^ For details of works devoted to the Galerie Fraiifois \", see Guy de Terva- 
rent, Les Enigmes de I'art, vol. 4, L'Art savant (Bruges: Editions De Tempel, [1952]), 
pp. 28-45, and Dora and Erwin Panofsky, "The Iconography of the Galerie 
Francois I" at Fontainebleau," GBA 1 (1958), 113-90. For more recent assessments, 
see Sylvie Beguin et al., La Galerie Franfois I"' au chateau de Fontainebleau (Paris: 
Flammarion, 1972), and Franfoise Joukovsky's five articles: "L'Empire et les 
barbares dans la Galerie Francois I"," BHR 50 (1988), 7-28; "La Symbolique de 
I'immortahte: la Galerie Francois I" et la sculpture funeraire antique," Studi 
francesi 91 (1987), 5-19; "Humain et sacre dans la Galerie Franfois I"," Nouvelle 
revue du seizieme siecle 5 (1987), 5-23; "Une intervention providentielle: la Venus de 
la Galerie Francois l"," in // tema dellafortuna nella letteratura francese e italiana del 
rinascimento (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 1990), 239-47; and "Guerre et paix 
dans ime travee de la Galerie Fran9ois I"," in L'Intelligence du passe: les faits, 
I'ecriture et le sens. Melanges ojferts a Jean Lafond par ses amis, edited by Pierre 
Aquilon et al. (Tours: Universite de Tours, 1988), 33-43. 

^ The Douze Fables ... is included in Pontus de Tyard, CEuvres poetiques com- 
pletes, edited by John C. Lapp (Paris: Librairie Marcel Didier, 1966), pp. 255-77. 
There is an article on the work by Jean Miernowski, "La Poesie et la peinture: Les 


One example will suffice to illustrate the techniques of representa- 
tion used throughout the series. The last painting depicts the story of 
how Garmathon, the queen of Egypt, moved Isis to pity over the 
death of her son. Isis sent Osiris to fetch him from the Underworld, 
but Garmathon was so terrified at the barking of Cerberus that she 
sought help from Isis. The goddess subsequently had her bathe in her 
lavatoire, whose property was to remove all fear. The description for 
the painting is as follows: 

Faudroit peindre a I'entree d'un enfer Poetique (tel comme 
Tont descrit Virgile et les autres Poetes) Osiris, qui seroit vestu 
d'une robe longue blanche, et a I'entour de sa teste quelques 
rayons Solaires: car les Egyptiens I'estimoient estre le Soleil. II 
seroit assez pres de Cerberus, chien a trois testes, selon la vul- 
gaire description, represente aboyant a gueule ouverte. En un 
autre endroit seroit represente un temple d'Isis, qui se pour- 
roit faire par une perspective a ligne visuale de front, et basses 
diagonales de la maison d'Anet, pourveu que le peintre adjous- 
tast a la porte quelques testes de lyons ayans les gueules ouver- 
tes, selon la superstition des Egyptiens. Et ainsi, par la porte se 
pourroit voir le dedans d'une partie du temple, sur le pave 
duquel seroit escrit cecy, Meum peplum nullus mortalium 
retexit, ou en Grec, Tov e/xov TeirXov ovSeCg Toiv dvrjfcSv 
cxTreKdXvxpev: car ceste inscription est tiree de ce qui estoit 
escrit sur le pave du Temple d'Isis en Egypte. Aupres du 
Temple se verroit un Lavatoire, tel que celuy mesme d'Anet, 
dedans lequel Garmathon Royne Egyptienne descendroit, 
guidee par Isis, vestue d'une longue robe comme celle d' Osiris: 
excepte qu'elle seroit peinte de diverses couleurs, comme 
blanc, bleu, rouge, et sur tout de noir, selon qu'elle est descrite 
par les anciens: Je suis toutesfois d'avis (et me semble I'avoir 
leu en bon auteur) qu'Isis se peut vestir de couleur blanche, et 
d'une noire plus courte en fa^on de surpelis qui seroit sur la 
blanche. Elle doit avoir au haut du front, un croissant: Car Isis 
represente la Lune, comme Osiris represente le Soleil. 

(Pontus de Tyard, CEuvres poetiques completes, 276-77) 

Douze Fables de fleuves ou fontaines de Pontus de Tyard," Reforme, Humanisme, 
Renaissance 18 (1984), 12-22. 

Introduction 15 

(In the entrance of a poetic vision of hell [such as that de- 
scribed by Virgil and the other poets], Osiris should be paint- 
ed, dressed in a long white robe, with some rays of sun 
around his head: for the Egyptians thought he was the Sun. 
He would be standing quite close to Cerberus, a three-headed 
dog, according to the general description, shown barking, with 
open jaws. In another spot, there would be a representation of 
a temple of Isis, which could be done by means of a line per- 
spective seen from the front, with low diagonals, of the cha- 
teau d'Anet, provided that the painter added to the door a few 
lions' heads with open jaws, in accordance with the supersti- 
tion of the Egyptians. In this way there could be seen through 
the door the inside of part of the temple, on whose floor 
would be written: Meum peplum nullus mortalium retexit, or 
in Greek Tov e'fiov TreirXov ovSeic; t(jSv dvrjToSv dTreKakuypev 
["No mortal has uncovered my robe"]: for this inscription is 
taken from what was written on the floor of the Temple of 
Isis in Egypt. Close by to the Temple would be seen a bath, 
such as the one at Anet, into which would be stepping Garma- 
thon, queen of Egypt, led by Isis, wearing a long robe like 
that of Osiris; except that it would be painted in various 
colors, such as white, blue, red, and especially black, according 
to the ancients' description of it. Nevertheless, I believe [and 
I think I have read it somewhere in a good author] that Isis 
may be dressed in a white robe, and in a shorter black one, 
like a surplice over the white. On the top of her forehead she 
must have a crescent moon: for Isis stands for the Moon, just 
as Osiris stands for the Sun.) 

We can make a number of useful observations about this description. 
In the first place, we notice the use of different sections of the paint- 
ing to represent events taking place at different times: one section 
showing Osiris in the Underworld, another showing the bath of Isis 
removing Garmathon's fears. This narrative technique was frequently 
used by mannerist painters in France before giving way to a stricter 
sense of unity of aaion in the seventeenth century. ^° Secondly, we 

^ On this subject, see Josiane Rieu, "La Temporalisation de I'espace dans la 
peinture fran^aise du seizieme siecle," in Le Pay sage a la Renaissance, edited by 


can see the use of symbols to suggest ideas: the rays of hght around 
Osiris's head mark the god's connection with the sun; Isis has a cres- 
cent moon on her head to show her connection with the moon. Fi- 
nally, we notice the deliberate linking of the story with the owner of 
the chateau: the temple of Isis looks like the entrance of the chateau 
d'Anet; the lavatoire resembles the fountain at Anet; and Isis, con- 
trary to traditional descriptions, is dressed in black and white, the 
colors of Diane de Poitiers, with the crescent moon emphasizing the 
connection with the goddess Diana. No doubt Osiris, the sun-god, 
stands for Henry II. The story, like many of the other stories in this 
series of paintings, is taken from Plutarch's Defluviis (16. 1. 308), an 
indication of the abstruse nature of many of the sources for manner- 
ist painting. 

Thematic unity is provided, of course, by the presence of water in 
all the pictures; but to return to the Galerie Francois P^ the question 
of the overall unity of the program, both formal and thematic, re- 
mains. It is a problem that W. McAllister Johnson has considered on 
several occasions.^^ His conclusion is that while the deviser of the 
scheme may have had an overall thematic pattern in mind, arranged 
in concentric circles, and while there are formal patterns, based on 
the alternation of painted and stucco cartouches and wings which 
form something like four triptychs, no single mode of proceeding 
around the gallery could provide spectators with a view which would 
enable them fully to appreciate this unity in its entirety: 

We know that the Mannerists of the 16th century lavished 
much attention upon iconographic detail in their festivals and 
triumphal entries that could never be appreciated at a distance, 
or by the majority of people viewing it. When extrapolated 
into a decorated gallery, analogy is easily drawn with the tri- 
umphal entry: its route, its stations and decors are in deter- 
minated places, with even the monarch experiencing them 
only partially. But they exist in a determined sequence, with 
precise didactic elements and details inserted upon occasion. 

Yves Giraud (Fribourg: Editions Universitaires Fribourg Suisse, 1988), 297-310. 

'* His final thoughts are in "Once More the Galerie Francois P' at Fontaine- 
bleau," GBA 103 (1984), 127-44. 

Introduction 17 

whether or not their place in a larger scheme is immediately 

The complex formal unity, of course, preceded any thematic 
unity, since we know that the inquadrature were completed before 
the frescoes. This unity works in various ways (see Appendix 1). 
There is, for example, complete symmetry on the north-south axis 
of the gallery with respect to the medium of the volets and the car- 
touches (stucco or paint) . And there is symmetry with respect to the 
volets (but not the cartouches) on the east-west axis, emphasized by 
the crossbeams linking the bays in pairs. Finally, there is symmetry 
of the two outer bays in each group of three around the central bays 
(II and VI) with respect to cartouches and volets. This would suggest 
several ways of reading the frescoes in the gallery: individually, or in 
groups of two (the facing pairs, linked by the crossbeams), three (the 
"triptychs" formed in each corner of the gallery), four (the three 
groups of four bays in the same orbit of concentric circles), or six. 

As far as the thematic unity of the programme is concerned, 
Franfoise Joukovsky proposes that, in addition to McAllister John- 
son's idea of concentric circles, we should add the notion that the 
progress through the gallery represents a kind of cursus vitae of the 
prince, a common theme in ancient funerary art.^^ Although the 
modern visitor to Fontainebleau moves through the gallery from 
west to east, the opposite was true in the sixteenth century, as Andre 
Chastel indicated.^'* In fact, the orientation of the gallery and the 
arrangement of the frescoes may in themselves be significant. The 
progress from east to west, from the rising to the setting sun, is an 
obvious parallel to the course of life from birth to death. 

How far can such considerations on the decorative programs of 
Renaissance chateaux be applied to reading Ronsard's Hymnes? First 
of all, on the level of individual scenes described in Ronsard, it 
should not be surprising to see the telescoping of events, as in the 
designs for the paintings at the chateau d'Anet. The allusiveness of 
Ronsard's poetry is well-established, so we should be careful not to 
dismiss any descriptive elements that make up his scenes as being gra- 

" McAllister Johnson, 132. 

" See Studi francesi 91 (1987): 13. 

^ La Galerie Frangois F" au chateau de Fontainebleau, 143. 


tuitously decorative. By looking at his narrative and descriptive 
scenes as we should a painting, we may get closer to the interpreta- 
tion intended by the poet. Colors, flowers, different kinds of fruit, 
the presence of birds and animals, allusions to natural or mythologi- 
cal events may all have a significance which goes beyond the purely 
literal meaning, but to which Ronsard does not overtly draw atten- 

Secondly, Ronsard makes frequent use of framing devices in his 
poetry, or includes little vignettes, in much the same way as Rosso 
uses the inquadrature at Fontainebleau to present related themes. 
Again, we should be wary of dismissing these details as simply decor- 
ative, or treating them separately from the central descriptions. 
Rather, we should be looking for parallels and extensions of the main 
theme in the framing devices and ecphrases. 

Finally, as far as any overall program is concerned, we should 
bear in mind the architecture not only of individual hymns, but of 
entire collections of poems, as first published by Ronsard and as sub- 
sequently rearranged by him. Formal and thematic considerations 
clearly determined the order of hymns in any given collection, or 
even the later omission of some pieces. There is certainly evidence to 
suggest that symmetry, often of a complex nature, was one of these 
considerations, whether or not it was obvious to the reader. More- 
over, such notions of symmetry can also be seen at work within indi- 
vidual poems. 

However, as we have already observed, both painting and poetry 
inherited and adapted theoretical notions which were originally 
designed for the study of rhetoric. In the course of the next chapter, 
we shall consider the three divisions of rhetoric which most concern 
poetry and the visual arts — inventio, dispositio, and elocutio — in order 
to determine Ronsard's own attitudes and practice. 

Chapter 2 

The Theoretical Background 

Ceuz qui ont dit que la vertu et les ars sourdoient d'une 
mesme source, c'est a dire, de ce profond abyme celeste ou est 
la divinite, ont bien entendu que la felicite de congnoistre les 
choses, et la perfection de les bien faire, avoient tout vin et 
mesme effet. 

(Thomas Sebillet, y4?t/>oeti^«eyrv«nfO)'5)^ 

®he Pleiade did not introduce into France the Neo-Platonic 
conception of poetry which they exploited so much in order 
to give prestige to their endeavors. For example, the neo- 
Latin poet Salmon Macrin, writing around 1530 of the joys of the 
countryside, alluded to divine inspiration:^ 

Et si coUibuit quid meditarier, 

nusquam est aura serenior, 
oestro nusquam animos ualdius entheo 

Nysaeusque bicorniger 
insignisque chely Delius incitant. 

{Carminum liber primus, 20. 26-30) 

(And if the fancy has come to consider writing some poem, 
nowhere else does the breeze bring fairer weather, nowhere 
else with greater power does the twin-horned Nysaean [Bac- 

^ References are taken from the 1932 edition by Felix Gaiffe. 

^ See Le Livre des EpithaUmes (1^28-1531), Les Odes de 1530 (Limes I & II), edited 
by Georges Soubeille (Toulouse: Association des Publications de I'Universite de 
Toulouse-Le Mirail, 1978). 


chus] and the Delian famous for his lyre [Apollo] goad hearts 
with inspired madness.) 

Maurice Sceve and the other poets of the Ecole lyonnaise are well- 
known as early vernacular exponents of Neo-Platonism, while 
Thomas Sebillet in 1548, just one year before the publication of the 
Deffence et illustration de la langue frangoyse, emphasizes the divine 
origins of poetry in the first chapter of his Art poetique frangoys. 
Ronsard appears to see in Neo-Platonism a real explanation of the 
nature of poetry, particularly in the areas of inventio and disposition 
and he would return to a consideration of Neo-Platonic poetic 
theory many times in his career. In this chapter, we shall take a 
closer look at his ideas concerning poetic theory in order to assess 
their applicability to his own compositions, and in particular to 
grand poetry, including the Hymnes.^ 


In rhetorical terms, inventio is the division of speech concerned with 
the discovery of the ideas and material which make up the subject 
which the speaker or writer is treating. It was a small step to apply 
this term in the visual arts to the discovery of material for the scene 
or events which made up an individual painting or series of paint- 
ings. Frequently, as we have already seen, this was not the function 
of the artist who actually executed the work, but of a poet or hu- 
manist who was better acquainted with classical literature and myth- 

There were, however, different theories concerning the nature of 
inventio. In the Ion, Plato implies that it is only when possessed by 
the madness of the Muses that a poet can compose authentic poetry: 

All good epic poets produce all their beautiful poems not by 
art but because they are inspired and possessed. So too with 

good lyric poets This is why god takes away their senses 

and uses them as servants, as he does divine prophets and 

' Further consideration of the topics dealt with in this chapter may be found in 
Grahame Castor, Pleiade Poetics: A Study in Sixteenth-Century Thought and Terminol- 
ogy (Cambridge: Cambric^e University Press, 1964), and Alex Gordon, Ronsard et 
la rhetorique (Geneva: Droz, 1970). 

The Theoretical Background 21 

seers, so that we who hear may realize that it is not these per- 
sons, whose reason has left them, who are the speakers of such 
valuable words, but god who speaks and expresses himself to 
us through them/ {Ion 533-34) 

Inventio for Plato, therefore, is not a conscious search, but rather the 
reception of material from outside sources. Horace, however, has a 
rather different view in the Ars poetica, lines 309-11: 

scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons. 
rem tibi Socraticae poterunt ostendere chartae, 
verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur. 

(Wisdom is the beginning and source of correct writing. So- 
cratic books will be able to show you your material, and once 
the material is provided, the words will follow quite readily.) 

In this case, we are dealing with inventio based upon learning rather 
than inspiration. In the area of the visual arts, Alberti, generally con- 
sidered to be the first modern art theoretician, recommends painters 
to frequent writers in order to make use of their ideas: 

Therefore I advise that each painter should make himself 
familiar with poets, rhetoricians, and others equally well 
learned in letters. They will give new inventions or at least aid 
in beautifully composing the istoria through which the painter 
will surely acquire much praise and renown in his painting.^ 

As far as the Pleiade was concerned, the Platonic doctrine of poetic 
inspiration was an important element in the vindication of their 
poetry, since it provided the truly inspired poet with not only lit- 
erary but also social credentials. However, not all poetry was consid- 
ered to be of equal importance, and Ronsard clearly distinguished in 
his own mind between different levels of poetry and between differ- 
ent kinds of poets. In his Ode a Michel de I'Hospital (L. III. 118-63), 
first published in 1552, he divides the ancient poets into three main 
categories: the "Poetes divins" (Eumolpus, Musaeus, Orpheus, 

^ Cited from the translation in Ancient Literary Criticism, 43. 
* Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, translated by John R. Spencer (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), 91. 


Hesiod, Linus, and Homer); the "vieux Poetes humains" (for exam- 
ple, Aratus, Theocritus, ApoUonius of Rhodes, Lycophron); and "les 
prophettes Romains" (no examples given, but Virgil would be the 
foremost of this category). What principally marks the difference 
between these groups is the degree of inspiration to which they can 
lay claim. Alluding, perhaps, to Horace's distinction between ars and 
natura,^ Ronsard claims that the first group is divine 

d'autant que la nature 
Sans art librement exprimoient. 
Sans art leur nayve escripture 
Par la fureur ilz animoyent. (lines 549-52) 

(in as much as, without art, they freely expressed nature, with- 
out art, they brought alive their natural style of writing 
through divine frenzy.) 

In other words, they were truly inspired by the Muses and other 
"Demons" so that they could reveal to men "les secretz des Dieux" 
(line 560). 

The second group of poets could not rely on their own genius, 
their natura, to guide them, but instead called upon the technique 
and learning which they had acquired and developed (their ars) in 
order to write their verse: 

Par un art melancolique 

Trahissoyent avec grand soing 

Leurs vers, esloignez bien loing 

De la saincte ardeur antique. (lines 575-78) 

(With melancholic art, they transmitted their verse with great 
care, far removed from the ancient holy fervency.) 

Even here, however, there is an element of predestination. Men are 
not "melancoliques" by chance, but because they were born under 
the influence of Saturn, as Ronsard indicates in Les Daimons (L. VIII. 
125. 195): "Ceux de Saturne font I'homme melancholique" ("[The 
demons] associated with Saturn render man melancholy"). As a 

' For a discussion of the background to this question in Horace, see C. O. 
Brink, Horace on Poetry, 394-400. 

The Theoretical Background 23 

result, their melancholy is a noble affliction that leads to artistic crea- 
tivity/ These poets include writers whom Ronsard admired and imi- 
tated. However, since they were denied the direct divine inspiration 
of the first generation of poets, they could only sing of earthly or 
physical things. The third group, the "prophettes Romains," received 
some inspiration from the Muses, here referred to as "leur grace," 
which acted upon them "plus lentement," however, than had been 
the case with the "Poetes divins." 

More than a decade later, in 1565, Ronsard made a similar tripar- 
tite division of the ancient poets in the Abbrege de I'art poetique fran- 
gois. The first group of divine poets is virtually the same (Musaeus is 
omitted from the list), and they are seen as aaing as intermediaries 
for "les Oracles, Prophetes, Devins, Sybilles, Interpretes de songes." 
He then goes on to write of the second group of poets, this time giv- 
ing more emphasis to their reliance on ars: 

Long temps apres eulx sont venuz, d'un mesme pais, les se- 
conds poetes que j'appelle humains, pour estre plus enflez 
d'artifice & labeur que de divinite. (L. XIV. 5. 31-34) 

(Long after them came, from the same country, the second 
group of poets whom I call human, because they were more 
inspired with workmanship and toil than with divinity.) 

Of the third group, the Latin poets, he writes: 

A I'exemple de ceux cy [i.e., les seconds poetes], les poetes 
Romains ont foisonne en telle fourmiliere, qu'ilz ont apporte 
aux librairies plus de charge que d'honneur, excepte cinq ou 
six desquelz la doctrine, accompagnee d'un parfait artifice, m'a 
tousjours tire en admiration. (L. XIV. 5. 34-39) 

(Like the latter, the Roman poets proliferated in such swarms 
that they brought more weight than honor to the bookshops, 
except for five or six whose learning, coupled with perfect 
workmanship, has always caused me to wonder.) 

In the Ode a Michel de I'Hospital, Ronsard seems only to be referring 

^ See R. Klibansky, E. Panofsky, and F. Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in 
the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion, and Art (London: Nelson, 1964). 


to the five or six exceptions when he writes about the "prophettes 
Romains," but clearly, he believes that ars has taken over so com- 
pletely from natura in the others that they are completely lacking in 

Broadly speaking, therefore, Ronsard distinguishes three kinds of 
poetry: divinely inspired poetry, which deals with metaphysical 
truths; intellectually inspired poetry, which teaches us about the 
world in which we live; and uninspired poetry, which copies others 
and teaches nothing. 

Later on, in the section entitled De I'invention, he seems to reaf- 
firm this tripartite division, with Platonic and Aristotelian theories 
of imitation rubbing shoulders without any apparent conflict in his 

L'invention n'est autre chose que le bon naturel d'une imj^i- 
nation concevant les Idees & formes de toutes choses qui se 
peuvent imaginer tant celestes que terrestres, animees ou inan- 
imes [sic], pour apres les representer, descrire & imiter: car 
tout ainsi que le but de I'orateur est de persuader, ainsi celuy 
du Poete est d'imiter, inventer, & representer les choses qui 
sont, qui peuvent estre, ou que les anciens ont estime comme 
veritables. , . . Quand je te dy que tu inventes choses belles & 
grandes, je n'entends toutesfois ces inventions fantasticques et 
melencoliques, qui ne se rapportent non plus I'une a Tautre 
que les songes entrecoupez d'un frenetique, ou de quelque 
patient extremement tourmente de la fievre, a I'imagination 
duquel, pour estre blessee, se representent mille formes mon- 
strueuses sans ordre ny liayson. 

(L. XIV. 12-13. 171-79, 183-90) 

(Inventio is nothing other than the natural property of the 
individual imagination, conceiving the ideas and forms of 
everything which can be imagined, both heavenly and earthly, 
animate or inanimate, in order subsequently to represent, 
describe, and imitate them. For just as the aim of the orator is 
to persuade, so that of the poet is to imitate, invent, and repre- 
sent those things which are, which may be, or which the 
ancients thought to be true. . . . When I tell you to invent 
beautiful and grand things, I do not, however, mean those 
fantastical and melancholy inventions which are no more self- 

The Theoretical Background 25 

consistent than the interrupted dreams of a madman, or of 
some patient who is extremely racked with fever, to whose 
imagination, because it is damaged, there appear a thousand 
monstrous shapes, without any order or connection.) 

The allusion to "les Idees & formes de toutes choses . . . tant celestes 
que terrestres" clearly brings to mind the Platonic theory of inspired 
imitation, while, on the other hand, the idea that "le but . . . du 
Poete est d'imiter, inventer, & representer les choses qui sont, qui 
peuvent estre, ou que les anciens ont estime comme veritables" is 
more Aristotelian.* The rejection of "inventions fantasticques et mel- 
encholiques" would appear to be a way of coming to terms with Pla- 
to's condemnation of poetry in the Republic: there is a difference be- 
tween inspired intuition and the sick imaginings of a delirious patient. 
Ronsard was not, of course, the first person to attempt to catego- 
rize poets and poetry after Plato's exclusion of the poet from his 
ideal republic had brought the issue of the status of poetry to a head: 
was the poet able to teach men anything, or, like the painter repre- 
senting a bed, was he simply moving further away from truth, from 
the ideal form of things.^' In particular, the standing of Homer as 
the source of Greek religious beliefs was a question of prime impor- 
tance. While Aristotle in the Poetics could vindicate poetry on the 
purely intellectual grounds that the depiction of probable events has 
a more exemplary, and therefore morally improving, function than 
the reporting of actual events, *° this defense was not enough for all 
champions of poetry, especially the Neo-Platonists. Dismayed by the 
apparent contradiction in Plato between his acceptance of the notion 
of divine inspiration through the poetic mania and his rejection of 
poets as morally corrupting, they sought to resolve the problem by 
showing that Plato was talking about different categories of poetry at 
different times. 

' See in particular Aristotle's section in the Poetics on verisimilitude, 1451a-b 
{Ancient Literary Criticism, 102): "The poet's job is saying not what did happen but 
the sort of thing that would happen, that is, what can happen in a strictly probable 
or necessary sequence." The similarity with Aristotle is perhaps more apparent in 
the version used after 1567: "les choses qui sont ou qui peuvent estre vraisemblables" 
(my itahcs). 

' For Plato's discussion, see in particular Republic 10. 
*° Aristotle, Poetics 1451b. 


It is perhaps the fifth-century Neo-Platonist, Proclus, who pro- 
duces the most complete defense of poetry, Homer, and Plato in 
essay 6 of his commentary In Rempublicam}^ Although this work 
seems only to have been published in extenso once in the sixteenth 
century (Bale, Grynaeus, 1534), Conrad Gesner translated and pub- 
lished the sixth essay in 1542, under the title Ex commentariis Prodi 
Lycii, philosophi Platonici in lihros Platonis de Repub. apologiae quae- 
dam pro Homero, &fabularum aliquot enarrationes (Zurich, Froscho- 
verus). It is no doubt as a result of this edition that Proclus's ideas 
received a wider audience. ^^ 

Rather than accepting the notion that Plato's views on poetry may 
have evolved with the passage of time, Proclus manages to harmonize 
the master's various writings on the subject (particularly in the Republic, 
the Ion, the Laws, and the Phaedrus); he distinguishes four types of 
poetry (three main types of which the third type is subdivided) :^^ 

(a) inspired poetry {evdeoQ 7rotT/rt/cr/) 

(b) didactic poetry, which derives from the intellectual faculties 

{vovQ Km (f)p6vr\aLQ) 

(c) imitative poetry (jjufir^nKri) which attempts to copy life cor- 

rectly {to eLKOLOTLKOv) OT which uses the imagination to rep- 
resent an illusory appearance of reality {to 4>avTOiaTLK6v) . 

It is only this final category, poetry that relies on illusory imitation, 
that Plato is condemning in the Republic, argues Proclus. ^"^ 

Naturally, if there are four kinds of poetry, four different ap- 
proaches to them are necessary. "Fantastic" mimetic poetry (which 
for Proclus includes tragedy) appeals principally to the emotions and 

" The work is available in a French translation by A. J. Festugiere, Commen- 
taire sur la Republique, 3 vols. (Paris: Vrin, 1970). See also Anne D. R. Sheppard, 
Studies on the 5th and 6th Essays of Proclus' Commentary on the Republic, Hyponine- 
mata 61 (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1980), and Robert Lamberton, 
Homer the Theologian: Neoplatonist Allegorical Reading and the Growth of the Epic 
Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), chap. 5, 162-232. 

^ On the dissemination and influence of Proclus in the sixteenth century, see 
my article, "Conrad Gesner et le fabuleux manteau," BHR 47 (1985): 305-20. 

^^ In Rempublicam 6. 177ff. (Festugiere edition, 197-213). For a useful discussion 
of this section, see Lamberton, Homer the Theologian, 188-97. 

" 6. 196-99 (Festugiere, 214-16). Proclus no doubt derives these two categories 
of mimetic poetry from Plato's Sophist, 235d-236c. 

The Theoretical Background 27 

seeks to persuade by emotional means {\l/vxoiyo)yLa). Thus, it is to be 
avoided. "Eikastic" (or "image-making") mimetic poetry, on the other 
hand, aims at an accurate representation of reality, and appeals to our 
sense perceptions. While not being positively harmful, it is inferior 
to the other two kinds of poetry. 

Didactic poetry appeals to the mind and teaches us about both 
natural phenomena, in as far as they can be determined by the intel- 
lect, and also ethical matters. This kind of poetry may be understood 
by anyone, and is clearly beneficial to the reader. 

Finally, inspired poetry is the highest form, since in order for a 
poet to write it, he has to receive the poetic mania to enable him to 
learn things by supra-rational means. Thus, he can expound to men 
eternal truths which otherwise would remain hidden. However, 
unlike the knowledge imparted by didactic poetry, the truths con- 
veyed by inspired poetry will be in allegorical form, with the result 
that not everyone will be able to interpret them. Inspired poetry is 
therefore not suitable for everyone to read, and the examples which 
Proclus cites in Homer— the adultery of Ares and Aphrodite {Odyssey 
8. 266-366) and the seduction of Zeus on Mount Ida (Iliad 14. 153- 
351) — were superficially amongst the most shocking of the Homeric 

Proclus's remarks on poetry are not always explicit or unequivo- 
cal, and scholars still disagree about his exaa meaning. But clearly, 
there is more than a little overlap between this Neo-Platonic account 
of poetry and the views expressed by Ronsard in the Ode a Michel de 
I'Hospital and the Abbrege de I'art poetique frangois. 

Despite being in holy orders, Ronsard would have had few 
qualms about accepting these theories concerning inspired poetry. ^^ 
However, any doubts about their orthodoxy would have been dis- 
pelled by no less an authority than St. Augustine, himself an avid 
reader of Neo-Platonic writers. It is clearly he who provides Ronsard 
with some of his ideas about the divine poets. In the City of God 18. 

*' Pontus de Tyard, of course, was another member of the Pleiade who had no 
problems in reconciling Neo-Platonism with Christianity, and his beliefs did not 
prevent his appointment by the ecclesiastical authorities as bishop of Chalon-sur- 
Saone in 1578. Similarly, Sebillet speaks of Moses, David, Solomon, Jeremiah and 
other Old Testament prophets in the same breath as ancient Greek prophets or 
poets such as Orpheus and Homer {Art poetique, 11-13). 


37, he writes: "Only, therefore, the theological poets, Orpheus, 
Linus, Musaeus, and the others (if there were any more) were before 
our canonical prophets. But they were not more ancient than our 
true divine Moses, who taught them one true God "^^ The slight- 
ly more disparaging comments that Augustine makes in 18.14 about 
these poets could simply be put down to the allegorical and mystical 
nature of their writings. 

Ronsard recognizes the fact that his convenient historical divi- 
sions are not the final word on the subject. He himself is an inspired 
poet, and without the poetic fureur, he can only write pedestrian 
verse. In the poem addressed A Monsieur de Belot (L. XV. 15-38), first 
published in 1569, he speaks in line 55 of the four Platonic frenzies 
("Bacchus, Amour, les Muses, ApoUon"), and writes, in lines 64-66, 
that without them: 

Je bee en vain, & mon Esprit attend 
Tantost six mois, tantost un an, sans faire 
Vers qui me puisse ou plaire ou satisfaire. ^^ 

(I gape in vain, and my spirit waits, sometimes six months, 
sometimes a year, without writing a line capable of pleasing or 
satisfying me.) 

In order to write inspired poetry, to become "& poete & prophette" 
(line 58), he must be patient: 

J'attends venir (certes je n'en ments point) 
Cette fureur qui la Sybile espoint: 
Mais aussi tost que par long intervalle 
Dedans mon coeur du Ciel elle devalle, 
Colere, ardent, furieux, agite, 
Je tramble tout soubz la divinite. (lines 67-72) 

(I await the arrival [certainly I am not lying] of that frenzy which 
goads the Sibyl; but as soon as, after a long break, it descends 
from heaven into my heart, chafing, burning, raging, stirred up, 
I tremble aU over beneath the effect of the divinity.) 

'* St. Augustine, The City of God, translated by John Healey, edited by R. V. G. 
Tasker, 2 vols. (London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1945), 2: 211-12. 
^^ Cf. also Ronsard's Elegie au roi (L. XVm. 120). 

The Theoretical Background 29 

He proceeds with his composition Hke an unstoppable stream. 

Elle me dure ou le cours d'un Soleil, 
Quelquefois deux, quelquefois trois, puis morte 
Elle languist en moy de telle sorte 
Que faict la fleur languissant pour un temps, 
Qui plus gaillarde aparoist au printemps. 
Par son declin prenant force & croissance, 
Et de sa mort une longue naissance. 

Et lors du Ciel je devalle en la terre. 
Ah! & en lieu de vivre entre les Dieux, 
Je deviens homme a moy-mesme odieux. 

Mais quand du tout cet ardeur se retire, 
Je ne scaurois ny penser ny redire 
Les vers escrits, & ne m'en souvient plus: 
Je ne suis rien qu'un corps mort & perclus 
De qui Tame est autrepart envolee, 
Laissant son hoste aussy froid que gelee. . . . 

(lines 88-94, 106-14) 

(It lasts either a single course of the sun, sometimes two, some- 
times three, then dying it languishes in me just like the flower 
which languishes for a time, but which appears more full of 
life in the springtime, drawing strength and growth from its 
decline, and a long birth from its death. . . . And then I de- 
scend from heaven to earth, oh! and instead of living amongst 
the gods, I become a man, hateful to myself. But when this 
burning completely withdraws, I can neither conceive nor 
repeat the lines I have written, and have no recollection of 
them. I am no more than a dead, benumbed body, whose soul 
has flown elsewhere, leaving its host as cold as frost ) 

Clearly, then, Ronsard at times feels that his soul is able to escape its 
corporeal prison through some kind of divine furor, and that the 
poetry he composes as a result of this, whether he understands it or 
not, embodies divine truths. 

It follows from this that, just as different approaches are necessary 
in considering the poetry of the ancients, so too Ronsard's poetry 


will have to be interpreted in different ways, according to whether or 
not he believed it to be divinely inspired. Indeed, Proclus discerned 
in Homer all four types of poetry, but with a preponderance of 
inspired poetry. However, since the two types of imitative poetry, 
by definition, were not deemed to embody any transcendent mean- 
ing, it was inspired poetry and didactic poetry which had to be most 
carefully differentiated, since both were expressing things in a non-lit- 
eral way, usually through the medium of myth and fable. 

Proclus, following Plato, recognizes two different kinds of fable: 
philosophical myths, suitable for the education of the young; and di- 
vinely-inspired myths, often of a superficially shocking nature, suit- 
able only for those who are well-educated and in search of mystic 
truths.^* Of the first kind would be Plato's own myths, for example 
that of the cavern in book 7 of the Republic, while the majority of 
the more shocking Homeric myths would be of the second type. In 
fact, as we have noted, it is the shocking nature of many of these 
stories which alerts us to their mystical meaning. 

These two categories of fable as used in poetry correspond closely 
to Gombrich's Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic traditions of symbolism 
in the visual arts, and in fact, the various divisions and subdivisions 
of poetry established by Proclus apply neatly to French Renaissance 
art. To take the various categories, we can see that "image-making" 
mimetic art is an appropriate description of the fine portraits pro- 
duced in this period, while fantastic or illusionistic mimetic art might 
be represented by the numerous examples of bizarre, decorative faces 
and figures which were so popular at this time.^' Didactic art is also 
common, with many allegorical works in the Aristotelian tradition 
celebrating members of the royal household. For example, the Fon- 
tainebleau fresco of an elephant representing Francis I suggests 
implicitly various qualities in the king: strength, fidelity, patience, 

" Proclus 6. 76ff. (Festugiere, 94-102). 

'' Examples from Fontainebleau may be found in the works of the supposed 
Juste de Juste, reproduced in Henri Zerner, The School of Fontainebleau, J. 1-17. In 
Italy, illusionistic mimetic art is represented by the works of Arcimboldo. Fernand 
Hallyn comments on his fantastic landscapes and G. Comanini's discussion of them, 
based on Plato's eikastic/ fantastic distinction mentioned above (n. 14), in his paper 
"Le Paysage anthropomorphe," in Le Paysage a la Renaissance, 43-54, especially 
48-51. Comanini's discussion is in // Figino, and is available in P. Barocchi, Tratatti 
d'arte del cinquecento, vol. 3 (Bari: Laterza, 1962). 

The Theoretical Background 31 

wisdom, piety, etc. Finally, there is also no lack of the more ab- 
struse, apparently shocking allegory associated with inspired poetry, 
including a number of portrayals of the adultery of Mars and Venus. 
We shall largely concentrate on these last two types of art in this 

Both allegorical traditions were at work in the visual arts and 
poetry before Ronsard began work on his own compositions. How- 
ever, although the Neo-Platonic tradition was a relatively new one in 
French poetry, its place in the visual arts had been firmly established 
by the Italian painters who had been persuaded by Francis I to work 
for the French court, and there is evidence in Ronsard's early poems 
that he was both impressed and influenced by them. 

Inventio, however, was only one element of artistic creation 
affected by Neo-Platonism, and the second division of rhetoric, dispo- 
sitio, with its inherent idea of order and harmony, would also be 
strongly tinged with Neo-Platonic tones in the Renaissance. 


DispositiOy the structuring or orderly arrangement of a work of art, 
can be seen to function on two levels. On one level, we are con- 
cerned with the structure of an individual work of art: a poem, a 
painting, for example. On the other level, we are concerned with the 
overall structure of a collection of individual works of art: a sonnet 
sequence, a cycle of frescoes, etc. Parallels between poetry and the 
visual arts clearly exist in this area, and we have noted the suggestion 
that structure can be helpful in our understanding of the iconography 
of the Galerie Francois P^ In this section we shall consider how a 
proper understanding of dispositio can suggest ways of reading a 
poem or a collection of poems. 

Ronsard scholars have, of course, recognized structural organiza- 
tion along architectural principles in Ronsard's works. Malcolm 
Quainton and Doranne Fenoaltea have shown the way in which 
important structural devices help to shape individual poems: circular- 
ity as a closural device in the sonnets, as perceived by Malcolm 
Quainton, emboitement and imbrication (ring patterns and parallel 
structures) in the Odes, illustrated by Doranne Fenoaltea. In the case 
of books of poems, too, Doranne Fenoaltea sees both these processes 
at work in the shaping of a collection, while Jean Ceard and Louis 


Terreaux have investigated the dispositio of books of hymns, odes, 
and the Second Livre des Amours}^ Terreaux, referring to the latter, 
sees architectural principles at work: 

The relationship between Ronsard's art and music is often 
mentioned. The plastic arts are less frequently alluded to. 
However, the poet is building a temple to Marie. . . . This 
attention to the arrangement of the architectural elements is 
again seen in the care taken by the reviser in erecting a finely- 
proportioned literary edifice.^^ 

Ronsard himself had no doubts as to the importance of structure 
in poetry. In his Ahbrege de I'art poetique frangois, he wrote: 

Tout ainsi que I'invention despend d'une gentille nature d'es- 
prit, ainsi la disposition despend de la belle invention, laquelle 
consiste en une elegante et parfaicte collocation & ordre des 
choses inventees, & ne permet que ce qui appartient a un lieu 
soit mis en I'autre, mais se gouvernant par artifice, estude & 
labeur, ajance & ordonne dextrement toutes choses a son 
poinct. (L. XIV. 14. 196-202) 

Qust as inventio depends on nobility of spirit, so dispositio de- 
pends on fine invention, which consists of an elegant and per- 
fect arrangement and ordering of invented things, and does 
not allow what belongs in one place to be put elewhere, but 
being directed by craftsmanship, study, and toil, it skilfully 
accommodates and disposes everything in its right place.) 

We can see this principle at work in his earliest compositions. For 
example, in the 1549 ode Des Peintures contenues dedans un tableau 

^° Malcolm Quainton, "Mythological Reference, Cirailarity, and Closure in 
Ronsard's Amours de Cassandre," in Ronsard in Cambridge, 67-80; Doranne Fenoal- 
tea, "Les Modes d'organisation des Odes de 1550," in Ronsard en son IV' centenaire: 
L'Art de poesie, 91-100, and Du Palais au jardin: ['architecture des Odes de Ronsard, 
THR 241 (Geneva: Droz, 1990); Jean Ceard, "La Disposition des livres des Hymnes 
de Ronsard," Cahiers Textuel 34/44, 1 (1985), 83-99, and "D'une ode a I'autre: la 
disposition des livres des Odes," in Ronsard: CoUoque de Neuchatel, ed. Andre 
Gendre (Neuchatel: Faculte des Lettres Neuchatel, 1987), \79-91; and Louis 
Terreaux, "Sur I'organisation du Second Livre des Amours," in Ronsard in Cam- 
bridge, 81-95. 

^' Ronsard in Cambridge, 92. 

The Theoretical Background 33 

(L. I. 259-64), Ronsard describes a composite painting which bears a 
strong resemblance in its structure to the individual bays in the Gale- 
rie Francois V\ but which probably also owes something to the 
engravings which accompanied early Renaissance editions of Virgil 
and Ovid (see fig. 6).^^ 

Occupying probably the center of the "tableau" we have a picture 
of Vulcan's forge in the depths of Mount Etna, a popular subject for 
Fontainebleau artists (cf, fig. 4): 

Ou la grand bande renfrognee 

Des Cyclopes laborieus, 

Est a la forge embesongnee. 

Qui d'un effort industrieus 
Haste un tonnerre, armure pour la destre 
De ce grand Dieu, a le ruer adestre. 

Trois, sur I'enclume gemissante 

D'ordre egal le vont martelant, 

Et d'une tenaille pinfante 

Tournent I'ouvrage estincelant: 
Vous les diriez qu'ils ahanent & suent 
Tant obstines leur labeur continuent. 

Les autres, deus soufflets entonnent 
Lesquels en leurs ventres enfles, 
Prennent le vent, & le redonnent 
Par compas aus charbons souffles. 
Le metal coulle, & dedans la fournaise 
Comme un etang se repand en la braise. 

(lines 7-18, 25-30) 

(Where the great frowning band of industrious Cyclopes is 
busy in the forge, diligently pressing on to complete a thun- 
derbolt, a weapon for the right hand of that great god, who is 
skilful in hurling it. Three of them are hammering it in turn 

^ For a more detailed discussion of this ode, see my article "Ronsard the 
Painter," as well as Patricia Eichel, "Quand le ^oeie-fictor devient pictor . . ." and 
Roberto E. Campo, "The Arts in Conflict." 


on the groaning anvil, and with tightly-closed pincers turn the 
shining work over; you would say they are grunting and 

sweating, so resolutely do they go on with their toil The 

others cause two bellows to resound, which take air into their 
swollen bellies and return it at regular intervals to the glowing 
coals. The metal flows, and inside the furnace, spreads like a 
pool in the embers.) 

Above this, Jupiter is making use of his thunderbolts, raining 
down upon both land and sea: 

Un peu plus haut parmi les nues 

Enflees d'un vague ondoiant, 

Le Pere ses fleches connues 

Darde aval d'un bras foudroiant. 
Le feu se suit, & sacageant I'air, gronde 
Faisant trembler les fondemens du monde. 

(lines 31-36) 

(A little above this in the clouds, which are swollen with a bil- 
lowing void, the Father hurls down his renowned arrows with 
devastating arm. Fire follows and, as it tears through the air, 
it groans, causing the foundations of the world to tremble.) 

To the left of this scene, we have a picture of Juno's seduction of 
Jupiter on Mount Ida, taken from Iliad 14, with a detailed descrip- 
tion of scenes and figures embroidered on Venus' magic girdle: 

A couste gauche de I'orage 

Junon sa colere celant, 

De Venus emprunte I'ouvrage, 

Son riche baudrier excellant: 
Et le ceignant, sa force coutumiere 
Son mari tire a I'amitie premiere. 

(La, les amours sont portraits d'ordre, 

Celui qui donte les oiseaus, 

Et celui qui vient ardre & mordre 

Le cueur des Dauphins sous les eaus. 
Leandre, proie a I'amour inhumaine, 
Pendu aus flots noue ou I'amour le meine.) 

The Theoretical Background 35 

Elle, defa & la eparses 

Enchaine ses mains a son col, 

Lui, dedans ses mouelles arses 

Avale un amour tendre & mol, 
Et en baisant ce grand corps, fait renaistre 
Le beau printems saison du premier estre. 

(lines 50-66) 

(To the left of the storm, Juno, concealing her rage, is borrow- 
ing Venus's handiwork, her excellent rich girdle; as she puts it 
on, its customary force draws her husband to their former 
affection. [On it, the various types of love are portrayed in 
order: the love which tames birds, and that which burns and 
eats into the hearts of dolphins in the water. Leander, a victim 
of inhuman love, is hanging on the waves as he swims to 
where love leads him.] Juno with hands spread in all direaions 
encircles Jupiter's neck, while he receives into his burning 
marrow tender, soft love, and in kissing her noble body causes 
beautiful springtime to be reborn, the season of primeval 

Weaving in and out between these three scenes we have a picture 
of Oceanus, with successful and unsuccessful sea battles of the Holy 
Roman Emperor, Charles V: 

De rOcean I'image emprainte 

Contraint ses portraits finissans, 

D'asur verdoiant elle est peinte, 

Et d'argent ses flots blanchissans, 
Ou les Dauphins aus dos courbes i nouent, 
Et en un rond ils foUatrent & jouent. 

Au meillieu de Tonde imprimee 

Comme grandes forests, on voit 

S'elever la navale armee 

Que Charles a Thunis avoit, 
Les flots batus des avirons qui sonnent 
En tournoiant murmurent & resonnent. 

Pres de Thunis sur le bord More, 


L'Africain aveugle au danger, 

La mer verte en pourpre colore 

Au sang du soudart etranger: 
Mars les anime, & la discorde iree 
Trainant sa robe en cent lieus dessiree. 

(lines 67-77, 85-90) 

(The printed image of Oceanus surrounds the edges of the pic- 
tures; it is painted in turquoise, its breaking waves in silver, 
where curved-backed dolphins swim, and frolic and play in a 
circle. In the midst of the painted sea, like mighty forests can 
be seen rising up the fleet which Charles had at Tunis; the 
waves struck by the resounding oars murmur and re-echo as 
they billow Near Tunis on the Moorish shore, the Afri- 
can, blind to danger, stains the green sea purple with the 
blood of foreign soldiers; Mars excites them, and raging Dis- 
cord, trailing her robe, which is rent in countless places.) 

Below this, almost certainly set in a separate cartouche, we should 
imagine a triumphal entry by Henry II into Paris, with Charles V 
dragged through the streets in humiliation: 

Tout au bas, d'une couleur palle 

Est repaint I'Empereur Romain, 

Craignant nostre Roi qui egalle 

Les Dieus par les faits de sa main. 
Mais pour neant, car de Henri la lance 
Ja ja captif le traine dans la France. 

Paris tient ses portes decloses 

Recevant son Roi belliqueur, 

Une grande nue de roses 

Pleut a I'entour du chef vainqueur. 
Les feus de joie ici & la s'alument, 
Et jusque au ciel les autels des Dieus fument. 

(lines 91-102) 

(Right at the bottom, the Holy Roman Emperor is painted, 
with pale complexion, in fear of our king who equals the gods 
with his feats. But it is for nought, for Henry's lance is already 
driving him a prisoner through France. Paris has her gates 

The Theoretical Background 37 

flung open, receiving her warrior king; a great cloud of roses 
rains down around the conquering leader. Bonfires are being 
lit in various places, and the altars of the gods send smoke 

As in some of the frescoes at Fontainebleau, then, Ronsard is 
describing a composite painting, with various non-synchronous epi- 
sodes juxtaposed, and an extra scene set in a cartouche. Allegory- 
plays an important part in this painting, and almost none of the 
apparently decorative elements is innocent of meaning. Moreover, 
although, inevitably, the scenes are presented in a linear fashion, it is 
necessary to view them as a whole if their essential unity is to be 
appreciated. As I have argued elsewhere, we are dealing here with a 
complicated but unified allegory. The themes of the preparation for 
Jupiter of stormy weather in Vulcan's forge, the storm itself, and the 
advent of spring all parallel the wars between France and the Holy 
Roman Empire. The clear Virgilian and Homeric echoes help to 
make this reading explicit, and in fact the storm described in Georgics 
1. 311-34 which partly serves as a model for Ronsard has itself been 
read as an allegory of the Roman civil wars.^^ 

However, in terms of the poem's structure, there may be clearer 
parallels between the mythological and the historical sections, based 
on the principle of imbrication or parallel structures. Lines 7-30, the 
preparation of the thunderbolts, appear to be linked with lines 73-84, 
Charles V's victory at Tunis, where the Emperor is safe because Jupi- 
ter, the divine arbiter, is unarmed. Lines 31-48, where Jupiter is 
using his thunderbolts, may then be linked with lines 85-90, the 
defeat of Charles V at Algiers. God, now armed, intervenes in 
Charles's campaigns. In fact, it was largely because of an unrelenting 
storm which destroyed much of Charles V's fleet and cut off his rein- 
forcements that this debacle took place. Finally, the seduction of 
Jupiter on Mount Ida and the advent of spring (lines 31-48) forms a 
parallel with the return of peace on the triumphal victory of Hen- 
ry II. Thus, the poem offers the following structure: 

^ Cf. Gary B. Miles, Virgil's Georgics.- A New Interpretation (Berkeley: Universi- 
ty of California Press, 1980), 98-110. 

38 CHAPTER 2 • 

1-6 Apostrophe of the "tableau"— its lifeUke nature 

7-30 The Cyclopes prepare Jupiter's thunderbolts 

31-48 Jupiter uses his thunderbolts — the storm — 

49-66 Jupiter is seduced by Juno— return of spring — 

67-72 Oceanus — decorative and structural 

73-84 Charles V victorious at Tunis — 

85-90 Charles V defeated at Algiers— by storm — 

91-102 Triumph of Henry 11 — return of peace — 

We shall see later that this kind of structure is not uncommon in 
Ronsard's poetry. 

This feature of Ronsard's writing calls into question the distinc- 
tion between the apparently linear nature of reading poetry, as con- 
trasted with the non-linear nature of reading a painting. For while it 
is true that readers of poetry have a series of lines of verse imposed 
upon them as they read through a poem from beginning to end, it is 
not necessarily true that this order should be the one that their 
minds will retain when they think about the poem and attempt to 
make sense of it.^"* In the case of a short poem, a sonnet perhaps, it 
may be that the linear approach is the most obvious one, though 
even this is open to question. Let us consider one of the sonnets 
from the 1554 Bocage, L. VI. 52-53. 

Morfee, s'il te plaist de me representer 

Cette nuit ma Cassandre aussi belle & gentille 

Que je la vi le soir quand sa vive scintile 

Par ne S9ai quel regard vint mes yeus enchanter: 4 

Et s'il te plaist encor tant soit peu d'alenter 
(Miserable souhet!) de sa feinte inutile 
Le feu qu'amour me vient de son aile sutile 
Tout alentour du coeur, sans repos, eventer: 8 

Sur le haut de mon lit en voeu je t'apendrai, 
Devot, un saint tableau, sur lequel je peindrai 
L'heur que j'aurai regeu de ta forme douteuse. 

* Roberto E. Campo, in his analysis of Des peintures . .., sees the work as 
demonstrating both the shortcomings of the painter's abihty to represent sequential 
events synchronously in a single painting, and the superiority of poetry. However, 
the activity of the speaator and of the reader are not so dissimilar, once linear 
presentation in a poem breaks down, as is the case here. 

The Theoretical Background 39 

Et comme Jupiter a Troye fut deceu 12 

Du Somme & de Junon, apres avoir receu 
De la simple Venus la ceinture amoureuse. 

(Morpheus, if you are willing to show me tonight my Cassan- 
dre, as beautiful and as gracious as I saw her on the evening 
when her bright sparkling bewitched my eyes by its ineffable 
gaze; and if you are also willing [oh wretched wish!] to abate 
however little the fire of her useless apparition, which love 
without respite comes to fan with his cunning wing all around 
my heart; I shall piously hang up for you as a votive offering 
on the top of my bed a sacred picture, on which I shall depict 
the good fortune I shall have received from your uncertain 
image, and how Jupiter at Troy was deceived by Sleep and 
Juno, after she received the amorous girdle of simple Venus.) 

From the point of view of chronology, this short poem covers a 
broad time span, with only the barest reference to the starting point 
in the present, contained in the apostrophe to Morfee (line 1). After 
the first word, we are projected into the future — "Cette nuit" — when 
the poet wishes to dream of his beloved just as she was — and we now 
move back to an unspecified but quite distant past (lines 3-4), empha- 
sized by the use of the past historic {vi, i;mt)— when he first fell in 
love with her. Lines 5 and 6 return us to this hoped-for future when 
the poet wishes to have some relief from the love which is always 
with him (lines 7-8). These two quatrains form the prodosis of the 
single conditional sentence which constitutes the entire sonnet. The 
apodosis projects us to a future some time after "Cette nuit," when 
the poet, if his prayer is answered, will hang a votive painting on his 
bed (lines 9-11). Again, Ronsard's use of the future and future perfea 
tenses is precise {apendrai, peindrai, aurai regeu). The poem finishes, 
however, with the subject of this painting, the Homeric account of 
the seduction of Zeus by Hera on Mount Ida, described again in the 
past historic (fut deceu). Schematically, we could present the various 
times referred to as follows, where the letters A-E represent the 
chronological order of the events: 

1-2 D ("Cette nuit") 

3-4 B (the innamoramento) 

5-6 D ("Cette nuit") 


7-8 C (continuous present) 
9-11 E (after "cette nuit") 
12-14 A (Trojan war) 

Thus, there is an alternation between future and past or present. 

At the same time, Ronsard estabHshes an impUcit comparison 
between his love for Cassandre and the loves of Zeus and Hera, with 
Morfee, the god of dreams, acting in his case in the same way that 
Somme (Hypnos) acted in the case of the two Homeric gods. Al- 
though the painting of this scene is the last element in the poem, we 
are encouraged by this clear parallel to return to the beginning of the 
poem. No doubt, too, there is a strong element of wishful thinking 
in referring to the Homeric myth, for in that story, it is the female 
who sets out to seduce the male, though for her own devious ends. 

The textual allusions add yet another dimension, as Ronsard 
encourages us to interpret the sonnet in a non-literal sense. Lines 
9-10 seem to allude to Horace, Odes 1. 5. 13-16: 

. . . me tabula sacer 
votiva paries indicat uvida 
suspendisse potenti 
vestimenta maris deo 

(. . . the temple wall declares with a votive picture that I have 
hung up my wet clothes for the powerful god of the sea) 

where Horace is congratulating himself for being beyond the reach 
of love. And the Homeric text, quoted by Belleau in his commentary 
on this sonnet, speaks of the magic cestos of Aphrodite which con- 
tains "love, and desire, and loving converse, that steals the wits even 
of the wise" {Iliad 14. 216-17).^^ Is Ronsard undermining, through 
these allusions, his experience of love.^ This may be uncertain. What 
can be concluded, however, is that the structure of this sonnet is a 
complex one, and that a strictly linear reading will not lead to a full 
understanding of it. 

So far, we have considered two examples of dispositio drawn from 
individual poems, and we have seen that even in the case of a sonnet, 

^ See Remy Belleau, Commentaire au Second Livre des Amours de Ronsard, ed. 
Marie-Madeleine Fontaine and Francois Lecercle (Geneva: Droz, 1986), 78. 

The Theoretical Background 41 

the structure can be a complex one. But what of the dispositio of 
entire books of poems? And what happens when Ronsard rearranged 
his works in later editions? 

Although ancient writers on rhetoric and poetry devoted much 
space to the internal structure of an individual work (whether it be 
a speech or a poem), little or nothing seems to have been said about 
the way in which poems may be grouped together to form a collec- 
tion, such as Virgil's Eclogues, Horace's Odes, or Propertius's love ele- 
gies. However, it has long been clear that some principle was at 
work, and Helena Dettmer has set out, in her important monograph, 
Horace: A Study in Structure, to consider this aspect of dispositio in 
Augustan poetry.^^ For the literary scholar, as for the art historian, 
a full understanding of dispositio can be highly illuminating. As Dett- 
mer writes in her preface: "the primary focus is on structure as a tool 
for the literary critic. One member of a pair [of poems in a collec- 
tion] often elucidates the interpretation of the other. Structure is 
essential to meaning" (p. xxv). The same principle may be seen at 
work governing the organization and meaning of a collection of 
poems as that governing the dispositio of the Galerie Francois P*". 
According to Dettmer, this principle is unlikely to be a simple one: 

Books of poetry, like single poems, were so construaed that 
their organization is multi-faceted, with several unifying 
schemes simultaneously operative, superimposed one upon the 
other. (p. 4) 

In a relatively short collection, such as Virgil's Eclogues, the order, 
though complex, is easy to grasp, not least because the poet himself 
points to it by means of thematic bonds and verbal echoes. Thus, 
Dettmer comes up with the following scheme, which relies on "a 
ring pattern based on similar and/or contrasting themes": 

^ Published in Hildesheim: Olds, 1983. 


— 1 Expropriations in upper Italy 

— 2 Unrequited love 

— 3 Singing match 

— 4 Laudatio 

— 5 Death of Daphnis 

— 6 Recusatio 

— 7 Singing match 

— 8 Unrequited love 

— 9 Expropriations in upper Italy 

— 10 Gallus = Daphnis dying of love 

Another point which Dettmer makes concerns the question of math- 
ematical symmetry: 

Whether one likes numbers or not. . . , the fact remains that 

they exist They constitute a distinctive feature of virtually 

all Augustan poetry-books . . . and they reflect as well the con- 
scious artistry characteristic of the period. The numerical 
schemes in the Eclogues illustrate the two most common types. 
A pattern may be created (1) by the sum of (or the difference 
between, as we shall see) the number of lines in corresponding 
poems, or (2) by the sum of (or difference between) the num- 
ber of lines in entire groups of poems. (p. 7) 

In the case of the Eclogues, Dettmer sees two patterns: 

1 -I- 9 = 150, 2 -I- 8 = 181, 5 + 7 = 181, 4 -h 6 = 149 


1 -I- 2 -I- 3 -H 4 = 330; 6-i-7-t-8 + 9 = 331. 

Such a preoccupation with structure, symmetry, and proportion 
is, as Terreaux has indicated, a feature of architecture,^'' and it may 
be that, for Renaissance writers as well as for some of the Augustan 
poets, Vitruvius was influential. Concerning dispositio, Vitruvius has 
the following to say:^* 

^ See above, and n. 21. 

^* Cited in the translation of the Loeb edition by Frank Granger (Cambridge, 

Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962). 

The Theoretical Background 43 

Arrangement includes the putting of things in their proper 
places and the elegance of effect which is due to adjustments 
appropriate to the character of the work {Dispositio autem est 
rerum apta conlocatio elegansque conpositionibus effectus operis 
cum qualitate). Its forms of expression are these: groundplan, 

elevation, and perspective All three come of reflexion and 

invention. Reflexion is careful and laborious thought, and 
watchful attention directed to the agreeable effect of one's 
plan. Invention, on the other hand, is the solving of intricate 
problems by means of brilliancy and versatility. These are the 
departments belonging under Arrangement. 

Perhaps Ronsard has this definition in mind when he writes in the 
Abbrege de I'art poetique frangois that ". . . la disposition despend de la 
belle invention, laquelle consiste en une elegante et parfaicte colloca- 
tion & ordre des choses inventees" (L. XIV. 14. 197-99). 

It can be taken for granted, then, that balance and proportion 
would be an important feature in the arrangement of poems into a 
collection. But given the interest in Neo-Platonism in the Renais- 
sance, and Ronsard's own fascination with it, one has to ask whether 
balance goes further than that. Rudolf Wittkower has shown how in 
Renaissance churches Pythagorean and Platonic principles of geome- 
try and arithmetic, along with the idea of Man as microcosm of the 
universe, shaped the design of many buildings:^' 

For the men of the Renaissance this architeaure with its strict 
geometry, the equipoise of its harmonic order, its formal se- 
renity and, above all, with the sphere of the dome, echoed and 
at the same time revealed the perfection, omnipotence, truth 
and goodness of God. 

However, it did not matter that an individual might fail consciously 
to perceive this harmony: 

It is, according to Alberti, an inborn sense that makes us 

^ Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (London: Warburg Institute, 
1952), 27. See also Peter Sharratt, "The Imaginary City of Bernard Salomon," in 
Intellectual Life in Renaissance Lyon: Proceedings of the Cambridge Lyon Colloquium, 
14-16 April 1991, ed. Philip Ford and Gillian Jondorf (Cambridge: Cambric^e 
French Colloquia, 1993), 33-48, especially pp. 47-48. 


aware of harmony; he maintains, in other words, that the per- 
ception of harmony through the senses is possible by virtue of 
this affinity of our souls. This implies that if a church has 
been built in accordance with essential mathematical harmo- 
nies, we react instinctively; an inner sense tells us, without 
rational analysis, that we perceive an image of the vital force 
behind all matter— of God Himself. (pp. 24-25) 

The circle, of course, was considered the most perfect form, and so 
it is that a number of centralized churches were designed and con- 
structed during the Renaissance, despite the fact that they are less 
convenient from the liturgical point of view than the basilica or 
Roman cross design. Wittkower sees Nicholas of Cusa as influential 
in this respect, visualizing God "as the least tangible and at the same 
time the most perfect geometrical figure, the centre and circumfer- 
ence of the circle; for in the infinite circle or sphere, centre, diame- 
ter, and circumference are identical" (p. 25). Ronsard echoes this 
notion in his Hymne de I'Etemite (L. VIII. 254. 127-34): 

Tu est toute dans toy, ta partie & ton tout, 
Sans nul commencement, sans meillieu, ne sans bout, 
Invincible, immuable, entiere, & toute ronde, 
N'ayant partie en toy, qui dans toy ne responde, 
Toute commencement, toute fin, tout meillieu. 
Sans tenir aucun lieu, de toutes choses lieu 

(You are whole within yourself, your part and your whole, 
with no beginning, no middle, and no end, invincible, immu- 
table, complete, and wholly round, having no part in you 
which does not match within you, all beginning, all end, 
all middle, without occupying any place, the place of all 
things ) 

Just as someone in a Renaissance church might fail to appreciate 
on a conscious level its essential harmony and consonance with God, 
so too, to cite McAllister Johnson, the Fontainebleau frescoes possess 
a clearly established complex circular dispositio, "whether or not their 
place in a larger scheme is immediately apparent."^*^ Similarly, the 

"Once More the Galerie Franfois I" at Fontainebleau," 132. 

The Theoretical Background 45 

highly complex musical patterns and choreography of court enter- 
tainments, such as Beaujoyeulx's Balet comique of 1581,^^ fulfilled an 
important mystical function. As Margaret McGowan writes: 

[Sixteenth-century writers] believed that cosmic influences 
could actually be drawn to affect human affairs, and they 
thought that by playing on the emotions of an audience 
through harmonies and movements finely calculated to echo 
those of the heavenly spheres their listeners and spectators 
could be moved to act peacefully.-'^ 

Ronsard clearly had certain principles in mind when he structured 
his various collections of poems, constantly rearranging them, rejecting 
certain compositions, reinstating others. It is also quite plausible that the 
principles of imbrication and emhoitement which are apparent in the 
structure of individual poems should be appHed to entire collections, and 
that Hght may be shed upon the meaning of parallel poems as a result. 
In considering Ronsard's collections of hymns, we shall consider the 
principles which underlay the dispositio of individual books, as revealed 
by his later revisions, and in particular see whether purely aesthetic 
considerations are brought to bear, or whether there is a grander, more 
philosophical theory of harmony at work. 


We have seen that parallels between the visual arts and poetry are rel- 
atively easy to recognize in the areas of inventio and dispositio. But 
when we move on to elocutio, the style or means of expression em- 
ployed in a work of art, then there is greater room for subjectivity. 
Despite or, perhaps, because of this, there have been frequent at- 
tempts in recent years to establish links between Mannerism, the pre- 
vailing style of the School of Fontainebleau, and French poetry of 
the second half of the sixteenth century.'^ We are dealing here with 
a style whose origins lie very clearly in painting, and we are faced 

'^ This is available in a facsimile edition, edited by Margaret M. McGowan, as 
Le Balet comique by Balthazar de Beaujoyeulx 1581, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & 
Studies, vol. 6 (Binghamton: MRTS, 1982). 

'^ Ideal Forms in the Age of Ronsard, p. 230. 

"See, in particular. Marcel Raymond and A. J. Steele, La Poesie frangaise et le 



with the problem of establishing the extent to which the term Man- 
nerism can legitimately be applied to poetry. 

Ronsard himself clearly thinks of elocutio in strongly visual terms: 

Elocution n'est autre chose qu'une propriete & splendeur de 
paroles bien choisies & omees de graves & courtes sentences, 
qui font reluyre les vers comme les pierres precieuses hien en- 

chassees les doigts de quelque grand Seigneur Tu n'oubliras 

les comparaisons, les descriptions des lieux . . . te fa^onnant en 
cecy a I'imitation d'Homere, que tu observeras comme un 
divin exemple, sur lequel tu tireras au vif les plus parfaictz line- 
amens de ton tableau?^ 

{Elocutio is nothing other than proper signification and bril- 
liance of carefully chosen words, adorned with serious, short 
aphorisms, which make the verse sparkle as finely mounted 

precious stones do the fingers of some great lord Do not 

forget comparisons, descriptions of places , , . patterning your- 
self here in imitation of Homer, whom you will observe as a 
divine example, on the model of which you will draw from 
life the most accomplished outlines of your picture.) 

Style, then, is adornment, something added to a work of art in order 
to make it more brilliant so that its essential beauty can appear all 
the more strikingly. In addition to this brilliance and "splendeur," 
Ronsard advises that: 

tu te doibs travailler d'estre copieux en vocables, & trier les 
plus nobles & signifians pour servir de ners & de force a tes 
carmes, qui reluyront d'autant plus que les mots seront signifi- 
catifs, propres & choisis.^^ 

(you must strive to be copious in vocabulary, and pick the most 
noble and meaningful terms to serve as the sinews and strength 
of your poems, which will shine out all the more because the 
words will be meaningful, appropriate, and well-chosen.) 

^ Abbregede I'art poetique frangois (L. XIV. 15. 216-20, 226-27, 230-33). My 

" Abbrege, 11. 222-26. My italics. 

The Theoretical Background 47 

So, in addition to the brilliance already mentioned, the poet must be 
copious in his use of words while, nevertheless, observing the de- 
mands of poetic decorum and avoiding otiose vocabulary. 

This concept of style does, in fact, conform to some of the main 
tendencies in Mannerism, which John Shearman has defined in terms 
of its extreme stylishness: 

"We require, in fact, poise, refinement and sophistication, and 
works of art that are polished, rarefied and idealized away 
from the natural. ^^ 

In addition, of course, virtuosity is an important feature of this style, 
a love of complexity and decoration akin to the copia to which 
Ronsard alludes in his own definition of elocutio. In the depiction of 
the human form, which is central to mannerist art, l\\efigura serpen- 
tinatay with its sinuous shape, elongation, and use of contrapposto (the 
asymmetric arrangement of the parts of the body so that head, torso, 
and hips are in different planes) predominates (cf. fig. 7), but al- 
though nudity is the order of the day, jewellery, flowers, and elabo- 
rate hair styles all serve to adorn and emphasize human beauty. 

In applying these elements of Mannerism to poetry. Marcel Ray- 
mond points to two features of Renaissance poetry which seem to be 
particularly in keeping with this style.^'' In the first place, he singles 
out the prominence given to enargeia, the graphic presentation of a 
scene through such devices as hypotyposis or ecphrasis in order to 
represent movement or fluidity as effectively as possible. Secondly, 
he mentions the extreme embellishment which is present in much 
Pleiade poetry, and which corresponds perhaps to the festoons of 
fruit and flowers and other decorative elements in mannerist paint- 
ings. But in order to see how far it is appropriate to apply the term 
mannerist to Ronsard's poetry, we shall attempt a synthesis of some 
of the particular characteristics associated with the style. In this re- 
spect, John Shearman's chapter on the application of the term to lit- 
erature and music is useful in establishing a number of fields of com- 
parison, which will be referred to in the discussion which follows.^* 

'* Shearman, Mannerism, 19. See too Dubois, Le Manierisme. 
^^ Raymond, La Poesie frangaise et le manierisme, 25-27. 
^* Shearman, Mannerism, 135-70. 



Arising from its aims of refinement and sophistication, the mannerist 
style always has a tendency towards complex decoration and compli- 
cated dispositio, which, while heightening the audience's interest, can 
often lead to doubt and ambiguity. While this is something which 
can be linked with the influence of Neo-Platonism on inventio, it is 
by no means always evident when an item of detail is symbolic or 
merely decorative, or how, on a larger scale, the parts of an individu- 
al work are meant to combine to form a harmonious whole. As 
Shearman writes: 

The emphasis on the parts rather than the whole in so many 
Mannerist works is in these terms positive and functionally 
expressive of a desired quality; it also has one very positive re- 
sult, a generally beautiful and refined level of execution 

The emphasis on the parts is also, of course, a negative aspect 
of the preference for variety rather than unity.^' 

For this reason, we continue to be puzzled by the subjects of many 
mannerist paintings (which consequently may be given vague titles 
such as Mythological Allegory), while poems which are sometimes 
written off as being illogical or badly constructed can have a prede- 
termined if highly obscure program, made less evident by the abun- 
dance of detail. 

The decoration of the Galerie Francois I" is a good example of 
variety at work in the area of the visual arts, while Des Peintures con- 
tenues dedans un tableau^ analysed above, is typical of an analogous 
process in the poetry of Ronsard. In epic poetry in particular, he 
considers variety to be essential: 

Car la Poesie Heroi'que qui est dramatique, & qui ne consiste 
qu'en action, ne peut longuement traicter un mesme subjet, 
mais passer de I'un a I'autre en cent sortes de varietez.^ 

(For epic poetry, which is dramatic and consists only of ac- 
tion, cannot for long deal with the same subject, but must pass 

" Mannerism, pp. 146 and 149. 

^ La Franciade, Au lecteur apprentif(L. XVI. 343). 

The Theoretical Background 49 

from one subject to the other in numerous forms of variety.) 

However, French Mannerism, as opposed to its Italian counterpart, 
never seems entirely to lose sight of an overall unifying principle, 
and it is typical that Ronsard should criticize Ariosto (whose Orlan- 
do furioso is cited by Shearman as an extreme example of variety)"*^ 
on account of what Ronsard refers to as his "Poesie fantastique . . . 

de laquelle les membres sont aucunement beaux, mais le corps 
est tellement contrefaict & monstrueux qu'il ressemble mieux 
aux resveries d'un malade de fievre continue qu'aux inventions 
d'un homme bien sain" 

("fantastic poetry . . . whose limbs are to some extent beautiful, 
but whose body is so disfigured and monstrous that it resem- 
bles more closely the ravings of a patient sick with continual 
fever than the inventions of a sane man")/^ 

But when Ronsard describes the way poets should write epic poetry, 
it is evident that richness of detail is all-important. They 

ne cherchent que le possible: puis d'une petite scintille font 
naistre un grand brazier, & d'une petite cassine font un magni- 
fique Palais, qu'ils enrichissent, dorent & embellissent par le 
dehors de marbre, Jaspe & Porphire, de guillochis, ovalles, 
frontispices & pieds-destals, frises & chapiteaux, & par dedans 
de Tableaux, tapisseries eslevees & bossees d'or & d'argent, & 
le dedans des tableaux cizelez & burinez, raboteux & difficile 
a tenir es mains, a cause de la rude engraveure des person- 
nages qui semblent vivre dedans.'*^ 

(only seek out the possible; then, from a small spark they kin- 
dle a great blaze, and from a small cottage they make a magni- 
ficent palace, which they enrich, gild, and embeUish on the 
outside with marble, jasper, and porphyry, with guilloches, 
ovals, frontispieces, and pedestals, friezes and capitals, and on 

*^ Shearman, Mannerism, 145-46, 

*^ Les Quatre Premiers Limes de la Franciade, Au lecteur (L. XVI. 4). Ronsard had 
expressed himself similarly in the Abbrege de I'art poetique frangois (L. XTV. 12-13), 
discussed above. 

*^ Au lecteur apprentif (L. XVI. 340). 


the inside with pictures, raised tapestries embossed in gold and 
silver, and the contents of the pictures carved and engraved, 
uneven and difficult to hold in the hands because of the rough 
engraving of the figures which appear to come to life in them.) 

Ronsard's ornate style, however well controlled he considered it, was 
a long way from the clarte which was so prized by Boileau and other 
literary critics of the classical age; despite this, decoration is seldom 
gratuitously ornate and, as we have seen, structure is complex but 
not haphazard. Ronsard would have learnt from his mentor, Jean 
Dorat, that all descriptive detail in inspired epic poetry is meaningful 
to the alert reader, and although the significance of such detail might 
not be immediately obvious, in accordance with the principle of the 
"voile bien subtil" (see chap. 1), it is nevertheless part and parcel of 
the text. Ronsard would vary the degree of obscurity in his poetry 
depending on genre and purpose. Inspired poetry in the grand style, 
such as the majority of the hymns, is characterized by complex struc- 
ture and frequently erudite imagery; openly didactic poetry, such as 
the Discours des miseres de ce temps and his other polemical works of 
the early 1560s, is marked by greater clarity. As with style in general, 
it is decorum which determines how obscure or clear any given 
poem is likely to be. 


Shearman cites Sperone Speroni's distinction between the brevity of 
Virgil, who "is therefore more of a historian than a poet," and the 
floridity of Homer, who "certainly gives delight by pleasingly orna- 
menting and amplifying his works. "'^'* Thanks to scholars such as 
Terence Cave,'*^ it is unnecessary to emphasize the importance of 
copia in French Renaissance literature, including, of course, the 
poetry of Ronsard, and it is interesting to note that Ronsard too is 
interested in the Aristotelian distinction between history and poetry. 
However, although he says (L. XVI. 5): 

^ See p. 151. 

^^ See The Comucopian Text: Problems of Writing in the French Renaissance 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979). 

The Theoretical Background 51 

j'ay patronne mon oeuvre [i.e., La Franciade] . . . plustost sur la 
naive facilite d'Homere que sur la curieuse diligence de Virgile 

(I have modelled my work on the natural facility of Homer 
rather than the scrupulous industry of Virgil) 

it is clear that, like Scaliger and in contrast to Speroni, he admires 
many things in Virgil's style, and in particular his copia, whose 
effects mean that 

Les excellens Poetes nomment peu souvent les choses par leur 
nom propre. Virgile voulant descrire le jour ou la nuict, ne dit 
point simplement & en paroles nues, II estoit jour, il estoit 
nuict: mais par belles circonlocutions, 

Postera Phoehea lustrabat lampade terras 

Humentesque Aurora polo dimoverat umbras 

(L. XVI. 333) 

(The foremost poets seldom call things by their proper names. 
When Virgil wants to describe day or night, he does not say sim- 
ply and in bare terms: "It was day, it was night"; but in fine peri- 
phrases: "The next day's Dawn was Hghting the earth with Apol- 
lo's lamp and had dispersed the moist shadows in high heaven.") 

One example of this copia is the description of Jeunesse (Hebe) in 
the Hymne de I'Etemite: 

A ton dextre coste la Jeunesse se tient, 
Jeunesse au chef crespu, dont la tresse luy vient 
Flottant jusqu'aux talons par ondes non tondue. 
Qui luy frappe le doz en filz d'or estendue: 
Cette Jeunesse ayant le teint de roses franc, 
D'une boucle d'azur ceinte de sur le flanc, 
Dans un vase dore te donne de la dextre 
A boire du nectar, afin de te faire estre 
Tousjours saine & disposte, & afin que ton front 
Ne soit jamais ride comme les nostres sont. 

(L. VIII. 248-49. 39-48) 

(On your right stands Hebe, curly-headed Hebe, whose un- 
shorn locks float down in waves to her heels, striking her 
back, spread out in golden threads; this Hebe with her gra- 
cious rosy complexion, wearing around her flank an azure 


belt, with her right hand gives you nectar to drink from a 
golden vessel, in order to keep you forever hale and hearty, so 
that your brow should never be wrinkled like ours.) 

There is an important element of sensual detail in this description. 
Color is prominent in, for example, the gold of the hair and the vase, 
the blue belt, the rosy pink of the skin. Yet at the same time, these 
colors have their traditional iconographical meanings: gold as a sym- 
bol of nobility and incorruptibility, blue as the color of the heavens, 
thus representing eternity. We can also see the way in which poetry, 
through the use of metaphor or simile, can be even more allusive 
than painting. The hair is seen both in terms of liquid imagery 
("Flottant . . . par ondes") and in terms of precious metals ("filz 
d'or"); the complexion is portrayed in terms of flowers ("le teint de 
roses"), thus introducing, through the image of the rose, a symbol of 
the beauty, delicacy, and ephemeral nature of youth. In other cases, 
a visual symbol is made explicit. Thus, we are told that Jeunesse's 
action of giving Eternite nectar to drink is intended to preserve her 
youth, and this message is conveyed both explicitly ("afin de te faire 
estre / Tousjours saine & disposte") and visually ("afin que ton front 
/ Ne soit jamais ride"). As in painting, then, detailing here serves 
both a sensual and a symbolic purpose, but we can observe the 
greater flexibility which poetry possesses and which marks its superi- 
ority over the purely visual. 

Such copia in the visual arts is, of course, apparent everywhere in 
examples of mannerist works created for the French court, whether 
it be in the ornate decoration of Fontainebleau, the numerous designs 
for gold and silver ware, or the sculpture of the period (as, for exam- 
ple, the stucco work at Fontainebleau or the elegant works of Jean 
Goujon). There is something almost vegetal about this richness, and 
Erasmus says of it in the De copia: 

Variety has everywhere such great force that there is nothing 
at all, however polished it may be, which does not seem 
uncouth without its support. Nature herself rejoices particular- 
ly in variety, for there is nothing anywhere in the immense 
multitude of things which she has left unpainted with the 
wonderful art of variety.'*^ 

^ Omnia opera (Bale: Froben, 1540), 1. 4. 

The Theoretical Background 53 

However, when abundance is taken to extremes, it can lead to a taste 
for the bizarre, illustrated by the extravagances of Arcimboldo. 


The sixteenth century's taste for the exotic and the monstrous in art 
is close in spirit to Baudelaire's conception of the beautiful: "le beau 
est toujours bizarre,'"*^ a view which in the nineteenth-century 
poet's case could lead to such sensually macabre poems as Une cha- 
rogne. Engravings from the School of Fontainebleau abound in which 
horrific scenes from classical mythology, history, or simply the imag- 
ination of the artist are depicted, and such extravagant scenes are 
common in Ronsard. One example is the description of the Harpies 
in L'Hymne de Calais, et de Zetes (L. VTII. 255-93): 

... a touts ses repas les Harpies cruelles, 
Demenans un grand bruia & du bee & des ailes, 
Luy pilloient sa viande, & leur griffe arrachoit 
Tout cela que Phinee a sa levre approchoit, 
Vomissant de leur gorge une odeur si mauvaise 
Que toute la viande en devenoit punaise. 
Tousjours d'un craquetis leur machoire cliquoit, 
Tousjours de palle fein leur bee s'entrechoquoit 
Comme la dent d'un loup, quand la fein I'epoinfonne 
De courre apres un cerf: la machoire luy sonne 
L'une sur I'aultre en vain, & par Pair d'un grand bruict 
Faict craqueter sa gueule apres le cerf qui fuit. 
Ainsy bruioyent les dents de ces monstres infames, 
Qui du menton en haut sembloient de belles femmes, 
De I'eschine aux oiseaus, & leur ventre trembloit 
De fein, qui de grandeur un bourbier ressembloit, 
Et pour jambes avoient une acrochante griffe 
En escailles armee, ainsy qu'un Hippogrife. 

(lines 181-98) 

*^ Baudelaire, (Euvres completes, ed. C. Pichois (Paris: Gallimard, 1961), 2 vols., 
2: 578. 


(at all his meals, the cruel Harpies, unleashing a great din with 
beak and wings, plundered his food, and their claws snatched 
away whatever Phineus brought to his lips, vomiting from 
their throats such a stench that all the food became rank. 
Always their jaws clicked and clattered, always their beaks 
chattered with bleak hunger like the tooth of a wolf, when 
hunger spurs it on to hunt a stag: its jaws knock together in 
vain, and with a loud din, it makes cracking noises in the air 
with its mouth after the fleeing stag. Such was the noise made 
by the teeth of these infamous monsters, which resembled 
beautiful women from their chins upwards, birds from their 
spine; and their bellies trembled from hunger, like a quagmire 
in size, and their legs were grasping claws armed with scales, 
just like a hippogriff.) 

Ronsard's relish in the description of the Harpies is evident. He 
appeals to the full range of the senses: not only sight (lines 194-98) 
and hearing (lines 182, 187-93), but smell and taste (lines 185-86), 
and even touch ("une acrochante griff e / En escailles armee. . . ," lines 
197-98). Yet at the same time, the picture forms an integral part of 
the narrative upon which Ronsard has embarked. Brevity and variety 
bring out the power of such descriptions, for it is important not to 
"extravaguer comme un frenetique," and any incidental material must 
be "briesvement escrites & de peu de discours" (L. XVI. 334). 


The grand style called for elevated diction, "paroles recherchees & 
choisies," "Epithetes significatifs & non oisifs," as Ronsard, still true 
at the end of his career to the spirit of the Dejfence et illustration. . . , 
asserts (L. XVI. 334). In addition, he recommends poets to "prendre 
la sage hardiesse, & d'inventer des vocables nouveaux," "de ne faire 
conscience de remettre en usage les antiques vocables, & principale- 
ment ceux du langage Vvallon et Picard," and to coin new words on 
old roots (L. XVI. 348-49). However, this lexical inventiveness could 
easily result in obscurity, just as Ronsard's early use of abstruse 
mythological references and recondite intertextual allusion had led to 
similar complaints about the nature of his imagery in many of the 
Odes. Nevertheless, he does not see obscurity as a virtue, as we have 

The Theoretical Background 55 

already seen, even if the inevitable consequence of some of his aesthe- 
tic choices is that his ideal audience must be composed of an intellec- 
tual elite. 

Obscurity is, of course, evident in many paintings of the period. 
For example, in the Allegorie of the Louvre by Le Maitre de Flore 
(fig. 8), the abundance of detail does little to elucidate the painting's 
meaning. Do the various flowers and plants have particular mean- 
ings, or are they purely decorative.^ Does the jewellery worn by the 
female figures and the sleeping Cupid (pearls, rubies) have its tradi- 
tional significance— and if so, which of its various meanings — or is it 
merely conventional adornment? How far does the use of color (for 
example, Cupid's red wings) convey meaning? The key is lost to the 
modern spectator. 

But to us no less than to the original audience, obscurity is a chal- 
lenge, and Shearman remarks that "the same stimulating obscurity" 
as is present in the poetry of Tasso or the painting of Salviati, "flat- 
tering to the connoisseur who can interpret it, is characteristic of 
Mannerist architecture or stucco decorations" as well."*' Francois 
Lecercle has also identified a delight in the enigmatic in the poetry of 
the Ecole lyonnaise, where the solving of riddles, both explicit ones 
and those embodied in longer texts, was a clear source of intellectual 
pleasure.^' It should come as no surprise, therefore, to see Ronsard 
offering his readers this sort of challenge in his more oracular poetry, 
including, as we shall see, a number of the Hymnes. Obscurity for its 
own sake is to be avoided, but the ludic element it contains could 
excite and stimulate.^° 

Form, Content, and Decorum 

The next characteristic of Mannerism mentioned by Shearman, the 
dichotomy between form and content where form (as in the poetic 
principles of I'art pour I'art) is the predominating factor, is not one 

'" See p. 162. 

*' See "Enigme et poesie a Lyon au milieu du seizieme siecle," in Intellectual 
Life in Renaissance Lyon, 135-71. 

^ This issue was the subject of a stimulating paper given by Ahce P. Radin at 
the Third Meeting of the International Society for the Classical Tradition held at 
Boston University, 8-12 March 1995, entitled "Choses difficiles sont belles: Ronsard, 
Pindar, and Lycophron." 


which Ronsard consciously adopts. It is true that he stresses the 
importance of adornment, but it is meant to serve a purpose, the 
enhancing of the subject matter: "Car le principal poinct est I'inven- 
tion, laquelle vient tant de la bonne nature, que par la le9on des bons 
& anciens autheurs" (L. XIV. 5-6. 45-47). Dispositio and elocutio fol- 
low on from inventio; form must be subservient to content. 

Similarly, the mannerist tendency to pay no heed to stylistic 
decorum (the idea that each type of subjea has an appropriate style, 
form, etc.) is also one which Ronsard rejects. In the short posthu- 
mously published preface to the Odes, he writes: "Tu dois sfavoir 
que toute sorte de Poesie a I'argument propre & convenable a son 
subjea" (L. I. 59), and we can see in his own works the way in 
which his style varies, from the grand style of the Hymnes, through 
the hyperbolic and emphatic style of the Discours, to the style mig- 
nard of the Folastries. If it is true that his shepherds are not given a 
suitably bucolic manner of speaking in the EclogueSy then we should 
perhaps remember that these are royal shepherds, and that Virgil 
himself only occasionally coarsens the speech of his own rustics. 

Shearman sees the application of decorum most open to criticism 
in the religious works of art influenced by Mannerism, ^^ and it is 
certain that a modern reader experiences most difficulty in appreciat- 
ing poems such as the Hercule Chrestien (L. VIII. 207-23), which, true 
to the Renaissance spirit of syncretism, produce what to a twentieth- 
century reader appears to be an almost blasphemous mixture of the 
sacred and the profane. Indeed, this view was already held in the sev- 
enteenth century. 

To sum up, then, Ronsard appears to share, particularly in his 
grand poetry, a number of the stylistic features of Mannerism, while 
diverging from it in other respects. A generally sophisticated style, 
characterized by variety, richness of detail, copia, and a taste for the 
bizarre is certainly something which he cultivated. On the other 
hand, his poetry, while at times difficult, is not gratuitously obscure 

^^ Sxxmming up the objections of the Council of Trent, Shearman writes: 
"Mannerism in religious art is a double offence against the classical concept of 
decorum. First, it is art that does not primarily express the subject. . . . Second, 
Mannerism so often leads to exhibitions of nudity and artifice that are not only 
superfluous, in the functional sense, but also contrary in effect to what is proper to 
their position" (p. 168). 

The Theoretical Background 57 

or beyond the understanding of the cultivated reader, even though it 
may at times present a challenge. 

This chapter has set out to consider points of comparison between 
Ronsard's poetic theory and praaice and the visual arts in order to 
establish criteria which will enable a thorough assessment of the 
iconographic properties and the arrangement and structure of the 
Hymnes. Ronsard's hierarchy of poets and poetry, based on the pres- 
ence or absence of inspiration and the relationship between art and 
genius, will have important implications for the interpretation of the 
Hymnes, while the possibility of Neo-Platonic principles being at 
work in the arrangement of both individual hymns and collections 
offers important exegetical clues. Style reinforces and complements 
the main features of his poetry. Before moving on to a detailed study 
of the Hymnes, however, we shall consider the two traditions of sym- 
bolism and myth identified by Plato and Proclus, which may be 
superimposed on those identified by Gombrich in relation to the vis- 
ual arts: the didactic Aristotelian tradition and the mystical Neo-Pla- 
tonic tradition. This will provide useful categories in which to assign 
the systems of imagery used by Ronsard in the Hymnes. 

Chapter 3 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 

Shall he who might cause this roof to ring with applause, and 
contribute his humble share to the splendors of the place, 
shall such a one content himself with examining and admiring 
its beauties without a word, and so depart, like one that is 
dumb, or silent from envy? 

(Lucian, The Hall) 

®wo rhetorical devices stand out as forming a particularly 
close bond between poetry and the visual arts: ecphrasis and 
hypotyposis. Although definitions of the term ecphrasis 
may be more or less narrow in scope, I shall use the term to refer to 
the detailed description of a real or an imaginary work of art. As 
such, it is a device of which Ronsard was particularly fond, as it pro- 
vided him with the opportunity to display his descriptive talents, in 
true mannerist fashion, and to introduce variety into his works. We 
find examples of ecphrasis throughout his poetic career, ranging from 
a few lines in length, as in the evocation of the Mars and Venus 
painting in A son lict (L. I. 258. 9-16), to a whole poem, such as Des 
Peintures contenues dedans un tableau (L. I. 259-64).^ 

* On the use of ecphrasis in Ronsard, see Terence Cave, "Ronsard's Mythologi- 
cal Universe," in Ronsard the Poet, ed. Terence Cave (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 
1973), 159-208; Fran^oise Joukovsky, Le Bel Objet, and my articles, "Ronsard the 
Painter," "La Fonction de I'ekphrasis," and "Ronsard's Erotic Diptych: Le Ravisse- 
ment de Cephale and La Defloration de Lede," French Studies 47 (1993), 385-403. On 
the ecphrasis in general, see Murray Krieger, Ekphrasis: The Illusion of the Natural 
Sign (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), who discusses the vari- 
ous definitions attached to the term in his opening chapter, "Picture and Word, 
Space and Time." 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 59 

_ ^ _ 

We shall use the term hypotyposis to denote the vivid presenta- 
tion of a real or an imaginary scene "in such a way that it seems to 
be seen rather than heard."^ It is obviously very similar to ecphrasis, 
the only difference being that hypotyposis sets out to show some- 
thing which, in the narrative or descriptive context of the poem, is 
not an artificially created work of art. When Ronsard includes such 
descriptions in his poetry, he uses the same kind of technique as he 
does in examples of ecphrasis: in other words, his vision of the world 
continues to be colored by the visual arts. 

Ecphrasis had a long and illustrious history in ancient literature, 
starting with the shield of Achilles {Iliad 18. 478-608), which Shearman 
describes as "the prototype of all literary meraviglie" (p. 146).^ As a 
result of its appearance in Homer, the use of ecphrasis became inevitable 
in all subsequent epic poems (for example, Apollonius of Rhodes, 1. 
721-67; Virgil, Aeneid 8. 626-731), while it became a recognizable genre 
in its own right in authors like Philostratus and Callistratus. In some 
instances, the descriptions were no doubt inspired by actual works of 
art; in others, they provided the basis for subsequent paintings and arti- 
facts. In some cases, such as Lucian's description of the Calumny of 
Apelles, it is likely that an ecphrasis has acted as an intermediary for a 
lost work of art in forming the basis of a modern work."* 

One important development in attitudes towards ecphrasis derives 
from the belief that its use in Homer serves an allegorical purpose.^ 

^ Quintilian's definition is to be found at 9. 2. 40-1: "Ab aliis i/xoTiJircoffK; 
dicitur proposita quaedam forma rerum ita expressa verbis, ut cerni potius videatur 
quam audiri. . . . Nee soliun quae facta sint aut fiant, sed etiam quae futura sint aut 
futura fuerint imaginamur." 

' For a discussion of ecphrasis in the ancient world, see Roger Hinks, Myth and 
Allegory in Ancient Art, Studies of the Warburg Institute (London, 1939); Paul 
Friedlander, Johannes von Gaza und Paulus Silentiarius: Kunstbeschreibungen Justinia- 
nischer Zeit (Berlin, 1912); Salvatore Nicosia, Teocrito e I'arte figurata, Quaderni 
dell'Istituto di Filologia Greca della Universita di Palermo (Palermo: Bnmo Lavag- 
nini, 1968); Alain Billault, "Approche du probleme de 1' 'EK4>paaL<; dans les romans 
grecs," Bulletin de I'Association Guillaume Bude (1979), 199-204; and in the same vol- 
vmie, Philippe Heuze, "Approche des images dans VEneide," 205-14; and also Krie- 
ger, Ekphrasis, especially chap. 2. 

* See Lucian, Slander, and Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art 
(New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 177. 

* See Felix Buffiere, Les Mythes d'Homere et la pensee grecque (Paris: Les Belles 
Lettres, 1973), 155-65. 


In particular, it is Heraclitus the Rhetor's long discussion of the 
shield of Achilles {Quaestiones Homericae 43-44 ^ 48-51) that establish- 
es this notion in the Renaissance, In his view, Homer intended noth- 
ing less than to represent the origins of the universe and the creation 
of the earth when he described Hephaestus forging the shield. This 
view was known to Ronsard, who may be alluding to it briefly in 
the Hymne de treschrestien roy de France Henry 11 de ce nom, first pub- 
lished in 1555: 

Adonque toy vestu, non des armes que feint 
Homere a son Achille, ou tout le Ciel fut peint. . . } 

(L. VIII. 36. 589-90) 

(Then, dressed not in the armor which Homer devises for his 
Achilles, where all the heavens were depicted, you ) 

If Homer's shield of Achilles was considered to have had an alle- 
gorical function, Virgil's shield in book 8 of the Aeneid has a clearly 
"prophetic" function: 

illic res Italas Romanorumque triumphos 
haud vatum ignarus venturique inscius aevi 
fecerat ignipotens, illic genus omne futurae 
stirpis ab Ascanio pugnataque in ordine bella. 

(Aeneid 8. 626-29) 

(On it, the god of fire, who was not ignorant of the prophets 
or unknowledgeable about the future, had wrought the history 
of Italy and the triumphs of Rome, every branch of the race 
which would grow from Ascanius, and the wars fought in 
their right order.) 

Ovid, on the other hand, has Minerva weave a warning for Arachne 
in his ecphrasis in Metamorphoses 6. 83-84: 

ut tamen exemplis intellegat aemula laudis, 
quod pretium speret pro tam furialibus ausis 

^ There are clear indications elsewhere in Ronsard's work that he was acquaint- 
ed with HeracUtus, see my articles "Conrad Gesner et le fabuleux manteau," 316-17, 
and "Ronsard the Painter," 38-39 and 43. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 61 

(in order that her rival should know by examples of renown 
what reward to expect for such insane daring ) 

Ronsard was aware of these functions: in his preface to the Fran- 
ciade, "Au lecteur apprentif," he recommends the use of ecphrasis as 
a prophetic device, while emphasizing the necessity for its careful 
integration in a poem and warning readers to look out for allegorical 

le Poete bien advise, plein de laborieuse Industrie, commence 
son oeuvre par le milieu de I'argument, & quelquefois par la 
fin: puis il deduit, file & poursuit si bien son argument par le 
particulier accident & evenement de la matiere qu'il s'est pro- 
pose d'escrire, tantost par personnages parlans les uns aux 
autres, tantost par songes, propheties & peintures inserees 
contre le dos d'une muraille & des harnois, & principalement des 
boucliers, ou par les dernieres paroles des hommes qui meu- 
rent, ou par augures & vol d'oiseaux & phantastiques visions 
des Dieux & de demons, ou monstrueux langages des chevaux 
navrez a mort: tellement que le dernier acte de I'ouvrage se 
cole, se lie & s'enchesne si bien & si a propos I'un dedans 
I'autre, que la fin se rapporte dextrement & artificiellement au 
premier poinct de I'argument. Telles fa? ons d'escrire, & tel art 
plus divin que humain est particulier aux Poetes, lequel de 
prime face est cache au Lecteur, s'il n'a I'esprit bien ruse pour 
comprendre un tel artifice. (L. XVI. 336-37, my italics) 

(The properly alert poet, full of diligent workmanship, begins 
his work in the middle of the plot, and sometimes at the end; 
then he devises, spins, and advances his plot so well by means 
of the individual circumstances and events of the subject 
which he has set out to write about, at one time by characters 
conversing with one another, at another by dreams, prophe- 
cies, and paintings set into the side of a wall and of armor, and 
particularly shields, or by the final words of dying men, or by 
auguries and flights of birds and fantastic visions of gods and 
demons, or unnatural speech of mortally wounded horses; in 
such a way that the final act of the work adheres, ties in, and 
interlocks so well and so appropriately together, that the 
ending relates skilfully and artistically to the first point of the 


plot. Such ways of writing, and such artistry, which is divine 
rather than human, is pecuhar to poets, being at first glance 
concealed from the reader, if he is not quick-witted enough to 
understand such craftsmanship.) 

Ronsard's own ecphrases are of various kinds, however, and the 
remarks just cited refer only to epic poetry. Throughout his writings, 
the French poet works in both the didactic Aristotelian and the mys- 
tical Neo-Platonic traditions of symbolism. Some of his descriptions 
are of actual works of art, while others are imaginary or based on lit- 
erary antecedents. Some of them portray possible works of art (given 
Renaissance conventions of pictorial narration), but others seem to 
go beyond the boundaries of what is possible in a purely visual repre- 
sentation. In examining examples of ecphrasis in Ronsard's work, we 
shall bear in mind these distinctions, and concentrate on examples 
taken from his grander, often narrative, poetry in order to see how 
this device may function in the Hymnes. ^ 

Ecphrasis in the Didactic Tradition 

As we have already seen, there is never anything particularly enig- 
matic in poetic descriptions which are produced in the didactic tradi- 
tion, although in the visual arts, such symbolism can be included in 
works of an essentially Neo-Platonic nature and be an indispensable 
part of their overall interpretation. If we fail to recognize the signifi- 
cance of individual allegorical figures in a painting, we shall certainly 
be unable to interpret the work as a whole. The didactic ecphrasis 
was quite a popular genre with the poets of the Greek Anthology, 
and one of Ronsard's early examples is a French version of an epi- 
gram by Posidippus on a statue of Time.'^ In fact, the Greek Anthol- 
ogy poem had already inspired Alciati's emblem 122, In Occasionem 
(fig. 9), although here, the gender difference between Kcapog and 
Occasio has provoked a corresponding sex change in the statue. Ron- 
sard, however, remains faithful to the original in this particular 

^ Greek Anthology, 16. 275. Panofsky discusses the iconography of Time, or 
Occasio, in Studies in Iconology: Humanist Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (New 
York: Harper and Row, 1972), 69-93. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 63 

Qui, & d'ou est rouvrier? Du Mans. Son nom? le Conte. 
Et mais toy qui es tu? le Tems qui tout surmonte. 
Pourquoy sur les ergos vas tu toujours coulant? 
Pour montrer que je suis incessenunent roulant. 
Pourquoy te sont les piedz ornez de doubles aisles? 
Affin de m'en voler comme vent desus elles. 
Pourquoy va ta main dextre un rasoiier touchant? 
Pour montrer que je suis plus agu qu'un trenchant. 
Pourquoy dessus les yeux voltige ta criniere? 
Pour estre pris davant & non par le derriere. 
Et pourquoy chauve? affin de ne me voir hape, 
Si des le premier coup je ne suis atrape. 
Tel peint au naturel le Conte me decueuvre, 
Et pour toy sur ton huys a mis ce beau chef d'euvre. 

(L. V. 90-91) 

("Who is the artist and where is he from?" "From Le Mans." 
"His name?" "Le Conte." "And who are you then?" "Time 
who conquers all." "Why are you always sliding on your 
heels?" "To show that I am perpetually on the move." "Why 
are your feet adorned with double wings?" "In order to fly off 
on them like the wind." "Why is your right hand touching a 
razor?" "To show that I am sharper than a blade." "Why is 
your lock of hair floating over your eyes?" "In order to be 
caught at the front and not from behind." "And why are you 
bald?" "In order not to be grabbed, if I am not caught first 
time round. Thus painted after nature Le Conte displays me, 
and has set up this fine masterpiece for you on your door.") 

The French version differs in two major respects from the Greek 
poem: the Greek sculptor Lysippus of Sicyon has been replaced by 
Ronsard's friend, Nicolas Denisot (1515-1559), a somewhat shadowy 
figure whose career included the activities of poet, artist, cartogra- 
pher, and spy;* consequently, the sculpture becomes a painting; and 
the heavily didactic ending of the original (/cat eV TpodvpoLq ByJKe 

* See Enea Balmas, "Un poeta francese in Inghilterra nel cinquecento," in Criti- 
cal Dimensions: English, German and Comparative Literature Essays in Honor ofAure- 
lio Zanco, edited by Mario Curreli and Alberto Martino (Cuneo: Saste, 1978), 21-38. 


dLdaaKokirfv — "and he placed [me] at the front door as a warning") 
is omitted by Ronsard. As far as the first point is concerned, it is 
impossible (and unimportant) to know whether Denisot, who as an 
artist was best known for his pastel portraits, did ever produce such 
a work, or whether Ronsard is simply using his name to give an 
updated version of the epigram. On the second point, Ronsard 
achieves his didactic purpose by stressing that the picture is placed 
"pour toy sur ton huys." The Greek poem is simply addressed to a 
passing stranger (cf. ^eCve, line 12). In this description, all the details 
concerning the image are carefully explained. Some are obvious (the 
winged feet), others at first sight are less so (the razor, the forelock), 
but when explained are unforgettable, thus fulfilling the didactic pur- 
pose of the symbolism. 

Ronsard is still working in this tradition in his description of 
Love in the sonnet Amour, qui si long tarns 

Sur un Terme dore je te peindrai tout nu, 
En I'air un pie leve, a chaque flanc une aelle, 
L'arc courbe dans la main, le carquois sous I'esselle, 
Le corps gras & douillet, le poil crespe & menu.' 

(L. VI. 47. 5-8) 

(I shall paint you quite naked on a gilded pillar, with one foot 
raised in the air and a wing at each side, your drawn bow in 
your hand and your quiver under your armpit, with a chubby, 
dainty body and thin wavy hair.) 

This time, however, the discovery of the allegorical significance of 
the various attributes is left to the reader, although classical anteced- 
ents (especially Propertius, 2. 12), Renaissance poems (e.g., MaruUus, 
Epigrams 1. 58), and paintings would have made the symbolism clear. 
Love is naked because lovers cannot cover up their madness; he is 
winged because love is fickle and fast-moving; the bow and arrows 
signify both the sudden wounding lovers suffer when they first con- 
template the beauty of the beloved (often seen as shafts emanating 
from the eyes), and the great pain of love; and the boyish attributes 
symbolize the lover's childlike imprudence. It is in particular the 
pain of love that the poet stresses in the rest of the sonnet. 

On the iconography of Cupid, see Panofsky, Studies in Iconology, 95-128. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 65 

Still in the didactic tradition, Ronsard also devotes some of his 
ecphrases to imaginary buildings, in the manner of Virgil, Aeneid 1. 
446-93 and 6. 14-41. One example, an encomiastic piece entitled La 
Vertu amoureuse, presents a description of a temple, a device which 
Ronsard had already used in the 1555 collection of Hymnes in Le 
Temple de Messeigneurs le Connestable, et des Chastillons (L. VIII. 
72-84), and which we shall discuss below. La Vertu amoureuse is dedi- 
cated to Girolamo della Rovere, the beloved of Virtue: 

Au plus haut du sommet de ce rocher pointu, 
Est un temple d'airain qu'a basti la Vertu, 
D'airain en est la porte, & par grand artifice 
D'airain plus cler que verre est parfaict I'edifice. 
La, de tous les costez de ce grand Univers 
Les peuples sont assiz en des sieges divers: 
L'un bas & I'autre haut en son rang y habite, 
Et chacun a son lieu selon qu'il le merite. 

(L. X. 337-38. 11-18) 

(At the topmost summit of this pointed crag is a bronze 
temple built by Virtue: its door is bronze, and the building is 
completed, with great craftsmanship, in bronze which is 
brighter than glass. From all points of this great universe, the 
nations are sitting there in various seats: one dwells below and 
the other on high according to his rank, and each has his place 
according to his just deserts.) 

The significance of the symbolism is quite apparent: to attain 
Virtue, you must ascend a steep rocky crag, but once there, her tem- 
ple is an eternal one, bronze being a symbol of durability (as in Hor- 
ace, Odes 3. 30. 1, "aere perennius"). The glassy brightness of the 
temple probably represents the idea of truth and wisdom, as mirrors 
traditionally symbolize the reflection of divine truth. 

In all these cases of didactic ecphrasis, whether Ronsard has liter- 
ary or pictorial models in mind, the message— didactic, encomiastic, 
or merely playful— has been clear, the reader being spared the necessi- 
ty of going beyond conventional systems of iconographical symbol- 
ism. Moreover, the relevance of these descriptions to the central mes- 
sage of the poems has been obvious. The same will not necessarily be 
true for ecphrases in the Neo-Platonic tradition. 


Ecphrasis in the Neo-Platonic Tradition 

Whereas the sources for didactic symbolism tend to be of a general 
rather than a specific nature, often representing the amalgam of a 
number of different literary and iconographical traditions, in the case 
of Neo-Platonic images, there are usually one or more particular 
texts that underlie them. In painting as in poetry, it is crucial to dis- 
cover these texts if the spectator or reader wishes to appreciate the 
deeper significance of the work of art, and not remain at the level of 
contemplating its superficial beauty. We have already noted, howev- 
er, that in the Neo-Platonic tradition appearances can be notoriously 
deceptive, and the more shocking the image presented, the more 
mysterious its essential message is likely to be. 

Such is probably the case with an early Ronsard ode, A son lict 
(L. I. 257-59). At first sight, the poem seems to be little more than a 
celebration of the bed where the poet has enjoyed the pleasures of 
love with Cassandre.^° However, a short ecphrasis is introduced of 
a painting of Mars and Venus which, because of its specific details, is 
more than a facile comparison, and yet makes no overt demand on 
the reader to consider it as particularly significant. 

Qui a point veu Mars & Venus 
Dans un tableau portraits tous nus, 
Des dous amours la mere estroictement 
Tient Mars lasse, qui laisse lentement 

Sa lance tumber a coste 

De si douce force donte, 

Et la baisant presse I'ivoire blanc 

Bouche sur bouche, & le flanc sur le flanc. 

(lines 9-16) 

(Who has not seen Mars and Venus portrayed quite naked in 
a picture; the mother of sweet Cupids tightly clings to an 
exhausted Mars, who negligently drops his lance at his side, 
overcome by such gentle force, and as he kisses her, he puts 

^° This is true of one of the possible models mentioned by Lavmionier, Ariosto, 
Rime 4, Capitoli 8, "O piu che'l giorno" (see the edition of the Lirica, edited by 
Giuseppe Fatini [Bari, 1924 J. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 67 

his weight on her white ivory, with his mouth on her mouth, 
his side against hers.) 

Obviously, the erotic content of such a picture is an important factor 
in evoking for the reader the heroic sight of the poet in bed with his 
beloved. Moreover, the Mars/Venus prototype, in addition to being 
a popular subject of painting in its own right, also lies behind pic- 
tures of other heroic couples such as Alexander the Great and Rox- 
ane (fig. 10) and Odysseus and Penelope.^* However, the allegorical 
meaning of the painting would have been clear to educated people in 
the Renaissance. 

The evocation of the adultery of Ares and Aphrodite by the bard 
Demodocus in the Odyssey (8. 266-366) was generally considered to 
be the most shocking of the Homeric myths, unless it was read alle- 
gorically. Heraclitus the Rhetor and Proclus offer similar explana- 
tions. Heraclitus' more straightforward version {Homeric Allegories 
69. 8-10) is as follows: 

For [Homer] seems from this to confirm the ideas of the 
Sicilian school and the opinion of Empedocles, calling Ares 
discord and Aphrodite friendship. Homer has demonstrated 
then these two originally separated principles, after their long- 
standing strife, mixing together in a single unity. Hence, logi- 
cally, from both of them has been born Harmony, the uni- 
verse having been harmonized in a calm and measured way. 

Proclus devotes several pages to the myth {In Rempuhlicam 6. 141- 
43), explaining that Ares is the principle of separation in the world, 
who needs the unifying powers of Aphrodite to arrange contrary 
forces. "The Universe also needed, as it seems, an association of the 
kind, so that opposites could be harmonized and that the war inher- 

" For Mars and Venus compositions, cf. Botticelli's painting in the National 
Gallery, London, and Piero de Cosimo's in the Staathche Museen, Berlin-Dahlem, 
as well as Fontainebleau engravings by L. D. (Zerner, L. D. 72) and Jean Mignon 
(Zerner, J. M. 38). The Alexander and Roxane composition, described in an 
ecphrasis by Lucian {Herodotus or Action, 5), was painted by D Sodoma in the Villa 
farnesina (Rome) and by Primaticcio in the Chambre de Madame d'Estampes at 
Fontainebleau, who also painted Ulysses and Penelope in the Galerie d'Ulysse (cf. 
the oil painting in the Toledo Museum, Ohio, and details in Sylvie Beguin et al.. 
La Galerie d'Ulysse a Fontainebleau). 


ent in the Cosmos should finally end in peace." This principle of 
unification and harmonization seems to lie behind the picture with 
which Ronsard presents us, where Mars, overcome by Venus' "si 
douce force," abandons the (no doubt phallic) symbol of his bellicose 
nature, the lance. This helps to explain the curious opening stanza: 

Lict, que le fer industrieus 

D'un artisan laborieus 
A fagonne, t'honorant d'un tel tour 
Qu'a ce grand monde en vouste tout autour. 

(lines 1-4) 

(Bed, fashioned by the diligent tool of an assiduous craftsman, 
honoring you with such a canopy that it contains this great 
vaulted universe all around it.) 

The bed has become a symbol of the whole universe, and the love of 
the poet and his mistress is a copy, albeit an imperfect one, of the 
union of Mars and Venus. Through the fureur of love, man can 
attain the harmony necessary for the apprehension of divine truths. 
It is perhaps for this reason that Ronsard deplores the absence of the 
bed from the heavenly constellations: 

Ha que grand tort te font les dieus 

Qui ne te logent en leurs cieus, 
Tu leur ferois plus d'honneur que ne font 
Un Chien, un Cancre, & deus Ours qui i sont. 

(lines 25-28) 

(Oh! what a great wrong the gods do you in not placing you 
in their heavens; you would do them greater honor than a 
dog, a crab, and two bears, which are there.) 

We have already looked at another poem to his mistress from Le 
Bocage (L. VI. 52), where Ronsard promises to reward the god of 
sleep, Morpheus, by hanging an ex-voto picture on his bed if the god 
consents to give the poet a vision of Cassandre: 

Sur le haut de mon lict en vceu je t'apendrai, 
Devot, un saint tableau, sur lequel je peindrai 
L'heur que j'aurai re9eu de ta forme douteuse, 

Et comme Jupiter a Troye fut deceu 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 69 

Du Somme & de Junon, apres avoir receu 
De la simple Venus la ceinture amoureuse. 

(lines 9-14) 

(I shall piously hang up for you as a votive offering on the top 
of my bed a sacred picture, on which I shall depict the good 
fortune I shall have received from your uncertain image, and 
how Jupiter at Troy was deceived by Sleep and Juno, after she 
received the amorous girdle of simple Venus.) 

The "saint tableau" is, in fact, going to portray another of the most 
shocking incidents in Homer, the seduction of Zeus by Hera on 
Mount Ida {Iliad 14. 153-351). Ronsard had already described this 
scene at greater length, as we have seen, in Des Peintures contenues 
dedans un tableau (L. I. 259-64. 49-66), interpreting the story, in 
accordance with Heraclitus the Rhetor's explanation {Homeric Allego- 
ries, 39), as an allegory of the onset of spring caused by the union of 
the hot upper air (Zeus) with the cooler lower air (Hera).^^ In the 
case of the sonnet, however, this interpretation does not work, and 
we have to turn to Proclus to discover the significance of the myth. 
According to him, Zeus symbolizes the demiurge, or Intelligence 
acting on the world, and Hera stands for creative fecundity. Their 
union on Mount Ida (the hypercosmic world of Ideas), although 
described in terms of a single incident, actually represents an eternal 
state. So, the ex-voto painting is "saint" not through its ostensible 
subject (where as in the poem A son lict the human couple is assimi- 
lated with the divine), but through its transcendent meaning, which 
represents the mystery of creation. ^-^ 

The two examples of ecphrasis we have considered so far have 
been quite short evocations of famous subjects, whose literary ante- 
cedents were also well-known. As a result, Ronsard needed only a 
few words and details to conjure up the whole scene in his readers' 
minds. However, there are many instances in his poetry where the 
scenes he evokes are less well-known, or completely imaginary, in 
which case, a longer description is called for. We have already dis- 

^ See my article "Ronsard the Painter," 38-39. 

" For a discussion of the Proclus passage {In Rempublicam 6. 132-40), see 
Buffiere, Les Mythes d'Homere, 544-48. 


cussed the detailed allegorical piaure presented in Des Peintures conte- 
nues dedans un tableau}^ Another relatively early work, La Ha- 
rangue que fit Monseigneur le due de Guise aus soudards de Mez (L. V. 
203-19) contains several detailed descriptions of the scenes engraved 
upon the Duke's armor. ^^ 

Francois de Guise is presented on the ramparts of Metz, putting 
on his armor in preparation for the defense of the city against the 
Holy Roman Emperor. Ronsard is thinking here of the passage in 
the Iliad (11. 16ff.) where Agamemnon similarly dresses for battle. 
First, Franfois, like the Greek leader, puts on his cuisses and greaves, 
which are joined at the knee by a device in the form of a snake (lines 

Sur le pli du genou erroit un grand serpent 
Qui des tortis brises de son ventre ranpant 
Faisoit le mouvement de cete genouilliere, 
Le bordant de sa queiie en lieu de cordeliere. 

(Where the knee bent, there curled round a great snake which, 
with the interrupted undulations of its crawling belly, acted as 
a joint for this genouillere, guarding it with its tail in place of 
a tie.) 

If, as seems likely, the snake is wound around the knee joint in a 
circle, we have here the ouroboros, a symbol of the eternal cycle of 
birth, death, and resurrection. 

The corslet which Francois puts on next has a rather more de- 
tailed design (lines 41-74). Just below the gorget. Pope Urban II is 
engraved, sending off the various Christian princes on the first Cru- 
sade (1096-99), including Godefroi de Bouillon who, as Laumonier 
explains, was claimed by the Guise family as an ancestor. He is 
depicted selling Verdun, Metz, and Bouillon to finance his expedi- 
tion. He is also seen leading his troops into battle: 

Au milieu des Soudars la sanglante Bellone 
D'un fer rouille portraite horriblement felonne 

'* In "Ronsard the Painter," and chapter 2. 

** For the background to this poem and details of other works written in cele- 
bration of the viaory over Charles V, see my article "George Buchanan's Court 
Poetry and the Pleiade," French Studies 34 (1980): 142-47. See also Margaret Mc- 
Gowan, Ideal Forms, 103-14. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 71 

Erroit avec Discorde, & d'un foet sonnant 
Aloit de ses Guerriers les coeurs epoin90iinant. 

(lines 63-66) 

(In the midst of the soldiers, bloody Bellona, depicted in rusty 
iron as horrifically cruel, was roaming with Discord, and with 
cracking whip was goading the hearts of her warriors.) 

These lines recall a similar scene, to which Ronsard had already 
alluded in Des Peintures contenues dedans un tableau (L. I. 264. 89-90), 
on the arms presented by Venus to Aeneas in Aeneid 8. 700-703: 

. . . saevit medio in certamine Mavors 
caelatus ferro, tristesque ex aethere Dirae, 
et scissa gaudens vadit Discordia palla, 
quam cum sanguineo sequitur Bellona flagello. 

(Mars rages in the midst of the battle, engraved in iron, and 
the grim Furies from the upper air, and Discord, rejoicing, 
marches on, her robe torn, followed by Bellona with her 
bloody whip.) 

A seabattle is also engraved on the corslet, which shows the death of 
Canbaran d'Oliferne,^^ the capitulation of Antioch, Nicaea, Tyre, 
and Sydon, and the final success of Godefroi who "de toute la Judee 
etoit peint comme Roi" (line 74) — in fact, although offered the 
crown of Jerusalem, he accepted only the title of "avoue du Saint- 

Thus, the corslet both serves as a reminder of past glories of the 
Guise family, and perhaps also suggests a comparison with the events 
depicted on the shield of Aeneas, in particular with the final scene of 
the defeat of Anthony and Cleopatra by Augustus {Aeneid 8. 675- 
719). In this way, it acts as a visual exhortation just as the opening of 
the due de Guise's speech to his men does, recalling past glories and 
promising future viaory: 

Pource amis prenes cceur, imites vos ai'eus. 
Encore Dieu nous aime, encore Dieu ses yeus 

'^ Ronsard refers to this giant also in an elegy to Charles DC (L. XIU. 135. 89), 
see Lanmonier, note 3. 


N'a detourne de nous, ni de notre entreprise, 
Aingois plus que devant la Gaule il favorise, 
La Gaule il favorise, & favorisera 
Tant que notre bon Roi son gouverneur sera. 

(lines 121-26) 

(God still loves us, God has still not turned aside his gaze 
from us or from our undertaking, but rather he favors Gaul 
more than before, he favors Gaul, and he will continue to 
favor her so long as our good king is her governor.) 

The Duke then takes up his "merveilleuse targe," on which the 
imagery is not so explicit. On it: 

. . . du fils d'Aristor 
Estoient graves les yeus en cent etoiles d'or. 
Deux couleuvres d'acier dos a dos tortillees, 
Trainant dedans le fer leurs traces ecaillees 
Couroient le long du bord, qui d'un col replie 
Ressenbloient de couleur a cet Arc varie. 
Que Jupiter atache au milieu des nuages 
Tout courbe, pour servir aux hommes de presages. 

(lines 77-84) 

(. . . the eyes of Aristor's son were engraved as a hundred gold- 
en stars. Two steel snakes, entwined back to back and trailing 
in the iron their scaly path, ran around the edge, and with 
their folded necks they seemed to be of the same color as that 
many-hued bow which Jupiter fastens, fully bent, in the midst 
of the clouds, to serve as an omen to men.) 

The center of the shield is in the shape of a three-headed Gorgon 
(lines 85-88), while elsewhere are depicted Charles d'Anjou and 
Rene d'Anjou, two more ancestors of the Guise family, both pre- 
sented as kings of Naples (lines 89-92). 

As elsewhere in Ronsard's poetry, the image of the rainbow is 
introduced, on this occasion with an explicit statement that its prop- 
erty is to "servir aux hommes de presages," in order to alert the 
reader to an allegorical message in the text. Many of the details on 
the shield are borrowed from the passage in the Iliad (11. 15-46) de- 
picting Agamemnon's weapons. The rainbow serpents are taken from 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 73 

Agamemnon's breastplate: "dark blue snakes writhed up towards the 
neck, three on either side, like rainbows that the son of Kronos hath 
set in the clouds" (lines 26-28). Similarly, the Gorgon's head is also 
suggested by Homer. Agamemnon's shield has embossed on it "the 
Gorgon fell of aspect glaring terribly, and about her were Dread and 
Terror. And from the shield was hung a baldric of silver, and there- 
on was curled a snake of cyanus; three heads interlaced had he, grow- 
ing out of one neck" (lines 36-40); compare Ronsard's lines 85-88: 

Du milieu de I'ecu Gorgone s'elevoit 
Borgnoiant renfrongne, qui trois testes avoit 
Naissantes d'un seul col, & de chacune teste 
Grongnante, vomissoit la foudre & la tempeste. 

(From the middle of the shield reared up the Gorgon, scowl- 
ing and frowning, having three heads growing out of a single 
neck, and from each growling head vomiting forth thunder 
and tempest.) 

Ronsard would have found in Eustathius' Commentaries a detailed 
explanation of the shield as a model of the universe, just like Heracli- 
tus* explanation of the shield of Achilles.^'' The stars engraved on 
the shield (in Agamemnon's shield they are bosses) are both represen- 
tations of the stars in the sky and of Zeus's eyes, for as Eustathius 

The bosses, they say, suggest the stars. And such is claimed by 
the allegorists, who say too that the king's shield beautifully 
portrays the heavens, which Homer first said resembled 
Olympian Zeus's eyes and head. (Eustathius, 828. 40) 

The two entwined snakes around the circumference of the shield, in 
addition to being symbols of the rainbow or messenger of the gods, 
also represent the universe, and may stand for the cyclical nature of 
Time and Fate. The Gorgon in the middle of the shield, according to 
Eustathius, stands for the fear which the bearer inspires, while the 
military successes at Naples of yet more ancestors of the Guise 
family need no explanation. 

" See Buffiere, Les Mythes d'Homere, 164-65. 


Thus, the overall meaning of the shield seems to be that he who 
puts his trust in God, the ruler of the universe, will have nothing to 
fear about the outcome of any battle. Again, this theme is taken up 
in the due de Guise's exhortation to his troops, lines 127-40, as, for 
example, in the opening lines: 

Donque ne craignes point tel peuple de Gendarmes: 
Mais chacun se fiant plus en Dieu qu'en ses armes, 
Droit opose sa pique au-devant du guerrier 
Qui viendra sur la breche au conbat le premier. 

(Therefore have no fear of such a race of soldiers; but let each 
man, trusting more in God than in his weapons, set his lance 
directly to meet the warrior who first comes into the breach 
to fight.) 

The helmet (lines 93-104), gleaming like a fire sweeping through 
a field of corn, depicts the struggle between Hercules and Antaeus, a 
popular subject in Renaissance sculpture and painting (see, for exam- 
ple, fig. 11). Ronsard was soon, of course, to devote an entire hymn 
to the Hercule Chrestien (in 1555, see L. VIII. 207-23), where the 
pagan hero is seen as an antetype of Christ. Although Antaeus is not 
mentioned by name in the later poem, Hercules' defeat of the vari- 
ous monsters and giants he encountered is regarded as an allegory of 
Christ overcoming vice (lines 173-82). However, the pagan demigod 
was also seen as an image of France (as in L. XV. 397),^^ and Antae- 
us simply as the enemy {dvTmoc; meaning "contrary" or "hostile"). 
This is made clear by Ronsard in his verse explanation of the image- 
ry used in the 1571 entry of Charles IX into Paris: 

Bien que tout ennemy de France 
Touchast sa terre comme Anthe 
Pour faire issir en abondance 
Un peuple aux armes redoute 
II sera tousiours surmonte. 
Car la France qui ne recule 
Pleine d'un courage indomte 

" See Marc-Rene Jixng, Hercule dans la litterature frangaise du XVI* Steele de 
I'Hercule courtois a I'Hercule baroque, THR 79 (Geneva: Droz, 1966), p. 92, n. 63. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 75 

Resemble un magnanime Hercule 
Plus forte en son adversite. 

(Even if any enemy of France should touch their land like 
Antaeus to bring out in profusion a race feared in battle, they 
will always be overcome. For unflinching France, full of 
untamed courage, is like a stout-hearted Hercules, stronger in 

Again, this theme is picked up in the due de Guise's speech, lines 

Sus, courage Soudars, sus, sus, montres vous or' 
De la race d'Hercule, & de celle d'Hector: 
Hercule, apres avoir I'Espagne surmontee 
Vint en Gaule epouser la Roine Galatee, 
Dont vous estes issus 

(Come, take courage, Soldiers, come, come, now show your- 
selves to be the descendants of Hercules and of Hector: Hercu- 
les, after conquering Spain, came to Gaul to marry queen Gal- 
atea, from whom you are descended. . . .) 

Even the simile (lines 94-96) can be read allegorically: the helmet is 
like heaven-sent fire which cheats the ploughmen (Charles V and his 
army) of the harvest they are expeaing to reap, the city of Metz 
(". . . qui des chams va pillant / Les epis desja meurs, lors que parmi 
les plaines / Des laboureurs fraudes le ciel gate les peine?" [". . . 
which ravages the now-ripe ears of corn in the fields, when in the 
plains the heavens ruin the toil of the cheated farmers"]). A similar 
symbolic meaning can be seen in the comparison concerning Fran- 
cois's dagger, which has a martial gleam to it: "Plus que I'astre de 
Mars ependoit de lumiere" (line 108). 

So an allegorical reading of the iconography of the arms of the 
due de Guise provides a unity to the poem which is otherwise 
lacking, offering an example of what I have termed elsewhere the 
paradigmatic function of the ecphrasis: ^' the various motifs, recall- 
ing past deeds of glory and pointing to future victory, act as a paral- 

" See my paper "La Fonction de Vekphrasis chez Ronsard," 85-87. 


lei to the words spoken by the commander to his men, anticipating 
what he will say. Although the allusions are wide-ranging, their sig- 
nificance is not excessively obscure, providing the reader is prepared 
to consider their context and allegorical significance. However, while 
purporting merely to describe the armor, Ronsard also uses the 
medium of poetry to suggest rather more than engravings in gold, sil- 
ver, and steel could do: color is an important feature of the descrip- 
tion ("Sa robe etoit de pourpre. . . ," line 49; ". . . rougissoit I'autre 
bord," line 70; "Ressenbloient de couleur a cet Arc varie. . . ," line 
82); emotions are attributed to engraved figures ("Vis-a-vis de ce pape 
engraves en or fin / Tressailloient d'alegresse EUSTACE & BAUDOESf 
/ Et LE COMTE DE Flandre. . . ," lines 54-56); and the apparently 
arbitrary order in which the various pieces of armor are taken 
(cuisses and greaves, including knee joint; corslet; shield; helmet; 
sword; dagger) has more to do with their allegorical significance than 
with a realistic depiction of how they would have been put on. Like 
Virgil, in his description of Aeneas' shield, Ronsard outdoes the plas- 
tic arts in his allusiveness and emotional range. 

Another genre where ecphrasis is found in the ancient world is 
bucolic poetry ,^° and Ronsard has a number of pieces in which he 
describes the scenes depicted on baskets, cups, shepherds' crooks, 
lyres, and other pastoral artifacts. One such is to be found in the 
eclogue Daphnis et Thyrsis (L. XII. 146ff.), where the two classical 
names are pseudonyms for Charles IX and his brother, the future 
Henry III. 

In an early section of the poem, Thyrsis describes the wooden cup 
which he will wager in a singing contest: 

. . . Une vigne descent 32 

Tout a I'entour des bords, qui, de raisins chargee. 
Est de quatre ou de cinq pucelles vandangee: 
L'une tient un panier, I'autre tient un cousteau, 
Et I'autre de ses pieds presse le vin nouveau, 36 

Qui semble s'ecouller dans la tace profonde. 

A I'ombre de la vigne est une Nymphe blonde 
A cheveux delies, qui se couvre le flanc 

^ Examples may be found in Theocritus, 1. 29-56, Moschiis, 2. 43-62, and 
Virgil, Eclogues 3. 36-42, 44-46. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 77 

Et le corps seulement d'un petit linge blanc. 40 

Deux Satyres cornus sont au pres de la belle, 
Qui ont les yeux enfles de trop veiller pour elle, 
Blesses de son amour: mais, peu se chaillant d'eux, 
Quelque fois de sur Tun, quelque fois sur les deux, 44 
Mignarde son regard & se prend a sourire, 
Leur donnant le martel, & ne s'en fait que rire. 

Un pescheur est assis au bord du gobelet. 
Qui courbe fait semblant de getter un filet 48 

Dans la mer pour pescher, puis de toute sa force 
Et des mains & des pieds & de veines s'efforce 
De le tirer sur I'eau: ses muscles, grands & gros, 
S'enflent depuis son chef jusqu'au bas de son dos, 52 

Tout le front luy degoute, & bien qu'il soit vieil homme, 
Le labeur toutesfois ses membres ne consomme. 
Son reth est dessoubs I'eau, & diries a le voir 
Qu'en tirant il ahanne, & ne le peut r'avoir. 56 

(A vine hangs down all around the edges, laden with grapes, 
and is being harvested by four or five young girls: one is 
holding a basket, another a knife, and another is treading with 
her feet the new wine, which appears to flow into the deep 
cup. Shaded by the vine is a blond nymph with loosely-flow- 
ing hair, whose side and body are covered only by a small 
piece of white linen. Two horned satyrs stand next to this 
beauty, their eyes swollen from watching out for her too 
much, wounded with love for her; but, taking little thought 
for them, she casts wanton glances and begins to smile at one 
time on one of them, at another on both, causing them to 
throb with passion, and all she does is laugh about it. A fisher- 
man is sitting on the edge of the goblet and, bending over, 
makes as if to fling a net into the sea to catch fish, then with 
all his might he strains with hands and feet and veins to draw 
it over the water: his great big muscles swell from his head to 
the base of his back, his brow is completely covered in sweat, 
and, although he is an old man, the effort does not, however, 
consume his limbs.) 

Ronsard clearly has in mind literary models for this ecphrasis, in 
particular Theocritus, Idylls 1. 29-56, where a similar cup is wagered 


by a goatherd.^^ This cup has a scene containing a beautiful woman 
who is gazed at by two handsome, love-lorn youths, and another 
scene of an old but vigorous fisherman dragging in a net. (The pseu- 
do-Hesiodic Scutum contains a similar fisherman-scene in lines 213- 
15.) It is probably Homer's shield of Achilles that provides Ronsard 
with the grape-harvest details (cf. Iliad 18. 561-72). 

Are we presented with a simple example of literary imitation and 
adaptation here for the purpose of adornment, or is Ronsard using these 
scenes to convey some meaning? The Uterary sources are not particular- 
ly helpful, although the scholia on Theocritus and Homer may offer 
some indication. The wine-making scene around the rim of the cup 
clearly evokes Bacchus. Perhaps we have an allusion here to the inspira- 
tional properties of wine, made all the more likely as the Homeric scene 
has references to the vintagers working to the sound of a boy singing. 
Eustathius says of this: "Joy-giving Dionysus displays his properties not 
only in wine, but also consoles with music, taking away weariness in 
the grape-gathering."^^ Similarly, the second scene (where Theocritus' 
youths have been turned by Ronsard into satyrs) represents the effects 
of love. An enigmatic comment in the schoUa to Theocritus says: "some 
people say [the woman] is Pandora."^^ If so, she may be a symbol, as 
is the case with the first scene, of abundance. Pandora being understood 
in the etymological sense of "all-giving." In Henry II's entry into Paris 
in 1549, a figure of Pandora, representing the city of Paris, was placed in 
a colonnade (fig. 12): 

vestue en Nymphe, les cheveux espars sur ses espaulles, & au 
demeurant tressez a I'entour de sa teste ... & faisant conten- 
ance d'ouvrir de I'une de ses mains un vase antique seulement 
remply de tous les heureux presens des puissances celestes, non 
des infortunez.^'* 

(dressed as a nymph, with her hair flowing over her shoulders, 
and moreover plaited around her head . . . and making a ges- 

^* On Theocritus' ecphrases, see Salvatore Nicosia, Teocrito. Nicosia believes 
that Theocritus is describing an actual work of art, cf. p. 22. 

^ Eustathius, vol. 4, 97-98. 

^ Scholia in Theocritum vetera, ed. Carolus Wendel (Stuttgart: Teubner, 1967), 

^* See McFarlane, Entry of Henri II, fols. l^-12^ 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 79 

ture as if to open with one of her hands an ancient vase filled 
solely with all the blessed gifts of the heavenly powers, and 
none of the unfortunate ones.) 

Do we then have in this scene a depiction of the powerfully inspira- 
tional effects of the erotic frenzy? Finally, in the fishing scene, Ron- 
sard stresses the effort of the fisherman, and his strength, despite his 
old age. Once more, there is an image of abundance here— the net is 
difficult to pull in because it is so full of fish. But perhaps this is also 
an allusion to the effort needed to create. The cup, the reward for 
poetry, depicts symbolically the process of poetic creation. 

If this ecphrasis has clearly literary models, another of Ronsard's 
descriptions of a goblet is inspired by both a literary work and an 
actual picture. In the Bergerie, composed for performance at Fon- 
tainebleau in the spring of 1564, Navarrin (the ten-year-old Henri de 
Navarre) describes a cup in his possession (L. XIII. 85-87). One of 
the central motifs depicts a satyr trying to rape a nymph: 

Presque tout au millieu du gobelet est peint 

Un Satyre cornu, qui brusquement estreint 

Tout au travers du corps une jeune bergere, 

Et la veut faire choir desouz une fougiere. 184 

Son couvrechef luy tombe, & a de toutes pars 
A I'abandon du vent ses beaux cheveux espars, 
Dont elle courroucee, ardente en son courage 
Tourne loing du Satyre arriere le visage, 188 

Essayant d'eschapper, & de la dextre main 
Luy arrache le poil du menton & du sein, 
Et luy froisse le nez de 1' autre main senestre, 
Mais en vain car tousjours le Satyre est le maistre. 192 

Trois petitz enfans nuds de jambes & de bras 
Taillez au naturel, tous potelez & gras 
Sont graves a I'entour: Tun par vive entreprise 
Veut faire abandonner au Satyre la prise, 196 

Et d'une infante main par deux & par trois fois 
Prend celle du bouquin & luy ouvre les doids. 
L'autre plus courrouce, d'une dent bien aigue 
Mord ce Dieu ravisseur par la cuisse pelue, 200 

Se tient contre sa greve, & le pinse si fort 
Que le sang espandu souz les ongles en sort. 


Et fait signe du doid a I'autre enfant qu'il vienne, 

Et que par I'autre jambe ainsi que luy le tienne. 204 

(Almost in the very middle of the goblet is depicted a horned 
satyr, who is fiercely thrusting himself against the body of a 
young shepherd girl, and wants to make her fall beneath a 
clump of fern. Her kerchief is slipping, and her beautiful 
flowing hair is streaming in all directions at the wind's caprice. 
She is enraged at this, and, ardent in her courage, is turning 
her face far away from the satyr, trying to escape, and with 
her right hand she is pulling out the hairs of his chin and 
chest and is crushing his nose with the other left hand, but to 
no avail, for the satyr still has the upper hand. Three small 
children, with bare legs and arms, carved after nature, all 
chubby and fat, are engraved around: one is trying energetical- 
ly to make the satyr abandon his hold, and with childish 
hand, twice and thrice grasps the lecher's hand and opens his 
fingers. Another child, being more enraged, with sharp tooth 
is biting this violent god in his hairy thigh, and standing 
against his leg, is pinching him so hard that blood flows out 
beneath his nails, and he gestures with a finger to another 
child to come and to hold him by the other leg, just like 

This passage, as well as being inspired by Sannazzaro's Arcadia 4,^^ 
is also quite an exact description of an engraving by Fantuzzi (fig. 
13), believed by Zerner to date from 1542-1544, and clearly inspired 
itself by Sannazzaro's text. However (and this is neither in the Arca- 
dia nor in the engraving, but is perhaps inspired by a sculpture by 
Sansovino [fig. 14] given to Francis I in 1540), the third boy is intent 
on pulling a thorn from his foot, watched by a heifer: 

Une jenisse aupres luy pend sur le talon 
Qui regarde tirer le poignant eguillon 
De I'espine cachee au fond de la chair vive, 
Et tellement elle est a ce fait ententive 212 

Que beante elle oublye a boire & a manger: 

^ See p. 28 in the edition of the Opere volgari edited by Alfredo Mauro (Bari: 
Laterza, 1961). 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 81 

Tant elle prend plaisir a ce petit berger, 
Qui tirant a la fin la pointe de I'espine, 
De douleur se renverse & tombe sur I'eschine. 216 

(A heifer is hard on his heels, watching the extraction of the 
stinging goad of the thorn buried deep in the living flesh, and 
she is so intent on this that, open-mouthed, she forgets to eat 
or drink, so much does she take pleasure in this little shepherd 
who, finally drawing out the point of the thorn, rolls over 
backwards in pain.) 

There is a companion piece to this ecphrasis in the description of 
the scenes depicted on a shepherd's crook, spoken by Guisin (the 
thirteen-year-old Henri de Guise). A nymph is portrayed on the 
crook, intent on arranging her hair, with a boy sitting at her feet: 

Aux pieds de ceste Nymphe est un garson qui semble 
Cueillir des brins de jonc & les lier ensemble, 260 

De long & de travers courbe sur le genou: 
II les presse du poulce, & les serre d'un noud, 
Puis il fait entre deux des fenestres egalles, 
Fafonnant une cage a mettre des Cygalles. 264 

Loing derriere son dos est gisante a I'escart 
Sa panetiere enflee, en laquelle un Renard 
Met le nez finement, & d'une ruze estrange 
Trouve le desjeuner du garson & le mange: 268 

Dont I'enfant s'apperfoit sans estre courrouce, 
Tant il est ententif a I'ceuvre commence. 

(At the feet of this nymph is a boy who appears to be collect- 
ing rushes and tying them together in a criss-cross, bending 
over his knee; he presses them with his thumb, and tightens 
them with a knot, then he makes evenly-spaced gaps between 
them, fashioning a cage for cicadas. His bulging lunch basket 
is lying to one side a long way behind him, into which a fox 
is cunningly sticking its nose, and in an unusual trick finds the 
lad's lunch and eats it, which the boy notices without anger, 
so intent is he on the work he has begun.) 

This scene is modelled very closely on Theocritus, 1. 45-54 as well as 
on the ecphrasis in chapter 4 of the Arcadia. 


Pastoral poetry, with its thinly disguised real-life figures masquer- 
ading as nymphs and shepherds, had since Theocritus and Virgil been 
recognized as a supremely allegorical genre. In addition to cloaking 
historical events (as happens in Virgil's first Eclogue with the rural 
expropriations), such poetry was also closely associated with prophe- 
cy {Eclogue 4 was long considered to be a messianic prophecy), as 
well as the revelation of universal truths {Eclogue 6). It comes as no 
surprise to see Ronsard using the pastoral genre in these ways. 

In the case of the Bergerie, it is the French religious wars that are 
uppermost in Ronsard's mind, and the function of ecphrasis in this 
poem is, once again, paradigmatic. The song of Orleantin, the future 
Henry HI, emphasizes this: 

Quel estrange malheur! quelle amere tristesse 
Vous tenoit, 6 forest, quand la blonde jeunesse 324 

Qui boit les eaux du Rhin, d'un estrange harnois 
Efroyable efroyoit le pais Champenois! 
Puis enflee de I'espoir d'une fauce viaoire 
Beut en lieu de son Rhin les eaux de nostre Loyre, 328 
Et osa, se fiant a I'infidelite 
Du peuple, menacer nostre grande Cite! 

(What unheard-of disaster! what bitter grief held you, oh 
forests, when the blond-haired youths who drink the waters of 
the Rhine, terrifying in their foreign armor, terrified the 
Champagne region! Then swollen up with the hope of a false 
victory they drank instead of their Rhine the waters of our 
Loire, and trusting in the treachery of the common folk, dared 
to threaten our great city.) 

As Laumonier explains, this is an allusion to the German mercenaries 
who had come to reinforce the Protestant army of Conde and 
Coligny in 1562. Read in this light, it seems clear that, in the first 
ecphrasis, the nymph being raped by the satyr and defended by two 
young children represents innocent France, attacked by the immoral 
forces of Protestantism, but defended by some of her subjects. Oth- 
ers, however, represented by the third boy, are more interested in 
their own petty problems, "Sans se donner soucy de celuy qui I'ap- 
pelle" (line 208). A similar image of negligence punished is depicted 
on the shepherd's crook. The boy, intent on constructing his cicada 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 83 

cage, does not even care that a fox (again, an obvious symbol for the 
Protestants) is stealing his food. 

As for the nymph who is also depicted on the shepherd's crook, 
drying her hair in the sun, she too may be a symbol of divided 

Elle fait d'une main semblant de ramasser 

Ceux [i.e., ses cheveux] du coste senestre, & de les 

En frizons sur I'oreille, & de I'autre elle alonge 
Ceux du dextre coste mignotes d'une esponge, 256 

Et tires fil a fil 

(With one hand she appears to be gathering up the hair on the 
left-hand side, and to be tucking it up into curls over her ear, 
and with the other she is smoothing out the hair on the right- 
hand side, gently stroked with a sponge, and drawn out thread 
by thread. . . .) 

The elaborately arranged hair on the left, inauspicious side and 
the more natural hair on the right side probably represent the con- 
trast between artifice and false appearance on the one hand and 
natural innocence on the other. 

One of Ronsard's most famous examples of ecphrasis occurs in 
the poem addressed A Monsieur de Belot, subsequently entitled La 
Lyre (L. XV. 15-38). We have already seen that the opening of this 
poem deals to a large extent with the nature of inspiration and the 
Platonic fureurs,^^ so it is quite natural that Ronsard should include 
some Neo-Platonic mysteries in the scenes depicted on his lyre, 
described in the second half of the poem (lines 295-456). (The instru- 
ment Ronsard has in mind is, from the details of the description, 
more likely to be a lute or viol than what we would call a lyre. The 
Latin term lyra could at that time refer to either instrument.) 

The first of these scenes (lines 301-26) depicts Apollo, banqueting 
amongst the other gods and, through his singing and lute-playing, 

^^ See above, chap. 2. In a paper given at the Third Meeting of the International 
Society for the Classical Tradition (Boston University, 8-12 March 1995), "Ronsard, 
Horace, and the Dynamics of Poetic Creativity," Donald Gilman suggested that this 
poem may be modelled on the sixteen-line Horatian Ode 1. 32. 


bringing harmony to the quarrel between Minerva and Neptune over 
which of the two should be the tutelary deity of Athens. Rosso had 
produced a composition based on this subject, which is preserved in 
engravings by Fantuzzi and Boyvin (fig. 15) and is modelled on the 
ecphrasis of Minerva's tapestry (Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 70-82).^ 
Although disputes between the gods were considered to be examples 
of the more shocking kind of myth, unsuitable for the young, Ron- 
sard in this case reveals to his readers the mystical meaning of this 
myth, thereby allerting them to further mysteries within the poem. 
Pallas, with her olive tree, embodies peace (line 319), Neptune, with 
his stallion, stands for war (line 322). Like Venus and Mars, then, 
they represent the two opposing forces in the universe which are 
maintained in equilibrium by Apollo, who symbolizes harmony. 
The second scene, of Apollo and Marsyas, is not explained: 

Au naturel dans I'i voire attache 
Est un Marsye au corps tout escorche, 328 

Qui de son sang fait un fleuve en Phrygie, 
Punition d'oser sa chalemie 
Plus que le Luc d'ApoUon estimer. 
Vous le verriez lentement consommer 332 

Mourant par art, & d'une face humaine 
N'estre plus rien qu'une large fonteine. 

(Hanging in a natural manner in the ivory is a Marsyas, his 
body entirely flayed, creating a river with his blood in Phry- 
gia, a punishment for daring to prize his reed-pipe above 
Apollo's lute. You would see him slowly being consumed, 
dying through art, and from a human shape being no more 
than an abundant fountain.) 

However, the subject was a popular one with Renaissance artists (see, 
for example, fig. 16)^* and Ronsard had already pointed to its alle- 

^ It is thought vinhkely that the nineteenth-century painting of this scene, now 
to be fovmd on the west wall of the Galerie Franfois I", is a restoration of any 
sixteenth-century composition. Ovid's description of Minerva bears a close resem- 
blance to the statue of Athene in the Parthenon (cf. Pausanias, 1. 24. 7). 

^* Works by Parmigianino representing the story were engraved by Fantuzzi 
(Zerner, A. F. 76 a and b). 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 85 

gorical meaning earlier in the poem. The dedicatee of La Lyre, Belot, 
is compared by Ronsard first to the Silenus figures, and secondly to 
"un Marsyas despouille de ses veines" (line 189). In other words, 
external appearances hide true inner beauty, or as Erasmus wrote of 
the Silenus figures: "When closed they represented some ridiculous, 
ugly flute-player, but when opened they suddenly revealed the figure 
of a god."^^ However, it was necessary for Marsyas to be stripped by 
Apollo of his ugly external appearance for the beauty of his soul to 
shine forth. Edgar Wind observes: 

Like Silenus, Marsyas was a follower of Bacchus, and his flute 
was the Bacchic instrument for arousing the dark and uncon- 
trollable passions that conflict with the purity of Apollo's 
lyre. The musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas was 
therefore concerned with the relative powers of Dionysian 
darkness and Apollonian clarity. ^° 

The third scene contains a picture of Apollo and Neptune at 
work building Troy. But whereas the latter must have recourse to 
brute strength, Apollo's music makes the rocks move of their own 
accord. The god sings of: 

. . . come au bruit de ses nerfs bien tenduz 
Mille rochers de leur bon gre fenduz 340 

Suivoient du Lut la corde non commune, 
Ou dix a peine alloient apres Neptune, 
Un Dieu grossier de mceurs & de fa^ons, 
L'autre le Roy des vers & des chansons. 344 

(. . . how at the sound of his taut strings a thousand rocks, split 
of their own volition, followed the rare chords of the lute, 
where scarcely ten followed Neptune, a god who is coarse in 
his habits and ways, the other being the king of poetry and 

Once again, we see Apollonian harmony at work here, with the god 
building Troy in the same way that Amphion built Thebes. Com- 
menting on Odyssey 11. 260-63, Dorat had explained that Amphion's 

^' Adagia, 3. 3. 1. See also Wind, Pagan Mysteries, 171-76. 
^ Wind, Pagan Mysteries. 172-73. 


singing symbolized his skills in mathematics and engineering, and 
that Thebes had seven gates in imitation of the seven planets or of 
the seven notes of the scale, or of Mercury "qui lyram septem chord- 
arum composuit in honorem 7. Pleiadum" ("who devised the seven- 
stringed lyre in honor of the seven Pleiades ").^^ Horace {Ars poetica 
39) allegorizes the Amphion myth by saying that it was his lyre-play- 
ing and coaxing prayers ("sono testudinis et prece blanda") that per- 
suaded men to build the city. Ronsard would probably have been 
aware of all these interpretations. 

The next scene (lines 351-72), depicting Apollo's love for the 
mortal Admetus, which led him to guard the young king's sheep and 
cattle, is rarely a subject for the visual arts. The love motive for 
Apollo's shepherding is also unusual, probably deriving from Calli- 
machus' hyjnn to Apollo, lines 47-54, and taken up by the Roman 
elegiac poets.^^ Normally, it is Zeus's punishment of Apollo for 
killing the Cyclopes that brings about his servitude to Admetus. 

In this picture of sexual proliferation, we see the union of the 
poetic frenzy with the erotic frenzy: Apollo, the god of poetry, like 
Venus in the Lucretian passage to which Ronsard is alluding here, 
presides over the rut of the animals in his care.-'-' Callimachus too 
had emphasized the abundance and fertility which resulted from 
Apollo's care of Admetus' animals. Ronsard would certainly have 
had in mind here the procreation of physical and spiritual offspring 
which Socrates considers to be the purpose of love [Symposium 
208-9), Apollo being responsible, in this case, for both kinds. 

The next scene is very clearly iconographic in its inspiration (see, 
for example, fig. 17), even if the movement of the last two lines 
would render it virtually impossible to represent in a single picture: 

Pres ApoUon main a main estoient peintes 
Les corps tous nuds des trois Charites joinctes 
Suivant Venus, & Venus par la main 
Conduit Amour, qui tire de son sein 376 

'* See MS A184 in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan, fol. 8^ 
^^ See G. Solimano, "II mito di Apollo e Admeto negli elegiaci latini," in Mythos: 
scripta in honorem Marii Untersteiner (Genoa: Fratelli Pagano, 1970), 255-68. 

'' Cf. Lucretius, 1. 10-20, part of the opening invocation to Venus as the per- 
sonification of the creative forces of nature. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 87 

Des pomes d'or, & come une sagette, 

En se jouant aux Charites les jette 

A coup perdu: puis au sein il se pend 

D'une des trois, & la baize en enfant. 380 

(Close to Apollo side by side were depicted the quite naked 
bodies of the three Graces, who were intertwined and follow- 
ing Venus, and Venus is leading Amor by the hand, who 
draws from the folds of her garment golden apples, and, like 
an arrow, throws them in play at random at the Graces; then 
he hangs from the breast of one of the three, and kisses her 
like a child.) 

This picture clearly represents the Neo-Platonic concept of love, 
where the Graces stand for the three-fold unity of Venus. The circle 
formed by the three Graces, holding hands, no doubt represents Fici- 
no's circle of love. They symbolize the converting ivizd pulchritudo/ 
amor/voluptaSy where beauty, like the golden apples, emanates from 
the hands of a deity.-*^ The god of love is probably hanging from 
the breast of the middle Grace, Amor. Apollo is not entirely forgot- 
ten, however. He is standing close to this scene (line 373), and the 
apple is sacred to Apollo as well as to Venus. 

All these scenes are engraved on the back of the lyre, the "ventre 
orgueilleux" (line 300). On the front are depicted two more scenes. 
On the first: 

Vit un Bacchus potele gros & gras, 

Vieil jouvenceau, qui tient entre ses bras 384 

De I'Abondance une corne qui semble 

S'enorgueillir de cent fruits tous ensemble. 

Qui surpassoient les levres du vaisseau 

En gros trochets. 388 

(There is the living image of a chubby, big, fat Bacchus, an 
aged youth, holding between his arms a cornucopia, which 
appears to boast a hundred fruits all together, overflowing the 
lips of the container in great clusters.) 


^ For the iconographical aspects of the subject, see Wind, Pagan Mysteries, 


Bacchus is surrounded, then, by symbols of fertility and abundance, 
representing the riches that derive from the Bacchic frenzy. It is diffi- 
cult to know whether all the fruits mentioned by Ronsard possess a 
symbolic value, but some certainly do. The fig tree (line 393), as well 
as being sacred to Bacchus, is androgynous, representing both the 
phallus (the leaves) and the vulva (the fruit). Grapes too, of course, 
are Bacchic, and may here represent the frenzy of intoxication (line 
397), while the cucumber is clearly phallic. On the other hand, chest- 
nuts are traditional symbols of chastity, no doubt both for etymolog- 
ical reasons {chastaigne/ chaste) and because of their protecting thorns 
(lines 400-401).^^ The peach stands for salvation and the cherry for 
good works (lines 401-3), while the strawberry is associated by Ron- 
sard with female sexuality (line 408). Apricots, being self-fertilizing, 
are symbols of androgyny. Perhaps the significance of all this is 
summed up in lines 411-14: 

Entre la Guerre & la Paix est ce Dieu, 
Ny I'un ny I'autre, & s'il tient le millieu 
De tous les deux, ensemble pour la lance, 
Ensemble propre a conduire une danse. 

(This god stands between war and peace, being neither one 
nor the other, yet he is midway between both, well-suited 
both for the lance and for leading a dance.) 

The androgynous, ageless Bacchus, then, embodies the union of 
opposites, a discordia concors, of which the result is fecundity.^^ 

The final scene engraved on the instrument (lines 415-56) repre- 
sents the myth concerning the invention of the lyre by Mercury. The 
god is presented holding his caduceus, yet another symbol with its 
two entwined snakes of the reconciliation of opposites. In Homeric 
allegory, Hermes represents the logos in all its meanings: speech, rea- 
son, and, in the Christian era, the divine word.^^ It is as divine mes- 

'' See Christine Scollen-Jimack, "Ronsard's Vanishing Cheese," 112. 

^^ On Ronsard's use of Bacchus, see the excellent article by Terence Cave, "The Tri- 
umph of Bacchtos and its Interpretation in the French Renaissance: Ronsard's Hinne de 
Bacus" ia Humanism in France at the End of the Middle Ages and in the Early Renaissance, 
edited by A. H. T. Levi (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1970), 249-70. 

'^ Dorat speaks of Mercury as representing "ratio" in his explanation of the 
Odyssey, fol. 9". 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 89 

senger that Ronsard presents the winged god in Unes 419-24. As for 
the invention of the lyre (lines 425-40), this is linked with Mercury's 
civilizing effect on Man. As Natalis Comes would later remark: 

He is said to have been the first to teach men letters, and the 
courses of the stars, and to have given laws, through which 
men were shaped to humanity; and he was responsible for 
giving things names, and he invented musical instruments, and 
discovered everything pertaining to learning and knowledge. 
(Mythologiae [Venice, 1567], 5. 5, fol. 1370 

In receiving the lyre from Mercury, Apollo gains the gifts of music 
and speech, which in turn are now in the possession of Ronsard. 

Laumonier is right, then, to describe the poem as a virtual hymn 
to Apollo (L. XV. 38) as the god of harmony. The various scenes on 
the lyre mark a progression from heavenly harmony to the divine 
gift of musical and artistic harmony to mortals. Although the num- 
ber seven is not mentioned specifically, it would have been in the 
minds of contemporary readers, as we have seen in the Dorat passage 
cited above.^* There is a correlation between the celestial harmony 
of the seven planetary spheres (the moon, Mercury, Venus, the sun, 
Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), the seven strings of Mercury's lyre, the 
seven notes of the scale, and the seven poets of the Pleiade. 

In a poem, too, which has overt references to Plato's theory of the 
four types of mania, the presiding deities, Apollo, Bacchus, and Amor, 
are to the fore in the scenes on the lyre, all reinforcing the unmentioned 
frenzy of the Muses. Apollo's part, as god of prophecy and harmony, is 
clear. Bacchus, however, also brings his assistance to the Muses: 

Ceres nourrist, Bacchus rejoui'st I'homme, 
C'est pour cela que bon Pere on le nomme: 
Or pour autant que ce Pere Evien 
A bonne part au mont Parnassien, 44 

Portrait sacre dans le Temple des Muses, 
Pour ses vertus en noz ames infuses, 
Comme prophete, & poete, & vineux 
Je I'honorois d'artifice soingneux 48 

See note 31. 


(Ceres gives food and Bacchus brings cheer to man, which is 
why he is called good father. Now, in so far as this father 
Euhius partakes fully in Mount Parnassus, as a sacred portrait 
in the Temple of the Muses, on account of his virtues which 
are poured into our souls, as prophet, poet, and wine-drinker, 
I honored him with careful artistry ) 

Love too leads to the procreation not only of flesh-and-blood chil- 
dren, but also of spiritual children such as poetry: 

Le grand Platon en ses ceuvres nous chante 
Que nostre Esprit comme le corps enfante 
L'un, des enfans qui surmontent la mort, 
L'autre, des filz qui doibvent voir le port 120 

Ou le Nocher tient sa gondoUe ouverte 
A tous venants. . . . 

(The great Plato recites to us in his works that our spirit, like 
our body, gives birth, in one case to children who conquer 
death, in the other, to sons who must see the harbor in which 
the Pilot keeps his ferry-boat open to all comers ) 

Once again, Ronsard uses ecphrasis to illustrate themes that he has 
developed more explicitly in other parts of the poem, exploiting both 
well-known motifs from the visual arts and also somewhat rarer sub- 

So far, we have seen examples of the Neo-Platonic ecphrasis in a 
number of genres of poetry. However, given its Homeric origins, 
Ronsard would certainly have viewed its presence in the epic as indi- 
spensable. A relatively early example appeared in the brief descrip- 
tion of Castor and Pollux's cloak in the epyllion L'Hymne de Calais, 
et de letes (L. VIH. 263-64. 141-62),^^ while a number of them 
appear in the four books of the Franciade. 

For example, book 1 contains a single ecphrasis depicting a cloak 
given in similar circumstances to that of the Dioscuri (L. XVI. 80-81. 
1015-42). Andromache had made it originally for her husband. 

'' For a discussion of this, see my article "Ronsard et I'emploi de rallegorie," 
99-101, and below, chap. 6. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 91 

Hector, but she is seen handing it over to her son Francus, as he sets 
out on his divinely-inspired voyage of discovery: 

Disant ainsi, pour present lui donna 
Un riche habit que sa main fafonna, 1016 

Ou fut portraite au vif la grande Troye 
En filetz d'or joincts aux filets de soye, 
Avec ses murs, ses rempars & ses forts: 
Xanthe trainoit a I'environ des bords 1020 

Pour passement sa riviere azuree: 
La s'eslevoit la montagne sacree, 
Ide neigeuse, ou d' argent sautelloit 
Meint vif ruisseau qui en la mer couloit. 1024 

Au pie du mont fut en riche peinture 
Le beau Troyen, qui chassoit d'avanture 
Un cerf au bois, ou Jupiter le vit, 
Qui par son aigle en proye le ravit. 1028 

Ce jeune enfant emporte par les nues 
Tendoit en vain vers Troye les mains nues: 
En I'air ravy ses chiens qui le voyoient 
L'ombre de Taigle & les vents aboyoient! 1032 

(With these words she presented him with a rich cloak which 
her hand had fashioned, on which was depicted a living like- 
ness of mighty Troy in interwoven gold and silk thread, with 
its walls, ramparts, and strongholds. Xanthus trailed its azure 
river around the edges by way of braiding; on it rose up the 
holy mountain, snowy Ida, where many a swift stream, flow- 
ing into the sea, cascaded down in silver. At the foot of the 
mountain, richly painted, was the handsome Trojan, who hap- 
pened to be hunting a stag in the woods; Jupiter saw him 
there and snatched him up as prey with his eagle. This young 
boy, carried through the clouds, was vainly stretching out his 
bare hands towards Troy; his dogs, seeing him snatched up 
into the air, were barking at the eagle's shadow and the wind!) 

The details of this description of the rape of Ganymede derive, as 
Laumonier indicates, from a similar ecphrasis by Virgil {Aeneid 5. 
250-57), which includes allusions to mount Ida, deer-hunting, and the 
barking dogs. This had given rise to a number of Renaissance paint- 


ings on the subject, such as that of Correggio, now in the Kunsthisto- 
risches Museum in Vienna, but originally painted at Mantua c. 1528 
for Federigo III, as well as to engravings such as that of Alciati, 
emblem 4 (fig. 18).^ 

The usual allegorical interpretation of the myth is that God, in 
love with the beauty of Ganymede, who represents the mortal soul, 
bears it off to heaven, freed from its bodily prison. The barking dogs 
symbolize the baser human desires, left behind on earth, and Gany- 
mede is also interrupted while hunting a stag, which is another sym- 
bol of sexual desire. The mention of Mount Ida may, as elsewhere in 
Ronsard, allude to the proximity of the hypercosmic world of Ideas. 
Thus, the robe may be a statement about the fate of the dead Hector, 
the first owner, and the future destiny of Francus. However, in his 
commentary on Aeneid 5. 250ff., Donatus sees the gift as representing 
"Aeneae pietas iuxta paternam memoriam." In his view, the dogs 
barking for their master "quem iam in aeris altitudinem raptum liber- 
are non poterant" ("whom they were now unable to free, as he had 
been carried away high in the air") are symbols of fidelity rather than 
concupiscence.'*^ The similar circumstances surrounding the giving 
of the cloak in the Franciade make it likely, then, that Ronsard also 
sees the weaving of the robe as an act of pietas by Andromache 
towards her dead husband. 

Another example of Ronsard's use of ecphrasis in the Franciade 
occurs in book 3, and represents a scene which is also frequently 
depicted by Renaissance artists. Venus, disguised as a priestess of 
Hecate, approaches Hyante in her bedchamber, upbraids her for not 
declaring her love for Francus, and surrounds her bed with her magic 
girdle, or cestos. This belt, given to Venus by Nature, marks the 
sacred marriage between Vulcan and Venus, the demiurge and Beau- 
ty, necessary, as Proclus explains, "to induce beauty in sentient crea- 
tures, which makes this world as beautiful as possible. 


^ On the subject of Ganymede in the visual arts, see Panofsky, Studies in 
Iconology, 213-18; Egon Verheyen, "Correggio's ylwori di Giove," JWCI 29 (1966): 
160-92; and James M. Saslow, Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art 
and Society (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986). 

*^ Donatus' commentary was printed in P. Virgilii Opera (Venice: Jimtae, 1544). 

*^ See Proclus, In Rempublicam, sixth essay, 141. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 93 

En la tissure estoient portraits au vif 
Deux Cupidons: Tun avoit un arc d'if 628 

Au trait moussu, qui tire aux fantaisies, 
Craintes, soupfons, rancueurs et jalousies, 
L'autre de palme avoit Tare decore, 
Son trait estoit a la pointe dore, 632 

Poignant, glissant, dont il cache dans I'ame 
Et verse au sang une gentille flame 
Qui nous chatouille, et nous fait desirer 
Que nostre genre entier puisse durer. 636 

La fut Jeunesse en longs cheveux portraite. 
Forte, puissante, au gros coeur, la retraite 
Des chaux desirs: Jeunesse qui toujours 
Pour compagnie amene les amours: 640 

Comme un enfant pendoit a sa mammelle 
Le Jeu trompeur, la Fraude, et la Cautelle, 
Les Ris, les Pleurs, les Guerres et la Paix, 
Treves, discords, et accords imparfaits, 644 

Et le Devis qui de^oit noz courages, 
Voire I'esprit des hommes les plus sages. 

(In the weaving were the living likenesses of two Cupids: one 
had a bow made of yew, with blunted arrow which shoots at 
fancies, fears, suspicions, grudges, and jealousies; the other had 
a bow decorated with palm, his arrow was gilded at the tip, 
sharp, gliding, with which he conceals in our soul and pours 
in our blood a pleasant flame which makes us itch and desire 
that our race may last entire. Youth was portrayed there with 
long hair, strong, powerful, magnanimous, the refuge of hot 
desires. Youth who always brings Loves for company. Like a 
child there hung from her breast deceitful Jest, Guile, Cun- 
ning, Laughter, Tears, Wars and Peace, Truces, discords, and 
incomplete agreements, and Conversation which beguiles our 
hearts, and even the souls of the wisest men.) 

The scene on the cestos presents us with Eros and Anteros. Eros, 
with a bow made out of yew, a tree traditionally associated with 
death, and with a blunt arrow, represents unrequited love, which in 
Neo-Platonic terms leads to the death of the lover. Anteros, whose 
bow is decorated with triumphant palm leaves and whose sharp 


arrow is tipped with gold, stands for mutual love. The subject is fre- 
quently encountered in Renaissance paintings and engravings, al- 
though the precise interpretation of the two gods differs. In addition 
to them, we see Jeunesse, "la retraite / Des chaux desirs," accompa- 
nied by other allegorical figures. Ronsard has in mind for the whole 
of this ecphrasis the Homeric description of Aphrodite's cestos to 
which he had alluded elsewhere:'*^ 

Therewith from her breast she [i.e.. Aphrodite] loosed the 
broidered girdle, fair-wrought, wherein are all her enchant- 
ments; therein are love [(fakoTrjQ], and desire [i/xepog], and 
loving converse [oapiarug], that steals the wits even of the 
wise. {Iliad 14. 214-17) 

There is even a textual allusion to this passage in lines 645-46 of the 
Ronsard text. 

We may draw a number of conclusions from this analysis of Ron- 
sard's use of ecphrasis, both concerning the manner of presentation 
of the pictures, and the function they serve in the context of the 
poems in which they appear. 

In the first place, concerning the extent to which the descriptions 
can be said to represent possible compositions in the visual arts, there 
is no doubt that Ronsard often extends the boundaries of his descrip- 
tions to take in a spectator's decipherment of the images presented. 
For example, many of his ecphrases are endowed with movement. 
This is not a problem, in iconographical terms, when a series of 
events making up a story is described, since, as we have seen. Renais- 
sance pictures frequently contain chronologically separated events 
within the confines of a single frame, or, as in the case of the Fon- 
tainebleau frescoes, portray such events in adjoining cartouches. 
However, in cases where Ronsard describes rather smaller actions 
taking place, we are dealing not so much with an accurate description 
as with an imaginative viewer's interpretation. This is the case, for 
example, with the scenes portrayed on Thyrsis' cup, especially lines 

** In Des Peintures contenues dedans un tableau, L. I. 259-64, 11. 49-60. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 95^ 

44-45, "Quelque fois de sur Tun, quelque fois sur les deux, / Mign- 
arde son regard & se prend a sourire," and the whole of the fisher- 
man scene (lines 47-56); and this is also true for some of the scenes 
depicted in La Lyre, Similarly, as we have seen, emotions are often 
attributed to figures appearing in the descriptions which would not 
be apparent in facial expressions. 

At other times, Ronsard includes details which would be impossi- 
ble to portray visually, unless the picture were based upon some 
well-known classical text which would offer a kind of intertextual 
commentary. For example, how could an artist show that one of the 
Cupids has a bow of yew-wood in the Franciade description of 
Venus' cestos} And could all of Ronsard's allegorical personifications 
be distinctively represented in this scene.^ It is clear that in these 
instances, the details are included because of their symbolic value. 
The reader, carried along by the poet's descriptive powers, seldom 
stops to wonder whether what is being described is truly possible in 
visual terms. 

Nevertheless, we have seen that Ronsard was at times inspired 
both by specific pictures and by more generalized motifs. He often 
identifies mythological figures by describing them in purely visual 
terms, giving them the attributes commonly ascribed to them in Ren- 
aissance pictures. 

In whatever way the ecphrases are presented, their function 
within the context of the poems where they appear is always inti- 
mately, if not obviously, bound up with the central message of the 
poems. In the case of ecphrases in the didactic tradition, the function 
is normally quite apparent, as we have seen. In the simplest form, it 
can make a statement, and perhaps deliver a warning, about the sub- 
ject being described, simply by presenting a list of attributes. In other 
cases, the description may convey an idea which is more thoroughly 
integrated into the poem, forming only part of the message. The 
function is always clearly didactic. 

With ecphrases in the Neo-Platonic tradition, the message is 
seldom obvious, and the function of the description is much more 
variable. Nevertheless, the principal purpose, spelled out by Ronsard 
in the preface to the Franciade, is structural. If in a narrative poem 
you start in medias res rather than relating your story ab ovo, then an 
ecphrasis can have a retrospective function, filling in past events, or 
it can serve a prophetic purpose, hinting at the final outcome of a 


Story. In the latter case in particular, as Ronsard warns, the messs^e 
may be veiled. Elsewhere, the ecphrasis has a paradigmatic function, 
to parallel the events which the poet is narrating or the ideas which 
he is conveying. Finally, in poetry of a speculative nature, ecphrasis 
can be used in a mystical manner, to present, often in mythical form, 
metaphysical, religious, or cosmic truths. Once again, such subjects 
are not uncommon in the visual arts in sixteenth-century France. In 
all these cases, a full understanding of any allegorical meaning is nec- 
essary if the poem is to have any kind of structural unity. The case 
of the Fontainebleau frescoes offers a direct parallel here. 

Because of the imprecise nature of the scenes described, the ambi- 
guity of the Neo-Platonic ecphrasis is virtually inevitable. As a result, 
beyond its structural function, it is normally impossible to restrict 
allegorical interpretation to a single meaning. The essence of the 
device, in its Neo-Platonic form, is to be suggestive rather than 
unequivocal, and it is clear that in this respect Ronsard has certainly 

We have considered so far examples of descriptions which purport 
to present actual works of art. However, Ronsard's poetry abounds 
in similarly detailed descriptions of scenes which do not claim to be 
artificial, but in which the poet uses similar methods of representa- 

Hypotyposis in the Didactic Tradition 

In the section on the Aristotelian ecphrasis, we examined a number 
of examples and saw that their symbolism was generally quite clear 
and meant to serve an essentially didactic purpose. Perhaps more 
common than the didactic ecphrasis in Ronsard's work is the didactic 
hypotyposis, where we are presented with a detailed allegorical 
description, not of a work of art, but of a figure or scene envisaged 
in clearly piaorial terms. Such descriptions are particularly frequent 
in the Hymnes of 1555 and 1556.'^ 

For example, the Hymne de la Mort (L. VIII. 161-79) contains a 
short description of Death: 

** Albert Py notices these pictorial qualities in the Hymnes in his edition for 
TLF (Geneva: Droz, 1978), 29. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 97 

Aussi grands que la terre il [i.e., Jupiter] luy fit les deux bras, 

Armez d'une grand' faux, & les piedz par a-bas 

Luy calfeutra de laine, a fin qu'ame vivante 

Ne peut oiiir le bruit de sa trace suyvante, 272 

II ne luy fit point d'yeux, d'oreilles, ny de coeur. 

Pour n'estre pitoyable en voyant la langueur 

Des honunes, & pour estre a leur triste priere 

Tousjours sourde, arrogante, inexorable & fiere. 276 

Pource elle est toute seule entre les Immortelz, 

Qui ne veut point avoir de temple ny d'autelz, 

Et qui ne se fleschit d'oraison, ny d'offrande. 

(He made her two arms as large as the earth, wielding a great 
scythe, and he covered the soles of her feet with wool, so that 
not a living soul could hear the sound of her footsteps right 
behind; he did not give her eyes, ears, or heart, in order to 
stop her feeling pity at the sight of men's pining, and so that 
she should always be deaf, haughty, inexorable, and cruel to 
their sad prayers. As a result, she is all alone amongst the 
immortals in not wanting to have a temple or altars, and in 
being intransigent to prayer and offerings.) 

Ronsard, then, gives Death her usual attribute of the scythe, along 
with all-encompassing arms and padded feet. Death's implacability, 
represented by her absence of eyes (usually shown in the visual arts 
by the use of a blindfold), ears, or heart would be taken up by 
Natalis Comes (book 3, chapter 13, Mythologiae, fol. 73^): 

She alone was considered the harshest of all the gods and the 
most implacable. Since she could not be bent by anybody's 
prayers, she received no sacrifices, temples, priests, or holy 
rites. Orpheus indicated her harshness and implacable will as 
follows in his Hymns: "For to prayers and entreaties, you 
alone are deaf." 

So, there seems to be a mixture of literary and iconographic models 
for Ronsard's clearly didactic picture of Death. 

This appears also to be true for his negative description of For- 
tune at the end of the Priere a la Fortune (L. VIII. 103-14. 292-300). 
The poet prays to Fortune to protect various members of the French 

98 C HAPTER 3 

Et si tu fais cela dont je te prye, 
Tu n' auras plus de boule sous tes piedz 
Comme devant, ny les deux yeux liez, 
La voile en main, ny au front la criniere, 
Ny ton roiiet, ny des aelles derriere, 
Ny tout cela dont furent inventeurs 
En te peignant les vieux peintres menteurs, 
Pour demonstrer que tu n'es plus volage 
Comme tu fuz 

(And if you do what I ask you, you will no longer have a ball 
beneath your feet as before, nor both your eyes blindfolded, 
with a sail in your hand, nor the lock of hair over your brow, 
nor your wheel, nor wings behind, nor all the attributes made 
up by ancient deceitful artists when they painted you, in order 
to show that you are no longer fickle as you were ) 

Although Yves Giraud plays down the role of the visual arts in this 
evocation of Fortune, Ronsard can hardly have failed to be influ- 
enced by the many pictures of Fortune, or the related Occasio, in cir- 
culation (e.g., fig. 9), even if he has come up with a composite repre- 
sentation."*^ The poet has accumulated a number of attributes, at 
times denoting the same thing: speed and inconstancy symbolized by 
the sail, wings, and the forelock; instability, denoted by the sphere 
and the wheel; blindness, indicated by the blindfold. But given the 
traditional nature of these attributes, it seems unnecessary to seek out 
a particular text or picture as the model. 

Another commonplace personification is that of Volupte in La 
Vertu amoureuse (L. X. 337-48): 

Au bas de ce rocher, au milieu d'une pree, 
Demeure une deesse en drap d'or accoustree: 
Ses bras sont chargez d'or, & son col d'un carcan, 
Labeur ingenieux des feuvres de Vulcan. 84 

Son front est attrayant, sa peau tendre & douillette. 
Son oeil traitre & lascif, sa face vermeillette, 
Et ses cheveux ondez, annelez, & tressez. 

*^ See Yves Giraud, "Ronsard et la Fortune," in La Litterature de la Renaissance- 
melanges qfferts a Henri Weber (Geneva: Slatkine, 1984), 136. 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 99 

Sont de fueilles de myrthe & de rose enlassez, 88 

Sa main est moUe & grasse, & son ceil n'abandonne 

Le sommeil paresseux que midy ne rayonne: 

Au reste elle est en dance, en festins, & deduict 

Et rien fors le plaisir, indiscrette, ne suit, 92 

Empoint & decoupee, & pour estre apparente 

Elle a desja vendu le meilleur de sa rente. 

Tousjours aux grands chemins en cent mille fa^ons 
Elle ourdist des filletz, & tend des hamejons 96 

Apastez de delice. . . . 

(At the base of this crag, in the middle of a meadow, stands a 
goddess attired in cloth of gold: her arms are laden with gold, 
and her neck with a gold collar, the ingenious work of Vul- 
can's smiths. Her appearance is attractive, her skin soft and 
tender, her gaze treacherous and wanton, her face ruddy, and 
her hair, waved, in ringlets, and plaited, is entwined with 
myrtle leaves and roses; her hand is soft and fleshy, and her 
eyes never abandon lazy sleep until midday shines forth. 
Besides, she spends her time dancing, feasting, and sporting, 
and rashly follows nothing but pleasure, being well-dressed in 
fashionable clothes, and in order to stand out she has already 
sold most of her inheritance. She is always weaving nets in 
countless ways on the main roads and casting hooks baited 
with pleasure ) 

The contrast between Virtue and Pleasure is encountered most fre- 
quently in the visual arts in works depicting the choice of Hercules, 
although there are similarities in the equally popular theme of Sacred 
and Profane Love. The contrast in landscape is often a central aspect 
of the iconography, with Virtue, of course, placed in a craggy, harsh 
setting, and Pleasure in flowery meadowland.*^ Ronsard's Volupte 
is alluring through her rich, fashionable clothes and gold adornments, 
symbols of worldly wealth. The intricate hairstyle is, as we have 
already seen, a sign of artifice, while myrtle leaves and roses are both 

^ Virtue's landscape may be suggested by Hesiod, Works and Days, 1%9-91. For 
a study of the choice of HerciJes, see Erwin Panofsky, Hercules am Scheidewege, und 
andere antike Bildstojfe in der neueren Kunst (Leipzig, 1930). 

100 CHAPTER 3 

associated with Venus. The nets and hooks that she places on the 
highways are obvious symbols of ensnarement. Once again, although 
hterary sources could be found for the details included by Ronsard, 
models in the visual arts are just as probable. 

Given the relatively obvious nature of this type of imagery, it is 
not surprising to find Ronsard using similar devices in his satirical 
poetry, for example, the religious discours of the early 1560s. In the 
Discours des miseres de ce temps, we are presented with a description 
of Opinion: 

Elle fut si enflee, & si pleine d'erreur 
Que mesme a ses parens elle faisoit horreur. 
Elle avoit le regard d'une orgueilleuse beste. 
De vent & de fumee estoit pleine sa teste. 140 

Son cueur estoit couve de veine affection, 
Et soubs un pauvre habit cachoit 1' ambition. 
Son visage estoit beau comme d'une Sereine. 
D'une parole douce avoit la bouche pleine. 144 

Legere elle portoit des aisles sur le dos: 
Ses jambes & ses pieds n'estoient de chair ny d'os, 
lis estoient faits de laine & de cotton bien tendre 
Afin qu'a son marcher on ne la peut entendre. 148 

(L. XI. 26-27. 137-48) 

(She was so puffed up, and so full of error that she even horri- 
fied her own parents. Her gaze was that of a haughty beast. 
Her head was full of wind and smoke. Her heart was nour- 
ished by empty passion, and she hid ambition beneath a poor- 
looking cloak. Her face was as beautiful as a Siren's, and her 
lips were full of sweet words. Swift-moving, she had wings on 
her back; her arms and legs were not made of flesh and bone, 
but of very soft wool and cotton so that she could not be 
heard when she walked.) 

This description provides a number of details, both visual and non- 
visual. While some could be portrayed pictorially (the Siren beauty 
of the face, the wings, the wool and cotton legs), there are contradic- 
tions in the picture (the bestial stare, despite the beauty of the face), 
as well as characteristics which could not be seen (e.g., lines 137-38, 
140-41, 144). What the description lacks in visual detail is compensat- 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 101 

ed for by the explicit use of metaphor and simile. However, a similar 
description of Opinion in the Remonstrance au peuple de France 
remains more strictly pictorial: 

Elle a les pieds de vent, & de sur les aisselles 
Comme un monstre emplume elle porte des aesles, 260 
Elle a la bouche grande, & cent langues dedans, 
Sa poitrine est de plomb, ses yeux promps & ardans, 
Tout son chef est de verre & a pour compagnye 
La jeunesse & I'erreur, I'orgueil & la manye. 264 

(L. XI. 77-78. 259-64) 

(Her feet are made of wind, and at her shoulders, like a feath- 
ered monster, she has wings; her mouth is large, with a hun- 
dred tongues inside, and her breast is made of lead, her eyes 
are quick and glowing; the whole of her head is made of glass, 
and she is accompanied by Youth and Error, Pride and Mad- 

There is an attempt this time to present in visual terms the attributes 
which had in the earlier poem been conveyed through non-visual 
imagery, although as a result, the meaning is less clear. For example, 
the brutal look {Discours 139) is more precisely denoted by "yeux 
promps et ardans"; the empty head (Discours 140) is now transparent- 
ly empty ("son chef est de verre," line 263); and the persuasive mouth 
(Discours 144) is now equipped with a hundred tongues (line 261). 
Even the heart, "couve de veine affection" (Discours 141), is lodged 
this time in a leaden chest, where lead is the alchemical symbol of 
sick, unregenerate man. 

Ronsard makes rather more extensive use of hypotyposis for satir- 
ical purposes in La Promesse (L. XIII. 3-14). Here he relates how, just 
before waking up one morning, he had the vision of a striking and 
beautiful lady (lines 16-18): 

Sa bouche en soubriant de roses estoit paincte: 
Elle estoit venerable, & quand elle parloit 
Un parler emmielle de sa levre couUoit. 

(As she smiled, her mouth was tinged with roses; she was ven- 
erable, and when she spoke, honeyed speech flowed from her 

102 CHAPTER 3 

Like Volupte in La Vertu amoureuse, she is surrounded by symbols 
of ensnarement: 

. . . elle avoit des appasts, 
Des rets, des hanie9ons, & de la glus pour prendre 
Les credules esprits qui la vouloyent attendre. 

(lines 22-24) 

(. . . she had bait, nets, hooks, and bird-lime to catch the credu- 
lous souls who wished to wait for her.) 

In addition, she is surrounded by traditional symbols of vanity: 

Sa robbe estoit enflee a grans plis ondoyans 
Elle avoit en ses mains des ballons pleins de vents, 
Des sacs pleins de fumee, & des bouteilles pleines 
D'honneurs & de faveurs, & de paroUes vaines. 

(lines 29-32) 

(Her dress was puffed out in great undulating folds, in her 
hands she had bladders filled with winds, bags full of smoke, 
and bottles full of honors and favors and empty words.) 

The scene soon turns into a traditional Triumph scene, as the central 
figure is surrounded by a host of followers: 

Autour de ceste Nymphe erroit une grand' bande, 
Qui d'un bruit importun toutes choses demande, 40 

Seigneurs, soldats, marchans, courtisans, mariniers, 
Les uns vont les premiers, les autres les derniers, 
Selon le bon visage, & selon la caresse 
Que leur fait en riant ceste brave Deesse. 44 

A son coste pendoit une grande escarcelle. 
Large, profonde, creuse, ou ceste Damoiselle 52 

Mettoit cent mille biens, & les cachoit au fond: 
Seulement par dehors, comme les marchans font, 
En estaloit la monstre, a fin qu'on eust envie, 
Voyant I'ombre du bien, de luy sacrer la vie. 56 

(Around this nymph there wandered a great troop of people, 
asking for everything in an unmannerly clamor: lords, sol- 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 103 

diers, merchants, courtiers, sailors, some in front, others in the 
rear, according to the kindly countenance and flattery which 
this good goddess laughingly shows them. ... At her side there 
hung a large money bag, capacious, deep, hollow, into which 
this young lady placed a hundred thousand riches, and con- 
cealed them at the bottom; only on the outside, like mer- 
chants, she made a display of them so that people would 
desire, on seeing the shadow of wealth, to devote their lives to 

Inside her money bag are various church and government posts 
"Qu'elle promit a fin qu'on luy face service" (line 64), and all her 
followers gravitate around the purse "Comme guespes autour de la 
grappe nouvelle" ("like wasps around a fresh cluster of grapes") (line 
72). The lady, who subsequently reveals her identity to be Promesse 
(line 104), is preceded by another allegorical figure: 

En pompe, devant elle, alloit Dame Fortune, 
Qui sourde, aveugle estoit, & sans raison aucune. 

(lines 87-88) 

(In majesty, before her, went Dame Fortune, who was deaf, 
blind, and lacking all reason.) 

In this portrayal of Promesse and her train, Ronsard seems to 
have in mind the allegorical works inspired by Petrarch's Trionfi, as 
shown in figure 19. Although the scene that he describes is quite a 
complex one, the imagery is explicit and the satirical message clear. 
In this, as in the other examples of didactic hypotyposis examined 
here, the poet is using pictorial imagery in precisely the same way as 
he had in the didactic ecphrasis. Each detail has a precise meaning, 
dependent on traditional codes of symbolism, and in general, there is 
an avoidance of any obscurity by the recourse to explanatory com- 
ments where necessary. 

Hypotyposis in the Neo-Platonic Tradition 

In the case of both the didactic ecphrasis and the didactic hypotypo- 
sis, the nature of the imagery employed is such that there can be no 
doubt as to the presence of a symbolic content in the descriptions 
concerned. In the case of the Neo-Platonic ecphrasis, the faa that the 

104 CHAPTER 3 

poet presents us with a work of art, sometimes of divine or mystical 
origins, alerts us to the probable allegorical nature of the description. 
However, there are seldom any such indications when it comes to 
examples of non-didactic hypotyposis. How far, then, do these 
descriptions have an allegorical content, and how far are they simply 
included for the purpose of copia and variety? 

We have already seen that some Renaissance humanists believed 
hieroglyphs and other symbols to be revelations of God's knowledge 
to man. More than this, many sixteenth-century writers considered 
that phenomena of the natural world could also reveal God's inten- 
tions to man, and Ronsard, along with his teacher, Dorat, was cer- 
tainly of their number. In Le Chat (L. XV. 39-47), first published 
with La Lyre in 1569 and dedicated to Remy Belleau, Ronsard 
affirms his belief in omens. 

Ainsi voit-on, prophetes de noz maux, 
Et de noz biens, naistre des animaux. 
Qui le futur par signes nous predisent, 
Et les mortels enseignent & avisent. 

De la sortit I'escolle de I'Augure 
Merquant I'oyseau, qui par son vol figure 
De I'advenir le pront evenement 
Ravy de Dieu: & Dieu jamais ne ment. 

En noz maisons ce bon Dieu nous envoye 
Le Coq, la Poule, & le Canard, & I'Oye, 
Qui vont monstrant d'un signe non obscur, 
Soit se baignant ou chantant, le futur. 

Herbes & fleurs & les arbres qui croissent 
En noz jardins, Prophetes aparoissent: 
J'en ay I'exemple, & par moy je le scay 

(And so we witness, prophesying our evils and our good for- 
tunes, the births of animals, which through signs foretell our 

future, and teach and warn mortals From here emerged 

the school of augury, observing the bird which by its flight 
prefigures the future's close events, inspired by God, and God 
never lies. This good God sends us in our homes the rooster, 
the hen, the duck, and the goose, who show us the future 

Ecphrasis and Hypotyposis 105 

through an unequivocal sign, either by their bathing or their 
singing. Herbs and flowers, and the trees which grow in our 
gardens appear as prophets: I have evidence of this, and know 
it from personal experience. . . .) 

If this is true of the real world, how much more should we look out 
for the significance of plants, animals, and other natural phenomena 
in the fictional world of Ronsard's poetry? 

We have already seen examples of the way in which descriptive 
details, whilst producing a rich and varied texture in a poem, can also 
convey meaning, reinforcing a mood or atmosphere or presaging the 
outcome of an event. The language of flowers, known to Ophelia 
even in her madness, may be largely unfamiliar to us now, but it is 
frequently put to use in Ronsard's poetry. As Claude-Gilbert Dubois 

The central functional role of the flower or the bouquet is evi- 
dent in Ronsard through a messenger function or an allegori- 
cal function.*^ 

And this is equally true of precious stones and metals, animals, and, 
in fact, the whole realm of nature. 

Ecphrasis draws attention to itself as a set piece of virtuoso 
description. It alerts us to the probability of some ulterior purpose. 
Other descriptions, however, can be far more discreet. Their sensual 
nature can easily obscure their underlying meaning, acting like the 
"voile bien subtil," awakening the readers' interest while at the same 
time keeping them at a distance. As I have shown elsewhere,*' even 
in his earliest narrative poems, such as Le Ravissement de Cephale (L. 
II. 133-47) and La Defloration de Lede (L. II. 67-79), Ronsard uses a 
combination of ecphrasis and hypotyposis to present a sensually 
alluring style of composition, which embodies enigmatic meanings 
and layers of significance for the aware reader to perceive. It was on 
this early narrative tradition that he would model some of the most 
successful of his hymns. 

*^ "Motifs sculpturavix et decoratifs dans la poesie amoureuse (Recueil de 1552- 
3)," in Ronsard in Cambridge, 19. 

** See "Ronsard's Erotic Diptych: Le Ravissement de Cephale and La Defloration 
de Lede." 

Chapter 4 

The Early Hymns 

Les Hymnes sont des Grecs invention premiere. 

(Ronsard, L. XYIH. 263. 1) 

^•^J rom our general discussion of iconographical aspects of 
^P ^n Ronsard's poetry, it is clear that the prevailing philosophy 
/^^^ of Neo-Platonism in humanist and artistic circles provided 
a strong unifying influence between the visual arts and poetry. It had 
a profound effect not only on the choice of subject, use of allegory, 
and interpretation of works of art, but also on their harmonious 
structure. Art aimed to please, move, and teach in line with the 
intentions of classical rhetoric, but perhaps more importantly, the 
harmony of art, albeit an imperfect copy of celestial harmony, could 
introduce peace and order into the frequently turbulent affairs of 

Not all art, of course, was capable of achieving this end, and we 
have noted the distinctions established by Neo-Platonists such as Pro- 
clus between the different kinds of poetry (inspired, didactic, and mi- 
metic). In choosing to center this study on Ronsard's Hymnes, I was 
influenced by a number of considerations. Because these composi- 
tions are so varied in form and content, they offer a wide range of 
poetry, all written in the grand style, but spanning the whole of 
Ronsard's poetic career. By their very nature, they are likely to fall 
into the category of inspired poetry, and to embody some form of 
transcendent meaning. Their arrangement and rearrangement in suc- 
cessive editions of Ronsard's work offer evidence of the poet's ideas 
about dispositio. Finally, from the poetic point of view, they provide 
examples of his most successful poetry in the grand style. Dedicated 

The Early Hymns 107 

usually to the influential and wealthy, they are in Ronsard's mind 
more abiding monuments than the decorated palaces to which many 
patrons devote their riches. This rivalry with the plastic arts leads 
Ronsard to attempt to produce his own poetic equivalents: temples, 
palaces, paintings and tapestries, gold and silver ware, etc. 

In approaching the Hymnes, we shall concentrate on those areas 
which we have discussed earlier. With regard to inventioy we shall be 
concerned in general terms with the Neo-Platonic and mystic ele- 
ments which were so important in grand poetry in the Renaissance. 
We shall consider the ways in which certain themes were treated by 
Ronsard, looking in particular at his exploitation of the pictorial 
imagery which helps to form his vision of the world. In investigating 
the structure of individual poems and their place in entire editions of 
Ronsard's works, we shall have regard to the organizational princi- 
ples at work, and the ways in which structure, as in a decorated 
building or gallery, can be an aid to hermeneutics by establishing 
parallels and clarifying meaning. In the area of style, we shall be par- 
ticularly interested in the extent to which Ronsard may have been 
influenced by Mannerism, and how far he diverged from some of its 
fundamental principles. 

Before looking at Ronsard's early hymns, however, it will be use- 
ful to consider the literary antecedents on which he modelled his 
own poems, in order to determine what shaped his own approach 
to the genre. A number of classical models were at his disposal, 
of which the most important are the Homeric hymns, the hymns of 
Callimachus, and the Orphic hymns. ^ In his study and views of 

' The first editions of these poems were all printed in Florence in 1488, 1494, 
and 1500 respectively. The Homeric hymns, generally appearing in editions of the 
complete works of Homer, were frequently reprinted in the first half of the 
sixteenth century, and the first Latin translation by lodocus Velareus Verbrobanus 
appeared in Antwerp as early as 1528, while a later version is due to the work of 
Georgius Dartona (Venice, 1537). Most editions after 1542 include a Latin transla- 
tion. French editions include those of Sebastianus Gryphius, Lyon, 1541 (reprinted 
1542) and the Dartona translation, printed in Paris and Lyon in 1538. The Orphic 
hymns also appeared in several sixteenth-century editions, while the first Latin 
translation was prepared by Renatus Perdrierius (Bale, 1555). Apart from a Latin 
version of the Hymn to Artemis, Callimachus does not seem to have been translated 
vmtil relatively late, although a French edition of the original text appeared in Paris 
in 1549, at the Vascosan press. The information here is largely derived from the 
Inni omerici, edited by Filippo Cassola (Verona: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla, 1975); 

108 CHAPTER 4 

these collections, he would have been largely dependent on the erudi- 
tion of humanist acquaintances, and particularly, no doubt, of his 
friend and mentor, Jean Dorat. For if by the middle of the sixteenth 
century there was no lack of annotated editions of Latin authors, this 
situation was very far from obtaining in the case of Greek literature. 
Generally, printers confined themselves to reproducing the text of a 
Greek writer, sometimes accompanied by the relevant scholia and, as 
the century progressed, by a Latin translation.^ It is extremely rare 
to find introductory notes or a commentary even in the case of such 
an important poet as Homer, although to make up for this deficien- 
cy, editors sometimes included the lives or comments of ancient 
writers (in the case of Homer, for example, the lives attributed to 
Plutarch, Herodotus, and Dio Chrysostom, all contained in the 1504 
Aldine edition of Homer). However, even this is rare, and the reader 
is usually presented only with the bare Greek text. 

On the whole, humanists were concerned with producing as accurate 
a text as possible, and Dorat must have devoted much of his teaching to 
philological questions. This emerges, for example, in the verses sent by 
Dorat requesting a manuscript of the Homeric hymns:^ 

. . . fac Homeri 

Hymnorum mihi codicem vetustum 
Paulum commodites, sed ante primam 
Horam, namque hodie poema graecum 
lUud putre situque et ulcerosum 
Mendis aggrediar meo labore; 

(Have the ancient manuscript of Homer's Hymns sent to me 
shortly, but before the first hour, for today I shall tackle that 
Greek poem which is decaying with mould and disfigured 
with errors.) 

Ruth Bunker, A Bibliographical Study of the Greek Works and Translations Published 
in France During the Renaissance: the Decade 1540-1550 (New York, 1939); Orphei 
Hymni, ed. Guilelmus Quandt (Berlin: Weidmann, 1955); and the Loeb edition of 

^ See, for example, Homeri omnia quae quidem extant opera, graece, adiecta 
versione latina ad uerbum (Bale: Brylingerus & Calybaeus, 1551). 

' Cited in Pierre de Nolhac, Ronsard et I'humanisme (Paris, 1921), 77, quoting 
from BN MS. lat. 8139, fols. 103-4. 

The Early Hymns 109 

However, as is apparent in the manuscript notes of Dorat's lectures 
on Homer, he was also interested in the allegorical meaning of the 

Praeterea aduertendum est quomodo quis se accingere debeat 
lectioni poetarum. Nam si fabulas meras legit nuUam interpre- 
tationem uel moralem uel physicam ex his excerpens neque ab- 
strusum sensum enucleet non minus profecto ineptus quam 
ille qui apud Aesopum murem cum Leone fabulantem solum 
legit interpretationem moralem negligit. 

(Besides, we should point out how one ought to prepare to 
read the poets. For if one reads them as mere fables, without 
deriving any allegorical interpretation, be it moral or physical, 
or without laying open their hidden meaning, one is certainly 
no less foolish than someone who in Aesop only reads 
through the story of the mouse speaking to the lion, and 
neglects the moral interpretation.) 

Ronsard was acquainted with all three of the Greek sources we 
have mentioned when he came to write his hymns, although he does 
not appear to have relied exclusively on any particular group in 
determining his own conception of the genre. Florent Chrestien, in 
a polemical poem concerning Ronsard, wrote: 

D'Aurat t'a explique quelques livres d'Homere, 
Quelques hymnes d'Orphee, ou bien de Callimach, 
Et pource incontinent tu fais de I'Antimach, 
Tu enfles ton gosier, pensant estre en la France 
Seul a qui ApoUon a vendu sa science.^ 

* MS. A 184, fols. 2-21 in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan. See my article, 
"Ronsard and Homeric Allegory" in Ronsard in Cambridge, and the two articles by 
Genevieve Demerson, "Qui peuvent etre les Lestrygons.'", Vita Latina 70 (1978), 
36-42, and "Dorat, commentateur d'Homere," in Etudes seiziemistes offertes a M. le 
professeur V.-L. Saulnier, THR 177 (Geneva: Droz, 1980), 223-34, as well as her 
book Dorat en son temps: culture classique et presence au monde (Clermont-Ferrand: 
Adosa, 1983), 181-86. 

* Taken from Seconde Response de F. de la Baronie a Messire Pierre de Ronsard, 
Prestre-Gentihomme Vandomois, Evesque futur. Plus le Temple de Ronsard ou la 
Legende de sa vie est hriefvement descrite (n.p., 1563), fol. Aiiii^ cited in Isidore 
Silver, Ronsard and the Hellenic Renaissance in France, vol. 1, Ronsard and the Greek 
Epic (St. Louis: Washington University, 1961), 39. 


(Dorat explained to you a few books of Homer, a few hymns 
of Orpheus or CalHmachus, and as a result you immediately 
write bombastic poetry like Antimachus; you puff out your 
throat, thinking you are alone in France to whom Apollo has 
sold his knowledge.) 

Since the three sources represent very different ways of approaching 
the genre, it will be useful to consider briefly their differences. 

In the collection of the Homeric hymns known to the sixteenth 
century, the fragmentary first hymn to Dionysus and the important 
hymn to Demeter were both missing, while the collection ended 
with the epigram eCq ^evovq. The hymns are all devoted to divini- 
ties, are written in hexameters, and make use of the Homeric epic 
dialect, but apart from this, they extend in range from the three-line 
hymn 13 to Demeter to the 580-line hymn to Hermes (hymn 4). 
The essential elements consist of an exordium (mentioning the 
particular qualities of the divinity) and a farewell formula, often 
encompassing a prayer. The longer hymns also contain a central 
narrative section of varying length, and it is possible that the shorter 
hymns which lack this are merely extracts, an opinion held by at 
least one editor of the hymns, F. Cassola.^ 

The Callimachean hymn is largely modelled on the Homeric, 
although it does present certain differences. While the poems are gen- 
erally written in the epic language associated with Homer, two of the 
six hymns (5 and 6) are in the Doric dialect, and hymn 5 is in elegiac 
couplets and not hexameters. Moreover, gods are not invariably the 
dedicatees of the hymns (as is the case in hymn 4 to Delos and hymn 
5 on the bath of Pallas). In structure, they broadly follow the Ho- 
meric model, although they tend to dispense with the formal and for- 
mulaic nature of the latter. While the Homeric hymn generally 
begins with a formal announcement of the subject of the poem ("I 
shall recall and not forget Apollo. . . ," "Muse, sing of Hermes," etc.), 
Callimachus often chooses a more dramatic opening, especially, for 
example, in the second hymn, to Apollo: 

^ Cassola, Inni omerici, p. xvii: "Grinni minori, che vengono considerati proemi 
alio stesso titolo degli altri, e piu spesso si giudicano gli unici veri proemi, sono in 
generale estratti, e piu precisamente esordi e congedi, di opere piu estese." 

The Early Hymns 111 

How Apollo's laurel is shaking! how the whole temple is 
shaking! Be off, be off, all you profane. Already Phoebus has 
touched with his divine foot the door's threshold. 

The tone of Callimachus' hymns also differs considerably from that 
of his model, being more deliberately witty, and making a great dis- 
play of recondite details concerning the gods, coupled with a tongue- 
in-cheek, deliberative treatment of popularly-held beliefs. Thus, in a 
section which Ronsard would imitate in his Hinne de Bacus (L. VI. 
177. 7-16), he hesitates in the first hymn between Mount Ida and 
Arcadia as Zeus's birthplace: 

. . . which of the two, father, was lying? "The Cretans were al- 
way liars." The Cretans even erected a tomb for you, lord; 
you who cannot die, who are eternal. (1. 7-9) 

Moreover, Callimachus, in his Hellenistic erudition, piles up epithets 
and brief allusions to events connected with the divinity's life. 

There is none of Callimachus' witty badinage in the third important 
group of hymns, traditionally attributed to Orpheus. Their time and 
place of composition have long intrigued scholars, but in his edition, 
Quandt agrees with Wilamowitz in attributing them to a single poet 
"not before the end of the second century AD, but before Nonnus [the 
fifth-century author of the Dionysiaca]"^ As well as being addressed to 
divinities, these hymns are also dedicated to deified natural phenomena 
such as the Stars (7), the Sea (22), Death (87), Victory (33), Night (3), 
Fortune (72), and Nature (10). Generally speaking, they consist of an 
opening in which the subject is addressed in the first line. This is fol- 
lowed by a list, of varying length, of epithets, adjectival phrases, and rel- 
ative clauses defining the divinity in all its various manifestations, and 
the hymn usually ends with a prayer. It is not infrequent for the same, 
at times apparently non-transferable epithets, to be attributed to differ- 
ent deities, and for a single deity to be given apparently contradictory 
properties. There is no narrative content in these hymns which, Uke 
most of the others we have considered, are written in hexameters in the 
Homeric dialect. 

In his lectures on Homer, Dorat discusses the three collections as 

' Qiiandt, Orphei hymni, 44. 

112 CHAPTER 4 

well as the Odes of Pindar. He is in no doubt that the Homeric 
hymns were written by Homer: 

Inscribuntur autem Homero. nonnuUi tamen adhuc dubitant 
sitne germanum et legitimum opus illius: siquidem in isto 
opere quaedam uocabula singularia id est semel usurpata repe- 
riuntur quae in alijs operibus minime usurpantur. Sed haec 
obiectio leuis est. sic Poetarum propria sunt quaedam uocabula 
ut apud Ouid. camella in fastis et apud Virgil, in culice et 
moreto et epigrammatis quae nusquam alijs in operibus inue- 
niuntur. (fol. 19*) 

(Now, they are attributed to Homer. Nevertheless, some people 
are still in doubt as to whether this is a genuine, authentic work 
of his, since there are to be found in it a number of unique 
words, that is hapax legomena, which are not at aU used in his 
other works. But this is an unimportant objection. Thus, some 
words are particular to poets, such as camella ["bowl"] in Ovid's 
Fastiy and in Virgil's Culex, Moretum, and Epigrams, which are 
not to be found elsewhere in their works.) 

From the literary point of view, he is quite clear in his mind that the 
Homeric hymns are superior in quality, even to the works of Pindar, 
which both he and Ronsard admired: 

Quemadmodum uero inter tragicos tres palmam obtinere 
dicuntur Aeschylus augustus et magniloquens atque archaeus 
id est antiquus tum Euripides popularis forensis familiarior 
3. us Sophocles intermedins unde duobus reliquis perfectior est 
habitus. Nam ut ait Gallus: "In medijs rebus gratia maior 
inest." Ita Homerus medium stylum tenuit inter Callimachum 
et Pindarum et proinde utrique praeponitur. (fol. 19'') 

(But just as amongst the tragic poets three are said to receive 
the victor's palm: Aeschylus, majestic, sublime, and "archaios" 
or ancient; then Euripides, popular, persuasive, more familiar; 
and thirdly Sophocles, between the other two, so that he was 
considered more perfect; for as Gallus says: "There is greater 
enjoyment in the golden mean"; in the same way. Homer 
maintained an intermediate style between Callimachus and 
Pindar, and consequently he outdoes both of them.) 

The Early Hymns 113 

Thus, these three collections of hymns represent very different 
types of poem. The Romans handed down little to the Renaissance 
in the way of hymns, apart from the invocations of Lucretius to 
Venus and the Earth (1. 1-43); the CatuUan hymn to Diana (34); the 
Horatian Carmen saeculare and odes such as 1. 10 to Mercury, 1. 21 
to Diana and Apollo, and 1. 35 to Fortune; Virgil's eulogy to Italy 
{Georgics 2. 136-76); and a number of Claudian's compositions. How- 
ever, it is the neo-Latin poet MaruUus who seems to have exercised 
the most influence, after the Greeks, on Ronsard's concept of the 

MaruUus' Hymni naturales are much more varied in intention, 
tone, and meter than any of the previous collections of hymns.* 
Meters range from the hexameter (1. 1 and 5, 3. 1, and 4. 5), through 
the lyric meters, to the unusual galliambic meter (in 1. 6, the hymn 
to Bacchus), while the openings vary between direct invocations to 
the gods (e.g., "Te te, suprema maximi proles lovis, / Innupta Pallas, 
invoco," 1. 2) and more meditative or dramatic beginnings, inspired 
by Callimachus ("Quis novus hie animis furor incidit? unde repente 
/ Mens fremit horrentique sonant praecordia motu?," 3. 1). 

MaruUus is far more eclectic with regard to his sources than many 
previous critics have indicated. Ivo Bruns mentions the influence of 
Lucretius on the style, if not the philosophical content of the hymns, 
some of which he rightly claims are inspired by Neo-Platonism, and 
more specifically the works of Proclus.' Ciceri also sees Lucretian 
influences as well as Ovidian elements, ^° while Sainati, acknowledg- 
ing the importance of Neo-Platonism on the philosophical content of 

* They may conveniently be consiJted in Alessandro Perosa's edition of 
Michaelis MarulLi carmina (Zurich: Thesaurus Mundi, 1951). 

' Ivo Bnins, "Michael MaruUus: ein Dichterleben der Renaissance," Preujiische 
Jahrbiicher 74 (1893): 122ff. For other articles on MaruUus' hymns, see Pier Luigi 
Ciceri, "Michele MaruUo e i suoi 'Hymni naturales'," Giomale storico delta lettera- 
tura italiana 64 (1914): 289-357; Dionysios A. Zakythenos, "Afixai?X MapovWoq 
TapxotvtMrqq 'EK\r\v voirfrrjg tup xpovoiv vifc; 'Avayepviijaeox;", 'E-Kerripig 
'Eraipeiaq Bv^avTivwv Etou&Jv 5 (1928): 200-42; Benedetto Croce, "Michele 
MaruUo Tarcaniota," in Poeti e scrittori del pieno e del tarda Rinascimento, 3 vols. 
(Bari: Laterza, 1945), 2: 267-380; and my article, "The Hymni naturales of Michael 
MaruUus," m Acta conventus neo-latini Bononiensis: Proceedings of the Fourth Interna- 
tional Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, ed. R. J. Schoeck, Medieval & Renaissance 
Texts & Studies, vol. 37 (Binghamton: MRTS, 1985), 475-82. 

'° Ciceri, "Michele MaruUo," pp. 323 and 329. 

114 CHAPTER 4 

the hymns, sees styhstic borrowings ranging from the Homeric 
hymns and CalHmachus to Lucretius, Catullus, and Claudian.^^ 
These scholars also see the influence of Italian poets like Pontano, 
Sannazzaro, and thinkers such as Pico della Mirandola in Marullus' 
hymns, but none of them refers to the collection of the Orphic 
hymns and its influence on both the style and content of many of 
MaruUus' poems. This is not the place to produce a detailed compari- 
son of the hymns of Orpheus and MaruUus, but a few indications of 
the areas where this influence is most important will be useful in 
characterizing MaruUus' hymns, and hence the general concept of the 
hymn form which Ronsard ultimately took over. 

In the first place, it is predominantly to the Orphic hymns that 
the Renaissance looked for models for the hymn of nature, the 
hymnus naturalis. The Homeric hymns had sung of deities or deified 
heroes, as had the hymns of Callimachus for the most part. The 
Orphic hymns constituted the only important collection handed 
down to the Renaissance of poems dedicated to natural phenomena: 
the Heavens, the Stars, the Sun, the Aether, etc., and of MaruUus' 
hymns, only 1. 5, the Hymnus Aeternitati, does not have a corre- 
sponding hymn in the Orphic collection. Of course, MaruUus does 
not simply reproduce the Orphic hymn in Latin guise: his poems are 
generally longer and stylistically more varied. However, he does 
incorporate aspects of the Orphic hymns into his own compositions: 
the list of epithets and short descriptions attributed to the divinity 
being celebrated, the direct address at the start of the hymn, the 
prayer at the end, and the apparent inconsistency of attributing 
unique characteristics to more than one deity, or mutually exclusive 
properties to the same deity. 

Such were the models available to Ronsard. In addition, he would 
have had at his disposal the theoretical writings of Menander the 
Rhetor in the Ilept eTLdeLKTiKcbv. It was a section of this work {On 
Hymns to the Gods) which provided J. C. Scaliger with the material 
for his section on hymns in the Poetices libri septem of 1561.^^ 

'^ A. Sainati, "Michele Marullo," in Studi di letteratura latina medievale e 
umanistica raccolti in occasione del suo ottantacinquesimo compleanno (Padua: 
Antenore, 1972), 150. 

*^ Scaliger's remarks on the hymn are to be found in Poetices libri septem (Lyon: 
Antonius Vincentius, 1561), 1. 45 (p. 49), and 3. 92-95 (pp. 162-63). There is a 

The Early Hymns 115 

Menander divides hymns into nine categories: invocatory hymns; 
valedictory hymns; hymns of nature; mythical hymns; genealogical 
hymns; fictitious hymns; votive hymns; deprecatory hymns; and, 
inevitably, mixed hymns, combining different aspects of the other 
categories. Menander had many more examples of hymns from a 
variety of authors than have survived to this day, including Sappho, 
Anacreon, Bacchylides, Parmenides, Empedocles, Simonides, but he 
does mention Orpheus as being one of the principal exponents of the 
hymns of nature or scientific hymn: 

Scientific hymns are such as were composed by Parmenides 
and Empedocles, expounding the nature of Apollo or of Zeus. 
Most of the hymns of Orpheus are of this kind. (1. 333) 

Menander's editors, Russell and Wilson, doubt, however, that he is 
referring to the extant collection of Orphic hymns. 

Menander devotes separate chapters to all these categories, provid- 
ing a definition for each kind, discussing specific examples from verse 
and prose authors, and giving advice concerning their appropriateness 
for particular subjects and audiences, their length, and the poetic dic- 
tion suitable for them. The categories most relevant to Ronsard's 
hymns are probably the natural hymns and the mythological hymns, 
though Ronsard does have examples of invocatory and fictitious 
hymns. Of the first kind, Menander says that it is most suitable for 
vivid, grandiose subjects ("The first point to be made is that this 
form does not suit the simpler writers, but does suit very well those 
with vigor and grandeur of conception," 1. 336), in which deities are 
considered as forces of nature: 

Such hymns are found, for example, when, in delivering a 
hymn to Apollo, we identify him with the sun, and discuss 
the nature of the sun, or when we identify Hera with air or 
Zeus with heat. (1. 337) 

He writes in the same section that these hymns need not be explicit- 
ly about natural phenomena: "Some are written enigmatically, others 
in an overt manner." However, hymns of the first type, not being 

modern edition of Menander by D. A. Russell and N. G. Wilson: Menander Rhetor: 
Edited with Translation and Commentary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981). English 
quotations in this chapter are taken from this edition. 

116 CHAPTER 4 

didactic, would generally be shorter than those of the second type. 
Menander also includes here a warning against the vulgarization of 
these hymns: "Such hymns should be carefully preserved and not 
published to the multitude or the people, because they look too 
unconvincing and ridiculous to the masses." 

After discussing possible similarities between the mythical and 
genealogical hymns, Menander considers the former category more 
closely. These poems tend to be of greater length and complexity 
than some of the other kinds of hymn: "They are appropriate in a 
higher degree to the poet, since in his case the licence to speak at lei- 
sure and wrap up the subject in poetical ornament and elaboration 
produces no satiety or disgust" (1. 338). Menander particularly 
stresses the need for the skilful arrangement of the details of the 
myth, which should be spread out and not expounded straight away: 

Antidotes need to be applied, for the sake of brevity and 
charm; e.g., not introducing every detail in a direct form, but 
omitting some points, conceding some, introducing some by 
combination, sometimes claiming to give explanations, or not 
committing oneself to belief or disbelief. (1. 339) 

Ronsard's concept of the hymn would have been influenced by 
the various sources and related theoretical writings discussed above, 
whether through the teachings of Dorat or as a result of his own 
reading. As is the case with so many literary notions in the Renais- 
sance, this concept would almost certainly have been a somewhat 
complex one, an uneasy synthesis of the highly disparate elements 
which had survived from the ancient world. As Michel Dassonville 
remarks on the subject of Ronsard's early attempts at the genre: 

Attracted by numerous models, captivated by sources of inspi- 
ration which were Christian and pagan in turn, his mind 
clouded perhaps by the ode, which was still the only ancient 
genre which he had cultivated, influenced by, above all else, 
Pindar's sumptuous lyricism, Ronsard experienced some diffi- 
culty, it seems, in distinguishing the hymn from the ode." 

" Michel Dassonville, "Elements pour une definition de rhymne ronsardien," 
BHR 24 (1962): 64. This article has subsequently been printed in Autour des 
"Hymnes" de Ronsard, ed. Madeleine Lazard (Geneva: Slatkine, 1984), 1-32. 

The Early Hymns 117 

In the light of Dorat's discussion of the relative merits of Homer, 
Callimachus, and Pindar, this is not surprising. Dassonville rejects 
the attempts of Laumonier, Gustave Cohen, Chamard, and Schmidt 
to define and categorize the Ronsardian hymn, and prefers himself to 
provide a structural definition: the hymn is a tripartite poem consist- 
ing of a proem "souvent suivi d'un retour lyrique sur soi"; a central 
development; and a final wish, greeting, praise, or prayer for the poet 
or the dedicatee of the poem.^'* However, as it stands, this defini- 
tion does not really differentiate between the Ronsardian hymn and 
the examples of the hymn form to be found amongst the ancients, 
and in particular the longer Homeric hymns. This can be done per- 
haps more effectively by considering the function of Ronsard's 
hymns, but in order to do this, it will be necessary to determine the 
poet's attitude towards the subjects with which he deals and the sig- 
nificance he attaches to the mythological content. It will also be use- 
ful to consider Ronsard's attitudes towards his models, in particular 
the three Greek collections of hymns, and Marullus. 

It would, however, be dangerous to try to impose an uneasy unity 
on all those poems which Ronsard designates as hymnes, and still 
more so to criticize him for a lack of unity in them. As Francis 
Cairns remarks: 

"Hymn" therefore is not a genre in the sense in which pro- 
pemptikon or komos is a genre. Nor is it a genre in the other 
common sense of the word, in which it is used to refer to 
kinds of literature like epic, elegy, or lyric; for these kinds of 
literature are each characterized by meter and length, and 
more important they are mutually exclusive. "Hymn" is not 
characterized by meter or by length, and hymns can be found 
in epic, elegy, lyric, etc.^^ 

In fact, there is a gradual development in Ronsard's approach to the 
hymn, and his early examples tend to be based quite closely on one 
or more identifiable sources. 

In dealing with Ronsard's hymns, we shall be looking at them not 

" "Elements pour une definition," pp. 61-63 and 71. 

^* Francis Cairns, Generic Composition in Greek and Roman Poetry (Edinburgh: 
Edinburgh University Press, 1972), 92. 

118 CHAPTER 4 

in isolation but in the context of their place in the various editions of 
the poet's works. We shall particularly concentrate on those poems 
which form part of the books of hymns. However, to start with, we 
shall consider briefly the five compositions which pre-date the first 
book of hymns, published in 1555. 

Ronsard's interest in the hymn appears to begin in the autumn of 
1549, when he published L'Hymne de France (L. I. 24-25), a poem 
which would remain in the collected books of hymns until the edi- 
tion of 1572-73. The short Hinne a Saint Gervaise, et Protaise (L. II. 
5-7), first published in the Quatre premiers livres des Odes of 1550, 
did not enjoy the same success, but the Hinne a la nuit, which first 
appeared in the same collection, disappeared from the 1560 collection 
of hymns, only to be included in the fourth book of hymns in the 
editions of 1567, 1571, and 1572-73. The Hymne triumphal sur le 
trepas de Marguerite de Valois, Royne de Navarre of 1551 (L. III. 54- 
78) was destined to take its place in the fifth book of Odes, but the 
Hinne de Bacus of 1555 appears in aU the collective editions from 1560. 

The fate of these early examples of the hymn underlines as much 
as anything else Ronsard's uncertainty about the nature of the genre 
at this time, particularly with regard to its form. Three of them were 
clearly considered by their author to be odes, while the Hymne de 
France and the Hinne de Bacus, written in decasyllables and alexan- 
drines respectively, would provide the model for all subsequent 
examples of the genre. Before considering the 1555 collection of Les 
Hymnes, it will be useful to consider the three early hymns which 
survived in later collections. 

L'Hymne de France is in fact more of a panegyric than a hymn, 
being modelled, as Laumonier indicates, on Virgil's eulogy of Italy in 
Georgics 2. 136-76, though it incorporates a number of other sources 
as well. In the opening lines (1-16), the poet makes an address to his 
lyre, which is imbued with Orphic powers. For example, he writes: 

Tu peuz tirer les forez de leur place, 

Fleschir I'enfer, mouvoir les monts de Thrace, 

Voire appaiser le feu, qu'il ne saccaige 

Les verds cheveux d'un viole boucaige (lines 9-12) 

(You can draw forests from their spot, move the Underworld, 
displace the mountains of Thrace, and even calm fire so that it 
does not destroy the green tresses of a profaned grove ) 

The Early Hymns 119 

Line 17 then introduces the main theme, the praise of France, in 
comparison with other parts of the world. Ronsard ends the poem 
with a short valediction (lines 215-24), recommending to France his 
lyre, and thus providing a circular pattern to the hymn. 

If the Hymne de France is something of a contaminatio of classical 
sources, the Hinne a la nuit, first published in the Troisieme Livre des 
Odes of 1550, is, as Laumonier says, "d'un bout a I'autre la paraphrase 
d'une ode saphique du napolitain Pontano" (L. U. 21, n. 1). In many 
ways, it is curious that this poem was placed in the 1567 collection of 
hymns, having been treated more appropriately as an ode in 1560. It is 
certainly addressed to the Night, and contains a prayer at the end: 

Mai, si te plaist deesse une fin a ma peine, 

Et donte sous mes braz celle qui est tant pleine 

De menasses cruelles (L. II. 22. 25-27) 

(Please, goddess, put an end to my pain, and tame beneath my 
arms the lady who is so full of cruel threats. . . .) 

Yet the tone of the poem is sensual, and reminiscent of Latin and 
neo-Latin amatory verse, as well as certain aspects of the Pleiade's 
own "style mignard," as is evident from the following lines: 

Lors que Tamie main court par la cuisse, & ores 
Par les tetins, ausquels ne s'acompare encores 

Nul ivoire qu'on voie, 
Et la langue en errant sur la joiie, & la face. 
Plus d'odeurs, & de fleurs, la naissantes, amasse 

Que r Orient n'envoie. (lines 13-18) 

(When the lover's hand runs over the thigh, and now over the 
breasts, which remain unparalleled by any ivory one can see, 
and the tongue, in wandering over the cheek and the face, col- 
lects more fragrances and flowers, budding there, than the 
Orient sends forth.) 

When it comes to the Hinne de Bacus of 1554, however, Ronsard 
seems to have a far clearer idea of what for him constitutes a hymn, 
and, not surprisingly, this poem appears in all the later collective edi- 
tions of the hymns. By this time, it is clear from textual evidence 
that Ronsard has read and assimilated the full range of classical 
models: the Homeric hymns, Callimachus' hymns, the Orphic 

120 CHAPTER 4 

hymns, and Marullus' Hymni naturales. The Hinne de Bacus bears the 
marks of all of these collections: the wit of Callimachus, as evidenced 
in lines 7-16 on the birthplace of Bacchus, inspired by Callimachus 
1. 7-9 on Zeus's birthplace, cited above; the lists of epithets and attri- 
butes which are typical of the Orphic hymns and of Marullus (see, 
for example, lines 165ff. and 23 Iff.); and the valediction which is 
normal in the Homeric hymns. For the first time, as we shall see, 
Ronsard brings together the elements that would contribute to the 
success of the later hymns. 

Terence Cave has already considered this early hymn in some 
detail, and pointed to the popularity of the theme in the visual arts 
of the Renaissance, amongst which Titian's painting (fig. 20) is one 
of the finest examples. ^^ Concentrating on the triumphal procession 
described in lines 109-32, he shows how the god's ambiguous nature 
is suggested visually by the juxtaposition of opposing forces— the 
regal qualities of the god suggested by the "manteau Tyrian" (line 
113) contrasted with the violence of the lynxes who draw his chariot, 
for example. Other qualities are suggested by the composition of the 
crown he wears: 

Un chapelet de liz melles de roses franches, 
Et de feuille de vigne, et de Ihierre espars, 
Voltigeant, umbrageoit ton chef de toutes pars. 

(L. VI. 182. 114-16) 

(A wreath of lilies mixed with red roses, scattered with vine 
leaves and ivy, tumbling about, shaded your head on all sides.) 

Here, the various plants and flowers are traditional symbols of love 
(roses), immortality (the evergreen ivy and the lily), and fecundity 
(the vine). Bacchus and his train, then, represent a discordia concors, 
not only on a human but also on a cosmic level, as becomes clear in 
the final section of the poem where Bacchus is seen leading the cos- 
mic dance (lines 274-76). 

On the other hand, Cave does not discuss the first part of the 
poem in which Ronsard deals with the circumstances surrounding 
Bacchus' birth and nurture. A unique aspect of this concerns Juno's 

'^ See "The Triumph of Bacchus and its Interpretation in the French Renais- 
sance: Ronsard's 'Hinne de Bacus.' " 

The Early Hymns 121 

wish, in the course of her attempts to kill the young god, to feed him 
to her bitch: 

Junon n'attendit point, tant elle fut iree. 
Que sa charette a Paons par le ciel fust tiree, 
Ains faisant le plongeon se laisse toute aller 
A I'abandon du vent, qui la guidoit par I'asr 60 

Toujours fondant en has sur la terre Indienne: 
Beante a ses talons la suivoit une chienne, 
Qu'expres elle amenoit, a fin de se venger 
Et faire ce bastard a sa chienne manger. 64 

Mais Inon qui previt par augures I'ambuche, 
Pour tromper la deesse, Athamante elle huche, 
Et lui conta comment Junon venoit charcher 
L'anfanfon pour le faire en pieces detrancher: 68 

Athamante soudain le tapit contre terre, 
Et couvrit le berceau de fueilles de Ihierre, 
De creinte que Junon en charchant ne le vist, 
Et qu'englotir tout vif a son chien ne le fist 72 

Ou de peur qu'autrement ne lui fist quelque offence. 

(L. VI. 179-80. 57-73) 

(Juno was so enraged that she did not wait for her peacock 
chariot to be drawn through the sky, but, plunging down, she 
surrendered entirely to the wind, which guided her through 
the air as she sank down onto the land of India. Hard on her 
heels she was followed by a gaping she-dog which she brought 
on purpose to avenge herself and feed this bastard-child to her 
dog. But Ino, who through augury foresaw the ambush, in 
order to trick the goddess, called out to Athamas, and told 
him how Juno was coming to seek out the baby to have him 
hacked to pieces. Athamas at once conceals him on the ground 
and covers the cradle with ivy leaves, lest Juno see him in her 
search and have him swallowed alive by her dog, or harm him 
in some other way.) 

Other elements in Ronsard's account of the birth of Bacchus are 
more traditional. Jupiter causes his mortal beloved, Semele, to be- 
come pregnant, whereupon Juno, in the shape of Semele's nurse, 
Beroe, persuades her rival to ask Jupiter to appear before her in all 

122 CHAPTER 4 

his splendor (lines 17-21), as a result of which Semele is killed by her 
lover's lightning bolts, and Bacchus is born prematurely. Jupiter 
hides his son in his thigh until it is time for him to be born (lines 
27-30) and then transfers Bacchus to Nysa to be nurtured by Hippe 
(or Hipta), Ino and Athamas (lines 23-24, 31-48), or by nymphs (line 

There is some confusion in Ronsard's account, at times increased 
by later variants. For example, in lines 23-25: 

. . . ton pere marri 
A Nyse t'envoia pour y estre nourri 
Des mains d'Ippe, & d'Inon, d'Athame & Melicharse. 

(. . . your distraught father sent you to Nysa to be nurtured by 
the hands of Hippe, Ino, Athamas, and Melicharses.) 

Dorat's translation sheds both light and darkness on these lines: 

. . . iam tum genitor Nysam te misit alendum 
Hippaeque Inonique Athamantique & Meticharsae [sic]. 

(Dorat, Poematia [1586], 376) 

(. . . then your father sent you to Nysa to be nurtured by Hip- 
pe, Ino, Athamas, and Meticharses.) 

"Ippe," then, is the Orphic goddess Hippa or Hipta, and "Athame," 
despite the 1584-1587 variant "la vieille Athame," is the husband of 
Ino, Athamas. "Melicharse" is presumably Melicertes, their son (see 
line 81 of this poem). The form "Melicharse" appears nowhere else in 
Ronsard's works, and is not found in ancient accounts of the myth, 
although according to Robert Graves, "Ino's younger son Melicertes 
is the Canaanite Heracles Melkarth ('protector of the city'), alias 
Moloch "^^ Dorat's "Mericharsae" is probably a typographical er- 

The allegorical significance of the birth, as recounted by Ronsard, 
almost certainly represents the growth of the vine, an explanation 
frequent in the Renaissance mythographers. Natalis Comes would 
write, for example (fol. 155'', Mythologiae): 

^^ Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, 2 vols. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 
1955, reprinted 1964), 1: 230. 

The Early Hymns 123 

He is said to have been sewn into Jupiter's thigh, because the 

vine is extremely greedy for warmth Nymphs are said to 

have nurtured him after receiving him from his mother's ashes 
because the vine is of all trees the dampest, and its fruit, if 
properly watered, is much healthier and grows at the same 
time. He is said to have been transferred to Egypt because of 
the warmth of the region and the fertility of the soil, and the 
vine needs something similar to this region. 

Finally, the details concerning Juno and her bitch must involve a 
physical interpretation like the other elements surrounding Bacchus' 
birth. Juno, as the lower air surrounding the earth, is accompanied 
late in summer by the dog-star which heralds excessive heat. Else- 
where, in Les Bacchanales, ou le folatrissime voyage d'Hercueil pres 
Paris (L. III. 184-217), Ronsard refers to "I'ardente Canicule" ^ine 
148) as "la chienne" (line 155). In order to protect the vine from this 
heat, an ivy covering is used to shelter it, suggested by Athamas's 
covering of the cradle with ivy leaves. 

Bacchus' growth (lines 83-92) and discovery of wine (lines 93- 
104) follow on logically from this, as does the spread of the use of 
wine, suggested by the triumphal procession of lines 105-32. Renais- 
sance mythographers such as Conti emphasize the fact that in moder- 
ation, wine is a force for good ("quia cum moderatione sumptus utilis 
sit & bonus potus," fol. 150"^), but drunk in excess, it leads to evil: 

For in conformity with the very nature of drunkards, lynxes, 
tigers, leopards, and panthers are said to follow him, and to 
pull his chariot. For wine marks those who drink immoderate- 
ly with the charaaeristics and cruelty of these wild beasts, and 
renders them insane. (fol. 155") 

As Cave indicates, this is suggested by the various forces present in 
Bacchus' retinue. 

The ecstatic side of Bacchus is also, of course, emphasized by 
Ronsard, particularly since the Bacchic or mystic frenzy could inspire 
the poet. In the dithyrambic section of the hymn (lines 179ff.), this 
is applied by the poet to himself in terms reminiscent of poetic 
frenzy; compare lines 187-88: 

Je sen mon coeur trambler, tant il est agite 
Des poignans aiguillons de ta divinite 

124 CHAPTER 4 

(I can feel my heart tremble, so excited is it by the piercing 
goads of your godhead) 

with lines 67-72 of the poem A Monsieur de Belot, cited in chapter 2. 
The final main section of the poem sees Bacchus at work on a 
cosmic scale. As well as providing mankind with music, law, religion, 
etc., he also causes the rebirth of the world at springtime: 

Tu fais germer la terre, & d'estranges couleurs 
Tu revests les vers pres orguillis de leurs fleurs, 
Tu dedaignes I'enfer, tu restaures le monde 
De ta longue jeunesse, & la machine ronde 
Tu poises justement, & moderes le bal 
(Toy balant le premier) de ce grand animal. 

(lines 271-76) 

(You cause the earth to sprout and you cloak with unwonted 
colors the green meadows, grown proud with their flowers; 
you disdain the Underworld, you restore the world with your 
long-lived youthfulness, and you balance exactly the round 
universe and control the dance of this great creature, with you 
being the first to dance.) 

Although Bacchus is more normally associated with autumn, it is the 
Orphic god that Ronsard, following MaruUus, has in mind here, as 
we can see from the Hymnus Baccho 50-54: 

Tibi ager viret almus, tu florea prata tepentibus 
Zephyris coloras, tu dissona semina ligas. 
In saecla mundo semper fugientia reparas 
Longa iuventa, tu libras pondera machinae 
Medioque terram suspendis in aere stabilem 

(For you the bountiful field grows green, you give color to the 
flowery meadows through the warm west winds, you bind 
together different breeds, you restore the ever-fleeting genera- 
tions in the universe with long-lasting youth, you balance the 
cosmic forces and hold the earth, unmoving, in mid air ) 

MaruUus gives Bacchus, in other words, attributes similar to those of 
the Orphic god Amor who, as the creative principle in the universe, 
was variously referred to by the Orphics as Phanes, Protogonos, 

The Early Hymns 125 

Dionysus, Eros, Metis, and Erikepaios; it is this form that Ronsard 
also appears to have in mind.^* 

Thus, there is a progress in the hymn from Bacchus as the earthly 
vine, through Bacchus as the god of wine and of mystic frenzy in the 
sublunar world, to Bacchus as the moving principle in the translunar 

Although there is a certain coherence in this hymn, it is neverthe- 
less slightly marred by confusing and confused ideas. In the first 
place, Ronsard has not worked out in his own mind the exact nature 
of his Bacchus. True, he wishes to emphasize the positive aspects of 
the god, as Cave points out, and to that end suppresses details con- 
cerning the ritual slaughter of animals (lines 93-104), the death of the 
god at the hands of the Giants (lines 151-64), and Bacchus' androgy- 
nous appearance (lines 85-92). Later on, however, he would restore 
some of these details in A Monsieur de Belot (already discussed in 
chapter 3) and in the Hymne de I'Autonne (see below, chapter 7), 
where the bisexual nature of Bacchus is an important element in the 
explanation of the various changes the earth undergoes throughout 
the year. Moreover, the confusion over the nymphs who raise 
Bacchus, and where they live (India or Arabia), along with an exces- 
sive reliance at times on Marullus lead to a less than clear idea of 
what Ronsard has in mind. This is typified by lines 282-83: 

Je te salije a droit le Lychnite admirable 
Des homes & des Dieus . . . 

(I salute you in a fitting way, wondrous Lychnites of men and 
gods . . .) 

which is Ronsard's version of: "Salve, benigne lychnita, deum et pater 
hominum" (Marullus, Hymni Maturates 1. 6. 58). Later, Marullus correct- 
ed "lychnita" to "licnita," but Ronsard, as Laumonier notes, has taken 
the word lychnita (in Greek XuxPLTr^g) in the sense of "lamp" and as 
such follows it with the two dependent objective genitives "des homes 
& des Dieus," whereas Marullus uses the word as an epithet of Bacchus 
("bearing the sacred XCkvov/" or fan-shaped basket, carried on the 
head at the feast of Bacchus and containing mystical objects). 

" Cf. my paper on Marullus' Hymni naturales, 478. 

126 CHAPTER 4 

Despite these reservations, the hymn represents a turning point, 
for in it, Ronsard has developed the poetic voice which would form 
the basis of his style in the important 1555 collection of hymns. As 
Cave remarks: 

, . . the movement away from allegory in the strict [i.e., medi- 
eval] sense and towards metaphor has been brought about in 
part at least by this exploitation on a visual, decorative and 
rhythmic level of images which had earlier been treated sche- 
matically Ronsard clearly perceived the enduring value of 

myth as a means of embodying profound insights into man 
and the universe. 

He is using here the principle of the "voile bien subtil" to conceal the 
various layers of meaning in the poem, as he would do in subsequent 
mythological hymns. On the stylistic level, the fertility associated 
with Bacchus is paralleled by a mannerist lexical profusion, notably 
in the epithets attributed to the god (e.g., lines 231-36), which add 
little to the meaning of the text but which contribute to the mystic, 
incantatory tone of the poem. The inspirational Dionysus had set 
him on the right path. 

The later hymns would witness a refinement of the qualities which 
are apparent in the first of Ronsard's important mythological hymns. 
With the 1555 collection, he appears to develop a more unified 
vision, which is further modified in 1556 with the two largely narra- 
tive poems, L'Hymne de Calais, et de Zetes and L'Hymne de Pollux et 
de Castor. With these changes comes an increasing appeal to the 
visual. As Albert Py remarks in his introduction to the Hymnes:^^ 

We shall allow ourselves to base on such indications the im- 
pression that, in Ronsard, the characterization of the subject 
of the hymn, through the aesthetic openings to which it 
invites us, tends to cause the language of the hymns to slip 
from the aural to the visual level. The voice sparks off images 

" Published in Geneva, 1978, TLF 251. See p. 29. 

The Early Hymns 127 

which present themselves to the sight more boldly than the 
voice makes itself heard. The song is matched with increasing 
insistence by a picture. 

In our study of the hymns, we shall be considering these changes 
by dealing with the hymns chronologically in their main groups: the 
1555 Hymnes; Le Second Livre des Hymnes (1556), and the hymns ded- 
icated to the Cardinal de Lorraine (1559); the seasonal hymns (1563) 
along with the scattered contributions to the genre which appeared 
between 1565 and the posthumous 1587 edition of Ronsard's works. 
We shall also look at the changing shape of the collective editions 
before an attempt is made to synthesize the results of this study. 

Chapter 5 

The Hymns of 1555 

... en la forme ronde 

Gist la perfection qui toute en soy abonde. 

(Ronsard, L. Vm. 142. 33-34) 

®he appearance of the first collection of hymns in 1555 seems 
to be marked by a certain controlled optimism on Ronsard's 
part. He had completed a substantial collection of poems in 
the grand style, to the glory of his friends and patrons, both actual 
and potential; he had firmly established in the vernacular a new 
poetic genre which would in many ways prove more successful than 
the ode; and there appears to be a sense that Henry II might yet be 
persuaded to provide the royal patronage necessary for the composi- 
tion of what was intended to be the culmination of his poetic efforts, 
the Franciade. 

Henry was continuing his father's patronage of artists and archi- 
tects, and rivalry with the visual arts is evident in the hymns. Ron- 
sard is at pains to emphasize the ephemeral nature of the plastic arts 
compared with that of poetry. He warns the king in the Hymne du 
treschrestien roy de France Henry II. de ce nom (L. VTII. 5-46): 

Un Roy, tant soit il grand en terre ou en proiiesse, 
Meurt comme un laboureur sans gloire, s'il ne laisse 
Quelque renom de luy, & ce renom ne peut 
Venir apres la mort, si la Muse ne veut 
Le donner a celluy qui doucement I'invite, 
Et d'honneste faveur compense son merite. 
Non, je ne suis tout seul, non, tout seul je ne suis, 
Non, je ne le suis pas, qui par mes ceuvres puis 

The Hymns of 1555 129 

Donner aux grandz Seigneurs une gloire eternelle: 
Autres le peuvent faire, un Bellay, un Jodelle, 
Un Bai'f, Pelletier, un Belleau, & Tiard, 
Qui des neuf Soeurs en don ont re9eu le bel art 
De faire par les vers les grandz Seigneurs revivre, 
Mieux que leurs bastimens, ou leurs fontes de cuivre. 

(lines 731-44) 

(A king, however great he may be in land or prowess, dies 
without glory like a ploughman, unless he leaves some remem- 
brance of himself, and this remembrance cannot come after 
death, if the Muse does not wish to give it to one who gently 
invites her and rewards her merit with worthy support. No, 
I am not alone, no, I am not all alone, no, I am not, who can 
by my works grant everlasting glory to mighty lords; others 
can do this: a Du Bellay, a Jodelle, a Baif, a Peletier, a Belleau, 
a Tyard, who have been freely given by the nine Sisters the 
fine art of bringing back to life through their poetry mighty 
lords more effectively than their buildings or their bronze 

In Le Temple de Messeigneurs le Connestable, et des Chastillons (L. VIII. 
72-84), he erects his own buildings and statues to serve as a lasting 
monument to the family which has favored him. However, the note 
of disillusionment which enters into the Second Livre des Hymnes is 
as yet absent in 1555. 

This is perhaps evident as much as anything in the dispositio of 
the hymns. Much thought has been given to this subject in the past, 
with one of the more recent contributions establishing, in my view, 
the correct criteria for a structural analysis.^ Jean Ceard sees the 
hymns revolving around the opposition between the sublunar and 
the translunar worlds, a theme which Ronsard would constantly 
return to in later collections: 

... in this ample meditation on the human condition repre- 
sented by the Hymnes, Ronsard constantly contrasts heaven 

^ See Jean Ceard, "La Disposition des livres des Hymnes de Ronsard." For an 
earlier consideration of this issue, see Michel Dassonville, "Elements pour une 
definition de I'hymne ronsardien." 

130 CHAPTER 5 

and earth, God and men, eternity and time, the knowledge of 
the soul freed from the body and the ignorance of earthly 
man, the peace of the Golden Age and today's war, immuta- 
bility and change, the desire for happiness and present-day 
wretchedness. (p- 85) 

This essentially Neo-Platonic approach is closely associated with 
Christian views and commonplaces in the 1555 collection, as we shall 
see later on. Ceard sees the hymns as being organized in large or 
small blocks:^ 

To start with, a group of four poems [which] each partake in 
their own way in the initial expression of an order which is a 

manifestation of the divine The next two poems . . . offer 

a descent into the sea of dissimilarity Following these two 

plunges into the Multiple we have making up, in my view, the 
core of the first book the Hymnes du del and des Astres, 

[where] the very nature of God is glimpsed It is ... to the 

meditation of our condition that the next two poems mean to 
lead us . . . the Hercule Chrestien . . . offers us, by means of the 
contemplation of history, an ascent. 

We could represent this schematically as follows: 

Henry II ^ 

Justice I manifestation of 

Temple I divine order on earth 

Philosophie J 



Ciel 1 harmony 

Astres J of God 

Mort 1 the human 

Or J condition 

Hercule Chrestien ascent 

^ Ceard, "La Disposition des livres des Hymnes," 87-92. 

The Hymns of 1555 


Although I would agree with Ceard's general views, I find this 
pattern too asymmetrical and unbalanced in a collection of poems 
about divine order. Rather, it seems to me that, like the frescoes in 
the Galerie Fran9ois P^ these hymns are organized in a ring pattern 
around a central pivot, Les Daimons. 


Henry II 










Hercule Chrestien 

According to this dispositio, the first five hymns are largely con- 
cerned with the sublunar world, an essentially passive recipient of 
influences from the translunar world, presented in the last five 
hymns. Les Daimons is pivotal in that it concentrates on the space 
between the two worlds where divine and mortal meet. 

Muses, quand nous voudrons les loiienges chanter 
Des Dieux, il nous faudra au nom de Jupiter 

Commencer, & finir 

Mais quand il nous plaira chanter I'honneur des Roys, 
II faudra par HENRY, le grand Roy des Francois, 
Commencer, & finir (L. VUI. 5-6, 1-3, 5-7) 

(Muses, when we want to sing the praises of the gods, we 

must start and end with the name of Jupiter But when we 

wish to sing the honor of kings, we must start and end with 
Henry, the mighty king of France ) 

writes Ronsard at the beginning of his first hymn. 

Doncques, de CHRIST le nom tressainct & digne 
Conunencera & finira mon Hymne 

(L. Vm. 208. 11-12) 

132 CHAPTER 5 

(So, the most holy and worthy name of Christ will start and 
end my hymn) 

he writes in the last hymn, and the thematic parallels between the 
two poems are obvious. The long hymn to Henry II is about God's 
annointed king on earth, while the Hercule Chrestien concerns the 
divine Messiah. There is, moreover, a contrast between the disorder 
of the world in the first hymn, where the subject of Henry II's wars 
is very much to the fore, and the beneficent effects of Christ, who is 
able to restore some order to the world: 

Qu'est-ce d'Hercule, & du puissant Atlas, 
Qui ce grand Ciel soutiennent de leurs braz? 
Si-non le Pere & le Fill, qui resemble 
Deforce au Pere, & soutiennent ensemble 
Tout ce grand Monde, ouvrage qui seroit 
Bien tost tombe, si DiEU ne le tenoit. 

(L. VIIL 219. 225-30) 

(What are Hercules and mighty Atlas, who support these great 
heavens with their arms, if not the Father and the Son, who 
in strength is like the Father, and support together the whole 
of this great world, a creation which would soon collapse if 
God did not maintain it.) 

Similarly, the Hymne de la Justice deals largely with the decline of 
the world since the Golden Age and the possibility that it will return 
to its original state of chaos through divine retribution (cf. L. VIII. 
63. 327-30). By contrast, gold is praised in the Hymne de I'Or in a 
superficially cynical and worldly manner. However, in a hymn dedi- 
cated to Dorat, we should be looking for a meaning beyond the 
merely literal one, and gold, of course, traditionally represents incor- 
ruptibility, equilibrium, and immortality. Le Temple de Messeigneurs 
le Connestable, et des Chastillons celebrates the Chatillon family and 
sets out to preserve their memory on earth after their death: 

Ainsi, mon Mecenas, dans ce Temple de gloire 
Je mettray ces portraictz, sacrez a la Memoire, 
A fin que des longs ans les cours s'entresuyvants 
Ne foulent point a has leurs honneurs survivans, 
Et que des CHASTILLONS la maison estimee 

The Hymns of 1555 133 

Vive, maugre le temps, par longue renommee. . . . 

(L. VIIL 82. 197-202) 

(Thus, my patron, I shall place in this temple of glory these 
portraits, dedicated to Mnemosyne, so that the succeeding pro- 
cessions of long years should not trample down their enduring 
honors and that the famed house of Chatillon should live, in 
spite of time, through long renown ) 

The Hymne de la Mort, on the other hand, sings the praises of the 
afterlife itself in both Neo-Platonic and Christian terms which con- 
trast with the inevitably imperfect poetic immortality of the sublunar 

Continuing with the sublunar/translunar division, the Hymne de 
la Philosophie deals with the way in which man can have some 
knowledge of heavenly things while still imprisoned on earth: 

Elle [viz., la Philosophie], voyant qu'a I'homme estoit 
D'aller au Ciel, disposte, a delie 
Loing, hors du corps, nostre Ame emprisonnee, 
Et par esprit aux astres I'a menee. 
Car en dressant de nostre Ame les yeux. 
Haute, s' attache aux merveilles des Cieux, 
Vaguant par tout, & sans estre lassee 
Tout rUnivers discourt en sa pensee, 
Et seulle peut des astres s'alier 
Osant de DiEU la nature espier. 

(L. VIII. 86-87. 21-30) 

(Seeing that it was denied to man to go to heaven. Philosophy 
readily freed our imprisoned soul from its body, and led it in 
spirit to the stars; for by raising up our soul's gaze it clasps, 
on high, to the wonders of the heavens, roaming everywhere, 
and without being wearied surveys the entire universe in its 
thought, and alone can associate with the stars, daring to 
observe the nature of God.) 

The Hymne des Astres also concentrates on the idea of man's soul 
imprisoned in his earthly body, but in this case, it looks even more 
triumphantly to the possibility of escape: 

134 CHAPTER 5 

C'est trop long temps, Mellin, demeure sur la terre 
Dans rhumaine prison, qui I'Esprit nous enserre, 
Le tenant engourdy d'un sommeil ocieux 
II faut le delier, & I'envoyer aux cieux: 
II me plaist en vivant de voir souz moy les niies, 
Et presser de mes pas les espaules cheniies 
D'Atlas le porte-ciel, il me plaist de courir 
Jusques au Firmament, & les secretz ouvrir 

(S'il m'est ainsi permis) des Astres admirables 

(L. VIII. 150. 1-9) 

(Mellin, we have stayed too long on earth in our mortal pris- 
on which encloses our spirit, keeping it numbed in idle slum- 
ber; we must release it and send it to the heavens. I wish, 
while still alive, to see the clouds beneath me and to tread my 
feet on the hoary shoulders of Atlas, the sky-bearer; I wish to 
run as far as the firmament and reveal, if I am allowed to, the 
secrets of the wondrous stars. . . .) 

Later on in the hymn, we learn of the influence of the stars on the 
mortal world, again emphasizing the active nature of the translunar 
world compared with the passivity of the earth. 

The final pairing involves the Priere a la Fortune and the Hymne 
du del. Again, the first of these poems is very much concerned with 
the instability and strife of the sublunar world: 

Puisque noz Roys espointz de trop de gloire, 
N'ont autre soing que par une victoire 
De quelque ville, ou d'un chasteau conquis 
Hausser leur bruit par sang d'hommes aquis, 
Et puis qu'ilz ont de toute leur contree 
Pour cherir Mars, chasse la belle Astree, 
Et pour la Paix ont choysi le Discord, 
Et pour la vie ilz ont choisy la mort 
Dedans leurs cceurs, . . . 
Ains vivre ensemble en paix & en concorde, 

Loing de la guerre, & de toute discorde 

(L. VIII. 107. 99-107, 111-12) 

(Since our kings, spurred on by too much glory, care for 
nothing but to enhance their reputations at the expense of 

The Hymns of 1555 135 

human blood, by vanquishing some town or conquering a 
castle, and since they have chased the beautiful Astraea from 
the whole of their land, to cherish Mars, and have chosen in 
their hearts Discord over Peace, death over life, . . . rather than 
live together in peace and harmony, far from war and all 
discord ) 

The second poem concentrates on the harmony and perfection of the 
celestial world, and the beneficent effects of the heavens, in contrast 
to the more dire effects of Fortune: 

L'Esprit de TETERNEL qui avance ta course, 
Espandu dedans toy, comme une grande source 
De tous costez t'anime, & donne mouvement, 
Te faisant tournoyer en sphere rondement. 
Pour estre plus parfaict, car en la forme ronde 
Gist la perfection qui toute en soy abonde: 
De ton bransle premier, des autres tout divers, 
Tu tires au rebours les corps de I'Univers, 
Bien qu'ilz resistent fort a ta grand' violence, 
Seulz a-part demenans une seconde dance, 
L'un dega, I'autre la, conune ilz sont agitez 
Des discordans accordz de leur diversitez: 
Ainsi guidant premier si grande compagnie, 
Tu fais une si douce & plaisante harmonie. 
Que noz lucz ne sont rien aux prix des moindres sons 
Qui resonnent la haut de di verses fa^ons. 

(L. Vni. 142-44. 29-44) 

(The spirit of the everlasting God which advances your course, 
perfused within you, like a great spring of water, gives you life 
on all sides and movement, causing you to spin round in a 
sphere in order to be more perfect, for in roundness resides 
perfeaion, which abounds entirely within itself. With your 
initial movement, quite unlike all others, you draw the bodies 
of the universe backwards, even though they show great resis- 
tance to your powerful violence, as they lead, alone and to 
one side, a second dance, one here, another there, as they are 
moved by the discordant harmony of their diversity. Thus, 
being the first to lead so great a company, you create such a 
sweet and pleasing harmony that our lutes are nothing com- 

136 CHAPTER 5 

pared to the slightest sounds which re-echo up above in di- 
verse fashions.) 

In this way, there is a kind of double progress in the hymns: on 
the one hand, from the strife and discord represented in the first five 
hymns to the peace and concord of the translunar world in the last 
five; on the other, an increasing sense of optimism concerning the 
human condition, even in the sublunar hymns, as the collection 
moves from the outer hymns to the center. As we shall see, this 
marks a contrast with the Second Livre des Hymnes, which starts off 
with the perfection of the translunar world and becomes progressive- 
ly more pessimistic. 

As we have already noted, Les Daimons (L. VIII. 115-39) is central 
to the collection both in terms of its position and its subject: the 
demons occupy the space between the sublunar and the translunar 
worlds. The poem has already received a considerable amount of 
scholarly attention, in particular from Albert-Marie Schmidt and 
from Germaine Lafeuille, so I do not intend to spend too much time 
discussing it.^ However, a couple of additions might usefully be 
made concerning possible sources, since these have implications for 
other hymns in the collection. 

Lines 1-50 consist of a lengthy dedication to Lancelot Carle, in 
which his poetic prowess in Latin and French is mentioned, and lines 
5 1-58 then introduce the main topic of the poem: 

Quand I'ETERNEL bastit la grand'maison du monde, 
II peupla de poissons les abysmes de I'Onde, 
D'hommes la Terre, & I'air de Daimons, & les Cieux 
D'Anges, a celle-fin qu'il n'y eut point de lieux 
Vagues dans I'Univers, &, selon leurs natures, 
Qu'ilz fussent tous remplys de propres creatures. 

(lines 59-64) 

(When the everlasting God built the great mansion of the 
world, he populated the depths of the sea with fish, the earth 
with men, and the air with demons and the heavens with 

' See Albert-Marie Schmidt, La Poesie scientifique en France au seizieme Steele 
(Paris: Albin Michel, 1938), and Germaine Lafeuille, Cinq hymnes de Ronsard, THR 
128 (Geneva: Droz, 1973). 

The Hymns of 1555 137 

angels, so that there should be no empty spaces in the universe 
and that they should all be filled, according to their natures, 
with fitting creatures.) 

Although Psellus and iVpuleius have been singled out as the principal 
sources for this poem,'* the lines just cited seem to correspond to cer- 
tain ideas expounded by Proclus in his commentary on the Timaeus, 
a work which I have argued elsewhere was central to Ronsard's phil- 
osophical views in the four seasonal hymns: ^ 

Moreover, since the world must be complete in its totality, we 
must also imagine, as accompanying the divine generations, 
those other generations which are engendered with them 
before our souls, which he will create a little later on. For the 
generation of demons fills all the space between the gods and 
men. (165; 5. 21) 

Ronsard goes on to explain that his angels, who are incorporeal and 
eternal, partake of the nature of God: 

Car ilz ne sont qu'Espris divins, parfaictz & purs. 
Qui congnoissent les ans tant passez, que futurs, 
Et tout I'estat mondain, comme voyant les choses 
De pres, au seing de DiEV, ou elles sont encloses. 

(lines 69-72) 

(For they are simply divine spirits, perfect and pure, who 
know the past as well as the future years and the entire condi- 
tion of the world, as they see things close to, in the bosom of 
God where they are enclosed.) 

As Proclus writes: 

* Laumonier mentions Psellus' Ilepi e'pepyeiaq tcSv bounovdiv and Apxileius' 
De deo Socratis as Ronsard's principal sources (L. VIE. 118. n. 3). 

^ See my paper "Neoplatonic Fictions in the Hymnes of Ronsard," in Philosophi- 
cal Fictions and the French Renaissance, ed. Neil Kenny (London: The Warburg 
Institute, 1991), 45-55. There is a French translation of Proclus' commentary by A. 
J. Festugiere, Commentaire sur le Timee, 5 vols. (Paris: Vrin, 1966-68). The refer- 
ences are given in the form of page references to the Teubner edition of Diehl, 
followed by volume and page niunber in the Festugiere translation. 

138 CHAPTER 5 

Moreover, the angelic generation proceeds according to the 
intellectual life of the Demiurge, which is why it is endowed 
with intellect in its essence and interprets and transmits divine 
Thoughts to inferior beings. (165; 5, 22) 

Ronsard's demons, on the other hand, are possessed of a "corps 
leger" (line 77) and like clouds take on many shapes (lines 91-94): 

Tout ainsi les DaimONS qui ont le corps habile, 
Aise, soupple, dispost, a se muer facile, 
Changent bien tost de forme, & leur corps agile est 
Transforme tout soudain en tout ce que leur plaist. 

(In the same way, Demons, who have nimble, pliant, supple, 
ready, easily transformable bodies, soon change shape, and their 
active bodies are rapidly turned into whatever shape they please.) 

As Proclus says: 

The generation of demons keeps an analogy with infinite Life, 
which is why it progresses everywhere according to a multi- 
plicity of classes and offers many kinds and shapes. 

(165; 5. 21) 

Moreover, Proclus sees his demons organized in series or chains of 
beings which share similar characteristics: 

For each god marches at the head of a cohort which has re- 
ceived his own type, and for this reason, the heavenly angels 
and demons are suspended from the heavenly gods, generative 
angels and demons from the generative gods . . . even human 
souls which have recognized the gods which preside over them 
and command them have designated themselves according to 
the names of these gods. (166; 5. 22) 

This, of course, corresponds to Ronsard's third, pagan, explanation 
on the origin of demons: 

D'aultres ont estime qu'il n'y avoit Pianette 
Qui n'en eust dessouz elle une bande subjette. 
Par qui sont les mortelz en vivant gouvernez, 
Selon I'Astre du Ciel soubz lequel ilz sont nez. 

(lines 191-94) 

The Hymns of 1355 139 

(Others believed that there was not a single planet which did 
not have a dependent troop beneath it, by which mortals are 
governed during their lifetime according to the heavenly star 
beneath which they were born.) 

In fact, it is the view that Ronsard goes on to validate, starting in line 
201, and which has important implications for the Hymne de I'Eter- 
nite and the seasonal hymns. 

In terms of the collection as a whole, Les Daimons explains how 
the translunar and the sublunar worlds are linked. As intermediaries 
between the two realms, the demons are forces both for good and for 
evil. They may reveal truths, inspire poets, and lead souls back to 
God (lines 209-22), or they may cause confusion and turmoil, deceive 
and terrify us (lines 223-30). In the other poems of the collection, we 
see both negative and positive effects at work. In considering these 
works, I shall take them in the linked contrasting pairs which I see 
as accounting for the structure of the collection. 

One would have thought that the Hymne du treschrestien toy de 
France, Henry II. de ce nom (L. VIII. 5-46) would be an entirely eulo- 
gistic piece, given that its purpose, among other things, is to persuade 
the king to support Ronsard while he composed the Franciade. More- 
over, it draws much of its inspiration from Theocritus, Idyll 17, sl 
panegyric of Ptolemy. However, beyond superficial praise of the 
king, the details tend to center upon the theme of war— virtually the 
only area of endeavor at which he is successful. Even this fame will 
be lost without the immortalizing powers of poetry: 

Les anciens Heros du sang des Dieux venuz, 

Sont encore aujourdhuy, maugre les ans, congnus, 

Pour avoir fait chanter aux Poetes leurs gestes 

Qui les ont de mortelz mis au rang des celestes: 

Et j'en veux faire ainsi! (lines 9-13) 

(The ancient heroes, descended from divine blood, are stiU 
known today, despite the passage of years, because they had the 
poets sing of their feats, who placed them from the ranks of 
mortals into the ranks of the gods; and I wish to do likewise!) 

140 CHAPTER 5 

Like Theocritus in his praise of Ptolemy, Ronsard claims he finds it 
impossible to know which of Henry IFs virtues to begin with (lines 
35-74), but finally alights upon his martial qualities: 

II t'a premierement, quant a la forte taille. 

Fait comme un de ces Dieux qui vont a la bataille, 

Ou de ces Chevaliers qu'Homere nous a peints 

Si vaillans devant Troie, Ajax, & les germains 

Rois pasteurs de I'armee, & le dispos Achille, 

Qui, r'embarrant de coups les Troiens a leur ville, 

Comme un loup les aigneaux par morceaux les hachoit, 

Et des fleuves le cours d'hommes mortz empeschoit. 

(lines 83-90) 

(As for your strong stature, he made you in the first place like 
one of the gods who go into battle, or one of those knights 
whom Homer painted for us, so valiant before Troy, Ajax, 
and the brother kings, shepherds of the host, and nimble 
Achilles who, driving back with his blows the Trojans to their 
city, hacked them to pieces as a wolf hacks lambs, and stopped 
the flow of rivers with dead men.) 

Next, in an image used in the 1549 entry of Henry II into Paris (fig. 
21), the king is compared to Castor and Pollux rolled into one:^ 

Or' parle qui voudra de Castor & Pollux, 
Enfans jumeaux d'un oeuf, tu merites trop plus 
De renom qu'ilz n'ont fait, d'autant que tu assemble' 
En toy ce que les deux eurent jadis ensemble: 
L'un fut bon Chevalier, I'autre bon Escrimeur, 
Mais tu as de ces deux en toy le double honneur. 

(lines 97-102) 

(Now let him speak who will of Castor and Pollux, twins issued 
from one egg, you deserve far more renown than they, in as 
much as you combine in yourself the qualities which they once 
shared. One was a good horseman, the other a good swordsman, 
but you have the double glory of these two in yourself.) 

^ See below, chapter 6, for a fuller discussion of the use made of the Dioscuri 
in Renaissance iconography and Uterature. 

The Hymns of 1535 141 

However, it is noticeable that it is, once again, only the military 
prowess of the heavenly twins that is stressed here, not their poetic 
or harmonious qualities. 

Ronsard goes on praising the king's martial and equestrian skills 
(lines 103-56). "Mais qui pourroit conter les biens de ton esprit?" he asks 
in line 157. "Tu es sobre en propos, pensif & taciturne, / Qui sont les 
plus beaux dons de I'astre de Saturne" ("You are sober in speech, 
thoughtful and quiet, which are the finest gifts of the planet Saturn") 
(Unes 167-68), an idea presented more starkly in Les Daimons, line 195: 
"Ceux de Saturne font Thomme melancholique" ("Saturn's make man 
melancholy"). However, what is he thinking about? 

. , , il pense en luy combien 
n luy faut de soudars pour dresser une armee, 
Quelle ville n'est pas de rampars bien fermee, 
Comme on peut I'assaillir, si ses frontieres sont 
Garnies comme il faut, & quelz soudars y vont, 
A fin de les garder, & comme il doit surprendre 
Quelque place EspaignoUe, & Fran^oise la rendre. 

(lines 174-80) 

(. . . he thinks to himself how many soldiers he needs to raise 
an army, which town is not properly enclosed by ramparts, 
how it can be attacked, whether his borders are properly sup- 
plied, and which soldiers are going there to guard them, and 
how he is to take some Spanish fort by surprise and make it 

Ronsard does manage to praise his memory (lines 181-96), his pow- 
ers of endurance (lines 197-209— "Mais un jour, voire deux, tu sous- 
tiens le labeur / Du harnois sus I'eschine ..."), his willingness to 
listen to advice (lines 210-24), and his justice and clemency, especially 
to those from good military families (lines 225-56), Ambition is ban- 
ished from the court (lines 257-64). 

The king's generosity — to native soldiers and foreign mercenaries, 
and to artists — is also mentioned: 

On ne voit Artizan, en son art excellant, 
Mafon, Peintre, Poete, ou Escrimeur vaillant, 
A qui ta plaine main, de grace, n'eslargisse 
Quelque digne present de son bel artifice, 

142 CHAPTER 5 

Et c'est I'occasion, 6 magnanime Roy, 

Que chacun te vient voir, & veut chanter de toy. 

(lines 285-90) 

(No craftsman is to be seen, supreme in his art, be he mason, 
painter, poet, or valiant swordsman, to whom your bountiful 
hand, out of good will, does not generously bestow some gift 
worthy of his fine artistry, and this is the cause, oh generous 
King, for every one coming to see you and wishing to sing of 

He is "debonnaire" to all and sundry (lines 291-314), and has demon- 
strated his filial piety to Francis I by erecting a magnificent tomb to 
him and other members of his family, a visual memory to his great- 
ness. (This, of course, stands in the basilica of St.-Denis, and was 
designed and executed by Philibert Delorme and Pierre Bontemps.) 

Et certes, qui plus est, de rechef tu I'honores 
Comme un Filz pitoyable apres sa mort encores, 
Environnant son corps d'un tombeau somptueux, 
Ou le docte cizeau d'un art presomptueux 
A le marbre anime de batailles gravees, 
Et des guerres par luy jadis parachevees. 

(lines 319-24) 

(Certainly, moreover, you honor him again as a tender son 
even after his death, surrounding his body with a magnificent 
tomb, on which the learned chisel, with boldest art, has 
brought the marble to life with engraved battles and the wars 
formerly concluded by him.) 

He himself surpasses his father in one respect: 

Tu le passes d'autant (quant aux faitz de la guerre) 

Qu'Achille fist Pelee, & qu'Ajax Telamon 

(lines 332-33) 

(You exceed him [in feats of war] as much as Achilles did 
Peleus and Ajax Telamon. . . .) 

Lines 345-76 present details of his mother and his birth. Given the 
emphasis in this hymn on war, there seems to be something ironic in 
the words spoken by the nymphs of the Seine: 

The Hymns of 1555 143 

. . . Crois Enfant, Enfant pren' accroissance, 
Pour I'ornement de nous & de toute la France 

(lines 363-64) 

(Grow, child, increase in size, child, for the ornament of our- 
selves and the whole of France) 

echoing as they do the words Ovid attributes to Ocyrhoe on the 
birth of the god of healing, Aesculapius: 

adspicit infantem "toto" que "salutifer orbi 
cresce puer!" dixit; "tibi se mortalia saepe 

corpora debebunt " 

(Metamorphoses 2. 642-44) 

(She looked upon the child and said: "Child, health-bringer to 
the whole world, grow! Often will mortal bodies owe their 
lives to you ") 

The details in this section concerning the eagle should be compared 
to the passage in Les Daimons on good demons (L. VHI. 126. 221- 

Ainsi, en te baisant, prophetisoient ces Dieux, 
Quand un Aigle volant bien haut dedans les cieux 
(Augure bon aux Roys) trois fois dessus ta teste 
Fist un grand bruit, suivy d'une gauche tempeste. 

^ines 369-72) 

(Thus, as they kissed you, did these gods prophesy, when an 
eagle flying high up in the heavens [a good omen for kings] 
three times above your head made a loud noise, followed by 
a storm on your left.) 

Also to be compared with Les Daimons ( L. VIII. 125. 191-200) are 
lines 377-90, where Ronsard speaks of different ranks of humans 
being in the same series as their tutelary gods. Kings are presided 
over by Jupiter ("Mais du grand Jupiter les Roys tiennent leur estre," 

^ ". . . par eux I'Aigle se meit / Sur le chef de Tarquin, qui grand Roy le predit." 
As Laumonier indicates (L. VIIL 126. n. 3), this is taken from ApvJeius, De deo 
Socratis {7. 135). 

144 CHAPTER 5 

line 380) one of whose attributes was the eagle, and this whole idea 
gives rise to a host of comparisons between the court of Henry II 
and of Jupiter, very much in keeping with the iconography of the 
period (lines 423-96): 

Si Jupiter se vante avoir sous sa puissance 
Plus de Dieux que tu n'as, il est de ce qu'il pense 
Trompe totallement: s'il se vante d'un Mars, 
Tu en as plus de cent qui meinent tes soudars, 
Messeigneurs de Vandosme, & messeigneurs de Guise, 
De Nemours, de Nevers, qui la guerre ont aprise 
Dessous ta Majeste. 

(If Jupiter boasts of having under his control more gods than 
you, he is completely mistaken in what he thinks: if he boasts 
of one Mars, you have more than a hundred who lead your 
soldiers, the Vendome family, the Guises, Nemours, Nevers, 
who learnt to war beneath your Majesty.) 

The chateau de Tanlay contains a well-known fresco of Henry II's 
court in which the members are represented as Olympian gods in 
this way (fig. 22). Moreover, this process of typological comparison 
is essentially the same as that involved in the comparison between 
Hercules and Christ in the Hercule Chrestien. 

Lines 497-528 contain praise of France and the French people in 
the same manner as Theocritus' praise of Egypt in Idyll 17. The anal- 
ogy between Henry and Jupiter is continued in the short hypoty- 
posis describing the king's Cyclopes producing his weapons of war 
like Jupiter's thunderbolts: 

Les autres nuit & jour fondent artillerie, 
Et grandz Cyclopes nudz font une baterie, 
A grandz coups de marteaux, & avec tel compas, 
D'ordre Tun apres I'autre au Ciel levent les bras, 
Puis en frapent si haut sur le metal qui sonne. 
Que I'Archenal prochain & le fleuve en resonne. 

(lines 523-28) 

(Others, night and day, cast canons and great naked Cyclopes 
are beating with great hammer blows, and so exactly, in order, 
one after the other raise their arms skywards, then strike from 

The Hymns of 1555 145 

such a height on the resounding metal that the nearby Arsenal 
and the river re-echo.) 

(The city's arsenal had stood on the banks of the Seine since 1512, 
and Henry II took it over to form the Royal Arsenal.) One might 
compare this passage to lines 7-18 of the ode Des Peintures contenues 
dedans un tableau (see above, chap. 2, and also fig. 4). Henry is 
unique in the unity of his kingdom, with even the natural world 
paying him homage (lines 529-54). Statues might be seen everywhere 
bearing his features, if he did not prevent this (lines 555-66). 

The poem then returns to the martial theme: Henry's victories 
over the English, Charles V, the Spaniards, and the Italians (lines 
567-672), echoing, perhaps, the king's motto: "Donee totum impleat 
orbem." Once again, Ronsard sees future generations as remembering 
the king for his carnage: 

Certes un temps viendra qu'aux champs de ce pais 
Les Laboureux de la seront tous esbahys 
De heurter de leur soc tant de salades vaines, 
Et de choquer les 6s de tant de Capitaines 
Assommes de ta main, et les portant ches eux 
Loiiront, plus qu'aujourduy, tes faitz victorieux, 
Et diront estonnez: Quiconques fut le Prince, 
Qui de tant de tombeaux chargea nostre Province, 
II fut heureux & fort, on le cognoist aux os 
De ces hommes tues, les tesmoings de son los. 

(lines 641-50) 

(Certainly a time will come when, in the fields of this land, 
ploughmen will be quite astonished at striking with their 
ploughs so many empty helmets and at hitting the bones of so 
many captains struck down by your hand; and bearing them 
home, they will praise your victorious feats more than today, 
and say in amazement: "Whoever the prince was who loaded 
our province with so many tombs, he was fortunate and 
strong, as you can tell from the bones of these slaughtered 
men, the witnesses of his glory.") 

This section ends with a curious apologia for the fact that Henry's 
victories are not so extensive as those of Julius Caesar or Augustus: 

146 CHAPTER 5 

... il est plus difficille 
De gaigner maintenant une petite Ville 
Que jadis a Cesar un royaume acquerir. 

(lines 663-65) 

(. . . it is harder now to win a little town than once for Caesar 
to gain a kingdom.) 

Lines 673-718 deal with recent and actual battles, and include an 
allegorical hypotyposis depiaing the horrors of war: 

On oit de tous costes les armeures tonner, 
On n'oit pres de la Meuse autre chose sonner 
Que mailles, & boucliers, & Mars, qui se pourmene 
A coste de Mesiere & des bois de TArdene, 
S'egaye en son harnois dedans un char monte, 
De quatre grandz coursiers horriblement porte. 
La Fureur & la Peur leur conduisent la bride, 
Et la Fame emplumee, allant devant pour guide, 
Laisse avec un grand flot 9a & la parmy Pair 
Sous le vent des chevaux son panage voler, 
Et Mars, qui de son char les espaules luy presse, 
D'un espieu Tracien contraint cette Deesse 
De cent langues semer des bruitz & vrais & faux. 
Pour effroyer I'Europe & la remplir de maux. 

(lines 693-706) 

(On all sides can be heard the thunder of arms; near the Meuse 
nothing else can be heard but coats of mail, shields; and Mars, 
at large beside Mezieres and the woods of the Ardennes, is 
disporting himself in his armor, mounted on a chariot fright- 
eningly drawn by four great coursers. Madness and Terror 
lead their bridles, and winged Rumor, preceding them as 
guide, lets her plumes fly with a great surge in all directions in 
the air, beneath the wind of the horses, and Mars, urging her 
on from behind in his chariot, forces this goddess with a 
Thracian javelin to disseminate in a hundred tongues both true 
and false rumors, to terrify Europe and fill it with evils.) 

This triumph scene recalls both the paintings inspired by Petrarch's 
Tricmfi and the floats used in triumphal entries at this time, with their 

The Hymns of 1555 147 

elaborate use of allegorical figures in the didactic tradition (e.g., fig. 19). 
All this serves as an introduction to Ronsard's promise to immorta- 
lize the king, and ominatio about what happens if the Muses are neglect- 
ed (lines 719-48). The final section of the hymn, the valedictory prayer 
for victory (lines 749-76), is also ambivalent: 

Or' puis que noz deux Roys les plus grandz des humains 
N'ont voulu refevoir la Paix entre leurs mains. 
Que DiEU leur envoyoit, comme sa Fille esleiie 

II vaut mieux prier DiEU qu'aux Franfois il envoye 
Contre noz ennemys Victoire. 

(lines 749-51, 760-61) 

(Now since our two kings, the mightiest of mortals, have been 
unwilling to receive the peace which God sent them to grasp, 
his chosen daughter ... it is better to pray God to send victo- 
ry to the French against our foes.) 

In other words, a French victory is only the second best thing to an 
agreed peace. 

Henry II, then, may be the greatest of mortal princes, under the 
tutelage of, or even rivalling, Jupiter. Yet the world over which he 
presides is dominated by the discord of Mars, and he himself excels 
only in martial pursuits. This superficially eulogistic hymn is far 
from being the sycophantic work it has sometimes appeared to crit- 
ics, and it forms a sharp contrast to the Hercule Chrestien in which 
we are presented with the divine— translunar— representation of God 
on earth. 

Interestingly enough, Hercules appears in Theocritus' panegyric 
of Ptolemy as a heavenly figure from whom the king, like Alexander 
the Great, traced his descent (lines 20-33); moreover, the legend of 
the Gallic Hercules was an important one for French nationalism, as 
we have seen above.* By contrast, it is also noteworthy that, of all 
the Valois monarchs, Henry II was the least frequently compared to 

* See chapter 3. 

' See Jung, Hercule dans la litterature fran false, p. 164. 

148 CHAPTER 5 

The idea of comparing Hercules and Christ came naturally to the 
syncretic spirit of the Renaissance, and perhaps the pagan demigod's 
position as the ideal Stoic hero helped in this. As a literary and 
artistic device, the typological comparison had a long history. Old 
Testament events were regularly linked with the life of Christ in 
medieval biblical exegesis (for example, Elijah's ascent into heaven = 
Christ's ascension), and one of the most complete and beautiful 
examples of this is the series of stained-glass windows in the chapel 
of King's College, Cambridge. Equally, the lives of saints might be 
compared with that of Christ. An obvious example of this is the 
upper church of San Francesco at Assisi, where the events in the life 
of St. Francis are presented in order to "emphasize not Francis's pov- 
erty but his conformity to Christ. "^° 

The device was also used satirically. George Buchanan wrote a 
long iambic poem against the Portuguese Antonio Morris de Silva, 
abbot of Thomar, in which the abbot is satirized at length; for 
example: ^^ 

Christi parentum nemo vidit alterum: 
Nee ipsa mater novit Antoni patrem. 
Uterque pastor, noster hac parte est prior; 
Hie pascit herbis, ille verbis paverat. 
Ut quinque panibus ille quinque millia 
Saturavit, iste (ne saturitas noxia 
Animae inquinaret puritatem, ut arbitror) 
Ad quinque panes quinque plebis millia 
Redegit; ut, si quid supersit, ut reor, 
Fragmenta posset absque cophino toUere. 

{Fratres fraterrimi 1. 14-23) 

(Nobody saw the second of Christ's parents, nor did even his 
mother know Anthony's father. Both were shepherds, but 
ours is foremost in this role; the one nourishes with grass, the 
other had nourished with his words. Just as the one had fed 

*° See Vincent Moleta, From St. Francis to Giotto: The Influence of St. Francis on 
Early Italian Art and Literature (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983), 59. Many 
other examples of the conformity of Francis's life with Christ are cited in the 
course of the book. 

'' Opera omnia, ed. Peter Burman, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1725), 2. 283-84. 

The Hymns of 1555 149 

the five thousand with five loaves of bread, the other [lest 
harmful plenty corrupt the soul's purity, I imagine] reduced 
five thousand common folk to five loaves of bread; so that if 
any remained, I suppose, he would be able to remove the 
pieces without a basket.) 

Ronsard's typological comparison is perfectly serious, however, 
and very much in keeping with his view that the ancients had re- 
ceived partial knowledge of the true God, but in a garbled form (cf. 
L. VIII. 212. 85-92). Before entering into the heart of the matter, 
there is a lengthy introductory section, which contains two central 

(1) God created the world for the benefit of mankind (lines 
27-48), introducing into it Time, which reflects divine order: 

Tu as pour nous en ce monde ordonnee 
Egalement la course de I'annee, 
Pour nous monstrer par son train regulier, 
Combien tu es en tes faiaz singulier. 

(lines 35-38) 

(For us, you ordered evenly in this world the course of the 
year, to show us by its regular progress how unique you are in 
your accomplishments.) 

This echoes Plato's words in the Timaeus:^^ 

When the father who had begotten it saw it set in motion and 
alive, a shrine brought into being for the everlasting gods, he 
rejoiced and being well pleased he took thought to make it yet 
more like its pattern. So as that pattern is the Living Being 
that is for ever existent, he sought to make this universe also 
like it, so far as might be, in that respect. Now the nature of 
that Living Being was eternal, and this character it was impos- 
sible to confer in full completeness on the generated thing. But 
he took thought to make, as it were, a moving likeness of eter- 
nity; and, at the same time that he ordered the Heaven, he 

^ The translation is by Francis M. Cornford in Plato's Cosmology: The "Timae- 
us" of Plato Translated with a Running Commentary (New York: The Liberal Arts 
Press, 1957), 97-98. 

150 CHAPTER 5 

made, of eternity that abides in unity, an everlasting likeness 
moving according to number— that to which we have given 
the name Time. (37C-37D) 

In other words, it seems likely that Christian ideas about the creation 
are synthesized here with Platonic ones, 

(2) The Messiah's coming was foretold to the Jews (lines 49-68) 
and the gentiles (lines 69-102), but in both cases, the prophecies were 
ignored or misunderstood. Again, this fits in with the Renaissance 
belief that ancient philosophers like Plato had received divine illumi- 

The parallels between the life of Christ and Hercules take up the 
second half of the poem (lines 151-284) with a brief valediction to 
Odet de Chatillon completing the work (lines 285-96). Ronsard's 
sense of balance is obvious in the poem, which falls into four main 

Introduction 1-26 = 26 lines 

God's relationship with His creation 27-150 =134 lines 

Parallels between Christ and Hercules 151-284 =134 lines 

Valediction to Odet de Chatillon 285-96 = 12 lines 

In other words, the two central sections of the poem are exactly the 
same length, with the first one dealing with the unsatisfactory nature 
of God's relationship with His creation, and the second section pre- 
senting the optimistic conterpoise to this: God enters His creation to 
provide a means of salvation. This message could be seen as emblem- 
atic of the whole collection. 

Like other hagiographical works, the events in the lives of Hercu- 
les and Christ are ordered, broadly speaking, chronologically, but 
starting and finishing outside of encosmic time. Jupiter holds up time 
when he is with Alcmena, while three years are necessary to prepare 
the birth of Christ (lines 151-58); Hercules marries the goddess of 
youth, Hebe,^-' and Christ marries Eternity, thus escaping encosmic 
time again (lines 271-74). The main emphasis in the other events nar- 
rated concerns, as one would expect, Christ/Hercules' defeat of evil 

" Dorat had commented on this in his lectures on Homer. Speaking of Odyssey 
11. 601, he is reported as saying: "Hercxiles Hebem uxorem duxerat nam praemium 
veris bonis post hanc mortem assignatur perpetua inventus id est immortalitas." See 
fol. 9'' of the Milan manuscript. 

The Hymns of 1555 151 

and sin, and the victory over death. All of the parallel events are 
carefully explained, and in general, the mythological ones present 
more clearly recognizable pictorial images, as in, for example, lines 

He qu'est-ce apres d'Hesionne de Troye 
Contre un rocher liee, pour la proye 
D'un ourque grand? qu'est-ce de Promethe 
Dessus Caucase aux Aigles garrotte, 
Lesquelz Alcide affranchit, hors de peine 
Les delivrant? si-non Nature humaine, 
J'entens Adam, que CHRIST a detache 
Par sa bonte des liens de Peche, 
Lors que sa Loy comme un Aigle sans cesse 
Luy pingetoit son ame pecheresse 
Sans nul espoir, avant que par la Foy 
De Christ la Grace eust combatu la Loy. 

(Next, what is the meaning of Hesione of Troy attached to a 
rock to be fed to a great sea monster? What is the meaning of 
Prometheus bound on Caucasus for the eagles, whom Hercu- 
les freed, delivering them from anguish? if not human nature, 
I mean Adam, whom Christ released in his goodness from the 
bonds of sin, when his Law like an eagle incessantly pecked at 
his sinful soul without hope, until through faith the grace of 
Christ had conquered the Law.) 

Ronsard returned to the subject of Hesione's misfortune in Book 2 
of the Franciade in an ecphrasis describing a golden cup presented by 
Hector to Idomeneus. On the cup: 

. . . vivoit entaillee 
Soubs le burin la Balaine ecaillee 
Ouvrant la gueule, & faignant un semblant 
De devorer le pauvre corps tremblant 
De la pucelle Hesione attachee 
Contre un rocher: la mer estoit couchee, 
Au pie du roc, qui de flots repliez 
De la pucelle alloit bagnant les piez. 

(L. XVI. 123. 601-8) 

152 CHAPTER 5 

(. . . was a lifelike engraving of the scaly whale, opening its 
jaws, and making as if to devour the poor trembling body of 
the maid Hesione, attached to a rock; the sea was spread out 
at the foot of the crag, bathing the maid's feet with breaking 

Hesione was the daughter of Laomedon, the founder of Troy, After 
Apollo and Neptune had built the walls of the city, Laomedon 
refused to pay them the agreed sum, so Neptune punished the king 
by flooding the country and demanding that his daughter be sacri- 
ficed to a sea monster. Natalis Comes interprets this story of per- 
jured faith as an example of what happens if religious worship is 

At calamitates, quas pro neglecto Neptuno passus est, quid 
aliud significant quam Dei cultum sine calamitate non neglegi.^ 

(fol. 53^ 

(But what other meaning do the disasters which he suffered as 
a result of his neglect of Neptune have than that the worship 
of God cannot be neglected without disaster?) 

The rescue of Hesione by Hercules is thus a suitable example, like 
that of Prometheus (lines 185-86), of man's redemption. 

Lines 219-24 have usually been interpreted as referring to Hercu- 
les' receiving the poisoned tunic of the centaur Nessus, sent by his 
former wife, Deianeira (see Laumonier's comments, L. VIII. 219. n. 
3, and Jung, Hercule dans la litterature frangaise, p. 118). However, 
this spoils the chronology of the poem, as Hercules' death on Mount 
Oeta comes in lines 253-56. Rather, we have here an allusion to the 
somewhat more shocking story of how Hercules and his new wife 
lole exchanged clothes, a story, as we have already seen, depicted by 
Primaticcio in the Porte doree at Fontainebleau (see fig. 3), and 
which would later form the basis of the poem Le Satyre (L. XV. 67- 
76). From the chronological point of view, this follows on entirely 
logically from the previous section (lines 213-18) in which Hercules 
is seen as repudiating his first wife. In terms of the symbolism too it 
makes more sense, as Hercules receives his new wife's clothing rather 

" See the 1567 edition of the Mythologiae. 

The Hymns of 1555 153 

than a tunic belonging to the centaur Nessus and subsequently given 
to Hercules by Deianeira. As usual in Neo-Platonic symbolism, it is 
the most shocking myths that contain the profoundest mysteries. 
(Scholars have no doubt been led astray both by a misplaced sense of 
what is fitting and also by the reference in line 224 to Christ's death, 
"Estant vestu des habillementz d'elle.") However, everything is per- 
fectly clear if we remember that in lines 213-18, Deianeira is shown 
as representing the Synagogue and lole the Church: Christ, like Her- 
cules, rejects his former "wife" in favor of a new one.^^ 

Looked at from a Renaissance Neo-Platonic perspective, there is 
nothing in the Hercule chrestien that would have shocked those 
readers who were ready to see beyond the "fabuleux manteau" to the 
truth underlying myths, and it is a useful example of the way in 
which Ronsard himself may frequently have interpreted his reading 
in the pagan poets. 

The next pair of poems to be considered is the Hymne de la Justice 
and the Hymne de I'Or, two poems which have received considerable 
scholarly attention. The Hymne de la Justice fits neatly into the dispo- 
sitio I have suggested for the collection. It centers on the decline of 
man since the Golden Age, the possible return to primeval chaos, 
and some form of salvation being achieved through translunar inter- 
vention: divine Justice is incarnated in the cardinal de Lorraine. The 
poem is notable for its dramatic mode of presentation in the speeches 
of Justice, Jupiter, Clemence, Themis, of the hymn's dedicatee, the 
cardinal de Lorraine, and for its vivid pictorial representations. 

The theme of the ages of man was often treated by painters. ^^ 
However, Ronsard's Golden Age is presented largely in terms of the 
absence of certain faults. It is a time 

^^ The idea of seeing the Church and the Synagogue as contrasting brides goes 
back to the identification of Rachel and Leah with the Church and the Synagogue; 
cf. Isidore of Seville: "Lia Synagogae figuram habuit, quae infirmis ocuhs cordis 
sacramenta Dei speculari non potuit. Rachel vero clara aspectu Ecclesiae typum 
tenuit, quae contemplationis acie Christi mysteria cernit," ed. Migne, Patrologiae 
cursus completus, 83. 105. Leah, the elder sister, was Jacob's first wife, but he was 
really in love with Rachel whom he was eventually allowed to marry (Genesis 29). 

'^ See Panofsky, Studies in Iconology, chapter 2, "The Early History of Man in 
Two Cycles of Paintings by Piero di Cosimo," 33-67. 

154 CHAPTER 5 

Quand ces mots, Tien & Mieriy en usage n'estoient, 

Et quand les laboureurs du soc ne tormentoient 

Par sillons incongneuz les entrailles encloses 

Des champs, qui produisoient, de leur gre, toutes choses, 

Et quand les mariniers ne pallissoient encor' 

Sur le dos de Thetis, pour amasser de Tor. 

(L. VIII. 50-51. 53-58) 

(when the words "mine" and "yours" were not in use, and 
when ploughmen did not torture with their ploughshares in 
unheard-of furrows the protected entrails of the fields, which 
produced all things of their own accord, and when sailors still 
did not grow pale on Thetis' back in order to pile up gold.) 

It is interesting to see, following the hymn to Henry II's martial 
feats, that when the age of iron is ushered in, it is war that is present- 
ed as one of the principal evils of mankind: 

Adoncq Fraude & Proces envahirent la terre, 
Poison, Rancceur, Debat, & I'homicide Guerre, 
Qui faisant craqueter le fer dedans ses mains 
Marchoit pesantement sur le chef des humains, 
Et violoit par tout de sa hache meurtriere 
Des vieux siecles passez la concorde premiere. 

(lines 115-20) 

(Then Fraud and Lawsuits invaded the earth, Poison, Malice, 
Strife, and murderous War, which, clashing its weapon in its 
hands, marched heavily on mortals' heads, and everywhere 
violated with its lethal axe the former harmony of the old 
bygone centuries.) 

Justice's second speech presents a vivid picture of the earth and the 
human condition in their deteriorated states: 

II faudra que les bceufz aux champs tu aiguillonnes, 

Et que du soc aigu la terre tu seillonnes, 

Et que soir & matin le labeur de ta main 

Nourrisse pour jamais ta miserable fain: 

Car en punition de tes fautes malines, 

Les champs ne produiront que ronces & qu'espines. 

Le printemps, qui souloit te rire tous les jours, 

The Hymns of 1555 155 

Pour ta mechancete perdra son premier cours, 
Et sera departy en vapeurs chaleureuses, 
Qui halleront ton corps de flammes douloureuses, 
En frimatz, & en pluye, & en glace, qui doit 
Faire transir bientost ton pauvre corps de froid: 
Ton chef deviendra blanc en la fleur de jeunesse, 
Et jamais n'ateindras les bornes de vieillesse. 

Qui pis est, Indigence & la Famine aussi, 
Hostes de ta maison, te donneront soucy 
Tous jours sans te lacher, & les femmes muables 
N'enfanteront des filz a leurs peres semblables, 
Tout sera corrompu, & les races seront 
Meslees d'autre genre, & s'abastardiront. 
DiEU te fera mourir au milieu des batailles, 

Accable I'un sur I'autre 

(lines 139-52, 161-68) 

(You will have to goad the oxen in the fields, furrow the earth 
with the sharp plough, and day and night the toil of your 
hand will for ever have to feed your wretched hunger; for to 
punish your evil errors, the fields will produce only brambles 
and thorns, springtime, which used to smile upon you every 
day, will lose its original course on account of your wicked- 
ness and will disappear in hot vapors which will burn your 
body with painful flames, in freezing fog, in rain, in ice, 
which will soon numb your poor body with cold; your hair 
will turn white in the prime of youth and you will never 
reach the frontier of old age. . . . What is worse. Poverty and 
Famine, too, guests in your house, will for ever trouble you 
without respite, and fickle women will not give birth to sons 
who resemble their fathers; everything will be corrupt, and 
generations will be mingled with other kinds and turn into 
mongrels. God will make you die in the midst of battles, piled 
down on each other. . . .) 

All of these topoi — man's unending labor to provide food for him- 
self, the end of perpetual spring and the inhospitality of the earth 
and its climate, the loss of eternal youth, sexual promiscuity, and 

156 CHAPTER 5 

man's violence to his fellow man — are central in Renaissance paint- 
ings which deal with the ages of man, as well as in the poetry of the 
period. ^^ 

The syncretism in this poem, which is emphasized by the inter- 
changeability of "Dieu" and "Jupiter," and Ronsard's choice of inci- 
dents and themes that are appropriate to both the Judeo-Christian 
and the classical pagan traditions, is made explicit in lines 473-76: 

Car Jupiter, Pallas, ApoUon, sont les noms 
Que le seul DiEU refoit en meintes nations 
Pour ses divers effectz que Ton ne peut comprendre. 
Si par mille surnoms on ne les fait entendre.^* 

(For Jupiter, Pallas, Apollo are the names which the one God 
receives in many nations on account of his various works, 
which cannot be understood unless they are signified by a 
thousand names.) 

Thus Jupiter's evocation of the Flood (lines 247-64) is presented in 
vague enough terms to apply equally to the biblical version (Genesis 
6-7) or the Ovidian version {Metamorphoses 1. 253-92). Specific textu- 
al allusions further reinforce this, including an apocalyptic picture of 
God about to punish mankind: 

Une flamme de feu de ses yeux s'ecartoit, 
Et un glaive tranchant de sa bouche sortoit 

(lines 245-46) 

(A flame of fire emanated from his eyes, and a sharp sword 
went out of his mouth); 

compare Revelation 1. 14 and 16: "oculi eius tamquam flamma ignis 
. . . et de ore eius gladius utraque parte acutus exibat" ("his eyes were 
like a flame of fire . . . and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged 

When, as happens in Ovid's account, Jupiter is somewhat placated 
by those around him, he sends Justice back to earth at the accom- 
plishment of Themis' prophecy concerning the reign of Henry II: 

^^ "The Early History of Man," 53-54. 

" Ronsard, as we have seen in chapter 2, expressed similar views in the Abhrege 
de I'art poetique frangois (L. XIV. 4. 8-19). 

The Hymns of 1553 157 

Comme il disoit telz motz, de JUSTICE entourna 
Les yeux d'un bandeau noir, & puis il luy donna 
Une balance d'or dedans la main senestre, 
Et un glaive tranchant au millieu de la dextre: 
Le glaive, pour punir ceux qui seront mauvais, 
La balance, a poiser egalement les faictz 
Des grands & des petits, comme Equite I'ordonne, 
Le bandeau, pour ne voir en jugement personne. 

(lines 409-16) 

(As he spoke these words, he encircled Justice's eyes with a black 
blindfold, and then gave her a golden pair of scales in her left 
hand, and a sharp sword in her right hand: the sword to punish 
those who will be evil, the scales to weigh fairly the deeds of 
great and small, as commanded by Equity, the blindfold so that 
she should not see anyone when she sits in judgment.) 

This didactic hypotyposis recalls the traditional portrayal of Justice 
(e.g., fig. 23), and as Germaine Lafeuille has pointed out, the allegori- 
cal figure appeared at numerous triumphal entries from the late fif- 
teenth century onwards, including that of Henry II into Lyon as well 
as at his coronation in Reims. ^' 

Once Justice has entered into the body of the cardinal de Lor- 
raine, the prelate delivers to the king a warning against bellicose 

Ce n'est le tout que d'estre aux armes furieux, 
Adroit, vaillant, & fort, il fault bien avoir mieux: 
Il fault apres la guerre, ainsi qu'un sage Prince, 
Gouverner par Justice & par Loix ta province, 
A fin que tes subjects vivent en equite, 
Et que ton ennemy par ta lance donte 
Te recongnoisse autant justicier equitable 
En paix, comme aux combatz t'a congnu redoutable. 

(lines 437-44) 

(Being frantic, skilful, bold, and strong in battle is not every- 
thing, you must have better than that: you must, after war, as 

" Lafeuille, Cinq hymnes de Ronsard, 85. 

158 CHAPTER 5 

a wise prince, govern your province in justice and in accor- 
dance with the laws, so that your subjects live in equity and 
that your foe, when tamed by your lance, considers you in 
peace as equitable a judge as he found you terrifying in battle.) 

The whole world is held in balance by universal laws, and human 
affairs too must be controlled by Justice. In consenting to this, the 
king allows the return of a new Golden Age: 

Ainsi dis-tu, Prelat, & le Roy de sa teste 
En I'abaissant un peu accorda ta requester 
Et lors le siecle d'or en France retourna. 
Qui sans se transformer depuis y sejourna, 
Faisant fleurir le Droict soubz nostre Prince juste, . . . 

(lines 531-35) 

(These were your words, Prelate, and the king granted your 
request with a slight nod of his head. Then the Golden Age 
returned to France, and since then remained there without 
changing, causing right to flourish under our just prince. . . .) 

This theme, with its Virgilian resonances, ^° allows the hynm to end 
on a generally optimistic note. 

If the Hymne de la Justice is largely concerned with man's decline 
after the end of the Golden Age, the Hymne de I'Or (L. VIII. 179- 
205) is centered upon the beneficent presence of gold in the contem- 
porary world. However, despite this apparently materialistic attitude, 
Ronsard warns that, while he may appear simply to be praising 
wealth, there is more to it than that: 

Mais tout ainsi qu'Homere aquist la renommee 
D'yvrongne, pour avoir en ses vers estimee 
La Vigne, & de Bacchus les dons delicieux: 
Ainsi j'auray le bruit d'estre avaricieux, 
D'autant que je celebre en mes vers la Richesse. 
Or', le peuple dira ce qu'il voudra, si esse 
Qu'Homere ne fut pas yvrongne, pour avoir 
Celebre par ses vers de Bacchus le pouvoir, 

See Virgil's Eclogue 4, on the return of the Golden Age. 

The Hymns of 1555 159 

Ny moy avare aussi, bien qu'icy je m'efforce 
De celebrer de I'Or la noblesse & la force. 

(lines 7-16) 

(Now, the common folk will say what they will, nevertheless, 
Homer was not a drunkard because he celebrated in his poetry 
the power of Bacchus, and I am not greedy, even though I am 
attempting here to celebrate the nobility and might of Gold.) 

Thus, Ronsard will praise the nobility and the power of gold. 

This hymn gave rise in the 1960s to a notorious controversy over 
its interpretation, with Jean Frappier seeing it as concerning, amongst 
other things, the rise of capitalism in the France of the 1550s, while 
Bernard Weinberg rejected this view, asserting that the tone of the 
hymn was comic and satirical throughout. In more recent years, Guy 
Demerson and Daniel Menager have moved the subject of debate to 
more fertile ground, considering the allegorical and philosophical 
implications of the hymn.^^ 

The central myth about the discovery of gold (lines 267-316), which 
forms such a contrast to some of the more down-to-earth sections of the 
poem, provides the reader with some useful clues as to the poet's inten- 
tions. The Olympian gods are presented, displaying their various attri- 
butes for consideration, and Neptune is about to be acclaimed as the 
greatest of them because of his "grand's eaux" (line 269): 

. . . Quand la Terre leur mere epointe de douleur 
Qu'un autre par sur elle emportoit cet honneur, 
Ouvrit son large sein, & au travers des fentes 
De sa peau, leur monstra les mines d'OR luisantes. 
Qui rayonnent ainsi que I'esclair du Soleil 
Quand il luist au midy, lors que son ardent oeil 
N'est point environne de I'espais d'un niiage, 
Ou comme Ton voit luire au soir le beau visage 

^' See Frappier, "Tradition et actualite dans VHymne de I'Or de P. de Ronsard," 
in Literary History and Literary Criticism, edited by Leon Edel (New York: New 
York University Press, 1965), 126-49; Weinberg, ""VHymne de I'Or de Ronsard: line 
interpretation," in Saggi e ricerchedi letteratura francese 5 (1965), 9-40; Guy Demer- 
son, La Mythologie classique dans I'aeuvre lyrique de la "Pleiade," THR 119 (Geneva: 
Droz, 1972), 408-12; Menager, Ronsard: le roi, le poke et les hommes, THR 169 
(Geneva: Droz, 1979), chapter 3. 

160 CHAPTER 5 

De Vesper la Cyprine, allumant les beaux crins 
De son chef bien lave dedans les flotz marins. 

(lines 277-86) 

(. . . when their mother Earth, provoked with pain that anoth- 
er was winning this honor over her, opened her vast womb, 
and through the holes in her skin showed them the glowing 
mines of Gold, radiating light like the flash of the Sun when 
it shines at noon, when its burning eye is not surrounded by 
the mass of a cloud, or as we see glowing at dusk the beautiful 
face of the Evening Star, sacred to Venus, lighting up the beau- 
tiful locks of her hair which have been well washed in the 
waves of the sea.) 

Whereupon, the Olympians use the Earth's gift to gild their persons 
and possessions. 

The imagery has strong childbirth connotations: "epointe de 
douleur," "ouvrit son large sein," "au travers des fentes / De sa peau," 
and this alludes, no doubt, to Renaissance alchemical/scientific beliefs 
that all minerals, including the rarest and most perfect one, gold, are 
the result of the fusion of male and female (normally sulphur and 
mercury). In alchemical terms, Nature's sole aim is to produce gold, 
and the other metals are either to be considered as abortions or 
freaks, or they are intermediate steps in the process of maturation.^^ 
Gold, then, is the noblest of all metals, and in addition represents 
immortality and liberty; it is therefore entirely appropriate that Ron- 
sard's gods should make liberal use of it. There is thus no satirical 
intention in describing Justice gilding her own attributes: 

Et mesme la Justice a I'oeil si renfrongne 
Non plus que Jupiter ne I'a point dedaigne: 
Mais soudain congnoissant de cet OR I'excellence 
En feit broder sa robbe, & faire sa balance. 

(lines 313-16) 

(And even Justice, with such frowning gaze, did not scorn it 
any more than Jupiter; but immediately recognizing the excel- 

^ See Mircea Eliade, The Forge and the Crucible (Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1978), 48-52. 

The Hymns of 1555 161 

lence of this Gold, she had her robe embroidered with it and 
her scales made out of it.) 

In fact, we shall see below in chapter 6 that Natalis Comes would 
interpret Jason's quest for the golden fleece as a search for the highest 
human qualities, and in particular, Justice.^^ 

How does this central myth fit into the hymn as a whole? In the 
first place, it may be helpful to bear in mind the opening comparison 
between Homer's writing a hymn to Bacchus and Ronsard's writing 
a hymn to gold (lines 7-11). In either case, the nature of the dedica- 
tee is ambivalent: Bacchus may represent no more than excessive 
drinking and intoxication, but also stands for Plato's mystic frenzy, 
the madness associated with religion; similarly, gold may simply con- 
note great wealth, but it can also represent a noble, god-given gift 
which, like the Bacchic frenzy, is a means to an end. In this second 
sense, it can act as a powerful force for good in the world, allowing 
princes, poets, philosophers, and artists to accomplish their work 
without disturbance. It is only when gold is squandered or hoarded 
(in other words, when it is misused or unused) that it is not viewed 
positively by Ronsard. 

To illustrate this, Ronsard uses three examples of avarice drawn 
from Homer: Priam who, though a king, was covered "with much 
dung that he had gathered in his hands as he grovelled upon the 
earth" {Iliad 24. 164-65); Odysseus' father, living in poverty in expec- 
tation of his son's return while Penelope and the suitors consume his 
wealth (Odyssey 11. 187-96); and Tantalus, suffering in Hades (Odys- 
sey 11. 582-92). Laumonier comments in his notes on the inappropri- 
ate nature of the first two examples (L. VIII. 203. n. 3 and 204. n. 1), 
and even the Tantalus image is puzzling in that Tantalus' punish- 
ment is imposed upon him, while Ronsard's miser chooses to live as 
he does: 

Tu souffres en vivant presques un pareil mal 

Que souffre dans I'enfer le malheureux Tantal', 

Qui mort de soif dans I'eau, & mort de fain, ne touche 

^ Comes writes: "Est enim ipsa Medea |J.fi5og consilium. Hie eius ope aureum 
vellus in patriam reportauit, Deisque dicauit, vel, vt aliis placuit, Peliae obtulit; cum 
maxime fugienda sit auaritia, & iustitia complectenda," 6. 8, fol. 180^. 

162 CHAPTER 5 

Jamais le fruit qui pend a-1'entour de sa bouche, 
Car alors qu'il le veut de ses levres toucher 
Tousjours quelque malheur le garde d'approcher: 
Ou I'onde se recule, ou le vent qui remiie 
Le fruict, loing de son chef Temporte dans la nue: 
Ainsi voulant manger, jamais ne mange rien: 
Mais le vent ne ravist dans les niies ton bien, 
Tu le vends au marche, & aux prochaines halles, 
Aux yeux de tous venans, au plus offrant Testalles, 
A fin d'en r'apporter de I'argent a plain poing 
Pour te laisser mourir de fain a ton besoing. 

(lines 585-98) 

(You suffer while still alive almost as much as the unfortunate 
Tantalus in the Underworld who, dying from thirst while in 
water and dying from hunger, never touches the fruit hanging 
around his mouth; for just when he means to touch it with his 
lips, some misfortune always prevents him from getting close: 
either the water retreats or the wind, moving the fruit, bears 
it away from his face into the clouds; so, although desiring to 
eat, he never eats anything; but the wind does not carry off 
your riches to the clouds; you sell them in the marketplace 
and the nearby markethall, in view of all comers, you display 
them to the highest bidder, in order to carry away fistfuls of 
money, leaving yourself to die of hunger in your need.) 

However, the choice of the Tantalus comparison is explained by 
Dorat's conmientary on this passage of the Odyssey: 

TdvTOLkoq vero per quoddam anagrammatismum dicitur tan- 
quam tolKolvtov quod significat pecunias, opes immensas, et 
divitias. cum enim ingentia bona susque deque illi suppeterent, 
iis tamen nolebat uti itaque vere appellatur TayraXo^, miser et 
calamitosus, quales sunt omnes avari. (f. 9") 

(In fact, "Tantalos" by a process of anagram means "talanton" 
which denotes money, immense wealth, riches. For although 
he had great wealth at hand in all quarters, he was unwilling 
to use it and so he is rightly called Tantalos, wretched and 
unfortunate, as are all misers.) 

The Hymns of 1555 163 

It would seem that, at the end of a poem dedicated to him, Dorat is 
paid the compUment of an allusion to his own allegorical reading of 
Homer, and perhaps this is true of the other two examples as well. 

There is much in this hymn which is repetitious and prosaic. Its 
essence, however, is that gold derives from the gods, and that, if 
properly used, it can help to recreate a new Golden Age in place of 
the lost Golden Age of the past (lines 168-86). This is a disconcerting 
poem because its imagery follows the Neo-Platonic tradition rather 
than the didactic tradition which is the norm in the 1555 hymns, but 
providing we do not expect a coherent literal message to emerge, its 
apparent inconsistencies can be accommodated. 

There are thus thematic links between the two poems in the same 
orbit: Justice appears in the Hymne de I'Or, gold in the Hymne de la 
Justice, and both poems speak of a lost Golden Age, though with a 
generally more optimistic tone in the Hymne de I 'Or. 

Our next pair of poems, Le Temple de Messeigneurs le Connestahle, 
et des Chastillons and the Hymne de la Mort, concerns the question of 
immortality: earthly immortality through poetry in the first poem of 
the pair, real immortality in the second one.^'* In the first poem, 
Ronsard produces an ecphrasis of an imaginary temple, built in 
honor of Anne de Montmorency and his nephews, the Coligny 

The imagery used in this encomiastic poem is for the most part 
obvious. Anne de Montmorency's statue, in the shape of the god 
Mars, occupies the center of the building, "Ayant le glaive nud, tire 
pour I'asseurance / Des bons, & pour punir des vicieux I'offence" 
("With a naked sword, unsheathed to assure the good and to punish 
the wrongdoings of the evil," lines 33-34). On one of the decorated 
colunms set up to celebrate his military successes is depicted the god 
of the river Rhone, described in typical Renaissance style: 

Le Rhosne d' autre part dedans ses eaux couche, 
Lachant la bride longue a son fleuve epanche, 
D'une cruche versee, ayant la dextre mise 
Au menton herisse d'une moustache grise. 

* On the question of the relative merits of poetry and the plastics arts in con- 
ferring immortahty, see Roberto E. Campo, "Mannerist Conflict and the Paragone 
in Ronsard's Temple des Messeigneurs" L'Esprit Createur 33 (1993): 9-19. 

164 CHAPTER 5 

Et portant une rame en la senestre main, 

Et une grand' fonteine au meillieu de son sein. . . . 

(lines 63-68) 

(On the other side, the god of the Rhone lying in his waters, 
giving free rein to his fast-flowing river from an overturned 
pitcher, with his right hand placed on his chin which bristles 
with a grey moustache, and bearing an oar in his left hand and 
a large fountain in the middle of his chest. . . .) 

Odet de Chatillon, in cardinal's garb (lines 95-97), is to be portrayed 
wearing an historiated robe: 

La, d'un art bien subtil j'ourdiray tout au tour 
La Verite, la Foy, I'Esperance & I'Amour, 
Et toutes les Vertuz qui regnerent a I'heure 
Que Saturne faisoit au monde sa demeure. 
Sur ceste robe apres sera portraict le front 
De Pinde, & d'Helicon, & de Cirrhe le mont, 
Les antres Thespiens, & les sacrez rivages 
De Pimple, & de Parnasse, & les divins bocages 
D'Ascre, & de Libetrie, & de Heme le val, 
Et Phebus, qui conduit des neuf Muses le bal, 

(lines 99-108) 

(On it, with exquisite artistry, I shall weave all around Truth, 
Faith, Hope, and Love, and all the virtues which reigned 
when Saturn dwelt in the world. Next on this robe will be 
depicted the summits of Pindus and Helicon and the mountain 
at Cirrha, the Thespian caves and the sacred shores of Pimpla 
and Parnassus, and the divine groves of Ascra and Libethra, 
and the valley of Haemus, and Phoebus leading the dance of 
the nine Muses.) 

Thus, the cardinal not only embodies both the Christian and the 
pagan virtues, but he is also an outstanding protector and patron of 

His brother, the Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, future victim of 
the St. Bartholomew Massacre, is naturally portrayed as Neptune: 

Je le peindray dessus une coche emaillee 

De bleu, que trois dauphins a I'echine escaillee 

The Hymns of 1555 165 

Traineront sous le joug, & Glauque qui fera 

Semblant de les brider, tant bien paint il sera: 

II tiendra dans la dextre un trident venerable, 

Dedans la gauche main une hache effroiable: 

n regira de I'un les vagues de la mer, 

Et de r autre il fera semblant de faire armer 

Noz escadrons Francois, soit pour donner bataille, 

Soit pour gaigner d'assaut quelque forte muraille 

(lines 121-30) 

(I shall paint him standing on a blue-enamelled chariot, drawn 
by three yoked scaly-backed dolphins, with Glaucus who will 
appear to be holding their bridles, so skilfully will he be 
painted. In his right hand he will hold a venerable trident, in 
his left a terrifying axe. With one he will govern the waves of 
the sea, and with the other he will make as if to arm our 
French fleets, either to wage battle or to take by storm some 
mighty rampart ) 

His various victories are shown on the pillar which supports the 
statue, perhaps in the manner of Trajan's column. Finally, Francois 
de Coligny will also be shown: 

. . . mais une nue obscure 

Couvrira tout le haut de son armet creste. 

Pour le signe fatal de sa captivite. 

(lines 174-76) 

(. . . but a dark cloud will obscure the top of his crested hel- 
met, as a fateful sign of his captivity.) 

He had been captured at the siege of Parma in 1551.^^ 

Ronsard presents here the design for a whole temple, dedicated to 
four euhemeristic divinities who are "Comme Hercule jadis, qui, 
pour suyvre en tout lieu / L'honneur et la vertu, d'homme se feit un 
Dieu" ("like Hercules of old who, because everywhere he followed 
honor and virtue, transformed himself from a man into a god," lines 
215-16). What might have been an excessively sycophantic poem if 

^ See L. Vin. 81. n. 2 for details about his career. 

166 CHAPTER 5 

confined to the eulogistic mode is rendered palatable by transforming 
the metaphors (Gaspard de Coligny is a Neptune) into visual images 
(the statue of Neptune bears the Admiral's features). Although the 
symbolism is fairly conventional, Ronsard spares the reader too 
much brain searching by explaining any of the less obvious attri- 
butes. The poem is saved by a strong element of playful irony: the 
main reason that Ronsard is worshipping in his imaginary temple is 
to honor Anne de Montmorency (lines 229-34): 

. . . car c'est luy qui ma teste 
Veut sauver de la dent de ceste fiere beste 
Que Styx contre le Ciel aprement irrite 
Consent, & la nomma I'horrible Pauvrete. 
Dieux! faites que jamais, jamais je ne rencontre 
Aupres de ma maison cest effroiable monstre! 

(. . . for it is he who wishes to save my life from the fangs of 
that wild beast which Styx conceived in bitter anger against 
heaven and called horrific Poverty. Gods, grant that I never 
ever meet this dreadful monster around my home.) 

Nevertheless, Ronsard is concerned to show that he is able to immor- 
talize his patrons, and that his works will outlive mere physical 

Ainsi, mon Mecenas, dans ce Temple de gloire 
Je mettray ces portraictz, sacrez a la Memoire, 
A fin que des longs ans les cours s'entresuyvants 
Ne foulent point a bas leurs honneurs survivans, 
Et que des ChasTILLONS la maison estimee 
Vive, maugre le temps, par longue renommee. 
Pour avoir tant ayme les nombreuses douceurs 
Dont Phoebus Apollon anime les neuf soeurs. 
Et moy, leur grand Poete, au sainct jour de leur feste, 
Ayant de verd laurier toute enceinte la teste, 
Plante sur un genouil aux marches de I'autel, 
Je feray resonner leur renom immortel 
Aux nerfz les mieux parlans de ma cythare courbe: 
Ensemble de la voix je prescheray la tourbe, 
Epandue a-l'entour, d'ensuyvre la Vertu, 
Et que par autre point les CHASTILLONS n'ont eu 

The Hymns of 1555 167 

Tiltres d'honneurs divins, que pour avoir suyvie 
L'honorable Vertu, tout le temps de leur vie, 
Comme Hercule jadis, qui, pour suyvre en tout lieu 
L'honneur et la vertu, d'homme se feit un Dieu. 

(L. VIII. 82-83. 197-216) 

(Thus, my patron, I shall place in this temple of glory these 
portraits, dedicated to Mnemosyne, so that the succeeding pro- 
cessions of long years should not trample down their enduring 
honors and that the famed house of Chatillon should live, in 
spite of time, through long renown, because it loved so much 
the countless delights with which Phoebus Apollo gives life to 
the nine sisters. And I, their great poet, on their holy feast 
day, having encircled my head all around with green laurel, 
kneeling on one knee at the steps of the altar, shall make their 
immortal glory re-echo on the most eloquent strings of my 
curved lute; with voice accompaniment, I shall exhort the 
masses, spread all around, to pursue Virtue, showing that the 
Chatillons have not received titles of divine honors for any 
other reason than that they followed honorable Virtue 
throughout their lives, like Hercules of old who, because 
everywhere he followed honor and virtue, transformed him- 
self from a man into a god.) 

Ronsard stresses here not only the virtue of the Chatillon family (which 
to a large extent derives from the honor they accord to Apollo and the 
Muses), but also the sacred role of the poet (lines 205-8). In protecting 
Ronsard from poverty, they are fulfilling a sacred duty. 

The tone of the Hymne de la Mort is altogether more serious, in 
line with its subject, which concerns translunar rather than sublunar 
immortality; recent commentators such as Demerson, Ceard, Mena- 
ger, and Quainton are right to play down earlier opinions about the 
hymn's being merely a collection of commonplaces on the subject of 
death.^^ As with the other hymns in the collection and in subse- 

^ See Guy Demerson's discussion in La Mythologie classique, 437-41; Jean 
Ceard, La Nature et les prodiges: I'insolite au XVI' Steele en France, THR 158 
(Geneva: Droz, 1977), 203-4; Menager, Ronsard: le roi, le poke et les hommes, 85-88; 
and Malcolm Quainton, Ronsard's Ordered Chaos: Visions of Flux and Stability in the 
Poetry of Pierre de Ronsard (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980), 132-36. 

168 CHAPTER 5 

quent collections, the ideas represent a coherent outlook and are 
inspired by a form of Christianized Platonism such as that advocated 
by Ficino. Plato's Phaedo and the Timaeus underlie much of the phi- 
losophy of the hymn. 

We shall discuss at greater length in the next chapter Ronsard's 
ideas about Eternity and Time, the realms of Being and Becoming, 
and their Platonic sources. Briefly, as Daniel Menager points out in 
connection with the Hymne de la Mort, the universe is subject to 
change and inconstancy while God alone is exempt from toil: 

Mais le Soleil, la Lune, & les Astres des Cieux 

Font avecque travail leur tour laborieux: 

La Mer avec travail deux fois le jour chemine. 

La Terre, tout ainsi qu'une femme en gesine 

Qui avecques douleur met au jour ses enfans, 

Ses fruictz avec travail nous produict tous les ans: 

Ainsi DiEU I'a voulu, a fin que seul il vive 

Affranchy du labeur qui la race chetive 

Des humains va rongeant de soucis langoureux. 

(L. VIIL 165. 61-69) 

(But the sun, the moon, and the stars of the heavens toil to 
complete their laborious revolutions; the sea toils to ebb and 
flow twice a day, the earth, like a woman in labor painfully 
giving birth to her children, toils to produce for us her fruits 
every year; God willed it thus, so that He alone might live 
freed from the labor which devours the wretched race of 
humans with languishing cares.) 

Death is desirable because it frees man's soul from toil and unites it 
with God. To illustrate this, Ronsard uses a number of topoi associ- 
ated with death, some of which are inspired by Plato's Phaedo. 

The opening idea in this encomium of death liberating man from 
his bodily prison is most certainly a Platonic commonplace, and to 
make it more vivid, Ronsard uses an image which recalls Plato's Cav- 
ern myth in book 7 of the Republic, and also, perhaps, Socrates' com- 
ments in the Phaedo (9-10) on being released from his chains: 

Ainsi qu'un prisonner qui jour & nuict endure 
Les manicles aux mains, aux piedz la cheine dure, 
Se doit bien resjouir a I'heure qu'il se voit 

The Hymns of 1555 169 

Delivre de prison: ainsi I'homme se doit 
Resjouir grandement, quand la MORT luy delye 
Le lien qui tenoit sa miserable vie, 

Pour vivre en liberie 

(lines 51-57) 

(Just as a prisoner who day and night endures manacles on his 
hands and hard chains on his feet must certainly rejoice when 
he is freed from prison, so must man greatly rejoice when 
Death undoes the bond which held his wretched life so that he 
may live in freedom ) 

The Cavern myth stresses the imperfect knowledge such a prisoner 
has of the cave and the world outside, while Socrates' release from 
his chains leads him to speak of the inextricable unity of pleasure and 
pain, "since I suffered pain in my leg before from the chains, but 
now pleasure seems to have succeeded" {Phaedo 10). Death, then, 
delivers man from "Le lien qui tenoit sa miserable vie," which is 
pleasurable in itself, and leads to enlightenment. 

The theme of the instability and ephemeral nature of the sublunar 
world is developed in lines 207-20: 

S'il y avoit au monde un estat de duree, 
Si quelque chose estoit en la terre asseuree, 
Ce seroit un plaisir de vivre longuement: 
Mais puis qu'on n'y voit rien qui ordinairement 
Ne se change, & rechange, & d'inconstance abonde, 
Ce n'est pas grand plaisir que de vivre en ce monde: 
Nous le congnoissons bien, qui tousjours lamentons 
Et pleurons aussi tost que du ventre sortons, 
Comme presagians par naturel augure 
De ce logis mondain la misere future: 
Non pour autre raison les Thraces gemissoient, 
Pleurant piteusement quand les enfans naissoient, 
Et quand la MORT mettoit quelcun d'eux en biere, 
L'estimoient bien-heureux, conmie franc de misere. 

(If there were in the world a state of permanence, if anything 
were assured in the world, it would be a pleasure to live for a 
long time; but since we usually see nothing which does not 
change, and change again, and abound in inconstancy, it is not 

170 CHAPTER 5 

a great pleasure to live in this world. We know this well, who 
always lament and weep as soon as we come out of the womb, 
as if foreseeing through natural divination the future woes of 
this worldly dwelling. For no other reason did the Thracians 
grieve, weeping pitifully when children were born, and when 
Death put one of them in the coffin, they judged him blessed, 
for being free from misery.) 

Ronsard would have found all of these themes in Neo-Platonic 
writers. For example, Ficino, in his lengthy treatise De animorum 
immortalitate, cites Proclus' commentary on the Timaeus concerning 
the disquiet felt by mortals:^'' 

Auget turbationem eius, ut disputat Proculus in Timaeo, quod 
ab unitate in multitudinem dissonantem, a statu in mutatio- 
nem omnis ferme quietis expertem delabitur, unde distrahitur 
semper et quasi affecta vertigine titubat et vacillat. 

(book 16, chapter 7) 

(What increases [the soul's] disturbance, as Proclus argues in his 
commentary on the Timaeus, is that it falls from imity into a dis- 
harmonious multiplicity, from immobiUty into movement which 
is virtually without rest, so that it is always drawn in different 
directions and, as if made dizzy, it staggers and reels.) 

However, we are divine in as much as "privati ad tempus habitatione 
patriaque caelesti . . . soUicitamur continue . . . caelestis patriae deside- 
rio" ("deprived temporarily of our dwelling and heavenly homeland, 
we are continually tortured by a longing for our heavenly home- 
land"). This last idea is illustrated by Ronsard in lines 129-36 in a 
fine example of syncretism. At the beginning of the next chapter, 
Ficino introduces the idea present in lines 214-16: 

Mitto quod non omnes morientes lugent, lugent autem nascen- 
tes omnes, et quasi inviti a lacrimis terrenum hoc iter auspi- 
cantur tanquam exilium. 

^ See Theologie platonicienne de I'immortalite des arms, ed. Raymond Marcel, 3 
vols. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1964-70). References are given in the form of book 
and chapter niimber of the work, followed by voliime and page nvmiber of the 
Marcel edition. 

The Hymns of 1535 171 

(I pass over the fact that not everyone laments when dying, 
whereas everyone laments on being born, and, as if unwilling- 
ly and in tears, enters into this earthly journey as if into exile.) 

Death, therefore, is something to be desired, and Ronsard re- 
counts a myth according to which God gave Death as a reward to 
mortals for denouncing Prometheus' theft of fire: 

On dit que les humains avoient au premier age 
Des Dieux re^eu la vie en eternel partage, 
Et ne mouroient jamais, toutesfois plains d'ennuy 
Et de soucys vivoient, comme ilz font ajourdhuy: 
Leur langue a Jupiter accusa Promethee 
De la flamme du feu qu'il luy avoit ostee, 
Et adoncques ce Dieu pour les recompenser 
De tel accusement, ne peut jamais penser 
Plus grand don que la MORT, & leur en fit largesse 
Pour un divin present, comme d'une Deesse. 

(lines 259-68) 

(It is said that humans had received eternal Hfe in the first age 
of the gods and never died, yet they lived filled with troubles 
and cares as they do today. Their tongues denounced Prome- 
theus to Jupiter on account of the flame of fire which he had 
stolen from him, and then, to reward them for this denuncia- 
tion, the god could think of no greater present than Death, 
and generously gave it to them as a divine gift, as if it were a 

After death, the soul is reunited with the Creator for all time. Here, 
Ronsard appears to part company with Plato, who believed in 

. . . ains de tout mal exempte 
De siecle en siecle vit bien heureuse & contente 
Aupres de son facteur, non plus se renfermant 
En quelque corps nouveau, ou bien se transformant 
En estoille, ou vagant par I'air dans les niiaiges, 
Ou voletant ^a-bas dans les desers sauvaiges 
(Comme beaucoup ont creu), mais en toute saison 
Demourant dans le Ciel, son antique maison, 

172 CHAPTER 5 

Pour contempler de DiEU reternelle puissance, 

Les Daimons, les Heros, & I'angelique Essence, 

Les Astres, le Soleil, et le merveilleux tour 

De la voute du Ciel qui nous cerne a-l'entour, 

Se contentant de voir dessous elle les nues, 

La grand' Mer ondoyante, & les terres congniies, 

Sans plus y retourner, car a la verite 

Bien peu se sentiroit de ta benignite 

(O gratieuse Mort) si pour la fois seconde 

Abandonnoit le Ciel, & revenoit au Monde. 

(lines 291-308) 

(. . . but freed from all pain it lives from century to century 
blessed and content beside its creator, no longer enclosing 
itself in some new body, or changing into a star, or wandering 
through the air in the clouds, or flitting around on earth in 
the savage wildernesses [as many people have thought] but 
dwelling for all time in heaven, its former home, to contem- 
plate the eternal might of God, the Demons, Heroes, and 
angelic essence, the stars, the sun, and the wondrous revolu- 
tion of the heavenly vault which surrounds us, being content 
to see beneath it the clouds, the great rippling sea, and the 
known lands, without returning there, for in truth, it would 
be scarcely overjoyed with your kindness, oh gracious Death, 
if for a second time it left heaven and returned to the world.) 

However, Ficino puts forward the view in his work De immortalitate 
animorum that Plato was not necessarily asserting this doctrine him- 
self. In book 17, chapters 3 and 4, he explains that the Greek philoso- 
pher may have written about the transmigration of souls, but that he 
meant this allegorically: 

Nos ergo Xenocratis et Ammonii vestigia sequentes Platonem 
affirmavisse quaedam de anima non negamus, sed multa, quae 
de circuitu eius ab ipso tractantur, tamquam poetica, aliter 
intelligimus quam verba videantur significare. . . . 

(3. 166, 17. 4) 

(We therefore, following in the footsteps of Xenocrates and 
Ammonius, do not deny that Plato made certain statements 
about the soul, but considering many of his discussions on the 

The Hymns of 1555 173 

circuit of the souls as poetic, we understand them otherwise 
than the Uteral sense seems to mean. . . .) 

In other words, saying a soul is reborn in an animal or a hero merely 
means that it has become bestial or heroic. 

Ronsard also, as in the Hymne de I'Etemite, mentions the regener- 
ative qualities of Venus in the sublunar world, which alone prevent 
its destruction; see, for example, lines 315-18 and also 330-32: 

Et ne fust de Venus I'ame generative. 
Qui tes fautes repare, & rend la forme vive, 
Le monde periroit: mais son germe en refait 
Autant de son coste, que ton dard en deffait. 

Ainsi, avec Venus la Nature trouva 
Moyen de r'animer par longs & divers changes. 
La matiere restant, tout cela que tu manges. 

(And without the regenerative soul of Venus, which makes up 
for your offences and gives life to form, the world would 
perish; but her seed recreates as much on her side as your 

arrow destroys Thus, with Venus, Nature found a way to 

restore to life through long and various transformations every- 
thing that you devour, while matter remains.) 

Complementing these Neo-Platonic concepts. Christian ideas on 
death are included, with a number of biblical quotations. Ronsard is 
probably alluding to Job 14. 1-2 in lines 142-48: 

Homo natus de muliere, brevi vivens tempore, repletur multis 
miseriis. Qui quasi flos egreditur et conteritur, et fugit velut 
umbra, et numquam in eodem statu permanet. 

1 Corinthians 15 ("Ubi est, mors, victoria tua? ubi est, mors, stimu- 
lus tuus?") is certainly cited by Ronsard in lines 193-94: "Et que 
nostre grant Maistre, en la Croix estendu / Et mourant, de la MORT 
I'aiguillon a perdu" ("And that our great Master, stretched out and 
dying on the cross, destroyed the sting of Death"); and also Matthew 
11. 30 ("lugum enim meum suave est, et onus meum leve") in lines 
205-6: "Car son joug est plaisant, gracieux & leger, / Qui le dos nous 
soulaige en lieu de le charger" ("For his yoke is sweet, pleasant, and 

174 CHAPTER 5 

light, taking the weight off our backs instead of burdening them"). 
Lines 255-58 also contain biblical references to Philippians 1. 23: 
"desiderium habens dissolvi, et esse cum Christo, multo magis meli- 
us," and to 1 Corinthians 15. 20: "Nunc autem Christus resurrexit a 
mortuis primitiae dormientium." There is also an allusion to Ecclesi- 
astes 1. 9 ("Nihil sub sole novum") in line 326, "Et rien dessous le 
Ciel ne se void de nouveau" ("And nothing new is to be seen under 
the sky"). As Screech has pointed out in relation to Montaigne, 
"treating the philosophical attraction of death (which has, oddly, 
struck generations of readers as somehow anti-Christian or un-Chris- 
tian) he is as close as possible to informed theological opinion within 
his Church in his day."^^ As so often in the sixteenth century, Neo- 
Platonism and Christianity are presented in this poem as being 
entirely consonant, and just as he emphasized syncretism in the 
Hymne de la Justice, Ronsard does the same with regard to death. 

His comments on the common lot that awaits all men have, of 
course, a lengthy tradition, but his choice of examples to illustrate 
this is interesting: 

Si les hommes pensoient a-part-eux quelque fois 
Qu'il nous faut tous mourir, & que mesme les Roys 
Ne peuvent eviter de la MORT la puissance, 
Ilz prendroient en leurs cceurs un peu de pacience: 
Sommes nous plus divins qu'Achille ny qu'Ajax, 
Qu' Alexandre, ou Cesar, qui ne se sfeurent pas 
Defendre de la MORT, bien qu'ilz eussent en guerre 
Reduite souz leurs mains presque toute la terre? 

(lines 89-96) 

(If men thought to themselves sometimes that we must all die, 
and that even kings cannot avoid the power of Death, they 
would have a little patience in their hearts. Are we more divine 
than Achilles or Ajax, Alexander or Caesar, who were unable to 
protect themselves from Death, even though they had brought 
almost the entire earth beneath their power in war.^) 

^* "Montaigne: Some Classical Notions in their Context," in Montaigne in Cam- 
bridge: Proceedings of the Cambridge Montaigne Colloquium, 7-9 April 1988, ed. Philip 
Ford and Gillian Jondorf (Cambridge: Cambridge French CoUoquia, 1989), 45-46. 

The Hymns of 1553 175 

All are great warriors. The coupling of this hymn with Le Temple 
would serve to underline the tenuous nature of military fame. 

The Hymne de la Mort is a fine example of Ronsard's philosophical 
poetry. It is persuasive and coherent, and its numerous images all add to 
the richness of its texture, all the more so in that, like the ideas ex- 
pressed, they may recall many contexts, both Christian and pagan. The 
poem also contains some striking and emotive descriptions: the portray- 
al of Death (lines 269-79) discussed in chapter 3; the beautiful Homeric 
image of the generations of man resembling leaves falling from a tree 
(lines 147-49); the vision of the soul, reunited with God and serenely 
contemplating the world beneath it (lines 297-305). 

Both the Hymne de la Philosophie (L. VIII. 85-102) and the Hymne 
desAstres ( L. VIII. 150-61) are likewise strongly influenced by Neo- 
Platonism, and while our last pair of hymns concerned sublunar and 
translunar immortality, this pair deals with sublunar and translunar 
knowledge and the influence of the translunar on the sublunar 

After the opening twenty-line dedication to Odet de Coligny, 
Ronsard speaks of Philosophy's ability to allow mortal man's impris- 
oned soul to catch glimpses of the nature of the universe: 

Elle, voyant qu'a I'homme estoit nye 
D'aller au Ciel, disposte, a delie 
Loing, hors du corps, nostre Ame emprisonnee, 
Et par esprit aux astres I'a menee. 
Car en dressant de nostre Ame les yeux. 
Haute, s' attache aux merveilles des Cieux, 
Vaguant par tout, & sans estre lassee 
Tout I'Univers discourt en sa pensee, 
Et seulle peut des astres s'al'ier 
Osant de DiEU la nature esp'ier. 

(lines 21-30) 

(When she saw that the path to heaven was denied man, she 
readily freed our imprisoned soul from its body and led it in 
spirit to the stars, for in raising up the eyes of our souls, on 
high, it becomes fastened on to the wonders of the heavens, 
wandering everywhere, and without becoming tired it discov- 
ers the entire Universe in its thoughts, and is alone able to 
unite with the stars, daring to observe the nature of God.) 

176 CHAPTER 5 

He then goes on in lines 31-184 to catalogue the various spheres of 
knowledge which Philosophy opens up to man: metaphysics and 
demonology (lines 31-54); astronomy and meteorology (lines 55- 
106); the Underworld (lines 107-25); navigation and oceanography 
(lines 126-250); geography and cosmography (lines 151-66); jurispru- 
dence (lines 167-76); and the nature of various human professions 
(lines 178-84). 

Germaine Lafeuille points out in her study of this hymn that 
Ronsard is using the traditional Aristotelian order of things: "divine, 
astral, sublunar."^' It also corresponds to the Platonic division: cos- 
mic mind, cosmic soul, realm of nature. And if, as she also points 
out, Ronsard's Philosophy tells us remarkably little about the highest 
order of things — God and the angels — it is precisely because we are 
dealing with the imperfect knowledge which man can acquire 
through the temporary release of soul from body this side of death. 

We have already seen in Les Daimons Ronsard's ideas about the 
hierarchy of immortals: the divine, the angelic, the demonic, and the 
heroic; and we have seen that these ideas were elaborated by Proclus. 
In the Hymne de la Philosophic too, he emphasizes the role of inter- 
mediary played by the demons, speaking of: 

. . . comme DiEU, par eux nous admonneste, 
Et comme promptz ilz portent la requeste 
De rhomme au Ciel, eux habitans le lieu 
De Pair, qui est des hommes & de DiEU 
Egual-distant. . . . (lines 35-39) 

(. . . how God warns us through them and how they readily 
bear man's requests to heaven, since they inhabit the region of 
the air, equidistant between men and God ) 

This hierarchy also allows men some knowledge of the divine, 
thanks to a "chain" which links God with the sublunar world. Com- 
menting on this Homeric notion (see Iliad 8. 15-28), Ronsard writes: 

Done, a bon droit cette Philosophie 
D'un Jupiter les menaces defie. 
Qui, plein d'orgueil, se vante que les Dieux 

Cinq hymnes de Ronsard, p. 69. 

The Hymns of 1555 \77 

Ne le s^auroient a bas tirer des Cieux, 
Tirassent ilz d'une main conjuree 
Le bout pendant de la cheine ferree, 
Et que luy seul, quand bon luy semblera, 
Tous de sa cheine au Ciel les tirera. 
Mais les effors d'une telle science 
Tire les Dieux, & la mesme puissance 
De Jupiter, & comme tous charmez 
Dedans du bois les detient enfermez. 

(lines 67-78) 

(So it is right that Philosophy challenges the threats of a 
Jupiter who, filled with pride, boasts that the gods could not 
pull him down from the heavens, even were they to conspire 
to pull the dangling end of the iron chain, and that he alone, 
when he thinks fit, will pull them all to heaven with his 
chain. But the efforts of such learning draw the gods, and the 
very power of Jupiter, and keep them enclosed as if all en- 
chanted in wood.) 

Ficino's comments on the golden chain myth are illuminating in this 

Prima lux in Deo est, atque ibi est talis ut superemineat intel- 
lectum, ideoque non potest lux intelligibilis appellari. Sed lux 
ilia Dei, cum infunditur angelo, fit e vestigio lux intellectualis 
atque intelligi potest. Quando infunditur animae, fit rationalis 
ac potest non intelligi solum, sed [etiam] cogitari. Inde migrat 
in animae idolum,^° ubi fit sensitiva, nondum tamen corporea. 
Inde in aethereum vehiculum idoli, ubi fit corporalis, nondum 
tamen manifeste sensibilis. Denique in corpus elementale, sive 
simplex aereumque, sive compositum, quod est aetherei vascu- 
lum, in quo evadit manifeste visibilis. Atque ego banc esse 
puto catenam illam auream quam vidit Homerus a caelo 
pendentem et in terras usque demissam, qua apprehensa homi- 
nes sese possint in caelos attoUere. 

{De immortalitate animorum 13. 4, 2. 239) 

^ "Idoliun" is defined by Ficino as "simulacnim rationalis animae" ("the image 
of the rational soiil"). See De immortalitate animorum, 13. 2, 2. 207. 

178 CHAPTER 5 

(The first light is in God, and there it is such that it passes 
understanding, and so cannot be called intelligible light. But 
when that light of God is poured into the angel, it instantly 
becomes intellectual light and can be understood. When it is 
poured into the soul, it becomes rational and can be not only 
understood but also pondered upon. Then it passes into the 
idol of the soul, where it becomes perceptible by the senses, 
but not yet corporeal. Then it passes into the ethereal vehicle 
of the idol, where it becomes corporeal, but not yet clearly 
sensible. Finally it passes into the elemental body, either sim- 
ple and composed of air, or compound, a vessel for the ethere- 
al idol, in which it becomes clearly visible. And I think this is 
the golden chain which Homer saw hanging from heaven and 
going right down to the earth, which, when men have seized 
it, enables them to be raised up to heaven.) 

The efforts of Philosophy, then, may enable men to ascend this chain 
in order to reach a closer understanding of worldly and otherwordly 
knowledge. God alone passes understanding, and for this reason, 
mortals can only dare "de DiEU la nature espier." 

When Philosophy has finished revealing to men "Ce qu'ilz pou- 
voient, sans estre Dieux, comprendre" ("what they could understand 
without being gods," line 188), she takes up residence on a lofty crag, 
which gives Ronsard a perfect opportunity to introduce a lengthy 

Dans une plaine, est une haute Roche. 
D'ou, nul vivant, sans grand travail, n'aproche: 
Car le sentier en est facheux, & droit, 
Dur, rabboteux, espineux, & estroit. 
Tout a-l'entour s'y asproye I'hortye, 195 

Et le chardon, & la ronce sortye 
D'entre les rocz, & les halliers mordans, 
Qui font seigner les mains des abordans. 
Au bas du Roc est un creux precipice 
Qui faict horreur a Thomme plain de vice 200 

Qui veut monter avant qu'estre purge 
De son peche, dont il estoit charge. 
Tout au plus haut, cette Roche deserte 
Est d'amaranthe, & de roses couverte, 

The Hymns of 1555 179 

D'oeilletz, de lyz, & tousjours les ruisseaux 205 

Herbes & fleurs animent de leurs eaux. 

Jamais I'orage & la fiere tempeste, 

En s'esclattant, ne luy noircist la teste, 

Mais le Soleil gracieux en tout temps 

Y faict germer les boutons du Printemps. 210 

La, sur le Roc cette PhilosoPHIE 
Pour tout jamais son palais edifie 
A murs d'erain, loing des ennuiz mondains, 
Et des souciz, dont les hommes sont plains. 
Qui, comme porcz, vivent dedans la fange, 215 

Peu curieux d'immortelle loiienge. 

La, font la garde au tour de sa maison 
Ainsi qu'archers, Jugement, & Raison, 
Et la Sueur, qui se tient a la porte, 
Et dans ses mains une couronne porte 220 

De verd Laurier, pour le digne loyer 
De qui se veut aux Vertuz emploier. 
La, sans repos, la Verite travaille. 
Et, bien-armee a toute heure bataille 
Contre Ignorance, & contre Vanite, 225 

Contre Paresse, & contre Volupte 
Pour leur defendre obstinement I'approche 
Et le moyen de monter sur la Roche. 

Au bas du Roc, un long peuple se suit 
Comme les flotz enroiiez d'un grand bruit, 230 

Qui de la main font signe, & de la teste 
Vouloir monter dispostement au feste 
Du roc facheux, & bien semble a les voir 
Que de monter ilz feront leur devoir. 
Les uns ne sont qu'acheminez a-peine, 235 

Les autres sont au meillieu de la plaine, 
Les uns desja sont au pied du rocher, 
Les autres sont ja voisins d'approcher 
Du haut sommet: mais quand leur main est preste 
De la toucher, une horrible tempeste 240 

D'Ambicions, d'Envie, & de Plaisirs, 
De Voluptez, & de mondains Desirs, 
Les font broncher, d'une longue traverse 

180 CHAPTER 5 

Cul par sus teste a bas, a la renverse 

Dans un torrent: car, certes, il ne faut 245 

» Penser gravir legerement en haut 

» Ou la Vertu en son Temple repose, 

» Sans decharger son coeur de toute chose 

» Qui soit mondaine: ainsi que tu as faict, 

» Divin PrelaT, qui t'es rendu parfaict 250 

Pour estre mys au plus haut de son Temple, 

D'ou, maintenant, asseure tu contemple' 

D'un oeil constant les longues passions 

Du mauvais peuple, & les conditions 

De son estat: car bien qu'il soit en vie, 255 

Il souffre autant icy de tyrannic 

Que font la bas de peine & de tourment 

Les Mortz punis du cruel Rhadamant'. 

(lines 191-258) 

(In a plain is a lofty crag, which no living person can approach 
without great effort, for the path to it is troublesome, and 
straight, difficult, rugged, thorny, and narrow, and all around 
there bristle nettles, thistles, and brambles emerging from the 
rocks, and sharp thickets which make the hands of those who 
approach bleed. At the foot of the rock is a deep precipice 
which terrifies vice-ridden man who wishes to ascend before 
being purified of his sin, which loaded him down. At the very 
top, this deserted crag is covered with amaranth and roses, car- 
nations, and lilies, and streams continually feed herbs and 
flowers with their waters. Storm and fierce tempest never 
darken its summit when they burst, but the gentle sun at all 
times causes the buds of Spring to burgeon. There on the crag 
Philosophy erects her bronze-walled palace for all eternity, far 
from the worldly woes and cares which fill men who, like 
swine, live in the mire, uninterested in immortal praise. There 
mount guard around her house like archers Judgment and 
Reason and Sweat, standing at the gate, bearing in her hands 
a green laurel wreath as the worthy reward of those who wish 
to devote themselves to the Virtues. There Truth works with- 
out respite and, well-armed, continually battles against Igno- 
rance and Vanity, Sloth and Lust, stubbornly to prevent their 

The Hymns of 1555 181 

approach and access up the crag. At the foot of the rock there 
comes a long procession of people, like the hoarse waves of a 
mighty roar, indicating with their hands and their heads that 
they wish to ascend nimbly to the summit of the rugged crag, 
and to look at them, it clearly appears that they will do their 
duty in ascending. Some have hardly got under way, others 
are in the middle of the plain, others are already at the foot of 
the crag, others are already close to reaching the lofty summit. 
But when their hand is about to touch it, a terrible storm of 
Ambitions, Envy, Pleasures, Lusts, and worldly Desires causes 
them to tumble in a long fall, head over heels, backwards into 
a torrent: for, certainly, one must not think lightly of climb- 
ing up to where Virtue rests in her temple without emptying 
one's heart of all worldly things, as you have done, divine 
prelate, who have made yourself perfect to be placed at the 
very summit of her temple from where, now, you view in 
safety with unswerving gaze the long-lived passions of the evil 
mob and the conditions of its estate: for although they are 
alive, they suffer as much from tyranny here as the Dead 
punished by cruel Rhadamanthes do from pain and torment.) 

We have already examined above (chapter 3) examples of hypoty- 
posis in which allegorical figures are set in elaborate landscapes. The 
presentation of Philosophy, seen as identical to Virtue, is in line with 
Platonic and Neo-Platonic thought: for Plato, beauty, truth, and vir- 
tue are synonomous, and for Neo-Platonists such as Ficino, man 
only sins through ignorance, not evil. 

The Hesiodic locus dassicus for this description is brief: 

The immortal gods have placed in front of Virtue sweat. The 
road to it is long and steep and rocky at first. But when the 
traveller reaches the summit, then it is easy, for all its previous 
difficulty. {Works and Days, 289-91) 

The additional elements in Ronsard's description, apart from making 
his style more copious, underline the central message. Nettles, this- 
tles, brambles, and thickets (lines 195-97) all make the ascent harder, 
and in addition to this very basic allegorical meaning, the plants, 
which frequently appear in allegorical paintings, may represent differ- 
ent kinds of impediment: thistles are traditional symbols of tribula- 

182 CHAPTER 5 

tion and evil (see Genesis 3.18 and Job 31. 40); nettles are frequently 
associated with lust (see Juvenal 2. 128 and Sceve, Delie 161); bram- 
bles too represent evil (Luke 6. 43-5). The "creux precipice" (line 
199) is perhaps the "bottomless pit" of Revelation 9. 1 and 2. The 
summit of the crag is covered with propitious plants: the "ama- 
ranthe," so named because it does not fade away, thus symbolizing 
immortality; roses, in Christian terms a symbol of perfection, an 
alchemical symbol of wisdom, and representing rebirth in Greco- 
Roman culture; carnations, symbols of love; and lilies, which may 
signify reason as well as purity and immortality. Philosophy's palace, 
with its bronze walls, denoting durability, is surrounded by allegori- 
cal figures: Jugement, Raison, and the Hesiodic Sueur, with a laurel 
wreath (victory and immortality). Verite wards off Ignorance, 
Vanite, Paresse, and Volupte. 

Particularly striking is the description of the long procession of 
those who aspire to reach the summit of the crag. As well as its 
visual impact, it appeals to our sense of hearing (see especially line 
230). We contemplate the picture of the endless procession of aspi- 
rants crossing the plain and ascending the mountain, with a kind of 
close-up of those at the top who are repelled by the allegorical storm 
"D'Ambicions, d'Envie, & de Plaisirs, / De Voluptez, & de mon- 
dains Desirs" (lines 241-42), and cast into a torrent. There is much 
that is reminiscent of Last Judgment scenes in this picture, such as 
the fifteenth-century fresco in the chapel of the chateau of Chateau- 
dun. It also recalls Plato's vision of the souls of evil men in the myth 

When we were close to the aperture, and were on the point of 
ascending ... we suddenly came in sight of Ardiaeus and oth- 
ers, of whom the greater part, I think I must say, had been 
despots; though it is true that there were also a few private per- 
sons, who had once been reckoned among enormous crimi- 
nals. These people, when they thought themselves sure of 
ascending immediately, were repulsed by the aperture, which 
bellowed whenever one of these incurable sinners, or anybody 
who had not fully expiated his offenses, attempted to ascend. 
Thereupon certain fierce and fiery-looking men, who were in 
attendance and understood the meaning of the sound, seized 
some of them by the waist and carried them off; but Ardiaeus 

The Hymns of 1553 183 

and others were bound, hand and foot and head, and thrown 
down, and flayed with scourges, and dragged out by the way- 
side, and carded, Hke wool, upon thorn-bushes; and those who 
were passing by at the time were informed why they were put 
to this torture, and that they were being carried away in order 
to be flung into Tartarus. {Republic 10. 615-16) 

In contrast, Odet de Coligny is presented alone at the top of this 
Temple, serenely looking down upon the tormented souls of the 
"mauvais peuple," whose living Hell, in line with the traditional 
moral explanation of the famous sinners of the Underworld, is to be 
tortured by their own insane acquisitiveness or ambition. The paral- 
lels with Plato and the presence of the allegorical figures and plants 
indicate that this is an essentially didactic hypotyposis: there is a 
direct relationship between sign and meaning, and although the pic- 
ture presented is a complex one, its interpretation is straightforward. 
As in Le Temple ..., the visual compliment paid to Odet de Coligny 
is made more palatable than a purely verbal one would be. However, 
although the imagery is in the Aristotelian tradition, the message, as 
elsewhere in the 1555 collection of hymns, is a Platonic one. 

After this hypotyposis, lines 273-322 consist of an encomium of 
Coligny for his virtue and wisdom. He possesses the Socratic quality 
of self-knowledge (line 291) which enables him to seek truth and, in 
another short hypotyposis borrowed from Lucretius, to look calmly 
and contentedly on the "mechant peuple" as they struggle to survive 
a shipwreck out at sea (compare lines 312-18 with the opening of 
book 2 oi De rerum natura). 

Coligny, then, is an exception to the normal run of things, and 
this points to the limited ability of Philosophy to bring enlighten- 
ment to the sublunar world. The perspective is quite different in the 
Hymne des Astres, where it is the stars' power and influence on sub- 
lunar affairs which is to the fore. 

Nevertheless, the importance of releasing the soul from the body 
to enable it to attain some form of knowledge is reiterated, and, in 
the context of this hymn, it is explained that the stars have no domi- 
nance over our souls: 

Les Estoilles adonc seuUes se firent dames 
Sur tous les corps humains, & non dessus les ames, 
Prenant 1' Occasion a leur service, a fin 

184 CHAPTER 5 

D'executer ^a-bas I'arrest de leur destin. (lines 97-100) 

(The stars then alone gained power over all human bodies, and 
not over souls, bringing Opportunity into their service in 
order to carry out on earth the decrees of their destiny.) 

Unlike the Hymne de la Philosophie, the Hymne des Astres begins on 
a triumphant, personal note, presenting the poet freed from the limi- 
tations of the sublunar world and contemplating the whole of the 

C'est trop long temps, Mellin, demeure sur la terre 
Dans I'humaine prison, qui I'Esprit nous enserre, 
Le tenant engourdy d'un sommeil ocieux 
II faut le delier, & I'envoyer aux cieux: 
II me plaist en vivant de voir souz moy les niies, 
Et presser de mes pas les espaules cheniies 
D'Atlas le porte-ciel, il me plaist de courir 
Jusques au Firmament, & les secretz ouvrir 
(S'il m'est ainsi permis) des Astres admirables, 
Et chanter leurs regardz de noz destins coupables. 

(lines 1-10) 

(Mellin, we have dwelt too long on earth in our mortal prison 
which encloses our spirits, keeping them languishing in idle 
sleep; we must free them and send them heavenwards. I wish 
while still alive to see the clouds beneath me and tread upon 
the hoary shoulders of sky-bearing Atlas. I wish to run as far 
as the firmament and open up the secrets [if I am allowed to] 
of the wondrous stars, and sing of their gaze which is respon- 
sible for our fates.) 

Later on in the poem, Ronsard includes the profession of poet 
amongst the "metiers bien meilleurs": philosophers, prophets, and 

The influence of the stars on the sublunar world is extensive, and 
their agent is Occasion (see lines 99-100 already cited above). They 
determine individuals' destinies, the cycle of the seasons, the weather, 
and may be consulted to foresee future momentous events. In order 
to explain this dominance, Ronsard includes in the hymn a myth 
relating to the battle of the gods and giants (lines 19-96). 

The Hymns of 1555 185 

Originally, the stars were free to wander around at night like 
sheep, but were herded together by the Sun's doorkeepers, the 
Horae, when he rose in the east, and kept in a stable until the rising 
of the Moon (lines 19-38).^^ However, when the Giants attempt to 
dethrone the Olympian gods, Ursa, the pole star, calls together the 
other stars and warns Jupiter (lines 39-68). They then dazzle the 
attackers with their brightness, in order to enable Jupiter to defeat 
them. As a reward, the stars are then fixed in their places by Jupiter, 
and given dominion over the world (lines 69-96). 

This aetiological fable explaining why the fixed stars remain in 
their position has a clear Platonic inspiration. As part of the Cosmic 
Soul, they move with a self-induced motion, and control the move- 
ment of the sublunar world. Plato had written in the Timaeus of 
these stars: 

And he assigned to each two motions: one uniform in the 
same place, as each always thinks the same thoughts about the 
same things; the other a forward motion, as each is subjected 
to the revolution of the Same and uniform. But in respect of 
the other five motions he made each motionless and still, in 
order that each might be as perfect as possible. 

(Timaeus 40A-B, trans. Cornford) 

The image of the blacksmith fixing nails around a wheel recalls the 
traditional Neo-Platonic idea of the demiurge (Hephaestus) as black- 

D'un lien aimantin leurs plantes attacha, 
Et comme de grans cloux dans le Ciel les ficha, 
Ainsi qu'un mareschal qui hors de la fornaise 
Tire des cloux ardans, tous rayonnez de braise, 
Qu'a grandz coups de marteaux il congne durement 
A-lentour d'une roiie arengez proprement. 

(lines 83-88) 

'^ Du Bellay's beautiful sonnet Deja la nuit en son pare amassoit ... , L'Olive 83, 
ed. Chamard 1. 97, presents the stars being rounded up by Night: "Un grand 
troupeau d'etoiles vagabondes." 

'^ Cf . the Homeric description of the shield of Agamemnon alluded to above, 
chap. 3, where the bosses are seen as representing the stars. 



(He attached their feet with an adamantine chain and fixed 
them hke great nails in the sky, just hke a blacksmith who 
pulls red-hot nails out of the furnace, all shining with embers, 
which, arranged carefully around a wheel, he hammers hard 
with great blows.) 

In lines 109-88, Ronsard considers the influence of the stars on 
people's professions. Although he does not specifically allot these 
activities to individual stars or signs of the zodiac, he clearly has in 
mind astrological works, and perhaps in particular Manilius' Astrono- 
mica or Firmicus Maternus' Matheseos libri VIII (which closely fol- 
lows Manilius). While not keeping strictly to Manilius' pattern, omit- 
ting many signs of the zodiac, the conjunction of activities is telling. 
The little vignettes which he produces for each of the activities recall 
similar representations in the visual arts, for example Giulio Roma- 
no's sixteen medallions in the Sala dei Venti at the Palazzo Te in 


109-11 (warriors, Patroclus) 

112-16 (navigators, Typhis) 

117-20 (farmers) 

121-24 (wine-producer) 

125-32 (fishermen, divers) 

133-38 (hunters) 

139-44 (miner, alchemist) 

145-47 (weavers) 

148-50 (artists, masons, merchants) VIRGO 

151-56 (philosophers and initiates) SCORPIO 

157-60 (bird-augurs) 

161-66 (poets) 

167-82 (warriors and generals) AQUARIUS looters & generals 5. 486-503 

On the other hand, the general movement of lines 189-224 
appears to have book 1 of Virgil's Georgics in mind. Virgil deals with 
the farmer's calendar through the various seasons in lines 204-350; 

cf. Manilius 



5. 67-101 



5. 32-56 



5. 270-92 



5. 234-50 



5. 189-96 






5. 504-37 


maidens' skills 

5. 254-55 


applied arts 

5. 285-92 



5. 339-47 





divine poets 

5. 324-38 

'' These are discussed by E. H. Gombrich in Symbolic Images, in the chapter 
"The Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te," 109-18. 

The Hymns of 1553 187 

weather signs in lines 351-463, concentrating on the moon and the 
sun at the end of this section; and portents and omens at the end of 
the book. Ronsard follows this pattern in his much shorter section. 
The description of the stars ends, curiously, with a refutation of two 
theories: that they derive nourishment from inhaling the humors of 
the earth; and that they are mortal. 

Dorat, probably following Porphyry, repeats this first idea in his 
commentary on Odyssey 12. 62-63 concerning the Symplegades;-''* 
"By this way even winged things may never pass, not even the cow- 
ering doves that bear ambrosia to Father Zeus." 

Zeus a calore dictus est et pro sole sumitur, ut testatur Plato in 
Phaedro, cui cibus est ambrosia, id est exhalatio et subtilior 
evaporatio qua sol et altera astra nutriuntur. Haec stoicorum 
et veterum opinio fuit. (Dorat MS., fol. 13^ 

(Zeus is named after heat, and is taken for the sun, as Plato 
points out in the Phaedrus. His food is ambrosia, in other 
words the exhalations and thinner evaporations by which the 
sun and the other stars are nourished. This was the opinion of 
the Stoics and the ancients.) 

In refuting the idea that the stars are mortal, Ronsard is able to finish 
his description with a contrast between their serenity and the unenvi- 
able state of sublunar men: 

Tel soing ne vous tient pas, car apres noz naissances 
Que vous avez verse dedans nous voz puissances. 
Plus ne vous chaut de nous, ny de noz faictz aussi: 
Ains courez en repoz, delivrez de soucy, 
Et francz des passions, qui des le berceau suyvent 
Les hommes qui 9a-bas chargez de peine vivent. 

(lines 245-50) 

(You are not held by such care, for after our births, when you 
have infused us with your powers, you care no longer about 
us or our deeds. But you run on in peace, released from con- 

^ See fol. 13^ of the manuscript in the Ambrosian Library, Milan, and also my 
article "Ronsard and Homeric Allegory," p. 54. 

188 CHAPTER 5 

cern and free from the passions which, from the cradle, dog 
men who live on earth laden with pain.) 

The theme of the contrasting condition of the sublunar and the 
translunar worlds is continued in our final pair of poems, the Priere a la 
Fortune (L. VHI. 10^-14) and the Hymne du del (L. Vm. 140-49). As 
was the case with the other poems in the first half of the collection, the 
emphasis in the Priere a la Fortune is on the sublimar world's natural 
state of discord, epitomized by its predilection for war: 

Puisque noz Roys espointz de trop de gloire, 
N'ont autre soing que par une victoire 
De quelque ville, ou d'un chasteau conquis 
Hausser leur bruit par sang d'hommes aquis, 
Et puis qu'ilz ont de toute leur contree 
Pour cherir Mars, chasse la belle Astree, 
Et pour la Paix ont choysi le Discord, 
Et pour la vie ilz ont choisy la mort 
Dedans leurs coeurs, ayant bien peu de crainte 
De JESUCHRIST, & de sa Loy tressainte, 
Expressement qui defend aux humains 
Du sang d'autruy ne se souiller les mains, 
Ains vivre ensemble en paix & en concorde, 
Loing de la guerre, & de toute discorde, 
Et puis qu'ilz sont obstinez durement 
Jusque a fuir tout admonnestement: 
Si ne faut-il qu'en chacune Province 
Le peuple laisse a prier pour son Prince, 
Et pour ceux-la qui sont en dignite 
Constituez sous leur auctorite: 
Car un Roy seul ne sfauroit tout parfaire. 

(lines 99-119) 

(Since our kings, spurred on by an excess of pride, care only 
about elevating their own reputation gained at the expense of 
human blood through conquering some town or capturing a 
castle, and since they have chased beautiful Astraea from all 
their land in order to cherish Mars, and chosen Discord over 
Peace, and death over life within their hearts, holding in little 
awe Jesus Christ and his most holy Law, which expressly for- 

The Hymns of 1355 189 

bids humans to sully their hands with other men's blood, but 
orders them to live together in peace and harmony, far from 
war and all discord, and since they have stubbornly dug their 
heels in to the point of shunning all warning; still the people 
must not stop praying for their prince in each province and 
for those who are set up in rank beneath them; for a king on 
his own cannot accomplish everything.) 

As in the other "sublunar" hymns, there is an ironic contrast 
throughout this poem: Ronsard condemns war as sacrilegious, only 
to go on to pray for victory in war for the French king. 

It has been pointed out that, iconographically, Ronsard's depic- 
tion of Fortune shares many of the attributes of the different but 
related deity Occasio (cf. fig. 9), a force which is viewed by him as an 
agent of the stars influencing the mortal bodies of humans, but not 
their immortal souls. Even the stars are dependent upon God, who 
alone has control over human souls.^^ Panofsky, as we have seen in 
chapter 3, discusses this assimilation between the two allegorical per- 
sonifications, which took place as early as the twelfth century, "this 
fusion being favored by the fact that the Latin word for *Kairos', viz. 
occasioy is of the same gender 3S fortuna."^^ 

The first portrayal of Fortune comes in lines 68-70: 

. . . une aveugle Deesse 
Comme est Fortune, en qui ne fut, ny n'est 
Veiie en ses yeux, ny en ses piedz d'arrest. 

(. . . a blind goddess like Fortune in whom there never was nor 
is sight in her eyes, or rest in her feet.) 

Pictorially, Fortune is normally represented as having her eyes cov- 
ered with a blindfold (cf. 1. 294, "les deux yeux liez") and with a ball 
beneath her feet (cf. 1. 293, "boule sous tes piedz"). Emphasizing her 
dominion over the world, Ronsard also represents her: 

Qui de ton chef hurtes le haut du pole, 
Et de tes piedz la terre vas foulant 

'* See Quainton, Ronsard's Ordered Chaos, chap. 3, for a useful discussion of 
Ronsard's concept of Fortune and the relationship with God. 
^ Studies in Iconology, 71. 

190 CHAPTER 5 

Dessus un globe incessamment roulant 

(lines 80-82) 

(Touching the topmost pole with your head and trampling the 
earth with your feet upon a ceaselessly rolling sphere ) 

which, as Malcolm Quainton points out, recalls Diirer's engraving of 
Nemesis.^'' Fortune also has the forelock traditionally associated 
with Occasio, as in line 141: "Car c'est ce Roy qui te tenoit au 
crin. ..." The final description of Fortune, which presents all the 
attributes which she will lose if she answers the poet's prayer, has 
already been discussed above (chap. 3). However, in the context of 
the poem, this eventuality is presented as virtually impossible: For- 
tune would no longer be Fortune without these attributes. 

In the central prayer to Fortune, too, and especially lines 155-280, 
there is more than a hint of pessimism. Franfois de Guise is likened 
to Achilles (lines 155-60), whose fate was to have an illustrious but 
short life. Anne de Montmorency is a second Hector. In a passage 
which recalls some of the themes of the Hymne de la Mort, Ronsard 
gloomily speculates on the Constable's early death: 

Car celuy seul en hauteur les surpasse 
D'autant qu'un mont une campagne basse: 
Mais tout ainsi que le tonnerre assaut 
Plus voluntiers quelque sapin bien haut 
Qu'un petit fresne, ainsi la mort assomme 
Plus tost un grand, que quelque petit homme. 

(lines 179-84) 

(For he alone surpasses them in stature as a mountain does the 
low-lying countryside. But just as the thunderbolt more readi- 
ly attacks some lofty fir tree than a little ash, so death strikes 
a great man sooner than a little one.) 

He also goes on to consider the grief this would occasion in France: 

Garde le done, nous aurions plus d'ennuy, 
Et plus de dueil pour la perte de luy 
Que les Troyens assiegez n'en rejeurent 

'^ Ronsard's Ordered Chaos, 67-68. 

The Hymns of 1555 191 

Quand de leurs murs Hector ils aperceurent 
Qui sanglotoit (estendu sur le bord 
De Simoi's) aux longz traictz de la mort, 
Estant navre par la lance d'Achille: 
Un pleur se fist neuf jours parmy la Ville, 
Ou, sans cesser, de tous coustez sonnoient 
Las coups de poing que ses gens se donnoient 
Sur la poitrine, accablez de tristesse, 
Pour le trepas d'Hector, leur forteresse, 
Qui conseilloit, & des mains achevoit 
Tout ce que diet au conseil il avoit, 
Ayant autant au combat de vaillance, 
Comme au conseil il avoit de prudence. 

(lines 185-200) 

(Guard him then; we would be more troubled and grief-strik- 
en at his loss than the besieged Trojans when from their walls 
they perceived Hector sobbing, stretched out on the banks of 
the Simois, at the long arrows of death, being wounded by 
Achilles' spear; for nine days there was wailing in the city 
where, without respite, on all sides there rang out the beating 
of breasts of its people, overwhelmed with sadness at the death 
of Hector, their rampart, who advised and carried out with his 
hands everything he had spoken at the council, having as 
much valor in battle as he had wisdom in counsel.) 

Similarly, Gaspard de Coligny is a second Ajax, another ill- 
omened hero, who ended up becoming insane and taking his own life 
after shaming himself when he failed to beat Odysseus for Achilles' 
armor. Actual rather than potential gloom is already present in the 
life of another of the Coligny brothers, Francois d'Andelot, who, as 
we saw in the Temple . . . , was a prisoner of the Spanish at this 

All of these themes underline the impossibility of lasting good 
fortune in the sublunar world and reaffirm the traditional role and, 
therefore, the traditional iconographical presentation of Fortune. The 
contrast with the Hymne du del could hardly be greater, for here, 

'* See my discussion of the hymn in this chapter. 

192 CHAPTER 5 

we are dealing with a serene and perfect world, far above the cares 
that haunt mankind on earth: 

L'Esprit de 1'ETERNEL qui avance ta course, 
Espandu dedans toy, comme une grande source 
De tous costez t'anime, & donne mouvement, 
Te faisant tournoyer en sphere rondement. 
Pour estre plus parfaict, car en la forme ronde 
Gist la perfection qui toute en soy abonde. 

(lines 29-34) 

(The spirit of the everlasting God which advances your course, 
perfused within you, like a great spring of water, gives you life 
on all sides and movement, causing you to spin round in a 
sphere in order to be more perfect, for in roundness resides 
perfection, which abounds entirely within itself.) 

Laumonier and scholars after him have quite correctly pointed to 

the Hymnus Coelo of Marullus as a source for this hymn. However, 

the Latin poem itself has a clear model in the Orphic Hymns (4, the 

"YfjLvog Ovpavov), and Ronsard's composition is in fact a contaminatio 

of these two poems. The text of the Orphic hymn is as follows: 

Uranus, father of all things, ever-enduring part of the universe, 
first-bom, the beginning of all things and of all things the end, 
elegant {Koofiog) father, whirling like a sphere around the earth, 
dwelling of the blessed gods, travelling with the whirling motion 
of a spinning top, heavenly and earthly one, comprehending and 
guarding all things, holding the unchallengeable necessity of na- 
ture in your breast, of dark blue appearance, adamantine, spark- 
Hng, of changeful form, all-seeing, father of Cronos, blessed one, 
demon that is highest of all, hear my prayer, bringing a holy life 
to the initiate who has just come into sight. 

The two sources give an indication, perhaps, of Ronsard's inten- 
tions in his own hymn: not so much a summary of any astronomical 
system, but rather a more general statement of his views concerning 
the nature of the translunar world, defined through a kind of poetic 
commentary on the two sources. This mingling of the two sources 
explains the apparent replacement of Marullus' "Natura potens" by 

The Hymns of 1555 193 

"Anange" in Ronsard's poem (1. 101), noted by Isabelle Pantin and 
others.^' Although much of Ronsard's hymn appears to have come 
from both of these two poems, for example: 

Tu metz les Dieux au joug d' Anange la fatalle 

La Nature en ton sein ses ouvrages respend 

(lines 101 & 103) 

(You yoke the gods to fateful Anangke . . . Nature spreads her 
works within your breast) 

iv OTtpvoLaiv ix(Siv <f)va€03(; a.rki)Tov dvdyKTjv (line 6) 

(holding the unchallengeable necessity [anangke] of Nature in 
your breast) 

Qui Naturae sancta potentis 

Ipsos vocas sub iuga coehtes (lines 10-11) 

(who sunmion the gods themselves beneath the inviolable 
yoke of mighty Nature) 

it is clear that other elements are derived from only one of the two 
sources; for example, compare: 

Toy, qui n'as ton pareil, & ne sembles qu'a un, . . . 

(line 84) 



(You who are unparalleled and seem like the one, . . .) 

. . . par nuUi, similis uni (line 4) 

(equal to none, like the one); 

... en doute suis de toy. 

Si je te dois nommer meilleur pere que Roy 

(lines 111-12) 

" See "L'Hymne du Cielj" in Autour des "Hymnes" de Ronsard, 193-94. 

194 CHAPTER 5 

(I hesitate whether I should better call you father or king) 

Pater incertum rexne melior (line 18) 

(It is uncertain whether father or king is better); 
or, for the Greek source, compare: 

Te faisant tournoyer en sphere rondement (line 32) 

(Causing you to spin round like a sphere) 

a<t)aLpr]8dv eXiaaofievog irepi yaCav (line 3) 

(whirling like a sphere around the earth); 


Aimantin, varie, azure, tournoyant, 

Filz de Saturne, Roy treshaut, & tout voyant, 

ClEL, grand Palais de DiEU, exauce ma priere 

(lines 115-17) 

(Adamantine, of changing form, azure-colored, spinning, son 
of Saturn, king most high, and all-seeing Sky, great palace of 
God, answer my prayer) 


KvavoxpoiQ, dddixacTe, iravdioKe, (XLo\dfiop<l)e, 
TravdepKeQ, KpovoreKve, fiaKap, iravvTrepTOiTe daCfiov, 
kXvS ' (lines 7-9) 

(of dark blue appearance, adamantine, sparkling, of changeful 
form, all-seeing, father of Cronos,'*° blessed one, demon that 
is highest of all, hear my prayer ) 

The "Ciel" that Ronsard has in mind in this poem is the Platonic 
heaven of the Timaeus, overlaid with the usual elements of syncre- 
tism that we would expect in the Renaissance. Previous scholars have 
commented on the allusion to Plato's theory of reminiscence (lines 
11-14) and the theme of the freeing of the soul from the body at the 

*° The Greek word KpovoreKvoc; means "father of Cronos," according to 
Liddell and Scott, but Ronsard takes it to mean "son of Cronos." 

The Hymns of 155^ 195 

end of the poem (lines 118-22). But few, including Germaine Lafeuil- 
le, have seen the hymn as doing anything other than paying lip ser- 
vice to Platonic ideas. However, Richelet's comments, reported by 
Laumonier (L. VIII. 141, n. 6), on the influence of the Timaeus may 
not be so far from the truth. 

The spherical shape of the heaven and its movement on an axis 
are both propounded by Plato, as well, of course, as the idea of the 
circle or sphere being the most perfect form; compare Ronsard, lines 
17-18, and 32-34, and Timaeus 33B and 34A: 

And for shape he gave it that which is fitting and akin to its 
nature. For the living creature that was to embrace all living 
creatures within itself, the fitting shape would be the figure 
that comprehends in itself all the figures there are: according- 
ly, he turned its shape rounded and spherical, equidistant 
every way from center to extremity — a figure the most perfect 
and uniform of all; for he judged uniformity to be immeasur- 
ably better than its opposite 

He assigned to it the motion proper to its bodily form, name- 
ly that one of the seven which above all belongs to reason and 
intelligence; accordingly, he caused it to turn about uniformly 
in the same place and within its own limits and made it re- 
volve round and round. 

Present too in the Timaeus is the idea of the perpetual nature of the 
Heaven, compare Ronsard, lines 23-28 and 101-10, and Timaeus 

Time came into being together with the Heaven, in order 
that, as they were brought into being together, so they may be 
dissolved together, if ever their dissolution should come to 
pass; and it is made after the pattern of the ever-enduring 
nature, in order that it may be as like that pattern as possible; 
for the pattern is a thing that has being for all eternity, where- 
as the Heaven has been and is and shall be perpetually 
throughout all time. (38B-C) 

The theory of the harmony of the spheres (lines 35-44) is not ex- 
pounded in the Timaeus as such, although the World Soul is divided 
up into harmonic intervals (35A-36B). However, this Pythagorean 

196 CHAPTER 5 

idea is contained in the Myth of Er {Republic 10. 617), as is the theme 
of Necessity (Anangke) and its chains; compare lines 101-10 and 
Republic 10. 616: 

. . . arriving at the center of the Hght, they saw that its extrem- 
ities were fastened by chains to the sky. For this hght binds 
the sky together, like the hawser that strengthens a trireme, 
and thus holds together the whole revolving universe. To the 
extremities is fastened the distaff of Necessity, by means of 
which all the revolutions of the universe are kept up. 

Other Platonic themes in the Hymne du del include the idea that 
there is only one heaven (compare lines 87-100 and Tzm^e«5 31 A-B); 
and that the heavenly vault is self-nourishing (compare lines 51-58 
and Timaeus 33C-D). 

The central part of the hymn consists of lines 45-78 where Ron- 
sard alludes to the meaning of the word "kosmos," speaks of God's 
role in its creation, and of the fact that it is his "palais royal," from 
where he looks down upon the mortal world. This long central sec- 
tion (a single paragraph of 34 lines) is then balanced on either side by 
two subdivided parts, each of 44 lines. This concern with balance and 
tripartite division clearly aim to emphasize the theme of heavenly 
harmony and the perfection of the sphere. As Isabelle Pantin points 
out in her structural analysis of the hymn, Ronsard "donn[e] au 
poeme 1' aspect uni d'une petite sphere.""*^ Schematically, then, we 
have a ring pattern which may be represented as follows: 

Address to Morel — 

44 Revolution of heaven: speed, perpetual nature — 

God moves heaven: perfect form, movement of others — 
45-78 34 Heavenly and earthly fire; kosmos as home of God 


Superiority of heaven over earth 
There is only one heaven: infinite 
Anangke and perpetual revolution 
Valediction and prayer 

"L'Hymne du del," 207. 

The Hymns of 1555 197 

As in the Hymne de la Justice and the Hymne de I'Or, Ronsard 
Hnks these two poems by the repetition of certain themes. For exam- 
ple, the image of Ajax guarding the Greeks in the Priere a la Fortune 
(lines 204-10) is repeated in the introduction of the Hymne du del 
(lines 6-8). 

The 1555 book of hymns is a carefully structured and thought-out 
collection of poems, even if from the poetic point of view there is a 
certain unevenness in the quality of individual works. The persona of 
the poet, with regard to the overall tone and style, is important: 
Ronsard presents himself as an authoritative figure, at times inspired, 
with a largely persuasive and didactic purpose in mind. As a result, 
much of the poems' contents is given over to expository writing, and 
when Ronsard does have recourse to mythology and allegory, it 
tends to be in the didactic tradition. Although the ideas he presents 
are frequently complex (and Platonic in origin), the maimer of pres- 
entation is generally meant to be explicit, and mythology is used in 
order to illustrate and to clarify ideas rather than to veil them. In 
writing like this, Ronsard is following Plato's own practice in such 
myths as the Cavern and the myth of Er. 

When it comes to visual representation, and particularly the use 
of ecphrasis and hypotyposis, Ronsard consequently tends to work 
in the didactic tradition of imagery. Allegorical figures are presented 
with their attributes, human figures are shown in divine guises. Some 
notable exceptions to this are the myth in the Hymne de I'Or con- 
cerned with the discovery of gold, where Ronsard may be matching 
his poetic voice to the dedicatee of the poem, Jean Dorat, and a num- 
ber of the scenes in the Hercule Chrestien, where the typological alle- 
gory requires a mystical interpretation of the events in the life of 

The dispositio of the 1555 hymns has been central in my discus- 
sion, with the circular ring pattern mirroring the Platonic notion of 
perfection both in the book as a whole as well as in individual 
poems. In addition, it also reflects the circular movement of the 
heavens, which is such an important theme in the five central hymns 
of the collection. The kind of comment made by Rudolf Wittkower 
with regard to Renaissance church design, by McAllister Johnson 

198 CHAPTER 5 

about the Galerie Franfois I", and by Margaret McGowan about 
Renaissance dance, are applicable to the structure of Ronsard's first 
collection of hymns: harmony may be introduced into the sublunar 
world not only through the content of the hymns, but also through 
their form. 

List of Plates 

Fig. 1 Diana and Actaeon fireplace (1562), Musee national de la 
Renaissance, Ecouen, France 

Fig. 2 Jean Mignon, Diana and Actaeon (.^1543-1545), 430 x 575 

Fig. 3 Master L. D., after Primaticcio, Hercules and Omphale ex- 
changing clothes, 281 X 434 mm 

Fig. 4 Master L. D., Venus in Vulcan's Forge, 322 x 444 mm 

Fig. 5 Galerie Francois I", Fontainebleau 

Fig. 6 The Cyclopes in Mount Etna and Venus and Vulcan, illustra- 
tion from 1544 edition of P. Virgilii Maronis Opera (Venice, 
Juntae), fol. 408', 135 x 155 mm 

Fig. 7 Antonio Fantuzzi, after Rosso Fiorentino, The Death of 
Adonis, Galerie Francois P*", Fontainebleau, 288 x 240 mm 

Fig. 8 Maitre de Flore, Allegory, Musee du Louvre, Paris, France 

Fig. 9 Alciati, Emblem 122, In Occasionem, 88 x 88 mm 

Fig. 10 Master L. D., after Primaticcio, Alexander the Great Painted 
by Apelles, 341 x 240 mm 

Fig. 11 Triumphal arch with Hercules and Antaeus, from 1571 Paris 
entry of Charles IX, 210 x 145 mm 

Fig. 12 Pandora arcade, from 1549 Paris Entry of Henry II, 137 x 
118 mm 

Fig. 13 Antonio Fantuzzi, Nymph Being Attacked by Satyr (1542-43), 
393 x 267 mm 

Fig. 14 Sansovino, Boy Drawing out a Thorn, Musee du Louvre, 
Paris, France 

Fig. 15 Antonio Fantuzzi, after Rosso Fiorentino, Dispute between 
Minerva and Neptune (1542-43), 260 x 417 mm 

Fig. 16 Antonio Fantuzzi, after Parmigianino, Apollo and Marsyas 

(1544-45), 172 x 141 mm 
Fig. 17 Alciati, Emblem 153, The Three Graces, 88 x 88 mm 
Fig. 18 Alciati, Emblem 4, The Rape of Ganymede, 88 x 88 mm 
Fig. 19 Chariot of Fame, from 1550 Rouen Entry of Henry II, 250 

X 125 mm 
Fig. 20 Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne, National Gallery, London, Eng- 
land, 1752 X 1905 mm 
Fig. 21 Castor and Pollux arch, from 1549 Paris Entry of Henry II, 

220 X 115 mm 
Fig. 22 The French Court in Mythological Guise, Tour de la Ligue, 
chateau de Tanlay, France, featuring Gaspard de Coligny as 
Neptune and Francois de Coligny as Hercules 
Fig. 23 Master L. D., Allegory of Justice (c. 1547), 310 x 420 mm 
Fig. 24 Castor and Pollux arch, from 1571 Paris Entry of Charles 

IX, 145 X 215 mm 
Fig. 25 Leda and the Swan, from Francesco Colonna, Hypneroto- 

machia (Venice, 1499), 128 x 103 mm 
Fig. 26 Jean Mignon, Dares and Entellus, 309 x 439 mm 
Fig. 27 Primaticcio, Vulcan's Forge, Salle de Bal, Musee national du 
chateau de Fontainebleau, France 

Fig, 1. Diana and Actaeon fireplace (1562), 
Musee national de la Renaissance, Ecouen, France 

Fig. 2. Jean Mignon, Diana and Actaeon (P1543-1545), 430 x 575 mm 

Fig. 3. Master L. D., after Primaticcio, 
Hercules and Omphale exchanging clothes, 281 x 434 mm 

Fig. 4. Master L. D., Venus in Vulcan's Forge, 322 x 444 mm 

Fig. 5. Galerie Franfois P"^, Fontainebleau 

Fig. 6. The Cyclopes in Mount Etna and Venus and Vulcan, 

illustration from 1544 edition of P. Virgilii Maronis Opera 

(Venice, Juntae), fol. 408', 135 x 155 mm 

























Fig. 8. Maitre de Flore, Allegory, Musee du Louvre, Paris, France 

Fig. 9. Alciati, Emblem 122, In Occasionem, 88 x 88 mm 

Fig. 10. Master L. D., after Primaticcio, 
Alexander the Great Painted by Apelles, 341 x 240 mm 

Fig. 11. Triumphal arch with Hercules and Antaeus, 
from 1571 Paris entry of Charles IX, 210 x 145 mm 

Fig. 12. Pandora arcade, from 1549 
Paris Entry of Henry II, 137 x 118 mm 

Fig. 13. Antonio Fantuzzi, Nymph Being Attacked by Satyr 
(1542-43), 393 x 267 mm 

Fig. 14. Sansovino, Boy Drawing out a Thorn, Musee du Louvre, Paris, France 

t^. 4-1 










Fig. 15. Antonio Fantuzzi, after Rosso Fiorentino, 
Dispute between Minerva and Neptune (1542-43), 260 x 417 mm 

Fig. 16. Antonio Fantuzzi, after Parmigianino, 
Apollo andMarsyas (1544-45), 172 x 141 mm 

Fig. 17. Alciati, Emblem 153, The Three Graces, 88 x 88 mm 

Fig. 18. Alciati, Emblem 4, The Rape of Ganymede, 88 x 88 mm 









Fig. 20. Titian, Bacchus and Ariadney 
National Gallery, London, England, 1752 x 1905 mm 

Fig. 21. Castor and Pollux arch, 
from 1549 Paris Entry of Henry H, 220 x 115 mm 


<rt o 
5). 52 

h '^ 





^ o 
^ U 














Fig. 24. Castor and Pollux arch, from 1571 Paris 
Entry of Charles DC, 145 x 215 mm 



























Chapter 6 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 

This then is the fourth type of madness, which befalls when 
a man, reminded by the sight of beauty on earth of the true 
beauty, grows his wings and endeavors to fly upward. 

(Plato, Phaedrus 249) 

®he 1556 Second Livre des Hymnes contains only three exam- 
ples of the genre, along with two other poems, the Epistre a 
tresillustre prince Charles, Cardinal de Lorraine and the Elegie 
a Chretophle de Choiseul, abbe de Mureaux. Nevertheless, the hymns 
were destined to assume a prominent position in Ronsard's works, 
with the Hymne de I'Etemite opening all subsequent collections of 
the hymns, and the two narrative hymns, the Hymne de Calais, et de 
Zetes and the Hymne de Pollux et de Castor, split up from 1560 
onwards and occupying second or third place in books 1 and 2 of the 
various editions. The first two hymns, though very different in 
nature, are linked together by their dedicatee, the early champion 
and patron of the Pleiade, Marguerite de France, while the third 
hymn is dedicated to Gaspard de Coligny, who, along with his 
brother Odet, featured prominently in the 1555 collection, as we 
have seen in chapter 5. 

Ronsard sets out to establish the vital importance of poetry in the 
three hymns while at the same time providing samples of the epic 
style in the two narrative poems. Given the impermanent nature of 
the sublunar world, already at the heart of the 1555 collection, he 
reiterates the idea that poetry is a surer way to some form of immor- 
tal renown for a patron than art and architecture, and because of its 
inspired nature can lead mortals to an apprehension of divine truth. 
The two poems closing the book continue to emphasize the immor- 

200 '_ CHAPTER 6 

talizing effects of poetry, and Ronsard states this explicitly in his 
long poem to the cardinal de Lorraine, where an element of national- 
ism, not to say professional jealousy, also enters his arg;ument: 

Je ne scaurois penser que des peintres estranges 
Meritent tant que nous, les postes des loiienges, 
Ny qu'un tableau basty par un art otieux 
Vaille une Franciade, ceuvre laborieux. 

(L. VIII. 344. 383-86) 

(I cannot think that foreign painters deserve as much as do we, 
the heralds of praise, or that a picture made by idle art can be 
worth a Franciade, a work of great effort.) 

Thus, despite the apparently disparate nature of the poems which 
make up this book, there are strong thematic links between them, 
and a chronological progression from the timelessly eternal trans- 
lunar world, through the mythological past, to the immediate pres- 

The three hymns are good illustrations of the alliance of poetry 
and philosophy, with strong visual elements present. Indeed, much 
of the Hymne de I'Eternite is given over to a hypotyposis describing 
the deity in all her glory, while the mythological hymns contain 
motifs which were often exploited by artists as well as poets to cele- 
brate the Valois dynasty and the prominent members of its court. 
Although close identification between mythological figures and real 
people tends to be somewhat fluid at this time (and given the rival 
factions to which Ronsard appeals, even within the confines of the 
Second Livre des Hymnes, this was no doubt deliberate), Ronsard does 
make a flattering connection between the Dioscuri and the cardinal 
de Lorraine in the Epistre dedicated to the prelate: 

Ainsy tout esbranle dedans la court j'estois, 
Maintenant asseure, maintenant je doutois 
Lesquelz des grandz seigneurs me tiendroient la main forte. 
Quant je vous vy sortir tout rouge d'une porte, 
Flambant pour mon secours, comme les deux jumeaux 
En un temps orageux flambent de sur les naux. 
Pour sauver du peril les honmies qui de crainte 
Et de palle frayeur ont la face despainte. 

(L. VIII. 340. 285-92) 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 201 

(Thus I was quite at sea in the court, at one time full of confi- 
dence, at another uncertain which of the great lords would 
come to my assistance, when I saw you in a blaze of scarlet 
come out of a door, burning as a sign of aid to me as the two 
twins blaze in a storm above ships to save from peril men 
whose faces are marked by fear and pale terror.) 

However, even within Ronsard's own works, different identifications 
are to be found. In the 1555 hymn dedicated to Henry II (L. VIII. 10. 
97ff.), we have seen that it is the king who is associated with Castor 
and Pollux, and the Coligny brothers are likewise closely allied to 
them in the hymn devoted to them in the 1556 collection. 

As we have seen, the theme of Jason and the Argonauts had also 
been exploited in Henry II's triumphal entry into Paris in 1549. One 
of the arches through which the procession passed was specifically 
concerned with the Argonaut story, and figured the pilot of the 
Argo, Tiphys, with the features of the king himself (fig. 21). The 
contemporary description of the arch is as follows.^ On a plinth on 
the top: 

. . . could be seen standing a Tiphys ten feet tall, whose face 

was very similar to that of the triumphant king He held in 

both hands a tall ship's mast, furnished with a crow's nest and 
a large sail of taffeta striped with silver. On his right was a sil- 
ver Castor and on his left a completely black Pollux, larger 

^ See The Entry of Henri II into Paris 16 June 1549, ed. McFarlane, fol. IS' for 
the illustration, and fols. W-W for the description. The French text is: "... se 
pouuoit veoir debout vn Typhis de dix piez en stature, dont la figure appochoit 

bien fort de celle du Roy triumphateur En ses deux mains U tenoit vn grand 

mast de nauire, gamy de hune & d'un grand voile de taffetas raye d' argent. A sa 
dextre y auoit vn Castor argente, & a sa senestre vn Pollux tout noir, plus grans 
que le naturel, & toutesfois semblans petiz au pres de la grande corpulence de leur 
pilotte. Le Castor tenoit en I'lme de ses mains vne grande estoile noir, & le Pollux 
vne d' argent, pour designer Timmortalite ou renouuellement de vie: & aux deux 
autres tenoyent chascun son ancre, signifians asseurance en nauigation. Puis en 
I'autre face y en auoit vn pareil nombre de platte paincture, tant bien designez & 
mis en couleur, qu'ils ne cedoyent a ceulx de relief, cestoyent Theseus & Pyritous 
auec Zetus & Calais. Tous lesquels pour estre de nation gregoise, disoyent a leur 
Typhis apres Homere, 


Qui signifie, Nous desireux & prompts te voulons suyure ensemble." 

202 CHAPTER 6 

than life but nevertheless seeming small besides the great bulk 
of their helmsman. The Castor held in one of his hands a large 
black star, and the Pollux a silver one, to designate immortali- 
ty or renewal of life; and in their other two hands, they each 
held an anchor, signifying safety at sea. 

Four niches contained statues of four of the principal Argonauts: 
Telamon, Peleus, Hercules, and Hylas. 

Then opposite there were a like number painted on the side, 
so well drawn and colored that they were not inferior to those 
in relief: Theseus and Pirithous with Zetes and Calais. Because 
they were Greek, they were all saying to their Tiphys in the 
words of Homer: 

which means: "We shall readily follow you together." 

Finally, there were two inscriptions beneath Tiphys himself: "Alter 
erit iam Typhis, & altera quae vehat Argo / Delectos heroas" ("With 
a second Tiphys at the helm, a second Argo will carry a choice crew 
of heroes"), a quotation from Virgil's prophetic Eclogue 4 (lines 34- 
35), with "tum" changed to "iam"; and: 

Par lantique Typhis Argo fut gouuernee, 
Pour aller conquerir d'or la riche toison: 
Et par vous Roy prudent a semblable raison. 
Sera nostre grand nef heureusement menee. 

Cela estoit diet au Roy, pour autant qu'il est gouuerneur de la 

nef de Paris, non inferieure a I'ancienne Argo. 

("Argo was steered by ancient Tiphys to go to conquer the 
rich golden fleece, and similarly our great ship will be happily 
guided by you, wise king." This was said to the king in as 
much as he is the helmsman of the ship of Paris, in no way 
inferior to the ancient Argo.) 

Thus, not only would the story of the Argonauts have been popu- 
larized in this royal entry, but also important parallels would have 
been established between the Argo and Paris or the ship of state,^ 

^ The arms of the city of Paris include, of course, a ship, while the motto, 
"Fluctuat nee mergitur," was introduced in the course of the sixteenth century. 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 203 

Tiphys and the King, the Argonauts and Henry's nobles. It is inter- 
esting to note that already Castor and Pollux are specifically associat- 
ed with the concept of immortality, while their black and silver stars 
and bodies must refer to the legend according to which the deathless 
Pollux shared his immortality with his twin out of brotherly love, so 
that they spent one day in heaven, the other in their tomb. When 
Ronsard came to organize the royal entry of Charles IX in 1571, he 
himself would use the Dioscuri on one of the arches, this time to 
represent the king and his brother Henry bringing peace to the ship 
of state (fig. 24). 

Ronsard was not the only poet to exploit the Argonaut theme, 
and two years after the publication of these hymns, Etienne Jodelle 
used the story in his celebration of the capture of Calais from the 
English in January 1558. The Recueil des inscriptions, figures, devises, 
et masquarades ordonnees en I'hostel de ville a Paris le Jeudi 17 de 
Fehvrier 1558 is both a record of the events and an apologia for those 
aspects of them that went wrong because of faulty workmanship and 
over-hasty preparation. However, it is clear that there is by this time 
a rich tradition associating the events and heroes of the Argonautica 
with the Valois court. In their edition of the work, Graham and 
Johnson cite Barthelemy Aneau's 1549 gloss on the Alciati emblem, 
"Spes proxima," which features the Dioscuri: "Translation d'une nef 
agitee de tourmente: a une Republicque vexee. Et des feux de Castor, et 
Pollux: aulx defenseurs de Republicque, ou survenue de bon Prince, 
ou bons gouverneurs" ("Metaphor of a storm-tossed ship for a trou- 
bled state. And the fires of Castor and Pollux for the defenders of the 
state, or arrival of a good prince or good governors").^ 

In the masque that he organized, Jodelle creates parallels between 
Jason and Henry II in Jason's first speech: 

Je sfay mesme, qu'un jour et la Toison doree 
Et le sceptre, et les biens, et la race honoree, 
De ceus qui vont portant en leur col la Toison 
Sentiront que Henry est leur fatal Jason * 

' Le Recueil des inscriptions, 1558: A Literary and Iconographical Exegesis, edited 
by Victor E. Graham and W. McAllister Johnson (Toronto: University of Toronto 
Press, 1972), 183. 

* Le Recueil des inscriptions, 108. 

204 CHAPTER 6 

(I know that one day both the golden fleece and the scepter 
and the riches and the honored race of those who wear around 
their neck the fleece will recognize that Henry is their des- 
tined Jason ) 

He goes on to mention the defeat of Amycus, and Calais and Zetes' 
rescue of Phineus from the Harpies, and his final speech establishes 
a whole series of parallels between members of the French court and 
the gods and heroes involved in the Argo story. 

Ne crain donq' point, tu as des Deesses et Dieus 
Comme nous, pour ta guide et faveur en tous lieus, 
Ta femme est ta Junon, ta seur est ta Minerve, 
Qui le droit de la nostre a bon droit se reserve: 
Et bien que nous n'eussions autre support sinon 
Que celui de Pallas, et celui de Junon, 
Tu as outre ces deus une tierce Deesse, 
Une Diane archere, et chaste, et chasseresse. 
Ce bon Roy Navarrois son jeune frere encor 
Te pourront bien servir de Pollux et Castor, 
Ce grand vaincueur de Guise est ore ton Hercule, 
Qui sous toy, I'Espaignol outrepassant recule, 
Calais et Zethes sont deus freres qu'il a, 
De deus freres encor un chacun choisira 
Le nom qu'il lui est propre, et I'autre divin frere 
Qui d'un double conseil les affaires modere 
Avecq la piete, sera ton grand Typhis 
Gouverneur de la nef ^ 

(Fear not, then; you have gods and goddesses like us to guide 
and help you everywhere: your wife is your Juno, your sister 
your Minerva who rightly reserves for herself the rights of our 
Minerva; and even if we had no other support than that of 
Pallas and Juno, you have besides these two a third goddess, 
Diana the archer, the chaste hunter. The good king of Navarre 
and his young brother too can certainly serve you as Pollux 
and Castor, the great conquerer Guise is now your Hercules 

Le Recueil des inscriptions, 114-15. 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 205 

who under you repulses the overweening Spaniard, and Calais 
and Zetes are two brothers of his; of a further two brothers 
each one will choose the name which is right for him, and the 
other divine brother who with twofold advice governs affairs 
piously will be your great Tiphys, helmsman of the ship ) 

Thus, Diana is Diane de Poitiers; Castor and Pollux are Antoine de 
Bourbon and his brother Louis, prince de Conde; Hercules is Fran- 
cois de Guise; Calais and Zethes are Claude and Francois de Lor- 
raine; and the Cardinal de Lorraine is represented as Tiphys. Later in 
Jodelle's Icones, however, it is Gaspard de Coligny who appears to be 
identified with Castor and Pollux.^ 

To return to the Second Livre des Hymnes, the arrangement of the 
poems in the collection is largely thematic, and is centered around 
the notion that poetry is able, in the sublunar world, to combat the 
ephemeral nature of human affairs. As we shall see, the opening 
poem, the Hymne de I'Etemite, poses the question and acts as a theo- 
retical and philosophical introduaion to the two long mythological 
hymns; these both repeat this theme and exemplify it, demonstrating 
in turn the importance of the Apollonian arts in the search for tran- 
scendant truth; the final pair of poems applies these lessons from the 
heroic past to the present and the future. In addition to these themat- 
ic links, all the poems are written in alexandrines, and there are con- 
siderable cross references between them to emphasize the cohesive 
nature of the collection. 

The character of the dedicatee of the entire collection is, of 
course, crucial in this respect. Marguerite de France had been a con- 
stant defender and patron at court of Ronsard and the other mem- 
bers of the Brigade, hence Ronsard's description of her in the Hymne 
de I'Etemite (lines 13-14) as "une qui merite, / Qu'avec TEternite sa 
gloire soit escrite" ("one who deserves her renown to be inscribed 
with Eternity"). Although there is only one other allusion to Mar- 
guerite in this poem, contained in the final prayer (lines 141-42) that 

Je puisse voyr au ciel la belle Margarite, 
Pour qui j'ay ta louange en cet hymne descrite 

Le Recueil des inscriptions, 183. 

206 CHAPTER 6 

(I may see in heaven the beautiful Marguerite, for whom I 
have written your praises in this hymn) 

it is clear that she will attain poetic immortality only because she 
deserves it by her patronage of poets; and the main body of the 
hymn has set out to demonstrate in largely Platonic terms the impos- 
sibility of gaining any form of immortality in the sublunar world. 
This idea that poetic renown only goes to those who merit it is 
repeated far more emphatically and didactically at the start of the 
Hymne de Calais^ et de Zetes where Ronsard, still addressing Margue- 
rite, writes: 

Ostez vostre bonte, douceur, humanite, 
Ostez vostre pitie, clemence, charite, 
Montrez vous en parolle & fiere & arrogante, 
Mesprisez un chascun qui a vous se presente, 
On vous laissera la, & ne trouverez plus 
Homme qui se travaille a chanter voz vertus. 
Mais tant que vous serez telle comme vous estes, 
Presque en depit de vous, a I'envy les poetes 
Espandront vos honeurs aux oreilles de touts. 

(lines 31-39) 

(Take away your goodness, gentleness, and humanity, take 
away your pity, mercy, and charity, show yourself cruel and 
arrogant in speech, scorn everyone who presents himself to 
you, and you will be abandoned there and no longer find any- 
one who will exert himself to sing of your virtues. But so long 
as you remain as you are, almost in spite of yourself, poets 
will vie to spread your honors to everybody's ears.) 

But not content with this ominatio, Ronsard delivers a stern warning 
at the end of this hymn to those "Seigneurs nonchallantz" who dis- 
dain or fail suitably to recompense poets (lines 729-36): 

lis aymeront trop mieux faire grande leur race, 
Ou batir des Palais, que d'aquerir la grace 
Des Muses, les chetifs! qui ne cognoissent pas 
Qu'a la fin leurs chateaux trebuscheront a bas, 
Et qu'en moins de cent ans leurs races incognues 
Se traineront sans nom, par les tourbes menues. 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 207 

Laisson les donque la, puis qu'ils veulent mourir 
Sans gloire & sans renon. 

(They will prefer to increase their families, or build palaces, 
rather than acquire the favour of the Muses, wretches! who 
fail to recognize that in the end their castles will tumble down 
and that in under a century their unknown families will trail 
around with no name, through the humble masses. Let us 
abandon them there, then, since they want to die without 
glory and renown.) 

The end of the Hymne de Pollux et de Castor contains a positive rein- 
forcement of this lesson in its prayer to favor Ronsard's patron, Gas- 
pard de Coligny, who, by the allusion in line 756 to Horace, Odes 1. 
1. 2, is associated with the Roman poet's famous patron, Maecenas:^ 

Donnez a ma chanson une gloire eternelle, 
Non mienne, mais la vostre, & celle de Gaspard, 
Mon confort, mon honneur, ma gloire, & mon rempart. 

(lines 754-56) 

(Give my song eternal glory, not mine but yours, and that of 
Gaspard, my comfort, my honor, my glory, and my defense.) 

As we have suggested, the Hymne de I'Etemite expounds in clearly 
Platonic terms Ronsard's ideas on the nature of time and mortality, 
and these ideas are presented both visually (in a striking hypotyposis 
which occupies lines 27-78) and discursively. That Ronsard has in 
mind Plato's model of Eternity and Time is clear from the previous 
chapter, where we saw that, in creating the universe, God wanted to 
make it as far as possible like the Living Being. However, since the 
universe is in the realm of Becoming, it cannot itself be eternal, but 
is governed by Time, "an everlasting likeness [of Eternity] moving 
according to number." Thus, Plato writes: 

For there were no days and nights, months and years, before 
the Universe came into being; but he planned that they should 
now come to be at the same time that the Heaven was framed. 

^ Horace addresses his patron as "o et praesidium et diilce decus meum" ("o my 
defense and my sweet glory"). 

208 CHAPTER 6 

All these are parts of Time, and "was" and "shall be" are forms 
of time that have come to be; we are wrong to transfer them 
unthinkingly to eternal being. {Timaeus 37E) 

Many of these ideas are echoed in Ronsard's hymn, as in lines 6-10: 

. . . celle qui jamais pour les ans ne se change, 
Mais bien qui faict changer les siecles & les temps, 
Les moys, & les saisons & les jours inconstans. 
Sans jamais se muer, pour n'estre poinct sujecte, 
Comme Royne & maistresse, a la loy qu'ell' a faicte; 

(. . . she who never changes with the years, but who causes the 
centuries and times to change, and the months and seasons and 
the flitting days, without ever being transformed since she is 
not subject to the law she made, being queen and mistress.) 

and also lines 105-9: 

La grand trouppe des Dieux . . . 

Quand elle parle a toy ne diet point il sera, 

II fut, ou telle chose ou telle se fera, 

C'est a faire aux humains a dire telle chose. 

(The great troop of the gods . . . when they speak to you do 
not say "there shall be," "there was," or such and such a thing 
will happen; it is for humans to say such things.) 

We have seen that, according to Proclus in his commentary on the 
Timaeus, Eternity is linked to the sublunar world by a chain of 

It is certain in any case that, of the whole of this series, which 
is the real "golden chain," the summit is the race of intelligible 
gods, the lower limit the race of the sublunar gods who direct 
creation in an uncreated way and Nature in a supernatural 
way. (162; 5. 19) 

See above, chap. 5. 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 209 

Ronsard perhaps alludes to this theme in lines 79-81: 

O grande Eternite, merveilleux sont tes faictz! 
Tu nourris I'univers en eternelle paix, 
D'un lien aimantin les siecles tu attaches. . . . 

(Oh great Eternity, wondrous are your deeds! You sustain the 
universe in eternal peace, you bind the ages with an adaman- 
tine chain ) 

making the allusion clearer in 1584, when line 81 becomes: "De chai- 
nons enlassez les siecles tu attaches ..." ("You bind the ages with an 
interlocked chain"). However, this link only serves to emphasize the 
enormous gulf that separates Eternity ("Sans rien faire tu vis en tous 
biens plantureuse" ["without doing anything, you live surrounded by 
all riches"], line 26) and mortal men ("Que tu as heritez de peine & 
de soucy, / De vieillesse & de mort, qui est leur vray partage . . ." 
["whom you have endowed with pain and care, old age and death, 
which is their true inheritance"], lines 88-89). Nevertheless, Eternity 
acts as a preserving force in the universe and, as we have seen in 
chapter 2, seems to correspond to Nicholas of Cusa's visualization of 
God as "the center and circumference of the circle; for in the infinite 
circle or sphere, center, diameter, and circumference are identical" 
(cf. lines 246-54).' 

The characteristics applied by Ronsard to Eternite may be 
summed up as follows: 

(a) immortality and stability (lines 6, 9) 

(b) self-sufficiency and wholeness (lines 26, 97-99, 127-28) 

(c) the ability to influence the sublunar world and to preserve it 
from destruction (lines 7-8, 80-86) 

(d) the ability to comprehend the full extent of time (lines 107- 
16, 123-24) 

(e) omnipresence (lines 128-33). 

As in other Ronsard poems, many of these points are repeated 
visually in the central hypotyposis. Although there are a number of 
literary models for this hymn, notably Marullus' Hymnus Aetemitati, 
which provides the bare bones of the poem, and the Orphic Testa- 

See the section on Dispositio. 

210 CHAPTER 6 

ment,^° the majority of the details in the picture of Eternity en- 
throned in glory come from neither of these sources. 

Tout au plus hault du Ciel dans un throsne dore, 

Tu te siedz en Tab it d'un manteau colore 28 

De Pourpre raye d'or, duquel la borderie 

De tous costez s'esclatte en riche pierrerie. 

Et la, tenant au poing un grand sceptre aimantin, 

Tu ordonnes tes loix au severe Destin, 32 

Qu'il n'ose oultrepasser, & que luy mesme engrave 

Fermes au front du Ciel, ainsi qu'a toy esclave, 

Faisant tourner soubz toy les neuf temples voultez, 

Qui dedans & dehors cernent de tous costez, 36 

Sans rien laisser ailleurs, tous les membres du monde. 

Qui gist dessoubz tes piedz comme une bouUe ronde. 

A ton dextre coste la Jeunesse se tient, 

Jeunesse au chef crespu, dont la tresse luy vient 40 

Flottant jusqu'aux talons par ondes non tondue. 

Qui luy frappe le doz en filz d'or estendue: 

Cette Jeunesse ayant le teint de roses franc, 

D'une boucle d'azur ceinte de sur le flanc, 44 

Dans un vase dore te donne de la dextre 

A boire du nectar, afin de te faire estre 

Tousjours saine & disposte, & afin que ton front 

Ne soit jamais ride comme les nostres sont. 48 

De I'aultre main senestre, avec grande rudesse 

Repoulse I'estomac de la triste Vieillesse, 

Et la chasse du Ciel a coups de poing, afin 

Que le Ciel ne vieillisse, & qu'il ne prenne fin. 52 

A ton aultre coste la Puissance eternelle 

Se tient debout plantee, armee a la mammelle 

D'un corselet grave qui luy couvre le sein, 

Branlant de nuict & jour une espee en la main, 56 

Pour tenir en seurte les bordz de ton empire. 

'° The Orphic Testament may be consulted in Orphicorum fragmenta, edited by 
Otto Kern (Berlin, 1922), 255-66. See too my article "Ronsard et I'emploi de 
I'allegorie dans le Second Livre des Hymnes," 93-96, for a discussion of the Testa- 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 211 

Ton regne & ta richesse, afin qu'elle n' empire 

Par la fuitte des ans, & pour dormer la mort 

A quiconque vouldroit favoriser Discord, 60 

Discord ton ennemy, qui ses forces assemble 

Pour faire mutiner les Elementz ensemble 

A la perte du Monde, & de ton doulx repos, 

Et vouldroit, s'il pouvoit, rengendrer le cahos. 64 

Mais tout incontinent que cet ennemy brasse 

Trahison contre toy, la Vertu le menasse, 

Et I'envoye la bas aux abysmes d'Enfer, 

Garrote piedz & mains de cent liens de fer. 68 

Bien loing derriere toy, mais bien loing par derriere. 

La Nature te suit. Nature bonne mere, 

D'un baston appuyee, a qui mesmes les Dieux 

Font honneur du genoil quand elle vient aux Cieux. 71 

Saturne apres la suict, le vieillard venerable, 

Marchant tardivement, dont la main honorable, 

Bien que vieille & ridee, eleve une grand faulx. 

Ou les Heures vont d'ordre a grandz pas tous egaulx, 76 

Et I'An qui tant de fois tourne, passe & repasse, 

Glissant d'un pied certain par une mesme trace. 

(L. VIII. 246-54) 

(At the summit of heaven on a golden throne, you sit dressed 
in a cloak colored purple striped with gold, whose embroidery 
sparkles on all sides with rich gems. And there, holding an 
adamantine scepter in your fist, you give harsh Destiny your 
laws, which he dares not overstep and which he himself en- 
graves firmly on the brow of heaven, like your slave, revolv- 
ing beneath you the nine vaulted temples which encompass 
inside and outside on all sides, without leaving anything else- 
where, all the limbs of the world, which lies beneath your feet 
like a round ball. On your right stands Hebe, curly-headed 
Hebe, whose unshorn locks float down in waves to her heels, 
striking her back, spread out in golden threads; this Hebe with 
her gracious rosy complexion, wearing around her flank an 
azure belt, gives you with her right hand nectar to drink from 
a golden vessel, in order to keep you for ever hale and hearty, 
so that your brow should never be wrinkled like ours. With 

212 CHAPTER 6 

her other left hand, she roughly thrusts back the stomach of 
sad Old Age, and drives her from heaven with her fists so that 
heaven should not grow old and come to an end. On your 
other side stands eternal Fortitude, armed at the breast with an 
engraved corselet covering the chest, brandishing day and 
night a sword in her hand in order to protect the borders of 
your empire, your realm, and your wealth so that it does not 
deteriorate with the rapid passing of the years, and to deal 
death to whoever would favor Discord, Discord your foe, 
who gathers his forces to cause the elements to mutiny togeth- 
er to destroy the world and your sweet peace, and would 
engender chaos again if he could. But as soon as this foe stirs 
up treason against you. Virtue threatens him, and sends him 
below to the pit of Hell, tied hand and foot with a hundred 
iron bonds. Far behind you, very far, follows Nature, the 
good mother, leaning on a stick, to whom even the gods kneel 
down in reverence when she comes to heaven. Saturn follows 
after her, the venerable old man, walking haltingly, whose 
honorable hand, though old and wrinkled, carries aloft a great 
scythe, on which the Seasons proceed in order with great 
equal steps, and the Year which revolves so frequently comes 
and comes again, gliding sure-footedly along the same path.) 

Rather than describing a single allegorical figure, Ronsard presents 
us here with an apocalyptic vision of the Universe, seen in terms of 
the perpetual struggle between the forces of harmony, preservation, 
and regeneration on the one hand and the forces of discord, degener- 
ation, and destruction on the other. Eternity is presented as supreme 
ruler of the Universe, but with none of her usual symbols (the ouro- 
boros, for example). All her attributes— throne, gold, purple robe, 
scepter (lines 27-31) — emphasize her regal qualities and her immortal- 
ity, and her immutability is suggested by the fact that she alone is 
seated. Even the "severe Destin" is simply a slave, executing the will 
of Eternity throughout the whole of creation, which is represented 
by "une bouUe ronde" (lines 32-38). Jeunesse is depicted, as we have 
seen in chapter 2, with the attributes of the goddess Hebe, cupbearer 
to the gods before Ganymede (lines 39-44). Endurance and vigor are 
denoted by her luxuriant hair and the use of the gold and blue color- 
ing, gold being considered the most enduring of the metals, and blue 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 213 

representing the heavens, another symbol of eternity. While her 
good-omened right hand provides Eternity with preserving nectar, 
the inauspicious left hand fends off Vieillesse (lines 45-50). Puissance, 
a Minerva-like figure, with breastplate and sword, also protects Eter- 
nity against Discord, aided by Vertu (lines 53-68). Nature, the gener- 
ative principle in the sublunar world, appears behind Eternity, 
leaning on a stick (lines 69-71). This detail, like Vulcan's lameness 
elsewhere in Ronsard,^^ probably indicates the imperfection of 
Nature's powers, as in lines 92-96, where mankind's continuity can- 
not be maintained 

Sinon par le succes de reparation, 

A laquelle Venus incite la Nature 

Par plaisir mutuel de chaque creature 

A garder son espece, & tousjours restaurer 

Sa race qui ne peut eternelle durer. 

(. . . except through the success of renewal to which Venus 
incites Nature through the mutual pleasure of each creature to 
preserve its species and always to restore its race, which can- 
not last forever.) 

Saturn, the embodiment of encosmic Time, is depicted as an old, 
lame man, equipped with a scythe, the symbol of destruction and 
rebirth, on which are represented allegorically the Hours (or Seasons, 
as in Hesiod, Theogony 902) and the Year (lines 75-7S). 

Thus, the description which Ronsard presents to us, though quite 
complex, is in the tradition of the theomachia, the battle between 
various allegorical divinities which, in this case, results in an eternal 
equilibrium of contrary forces, preserving the universe from chaos. 
However, although the views that Ronsard is proposing here are 
essentially Platonic in inspiration, the imagery used in this hypotypo- 
sis, like the imagery in the first collection of hymns, is largely, 
though not exclusively, in the didactic tradition: each of the attri- 
butes of the various deities reminds us of their various qualities. One 
aspect of the hymn with particular relevance to what follows in this 
collection concerns mortal man's inability to preserve the past: 

" See my paper "Neoplatonic Fictions in the Hymnes of Ronsard," 51. 

214 CHAPTER 6 

Nous aultres journalliers, nous perdons la memoire 
Des temps qui sont passez, & si ne pouvons croire 
Ceux qui sont a venir, comme estans imperfaictz, 
Et d'une masse brute inutilement faictz, 
Aveuglez & perclus de la saincte lumiere, 
Que le peche perdit en nostre premier pere. 

(lines 117-22) 

(We ephemeral beings lose the memory of bygone times, and 
yet we cannot trust those which are to come as we are imper- 
fect, uselessly created from brute matter, bUnded and para- 
lyzed by the holy light, destroyed by sin in our first father.) 

We shall see in the two following hymns that it is the particular gift 
of the poet to preserve the past, and to allow man glimpses at least of 
the "saincte lumiere" which Adam's original sin has made generally 

It was important therefore that as showpieces to attract patronage 
for the Franciade, the two mythological hymns should be convincing, 
both in terms of their message and also as epic poetry capable of 
rivalling the best examples of contemporary art and architecture. At 
the same time, the figure of the vates, carrying on the Orphic tone of 
the Hymne de I'Eternite, is crucial in these poems. In the Hymne de 
Calais, et de Zetes, Ronsard devotes lines 57-72 to Orpheus, the sec- 
ond hero to be introduced in the catalogue of heroes after the prince- 
ly leader of the expedition himself, Jason. Orpheus was similarly the 
first of the Argonauts mentioned by one of Ronsard's sources, Apol- 
lonius of Rhodes (1. 23-34), although it is not to that source that 
Ronsard owes his own description, nor yet to his other main source, 
Valerius Flaccus (1. 470-72, where Orpheus is, however, as in Ron- 
sard, exempt from rowing). The bard's privileged position in this 
society of heroes as inspirer of future prowess and preserver of past 
deeds is emphasized by Ronsard in lines 65-72: 

Ce noble Chantre avoit par sur touts privileges 
Ne tirer I'aviron. Seulement de son siege 
Tout au haut de la proiie avecque ses chansons 
Donnoit courage aux Preux, les nommant par leurs noms, 
Maintenant de ses vers rappellant en memoire 
De leurs nobles ayeus les gestes & la gloire. 

(lines 65-70) 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 215 

(This noble bard enjoyed in particular the privilege of not 
rowing. From his seat at the top of the prow, he simply 
encouraged the heroes with his songs, naming them by their 
names or recalling to mind by his verse the deeds and glory of 
their noble forebears.) 

In Valerius Flaccus, Orpheus had simply been a timekeeper (1. 471- 
72). Ronsard also devotes several lines (58-64) to a description of 
Orpheus' ivory harp. Other important figures in the catalogue of 
heroes include two other prophets: Idmon, who follows on from 
Orpheus (lines 73-78), and Mopsus, who is introduced just before 
Castor and Pollux (lines 113-28). 

However, it is the figure of the blind prophet Phineus who is the 
central character in this hymn, in which Calais and Zetes act as his 
benefactors by freeing him from a plague of Harpies. There are many 
different accounts in ancient writers concerning the reasons for Phi- 
neus' blindness and punishment, and they are largely summed up in 
Natalis Comes' Mythologiae, book 6, chapter 6. The three basic rea- 
sons are: 

(1) he was given the choice by the Sun god of living a very long 
life blind, or of dying sooner without losing his sight, and he 
chose the former alternative; 

(2) he blinded or killed the two sons of his first wife (Cleopatra) 
because they were accused (wrongly) of raping his second wife; 

(3) he revealed too many of the gods' secrets to mortals. 

The third account is followed by Ronsard's two main sources, Apollo- 
nius of Rhodes and Valerius Flaccus. Apollonius writes at 2. 179-82: 

Phoebus had once endowed this man with prophetic powers, 
but the gift had brought on him the most appalling tribula- 
tions. For he showed no awe even for Zeus himself, delivering 
exactly in oracles his sacred purposes. Zeus punished him for 

Thus, Apollonius attributes some blame to Phineus for his lack of 
discretion, but Ronsard, in common with Valerius Flaccus, views his 
conduct as far more venial, compare lines 176-80: 

Car le povre chetif n'estoit pas seulement 
Banny de son pais, & une aveugle nue 

216 CHAPTER 6 

N'estoit pas seulement dessus ses yeus venue 
Par le vouloir des Dieus, qui luy avoyent oste, 
Pour trop prophetizer, le don de la clarte. . . . 

(For the poor wretch was not only exiled from his country, 
and not only had a cloud of blindness settled on his eyes by 
the will of the gods who had taken away from him the gift of 
light because he had delivered too many prophecies ) 

and Valerius Flaccus who, although he writes "talia prodigia et tales 
pro crimine poenas / perpetitur" ("he suffers these monsters and these 
punishments for his crime"), has Phineus say later on: 

fata loquax mentemque lovis quaeque abdita solus 
consilia et terris subito ventura parabat 
prodideram miserans hominum genus; hinc mihi tanta 
pestis et offusae media inter dicta tenebrae. 

(Saying too much, I alone had betrayed destiny and the inten- 
tions of Jupiter and all the plans he was preparing which were 
hidden and soon to come on earth, pitying mankind; as a 
result there came to me this great plague and, just as I was 
speaking, an envelope of darkness.) 

However, Ronsard's version is the only one in which authorial com- 
ment is entirely on the side of Phineus, a significant point for his 
interpretation of the story. 

For Phineus is both blessed with and suffers because of Apollo's 
gifts (line 290): he is the divinely-inspired vates who, like Prome- 
theus, is persecuted for trying to benefit mankind. Ronsard is draw- 
ing parallels in this hymn between Phineus and the poet; between 
the Harpies and unscrupulous courtiers, "les flateurs, les menteurs / 
Qui devorent leur [i.e., des Rois] bien, & de leurs serviteurs" ("the 
sycophants, the liars, who devour their wealth and that of their ser- 
vants," lines 711-12); between Calais and Zetes and potential patrons 
(see lines 721-28). As a result, Ronsard imbues much of the poem 
with self-directed, bitter irony as, for example, in lines 199-200: "Ce 
chetif ne vivoit sinon que des morceaus / Qui de hazar tumboyent 
du bee de ces oiseaus" ("This wretch only lived on the scraps which 
happened to fall from the beaks of these birds"). Only the follower 
of Apollo can make known to men: 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 217 

La volume des Dieux, qui veullent leurs oracles 
Estre tousjours voilez de ne sfay quels obstacles, 
Et manques en partie, afin que les humains 
Dressent tousjours au Ciel & le cceur & les mains, 
Et qu'humbles envers Dieu, a Dieu secours demandent 
Quand au sommet du chef les miseres leur pandent. 

Oines 581-86) 

(. . . the will of the gods, who want their oracles always to be 
veiled with obstacles of some kind and partly lacking, so that 
humans should always lift up their hearts and hands to heav- 
en, and humbly in the face of God ask God for help when 
woes weigh down upon their heads.) 

And only Apollo's follower can immortalize men. Those who realize 
this and help him are endowed with the wings of virtue, like Calais 
and Zetes, with which to ascend to the heights of knowledge, a Pla- 
tonic theme derived from the Phaedrus 25 IB and C, and frequently 
used in the Pleiade's erotic poetry. Thus, Ronsard shows that the 
poet's benefactor not only benefits himself by having his deeds 
immortalized, but also, in the process of helping the poet, gains that 
knowledge of Truth that only the divinely inspired can confer. 

The structure of this hymn is a relatively complex one, based on 
the principle of emboitement or ring patterns. Schematically, it may 
be represented as follows: 


1-42 Dedication to Calais and Zetes, and to Marguerite de France 

43-168 Introduction of the Argonauts 

169-336 Phineus: introduction, speech, sacrifice, and oath 

337-368 Failed meal 

369-452 Harpies chased away by Calais & Zetes 

453-472 Successful meal 

473-666 Phineus: sacrifice and prophecy 

667-706 Return of Calais & Zetes; departure of Argonauts 

707-740 Valediaion, and condemnation of "Seigneurs nonchallantz" 

There is thus a symmetrical, circular pattern arranged around the 
central narrative incident describing Calais and Zetes' pursuit of the 
Harpies. However, as in the Fontainebleau frescoes, there are many 
other details within this overall framework, and cross references to 
other poems in the Second Livre des Hymnes. What is more, the sym- 

218 CHAPTER 6 

metrical structure of the hymn serves partly to emphasize certain 
opposing themes: for example, the support afforded to the Pleiade by 
Marguerite de France and her resultant celebration (first section) are 
sharply contrasted with the neglect of poets by the "Seigneurs non- 
challantz" of the final section (line 724) who as a consequence of 
their negligence of the arts are destined to die "Sans gloire & sans 
renon" (line 736). At the same time, the Platonically perfect circular 
structure of the poem is aimed at emphasizing the perfection associat- 
ed with the Muses and Apollo. 

It is, of course, upon the princely figure of Jason that Phineus' 
prophecy concentrates, an illustration of the benefits a ruler can 
acquire if he rewards the right people. In his chapter on Jason, Nata- 
lis Comes compares the hero to Hercules, Theseus, and Odysseus: 
"vix ullus alius invenietur, qui tantam virtutem in rebus arduis prae 
se tulerit" ("scarcely nobody else will be found who displayed so 
much courage in difficult situations"). And although he discusses the 
idea that Jason's search for the golden fleece is an allegory for the 
alchemical search for the philosopher's stone (fol. 180% he prefers to 
see the fable in a moral interpretation: 

Jason was said to have escaped safely from dangerous and ter- 
rifying monsters with the wise help of the gods, or certainly 
with the protection of those who serve the gods, and after set- 
ting off for Colchis to have overcome the fire-breathing, bra- 
zen-hoofed bulls, which should be considered as nothing other 
than the obstinacy and anger of his mind. 

The golden fleece represents the highest human qualities, and in par- 
ticular, says Comes, Justice. Viewed in this light, Ronsard's hymn 
presents a more unified aspect than if we simply consider the literal 
narrative meaning of the prophecy; the message for Henry II would 
have been quite clear, especially given the exploitation of the theme 
in his own 1549 Paris entry. 

Despite the essentially symmetrical shape of the poem, it contains 
various elements which add variety and ornamentation, and which to 
some extent obscure the narrative progression. As an ingredient of 
the epic style, similes are prominent in both of the mythological 
hymns in the collection. It is in the nature of a comparison to sug- 
gest, by way of analogy, phenomena which are extraneous to the 
main thread of the writing, so that their presence interrupts narrative 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 219 

progression and adds adornment which may appear to be unneces- 
sary for an understanding of the composition in question. The paral- 
lel with decoration in the visual arts is evident, and the effect is simi- 
lar: to divert the eye for a moment from the central composition yet, 
in some cases, to add depth to our appreciation of it. Let us consider 
some of the many examples of simile in the Hymne de Calais, et de 

When the two heroes have caught up with the Harpies, they 
attack them with their swords: 

Mais autant eust valu frapper sur des enclumes, 
Car jamais nuUe playe a la chair ne prenoit, 
Et du coup, sur I'espee aucun sang ne venoit. 
Ainsy que des bateurs qui frapent dans une aire 
Par compas les presens de nostre antique mere: 
L'aire faict un grand bruict, & le fleau durement 
Touchant dessus le bled rebondist haultement. 
Ainsy ces Boreans a grands coups d'alumelles 
Chamailloient sur le chef, sur les flancs, sur les ailes. 

(lines 414-22) 

(But it would have done as much good to hammer on anvils, 
for no wound ever affected their flesh, and no blood stained 
the sword with their blows. Just as threshers who rhythmical- 
ly beat on a threshing floor the gifts of our ancient mother: 
the threshing floor resounds and the flail bounces high after it 
falls heavily on the wheat; so the sons of the North Wind 
belabored the heads, flanks, and wings with great blows of 
their sword blades.) 

The development of the threshing image, while adding a graphic 
touch to Ronsard's description, nevertheless slows down the narra- 
tive flow by introducing a scene of rural activity which is far re- 
moved from the description of Calais and Zetes attacking the Har- 
pies. In both cases, however, the outcome is beneficial. Ronsard 
offers alternative images to represent a sword rebounding from its 
target earlier in this hymn when he is describing the invincible 

Caenee, a qui le fer rebouchoit sur la peau, 

Et contre-bondissoit, comme on void peslemesle 

Bondir au temps d'hyver sus I'ardoise la gresle, 

220 CHAPTER 6 

Ou dessus une enclume un marteau par compas 
Ressauter, quand Vulcan la frape a tour de bras. 

(lines 104-8) 

(Caeneus, on whose skin the sword became blunt and rebounded, 
as we see hail bouncing off slate in all directions in wintertime, 
or a hammer jumping rhythmically on an anvil, when Vulcan 
beats it with all his might.) 

The hammer and anvil comparison, perhaps borrowed from Apollo- 
nius of Rhodes (3. 1251-52) is, as we have seen, briefly repeated with 
reference to the Harpies (line 278), though the nicely-observed hail- 
stone image is not. This is based on Virgil's description of the boxing 
match between Entellus and Dares, a model for the Amycus-Pollux 
fight in the following hymn: "quam multa grandine nimbi / culmini- 
bus crepitant, sic ..." {Aeneid 5. 458-59). The allusion to slate roofs 
in Ronsard is a convincing detail, recalling the architecture of the 
Loire valley. 

Meteorological imagery plays a prominent part in general in this 
poem, with allusions to whirlwinds (line 249), cloudbursts (lines 258- 
60), and lightning (lines 352 and 521-26). The last example is used to 
describe the Symplegades: 

Les rochers tout ainsy que s'ils jouoient ensemble, 
S'eslognent quelque peu, puis courrent pour s'outrer 
L'un I'aultre a la rencontre, & a leur rencontrer 
Un feu sort de leur front, ainsy que le tonnerre 
Qui choquant rudement la nue qui I'enserre 
Au milieu de la nuict, des pluyes & du vent 
Fait un jour de son feu qui se va resuivant, 
Brillant a longue pointe, & la flame eslancee 
Des povres cceurs humains estonne la pensee. 
Ainsy se vont hurtant ces rochers vagabonds. . . . 

(lines 518-27) 

(The rocks draw somewhat apart as if they were playing 
together, then hasten to outdo each other as they clash, and 
on clashing, fire comes out of their cliff face, just as thunder 
which harshly striking its enclosing cloud in the midst of 
darkness, rains, and wind, creates daylight with its succession 
of flames, shining in a long flash, and the flame which has 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 221 

shot out astounds the thoughts of poor mortal hearts; just so 
do these wandering rocks clash together ) 

Neither of Ronsard's sources, ApoUonius and Valerius Flaccus, 
expand their description of the rocks with imagery of this kind, 
which once again presents variety and vividness to the description. 
Animal imagery is also very much to the fore in this poem, with 
allusions to birds (lines 62-64, 347-50, 370-72, 387-88, 399-400, 675- 
79), wolves (lines 189-92), hares (lines 405-8), mares (lines 659-60), 
rams (lines 509-10), and, in the final simile, a caterpillar: 

Adonque la galere egalement tiree 

Aloit a dos rompu dessus I'onde azuree, 

Et de longs plis courbes s'entrecoupant le dos 

Se trainoit tortement sur les bosses des flots, 

Ainsy q'une chenille a dos courbe s'efforce 

De ramper de ses pieds sur le ply d'une escorce. 

(lines 697-702) 

(Then the galley, drawn evenly along, went with broken back 
over the azure waves and, interrupting its back with long 
curved folds, trailed along crookedly on the crests of the 
waves, just as a curved-backed caterpillar struggles to crawl on 
its legs over a fold of tree bark.) 

The details of the caterpillar crawling over tree bark is very well 
observed, and this comparison allows the reader to gain a graphic 
image to enhance the description of the ship sailing across the waves. 
There are other elements of the hymn which slow down the nar- 
rative flow, such as vivid description. No fewer than seven lines, for 
example, are devoted to Orpheus' harp: 

La, descendit apres le chevelu Orphee, 
Qui tenoit dans ses mains une harpe estophee 
De deux coudes d'ivoire, ou par rang se tenoient 
Des cordes, qui d'en haut inegalles venoyent 
A bas Tune apres I'autre, en biaiz chevillees: 
Ne plus ne moins qu'on voit les ailes esbranlees 
Des faulcons en volant, qui despuis les cerceaux 
En se suivant depres vont a rangs inegaux. 

(lines 57-64) 

222 CHAPTER 6 

(There descended next hirsute Orpheus, who held in his hands 
a harp furnished with two ivory arms, from which were held 
in order strings of unequal length going from top to bottom 
in succession, pegged at a slant; just as one can see the flapping 
wings of hawks in flight, which proceed in close succession 
unevenly from their pinion feathers.) 

Ronsard provides us here with a fuller description of the harp than 
of Orpheus himself (simply described as "chevelu"), all the more sur- 
prising, perhaps, in that his reader would be acquainted with the 
shape and structure of the instrument. However, the allusion to the 
hawk picks up one of the principal motifs of the poem, the link 
between music and the soul's bird-like ascent to achieve knowledge. 
A little later on, we find the vividly described ecphrasis of Castor 
and Pollux's cloaks (lines 141-62). The description of the twins, just 
before the introduction of Calais and Zetes, marks a structural link 
with the hymn dedicated to them, and the ecphrasis presents visually 
themes which will be elaborated in the hymn dedicated to them. 

La, Castor & Pollux fleur de chevalerie, 
Prindrent du bord marin la froide hostelerie, 
L'un qui eut mieux pique un beau cheval guerrier 
Es champs Laconiens que d'estre marinier, 132 

L'aultre mieus escrime que de tirer la rame: 
Tout au haut de leur teste une jumelle flamme 
Sembloit desja reluyre, & de larges rayons 
Tymbrer tout le sommet de leurs beaus moryons, 136 
Morryons fafonnes d'invention gentille 
Sur le mesme portraict de I'ovale coquille 
Que l'un & l'aultre avoit dessus la teste, alors 
Que I'oeuf de ses deux bouts les ecloiiit dehors. 140 

Une robe de porpre ainsy que feu tramblante 
Pendoit de leurs collets jusqu'au bas de leur plante, 
Dont leur mere Leda, pour un present exquis, 
Avoit au departir honore ses deux fils, 144 

Ouvriere, entrelassant d'une segrette voye 
De petits fillets d'or aux fillets de la soye. 
Au milieu de I'habit Taigette apparoissoit, 
Ou le cheval Cillare entre les fleurs paissoit, 148 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 223 

Et plus bas sur le bord de ceste robe neuve, 

Eurote s'esgayoit, serpentant en son fleuve 

A longs tortis d'argent, ou par belles fa9ons 

Dessus le bord luittoient les filles aux garsons. 152 

Un oeuf estoit portraict sur I'herbe de la rive 

Entr'eclos a demy, ou la peinture vive 

De Castor a un bout de I'oeuf se presentoit, 

Et celle de Pollux a Taultre bout estoit. 156 

Au droit de I'estomaq, de soye blanche & fine 

Voloit au naturel la semblance d'un Cygne 

Ayant le col si beau & le regard si doux, 

Que chascun eut pense que Juppiter dessous 160 

Encore aymoit cache, tant I'image portraitte 

Du Cygne & de Leda, estoit vivement faicte. 

(There, Castor and Pollux, the flower of knighthood, gained 
the cold hospitality of the seashore, one who would have 
rather spurred on a fine war-horse on the plains of Sparta than 
be a sailor, the other who would have rather fenced than pull 
the oar. Right above their heads a twin flame seemed already 
to be glowing, and broad beams of light to mark the entire 
top of their fine helmets, helmets modelled by elegant design 
on the same image as the oval shell which each of them had 
on his head when the egg hatched them out from its two ends, 
A purple robe, shimmering like fire, hung from their necks 
down to the soles of their feet, which their mother Leda had 
honored her sons with as an exquisite gift on their departure, 
a needlewoman, knotting together in a secret way slender 
threads of gold with threads of silk. In the middle of the robe 
could be seen Taygetus, where the horse Cillarus was brows- 
ing amidst flowers, and further down on the edge of this new 
robe, Eurotas burbled along, its stream meandering with long 
silver twists, with in fine fashion on its banks girls wrestling 
with boys. An egg was depicted on the grass of the bank, half 
open, where the lifelike painting of Castor was seen at one 
end of the egg, and that of Pollux was at the other. To the 
right of the stomach, in fine white silk, there flew a lifelike 
image of a swan, with such a beautiful neck and such a sweet 

224 CHAPTER 6 

gaze that everyone would have thought that Jupiter was still 
in love, concealed inside, to such an extent was the portrayal 
of the swan and Leda vividly executed.) 

This passage contains the description of the scene embroidered by 
their mother Leda on the purple robes which she presented to them 
on their departure (lines 147-62). Apart from allowing Ronsard to 
give free rein to his powers of description, the myth of Leda and the 
swan was important for the allegorical meaning which was associated 
with it in the Renaissance, in which great significance was attached 
to the powers of music and poetry. Ronsard had already explored 
this theme, of course, in the 1550 ode La Defloration de Lede}^ 
These musical aspects are missing from Ronsard's model for the 
scene, Valerius Flaccus 1. 429-32, in which, although the swan is 
present, he is merely there to remind us of the Dioscuri's father. 
Moreover, Castor and Pollux themselves are not depicted as newly- 
born infants, but as riding on their horses: 

... bis Taygeton silvasque comantes 
struxerat, Eurotan molli bis fuderat auro; 
quemque suus sonipes niveo de stamine portat 
et volat amborum patrius de pectore cycnus. 

(. . . twice she had arranged mount Taygetus and its leafy woods, 
twice she had displayed the river Eurotas in soft gold thread; each 
twin is carried by his own steed woven in snow-white thread, 
and their swan-father flies off from each of their chests.) 

Boccaccio had explained Jupiter's transformation into a swan as fol- 
lows: ^^ 

The ancients may have made up the story that Jupiter turned 
into a swan because the swan sings sweetly. It is possible that 

^^ I have discussed this poem, with its important visual elements, including the 
use of the ecphrasis, in my article "Ronsard's Erotic Diptych: Le Ravissement de 
Cephale and La Defloration de Lede," French Studies 47 (1993), 385-403. 

^^ See Genealogie deorum gentilium libri, ed. Vincenzo Romano, 2 vols. (Bari: 
Laterza, 1951), book 11, chapter 7, p. 547: "lovem autem in cignum versum ideo 
forsan finxit antiquitas, quia dulce canat cignus, quod possibile est et lovem fecisse, 
et sui cantus dulcedine, ut sepe contigisse vidimus, in sui dilectionem atque concupi- 
scentiam Ledam traxisse." 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 225 

this is what Jupiter did too, and that by the sweetness of his 
singing he won over Leda for his own pleasure and lust, as we 
have seen happen frequently. 

Later, however, this idea gained a more mystic, Orphic meaning. 
Paintings of Leda and the swan were quite popular in the first half of 
the sixteenth century, with versions by Leonardo da Vinci and 
Rosso, copied from Michelangelo, known in France. Another exam- 
ple is Correggio's painting of c. 1528, which has been discussed by 
Egon Verheyen. Citing Valeriano's leroglifici in which Music is 
depicted by a putto surrounded by swans on the bank of a river, and 
referring to Filippino Lippi's Allegory of Music in Berlin, where a 
swan garlanded with a branch of laurel represents the highest, Apol- 
lonian form of music, he writes: ^^ 

The significance of music in Correggio's Leda is demonstrated 
clearly by the three cupids playing instruments. Two little 
cupids blow wind instruments whereas a larger cupid plays the 
harp. This cupid, who is opposed to those with their wind 
instruments, is stressed . . . and he represents the higher princi- 
ple of music which does not evoke base lust Leda and Jupi- 
ter are united in celestial love, created by the music of the 
harp and the song of the (Apollonian) swan. 

The divine heroes Castor and Pollux, the benefactors of mankind of 
whom Ronsard says: "Vous aymez les chansons quand elles sont bien 
faictes" (L. VIIL 326. 757), may thus be seen as the outcome of this 
unifying, celestial music. Correggio does not portray the offspring of 
the union, but they are present in Leonardo's depiction of the scene, 
of which Edgar Wind writes: ^^ 

. . . the presence in it of the four children of Leda— Castor, 
Pollux, Helen, and Clytemnestra, issuing pair-wise from the 

** See ""Corre^o s Anwn de Gimx," fWa 19 (1966), 160-92, especially pp. 189-90. 

'* See Pagan Mysteries, p. 167. In a footnote to this passage (n. 60), Wind adds: 
"If the union of Discord and Concord, as the Orphic-Neoplatonic 'principle of 
generation,' is implied in the mystery of Leda, then the theme is, like the figure of 
the swan, essentially musical, which might explain the iconographical affinity 
between Leonardo's Leda and Filippino Lippi's Allegory of Music." See also the dis- 
cussion of the whole subject of Leda by Carlo Pedretti, Leonardo: A Study in Chro- 
nology and Style (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973), 97ff. 

226 CHAPTER 6 

eggs — would seem to confirm an ambivalent interpretation of 
the theme: concordia represented by Castor and Pollux, discor- 
dia by Helen and Clytemnestra. 

He concludes that this Orphic union of contraries is basically a musi- 
cal one. Moreover, Michelangelo's lost painting, according to Wind, 
almost certainly figured Castor and Pollux along with Helen: ^^ 

. . . for if we trust the contemporary engraving made in Italy 
by Cornelis Bos, which has strong marks of authenticity, two 
eggs appeared in Michelangelo's painting: one broken, with a 
pair of twins issuing from it, the other still intact but transpar- 
ent, showing the outline of a dormant infant, Helen. 

Significantly for the passage in Ronsard, both the Leonardo painting 
and Rosso's copy of the Michelangelo work were in the royal collec- 
tion at Fontainebleau when Ronsard came to write the hymn.^'' 

Ronsard's description of the scene appears to be somewhat eclec- 
tic. Taygetus (line 147) and Cyllarus (line 148) were probably suggest- 
ed by Valerius Flaccus (1. 429 and 426); Eurotas (lines 149-52) also 
appears in Valerius Flaccus, but in classical literature this river is a 
constant element in the Leda myth, and in the Ronsard hymn, the 
poet seems to have Propertius 3. 14. 4 in mind ("inter luctantis nuda 
puella viros"), compare line 152. The egg on the grass by the bank of 
the river with Castor and Pollux in either half (lines 153-56) is a spe- 
cifically pictorial image in the way in which, rather than presenting 
a general description of the scene, it freezes the actions of the twins. 
Finally, there is the description of the swan and Leda. The use of 
"voloit" (line 158, perhaps derived from Valerius Flaccus) seems to 
imply that the swan is in full flight, but the emphasis immediately 
shifts to Jupiter's love for Leda and their presence together in lines 
160-62. This represents a close-up of the swan (see line 159) and per- 

^^ Pagan Mysteries, 169. 

'^ See Pedretti, Leonardo, 97: "The original was apparently in the collection of 
the king of France and was last recorded in 1625 when Cassiano dal Pozzo saw it 
at Fontainebleau." On the Rosso copy of Michelangelo's Leda, see Cecil Gould, Na- 
tional Gallery Catalogues: The Sixteenth-Century Italian Schools (London: The Nation- 
al Gallery, 1975), 150-52. 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 117 

haps depicts the moment when, with wings out stretched, he arrives 
in Leda's lap, as in the Michelangelo/Rosso painting. 

This juxtaposition of the moment of conception and of its result, 
the Dioscuri, emphasizes the beneficent effects of music represented, 
as we have seen, by the swan. In Francesco Colonna's Poliphili hypne- 
rotomachia of 1499, the hero sees a triumphal procession with Leda 
and the swan as the central feature, but containing also Apollo and 
the nine Muses, again pointing to the poetic associations of the myth. 
Amongst other scenes portrayed on the chariot, one depicts "a 
striking matron who had given birth to two eggs . . . from which a 
little flame emerged from one, and two most splendid stars from the 
other egg" (fig. 25).^* In Ronsard too the divine twins are particular 
benefactors of mankind, a concept evoked by the two stars which 
accompany them (lines 134-35) and by the pilei which they wear 
(lines 137-40). Like the poet, they act as mediators between the sub- 
lunar and the divine worlds, for according to one legend mentioned 
by Ronsard and, as we have seen, alluded to in the 1549 entry into 
Paris of Henry II, they share a partial immortality.^' 

If several of these themes are only implicit in the first mythologi- 
cal hymn, they are expounded explicitly at the start of the second 
hymn, dedicated to the Dioscuri. Their individual properties are 
described by Ronsard (lines 45-48) who then goes on to illustrate this 
in a hypotyposis which graphically presents the ways in which they 
help soldiers in battle and sailors in peril on the sea (lines 49-78). 
The poet then addresses them directly, emphasizing their particular 
connections with poetry and music: 

O tous deux le secours, 6 tous deus le support 
De ceulx, qui dans les flotz n'attendent que la mort, 
Chantres victorieux. Chevaliers & Poetes, 
Touts deux egallement mes chers amys vous estes. 

(lines 79-82) 

*' The work is available in a facsimile edition, introduced by George D. Painter 
(London: Eugrammia Press, 1963). On the subject of their pi/ei, Wind writes, Pagan 
Mysteries, 170, n. 69: "The two halves of the cosmic egg . . . represent the celestial 
and the subterranean 'hemispheres' which were identified with the caps or pilei 
worn by Castor and Pollux." 

'' See the discussion concerning fig. 21 in this chapter. 

228 CHAPTER 6 

(Oh you two who are the aid, oh you two who are the assistance 
of those who expect only death in the waves, victorious bards, 
horsemen and poets, you are both equally my dear friends.) 

The greater part of the hymn is devoted to the Argonautic story 
concerning the confrontation between Pollux and Amycus (lines 87- 
574), and to the abduction of the Leucippides and Castor's subsequent 
fight with Lyncaeus (lines 575-750). Whereas it is easy to see why Ron- 
sard makes use of the Amycus story, where Pollux is shown as a consid- 
erable benefactor of mankind in killing the boastful and brutish giant 
Amycus, a classical version of David and Goliath in which Pollux, like 
David, combines the attributes of valor and music, the rather less edi- 
fying account of the twins' abduction of the daughters of Leucippus is 
one of those shocking myths likely to encapsulate a mystery. 

In the case of the first incident, it seems quite probable that Ron- 
sard had the biblical passage in 1 Samuel 17 in mind when writing 
this section. Apart from the faa that there are natural affinities 
between the combats of Pollux and Amycus, and David and Goliath, 
Ronsard does go out of his way to underline them in some of the 
details he includes, as in lines 283-86: 

Si de vostre bon gre vous abordez icy 
Pour jouster contre moy, approchez, voy me-cy: 
Le plus brave de vous entre ses mains empoigne 
Les armes seul a seul, & se mette en besogne 

(If you draw near out of your own free will to spar against 
me, come near, here I am: let the bravest amongst you grasp 
his weapons in his hands in single combat, and set to work) 

and Goliath's words in 1 Samuel 17. 8: 

Quare venistis parati ad praelium? Numquid ego non sum Phi- 
listhaeus, et vos servi Saul? Eligite ex vobis virum, et descendat 
ad singulare certamen. 

Like the Philistines, Ronsard's Amycus specifically rejects the author- 
ity of God: 

Des autres nations Jupiter soit le maistre. 

En soit I'espoventail, je ne le veulx congnoistre, 

Je suis mon Jupiter (lines 305-7) 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 119 

(Let Jupiter be master of the other nations, let him be their bog- 
eyman, I will not recognize him; I am my own Jupiter ) 

However, Pollux, like David, feels confident that with God's help he 
can win, compare lines 323-25: ". . . sentant bien en son cceur / 
Qu'un filz de Jupiter devoit estre vainqueur / Sur celluy de Neptun" 
("feeling clearly in his heart that a son of Jupiter must prevail over 
Neptune's son"), and 1 Samuel 17. 37: "Dominus qui eripuit me de 
manu leonis et de manu ursi, ipse me liberabit de manu Philisthaei 
huius." Both Amycus and Goliath are contemptuous of their adver- 
saries; compare lines 343-44: ". . . ains douillette la peau, / Les yeux 
serains & doulx, le teinct vermeil & beau" ("but his skin [was] soft, 
his eyes clear and gentle, his complexion ruddy and beautiful"), and 
1 Samuel 17. 42: "Cumque inspexisset Philisthaeus, et vidisset David, 
despexit eum. Erat enim adolescens: rufus, et pulcher aspectu." When 
the battle is over, the heads of both Amycus and Goliath are promi- 
nently displayed. Thus, Pollux in this story would stand for the 
pious warrior poet who, despite his youthful appearance, is valiant in 
his defense of king and country (represented by Jason and his follow- 
ers), and of the true religion. In addition, there is also a close icono- 
graphical link with Virgil's story of the fight between the gigantic 
Dares and the aged Entellus in Aeneid 5. 362-484 (fig. 26).^° 

The moral of the second story is not so obvious. Of Ronsard's 
chief source, Theocritus, Idyll 11, A. S. F. Gow writes:^^ 

Theocritus seems to go out of his way to place the Dioscuri in 
an unfavorable light. He insists that they were cousins to the 
Apharidae (170, 200) though not all authorities made them so; 
he makes the Leucippides the cause of the quarrel, so securing 
that the Dioscuri shall appear as aggressors. . . ; he needlessly 
makes the Leucippides the affianced brides of the Apharidae; 
he states, as does no other authority, that the Dioscuri have 
used fraud as well as force in abduaing them. 

Almost all these objections can also be made against Ronsard's hand- 

^ On this connection, see Marie-Madeleine Fontaine, "Stories beyond Words," 
in The French Renaissance in Prints, 63-64. 

^' Theocritus: Edited with a Translation and Commentary, 1 vols. (Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1952), 2. 383-85. 

230 CHAPTER 6 

ling of the story. In addition, to make matters worse, the Apharidae 
had been presented in the first mythological hynm as Castor and Pol- 
lux's companions on board the Argo: "La, print rivage Idas, & son 
frere Lyncee" ("Idas and his brother Lynceus came ashore there," L. 
Vm. 260. 81). However, as Jean Seznec points out in connection 
with the reliefs of the first century AD Porta maggiore basilica in 
Rome: "the rape of Ganymede by Jupiter's eagle and that of the 
daughters of Leucippus by the Dioscuri typify the ascent of the soul 
to immortality."^ 

Although this myth was not particularly popular amongst artists and 
poets in the Renaissance, it figured very prominently as a motif on 
Roman sarcophagi, a number of which were known in the sixteenth 
century. In his work on Roman funerary symboHsm, Franz Cumont 
comments that "ce rapt etait devenu un des sujets de predilection de la 
sculpture funeraire," and that its popularity would be difficult to explain 
without bearing in mind the Dioscuri's symbofic meaning:^^ 

But all becomes clear if we remember that the Dioscuri are a 
personification of the sky, for in the first place the sky, as we 
have seen, was thought of as the author of men's destinies, and 
nothing is more frequent amongst the Romans than the idea 
that mortals are carried off by the Fata The Dioscuri ap- 
peared to be all the more meant to fulfil the role of psycho- 
pomp in that they were considered, as is well known, as savior 
gods par excellence. 

It seems more than likely, therefore, that Ronsard was using the 
myth in this way in the second part of the hymn, and that the refer- 
ences to the tomb of Aphareus taken from Theocritus 22. 141 take 
on a symbolic meaning in lines 587-89: 

Ja, desja vous estiez avec elles venus, 

Jusque au bord du tombeau, quand vous fustes congnus 

Par les deux freres 

(You had already arrived with them beside the tomb, when 
you were recognized by the two brothers ) 

^ See Seznec, The Survival of the Pagan Gods, 105, and also Franz Cumont, 
Recherches sur le symbolisme funeraire des Romains (Paris, 1942), 99-103. 
^ Recherches sur le symbolisme funeraire, 101. 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 231 

The battle between the Dioscuri and the Apharidae can be seen as a 
struggle between celestial and profane love. The Leucippides may well 
believe that they prefer earthly love, as Lyncee claims (lines 603-6): 

Voy-les la toutes deux! demandez leur pour voyr 
Lesquelz en mariage elles veuUent avoir, 
Vous voirez qu'envers nous s'inclinent leurs pensees, 
Comme a nous par serment des long temps fiencees. 

(There they both are! Ask them to find out which of us they 
want to have in marriage; you will see that their inclinations 
are towards us, in as much as they have been betrothed to us 
for a long time.) 

The Dioscuri, however, know what is best for them; and after a 
closely-fought battle in which Castor kills Lyncee, Idas, the remain- 
ing brother, is killed by a thunderbolt sent by Jupiter himself when 
he tries to avenge his brother's death. In his valediction to the 
Dioscuri inmiediately after this (lines 751 to the end), Ronsard 
addresses them specifically as lovers and protectors of poetry and 
poets. The allegorical meaning would therefore seem to be that it is 
poetry in association with celestial love that can lead the souls of 
mortals to heaven. 

As is clear from this discussion, the structure of this hymn is 
slightly more complex than that of the Calais and Zetes poem, 
largely because the twins are celebrated separately, whereas Calais 
and Zetes are celebrated together in the story concerning the Har- 
pies. There is the same ring pattern for the opening and closing sec- 
tions, while the central narrative sections are arranged on the princi- 
ple of imbrication, the interlocking ring pattern. 

1-44 Dedication to Gaspard de Coligny; introduction of Dioscuri 

45-86 Address to Castor & Pollux and description of their attributes 

87-254 Arrival of Ar^o and introduction of Amycus 

255-414 Amycus challenges Argonauts and Pollux accepts 

415-574 The fight and death of Amycus 

575-594 Introduction of Castor's exploits 

595-650 Lyncee's words of reconciliation 

651-750 The fight and death of Idas 

751-770 Valediction to Castor and Pollux 

771-784 Prayers to Dioscuri for safety of Gaspard de Coligny 

232 CHAPTER 6 

The internal logic of this pattern, which in the central narrative 
sections sets up a whole series of parallels, offers a stark contrast with 
the literal reading of the hymn, thus pointing to the necessity of an 
allegorical understanding of the events surrounding Castor and the 
Apharidae. This contrast is particularly striking when we compare 
Amycus' speech (lines 283-314) with its gratuitous violence and blas- 
phemous threats:^'* 

Les larmes, ny les voeux, ny les humbles prieres, 

Ny les droictz d'hostellage, icy ne servent guieres. 

Icy Ion neflechist noz coeurs audacieux 

Pour nous prescher en vain la justice des Dieux: 

Des autres nations Jupiter soit le maistre, 

En soit I'espoventail, je ne le veulx congnoistre, 

Je suis mon Jupiter & ma main avec moy 

Porte (comme je veux) la justice et la loy. 

(lines 301-8) 

(Neither tears, nor prayers, nor humble supplications, nor the 
rights of hospitality are of any use here; here our bold hearts 
cannot be swayed by preaching to us in vain the justice of the 
gods. Let Jupiter be master of the other nations, let him be 
their bogeyman, I will not recognize him; I am my own Jupi- 
ter, and my hand brings justice and the law with me, as I 

and Lyncee's words (lines 595-650), which put the Dioscuri clearly 
in the wrong, since they are the very embodiment of reasonableness: 

Ces/illeSy qu'a grand tort vous emmenez, sont nostres, 
Homme ne les scauroit sans mentir dire vostres. 
Long temps a que leur pere a jure par safoy 
Enfemmes les donner a mon frere & a moy: 
Qui plus est, je scay bien que les filles s'en deullent, 
Et que pour leurs mariz nuUement ne vous veuUent. 

(lines 597-602) 

^* In the following two quotations, the sections in italics represent translations 
from the original Greek text; the sections in roman type are what Ronsard has 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 233 

(These girls, whom you are completely wrong to carry off, be- 
long to us; nobody can say without lying that they belong to 
you; long ago their father swore by his troth to marry them 
to my brother and myself. What is more, I know full well 
that the girls are distressed by this, and that they have no de- 
sire to have you as their husbands.) 

The narrator's intervention at the end of the second incident (lines 
747-8) does nothing to mitigate the contrast: "... ainsi en prent a 
ceulx / Qui veuUent quereler a gens plus vaillans qu'eulx" ("This is 
what happens to those who insist on picking a quarrel with people 
more valiant than themselves"). 

In the Hymne de Calais, et de Zetes, the Apharidae were intro- 
duced as follows: 

La, print rivage Idas, & son frere Lyncee, 
Qui souvent de ses yeux la terre avoit percee, 
De ses yeus qui voyoyent, tant ils furent aigus, 
Les Manes des enfers & les Dieux de lassus. 

(L. VIII. 260. 81-84) 

(Idas and his brother Lynceus came ashore there, the latter 
who had often penetrated the earth with his eyes, which were 
so sharp that they could see the shades of hell and the gods of 
the Underworld.) 

The theme of death and the underworld is picked up when they are 
reintroduced in the following hymn: 

Tous deux [viz.. Castor and Pollux] jusqu'au tumbeau du 

vieillard Apharee 
Vous fustes poursuiviz par Idas, & Lyncee. . . . 

(lines 582-83) 

(You were both pursued to the tomb of old Aphareus by Idas 
and Lynceus ) 

So, as well as the struggle between earthly and celestial love, there 
also seems to be a combat between the earthly forces of death and 
mortality on the one hand (Lyncee's knowledge is of the chthonic 
powers), and the forces of heaven and immortality on the other (Cas- 
tor and Pollux representing, as we have already noted, the two hemi- 

234 CHAPTER 6 

spheres of the heavens). In addition to echoing the theomachia of the 
Hymne de I'Etemite, this theme continues the more worldly conflicts 
contained in the mythological hymns. Jupiter's intervention to save 
Castor from Idas marks, perhaps, the final victory of poetry, repre- 
sented by the poet demigod, over the plastic arts, denoted by the 
marble pillar: 

Idas tout forcene de voyr son frere mort, 
Arracha du sepulchre avec un grand effort 
Un pillier faict de marbre, & marchoit en colere 
A grands pas, pour tuer le meurtrier de son frere, 
Mais Jupiter d'en hault sa race deffendit . . . 

La flamme en petillant I'estomac environne 
D'Idas, qui tient encor en ses mains la coulonne, 

Brunche mort sur la tombe 

(lines 735-39, 745-47) 

(Idas, who was quite beside himself at seeing his brother dead, 
pulled from the tomb with great effort a marble pillar, and 
was striding along wrathfuUy to kill his brother's murderer, 

but Jupiter from above defended his progeny With a 

crackle, the flame encompasses the stomach of Idas while he is 
still holding the column in his hands, having fallen down dead 
on the tomb ) 

If Ronsard is at pains to point to the symbolic nature of the 
Dioscuri in narrating these events, in his descriptive passages he 
appears to choose imagery which emphasizes the meteorological 
aspects of the twins. For example, after Lyncee has finished speaking 
before the fight, the anger of Castor and Pollux is described in the 
following terms: 

Lors les Freres jumeaux fachez d'un tel langage 

Murmuroient en leurs dens, comme faict le cordage, 

Les voilles, & I'entenne, & le mast, quand le vent 

Commence peu a peu a souspirer d'avant 

Les postes messagers de sa proche venue. 

Qui font bruire la rive, & cresper I'eau cheniie: 

De la simple paroUe ilz sont venuz aux cris, 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 235 

Des cris a la fureur, furieux ilz ont pris 
Les armes en la main, comme un vent qui a peine 
A son conunancement un petit bruit demeine, 
Puis le bruit se redouble, & fait ruer apres 
(Esclattez par tronfons) les membres des fores, 
Esbranle les Rochers, & onde dessur onde 
Renverse jusqu'au Ciel la grande Mer profonde. 

(lines 653-66) 

(Then the twins, angered at such words, murmured between 
clenched teeth, like the sheets, sails, yard, and mast when the 
wind gradually begins to sigh before the messengers bringing 
news of its imminent arrival, causing the shore to rustle and 
the white water to ripple; from simple words they proceeded 
to shouting; from shouting to fury, furiously did they take up 
arms, like a wind which gently to begin with stirs up a small 
noise, then the noise redoubles, and brings crashing down in 
its wake the limbs of the forest, shattered into pieces, shakes 
the rocks, and flings up, wave upon wave, the great, deep sea 

The two similes here, which are perhaps an expansion of a comparison 
used by Virgil in the Aeneid (7, 528-30), conjure up quite graphically 
first the beginnings of a storm, when the ship's rigging begins to make 
a noise in the wind and the water becomes choppy, and secondly the 
full violence of a storm at sea. Moreover, it is a meteorological interven- 
tion, Jupiter's thunderbolt, that puts an end to the conflict: 

Mais Jupiter d'en hault sa race deffendit, 

Qui dedans une nue horrible descendit, 

Et se courbant le corps, haulsa la main armee 

D'une vapeur souff reuse en 1' air toute alumee, 

Puys sur le chef d'Idas sa tempeste eslanfa, 

Qui d'un feu prompt & vif tout le corps luy passa. 

(lines 739-44) 

(But Jupiter from above defended his progeny, descending in 
an awful cloud; bending his body, he raised his hand which 
was armed with sulphurous vapor, blazing in the air, then 
hurled his tempest down on the head of Idas, which passed 
through the whole of his body with a nimble, swift fire.) 

236 CHAPTER 6 

In the earlier fight with Amycus, Ronsard indicates that the giant is 
the son of the sea god Neptune and is devoted to him (cf. Unes 140- 
41, 203-4, 323-25), while Pollux is the sky god Jupiter's son: 

Mais Pollux davant tous avec un grand murmure 

Du peuple s'esleva, sentant bien en son cceur 

Qu'un filz de Jupiter devoit estre vainqueur 

Sur celluy de Neptun (lines 322-25) 

(But Pollux rose up before everyone with a loud murmur 
from the crowd, feeling clearly in his heart that a son of Jupi- 
ter must prevail over Neptune's son ) 

As is so often the case in Ronsard's poetry, a single reading of 
these poems is extremely limiting. In addition to the literal meaning, 
we can find evidence for a physical interpretation (the Harpies = the 
winds. Castor and Pollux's fights = storms); an historical interpreta- 
tion Qason = Henry II, Calais and Zetes, and Castor and Pollux == 
various nobles from the royal court); and a philosophical interpreta- 
tion (Calais and Zetes represent the ascent of the soul heavenwards 
in search of Truth, inspired by the Apollonian Phineus; Castor and 
Pollux embody Apollonian harmony, overcoming the chthonic 
forces of death and leading others to Truth and immortality). The 
descriptive sections and the use of Homeric similes all contribute to 
the polysemous nature of the mythological hymns, creating enjoy- 
ment on a number of different levels.^^ 

Ronsard in inspired mood in the hymns comes over as an authori- 
tative, confident vates, but although the fundamental message of the 
two closing poems of the collection is similar, the poetic tone is 
rather different. In the long Epistre a tresillustre prince Charles, Cardi- 
nal de Lorraine, disappointment and disillusionment, especially with 
Henry II, are evident, despite the gratitude he expresses towards the 
cardinal. Nevertheless, at times Ronsard does assume a more didactic 
air, echoing some of the ideas in the preceding three hymns. 

The impermanent nature of architecture as a monument to 
patrons is emphasized, notably in lines 81-118, especially the opening 
few lines: 

^ On the different types of allegorical interpretation commonly foimd in the 
Renaissance, see my article "Conrad Gesner et le fabuleux manteau," 308. 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 237 

C'est peu de cas aussi de bastir jusque aux Cieulx, 
Des Palais eslevez d'un front ambitieux, 
Qui ne servent de rien que de pompeuse montre, 
Qui ne peuvent durer (tant soient fortz) alencontre 

De la fuitte du temps 

(lines 81-85) 

(It is also of little store to erect as far as the heavens palaces 
which are raised up ambitiously, serving no purpose other 
than inflated ostentation, unable to endure, however strong 
they are, against the flight of time. . . .) 

The message is later applied specifically to the cardinal's grotto at 
Meudon, inferior as a monument to the renown he will receive for 
his generosity towards Dorat (lines 238-44). The poet's ability to pre- 
serve patrons from oblivion is a recurring theme of the Epistre, as in 
lines 101-6, and the closing lines 532-36. Although much of the 
poem is either admonitory or sycophantic or plangent in nature, it is 
lightened by anecdotal elements (lines 265-304, 317-76), containing 
extended similes which increase our interest in the text (lines 270-84, 

The concluding Elegie a Chretophle de Choiseul, abbe de Mureaux 
includes an attack on incompetent, uninspired poets, and warm 
praise of Belleau's translation of the Anacreontea. It finishes, quite 
appropriately, on the theme of the enduring fame of poetry as com- 
pared with the mutability of human fortunes: 

. . . car cecy peut durer 
Ferme contre le temps, & la richesse humaine 
Ondoyante s'enfuit comme le temps I'enmeine 
Errant puis 9a puis la, sans arrest ny sejour, 
Et ce present mettra ton beau renom au jour, 
Sans jamais s'efacer, pour revivre par gloire 
Autant qu'Anacreon a vescu par memoire. 

(lines 112-18) 

(. . . for this can endure steadfastly against time, and human 
wealth flows away as time carries it along, meandering here 
and there without rest or respite, and this gift will illuminate 
your fine renown, without ever fading, to live again in glory 
as much as Anacreon has lived on in memory.) 

238 CHAPTER 6 

Despite the pessimistic message of the collection, the three hymns 
which make up the Second Livre des Hymnes are amongst Ronsard's 
finest achievements in the realm of grand poetry. The sustained ele- 
vation of tone, allusiveness, and creative use of myth provide an 
example of poetry which could rival the grandest projects of contem- 
porary artists in France. The collection also marks a distinct change 
in terms of its predominant symbolism, for if the 1555 collection was 
characterized by didactic symbolism to convey a Neo-Platonic mes- 
sage, there is a far greater element of Neo-Platonic imagery in the 
1556 collection, leading to a multi-layered and ultimately more satis- 
fying poetic message. 

In particular, the choice of the central theme, the Argonautica, is 
an extremely fruitful one. From the poetic point of view, the promi- 
nent position of Orpheus amongst the heroes of the Argo, as well as 
the existence of fragments of an Argonautica poem attributed to 
Orpheus, invest this myth above all others with a strong poetic 
authority, allowing the author to emphasize repeatedly the vital func- 
tion of the poet in society. Secondly, the Argonauts themselves are 
a powerful image of French society, offering numerous parallels 
between mythological figures and prominent members of the court, 
in line with much of the popular iconography of the period. The 
idea of a quest, as well as the dangers inherent in it, also offers a fer- 
tile parallel to contemporary events. Finally, the fact that there are so 
many points of contact between the story of the Argo and the epics 
of Homer and Virgil adds to the allusive qualities of the poetry. 

The two narrative hymns form, then, a vast diptych, with numer- 
ous points of comparison. Unity of theme is guaranteed not only by 
their shared mythological background but also by the nature of the 
heroes of each of the hymns: in each case, twin brothers working 
together in harmony. The similar structures of the hymns, and the 
cross references (for example, the Castor and Pollux ecphrasis in the 
first of the hymns) further underline this unity. At the same time, 
elevation of style is reinforced by the decorative qualities of the 
poems, found in their vivid descriptions, extended similes, and abun- 
dance of detail. If the mythological hymns may be thought of as a 
diptych, the Hymne de I'Etemite, with its magnificent vision of the 
translunar world, inevitably suggests a frescoed dome. Nevertheless, 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 239 

in its precarious equilibrium, it echoes the battles that take place in 
the realm of nature, whether these are to be seen in meteorological, 
mythical, or historical terms. 

In the course of composing these hymns, Ronsard appears to have 
developed a new, far more authoritative poetic voice. However, as is 
well known, he was unsuccessful in attracting from Henry II the 
patronage he needed for the Franciade, and the next few years see 
him more concerned with arranging his poetry into the first collec- 
tive edition than with writing new compositions. Nevertheless, 1559 
saw the publication of two new examples of the hymn genre, both, 
in fact, dedicated to the cardinal de Lorraine and partly fulfilling 
Ronsard's promise to the prelate in the Epistre (L. VIII. 349-50. 521- 
36). L'Hymne de tresillustre prince Charles cardinal de Lorraine (L. IX. 
29-72) and the Suyte de I'Hymne de tres-illustre Prince Charles cardinal 
de Lorraine (L. IX. 145-53) appeared as separate plaquettes, and took 
their places in the collective edition of the Hymnes in 1560. 

Their composition came at a time when, as Michel Dassonville 
demonstrates, the Guise family was out of favor with Henry 11,^^ 
and although modern readers inevitably find the interminable flattery 
of the cardinal and the self-abasement of the poet hard to stomach, 
Ronsard is, perhaps, making a point in these poems. It is interesting, 
in particular, to contrast the Hymne de tresillustre prince Charles car- 
dinal de Lorraine with the 1555 hymn addressed to Henry II, We saw 
in the previous chapter that Ronsard concentrated almost exclusively 
on the martial feats of the king, while at the same time condemning 
war. However, with the cardinal de Lorraine, the poet has a more 
fertile topic in his subject's eloquence, and as Dassonville remarks: 

Although most of the praises heaped on Charles de Lorraine 
may seem undeserved, it is useful to notice that Ronsard lin- 
gered over the celebration of the least controversial of all his 
patron's gifts. Almost a third of the hymn [lines 179-410] 

^ See Michel Dassonville, Ronsard: Etude historique et litteraire, vol. 4, Gran- 
deurs et servitudes (Geneva: Droz, 1985), 41-42. For further details on the back- 
ground to Ronsard's compositions at this time, see Francis Higman, "Ronsard's 
PoUtical and Polemical Poetry," in Ronsard the Poet, 241-85. 

240 CHAPTER 6 

describes, analyzes, and illustrates the cardinal's eloquence, 
which apparently made Theodore de Beze himself envious.^'' 

In broader terms, Ronsard suggests that it is only thanks to the cardi- 
nal that literature and the arts have any real place during Henry IPs 
reign. Before his advent: 

Des le commencement que Dieu mist la Couronne 
Sur le chef de Henry, il n'y avoit personne 
Qui triste ne pleurast les lettres & les ars. 
Tout I'honneur se donnoit a Bellonne & a Mars, 
La Muse estoit sans grace, & Phebus centre terre 
Gisoit avec sa harpe accable de la guerre. 

(L. IX. 67-68. 709-14) 

(From the moment when God placed the crown on Henry's 
head, there was nobody who did not sadly weep for literature 
and the arts; Bellona and Mars received all the honor, the 
Muse was without favor, and Phoebus was prostrate on the 
ground with his harp, overcome by war.) 

However, thanks to the cardinal's patronage of Michel de I'Hospital, 
Du Bellay, Pierre Pascal, Dorat, and Baif, a more cultivated age has 
dawned in France. 

In the course of the hymn, the cardinal is compared to a whole 
host of mythological gods and heroes, including Hercules and Mercu- 
ry. These two figures are perhaps suggested by the cardinal's emblem, 
which consisted of a pyramid or obelisk surrounded by ivy. In his 
Icones of the heroes of France, Jodelle had included the following 

Supposito talem genio fers Carole molem, 
Qualis Atlantaeis coUoque humerisque recumbit, 
Non Athlas tamen ipse, nepos sed Atlanticus ipse. 

(Charles, you bear upon your spirit the weight of so great a 
mass of care as would fall from the neck and shoulders of 

^ Grandeurs et servitudes, 47. 

^* Cf. Icones 39, p. 177 of the Graham and McAllister Johnson edition of Le 
Recueil des inscriptions. 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes 241 

Atlas himself; but you yourself are not Atlas, but Atlas's 
grandson [i.e., Hermes, associated with good fortune].) 

The first point is made by Ronsard in lines 125-44 of the hymn, 
except that Atlas is replaced here by Hercules: 

. . . Comme Hercule le grand 
Soustint de ses grands bras tout ce monde qui pend, . . . 

En ce point tu soutins presques des ton enfance, 
Non des bras mais d'esprit, les affaires de France, 
Fardeau gros & pesant, ou Ton peut voir combien 
Ton esprit est subtil a le regir si bien. 

(lines 127-28, 141-44) 

(As the great Hercules supported with his mighty arms the 
whole of this suspended universe, ... in the same way you sup- 
ported from childhood onwards, not with your arms but with 
your mind, the affairs of France, a great and weighty burden, 
where one can see how clever your mind is in governing it so 

Similarly, later on in the poem, Charles is represented as the god 

Adonc toy poursuyvant les parolles du Roy, 
Vestu d'un rouge habit qui flamboit dessus toy 
A rays etincellants, comme on voit une estoille 
Soubz une nuit d'yver qui a force le voille 
De la nue empeschante, & des rays esclattans 
Descouvre aux mariniers les signes du beau temps: 
Ainsi tu reluisois d'habis & de visage, 
Portant de sur le front de Mercure Timage, 
Quand son chappeau aile, & ses talons ailez, 
Et son baston serre de serpens accollez, 
Le soustiennent par Pair, & d'une longue fuitte, 
Legier, se va planter dessus un exercite, 
Ou sur une cite, & d'une haute voix 
Anonce son message aux peuples & aux Roys: 
Le coeur des Roys fremist, & la tourbe assemblee 

242 CHAPTER 6 • 

Oyant la voix du Dieu fremist toute troublee, 
Ferine sans remuer ny les yeux ny les pas: 
Ainsi tu esbranlois tout le coeur des estas, 
Qui ne se remuoyent tant soit peu de leurs places 
Oyant tes motz sortis de la bouche des Graces. 

(lines 383-402) 

(Then as you followed the king's words, dressed in a red robe 
which flamed on you with sparkling beams, just as one sees a star 
on a winter's night which has broken through the veil of the 
obscuring cloud and reveals to sailors with shining beams the 
portents of fine weather; just so did you shine in dress and coun- 
tenance, bearing the outward appearance of Mercury, when his 
winged hat and winged heels and his wand encircled with en- 
twined snakes support him in the air, and lightly in a long flight 
he settles above an army or over a city and in a loud voice 
announces his message to the peoples and the kings; the kings' 
hearts tremble and the assembled masses, hearing the voice of the 
god, tremble, all disturbed, immobile, without moving eyes or 
feet; just so did you shake the hearts of the Estates, who did not 
move an inch from their seats, on hearing your words, which 
had originated in the mouths of the Graces.) 

Mercury's travelling hat, thepetasus, resembles, of course, a cardinal's 
hat, thus providing a visual link between the two. 

In fact, the traditional attributes of Mercury and the myths which 
concern him sum up the qualities which Ronsard singles out in the 
cardinal, for the god is associated with reason, cunning, eloquence, 
the invention of the lyre, and with being a messenger figure. In the 
course of the hymn, Ronsard illustrates all of these functions: reason 
(lines 125-78), cunning (lines 179-208), eloquence as a messenger 
(lines 209-356), all coming together in the passage we have just cited. 
In addition to all this, the cardinal relaxes by writing poetry and 
playing the lyre: "Quelque fois il te plaist pour 1 'esprit defacher / Du 
luc au ventre creux les languettes toucher" ("Sometimes you choose 
to relax your mind by playing on the strings of the round-bellied 
lute," lines 435-36) .^^ 

^' On the nature of the instniment referred to as luc or lyre by Ronsard, see in 
chap. 3 the discussion of the poem A Monsieur de Belot. 

Le Second Livre des Hymnes lAJ) 

There can be little doubt that this hymn is essentially a panegyric, 
and as such, it takes as its models the pseudo-TibuUan Panegyricus 
Messalae and the anonymous Laus Pisonis. Much of the detail it con- 
tains is closely based, as Laumonier indicates, upon these texts, and 
it follows the usual topoi involved in the genre: praise of the subject's 
ancestors (effected in the form of n praeteritio, claiming not to do so), 
the universality of his fame, comparison with gods and heroes, etc. 
Yet despite the poem's length, its unpromising subject matter, and its 
flattering tone, it is not without interest, and Ronsard's use of myth 
to celebrate the cardinal along with the poem's sustained gravitas 
result in a more convincing encomium than the one addressed to 
Henry II, 

If this hymn straddles the panegyric and the hymn genres, the 
Suyte de I'Hymne ... is a kind of postscript, adding congratulations 
on the successful negotiations which led to the Treaty of Cateau- 
Cambresis, and a request for financial assistance. In terms of this chap- 
ter, it is worth noting one of the central images of the poem which 
presents the cardinal as the pilot of the ship of state, thus coinciding 
with Jodelle's depiction of him as the pilot of the Argo cited above. 

Ainsi qu'on voit, quand le ciel veult armer 
L'onde & le vent contre un vaisseau de mer, 
Chacun craignant la fortune commune: 
Un mathelot va redresser la hune, 
L'autre le mast, I'autre la voile, & font 
Tous leur devoir en I'estat ou ils sont. 
Mais par sus tous le bon Pilote sage 
Prend le timon, conjecture I'orage, 
Juge du ciel, & d'un ceil plein de soing 
Scait eviter les vagues de bien loing: 
Ores a gauche il tourne son navire. 
Ores a dextre en coustoyant le vire. 
Fait grande voile, ou petite, & par art 
Au bord prochain se sauve du hazard. 
Ainsi feis-tu n'ag;uere' en I'assemblee, 
Qui comme une onde estoit toute troublee 
D'opinions, & de conseils divers. 
Qui 9a qui la alloyent tous de travers: 
Seul tu guidois au milieu de la noise 

244 CHAPTER 6 

Le gouvernal de la barque Fran^oise, 
Et tu gardois, comme sage & ruse, 
Que ton Seigneur ne fust point abuse. 

(lines 71-92) 

Qust as we can see, when the sky determines to arm wave and 
wind against a vessel, with everyone fearing their shared fate, 
one sailor goes to set up the crow's nest, another the mast, 
another the sail, and all carry out their duty in the state in 
which they find themselves, but above all others the good, 
wise helmsman takes the rudder, guesses the direction of the 
storm, judges the sky, and with careful eye knows how to 
avoid the waves from afar; at one time he turns his ship to the 
left, at another, hugging the coast, he steers it to the right, he 
uses the mainsail or reefs in, and skilfully escapes danger on 
the nearby shore. Just so did you act recently in the assembly 
which, like a billow, was all troubled with opinions and differ- 
ent counsels, all going askance in all directions; you alone 
guided in the midst of the wrangling the helm of the ship of 
France and, being wise and cunning, you prevented your lord 
from being deceived.) 

The comparison, presented as a vivid hypotyposis, provides a graphic 
variation on a theme which has underlain much of the imagery of 
the hymns discussed in this chapter. 

With his failure to attract from either Henry 11 or the cardinal de 
Lorraine the patronage which he felt he needed for the Franciade, 
and with the progress of the religious troubles in France, which 
reached a crisis in the early 1560s, we see Ronsard developing a new 
poetic voice in the polemical discours of 1562-63. Nevertheless, his 
hieratic voice had not completely deserted him, and 1564 saw the 
publication of a new collection of hymns, Les IIII Saisons de Van. 

Chapter 7 

The Seasons 

multa videmus enim, certo quae tempore fiiint 
omnibus in rebus. 

(Lucretius, 5. 669-70) 

®he mystery of the changing cycle of the year not surprising- 
ly inspired both artists and poets in the Renaissance. Al- 
though individual seasons might be presented in isolation 
(notably Botticelli's Primavera), it was more common for them to be 
portrayed in a series of paintings, tapestries, sculptures, etc., viewed 
either in terms of the changing face of the countryside and the resul- 
tant variations in country life, or in terms of cosmic changes, pre- 
sented in mythological or allegorical guise. ^ 

Both these traditions existed in classical literature, from which 
much of the Renaissance iconography of the seasons derived. Hesiod 
in the Works and Days 414-617 depicts the ^ricultural activities that 
should be accomplished at various times of the year, while Virgil fol- 
lows him in the Georgics, 1. 204-350, but with rather more poetic 
embellishment. Lucretius, on the other hand, presents a mythological 
portrayal of the seasons at 5. 737-47, where they are represented by 
the presiding deities of Venus, Cupid, Zephyrus, and Flora (spring), 
Ceres (summer), and Bacchus (autumn). No individual god is assigned 
to winter. 

* On the various traditions in the representation of the seasons, see Tervarent, 
Attrihuts et symboles dans I'art profane, col. 316, and Raimond van Marie, Icono- 
graphie de I'art profane au moyen age et a la Renaissance, 2 vols. fThe Hague, 1931), 
2, 319-24. 

246 CHAPTER 7 

it ver et Venus, et Veneris praenuntius ante 
pennatus graditur, Zephyri vestigia propter 
Flora quibus mater praespargens ante viai 
cuncta coloribus egregiis et odoribus opplet. 
inde loci sequitur calor aridus et conies una 
pulvurulenta Ceres et etesia flabra aquilonum. 
inde autumnus adit, graditur simul Euhius Euan, 
inde aliae tempestates ventique sequuntur, 
altitonans Volturnus et auster fulmine pollens, 
tandem bruma nives adfert pigrumque rigorem 
reddit hiemps, sequitur crepitans banc dentibus algor. 

(Spring comes, and Venus, and Venus' winged messenger pre- 
cedes her, and hard by along the path they will follow mother 
Flora fills Zephyr's trail with a sprinkling of flowers of out- 
standing color and scent. Then follows dry heat and along 
with this dusty Ceres and the annual blasts of the north 
winds. Then autumn approaches, and at the same time Diony- 
sus. Then other seasons and winds follow: Mount Vultur 
thundering on high and the south wind potent with lightning. 
At length mid-winter returns and brings snow and stiffening 
frost, and there follows tooth-chattering cold.) 

Vincenzo Cartari appears to follow this pattern in Le imagini degli 
dei, with the addition of either Vulcan in his forge or Aeolus and the 
winds to symbolize winter.^ 

Sono anchora le stagioni dell'anno mostrate alle volte in 
questo modo. Mettesi Venere per la Primauera, Cerere per la 
Esta, per I'Autunno Bacco, e per I'Inuerno talhora Volcano, 
che sta alia fucina ardente, e talhora i venti con Eolo Re loro, 
perche questi fanno le tempesta, che nell'Inuerno sono piu fre- 
quenti che ne gli altri tempi. (p. 52) 

(The seasons of the year are at times also shown as follows. 
Venus stands for spring, Ceres for summer, Bacchus for au- 
tumn, and for winter sometimes Vulcan, standing in his fiery 

^ My quotation is taken from the 1571 edition, printed in Venice, also available 
in a facsimile edition (New York and London: Garland, 1976). 

The Seasons 247 

forge, and sometimes the winds with their king Aeolus, be- 
cause they create the storms which in winter are more fre- 
quent than at other times.) 

Cartari also refers to Ovid's hypotyposis in the story of Phaethon of 
Apollo surrounded by the personifications of time, including the Sea- 
sons (or Horae): 

a dextra laevaque Dies et Mensis et Annus 
Saeculaque et positae spatiis aequalibus Horae 
Verque novum stabat cinctum florente corona, 
stabat nuda Aestas et spicea serta gerebat, 
stabat et Autumnus calcatis sordidus uvis 
et glacialis Hiems canos hirsuta capillos. 

{Metamorphoses 2. 25-30) 

(On his right and left are Day and Month and Year and the 
Centuries, and the Hours placed at equal distances. Young 
Spring stood there, wearing a crown of flowers, and naked 
Sunmier bearing garlands of corn, and Autumn, stained with 
trodden grapes, and freezing Winter, bristling with white 

The French court at Fontainebleau had its share of seasonal paint- 
ings. The ceiling of the Galerie d'Ulysse by Primaticcio had, in the 
eleventh compartment, Flora, Ceres, Bacchus, and Saturn, while the 
fifth compartment (synmietrically opposite) contained allegorical per- 
sonifications of the Horae.-' Pierre Bontemps produced a fireplace, 
incorporating in the frame bas-relief sculptures of the seasons and the 
elements, for Henry IPs bedchamber (1555-56), although it now 
forms part of a composite fireplace in the Salle des gardes du roi.^ In 
addition, the Salle de bal, decorated by Primaticcio, also, I believe. 

^ For further details see La Galerie d'Ulysse a Fontainebleau, 126-27, for a plan 
of the ceiling, and 153-54 and 177-81 on the allegorical representation of the 
seasons. The Horae occupied the central compartment of the ceiling. The authors 
write: "II ne s'agit done pas, comme I'ecrit Dimier et comme on le repete toujours, 
de figures reunies a la voute par 'fantaisie' mais d'un programme solidement 
construit: les dieux planetaires, choisis, semble-t-il, pour leur aspect particulierement 
benefique . . . reglent le cours des astres, la vie des dieux et des heros," 103. 
^ * See Jean-Pierre Samoyault, Fontainebleau: Guide de la visite (Versailles: Les 
Editions d'Art, n.d.), 26. 

248 CHAPTER 7 

contains mythological representations of the seasons.^ Outside Fon- 
tainebleau, tapestries depicting the seasons were common (for exam- 
ple, the allegorical representation of summer in a tapestry to be 
found in the Galerie Nationale de la Tapisserie at Beauvais). Antoine 
Caron painted his own tribute, the triumphs of the Seasons, of 
which three paintings survive (winter, spring, and summer).^ 

Representations of the seasons in the visual arts place their em- 
phasis on different aspects of the annual cycle of the year: celestial or 
earthly variations, beneficent or destructive forces may predominate. 
In 1563, Ronsard published his own tribute to the changing year in 
Les Quatre Saisons de I'ariy avecques une Eglogue, une Elegie, I'Adonis 
et I'Orphee (Paris, Gabriel Buon). In addition, the plaquette contains 
a chanson. Douce Maistresse, touche. . . . One aspect of the seasonal 
hymns which has puzzled Ronsard scholars is the apparent lack of 
unity in the two accounts of the creation of the Seasons in the 
Hymne du Printemps (L. XII. 31. 63-69) and the Hymne de I'Este (L. 
XIL 40-41. 101-22), causing commentators such as Chamard and 
Laumonier to speculate on different times of composition.^ Howev- 
er, there are a number of shared common elements in the Hymne du 
Printemps and the other seasonal hymns, so that the apparent disre- 

' It has been suspected in the past that the seasons were in some way represent- 
ed (see, Bibliotheque Nationale [Cabinet des estampes], Primatice [Frangois], Peintures 
dans le chateau de Fontainebleau, accession code Aa.35a); but there exists no thor- 
ough-going analysis of the iconography of this room since its restoration. The 
western half of the room, closest to the musicians' gallery, largely appears to follow 
the Lucretius/Cartari symbolism: Bacchus as the tutelary god of autumn, Ceres of 
summer, and Vulcan, preparing Cupid's arrows in his forge, for winter. The 
exception is the depiction of spring, where it is Apollo, god of harmony as well as 
the svm, who is presiding, an apt symbol in a ballroom. 

* See Jean Ehrmann, Antoine Caron: peintre des fetes et des massacres (Paris: 
Flammarion, 1986), 105-10, on the Triomphes des Saisons. 

^ See L. Xn. 41. n. 1 for Laumonier's comments, and Henri Chamard, Histoire 
de la Pleiade 4 vols. (Paris, 1939-40), 3: 20, n. 5 for Chamard's. Terence Cave 
comments helpfully on this problem in The Comucopian Text, 243. The apparent 
difficulties presented by the seasonal hymns have led scholars like the late Malcolm 
Smith to see them as historical rather than physical allegories; cf. his article "The 
Hidden Meaning of Ronsard's Hymne de I'Hyver," in Renaissance Studies in Honor 
of Isidore Silver: Essays on French Renaissance Literature, ed. F. S. Brown, Kentucky 
Romance Quarterly 21 (1974) sup. 2, 85-97, where Hyver is identified with the 
Reformed Church. For a different interpretation, see Donald Stone, "The Sense and 
Significance of Ronsard's Seasonal Hymns," Symposium 18 (1964): 321-31. 

The Seasons 249 

gard for unity in fact masks, as we shall see, a self-consistent philo- 
sophical account. Unity of theme also exists with regard to the other 
poems in the collection, and in particular the mythological poems 
UAdonis and L'Orphee, even though Ronsard again appears to play 
this down. 

The seasonal hymns follow, as we might expect, the mythological 
tradition of the iconography of the seasons. At times violent, they 
present in a series of striking tableaux the origins of the ordered, cy- 
clical process of the year, the eternal discordia concors we have al- 
ready seen in the Hymne de I'Etemitey transferred to the sublunar 
world and marked on the one hand by the hieros gamos of a whole 
series of gods, on the other hand by the theomachia of other gods. 
We see both the beneficent and the more sinister effects which the 
seasons produce. 

It is, of course, no coincidence that Ronsard speaks of the "fabu- 
leux manteau" in this cycle of poems (L. XII. 50. 82), in which philo- 
sophical and scientific notions are conveyed in narrative and visual 
terms, but in such a way as to "deguiser la verite des choses." It is 
also, perhaps, appropriate that at the start of the Religious Wars, 
Ronsard should have looked to the battle of cosmic forces for com- 
fort: if life looks grim in the short term, events should be viewed sub 
specie aetemitatis. 

In order to understand what is happening in Ronsard's seasonal 
hymns, it is necessary to bear in mind one essential philosophical dis- 
tinction made by Plato in the Timaeus and which may also lie behind 
some of the visual representations: the difference between the abso- 
lute eternity of the Living Being and its counterpart in the physical 
universe, Time.^ Underlying this is the distinction which Plato also 
makes between Being and Becoming {Timaeus 27D-28B). Being is the 
higher state, and is an attribute of the eternal and unchanging realm 
of ideas. Becoming, the lower state, belongs to the realm of the 
senses. But there is a direct correlation between the realm of ideas 
and the created world so that Aion, the absolute and unchanging 
Eternity of the realm of ideas, has its likeness Chronos (Time) in the 
realm of the senses, subject to change and divisible. 

Acting as intermediaries between God and man (as we have seen 

See chapter 6. 

250 CHAPTER 7 

in chapter 5) is the race of demons. Plato has Diotima speak of Love 
in such terms in the Symposium (202E), where she says of demons: 

Being of an intermediate nature, a demon bridges the gap 
between them [i.e., gods and men], and prevents the universe 
from falHng into two separate halves. 

We have noted too that Proclus sees a whole hierarchy of gods and 
demons (a "golden chain") acting as a link between God and man, 
and that Ronsard has this hierarchical pattern in mind in Les Dai- 
mons (L. VIII. 119. 59-64), and in the Hymne de la Philosophie (L. 
VIII. 85-102) where he also refers to the hierarchies of Anges, Dai- 
mons, and Heros. 

Bearing these distinaions in mind, let us consider the underlying 
significance of the first of the seasonal hymns, the Hymne du Prin- 
temps (L. XII. 27-34). From the beginning, it is clear that we are not 
dealing with the annual cycle of the year, but with the creation of 
the world out of primeval chaos ("le discord de la mace premiere," L. 
Xn. 28. 3) through the intervention of Amour and Printemps. Clear- 
ly, these gods are in the same chain of being: winged, associated with 
heat, but occupying different hierarchical spheres in the universe: 

L'un vola dans les cueurs, I'autre plus bassement 

S'en vola sur la Terre (lines 6-7) 

(One flew into hearts, the other, lower down, flew off to the 
Earth. . . .) 

Amour, then, represents the creative principle in the celestial world, 
Printemps the same principle at work in the sublunar world. Both 
are male gods associated with order, harmony, and fertilization. 
Female deities, according to Proclus, are associated with separation 
and giving birth.' These ideas are represented pictorially by Ronsard 
in the hypotyposis of Zephyre and Flore, which conjures up a scene 
such as that on the right hand of Botticelli's Primavera: 

Zephyre avoit un reth d'aymant laborieux, 
Si rare & si subtil qu'il decevoit les yeux. 

' See In Timaeum, 294. 

The Seasons 251 

Ouvrage de Vulcan, lequel depuis I'Aurore, 
Depuis le jour couchant, jusqu'au rivage more, 
II tenoit estendu pour prendre cautement 
Flore que le Printemps aymoit ardantement. 

Or cette Flore estoit une Nymphe gentille, 
Que la Terre conceut pour sa seconde fille, 
Ses cheveux estoient d'or, anneles & tresses, 
D'une boucle d'argent ses flancs estoient presses, 
Son sein estoit remply d'aimail & de verdure: 
Un crespe delie luy servoit de vesture, 
Et portoit dans la main un cofin plain de fleurs 
Qui naquirent jadis du cristal de ses pleurs 

Toujours la douce Manne & la tendre Rosee 
(Qui d'un asr plus subtil au ciel est composee) 
Et la forte Jeunesse au sang chaut & ardant, 
Et Amour qui alloit son bel arc debendant, 
Et Venus qui estoit de roses bien coifee, 
Suyvoient de tous costes Flore la belle Fee. 

Un jour qu'elle dansoit Zephyre I'egara, 
Et tendant ses fillets la print & la serra 
De rets envelopee, & captive tresbelle 
Au Printemps la donna, qui languissoit pour elle. 

Si tost que le Printemps en ses bras la receut, 
Femme d'un si grand Dieu, fertille elle conceut 
Les beautes de la Terre, & sa vive semence 
Fit soudain retourner tout le monde en enfance. 

(lines 9-22, 27-40) 

(Zephyrus had a carefully-wrought adamantine net, so fine and 
delicate that it deceived the eyes, crafted by Vulcan, which he 
spread out from the orient, from the setting sun, as far as the 
shores of Africa, cunningly to catch Flora, with whom Spring 
was passionately in love. Now this Flora was a noble nymph 
whom Earth conceived as her second daughter: her hair was 
gold, in ringlets and plaits, her sides were encircled by a silver 
belt, her breast covered with enamel work and greenery; a 
loose-fitting veil served as her garment, and she carried in her 

252 CHAPTER 7 

hand a basketful of flowers, which had been born from the 
crystal of her tears. . . . Sweet manna and gentle dew [which is 
made from thinner air in the sky] and strong, hot and burn- 
ing-blooded Youth, and Love who was loosing his fine bow, 
and Venus, beautifully crowned with roses, followed Flora, 
the beautiful fairy, on all sides. When she was dancing one 
day, Zephyrus waylaid her, and, spreading out his nets, cap- 
tured her and enclosed her, all enveloped, in his nets, and gave 
her, a most beautiful captive, to Spring, who was languishing 
for her. As soon as Spring received her in his arms, as the wife 
of such a great god, she fruitfully conceived the beauties of the 
Earth, and her life-giving seed suddenly brought the whole 
world back to childhood.) 

The description is rich in detail, of both a decorative and a symbolic 
nature. Flore, with her golden ringlets, basket of flowers, and bright- 
ly-colored appearance, is a vivid image of abundance, while at the 
same time, the "boucle d' argent" and veil suggest a virginal aspect (sil- 
ver being associated with the moon and chastity; buckles, belts, and 
veils signifying protection). Her companions, Jeunesse, Amour, and 
Venus, as we have seen, are traditionally associated with spring. The 
net with which Ronsard equips Zephyre represents in visual terms 
the binding, fertilizing principle which Proclus associates with male 
gods. In explaining the significance of the chains made by Hephaestus 
to trap Ares and Aphrodite as they were making love {Odyssey 8. 
266-366), Proclus compares the unifying force of the net to the 
bonds Plato mentions in the Timaeus (31C) which unite the elements 
of the universe {In Rempublicam 6. 141-43). Zephyre, then, in captur- 
ing Flore in his net and uniting her with Printemps fulfils a similar 
function to that of the demiurge Hephaestus with Ares and Aphrodi- 
te (emphasized by Ronsard in attributing the net to Vulcan). The 
result in both cases is generation in the sublunar world. The effects 
of Amour, who we have seen is in the same series of deities as Prin- 
temps, then manifest themselves throughout the sublunar world in a 
vision of a Golden Age springtime, reminiscent of Ovid {Metamor- 
phoses 1. 107-12) and Virgil {Eclogues 4. 28-30). 

Alors d'un nouveau chef les bois furent couvers, 
Les pres furent vestus d'habillemens tous verds, 
Les vignes de raisins: les campagnes porterent 

The Seasons 15'h 

Le bled que sans labeur les terres enfanterent, 
Le doux miel distilla du haut des arbrisseaux, 
Et le laid savoureux coula par les ruysseaux. 

(lines 41-46) 

(Then the woods were covered with a new canopy, the mead- 
ows were clothed in bright green raiment, the vines with 
grapes; the fields bore corn which the earth brought forth 
without travail, sweet honey dripped down from the shrubs, 
and delicious milk flowed in streams.) 

We witness the effects of Amour on animate nature in a passage 
based, like the section of La Lyre where Apollo presides over a scene 
of sexual activity as he tends Admetus* cattle, on Lucretius' opening 
address to Venus in book 1 of De natura rerum. 

However, as in Ovid's account in book 1 of the Metamorphoses, 
the perpetual spring of this Golden Age comes to an end through the 
intervention of Jupiter. Ovid's account is straightforward: 

luppiter antiqui contraxit tempora veris 
perque hiemes aestusque et inaequalis autumnos 
et breve ver spatiis exegit quattuor annum. 

(1. 116-18) 

(Jupiter shortened the time of the old spring, and through 
winter, summer, inconstant autunm and brief spring complet- 
ed the year in four periods.) 

Ronsard mythologizes this event: 

Jupiter s'alluma d'une jalouse envye 
Voyant que le Printemps joiiissoit de sa mye, 
L'ire le surmonta, puis prenant le cousteau 
Dont n'aguere il avoit entame son cerveau, 
Quant il conceut Pallas la deesse guerriere, 
Detrancha le Printemps, & sa saison entiere 
En trois pars divisa. 

(lines 63-69) 

Qupiter became incensed with jealous envy when he saw that 
Spring possessed his beloved; he was overcome by rage, then 
taking the knife with which, not long since, he had cut open 

254 CHAPTER 7 

his brain, when he conceived Pallas, the warrior goddess, he 
sliced up Spring, and divided his entire season into three 

This apparently spiteful and tyrannical action is mitigated by refer- 
ence to the former, more positive, use of the knife in the birth of 
Athena, and although this time Ronsard does not say so, it is, accord- 
ing to Pindar, once again Vulcan who had made the knife {Olympian 
Odes, 7. 35). As a result of this, what appears to be a destructive 
action in fact leads on to birth and regeneration. Henceforth, the 
world is maintained in a delicate balance between the opposing forces 
of the heavens. 

The Hymne du Printemps, then, can be seen as describing the orig- 
inal creation of the Seasons at the beginning of time. Indeed, in Euse- 
bius' Praeparatio evangelica, a distinction is made between two kinds 
of Seasons or Hours. ^° Porphyry is quoted by Eusebius as saying: 

Of the Hours, some are Olympian, belonging to the sun, 
which also open the gates in the air, and others are earthly, 
belonging to Demeter, and hold a basket, one symbolic of the 
flowers of spring, and the other of the wheat-ears of summer. 

(Gifford 114b, Estienne p. 69) 

It is the creation of the first kind, the Olympian Hours, that Ron- 
sard is recounting in this hymn, and he goes on to describe their 
effect upon the heavens: 

. . . Adoncques vint I'Este 
Qui halla tout le del de chaut: & n'eust este 
Que Junon envoya Iris sa messagere. 
Qui la pluye amassa de son assle legere, 
Et tempera le feu de moitteuse froideur, 
Le monde fut peri d'une excessive ardeur. 

Apres, I'Automne vint charge de maladies, 
Et I'Hyver qui receut les tempestes hardies 

'° The translation is that of E. Gifford's edition, 4 vols. (Oxford, 1903). I also 
give references to the edition by Robert Estienne printed for the Bibliotheque 
royale (Paris, 1544). 

The Seasons 255 

Des vens impetueux qui se boufent si fort 
Qu'a peine I'univers resiste a leur effort, 
Et couvrirent mutins la terre pesle-mesle 
De pluyes, de glafons, de neiges, & de gresles. 

(lines 69-80, my italics) 

(Then came Summer, who scorched all the sky with heat; and 
had not Juno sent Iris, her messenger, who gathered up the 
rain with her light wing, and tempered the fire with a damp 
chill, the world would have perished from excessive heat. 
Afterwards came Autumn, laden with diseases, and Winter, 
who received the bold tempests of the headstrong winds, 
which blow so strongly that the universe is scarcely able to 
resist their onslaught, and they treacherously covered the earth 
at random with rain, ice, snow, and hail.) 

However, Printemps binds Hyver in a chain, an action which will be 
repeated by Mercure in the Hymne de I'Hyver, and this generative act 
leads to rebirth on Earth: 

D'une chesne de fer deux ou trois fois retorse, 
Prenant I'Hyver au corps, le garrota par force, 
Et sans avoir pitie de ce pauvre grison, 
L'espace de neuf moys le detint en prison. 

Ainsi par le Printemps la Terre se fist belle 

(lines 91-95) 

(With an iron chain, twisted two or three times, taking Win- 
ter bodily, he forcibly tied him up, and without taking pity 
on this poor greybeard, he kept him imprisoned for the space 
of nine months. Thus, through Spring, the Earth became 
beautiful ) 

The description of the creation of the Seasons in the Hymne de I'Este 
does not cover the same ground, but refers to the earthly Seasons, as 
opposed to the Olympian Seasons. Indeed, Ronsard emphasizes this 
by showing the Olympian Seasons acting as servants to Soleil as he 
unites with Nature, who has grown tired of her inert husband. 

Les Heures, qui estoient du Soleil chambrieres, 
Apresterent la couche & ne tarderent guieres. 

256 CHAPTER 7 

Parfumerent les draps & de mille couleurs 

Getterent par dessus des bouquets & des fleurs 

(lines 101-4) 

(The Horae, who were the Sun's chambermaids, prepared the 
bed and scarcely delayed; they perfumed the sheets and cast on 
them nosegays and flowers of a thousand hues ) 

As a result of this union, the four earthly Seasons are born, introduc- 
ing the cycle of creation into the sublunar world. Their earthly, 
inferior nature is emphasized in the hypotyposis which follows. 
Whereas the Seasons described in the Hymne du Printemps are active 
forces, the earthly Seasons are more passive and subject to imperfec- 
tion, while nevertheless sharing common characteristics with the 
Olympian Seasons: 

. . . Tun fut Hermaphrodite, 
(Le Printemps est son ijom) de puissance petite, 
Entre masle & femelle, inconstant, incertain. 
Variable en effet du soir au lendemain. 
L'Este fut masle entier, ardant, roux, & coUere, 
Estincelant & chault, ressemblant a son pere, 
Guerrier, prompt, & hardy, toujours en action, 
Vigoreux, genereux, plain de perfection, 
Ennemy de repos: I'Autonne fut femelle, 
Qui n'eut rien de vertu ny de puissance en elle. 
L'Hyver fut masle aussi, monstrueux & hydeux, 
Negeux, tourbillonneux, pluvieux & venteux, 
Perruque de glagons, herisse de froidure. 
Qui feit peur en naissant a sa mere Nature. 

(lines 109-22) 

(One was hermaphrodite [Spring is his name], of little 
strength, halfway between male and female, inconstant, uncer- 
tain, variable in his effect from one day to the next; Summer 
was entirely male, hot, red-headed and irritable, sparkling and 
warm, like his father, warriorlike, nimble and bold, always 
active, vigorous, noble, full of perfection, the enemy of repose. 
Autumn was female and contained nothing courageous or 
powerful. Winter was also male, monstrous and ugly, snow- 
covered, tornado-like, rainy and windy, with icicles on his 

The Seasons 257 

hair, bristling with cold, who terrified Nature his mother at 
his birth.) 

The principle of the golden chain seems to be at work here, with 
forces and events of the hypercosmic world being reduplicated and 
reenacted in the encosmic world. This pattern, in fact, is repeated 
later on in the hymn with the union between Este (who is singled 
out in lines 113-14 as particularly resembling his father, Soleil) and 
Ceres, who follows precisely the conduct of her mother. Nature, in 
propositioning Este in order to bring creation to maturity: 

Toute chose a sa fin, & tend a quelque but, 
Le destin I'a voulu, lors que ce Monde fut 
En ordre comme il est: telle est la convenance 
De Nature & de Dieu, par fatalle ordonnance: 
Et pour-ce, s'il te plaist pour espouse m' avoir, 
Pleine de ta vertu, je feray mon devoir, 
De meurir les amours de la Terre infeconde, 
Et de rendre perfait I'imperfait de ce Monde. 

(lines 199-206) 

(Everything has its own end and tends towards some goal; 
Fate decreed it so, when this World was ordered as it is now: 
such is the agreement between Nature and God, according to 
the commands of Fate. Therefore, if you will take me as your 
wife, I shall dutifully carry out my task of bringing to maturi- 
ty the loves of the barren Earth and of bringing to perfection 
what is imperfect in this World.) 

Thus Eternity, Time, Sun, and Summer form a golden chain of male 
deities, descending to man, and Nature and Ceres are part of a golden 
chain of female deities. As Eusebius writes (quoting Porphyry): 

Demeter in other respects is the same as Rhea, but differs in 
the fact that she gives birth to Kore by Zeus, that is, she pro- 
duces the shoot (koros) from the seeds of plants. And on this 
account her statue is crowned with ears of corn, and poppies 
are set around her as a symbol of productiveness. 

(Gifford 109b, Estienne p. 66) 

Ronsard gives the attributes of ears of corn and, more unusually, of 
poppies to Ceres in the Hymne de I'Autonne where she is described 

258 CHAPTER 7 

with "Du pavot en la main, des espies sur la teste" (line 310).^^ On 
different levels in the universe and on different time scales, they act 
out the same union, which maintains a perpetual cycle of birth, 
death, and rebirth. For, as Proclus explains, in the encosmic world of 
Becoming, the immortality of the gods is not an unchanging state, 
but needs perpetual renewal: 

These gods, then, are called "young" in as much as their exis- 
tence overlaps with the duration of Time, and they are always 
in a state of becoming, and they have a "perpetually acquired 
immortality." (311, V. 191-92) 

This use of attributes to suggest qualities, often based on abstruse 
philosophical sources, is present in all the extended descriptions in 
the seasonal hymns. Soleil, for example, is described, after the birth 
of the earthly Seasons, in all his splendor: 

Le Soleil s'en alia, & pendit en escharpe 
Son carquois d'un coste & de I'autre sa harpe, 
II seignit son baudrier de gemmes sumptueux, 
II affubla son chef de rayons tortueux, 
II prist sa dague d'or, ardante de lumiere, 

Et a pied s'en alloit commencer sa carriere 

(lines 129-34) 

(The Sun set off, and hung his quiver like a bandolier on one 
side and his harp on the other; he girded his baldric of magnif- 
icent jewels, he decked out his head with twisting rays of 
light, he took his golden dagger, burning with light, and set 
off to start his journey on foot ) 

Some of his attributes — the quiver and the harp — are those of Apollo, 
and suggest the piercing rays of the sun and the harmony of Apollo; 
others — the shining jewels, rays of light, and golden dagger— are from 
the iconographical point of view more directly related to the sun. 

*' Demeter was associated with poppies at Eleusis, where the flower is carved 
along with ears of corn on the kiste held on the heads of the caryatids at the porch 
to the sanctuary; see G. Mylonas, Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1961), 159, pi. 56. 1 am grateful to Dr Janet Huskinson 
of Clare Hall for the reference to Mylonas. 

The Seasons 259 

However, Ronsard is still describing the time just after the creation 
of the earthly Seasons, and so we have a pedestrian Sun. To rectify 
this state of affairs, Nature offers him: 

. . . un char d'excellent oeuvre. 
Que le boiteux Vulcan, industrieux maneuvre, 
Forgea de sa main propre 

Le timon estoit d'or, & les roiies dorees 
Estoient de meint ruby richement honorees. 
Qui defa qui dela flamboyoient a I'entour, 
Et remplis de clarte faisoient un autre jour. 

(lines 137-39, 145-48) 

(. . . a magnificently wrought chariot, which the lame Vulcan, 
a diligent craftsman, forged with his own hand. . . . The shaft 
was of gold, and the gilded wheels were richly decorated with 
numerous rubies, blazing all around in all directions; infused 
with brightness, they created a second daylight.) 

We have already seen that the lame Vulcan represents the creative 
force in the encosmic world. ^^ His chariot, therefore, enables him 
to exercise his power through the Sun, who in turn works through 
his own child, Este, in order to complete the process of generation. 
In describing the annual process of generation on earth, Ronsard 
has in mind, of course, the animal model of procreation. However, 
we should remember that sixteenth-century ideas on reproduction 
were based upon Aristotle's theories in the De generatione animalium 
(1. 18). Very briefly, this means that male and female each produce 
sperma (seminal fluid and menstrual fluid respectively). Because, 
according to Aristotle, females are inferior to males, menstrual fluid 
is composed of inert matter, which requires the dynamic, hot force 
of the male semen to "concoct" it and thus bring it to perfection. 
Applying the microcosmic model to the macrocosm, Spring (which 
Ronsard describes as being hermaphrodite) causes the Earth to pro- 
duce its own sperma, but this cannot on its own come to perfection: 

^ See above. 

260 CHAPTER 7 

Depuis que le Printemps, cette garse virille, 
Ayme la Terre en vain, la Terre est inutile, 
Qui ne porte que fleurs, & I'humeur qui I'espoinct, 
Languist toujours en sceve, & ne se meurist point. 

(lines 193-96) 

(Ever since Spring, that manly wench, has been in love with 
the Earth to no avail, the Earth is useless, bearing only flow- 
ers, and the humor which goads her continues to languish in 
the sap, and fails to ripen.) 

What is needed is the warm, active sperma of Summer ("ardant," 
"chault," "toujours en action," "ennemy de repos") to "concoct" the 
sperma of the Earth and bring it to perfection: 

. . . I'Este tout soudain, 
De sa vive challeur luy eschaufa le sein. 

(lines 211-12) 

(. . . all at once. Summer warmed her womb with his life- 
giving heat.) 

We shall see in the other mythological poems of this collection, and 
particularly L'Orphee, how Ronsard applies these principles to more 
human situations. 

The Hymne de I'Autonne has received considerable scholarly atten- 
tion, not least because of its long preamble on the nature of inspira- 
tion and Ronsard's poetic calling. ^^ It is, of course, the longest of 
the seasonal hymns, but has strong thematic links with both the 
Hymne de I'Este and the Hymne du Printemps. In the second of these 
poems, we have seen that Ronsard writes: 

. . . I'Autonne fut femelle. 
Qui n'eut rien de vertu ny de puissance en elle 

(lines 117-18) 

(. . . Autumn was female and contained nothing courageous or 

" On this aspect of the hymn, see my article "Ronsard and the Theme of 
Inspiration," in The Equilibrium of Wit: Essays for Odette de Mourgues, edited by 
Peter Bayley and Dorothy Gabe Coleman (Lexington: French Forum, 1982), 62-65. 

The Seasons 261 

and indeed, she is presented as such in the hymn dedicated to her: 
adolescent, but uninterested in love, intent on her childish games. 
She is told by her wet nurse, who is busy spinning in the sun, of her 
origins, and sent off to see Auton, the damp south wind associated 
with autumn, who will convey her to her parents, Nature and Soleil. 
This association with Auton appears to be a physical allegory to 
explain the increased incidence of disease in the autumn months, and 
it is presented by means of a graphic hypotyposis representing 
Anton's cave: 

Son Antre s'estuvoit d'une chaleur croupie, 
Moite, lache, pesante, ocieuse, asoupie, 
Ainsi qu'on voit sortir de la gueulle d'un four 
Une lente chaleur qui estuve le jour. 

La sur un peu de paille a terre estoit couchee 
Une lice aboyant, jusque aux os desechee. 
Las voisins d'alentour, qui paistre la souloient, 
La vieille Maladie en son nom I'appelloient: 
Elle avoit un grand rang de mamelles tirees, 
Longues comme boyaux, par le bout dechirees, 
Que d'un mufle afame une angence de maux 
Luy su^oient tout ainsi que petits animaux 
Qu'elle (qui doucement sur sa race se veautre) 
De son col retourne leschoit I'un apres I'autre, 
Pour leur former le corps en autant de fafons, 
Qu'on voit dedans la mer de monstrueux poissons, 
De sablons sur la rade, & de fleurs au rivage 
Quand le Printemps nouveau descouvre son visage. 

La comme petits loups les Caterres couvoit, 
Et la, la Fievre quarte & tierce se trouvoit, 
Enfleures, flux de sang, Langueurs, Hydropisies, 
La toux ronge-poumon, Jaunisses, Pleuresies, 
Lenteurs, Pestes, Carbons, tournoyment de cerveau, 
Et Rongnes, dont I'ardeur fait alumer la peau. 

(lines 185-208) 

(His cave was steaming with stagnant, damp, languishing, 
heavy, idle, somnolent heat, just as we see emerging from the 
mouth of an oven a drowsy heat which bathes the day. There, 
on a little straw on the ground was lying a barking bitch, 

262 CHAPTER 7 

dried out to the bones. The neighbors all around, who were 
accustomed to feeding her, called her by the name of old 
Disease; she had a long row of elongated teats, as long as 
entrails, frayed at the ends, and they were being sucked raven- 
ously by a mob of aches and pains, just like little animals, 
which she, gently sprawling over her offspring, licked in turn 
with upraised neck, in order to fashion their bodies in as 
many shapes as we can see monstrous fish in the sea, grains of 
sand on the road, and flowers on the riverbank when early 
Spring reveals his face. There she kept warm, just like wolf 
cubs. Catarrhs, and there could be found quartan and tertian 
Fevers, Swellings, flows of blood,. Langors, Dropsies, lung- 
gnawing Coughs, Jaundices, Pleuresies, Clamminess, Plagues, 
Carbuncles, dizziness, and the mange, whose heat burns the 

This very vivid description is an excellent example of Ronsard's 
"mannerist" style of composition. The abundance of grotesque details 
interrupts the narrative flow while at the same time adding to the 
reader's understanding of the scene. Later, when Soleil is frightened 
off his usual course by the unexpected appearance of his daughter, 
Autonne, and she is chased by the "grands Monstres du Ciel" so that 
"... elle s'alla cacher au creux de la Ballance" ("she hid in the scales 
of Libra," line 258) and is protected by Scorpio (lines 259-61), this is 
again merely a physical explanation, for Libra and Scorpio are the 
signs of the Zodiac associated with the first two months of autumn. 
Autonne next visits the palace of her brother, Printemps. Again, 
Ronsard describes the scene in a vivid hypotyposis (lines 267-82) in 
which all the details symbolize aspects of springtime: the phallic pine 
and cypress trees, the swallows which herald spring, and the swans 
and doves of Venus. We are also presented with a picture of Zeph- 
yre, spreading his net as in the Hymne du Printemps: 

II estoit alle voir I'industrieux Zephyre, 
Qui tendoit ses fillets, & tendus se retire 
Au beau millieu du ret, a fin d'enveloper 
Flore, quand il la peut en ses neuds atraper. 

Ainsi qu'en nos jardins on voit embesongnee 
Des la pointe du jour la ventreuse Arignee, 
Qui quinze ou vingt fillets, comme pour fondement 

The Seasons Kj'b 

De sa trame future atache proprement, 
Puis tournant a I'entour d'une adresse subtile 
Tantost haut tantost bas des jambes elle file, 
Et fait de I'un a I'autre un ouvrage gentil, 
De travers, de bies, noudant tousjours le fil, 
Puis se plante au millieu de sa toille tendue 
Pour attraper le ver ou la mouche attendue. 
Ainsi faisoit Zephyre. 

(lines 285-99) 

(He had gone to see hard working Zephyrus who was casting 
his nets, and having cast them, withdraws to the very middle 
of the net in order to catch Flora, when he can trap her in his 
knots. Just as we see the full-bellied Spider, working hard 
from daybreak in our gardens, carefully attaching fifteen or 
twenty threads as though for the foundation of her future 
web, then going around them with clever skill, she spins with 
her legs above and below by turns, and creates from one 
thread to the next a neat piece of work, continually knotting 
the thread across and at an angle, then plants herself in the 
middle of her taut web to catch the expected worm or fly; this 
is what Zephyrus did.) 

Once again, the image of binding is used with reference to springtime 
activity, although the simile of the spider spinning her web, while 
recalling the spinning of Autonne's nurse (lines 105-14), may also 
allude to a passage in the Timaeus where Plato attributes to Zeus the 

For the rest, do you, weaving mortal to immortal, make living 
beings; bring them to birth, feed them, and cause them to 
grow; and when they fail, receive them back again. ^* 

{Timaeus y 4 ID) 

Autonne steals from Printemps's palace "ses bouquets & ses fleurs" 
(line 301), and then proceeds to the palace of Este, where Ceres is to 
be seen, adorned, as we have seen, with poppies and ears of corn. 
Passing through the "basse court" of the palace, where traditional 

" We shall return to this passage, which describes the cycle of creation, below. 

264 CHAPTER 7 

harvesting activities are described in graphic detail (lines 312-20), 
Autonne enters the building and steals two rays of the "grands 
flammes ardantes" belonging to Este. Armed with these, she goes on 
to the palace of Nature, an edifice which symbolizes sublunar cre- 
ation as is suggested, once again, by attributing its embellishment to 
Vulcan (lines 333-34). A hundred youths and a hundred maidens are 
busy working on "les semences des choses" in a section that recalls 
Homer's description of the cave of the nymphs {Odyssey 13. 102-12), 
a passage which Porphyry sees as an allegory of the cycle of birth, 
death, and reincarnation. 

Because of her destructive sterility, Autonne is ordered by Nature 
to leave: 

Tu perdras tout cela que la bonne froidure 
De I'Hyver germera, tout ce que la verdure 
Du Printemps produira, & tout ce qui croistra 
De mur & de parfait quand I'Este paroistra, 
Tu feras ecouler les cheveux des bocages, 
Chauves seront les boys, sans herbes les rivages 
Par ta main phtinopore, & de sur les humains 
Maligne respendras mille maux de tes mains. 

(lines 361-68) 

(You will destroy everything that the good chill of Winter 
will put forth, everything that the greenery of Spring will pro- 
duce, and everything ripe and perfect when Summer comes; 
you will make the hair of the groves fall, the woods will be 
bald, the riverbanks will lack plants through your destructive 
hand, and you will evilly spread with your own hands over 
mankind countless aches and pains.) 

The unusual Greek epithet phtinopore ("causing to fail," line 367) pro- 
vides a clue to Ronsard's thoughts here. It is undoubtedly an allusion 
to the same passage of the Timaeus (4 ID) which lies behind the weav- 
ing imagery. "And when they fail, receive them back again" in the 
original Greek text is kcxi <j>BCvovTa irakLV bex^^ode. Autonne, then, 
is the season that completes the cycle of generation, marking both an 
end and, inevitably in a cycle, also a beginning. And it is this sense 
that is encapsulated in the mystic union of Autonne with Bacchus, 
who is an equally ambivalent figure. 

The Seasons 265 

Ses yeux estinceloient tout ainsi que chandelles, 
Ses cheveux luy pendoient plus bas que les esselles, 
Sa face estoit de vierge, & avoit sur le front 
Deux petits cornichons comme les chevreaux ont: 
Ses levres n'estoient point de barbe crespelees, 
Son corps estoit boufy, ses cuisses potelees. 

(lines 373-78) 

(His eyes sparkled just like candles, his hair hung down below 
his armpits, his face had a girlish appearance, and on his fore- 
head were two little horns like those of a kid; his lips had no 
trace of a curly beard, his body was puffy, his thighs chubby.) 

Like Autonne, then, Bacchus is now an androgynous figure, despite 
his earlier depiction in the Hinne de Bacus, but in accordance, as we 
have seen, with the way Ronsard would later present him in La Lyre 
(L. XV. 383-88). His horns too represent his double nature. Proclus 
in particular associates Dionysus with palingenesis because of his 
double nature and because, in Orphic theology, he was himself sub- 
ject to rebirth, being identified with the bisexual demiurge Phanes 
who was reborn as the son of Zeus.*^ 

As in the Hinne de Bacus, the entire description of Bacchus and 
his train is strongly reminiscent of Renaissance paintings representing 
Bacchic triumphs such as that of Titian (fig. 20): 

Devant ce Roy dansoyent les foUes Edonides, 
Les unes tallonnoyent des Pantheres sans brides, 
Les autres respandoient leurs cheveux sur le dos, 
Les autres dans la main branloient des javelots, 
Herisses de I'hierre & de fueilles de vigne: 
L'une dessous un van sans cadance trepigne. 
Silene est sur un asne, & comme trop donte 
De vin, laisse tomber sa teste d'un coste. 
Les Satyres cornus, les Sylvains pieds-de-chevre 
Font un bruit d'instrumens, I'un qui enfle sa levre 
Fait sonner un hauboys, & I'autre tout autour 
De la brigade fait resonner un tabour. (lines 381-92) 

'' Cf. my article "The Hymni naturales of Michael Marullus," 475-82. 

266 CHAPTER 7 

(Before this king danced the mad Thracian Bacchantes; some 
spurred on unbridled panthers, others had their hair streaming 
down their backs, others wielded in their hands javelins, 
which bristled with ivy and vine leaves; one is stamping un- 
rhythmically on the ground beneath a winnowing basket. Sile- 
nus is mounted on an ass, and, being overcome with wine, lets 
his head drop to one side. The horned satyrs and the goat- 
footed Sylvans play on their instruments; one, puffing out his 
lips, blows on the oboe, and another, all around the troop, 
beats on a drum.) 

The sacred union which results between Bacchus and Autonne 
marks, then, not a sterile end but a new beginning. 

In the final hymn of this collection, we learn in the narrative por- 
tion of the poem how Hyver, shortly after his birth, was presented 
by Mercure to Jupiter and the other gods. Forseeing his monstrous 
nature, Jupiter casts him out of heaven, as he had done with his son 
Vulcan, and there ensues a battle between the forces of Hyver and 
the Olympian gods. After the defeat of Hyver, he is bound up by 
Sommeil with a "cheine de miel" and returned to face Jupiter, whose 
wife Junon successfully pleads in favor of the defeated Season. There 
follows a banquet of all the gods, at the end of which Jupiter announ- 
ces a new era of harmony, with Hyver taking his place in the cycle of 
the Seasons. Hypercosmic order is extended to the encosmic world. 

Notes in the early editions of this hymn make it clear that the 
various divine combatants in this gigantomachia represent natural phe- 
nomena, and that the story is in essence a physical allegory. Hercule 
(line 136), we are told, represents the sun, Typhee (line 140) "le vent 
qui imprime les nues de cent mille fa9ons" (L. XII. 74. n. 4 and n. 5). 

Despite obvious connections with the other seasonal hymns, there 
are also divergences, which can be explained by the difference be- 
tween encosmic time and hypercosmic time. So although in the 
Hymne de I'Este the four Seasons appear to be born together, in the 
Hymne de I'Hyver this seems not to be the case: 

Le jour que la Nature acoucha de I'Hyver, 
On vit de tous costez tous les Vens arriver 
Les parreins de I'enfant, & le ciel paisle-mesle 
Enfarina les champs de neiges & de gresle. 

(lines 81-84) 

The Seasons 1(>7 

(On the day Nature gave birth to Winter, all the winds were 
seen arriving from all quarters, the child's godparents, and the 
sky scattered the fields at random with snow and hail.) 

As in the other seasonal hymns, Ronsard adapts Homeric allego- 
ries for his own purposes. Jupiter's casting Hyver out of heaven 
parallels, as Ronsard does not fail to remind us, his similar act with 
Vulcan. The explanation for this apparently callous act comes in Pro- 
clus' commentary on Timaeus 23D: 

What is more, that he [Hephaestus] is the creator of all sensi- 
ble beings is obvious according to the same writers, who say 
that he fell from Olympus on high down to the earth. . . . He 
is said "to fall from on high down to the earth" in as much as 
he extends his forging activity over the whole field of sensible 
matter. (142-43; 1. 191-92) 

Thus, Hyver's parallel fall to Earth is simply a veiled way of showing 
that Jupiter is sending down winter to the sublunar world. The 
ensuing battle of the gods and giants is then, of course, an allegory 
for the contest between the elements during the winter months, 
which ends in the defeat of Hyver and his troops. Proclus describes 
myths such as the Gigantomachia as being natural in inspired poets 
to explain the dualistic nature of the world. ^^ 

The lengthening of night in the winter months is seen by Ron- 
sard in terms of a favor, granted by Nuit to Jupiter, to allow Mer- 
cure to spy on the recalcitrant Season (lines 237-46). Winter was not 
considered by the Renaissance to be a dead period, but a season when 
the generative power of spring is being prepared in the secrecy of 
darkness. This notion lies behind visual portrayals of winter such as 
that described by Cartari and the Vulcan's forge fresco at Fontaine- 
bleau (fig. 27), where the arrows of Love are being prepared. It is in 
accordance with this idea that Ronsard has Nuit put on a cloak 
which symbolizes, through its embroidered design, procreation 
("Amour y fut portrait, & ce doux exercice / Qui garde que le 
monde orphelin ne perisse," lines 275-76),^^ and sends Sommeil 

" See his commentary on Timaeus 20D-E, 

*' "Love was depicted on it, and that sweet activity which prevents the world 
from dying as an orphan." This idea is similar to the depiction of the three kinds 

268 CHAPTER 7 

down to Earth to bind Hyver with a "cheine de miel" (line 281), a 
symbol of sexual pleasure. Invisibly, Sommeil enters the camp of 
Hyver (lines 285-92) and puts him to sleep, after which he is bound 
up by Mercury (a generative act, as we have seen), and brought 
before Jupiter. 

The pact made by Jupiter with Hyver at the end of the hymn is 
typical of many of the agreements found in aetiological myths deal- 
ing with the seasons, while at the same time establishing a link with 
another poem in the 1563 plaquette, UAdonis (L. XII. 108-26): 

Va-ten la bas en terre & commande troys moys: 
Je te donne pouvoir de renverser les boys, 
D'esbranler les rochers, d'arrester les rivieres, 
Et soubs un frain glace les brider prisonnieres, 
Et de la grande Mer les humides sillons 
Tourner ores de vens, ores de tourbillons. 

Je te fais le seigneur des pluyes, & des nues, 
Des neiges, des frimas, & des gresles menues, 
Et des vens que du ciel pour jamais je banis: 
Et si veux, quand Venus ira voir Adonis, 
Que tu la traittes bien, pour voir apres Cybelle 
Se germer de leur veiie, & s'en faire plus belle. 

(lines 373-84) 

(Go down to earth, and be in command for three months: I 
give you authority to blow down the woods, to move the 
rocks, to halt the rivers and bind them as prisoners beneath an 
icy bridle, and to churn up the watery furrows of the open 
sea, at one time with winds, at another with whirlpools. I 
make you lord of the rains and clouds, the snows, frosts, and 
slender hail, and the winds which I banish forever from heav- 
en. Yet still I desire, when Venus goes to see Adonis, that you 
deal kindly with her, to see afterwards Cybele burgeon at 
their sight, and become more beautiful.) 

A note in the early editions, cited by Laumonier, explains that "Par 
Venus, Adonis et Cybele, il entend le ble, I'humeur generante et la 

of love on Venus' cestos in Des peintures contenues dedans un tableau, see above, 
chapter 2, 

The Seasons 269 

terre" ("By Venus, Adonis, and Cybele, he means the corn, the gen- 
erative moisture, and the earth"), and a similar explanation is to be 
found in Natalis Comes where Adonis, however, is equated with the 

Finxerunt antiqui, qui Adonim solem esse putarunt, ilium ab 
apro hirsuta & aspera fera ictum, quia aspera sit & hirsuta 
hyems, per quam solis vires paulatim deficiunt. 

(fol. 1620 

(The ancients, who thought Adonis was the sun, made up a 
story that he was struck by a wild boar, a rough-haired and 
harsh beast, because winter is harsh and rough, and during 
that time the strength of the sun gradually fails.) 

Ronsard's seasonal hynms, then, have much in common with the 
visual arts' representation of the seasons. A series of graphic tableaux 
narrates the origins of the seasons in mythical terms, with individual 
descriptive details contributing to an overall iconographical reading. 
The style of this narrative, too, is manneristic in its use of variety, 
copia, abundance of graphic detail, and bizarre imagery, and also, it 
must be admitted, in its comparative obscurity. For, as in the Second 
Livre des Hymnes, Ronsard is using Neo-Platonic imagery, including 
a number of shocking fables, in order to convey a Neo-Platonic mes- 
sage in a similar manner to the treatment of the seasons in Renais- 
sance paintings. 

In the context of Ronsard's educational and poetic development, 
this is not surprising. In his reading of Homer, Dorat frequently 
interprets incidents in the Odyssey (for example, Aeolus and the 
winds or the cattle of the Sun) in terms of a meteorological or cos- 
mological explanation, and Ronsard's desire to encapsulate philosoph- 
ical and scientific ideas in poetic form would have led him quite 
naturally to this mystical treatment of such ideas. The narrative, 
mythological approach, which had proved to be so successful in the 
Second Livre des Hymnes, is successfully adapted in the seasonal 
hymns, and it is precisely the narrative framework which allows the 
poet to continue to develop the visual qualities of his poetry, not 
only through vivid descriptions, but also through the use of the 
extended Homeric simile, justified by the inspired, epic style. Per- 
haps, too, the popularity of the seasons as a subject in the visual arts 

270 CHAPTER 7 

encouraged Ronsard to provide his own version, to show the greater 
potential of philosophical poetry over art. 

But the seasonal hymns form part of a whole collection of poems, 
and as we have already noted, there are close links between the fic- 
tions relating to the seasons and at least one of the mythological nar- 
ratives contained in the plaquette, L' Adonis. In the 1584 edition of the 
Hymnes, on the other hand, the seasonal hymns would stand in the 
middle of the Second Livre des Hymnes, flanked by the Hymne de la 
Philosophies the Hercule chrestien, and the Hymne de Pollux et de 
Castor at the beginning, and the Hymne de I'Or, the Hymne de 
Bacchus, and the Hymne de la Mort at the end. 

In fact, the subject of gold is at the heart of the Elegie which 
follows the seasonal hymns (L. XII. 86-92), though whereas the 
Hymne de I'Or is in the form of a eulogy, gold is seen in the elegy as 
heralding the entry of corruption into the world. The seasonal 
hymns recount the equilibrium established by Jupiter on earth. It is 
logical that the next poem should tell of the introduction of man's 
corrupting influence as, for example, Ovid does in his account in 
book 1 of the Metamorphoses: 

nee tantum segetes alimentaque debita dives 
poscebatur humus, sed itum est in viscera terrae, 
quasque recondiderat Stygiisque admoverat umbris, 
effodiuntur opes, inritamenta malorum. 

{Metamorphoses 1. 137-40) 

(Not only did they demand of the rich soil the crops and the 
food which they owed, but they also went into the bowels of 
the earth, and the wealth which he had hidden and buried in 
Stygian darkness was dug up, an incentive to sin.) 

This is just how Ronsard begins in the opening of the Elegie ad- 
dressed to Odet de Baillon: 

Celuy debvoit mourir de I'esclat d'un tonnerre 
Qui premier descouvrit les mines de la Terre, 
Qui becha ses boyaux, & hors de ses rongnons 
Tira I'Argent & I'Or, desloyaux compagnons. 

(L. Xn. 87. 1-4) 

(He should have been struck down dead by a thunderbolt who 

The Seasons 271 

first uncovered the mines of the earth, dug into her bowels, and 
drew fi-om her kidneys silver and gold, unfaithful companions.) 

In a traditional topos concerning man's corruption (developed, for 
example, in the opening of Catullus 64), the desire for gold is seen as 
causing men to take to the sea in ships: 

Les hauts pins, qui avoient si longuement este 
Sur la syme des monts plantes en seurete, 
Sentirent la congnee & tomes en navire 
Voguerent aux deux bords ou le Soleil se vire, 
Passerent sans frayeur les ondes de la mer, 
Virent Scylle & Charybde asprement escumer. 
Conduits d'un gouverneur, dont la mordante envye 
D'amasser des lingots bailie aux ondes sa vye, 
Afin de raporter des pays estrangers 
Des dyamans cherches par cent mille dangers. 

(lines 47-56) 

(The tall pines, which for so long had been fixed in safety on 
the tops of the mountains, felt the axe and, having been 
turned into ships, sailed to the two shores to which the Sun 
travels, passed without dread the waves of the sea, saw Scylla 
and Charybdis foaming grimly, guided by a pilot whose gnaw- 
ing desire to heap up ingots commits his life to the waves in 
order to bring back from foreign shores diamonds, sought out 
in the midst of a hundred thousand perils.) 

Ronsard is developing here a commonplace already used in the 
Hymne de I'Or (L. VIII. 179-205), in which Scylla and Charybdis are 
associated with avarice: 

Par luy [gold] le Marinier se donne a la Fortune 
Et desprise les Ventz, & les flotz de Neptune 
En une fraisle nef, & si ose passer 
Charybde sans frayeur, pour de TOR amasser. 

(lines 203-6) 

(Through gold, the sailor entrusts himself to Fortune and 
makes light of the winds and Neptune's billows in a fragile 
ship, and still he dares to pass Charybdis without dread in 
order to heap up gold.) 

272 CHAPTER 7 

Yet despite the moralizing tone of much of the elegy, Ronsard ends 
up by asking the king's treasurer for some money: 

n en faut seulement pour la necessite, 

Et pour nous secourir en nostre adversite: 

Le reste est superflu (lines 107-9) 

(We only require enough for our needs, and in order to help 
us in our adversity: the rest is superfluous ) 

The following Eglogue (L. XII. 93-108) also has close links with 
the seasonal hymns in that the dedicatees of the Hymne du Printemps 
and the Hymne de I'Este, Robertet d'Aluye and Robertet de Fresne, 
appear as the shepherds Aluyot and Fresnet. Sexual desire lies at the 
heart of the two songs that the shepherds sing, while the motifs of 
the changing seasons and of sexual activity in the world of nature are 
always close to the surface, as in lines 57-70: 

J'ay beau me promener au travers d'un bocage, 
J'ay beau paistre mes beufs le long d'un beau rivage, 
J'ay beau voir le Printemps de sur les arbrisseaux, 
Oyr les rossignols, gazoiller les ruisseaux, 
Et voir entre les fleurs par les herbes menues 
Sauter les aignelets soubs leurs meres cornues. 
Voir les boucz se choquer, & tout le long du jour 
Voir les beliers jaloux se batre pour I'amour: 
Ce plaisir, toutesfois, non plus ne me contente 
Que si du froid Hyver I'effroyable tormente 
Avoit terny les champs, & en mille fajons 
Gette dessus les fleurs la neige & les glafons, 
Et que les saincts tropeaus des cent Nymphes compaignes 
Ne vinssent plus de nuit dancer sur les montaignes. 

(It is in vain that I walk through a grove, in vain that I pasture 
my oxen along a beautiful riverbank, in vain that I see spring 
appear on the shrubs, hear the nightingales or the streams bur- 
bling, and see amid the flowers in the fine grass the little 
lambs gambolling beneath their horned mothers, see the billy 
goats butting one another, and all day long see the rams jeal- 
ously fighting out of love; yet this pleasure fills me with no 
more contentment than if the awful torment of cold Winter 

The Seasons 273 

had discolored the fields, and in countless ways flung snow 
and ice on the flowers, and if the sacred troops of the hundred 
companion nymphs no longer came at night to dance on the 

Moreover, the shepherds sing their songs in an "Antre sacre" (line 
23), frequently in Ronsard the scene for revelatory poetry.^* 

Laumonier is as usual correct in identifying the source for this 
eclogue, Andrea Navagero's Lusus 27 (the Iolas)P The Venetian's 
poem is in the form of a monologue by the shepherd lolas addressed 
to his absent beloved, Amaryllis. Ronsard divides the material of 
lolas' lament between his two shepherds. One thing that may have 
attracted Ronsard in Navagero is his strongly pictorial style, com- 
mented upon by a modern editor, Alice Wilson.^° This is apparent, 
for example, in the description of lolas' cave, which itself bears some 
resemblance to Homer's Cave of the Nymphs. 

Est mihi praeruptis ingens sub rupibus antrum. 
Quod croceis hederae circum sparsere corymbis: 
Vestibulumque ipsum silvestris obumbrat oliva: 
Hanc prope fons, lapide effusus qui desilit alto, 
Defertur rauco per laevia saxa susurro: 
Hinc late licet immensi vasta aequora ponti 
Despicere, et longe venientes cernere fluctus. 

(lines 28-34) 

(I have a large cave at the foot of a rugged crag, which ivy has 
strewn around with clusters of saffron-tinted berries. A wild 
olive tree shades the entrance itself, and near it, a spring, gush- 
ing down from a stone on high, is channelled down over light 
pebbles in a gurgling whisper. Down from here can be seen 
some way off the vast surface of the huge sea, and the tides 
coming from afar.) 

Ronsard's description of pastoral bliss expands this version in some 

^* For example, in the early ode Le Ravissement de Cephale (L. 11. 133-47) as 
well as L'Orphee, discussed below. 

*' The edition I have used is Lusus: Text and Translation, edited by Alice E. 
Wilson (Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1973). The translation is my own. 

2° Lusus, 14-15. 

274 CHAPTER 7 

details, and instead of overlooking the sea, Fresnet's cave looks down 
upon Paris: 

De la tu pourras voir Paris la grande ville, 
Ou de mes pastoureaux la brigade gentille 
Portent vendre au marche ce dont je n'ay besoing, 
Et toujours argent fraiz leur sonne dans le poing. 

(lines 101-4) 

(From there you will be able to see the great city of Paris, 
where the goodly band of my young shepherds take what I do 
not need to sell at market, and they always have plenty of 
money jingling in their fists.) 

Clearly, this eclogue serves a complimentary purpose, immortaliz- 
ing the two secretaries of state through the allegory of pastoral verse, 
while at the same time embroidering upon the theme of fertility pres- 
ent in the seasonal hymns. The next poem, on the other hand, has 
absolutely clear connections with the cycle of the seasons, although 
Ronsard tries to throw a smoke screen over the allegorical nature of 
the myth by a banal and somewhat misogynistic ending, referring to 
the speed with which Venus forgets Adonis: 

Telles sont & seront les amitiez des femmes. 
Qui au commencement sont plus chaudes que flames: 
Espointes de fureur, a la fin leur amour 
Comme une belle fleur ne se garde qu'un jour. 

(lines 365-68) 

(Such are and will always be women's affections, which to 
start with are hotter than flames; though spurred on by fren- 
zy, in the end their love only lasts, like a beautiful flower, for 
a day.) 

We have already noted the allusion to Venus and Adonis as 
symbols of the ripeness of the harvest at the end of the Hymne de 
I'Hyver. Natalis Comes provides various allegorical explanations of 
the story, although they all concern different aspects of the changing 
year. In its most general form, Adonis' presence on earth with Venus 
symbolizes the six fertile months of the year, and for the remaining 
time he is with Proserpina, Venus' rival for his affections, in the 

The Seasons 275 

Fama est praeterea Venerem pactam esse cum Proserpina vt 
sex menses mortuus Adonis esset apud Proserpinam, sed ea 
lege ne ilium Proserpina in thorum, aut in amplexum accipe- 
ret: alios sex menses esset apud Venerem. 

(Besides there is a story that Venus came to an agreement with 
Proserpina that the dead Adonis should for six months be 
with Proserpina, but on condition that Proserpina would not 
receive him into her bed or in her embrace; but for the other 
six months he would be with Venus.) 

Adonis might also stand for the corn seed, which is in the ground for 
half the year, and growing above it for the other half. Or, as we have 
seen, Adonis could symbolize the sun.^^ 

Although Ronsard does not make expUcit any allegorical interpreta- 
tion in his version of the fable— indeed, as we have seen, he goes out of 
his way to obstruct such an interpretation— he nevertheless includes 
narrative and descriptive details which appear to allude to the various 
allegorical meanings attributed to the fable. Thus, Venus and Adonis' 
love-making is accompanied, as is often the case in Renaissance paint- 
ings, by similar signs of sexual activity in the world of nature: 

Pourveu qu'elle ait toujours sa bouche sur tes levres, 
Elle ne craint I'odeur de tes puantes chevres, 
Pourveu qu'elle t'embrasse, & ne veut refuser 
La nuit de sur la dure avec toy reposer, 
De sur le mol tapis des herbes verdoyantes 
T'embrassant au milieu de tes brebis bellantes 
Et de tes grands tropeaux, qui jusqu'au point du jour 
Font (comme tu luy fais) aux genisses I'amour. 

(lines 81-88) 

(As long as she keeps her mouth to your lips, she does not 
fear the smell of your stinking goats; as long as she clasps you 
in her arms and will not refuse to rest with you at night on 
the hard ground, clasping you on the soft carpet of green grass 

^* See Comes, Mythologiae, fol. 161"^. On the myth of Adonis in general, see 
Helene Tuzet, Mort et resurrection d'Adonis: etude de devolution d'un mythe (Paris: 
Librairie Jose Corti, 1987). 

276 CHAPTER 7 

in the midst of your lowing ewes and your vast herds, which 
until daybreak make love, like you, to the heifers.) 

Mars, who (in an additional detail to the myth introduced by Ronsarc^ 
is jealous of the young mortal, is associated with Thrace, proverbial for 
its cold winters as well as the beUicose nature of its inhabitants: 

Jaloux & furieux, son bouclier il embrasse, 

De sa pique esbranlant les montagnes de Thrace. 

(lines 93-94) 

Qealously and frenziedly, he clasps his shield, causing with his 
pike the mountains of Thrace to shake.) 

More particularly, the boar, the agent of Mars' revenge, is linked 
with the destructiveness of winter by Ronsard's choice of simile in 
lines 183-88: 

Ses yeux estoient de feu, & son dos herisse 
De poil gros & rebours se tenoit courousse: 
Escumeux il bruyoit, comme par les vallees 
Font bruit en escumant les neiges devalees, 
L'hyver, quand les torrens se roulent contre val, 
Et font au laboureur & aux bleds tant de mal. 

(His eyes were fiery, and his back, bristling with coarse, wayward 
hair, was arched in rage; he snorted, foaming at the mouth, Uke 
the noise made by an avalanche, foaming through the valleys in 
winter, when the mountain streams roll downward, and cause so 
much damage for the ploughman and the cornfields.) 

As Adonis lies dying, in a scene reminiscent of the Fontainebleau 
fresco of the death of Adonis (fig. 7), Venus' beauty begins to fade 
like flowers at the end of summer: 

Las! avecques ta mort est morte ma beaute. 
Ma couleur est ternie, ainsi comme en este 
Se ternissent les fleurs (lines 239-41) 

(Alas! with your death has died my beauty; my complexion 
has faded just as in summer the flowers fade. . . .) 

There is even an allusion in Venus' lament to Proserpina: "Car desor- 
mais de toy joiiira Proserpine" ("For henceforth, Proserpina will 

The Seasons 177 

enjoy you," line 346). The flowers that spring up as a resuh of 
Adonis' blood and Venus' tears mark the beginning of a new cycle of 
birth, maturation, and death: 

Alles parmy les pres, & contes aux fleurettes 
Que Venus a verse autant de larmelettes 
Que de sang Adonis: du sang la belle fleur 
De la Rose sanglante a portrait sa couleur, 
Et du tendre cristal de mes larmes menues 
Les fleurs des Coquerets blanches sont devenues, 

(lines 297-302) 

(Go into the meadows, and tell the little flowers that Venus 
has shed as many tender tears as Adonis has shed drops of 
blood; from his blood, the beautiful flower of the blood-red 
rose has painted its hue, and from the tender crystal of my 
little tears the flowers of the winter cherry have turned white.) 

Ronsard's model for much of Venus' lament, Bion's Lament for 
Adonis, ends with two lines which emphasize this cyclical process 
(Bion 1. 99-100): 

Xi77e y6o)v KvOepeia to aafiepov, laxeo Ko/ifxcav, 
deCae irakiv KXavaai,, irdXiv et'g erog aWo daKpvaai. 

(Give up your wailing for today, Cytherea, and no longer beat 
your breast; you will have to wail again and weep again, come 
another year.) 

The final mythological poem in the plaquette, L'Orphee, contains 
two stories, one recounted by the centaur Cheiron, the other by Or- 
pheus. The poem is carefully structured, more so even than the 
eclogue, where the genre would lead us to expect the two shepherds 
to sing songs of equal length. Although Fresnet and Aluyot's songs 
are 130 lines and 134 lines respectively, the songs of Cheiron and 
Orpheus are each 136 lines (lines 71-206 and 209-344). Moreover, in 
the course of the seventy-line introduction, Ronsard emphasizes the 
inspired nature of their poetry: 

Je veux en les [the Argonauts] chantant me souvenir 
Qui avoit d'Apollon I'ame toute echaufee, 
Et qui, laissant a part sejourner I'aviron, 

278 CHAPTER 7 

Osa pincer la Lyre & respondre a Chiron. 

(lines 5-8) 

(In singing of the Argonauts, I wish to remember Orpheus, 
whose soul was all inflamed by Apollo and who, letting his 
oar rest to one side, dared to pluck his lyre and reply to 

The Argonauts, led by Achilles' father Peleus, go off to visit Chei- 
ron and Achilles in their "Antre sacre" (line 51), as usual in Ronsard 
the location of a mystical experience. After being wined and dined 
by Cheiron, the centaur proceeds to sing the story of Iphis, told by 
Ovid at the end of book 9 of the Metamorphoses, while Orpheus 
recounts his own misfortunes with Eurydice, narrated by Ovid at the 
beginning of book 10 of the Metamorphoses. 

Few Renaissance mythographers mention the Iphis fable, and the 
various editions of the Metamorphoses fail to offer an allegorical expla- 
nation. Ronsard's account is that Ligdus, the husband of Telethusa, 
because of his hatred of "la race feminine" (line 77), instructs his 
pregnant wife to kill the child she is expecting if it is a girl, but to 
save it if it is a boy. However, the goddess Lucina (or Isis, later on in 
Ronsard's account) appears in a dream to Telethusa and instructs her 
to keep the child, whatever its sex. Inevitably, she has a girl: 

Laquelle, 6 Teletuse, en cachete tu fis 
Nourrir pour un garson, & la nomma Yphis, 
Du nom de son ayeul. Or sa face fut telle 
Qu'autant elle sembloit une jeune pucelle 
Qu'un jeune damoyseau, tenant le milieu d'eux, 
Et son acoustrement estoit propre a tous deux. 

(lines 99-104) 

(Whom, Telethusa, you secretly brought up as a boy, and 
called her Yphis, after her grandfather. Now her appearance 
was such that she resembled a young maid as much as a young 
boy, being midway between the two, and her manner of 
dressing was suitable to both.) 

Ligdus wishes to marry his "son" to lanthe, and in fact the two are 
in love with each other. Mother and daughter try to postpone the 
impossible marriage as long as possible, but on the eve of the event, 

The Seasons 179 

they go to the temple of Isis. Telethusa prays to the goddess, and 

Hors du temple sortie a peine n'estoit pas 
La mere, quand Yphis la suit d'un plus grand pas. 
En lieu d'un teint vermeil une barbe foUete 
Cotonne son menton, sa peau tendre & doillete 
Devint fort & robuste, & la masle vigueur 
Luy echaufa le sang, les membres & le cueur: 
Ses cheveux sont plus courts que de coustume, & somme 
En lieu d'une pucelle elle devint un homme. 

(lines 199-206) 

(The mother had scarcely left the temple when Yphis follows 
her with a longer stride; instead of a ruddy complexion, his 
chin is downy with a young mossy beard, his tender, delicate 
skin became tough and robust, and male strength warmed his 
blood, his limbs, and his heart. His hair is shorter than usual, 
and, in brief, instead of a maid she became a man.) 

What, then, are we to make of this story of androgyny, transves- 
tism, and sex change.^ Clearly, the myth is of the shocking kind 
likely to embody an altogether different allegorical meaning, and the 
deliberately misleading moral that precedes it is too bland to offer a 

L'homme perd la raison qui se mocque des Dieux: 
lis sont de nostre affaire & de nous soucieux, 
Et du ciel ont la haut toute force & puissance 
Sur tout cela qui vit & prent icy naissance. 

(lines 71-74) 

(He who mocks the gods loses his mind: they are mindful of 
us and of our business, and from the sky above have all 
strength and power over everything which lives and is born 

In the context of the seasonal hymns and the Adonis poem, the inter- 
pretation (which seems to be Ronsard's own) becomes more obvious. 
The Egyptian goddess Isis was, of course, closely connected with the 
moon (hence Ronsard's assimilation of Isis and Lucina) and the sea- 
sonal changes. Ronsard's androgynous Yphis is a symbol of the 

280 CHAPTER 7 ____^__ 

incomplete fertility of spring, seen in the description of Printemps in 
the Hymne de I'Este: 

. . . I'un fut Hermaphrodite, 
(Le Printemps est son nom) de puissance petite, 
Entre masle & femelle, inconstant, incertain. 
Variable en effet du soir au lendemain. 

(L. Xn. 40. 109-12) 

(One was hermaphrodite [Spring is his name], of little 
strength, halfway between male and female, inconstant, uncer- 
tain, variable in his effect from one day to the next.) 

Much is made by Ronsard of the sterility of Yphis' love for lanthe 
(lines 117-68), notably in the Tantalus allusion at the culmination of 
her lament: 

Je meurs de soif en Teau, & si I'eau ne me fuit, 
Et de faim au milieu des pommes et du fruit. 

(lines 167-68) 

(I am dying of thirst in the midst of water, and yet the water 
does not flee from me, and from hunger in the midst of apples 
and fruit.) 

The transformation of the bisexual Yphis into a man ("...& la masle 
vigueur / Luy echaufa le sang, les membres & le cueur") is akin to 
the change from spring to summer. The masculine qualities of 
strength and heat are those associated by Ronsard, as we have seen, 
with Este: 

L'Este fut masle entier, ardant, roux, & coUere, 

Estincelant & chault, ressemblant a son pere 

(L. xn. 40. 113-14) 

(Summer was entirely male, hot, red-headed and irritable, 
sparkling and warm, like his father. . . .) 

So, it seems probable that, in the context of the plaquette as a whole, 
the Yphis story is an allegory of the transformation of spring into 
summer, allowing the fruitful conjunction of Yphis and lanthe. In 
this context, it would appear that Ronsard's "misspelling" of the 
name of Ovid's character, Iphis, points to an incomplete anagram of 

The Seasons 281 

Physi(s), or Nature.^ lanthe (no doubt from ialvo) = "to warm") 
would then represent the warming powers of love, which help to 
transform Yphis into a man. 

Orpheus' song (lines 209-344) recounts the well-known story of his 
love of Eurydice, and in addition to the source in the Metamorphoses 
already mentioned, Ronsard also alludes to Virgil's account in book 4 of 
the GeorgicsP Although traditional allegorical explanations do not 
associate Orpheus' descent into the Underworld with the cycle of the 
seasons, it is easy to see why Ronsard would have chosen the story to 
follow the Iphis fable. The Underworld is associated by Ronsard, as we 
have seen in his use of the Adonis myth, with dormant nature. Orpheus 
is led there, inspired by his love for Eurydice, and although he is unsuc- 
cessful in his quest to restore her to the upper world, he is successful 
through his harmonious singing and lyre playing, in bringing peace to 
the inhabitants of Hades (lines 269-80): 

Faisant telle oraison, les ames sont venues, 
Ainsi que gresillons, greslettes & menues, 
Pepier a I'entour de mon Luc qui sonnoit, 
Et de son chant piteux les Manes estonnoit. 
La Parque, que jamais pleurer on n'avoit veue, 
Escoutant ma chanson a pleurer fut esmue. 
Tantale n'eut soucy de sa punition, 
Sisiphe de son roc, de sa roue Ixion: 
En repos fut la cruche & la main des Belides, 
Et dit on que long temps des fieres Eumenides 
La face en larmoyant de pitie se paslit, 
Tant ma douce chanson le cueur leur amolit! 

(With this prayer, the souls arrived like crickets, tiny and 
insubstantial, and cheeped around my lute, which was playing 
and astonishing the Shades with its pitiful song. The goddess 
of Fate, who had never been seen to weep, on hearing my 
song was moved to tears. Tantalus had no thought for his 
punishment, Sisyphus for his rock, or Ixion for his wheel; the 

^ This type of etymology, known as anagrammatismus, was practised by Jean 
Dorat; see Genevieve Demerson, Dorat en son temps, 214-24. 

^ On the subject of Orpheus, see Franfoise Joukovsky, Orphee et ses disciples 
dans la poesie frangaise et neo-latine du XVI' siecle (Geneva: Droz, 1970). 

282 CHAPTER 7 

jug and hands of the Danaides were at rest, and it is said that 
for a long time the faces of the fierce Eumenides grew pale, 
shedding tears of pity, so much did my sweet song soften their 

Moreover, if Orpheus, on his return to the mortal world, is uninter- 
ested in food or drink for a period of seven months: 

De jour en jour suyvant s'amenuisoit ma vie, 
Je n'avois de Bacus ny de Ceres envie 

(lines 325-26) 

(From one day to the next my life grew weaker; I had no 
desire for the gifts of Bacchus or of Ceres) 

he recovers through the intervention of his mother, the Muse Calli- 
ope, and the poem ends with a scene of natural abundance: 

A tant se teut Orphee, & les bestes sauvages 
Erroient devant la porte: oyseaux de tous plumages 
Volletoient de sur luy, & les pins, qui baissoient 
Les testes pour I'oyr, devant I'Antre dansoient, 
Tant leur plaisoit le son d'une si douce Lyre, 
Que depuis dans le Ciel les Dieux ont fait reluire. 

(lines 345-50) 

(Thereupon Orpheus grew silent, and the wild beasts wan- 
dered in front of his entrance: birds of all different plumage 
flew above him, and the pines, bowing their heads to hear 
him, danced in front of the cave, so much did they like the 
sound of such a sweet lyre, which the gods have since caused 
to shine in the heavens.) 

The pastoral scene which ends the poem provides the clue to the inter- 
pretation of this story. If the story of Yphis represents the passage of 
spring into summer, then Orpheus' descent into the Underworld, where 
his plaintive love music inspires the normally stem inhabitants, must 
represent the passage from autumn to winter, the season, as we have 
seen, during which the new beginning of the year is prepared. The 
arrival of the birds and the rejoicing of the pine trees at the end denote 
the return of springtime, and a new beginning. 

The final emphasis on Orpheus' lyre, whose seven strings symbol- 

The Seasons 283 

ized the seven planets and the harmony of the spheres, is a fitting 
conclusion to a collection of poems concerning the harmonious suc- 
cession of the seasons. As Patricia Vicari writes:^^ 

... his lyre is the clue to his power. Its seven strings symbolize 
the seven planets, seven heavens, seven archons, and the divine 
cosmic harmony. It is not merely symbolic of harmony, how- 
ever, but magically able to induce it, for a symbol, to the mag- 
ically minded, is never a mere representation, but also a means 
of producing an effect. 

The lyre provides a link for the first of the two new compositions 
which would find their way into editions of the hymns printed 
during Ronsard's lifetime: the Chant triomphal pour jouer sur la lyre 
sur I'insigne victoire qu'il a pleu a Dieu donner a Monseigneury Frere du 
Roy (L. XV. 61-66), first printed in 1569, and Les Estoilles envoyees a 
Monsieur de Pibrac en Polonne (L. XVII. 37-44), first published in 
1575 and subsequently "replacing" the Hymne des Astres in the 1584 
edition of Ronsard (see Appendix 2). Three further hymns, De 
Mercure (L. XVIII. 265-74), Des Peres de familley a Monsieur S. Blaise 
(L. XVin. 275-80), and the unfinished De Monsieur Saint Roch (L. 
XVin. 280-82) were added to the hymns in the posthumous 1587 
edition of Ronsard's works. 

Like the earliest of Ronsard's hymns, these five compositions are 
quite varied in nature, with only the hymn De Mercure correspond- 
ing to the type of composition which we have been considering from 
chapter 5 of this study. The Chant triomphal celebrates the future 
Henry Ill's victory over the Huguenots at Jarnac (13 March 1569), 
although subsequently it was applied to his victory at Moncontour (3 
October 1569).^^ In fact, with its choice of meter and Horatian 
opening, it might more suitably have found its way into the Odes 

^* "Sparagmos: Oqiheus among the Christians," in Orpheus: The Metamorphoses 
of a Myth, edited by John Warden Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), 73. 

^ See Laumonier's introductory note on the subject, L. XV. 61. n. 1. The poem 
is partly inspired by Horace, Odes 4. 4. 

284 CHAPTER 7 

rather than the Hymnes. The poem celebrates Henry's victory while 
at the same time marvelling at his youth. 

As for Les Estoilles, this poem was originally designated an ode by 
Ronsard, although with its greater philosophical content, it has more 
in common with the 1555 hymns than the Chant triomphal does. As 
in the Hymne des Astres, Ronsard views everything in the sublunar 
world as being controlled by the stars: 

On cognoistra que tout 

Prend son estre & son bout 

Des celestes chandelles, 

Que le Soleil ne void 

Rien 9a has qui ne soit 

En servage sous elles. (L. XVII. 38. 25-30) 

(It will be seen that everything derives its being and its end 
from the heavenly candles, that the sun sees nothing on earth 
which is not subservient to them.) 

However, if the tone of the 1555 hymn had been triumphant and 
optimistic, the opening of this hymn is more measured: 

Chante moy du ciel la puissance, 
Et des Estoilles la valeur, 
D'ou le bon-heur & le mal-heur 
Vient aux mortelz des la naissance. 

(lines 11-14) 

(Sing to me of the power of the heavens, the valor of the stars, 
from which good and ill fortune come to mortals from their 

Here, it is mortal man's helplessness that is emphasized, rather than 
the possibilities of knowledge offered by the translunar world. 

En vain I'homme de sa priere 
Vous tourmente soir & matin, 
II est traine par son destin, 
Comme est un flot de sa riviere, 

Ou comme est le tron^on 

D'un arrache gla9on. 

Qui roule a la traverse, 

Ou comme un tronc froisse 

The Seasons 285 

Que le vent courrouce 
Culbute a la renverse. 

Bref les humaines creatures 

Sont de Fortune le jouet: 

De sus le rond de son rouet 

Elle tourne noz avantures. (lines 41-54) 

(It is to no avail that man torments you with his prayers night 
and morning; he is drawn by his fate like a wave by its river, 
or like a fragment of a broken icicle which rolls in its way, or 
like a shattered tree trunk which the angry wind knocks down 
backwards. In short, human creatures are the plaything of For- 
tune, which turns our destinies on the circle of her wheel.) 

In true Platonic spirit, Ronsard states that only the philosopher can 
in some way escape the stars' influence (lines 55-60), for they are 
subservient to God and His order. As Odette de Mourgues writes in 
her analysis of this poem: 

Order rules this unceasing movement. Its harmonious nature 
is underlined by the pattern of a dance, by the stress on regu- 
lar recurrence and by the general impression of a closed cir- 
cuit. The winged feet of centuries "se suyvent d'une mesme 
trace." Water comes from the sea and goes back there. Several 
images conjure up the idea of the circle: "le rouet" of fortune, 
"le cercle de la lune"; and the circle is the symbol of perfect 
unity .^^ 

However, although the poem covers similar topics to the Hymne des 
AstreSy the tone is more resigned, more generally pessimistic than that 
of the earlier poem, even though the philosophical message is similar, 
and no doubt this is attributable to the political situation in France 
in the wake of the St. Bartholomew massacre. By 1575, the main fig- 
ures on whom Ronsard had pinned his hopes for patronage in the 
1550s were dead: Odet de Coligny in 1570, Gaspard de Coligny, the 
first victim of the Saint-Barthelemy, and Charles de Lorraine in 1574. 
Around ten years later, Ronsard composed his last mythological 

See "Ronsard's Later Poetry," in Ronsard the Poet, 300. 

286 CHAPTER 7 

hymn, De Mercure}^ It was written during his final winter (1584- 
85), and it is appropriate that, on the point of death, he should dedi- 
cate a poem to the god who traditionally acts as psychopomp. This 
aspect of Hermes is not alluded to in the Homeric hymn, which pro- 
vides Ronsard with a few details for his own poem, but is included 
in MaruUus' Hymnus Mercurio: 

Vestrum et aurata revocare virga 
Sedibus functas animas sepultis, 
Vestrum et invisi spatiis iniquis 
Reddere Averni. 

{Hymni naturales 2. 8. 65-68) 

(It is also your task to recall with your golden wand dead 
souls from their slumbering abode, your task to return them 
to the hostile plains of hated Avernus.) 

Ronsard dedicates a section of his own hymn to this aspect of the 

Du reste il [viz. Jupiter] en ourdit des talonniers, qu'il 

Aux talons de son fils pour mieux fendre la route 
Des Cieux, qui comme un Pan de beaux yeux sont 

Et pour descendre en has au plus creux des enfers: 
Courrier aux Dieux d'enhault & d'embas agreable, 

, . . Alecton, 
Qui te faict reverence alors que tu ameines 
Nos ames voir de Styx les bourbeuses areines, 
Et quand le vieil Charon serviteur de la Mort 
En sa gondole assis nous passe a I'autre bort. 

(L. XVIII. 267. 35-39, 42-46) 

(Moreover, Jupiter contrives wings for his heels [out of his 

^'' In addition to Laumonier's notes, see Michel Simonin, who includes some 
details about Ronsard's final compositions in his edition of Du Perron, Oraison 
funebre sur la mort de Monsieur de Ronsard (1586) (Geneva: Droz, 1985), 55. 

The Seasons 287 

eagle's feathers], which he fixes on the heels of his son so that 
he can better cut through the path to heaven, which like a 
peacock is covered with beautiful eyes, and descend below into 
the depths of the Underworld, a messenger who is agreeable 

to the celestial and infernal gods Alecto bows to you when 

you bring our souls to see the muddy sands of the river Styx 
and when ancient Charon, Death's servant, takes us to the 
other side, sitting in his wherry.) 

Mercury is also a suitable subject in that, above all else, he represents 
for Ronsard the logos in all its aspects (speech and eloquence, but 
also reason) and is also credited with the invention of the lyre: 

Dieu a qui I'age antique a dore tout le bee, 

« Pour monstrer qu'aisement I'eloquente parole 

« Persuadant I'esprit dedans le cceur s'en-vole, 

« Et que rien n'est si fort qu'il ne soit combatu 

« Par la voix dont le charme est d'extreme vertu, 

« Et que par le cousteau de la langue emplumee 

« On fait plus en un jour, qu'en cent ans une armee. 

(lines 18-24) 

(God, whose whole mouth was gilded by antiquity, in order 
to show that eloquence, persuading the mind, easily flies into 
our hearts, and that nothing is so strong that it cannot be 
countered by the voice, whose enchantment is of supreme vir- 
tue, and that through the blade of the winged tongue more 
can be accomplished in a day than an army can do in a hun- 
dred years.) 

The lyre, which Mercury presents to Apollo in exchange for the cat- 
tle he has stolen, marks a strong bond between them, and again 
underlines those aspects of the god which Ronsard values (see lines 
69-74). Although he does not ignore the less serious aspects of the 
god who is the patron of thieves, charlatans, and alchemists, he cer- 
tainly plays them down. 

Ronsard composed Desperes de families, a Monsieur S. Blaise at the 
same time as De Mercure, and unlike all but one of his previous 
hymns, the poem is addressed to a Christian saint, and presents a 
series of prayers for the protection of a rural community. Laumonier 
informs us that the saint was the patron of the parish of Montrou- 

288 CHAPTER 7 

veau near Ronsard's priory at Croixval (L. XVIII. 275. n. 1), and 
Simonin suggests that he may have attended the ceremonies for the 
saint's festival on 3 February 1585.^* The final hymn, De Monsieur 
Saint Roch, describes, as far as it goes, a procession to the shrine of 
the patron saint of plague sufferers before introducing an ecphrasis 
which, it appears, was never written. 

In his last year of life, Ronsard at times wished for the plague as an 
end to his sufferings: 

Misericorde 6 Dieu, 6 Dieu ne me consume 
A faulte de dormir, plustost sois-je contreint 
De me voir par la peste ou par la fievre esteint. 
Qui mon sang deseche dans mes veines allume. 

(L. XVin. 178. 5-8) 

(Have pity, Lord, oh God, do not consume me through lack 
of sleep; rather may I be forced to see myself extinguished by 
the plague or the fever, which burns my dried up blood in my 

He clearly gave some thought to the cyclical nature of things and to 
the parallels between the seasons and human life. However, in his 
pain and sleeplessness, he saw things in rather starker terms than he 
had done twenty years earlier, and it is rather the fleeting nature of 
springtime that was uppermost in his mind as he awaited death: 

L'un meurt en son printemps, I'autre attend la 

Le trespas est tout un, les accidens divers: 
Le vray tresor de Thomme est la verte jeunesse, 
Le reste de nos ans ne sont que des hivers 

La jeunesse des Dieux aux hommes n'est donnee 
Pour gouspiller sa fleur, ainsi qu'on void fanir 

^ Oraison funebre, 55. 

The Seasons 289 

La rose par le chauld, ainsi mal gouvernee 
La jeunesse s'enfuit sans jamais revenir. 

(L. XVin. 176. 9-12, 17-20) 

(One man dies in the springtime of his life, another awaits old 
age; death is all the same, its causes various. Man's real trea- 
sure is green youth, the remainder of our years are simply 

winters The youthfulness of the gods is not given to men 

to waste its flower; as we see the rose wither from the heat, so 
ill-governed youth flees, never to return.) 

Chapter 8 


Les anciens Heros du sang des Dieux venuz, 
Sont encore aujourdhuy, maugre les ans, congnus, 
Pour avoir fait chanter aux Poetes leurs gestes 
Qui les ont de mortelz mis au rang des celestes: 
Et j'en veux faire ainsi! 

(Ronsard, L. VHI. 6. 9-13) 

®hroughout this study of Ronsard's hymns, we have been 
concentrating on two main aspects of composition, inventio 
and dispositio, with some attention also being paid to the 
style of writing. It is now time to draw some conclusions concerning 
the iconographical and literary intentions of Ronsard's poetry, and 
the way in which these developed over his poetic career. 

In the first place, it should be clear that the basic principles of Neo- 
Platonism inform the content, the manner of composition, and the 
structure of the hymns. This is not to say that Ronsard has an essential- 
ly pagan outlook on life. Rather, like his friend and colleague Pontus de 
Tyard, Ronsard considered Neo-Platonism allied to Christianity as offer- 
ing a coherent explanation of the world. In particular, the Timaeus and 
the commentaries on this and other Platonic dialogues by Proclus, as 
well as the works of the Florentine Neo-Platonists such as Ficino, pro- 
vided a means of harmonizing the Judeo-Christian and the Greco- 
Roman traditions, allowing the syncretist inclinations of Ronsard to syn- 
thesize those aspects of the ancient world which he most admired. In 
doing so, he was merely doing what many other Renaissance humanists, 
with no poetic axe to grind, were doing, men such as the Swiss poly- 

Conclusion 291 

math Conrad Gesner.^ Thus, Ronsard's conception of God, the cre- 
ation, the geocentric structure of the universe, the role of demons 
and angels, the immortality of the soul, the nature of divine inspira- 
tion, even the workings of love can be seen to derive, despite the 
much-resisted advent of Copernican astronomy, from an alliance of 
Christian and Neo-Platonic ideas. 

But in order to effect this harmonization, Ronsard needed to 
appropriate the methods of Neo-Platonic exegesis, no doubt learnt 
from Dorat, and more importantly to put them into practice in his 
own poetry. This took time, even though we can see elements of 
these methods at work in his early poetry. In particular, it is the 
handling of myth which is of central importance in the exposition of 
his ideas. Early odes such as Despeintures contenues dedans un tableau 
(L. I. 259-64) and La Defloration de Lede (L. II. (>7-79) offer examples 
of the way in which ideas can be conveyed by apparently shocking 
myths or by the inclusion of at first sight gratuitous description in 
the form of ecphrasis or hypotyposis.^ It is at this point that the 
iconographical aspects of Ronsard's style come to the fore. 

Since for Neo-Platonists sight is the highest of the senses, this 
emphasis on the visual is altogether appropriate, particularly in com- 
positions whose central mysteries are inspired by Plato and his fol- 
lowers, and in reading descriptive details in the same way that an 
iconologist might read the details of a painting, we are likely to 
arrive at a more accurate understanding of Ronsard's works than is 
offered by a purely literary approach. In fact, the relationship be- 
tween word and image is slightly more complex than this implies. 
Just as in Renaissance triumphal entries, emblems, and even paintings 
and tapestries, there is often a text which comments on and explains 
the images, so too a similar process is often at work in Ronsard's 
poems, except that the shift from word to picture is less evident. 
Narrative, descriptive, and dramatic modes of presentation offer the 
reader variety and a range of different perspectives. However, the 
way in which we read a text and its images will depend a great deal 
on the type of poetry Ronsard is writing and his literary intentions. 

* See, for example, my article "Conrad Gesner et le fabulevix manteau," 312. 
^ See my article "Ronsard's Erotic Diptych: Le Ravissement de Cephale and La 
Defloration de Lede" for a detailed analysis of these two narrative poems. 

292 CHAPTER 8 

We saw, in chapter 2, Proclus' division of poetry into the catego- 
ries of inspired, didactic, and mimetic poetry, and his acknowledge- 
ment that even a poet Uke Homer has examples of all these modes of 
writing in his compositions. Each category must be characterized by 
a different way of reading, and in particular of reading descriptive 
detail, yet the mixture of modes in varying degrees, in Ronsard no 
less than in Homer, inevitably makes a unified reading problematic. 
In general terms, however, since purely mimetic poetry sets out to 
imitate the world around us, or in the case of fantastic mimetic 
poetry the world within us, its descriptions should be read on a liter- 
al level. Our pleasure, as readers, is akin to the pleasure experienced 
by someone looking at a beautiful portrait or landscape: it derives 
from the artists' ability to provide a heightened and sensual represen- 
tation of what they observe, to transform it through their own vi- 
sion, but ultimately to appeal to the senses rather than the intellect. 
Didactic poetry, on the other hand, should certainly be aesthetically 
pleasing, but it also aims at being intellectually or morally improv- 
ing. It requires interpretation, but that interpretation relies normally 
on a traditional system of symbolism which, while originating in lit- 
erary sources, is better known through customary use or populariza- 
tion in the visual arts. We do not need literary antecedents to know 
that red roses symbolize love, that scales represent justice, or that 
dogs are images of fidelity. Countless examples of this type of imag- 
ery may be seen in medieval and Renaissance art, acting as a visual 
shorthand to suggest a particular interpretation, and reinforcing a 
general mood. The emotional impact of a painting representing a 
madonna and child can vary greatly depending upon how the mother 
is holding the baby, what attributes they have, and the surroundings 
in which they are placed. 

Inspired poetry, on the other hand, offers an intuitive challenge 
in addition to its aesthetic and intellectual appeal, and like more basic 
forms of enigme, much of the pleasure is due to the discrepancy 
between the apparent superficial meaning and the hidden meaning or 
meanings.^ A painting of Leda and the swan has a direct appeal as a 

' On the enigme, see Franfois Lecercle, "Enigme et poesie k Lyon au milieu du 
seizieme siecle," in Intellectual Life in Renaissance Lyon: Proceedings of the Cambridge 
Lyon Colloquium (14-16 April 1991), edited by Philip Ford and Gillian Jondorf 
(Cambridge: Cambri<^e French Colloquia, 1993). 

Conclusion 293 

result of its erotic and bizarre content, and this is the aspect which 
will have the most general effect on viewers. However, for those, 
such as Francis I and other enlightened Renaissance patrons, who 
expected to discover a mystery in a work of this kind, the sensual 
pleasure is heightened by the intellectual or intuitive pleasure of dis- 
placing the allegorical veil to see what lies beneath. The interpreta- 
tion may rely upon traditional or non-traditional readings of pictorial 
detail, upon specific literary or visual allusions, and all elements in 
the work are potentially significant. 

The same is true of Ronsard's use of myth and imagery in what 
he would have considered to be his inspired poetry, where it is 
important to consider the possible meaning of all descriptive detail, 
and to be aware of intertextual allusions, if the underlying signifi- 
cance of the poem is to be teased out. His earliest examples of ec- 
phrastic mythological poetry, for example Des peintures contenues 
dedans un tableau. La Defloration de Lede, and Le Ravissement de 
Cephale, all offer examples of mystical writing which rely on the 
astuteness of the reader to be deciphered. As a result, this kind of 
poetry is far more difficult to compose successfully, if the poet is to 
avoid giving the impression of merely presenting the reader with a 
series of conundrums. Unity of style and content is essential; the 
aesthetic appeal must be at least equal, and certainly not subservient, 
to the intellectual appeal. This is achieved by the use of visual detail 
since, for Neo-Platonists, the sight is the highest of our senses, the 
one which allows us to intuit meaning rather than to deduce it. 
Moreover, the visual mode of presentation, because it is less precise 
than verbal presentation, offers greater possibilities for polysemy, and 
hence a richer-textured work of art. This, of course, was the appeal 
of the hieroglyph; but to prevent such encoding from descending to 
the level of the rebus, great skill was required. 

As Ronsard gained experience, this expertise developed. Although 
he composed hymns for most of his life, the main corpus dates from 
the decade beginning in 1555. During that time, he developed a style 
and manner of writing which increasingly gained in poetic authority 
as the presentation of the hymns became more mystical and visual. 
The tendency to confuse hymn and encomium becomes less marked; 
the urge to expound philosophical ideas in the 1555 collection is 
replaced by the desire to show the effects of such ideas in the seasonal 
hymns. Didactic imagery gives way to Neo-Platonic imagery, mono- 

294 CHAPTER 8 

semy to polysemy. When we come to the 1584 collection, after Ron- 
sard's various revisions and reorganizations, we find a uniformity of 
tone not always shared by previous collections. 

The development of Ronsard's handling of the hynm can be 
charted through the various collections. The early Hinne de Bacus, 
while providing an indication of how the genre would develop at the 
poet's hands, is unsatisfactory from a number of points of view. The 
tone and poetic voice of the work is very much that of Callimachus. 
The poet does not speak with the authority of the vates, as is clear 
right from the opening of this poem: 

Que sauroi-je mieus faire en ce tems de vandanges, 

Apres avoir chante d'un verre les louanges, 

Sinon loiier Bacus & ses festes, afin 

De celebrer le Dieu des verres & du vin, 

Qui changea le premier (6 change heureus) I'usage 

De I'onde Acheloee en plus heureus bruvage? 

Mais quoi.^ je suis confus, car je ne sai comment, 

Ne moins de quel pais je dois premierement 

Chanter d'ou est Bacus. . . . 

(L. VI. 176-77, 1-9) 

(What better could I do at this time of grape harvesting, after 
singing the praises of a glass, than praise Bacchus and his fes- 
tivities, in order to celebrate the god of glasses and of wine, 
who was the first to transform [oh fortunate transformation] 
the use of the waters of the Achelous into a more fortunate 
beverage? What now? I am confused, for I do not know how, 
nor even of what country I must first sing of the origins of 
Bacchus. . . .) 

Throughout the hymn, there is a constant alternation between the 
first-person voice of the poet, the second-person appeal to the subject 
of the poem, Bacchus, along with some third-person narrative of 
events which do not directly concern the god, as in lines 93-96: 

Mais plus je m'ebais de la gorge inocente 
Du Bouc, qui tes autels a ta feste ensanglante. 
Car sans le Bouc cornu tu n'eusses point treuve 
Le vin, par qui tu as tout le monde abbreuve. 

Conclusion 295 

(But I am more surprised at the imiocent throat of the goat 
which covers the altars with blood at your festival, for with- 
out the horned goat, you would not have discovered the wine, 
with which you have quenched the thirst of the whole world.) 

The impression we receive, then, is that of a dialogue between poet 
and god which, like Callimachus' tone, is more redolent of wit than 
of hieratic authority. Moreover, there is a virtual absence of those 
poetic devices most associated with the grand style, such as the 
extended Homeric simile. Any comparisons which are to be found 
tend to have a strictly functional purpose, for example in lines 

. . . leur [the lynxes'] regard estoit feu, 
Pareil aus yeus de ceus qui de nuit ont trop beu. 

(. . . their eyes were fiery, like the eyes of those who at night 
have drunk too much.) 

Despite the form of the poem, the style is frequently more reminis- 
cent of the ode than the hymn, including as it does allusions to 
Horace's Bacchic odes, 2. 19 and 3. 25. 

With the 1555 collection of hymns, Ronsard has developed a 
greater unity of style and, we have argued, a coherent philosophical 
vision underpinned by Neo-Platonism. Nevertheless, the imj^ery, 
and thus the iconographical interpretation, is predominantly didactic 
in nature, the tone more expository than mystical in both the sublu- 
nar and the translunar hymns. In faa, it is the deviations from this 
central poetic voice in the collection which have caused scholars their 
main problems in understanding or appreciating such poems as the 
Hymne de I'Or or the Hercule Chrestien, where the mixture of exposi- 
tory and mystical modes of expression leave the reader on unsure 

The following year witnessed a move to the more oblique Neo- 
Platonic tradition of imagery, particularly apparent in the two Argo- 
nautic hymns. This leads to an increased narrative interest, and also 
to a heightening of the sensual qualities of the writing: the didactic 
tone gives way to an inspired tone. In visual terms, the impression 
we have is one of moving from a room decorated with allegorical 
representations of abstract phenomena to one adorned with richly 
wrought mythological paintings. The static gives way to the dynam- 

296 CHAPTER 8 

ic, simplicity to complexity, classical balance to a more concealed 
form of harmony. Ronsard marks this change at the very beginning 
of the collection: 

Remply d'un feu divin qui m'a Tame eschauffee, 
Je veux mieux que jamais, suivant les pas d'Orphee, 
Decouvrir les secretz de Nature & des Cieux, 
Recherchez d'un esprit qui n'est poinct ocieux. 

(L. Vin. 246. 1-4) 

(Filled with divine fire which has warmed my soul, I wish 
more than ever, following in the footsteps of Orpheus, to 
reveal the secrets of Nature and the Heavens, sought out by a 
spirit which is far from idle.) 

We have already looked in some detail at the use which Ronsard 
makes of extended simile in these hymns, which goes to reinforce the 
grand, epic tone of the poetry, thus enhancing the poetic authority 
of the writer. Stylistically, Ronsard maintains this tone in the season- 
al hymns, while once again emphasizing the importance of the poetic 
vocation which he is following: 

Nouveau Cygne emplume je veux voUer bien haut, 
Et veux comme I'Este avoir I'estomaq chault 

Des chaleurs d'ApoUon 

(L. XII. 36. 11-13) 

(I, a newly feathered swan, desire to fly high up, and to have, 
like Summer, my belly warmed by Apollo's heat. . . .) 


Le jour que je fu ne, le Daimon qui preside 
Aux Muses me servit en ce Monde de guide, 
M'anima d'un esprit gaillard & vigoreux, 
Et me fist de science & d'honneur amoureux. 

(L. XII. 46. 1-4) 

(On the day I was born, the Demon who presides over the 
Muses acted as my guide in this world; he breathed into me a 
gallant and vigorous spirit, and made me a lover of knowledge 
and honor.) 

Conclusion 297 

While the sheer abundance of descriptive detail in these poems pre- 
sents an image of considerable richness, quite reminiscent of the 
works of artists such as Antoine Caron, the intellectual challenge is 
present in the at times shocking, at times contradictory words of the 
poet. It is certainly here, in the Second Livre des Hymnes and in the 
seasonal hymns, rather than in the Franciade, that Ronsard comes 
closest to writing successful epic poetry. 

The analogy of the Galerie Francois I" has been used in this study 
as a visual model for Ronsard's hymn collections, and in many ways 
this model is a helpful one, especially from the contrasting points of 
view of complexity and order. Unity of theme and classical purity of 
form were not part of Renaissance thinking, so the relatively com- 
plex arrangement of the individual bays in the Galerie Francois \" 
finds its counterpart in the complex dispositio of Ronsard's individual 
hymns. Diversity too is present in both media, for just as differing 
organizational principles prevail in different bays at Fontainebleau, so 
too Ronsard adapts the structure of his hymns to their subjects. 
Nevertheless, as I hope to have demonstrated, balance and symmetry 
are at work in the complex patterns both of individual hymns and of 
whole collections. Looking at the hymn collections diachronically, 
the analogy of various series of tapestries, with the resultant possibili- 
ty of reorganization to accommodate new rooms or the addition of 
new works, might provide a more appropriate analogy. 

As Ronsard's hymns grew in number after 1556, he was faced 
with the problem of rearranging them in the subsequent collections 
of his works. This inevitably meant that the demands of balance 
between the books led to sacrifices and compromises with regard to 
the perfect dispositio which we have seen in individual books, notably 
the 1555 collection. Ronsard seems to prefer to divide his hymns into 
two books, although between 1567 and 1572/3 they appear in four 
books. Appendix 2 indicates how the poems were organized during 
Ronsard's lifetime. 

The 1560 edition of Ronsard's CEuvres is the first time he was 
faced with reorganizing the Hymnes, which formed the fourth and 
final volume of the collection. Book 1 was dedicated to Marguerite 
de France, Book 2 to Odet de Coligny. The Hymne de I'Eternite, 
which opens the collection, retains, as we have seen, its preeminence 

298 CHAPTER 8 

in all subsequent editions of the hymns,"* and the reasons for this are 
clear: the collection is introduced by a picture of the serenity of the 
translunar world, presented in stark contrast to the tribulations of 
the sublunar world, and it is this contrast which we have seen as pro- 
viding much of the material for the hymns as a whole. The Hymne 
de la Philosophie, which opens book 2, is also concerned with this 
contrast, but whereas book 1 begins with a translunar view of the 
universe, book 2 views things from a sublunar perspective. 

The second poem in each of the books is encomiastic in nature, 
with Henry II as the subject in book 1, the Connetable Anne de 
Montmorency and the Coligny brothers in book 2. Military prowess 
and valor are prominent in both cases, but so too is the importance 
of the poet as one who can bestow immortality on people, a theme 
which is taken up in the two mythological hymns which occupy the 
third position in each of the two books. 

A search for balance is also evident within book 1. The final 
Hymne du Ciel, with its emphasis on the perfection of the translunar 
world, is an exact counterpoise to the Hymne de I'Etemite, with its 
similar emphasis on the perfection of the hypercosmic world, while 
the encomiastic Hymne de tresillustre prince Charles cardinal de Lor- 
raine and its Suyte balance the hymn to Henry II. Similarly, the 
nature of Calais and Zetes, sons of the North Wind, whose natural 
element is the air, could be seen as a strong link with Les Daimons. 
We would then have the following, again circular, dispositio for book 
1, where it is complementarity rather than contrast which forms the 
links between the poems: 


Henry II 

Calais et Zetes 

[Commendatrix epistola] 



Cardinal de Lorraine/ Suyte 


This leaves the Hymne de la Justice as the pivot of the collection, a 
^ See above, chap. 6. 

Conclusion 299 

poem which, as we have seen, centers upon the circular idea of man's 
decHne from perfection and subsequent return to it, thanks to the 
cardinal de Lorraine.^ This hymn is preceded by Michel de I'Hospi- 
tal's Commendatrix epistola, dedicated to the cardinal. 

There is an attempt at a similarly circular pattern in book 2, 
although here it is less convincing. Certainly, the Hymne de Pollux^ 
et de Castor and the Hercule Chrestien form a pair, with in each case 
a son or sons of Jupiter acting as benefactors and saviors of mankind. 
The Etemite/ Ciel pairing of book 1 may have its counterpart in the 
sublunar Philosophie/ France pairing of book 2: France is seen as the 
most perfect place in the sublunar world. Equally, the Hymne de la 
Mort acts as a good pivotal poem, dealing as it does with the theme 
of human expectations of happiness after death and the idea of a 
return to a spiritual homeland. However, links between the Temple 
and the Hinne de Bacus, and between the Priere a la Fortune and the 
Hymne de I'Or are less evident. The general pattern which emerges is 
as follows: 

Book 1 Book 2 
Etemite < > Philosophie 

Henry II < > Temple 

Calais et Zetes < > Pollux et Castor 

Justice < > Mort 


Daimons < > Hercule Chrestien 

Cardinal de Lorraine/ Suyte Bacus 

Ciel < > France 

Beyond thematic considerations, Ronsard also bore in mind the 
question of the dedicatees. Book 1, although nominally dedicated to 
Marguerite de France, contains four poems (if we include the Com- 
mendatrix epistola) devoted to the cardinal de Lorraine; book 2 has 
three poems devoted to Odet de Coligny, cardinal de Chatillon, and 
one to his brother, Gaspard de Coligny. Tact clearly required that 
the rival families be separated. 

The second collective edition of Ronsard's works appeared in 

See the discussion of this hymn in chap. 5. 



1567, with the hymns occupying volume 4 of the six volumes. By 
then, the seasonal hynms had been published, and this led Ronsard 
to rearrange the poems. Book 1, however, is identical in its dispositio 
to the 1560 edition, leaving the circular structure in place. Book 2 
also retains the same order of poems, but three hymns (the Hymne de 
I'Or, the Hinne de Bacus, and the Hymne de France) are removed, 
leading to a more balanced arrangement between the first two books, 
but with little evidence of symmetry in book 2. 

Book 1 
Henry II 
Calais et Zetes 



Cardinal de Lorraine/ Suyte 


< > 

< > 

< > 

< > 

< > 

Book 2 



Pollux et Castor 



Hercule Chrestien 

Book 3 contains the four seasonal hymns, in their original order, and 
book 4 balances this with four hymns: the Hymne de I'Or, the Hinne 
de Bacus, the Hymne a la Nuit, and the Hymne de France. Ronsard 
seems to have arranged these two books to correspond with one 
another in a similar way to the first two books, with, I would sug- 
gest, the following pattern: 

Book 3 

Book 4 









In this arrangement, the introductory Hymne du Printemps, which 
deals with the birth of the seasons, is balanced by the final poem of 
book 4, where we see the beneficial effect of the seasons on the earth- 
ly paradise which is France. The Hymne de I'Este then forms an obvi- 
ous pair with the Hymne de I'Or, both because of the links between 
gold and the golden rays of the sun, and also because of the theme of 

Conclusion 301 

productiveness and fertility apparent in both poems. The Hymne de 
I'Autonne and the Hinne de Bacus form an entirely traditional pair, as 
do the Hymne de I'Hyver and the Hymne a la Nuit, in that in either 
case, Ronsard views the hymns' subjects as preparing the way for fer- 
tility and abundance. The importance of night, sleep, and sexual 
desire in the Hymne de I'Hyver has already been underlined,^ and 
these are precisely the themes of the Hymne a la Nuit. 

This arrangement of the hymns would continue with the 1571 
and the 1572/3 collective editions of Ronsard. 1578 sees the next 
change, with the hymns being reorganized into two books once again 
(volume 5 in the seven- volume edition), but only after four poems 
had been removed. Both the Temple and the Priere a la Fortune, 
which had been dedicated to Odet de Coligny, were suppressed, 
although it is no doubt a tribute to Ronsard's sense of loyalty that 
the first three poems of book 2, dedicated to Odet and Gaspard de 
Coligny, continued to be included long after the Saint Bartholomew 
Massacre, The other two poems to disappear were the early Hymne 
a la Nuit and the Hymne de France. There is one new addition: the 
Hymne sur la victoire obtenue a Moncontour. 

The concern for balance which so clearly characterized the early 
editions appears to be somewhat diminished in 1578. Book 1 follows 
the order of all previous opening books since 1560, except that the 
addition of the Hymne des Astres (restored after being omitted in all 
previous collective editions) and of the Hymne sur la victoire throws 
off the balance at the end. Book 2 shows a greater concern for sym- 
metry, with the four seasonal hymns being balanced by three hymns 
on either side, and Ronsard moves the Hymne de la Mort to final 
position to act as a weighty metaphysical balance to the Hymne de la 
Philosophie, maintained in first position in the book. There is also a 
numerical balance between the two books of poems, which each con- 
tain ten hymns, a number associated with ideal perfection and the 
harmony of the spheres, being the tetractys, the sum of the the first 
four numbers (1 + 2 + 3 -»- 4 = 10).^ 

' See the discussion of the Hymne de I'Hyver in chap. 7. 

' See, for example, Buffiere, Les Mythes d'Homere, 557ff., and especially 579-82. 
According to the lecture notes on the Odyssey preserved in Milan, Dorat shared this 
view about the number 10: "Nam cum littera X decern significet qui numerus 
omnium est perfectissimus ..." (fol. 17"). 

302 CHAPTER 8 

This principle of placing important metaphysical works in promi- 
nent positions is extended in the 1584 collection, with Ronsard 
ensuring that the first and final poems of each of the two books deal 
with important matters: I'Eternite and Les Estoilles in book 1, la Phi- 
losophic and la Mort again in book 2. Once more, the four seasonal 
hymns occupy the central position in book 2. In both the 1578 and 
the 1584 editions, there appears to be a conscious decision to avoid 
exact balance between books 1 and 2 in the opening poems, most 
obviously in the case of the two mythological hymns. In 1578, the 
Hymne de Calais, et de Zetes is in the third position in book 1 with 
the Hymne de Pollux, et de Castor in second position in book 2; in 
1584, the Hymne de Calais, et de Zetes is in second position with the 
Hymne de Pollux, et de Castor in third. The difficulties of achieving 
total symmetry have perhaps led to a decision to move away from 
balance rather than having an only partial symmetry. Perhaps too 
the effects of the Wars of Religion on Ronsard led to a less optimistic 
attitude towards the possibility of inducing celestial harmony in 
human affairs. 

As with the visual arts, the question of the intended audience and the 
extent to which that audience would have appreciated both the con- 
tent and the structure of the Hymnes must be raised. It should be 
clear from earlier remarks that Ronsard, having alerted his readers to 
the concept of the fabuleux manteau, expected those who were suffi- 
ciently enlightened to pierce through his fictional creations to discov- 
er the inner truths which they contained. It must be equally clear 
that, even amongst his contemporaries, this enlightened group would 
have been small: the commentaries and explanations of his poetry 
during and shortly after his lifetime bear witness to that. Even more 
difficult to appreciate are the organizational principles at work in the 
hymns, and Ronsard does not go out of his way to alert us to that 
aspect of his writing. Nevertheless, it is something to which he 
attached considerable importance. 

We are drawn to the conclusion that Ronsard intended his poetry 
to be appreciated on a number of different levels, that aesthetic pleas- 
ure was possible without full intellectual understanding, and that the 
underlying structural harmony of the poems was there, like the 

Conclusion 303 

structure of a piece of music or a building, to guarantee the integrity 
of the compositions, perhaps to induce a corresponding feehng of 
harmony in the reader, in Hne with Neo-Platonic thinking. At least 
part of his work's prestige must derive from its hermetic quality. 

Ronsard's Hymnes, like the work of the mannerist artists of his 
day, have passed in and out of fashion since his death. However, 
despite the greater initial impact of his rivals in the plastic arts, the 
poet has to a large extent been vindicated in his claims for the greater 
immortalizing effects of poetry. Since Ronsard's genius lies in the 
written word, the pictures which he has created have truly fared 
better than many of the fading, crumbling frescoes which inspired 

Appendix 1 





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13 .is 

Texts Cited 

The order of the texts is that in which they appear in the Laumonier 
edition of Ronsard. Wherever possible, the title is given, followed by 
the opening line and Laumonier reference (Volume and page num- 
bers), followed by page references to the present volume. 

L'Hymne de la FrancCy "Sus luc dore, des Muses le partaige" (I. 24-5), 

118-19, 300 
Au lecteur (I. 59n), 56 

A son lict, "Lict, que le fer industrieus" (I. 257-9), 5, 58, 66-69 
Des peintures contenues dedans un tableau, "Tableau, que Teternelle 

gloire" (I. 259-64), 5, 32-38, 48, 58, 69, 70, 71, 94, 145, 268, 291 

Hinne a Saint Gervaise, et Protaise, "La victorieuse couronne" (II 

5-7), 118 
Hinne a la Nuit, "Nuit, des amours ministre & sergente fidele" (U. 

21-22), 118, 119,301 
La Defloration de Lede, "Le cruel amour vainqueur" (11. 67-79), 105 

224, 291, 293 
Le Ravissement de Cephale, "L'iver, lors que la nuit lente" (11. 133-47) 

105, 273, 293 
Ode, A Rene d'Urvoi, "Je n'ai pas les mains apprises" (II. 148-51), 7 
Hymne triumphal sur le trepas de Marguerite de Valois, "Qui r'enfor 

cera ma voix.?" (III. 54-78), 118 
Ode a Michel de I'Hospital, "Errant par les champs de la Grace" (HI 

118-63), 21-23, 27 
Les Bacchanales ou le folatrissime voyage d'Hercueil pres Paris, "Amis 

avant que I'Aurore" (III. 184-217), 3, 123 

310 Texts Cited 

Les Amours (1552) 

9 "Le plus toffu d'un solitaire boys" (IV. 13-14), 3 
De Posidippe, sur I'image du Tems, "Qui, & d'ou est I'ouvrier? Du 

Mans. Son nom? le Conte" (V. 90-91), 62-64 
Amours (1553) 

208 "Telle qu'elle est, dedans ma souvenance" (V. 154-55), 3 
Harangue que fit monseigneur le due de Guise aus soudards de Mez, 

"Quand ce brave Empereur qui se donne en songeant" (V. 

203-19), 70-76 
Le Bocage 

3 "Amour, qui si long tans en peine m'as tenu" (VI. 47), 64 

8 "Morfee, s'il te plaist de me representer" (VI. 52-53), 38-40, 
L'Elegie a Janet peintre du Roi, "Pein moi, Janet, pein moi je te 

supplie" (VI. 152-60), 3 
Hinne de Bacus, "Que sauroi-je mieus faire en ce tems de vandanges" 

(VI. 176-90), 111, 118, 119-26, 265, 270, 294, 301 
Hymne de Treschrestien Roy de France Henry II de ce nom, "Muses, 

quand nous voudrons les loiienges chanter" (VIIL 5-46), 7, 60, 

128-29, 131, 139-47, 201, 239, 290, 298 
Hymne de la Justice, "Un plus sf avant que moy, & plus chery des 

Cieux" (VIIL 47-72), 132, 153-58, 163, 174, 197, 298 
Le Temple de messeigneurs le Connestahle, et des Chastillons, "Je veux, 

mon Mecenas, te bastir, a I'exemple" (VIII. 72-84), 65, 129, 132, 

163-67, 175, 183, 191, 298, 301 
Hymne de la Philosophie, "Si quelquefois Cleio m'a decouvert" (VIII. 

85-102), 133, 175-83, 184, 250, 270, 298, 301 
Priere a la Fortune, "J'ay pour jamais, par serment, faict un voeu" 

(VIII. 103-14), 97-98, 134-35, 188-91, 197, 301 
Les Daimons, "Quand de jour et de nuict je repense a par moy" (VIII. 

115-39), 22, 131, 136-39, 141, 143-44, 176, 250, 298 
Hymne du del, "Morel, qui dans le cceur divinement possedes" (VIII. 

140-49), 128, 134-36, 188, 191-97, 298 
Hymne des Astres, "C'est trop long temps, Mellin, demeure sur la 

terre" (VIII. 150-61), 133-34, 175, 183-88, 283, 284 
Hymne de la Mort, "On ne scauroit. Paschal, desormais inventer" 

(VIII. 161-79), 96-97, 133, 163, 167-73, 190, 270, 299, 301 
Hymne de I'Or, "Je ferois un grand tort a mes vers & a moy" (VIII. 

179-205), 132, 153, 158-63, 197, 270, 271, 295, 300 

Texts Cited 311 

Hercule Chrestien, "Est-il pas temps desormais de chanter" (VIII. 

207-23), 56, 74, 131-32, 144, 147-53, 197, 270, 295, 299 
Hymne de I'Etemite, "Remply d'un feu divin qui m'a Tame eschauf- 

fee" (Vm. 246-54), 44, 51-52, 139, 173, 199, 200, 205, 207-14, 

234, 238, 249, 296, 297-98 
L'Hymne de Calais, et de Zetes, "Je veux donner cet hymne aux enfans 

de Boree" (VIIL 255-93), 53-54, 90, 126, 199, 200, 205, 206-207, 

214-27, 230, 231, 233, 238, 295, 298 
Hymne de Pollux et de Castor, "Je veux (mon Chastillon) imiter le 

tonnerre" (Vm. 293-327), 126, 199, 200, 201, 205, 207, 225, 

227-36, 238-39, 270, 295, 299 
Epistre a tresillustre prince Charles cardinal de Lorraine, "Quand un 

Prince en grandeur passeroit tous les Dieux" (VIII. 328-50), 199, 

200-201, 205, 236-37, 239 
Elegie a Chretophle de Choiseul, "Non, je ne me deulx pas qu'une telle 

abondance" (VIH. 351-58), 199, 205, 237-38 
L'Hymne de tresillustre prince Charles cardinal de Lorraine, "J'aurois 

este conceu des flotz de la marine" pC. 29-72), 239-43, 298 
Suyte de L'Hymne de tres-illustre Prince Charles cardinal de Lorraine, 

"Quand j'achevay de te chanter ton hymne" (IX. 145-53), 239, 

243-44, 298 
Complainte contre Fortune, "Monseigneur, c'est a vous a qui je me 

veux pleindre" (X. 16-38), 7 
Elegie a Pierre d'Escot, "Puis que Dieu ne m'a faict pour supporter les 

armes" (X. 300-307), 3 
La Vertu amoureuse, "C'estoit au poinct du jour (quand les plumes du 

Somme)" (X. 337-62), 65, 98-100, 102 
Discours des miseres de ce temps, "Si, depuis que le monde a pris 

commencement" (XI. 19-32), 10, 50, 100-101 
Remonstrance au peuple de France, "O Ciel, 6 Mer, 6 Terre, 6 Dieu 

pere commun" (XI. 63-106), 101 
Hymne du Printemps, "Je chante, Robertet, la saison du Printemps" 

pen. 27-34), 248, 250-55, 256, 260, 262, 272, 300 
Hymne de I'Este, "Couche dessoubz I'ombrage au pres d'une fon- 

taine" pCII. 35-45), 248, 255-60, 266, 272, 280, 296, 300 
Hymne de I'Autonne, "Le jour que je fu ne, le Daismon qui preside" 

pen. 46-67), 125, 249, 257-58, 260-66, 296, 301 
L'Hymne de I'Hyver, "Je ne veux couronner mes cheveux ny mon 

front" pen. 68-86), 7-8, 255, 266-69, 274, 301 

312 Texts Cited 

Elegie au Seigneur Bailloriy "Celuy debvoit mourir de I'esclat d'un 

tonnerre" pOI. 87-92), 270-72 
Eglogue, "Paisses, douces brebis, paisses cette herbe tendre" pCQ. 

93-108), 272-74 
UAdoniSy "Fictes, qui n'est point feint aux enfants de la Muse" pCII. 

108-26), 249, 268, 270, 274-77, 279 
L'Orphee, "Je chante icy, de Bray, les antiques fais d'armes" pCII. 

126-42), 249, 260, 273, 277-83 
Daphnis et Thyrsis, "Deux freres pastoureaux qui avoient pris nais- 

sance" pCE. 146-63), 76-79, 94-95 
La Promesse, "C'estoit au poina du jour, que les songes certains" 

pan. 3-14), 101-103 
Bergerie, "Les chesnes ombrageux, que sans art la Nature" pCHI. 

75-131), 79-83 
Abbrege de I'art poetique frangois pOV. 3-38),' 23-25, 27, 32, 43, 46, 

49, 56, 156 
A Monsieur de Belot {La Lyre), "Belot, parcelle, ains le tout de ma vie" 

pCV. 15-38), 28-29, 83-90, 95, 104, 124, 125, 253, 265 
Le Chat, "Dieu est par tout, par tout se mesle Dieu" (XV. 39-47), 

Chant triomphal pour jouer sur la lyre, "Tel qu'un petit Aigle sort" 

pCV. 61-66), 283-84 
Le Satyre, "Amy Cande, pour bien te faire rire" pCV. 67-76), 5, 152 
Hylas, "Je veux, Hercule, autant qu'il m'est possible" pCV. 234-53), 7 
Elegie de P. de Ronsard a N. de Nicolay, "Soit que I'homme autresfois 

d'Argille retassee" pCV. 371-75), 7 
Brefet sommaire recueil de ce qui a este faict ... a la ioyeuse & trium- 

phante Entree de... Charles IX. pCV. 391-401), 74 
La Franciade, Au lecteur (XVL. 3-12), 49, 50-51 
La Franciade (XVI. 29-330), 90-94, 95, 128, 139, 151-52, 214, 239, 

244, 297 
La Franciade, Au lecteur apprentif (XVI. 331-53), 48-50, 51, 54, 61-62, 

Les Estoilles envoyees a Monsieur de Pibrac en Polonne, "O, des Muses 

la plus faconde" pCVH. 37-44), 283, 284-85 
A I'unique perle de France, la royne de Navarre, "Comme de cent 

beautez la vostre se varie" pCVII. 375-76), 7 
Elegie au roi, "Je ressemble, mon Prince, au Prestre d'ApoUon" 

pCVm. 120-23), 28 

Texts Cited 313 

Les Demiers Vers 

Stances, "J'^Y varie ma vie en devidant la trame" pCVIII. 175-76), 

3 "Donne moy tes presens en ces jours que la Brume" pCVIII. 
178), 288 
Piece-preface, "Les Hynnes sont des Grecs invention premiere" (L. 

XVIII. 263-64), 106 
De Mercure, "Encore il me restoit entre tant de malheurs" pCVIII. 

265-74), 283, 286-87 
Des peres de famille, a Monsieur S. Blaise, "Saicte Blaise, qui vis aux 

Cieux" (XVni. 275-80), 283, 287-88 
Hinne de Monsieur Saint Roch, "Sus serrons nous les mains, sus 

marchons en dansant" pCVIII. 280-82), 8, 283, 288 
De la joie et de la tristesse: discours prononce en presence de Henri III 

pCVIII. 470-79), 3 


Books and Articles on Ronsard 

Adhemar, J. "Ronsard et I'ecole de Fontainebleau." BHR 20 (1958): 

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Armstrong, E. Ronsard and the Age of Gold. Cambridge: Cambridge 

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Barron, B. " 'Ut Pictura Poesis': un lieu commun de la Renaissance et 

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Geneva: Droz, 1986. 
Calin, W. "Ronsard' s Cosmic Warfare: An Interpretation of his 

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The Sixteenth Century Journal lA (1993): 671-83. 
Cave, T. "Ronsard's Bacchic Poetry: From the Bacchanales to the 

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Renaissance: Ronsard's Hinne de Bacus." In Humanism in France 

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— . "Neoplatonic Fictions in the Hymnes of Ronsard." In Philo- 
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Menager, D. Ronsard: le roi, le poete et les hommes. THR, vol. 169. 
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Saulnier, V.-L. "Sebillet, du Bellay, Ronsard: I'entree de Henri II a 
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Scollen Jimack, C. "Ronsard's Vanishing Cheese: Some Remarks on 
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(Mythological, fiaional, and allegorical names are given in italics. All 
other names are written in Roman script.) 

Achilles, 59, 60, 73, 78, 190, 191, 278 

Adam, 9, 214 

Admetus, 86, 253 

Adonis, 268, 274-77, 281 

Aeneas, 71, 76 

Aeolus, 246, 269 

Aesculapius, 143 

Agamemnon, 70, 72-73 

Ajax, 191, 197 

Alberti, Leon Battista, 21, 43-44 

alchemy, 101, 160, 182, 218, 287 

Alciati, Andrea, 62, 92, 203 

Alcmena, 150 

Alexander the Great, 67, 147 

allegory, 5, 9-10, 18, 27, 31, 37, 59, 
60, 61, 62, 64, 67, 69, 72-76, 82, 
84-85, 86, 88, 104-106, 109, 126, 
132, 147, 157, 159, 172, 181-82, 
197, 231, 267, 274, 275, 279 

Amor, see also Cupid, 64, 86-87, 89, 
124, 250, 252-53, 267 

Amphion, 85-86 

Amycus, 204, 220, 228-29, 232, 236 

anagrammatismus, 162, 281 

Ancy le Franc, chateau d', 11 

Andromache, 90-91, 92 

Aneau, Barthelemy, 203 

Anet, chateau d', 11, 13-16 

angels, 136-38, 176, 250, 291 

Antaeus, 74-75 

Anteros, 93 

Apharidae, see also Idas and Lyncee, 

llS-n, 232, 233 
Aphrodite, see also Venus, 17, 40, 67, 

94, 252 
Apollo, 83-87, 89, 110-11, 113, 115, 

152, 167, 216-17, 218, 227, 247, 

248, 253, 258, 287 
ApoUonius of Rhodes, 22, 59, 214, 

215, 220, 221 
Apxxleius, 137, 143 
Arachne, 60 
Aratus, 22 
Arcadia, 111 

Arcimboldo, Giuseppe, 30, 53 
Ares, see also Mars, 17, 67, 252 
Argo, IQl, 204, 230, 238, 243 
Argonauts, 201-203, 214, 229, 238, 

Ariosto, Ludovico, 49, 66 
Aristotle, 1, 9, 24, 25, 30, 50, 57, 62, 

96, 176, 183, 259 
Assisi, 148 
Athena, see also Minerva, 110, 254 



Athens, 84 

Atlas, 132, 134, 141 

Augustine of Hippo, Saint, 27-28 

Augustus, 145 

Auton, 261 

Autonne, 260-66 

Bacchus, see also Dionysus, 78, 85, 87- 
90, 113, 119-26, 161, 245, 247, 

248, 264-66, 294 
Baif, Jean-Antione de, 240 
Baudelaire, Charles, 53 
Beatrizet, Nicolas, 5 
Beaujoyeulx, Balthazar de, 45 
Being and Becoming, 168, 195, 207-8, 

249, 258 

Belleau, Remy, 40, 104, 129, 237 

Belot, Jean Dutreuilh de, 85 

Bible, 27, 148, 156, 173-74, 182, 

Bion, 277 

Boccaccio, Giovanni, 224-25 
Boileau, Nicolas, 50 
Bontemps, Pierre, 142, 247 
BotticelU, Sandro, 9, 10, 59, 67, 245, 

Bourbon, Antoine de, 205 
Boyvin, Rene, 84 
Bronzino, Angelo, 3, 4 
Buchanan, George, 148-49 
Buffiere, Felix, 59, 69, 73 

Cairns, Francis, 117 

CaLis and Zetes, 204, 205, 215, 216- 

17, 219, 222, 231, 236 
Callimachus, 86, 107-8, 110-11, 112, 

113, 114, 117, 119-20, 294, 295 
Calliope, 282 
Callistratus, 59 
Caron, Antoine, 248, 297 
Cartari, Vincenzo, 246-47, 248, 267 
Cassandre, 38-40, 66, 68 
Cassola, Filippo, 107, 110 
Castor and Pollux, see also Dioscuri, 

90, 140, 201-203, 205, 215, 222- 

36, 238 
Cateau-Cambresis, treaty of, 243 
Catullus, 113, 114, 271 
Cave of the Nymphs, 264, 273 
Cave, Terence, 50, 58, 88, 120, 123, 

125, 126 
Ceard, Jean, 31-32, 129-31, 167 
Cellini, Benvenuto, 4, 12 
Cerberus, 14-15 
Ceres, see also Demeter, 89-90, 245, 

247, 248, 257, 263 
cestos, 34-35, 39-40, 69, 92-94, 95, 

chain of being, 138-39, 143-44, 176- 

78, 208-209, 250, 257 
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, 5, 

35-37, 70, 75, 145 
Charles DC, 74, 76, 203 
Charles d'Anjou, 72 
Chateaudim, chateau de, 182 
Chatillon family, 129, 132-33, 167, 

Chatillon, see Coligny 
Cheiron, 277, 278 
Chrestien, Florent, 109 
Christ, 74, 132, 144, 148-53 
Church, 153 
Claudian, 113, 114 
Clouet, Franfois, 3 
Coligny, Francois de, seigneur d'An- 

delot, 165, 191 
Coligny, amiral Gaspard de, 82, 164- 

65, 191, 199, 205, 207, 285, 299, 

Coligny, Odet de, cardinal de Chatil- 
lon, 150, 164, 175, 183, 199, 285, 

297, 299, 301 
Colonna, Francesco, 227 
Comanini, G., 30 
Comes, Natalis, 89, 97, 122-23, 152, 

161, 215, 218, 268, 274-75 
Conde, Louis, prince de, 82, 205 
Conti, Natale, see Comes 



Copernicus, Nicolaus, 291 

copia, 46-47, 50-53, 56, 104, 269 

Comeille de Lyon, 3 

Correggio (Antonio Allegri), 92, 225 

Cosimo, Piero de, 67, 153 

Cupid, see also Amor, 55, 64, 93, 95, 

245, 248 
Cybele, 268 
Cyclopes, 33-34, 86, 144 

Dassonville, Michel, 116-17, 129, 

David, 27, 228-29 
de I'Hospital, Michel, 240, 299 
Deianeira, 152-53 
del Sarto, Andrea, 3, 4, 10 
della Rovere, Girolamo, 65 
Delorme, Philibert, 142 
Delos, 110 

Demeter, see also Ceres, 110, 254, 257 
Demodocus, 67 
demons, 22, 136-39, 143, 176, 249-50, 

de' Musi, Agostino, 4 
Denisot, Nicolas, 3, 63-64 
Dente da Ravenna, Marco, 4 
Dettmer, Helena, 41-42 
Diana, 16, 113, 205 
Diana and Actaeon, 5 
Diane de Poitiers, 11, 16, 205 
didactic poetry, 26-27, 50, 62-65, 

106, 292 

Dio Chrysostom, 108 

Dionysus, see also Bacchus, 78, 110, 

125, 126, 265 
Dioscuri, see also Castor and Pollux, 

90, 140-41, 200, 203, 222-36 
Diotima, 250 
Discord, 36, 67, 71, 136, 188, 212, 213, 

discordia concors, 84, 88, 120, 213, 249 
dispositio, 1, 17-18, 20, 31-45, 56, 106, 

107, 129-36, 150, 153, 196, 197, 
217-18, 231-32, 290, 297-302 

Dolce, Ludovico, 1-2 

Donatus, 92 

Dorat, Jean, 50, 85-86, 88, 89, 104, 
108-10, 111-12, 116, 122, 132, 150, 
162-63, 187, 197, 237, 240, 269, 
281, 291, 301 

Du Bellay, Joachim, 129, 185, 240 

Du Cerceau, J. Androuet, 11 

Du Perron, Jacques Davy, 286 

Diirer, Albrecht, 190 

Duvet, Jean, 5 

Ecole lyonnaise, 20, 55 

Ecouen, chateau d', 5,11 

ecphrasis, 5-6, 18, 47, 58-96, 103, 

105, 151-52, 163, 197, 222, 238, 

288, 291 
elocutio, 1, 45-57, 107, 126, 175, 218, 

Entellus and Dares, 220, 229 
Erasmus, 52, 85 

Este, 257, 259, 260, 263-64, 280 
Etemite, 52, 114, 149-50, 207-13, 249, 

Etna, Mount, 33 
Eumolpus, 21 
Eurydice, 278, 281 
Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, 254, 

Eustathius, 73, 78 

Fantuzzi, Antonio, 80, 84 

Ficino, MarsiUo, 87, 168, 170-72, 177, 

181, 290 
Firmicus Maternus, 186 
Flood, 9, 156 
Flora, 245, 247, 250-52 
Fontainebleau, palace of, 3, 4, 6, 8, 

10, 11, 12, 18,37,52,67,79, 152, 

226, 247, 267 
Fontainebleau, School of, 10-11, 30, 

33, 45, 53 
Fortune, 97-98, 103, 111, 113, 135, 




Francis I, viii, 3, 4, 10, 12, 30-31, 80, 

142, 293 
Francis of Assisi, Saint, 148 
Francus, 91, 92 

Galerie Fran9ois I", Fontainebleau, 
11, 12-13, 16-18, 31, 33, 37, 41, 
44, 48, 84, 94, 95, 131, 198, 217, 
276, 297 

Gallic Hercules, 74-75, 147 

Ganymede, 91-92, 212 

Garmathon, 14-15 

Gesner, Conrad, 26, 291 

Ghisi, Giorgio, 4 

Giants, 184-85 

Giulio Romano, 3, 11, 186 

Godefroi de Bouillon, 70-71 

gold, 132, 158-63, 270-71, 300 

Golden Age, 132, 153-54, 158, 163, 
252, 253 

Goliath, 228-29 

Gombrich, Ernst, 9, 30, 57, 186 

Gorgon, 71, 73 

Goujon, Jean, 52 

Gow, A. S. F., 229 

Graces, 86-87 

Gryphius, Sebastian, 107 

Guise family, 70-73, 239 

Guise, Franfois de Lorraine, due de, 
70-72, 190, 205, 239-44 

Hades, 161, 281 

Haguenau, 5 

harmony of the spheres, 45, 89, 135- 

36, 195, 283, 301 
Harpies, 53-54, 204, 216-17, 219-20, 

231, 236 
Hebe, see tXso Jeunesse, 51, 150, 212 
Hecate, 92 

Hector, 75, 91, 92, 151, 190 
Heemskerck, Maarten van, 6 
Helen, lid 

Henri de Navarre, 79 
Henry E, 3, 16, 36-37, 72, 78, 128, 

131-32, 139-47, 154, 156, 157-58, 
201, 203, 218, 227, 236, 239, 240, 
243, 244, 247 

Henry m, 76, 82, 203, 283 

Hephaestus, see also Vulcan, 60, 185, 

Hera, see ziso Juno, 39-40, 69, 115 

Heraclitus the Rhetor, 60, 67, 69, 73 

Hercules, 74-75, 99, 132, 144, 147, 
148-53, 197, 202, 205, 218, 240- 
41, 266 

Hermes, see also Mercury, 88, 110, 286 

Herodotus, 108 

Hesiod, 22, 78, 99, 181, 182, 245 

Hesione, 151-52 

Homer, 22, 25-27, 30, 34, 37, 39-40, 
46, 50-51, 59, 60, 67, 69, 70, 72- 
73, 78, 90, 94, 107-10, 112, 114, 
117, 119, 120, 140, 158-59, 161, 
162-63, 175, 176, 185, 187, 238, 
252, 264, 267, 269, 273, 286, 292 

Horace, 1, 21, 22, 40, 41, 65, 83, 86, 
113, 207, 283, 295 

Horae, see also the Seasons, 185, 213, 
247, 254, 255, 256 

Huguenots, 82-83, 283 

Hyante, 92 

hypotyposis, 47, 58-59, 96-105, 144, 
146, 157, 178-83, 197, 200, 207, 
209, 213, 227, 244, 247, 250, 256, 
261, 262, 291 

Hyver, 248, 255, 266-69 

lanthe, 278-81 

Ida, Mount, 27, 34, 37, 39, 69, 91-92, 

Idas, see also Apharidae, 230, 231, 234 
Idmon, 215 
Idomeneus, 151 

inspiration, 19-31, 57, 78, 260, 291 
inspired poetry, 21-31, 50, 106, 277, 

292, 293 
inventio, 1, 20-31, 43, 45, 48, 56, 107, 




lole, 152-53 
Iphis, 278-81 
Isidore of Seville, 153 
his, 14-16, 278-79 

Jason, 161, 201, 203, 214, 218, 229, 

Jeremiah, 27 
Jeunesse, see also Hebe, 51-52, 93-94, 

212, 252 
Jodelle, Etienne, 129, 203-5, 240-41, 

Josephus, 9 

Joukovsky, Frangoise, 2, 13, 17, 58 
Julius Caesar, 145 
Juno, see also Hera, 34-35, 39-40, 69, 

120-21, 123, 266 
Jupiter, see also Zeus, 33-35, 37, 39- 

40, 72, 91, 97, 121-23, 143-44, 

147, 150, 153, 156, 171, 185, 224, 

226, 231, 234, 235-36, 253, 266, 

267, 268, 270, 299 
Justice, 153, 156-58, 163, 218 
Juvenal, 182 

King's College Chapel, Cambric^e, 

Laertes, 161 

Lafeuille, Germaine, 136, 157, 176, 

Laomedon, 152 
Laumonier, Paul, 66, 70, 82, 89, 91, 

117, 118, 119, 125, 152, 161, 192, 

243, 248, 273 
Laus Pisonis, 243 
Leah, 153 

Leda, 224-27, 292-93 
Leonardo da Vinci, 3, 225-26 
Lescot, Pierre, 3 
Leucippides, 228-31 
Libra, 1^1 
Linus, 22, 28 
Lippi, Filippino, 225 

Lorraine, Charles de Guise, cardinal 

de, 127, 153, 157, 200, 205, 236- 

37, 285, 299 
Lorraine, Claude de, 205 
Lucian, 58, 59, 67 
Lucina, 278 
Lucretius, 86, 113, 114, 183, 245-46, 

248, 253 
Lycophron, 22 
Lyncee, see also Apharidae, 230, 231, 

232, 234 
Lysippus of Sicyon, 63 

Maecenas, 207 

ManiUus, 186 

Mannerism, 6, 10, 15-16, 45-57, 58, 

107, 126, 262, 269, 303 
Marguerite de France, 199, 205-6, 

218, 297, 299 
Marot, Clement, 10 
Mars and Venus, 5, 31, 58, 66-69, 84 
Marsyas, 84-85 
Marullus, Michael, 64, 113-14, 117, 

120, 124, 125, 192-94, 209, 286 
McAllister Johnson, W., 16-17, 44, 

melancholy, 22-23, 141 
Menander the RJietor, 114-16 
Mercury, see also Hermes, 86, 88-89, 

113, 240-42, 255, 266, 267, 268, 

metempsychosis, 171-73 
Metz, 70, 75 

Michelangelo, 4, 5, 10, 225-26, 227 
Mignon, Jean, 5, 67 
mimetic poetry, 26-27, 30, 106, 292 
Minerva, see also Athena, 60, 84 
Montaigne, Michel de, 174 
Montomorency, Anne de, connetable 

de France, 11, 163, 166, 190 
Mopsus, 215 
Morpheus, 38-40, 68 
Mort, 96-97, 167-73 
Moschus, 76 



Moses, 27, 28 

Musaeus, 21, 23, 28 

Muses, 20, 22, 23, 89-90, 129, 147, 

167, 218, 227 
myths, philosophical and divinely 

inspired, 8, 30-31, 57, 62, 84, 116, 

163, 197 

Nature, 92, 111, 160, 193, 213, 255, 
257, 259, 261, 264, 281 

Navagero, Andrea, 273 

Neo-Platonism, vii-viii, 9, 10, 13, 19- 
31, 43, 48, 57, 62, 65-96, 106, 107, 
113, 130, 133, 153, 168, 170, 173, 
174, 175-83, 185, 269, 290, 291, 
293, 295, 303 

Neptune, 84, 85, 152, 159, 164, 166, 

Nessus, 152-53 

Nicholas of Cusa, 44, 209 

Occasio, 62, 98, 184, 189-90 

Oceanus, 35-36 

Ocyrhoe, 143 

Odysseus, 67, 191, 218 

Oiron, chateau d', 11 

Opinion, 100-101 

Orpheus, 21, 27, 28, 97, 111, 115, 118, 

124, 214-15, 221-22, 238, 277, 

278, 281-83 
Orphic hymns, 107, 111, 114-15, 117, 

119-20, 192-94 
Osiris, 14-16 
Ovid, 33, 60, 84, 112, 113, 143, 156, 

247, 252, 253, 270, 278, 281 

Pandora, 78-79 

Panofsky, Erwin, 13, 23, 59, 62, 64, 

92, 99, 153, 189 
Paris, 36-37, 74, 78, 82, 140, 201, 202, 

Pascal, Pierre, 240 
Peleus, 202, 278 
Penelope, 67, 161 

Penni, Luca, 5 

Petrarch, 103, 146 

Phaethon, 1A7 

Philosophie, 175-83 

Philostratus, 59 

Phineus, 53-54, 204, 215-16, 218, 236 

Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni, 114 

Pindar, 112, 116, 117, 254 

Plato, 20-21, 24, 25, 26, 30, 43, 57, 86, 

89, 90,149-50, 168-69, 171, 172, 

181, 182-83, 185, 194-96, 197, 199, 

206, 207-208, 213, 217, 249-50, 252, 

263, 264, 267, 290, 291 
Platonic frenzies, 20-21, 27, 28-29, 

68, 79, 83, 86, 88, 89, 123-24, 161 
Pleiade, 10, 11-12, 13, 21, 27, 47, 89, 

119, 199,205,217,218 
Plutarch, 1, 16, 108 
Pontano, Gioviano, 114, 119 
Porphyry, 187, 254, 257, 264 
Posidippus, 62 
Priam, 161 
Primaticcio, Francesco, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 

11, 67, 152, 247, 248, 267 
Pnntemps, 35, 250, 252-53, 255, 259, 

262, 263, 280 
Proclus, 26-27, 30, 57, 67-68, 69, 92, 

106, 113, 137-38, 170, 176, 208, 

250, 252, 257, 265, 267, 290, 292 
Promesse, 101-3 
Prometheus, 151-52, 171, 216 
Propertius, 41, 64, 226 
Proserpina, 274, 276 
Psellus, 137 

Ptolemy, king of Egypt, 139-40, 147 
Pythagoras, 43, 195 

Quainton, Malcolm, 31-32, 167, 189-90 
Quintilian, 59 

Rachel, 153 

Raimondi, Marcantonio, 4 
rainbow, 72-73 
Raphael, 3, 4, 10 



Reims, 157 
Rene d'Anjou, 71 
Ripa, Cesare, 9 
Roman de la Rose, 10 
Rosso Fiorentino, 3, 4, 10, 11, 84, 
225-26, 227 

St. Bartholomew Massacre, 164, 285, 

Salmon Macrin, Jean, 19-20 
Salviati, Francesco, 55 
Sannazzaro, lacopo, 80-81, 114 
Sansovino, Andrea, 80 
Saturn, 22, 141, 213, 247 
Scaliger, Juliiis Caesar, 51, 114 
Sceve, Maurice, 20, 182 
Scorpio, 262 

Scylla and Chary bdis, 271 
Seasons, see also Horae, 245-89 
Sebillet, Thomas, 19, 20, 27 
Semele, \1\-11 

Shearman, John, 10, 47-57, 59 
Silenus, 85 
Simonides, 1, 7 
Socrates, 86, 168-69 
Sodoma, II, 67 
Solomon, 27 
Speroni, Sperone, 50-51 
stars. 111, 114, 134, 138-39, 183-88, 

189, 284 
Stoicism, 148, 187 
Sun, 114, 185, 255, 257, 258, 259, 261, 

262, 266, 268, 269, 275, 300 
swan, 224-27, 292-93 
Symplegades, 187, 220-21 
Synagogue, 153 
syncretism, viii, 56, 148, 150, 156, 

170, 174, 194, 290 

Tanlay, chateau de, 144 
Tantalus, 161-62, 280 
Tasso, Torquato, 55 
Te, Palazzo, Mantua, 11, 186 
Telethusa, 278-79 

Temps, 62, 255, 257 

Thebes, 85-86 

Themis, 153, 156 

Theocritus, 22, 76, 77, 81, 82, 139-40, 

144, 147, 229, 230 
Thrace, 276 
Tibullus, 243 
Tiphys, 201-3, 205 
Titian, 120 
Trajan's column, 165 
Trent, Council of, 56 
Troy, 39, 68-69, 85, 91, 152 
Tyard, Pontus de, 13-16, 27, 129, 290 

Uffizi Gallery, Florence, 9 
Urban 11, Pope, 70 

Valeriano, 225 

Valerius Flaccus, 214, 215-16, 221, 
224, 226 

Valois dynasty, 3, 10, 147, 200 

Vasari, Giorgio, 11 

Venus, see also Aphrodite, 34-35, 39, 
69, 71, 86-87, 92, 95, 100, 113, 
173, 245, 252, 262, 268, 274-77 

Vertu, 65, 99, 181, 213 

Virgil, 5, 22, 33, 37, 41-42, 50-51, 56, 
59,60,65,71,76,82,91,92, 112, 
113, 118, 158, 186-87, 202, 220, 
229, 235, 238, 245, 252, 281 

Vitruvius, 42-43 

Volupte, 98-100, 102, 182 

Vulcan, see also Hephaestus, 33, 37, 
92, 213, 246, 248, 252, 254, 259, 
264, 266, 267 

Wars of Religion, 82, 249, 302 
Wind, Edgar, 9, 85, 87, 225-26 
Wittkower, Rudolf, 43-44, 197 

Zephyrus, 245, 250-52, 262 

Zeus, see also Jupiter, 27, 39-40, 69, 

73, 86, 111, 115, 120, 187, 257, 

263, 265 
Zodiac, 156, 262 


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