Old and New Masters eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about Old and New Masters.
King’s daughter, to attend as page her tragic marriage with James V, James was so attracted by him that he did not allow him to leave the country for two years.  With every gift of popularity and success, with the world apparently already at his feet, Ronsard was suddenly struck down by an illness that crippled his whole life.  He became deaf, or half-deaf.  His body was tortured with arthritis and recurrent attacks of gout.  His career as a courtier lay in ruins before him.

Possibly, had it not been so, his genius as a poet would have spent itself in mere politeness.  The loss of his physical splendour and the death of more than one of his companions, however, filled him with an extreme sense of the transitoriness of the beauty of the world—­of youth and fame and flowers—­and turned him both to serious epicureanism and to serious writing.  By the year 1550 he was leading the young men of France in a great literary renaissance—­a reaction against the lifeless jingle of ballades and punning rhymes.  Like du Bellay, he asked himself and his contemporaries:  “Are we, then, less than the Greeks and Romans?” And he set out to lay the foundations in France of a literature as individual in its genius as the ancient classics.  M. Jusserand, in a most interesting chapter, relates the story of the battles over form and language which were fought by French men of letters in the days of La Pleiade.  In an age of awakenings, of conquests, of philosophies, of discussions on everything under the sun, the literature of tricksters was ultimately bound to give way before the bold originality and the sincerities of the new school.  But Ronsard had to endure a whole parliament of mockery before the day of victory.

Of his life, apart from his work in literature, there is little to tell.  For a man who lived in France in days when Protestantism and Catholicism were murderously at one another’s throats, he had a peculiarly uneventful career.  This, too, though he threw himself earnestly into the battle against the heretics.  He had begun by sympathizing with Protestantism, because it promised much-needed reforms in the Church; but the sympathy was short-lived.  In 1553, though a layman, he was himself filling various ecclesiastical offices.  He drew the salaries of several priories during his life, more lowly paid priests apparently doing the work.  Though an earnest Catholic, however, Ronsard was never faithless to friends who took the other side.  He published his kindly feelings towards Odet de Coligny, the Admiral’s cardinal brother, for instance, who had adopted Protestantism and married, and, though he could write bloodily enough against his sectarian enemies, the cry for tolerance, for pity, for peace, seems continually to force itself to his lips amid the wars of the time.  M. Jusserand lays great stress on the plain-spokenness of Ronsard.  He praises especially the courage with which the poet often spoke out his mind to kings and churchmen, though

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Old and New Masters from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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