Old and New Masters eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about Old and New Masters.
no man could write odes fuller of exaggerated adulation when they were wanted.  He sometimes counselled kings, we are told, “in a tone that, after all our revolutions, no writer would dare to employ to-day.”  Perhaps M. Jusserand over-estimates the boldness with which his hero could remind kings that they, like common mortals, were made of mud.  He has done so, I imagine, largely in order to clear him from the charge of being a flatterer.  It is interesting to be reminded, by the way, that one of his essays in flattery was an edition of his works dedicated, by order of Catherine de Medicis, to Elizabeth of England, whom he compared to all the incomparables, adding a eulogy of “Mylord Robert Du-Dle comte de l’Encestre” as the ornament of the English, the wonder of the world.  Elizabeth was delighted, and gave the poet a diamond for his pretty book.

But Ronsard does not live in literature mainly as a flatterer.  Nor is he remembered as a keeper of the conscience of princes, or as a religious controversialist.  If nothing but his love-poems had survived, we should have almost all his work that is of literary importance.  He fell in love in the grand manner three times, and from these three passions most of his good poetry flowed.  First there was Cassandre, the beautiful girl of Florentine extraction, whom he saw singing to her lute, when he was only twenty-two, and loved to distraction.  She married another and became the star of Ronsard’s song.  She was the irruptive heroine of that witty and delightful sonnet on the Iliad:—­

    Je veux lire en trois jours l’Iliade d’Homere,
    Et pour ce, Corydon, ferme bien l’huis sur moi;
    Si rien me vient troubler, je t’assure ma foi,
    Tu sentiras combien pesante est ma colere.

    Je ne veux seulement que notre chambriere
    Vienne faire mon lit, ton compagnon ni toi;
    Je veux trois jours entiers demeurer a recoi,
    Pour folatrer apres une semaine entiere.

    Mais, si quelqu’un venait de la part de Cassandre,
    Ouvre-lui tot la porte, et ne le fais attendre,
    Soudain entre en ma chambre et me viens accoutrer.

    Je veux tant seulement a lui seul me montrer;
    Au reste, si un dieu voulait pour moi descendre
    Du ciel, ferme la porte et ne le laisse entrer.

Nine years after Cassandre came Marie, the fifteen-year-old daughter of an Angevin villager, nut-brown, smiling, and with cheeks the colour of a May rose.  She died young, but not before she had made Ronsard suffer by coquetting with another lover.  What is more important still, not before she had inspired him to write that sonnet which has about it so much of the charm of the morning:—­

    Mignonne, levez-vous, vous etes paresseuse,
    Ja la gaie alouette au ciel a fredonne,
    Et ja le rossignol doucement jargonne,
    Dessus l’epine assis, sa complainte amoureuse.

    Sus! debout allons voir l’herbelette perleuse,
    Et votre beau rosier de boutons couronne,
    Et vos oeillets aimes auxquels aviez donne
    Hier au soir de l’eau d’une main si soigneuse.

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Old and New Masters from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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