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Old and New Masters ebook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 226 pages of information about Old and New Masters.

    Harsoir en vous couchant vous jurates vos yeux
    D’etre plus tot que moi ce matin eveillee: 
    Mais le dormir de l’aube, aux filles gracieux,

    Vous tient d’un doux sommeil encor les yeux silleee. 
    Ca, ca, que je les baise, et votre beau tetin,
    Cent fois, pour vous apprendre a vous lever matin.

Ronsard was old and grey—­at least, he was old before his time and grey—­when he met Helene de Sorgeres, maid of honour to the Queen, and began the third of his grand passions.  He lived all the life of a young lover over again.  They went to dances together, Helene in a mask.  Helene gave her poet a crown of myrtle and laurel.  They had childish quarrels and swore eternal fidelity.  It was for her that Ronsard made the most exquisite of his sonnets:  Quand vous serez bien vieille-a sonnet of which Mr. Yeats has written a magical version in English.

It is in referring to the sonnets for Helene that M. Jusserand calls attention to the realism of Ronsard’s poetry.  He points out that one seems to see the women Ronsard loves far more clearly than the heroines of many other poets.  He notes the same genius of realism again when he is relating how Ronsard, on the eve of his death, as he was transported from priory to priory, in hope of relief in each new place, wrote a poem of farewell to his friends, in which he described the skeleton horrors of his state with a minute carefulness, Ronsard, indeed, showed himself a very personal chronicler throughout his work.  “He cannot hide the fact that he likes to sleep on the left side, that he hates cats, dislikes servants ‘with slow hands,’ believes in omens, adores physical exercises and gardening, and prefers, especially in summer, vegetables to meat.”  M. Jusserand, I may add, has written the just and scholarly praise of a most winning poet.  His book, which appears in the Grands Ecrivains Francais series, is not only a good biographical study, but an admirable narrative of literary and national history.

XV

ROSSETTI AND RITUAL

Rossetti’s great gift to his time was the gift of beauty, of beauty to be worshipped in the sacred hush of a temple.  His work is not richer in the essentials of beauty than Browning’s—­it is not, indeed, nearly so rich; but, while Browning served beauty joyously, a god in a firmament of gods, Rossetti burned a lonely candle to it as to the only true god.  To Browning, the temple of beauty was but a house in a living world; to Rossetti, the world outside the temple was, for the most part, a dead world. Jenny may, seem to stand in vivid contradiction of this.  But Jenny was an exceptional excursion into life, and hardly expresses the Rossetti that was a power in art and literature.  Him we find best, perhaps, in The Blessed Damozel, written when he was little more than a boy.  And this is not surprising, for the arrogant love of beauty,

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