Monsieur Jourdain: "Mamamouchi, c'est-à-dire, en notre langue, Paladin."
Madame Jourdain: "Baladin! Etes-vous en âge de danser des ballets?"
Monsieur Jourdain: "Quelle ignorante! Je dis Paladin: c'est une dignité dont
on vient de me faire la cérémonie."
"Mamamouchi, that is, in our language, Paladin."—"Baladin "buffoon-like
dancer"! You are dancing ballets at your age? "—"What an ignorant woman!
I say Paladin: this is an honor which was just bestowed on me." (Molière, Le
Bourgeois gentilhomme, 5, l)1
Epic was a tremendous success in early modern France. From the early sixteenth century until well into the eighteenth century, poets produced epic after epic. Even if we leave out, as not being epics stricto sensu, long hexameral poems such as Guillaume Salluste Du Bartas' La Sepmaine, scientific epics such as Maurice Scève's Microcosme, and biblical epics such as Saint-Amant's Moïse sauvé, and if we concentrate on historical epic alone, there is an abundant extant corpus to work with. David Maskell, in his Historical Epic in France: 1500–1700, lists thirty-five finished or unfinished historical epics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Maskell 1973, 237). Certain epics enjoyed several editions, and provoked widespread reaction, such as Ronsard's Franciade (1572), Du Bartas' La Sepmaine (1578), Jean Chapelain's La Pucelle (1656), and Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin's Clovis ou la France chrestienne (1657). In some cases, when the ori-