Critical prefaces of the French Renaissance

By Bernard Weinberg | Go to book overview

PIERRE DE RONSARD
PREFACE TO HIS Odes 1550

TEXT:

Les Qvatre Premiers liures des Odes de Pierre de Ronsard, Vandomois. Ensemble son Bocage. [Greek distich of Jean Dorat.] A Paris. Chez Guillaume Cauellart libraire iuré de l'uniuersité de Paris, demeurant deuant le College de Cambrai, a la poulle grasse. M.D.L. Avec previlege dv Roi. [ Pierpont Morgan Library.]

[Cf. Brunet, IV, 1378; Tchemerzine, IX, 416; Le Petit, p. 84; Cat. Rothschild, No. 671; De Ricci, No. 4, p. 23.]

Ronsard's preface to his Odes was printed only once during his lifetime, with the first edition of 1550; the next appearance was with the edition of Lyon, 1592. Essentially, it was a controversial document, belonging to the same group as the Deffence and Du Bellay's second preface to L'Olive; as such, its timeliness decreased as the controversy was won. But its immediate effect, in 1550, was to inflame further the opposition party; the Quintil Horatian was in part an attack upon this preface. The place of the preface in the controversy has been discussed by Laumonier ( Ronsard poète lyrique, Paris: Hachette, 1932, pp. xxiii-xxx), who also reprints it in his edition of Ronsard's Œuvres complètes ( Paris: Hachette, 1924, I, 43-50). Some of my notes are from that edition.


[A ij] AU LECTEUR

Si les hommes tant des siecles passés que du nostre ont merité quelque louange pour avoir piqué diligentement après les traces de ceus qui, courant par la carriere de leurs inventions, ont de bien loin franchi la borne, combien davantage doit-on vanter le coureur qui, galopant librement par les campaignes Attiques et Romaines, osa tracer un sentier inconnu pour aller à l'immortalité? Non que je soi, lecteur, si gourmand de gloire ou tant tormenté d'ambitieuse presumption que je te vueille forcer de me bailler ce que le tens, peut estre, me donnera (tant s'en faut, que c'est la moindre affection que j'aie de me voir pour si peu de frivoles jeunesses estimé). Mais quand tu m'appelleras le premier auteur lirique François et celui qui a guidé les autres au chemin de si honneste labeur, lors tu me rendras ce que tu me dois, et je m'efforcerai te faire apprendre qu'en vain je ne l'aurai receu. Bien que la jeunesse soit tousjours elongnée de toute studieuse occupation pour les plaisirs voluntaires qui la maistrisent, si est-ce que dès mon enfance j'ai tousjours estimé l'estude des bonnes lettres l'heureuse

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