Critical prefaces of the French Renaissance

By Bernard Weinberg | Go to book overview

PIERRE DE RONSARD
FIRST PREFACE TO La Franciade
1572

TEXT:

Les Qvatre Premiers Livre de la Franciade. Av Roy. Tres-Chrestien, Charles, Nevfieme de ce nom. Par Pierre de Ronsard, gentilhomme Vandomois. A Paris, Chez Gabriel Buon, demeurant au Cloz bruneau, à l'enseigne sainct Claude. 1572. Avec Privilege dv Roy. [B. N., Paris.]

[Cf. Brunet, IV, 1383-84, and Supplément, II, 511; Tchemerzine, IX, 447; Cat. Rothschild, No. 678; De Ricci, No. 66, p. 145. The first preface was reprinted in the edition of Turin: Jean-François Pico, 1574, listed by the British Museum; this edition has not been collated.]

Ronsard's first preface to his Franciade was replaced in 1573 by a short paragraph to the reader; in 1587, by a longer preface which is also printed later in this collection. In Ronsard's time, this first preface was reprinted only in the Turin edition of 1574. In the modern period, it has been reprinted in the major editions of the poet, most recently in the Œuvres complètes, edited by Gustave Cohen ( Paris: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1938, II, 1012-16), from which both of the notes given below have been taken.


[ã ij] AU LECTEUR

Encore que l'histoire en beaucoup de sortes se conforme à la poësie, comme en vehemence de parler, harangues, descriptions de batailles, villes, fleuves, mers, montaignes, et autres semblables choses où le poëte ne doibt non plus que l'orateur falsifier le vray, si est-ce quand à leur sujet ils sont aussi eslongnez l'un de l'autre que le vraysemblable est eslongné de la verité. L'histoire reçoit seulement la chose comme elle est ou fut, sans desguisure ny fard, et le poëte s'arreste au vraysemblable, à ce qui peut estre, et à ce qui est desja receu en la commune opinion. Je ne veux conclure qu'on doive effacer du rang des poëtes un grand nombre de Grecs et Latins pour honnorer d'un si venerable tiltre Homere, Virgile, et quelques autres pareils d'invention et de sujet. J'ose seulement dire (si mon opinion a quelque poix) que le poëte qui escrit les choses com[ã ij v]me elles1 sont ne merite tant que celuy qui les feint et se recule le plus qu'il luy est possible de l'historien--non toutefois pour feindre une poësie fantastique comme celle de l'Arioste, de laquelle les membres sont aucunement beaux mais le corps est tellement contrefaict et monstrueux qu'il ressemble mieux aux resveries d'un malade de fievre continue qu'aux inventions d'un homme bien sain. Il faut que l'historien de poinct en poinct, du commencement jusqu'à la

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1
elle 1572

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