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Pierre de Ronsard's Odes and the Law of Poetic Space Author(s): Ehsan Ahmed Reviewed work(s):
Pierre de Ronsard's Odes and the Law of Poetic Space Author(s): Ehsan Ahmed Reviewed work(s):

Pierre de Ronsard's Odes and the Law of Poetic Space Author(s): Ehsan Ahmed Reviewed work(s):

Source: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Winter, 1991), pp. 757-775 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Renaissance Society of America

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Pierrede Ronsard'sOdes and the Law of Poetic Space





Et faictes que toujours j'espie veillant les secretz des cieulx.

(Odd a Michel de l'Hospital)

T HEOdesof 1550 and 1552 reveal Pierre de Ronsard's ambition

to gain entry into the court of Henri II. In the 1550 preface to the Odes, Ronsard does not make the slightest effort to veil his lit-

erary and political objectives. He presents his Odesas a poetic

lenge to Clement Marot's psalm translations of 1541 and 1543 with the discovery of an equally ancient lyric source, pagan rather than Hebraic, and he mounts an ad hominem attack on the court poet Mellin de Saint-Gelais in order to win Henri's favor. The

poetry, however, places in evidence other preoccupations. The Odes de- scribe and problematize the endless wanderings of a poetic subject who seeks to uncover the secrets not only of the ancient world but of the modern one as well. The young Vend6mois poet attempts to unify in his verse worlds fragmented by time and space. Tracing his patrons' history to an-

way of creating an of- metaphorical space of

relationships so they.

will conform not to myth but to a new, higher form of reality. Ron-

sard'ssuccess comes from such a syncretic vision, but the

his poetry, however, he alters received spatial

cient Greece and Rome becomes, in part, a ficial place for himself in France. Within the




ifications weigh heavy upon his conscience-perhaps in light of the Sorbonne's condemnation of Marot's 1541 translation of sacred texts. Through his vernacular imitations, Ronsard relates his early modern world to an ancient poetic one that not only embraces an absolute and divine authority but also contradicts Church belief.

'Particularly in the Odea Michelde l'Hospital, one readsof the ancient

authority Ronsard portraysJupiter as saying "Que


as prophets. Inspiredby Plato and Pin-

les vers viennentde Dieu, / Non de l'hu-

being invested with the same divine


maine puissance" (vv. 475-76); Ronsard 3: I45. In the Ode, Ronsard then proceeds to


invoke the Muses in a prayer to

help him learn the secrets of the heavens (vv. 5I -

Also see his Abbrege de l'art poetique(1565), where he defines this ancient period as a




Throughout the Odes, the poet makes continual reference to a certainlaw of propriety as he introduces ancient pagan elements in his verse. Although he recognizes the moral sanctions against clas- sical paganism-revived, the poetic world of the Odes continually defies them and alludes to an unlimited possibility of creation. One can observe this conflict in the discursive, the historical, and the cosmological aspects of the Odes. Though these perspectives of meaning are analogous in structure and are often presented simul- taneously, for the sake of exposition I shall separate them in order to demonstrate how the Odesarebound to a novel and problematic view of spatialrelationships in sixteenth-century France. Ronsard's specific comments on the difficulty of combining ancient with modern elements are directly related to a vision he is trying to de- scribe. Although Ronsard recognizes this need for propriety both formally and contextually, I argue that he nonetheless transgresses it. In fact, he plants the seeds of a poetic philosophy of infinite space which will resonate in the works of the Italian philosopher Gior- dano Bruno as he develops his own theory of the infinite which contributed directly to the scientific revolution at the end of the six- teenth century.2



The Ode a Michelde l'Hospital, written in 1550 and published in I552, appropriately marks the beginning of Ronsard's career as a court poet, while it recounts the origins of pagan poetry. The ode is given in recognition of l'Hospital's defense of Ronsard and his poetic reforms against the polemical attacks of Saint-Gelais. Through l'Hospital's efforts, Ronsard eventually was able to win the favor of Henri II.3 The symbolic deference paid to the "loy de la Chanson" at the end of this poem could signal Ronsard's accep- tance into the court, but the significance of this law in terms of dis- cursive order is still greater:

"theologie allegoricque": "La Poesie n'estoit au premier aage qu'un Theologie alle- goricque, pour faire entrer au cervau des hommes grossiers par fables plaisantes et co-

lor6es les secretz qu'ilz ne pouvoyent

of Ronsard's

odes will be cited; references to later editions will be used wherever it seems pertinent.


on leur


quand trop ouvertement

la verite" (Ronsard 14: 4). The first editions (I550 and I552)

2Koyre, 39, and passim. 3For historical details of this event, see Nolhac, 178-87.










Mais la loy de la Chanson Ores ores me vient dire Que par trop en long je tire Les repliz de sa facon. Ore donque je ne puis Vanter la Fleur, tant je suis Pris d'un ardeur nompareille D'aller chez toy pour chanter Cest Ode, affin d'enchanter Ton soin charme par l'oreille. (vv. 807-16)

(But the law of the Song / Now, now comes to tell me / That I draw out too long / The folds of its fashion. / Now I may no longer / Praise the Flower, so much am I / Seized by a passion without equal / To go to you and sing / This Ode, in order to captivate/ You charmed through the ear.)

In spite of his much vaunted discovery of the ancient ode in his preface, Ronsard defines the relationship between the ode and the chansonas one between poetic innovation ("ode"), and poetic au-

thority ("loy de la Chanson"). In search for authority, the chanson



cover the pagan origin of poetry. Ronsard seems to submit his

"ode"to the "loy de la Chanson" by syntactically placing it between the rhyme "chanter:enchanter"in the last verses, because the rhyme emphasizes the vernacular function of this ancient form; it "natu-

ralizes"it. Particularly in the term "chanson"in his

(I549), the use of it in this ode on lyric origins conveys a more am-

bivalent attitude towards the Ancients than Du

Bellay to concede in the Pleiade's manifesto. The movement towards the

Ancients is coupled with a movement back to France and an iden-

tification with its national lyric tradition. The

of the song," derives from Pindar (Nemian, IV, v. 33) where the

law, tethmds,refers to

verse poetic discourse. Ronsard worries somewhat belatedly about transgressing this law in his most lengthy of Pindaric odes (com- posed of 816 verses). The poet realizes at the closing of the poem that he has surpassed the limits of this lyric form and that he can no longer develop the encomium of Marguerite ("la Fleur"), the duchess of Berry and sister of Henri II, which he startedin the pre- ceding stanzas. He has drawn out the folds of the "chanson"too far

the source of the ode, and the nature of poetic chronology problematic, indeed reversed, in a poem that claims to un-

light ofJoachim Du Bellay's rejection of

Deffence et Illustrationdela


would like


"the law

the just balance between a unified and yet di-




in his eagerness to praise Michel de l'Hospital-

to praise Marguerite as well. In view of this ancient law that pre- scribes an enclosed poetic field of diverse elements, the poet com- mits an act of impropriety by encompassing too many topics and overstepping formal boundaries. Though Pindar admits to the same infraction, his digressions are not so prolix as Ronsard's.4 Similar discursive improprieties recur earlierin the fifth epode of the Ode a Michelde l'Hospital, when Jupiter commands his daugh- ters, the Muses, to perform "chansons"at a gathering of his divine

court (v. 161 et passim). Once the Muses have gathered, they begin to tell the battle of the gods and the giants, known as the "Assaut des Geans et des Dieux." This account occupies the center of the poem and again emulates Pindar by embedding a digressive tale in an ode. While the Muses "accord"a discordant battle, Ronsard at- tempts to "accord" by means of imitation his chanson not with a Pindaric ode but with Hesiod's Theogony on the battle between the Titans and the Olympians. 5 Once the Muses have concluded their song, the poet, however, entones a discordant note:

so farthat he begins


La combloit




De Mars, qui Ronflantsur

de la voix

tendoit l'oreille,

d'un aize parfaict,



si bien l'avoit

retourne, rid en arriere

tenoit l'oiel ferme, sa lance guerriere,

Tant la Chanson l'avoit charme. (vv.


(Jupiter who was offering his ear, / Filled it (his ear) with complete joy, /

Ravished by a voice beyond comparison / which had so well counterfeitedit

(the song): / And having turned, laughed behind him / At Mars, whose eyes

were closed, / Snoring on his warrior


staff, / So much the Song had pleased

4Ronsard,I: 44: "Des le meme

tens que Clement Marot (seulle lumiereen ses ans


nul ne s'atribuece que laverite

in these

on his psalter, I daredto be the first

de la vulgairepoesie) se travailloita la poursuite

nostres, enricherma langue de ce nom Ode

commandeestrea moi" ("At the sametime thatClement

years of vernacular poetry] to enrich

among our people

attributeto himself what truth shows to

de son Psautier, et osai le

affin que


Marot [theonly light

was working diligently

my language

with this word Ode belong to me"). moy ces odes incongnues

such thatnone may

encor' de la Muse

5Du Bellay, 112-13,

writes: "Chante


d'un luc, bien accordeau son de la lyre Greque et Romaine."










the song have been reduced to one and impersonalized by the def- inite article. Moreover, this one voice did not sing the chanson but imitated it or more specifically parodied or counterfeited it ("con- trefait").6 Isidore Silver has remarked on the originality of this stanza but nonetheless queries: "How justify the tone of the pas- sage?"7 Could this be a reference to the imitator's own voice un- willing to efface itself behind the Muses, much less behind Hesiod? The battle song that causes Mars to snore ("ronflant")delights Ju- piter. Ironically, Hesiod's poem on the origin of the world gives Ronsard the opportunity to render the identity of the original maker problematic;Jupiter's acknowledgement ofRonsard's pleas- ing distortion creates the impression of his actual presence at the god's court where he displays his ability to enchant even the great- est of divinities. The shifts that occur among the subjects and ob- jects truly complicate the spatial order ("trop en long je tire/ Les

From the

perspective of Renaissance modes of intertextuality, one could say that Ronsard curries Henri's favor primarily through his heuristic imitations of the classical Greek poets Pindar and Hesiod.8 But from a purely intrinsic point of view, one can analyze the shift as the displacement of the ancient and absolute center of poetic cre- ation from the pagan divinities (i.e., the Muses) to the poet himself, so that their other worldliness assumes a relative value for the per- son speaking. Du Bellay insists in the Deffence that young French poets com- pose French odes based on Latin and Greek examples and do so in a "consonant" manner. Ronsard ironizes that accord in his seminal ode on poetic origins. Margaret Ferguson writes that Du Bellay does not allow in his Deffence for "the possibility of an imitation that not only changes the ancient source but plays ironically on the

repliz") as Ronsard attempts to create a place for himself.


imitate;Huguet, 2: 497. Cotgrave, however,

sees it as meaning to imitate but also to disfigure and to adulterate-that is,

defines "contrefaire"as to

not only

to alter.

7Silver, 1937, 55.

8Greene,40, writes: "Heuristicimitations come to us advertising their derivation

they carry

with them, but


done that,

they proceed

to distance

notes simultaneously the gulf in lan-

from the subtexts

themselvesfromthesubtextsandforceus to recognize the poetic distancetraversed

The informed readernotes the allusion but he

guage, in sensibility, in cultural context, in world view, and in moral style." (The italics are mine.)



change."9 This feature distinguishes Ronsard's practice in his odes from Du Bellay's theoretical stance. While Du Bellay seeks a uni- fied accord with Horace, Ronsard combines the voices of many. He even manages to distinguish his own voice among the divine ones

by superimposing his voice on the Muses and wins the praise ofJu- piter. His singularity becomes apparent when he draws attention to his own ability to write a counter-version of pagan history- again, "la voix qui le contrefait." He appropriates their authority in order to display his own creative power, and he identifies with the divine Ancients not as their epigone but as their equal. He re-

writes their poetry,


order to make a place for himself.

altering it, and indeed reversing

the imagery

He transgresses the law of poetic space and propriety

as he makes

room for himself

In the opening

of poetic space is foremost in Ronsard's thoughts

through fields of the Graces gathering flowers into crowns. In his

travels, the first-person subject fashions a crown metaphorically by the joining verses:

at the expense

of his patrons,

human and divine.

verses of the Ode a Michel de l'Hospital, the theme

as he wanders

Errant par les champs

Qui peint

Sus les

Le tresor des plus riches fleurs,


D'une laborieuse main,

de la Grace

mes vers de ses couleurs

bords Dirceans j'amasse

qu'en pillant je faconne

La rondeur de ceste couronne.



(Wandering in the fields of the Grace/ Who paints my verse with her


est flowers, / So that

roundnessof this crown.)


the sideof theDircean [fountain] I collect / Treasurefrom the rich-

while culling I may fashion/With a skilled hand, / The

The repeated deviations from the triadic pattern heightened by the initial placement of the word "errant" in the first verse can be taken as an assertion by the poet of his role as the wandering dis- coverer. He inserts himself in the discourse at the risk of displacing

his patron;10 he fashions an oddly shaped crown around himself,

9Ferguson, 285. 'IAs Cave, 230-3I,


de l'Hospital in order to portray himself as the wandering

the initial metaphor of flower gathering

made) is elaborated by successive layers of metonymy

allusion first the model-poet


Ronsard paradoxically displaces Pindar and Michel

poet: "In a single syntactical

(the figure of how

and periphrasis, introducing by

the poem is

and then the patron. Neither is named. Pindar is displaced










symbolically marking a royal space protected from the "vulgaire." Ronsard leads the reader to believe the poet follows a pattern, but the Odea Michelde l'Hospital represents a counter example to a uni-

fied discourse and provides counter histories to the ones he claims to imitate. Readers may be correct who view the poet's "errors"as ill-fashioned imitations of Pindar," but Ronsard's deviations also

articulate a novel and complex

which is not

strictly an intertextual problem of imitation but more generally the

quest for a poetic center in a world of unlimited diversity. The crown symbolized by the composition of the verses must be ample enough to give the poet freedom to wander endlessly and yet to define a place within the recognized bounds of the royal court. From a discursive point of view, herein lies the fundamental conflict of the Odes. In his Ode de la Paix, Ronsard deprecates an abundant use of words and lauds brevity, but he will again disregard the law:


Tousjours un propos deplaist Aus oreilles attendantes, Si plein outre reigle il est De parolles abondantes. Celui qui en peu de vers Etraint un sujet divers, Se met au chef la couronne:

De cette fleur que voici, Et de celle, et celle aussi, La mouche son miel faconne




(Always a subject is unpleasing / To the awaiting ears / If it surpasses the rule / With abundant words. / He who can contain in a few verses diverse subjects / May place the crown upon his head: /With this flower here / And there, and also there, / The bee fashions its honey / In a diverse manner.)

The plurality of voices

and texts becomes

central to the creation

of an ode; Ronsard describes his craft ironically as that of a modest bee that "borrows" its honey from diverse sources-a theme devel- oped in Horace's ode IV, ii, which Horace in turn borrows from Pindar's Pythia, X, vv. 53-54. The relationship between unity and

so thatthe poeticje can appropriate his topoi

place to be skirted by myths, narrations,

L'Hospital is the pretext, an empty

and incrustationsof elocutio."

"Silver'sthesis attempts to show Ronsard'semulationof Pindarto be anutterfail-

ure. Silver, I937.



diversity is central, because an overabundance of words is a trans-



song's unity. He nonetheless abandons the encomiastic pattern in

a blatantly immodest way to create a new history as he simulta-

neously admonishes one against such transgression. In the preface to the Odes he seeks the reader's praise for having traced an un-

known path, having freely surmounted territorial boundaries:

Si les hommes tant des siecles passes que du nostre, ont merite quelque louange pour avoir pique diligentement apres les traces de ceus qui courant par la car- riere de leurs inventions, ont de bien loin franchi la borne: combien davantage doit on vanter le coureur qui galopant librement par les campaignes Attiques, & Romaines osa tracer un sentier inconnu pour aller a l'immortalite?

of the poetic law, "outre reigle," the same "loy de la Chan-

which Ronsard claims to observe in order to preserve the

(If men many centuries before ours merited some praise for having spurred [their horses] diligently after the traces of those who, racing on the career of discoveries, went well beyond the border: how much must one praise the racer who, galloping freely among the Attic and Roman countryside, dared to trace an unknown path to gain immortality?)12

It is the spirit of the unbound traveller which he tries to capture in his poetry but which unfailingly complicates the poetic discourse.




When Ronsard attempts to portray Henri II, Michel de l'Hospi- tal, Marguerite de Valois, and others according to Pindar's exam- ple, he creates anachronistic settings for his sixteenth-century pa- trons. He tries to superimpose a national political patron onto a foreign poetic pattern, "un patron," and by doing so, he con- sciously crosses spatial boundaries. His identity becomes defined as the mediator between two worlds. To the extent that he attempts to reconcile pagan poetry with sixteenth-century court life, he re- sembles Marot's David who, as a divine prophet, mediates between the two spheres of heaven and earth. Moreover, as Christians un- cover figures in the Old Testament to prophesy Christ's coming and to align the histories of the two peoples, Ronsard invents pagan prophesies of the founding of Parisin order to make the two worlds

'2Ronsardborrows this

topos Seealso I, iii, vv. I-12,

of the


from Horace (Epist. I,

xix, 21-22).

addressedto Marguerite de Valois, whereRonsard

explains thathe has to wanderin orderto find a new way to sing of her virtue which

this formulation, see Ahmed,


hasbeen tainted by the Marotiques. Forfurther study of










appear consecutive. In the preface to his translations, Marot ex- plains David's experiences in terms of Christ. One can view Ron-

sard's prophetic history as an attempt to place

tion over his verse. He regards it as venerable as the psalms. Marot

establishes prophetic connections between the "Hebraiques" and the "Galliques" and between David and Francois I, whereas Ron- sard creates an alternative history from Greece to Rome to France,

from pagan gods to Henri II. To advance the parallel one more

Ronsard wills into being concordant spiritual experiences between the pagan heros and the French through reviving ancient verse and

mythologizing the birth of France as a modern and imperial state.

complex sequence of nar-

ratives in the middle of the ode; Vergil's Aeneid

source of inspiration for this translatio imperii. The praise of Henri

II which opens the poem leads quickly to the unfolding of a Fran- ciade epyllion that traces a movement from the Creation to the Fall of Troy and to the founding of Paris (vv. 37-286). Issuing from this genealogical digression in an exaggerated Pindaric manner is the glorious descendant of Troy, Henri II. Ronsard justifies a place for

himself at the French court, as if it were his natural

ating a similar place in history for his king; indeed, both were fated

from the beginning of time. This victory ode

of the treaty between Henri II and Edward VI of England over France's reacquisition of Boulogne serves as a pretext for Ronsard to establish a place in France without limit for his poetic imagina-


an air of divine sanc-


In the Odedela Paix, Ronsard inserts a


the main

right, by


marking the signing

Henri II is the prophesied heir from the Greek world.



the voices of Cassandra and Andromache, Ronsard blends

present, and future in an effort to surmount his historical limita- tions and yet to align his art with the prophetic arts of those two

women.'3 Cassandra prophesies that Astyanax will found a new

Troy on the Danube from which will emerge a group of settlers to

found the city of Paris, 4 and Andromache foretells both of Paris becoming the eternal city, like Vergil's Rome, and of Henri's pre- eminence. Through these pagan prophets, Ronsard will charta tra-

'3See also ode I, xvi, where Ronsard explicitly considers himself and his poet

subsequent editions of the ode andin the Franciade, Francushimself founds

friends:"Comme profettes des dieus" (v. 2).


Paris, and not his descendants.



ditional "Catholic" succession of empires and letters from Greece to Rome and then to France. While the "timeless" evangelism of

the psalms is preserved needs to amend

image Once Ronsard has established the connection between Francus and Henri II and between Troy and Paris, he breaks the narrative line and banishes Francus from his ode:

in Marot's reverential translation, Ronsard

history to createan equally immortal

mythological of Paris and Henri II. 5

Fui donc Troien,

Si ton Neveu

toi et ta bande,

me le commande

J'irai bien tost pour te trouver.

(vv. 284-86)

(Take flight Trojan, you and your troops, / If your Nephew [to write the epic] / I will come soon to find you.)




as he did in the Odea Michelde l'Hospital, the poet inter-

venes in the world which he is trying to represent. He exerts his influence over the descendants of Francusand in doing so advertises his ability to write a French epic for which he seeks Henri's com-

mission: "Si ton Neveu me le commande."I6 Similar to the ode to

l'Hospital, the center comes to represent the place of flight, an open

space that can only be circumscribed by


history less incomplete. This history is constructed in the ode through the

law of unity which would be guaranteed, verisimilitude of events; yet the more diverse

infraction of the poetic in this context, by the

the events become, the less plausible they appear. The lyric subject

Henri's patronage. This di-

of Henri whose closure is alluded to remains nonethe-

unites the two peoples through tempts to pass off as prophecy.

will accept this history as revealed truth. But later, in the "Epistre

au lecteur" to his incomplete epic the Franciade (I 572), Ronsard will criticize Ariosto for departing too farfrom the law of verisimilitude and for creating marvelous fables in the OrlandoFurioso.Ronsard

a fictionalized account that he at- Moreover, he hopes that his reader

founding a different literary tra-

dition under Henri II. The epic that Ronsardwas to write under CharlesIX was in-

tendedto give a unified history to a Francerentasunder by religious strife, while here

must be seen a contrarioto widen those differencesof spiritual and poetic

Ronsardon the

the epyllion


other. The

ments. See

'6See Laumonier,I46-50, for backgroundliteraryhistory of Ronsard's literaryepic

'5The Franciade epyllion functions as a means of

between Marotandhis school on the one handandthe

same story

young functions in opposing mannersat two differenthistoricalmo-

Menager, 277 and passim.

the Franciade.










falls victim to his own judgment both in the Odede la Paix

and the

Franciadeas his efforts to posit unity between historically diverse cultures prove to be an impossibility.I7 Adherence to this law of unity or verisimilitude has strong moral foundations. In the epyllion, Ronsard disregards the moral state- ment he makes at the opening of the ode as if it does not apply to

him. There he observes, following Pindar's example, how


ness stems from royal pride (vv. 4-5, "De son heur outrecuidee/ Court vague, sans estre guidee"; "From his proud happiness/ He wanders, without being guided." Cf. Pindar Pythia V, str. I). Mo- rality is defined in spatial terms. Realizing toward the end of the ode that this poetic history has led himself astray, he invokes the Muse in a Pindaric manner to keep him from going farther adrift:


Et racle la prochaine onde Qui nous baigne a 1'environ

Sans estre ainsi vagabonde.

repren l'aviron,

(vv. 287-90)

(Muse, resume the oar / And scrape the next wave / Which bathes our sides / Without thus being vagabond.)

Again, does the poet consider himself above moral reproach for his lack of proportion? In these verses the poet explains that his course is not self-determined but governed by a divine force, the Muse. Although he violates his own injunction against human pride-pride being an unsanctioned and indeed unlimited explora- tion of space-he looks to the Muse to authorize such a lofty un- dertaking. This problem of closure is recurrent; rather than seek this infinite space away from the court, he does so from the very center, as if again shaping a royal crown that gains him recognition as an epic poet and that sanctions his endless wandering among di- verse topics. While the poetic and political crowns symbolically im-

poet; formertells things as they are, and the latterrelatesthem as they could be. Ronsard

cautions againstpoetic excess in the

to heed his own advice: "J'ose seulement dire (si mon

Poete qui escritles choses comme elles sont ne merite tant

reculele plus qu'illuy est possible

fantastique comme celle de l'Ariosto" ("I dare say only-if


one who fictionalizesthem and removes himself as far as possible from the historian:

not so much, however, to createa Poetry so fantasticas

'7Ronsardborrows Aristotle's distinction between the historianand the


preface to the Franciade, I6: 4, though he is slow


opinion a quelquepoix) que

que celuy qui


les feint et se

feindreune Poesie

de l'historien:non toutefois

my opinion carries any

aredoes not merit so much as

the Poet who writes about things as they




pose spatial order, the tethmos,they embody as well a prophecy of vast expansion for both Henri's empire and Ronsard's imagination. One can see at this point that the Odesboth discursively and his- torically surpass the law of unity and tend to the realm of the mar- velous as they attempt to encompass a myriad of seemingly dis- jointed concerns-be it the Ode a Michel de l'Hospital with topics ranging from the Battle of the Gods and the Giants to the genealogy of poets and the praise of too many patrons or the Ode de la Paix with the diverse and illustrious genealogy of Henri II. This same acceptance of the marvelous precedes a poetic belief in a world of





Ronsard opens the Quatrepremiers livresdesodesin a work entitled Au Roi wherein he requests patronage from Henri in a twenty-verse prologue. If Henri gratifies Ronsard's mundane interests, the poet will place the king at the center of the ever-expanding poetic uni- verse:

L'aiant pour ma guide,

Autre bien je ne desire, Que d'apparoistre a tes yeux Le saint Harpeur de ta gloire, Et l'archer de ta memoire



la tirer dans

les cieus.



(Having you for my guide, Sir / I desire no other good / Than to appear before your eyes/ As the holy Harpist of your glory/ And the archer of your memory/ In order to launch it into the heavens.)

Ronsard informs

Henri II in this liminal ode that he, as poet,


perpetuate his king's memory as if he had the power to deify mor- tals, "Pour la tirer dans les cieus." Since the genealogy he creates for Henri is fictitious, glory is not equated with real acts but with the conservation of one's name for posterity, as suggested by the rhyme "gloire:memoire." If Henri II consents to be Ronsard's pa- tron "ma guide" and secure for him a place as court poet, Ronsard

'8Cf. Hathaway, I60-6I, who writes: "Many Renaissance writers were willing to say that the masterful solving of artistic problems was one of the chief sources of ad- miration or the marvelous. Hence they also stressed unity, or the reconciliation of unity and variety as a cause of the marvelous." For Ronsard, it is precisely the unsolved prob- lem of unity and diversity which leads him to a poetic conception of infinite space.










will preserve the Valois king's name in the heavens. Memory be- comes an explicit function of politics. As Ronsard proceeds, he reveals a sense of poetic strength that appears to flourish quite independently of his king. The poet turns to his Muse and deliberates over whom he will glorify:

Muse, bande ton arc dous, Muse ma douce

Quel Prince fraperonsnous,

L'enfoncant parmi

Sera-ce pas nostre ROI,

Duquel Humera cette merveille

Qui n'obeist qu'a ma loi? (vv. 21-28)


la France?

la divine oreille

(Muse, arm your sweet bow / Muse my sweet hope

strike/ Sending him throughout

divine ear/ Will drink

/ Which Prince will we

France?/ Will it not be our KING, / Whose


this marvel/ Which only obeys my law?)

Ronsard describes his ability to glorify his king in an imperious manner because he views divine poetry as a sovereign would his


"Cette merveille / Qui n'obeist qu'a ma loi."9I This

"merveille" is the poetic space where familiarity is lost among ob- jects of superhuman proportion. Here Ronsard explicitly abandons Pindar'slaw of poetic proportion. One can sense the poet's attempt to articulatethis new law of poetry through his infractions of spatial and moral codes. Marsilio Ficino, in his commentary on Plato's Phaedrus, considers poetry to be ruled by one of the four divine madnesses in which the poet, as he composes, undergoes a state of ra</