AN OVERVIEW OF THE SONNET IN
first French sonnet was possibly written by Mellin de Saint-Gelais (1491-1558)
in 1518, as he returned over the Alps to
1548: Vasquin Philieul, Laure dfAvignon 196 sonnets from Petrarca.
1549, April: Du Bellay, LfOlive (50 sonnets) is published after his Deffence (both are given the Kingfs privilege on March 20).
1550, October: LfOlive augmentée (115 sonnets). (A third edition is printed in 1554 in Du Bellayfs absence.)
1551: Pontus de Tyard (anonymously) Continuation des Erreurs Amoureuses.
1552, February: Du Bellayfs XIII Sonnetz de lfHonneste Amour appears in Œuvres de lfinvention de lfautheur, which follows his translation of Book IV of the Aeneid.
1552, October: Pierre de Ronsard, Les Amours (de Cassandre). 183 sonnets. It appears with a musical supplement.
1552, December: Jean-Antoine de Baïf, Méline.
1553, May: Ronsardfs Amours (2nd, augmented, edition, with a commentary by his friend Marc-Antoine de Muret following each poem). 220 sonnets (39 added, 2 removed).
1553: Olivier Magny, Les Cent deux Sonnets des Amours (reprinted only once in the 16th-century, in 1572).
1553: Guillaume des Autelz, Amoureux repos.
1554: Tahureau, Sonnetz, Odes et Mignardises amoureuses de lfAdmirée.
1555: Jacques Peletier, lfAmour des Amours (96 sonnets).
1555, c. August: Ronsardfs Continuation des Amours (the Amours de Marie). 70 sonnets.
1555: Tyardfs Third Book of Erreurs Amoureuses.
1555: Baïf, Quatre Livres de lfAmour de Francine (2 Books of 122 + 126 sonnets, followed by 2 Books of eChansonsf).
1555: Louise Labé, Œuvres (24 sonnets).
1555: Philieul, the complete Œuvres vulgaires de Françoys Petrarque.
1556: Ronsardfs Nouvelle Continuation des Amours (further Amours de Marie. The following year, Ronsardfs two Continuations will be printed under one heading). 25 sonnets, with a higher proportion of chansons.
1557: Olivier Magny, Les Souspirs.
The above list contains several points of interest: the common (but not inevitable) naming of the lady in the sequence-title, a French innovation; the release of augmented editions; the continuations, a practice that found no followers in England; and the additional material, in the form of commentaries and musical supplement.
of these works were cycles of love-sonnets. There was the additional important
function of occasional, prefatory panegyric – one of the differences between Du
Bellay and Spenser, who did compose liminary sonnets for his Faerie Queene
but had to organise them in a sequential arrangement – but it was through the
medium of the cycle that the sonnet rose to prominence. According to the list, 1555 seems to
On the 1st of March 1562, the Massacre at Vassy initiated the Wars of Religion. When the sonnet truly returned to France – Desportes being a light interlude, a retreat from the dark shadows of tragic times, rather than a return – it was to speak in the spiritual strain of Jacques de Billy and Jean de la Ceppède (c.1550-1622) or the refined abstractions on love and death of Jean de Sponde (1557-95) and the meditations on mortality of Jean-Baptiste Chassignet (c.1570-c.1635): the grim and haunting tones of the language of the Baroque. Of course, love sonnets were still being penned in their thousands, but the authors were minor figures. Then it would fall from grace, despite the occasional spectacular success (such as the Querelle à propos de Job et dfUranie, 1649) and the critical support of Colletet and Boileau, to be restored to respect in the early 19th-century by Sainte-Beuve and Gautier. Yet in the 1550s, the sonnet reigned. There were of course other genres: Ronsard composed Odes (1550, 1552) and Hymnes (1555); there were also Odes by Tyard (1555) and Magny (1559), and Du Bellay, who published around 50 in various editions between 1549 and 1553. Furthermore, Tyard and Baïf displayed a proclivity towards terza rima. The sonnet has never existed in isolation; but it has always overshadowed those genres that accompanied its arrival in a foreign country, while at the same time never quite achieving the respect that is given to the epic or the ode.
all the above writers, it was Du Bellay, with his Petrarchan beginnings in LfOlive
(1549; enlarged to include the introduction of a rival and the death of Olive,
and consequently containing more satirical and Neo-Platonic elements, in 1550),
his Neoplatonising XIII Sonnetz de lfHonneste Amour (1552), and his
masterpieces, the Antiquitez and the Regrets (1558), whose name
has become inextricably linked to the sonnet, belying his apparent indifference
to it in the Deffence. He was the first French master of the
form, widening its range by applying it to love poetry, satire, nostalgia, and
a quasi-epic sequence. It is generally recognised that Du
Bellayfs major innovation was to move the sonnet-sequence/cycle from the field
of love-complaint to that of a complaint on
his first sonnet-sequence, LfOlive, Du Bellay imitated mainly Italian
sources: Petrarca, Ariosto, and the extremely popular Rime diverse
edited by Lodovico Domenichi; the 26 authors from this collection whom he uses
are sources are mostly still living and writing. Around 60 of the 115 sonnets of the
second edition (1550) have an Italian provenance. These range from close translations, to
Du Bellay occasionally taking two quatrains and a tercet, or two quatrains, or
one quatrain and a tercet, or one quatrain, or even a single line, from
Petrarca. Occasionally, as in the quatrains in
XXIII, he will employ almost the same rhymes as his source; this is not an
unusual procedure when translating from a closely-related language, for a
translator does not look a gift-horse in the mouth when it trots along with a
pannion of rhymes. Ten sonnets stem from the Orlando
Furioso and eight are imitations or translations of Ariostofs sonnets. There is one translation – Sonnet LXXXIV
– of a page from the eProsa settimafof Sannazarofs
The lack of classical exemplars for the sonnet meant that Italian poets, those who were felt to be closest to the classical world and who had initiated the elevation of the vernacular tongues, were imitated. In his preface to the first edition of LfOlive, Du Bellay stresses that he has imitated Petrarca, Ariosto, and gdfautres modernes Italiens,h thus acting in accordance with his recommendations for writing sonnets in the Deffence; he is ensuring that his name is not too closely associated with one author – Petrarca. However, by the time of his second preface, the mention of Ariosto has disappeared; Du Bellay replaces this with Virgil, Horace, and Ovid, whom he obviously did not imitate. The dropping of Ariostofs name is understandable in a sense, for nearly all of the sonnets that are indebted to this author appeared in the first edition of LfOlive; but it is the change in Du Bellayfs terminology that catches our attention. Having previously admitted to imitation, he now remarks that those who have read the works of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Petrarca and many others, whom he has read quite negligently, gtrouverront qu'en mes escriptz y a beaucoup plus de naturelle invention que d'artificelle ou supersticieuse immitation.h This seems to be a response to the criticism that he received: he was accused of contravening his principles and indulging in translation. Here we can witness the interplay between theory, practice and reception: Du Bellay moved towards dissimulative imitation as a reaction to the reception of his first poetical text.
imitation in LfOlive is eristic, and it is filtered through the
intermediary of Maurice Scève. In
the very first sonnet, Du Bellay he symbolically refuses the laurel, which his
readers would associate with Petrarca, and replaces it with the olive, his
personal sign of poetic glory. Thus
he is imitating, aiming at similarity and equality rather than sameness;
arriving at the same destination as his predecessor, but forging his own
passage. Yet this very act of
recusatio itself has precedents: earlier in the sixteenth century, Ariosto
replaced the laurel with the juniper; and so did Maurice Scève in his Délie
(1544). LfOlive demonstrates the
influence of Scevian imitation of Petrarca. Scève simplified the chorus of forms in
the Canzoniere, clearing the hall for the epigram, a native French form
used by Marot; Du Bellay retains the single form, but changes that form to the
Italian sonnet, thus combining and changing both his sources (pp.405-6). In the same year (1549) as LfOlive first
appeared, Pontus de Tyard issued (anonymously) the first book of his Erreurs
Amoureuses, a Canzoniere that would eventually amount to 168
poems. The majority were sonnets,
but there were also dizains (epigrams), songs (odes), terza rima poems, and the
first sestina in French. Tyard was
the first French poet to mix genres in this way. It was Du Bellayfs example – simply
sonnets – that was to prove most popular in 1590s
What is particularly important is the fact that Du Bellay is attempting to emulate both a historically distant, foreign poet (Petrarca), and an aging contemporary compatriot (Scève) – an attempt that has the precedents of Dante (Virgil and Guinizelli), Petrarca (Virgil and Dante), and Scève (Petrarca and Marot). Du Bellayfs originality lies in his union of the two influences – in his visibly standing simultaneously in the gdual shadows of the pasth. The aim of this emulation, as outlined by classical and medieval tradition, is to become worthy of imitation and inspire others (pp. 409-11; the quote is from p. 411). However, we may wonder how this intention accords with the attitude towards poetic immortality expressed by such poets as Du Bellay and Ronsard, or how it can accommodate a rising sense of national identity, national language, and a growing awareness of the difference of the past. The feeling of rivalry, strengthened by national interests, may result in emulation turning into displacement. For the 16th century, admiration and envy were often two sides of the same coin; prefatory attacks on carping Zoiluses and dogs-in-the-manger are so frequent as to become quite tedious to the student of the period – familiarity really does breed contempt – and it is difficult to explain this ubiquity of envy unless we associate it with admiration. The author bristled with defiance towards the model he esteemed – and so feared that even those who applauded his work would harbour (at best, a secret) resentment. In the Deffence, Du Bellay displays towards the Italians the same ambivalence that would characterise his relationship with the ancients: he is full of admiration and defiance. Sometimes he elevates them to parity with the Greeks and Romans; at other times he proclaims the superiority of French. This ambivalently reverent and profane attitude towards the ancients – one shared by Montaigne – is caused, like that of the Romans towards the Greeks, by a feeling of cultural dependence towards an inferior, or vanished, political power.
 Mellin de Saint-Gelais. Sonnets ed. Luigia Zilli (Genève: Droz,
1990). Zilli believes that eVoyant
ces monts de veue ainsi longtaine,f the translation from a sonnet of
Sannazarofs which Wyatt also translated, was written at this time, citing as
evidence a marginal claim to that effect in Saint-Gelaisfs own hand. Saint-Gelais, who may be the son or nephew of
Octovien de Saint-Gelais, had travelled to
Du Bellay, in his preface to the 1550 LfOlive, remarked that the sonnet was gdfitalien devenu françois, comme je croy, par Mellin de Sainct-Gelaish; yet some critics have ascribed the introduction to Clement Marot (1496-1544), or even to Jean Bouchet, who wrote 14-line epigrams (p.xxii).
 Clement Marot. Œuvres
 Saint-Gelais did not wish to have his works printed; Saingelais
Œuvres de luy was published in
Scèvefs sonnets may be found, together with those French sonnets of 1536-56 that did not appear in sequences/cycles, at the extremely useful site: http://sir.univ-lyon2.fr/grac/sonnets/Marot_Sceve.doc.
Thomas Sebilletfs (1512-89) sonnet appears in the preface to his Art poétique (1548).
 And for that reason Roubaud (1990) makes it the opening sonnet in his anthology.
 Françon ed. (1958), p. 337, believes Peletier to have translated Petrarca simply to follow fashion, whereas he understood, and loved, Horace and Virgil.
 Art poétique f rançoys (1548), Deuxième Livre, Chapître II, eDu Sonnet.f
 The list is not exclusive. Nor does it include, owing to the time-limits imposed, the 480 Sonets Spirituels of Anne de Marquets (d.1588), the 520 Théorèmes on Christian Redemption by Jean de la Ceppède (1st part 1613, 2nd part 1616), or the 434 sonnets of Jean-Baptiste Chassignetfs Le Mespris de la Vie et Consolation contre la Mort (1594). It has been estimated that 45,000 sonnets were inflicted on the French reading-public in the 16th-century. - http://www.cafe.edu/genres/n-sonnet.html.
Before 1548, the number of sonnets published was extremely small: 1 by Marot in 1538 and also in 1542; 6 by Marot in 1546; then 15 by Peletier, 3 by Scève, and 1 by Saint-Gelais, in 1547. –Françon ed. (1958), p. 325, n.10.
 Most of these details are taken from Chamard (1939), IV:183-217, eChronologie de la Pléiade.f
 Ronsard believed that the sound of words made a melody as pleasing as music, and that words need music as music needs words. –Satterthwaite (1960), p.49.
 In the Amours sonnets, composed in the final year of his life and published posthumously, Du Bellay returned to a Petrarchising vein; he was apparently unable to entirely liberate himself from a mode of being that convenes so well with the contradictions of his soul. –Rigolot (1974), p.498.
 Tyardfs Nouvellf Œuvres poétiques (1573) contains 21 sonnets (now in alexandrines, unlike his earlier ones; only No. XXVIII of the Third Book had previously employed this measure) and, exceptionally for the 16th century, an eÉlégie pour une dame enamourée dfune autre Dame.f
 The French
poets of the late 16th century are recent critical discoveries. Jean de Sponde owes the revival of his
name to an English critic, Alan Boase; the first edition of Pontus de Tyardfs
complete poems was edited by John C. Lapp (
 Jasinski (1903) lists the collections of love-sonnets (1549-1656), moral-political sonnets (1558-1660) and religious sonnets (1574-1701) in Appendices II, III and IV respectively, pp.246-55.
Appendix II contains some extremely large collections between the early 1570s and around 1618 (288 in Claude de Pontouxfs Idée, 1559; 413 in Scalion de Virbluneaufs Loyales et pudicques Amours, 1599; and so on); the moral-political sonnets, on the other hand, tend to form smaller cycles (Dauratfs 9 sonnets on peace, 1570; Jodellefs 36 sonnets against the Huguenots, 1574). One exception is the alarming 919 historical-political sonnets of J.Poil de Saint-Gratien (1623). Several poets wrote both amatory and political sonnet-cycles: apart from Du Bellay, Grévin (Olimpe I and II, 1560 and 1561; Gelodacrie, 1560 and 1561) and Jodelle, mention can be made of Jean de la Jessée (1583), Joachim Blanchon (1583), Godart (1594) and Trellon (1587 and 1595).
 Colletetfs Traité du Sonnet
appeared in 1658, Boileaufs Art Poétique in 1674. - David H.T. Scott, Sonnet
theory and practice in nineteenth-century
Gautier was undoubtedly the finer sonneteer; Sainte-Beuve exerted influence primarily as a critic. It is interesting that his eNe ris point des Sonnets, ô critique moqueur,f inspired by Wordsworth, concentrated on the exponents of the genre (Shakespeare, Petrarca, Tasso, Camoes, Dante, Spenser, Milton, Du Bellay and Ronsard) and their subjects, whereas the sonnets on the sonnet of Wordsworth (ePrefatory Sonnet,f 1807; eScorn not the Sonnet,f 1827) and Keats (eOn the Sonnet,f 1819) displayed a far greater awareness of the issue of form. –Noted by Scott (1977), p.17.
 Listed in Chamard (1939), I:284.
 His comments on the sonnet are surprisingly brief for a poet who is about to illustrate his theory with a sonnet-cycle: gSonne-moi ces beaux sonnets, non moins docte que plaisante invention italienne, conforme de nom à l'ode, et différente d'elle seulement, pour ce que le sonnet a certains vers réglés et limités et l'ode peut courir par toutes manières de vers librement, voire en inventer à plaisir à l'exemple d'Horace, qui a chanté en dix-neuf sortes de vers, comme disent les grammairiens. Pour le sonnet donc tu as Pétrarque et quelques modernes italiens.h –Bk.II, Ch.IV. Sebillet had devoted a chapter to the sonnet; S. John Holyoake, An introduction to French sixteenth century poetic theory (Manchester University Press, 1972) suggests that Du Bellay felt his thunder had been stolen.
 Coleman (1980), p.112. Apart from the sequences mentioned, Du Bellay also composed the 29-sonnet Amours in 1559 (published in 1568).
 Brown 1998, p.7. Rebhorn (1980, p.622) argues that he does not abandon the (amatory) sonnet subject matter, but extends the genre – in keeping with Renaissance concepts of originality. However, I do not agree with his reading of the Antiquitez as a Petrarchan cycle; Du Bellay makes a medium devoted to love heroic – and it is less of a love poem.
 The sonnet is LfOlive CXIV (1550):
arriere, ô mechant Populaire!
O que je hay ce faulx peuple ignorant!
Doctes espris, favorisez les vers
Que veult chanter l'humble prestre des Muses.
donc, ma Roine, ma Déesse,
De ton sainct nom les immortalizer,
Avec' celuy qui au temple d'Amour
Baize les piez de ta divine image.
O toy, qui
tiens le vol de mon esprit,
Aveugle oiseau, dessile un peu tes yeux,
Pour mieulx tracer l'obscur chemin des nues.
mes vers, delivres et legers,
Pour mieulx atteindre aux celestes beautez,
Courez par l'air d'une aele inusitée.
wrote one poem in blank verse – eOde XII, sur la Naissance de François, Dauphin
de Francef (1550) – but this measure never succeeded in
Sebillet (1548, II:xv, 74v) claimed that Bonaventure des Périers (15.. ?-1543) was the first French writer to employ this measure in his translation of Horacefs First Satire. This poem, eDes Mal Contents,f is in octosyllables; it appears in Tome I of the Oeuvres Françaises of des Périers (1558, repr. 1856: pp.97-102, printed as prose. Taken from the 1544 Recueil des Oeuvres), where the editor, M. Louis Lacour, suggests that the translation may have been prompted by Peletier. One wonders just how influential Peletier may have been. Sebillet advocated the example of Petrarcafs sestinas; Bonaventure, on the other hand, did not possess sufficient authority to legitimise, outside the sestina, gces vers, qui sans ryme demeurent autant froys, comme un corps sans sang et sans ameh (75r).
In Bk. II, Ch. VII of the Deffence, Du Bellay praisesfs Luigi Alamannifs gnon moins docte que plaisante Agricultureh (his Coltivazione, 1546, a long, didactic, eGeorgicf-like poem on agriculture, which is composed in blank verse). This chapter compares blank verse to naked statutes which require greater attention to the beauty of their proportions as compensation for the lack of rhyme.
Opere Toscane, published in
 Grimal ed. (1958; his introduction dates from 1943), p.23.
 Grimal ed. (1958), p.32.
 The First Book of the Rime diuerse d[i] molti eccellenti[ss]. Auttori nuouamente raccolte was issued in 1545, a Second Book following in 1547. Du Bellay imitates 22 sonnets from the First Book (13 in 1549 and 9 in 1550) and 8 from the Second Book (in 1550). The authors include Castiglione (IX) and Della Casa (XCIX and C) –Vianey (1909), pp.93-97.
 Close translations: 93 of Petrarca 193; 94 of Petrarca 134; 27 of Petrarca 187;
Two quatrains and a tercet: 69, 89; Two quatrains: 5, 63, 67; One quatrain and a tercet: 70;
One quatrain: 31, 33, 68, 85; Single line: 66, 84, 88.
Further translations include 2 (from Francesco Sansovino); 24 (from Battista della Torre); and 80 (from Pietro Barignano). -Chamard, I:229-30.
 Another example is Martin Opitz, a translator with a gknack for taking over rhymesh from Dutch to German. –Theo Weevers, eSome unrecorded Dutch originals of Opitzf, Neophilologus, 23 (1938), p. 196.
 Sonnets formed from Orlando Furioso: 25,29,31,35,37,39,42,47,71,97;
Sonnets from Ariostofs sonnets: 5,(2); 7,(22); 8,(7); 10,(6); 11,(17); 18,(12); 30,(8); 33,(10). Ariostofs 31 sonnets of love were published posthumously in 1534.
–Vianey (1909), pp. 89-93, who is critical of Du Bellay for removing the Orlando Furioso passages from their context.
 Quoted in Vianey (1909), p.87.
 Ronsard, in his Amours of 1552, made more frequent use of Petrarca; he also imitated Bembo, whom Du Bellay had ignored, rather than the poets in the Bembist anthology Rime diversec to which Du Bellay had had frequent recourse. In general, Ronsard imitated less – only in around 40 of 182 sonnets. His usual method was to develop an image, a beginning, or an end. –Vianey (1909), pp.135-36, 143-44.
 Holyoake (1972), pp. 123-4.
 Joann Dellaneva, eDu Bellay: Reader of Scève, Reader of Petrarch,f Romanic
Review 79:3 (1988), pp.401-11 (402-4).
The Ariostan text is Sonnet 7 of his Opere, ed. Adriano Seroni (
 John A. McClelland (ed.), Les erreurs
amoureuses (Genève: Droz, 1967), p.65.
The sum total of
the three books (1549-55) included: 142 sonnets; 2 sestinas; 4 terza rima; 7
dizains, and 12 chansons. All of
these forms were present in the First Book (1549). His terza rima cleaved close to Italian
practice: his title eDisgrâcef was taken from Tebaldeo and his disciples, who
gave the name eDiseperataf to elegiac laments in this form, and he used
feminine rhyme throughout (Vianey 1909, p.121). It was Etienne Tabourot (1549-90), in
his Bigarrures et Touches (1628 edition), who claimed that Tyard
introduced the sestina to
This Canzoniere was dedicated to ePasithée,f who appears in portrait, but not in name, in the first book.
We may also note that Tyard praised Scève as his inspiration, even in 1555 when the Délie poet had lost his audience, being taxed with obscurantism (Lapp ed., 1967, pp.xvi-xvii). Indeed, Lapp remarks that gccertains sonnets des eErreurs amoureusesf ne semblent être que des dizains de Scève mis en quatorze versh (p.xxxi : he is referring to Book One, VI, XII, XIX and XXVI). This reminds us of Spenserfs expansion of Marotfs epigrams in Visions of Petrarch.
 Vianey (1909), pp.124-25, p.123. Tyard did translate one of the central Neoplatonic texts, the eDialoghi di Amoref of Leone Ebreo (Judah Abravanel, c.1460-c.1523, published 1535) in 1551.
 Meerhoff (1986), pp.129-30.
 Quinones, The Renaissance Discovery of Time (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972), pp.234-37.