Joachim du Bellay Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Joachim du Bellay (doo bay-leh) was born into an illustrious family but was orphaned early, and his childhood and education were neglected. By the time he entered the University of Poitiers in 1545 to study law he had already determined to write poetry. In 1546 Jacques Peletier du Mans turned him from sterile attempts at imitating Clément Marot to writing odes and sonnets. Another important influence on him at this time was Pierre de Ronsard, who, himself inspired by Peletier, was eager to enrich and glorify the French language and renew French poetry through a return to classical models. In 1547 Ronsard persuaded du Bellay to study under the Hellenist Jean Dorat in Paris.

Du Bellay’s literary program was anticipated by the Art poétique français (1548) of Thomas Sébillet, which took Marot as representative of the new poetry. In reply du Bellay wrote The Defence and Illustration of the French Language. Although large portions of this book were translated by du Bellay from Sperone Speroni’s 1642 Italian treatise Dialogo delle lingue, du Bellay’s book became a manifesto for the Pléiade because it encouraged French poets creatively to imitate in French the masterpieces of classical Rome and Greece.

In 1549 du Bellay published L’Olive, a “canzoniere” of Petrarchan-Platonist sonnets; the Vers Lyriques, and a Recueil de poésies containing mediocre flattery aimed at...

(The entire section is 506 words.)


(European Poets and Poetry)

Joachim du Bellay was probably born around 1522 in the family chateau at Liré in Anjou, France. His family belonged to the old nobility and was known for its service both in the Roman Catholic Church and in the army and diplomatic corps. Du Bellay was the son of Jean du Bellay and René Chabot. By the time he was ten years old, both of his parents had died, and he was placed in the care of his older brother René, who apparently paid little attention to him and left him to wander about the family estate. Being of frail health and neglected by his brother, du Bellay spent much of his childhood and adolescence in solitude and began to write poetry. For a time, he considered a career in the army; however, his frail health and his penchant for solitary contemplation led him to abandon the idea of a military career.

Sometime in 1543 or shortly thereafter, du Bellay met the poet Pierre de Ronsard. They became good friends and colleagues in the pursuit of a French poetry genre equal to that of the ancients. In 1546, du Bellay was studying law at Poitiers, where he met several important humanists of the time, including Jacques Peletier du Mans, Marc-Antoine Muret, and Jean Salmon Macrin. Peletier was translating both Greek and Latin authors as well as Italian poets and already involved in proclaiming the French language suitable for literary writing. Du Bellay was very interested in the research and work of these scholars and poets. Encouraged by Peletier, du Bellay wrote poetry in French as well as in Latin, translated Latin...

(The entire section is 625 words.)