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...
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