Pierre de Ronsard Additional Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Pierre de Ronsard was born of a noble family in the Vendômois region of France in 1524. At the age of twelve, he became a page for the dauphin François, only to have his master die a mere three days later. He then began to serve Madeleine de France (the new wife of James Stuart and daughter of François I). Ronsard accompanied her to Scotland, where she died almost immediately, in 1537. Three years later, a disease left Ronsard partially deaf and apparently destroyed his hopes for a diplomatic or other public career. It may have been this condition, as much as his exposure to the arts (an exposure provided both by his father and by his association with other Humanists and poets), that pushed him toward a career in letters.

Whatever the reason, Ronsard threw himself into Humanistic studies and into his early poetic efforts with single-minded energy and ambition. In 1547, he and the poet Du Bellay entered the College of Coqueret to study with the Humanist Jean Dorat. Along with others, Ronsard and Du Bellay constituted a poetic group designated as the Brigade, which (later, and with some changes in membership) was to be known as the Pléiade. In 1549, Du Bellay published his Defense and Illustration of the French Language; this composition, to which Ronsard certainly contributed, was an important manifesto which provided both a theoretical foundation for poetry in the vernacular and practical advice for the development of its resources. A year...

(The entire section is 489 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The most important literary movement in sixteenth century France centered around the “Pléiade,” a group of seven poets. Although the manifesto of the group, Defénse et illustration de la langue Française, was written by his close friend Joachim du Bellay, Pierre de Ronsard (rohn-sahr) remains the most famous of the coterie.

He was born in 1524 at his family’s Château de la Possonnière near Couture, the son of an official of the household of Francis I. After a short period at the College of Navarre in Paris, he was appointed a royal page. He studied at the Collège de Coqueret under the eminent humanist Jean Dorat. A high fever made him partially deaf in 1543, but this handicap did not prevent him from learning Latin and Greek. The depth of his classical learning reveals itself in his creative imitations of Greek and Latin poems.

Later Ronsard spent three years in Great Britain and was sent on various diplomatic missions. He was a special favorite of Charles IX, who called Ronsard his “master of poetry.” Ronsard had a long and distinguished literary career. When he began writing poetry in the late 1540’s, he was a fairly servile imitator of classical sources, but he eventually developed into a truly original poet who composed elegies and odes on philosophical and religious subjects as well as well-crafted love sonnets. The aim of the Pléiade was to reform French verse by adhering more closely to classic models: “Follow the ancients” was their motto. Ronsard insisted, however, that each imitation be creative.

Ronsard died at the priory of Saint-Cosme, near Tours, on December 27, 1585. For two centuries after his death, Ronsard’s reputation waned. His work was, however, rediscovered during the Romantic era, and his poetry was once again appreciated. The charm of Ronsard’s nature poetry and the magnificence of his language and metrics still bring pleasure to readers, more than four centuries after his death.