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...
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