'Live now and listen, do not wait in vain
Until tomorrow; pluck life's rose today.'
Joachim du Bellay and Pierre de Ronsard are two of the major sixteenth-century French poets and leaders of the extraordinary group known as 'La Pleiade'. Determined to create a national vernacular literature, the Pleiade poets profited from an intense study of Greek and Roman models and from a creative use of classical mythology to produce a body of verse that reflects the vigour and variety of European Renaissance culture. Du Bellay broke new ground with the gritty realism and
resentment of the Regrets and with his meditation in the Antiquities on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. In a series of sonnet sequences (Cassandre, Marie, Astree, Helene) Ronsard developed the Petrarchan tradition of love poetry with a wider range of situations, a richer imagery, and more robust sensuality.
His reputation as France's greatest love-poet should not, however, obscure his excellence in an astonishing variety of forms and genres such as elegies, odes, philosophical hymns, and religious controversy.
Anthony Mortimer's verse translations cover this many-faceted achievement in a version that functions as English poetry in its own right without departing from the letter and spirit of the original. The French text is given on facing pages and a useful appendix contains extracts from seminal manifestos by the two poets. A critical introduction, a glossary of names and places, and abundant notes encourage the reader to place the poems in their social and cultural context.
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