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Belleau, Remy

BELLEAU, REMY (c.1527-1577), French poet, and member of the Pléiade (see Daurat), was born at Nogent-le-Rotrou about 1527. He studied with Ronsard and others under Jean Daurat at the Collège de Coqueret. He was attached to Renè de Lorraine, marquis d'Elboeuf, in the expedition against Naples in 1557, where he did good military service. On his return he was made tutor to the young Charles, marquis d'Elboeuf, who, under Belleau's training became a great patron of the muses. Belleau was an enthusiast for the new learning and joined the group of young poets with ardour. In 1556 he published the first translation of Anacreon which had appeared in French. In the next year he published his first collection of poems, the Petites inventions, in which he describes stones, insects and flowers. The Amours et nouveaux échanges des pierres précieuses ... (1576) contains perhaps his most characteristic work. Its title is quoted in the lines of Ronsard's epitaph on his tomb: -

"Luy mesme a basti son tombeau

Dedans ses Pierres Précieuses."

He wrote commentaries to Ronsard's Amours in 1560, notes which evinced delicate taste and prodigious learning. Like Ronsard and Joachim Du Bellay, he was extremely deaf. His days passed peacefully in the midst of his books and friends, and he died on the 6th of March 1577. He was buried in the nave of the Grands Augustins at Paris, and was borne to the tomb on the pious shoulders of four poets, Ronsard, J.A. de Baïf, Philippe Desportes and Amadis Jamyn. His most considerable work is La Bergerie (1565-1572), a pastoral in prose and verse, written in imitation of Sannazaro. The lines on April in the Bergerie are well known to all readers of French poetry. Belleau was the French Herrick, full of picturesqueness, warmth and colour. His skies drop flowers and all his air is perfumed, and this voluptuous sweetness degenerates sometimes into licence. Extremely popular in his own age, he shared the fate of his friends, and was undeservedly forgotten in the next. Regnier said: "Belleau ne parle pas comme on parle à la ville"; and his lyrical beauty was lost on the trim 17th century. His complete works were collected in 1578, and contain, besides the works already mentioned, a comedy entitled La Reconnue, in short rhymed lines, which is not without humour and life, and a comic masterpiece, a macaronic poem on the religious wars, Dictamen metrificum de bello huguenotico et reistrorum [1] piglamine ad sodales (Paris, no date).

The OEuvres complètes (3 vols., 1867) of Remy Belleau were edited by A. Gouverneui; and his OEuvres poétiques (2 vols., 1879) by M. Ch. Marty-Laveaux in his Pléiade française; see also C.A. Sainte-Beuve, Tableau historique et critique de la poésie française au XVIe siècle (ed. 1876), i. pp. 155-160, and ii. pp. 296 seq.

[1] reîtres, German soldiers of fortune.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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