Authors: Joachim du Bellay

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French poet

Author Works


L’Olive, 1549

Vers Lyriques, 1549

Recueil de poésies, 1549

La Musagnoeomachie, 1550

XIII Sonnets de l’honnête amour, 1552

Les Antiquités de Rome, 1558 (partial translation as Ruines of Rome, 1591)

Les Regrets, 1558 (The Regrets, 1984)

Poemata, 1558 (in Latin)

Le Poète courtisan, 1559

Œuvres poétiques, 1908-1931 (6 volumes)


La Défense et illustration de la langue française, 1549 (The Defence and Illustration of the French Language, 1939)


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.{$I[AN]9810000569}{$I[A]Du Bellay, Joachim[DuBellay, Joachim]}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Du Bellay, Joachim[DuBellay, Joachim]}{$I[tim]1522;Du Bellay, Joachim[DuBellay, Joachim]}

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 winning patronage. The following years saw the publication of La Musagnoeomachie, in which he related the struggle of the Muses (assisted by great contemporary figures) against Ignorance, and XIII Sonnets de l’honnête amour.

Traveling to Rome as secretary to his cousin, Cardinal du Bellay, the poet gave himself to contemplation of the ancient ruins and wrote his historical, philosophical meditations on their beauty and significance in the sonnets of Les Antiquités de Rome. Suffering from nostalgia for his beloved France, du Bellay fashioned his daily impressions into the elegiac, satirical sonnets of The Regrets, his most mature and original work, written in a simpler, though no less artistic, manner than L’Olive. The solitude of his self-imposed exile gave him the time and opportunity to develop into an original poet. He owes his literary status primarily to the well-crafted sonnets in Les Antiquités de Rome and The Regrets.

When he returned to France in 1557 du Bellay was received with acclaim, but legal difficulties and his deafness soon made his life a misery. Moreover, his frank portraits of Roman society compromised his cousin the cardinal, causing a break between the two. In 1559 he wrote the bitter Le Poète courtisan: The poems were ironic recipes for the success he had failed to win at court, antithetically espousing again the arguments of The Defence and Illustration of the French Language in favor of the learned, inspired poet. Du Bellay died the following year. A master of the sonnet and composer of some of the greatest satirical and lyric poetry in the French language, du Bellay takes his place alongside Pierre de Ronsard as a founder of modern French poetry.

BibliographyColeman, Dorothy G. The Chaste Muse: A Study of Joachim du Bellay’s Poetry. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 1980. Examines the stylistic brilliance of du Bellay’s French and Latin poetry.Katz, Richard A. The Ordered Text: The Sonnet Sequences of du Bellay. New York: P. Lang, 1985. The structural unity of Les Antiquités de Rome, L’Olive, and especially The Regrets is studied here.Keating, L. Clark. Joachim du Bellay. New York: Twayne, 1971. An excellent general introduction to his poetry and theoretical writings, which also contains an annotated bibliography of important studies on du Bellay.Shapiro, Norman R. Lyrics of the French Renaissance: Marot, Du Bellay, Ronsard. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2002. In French with parallel English translation.Tucker, George H. The Poet’s Odyssey: Joachim du Bellay and the Antiquités de Rome. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. The originality of the mature poetry written during du Bellay’s exile in Rome is analyzed.
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