If du Bellay and Ronsard are often associated together (like eggs and bacon, or Scooby and Shaggy) it is because they were both the prime movers in the then-modern French poetic movement La Pleiade in the middle of the 16th century. But above all, as this poem shows, they were friends and collaborators in the best tradition.
This is a poem, indeed a sonnet, written by du Bellay to Ronsard, to defend them both from the accusation that they praised each other’s work from self-interest. The poem is well=articulated, achieves its goal, and demonstrates a real friendship and mutual admiration between the two great poets.
Joachim DU BELLAY (1522-1560)
Si mes écrits, Ronsard, sont semés de ton los
Si mes écrits, Ronsard, sont semés de ton los,
Et si le mien encor tu ne dédaignes dire,
D’être enclos en mes vers ton honneur ne désire,
Et par là je ne cherche en tes vers être enclos.
Laissons donc, je te prie, laissons causer ces sots,
Et ces petits galants, qui, ne sachant que dire,
Disent, voyant Ronsard et Bellay s’entr’écrire,
Que ce sont deux mulets qui se grattent le dos.
Nos louanges, Ronsard, ne font tort à personne :
Et quelle loi défend que l’un à l’autre en donne,
Si les amis entre eux des présents se font bien ?
On peut comme l’argent trafiquer la louange,
Et les louanges sont comme lettres de change,
Dont le change et le port, Ronsard, ne coûte rien.
The first four lines set out the premise that Ronsard shouldn’t be upset by being praised in du Bellay’s poems and vice-versa. It is something that comes naturally, and not by mutual arrangement.
The poem continues by taking the moral high ground – if the two poets seen no harm in this, and don’t take offense, why should they pay attention to those fools who criticize them for scratching each other’s back. After all, they are doing no harm to anyone, and there is no law against it. And the final argument, in the last three lines, is that mutual praise is like currency in that it has value, but unlike currency or bills of exchange, because it costs nothing.
More than a defense of their mutual admiration and the expression of it in their poetry, this piece demonstrates an affinity and a shared experience between the two poets which is quite admirable.
The Poetry Dude