Poems of Joachim du Bellay

JOACHIM DU BELLAY, 1525-1560. The exact date of Du Bellay's
birth is unknown. He was certainly a little younger than Ronsard,
who was born in September, 1524, although an attempt has been made
to prove that his birth took place in 1525, as a compensation from
Nature to France for the battle of Pavia. As a poet Du Bellay had
the start, by a few mouths, of Ronsard; his Recueil was published
in 1549. The question of priority in the new style of poetry
caused a quarrel, which did not long separate the two singers. Du
Bellay is perhaps the most interesting of the Pleiad, that company
of Seven, who attempted to reform French verse, by inspiring it
with the enthusiasm of the Renaissance. His book L'Illustration de
la langue Francaise is a plea for the study of ancient models and
for the improvement of the vernacular. In this effort Du Bellay
and Ronsard are the predecessors of Malherbe, and of Andre Chenier,
more successful through their frank eagerness than the former, less
fortunate in the possession of critical learning and appreciative
taste than the latter. There is something in Du Bellay's life, in
the artistic nature checked by occupation in affairs--he was the
secretary of Cardinal Du Bellay--in the regret and affection with
which Rome depressed and allured him, which reminds the English
reader of the thwarted career of Clough.

DU BELLAY, 1550.

[The winds are invoked by the winnowers of corn.]

To you, troop so fleet,
That with winged wandering feet,
Through the wide world pass,
And with soft murmuring
Toss the green shades of spring
In woods and grass,
Lily and violet
I give, and blossoms wet,
Roses and dew;
This branch of blushing roses,
Whose fresh bud uncloses,
Wind-flowers too.
Ah, winnow with sweet breath,
Winnow the holt and heath,
Round this retreat;
Where all the golden morn
We fan the gold o' the corn,
In the sun's heat.


We that with like hearts love, we lovers twain,
New wedded in the village by thy fane,
Lady of all chaste love, to thee it is
We bring these amaranths, these white lilies,
A sign, and sacrifice; may Love, we pray,
Like amaranthine flowers, feel no decay;
Like these cool lilies may our loves remain,
Perfect and pure, and know not any stain;
And be our hearts, from this thy holy hour,
Bound each to each, like flower to wedded flower.

DU BELLAY, 1550.

So long you wandered on the dusky plain,
Where flit the shadows with their endless cry,
You reach the shore where all the world goes by,
You leave the strife, the slavery, the pain;
But we, but we, the mortals that remain
In vain stretch hands; for Charon sullenly
Drives us afar, we may not come anigh
Till that last mystic obolus we gain.

But you are happy in the quiet place,
And with the learned lovers of old days,
And with your love, you wander ever-more
In the dim woods, and drink forgetfulness
Of us your friends, a weary crowd that press
About the gate, or labour at the oar.

DU BELLAY, 1550.

If this our little life is but a day
In the Eternal,--if the years in vain
Toil after hours that never come again, -
If everything that hath been must decay,
Why dreamest thou of joys that pass away,
My soul, that my sad body doth restrain?
Why of the moment's pleasure art thou fain?
Nay, thou hast wings,--nay, seek another stay.

There is the joy whereto each soul aspires,
And there the rest that all the world desires,
And there is love, and peace, and gracious mirth;
And there in the most highest heavens shalt thou
Behold the Very Beauty, whereof now
Thou worshippest the shadow upon earth.