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IV THE POETICS OF GRANDEUR In April, 1606, while at work on his second major ode, Malherbe began writing the third. Professor Fromilhague has summarized as follows the historical background of the new poem: Henri de Ia Tour d'Auvergne, vicomte de Turenne, marechal de Bouillon, s'etait revolte contre Henri IV et fortifie dans Sedan, dont il etait prince. Pour le reduire a l'obeissance, le roi quitte Paris le 15 mars 1606 a la tete de ses troupes. Mais a peine a-t-il paru devant Ia place que Bouillon se soumet (2 avril). 1 AU FEU ROY SUR L'HEUREUX SUCCEZ DU VOYAGE DE SEDAN I Enfin apres les tempestes Nous voicy rendus au port: Enfin nous voyons nos testes Hors de l'injure du Sort. Nous n'avons rien qui menace 1 Malherbe, II, p. 17. 5 52 HIGHER, HIDDEN ORDER De troubler nostre bonace: Et ces matieres de pleurs, Massacres, feux, et rapines, De leurs funestes espines Ne gasteront plus nos £leurs. 10 II Nos prieres sont ouyes, Tout est reconcilie: Nos peurs sont esvanoiiyes, Sedan s'est humilie. A peine il a veu le foudre 15 Party pour le mettre en poudre Que faisant comparaison De I'espoir, et de la crainte, Pour eviter la contrainte II s'est mis aIa raison. 20 III Qui n'eust creu que ses murailles, Que deffendoit un Lyon, N'eussent faict des funer~illes Plus que n'en fit Ilion: Et qu'avant qu'estre a la feste 25 De si penible conqueste, Les champs se fussent vestus Deux fois de robbe nouvelle, Et le fer eust en javelle Deux fois les bleds abbatus? 30 IV Et toutesfois, 6 merveille! Mon Roy, I'exemple des Roys, Dont la grandeur nompareille Fait qu'on adore ses Loix, Accompagne d'un genie 35 Qui les volontez manie, L'a s<;;eu tellement presser D'obeyr et de se rendre, Qu'il n'a pas eu pour le prendre Loisir de le menacer. 40 THE POETICS OF GRANDEUR 53 v Tel qu'a vagues espandues Marche un fleuve imperieux, De qui les neiges fondues Rendent le cours furieux, Rien n'est seur en son rivage: 45 Ce qu'il treuve ille ravage: Et traisnant comme buissons, Les chesnes, et leurs racines, Oste aux campagnes voisines L'esperance des moissons. 50 VI Tel, et plus espouvantable, S'en alloit ce conquerant, A son pouvoir indomptable Sa colere mesurant: Son front avoit une audace 55 Telle que Mars en la Thrace: Et les esclairs de ses yeux Estoient comme d'un tonnerre, Qui gronde contre la terre, Quand elle a fasche les Cieux. 60 VII Quelle vaine resistence A son puissant appareil, N'eust porte la penitence Qui suit un mauvais conseil! Et veu sa faute bornee 65 D'une cheute infortunee, Comme la rebellion, Dont la fameuse folie Fit voir a la Thessalie Olympe sur Pelion? 70 VIII Voyez comme en son courage, Quand on se renge au devoir, La pitie calme l'orage Que l'ire a faict esmouvoir: A peine fut reclamee, 75 54 HIGHER, HIDDEN ORDER Sa douceur accoustumee, Que d'un sentiment humain, Frappe non mains que de charmes, Il fit la paix, et les armes Luy tomberent de la main. 80 IX Arriere vaines chimeres De haines, et de rancueurs: Soup9ons de chases ameres Esloignez-vous de nos cceurs: Loin, bien loin, tristes pensees, 85 Ou nos miseres passees Nous avoient ensevelis: Sous HENRY c'est ne voir goutte, Que de revoquer en doute Le salut des Fleurs de Lis. 90 X 0 Roy, qui du rang des hommes, T'exceptes par ta Bonte, Roy qui de fage ou nous sommes Toutle mal as surmonte: Si tes labeurs, d'ou la France 95 A tire sa delivrance, Sont escrits avecques fay, Qui sera si ridicule Qui ne confesse qu'Hercule Fut mains Hercule que toy? 100 XI De combien de tragedies, Sans ton asseure secours, Estoient les trames ourdies Pour ensanglanter nos jours? Et qu'auroit faict !'innocence, 105 Si foutrageuse licence, De qui le souverain bien Est d'opprimer, et de nuire, N'eust treuve pour la destruire Un bras fort comme le tien? llO THE POETICS OF GRANDEUR 55 XII Man Roy, cognois ta puissance, Elle est capable de tout, Tes desseins n'ont pas naissance Qu'on en voit deja le bout: Et la fortune amoureuse 115 De ta vertu genereuse, Treuve de si doux appas A te servir, et te plaire, Que c'est la mettre en cholere Que de ne I'employer pas. 120 XIII Use de sa bien-vueillance, Et luy donne ce plaisir, Qu'elle suive ta vaillance A quelque nouveau desir: On que tes bannieres aillent, 125 Quoy que tes armes assaillent, Il n'est orgueil endurcy, Que brise comme du verre, A tes pieds elle n'attere, S'il n'implore ta mercy. 130 XIV Je sc;ay bien que les Oracles Predisent taus qu'a ton fils Sont reservez les miracles De la prise de Menfis: Et que c'est luy dont l'espee 135 Au sang barbare trempee, Quelque jour apparoissant, A la Grece qui souspire, Fera decroistre l'Empire De l'infidelle Croissant. 140 XV Mais tandis que les annees Pas a pas font avancer, L'age on de ses destinees La gloire doit commencer: Que fais-tu que d'une armee 145 A te venger animee, 56 IDGHER, HIDDEN ORDER Tu ne mets dans le tombeau Ces voisins, dont les pratiques De nos rages domestiques Ont allume le flambeau? 150 XVI Quoy que les Alpes chenues Les couvrent de toutes parts, Et facent monter aux nues Leurs effroyables ramparts: Alors que de ton passage 155 On leur fera le message, Qui verront-elles venir, Envoye sous tes auspices, Qu'aussi-tost leurs precipices Ne se laissent applanir? 160 XVII Croy moy, contente I'envie Qu'ont tant de jeunes guerriers, D'aller exposer leur vie Pour t'aquerir des Lauriers: Et ne tiens point ocieuses 165 Ces Ames ambitieuses, Qui jusques ou le matin Met les Estoilles en fuitte, Oseront sous ta conduite Aller querir du butin. 170 XVIII Desja le Tezin tout morne, Consulte de se cacher, Voulant guarantir sa come Que tu luy dois arracher: Et le Po, tombe certaine 175 De l'audace trop hautaine, Tenant baisse le menton, Dans sa caverne profonde, S'appreste avoir en son Onde Choir un autre Phaeton. 180 THE POETICS OF GRANDEUR 57 XIX Va, Monarque Magnanime, Souffre a ta juste douleur, Qu'en leurs rives elle imprime Les marques de ta valeur: L'Astre, dont la course ronde 185 Taus les jours voit tout le Monde, N'aura point acheve l'an, Que tes conquestes ne razent Tout le Piemont, et n'ecrazent La couleuvre de Milan. 190 XX Ce sera la que rna lire, Faisant son dernier effort, Entreprendra de mieux dire Qu'un Cyne pres de sa mort: Et se rendant favorable 195 Ton oreille incomparable Te forcera d'avoi.ier, Qu'en l'aise de la victoire, Rien n'est si doux que la gloire De se voir si bien loi.ier. 200 XXI II ne faut pas que tu penses Treuver de l'eternite, En ces pompeuses despenses Qu'invente la vanite: Taus ces chefs-d'reuvres antiques 205 Ont a peine leurs reliques: Par les Muses seulement L'homme est exempt de la Parque: Et ce qui porte leur marque Demeure eternellement. 210 XXII Par elles tragant l'histoire De tes faicts laborieux, Je deffendray ta memoire Du trespas injurieux, Et quelque assaut que te face 215 L'oubly par qui tout s'efface, 58 HIGHER, HIDDEN ORDER Ta loiiange dans :rnes vers D'Amaranthe couronnee N'aura sa fin terminee Qu'en celle de l'Univers. 2 220 Examining the text itself, Professor Wadsworth discovered in the order and articulation of its themes a "high degree of density and coherence": Stanzas 1-4. Expression of relief that peace is restored, and sooner than expected. Transition (4) to the prowess of the King. 5-7. The wrath of the King and his army, marching off to war. 8-9. The King's mildness, upon receiving Sedan's surrender. 10-13. Praise for Henri IV and his accomplishments. 14-19. Exhortation to the King: while waiting for his son to become a great military hero he should himself stamp out France's enemies- Savoy, Piedmont, etc. 20-22. The power of poetry: the Muses will help me make your name immortal. 3 Even if the third ode more nearly approximates logical unity than either studied so far, there nevertheless remain two sections which appear unnecessary. "The allusion to the dauphin;" states Professor Wadsworth, "may seem out of place, but it is really rather brief and parenthetical." 4 Secondly, the conclusion is problematic. Here Professor Wadsworth and Professor Fromilhague agree, at least in part. Professor Fromilhague notes that the nineteenth stanza posesses all of the epic features contained in the finales of the first and second odes. 5 But while Professor Fromilhague proceeds from this observation to the judgment that stanzas 20-22 may therefore be suppressed without harming the poem's construction, 6 Professor Wadsworth concludes that the final stanzas are at least related to the poem's chief idea: 2 Malherbe, I, pp. 63-70. 3 Wadsworth, p. 192. 4 Ibid. 5 La Vie de Malherbe: apprentissage et luttes (Paris: Colin, 1954), pp. 196-198. Also cited by Professor Wadsworth, p. 192. 6 Fromilhague, op. cit., p. 197. THE POETICS OF GRANDEUR 59 The finale, dealing with Malherbe's powers as a poet, is perhaps an after-thought inspired by his own deep satisfaction with this particular work. But this theme, like all the others, is skillfully linked to the core of the poem. Everywhere, from beginning to end, the greatness of Henri IV is being demonstrated: as peacemaker, as warmaker, at Sedan, in the past, in the future, in the annals of history . 7 An inspection of allusion and style in this ode indeed corroborates Professor Wadsworth's belief: the King's greatness is the key to the poem's structure and meaning. Still, this greatness, while implicating his military and political acts, is more deeply enmeshed in the King's transcendence of human limits. THE IMAGE OF HERCULES Two details of the narrative are particularly striking. First, the King has pacified and united France after a long embroilment in civil and religious disorder, of which the Bouillon episode was the final incident: Enfin apres les tempestes Nous voicy rendus au port: Enfin nous voyons nos testes Hors de !'injure du Sort. Nous n'avons rien qui menace De troubler nostre bonace. (vv. 1-6) Secondly, as father of his country, Henri has surpassed an ancient hero to whom the poet has previously compared him: Si tes labeurs, d'ou la France A tire sa delivrance, Sont escrits avecques foy, Qui sera si ridicule Qui ne confesse qu'Hercule Fut moins Hercule que toy? (vv. 95-100) 7 Wadsworth, p. 192. 60 HIGHER, HIDDEN ORDER This conjunction is arresting. Indeed, it suggests a partial identification - not of Henri IV and Hercules- but rather of Henri IV and a third hero whose life not only parallels that of the French king but who, above all, admired and emulated Hercules. This hero is none other than Theseus of Athens. The general outline of Theseus's career (as related by Plutarch) and that of Malherbe's Henri IV are in fact virtually indistinguishable. The careers of Theseus and Henri IV share three motifs. The first, already discussed, has reference to the hero's political consolidation of the turbulent area over which he reigns. (Incidental to this motif is the fact that neither Theseus nor Henri IV acceded to his rightful kingship without defeating fierce opposition: in Greece, Pallas and his fifty sons; in France the Catholic League and - after the wars of religion - dissident Protestants like Bouillon .) Once having secured the throne and the nation, each hero felt the lure of foreign adventure. This temptation constitutes the second motif. It is in the character of the temptation, the hero's response, and the political consequences of the response that appear the :first important differences of detail between the legend of Theseus and the life of the King. For Theseus, the adventures were as often sexual as military; in any event, they contributed nothing to the national good, and at times they even jeopardized it. These escapades- Anaxo's abduction, the war of the Lapiths against the Centaurs, the war with the Amazons, and the ill-fated journey with Pirithous, his companion in lechery, during which they abducted Helen and suffered imprisonment in Hades for attempting to abduct Proserpine- show Theseus arrogantly following his violent and lustful penchants instead of satisfying his royal obligations. Consequently Theseus became estranged from the Athenians. On his return from Hades, he found himself not only hated and scorned by the populace, but outmanoeuvred by hostile political factions. Unable to regain power, he went into exile. Like Theseus, Henri IV must consider the possibility of foreign adventure, but his adversaries differ radically from the Amazons or Centaurs: Ces voisins, dont les pratiques De nos rages domestiques Ont allume le flambeau. (vv. 148-150) THE POETICS OF GRANDEUR 61 Genuine threats to the internal and external security of France, Savoy and the Piedmont are fit objects of the aggression that the speaker urges upon his King. The speaker's argumentation points to another feature which distinguishes Henri IV from Theseus: Mon Roy, cognois ta puissance, Elle est capable de tout, Tes desseins n'ont pas naissance Qu'on en voit deja le bout: Et la fortune amoureuse De ta vertu genereuse, Treuve de si doux appas A te servir, et te plaire, Que c'est la mettre en cholere Que de ne !'employer pas. (vv. 111-120) If Theseus erred tragically by acting, the peace-loving Henri IV risks fortune's reprisal by failing to act. Moreover, Henri IV, in his foreign military adventures, will, unlike Theseus, enjoy the support of his subjects. The latter include not only the loyalists but also the ambitious and greedy who, in the absence of a war promising pillage, might organize the kind of anti-royal movement that greeted Theseus on his return from Hades: Croy moy, contente l'envie Qu'ont tant de jeunes guerriers, D'aller exposer leur vie Pour t'aquerir des Lauriers: Et ne tiens point ocieuses Ces Ames ambitieuses, Qui jusques ou le matin Met les Estoilles en fuitte, Oseront sous ta conduite Aller querir du butin. (vv. 161-170) Thus, in his foreign adventures, the King is destined to succeed precisely where Theseus failed. Besides nation-founding and foreign adventure, the careers of Theseus and Henri IV share a third motif, which concerns posterity. Continuation of the self has two aspects: first, reputation; secondly, blood succession. The legend of Theseus contains a set of circumstances which, while not disgraceful, lacks luster. The 62 HIGHER, HIDDEN ORDER Greek hero's murder- at the hand of Lycomedes of Scyroswent practically unnoticed in Athens where the usurper Menestheus had replaced Theseus on the throne. Even when Theseus's sons Acamas and Demoophon returned from their military service at Troy and regained control of Attica, their father's memory was little respected. Only after his ghost appeared at Marathon and led a charge of Gr.eeks against the Medes did Theseus receive a tomb and the sacrifices due a demi-god. Nor did his sons distinguish themselves as continuators of their father's earlier political policies; like him, they pursued other adventures, spectacular but ultimately worthless to Attica. In Malherbe's view Henri IV will enjoy a more felicitious posterity than Theseus. In the ·final stanzas of this ode- those which logical analysis ·is forced to find superfluous- the speaker explains that Henri's fame is already being assured: Ce sera la que rna lire, Faisant son demier effort, Entreprendra de mieux dire Qu'un Cyne pres de sa mort: Et se rendant favorable Ton oreille incomparable Te forcera d'avoiier, Qu'en I'aise de la victoire, Rien n'est si doux que la gloire De se voir si bien loiier. (vv. 191-200) The sturdiest monuments (even Theseus's tomb) must perish; hence to provide uninterrupted celebrity for the King's name and labors, the poet is indispensable: II ne faut pas que tu penses Treuver de I'etemite, En ces pompeuses despenses Qu'invente la vanite: Tous ces chefs-d'muvres antiques Ont a peine leurs reliques: Par les Muses seulement L'homme est exempt de la Parque: Et ce qui porte leur marque Demeure etemellement. (vv. 201-210) THE POETICS OF GRANDEUR Therefore, the speaker concludes: Ta loiiange dans mes vers D'Amaranthe couronnee N'aura sa fin terminee Qu'en celle de l'Univers. 63 (vv. 217-220) But without the posthumous fulfillment of Henri IV's policies, in all their ramifications, such everlasting praise would serve ·only as a bitter reminder of incomplete achievements and of promises unkept. The reference to the dauphin- whose logical role in the poem may be questionable- is thus indispensable to the inversion of the posterity motif. In contrast with Acamas and Demoophon, the dauphin will bring his father's work to completion by launching a successful crusade against those powers which threaten the larger region of which France is the chief domain, i.e. Western Europe and Christendom: Je s9ay bien que les Oracles Predisent tous qu'a ton fils Sont reservez les miracles De la prise de Menfis: Et que c'est luy dont I'espee Au sang barbare trempee, Quelque jour apparoissant, A la Grece qui souspire, Fera decroistre !'Empire De I'infidelle Croissant. (vv. 131-140) Here as in the first completed ode, the King's greatness consists of perfecting in history a flawed mythological pattern. The full meaning of Henry IV's greatness, however, is embedded in the text's elaborate style. ELEVATION AND LIGHT Perfecting a pattern of myth requires moral superiority and even inner illumination; its reward is eminence and glory. It is not by accident that the terms denoting the prerequisites and the recompense contain the ideas of height and light: these very images pervade the third completed ode. Immediately recognized 64 HIGHER, HIDDEN ORDER by their physical manifestations, the King's spiritual superiority and illumination are a moral equivalent to the power of Zeus: Et les esclairs de ses yeux Estoient comme d'un tonnerre, Qui grande contre la terre, Quand elle a fasche les Cieux. (vv. 57-60) These traits are far from static. First, they permit the King to transcend the humanity of his contemporaries: 0 Roy, qui du rang des hommes, T'exceptes par ta Bonte, Roy qui de l'age ou nous sommes Tout le mal a surmonte. (vv. 91-94; italics mine) But if his virtue did not manifest itself in heroic action, the King would be little more than a contemplative and self-regulating figure, not unlike the conventional idea of a philosopher or monk. Hence the King engages in dangerous undertakings and in so doing draws even closer than Hercules himself to the deity glimpsed in his brilliant eyes (see supra). Those who are but ordinarily virtuous, and thus rank below the King on the moral scale, not only acknowledge his superiority, but, desirous themselves of perfection, they obey his commands. The speaker, for example, declares: Mon Roy, l'exemple des Roys, Dont la grandeur nompareille Fait qu'on adore ses Loix. (vv. 32-34; italics mine) This submission, in the etymological sense of that word, is coupled with supreme confidence in the nation's security: Sous HENRY c'est ne voir goutte, Que de revoquer en doute Le salut des Fleurs de Lis. (vv. 88-90; italics mine) Not all, however, acknowledge the towering and resplendent virtues of the King. Those who oppose Henri IV may engage in THE POETICS OF GRANDEUR 65 "resistence" (v. 61), used in its etymological sense of refusal to descend, as in deference. They may arrogantly raise "effroyables ramparts" (v. 154), to defend themselves against the force of the King's authority. They, too, desire the power proper to elevation; but with it, they would seek "le souverain bien ... d'opprimer" (vv. 107-108); they wish to press others down into subservience. Against these miscreants the King must take police action. If prudent, these opponents will respond as did Bouillon, whose fortress at Sedan "s'est humilie" (v. 14) without struggle. Others, not willing to go down cravenly, will fight, and on this account the speaker reminds the King as follows: Ou que tes bannieres aillent, Quoy que tes armes assaillent, II n'est orgueil endurcy, Que brise comme du verre, A tes pieds elle n'attere, S'il n'implore ta mercy. (vv. 125-130; italics mine) Those who insist on fighting to the very end will not only lose, but will be twice lowered: first to the ground and secondly "dans le tombeau" (v. 147). Moreover, their regions will be leveled and their symbols- already base and vile- will be flattened: L'Astre, dont la course ronde Tous les jours voit tout le Monde, N'aura point acheve l'an, Que tes conquestes ne razent Tout le Piemont, et n'ecrazent La couleuvre de Milan. (vv. 185-190; italics mine) Finally, the dauphin, as hereditary continuator of the King's policies, is represented as diminishing the haughty symbol of Islam, and the Ottoman Empire that would impose that symbol on Christian Europe ("ton fils I ... Fera decroistre !'Empire I De l'infidelle Croissant" [vv. 132, 139-140]). Thus in the domain of time and space, the King's inner grandeur permits him to attain the highest level of moral perfection and secular authority. In the former case, elevation is direct for he raises himself; in the latter, elevation is indirect for he rises 66 IITGHER, HIDDEN ORDER by the voluntary or forced descent of others. Moreover, now that the King has reached the age when "la gloire doit commencer" (v. 144), he will enjoy the fitting reward of inner illumination. (Gloire, as noted in the preceding chapter, contains the idea of a burst of light.) Indeed, he will bask not only in his own radiance, but also in its reflection cast by the eyes of an admiring world. While the preceding paragraphs account for the underlying causes and essential nature of the King's excellence, they do not fully justify the poet's earlier statement that "Hercule I Fut mains Hercule que toy" (vv. 99-100). (The King's superiority to Hercules would of course imply his superiority to Theseus.) How can the King at the end of his labors more adequately exemplify the salient qualities of Hercules at the end of his career? It is particularly germane that Hercules never died, but was translated to Olympus and made factotum of the gods. He thus transcended the very human limits that, until the ode's crucial finale, Henri IV seems unable to escape. Indeed, were the poem to end at stanza 19, the original comparison with Hercules would seem ironic, even belittling. In the final stanzas Malherbe describes the future state of the King's career. Created by the poet, this condition, Malherbe strongly implies, is preferable to any sort of godhead: 11 ne faut pas que tu penses Treuver de 1'etemite, En ces pompeuses despenses Qu'invente la vanih~: Taus ces chefs-d'reuvres antiques Ont a peine leurs reliques: Par les Muses seulement L'homme est exempt de la Parque: Et ce qui porte leur marque Demeure etemellement. Par elles tra<;ant l'histoire De tes faicts laborieux, Je deffendray ta memoire Du trespas injurieux, Et guelque assaut que te face L'oubly par qui tout s'efface, Ta loiiange dans mes vers D'Amaranthe couronnee N'aura sa fin terminee Qu'en celle de l'Univers. (vv. 201-220) THE POETICS OF GRANDEUR 67 First, the poetic image of Henri's deeds, like the body and personality of Hercules, will transcend time, as well as the necessity for commemoration in space. Unlike the very flawed Hercules, however, Henri IV will assume absolute perfection in this immortality , as is suggested by the circular form of the Amaranthus crown. Such perfection entails deliverance from relativity, which Hercules, a mere demi-god, was never to know on Olympus. Further, it would deliver the King's image from that force to which even Zeus must defer: la Parque. Thus by his poetics of grandeur Malherbe enabled Henri IV to attain the resplendent eminence of an ideal type, a norm against which all other sovereigns would be measured. In the fullest sense he would be "I'exemple des Roys" (v. 32). ...

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ISBN
9781469637730
Related ISBN
9780807891179
MARC Record
OCLC
1080549175
Pages
124
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Language
English
Open Access
No
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