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  • Euvres poetiques intitulez louanges aveq quelques autres ecriz
  • Corinne Noirot-Maguire
Jacques Peletier du Mans . Euvres poetiques intitulez louanges aveq quelques autres ecriz. Ed. Sophie Arnaud, Steven Bamforth, and Jan Miernowski. Textes de la Renaissance. Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 2005. xiv + 388 pp. index. illus. tbls. gloss. bibl. €51.70. ISBN: 2–7453–1385–1.

This diligent collaborative edition is the tenth volume of the complete works of French humanist and mathematician Jacques Peletier du Mans (1517–82). It makes available his last published book of verse (1581), which provides something of a humanist compendium. Scholars will delight in the replicated phonetic French spelling Peletier kept perfecting, notwithstanding that he published exclusively in Latin from 1558 to 1572. Primarily a collection of scientific poetry, the Louanges complements Peletier's Amour des Amours (1555) and relates to Ronsard, Scève, or Du Bartas's attempts in the genre. Line numbers and a glossary enhance the edition's usability.

The book's fittingly concise introduction — in keeping with Peletier's motto "Moins et meilleur" ("Less and Better," 341) — contains six opening essays as well as notes on the reception of the work, the editing principles followed, and a list of Peletier's publications. I. Pantin gives an instructive biography of Peletier, featuring Ramus, among others. J. Miernowski examines the author's epistemology and aesthetics, while S. Arnaud analyzes the place of ethics and politics in the book. The rhetoric of praise is introduced by S. Bamforth, and the Aeneid translation by S. Arnaud. Finally, a comprehensive overview of Peletier's unique spelling system is offered by Y. Ch. Morin.

The body of the original work itself consists of an Averticement au lecteur, five louanges dedicated to noble patrons, the description of two planets, translated excerpts from the Aeneid, and a final reflexive poem entitled Remontrance, À Soi-męme, before the original edition's errata and the printer's Privilège. The respective subjects of the louanges — a form similar in scope to the Ronsardian hymnes — are Speech (Louange de la Parole, to Jacques De Billy), the Three Graces (Louange des trois Gráces, to the Dames des Roches), Honor (Louange de l'honneur, [End Page 889] to Scévole de Sainte-Marthe), the Ant (Louange du Fourmi, to François de la Couldraye), and Science (Louange de la Science, to the Du Faurs). The descriptions of Jupiter and Saturn are called "chans" and are presented as a sequel to the five planets described in the Uranie, the final section of the earlier Amour des Amours. The translations from the Aeneid, following Du Bellay's and Des Masures's in the 1550s, and preceded by a brief apologetic prologue, form a linear series of anthological passages published along with the Latin text; Peletier selected the tempest episode (book 1), the description of Fame, Nox erat, and Dido's suicide (book 4), ending with the Golden Bough (book 6).

A late accomplishment in the works of Peletier, the Louanges aveq quelques autres Ecriz stands out as a micro-encyclopedia. The encyclopedic vision itself — to encircle the world of human knowledge — is combined with productive doubt destined to exercise the intellect, and a valorization of the conjectural nature of "science" — hence the praise of astrology. Louange de la parole may aptly be used to pedagogically introduce crucial issues in Renaissance humanism, such as the ambivalence of rhetoric, art and nature, words and deeds, spiritual generation, ethical measure, linguistic development, variety, and so on; and the footnotes do justice to the poem's breadth. Among recurring references are Cusa and Bovelles, Thomism, Bodin, Hebreo; among fellow vernacular authors, Tory, Tyard, Du Bartas, Ronsard, Du Bellay, and Montaigne.

It is an absorbing experience to encounter Peletier's verse in its distinctive, sometimes challenging spelling. Such respect for the author's design, which slows down comprehension, enables the reader to reconnect the reformed alphabet with Peletier's philosophy. One might indeed experience quite differently Virgil's epic fragments and the erudite louanges. Heightened difficulty in reading the Virgilian lines contrasts with the enhanced understanding gained in confronting La louange de la Science in its original spelling. Besides differentiating verse and poetry, such discrepancy confirms a principle...


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