- Chrétiens et mondains, poèmes épars. Œuvre complètes 8
Following three volumes in 2001 and one in 2002, Champion has released another long-awaited volume of Marguerite de Navarre's complete works. Richard [End Page 903] Cooper's critical edition has brought together and rendered accessible, for the first time in modern print, over 230 of the lesser-known poems of de Navarre. The diversity of the poetic corpus that Cooper undertook is staggering, yet the collection presents itself in a convincingly logical way. Lending credence to Lucien Febvre's sacred/profane dichotomy, Cooper organized the diverse poems in five parts according to poetic form: épîtres, Christian poetry, courtly poetry, love poetry, and a final, more atypical, section entitled "Definitions of true love in dizains."
Cooper provides an ample introduction that highlights his meticulous work on the original texts as well as a substantial, more general knowledge of de Navarre's life. The study, including a description of the forty-two manuscripts in question as well as tables detailing the content and location of each poem, pin-points an impressive philological style, although at times its academic weightiness does not demonstrate full appreciation of the fervor expressed in de Navarre's poetry. Cooper begins with a brief discussion of the challenges involved in dating de Navarre's poems and then proceeds in chronological order, dividing up de Navarre's literary life in four periods: 1522–30, 1530–39, 1540–47, and 1548–49.
The poems of de Navarre's youth are for the most part direct communications —sometimes quite literally gifts —with her brother, including their earliest épître exchanges and numerous rondeaux. As the Valois dynasty strengthened its influence by Francis's frequent political campaigns, de Navarre sent poems that honor his name and held up the royal trinity of Marguerite, Francis, and Louise. Combined with the copious notes to this section, Cooper provides the reader with a full picture of the historical context. And while many of these poems underscore the secular, courtly, and Italian influences present in her early work, Cooper also includes five religious meditations that recall the devotional poetry of this period (Petit Oeuvre dévot et contemplatif).
At the height of her courtly power, Marguerite de Navarre produced a vast and diverse output in the years 1530–39, including religious poetry, one courtly épître, varied epitaphs, and epigrams. Cooper utilizes Clément Marot's classification of epigrams as short, cyclical love poems that engage the courtly dialogues of the time. The longest cycle involves de Navarre's exchanges with La Vau, a minor poet of the time and de Navarre's courtier, who poses as a devoted yet rejected courtier and desperately seeks reciprocal love with his lady. Several other courtly exchange poems appear alongside those of Marot and Francis in the well-known Hecatomphile.
Ironically, the decline of de Navarre's courtly power (1540–47) yielded vast poetic output. Like La coche, authored during this period, many of the poems are offered as gifts in order to influence her brother and his entourage toward political ends. Francis's absence during campaigns inspires lengthy épitres, as de Navarre exalted her brother to biblical ends, comparing him to the patriarch Abraham and to King David. Cooper includes a section of poems from Arsenal ms. 5112, calling the manuscript an anthology of de Navarre's work between 1540 and 1543. The majority of poems, however, are short decasyllable poems called Amours, which [End Page 904] engage current debate on the various viewpoints on love. Replete with Petrarchian, Neoplatonist, and Ovidian influences, this poetry serves as a precursor to de Navarre's democratic view of love present in L'Heptaméron, with its alteration of male and female voices.
Cooper carefully explores the last two years of de Navarre's life, after the death of Francis in 1547, when she wrote Les Prisons and L'Heptaméron, through...