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YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY POETIC SELF-ASSERTION IN JEAN LEMAIRE DE BELGES’S 1506 “LES REGRETZ DE LA DAME INFORTUNÉE” PETER EUBANKS IN an oft-overlooked poem, “Les Regretz de la Dame Infortunee sur le trespas de son treschier frere unicque,” Jean Lemaire de Belges, Burgundian indiciaire1 at the court of Margaret of Austria (1480-1530) at Pont d’Ain, laments the death of Philip the Handsome, King of Castile and brother of Margaret, on September 25, 1506. In this poem of demonstrative rhetoric and fourteen decasyllabic douzains (aabaabbbabba), Lemaire not only provides the necessary poetic comfort required of him, but also asserts his own role and position as a writer. The poet’s veiled references in the “Regretz” to his own volatile economic situation – a difficulty exacerbated by the passing of his king and patron, Philip – also demonstrate a certain poetic self-assertion, drawing attention to Lemaire’s plight as one whose very livelihood depended on the health and goodwill of his patron or protector. In an era where literary production was fueled by a patronage system requiring an encomiastic rhetoric that left little room for authorial self-assertion, the fact that Lemaire successfully points the reader to his own personal concerns seems particularly noteworthy. 1 The indiciaire, a post created by Philip the Good at the court of Burgundy in 1455 for George Chastelain, functioned as court historiographer and was the only figure at court commanding a regular salary (a comfortable one at that – Chastelain received 36 sous a day, 657 livres a year, an amount corresponding rougly to the annual salary of a ducal counselor). Indeed, as in the case of both Molinet and Chastelain, the indiciaire often acted as a counselor, a position carrying some political importance and prestige. For more on the indiciaire in Burgundy and France during this period, see Claude Thiry, “Rhétoriqueurs de Bourgogne, rhétoriqueurs de France: convergences, divergences?” in Rhetoric-Rhétoriqueurs-Rederijkers, pp. 101-16; see also Jean Devaux’s Jean Molinet: Indiciaire bourguignon, pp. 25-112. YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY 313 While any death may carry some justifiable degree of sorrow, Philip’s death at the early age of twenty-eight seems particularly tragic as he leaves behind five children, as well as his mentally unstable wife, Juana (Joanna), who was seven months pregnant with their sixth child and finally driven to insanity by her husband’s passing. Her mental infirmity meant that there was now no one who could reign in Philip’s stead, creating a sense of instability throughout the kingdom that only invited scheming enemies to take advantage of the volatile situation. Indeed, strong links exist in the sixteenth-century mind between the health of rulers and the stability of the ruled; in Burgundy and Castile, in particular (Philip was ruler over both regions) such a link was prevalent. As Bethany Aram points out in her book about Philip’s widow, Juana the Mad: “Comparisons between ruler, court, and kingdom emphasized their interdependence to the point that sickness in the royal person or conflict in the royal household threatened the associated territories” (75). Death of a sovereign, then, was seen as the ultimate threat to the realm; the seemingly exaggerated sorrow, to which we shall soon turn our attention, expressed by Lemaire in the “Regretz,” seems tempered by a recognition that Philip’s death had grave implications for his subjects , to whose suffering Lemaire gives voice in this poem. An anonymous contemporary source informs us that after the king’s death, many of his subjects felt the fear and vulnerability to which Bethany Aram alludes: [E]t m’a-l’on dit que entre le grand dueil qui en fut fait èsdicts pais, que en la ville d’Anvers fut le greigneur, à l’occasion que c’estoit en la franche feste et que illecq avoit gens de toutes villes et païs, lesquelz regrettoient chascun l’ung à l’aultre les maulx et grans inconvénians qui estoient apparans de advenir à cause de la mort d’ung tel noble . . . Et leur sembloit bien que les François ne seroient pour longtemps sans leur faire guerre; aussi ne seroient pas longuement sans que aultres leurs voisins, comme Gheldres et Liégeois et...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-7599
Print ISSN
0035-7995
Pages
pp. 313-321
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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