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A GERSONIAN TEXT IN DEFENSE OF POETRY: DE LAUDIBUS ELEGIE SPIRITUALIS (ca. 1422-1425) By G. MATTEO ROCCATI During the troubled period of the Great Schism, the Hundred Years War, and the civil war in France, Jean Gerson (1363-1429), chancellor of the Lmiversity of Paris, played an important part. However, his primary importance lies in the considerable corpus of writings that he left, rather than his role in political and ecclesiastical affairs. His theological writings are well known, and the literary aspects of his works have been pointed out, especially in relation to French humanism of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries .1 In particular, his Latin poems are important evidence of the cultural climate of these years and still survive in great number — we actually know of nearly six thousand verses. Unfortunately, there is currently no complete edition that satisfies modern critical criteria.2 In these circumstances, any critical work on these texts must begin with a study of the manuscripts. 1 On Gerson's personality, cf. Etienne Delaruelle, Edmond-René Labande, and Paul Ourliac, L'Eglise au temps du Grand Schisme et de la crise conciliaire. Histoire de l'Eglise depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours 14, 2 (Paris, 1964), 837-69; G. Matteo Boccati, "Gersoniana ," Wolfenbütleler Renaissance-Mitteilungen 9 (1985): 40-46; idem, "Aspetti umanistici dell'opera poética latina di Jean Gerson," Protrepticon, ed. Sesto Prête (Milan, 1989), 117-24; Alain De Libera, La philosophie médiévale (Paris, 1993), 477-78; Daniel Hobbins, "The Schoolman as Public Intellectual: Jean Gerson and the Late Medieval Tract," American Historical Review 108 (2003): 1308-37. I am very grateful to Kathleen Daly for the time she spent revising my English text. 2 Only the Josephina — the most important poetical work, a Vergilian poem on the Holy Family (2936 hexameters) — is available in a modern critical edition: Jean Gerson, Josephina, ed. G. M. Roccati (Paris, 2001). For the other poems, the most recent edition is in J. Gerson, L'œuvre poétique, vol. 4 of Œuvres complètes, ed. Palemón Glorieux (Paris, 1960-73), but the edition of the Opera omnia by Ellies Du Pin (Antwerp, 1706), is still useful. A new critical edition of the Latin poems can be found in G. M. Roccati, "Jean Gerson: Œuvre poétique latine" (Thesis, Paris, Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 1980). Some short poems have been published in different articles: Gilbert Ouy, "Gerson, émule de Pétrarque: Le 'Pastorium Carmen,' poème de jeunesse de Gerson, et la renaissance de l'églogue en France à la fin du XIVe siècle," Romania 88 (1967): 175-231, at 224-31; idem, "Le thème du 'Taedium scriptorum gentilium' chez les humanistes, particuli èrement en France au début du XV1' siècle," Cahiers de [Association Internationale des Études Françaises 23 (1971): 9-26, at 25-26; G. M. Roccati, "Note a proposito délie poésie latine di Jean Gerson," Studi Franccsi 22 (1978): 341-49, at 343-46; idem, "En marge de l'édition critique de l'œuvre poétique de Gerson: le manuscrit Paris, B.N. lat. 3624." PIuteus 6-7 (1988-89, printed 1994): 79-95, at 93-95. 370TRADITIO Such an approach often reveals significant data, as in the case of the poem presented here.3 It is interesting in many respects: its content shows Gerson's attitude during the last years of his life toward the question of the legitimacy of poetry, a problem much debated in early-fifteenth-century France;4 its textual tradition makes it a valuable example of the editorial work of one of the chancellor's brothers, also named Jean, a Celestine monk.0 References to the life or works of Jean Gerson in the text suggest that this poem was composed during the years 1422-25.6 Some verses (vv. 47-56) in particular were first composed as a dedicatory epistle to a brief treatise by Gerson, the Scacordum,7 and then inserted in their present context ; it is very probable that the verses and the treatise are approximately contemporary.8 Later, Gerson decided to insert this poem with some others in a collection of works on...