Avantnaiss..  intro
Aurea Aetas
Ecloga IV

Avantnaissance du troiziesme enfant de Madame la Duchesse de Ferrare

Composition probably summer 1535, three manuscript versions available, posthumously published in 1547.

  1. Ms. Chantilly, Recueil Montmorency, 1538 (published and edited by François Rigolot, 2010)
  2. Ms. BnF. fonds français 2370, undated
  3. Ms. Soissons 202, undated, but probably around 1537 (The manuscript only contains pieces from 1537 or before)
  4. Printed in 1547 (Epigrammes, Frères Marnef, Poitiers)

The texts can be found in: Mayer [Oeuvres Lyriques, LXXXVIII (Eglogue II), pp. 328-330]; Defaux [Oeuvres Poétiques II, pp. 181–183]; Rigolot [II, pp. 367-369]. The texts in juxtaposition

The text of this poem was published for the first time by Guiffrey based on Ms. 2370 (Oeuvres vol. II, pp. 273-280) together with the text of Ms. Soissons 202. Guiffrey was not aware of the existence of either the Manuscript version of the Recueil Montmorency or of the published version in the appendix of Marnef's Epigrammes of 1547.

This poem is a welcoming song for the third child of Renée de France, written before the child is born (Avant-naissance); This kind of poems became quite popular in the Renaissance, based on ancient examples, the so called genethliacon (or genethliacum if you prefer a complete latinisation; the original word is Greek). Legendary - and with an enormous impact on western christian culture - is the 4th Eclogue of Virgil in which he heralds the birth of boy, that will inaugurate a 'golden age'. The foretelling character of this poem fascinated christians (from the oratio constantini onwards); they regarded it as the pagan - antique - counterpart of the Israelite prophecy of 'a Child born to become a Ruler, a bringer of universal peace' (Isaiah 7, 9 and 11). Marot's poem in many ways mirrors this eclogue. By the way: Ovid's Metamorphoses, First Book, evokes the golden age [vv. 89-112], the aurea aetas, in a very similar way. The idea of the golden age (originally expressed by Hesiod and made popular by Aratus in the 3rd Century BC) is pessimistic when looking back (declining of the ages) but optimistic when looking forward: the  'return' of the Golden Age (yearning or longing, nostalgia or hope?). Marot had translated the First and Second Book of the Metamorphoses in the early 1530s. [for the curious: I copy these texts in a separate document, with translation and a few comments]:

The main differences between the versions of the Avantnaissance (orthographical peculiarities are not taken into account) are quite clear: they are related to religious precarious topics. The harangue against the pope from the original will have pleased the addressee, the pregnant mother, Renée de France, perhaps it will even have comforted her, being seriously troubled by the ongoing pressure from Rome on the affairs of Ferrara; for Constable Montmorency, although not particularly pope-minded either, the wording of these lines - invectives - would have reminded him of similar prose from Lutheran and other 'heretics'. And those people Montmorency did not like at all. By the way: the change in vv. 31-32 migth be the exception to confirm the rule that all differences are religion-related, althoug I have to confess that I don't understand what Marot wants to say (to what he refers) with these lines. What he does is that he limits the genetic influence to the mother (la Mère) instead of referring to both parentes (qui t'ont forgé). Finally: the first part of the alternative text Marot provides for Montmorency is also inspired by Virgil's Eclogue.

Saturday, 26 January 2019


This site was last updated Saturday, 26 January 2019