Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 749 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
MAROT, CL$MENT (1496-1544), French poet, was born at Cahors, the capital of the province of Quercy, some time during the winter of the year 1496-1497. His father, Jean Marot (c. 1463-1523), whose more correct name appears to have been des Mares, Marais or Marets, was a Norman of the neighbourhood of Caen. Jean was himself a poet of considerable merit, and held the post of escripvain (apparently uniting the duties of poet laureate and historiographer) to Anne of Brittany. He had however resided in Cahors for a considerable time, and was twice married there, his second wife being the mother of Clement. The boy was " brought into France "—it is his own expression, and is not unnoteworthy as showing the strict sense in which that term was still used at the beginning of the 16th century—in 1566, and he appears to have been educated at the university of Paris, and to have then begun the study of law. But, whereas most other poets have had to cultivate poetry against their father's will, Jean Marot took great pains to instruct his son in the fashionable forms of verse-making, which indeed required not a little instruction. It was the palmy time of the rhetoriqueurs, poets who combined stilted and pedantic language with an obstinate adherence to the allegorical manner of the 15th century and to the most complicated and artificial forms of the ballade and the rondeau. Clement himself practised with diligence this poetry (which he was to do more than any other man to overthrow), and he has left panegyrics of its coryphaeus Guillaume Cretin, the supposed original of the Raminagrobis of Rabelais, while he translated Virgil's first eclogue in 1512. Nor did he long continue even a nominal devotion to law. He became page to Nicolas de Neuville, seigneur de Villeroy, and this opened to him the way to court life. Besides this, his father's interest must have been not inconsiderable, and the house of Valois, which was about to hold the throne of France for the greater part of a century, was devoted to letters. As early as 1514, before the accession of Francis I., Clement presented to him his Judgment of Minos, and shortly afterwards he was either styled or styled himself facteur (poet) de la refineto Queen Claude. In 1519 he was attached to the suite of Marguerite d'Angouleme, the king's sister, who was for many years to be the mainstay not only of him but of almost all French men of letters. He was also a great favourite of Francis himself, attended the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, and duly celebrated it in verse. Next year he was at the camp in Flanders, and writes of the horrors of war. It is certain that Marot, like most of Marguerite's literary court, and perhaps more than most of them, was greatly attracted by her gracious ways, her unfailing kindness, and her admirable intellectual accomplishments, but there is not the slightest ground for thinking that his attachment was other than platonic. It is, however, evident that at this time either sentiment or matured critical judgment effected a great change in his style, a change which was wholly for the better. At the same time he celebrates a certain Diane, whom it has been sought to identify with Diane de Poitiers. There is nothing to support this idea and much against it, for it was an almost invariable habit of the poets of the 16th century, when the mistresses whom they celebrated were flesh and blood at all (which was not always the case), to celebrate them under pseudonyms. In the same year, 1524, Marot accompanied Francis on his disastrous Italian campaign. He was wounded and taken at Pavia, but soon released, and he was back again at Paris by the beginning of 1525. His luck had, however, turned. Marguerite for intellectual reasons, and her brother for political, had hitherto favoured the double movement of Aufklarung, partly humanist, partly Reforming, which distinguished the beginning of the century. Formidable opposition to both forms of innovation, however, now began to be manifested, and Marot, who was at no time particularly prudent, was arrested on a charge of heresy and lodged in the Chatelet, February 1526. But this was only a foretaste of the coming trouble, and a friendly prelate, acting for Marguerite, extricated him from his durance before Easter. The imprisonment gave him occasion to write a vigorous poem on it entitled Enfer, which was afterwards imitated by his luckless friend Etienne Dolet. His father died about this time, and Marot seems to have been appointed to the place which Jean had latterly enjoyed, that of valet de chambre to the king. He was certainly a member of the royal household in 1528 with a stipend of 250 livres, besides which he had inherited property in Quercy. In 1530, probably, he married. Next year he was again in trouble, not it is said for heresy, but for attempting to rescue a prisoner, and was again delivered; this time the king and queen of Navarre seem to have bailed him themselves. In 1532 he published (it had perhaps appeared three years earlier), under the title of Adolescence Clementine, a title the characteristic grace of which excuses its slight savour of affectation, the first printed collection of his works, which was very popular and was frequently reprinted with additions. Dolet's edition of 1538 is believed to be the most authoritative. Unfortunately, however, the poet's enemies were by no means discouraged by their previous ill-success, and the political situation was very unfavourable to the Reforming party. In 1535 Marot was implicated in the affair of " The Placards,"1 and this time he was advised or thought it best to fly. He passed through Beam, and then made his way to Renee, duchess of Ferrara, a supporter of the French reformers as steadfast as her aunt Marguerite, and even more efficacious, because her dominions were out of France. At Ferrara he wrote a good deal, his work there including his celebrated Blasons (a descriptive poem, improved upon medieval models2), which set all the verse-writers of France imitating them. But the duchess Renee was not able to persuade her husband, Ercole d'Este, to share her views, and Marot had to quit the city. 1 These " placards " were the work of the extreme Protestants. Pasted up in the principal streets of Paris on the night of the 17th of October 1534, they vilified the Mass and its celebrants, and thus led to a renewal of the religious persecution. 2 The blason was defined by Thomas Sibilet as a perpetual praise or continuous vituperation of its subject. The blasons of Marot's followers were printed in 1543 with the title of Blasons anatomiques du corps feminin. He then went to Venice, but before very long the pope Paul III. remonstrated with Francis I. on the severity with which the Protestants were treated, and they were allowed to return to Paris on condition of recanting their errors. Marot returned with the rest, and abjured his heresy at Lyons. In 1539 Francis gave him a house and grounds in the suburbs. It was at this time that his famous translations of the Psalms appeared. The merit of these has been sometimes denied, it is, however, considerable, and the powerful influence which the book exercised on contemporaries is not denied by anyone. The great persons of the court chose different pieces, each as his or her favourite. They were sung in court and city, and they are said, with exaggeration doubtless, but still with a basis of truth, to have done more than anything else to advance the cause of the Reformation in France. Indeed, the vernacular prose translations of the Scriptures were in that country of little merit or power, and the form of poetry was still preferred to prose, even for the most incongruous subjects. At the same time Marot engaged in a curious literary quarrel characteristic of the time, with a bad poet named Sagon, who represented the reactionary Sorbonne. Half the verse-writers of France ranged themselves among the Marotiques or the Sagontiques, and a great deal of versified abuse was exchanged. The victory, as far as wit was concerned, naturally rested with Marot, but his biographers are probably not fanciful in supposing that a certain amount of odium was created against him by the squabble, and that, as in Dolet's case, his subsequent misfortunes were not altogether unconnected with a too little governed tongue and pen. The publication of the Psalms gave the Sorbonne a handle, and the book was condemned by that body. In 1543 it was evident that he could not rely on the protection of Francis. Marot accordingly fled to Geneva; but the stars were now decidedly against him. He had, like most of his friends, been at least as much of a freethinker as of a Protestant, and this was fatal to his reputation in the austere city of Calvin. He had again to fly, and made his way into Piedmont, and he diedundoubtedly that in his gallant and successful effort to break up, supple, and liquefy the stiff forms and stiffer language of the 15th century, he made his poetry almost too vernacular and pedestrian. He has passion, and picturesqueness, but rarely; in his hands, and while the style Marotique was supreme, French poetry ran some risk of finding itself unequal to anything but graceful vers de societe. But it is only fair to remember that for a century and more its best achievements, with rare exceptions, had been vers de societe which were not graceful. The most important early editions of Marot's G uvres are those published at Lyons in 1538 and 1544. In the second of these the arrangement of his poems which has been accepted in later issues was first adopted. In 1596 an enlarged edition was edited by Francois Miziere. Others of later date are those of N. Lenglet du Fresnoy (the Hague, 1731) and P. Jannet (1868–1872; new ed., 1873–1876), on the whole the best, but there is a very good selection with a still better introduction by Charles d'Hericault, the joint editor of the Jannet edition in the larger Collection Garner (no date). An elaborate edition by G. Guiffrey remained incomplete, only vols. ii. and iii. (1875–1881) having been issued. For information about Marot himself see Notices biographiques des trois Marot, edited from the MS. of Guillaume Colletet by G. Guiffrey (1871); H. Morley, Clement Marot, a study of Marot as a reformer; 0. Douen, Clement Marot et le psautier huguenot; the section concerning him in G. Saintsburys The Early Renaissance (1901); and A. Tilley, Literature of the French Renaissance, vol. i., ch. iv. (1904). (G. SA.)
End of Article: MAROT
DANIEL MAROT (seventeenth century)

Additional information and Comments

The bibliography concerning Marot editions can be easily updated as follows: ———, Les Oeuvres, ed. Georges Guiffrey and Robert Yve-Plessis (Jean Plattard), 5 vols. (Paris, 1874-1931) ———, Oeuvres complètes. Ed. C.A. Mayer. 1. Les Épitres (London, 1958) – 2. Oeuvres satyriques (London, 1962) – 3 . Oeuvres lyriques (London, 1964) – 4. Oeuvres diverses. (Rondeaux, Ballades, Chants-Royaux, Épitaphes, Étrennes, Sonnets) (London, 1966) – 5. Les Épigrammes (London, 1967) – 6. Les Traductions (Geneva, 1980) ———, Oeuvres poétiques complètes, vol. 1, L'Adolescence clementine; La Suite de l'Adolescence clementine, ed. G. Defaux (Paris, 1990) – vol. 2, Recueil des oeuvres les plus nouvelles et récentes, augmenté d'inédits et compositions par cy devant non encore imprimées, ed. G. Defaux (Paris, 1992)
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.