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This article is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

Joachim Du Bellay: Introduction and Twenty Sonnets from Les Regrets C.H. Sisson

THE poets of sixteenth-century France can hardly be said to have been a significant influence on English poetry in the twentieth. Pound's reading lists skip this period, for reasons which are good in their context; Eliot points to the superiority of Villon or puts in a good word for the seventeenth century, when he is not more concerned with the world of Baudelaire and his successors. The young David Gascoyne looked towards the Surrealists, and the older Gascoyne has shown an interest in some later French work. Among later comers, those who have not been blatantly insular have most often had their eyes on more or less contemporary work, in German, Spanish or Italian - or on Villon, who has held his place. The Renaissance in general has hardly been the most influential of periods for writers in the twentieth century, perhaps because the air has been so filled with notions which have their roots in it. Yet the French literature of the sixteenth century, with its remarkable freedom of movement, has much which should be sympathetic.

Among the poets of the period there is none who comes to us with more freshness and intimacy than Joachim du Bellay. It is not the intimacy of personal confession or boasting, of which so much has been heard since Rousseau and of which the twentieth century should by now have had its bellyful. It is the degree of familiarity which a civilised and frank young man might be expected ...


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