A mysterious celebrity
Pierre de Ronsard is a mysterious celebrity. We like to think of him as a courtly poet (probably due to the influence of the Romantics who rediscovered him) addressing flattering verses to beautiful women who politely declined. The poet of the princes and the prince of poets, who lived between 1524 and 1585, is an eyewitness of the Renaissance, a man perfectly in tune with the spirit of his time, traveller, tireless worker and worthy servant of the kings. Youngest son of a family of provincial nobility settled in the Possonnière manor house in Couture-sur-Loir in Vendômois, Ronsard experienced a childhood full of a beautiful Gâtine landscapes.
He continued to feel particularly attached to nature and the land that bore him. But his future was elsewhere. At the age of 12, the young Ronsard joined the court of King Francis I as a page to help accompany the young princes and princesses during their travels.
Most likely a victim of a type of syphilis leaving him half deaf, he was forced to give up his military career and find another alternative. In 1543, he received the tonsure and became cleric, allowing him to benefit from stipends, which increased in number, ensuring him a comfortable life. The muses could now lean on the poet’s writing case…In April 1545, in Blois, Ronsard met Cassandre Salviati de Talcy who appeared as Cassandre, the heroine of “Les Amours”. For the time being, Ronsard regularly attended classes taught by Hellenist Dorat at Coqueret College in Paris. Following “Défense et illustration de la langue française” (Defense and Illustration of the French Language) by Joachim du Bellay (1549), manifesto of the Pléiade (the name given to a group of 16th-century French Renaissance poets), this poet of Vendôme wrote his first poem entitled “Les Odes”.
He then wrote “Les Amours” in 1552 and then “Continuations des amours” from 1555 to 1578 with sonnets inspired by Marie, Astrée and Hélène. Here, Ronsard put the “French touch” back into the popular courtly sonnet inspired by Petrarch. Equally devoted to all types of poetry, he wrote Bocage, Mélanges, Élégies et Mascarades, Hymnes, making him the king’s official poet. From 1560, he regularly published editions of his collected works.
The link between Ronsard and Saint Cosme Priory was tied in 1565 when Queen Catherine de Medici and her son, the young King Charles IX, appointed him as commendatory abbot. This benefice was a reward for his previous writings, including the engaging work of “Discours des misères de ce temps” and encouraged the writing of “La Franciade”, an endless epic tale requested by Henri II. In the early 1580s, sick and tired of the vicissitudes of the court, Ronsard often isolated himself in his priories, especially in Saint Cosme where he dictated the night before his death in December 1585, his most touching “Derniers Vers” (Last Verses).