Donald Gilman


The opening paragraph of the article follows:

In his final sonnet sequence, Pierre de Ronsard unites his vision of love with his search for poetic creativity. As a poet of love, he describes the turbulence of amorous experience throughout his personal verse and, like Petrarch and his followers, details the disquiet and disappointment of unrequited love. By centering attention on his use of Petrarchism as a poetic idiom, Desonay, Stone, Gendre, and Castor have studied Ronsard’s imitation of Petrarch’s conception and expression of love and have traced a progression from an innovation handling of conventional tropes and techniques in the Amours (1552-53) to a personal perception into the inevitable misery and disillusionment of human existence in the Sonets pour Helene (1578).1 These interpretations of the poet’s efforts to relate self-portrait to human portrayal deepen our aesthetic and thematic appreciation of Petrarchism precludes the numerous allusions to the poet’s perception into, and subsequent expression of, an individual experience that reflects universal reality. Even as early as the introductory poem to his first sonnet sequence, Ronsard identifies his love for Cassandre as the source of his perception into beauty and wisdom and the stimulus of his poetic creativity.2 A cursory recalling of his imaginative and theoretical writings, moreover, brings again to mind his life-long aspiration to reconcile the ideal of the ancient poet-seer with the practice of the sixteenth-century poet-craftsman. 3 And the opening line of the closing poem of the Sonets pour Helene confirms the significance of this theme. 4 Clearly, any examination of Ronsard’s conception of the poet-lover will necessarily be more suggestive than conclusive. But, perhaps, a key to an understanding of Ronsard’s attempts to capture in verse his insight into love and beauty lies in his interpretation of names, a technique that seems especially prevalent throughout the Sonets pour Helene. Thus, through a reading of selected sonnets that suggest a borrowing of the Neoplatonic theory of names and its application to the identity of Helene de Surgeres, this study will describe some of the onomastic strategies that enable Ronsard to relate the force of his perceived love to the inspiration of poetic creativity.



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