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Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage - Joachim du Bellay - Les Regrets ()
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Les Regrets de Joachim Du Bellay, Angevin : Collationne Sur La Premiere Edition (Paris 1558)
The circumstance that the historical figure Joachim Du Bellay more or less deliberately chose to enter the entourage of his powerful kinsman, the cardinal Jean Du Bellay, during a protracted diplomatic mission to Rome - this circumstance is passed over in the poetic text. The title of the sequence, like many of its members, recalls the enforced exile of Ovid among the Scythian "barbarians.
There exile becomes banishment: ". An exile can potentially provide something positive to an individual already discontented at home, as had been the case with the historical author.
In view of the profound restlessness which seems never to have spared him, a fresh start need not have been altogether unwelcome. There are hints that this was indeed the case with the writer of Les Regrets. What is commonly called exile might better be analyzed in terms of a multiform denudation traceable roughly in the first fifty sonnets. The first and most obvious form of denudation is geographic and linguistic. The poet has lost his role as a Frenchman among Frenchmen; he has lost his nation and his community, and the series of addresses to friends, most of whom have remained in France - these addresses running from sonnet to sonnet can be construed as an ineffectual effort to reconstitute a community experienced as lacking.
One prominent motif in this series of addresses is the professional success of the friends back in France and most notably of Ronsard. Ronsard allegedly enjoys the favor of the court and the generosity of the king which Du Bellay has failed to acquire. It matters little whether Ronsard had truly achieved what he wanted in worldly terms during the middle fifties; what matters for us is the perception by his friend and rival of unequal recognition.
A displacement, an exile," might have allowed the friend to reduce the intensity of a rivalry which left him the visible second. It might have allowed this, although the textual evidence suggests that the displacement was far from dispelling all feelings of emulation. More broadly, it can be said that the loss of a fixed role and a familiar context can be liberating as well as impoverishing.