Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Poetic Emblemata

In keeping with the manner of his times, Maurice Scève from Lyons in France included some 50 emblems in his 1544 novel-length poetry series, 'Délie, Objet de Plus Haute Vertu' (Délie, Object of Great Virtue'). [Délie is actually an anagram of L'ideé or 'the idea']

Scève was a great admirer of the 14th century humanist intellectual, Petrarch and there were claims that Scève found the grave of Laura, the passion or muse in Petrarch's own poetry. But although Scève's Délie owes a debt to Petrarch, it is considered independent and idiosyncratic and a leading example of French renaissance poetry. The allegorical emblems are by turns darkly additive to the poetry or else comedic in a slapstick manner. Such is the nature of love.

These love poems addressed to the mysterious Délie are highly structured and despite being popular when released, contemporaries had a difficult time comprehending the obscure imagery and language employed. It was touted in Lyon as "the crowning achievement of the city's cosmopolitan humanist culture." The book fell out of favour eventually and it wasn't until early last century that its important place in the development of French verse was established. An authoritative translation into english was only released a couple of years ago.

Click the above mashup images to see the woodcut emblems at their full-size. I thought they were a little small to post on their own but still postworthy nonetheless. The whole of Délie is posted in thumbnail format as part of the Renaissance in Print series from the Douglas Gordon Collection at the University of Virginia.

1 comment :

Bibi said...

Oh.... I love Petraca! Thanks for the post... now I need to post this too. :)

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