Early Music History

Research Article

Ronsard, the Lyric Sonnet and the Late Sixteenth-Century Chanson*

Jeanice Brooksa1

a1 University of Southampton

Music was an important metaphor for Ronsard, and references to music and musical instruments are frequently found in his poetry. His writings about music are few, however. In his article ‘Ut musica poesis: Music and Poetry in France in the Late Sixteenth Century’ Howard Brown has referred to two of the most explicit examples of such writing: the preface to Le Roy and Ballard's Livre de meslanges (1560) and the passage from Ronsard's Abbregé de l'art poëtique françois (1565) on the desirability of union between poetry and music. Such passages are important in illuminating poets' attitudes towards music and in demonstrating ways in which the relationship between text and music could be conceptualised in the sixteenth century. They are frustratingly vague, however, about how the poets' ideals should be achieved, and they leave many practical questions unanswered. Did poets have any influence on composers' choices of texts? Did movements in poetic circles ever affect the pitches or rhythms of musical settings – that is, could poets influence the way music sounded?


* I would like to thank Dr John O'Brien for reading an earlier version of this study and for his many helpful suggestions.