Under Saturnus inflytande
Renässanspoetens roll som melankolisk profet
In his Problema XXX, I, Aristotle poses the question: ”Why is it that all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts clearly are melancholics?”
This article is concerned with how, during the French Renaissance, poets such as Pierre de Ronsard (1524–85) and Joachim du Bellay (1522– 60) began, in the footsteps of ”Nostradamus”, Michel de Nostredame (1503–66), to investigate this ”problem” in their search for genius, heroism, and creativity. Both poets fitted into the humanist poetic tradition inspired by the Neo-Platonism of Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499), who was the climax of a long line of modern exegetes of the Aristotelian passage.
According to Ficino, the idea of melancholy touched on advanced and complex theories about not only madness, spleen and depression, but this temper, associated with the deep influence of Saturn, was also connected with ambition and fantasy as well as with intellectual and physical achievement. In this context, the concept of melancholy became an explanatory trope of humanism.
The article starts out by explaining Neo-Platonism as the basic philosophy underlying much of French Renaissance poetry and art, and Ficino’s enthusiasm for Saturn and Melancholy, seen as closely linked, as a pre-condition of the exceptional artist.
It is then demonstrated how the poetic theories of the Pléiade gradually led on to a prophetically inspired poetry with Nostradamus as a role model. In their poetic world, both Ronsard and du Bellay wanted to explore the image of the poet as a prophet. They turned to the ancients for inspiration, and investigated the poet’s way to divination through communication with divine sources and oracles as Plato described it. Hopefully, the article will cast some fresh light on a number of challenging poems written in the 1550s and 60s in France.