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IV. Clement Marot And The Court Psalmody.

Marot was to play a great part in Reformed Psalmody; a part best explained by saying that Providence raises up its own instruments for its own ends. His whole career was that of a pensionnaire of the great and a free lance in religion and in letters. Beginning as page to a nobleman, he sought through courtly verse to win the patronage of the house of Valois. In 1518 he gained a place in the household of Marguerite, duchesse d’Alençon, patroness of the new learning and sister of Francis I. He followed Francis to Italy in the campaigns of 1520 and 1525, was wounded and taken prisoner. Returning to France in the following year, his free speech and satirical gift brought upon him the suspicion of being a Protestant. Marot denied the charge, but was imprisoned for heresy. Francis secured his release in 1527, and gave him a post in his household. He gained a wide popularity upon the publication of his collected poems in 1532. But his enemies also were watching him and waiting for a turn in the political situation that would encourage 17 a new attack upon him. In 1535 the Parliament of Paris summoned him to appear and answer the charge of heresy. He fled from France and for a while found refuge with the duchess Renee of Ferrara, where he did considerable poetic work.

Marot was permitted to return to France in 1536, and was established under the direct patronage of Francis in a residence in the suburbs of Paris. Here he at once entered upon the project of a translation of the Psalter into French verse. He had made his poetical reputation neither by sustained power nor by sounding depths of feeling, but by vivacious, witty and graceful lyrics and ballads, rondeaux, epigrams, satires and the like—light-hearted and decidedly free in their morals. What turned Marot to the Psalms can only be surmised. The contrast between his offensive epigrams and his Psalms gives a certain plausibility to the opinion that both alike were poetical exercises of a facile pen which worked as readily at the one class of themes as at the other. According to Florimond de Raemond, Marot’s project was rather born of the spirit of the new learning then so active, and took its impulse from his contact with the scholars of the Royal University lately established in Paris by the king. The learned Vatable there expounded the Hebrew Scriptures, and according to De Raemond, engaged Marot to translate the Psalter, furnishing him with a corrected text.3535Bayle, Dictionary, art. “Marot.”

Marot’s gay spirit and free ways have caused hesitation in giving credit to a religious motive from within. But he had room in his heart for genuine religious feeling. He loved the new gospel, as well as the new learning, and he had already suffered for his faith. He must have entered upon the translation of the Psalms well aware, to say the least, that the private interpretation of Scripture and the spread of vernacular translations among the people was an enterprise sure to excite suspicion and likely to involve personal danger.

It is not necessary to assume that Marot was a secret Huguenot or that he aimed at a direct contribution to the 18 Reformed cultus.3636But compare Douen, i, 283. There is more ground for holding that he designed to make Psalm singing fashionable by producing versions that would be welcomed as songs. It is certain that he used his position to introduce them at court, putting autograph copies of the Psalms, as he composed them, into the hands of king and queen, courtiers and fair ladies, in the hope that they might replace the frivolous and often objectionable songs then in vogue. In this he succeeded, largely through the delight which his Psalms afforded the Dauphin, afterwards Henry II. Villemadon has left a graphic account3737Villemadon’s letter to Catherine de Médicis is in Douen, vol. i, p. 284-287, and in Bayle, art. “Marot.” Florimond de Raemond, in his Histoire de la naissance, progrèz, et décadence de l’hérésie de ce siècle (Paris, 1610), used the same data to show the unchurchly origins of Reformed Psalmody. of the enthusiasm of the Court over the new Psalmody. The Dauphin sang Marot’s Psalms, and gathered musicians to accompany them on the lute and viol. Those about him felt or feigned a share in his delight, and, to please him, begged him to choose for each a Psalm. This he did, until each member of the court had his or her own special Psalm. The Dauphin kept the CXXVIIIth to himself and composed a tune for it. Generally the Psalms seem to have been set to light melodies from the vaudevilles. The Psalms having thus become fashionable, were in the position most favorable to a wider distribution and adoption.

It was the echoes of this Court Psalmody which reached Calvin at Strassburg; and through some one of the doubtless numerous channels of distribution, twelve of these Psalms of Marot reached him in time to be included in his first Psalm book of 1539. At that date Marot had put none of his Psalms into print, other than his early version of Psalm VI, appearing in his Le miroir de treschrestienne princesse Marguerite de France (Paris, 1533). And there is no reason to believe that he furnished Calvin with manuscript copies of the twelve Psalms. Their text in Calvin’s book of 1539 does not agree with Marot’s own text 19 when he soon afterwards printed them, but it does agree with an altered text which Pierre Alexandra made and printed in a Psalm book published by him at Antwerp in 1541: Psalmes de Dauid, translatez de plusieurs autheurs, et principallement de Cle. Marot. Veu recongneu at corrigé par les theologiens.3838See Bovet, op. cit., bibliographie, No. 2. It was presumably Alexandre who furnished Calvin with copies of the twelve Psalms for his first Psalm book.3939There is evidence that soon after Calvin left Geneva Jean Gérard, a printer there, printed some of Marot’s Psalms from copies which had come into his hands. (Douen, vol. ii, pp. 645-647.) This lost publication was perhaps Alexandre’s source.

Marot in his home at Paris had gone forward in his work of translation with the approval of the king, and when Charles V came to Paris in 1540, Marot by the king’s desire, presented to Charles the thirty Psalms which he had up to that time translated. Charles

“received the said translation graciously, highly valued it, and presented him with two hundred Spanish pistoles, and also encouraged him to finish the said work by translating the rest of the said Psalms, and desired him to send him, as soon as he could, the Psalm Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus, because he particularly loved it.”4040Letter of Villemadon, ut supra.

Under such favor, soon to prove fickle enough, Marot printed at Paris, in 1541,4141O. S. Early in 1542, N. S. See Douen, vol. i, p. 290. his Trente Pseaulmes de Dauid, mis en francoys par Clement Marot, valet de chambre du Roy, with a courtier-like dedication to the king and a “priuilege” granted after seeing the “certification of three doctors in theology” that the book contained nothing contrary to the faith, the Scriptures or the usage of the Church.4242Bovet, op. cit., bibliographie, No. 1. A certain air of levity which Marot had thrown upon his enterprise so far may have successfully veiled his deeper meaning from the king. It was not so with Marot’s old enemies, the Faculty of the Sorbonne, who at once condemned 20 the book in spite of the certification of the “three doctors.” The Parliament of Paris issued a writ for Marot’s arrest. Francis after some hesitation determined to join in the repression of heresy, and withdrew his protection from Marot. No course was open to Marot except flight; he left France, and toward the close of 1542 found a refuge in Geneva.

In this work of translating the Psalms, however heretical, Marot had acted up to this point quite independently of the leaders of the Reformed churches, with whom he was not even in correspondence. But his Psalms, on the face of them, were intended to be sung. And his completion of the Trente Pseaulmes afforded an opportunity to enlarge the slim Reformed Psalter which was utilized even before they were actually in print.

Their first appearance in this way was in the Psalter of Pierre Alexandre, already referred to as printed at Antwerp in 1541, and which represented an effort to extend the new Psalmody among the French-speaking people of the Low Countries.4343The book contained no tunes, but in the case of some Psalms, the name of an air was mentioned, to which the Psalm might be sung. Alexandre’s position at the Hungarian court no doubt put him in the way of securing an early manuscript copy. His freedom in altering the text proves that he was acting without the knowledge of Marot himself.

It was again through Alexandre that the new instalment of Marot’s Psalms came into Calvin’s hands, and probably not until after he had left Strassburg. Their next appearance, so far as now known, was in an Order of Worship and Psalter purporting to be printed at Rome,4444Hence known as the “Pseudo-Roman Edition.” February 15, 1542, by order of the Pope, with the following title: La manyere de faire prieres aux eglises francoyses, tant deuant la predication comme apres, ensemble pseaulmes et canticques francoys quon chante aus dictes eglises, etc.4545Bovet, op. cit., bibliographie, No. 4. For full contents, etc., see Douen, ii, 333-347. The pretended “privilege,” which might seem to be a mere jest, was in fact 21 a device of the printer, by which he hoped to delay sequestration of his wares until they could be marketed.4646Opera, vol. vi, prolegomena, xv. The book was in reality printed at Strassburg, and was a new edition of Calvin’s Psalter of 1539, with the new Psalms of Marot and four by other translators, taken from Alexandre’s Antwerp Psalter. It did not appear until after Calvin had left Strassburg. It opens with a short preface in justification of Psalmody. The preface is in Calvin’s manner and probably by his hand. It leaves an impression of having originally appeared as the preface to an earlier edition of Calvin’s service-book and Psalter, in 1540 or 1541, but now lost.

As things are this edition of 1542 is the earliest we have of the Order of Worship introduced by Calvin into the French church at Strassburg. It is substantially a translation of the German Order of Worship observed at Strassburg when Calvin came there, as framed by Bucer;4747The subject is fully elucidated by Alfred Erichson, Die Calvinische und die Altstrassburgische Gottesdienstardnung, Strassburg, 1894. Calvin’s principal Sunday service in full is in Douen, vol. i, pp. 335-339. See also Doumergne, vol. ii, pp. 488-497. but it bears marks of Calvin’s personality, and probably better represents his liturgical views than the modified form of it he afterwards introduced at Geneva.

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Portrait of Clement Marot

Portrait of Clement Marot


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