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It seems, however, that this project was adopted accidentally, and was certainly promoted by the fine natural genius of Clement Marot, the favoured bard of Francis the First, that “prince of poets and that poet of princes,” as he was quaintly but expressively dignified by his contemporaries. Marot is still an inimitable and true poet, for he has written in a manner of his own with such marked felicity, that he has left his name to a style of poetry called Marotique. The original La Fontaine is his imitator. Marot delighted in the very forms of poetry, as well as its subjects and its manner. His life, indeed, took more shapes, and indulged in more poetical licences, than even his poetry. Licentious in morals,–often in prison, or at court, or in the army, or a fugitive, he has left in his numerous little poems many a curious record of his variegated existence. He was indeed very far from being devout, when his friend, the learned Vatable, the Hebrew professor, probably to reclaim a perpetual sinner from profane rhymes, as Marot was suspected of heresy (confession and meagre days being his abhorrence), suggested the new project of translating the Psalms into French verse, and no doubt assisted the bard; for they are said to be “traduitz en rithme Francais selon la verite Hebraique.” The famous Theodore Beza was also his friend and prompter, and afterwards his continuator. Marot published fifty-two Psalms, written in a variety of measures, with the same style he had done his ballads and rondeaux. He dedicated his work to the King of France, comparing him with the royal Hebrew, and with a French compliment!

Dieu le donna aux peuples Hebraiques;
Dieu te devoit, ce pense-je, aux Galliques.

He insinuates that in his version he had received assistance

—- par les divins esprits
Qui ont sous toy Hebrieu langage apris,
Nous sont jettes les Pseaumes en lumiere
Clairs, et au sens de la forme premiere.

This royal dedication is more solemn than usual; yet Marot, who was never grave but in prison, soon recovered from this dedication to the king, for on turning the leaf we find another, “Aux Dames de France!” Warton says of Marot, that “He seems anxious to deprecate the raillery which the new tone of his versification was likely to incur, and is embarrassed to find an apology for turning saint.” His embarrassments, however, terminate in a highly poetical fancy. When will the golden age be restored? exclaims this lady’s psalmist,

Quand n’aurons plus de cours ni lieu
Les chansons de ce petit Dieu
A qui les peintres font des aisles?
O vous dames et demoiselles
Que Dieu fait pour estre son temple
Et faites, sous mauvais exemple
Retentir et chambres et sales,
De chansons mondaines ou salles, etc.

Knowing, continues the poet, that songs that are silent about love can never please you, here are some composed by love itself; all here is love, but more than mortal! Sing these at all times.

Et les convertir et muer
Faisant vos levres remuer,
Et vos doigts sur les espinettes
Pour dire saintes chansonettes.

Marot then breaks forth with that enthusiasm, which perhaps at first conveyed to the sullen fancy of the austere Calvin the project he so successfully adopted, and whose influence we are still witnessing.

O bien heureux qui voir pourra
Fleurir le temps, que l’on orra
Le laboureur a sa charrue
Le charretier parmy la rue,
Et l’artisan en sa boutique
Avecques un PSEAUME ou cantique,
En son labeur se soulager;
Heureux qui orra le berger
Et la bergere en bois estans
Faire que rochers et estangs
Apres eux chantent la hauteur
Du saint nom de leurs Createur.
Commencez, dames, commencez
Le siecle dore! avancez!
En chantant d’un cueur debonnaire,
Dedans ce saint cancionnaire.