Desportes, Philip

, a poet to whom much of the improvement of the French language is attributed, was born at Chartres in 1546, whence he went to Paris. Attaching himself there to a bishop who was going to Rome, he gained an opportunity of visiting that city, and acquiring a perfect knowledge of the Italian language. When he returned to France, he applied himself entirely to French poetry, and was one of the few poets who have enjoyed great affluence, which he owed in part to the great liberality of the princes by whom he was protected. Henry III. of France gave him 10,000 crowns, to enable him to publish his first works. Charles IX. presented him with 800 crowns of gold for his poem of Rodomont. The admiral de Joyeuse gave him an abbey for a sonnet. Besides which, he enjoyed benefices to the amount altogether of 10,000 crowns a year. Henry III. even honoured him with a place in his council, and consulted him on the most important affairs. It is said that he refused several bishoprics; but he loved solitude and retirement, which he sought as often as he could. He was very liberal to other men of letters, and formed a large library, to which he gave them the utmost freedom of access. Some, who were envious of his reputation, reproached him with having borrowed freely from the Italian poets, which he was far from denying; and when a book appeared upon the subject, entitled “Rencontre des Muses de France et d’ltalie,” he said, “If I had known the author’s design, I could have furnished him with many more instances than he has collected.” After the death of Henry III. he joined himself for a time to the party of the League, but afterwards repented, and | laboured zealously to serve the interests of Henry IV. in Normandy, and succeeded in obtaining the friendship and esteem of that liberal monarch. He died in 1606. Desportes is acknowledged to have been one of the chief improvers of the French language. His works consist of sonnets, stanzas, elegies, songs, epigrams, imitations, and other poems; some of which were first published in 4to, by Robert Stephens, in 1573. A translation of the Psalms was one of his latest works, and one of the most feeble. A delightful simplicity is the characteristic of his poetry, which is therefore more perfect when applied to amorous and gallant, than to noble subjects. He often imitated and almost translated Tibullus, Ovid, and other classics. A few sacred poems are published in some editions of his Psalms, which have little more merit than the Psalms to which they are subjoined. 1


Moreri in Fortes. —Dict. Hist.