It had been the dream of the sixteenth-century Pléiade poets to glorify their country and literature by composing a “long French poem,” a term that designated a genre resembling epic but that also included romance. In the 1550s, not only Pierre de Ronsard, who had received an official commission to write the Franciade, but also Joachim Du Bellay were exploring epic as a change from love poetry. Having formally renounced Petrarchist lyric, Du Bellay drew on his experience in the French diplomatic service in Rome to compose his most famous sonnet collection, the Regrets. Although a servant of the monarchy, Du Bellay contests monarchical authority and Ronsardian poetics through a particular reading of Homer: his self-portrayal contrasts with prudent Odysseus, whom Du Bellay's teachers had proposed as a model to the French king and whom the poet claimed ironically to surpass in a pointless epic adventure. At the same time, Du Bellay taunts Ronsard for being a poet in favor with the French court and thus one whose own aventure was an official success. Du Bellay's agon with Ronsard carves out, in effect, areas of empire-undermining and empire-glorifying epic.

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