DESPORTES, Philippe

(c. 1546-1606)
An imitator of Italian poets such as Petrarch and Ludovico Ariosto,* Des­portes exploited well-known myths, a certain musicality, and his wit to pen love poetry, foreshadowing the precieux poetry of the seventeenth century and ena­bling him to supersede Pierre de Ronsard* as court poet of France. Desportes was born into a family of rather distinguished merchants in Chartres. His early education was devoted to studies in Latin and Greek. After his father's death in 1562, Desportes moved to Paris, where he worked as a clerk until he lost his position because of his employer's suspicions about Desportes's relationship with his wife. He left Paris for Avignon, where he secured employment with the bishop of Le Puy and accompanied him to Rome. There he devoted a certain amount of time to reading the Italian poets before returning to France in 1567. Desportes's recitation of a poem about the duke of Anjou at the performance of Jean-Antoine de Baif's* Le brave in 1567 resulted in the publication of his Premières oeuvres (1573), which included Les amours de Diane and Les amours d'Hippolyte. The duke of Anjou invited Desportes to join him on a trip to Poland in 1573, from which he returned to France in 1574 when the duke of Anjou succeeded Charles IX as Henri III. Cleonice, dernieres amours was published in 1583.
Succeeding Ronsard as royal court poet, Desportes enjoyed a life character­ized by financial gifts, privileges, and success. Desportes's lucid assessment of the political climate in France after Henri III's assassination by Jacques Clement in 1589 led him to side with the Catholic League, helping to defend Rouen from Henri IV's troops in 1592. Later, Desportes negotiated the surrender of some places held by the League in Normandy, an act that led Henri IV to give him the Abbey of Bonport, where he retired to write his translations of the Psalms before his death in 1606.
Bibliography
A. Prescott, French Poets and the English Renaissance: Studies in Fame and Transfor­mation, 1978.
Nancy Erickson Bouzrara

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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