Ideal Courtiers, Real Courtiers


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Clément Marot
French, 1496–1544
Les Œuvres de Clément Marot, de Cahors, Vallet de Chambre du Roy
Paris, 1546
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library


Clément Marot, renowned poet, became a favorite of future François I at the age of eighteen. In 1520 he attended the “Field of the Cloth of Gold,” and duly celebrated it in verse; in 1524 he accompanied the King in his disastrous Italian campaign. The fact that his title was Valet de Chambre du Roi (Valet of the King’s Chamber) does not mean that he made the King’s bed – just that he was part of his entourage, sometimes used as a private secretary and confidante – until his disgrace for religious and philosophical reasons in 1534. Other notable holders of this office in the 16th century included portraitist François Clouet and Baltasar de Beaujoyeulx, a virtuoso violinist who created the first ballet.


In a well-known elegy in this volume, entitled “Adieu aux Dames de la Cour,” (“Farewell to the Ladies of the Court”), Marot plays on the fact that heart is the seat of both love and courage. The poet-courtier-knight is as true to his Anne [d’Alençon] as Petrarch to his Laura, yet when military duty calls, it is time to say “adieu” to the beloved lady, and to offer one’s heart to the King.


Adieu la cour, adieu les dames,
Adieu les filles et les femmes,
Adieu vous dis pour quelques temps,
Adieu vos plaisants passe-temps ;
Adieu le bal, adieu la danse,
Adieu mesure, adieu cadence,
Tambourin, hautbois et violons,
Puisqu'à la guerre nous allons


Adieu ma mie la dernière,
En vertus et beauté première ;
Je vous prie me rendre à présent
Le cœur dont je vous fis présent,
Pour, en la guerre où il faut être,
En faire service à mon maître.

Farewell to the court, farewell, ladies,
Farewell, girls and women,
I must say farewell for a long while;
Farewell your pleasant pastimes;
Farewell to the ball, farewell, dance,
Farewell, measure and cadence,
Drum, oboe, and viols,
For to war we go.
Lastly, farewell, my love,
First in virtue and in beauty;
I pray you return at present
The heart I gave you as present,
So, in the war where I must go,
I can use it to serve my master.