Monday, April 19, 2021

Marguerite de Navarre

Marguerite de Navarre (1492―1549) is an outstanding figure of the French Renaissance. She was a French princess and the older sister of the French king Francis I. She was both an advocate for the arts, and for reform in the Catholic Church. Her brother was being held prisoner in Spain after having been captured during a battle in Italy. In 1525, through her diplomatic skill she managed to free him. In 1526, she married Henry II of Navarre (a small territory along what is now the border between France and Spain).

She was a prolific writer of poetry, plays and stories ― including Heptameron (a collection of short stories), the long poem Mirror of the Sinful Soul (which was translated into English by eleven-year-old princess Elizabeth ― later Elizabeth I), and The Triumph of the Lamb.

She was significantly influenced by Martin Luther, and had his writings and those of other reformers translated into French. Her intention, like Luther’s original intension, was to promote reform within the Catholic Church. Her own writing ― expressing her belief that eternal salvation was only attainable through repentance and sincere faith rather than through following the actions dictated by the Catholic Church ― was condemned by the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris. Although her book Mirror of the Sinful Soul was judged to be heretical, King Francis intervened so it was no longer blacklisted; the faculty censors, however, managed to get her printer hanged. Because her religious writings were controversial, many only circulated in manuscript form within her lifetime.

Marguerite de Navarre was also a generous patron of the arts, including to François Rabelais and Leonardo da Vinci.

Luther’s expression of the All and the Naught ― “All” being the Creator and “Naught” the faithful Christian aware of his sins and of his being unworthy of his grace ― appear in the following poem.

The Rapture of Divine Love

Perfect love — would that it were known!
bestows a pleasure that can never end,
and every breath of bitterness is blown.
Perfect love, it is the eternal God,
which sheds abroad in hearts its charity
and raises up the whole man from the sod.
He who by love is brought to utter naught
loves only that which is naught
and thereby to wholeness he is brought.
I did not know, I would not have believed,
that love by dying can increase.
But now I know, for now I have received.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.