Les regrets de Joachim du Bellay

Les regrets de Joachim du Bellay

Sonnet CV (Originally French)

De voir mignon du Roy un courtisan honneste,
Voir un pauvre cadet l’ordre au col soustenir,
Un petit compagnon aux estat parvenir,
Ce n’est chose (Morel) digne d’en faire feste.

Mais voir un estaffier, un enfant, une beste.
In forfant, un poltron Cardinal devenir,
Et pour avoir bien sceu un singe entretenir
Un Ganymide avoir le rouge sur la teste:

S’estre veu par les mains d’un soldat Espagnol
Bien hault sur un eschelle avoir la corde au col
Celuy, que par le nom de Sainct-Père lon nomme:

Un bélistre en trois jours aux princes s’égaller,
Et puis le voir de là en trois jours dévaller:
Ces miracles (Morel) ne se font point qu’à Rome.

The Regrets of Joachim du Bellay

Sonnet 105 (English Translation)

Seeing King’s darling as an honest courtier,
Watch a poor junior order to support to the collar,
A little companion to achieve status,
This is something, my dear Morel, worthy of making a feast.

Yet seeing a footman, a child, a beast,
A rascal, a coward made a Cardinal
For having taken care of a monkey well,
A Ganymede wearing the red hat on his head

Is to be seen through the hands of a Spanish soldier
Although a high ladder to have the rope to the neck
The one, by the name of the Holy Father’s common names:

A scoundrel in three days for the princes are equal,
And then view there over three days to unwrap:
These are miracles, my dear Morel, that take place in Rome alone.

I searched the internet to the best of my ability to find an English translation of this poem and never found more than a few lines translated.  So with my limited ability at translating French and the use of Google Translate with some further help from various French-English Dictionaries, the English Translation above is my best attempt at a translation, though I am afraid I am not poetic enough to translate it in the style of a Petrarchan Sonnet in which it was originally written.  If anyone knows of a better English translation, please let me know.

Du Bellay

With that caveat at the beginning you may be wondering why I even posted this poem today.  For me, the answer is quite interesting.  The poem was written by the poet Joachim du Bellay, who lived in Rome while in the retinue of his relative Cardinal Jean du Bellay.  This sonnet is one of the two sonnets in his series Les regrets (1558) which expressed his scandalized opinion of Julius III during what became known as The Innocenzo Scandal.

The Innocenzo Scandal

Julius III

Pope Julius III (1550-1555) was born in Rome, September 10, 1487 as Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, he took the name Julius and studied law at Perugia and Siena. After taking holy orders, he became chamberlain to Pope Julius II.  Although an outstanding canonists, his careless homosexuality, especially as he got older, created a scandal for the papacy. In his sixties, he picked up a 14-year-old boy on the streets of Parma. The boy, ironically named Innocenzo was described as being stunningly beautiful, and Julius was so enraptured with him that he forced his brother to adopt Innocenzo.

In February of 1550 Cardinal Del Monte was elected pope as Julius III, and immediately made the 17 year old Innocenzo a Cardinal. Attempts to give the boy an education which could have prepared him for ecclesiastic office had already proven useless – “a few social graces, a few bits of knowledge, perhaps about the glories of the Classical world, and Innocenzo’s formal education was over.” Nevertheless, Julius issued a Papal Bull declaring Innocenzo legitimate – a necessary move given that persons of illegitimate birth were not eligible for membership of the College of Cardinals – and named him Cardinal Nephew, effectively in charge of all papal correspondence. But the role of secretary to the papacy proved manifestly beyond Innocenzo’s abilities, and so, in order to find a way for his favourite to retain the appearance of power without having any real responsibility, Julius upgraded a hitherto minor position, that of secretary intimus, which, as Cardinal Secretary of State, was eventually to become the highest of Vatican offices. Innocenzo, although relieved of all real duties, continued to be showered with benefices and high offices, much to the disgust of his fellow cardinals. As Cardinal he was given the titular church of San Callisto, in 1562.

Council of Trent

Cardinals who were more sensitive to the need to reform the mores of the Church in order to combat the Protestant Reformation protested in vain against Innocenzo’s elevation. Rumors also circulated around European courts. Gossip called the boy Julius’s “Ganymede.” The relationship became a staple of anti-papal polemics for over a century: it was said that Julius, awaiting Innocenzo’s arrival in Rome to receive his cardinal’s hat, showed the impatience of a lover awaiting a mistress, and that he boasted of the boy’s prowess. The Venetian ambassador, Matteo Dandolo, wrote that Cardinal Del Monte “was a little scoundrel”, and that the Pope “took him [Innocenzo] into his bedroom and into his own bed as if he were his own son or grandson”. Onofrio Panvinio wrote that Julius was “excessively given to intemperance in a life of luxuriousness and to his libido,” and, more explicitly characterized him as “puerorum amoribus implicitus” (‘entangled in love for boys’). One more mocking rumor made the rounds in Rome, saying that Innocenzo had been made a cardinal as a reward for his being the keeper of the pope’s monkey.

Remember that this scandal took place in one of the most tumultuous periods of the Roman Catholic Church. It occurred in the midst of the Wars of Religion that resulted from the Protestant Reformation.  As a Cardinal, Julius III, had served as the first president of the Council of Trent, which was the core movement in the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

8 responses to “Les regrets de Joachim du Bellay

  • silvereagle

    This essay proves that there is nothing new under the sun. All the sexual escapades of the modern day saints of the TV church have nothing which surpasses those of days gone by….just change the names, dates, and places.Actually a very interesting article, and one not easily composed for sure.Thanks!

  • chunkybear45

    I enjoyed reading about this. May I ask where you did your research for this article?As ever I have enjoyed all your journal entries, so thank you for the time and effort you spend on them.

  • JoeBlow

    Silvereagle, this was without a doubt the most corrupt time of the Catholic Church. In 1519 when Luther wanted to simply reform the church of its abuses, the Christians of Europe had taken all they could take of corruption within the church, which is why I think the Reformation caught on like wildfire. Most Catholics would disagree with that assessment because of the doctrine of papal infallibility, but it is hard to deny that the popes of this time period were more politician than religious figures.

  • becca

    as always you amaze mewith your thought and research you put into your post. I always find myself learning things i never knew. thank you and man i've missed you and your post. hugs

  • JoeBlow

    Chunkybear, I was trying to find something to write about, and so I did a Google search for Famous Gay Men and it directed me to the website for Lamda.org (http://www.lambda.org/famous.htm). When I saw a Pope on the list, I decided to check into his biography, so I began with a quick look at Wikipedia– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Julius_IIIhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Julius_III (I find it a good place to start even though it is not always the most reliable.) From there, I did some more research on some of the major figures mentioned in the write up about the scandal:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innocenzo_Ciocchi_Del_Montehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joachim_du_BellayThen I did some more research by Googling Julius III, and eventually found this website (http://www.true2ourselves.com/forum/sexual-morality/4792-three-gay-popes.html) which does not cite sources, but there was nothing contradictory to what I had read at other sources.Once I had the basic information, I wanted to read du Bellay poems, so I began to look them up. I was only able to find the one that was quoted in the Wikipedia article, but I eventually found a French copy of his poetry collection, Les regrets, on Google Books (http://books.google.com/books?q=CV&id=RRIwHpufk1YC&output=text&pg=PA70) but was unable to find an English translation, so using the partial translation in Robert Aldrich, Garry Wotherspoon, eds, "Who's who in gay and lesbian history: from antiquity to World War II." (A book that I would love to have but have not yet bought) I then used Google Translate and Wiktionary to translate the remainder of the sonnet.Normally, I try to cite my sources, but the ones listed above are the main sources, though there were several others that I can no longer remember. Truthfully, I got absorbed in the translation and forgot to provide a full bibliography.

  • JoeBlow

    Thanks, becca. I've missed you too, and I hope you had a wonderful time on your vacation.

  • Anonymous

    Another fascinating post. Of course he was not alone in the corrupt Pope ralley; Alexander VI populated the thrones of Europe with his offspring. The odd thing about this post was instead of outraging me, I found myself feeling sorry for Julius. Beauty is a painful thing. We yearn for it, we endow with virtue and yet it’s so ephemeral. Perfect beauty can cause pain, just in the witnessing of it. It’s a pain we can’t resist for the pleasure it brings. We want to own it but no one can. A beautiful sunrise is gone in a moment.As frustrating as it must have been to du Bellay to watch this man receive adulation and worldly position for basically winning the genetic sweepstakes, how frustrating also for Innocenzo (if he was smart enough) to be known as Lord High Monkey Amuser. How frustrating for Julius to try to possess this man and have to pay for his body. Of course, who knows, Julius may have preferred it that way as it gave the illusion of control.I’ve always thought the devil must be beautiful, or how would his temptation be so difficult to resist. This post made me think of this line from the poem Sunday Morning: Death is the mother of beauty.ciel

  • JoeBlow

    Thanks, ciel. So many of the popes and clerics of this time period were corrupt. It's a main reason that the Reformation was so successful. I looked up the poem Sunday Morning. What a beautiful poem! Thanks for your comments.

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