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Baïf, Jean‐Antoine de

The New Oxford Companion to Literature in French

Malcolm Quainton

Baïf, Jean‐Antoine de 


French poet, the natural son of Lazare de Baïf and a member of the Pléiade. His work reveals an inventiveness and an erudition not always matched by poetic sensitivity and craftsmanship. His love poetry to the fictitious Méline (1552) and to Francine (1555) combines sonnets and ‘chansons’, Petrarchism and sensual ‘mignardise’, whilst his ‘Alexandrianism’ and his predilection for mythological narrative poems, his considerable theatrical ability, and the Pléiade's attraction to scientific poetry find early expression in Le Ravissement d'Europe (1552), Le Brave (1567; an adaptation of Plautus's Miles gloriosus), and Le Premier des météores (1567) respectively.

From 1567 to 1573 Baïf devoted himself to the foundation of the Académie de Poésie et de Musique and the related composition of classically measured verse and to the preparation of the Œuvres en rime (1572–3), his collective works which cover the creative period 1549–72 and contain four sections: Poèmes, Amours, Jeux (eclogues and theatrical productions), and Passetemps (mainly light‐hearted epigrams). Baïf's most rewarding collection is the Mimes, enseignements et proverbes (1576, 1581, 1597). The earliest ‘mimes’ were predominantly gnomic and sententious, but, in response to the continuing civil wars, Baïf developed the genre by an increasing emphasis on moral, satirical, political, and religious material. The same religious lyricism inspired his several psalters (1567–87).

[Malcolm Quainton]