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Hannah Lavery, "Social and political satire in the impotency poems of Rémy Belleau and Thomas Nashe". [EMLS 15.3 (2011): 3] http://purl.org/emls/15-3/lavesati.htm
illa quidem nostro subiecit eburnea colloHowever, Belleau’s Anacreontic intrusion to his longer elegy is important for his development of the form and structure of the impotency poem within a French context.
bracchia Sithonia candidiora nive,
osculaque inseruit cupida luctantia lingua
lascivum femori supposuitque femur
Her ivory arms, gleaming more brightly than Thracian snow, she cast about my neck and with eager tongue implanted wanton kisses, and lasciviously slid her limbs beneath mine. (Amores 3.7)
… ce Vit enflé Daudace,
Escumant de colere et de fumante ardeur
Et qui pour galopper ne fasoit du restif,
Mais maintenant, ô Dieux, est Couard et Craintif. (ll. 31-37)
…a prick with daring swollen,
Foaming with rage and ardour’s snorting steam.
That from a gallop never shied away;
But now, oh Gods, the coward fearful lies. (ll. 33-38)
illa meos somno lapsos patefecit ocellosAlthough the male protagonist suffers a moment of impotence, or ‘failure to serve’, he is soon recovered and able to perform. Later poets take this idea of an individual’s ‘love militia’ as a rejection of expected, public service, to explore anxieties stemming from an expectation to perform in the service of particular political bodies. From the earliest moments in Latin erotic elegy, then, the idea of elegy as ‘not epic’ has been established as a source for anxiety within the texts, but it also suggests a retreat or escape from what it means to perform in public life. Within these environs, the impotence episode is a harsh reminder of the ‘failure to serve’ that lurks beneath the surface of the elegiac life. Within the context of Belleau’s France, and Nashe’s England, we can see how the time of writing influences the content of, and indeed even the decision to write, the impotency poem.
ore suo et dixit, “Sicine, lente, iaces?”
quam uario amplexu mutamus bracchia! quantum
oscula sunt labris nostra morata tuis!
She pushes open my lids, as they slip into sleep,
and says, with her expression, “So, you lie there spent?”
With such varied embrace we exchange positions!
So many of my kisses linger on your lips!
Roide, entrant tout ainsi que la pointe d’un soc
Qui se plonge et se cache en toute terre Grasse
Jusqu’aux Couillons? (ll. 29-31)
Stiff, plunging, like a steelhard plowshare’s point
That dives and hides itself in good fat soil
Right to the hilt: (ll. 31-33).
… ce Vit a la Pointe acerée,
Vit rougisant ainsi, que la Creste Pourprée
Qui couronne, flotant, le morion d’un Coq (ll. 26-28)
… the hero of the Golden Point
Who used to redden like the wreathèd crest
Triumphant on the helmet of a cock? (ll. 28-30),
… vne Peau desia morte,The destruction of the fertile pasture land, linked previously with the gallus, and this later equating of the “ash-filled sepulcher” of the aged vagina with both a tomb and a defeated military fort, suggests an attempt to explore the idea of impotence as one in which identity is crushed and negated. Indeed, the production of impotency poems can often be seen to coincide with times of particular social or cultural stress: for example, the factional destruction of a Republic in Propertius’ time, or the restoration of a king after a failed Republic in Rochester’s time. So too here with Belleau we have a poetry that relies on a conception of identity as linked to landscape, destroyed through the impotence of failed warfare, and produced at a time of war, which challenges conceptions of national identity and representation.
Entrouurant tout ainsi qu’un Sepulchre Cendreux,
Beant, sur le portail, tout rance, et tout poudreux,
Ou pende, pour trophees, et pour aultres enseignes,
Vne Crespe tissu des Lanes des Araignes (ll. 43-47)
… skin already dead,
And open like an ash-filled sepulcher
Its gate agape, rancid and powdery,
Where hang as trophies and for battle-flags
A few grey hairs, like spiders’ dingy webs (ll. 45-9)
quin istic pudibunda iaces, pars pessima nostri?
sic sum pollicitis captus et ante tuis.
tu dominum fallis; per te deprensus inermis
tristia cum magno damna pudore tuli. (vv. 69-72)
Lie down there, you shamefaced creature, worthless part of me: I have
been tricked by promises like this before. You deceive your master;
through you I have been caught defenceless, and suffered a painful
and humiliating reverse.
Vne Trippe, vne Peau, vne Sauatte infette,The humour of this part of the poem lies in the image built up of a man who, having lost control of his body, appears to also lose control of his mind. It is as if the perverse pleasures, gained through the idea of punishment in the crudest and most obscene way, spurs the man on to more and higher levels of self-loathing and self-pleasure. The pace and rhythm of the work add to this idea of a sadomasochistic release of sexual tension which, presumably, an engagement in romantic sexual coupling could not provide. This is most clearly seen in the French original, where the manipulation of metre and rhyme produces a sense of a destabilised form to the narrative, though individual rhymed couplets share the same metrical construction to emphasise the pairing of imagery within them. Here too we see use of metre to emphasise the humour, completed by a couplet at lines 62-3 which draws attention to metaphors of impotence as based on military or epic imagery.
Rebouschant, Remousse, et pliant de facon
Que fait contre L’acier vne lame de Plom,
Braue sur le Rampart et couard a la bresche,
Vn Canon desmonté, sans amorce et sans Mesche,
Vn Manche sans Marteau, vn Mortier sans Pilon,
Vn nauire sans mast, Boucle sans Ardillon,
Vn Arc tousiours corbé et qui jamais ne bande,
Vn nerf tousiours lasché et qui jamais ne tende. (ll. 55-63)
A tripe, a flap, an old and grungy shoe,
Battered and blunted, weakly bending like
a blade of lead against the hardened steel.
Brave on the walls and coward in the breach,
Dismounted cannon, powder- and fuseless both,
Hammerless handle, mortar without pestle.
A ship without a mast, a pinless buckle,
A bow that’s always bent and never drawn,
A cord that’s ever slack and never tense. (ll. 57-65)
Donc pour te faire arser, mon Vit il te fault ores
Vne Vieille a deux Dents, qui se souuienne encores
De Jeanne la Pucelle, a qui L’entrefesson
sans enflure, sans Poil, soit gelé de facon
Et si peu frequenté qu”on sente, (ll. 38-42)
So now to make you stand, my prick, it takes
A two-toothed ancient, who can still recall
The Maid of Orleans (ll. 40-42)
Rebouschant, Remousse, et pliant de faconSuch references can be usefully set in context of the French military defeats occasioned during the campaign undertaken to recapture Italian territories, which Belleau himself served in during the1550s. Given the time of writing, this broader context for the handling of the impotency episode, in the terms of a military force threatening land and identity, gestures to the turmoil associated with campaigns concerning both external and internal threats. Certainly, in the general atmosphere produced in this reworking of the impotency poem, Belleau’s juxtaposition of fecund with barren land, and through the associated imagery of fertile female youth and impotent aged bodies, suggests a wider anxiety as to understandings of an active national body of force, with the specific reference to Joan of Arc linking the idea of a sexual to a military reading of the female body.
Que fait contre L’acier vne lame de Plom,
Braue sur le Rampart et couard a la bresche (ll. 56-58)
Battered and blunted, weakly bending like
a blade of lead against the hardened steel.
Brave on the walls and coward in the breach (ll. 58-60)
for all my labours turned to loss, my vulgar Muse was despised and neglected, my pains not regarded, or slightly rewarded, and I myself, in prime of my best wit, laid open to poverty. Whereupon, in a malcontent humour, I accused my fortune, railed on my patrons, bit my pen, rent my papers, and raged in all points like a madman.In particular, Nashe is bitter about the insecurity and humiliation of scraping around for patrons, whose whims ultimately direct the content and success of a work. Through the release of his “Dildo” in manuscript form, Nashe engages with the very concept of authorship and publication, to critique positions of selfishly driven action wherein service to another is not repaid, and neither party are capable of fulfilment as a result. By considering his own and others’ writings from the period of composition of the “Dildo” we can perhaps clarify something of the symbolic meaning of the piece, the action that takes place within it, and some important links between this and Belleau’s poem for building satire.
As newfangled and idle, and prostituting my pen like a Curtizan, is the next Item that you taxe me with; well it may and it may not bee so, for I neither deny it nor will I grant it; onely thus farre Ile goe with you, that twise or thrise in a month, when res est augusta domi, the bottome of my purse is turnd downeward, and my conduit of incke will no longer flowe for want of reparations, I am faine to let my Plow stand still in the midst of a furrow, and follow some of these new-fangled Galiardos and Senor Fantasticos, to whose amorous Villanellas and Quipassas I prostitute my pen in hope of gaine; but otherwise there is no newfanglenes in mee but pouertie, which alone maketh mee so vnconstant to my determined studies.This statement deserves close attention, as in it we can see the context and approach within which the “Choise” was made. It suggests, moreover, that such ‘profane’ texts (as gave Nashe his infamy) could be commissioned works, appealing to what we would consider a popular market, and therefore an appropriate endeavour for a writer who finds himself in need of some urgent financial support.
First bare hir leggs, then creepe up to hir kneese.In this, Tomalin strips away Frances’s clothes from the ground up. This appears to reverse a similar scene in the Amores 1.5, where Ovid presents a titillating view of the male protagonist’s gaze descending the female form:
From thence ascend unto hir mannely thigh.
(A pox on lingring when I am so nighe)
Smock climbe a-pace, that I maie see my ioyes (ll. 102-5)
What arms and shoulders did I touch and see,With the upward climbing motion, as Tomalin’s fingers undress Francis, in opposition to the downward appreciation of the naked body of Corinna, Tomalin’s objectification of this woman as merely bought body, and particularly genitalia, is emphasised. (Other key inversions underline his process of reversing the sexual episode as imagined in Ovid, such as changing “her fine young thigh” to “her mannely thigh”, for humorous effect). Thus, Nashe presents the sexual episode as a negative and selfishly driven experience.
How apt her bosom to be pressed by me!
Belly so smooth below the breasts so high,
And waist so long, and what a fine young thigh. (“Amores” 1.5)
Dessus son large sein les Oeillets et les Roses,Nashe takes this episode and produces an anti-poetic rendering of Belleau’s young female:
Vn Testin ferme et rond en Fraise aboutissant,
Vne Crespe d’or frizé sur un Teint blanchissant,
Vn petit Pied mignard, bien trait et bien moulé,
Vne greue, vn Genouil, deux fermes rondes Cuisses,
De l’amoureux plaisir les plus rares Delices,
Vn doux embrassement de deux Bras gros et longs,
Mille tremblans souspirs, mille Baisers mignons, (ll.8-17)
On her full bosom fragrant pinks and roses,
A firm round breast pointed with strawberry,
Curled golden hair contrasting snowy skin,
A hillock soft with delicate sweet moss,
With drawn upon its midst a scarlet line,
Below a belly round and plump and dimpled,
A pretty little foot, well drawn and shapely,
A leg, a knee, two firm and rounded thighs,
Of love’s best pleasure quite the best delight,
A soft embrace of two arms plump and long,
A thousand trembling sighs and pretty kisses,– (ll. 9-19)
A prettie rysing wombe without a weame,With the similarities in form and structure for the episode there is a simultaneous heightening of both humour and disgust, as the beautiful becomes laughable, if not disturbing, through the parodic use of landscape-body imagery. The jolly heroic couplets of Nashe’s description in fact jar harshly with the content, which builds an image of an enlarged belly with an almost scatological reference to the “fountaine” below, and a vagina dentata-esque “nett of wyres” providing a threatening end-point for the male sexual gaze.
That shone as bright as anie silver streame;
And bare out lyke the bending of an hill,
At whose decline a fountaine dwelleth still,
That hath his mouth besett with uglie bryers
Resembling much a duskie nett of wyres. (ll. 109-114)
 Roger Kuin and Anne Lake Prescott, “The Wrath of Priapus: Rémy Belleau’s ‘Jean qui ne peult’ and its Traditions”, Comparative Literature Studies, 37, no. 1 (2000), p. 13.
 For information on other poems in the tradition see an early essay by Richard Quaintance citing some of the key works in the development of the tradition (“French Sources of the Restoration ‘Imperfect Enjoyment’ Poem”, Philological Quarterly, 62, no. 2, (1963): 190-199). Also see John H. O’Neill, “An Unpublished ‘Imperfect Enjoyment’ Poem”, Papers in Language and Literature, 13, (Spring, 1977): 197-202, for his discussion of an addition to this body of verse. Roger Kuin and Anne Lake Prescott (2000) include a deeper reading of some of the lines of influence between French and English impotency poems to the area, as well as the most up-to-date list of poems and sources. This essay contains a translated reprint of the rare Belleau text from which all references in this article are taken. See McKerrow, R. B., ed., The Works of Thomas Nashe, 5 vols., (London: A. H. Bullen, 1905), vol. 3, pp. 397-416 for the text of the ‘Choise of Valentines’ poem.
 Peter Davis, “Ovid’s Amores: A Political Reading”. Classical Philology 94.4 (Oct. 1999), p. 436.
 For the discussion of attribution and dating see Kuin & Prescott.
 Sowerby, p. 141. Belleau was a close friend of Ronsard, whose Pléiade group of poets sought to distance themselves from the ‘frivolous’ Rhetoriquers, aiming for something ‘better and more thought-filled’ for French vernacular poetry. (Hutton, pp. 131-2). In the 1550s Ronsard, the reputed ‘head’ of the Pléiade, enrolled ‘sa brigade au service de la maison de Lorraine’ (Marty-Laveaux, viii), where Belleau spent some years as tutor following his return from the Naples campaign in 1557. His writing career, then, can not be divorced from the political world of mid-century France: Belleau himself participated in a battle during the Italian Wars of 1551-9, and was writing under the patronage of the Guide family during the mid-century French Wars of Religion (1562-98).
 Scollen, p. 16.
 The binary opposites of otium and negotium, work and leisure, are used to discuss socially acceptable action, and the pressures on those not seen to act for the benefit of society. Some useful studies on Roman poetry as it relates to socio-political issues include Anton Powell’s edited work Roman Poetry and Propaganda in the Age of Augustus, (London: Bristol Classical, 1992). David Kennedy’s The Arts of Love: Five Studies in the Discourse of Roman Love Elegy, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) looks at how specifics of the language shed light on a wider socio-political reading of the works.
 Belleau’s work pays attention too to the writings of Rabelais and Ronsard, combining an increased obscenity and stark satire with a distinctly recognisable topography. Nashe’s response to this poem with his “choise” engages with the concept of corrupt sexuality as representative of a wider social satire.
 La Reconnue (1577) as based on Plautus’ Casina.
 Propertius 1.6 is a particularly striking example of a statement of a decision to reject public service in favour of individually directed fides relations with a woman, and one in which the idea of ‘elegy over epic’ is directly confronted. Further on the trope itself can be found in Monica Gale, “Propertius 2.7: Militia Amoris and the Ironies of Elegy”, Journal of Roman Studies, 87, (1997), 77-91. Similarly in Ovid and Amores 1.1 notes that Cupid “steals a foot” from his verse, leaving him only able to participate within the elegy traditions.
 Aphra Behn’s response to the rejuvenation of the impotency poem within the context of the Restoration court is to investigate the potential for this idea of recovery of a lost opportunity through discussion of gender, power, and the very act of writing (cf. Lisa M. Zeitz and Peter Thoms, “Power, Gender, and Identity in Aphra Behn’s ‘The Disappointment,’” SEL 37 (1997): 501–16).
 Belleau also references to the “Creste Pourprée” in works in his collection La Bergerie (“The Shepherd’s Song”), which was written 1565-72 whilst he was tutor to the Guise family.
 Weber, p. 91.
 Cottrell, p. 400.
 This shows an instance of the influence that French poets had on this tradition as it came through from Latin, via Italian models in Aretino, to the English versions in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In particular, these are works which focus on a particular body part, and produces a poetry that revels in the humour and irony of a literature which makes “the body” filthy. Examples of this, as suggested by Kuin and Prescott, can be found in in Albert-Marie Schmidt, ed., Poètes du XVIe siècle, (Paris: Gallimard, 1953).
 Levarie, p. 224.
 Piers Penniless, in McKerrow, p. 274.
 Harvey, Vol. 2, p. 91. For more on the Harvey-Nashe quarrel, which took place over the years 1593-1596, and referred to writings from the late 1580s and early ‘90s, can be found in Halasz, Marketplace of Print (1997), as it relates to the significance of the printed nature of this quarrel, and Lorna Hutson’s work Thomas Nashe in Context for how this affected Nashe’s later works. For general information on Nashe’s biography and writing career, see Nicholl’s A Cup of News (1984). McPherson’s article ‘Aretino and the Harvey-Nashe Quarrel’ demonstrates how Harvey’s earlier works profess admiration for an ‘aretinesque’ spirit in satire, for which he later criticises Nashe, thus suggesting the poised nature of the later quarrel in relation to its print medium.
 “Have with you to Saffron-Walden”, in Kerrow, III, 30-31.
 Love, p. 44-6.
 McKerrow, I, 320.
 Harvey, Letterbook, p. 119, quoted in Halasz, p. 91.
 The question of whether the term ‘pornographic’ can be usefully applied to early modern texts has received wide consideration. For some recent discussion of the term and its implications in relation to the Thomas Nashe text please see Ian Moulton, Before Pornography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). Other critics who have dealt with this recently include James Grantham Turner, Schooling Sex: Libertine Literature and Erotic Education in Italy, France, and England 1534-1685, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), and a longer book-length analysis of the history of pornography can be found in Lynn Hunt, ed. , The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800, (New York: Zone Books, 1993). For my purposes, in this essay, I will note the development of the impotency poem within the bounds of the erotic elegy tradition, and note the multiple significances that such texts provide.
 The relationship between French and English writers of the mid to late sixteenth century has not been fully explored, though there do seem to be some interesting links. Kuin and Prescott note that “Although we make no argument here for Belleau’s “influence” in Renaissance England, his name was not unknown there; indeed, Thomas Churchyard’s Churchyards Challenge (1593) has a depressingly drab verse epistle to a mistress that he identifies as a translation of Belleau, although so far the original, if in fact by Belleau, has eluded us.” (fn. 1, p. 15). This suggests Belleau’s works were known in England by the second half of the sixteenth century. Henri Estienne, friend of Ronsard and Sydney (Gilbert, 1962, p. 415n.), reportedly discovered a manuscript containing 60 Odes of Anacreon in 1549, which he ‘borrowed from an Englishman who discovered them in Italy’ (Levarie, p. 221) Though this carries slight weight of proof, it does suggest that such a ‘sharing’ of manuscripts took place at this time, and that literary friends would communicate across borders in this way. This perhaps gives an indication of the ways in which manuscript verse, especially of the riskier kind, might travel, and permit for the kinds of intertextual borrowings and allusions we can see between the Belleau and Nashe impotency poems.
 For more on the way in which patronage shaped government under Queen Elizabeth see Smuts, Court Culture and the origins of a royalist tradition in early Stuart England (1987), and Bindoff, Hurstfield eds. Elizabethan Culture and Society (1961). Susan Frye considers the production of the Queen’s image through art in Elizabeth I: The Competition for Representation (1993).
 See Arthur F. Marotti, Manuscript, Print and the English Renaissance Lyric (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1995) for more on the development and composition of the manuscript tradition at that time, and Marotti “‘Love is not Love’: Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences and the Social Order”, ELH 49 (1982), 396-428 for more on the development of the sonnet as a part of the processes by which politics and patronage were undertaken by men in the service of Queen Elizabeth.
 ‘Priapus, drop the sluice-gates now: the meadows have had enough to drink’. Virgil’s original in Eclogues 3.111 reads pueri (boys) instead of Priapus. ‘Notes’ in Woudhuysen, ed., The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse, (London: Penguin, 2005).
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© 2011-, Annaliese Connolly and Matthew Steggle (Editors, EMLS).