François de Malherbe (1555-1628) French poet and literary reformer

François de Malherbe laid the foundations for classical French literature. He was born in Caen (Normandy) in 1555 and received his education at the universities of Basel and Heidelberg. His father (François de Malherbe sr.), councillor of the inferior court of judicature at Caen, sent him there because he wanted his son to follow his profession and succeed him in his office.

But the young student's mind was not towards studying the law. As a poet, he entered the service of Henri d'Angoulême, Governor of Provence. He stayed in Provence for ten years, becoming known through his Les Larmes de Saint Pierre. Malherbe returned to Caen after D'Angoulême died in a duel in 1586.

The poet addressed an ode to Henry IV on the seize of Marseilles ten years later. In 1600 he presented the ode to Maria de Medici on her way to become the queen of Henry IV. When Malherbe visited Paris in 1605, he was asked to stay and live at the Royal Court, becoming a literary master and reformer. He reacted against the romantic fervour and abundant style of the established group of French poets known as the Pléiade (Pleiad) by stressing simplicity and exactness of expression, euphony in style, and restraint in emotion. Malherbe was instrumental in making Parisian French the standard language for all France, fighting the provincial expressions, neologisms, and defects of style in the writers and poets of his time. The French language and its literature are therefore deeply indebted to him.

His son's death in a duel in 1627 contributed heavily to Malherbe's own closing stages in the following year.

Although Malherbe's contribution to the French language and literature might be the most important feat of his life, he has generated some significant literary works himself. His poetic works consist chiefly of lyrics. Among Malherbe's prose writings are translations of works by the Roman philosopher Seneca. His most significant works by title:

His best known poems:

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