Eustache Deschamps, early medieval French poet
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Eustache Deschamps is not only known as a prolific poet but also as a rhetorician. His Art de dictier formulates the teaching he gained from his master, Guillaume de Machaut, as well as incorporating the poetic legacy of the Latin Middle Ages. In this study I propose to analyse critically the subject matter of Deschamps’ imagery and the poetic techniques which he has modified and adapted to his own use so that Deschamps might be re-established from a modern point of view to the position which he obviously occupied in his own day. Deschamps was born around 1344 and died late in 1404. His early years were spent in a dividend France whose morals had been lowered by the defeat of Grécy in 1346, so soon to be followed by the taking of Calais. The capture of Jean le bon, necessitating a four year regency, meant that the French continued to look upon Charlemagne’s era as France’s golden age, and so they judged their own harshly. Although Deschamps was from a bourgeois background his legal education, and no doubt his poetic abilities which earned him early notice by Wachaut, ensured him various positions in several important aristocratic households in Paris. His arrival in this city came at a fortunate time. The new king, Charles V, encouraged by Du Guesclin’s successes, and embarked on a new period of financial and political stabilisation. Charles V included the more able of the increasingly powerful bourgeoisie among his advisers. Deschanps’ capabilities were soon recognised and he was allotted several important positions as a royal messenger, negotiator and organiser. The freedom with which he dared to criticise Charles’ successor proves the importance of the functions he fulfilled, as does his continuing influence in spite of the new king’s preference for his younger admirers. Deschamps draws on his vast experiences for both the actual subject-matter of his poetry and the ideas for the imagery with which he embellishes his work.