Tory'sCapitals = Champ Fleury 1529

Libertines &cetera
Marot, Learned Poet
Marot's first Psalms
Marot to Bouchart
Marot's Tomb
Rabbi Marot
François Vatable
French Books review


Clément Marot, the learned poet

About Jewish medieval exegesis and the Genevan psalter


= rough version of: Dick Wursten, 'Clément Marot, the Learned Poet: Jewish Medieval Exegesis and the Genevan Psalter', Reformation and Renaissance Review 12.1 (2010) 71–107.




The author suggests that viewing the French poet Clément Marot as a ‘learned poet’ opens up new possibilities not only to understand why he translated the Classics (Ovid, Virgil, Martial), but also to better appreciate how he versified the Hebrew Psalter (final edition 1543). He sketches the Renaissance rediscovery of medieval Jewish exegesis (Kimhi, Ibn Ezra) and the way Martin Bucer in his scholarly Psalms Commentary (1529) valorized their insights. Instead of allegory and direct prophecy a plain historical meaning of many Psalms emerged, supplemented by a typological reference to Christ. Analysing Marot’s versification of Psalm 110 (a junction of exegetical, historical, hermeneutical, and theological issues) the author shows that Marot, while versifying this Psalm, follows an extremely peculiar Jewish interpretation – probably mediated by Bucer – to construct a consistent literary and historical narrative. Instead of presenting Psalm 110 as a mysterious messianic prophecy about Christ, Marot produced a poem in which he evoked an oracle about the enthronement of an ancient king and his victory in the ensuing bloody battle. In doing so the christological potency of this Psalm so seriously diminished that his versification was not acceptable to the Geneva Church in 1562 and was adapted to fit the traditional interpretation. 



The perception of the French poet Clément Marot (ca. 1496-1544) is still heavily loaded up by the way he was perceived in the past. Although the idea that he was the last of the Grands Rhétoriqueurs (not really a great poet, more a transitory figure, on the brink of the Renaissance but not fully aware of it) is now abandoned by everyone with more than superficial knowledge of the matters at stake, the discussion about his work and person is still often conducted based on premises of the past.[1] Too often Marot is torn between two kinds of lovers of his work: those who appreciate the secular Marot, the skilful court poet who had to please his benefactors and who succeeded brilliantly in doing so. It is true, who will deny it: Marot has an amazing ability to write the kind of poetry his readers wanted to hear, once pleasing – almost seducing – the Ladies of the Court with his elegant poetic verse; then pleasing the male with coarse and jocular epigrams, but always wittily approaching his superiors, versatile and volatile.[2] On the other hand there are readers who are fascinated by his biography. Living close to Marguerite de Navarre, the ‘mother’ of the French evangelical movement, he found himself in the eye of the religious storms of his days. Willingly or unwillingly he played a role in the struggle for reform of the church that escalated during his lifetime; his name figured prominently on the list of wanted ‘heretics’ (the first who is not a cleric or a theologian[3]) in the aftermath of the Affaire des Placards (1534/1535), forcing him into exile for two full years, and of course: his cooperation with Jean Calvin in 1543 culminating in the publication of his 50 Psalm versifications. Lots of ink have been spilled on efforts to reconcile these two views on Marot, or rather: on outplaying them one against the other. Some conclude that Marot was a protestant zealot, others suggest that his allegiance to the evangelical cause was only transitory and superficial etc.[4] Next to the fact that we should not be surprised that sixteenth century human beings are as complex as we are, that they can change, develop, mature, react differently when circumstances change etc., and that – thus – straightforward explanations of texts and motives are generally erroneous, it might be helpful to introduce a third perspective to look at the same poet, sc. that he – as a participant of the Humanist movement – was a learned poet, a ‘Docte Poët’. This is often obscured because of the focus (determined by the past) on Marot as a court poet and on his religious commitment (or the absence of it), but everyone in the first part of the 16th century agreed on this aspect of Marot’s poetic output.[5] His poems were highly praised in Humanist circles; some were even translated into Latin by French neo‑Latin poets, often the same who wrote laudatory verses to serve as preliminary texts to the editions of L’Adolescence clementine (1532), the Suite (1533/1534) and the Oeuvres (1538).[6]  More than a decade later Marot’s translation of the first two books of Ovid’s Metamorphoses were incorporated in the editon by the Barthélémy Aneau, principal of the Collège de la Trinité in Lyon, when he published them together with his translation of the third book.[7] These learned men, Humanist scholars, did consider Marot one of theirs, even though he wrote in the vernacular. We often overlook this aspect because it is so unexpected (exactly the opposite to the traditional image of the frivolous poet who took life lightly) and because our own focus can easily become a bias, so that we do not see the obvious: to play the role of a courtly poet, to write light verses, esp. in dangerous times, requires a lot of rational and emotional intelligence, ‘Fingerspitzengefühl’. One word on the wrong place, to the wrong person, on the wrong moment, might be fatal. Trying to please the powerful is not something lightly to be undertaken. On the other hand: the focus on religious aspects and his tumultuous biography might blind readers for other motives behind his actions than the ones one is looking for. Without being aware of it, all actions or writings of Marot that touch this field are automatically interpreted as signs of allegiance to one or other party, obscuring the possibility that Marot might well have entered this field on his own terms and with his own agenda. Including this new element – Marot as a learned poet – as a third parameter in the discussion concerning Marot’s poetry and person, might not only help to relax the previously experienced opposition between the secular court poet and the religiously involved psalmist , but also to open some new perspectives on the man and his writings. Finally, signalling this aspect of Marot’s poetry is not at all new. Anyone who has followed the efforts of the Marot scholars of the last 50 years (naming only C.A. Mayer, G. Defaux and F. Rigolot), will have noticed how gradually a Marot emerged, who was so much more than a clever versifier. He was aware of his times, not a follower but a fore-runner. This is not the place to expand on this aspect, it might suffice to draw attention to the fact that everything he touched changed under his hands. Chansons were never the same after Marot wrote his chansons, epistolary art idem ditto; psalm versifications: it was done before, but after Marot made it his job, it seemed as if he was the inventor of the genre etc. He was involved in publishing his own poems, editing a poet from the past to protect his poetry from oblivion (Villon), participating in the homogenisation of French orthography, inventing new lyrical forms, transforming old ones. He was not a background player, but a front man. If one reads his longer lyrical and narrative poetry, one is impressed how he succeeds in finding that particular tone that befits the subject and the addressee. If one then studies the footnotes, the references, one is impressed how he excelled in re-creating, imitating and emulating Latin originals, not only in explicit translations, but also in implicit imitations (mainly Ovid’s Tristia in his epistolary art). For this I refer the readers to the critical editions of any of the three Marot-editors, mentioned above; even Guiffrey in the nineteenth century had already a keen eye for this if one scrolls through his extensive footnotes.

In this essay I want to show that in his Psalm paraphrases Marot had similar objectives and that his translations should not be judged only from religious or poetical perspective, but also as a scholarly achievement or at least as an effort to achieve a translation in the vernacular of these old texts that could meet the standards of Marot’s Humanist friends, who also sometimes included Psalm translations in their collections of neo-Latin poems. To proof this – or to make this plausible – I will present and analyse one of Marot’s last versifications (Psalm 110). This exercise will be pars pro toto, for I hope to show that the learned aspect is a general characteristic of his effort to translate biblical Psalms après la vérité hébraique.[8] I leave aside the literary-historical and poetical appreciation of his effort, since this has been done very convincingly by several scholars, and – for once – with converging conclusions.[9] Before embarking on the presentation and analysis of Psalm 110, one preliminary remark (about the fact that I use translations to say something about the translator) and one excursion (providing the necessary background to grasp the meaning of the term vérité hébraique), might be useful.


[How translations reveal the translator]

The procedure – researching translations in order to get a better picture of the author/translator – is often discarded as producing false results (the content of the text does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the author) or little result. I don’t agree with both. Translating is never an automated process and therefore a translation always indirectly reveals something about the translator, even if he tries hard not to let that happen: a translator is present in his translation. With respect to the second circumstance, the bare fact that – at a time when translations from the Bible in the vernacular were controversial – Marot translated these texts is telling as such; and to investigate how he translated these texts is very rewarding because of a number of very particular circumstances significantly raise the odds that the translator has to show colours. Bible texts are multi‑layered texts, ‘thick’ with meaning, attributed or inherent. This is true for all biblical texts but for the Psalms exponentially: all kinds of philosophical, theological, spiritual, and religious meaning has been read in(to) these ancient texts during millennia of use in liturgy, devotion and systematic theology, both of Jews and of christians. Often a specific interpretation is bound to a specific translation. So, translating these texts in French forces the translator to make choices in which the literary and theological elements are intertwined. If one adds to this that – in Marot’s days – the common translation of the Psalter (the Vulgate) was being juxtaposed to many new translations, more or less based on the Hebrew original, Psalms could be familiar and strange at the same time, well–known and novel. Many of these new translations made visible that there were alternatives for the readings known form the Vulgate, confronting the translator once more with all kinds of exegetical and hermeneutical questions, that he had to answer if he wanted to deliver more than a mainstream translation of the Vulgate inside the safe boundaries of the official ecclesial interpretation (e.g. Pierre Gringore). Finally: many parts of the Psalm texts (both in the Vulgate and in the Hebrew original, but not necessarily the same parts) are obscure, even today, bordering on the untranslatable; this once more forces a translator to choose.


[après l’hébreu or la vérité hébraique]

Although Psalm 110 belongs to the last selection of Psalms translated by Marot (Vingt Pseaumes, 1543), it does not differ from the very first (Psalm 6, before 1532) in the circumstance that the translation is supposed to have been made according to the ‘Hebrew Truth’, après la vérité hébraique.[10] To what this expression actually refers is easily misunderstood. To associate it immediately with our (modern) notion of a scholarly exegesis that starts with the deciphering of the Hebrew text as a condition for any translation or interpretation, would be anachronistic. The first generation of Humanists accessed the Hebrew Bible only indirectly, i.e. via old (and – when time passed – ever more: new) Latin translations from the Hebrew, of which Jerome’s Bible translations iuxta Hebraeos was the first and most easily available, the ‘Vulgate’.[11] In the course of the centuries this translation had been gradually accepted as normative with one exception: Jerome’s translation iuxta Hebraeos of the Psalter, the Psalterium Hebraicum. A previous Latin version made by Jerome based on Greek translations of the Hebrew text (mainly the Septuagint), thus unwittingly copying the errors therein, had become the standard text in Western-Europe. Because this text was the most commonly used in France, ever since Alcuin included it in the Bible edition he offered to Charlemagne, it is generally referred to as the Psalterium Galli(ca)num.[12] So in the ‘Vulgate’ all oldtestament books are translated ‘after the Hebrew’, except the Psalter, which is largely based on the text of the Septuagint.

Jerome’s Psalterium Hebraicum, which differs considerably from the version present in the Vulgate (the Gallicanum), had always been known in the Middle Ages and served as an eye-opener for many a scholar in the sixteenth century. Reading that translation made them aware of the huge difference between approach the Biblical original based on the Vulgate, and an approach après l’Hèbreu.[13] When in the first part of the sixteenth century a Psalm publication (edition, translation, commentary) refers to the ‘Hebrew text’, it is with high probability not a reference to the Hebrew text, but a reference to the Latin text of Jeromes’ Psalterium Hebraicum. The fact that Lefèvre d’Etaples included this Hebraicum in his Quincuplex Psalterium (1509) certainly helped its proliferation.[14] Lefèvre himself did not know Hebrew either and his Psalm hermeneutics is completely christological: there is only one sense in Scripture, and that is the reference to the mysteries of Christ. This is not a figurative sense, but the sensus litteralis. Lefèvre was only interested in the Hebrew text (mediated by Jerome’s Psalterium Hebraicum), because he was convinced that the return to the sources, would unlock this secret even better.[15] When sixteenth century authors, like Lefèvre and his followers, therefore refer to the ‘Hebrew Truth’, they – on a cultural and philosophical level – inscribe their work in the Humanist project of returning to the sources in order to find ‘Truth’ or to be able to expound the truth more clearly. Once more Jerome is the icon of this movement, because in his prologues to his subsequent translations of Old Testament he expounded the idea of Hebraica Veritas and defended it against criticism (the most prominent opponent being Augustine of Hippo), mainly consisting in the insinuation that interest in the Hebrew text would lead to a less Christian and more Jewish Old Testament. From the early Church fathers to the Humanists, who were Hellenists (Graecists)  first and only later became Hebraists, the Septuagint, the pre-Christian Jewish translation of the Old Testament in Greek, was highly revered and generally considered to be Gods gift to the Church. What we call ‘the Hebrew original’ they mistrusted exactly because it was a Jewish text. Anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism are never far away in Church history. For us it is important to realize that the philosophy behind this concept is philological in its method, but theological in its aim: the closer one gets to the Hebrew original, the closer one gets to the text that was inspired by the Holy Spirit itself. Even where there is a growing awareness of the historic‑literal sense of certain passages, the term ‘Hebrew Truth’ is not linked to these aspects of the text, but to their spiritual meaning. So interest in the ‘Hebrew Truth’ did not mean that one was interested in digging up all kinds of information about historical persons and situations, but in the mystical Truth, which – like a hidden pearl, not directly visible to the superficially gazing eye – was contained in all Scripture: Christ himself. He would be revealed even more clearly as the real sense of all Scripture including the most obscure parts of the Old Testament, with the help of the ‘Hebrew Truth’. The opposite of ‘Hebrew Truth’ was not ‘Christian Truth’ (they coincide) but ‘Hebrew, i.e. Jewish Lies’. Like Jerome the Humanist Hebraists were accused of judaising, and defended their ‘return to the sources’ along the same lines as Jerome himself: translating according to the ‘Hebrew Truth’ will prove that it is possible to ‘hébraiser sans judaiser’, and when the ‘Hebrew Truth’ is found all Jewish lies, corrupting our present translations, will be exposed the ‘Christian Truth’ corroborated.[16]

Nevertheless, from a philological point of view the early sixteenth century was an exciting time, because an enormous amount of knowledge concerning the Hebrew language and the Jewish exegesis came available.[17] The Psalter was often at the heart of this new interest, both because this book was by far of the most popular Bible book and because the usual Latin translation was more-than-average defective, as we showed above. Next to Jerome’s versio Hebraica new editions of the Hebrew text in Latin started to appear, now really based on the Hebrew original. The first and most influential appeared in 1515 in Italy, prepared by Felix de Prato: Psalterium ex hebraeo diligentissime ad verbum fere tralatum.[18] The translator, Felix de Prato (Latinised: Felix Pratensis, †1558) was a converted (or apostate) Jew and Augustinian Eremite. The ‘Entdeckersfreude’ in Humanist circles was enormous. Many scholars published new translations of the Psalter, some even complete new Bible translations, based on Hebrew (and Greek) originals.[19] The linguistic level of Hebraitas still varied considerably, but the translators became increasingly more informed. [20] All of these new translations were of Christian manufacture, even when they were produced by Jews. Both the Arguments (summaries) above Lefèvre’s translations and the Arguments above the 1526 edition of the Psalms by Felix de Prato reflect the traditional christo-typical (and often anti‑Judaist) way the Psalms were understood, not only in conservative circles but also in the camp of reform-oriented scholars.[21] It is only at the end of the 1520s, when an increasing number of Christian scholars really had mastered the Hebrew language, that an abundance of translations, interpretations and commentaries on the Psalms ‘according to the Hebrew’ appeared. Soon a number of them was translated into French. The title of an article by Bernard Roussel speaks volumes: ‘Les nouveaux Jérôme (1525‑1535): le psautier traduit en français iuxta Hebraeos’.[22] Very popular became the Psalm paraphrase by Johannes van Campen (Campensis), Psalmorum omnium iuxta Hebraicam veritatem paraphrastica (Nuremberg, J. Petreius, 1532), which was almost immediately translated in French and published in Paris by Simon du Bois in 1534.[23] Both the Latin and French editions were often reprinted. A landmark in modern Psalm scholarship, including the achievements of the Hebrew revival, is Bucer’s voluminous Commentary of 1529, S. Psalmorum libri quinque, ad ebraicam veritatem versi, et familiari explanatione elucidati (Strasbourg, G. Ulricher, 1529, revised and enlarged reprinted in 1532). For a considerable time this erudite work was well received in all of Christianity, because it was published pseudonymously.[24] After a free translation of every Psalm introduced by a summary (‘Argumentum’) Bucer offers an ‘explanatio familiaris’ in which the text of the Psalm is repeated ad verbum while all possible translations and interpretations, both from Christian and Jewish sources, are discussed in a non–partisan spirit. It is this almost encyclopaedic nature that makes this book very attractive for a translator who looks for possible solutions if he is not able to grasp the meaning immediately or if he is confused by the differences between the versions he has in front of him. That Marot was familiar with this work is an established fact, since he borrowed Bucer’s Summaries (Arguments) for his own translations. Finally we should mention the famous Olivétan-bible (1535), the first French version of the entire Bible translated (or at least revised) “après la vérité hébraique”.[25]


[Marot and the Hebrew Truth]

Marot did not know Hebrew, so he must have used sources. In the past scholars spent a lot of energy identifying them, often without a sound methodology (showing that in a number of cases Marot and another translation make the same translation choices is not enough: examples – however numerous – remain what they are: examples of similarity, no proofs of dependence or influence). In the most recent survey, Catherine Reuben summarizes the partial results: Marot borrowed vocabulary from Olivétan’s Bible; in interpretational matters he took Bucer and Campensis as his guides. If a complex crux interpretum had to be solved Marot generally followed Bucer and never took Lefèvre into account for these decisions.[26] Of course Marot was familiar with the standard liturgical text of the Psalms, the Psalterium Gallicanum. The reference to François Vatable, Regius professor of Hebrew in Paris, has a long history but it has become almost meaningless, since of Vatable’s 1534 lectures on the Psalms no trace is left,[27] and the traces that are left from his 1546 lectures on the same topic not only postdate Marot’s lifetime, but the authorship (or at least the originality) of the so-called notes de Vatable is questionable.[28] (see now my article on Vatable) What we – finally – should not overlook, is that there is a lot of asynchrony in the knowledge of the Hebrew language: while some were already reading and interpreting Hebrew fluently, others just started to discover it. It is a long way from the traditional text of the Gallicanum (PG), via Jerome’s Psalterium Hebraicum (PH) towards translations that have been made directly from the Hebrew. While some were only beginning to realize the possibility of translating differently from Jerome, others were already aware of the vast amount of new information available contained in the Hebrew language and in the Jewish exegesis. What is generally accepted is that Marot’s translation is strongly influenced by the results of this process of hebraisation and that upto a very high level, a sign that he probably took his job as a translator après l’hébreu serious.[29] To substantiate some of these claims we now focus our attention on Psalm 110 and Marot’s paraphrase of it.


[Psalm 110]

What the overall survey makes clear is that there was a lot of scholarship available for a translator of biblical texts and that in particular the translation of the Psalms must have been quite a challenge for a translator if he wanted to return to the sources of the bible text. The first who discovered this were not the vernacular poets, but the Latin scholars, who were often poets (Neo-Latin) as well. [30] What makes Psalm 110 very interesting to establish the level of scholarship is that in this Psalm the translator-interpreter has to show his cards. The text is very complex and the interpretation is heavily charged with meaning. When Marot undertook the translation of this Psalm he will have encountered a number of serious cruces interpretum that forced him to make far-reaching translational and interpretational choices. We will not discuss Marot’s paraphrase in its entirety, but focus on two points on which this Psalm might be interesting for us. First and foremost the fact that this Psalm (together with Psalm 2) XE "Psalm 2"  is considered a messianic Psalm by nature (at least by the entire Christian tradition), a direct prophecy concerning Christ’s heavenly Kingship. As such it figures prominently in the New Testament. According to the gospels, it is even quoted by Jesus himself in a discussion about the true nature of the Messiah.[31] The church subsequently has always used this Psalm to substantiate the claim that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal son of God, and sitting at God’s right hand in heaven. This already high theological charge has been exponentially enhanced because of the frequency of its recitation: as one of the Vesper Psalms it was (and is) sung in Daily Office at the monasteries. After the reproduction of the Vulgate text (with a literal translation), I will highlight some interpretational headlights from this Psalm.


1 Dixit Dóminus Dómino meo :

Sede a dextris meis,  donec ponam inimícos tuos scabéllum pedum tuórum.

2 Virgam virtútis tuæ emíttet Dóminus ex Sion :

domináre in médio inimicórum tuórum.

3 Tecum princípium in die virtútis tuæ

in splendóribus sanctórum :

ex útero, ante lucíferum, génui te.

4 Jurávit Dóminus, et non pœnitébit eum :

Tu es sacérdos in ætérnum

secúndum órdinem Melchísedech.

5 Dóminus a dextris tuis ;

confrégit in die iræ suæ reges.

6 Judicábit in natiónibus, implébit ruínas ;

conquassábit cápita in terra multórum.

7 De torrénte in via bibet ;

proptérea exaltábit caput.


1 THE Lord said to my Lord:

Sit thou at my right hand: Until I make thy enemies thy footstool.

2 The Lord will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: rule thou in the midst of thy enemies. 3 With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength: in the brightness of the saints: from the womb before the day star I begot thee. 4 The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever

according to the order of Melchisedech.

5 The Lord at thy right hand

He hath broken kings in the day of his wrath. 6 He shall judge among nations, he shall fill ruins: he shall crush the heads in the land of many. 7 He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.


Next to being a complex text to interpret, many phrases of this Psalm are actually untranslatable, either because one cannot make meaningful words of the Hebrew characters;[32] or one can make sense of the separate words but they hardly form a sensible phrase;[33] or every word is clear and even the syntax is in order, but then no satisfactory meaning imposes itself.[34] The combination of these characteristics makes this short Psalm probably the most discussed of the entire Psalter. We will not involve ourselves in these discussions, but only look at what Marot in his translation did with the points mentioned above: Is the christological interpretation visible, and what does he do with a text that produces no sense by itself, but can only acquire meaning if interpreted pro-actively, if not aggressively. Regarding the christological interpretation everything appears to be clear: The Argument Marot prints above the translation suggests an entire, exclusive and un‑mediated application to Christ. No reference to any other possible interpretation that shimmers through:

 « Il chante le regne de Christ lequel commença en Sion et de là pervint jusques aux fins de la terre et continuera jusques à ce que Christ soit adoré universellement et que de ses enemys il ayt fait son marchepied. »

As usual Marot’s summary is not original. It is an almost literal translation of Bucer’s summary, taken from his Commentary on the Psalms.[35] But proclaiming an interpretation in the Argument is one thing, translating (Marot) and explaining (Bucer) the Psalm is something else. And indeed: in his commentary Bucer begins by affirming that the application of this Psalm to Christ is appropriate, but already in the next sentence he signals that a historical ‘substrate’ might be surmised with David figuring as ‘typus’. A historical setting that fits the Psalm he finds in the solemn festival at Hebron, where the people of Israel gathered to witness the coronation of their new king, David, after the successful siege of Jerusalem (Sion), to which the holy Ark of the Covenant was to be transported. However, not all enemies were defeated yet, and an impressive battle was imminent.[36] Bucer invests a lot of time in explaining how this historical substrate does not obscure the christological interpretation in any way, but enhances it. According to Bucer they concur perfectly and can be applied to the text simultaneously. He even claims that David can be contemporary poet and visionary prophet at the same time, consciously composing a hymn with a twofold meaning, a double scope.[37] The fact that Bucer can propose an entirely christological Argument for a Psalm and at the same time explain the text as referring to a particular historical situation, alerts us about Marot’s intention. And indeed: Although Marot’s Argument is messianic tout court, his Psalm paraphrase from the very first line evokes the atmosphere of a royal court (or the Royal Court). The first-person narrator must be a court prophet who has received a heavenly message for his king and master (‘l’Omnipotent à mon Seigneur, et maistre’ [38]), which he is going to deliver. If read without any prescience of a christological layer, Marot’s text narrates an episode at an ancient (oriental) court, in which a prophet pronounces an oracle to his king. The message is: God is on your side. Verses 2 and 3 are addressed directly to the King, encouraging him because God will keep his promise (2) and the people will gladly join him and rejoice in his prosperity (3). In verse 4 another word of God’s is reported, in which the Melchizedek priesthood is also promised to the King, following a prophecy about how God will fight the battles for this King (5‑7), who may sit ‘at God’s right hand’ until the last enemy is defeated and victory has become complete.


1.          L’Omnipotent à mon Seigneur, et maistre

A dit ce mot: A ma dextre te sieds,

Tant que j’auray renversé, et faict estre

Tes enemys le scabeau de tes pieds.


2.          Le sceptre fort de ton puissant Empire

En fin sera loing de Syon transmys

Par l’Eternel, lequel te viendra dire:

Regne au milieu de touts tes enemys.


3.          De son bon gré ta gent bien disposée,

Au jour tressainct de ton sacre courra:

Et aussi dru qu’au matin chet rosée,

Naistre en tes filz ta jeunesse on verra.


4.          Car l’Eternel, sans muer de courage,

A de toy seul dit, et juré avec:

Grand Prebstre, et Roy, tu seras en tout eagé,

Ensuyvant l’ordre au bon Melchisedec.


5.          A ton bras droict Dieu ton Seigneur, et Pere,

T’assistera aux belliqueux arroys,

Là, où pour toy, au jour de sa colere,

Rompra la teste à Princes, et à Roys.


6.          Sur les Gentilz exercera justice,

Remplira tout de corps morts envahis,

Et frappera, pour le dernier supplice,

Le chef regnant sur beaulcoup de pays.


7.          Puis, en passant au milieu de la plaine,

Des grands ruisseaux de sang s’abbr[e]uvera.

Par ce moyen, ayant victoire pleine,

La teste hault, tout joyeulx, levera.


The interpretation present in this poetical transposition coincides completely with the narrative Bucer reconstructed (we would say: developed, but he would deny that) in his commentary, which is quite different from the traditional reading, not only in wording (translation) but also in construction and scope.[39] The secular (worldly) atmosphere of what the sacred king is supposed to do and accomplish with God’s help cannot be overlooked. Concerning the classical interpretation the reference to Christ’s ascension and the fact that he is bestowed with the priesthood of Melchizedek, which plays such a prominent role in the Epistle to the Hebrews, is still possible, since this is not a matter of translation (the text and its first meaning are reasonably clear), but of interpretation, hermeneutics. Exactly the same goes for Marot’s translation. In the verses 3 and 7 Marot though goes one step further and ventures away from tradition by providing the reader with completely diverging translations. To find out how, why and what he did in suggesting this new world of meaning, we take a closer look on both verses.


Verse 3. With respect to the Hebrew original, as it is transmitted to us, even modern scholars admit that some conjectural changes are needed to give it any meaning whatsoever.[40] If we compare the usual translations available to Marot, it only shows that in Marot’s times translators also did not know what to do with this text. No consensus whatsoever: even Bucer adjusted his opinion on the way between 1529 and 1532.[41] So it becomes interesting to ask: what did Marot do and is it possible to extract some information about his intentions from his choice:


De son bon gré ta gent bien disposée,

Au jour tressainct de ton sacre courra:

Et aussi dru qu’au matin chet rosée,

Naistre en tes filz ta jeunesse on verra.

Traditional exegesis, following the New Testament authors read in this verse a proof of the ‘generatio aeterna’ of the Son as the second Person of the Trinity.[42] If we compare the general obscurity of the referents (who is doing, what where and when?), with the way Marot in his translation of verse 3 answers these elementary questions, the strength and novelty of his translation becomes apparent: it is the King’s own people (‘ta gent’ who are coming voluntarily (‘de son bon gré’) and well prepared (‘bien disposée’[43]) to witness the sacred coronation of their king (‘ton sacre’[44]). The context clearly suggests that ‘bien disposée’ must mean armed, equipped for the final battle. This translation grosso modo concurs with Bucer’s translation of 1529 and 1532 and with the text as present in Olivétan’s Bible (1535). Only time and occasion are mentioned, no place is indicated. Compared with other paraphrases Marot’s translation is quite dense.[45] The third and fourth lines of verse 3 form a new statement, but the subject is the same: the crowd (‘on verra’): those who were assembled to celebrate the coronation of their king will also be witness to the prosperity of the king, whose offspring will be like the morning dew:


Et aussi dru qu’au matin chet rosée,

Naistre en tes filz ta jeunesse on verra.

[And as dense as dew in the morning falls

They will see in your sons your youth born/renewed]

No trace of ‘ante Lucifer genui te’ (exit PG) or of a ‘womb’ (exit PH). Marot’s translation does not suggest this link in any way. Without discussing the validity of his translation, we simply note that Marot has given this verse a coherent meaning by integrating it into the narrative structure of the Psalm, which continues with the ordination of the sacred king to become a priest as well. It sounds like an oracle (not immediately transparent, a little bit mysterious) and as such perfectly fits the narrative of the Psalm. Marot seems to have been particularly concerned with providing a clear meaning to every element of the text, esp. the obscure ones, by weaving it into a consistent historically imaginable narrative. This appears to be an essential element of his Psalm hermeneutics.[46] A summary of the remainder of Psalm 110 XE "Psalm 110"  from this narrative perspective also corroborates this idea: In the translation of verse 4 we notice a clarifying addition: Marot explicitly identifies the ‘Prestre’ (‘sacerdos’) with the King by inserting the words ‘et Roy’ in his translation, although this identification of the two offices is not explicit in the Bible text itself. Marot makes explicit what is implicit in the text: we are talking about one person with a double office: priest and king. In verse 5 Marot adds a few interpretative elements to the biblical text: God is called ‘Pere’ (not in the original). Did he do this only for the rhyme, or also to link the Psalm more closely to Psalm 2, XE "Psalm 2"  which describes the same historical event if we follow the interpretation of Bucer and where God and David (the messianic king) are placed in the relation of father and son. The simple phrase that he will defeat the enemy kings is rendered very plastically: ‘rompra la teste à Princes et à Roys’, thus proleptically introducing elements from the next verse to enhance the narrative construction.[47] The concrete (‘plastic’) and realistic tone is maintained until the end, culminating in the image of God, not only smashing heads of kings and princes, but – having defeated the ‘chief of a lot of land’ – is depicted as filling the battlefield with ‘corpses’ (verse 6) and, claiming full victory drinks the blood of his enemies leaving the battlefield in triumph (verse 7), the verse to which we now turn.


Verse 7. For someone not familiar with the bible text of Psalm 110, this final verse might pass unnoticed, since it makes perfect sense in the narration which has evoked the atmosphere of an ancient society, in which the King engages in war based on divine oracles, causes a true massacre, leaving the battlefield as a victorious Warlord and then performs a kind of primeval rite:

Puis, en passant au milieu de la plaine,

Des grands ruisseaux de sang s’abbr[e]uvera.

Par ce moyen, ayant victoire pleine,

La teste hault, tout joyeulx, levera

That he drinks the blood of the defeated might repel us, but is suggested to be a kind of ritual to finish off victory, as is explained with so many words in the last two lines (‘par ce moyen ayant victoire pleine’). That it is a daring interpretation of the biblical text, one might easily overlook, so natural it sounds within the narrative. But as a matter of fact: these lines can not be labelled a translation at all, since the word ‘blood’ is not mentioned in any original. The psalm simply ends with the image of a victorious king, ‘who will drink from the brook on his way, and therefore will lift up his head’:

De torrente in via bibet: propterea exaltabit caput[48]

Why the king would do that is not clear, and why ‘therefore’ he will lift up his head neither. Nevertheless the words and syntax in themselves are clear. In complete opposition to verse 3, this time all other translations (from Jerome’s Gallicanum and Hebraicum to the most progressive translations based on perfect mastery of the Hebrew language) agree among themselves. Even Bucer in his free and in his literal (ad verbum) translation sticks to the drinking of water from a brook alongside the road: total consensus, Marot being the odd one out. He is the only one who – in his translation – makes the King drink from the blood of his enemies accomplishing a primitive ritual.


Instead of concluding that Marot took the liberty to add a – quite daring – interpretation to the text, it is better to assume that Marot must have read it somewhere or heard from someone that an interpretation like this was possible.[49] Since he was familiar with Bucer’s Commentary (because of the Arguments) and this Commentary was famous for its almost encyclopaedic pretensions, it is the first candidate. And indeed, in the explanation Bucer signals the interpretational problems surrounding this verse and suggests an alternative interpretation, viz. that this verse depicts the final triumph of the King, symbolised in his drinking the blood of his enemy, which – because of the immensity of the bloodshed (depicted in the preceding verse) – had formed a river. Still according to Bucer ‘drinking the blood of the enemy’ is a scriptural image for ‘having achieved a complete victory’. Bucer’s source is – as so often – David Kimhi.[50] This explanation is quite exceptional and cannot be found with any other member of the usual reference group.[51] So, it does not seem far‑fetched to suggest that Marot got his idea from Bucer’s explanation, especially since not only the interpretational element (‘the stream of blood’), but also the explanation of the ritual is found in Marot’s translation, almost in the same wording: the drinking of the blood signifies the complete and final victory: ‘victoire pleine’ (‘plenam victoriam’). Marot obviously refused to simply translate the biblical Vorlage when the words made no sense or  remained floating in the air. When he found a more plausible interpretation, e.g., in Bucer’s Commentary, he did not shy away from proposing this interpretation as his translation, something not even Bucer had dared to do (Bucer’s translation ad sensum remained traditional). There is even a theological component in this option: by implementing Kimhi’s interpretation the entire Psalm can be interpreted in a secular way. Kimhi created a narrative, plastic vision of events, which provided ‘plain meaning’, automatically diminishing the possibilities for a mystical theological, i.c. christological reading.[52]


We conclude: Marot was not satisfied with simply rendering a Psalterium Hebraicum, f.i. Jerome’s (PH) into French, without bothering about the proper meaning or the organisation of thoughts. If he encountered cruces interpretum he extended his research and in his translation choices he shows a great familiarity with the Psalm scholarship of the second generation of scholarly Hebraists, whose findings he was willing to use in his translation, if they convinced him as a poet interested in offering a consistent narrative to the reader. He was not only willing to integrate some of the more scholarly, technical exegetical findings into his translations (if they enhanced comprehension by creating an internal logic in the text), he was even willing to go so far as to insert an exotic interpretation into his translation, giving an unexpected meaning to an in se obscure Bible verse, as Psalm 110,7 shows. Marot must have invested a lot of time and energy in reaching this level of Hebraitas, which in his days was still exceptional, in fact: the exclusive domain of the learned. He probably chose to do so, since as far as we know no one forced him to go that length. This confirms our idea of Marot as a learned poet, whose French Psalm paraphrases now intrinsically belong to the category of scholarly Latin paraphrases.

On the way Marot seems to have freed himself from theological discussions that were attached to the texts he tried to translate. Discovering a Leitmotiv in any Psalm, a binding agent, a connecting idea, either in the text itself or outside it but always fitting the text, so that he could guide his readers to what the Psalm was about – that is what he seemed to have been looking for in the first place. Once he had discovered, or (re‑)constructed such a motif, he was not afraid to follow that line to give sense to all elements not clear in themselves. The example of Psalm 110 shows that in all likelihood he did not only read Bucer’s quite handy summaries (Arguments), but also the exegetical and explanatory passages in his Commentary, if he was not satisfied with the level of narrative coherence and subsequently the intelligibility of a Psalm. From the resulting narrative constructions that form the framework of this translations, we can infer that he basically perceived the biblical Psalm texts as ancient, and occasionally quite exotic songs. Inspired? Probably; Direct prophecies of Christ? Probably not. That he – in doing so – estranged the texts from the way they were generally interpreted, he was probably well aware of, but this did not stop him in continuing on the that road. My hypothesis is that the few christological Arguments, that differ from what Marot de facto did, were meant to conceal this state of affairs for the investigating eyes of theological censors, a matter of prudence.


[excursion I : Ph.A. Becker]

Strangely enough this peculiarity of Marot’s Psalm translation and the strong link between his paraphrases and Bucer’s Arguments ànd Commentary is not a new insight. It was already quite convincingly established in 1921 by the German scholar Ph.A. Becker.[53] However, ever since the discovery of this influence it has been systematically downplayed by all Marot scholars, including the ones who have devoted special attention to the Psalms, like Paulette Leblanc, Michel Jeanneret and Gérard Defaux. The influence of Bucer is confined to the Arguments, and often the number of Arguments Marot borrowed from Bucer is established at quite a low level. Influence from the Commentary itself is not mentioned, or if mentioned, it is classified as only incidental and superficial.[54] In my opinion this blind spot might well be the main reason why no one has succeeded so far in assessing what Marot was really doing while translating the Psalms. A first impulse to change perspective was given by Defaux, when he placed the correspondence between Bucer’s and Marot’s Arguments on the correct level: 47 out of 49 Arguments are either literal translations or condensations.[55] Nevertheless this assessment did not cause Defaux to advance towards a full rehabilitation of Becker and a new investigation concerning Marot’s perusal of Bucer’s Commentary. This is odd, since acknowledging Bucer’s influence as far as the Arguments are concerned and at the same time downplaying the importance of the explanation in his Commentary seems almost contradictory. Bucer’s Arguments are no neutral texts but summaries of the very specific interpretation elaborated in the explanation part of the Commentary. So Arguments and explanation are closely connected, they mirror each other. That Marot borrowed the Arguments of Bucer can not be dismissed as a harmless operation or a matter of convenience, because it implies the taking-over of Bucer’s quite specific hermeneutical viewpoint concerning the historical setting, the literary construction and possible meaning of that particular Psalm. The consequences of such a hermeneutical stance for the translation itself are far‑reaching as the example of Psalm 110 has clearly shown.

The translation of the final verse eventually proved to have been to shocking for later generations. In the final edition of the Psalter (1562) the second line of this stanza (“Des grands ruisseaux de sang s’abbr[e]uvera.”) was changed, i.e., rephrased to fit the traditional translation:  « De l’eau courante à grand’ haste il boira ».[56] The king was not drinking the blood of his enemies anymore but plain water. Bucer’s Commentary and Marot’s Paraphrase are highlights of a period in which daring exegetes rushed in where no one had ever gone before; Later generations apparently were more timid and carefully retreated to safer grounds.[57]


[excursion II : Michel Jeanneret]

The assessment of the correct level of Marot’s scholarship as a Psalm translator, is important, since anyone who says something about Marot’s Psalm versifications and omits to check contemporary Commentaries (particularly Bucer’s), will not be able to differentiate between poetical liberties and exegetical choices, and thus will inevitably mistake the one for the other. This was the fate of Michel Jeanneret in his magisterial study of the French Psalm paraphrases (1969), a work that, although dating from 1969, is in my opinion still unsurpassed. He came very close to the solution of the abovementioned problem concerning Marot’s use of Bucer, since in his chapter on Marot’s translations he three times returns to Psalm 110, and twice notices something inexplicable, exactly: Psalm 110,3 and 7. This alarmed him, since he was aware of the meticulous way in which Marot tried to make every Psalm as coherent as possible, staying faithful to the plain meaning of the original text. Since he did not see a satisfactory explanation, Jeanneret labelled Marot’s translation of Psalm 110,3 ‘un cas extrême’ and preferred a tautological conjecture to close the case: Marot must have felt impelled to rearrange the entire text.[58] The extraordinary translation of the final verse (Ps. 110,7) he discarded as beyond the limits of Marot’s usual faithfulness.[59] If we try to understand why he did not pay more attention to Bucer’s commentary (which would have revealed the source for these extraordinary translations and made them perfectly intelligible), it seems Jeanneret was not aware that the Renaissance validation of the Hebrew sources in Psalm scholarship went far beyond suggesting some additional translation options next to Jerome’s Psalterium  Hebraicum; Nor did he seem to have noticed the diversity in translation options presented by Bucer in his Commentary. In short: Jeanneret might have settled the issue of ‘translating according to the Hebrew Truth’ too quickly, for which he is hardly to blame since in 1969 this was not an established field of research yet.[60]



Our final conclusion: Fully participating in Humanist circles, Marot obviously shared the most fundamental of Humanist dreams: the popularisation of valuable ancient texts. This didactical‑pedagogical intention was already visible in the way Marot’s first Psalms were presented to the French public: an Argument above each Psalm, the scholarly term ‘Exposition’ in the running header above the translation (including a ‘usage hint’). He was the ‘Prince des poëtes’ of the French language, and had already won his spurs in translating Virgil, Ovid and Musaeus. He had consulted scholarly sources (especially Bucer), which together with his already considerable poetic skill in the art of translation made him an expert in ‘Psalm exegesis’. In one word: Marot’s Psalm translations were a contribution to the Humanist project of presenting the public with the ancient texts in such a wording that they were more or less re‑created in their ‘original splendour’ (to quote Marot’s own description of this project in the dedicatory epistle to the King), or to put in modern language: to provide a dynamic-equivalent translation of David’s Psalms into French poetry, meeting the scholarly and rhetorical standards of the day, and setting the poetic standards for the future.

Therefore, Marot’s Psalm paraphrases were not only popular in calvinist circles or sung at the French Court, but they were the vernacular match of the learned poetical paraphrases, that his neo-Latin colleagues produced themselves, either paraphrasing in prose or in metre.[61] They were the work of a skilful poet who knew how to please his benefactors, surely; they were the work of a poet who sympathized with the reform-oriented evangelical movement, probably; but they were certainly the work of a man, who saw himself and was seen as a learned poet.





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———, Clément Marot and Religion, A Reassessment in the Light of his Psalm Paraphrases (Leiden: Brill, 2010)

Würthwein, E., Der Text des alten Testaments (Stuttgart: Württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1973).





[1] There is only one scholarly biography of Clément Marot: C.A. Mayer, Clément Marot (Paris: Nizet, 1972). In this book a general appreciation of Marot’s oeuvre is present as well. G. Defaux’s introduction to his edition of Marot’s Oeuvres Poétiques, 2 vols. (Paris: Garnier, 1990–92), vol. 1, pp. xvii–clxix, can serve as a supplement. For a survey of the reception history of Marot’s poetry through the centuries, see C.A. Mayer, ‘Clément Marot and literary history’, in C.A. Mayer, Clément Marot et autres études sur la littérature française de la Renaissance (Paris: Champion, 1993), pp. 85‑96. Once more one of the last articles of G. Defaux might also be helpful: ‘Facing the Marot Generation: Ronsard’s giovenili errori’, in MLN 119 Supplement (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004): pp. 299–326, in particular pp. 306ff. The fact that internet encyclopaedia often reproduce material older than 70 years – dissolution of copyright – not only considerably prolongs the lifespan of superseded theories, it might even occasionally cause the revival of legends having long become obsolete. Marot f.i. was nòt wounded at the battle of Pavia, but if one checks the internet one will more often read the opposite, because 70 years ago that view was commonly hold. Isn’t it a challenge for the academic world to try to compensate for this penchant for the past that paradoxically clings to the internet in these matters.

[2] We will not quote Boileau («Imitons de Marot l'élégant badinage / Et laissons le burlesque aux plaisants du Pont-Neuf.») since this double characterisation haunts the Marot reception already too long. It is uncritically reproduced in almost every introduction to Marot’s poetry. The venom is not in the tail (the reproach), but in the first line, the compliment. The appraisal narrows the perspective of the reader to Marot as an elegant badineur (which he was), obscuring that his qualities might extend further than this, that he was something else as well. Another fatal mixture of apprecation and reproach can be observed in religious circles concerning Marot’s beliefs and morals: Théodore de Bèze, Les vrais pourtraits des hommes illustres en pieté et doctrine ([Geneva], Jean I de Laon, 1581), grants Marot a place in the gallery but not without reproaching him at the same time for his lifestyle: “…il fit un notable service aux Eglises, & dont il sera memoire à jamais, traduisant en vers françois un tiers de Pseaumes de David. Mais au reste, ayant passé presque toute sa vie à la suite de Cour (où la pieté et l’honnesteté n’ont gueres d’audiance), il ne se soucia pas beaucoup de reformer sa vie peu chrestienne, ains se gouvernoit à sa manière acoustumee, mesmes en sa vieillesse…” (p. 162). That Marot was not half-hearted in his religious opinions, but simply refused to make a choice on the terms of the ermerging calvinist doctrine, is what it obscured by this statement. For a full assessment of his religious stance, see Dick Wursten, Clément Marot and Religion, A Reassessment in the Light of his Psalm Paraphrases (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

[3] Two different lists exist. They were published in BSHPF 10 (1861), 34–39 and BSHPF 11 (1862), 253–258; corrected, merged and commented by V.–L. Bourrilly and N. Weiss in BSHPF 53 (1904), 125–129. N° 1 on the list is Pierre Caroli, n° 7 is Marot. His friend Lyon Jamet and the court musician Jehannet de Bouchefort also figure on it.

[4] The protagonist was C.A. Mayer. He published a controversial book on Marot’s religion in 1960 stating that the only religion Marot really adhered to, while fiercely criticising the established Church and its practices, was a profound faith in man: C.A. Mayer, La religion de Marot (Geneva: Droz, 1960). The antagonist was M.A. Screech. In 1967 he claimed that Marot was a committed Evangelical with strong Lutheran traits: M.A. Screech, Marot Evangélique (Geneva: Droz, 1967). These two views have dominated the field for a long time, the position of Screech having been adopted and adapted by G. Defaux (1990/92). In 1992 this conflict culminated in a harsh polemics, when G. Defaux and F. Lestringant accused Mayer of an unscholarly bias in his treatment of the subject of Marot and religion: ‘Marot et le problème de l’évangélisme: à propos de trois articles récents de C.A. Mayer,’ BHR 54 (1992), pp. 125–130. In the aftermath of this conflict Screech’s monography was translated into English (with additions, among which an analysis of an unauthentic poem with a Calvinist tone): Clément Marot. A Renaissance poet discovers the gospel: Lutheranism, Fabrism and Calvinism in the Royal courts of France and of Navarre and in the ducal court of Ferrara (Leiden:Brill, 1994). For this, see Dick Wursten, Clément Marot and Religion, pp. 112-120.

[5] That Marot is ‘un Humaniste méconnu’ is the complaint of M.‑M. de La Garanderie (quoted by P.M. Smith, “Clément Marot and Humanism’, in Humanism and letters in the age of François Ier., ed. P. Ford and G. Jondorf (Cambridge, 1996). p. 133). The term ‘Docte Poëte’ is used by De Bèze to refer to Marot (prefatory epistle to the edition of the Pseaumes Octantetrois (Geneva, 1551), v. 104). Modern studies analysing his translations from the Latin find only few mistakes, of which some even might be liberties taken deliberately. Soundings can be found in: Clément Marot “prince des poëtes françois” 1496–1996. Actes du colloque international de Cahors–en–Quercy, 21–25 mai 1996, ed. G. Defaux and M. Simonin (Paris: Champion, 1997), part I (p. 21‑140); and in: La génération Marot. Poètes français et néo–latins (1515–1550). Actes du colloque international de Baltimore, 5–7 décembre 1996, ed. G. Defaux (Paris, 1997). The phrase in a text by Jean de Boyssoné, ‘Marotus latine nescivit’ (“Marot does not know Latin”) refers to the fact that ciceronian Latin was not the kind of Latin that should be associated with Marot, but it does not say anything about his ability to read, understand and translate from the Latin. For this, see Michel Magnien, ‘Marot et l’Humanisme (suite): Jean de Boysonné et le Maro Gallicus’ in Actes du colloque de Baltimore, pp. 261‑280.

[6] For examples and a comprehensive overview, see I.D. McFarlane, ‘Marot and the world of Neo-Latin Poetry’, in Literature and the Arts in the reign of Francis I (Lexington, Kentucky: French Forum publishers, 1985), pp. 103–130. The poets who wrote liminary verses were Nicolas Bérault (1473-1550), a Hellenist, disciple of Budé, eminent translator and commentator, who finished his life as preceptor of Gaspard de Coligny; Nicolas Bourbon (1473-1550), a highly praised neo-Latin Poet (Nugae, 1533), imprisoned for his Evangelical attitude early 1534, preceptor of Jeanne d’Albret; Jean Salmon Macrin (1490-1557), by contemporaries considered to be the ‘French Horace’. To this already impressive list we can add Antoine Macault, translator of Cicero and Homer, who translated the Bourbon and Macrin verses into French for the 1534 edition of Fr. Juste (Defaux OP II, p. 798). Etienne Dolet, publisher of Marot’s Oeuvres (1538) wrote laudatory liminary poems for the translation of Ovid and the first book of epigrams (Defaux, OP II, p. 202, 403). For this, see also Perrine Galand‑Hallyn, ‘Marot, Macrin, Bourbon, « Muse naïve » et « tendre style »’, in Actes du colloque Baltimore, pp. 211‑240. In a very illuminating article David Shaw has gathered old and new testimonies about Marot and his fame in Latinising Humanist circles. To the above list we can add: Jean Visagier (Epigrammata), Joh. Sleidanus (Commentariorum de statu religionis & reipublicae), Théodore de Bèze (Icones) and Damiao de Gois (letter to Bonifacius Amerbach. See David J. Shaw, ‘Clément Marot’s Humanist contacts in Ferrara’, French studies 52/3 (1998), pp. 279‑290.

[7] Trois premiers livres de Ia Métamorphose d’Ovide, traduictz en vers françois, le premier et second par Cl. Marot, le tiers par B. Aneau (Lyon, M. Bonhomme, 1556). In his introduction Aneau praises Marot’s translation of the Psalms: “Quant aux Pseaumes de David veritablement il les a mieux entenduz, & à son plaisir à la suycte de Campense paraphrasez bien doucement plustost que translatez.” (c5r°), and even when he refers to the fact that he had made some emendations in Marot’s translations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, he very elegantly turns this into a compliment: “Et ne doubte point que quand Marot mesme seroit vivant il ne me sceust bon gré de telles animadversions. Comme il estoit homme candide, gracieux, & ne portant mal estre admonesté, tant tel l’ay je congneu.” (c 4v°).

[8] The first known effort of Marot on this field is the translation of Psalm 6, one of the seven penitential Psalms, thus quite appropriately included in the 1533 edition of the Miroir de l’ame pecheresse, Marguerite de Navarre’s pious meditation on her own sinfulness and God’s all-embracing grace. His firstling proved to be successful, since after the mid-1530s other versifications began to circulate in manuscript, quotes pop up in his own poems (e.g. Epistre de Frippelippes). Thirty of them were printed officially for the first time in 1541 in Paris (E. Roffet) dedicated to King Francis. Thirteen translations were published in 1539 in Strasbourg by Jean Calvin in his hymnbook (with music) and all thirty were published in 1541 in Antwerp (De Gois – text only), both not based on the officially approved text version but testifying of a previous state. Late 1542 Marot went to Geneva, undertook a second revision of his 30 Psalms adding another 20 versifications. Jean Calvin provided housing and income, while Guillaume Franc (cantor of the Saint-Pierre) revised and composed melodies. The result was introduced in church service in the summer of 1543 (June, the 6th is the date of Calvin’s preface). An anonymous publication by Jean Girard, Geneva, of the Psalm collection (texts only), Cinquante pseaumes, appeared in 1543. In an introductory poem Marot dedicated these Psalm translations to the Ladies of the French Court (les Dames de France). All editions were censored by the Paris Faculty of Theology (1543 onwards), but remained highly popular for several decades, not limiting its success to either confession.

[9] The historical phenomenon of Psalm translations in the vernacular and the assessment of the poetical developments in the sixteenth century have been thoroughly studied by Michel Jeanneret in his pioneering work on sixteenth century Psalm paraphrases, Poésie et tradition biblique (Paris, 1969). Jeanneret used Marot’s Psalm paraphrases as a historical benchmark: ‘before and after.’ His chapter 3 (pp. 51–87) is entirely dedicated to Marot. Poetical aspects of the translation as such have been dealt with meticulously and with much feel for detail by Catherine Reuben, La traduction des Psaumes de David par Clément Marot. Aspects poétiques et théologiques (Paris, 2004). Their conclusions converge: Marot’s approach cannot be compared to what has been done before both in poesia and in interpretation. The richness of forms developed as moulds for the Psalms, the variety of poetic means used to express the content, and the concentration on the original Bible text are features that distinguish Marot’s Psalm paraphrases from what went before. To quote de Bèze once more: “[Marot] surpassa tous les poëtes qui l’avoyent devancé.” (Bèze, Les vrais pourtraits, p. 162).

[10] The first: Psalm 6  XE "Psalm 6" (plaquette) on the title page: ‘au plus pres de la verite Ebraicque’; Miroir (1533): ‘selon l’hebrieu’. The first official edition of the Trente Pseaulmes (Roffet, Paris, 1541) does not print this reference on the title page any more – the times had changed – but as a heading above the first Psalm: ‘mis en francoys, selon la verite Hebraicque’. There it stays in the final editions of 1543: Girard in Geneva, and Roffet in Paris.

[11] From 390 onwards Jerome undertook to translate the entire Bible into the Latin tongue, starting – as far as the Old Testament was concerned – from the Hebrew texts, iuxta Hebraeos. In this process he coined the expression ‘Hebrew Truth’, not only to typify his approach but also to defend it against criticism. All Latin translations had until then been based on the Septuagint. After Jerome became acquainted with Origen’s Hexapla (in which the original Hebrew text is presented alongside an amended version of the Septuagint and three other Greek translations of the Old Testament, made by Jews, so indirectly based on the Hebrew original), Jerome began thinking of a new translation iuxta Hebraeos. With the support of the Pope (Damasus) he carried out his project, confining himself to the books of the Jewish canon. For an overview of this matter see Ernst Würthwein, Der Text des alten Testaments, Württemberg, 19734, pp. 93‑98.

[12] More detailed information on the fate of Jerome’s Psalm translations can be found in the critical edition of the Psalterium Hebraicum by H. de Sainte‑Marie, and in the introduction by P. Salmon to a collective work on the ancient Psalters: Richesses et déficiences des anciens Psautiers latins (Rome, 1959), pp. 12‑14.

[13] It was often transmitted together with the Vulgate text. A number of multiple Psalter manuscripts can be found in the list of manuscripts provided by H. de Sainte Marie, Sancti Hieronymi Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos, p. VI‑XII. Amerbach published a quadruple Psalterium as an appendix to the Erasmus edition of the complete works of Jerome (Basle, J. Froben, 1516-1520), VD16-[H 3482]. Here we find the Greek text (LXX), the Gallic(an)um (heading: Hiero. Juxta LXX), the Hebraicum and a Hebrew text. In 1523 a separate edition of the PH also appeared: Psalterium iuxta hebraicam veritatem divo Hieronymo interprete (Mainz, J. Schöffer, 1523), VD16-[B 3134].

[14] Quincuplex Psalterium, first edition 1509, reprinted in 1513 (Paris, Henri Estienne; published in facsimile by Droz in 1979). In this book Lefèvre published five Latin Psalm translations (three in the first part, two in the second), together with summaries, concordances and commentary. Guy Bedouelle, Le Quincuplex de Lefèvre d’Etaples. Un guide de lecture (Genève, 1979) is a precious help in order to be able to enter Lefèvre’s fascinating world. Lefèvre had a pedagogical aim: to revitalise the daily Office (in which the Psalms were prayed) by explaining to the monks the spiritual treasure hidden in the Psalms. Lefèvre’s attachment to and respect for the Gallicanum remains untouched (Guy Bedouelle, Quincuplex guide, p. 53). In the main part of this book the three translations of Jerome (the text present in the Vulgate – Gallicanum, the text used in the Roman liturgy – Romanum, and the translation iuxta Hebraeos Hebraicum) are printed in juxtaposition. In the second part of his book he adds two other Psalters: (a reconstruction of) an ancient Latin text (Vetus) and his own compromise text (Conciliatum). Here we also find the summaries (Argumenta), printed below every Psalm.

[15] The prefatory epistles of Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples and related texts, ed. E.F. Rice (New York, 1979), pp. 195‑196. An unshakable conviction pervades the entire book, both in content and in concept, that the Hebrew text (once the ‘Jewish lies’ are removed) will open the door to understanding Christ even better. This highly spiritual approach to the Bible text is theological, but searches its base in the texts. And – the other way around – the ‘Hebrew Truth’ might be textual but must be inspired by the Spirit. The naiveté with which Lefèvre operates, starting from this principle, is both astonishing and venerable; see Bedouelle, Quincuplex guide, ch. IX: ‘Les principes d’interprétation’. The criterion for including a Hebrew reading in his own version (the Conciliatum) is that it improves this sensus. If the difference only concerns linguistic matters i.e., is on a merely textual level, he will discuss it in his Adverte, but leave the Gallicanum unchanged. This means f.i. that the ‘sedes pestilentiae’ (Ps. 1,1) is exposed as a translation error but not removed from the Conciliatum, because it does not affect the one sensus.

[16] Lefèvre went to great lengths to prove this in the Preface of his Psalterium Auctum of 1524. For a general overview of the Humanist Hebraists, active in and around Strasbourg, see B. Roussel and G. Hobbs, G ‘Strasbourg et «l’école rhénane» d’exégèse (1525–1540),’ in BSHPF 135 (1989), p. 36–53.

[17] There is a link with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and the fall of Constantinople. Ancient texts (books, manuscripts) and scholars came together in the big cities of Europe, where these refugees were welcomed in circles of Renaissance scholars. Both Venice and Rome became early centres of Jewish studies. From there this scholarship quickly spread all over Europe. One of the most influential printers was an Antwerp-born printer Daniel Bomberghen, who set up his presses in Venice, dedicating himself to the production of Hebrew texts. See, A. van der Heide, Hebraica Veritas. Christopher Plantin and the Christian Hebraists [exhibition catalogue of the Plantin Moretus Museum] (Antwerp, 2008).

[18] Psalterium ex hebraeo diligentissime ad verbum fere tralatum / Fratre Felice ordinis Heremitarum sancti Augustini interprete per summum pontificem Leonem decimum approbatum (Venice, Daniel van Bomberghen, 1515). Felix’s 1515 Psalterium was reprinted unchanged (Hagenau, Thomas Anshelm, 1522), VD16-[B 3131]. A revised version without notes and variants but with ‘Argumenta’ (summaries) above every Psalm appeared in 1526 in Antwerp, Hubertus Someren, 1526 (NK 343).

[19] The most influential is the translation of Santes Pagnino, Biblia habes in hoc libro prudens lector utriusque instrumenti novam translationem (Lyon, Antoine du Ry, 1527/8). Santes Pagnino, latinised: Sanctes Pagninus, also a Dominican scholar (1470‑1541), was born in Lucca, studied in Florence, taught in Rome, and died in Lyon. His sound Bible translation was held in high esteem and was the preferred tool for later translators. It was dedicated to the Pope (Clemens VII). A revised and glossed edition of his translation was published by Miguel Servet (Lyon, Hugues I de la Porte, 1542). It figures – slightly adapted once more – in part VII of Plantin’s polyglot (1584), where it serves as an interlinear translation below the Hebrew text.

[20] Christian ‘tools’ for the study of the Hebrew language were almost always translations or adaptations of Jewish originals: Reuchlin and Pagnini based themselves on Kimhi, whereas Sebastian Münster and Johan van Campen (Campensis) were disciples of Elijah Levita.

[21] In the ecclesiastical exegetical tradition the Psalms are approached spiritually and as if they have an immediate Christological meaning (they represent the ‘vox Christi ad Patrem, vox Ecclesiae ad Patrem de Christo, vox Ecclesiae ad Christum’). Traditional interpretations can be found in abundance in Lefèvre’s Quincuplex, but also in Bugenhagen’s Psalm commentary (1524). Luther’s Summarien of the Psalms (published in 1531) also suggest christological interpretations for over a third of the Psalms. The discussions in Bucer’s Commentary on the Psalms (1529/1532) are symptomatic for the shift of paradigm that was taking place in the 1520s. For the first time the sensus historico‑literalis claims its rights, not (yet) in opposition to the older allegorical interpretation, but rather complementary, often replacing allegory with typology. Bucer not only reflects this shift, but also occasionally reflects on it. The accusation of Judaism did not need long. For this, see R.G. Hobbs, ‘How firm a foundation: Martin Bucer’s historical exegesis of the Psalms’, in Church History, vol. 53 (1984), pp. 477‑491.

[22] The article appeared in Les Réformes. Enracinement socio‑culturel… XXVe Colloque International d’Etudes Humanistes. Tours. 1‑3 juillet 1983, ed. B. Chevalier and R. Sauzet (Paris, 1985), p. 273‑282. The Latin Psalter of Felix Pratensis was translated and published in 1531: Le livre des Pseaulmes de David, traduictes selon la pure verite Hebraique ensuyvant principalement linterpretation de Felix previlegee (Antwerp, Martin de Keyser, 1531) Higman B75, NK 4504. Interesting is the separate edition of Lefèvre’s French Psalter, Le livre des Psalmes ([Alençon, Simon Du Bois, 1532?]), in which Lefèvre’s translation according to the Vulgate has been partly revised according to the Hebrew, and the Psalms are introduced by Arguments derived from Bucer’s Commentary. For this, see B. Roussel, ‘Simon Du Bois, Pierre Olivétan, Etienne Dolet, auteurs ou éditeurs de traductions françaises de textes de Martin Bucer (1529‑1542): l’exemple du Psaume 1’, Revue d’histoire et de philosophie religieuse 59 (1979), 529-539. The copy containing this preface (now in BHPF) was first described by O. Douen in 1893, ‘Un psautier protestant inconnu’, BSHPF 42 (1893), p. 98‑104).

[23] The Nuremberg edition (VD16–[B 3149]) is followed by editions in Antwerp (Merten de Keyser, NK 3257), Paris (Moreau IV, n° 359) and Cracow in the same year. Van Campen was a Hebrew professor at the trilingue of Louvain, entered the service of the Polish ambassador (Johannes Dantiscus, to whom he dedicated his paraphrase), taught in Cracow, and studied with Elijah Levita. See H. De Vocht, History of the foundation and the rise of the Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense 1517–1550, 4 vols. (Louvain, 1950–55), vol 1, pp. 503–5 (his origin and beginnings); vol. 3, pp. 158–208 (his career); pp. 191–5 (the Paraphrasis). The French translation: Paraphrase, cest a dire, Claire Translation faicte jouxte la sentence, non pas jouxte la lettre sur tous les Psalmes, selon la verite Hebraique (Higman C83). This edition, with slightly varying titles, was reprinted several times in Antwerp, Lyon and Geneva (C84-C89). When these paraphrases are accompanied by a more literal translation of the Hebrew Psalter the title is generally changed in Enchiridion Psalmorum.

[24] VD16–[B 3145] 1529 edition; VD16–[B 3150] 1532 edition. Title of the 1532 edition: Sacrorum Psalmorum libri quinque ad ebraicam veritatem genuina versione in Latinum traducti…. The author of this impressive work (667 pages of commentary in the 1532 edition) presents himself as a Lyonnese theologian named Aretius Felinus. This ‘pious fraud’ was officially exposed in the so–called Trent Index of 1564; the authorship of Bucer was generally known in Christian humanist circles. (G. Hobbs, ‘How firm a foundation: Martin Bucer’s historical exegesis of the Psalms,’ Church History 53 (1984), pp. 477–491, there p. 478). See also B. Roussel and G. Hobbs, G ‘Strasbourg et «l’école rhénane» d’exégèse (1525–1540),’ BSHPF 135 (1989), pp. 36–53. Particularly noteworthy is Bucer’s appreciation of two Jewish exegetes, Abraham Ibn Ezra (†1164) and David Kimhi (†1235, Jewish acronym ‘Radak’), not by accident two propagators of the ‘derek ha peshat,’ an exegesis which prefers the plain historical sense above allegorical or moral speculations, associated with the name of Shlomo Yitzhaki (or: ben Isaac, †1105; Jewish acronym ‘Rashi’). Bucer also refers to Rashi (‘R. Shlomo’), but generally not in the same positive way as to Ibn Ezra and Kimhi (R.G. Hobbs, ‘Martin Bucer on Psalm 22 XE "Psalm 22" : a study in the application of rabbinic exegesis by a Christian Hebraist,’ in Histoire de l’exégèse au XVIe siècle, pp. 150–151, with the relevant quotes from Bucer’s preface). Rabbinic exegesis was already known in the Middle Ages, but became widespread in the sixteenth century. Bucer owned a 1517 copy of the Rabbinic Bible in which Kimhi’s commentary on the Psalms was incorporated (Hobbs, ‘How firm a foundation,’ p. 486). Very instructive on this matter: S. Burnett,’‘Spokesmen for Judaism’: Medieval Jewish polemicists and their Christian readers in the Reformation era,’ in Reuchlin und seine Erben, ed. P. Schaeffer and I. Wandrey (Stuttgart, 2005), p. 41–51.

[25] La Bible Qui est toute la Saincte escripture… (Neuchâtel , Pierre de Vingle, 1535); Higman B40, Chambers 66, GLN-3. In the ‘apologie du translateur’ the linguistic principles are expounded and defended by Olivétan. It is generally accepted that he leant heavily on the Latin translation of Pagninus. In margine Olivétan often provides comparisons and alternatives. See also Bedouelle and Roussel, Le temps des Réformes et la Bible, p. 78, 154. Roussel suggests that Olivétan’s translation of the Psalter might have been based on Bucer’s translation (Roussel, ‘Simon Du Bois’, p. 529‑539). What the juxtaposition of the translations of Olivétan (1537, ed. Dolet) and Bucer actually shows is not so much dependence on as the fact that they belong to the same family.

[26] C. Reuben, La traduction des psaumes de David par Clément Marot, (Paris, 2004),  p. 67‑128. the conclusion on p. 127‑128. The fact that Lenselink in his analysis almost reached the same conclusion, and Defaux in his edition does not add new names to this relatively short list (Defaux only made an – unsubstantiated – plea for a higher ranking of Jerome’s Psalterium Hebraicum), might be a signal that the principal sources have been identified by now.

[27] For François Vatable (ca. 1493-1547), see Sophie Kessler-Mesguich, ‘L’enseignement de l’hébreu et de l’araméen par les premiers lecteurs royaux (1530-1560)’, in Histoire du collège de France, ed. A. Tuillier (Paris, 2006), p. 262-265. The reference to François Vatable helping Marot is based on a casual remark by E. Pasquier (1529-1615) in his Recherches de La France (ch. VII.v): “Entre ses traductions, il se rendit admirable en celle des cinquante pseaumes de David, aidé de Vatable, professeur du roy ès lettres hébraïques”, quoted by almost everyone (see H.P. Clive, Clément Marot: An annotated bibliography (London, 1983), p. 93). The story is expanded (not based on facts, but by imagination) by Florimond de Raemond, L’Histoire de la naissance, progrez, et decadence de l’heresie de ce siecle (Paris, 1610), p. 1044, railing at Marot’s ignorance: “Il étoit homme qui n’avait aucune connaissance des langues, & nul fond pour les sciences…” and to help him Vatable “lui mettoit l’Hebrieu mot à mot en François…”. At the end of his dedicatory Epistle to the Trente Pseaulmes Marot himself refers to the royal lecturers (lines 161‑166) applauding in a general way the Humanist achievements of the King. There is no evidence that Marot befriended Vatable, nor is there any sign that Vatable was interested in vulgarisation of biblical texts. What is known is that Vatable did lecture publicly on the Psalms in 1533/1534, but so did his colleague Agathius Guidacerius. The text of the poster in which their courses are announced (part of a complaint against the royal lecturers filed by Noel Béda), can be read in the Registers of the Paris Parlement. For this, see Abel Lefranc, Histoire du Collège de France, depuis ses origines jusqu’à la fin du premier Empire (Paris, 1893), p. 144‑145, the original text in appendix XX, p. 404-405; see also the general assessment of this conflict by J.K. Farge, ‘Les lecteurs royaux et l’université de Paris’, in Histoire du college de France, vol 1. La création, 1530-1560, ed. André F. Tuilier (Paris, 2006), p. 217-219.

[28] There is a manuscript with student notes on Psalms 1-16 from Vatable’s course (BnF, Ms. Latin n° 433). The claim of Vatable’s authorship of the Annotationes in Robert Estienne’s Latin Bible of 1545 is based on the introduction, in which the publisher, Estienne, claimed that he had collected Vatable’s notes in order to put them in with the Latin text of his Bible. Whether Estienne speaks the truth or wants to hide behind a Regius Professor is hard to tell. That the notes are very similar to Bucer’s commentary was already observed in 1921 by Becker (Clement Marots Psalmenübersetung, p. 22‑23). see now my article on Vatable

[29] Many illustrations can be found in Reuben, La traduction, p. 78‑91 (general assessment of the Hebraitas) and p. 95‑127 (the influence of Olivétan and Bucer). She clearly distinguishes between Jerome’s Hebraicum and the translations by the modern Hebraists, which she refers to as the ‘sources hébraïques, massorétiques’: Olivétan, Bucer and Campensis. Pagninus is also often included when comparisons are made (the versions appear in notes). An in-depth sounding can be found in Dick Wursten, Clement Marot and Religion, pp. 123-158.

[30] The first scholar-poet who used the new insights in the Psalms to make a complete versification might well have been Eobanus Hessus, whose Psalterium universum carmine elegiaco redditum atque explicatum… (Marburg, 1537) VD16[B 3162] became highly popular. A critical edition was published by Mechthild Fuchs, Psalterium universum: Helius Eobanus Hessus (Berlin, 2009). Luther praised this paraphrase of the Psalter for the avoidance of the judaising for which he reproached others, not naming but probably aiming at Martin Bucer. This is quite ironical, as we will see infra since Eobanus probably also used Bucer’s Commentary and in the occasion of Psalm 110 also reproduces Kimhi’s suggestion for the final verse. But of course a poet can keep implicit what a scholarly commentator has to – wants to – make explicit.

[31] It was especially the double ‘Dominus’ (God speaking to God) that impressed the Christians: Mt.26,64 and parallel texts; Acts 2,34. 7,55; Rom. 8,34; Eph. 1,20; Hebr. 1,13. 10,12; 1 Peter 3,22. In Mt. 22,41-46 (and parallel texts) Jesus and the Pharisees discuss the nature of the coming Messiah based on Psalm 110,1, also referring to the double appearance of the word ‘Lord’. This way of reasoning is ridiculed by David Kimhi, who notes that in the Hebrew original there only once the Name of God (JHWH) is used. The phrase that follows about God making all ‘enemies a footstool’ also figures in Acts 2,35; 1 Cor. 15,25; Hebr. 1,13. 10,13.

[32] A veritable anthology of remarks in Kraus, Psalmen II, p. 753: ‘Form und Ausbau ist umstritten’; ‘Wie soll man das verstehen?’; ‘kann nur ein Versuch der übersetzung gewagt werden’; ‘Es ist kaum möglich’; ‘problematisch’. The fact that in Kraus’s Commentary the seven verses of this Psalm demand an entire page of critical apparatus is already significant. The Masoretic text he characterises as ‘einen äuβerst schwierigen und umstrittenen Textbestand’ and he begins his own commentary with “Es soll gleich zu Beginn betont werden, daβ sowohl in den Fragen der Textkritik wie auch zu den religionsgeschichtlichen Problemen das letzte Wort noch nicht gesprochen ist.” (p. 754).

[33] Having quoted Martin Buber’s translation of verse 3 (“Vom Schoss des Morgengrauns an, schon der Tau deiner Kindschaft ist dein”), Kraus exclaims: “Aber was heisst denn das?” (Kraus, Psalmen II, p. 753).

[34] In the final verse the text is crystal clear, the words form a correct phrase, but the reference remains obscure.

[35] “Canit de regno Christi, quod in Syon coepit, indeque ad fines orbis usque pervenit, obtinebitque; donec Chrisum superi & inferi universi adorent, hostesque eius scabellum positi fuerint pedibus eius.” (Bucer, Psalmorum libri, 1532, 280[=283]r°). The close connection between almost all of Marot’s Arguments and Bucer’s is discussed in Dick Wursten, Clément Mart and Religion, pp. 185-191.

[36] The beginning of the commentary links this Psalm to Psalm 2: “Eadem canit hic Psalmus quae secundus. Omnia Christo proprie competunt. Sunt tamen qui & hic typum qui in Davide praecesserit substratum existiment. Legimus siquidem Davidem statim atque ipsum totus Jisrael regem in Hebron salutasset, expugnasse Hierosolymam, atque ibi regni sede instituta, mox Arcam foederis eodem transtulisse. Inde è Zijon iam urbe regia, expugnasse cunctas gentes finitimas.” (Bucer, Psalmorum libri, 1532, 280[=283]r°). Not only the Psalm is likened to Psalm 2 as XE "Psalm 2"  being fully christological, but the historical setting is also supposed to be the same: 2 Sam. 4‑6. The tension between the summary or Argumentum (christological prophecy) and the actual commentary (historical narrative) we find in Psalm 2 as well. Bucer’s ideas are based on intensive comparative study of his Jewish sources. Not only the already familiar Abraham Ibn Ezra, David Kimhi, and Rashi (R. Shlomoh), but also ‘R. Moshe’ (Moshe ben Maimon or Mosheh ben Nahman?) and R. Iehuda (Yehuda Halevy?) are mentioned by him in philological and interpretative discussions. For this, see Dick Wursten, Clément Marot and Religion, pp. 228-237.

[37] “Istud ergo ipse hoc Psalmo, una cum populo, in gloriam Dei, & ad accendendam populi pietatem, memorare, & canere voluit, simulque in se Christi typo, de regno huius, ut fere solet, vaticinari.” (Bucer, Psalmorum libri, 1532, 280[=283]r°). Terms like ‘simul’ recur, as does the word ‘typus’ Comparing the 1529 and 1532 editions one may notice a decrease in the number of historical details in the general introduction (esp. the ‘Ammonites’, who have gone from the first pages in 1532, but return at the proper place in the ad verbum v. 2 (284 r°), about the King ruling amidst his defeated enemies, which – of course – refers to Christ, but with the tiny addition “in Davide adumbratum” (foreshadowed in David) Bucer also maintains the historical reference to David’s severe punishment of the defeated Ammonites. The legitimacy of this approach had to be defended time and again because it was so unusual; even more so when theologically charged texts were treated this way. Bucer’s reasoning is always similar: Constructing a historical narrative does not impair the christological meaning reference, on the contrary, it enhances the typological potential.

[38] NB: the capitalisation of the first character is an orthographic habit typical for the Genevan printer Girard. It is absent in the Paris edition of Roffet. This reflects a difference in typographical, not theological, opinion.

[39] The traditional interpretation of this Psalm hears the glorious welcome Christ received in Heaven after his Ascension in the incipit: ‘Dixit Dominus Domino meo: Sede a dextris meis…’. The phrase from the Apostolicum that Christ is sitting ‘as the right hand of the Father’ is a direct reference to this Psalm. Verse 3 is supposed to refer to the ‘eternal generation of the Son’ before all ages (for this see infra). The report of the institution of the Holy priesthood of Christ (‘You are a priest after the order of Melchizedek’) refers to that mysterious king in the first book of the Bible who reigned in Salem and gave bread and wine to Abraham. The ordination as ‘priest in the order of Melchizedek’ is used in the Epistle to the Hebrews (ch. 5 and ch. 7.) to proclaim the abolition of any priesthood in the order of Aaron, which is replaced by the priesthood of Christ. This interpretation is of course still possible, but ‘it is the tone that makes the music’ and that is once more quite relaxed and secular. Verse 7 (he will drink from the brook before raising his head victoriously) is often interpreted as referring to Christ drinking the cup of earthly sorrows, before he ‘raises his head’ victoriously, sc. rises again. Here Marot’s translation completely diverges from the usual. We discuss this below. 

[40] Kraus – usually quite circumspect in this area – claims that without text emendations no sense can be distilled from the Masoretic text of this verse. The LXX reading is often referred to as text‑critically interesting, because sometimes only a re‑vocalisation of the Masoretic text is sufficient to give the consonant text an acceptable meaning (p. 752).

[41] For PG see supra. PH has a quite different reading but sounds even more cryptic: “Populi tui duces spontanei erunt in die fortitudinis tuae in montibus sanctis: quasi de vulva orietur tibi ros adolescentiae tuae” (‘your people shall be spontaneous leaders on the day of your strength on the holy mountains, as if the dew of your youth originated from the womb). A direct reference to this verse is missing in the New Testament, perhaps because the adoption formula of Psalm 2  XE "Psalm 2" was so pre‑eminent at this point that it supplanted Psalm 110 XE "Psalm 110"  ; or in New Testament times and (Judaeo‑) Christian circles the reference was not recognised as such or not acknowledged (Kraus, Psalmen II, p. 764), or perhaps the text was simply too enigmatic. Marot, together with many translations iuxta Hebraeos clearly opts for another interpration, even though these other translations differ considerably among eachother about what the alternative might be. For a summary of Bucer’s hermeneutics, see Dick Wursten, Clément Marot and Religion, pp. 191-197, for his interpretation of Psalm 110, pp. 228-237..

[42] Lefèvre, though charmed by the PH (see previous note) – the apparition of the term ‘ros’ (dew) provides an opportunity to refer to the conception of Jesus by the power of Holy Spirit leaving Mary virgo intacta – in the end does not change a word in his own Psalterium Conciliatum. The entire Adverte is devoted to this verse alone (QP, 162v°‑163). The fact that he does not change anything in his own Conciliatum confirms that for Lefèvre Hebraica Veritas is only in the second place a linguistic concept but in the first place a theological instrument to enhance the Christian Truth, which is most served by the clear reference to the generario aeterna of Christ (‘ante Luciferum’, before the morning star, or before ‘Lucifer’, traditionally the first angel God created).

[43] In modern French ‘bien disposée’ can mean ‘gladly’, but not so in Middle French.

[44] Bucer explains that the phrase ‘dies virtutis’ (ch‑j‑l) is either understood as referring to coronation day or to a ‘tempus belli’. He ends his exposé with the discussion about the typological possibilities that are present when the David is seen as a type of Christ. “Nec à typo in Davide, nec à re ipsa in Christo abludens, nempe ut ch‑j‑l virtutem reddas, et intelligas, diem declaratae virtutis, qui David fuit, cum virtute eius contra hostes saepe iam visa, populus illa allectus… Multo autem frequentiores, et studio flagrantiore adfuerunt selecti Dei, Servatori, die revelati Evangelii, quo virtus eius, qua Satanam, ac cum eo omne malum morte sua devicit, clarescere in orbe coepit. Sequentia tamen, videntur priori interpretationi plusculum congruere, cum de strage hostium canunt.” (Psalmorum libri, 1529, 342v°).

[45] No beauty (among others: Olivétan 1540), no mountains (PH), no sanctuary (Bucer, Psalmorum libri, 1532), no oblations (Zwingli, Campensis, Felix); no pomp (many variations: PG, Zwingli, Felix, Bucer, Psalmorum libri 1529/1532, Olivétan 1535). The only adjective Marot allows is ‘tressainct’ attached to ‘jour’. The closest parallel for this appears to be Bucer’s translation of 1529, in which all adjectives are also linked to ‘in die’.

[46] See Dick Wursten, Clément Marot and religion, pp. 238-240; 359.

[47] Bucer identifies the king of the Amorites and the princes of the other Canaanite peoples, since they were the historical enemies of David after his coronation. For Bucer this battle foreshadows the ultimate battle of the Christ against Satan. Some quotes: “vaticinium est de victoria contra Satanam & mundum. … Id in Davide adumbratum est, cum regem Ammonitarum occidit, & populum eius crudeliter adeo concidit & exussit, tum & aliarum gentium, qui illis venerant auxilio, principes prostravit.” (Bucer, Psalmorum libri, 1532, 285v°). Jeanneret interprets the paraphrastic elements similarly: “La paraphrase s’enrichit ici d’éléments de toute sorte, choisis pourtant de telle manière qu’ils prolongent le sens de l’original sans le solliciter indûment; au lieu de dénaturer le texte, ils en deviennent parties organiques tout en lui conférant un intérêt supplémentaire.” (Jeanneret, Poésie et tradition biblique, p. 66‑67).

[48] The versions vary in wording, not in meaning.

[49] Jeanneret noticed the singularity of this translation, labelling it ‘au‑delà des limites usuelles de fidélité’ (Jeanneret, Poésie et tradition biblique, p. 63). For a discussion of his position, see infra.

[50] “Versu ultimo caedem hostium, & victoriam auget. Significat enim tantum fundendum sanguinis, ut e flumine ex hostium sanguine facto, Rex hic bibiturus sit… Nam per bibere sanguinem hostilem, plenam & ad animi sententiam perfectam victoriam, scriptura solet significare… Inde sequitur, Propterea attollet caput, hoc est, alacriter & feliciter potestatem exercebit, factus superior.” (Bucer, Psalmorum libri, 1529, 343v° = 1532, 185v°‑186r°).

[51] This includes the commentary part of Lefèvre’s Quincuplex (the expositio continua), who reads the entire Psalm as referring directly to Christ and his earthly sorrows. That Marot really based his translation on Bucer’s commentary can of course never be proved, only made probable. However, expanding our reference group as much as possible, we could only find this interpretation in later editions, often dependent on Bucer’s commentary, e.g., in the notes to the 1545 Bible of Robert Estienne and the 1546 Liber Psalmorum Davidis also edited and published by Robert Estienne: “q.d. fundetur tantum sanguinis ut etiam liceat victori bibere è sanguinis torrente caesorum.” Because Bucer’s commentary was such a huge success, that this interpretation was widespread in the sixteenth century, but … only in scholarly circles. It can be found in the first Neo-latin poetic translation of the Psalter by Eobanus Hessus (1537): “Torrentes fuso manabunt sanguinis rivi / Rubraque de cesis hostibus unda fluet.”, and also in the first edition of Buchanan’s Psalm paraphrase (1566): “… torrentibus / Latè per arva sanguinis rivis sitim / Victor levabit igneam.” For Buchanan, see D. McFarlane, ‘Notes on the Composition and Reception of George Buchanan's Psalm Paraphrases’ Forum for Modern Language Studies 7:4 (1971), 319-360. McFarlane mentions Bucer’s commentary, but suggests influence from Estienne issues of the Psalter and the influence of Vatable, not aware that these also are dependent on Bucer’s Commentary. For Buchanan’s Psalter, see Dana Sutton’s internet-edition:

[52] Kimhi propagated these kind of straightforward historical interpretations as an explicit polemics versus the usual christological interpretation of this Psalm (and others). Bucer allows Kimhi to supply exegetical information, but provides a counterweight against the decrease of christological meaning by consistently advocating all kinds of typological interpretations.

[53] Ph.A. Becker, Clement Marots Psalmenübersetzung [Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, 1920 Bd. 27/1] (Leipzig, B.G. Teubner, 1921), 44 pages. One quote tells all: “Die Benutzung des Bucerschen Kommentars springt in die Augen, und sie beschränkt sich keineswegs auf die Inhaltsangaben, sonder erstreckt sich auf die ganze Auffassung des Psalms selbts und auf die Wiedergabe der Glieder im einzelnen, Fassung des Ausdrucks, Bindung der Glieder, vermittelnde Übergänge usf.” (p. 22–23). Becker provides some telling examples of how far this influence goes, and in an appendix compares Marot’s translation of Psalm 9  XE "Psalm 9" verse by verse with Bucer’s commentary to illustrate exactly his point. Is the fact that Becker wrote in German perhaps the reason why the purport of his findings was never properly realised?

[54] In 1950 Paulette Leblanc, while assessing the sources Marot used, mentions Bucer’s commentary and in a footnote refers to the study of Becker: “Voir sur ce point Becker, ouvr. cit. Mais Marot ne suit pas aussi fidèlement Bucer que le croit Becker.” (P. Leblanc, La poésie religieuse (Paris, 1950), p. 308, n. 2); no substantiation is supplied. In 1969 Michel Jeanneret expresses himself along similar lines: “le poète s’est servi largement des sommaires…, l’hésitation ne serait pas permise; mais dès qu’on regarde au‑delà des arguments, l’influence paraît superficielle et discontinue.” (Jeanneret, Poésie et Tradition biblique, p. 54‑55) ; no substantiation is supplied. In 1995 Defaux confirmed: “Jeanneret a raison de limiter l’influence de Bucer sur la traduction elle‑même.” (Defaux, Cinquante pseaumes, p. 46 (note)) ; no substantiation is supplied. C.A. Mayer, fighting the image of Marot as a religiously involved poet, goes so far as to completely dismiss the influence of Bucer referring to a 1553 reprint and a French translation of Bucer’s Commentary, which he apparently takes for the original editions (Mayer, critical edition, vol. 6 [Les Traductions], p. 28–29).

[55] “…trente quatre Arguments de Marot ne sont en fait rien d’autre qu’une traduction littérale, ou quasi littérale, des Arguments correspondants de Bucer. Et sur les quinze qui restent, treize d’entre eux viennent aussi incontestablement de lui; mais Marot les a en général condensés et allégés, recomposés en visant la brièveté et à l’énergie du trait. Les deux derniers – il s’agit des psaumes II et XLV, n’ont au contraire rien de commun avec les leçons que propose Bucer.” (Defaux, Cinquante pseaumes, p. 46). As a matter of fact all Arguments can be traced back to Bucer, if one also takes into account the introductory passages of the explanation. See Dick Wursten, Clément Marot and Religion, pp. 185-189.

[56] “Mesme en passant au milieu de la plaine, / De l’eau courante à grand’ haste il boira.” This is without doubt the most drastic intervention of the final editor (Th. de Bèze) and the only one affecting the meaning. The critical apparatus of the 1562 edition (in Lenselink’s edition) signals these interventions. For the Psalter edition of 1562, see Gérard Morisse, ‘Le Psautier de 1562’, Psaume. Bulletin de la recherche sur le psautier huguenot 5 (1991), p. 106-128 and id., ‘Les textes des Psautiers de 1562’, Psaume. Bulletin de la recherche sur le psautier huguenot 12 (1996), p. 2-14. De Béze’s extreme long summary (Argumentum) which introduces his own Latin paraphrases of the Psalms (1579/1580) is entirely Christological. Kimhi’s option for the last verses is not mentioned at all. In the explanation De Bèze only refers to the battles fought by Christ and the Church, and the chief adversary is Satan, or the Antichrist (Psalmorum Davidis [London, Thomas Vaurtroll, 1580], p. 515). Beza paraphrases: “Et hic quidem laboribus / Devincet hostes, in via / Torrente potus turbido, / Sublime sed victor caput / Ad ipsa tollet sydera.” (p. 519).

[57] Curious detail: As already signalled Buchanan also had accepted Kimhi’s (Bucer’s) suggestive reading of this verse (see above note 53), but already in 1571 (Plantin, Antwerp) and 1572(Rihelius, Strasbourg) this line (verse 7) is changed in: “… torrentibus / E fortuitis, dum fugam premet, sitim / Victor levabit igneam.” The traditional content and hermeneutics is restored. This important change is not signalled by McFarlane in his article, although he mentions other changes, and even a minor change in Psalm 110, 6 (a.c. p. 360). In this context it might be telling that Calvin, in his commentary on the Psalms (1557/1558), deals with Kimhi’s interpretation, not mentioning the origin anymore, as Bucer did, - he had to, at that time it still figured prominently in ‘his’ hymnbook - but rejects it as too harsh (‘nimis dure’). The traditional view that this phrase refers to Christ’s suffering he does not like either (‘nihilo rectius’). Instead, one should think of the hasty drinking of warlords and soldiers, who upon their return from battle take no time for themselves. This virtue (‘militare robur’) is figuratively (‘figurate’) applied to Christ (CO 32,166). H.J. Kraus does not mention Kimhi’s (and hence, Marot’s) option at all in his commentary.

[58] “Il arrive pourtant, dans des cas extrêmes, que le poète sente s’imposer une réorganisation de l’ensemble…” (Poésie et tradition biblique, p. 58).

[59] ‘au‑delà des limites usuelles de fidélité’ (Poésie et tradition biblique, p. 63). To explain why Marot crossed his usual boundaries in this particular case Jeanneret presents a theory in which he surmises that Marot felt compelled to introduce an extra christological reference (blood), using ‘creative pictorial imagination’. How odd, when all church fathers, and even Lefèvre, were satisfied with the christological opportunities of ‘bibet in via’ (a reference to Christ drinking the cup of his passion).

[60] Jeanneret confined PH almost completely to the translation of Olivétan, and then too often concluded from similarity to influence on Marot (‘chacun de ses psaumes le prouve’, ‘source principale’, p. 53‑54), thus forgetting to take into account that they both translated the same text into the same language, and that many other translations iuxta Hebraeos were circulating, be it not necessarily in French.

[61] Next to Eobanus Hessus (complete Latin Psalter in 1537), we can also refer to the Psalm paraphrases scattered through the work of Marot’s friends, Macrin, Bourbon (often labeled as ‘Odes’) and of course in Italy, Marcantonio Flaminio, both with prosaic and poetic paraphrases. For this Ph.A. Becker, Clement Marot’s Psalmenübersetzung (Leipzig, Teubner, 1921), p. 2-3 and P. Galand-Hallyn, ‘Marot, Macrin, Bourbon: “Muse naïve” et “tendre style”’, in Actes du colloque Baltimore, p. 229. Publishing neo-Latin paraphrases remained popular: Buchanan’s became world-famous, and inspired Théodore de Bèze himself to do the same. His firstlings appeared in 1566 (together with the first edition of Buchanan’s), a complete version followed in 1579.


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