As a member of the mid-sixteenth-century literary group La Pléiade, Joachim du Bellay (1525-1560) sought to elevate his native French to the level of the classical languages--a goal pursued with great spirit, elegance, irony, and wit in the poems that comprise The Regrets. Widely viewed as one of the finest sonnet sequences in all of French literature, this Renaissance masterpiece wryly echoes the homesickness and longing of Ovid's poetry written in exile-because du Bellay finds himself lost in Rome, the very home Ovid longed for.
In this translation by David R. Slavitt, these brilliant performances retain their original formal playfulness as well as their gracefully rendered but nonetheless moving melancholy. In decadent Rome, among hypocrites, thieves, and snobs, du Bellay uses his poetry as an opportunity for social satire and caustic self-criticism. It becomes a salvation of sorts, an approach peculiarly modern in its blending of the classical, the social, and the personal.