Interpreting Emblems, Emblems Interpreting: Love's mortal battle in Maurice Sceve's Delie

Brooke Donaldson

Known primarily as the first example of love poetry in Renaissance France, Maurice Scève’s Délie is also notable as the only work of French emblems as well as the only sixteenth-century work to incorporate emblems into an erudite work on love. The emblems have been the source of dispute among critics who agree neither on their nomenclature, on the logic behind their placement, nor on their symbolic function within the work. But the mere presence of the emblems teaches the reader how to approach the poetry. The Délie’s emblems depict the “renewed deaths” which Scève announces as the subject of his poetry and insist more emphatically upon the theme of death than do the poems. The alternation of emblems and poems reflects the poet’s love experience, torn between desires of the soul and those of the body and trapped in an exorable cycle between life and death. For just as Scève’s poetry combines such seemingly incompatible concepts as microcosm and macrocosm, pagan reminiscence and Christian conviction, classical allusion and medieval remnant, and Christian Platonism and artistic immortality, so too do the emblems which gloss the poems present an interpretation of those poems which contradicts or at the very least reinterprets the conclusions presented by the poet. Thus, Scève’s multi-media (pictorial/verbal) presentation of death as polysemous is paradigmatic of the tensions so characteristic of his poetry and of sixteenth-century literature in general. The poems and emblems may stand on their own, but the juxtaposition of their varied interpretations reveals how Scève combines mutually exclusive characterizations of death in a unified if antithetical presentation of Petrarchan oxymoronic love.


莫理司‧賽佛的《黛麗》是法國文藝復興愛情詩最早例子。此部作品同時也以唯一的法文圖詩( emblems )與唯一能將圖像( emblems )融入博學愛情詩此兩特點所著稱。在批評家之間,圖文詩是充滿爭議,大家既無法同意正確名稱,亦無法點出其圖像配置背後的邏輯,也不能講定其在作品中的象徵意義。但是只要圖像在詩中出現,即已警醒讀者要 如何 閱讀詩歌。《黛麗》圖像描繪賽佛所宣示為詩歌主題的「死亡循環」同時以比詩歌本身更為強烈戲劇性方式強調死亡主題。詩文與圖像的交替出現,反映詩人的愛情經驗,在靈魂與軀體之慾望之間拉扯,深陷生命與死亡的輪迴之中。就如同賽佛的詩結合似乎無法相匹配的概念,如大宇宙與小宇宙,異教記憶與基督現念,古典典故與中世紀餘念,基督化柏拉圖主義與藝術的不朽,同樣地,他用以闡釋詩文的圖像亦是展示出對這些詩的詮釋,而這些詮釋,反駁或至少重讀詩人所提出的結論。所以,賽佛的多媒體(圖像/文字)死亡的複義( polysemous )展示,是他詩作典型張力,也是普遍 16 世紀文學的代表。詩文與圖像可以獨立,但是兩者多變詮釋的並出更顯出賽佛是如何結合對死亡相互排斥的描述,成為一個雖對立但統合的佩脫拉克矛盾愛情的體現。