Quand un fragment d’histoire devient poésie : D’Aubigné, Sancerre et le jeu des sources

To write an epic poem in sixteenth-century France can mean no major battles, but only minor – and historically insignificant – episodes which Agrippa d’Aubigné as soldier sometimes witnessed, but most often simply read about. The reasons for his approach are no doubt to be sought in his affirmed intention to place one’s experience at the origin of writing, but may also be traced back to a conviction that minor events better convey the degeneration of the present times, falling more easily into the election-fall-resurrection interpretive scheme, the vision of the vanquished underlying the poem as a whole.

Returning more than forty years after Géralde Nakam’s groundbreaking « Une source des Tragiques: l’Histoire memorable de la ville de Sancerre de Jean de Léry » to Agrippa d’Aubigné’s reading of this minor episode in the history of wars of religion, offers an opportunity for closely examining the way the author of the Tragiques, notwithstanding his declared intention, re-uses sources. It can also help us to illustrate how he succeeds at once in presenting himself as a credible witness of his time, and in capturing «the imagination of the unimaginable» experience of civil war.