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Bernard de La Monnoye

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Bernard de La Monnoye


Bernard de La Monnoye (15 June 1641, Dijon – 15 October 1728) was a French lawyer, poet, philologue and critic, known chiefly for his carols Noei borguignon (Borguignon Christmas).

Monnoye began his studies in Jesuit schools, and attracted attention for his epigrams in Latin and essays in French. By his father's wish, he went to study law at Orléans. There, during the harsh study of jurisprudence, he gave way to his literary tastes by gathering curiosities about the authors and books that he read. He began legal practice at the Parlement de Dijon in 1662; but had little inclination for that profession, and, using his health as an excuse, left the bar and devoted himself entirely to the literary arts.

In the following years Monnoye divided his time between reading books and frequenting the intellectual circles of Dijon, where he made his debut in poetry. In 1671 he won a contest of the Académie française with a poetic essay on "the abolition of the duel", which was ardently praised by Charles Perrault, and years later by Voltaire. He went on to win the Academy's contest four more times.

To make a living, he took in 1672 a job at the Court of Finances, which he kept for eight years. During this time he produced copious verse, which made him moderately famous. He also composed many hymns in Latin, and translated into French, with a glossary, the Spanish poem Thérèse d'Avila. By 1687 he was admitted as a corresponding member of Padua's Accademia dei Ricovrati.

Among his best compositions of the time are a dozen riddles in sonnet format, some of which are considered to be better than anything of the sort that existed at the time; and three translations of texts about Burgundy wine, Champagne wine, and cider. He also wrote, under the pseudonym Gui Barozai, Noei borguignon ("Borguignon Christma" [Thirteen Christmas Carols]) (1700), a collection of carols in the patois of Bourgogne; which were followed later that year by Noei tô nôvea ("Sixteen More Christmas Carols"). These songs in simple language became immensely popular. The best known, which is still orchestrated and played today, is probably Guillô, pran ton tamborin, better known as Patapan.

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