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Denis Sanguin de Saint-Pavin
(1595 - 8 April 1670) France

Denis Sanguin de Saint-Pavin

Libertine poet


Denis Sanguin of Saint-Pavin was born in Paris. He was the son of Jacques Sanguin, Sieur de Livry, who was an adviser to the Parlement and president of investigations. Denis had received his education at the Jesuit college of La Flèche. There Saint-Pavin was the fellow-student of René Descartes and of Jacques Vallées des Barreaux. The latter later became his lover. Saint-Pavin was the disciple of Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac.

During Saint-Pavin's years at the Jesuit College La Flèche, he met René Descartes and Jacques La Vallée Des Barreaux, the latter of whom would become Théophile de Viau's lover and, subsequently, Saint-Pavin's. Friend of Théophile and libertin poet, agile author of sonnets and other light but daring verse, Denis wrote and circulated in manuscript sophisticated and witty poems that celebrated sodomy, especially with male partners.

Shortly after leaving La Flèche, Saint-Pavin acquired the first of a series of religious benefices as commendatory abbot. A consummate gentleman and libertine, Saint-Pavin spurned the important secular and sacred posts that his family connections might have afforded him and instead devoted his time to poetry and to friendships.

Denis Sanguin de Saint-PavinAfter he had embraced the ecclesiastical career, Saint-Pavin was successively conferred the abbey of Livry, where he had surrounded himself with young male lovers. It was in this retreat that he cultivated the Muses and abandoned himself to his pleasures which earned him the nickname "prince of Sodom". Then, Saint-Pavin ended up being appointed chaplain and adviser of Louis XIV. Even so, Saint-Pavin did not condescend to lead a more austere life than before. Saint-Pavin in fact maintained many sexual intercourse with men and women.

Although he evoked homosexual love in his works, allusions to which his poems abound, Saint-Pavin had never experienced persecution on the part of the authorities. He had an illegitimate son who became parish priest of Tierceville near Boyeux. He spoke of religion with great freedom.

In an age when repression forced many to hide their sexuality or espress it through euphemisms, Saint-Pavin called himself the "Prince of Sodom" and, in 1645, when a school-master was burned at the stake, Saint-Pavin courageously wrote: "Dear Vougeon, how sad your death will make me, and what a misfortune it is for a prick to live in a land where those noble desires that are only a crime for Queens are punished by fire".

We owe him a few sonnets, epistles, epigrams and rondeaux which make his acute spirit sparkle, and reveal all his superabundant gaiety. Saint-Pavin is considered the restorer of the sonnet at the Grand Siècle. He had an amused, happy and aware approach to homosexuality that remains a feature of the French poet, of which there are still a handful of letters and serious poems on the subject that would undoubtedly deserve more than one reading.

He was a frequent guest of Madame de Sévigné's famous literary salons, he befriended other famous homosexuals of the period from Théophile de Viau to the Prince and General de Condé, from Giambattista Lulli to François le Metel Boisrobert, Denis Sanguin de Saint-Pavin wrote memorable "libertine" verses about the pleasures of homosexual love that, according to the poet, standl largely above the heterosexual love.

The audacity of his libertine poems was made palatable by their urbane language, literary sophistication, and finesse. Indeed, in 1668, Louis XIV appointed Saint-Pavin his honorary chaplain and advisor.


The following poem, "Cher Tircis tu tiens bonne table," with its sly wit and urbanity, is an excellent example of Saint-Pavin's conflation of social values and physical pleasure:

       Dear Tircis, what a host you are!
The groaning board, the wine beyond compare!
But even better than all that
is the manner of your invitation.
       That little messenger, this morning,
while performing his office,
calling me to the feast,
was such a delight!
       Again and again, concoct for me such banquets,
Tircis. Or, by that same messenger,
just send a note and tell me not to come.

[Imitation of Epigram XI, 43 of Martial]
Caliste m'ayant aujourd'hui
surpris avec son jeune frère
m'a reproché tout en colère
qu'elle avait un cu comme lui.
- En vain, ai-je dit, tu proposes
de donner ce qu'ont les garçons.
Apprends à mieux nommer les choses
pour nous les femmes ont deux cons.
Having Callisto today
Surprised me with her little brother
Reproached me with anger
Saying that she also had an ass like him.
"In vain," I said, "you suggest me
To give what the boys have.
Learn to give the proper name to things:
For us the women have two pussies.

Since Saint-Pavin's status as gentleman precluded his publishing, his poetry circulated in manuscript. Although disparate manuscript collections contain examples of Saint-Pavin's verse, the most complete collection is that compiled by Valentin Conrart, held at the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in Paris.


Source: https://fr.wikipedia.org/ - excerpts from an article by Kathleen Collins-Clark - http://www.glbtq.com/literature/saintpavin_ds.html
and: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001

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