Negotiating Poetry at Court: Charles V and Janus Secundus

  • David Price
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Janus Secundus (1511–1536), one of the most influential poets in Netherlandic literary history, is now remembered as the author of the Kisses (Basia), a cycle of nineteen poems that describe surprisingly diverse aspects of the poet’s desire to kiss a Spanish woman with the sobriquet Neaera. He composed these poems in 1534 and 1535, while attending the court of Charles V at various locations in Spain. This unlikely trifle became a serious matter. The impact of Secundus’s Kisses on European poetry extended to several languages (especially Dutch, English, French, German, and Latin) and to many poets, some of them major figures (such as Ronsard, Fleming, and Goethe).1 A probable reason for Secundus’s appeal was that, despite the complexities of his imitative poetics and the inherent hazard in, as Shakespeare put it, “telling what is told,” he managed to express erotic desires in ways that startled and bemused. It was less the “authenticity” of the voice and more the intention of that voice to test boundaries of public discourse that made his poetry especially meaningful to other poets.


Henry VIII Inherent Hazard Ancient Concept Charles Versus Opus Omnia 
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  1. 2.
    Joannes Secundus, Opera Omnia, ed. Peter Burmann and Peter Bosscha, 2 vols. (Leiden: Luchtmans, 1821).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Alfred Kohler, Karl V. 1500–1558: eine Biographie (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1999), p. 105.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For information on Secundus’s family, see David Price, Janus Secundus (Tempe, AZ: MRTS, 1990), pp. 12–17.Google Scholar
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© Stephanie Hayes-Healy 2005

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  • David Price

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