Charles Péguy

Péguy, Charles (shärl pāgēˈ) [key], 1873–1914, French poet and writer. Of a poor, working family, he won scholarships and made a brilliant record as a student. He left the École normale supérieure to devote himself to the cause of socialism. He was, however, individual in his views, and he broke with the socialist party. In 1900 he founded the Cahiers de la quinzaine, a periodical in which he published his own works and those of other young writers. Through his life he worked passionately for justice, truth, and the good of the common person and the world. He was the outstanding Roman Catholic supporter of Dreyfus in the Dreyfus Affair, and his polemics against injustice were fiery. Though formally he was often at odds with the church, he is among the foremost modern Catholic writers. He sought to infuse spirituality into every aspect of life. His great poem Le Mystère de la charité de Jeanne d'Arc (1910, tr. by Julian Green 1950) expresses his ideal of the spiritual in action. His repetitive chantlike verse has great power. Others of his long works are Le Porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu (1911) and Eve (1913). He was killed at the battle of the Marne in World War I. Translations of his works appear in Basic Verities (1943) and Men and Saints (1944), both translated by Ann and Julian Green; Julian Green also translated some of Péguy's religious poetry in God Speaks (1945).

See studies by M. Villiers (1965), N. Jussem-Wilson (1965), H. A. Schmitt (1967), and G. Hill (1984).

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