Medieval Love Poetry reached its peak with Francesco Petrarch's Rime sparse
Welcome to my penultimate page on Francesco Petrarch's medieval love poetry. There is much to admire from his canzoniere. Here are poems 74, 75, 77, 78 and 79:
74. 'Io son già stanco di pensar sí come'
I am already wearied with thinking
of how my thoughts are never weary of you,
and how I've not abandoned life itself yet,
to flee so heavy a weight of sighs:
and how my tongue is never lacking sound
to speak of your face and your hair,
and your lovely eyes I always talk of,
calling on your name day and night:
and how my feet are never tired and weary
of following your footsteps everywhere,
spending so many paces uselessly:
and how from it comes all the ink and paper
where I go writing of you: if that is wrong,
it is Love's fault, not a defect of my art.
75. 'I begli occi ond'i' fui percosso in guisa'
Those lovely eyes, that struck me in such guise
that only they themselves could heal the wound,
and not the power of herbs, nor magic art,
nor some lodestone from far beyond our seas,
have so closed the road to other love,
that one sweet thought alone fills my mind:
and if my tongue wishes to pursue it,
that guide, and not the tongue is to be blamed.
Those are the lovely eyes that make
my lord's enterprise victorious
on every side, above all my heart's:
those are the lovely eyes that always live
in my heart among the blazing sparks,
so that speaking of them never makes me tired.
Poem 77 as an example of medieval love poetry is notable because it provides proof that Petrarch's Laura is not a product of imagination, transformed by artistic licence into a paragon of womanly virtue, but a real person. The poem's subject is a painting of Laura by Simone Martini the Sienese painter (1283-1344) who was a friend of Petrarch.
Unfortunately, this painting was lost to posterity.
Polyclitus was a Greek artist of the 5th century, again we see Petrarch's classic influence and training reflected in his medieval love poetry.
77. 'Per mirar Policleto a prova fiso'
Polyclitus gazing fixedly a thousand years
with the others who were famous in his art,
would not have seen the least part
of the beauty that has vanquished my heart.
But Simone must have been in Paradise
(from where this gentle lady came)
saw her there, and portrayed her in paint,
to give us proof here of such loveliness.
This work is truly one of those that might
be conceived in heaven, not among us here,
where we have bodies that conceal the soul.
Grace made it: he could work on it no further
when he'd descended to our heat and cold,
where his eyes had only mortal seeing.
78. 'Quando giunse a Simon l'alto concetto'
When Simone had matched the high concept
I had in mind with the design beneath his hand,
if he had given to this noble work
intelligence and voice with the form,
he would have eased my heart of many sighs,
that make what's dearer to others vile to me:
since she's revealed to the sight, so humble,
promising peace to me in her aspect.
But when I come to speak with her,
benignly though she seems to listen,
her response to me is still lacking.
Pygmalion, what delight you had
from your creation, since the joy I wish
but once, you possessed a thousand times.
Petrarch's Rime sparse 79 below, brings the page to an end. We are nearing the conclusion of this compilation of his medieval love poetry taken from the Canzoniere. In poem 79, there is a hint of resignation in the poet's tone, the long years of vain hope have taken their toll and mortality beckons inevitably...
79. 'S'al principio risponde il fine e 'l mezzo'
If the middle and the end of these fourteen years,
in which I've sighed, should echo the beginning,
I'll still have no more help from breeze or shade,
though I felt my passion's flame increase.
Love, with whose thoughts I am ever one,
under whose yoke I must ever breathe,
so governs me I am only half a man,
turning my eyes too often towards my harm.
So I go wasting from day to day,
so secretly that only I'm aware
that it's her look that destroys my heart.
I don't know how long this final sorrow
I've brought the spirit to can stay with me,
since death is near, and life is fleeting.
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