Imagens das páginas

by a throat of exquisite whiteness ; her beaming eyes were surmounted by brows of ebony; her mouth, on which the rose seemed to have reflected its glowing hue, enclosed pearls of dazzling transparency, whilst to complete this modelled loveliness, were the most delicate hand, a small taper foot, a gay artless expression, and a clear musical voice, whose tones won an instant entrance to the heart.'-One Hun- , dred Sonnets, p. 5, 6.

This was certainly a very suitable · lady-love' for a young poet of twenty-three; nor, when he subsequently found that she was the wife of Hugh de Sade, is it probable that he felt great disappointment; for married ladies were the especial objects of the attention of the troubadours, and such was the state of morals in the Italian cities, that intrigue seems to have formed the chief occupation of the higher classes. But Laura, with a mind superior to those by whom she was surrounded, stood even more alone in moral purity, and although the wife of an unloving, a tyrannical husband, and celebrated ere long throughout all Italy by one whom prelates and princes united to honor, she never fell from her high moral station, but with unceasing effort sought to direct the enthusiasm of her gifted but erring lover from herself to loftier objects. The following sonnet, one of the few translated by Mr. Campbell, and which probably was written soon after the poet's first interview, is very beautiful—it is as he says, 'a gem of Petrarchan and Pla• tonic homage to beauty.'

• In what ideal world or part of heaven
Did Nature find the model of that face
And form, so fraught with loveliness and grace,
In which, to our creation, she has given
Her prime proof of creative power above?
What fountain nymph or goddess ever let
Such lovely tresses foat of gold refined
Upon the breeze, or in a single mind
Where have so many virtues ever met,
E'en though those charms have slain my bosom's weal ?
He knows not love who has not seen her eyes
Turn when she sweetly speaks, or smiles, or sighs,
Or how the power of love can hurt or heal.'

-Life of Petrarch, vol. ii. p. 364. For nearly three years Petrarch continued at Avignon, prosecuting his studies, but feeding that passion which rendered the name of Laura ere long illustrious throughout all Italy. In 1330 he accompanied his patron, James Colonna, on a tour through the south of France, to his bishopric of Lombes, and again returned to Avignon. Here his passion for Laura became so violent, he so constantly followed her, and was so unceasing in his addresses, that she retired whenever he appeared, or

covered her face with her veil, and refused to answer him. It was probably to endeavour to overcome his unrequited attachment, that he soon after set out on a long journey through France, Brabant, and part of Germany, and returned in 1334 to Avignon. But his love continued violent as ever, and Laura still repulsed his advances, and again, in 1336, the young poet

, whose hair had already become grey with the violence of his feelings, set out on a journey to Rome.

On his arrival at the eternal city,' Petrarch received an affectionate welcome from his friends the Colonnas :-he had apartments assigned him in the capitol, and received from every branch of that proud family attentions which, in those early days, were bestowed on illustrious scholars alone. The magnificence of Rome impressed strongly his glowing imagination; but unable, it would seem, to find rest there, he quitted it after a few months' residence, and undertook a long voyage along the southern coast of Europe; and, passing the Straits of Gibraltar, sailed as far northward as Britain. He did not, however, visit our shores, but he returned to Avignon, vainly boasting that he had overcome his passion, and believing that he had. The following year his son John was born ;-that the mother was a female of an inferior class, seems very probable, for her name is unknown; but notwithstanding the ridicule which Mr. Campbell would throw on our opinion, we are strongly inclined to consider that he was the offspring of a lefthanded marriage; for Petrarch, when he mentions this son, or the daughter that was soon after born, never alludes to them as illegitimate. Such marriages, during the middle ages, were common, and they were easily set aside-it is therefore, not unlikely that Petrarch, in despair at the rejection of Laura, at length sought to turn his heart away by the formation of new ties. In our view of Petrarch at this time, it would be most unjust to apply our standard of morals rigidly to his conduct. The inhabitant of a city, the most licentious of all the cities of Italy, surrounded by friends who, while they admired the poetry of his homage to Laura, ridiculed its refinement and lofty aspirations, Petrarch would indeed have been the first of moralists, had he maintained that unstained character which Milton, surrounded by puritan associations, displayed. Still, that his conduct, neither in reference to Laura, nor perhaps toward this unknown female, was what his conscience could approve, is touchingly exhibited in the following sonnet, in which, in his own words, he prays for grace.'

O thou, Heaven's father! tho' my days are gone,
My nights consum d'in yielding to the flame
Her fatal beauty kindl'd in my frame,
The day her light upon my spirit shone ;

My soul illumine, that it soon may own
A new existence, and a nobler aim,
And in that foe awake the blush of shame,
Who hath his snare around me vainly thrown.
• Eleven circling years have o'er me roll’d
Since first I bow'd submissive to a yoke
Most galling to the slave the most resign'd:
* This grief unworthy of myself behold!
Let holier dreams my wand'ring thoughts invoke.
Lord ! of thy sacrifice my soul remind !'

-One Hundred Sonnets, p. 71. It was about this time that Petrarch retired to Vaucluse, a beautiful valley, fifteen miles distant from Avignon, and here he purchased a small cottage, with an adjoining field, and, with no other companions but his books, took up his residence. The remarks of Mr. Campbell upon this, as well upon other parts of his conduct, are, to say the least, in bad taste. From his own acknowledgment, Petrarch evidently fled to Vaucluse to maintain, in solitude, that struggle against his sinful

propensities which, in Avignon, he could not maintain. Whether he did best in thus doing, neither Mr. Campbell nor the writer of these pages can possibly tell. Still, to fly from admiring friends and fascinating associations, to a solitude enlivened only by the conversation, at long intervals, of 'a swarthy old * woman,' and a few ignorant fishermen, argues a sincere desire to act as ever in his great taskmaster's eyes.'

Vaucluse was not destined long to be a solitude. Persons distinguished both by rank and learning came from the farthest parts of France and Italy to see the celebrated poet. But if Petrarch retired to Vaucluse with a hermit-like feeling, it was with no hermit-like indolence that he passed his days. While here he undertook a history of ancient Rome, and commenced his epic ' Africa,' and wrote several of his epistles. It is mentioned by his biographers, that during this time he carefully abstained from visiting Avignon, fearing to meet Laura. He, however, did meet her, and, according to some, received marks of kindness from her; and even the remark, Petrarch, you are tired of loving me.' This, however, seems most unlikely, for he always represents Laura as being most distant in manner; and the beautiful sonnet which Mr. Campbell gives in corroboration, we should place some six or eight years later. But while he continued in his seclusion, an honor which he earnestly wished for, but which probably he saw little expectation of obtaining, was at hand. On the first of September, 1340, he received a letter from the Roman senate, inviting him to come and be crowned poet laureate at Rome.

By a singular coincidence, on the afternoon of the same day, he received another letter, inviting him to come and receive the same honor at Paris. The Italian and poetical predilections of Petrarch prevailed, as we might well suppose, in his choice, and he determined to be crowned at Rome. Thither he set out early in the year 1341, first proceeding to Naples, to visit king Robert the Good. By this monarch he was received with the highest honors; and when he paid his farewell visit, king Robert, with a munificence which reminds us of the gifts of northern sovereigns to the troubadours, took off his mantle of violet velvet, bound with a girdle of diamonds, and presenting them to him, requested that they might be worn on the day of his triumph. Petrarch arrived at Rome early in April, and

• The morning of the 8th of April, 1341, was ushered in by the sound of trumpets; and the people, ever fond of a show, came from all quarters to see the ceremony. Twelve youths, selected from the best families of Rome, and clothed in scarlet, opened the procession, repeating, as they went, some verses composed by the poet in honor of the Roman people. They were followed by six citizens of Rome, clothed in green, and bearing crowns wreathed with different flowers. Petrarch walked in the midst of them ; after him came the senator, accompanied by the first men of the council. The streets were strewed with flowers, and the windows filled with ladies, dressed in the most splendid manner, who showered perfumed waters profusely on the poet. He all the time wore the robe that had been presented to him by the king of Naples. When they reached the capitol, the trumpets were silent, and Petrarch, having made a short speech, in which he quoted a verse from Virgil, cried out three times, Long live the Roman people! long live the senators ! may God preserve their liberty!' At the conclusion of these words, he knelt before the senator Orso, who, taking a crown of laurel from his own head, placed it on that of Petrarch, saying, “This crown is the reward of virtue.' The poet then repeated a sonnet in praise of the ancient Romans. The people testified their approbation by shouts of applause, crying, Long flourish the capitol and the poet !' The friends of Petrarch shed tears of joy, and Stefano Colonna, his favorite hero, addressed the assembly in his honor.

The ceremony having been finished at the capitol, the procession, amidst the sound of trumpets and the acclamations of the people, repaired thence to the church of St. Peter, where Petrarch offered up his crown of laurel before the altar. - Life of Petrarch, vol. i. pp. 209-211,

From Rome he proceeded to Pisa, from thence to Parma, where the following incident attests his wide popularity.

· Petrarch experienced this sign of popularity when he was at Parma, from the circumstance of a blind old man, who had been a grammarschool master at Pontremoli, arriving at Parma, in order to pay his devotions to the laureate. The poor man had already walked to

Naples, guided in his blindness by his only son, for the purpose of finding Petrarch. The poet had left that city; but King Robert, pleased with his enthusiasm, made him a present of some money, The aged pilgrim returned to Pontremoli, where, being informed that Petrarch was at Parma, he crossed the Appennines, in spite of the severity of the weather, and travelled thither, having sent before him a tolerable copy of verses. He was presented to Petrarch, whose hand he kissed with devotion and exclamations of joy. One day, before many spectators, the blind man said to Petrarch, Sir, I have come far to see you.' The bystanders laughed, on which the old man replied, 'I appeal to you, Petrarch, whether I do not see you more clearly and distinctly than these men who have their eyesight.' Petrarch gave him a kind reception, and dismissed him with a consi. derable present.'-lb. pp. 218, 219.

At Parma he continued for some time, but in the year 1342 he was sent to Avignon, as advocate of the Roman people to Clement the Sixth, the new pope, for the purpose of imploring him to bring back the papal chair to their city. On this subject Petrarch had always felt strongly, and not content with prose

. pleadings, he had recourse to verse; but the pope, although he complimented his eloquence, postponed, like his predecessors, his return.

With Petrarch on this occasion, a celebrated man, though as yet scarcely known, was associated, Cola di Rienzo, and to the eloquent lamentation of the poet' over_the unsettled state of Italy, and the degraded condition of Rome, the enthusiastic attempts of the future tribune may perhaps be attributed. The indignation of Petrarch at the scandalous conduct of the church dignitaries at this period, found scope in'a work entitled ' A • Book of Letters without a Title ;' and Mr. Campbell expresses surprise that these eighteen letters fulminate as freely against

papal luxury and corruption as if they had been penned by • Luther or John Knox. We could point out to Mr. Campbell's notice a score of works, earlier or contemporary, containing quite as vehement fulminations. The case really is, that from the twelfth century to the sixteenth, the voice of rebuke and warning was lifted against the papal power; and so far from the Reformation bursting upon astonished Europe,' as a writer more brilliant than well informed, expresses it, the Reformation of the sixteenth century was the slow result of influences, religious and political, which had been silently working their way for full three centuries. The remark of Mr. Campbell, too, that perhaps Petrarch was influenced by dislike to Avignon, not to Rome, is strangely puerile. Avignon was the seat of Romish ecclesiastical power,-for the pope and the cardinals were there; and surely when Petrarch remarks that the successors of the fishermen have forgotten their origin, that they

« AnteriorContinuar »