Victoria Kirkham, Armando Maggi Petrarch A Critical Guide to the Complete Works 2009

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1. Petrarca, Francesco, 1304–1374—Criticism and interpretation. I. Kirkham, Victoria. II. Maggi, Armando

  PQ4540. P48 2009 851′.1—dc222008045155 The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48–1992.

E. Ann Matter 219

  As Looney writes, “Petrarch dared to imagine, for his part,the role of poetry and the poet in restoring the ancient polis at the center of a unifi ed Christian republic, at the center of the Holy Roman Empire.” Later Petrarch would deliver other orations, under circumstances very different from the spectacle he staged for himself on Rome’s CapitolineHill to extol the life of letters. ForCachey, who sees a correlation between the restlessness that made Petrarch an eternal “pilgrim” (peregrinus ubique) and his habit of jumping back andforth from one unfi nished work to another, the geographical content of this guide is less important than “the spatial self-portrait of the poet at a cross-roads in his career.” An exile begotten in exile, as he says in the dedicatory letter to Ludwig van Kempen in his Familiares, writing was his only home.

6. Petrarch the Epistler

  Streamlets that spring from living fountains runThrough the fresh verdure in the summer heatWhen shade is deep and gentle is the breeze: And then, when winter comes and the air is cool,Warm sun, games, food, and torpid idleness The Poem of Memory 73 The memory of poetry is no less strong than the memory of love in guid- ing a poetic voice that is so far from Dante’s, to the verge of identifyingart as man’s true transcendence. From the circum-stances of its conception as narrated and mythologized in the Posteritati, to the frequent references and allusions to its existence and progress towardcompletion that are scattered throughout his various writings, to the care- fully constructed bilateral linkage with the coronation ceremony of 1341(see the signature passage, technically a sphragis, in Africa 9.236–41), Pe- trarch makes the poem central to his cultural project of self-promotion.

1. Orientation: What Is the Poem About?

  After a long digression to an allegorical scene in heaven, where personifi cations of Rome and Carthage plead fordivine assistance before a Christianized council of gods, the battle unfolds in all its phases: from the arraying of the troops, to the two leaders’ exhor-tatory speeches, the accidents of combat (the account of which Petrarch extrapolated from Livy), and the fl ight of a defeated Hannibal, who seeksrefuge away from the battlefi eld. The proem of the epic presents the text as a successful product of a postcon-version author—a poet who has solved, if not the fundamental dilemma of poetic versus penitential expression, at least the theoretical problem of11 choosing between erotic and Christian inspiration.biguously establishing the status of the poem reappears in the conclud- ing metapoetic section that occupies the center of book 9.

2. Correction: The Displacement of Dido

  Ovid’s Didohad struck the same chord in the Heroides, echoing with Virgil the feelings and language of the Nurse in the memorable opening lines of Euripides’ Medea, a fragment Catullus appropriated for the lament of Ariadne, which19 the Saturnalia. Unlike the Aeneid, Petrarch’s poem resolutely and almost exclusively advances what one may call “thereasons of epic.” If the author’s allegiance to his virtuous subject matter has been clear from the proem, when the poet had taken preemptive measures against anyerotic interference with his poem, this does not mean that the Africa will consistently reject all the pathetic topoi of the elegiac tradition.

3. Revision: The Role of Dream-fi ction

  Unlike the two lover-dreamers who are caught in the failed interpreta- tion of the initially obscure oneiric material presented to them, both Scipio,in the fi rst two books of the poem, and Ennius, in the last, are attentive and receptive readers of the visions they receive. (Africa 2.7–10)[Soon these dubious visions of the night / and all the things you’ve seen while wrapped in sleep / will fade and vanish from your wak-ing eyes, / and, if some shreds of memory remain / you’ll deem26 them fancies of a wandering mind.] The task of the dreamer is not to dismiss the vision but rather to apply its teachings (mainly of philosophical and historical nature) in future actions.

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