Petrarch and the Sonnets

Last week we had a wonderful lecture by Professor Barry Spurr on the Sonnets of Shakespeare. Professor Spurr mentioned this fellow named Petrarch. Since few of us knew who he was or his style of Sonnet, I thought I would give you a brief biography, and explain a little about Petrarch Sonnets.

Francesco Petrarca or Petrarch was born in 1304 in Tuscany. He devoted his life to the study of Classical Literature. It was his devotion to the church and becoming a cleric which allowed him to travel and study the ancient texts in Latin and Greek.

When Petrarch was a child, the family moved to Avignon in France. It was here he met the subject of his desire and his sonnets,  Laura, in 1327. He wrote many sonnets and poems and this girl was one of the main themes for them. It is rumoured that Laura died in the Black Death in 1348.

The doctrine Petrarch espoused was that humankind can again “reach the heights of past accomplishments”, which he read about in the sometimes forgotten ancient and classical texts. The Doctrine was called Humanism and bridged the Gap between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Petrarch’s writings were much loved in his day and his poems led him to be named Poet Laureate of Rome in 1341. He worked tirelessly until he death at age 69. The legacy he left behind was a collection of his writings called Rerum vulgarium fragmenta—also known as Rime Sparse (“Scattered Rhymes”) and as Petrarch’s canzoniere (“Petrarch’s songbook”). This included 366 poems in the common language of the people and a further 317 sonnets.

His poems helped to shape modern day Italian language. But it is the Sonnets which I wanted to concentrate on.

Petrachan Sonnets have 14 lines. They are arranged into 2 stanzas.  The first is 8 lines (Octave) and the second is 6 lines.The rhyme sequence is abba, abba, or cde,cde or cdcdcd. A Petrachian sonnet has 3 parts:

  1. Question or Problem. First 6 lines
  2. Turning or volta. This is the next 2 lines and prepares us for the counteragument or answer to the question posed.
  3. This is the counterargument or the answer to the question presented in the first 6 lines.

From Visions
Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374)
Being one day at my window all alone,
So manie strange things happened me to see,
As much as it grieveth me to thinke thereon.
At my right hand a hynde appear’d to mee,
So faire as mote the greatest god delite;
Two eager dogs did her pursue in chace.
Of which the one was blacke, the other white:
With deadly force so in their cruell race
They pincht the haunches of that gentle beast,
That at the last, and in short time, I spide,
Under a rocke, where she alas, opprest,
Fell to the ground, and there untimely dide.
Cruell death vanquishing so noble beautie
Oft makes me wayle so hard a desire.
(Trans. Edmund Spenser)

Shakespeare used a different form of Sonnet. It had 3 lots of 4 lines  followed by a rhyming couplet. Each second line rhymed, but the rhyming couplet was different, rhyming a single line with the next.

We studied Sonnet 130 in class.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

The turn or volta doesn’t occur in the same place as an Italian sonnet. It continues talking unfavourably about His mistress until the rhyming couplet. Then he says… EVEN SO… “And Yet”… i still love her.

Both types of sonnet use the iambic pentameter, or 5 beats to the line as a rhythm.

I enjoyed looking at this unique form of poem. I hope you have enjoyed reading it.

Dave

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/sonnet-poetic-formhttp://www.biography.com/people/
petrarch-943889

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Shall I compare Thee

A sonnet after Shakespeare, for my lover Sam.

 

“Shall I compare thee to a summers day?”

 

That day is pale in comparison to you

The sun may warm our skin today

your love warms my whole life through.

Your smile is bright like the stars at night

Your eyes shine as bright as the moon

Your embrace makes everything right

I hate that you must leave so soon

 

The busyness of our days prevent

the time we can  spend together

our last time together came and went

I pray such times should end never .

A time when we can together dwell

Will cause me to shout, All is well!

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Sunset at my place tonight.

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Dear Dad

You are the youngest daughter in your family. Your father is demanding that you tell him how much you love him. In your own words, tell him what you really feel about his question. What are you prepared to say in response to his demand?

The above is a suggested blog post for the Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature unit which I am doing at University. This struck a chord with me. My own father died some 10 years ago. It is his birthday this month. I was unable to be with him in the final days of his life. He asked for us not to go down to see him. We had said our face to face goodbyes about a month earlier. I rang every day. My dad was not one to say “I Love You” and did not expect his manly sons to say it either. It was just sort of understood. I could tell my mother, as could my brothers, but to show emotions in front of my father would have been seen as weakness by him.

So, now that I have done a mindfulness course; now that I am in touch with my emotions and stand unafraid to speak them. Here is a poem, that I would write for my father. Or if you like, one that Cornelia would have written to her father the King.

You held me when I was small

kept me safe from all

that scared me in the night

or gave me a fright. 

 

You held my hand on the first day of school

you brushed my hair so I looked real cool

you put food on the table, a roof over my head

you shook my hand when you sent me to bed.

 

You carried me from the car, asleep

you taught me life lessons which I keep

you cheered while I took a bow on stage

at times you scolded me, “act you age”.

 

You gave everything that you could give

I prayed to God that you would live

It’s hard to write now as I shed a tear

we were never close but you were always near.

 

If I had the time to live over again

I would be there to share your pain

“I’m doing alright” you would lie

why did you have to go and die?

 

before I could tell you

I love you.

You see dad, its not the things you gave me that makes me love you. Its that you taught me to be a man.; to be responsible, to have my own opinion and not to follow the crowds. You taught me to be myself no matter what anyone else thinks. You made it safe for me to come out, when earlier in my life I was too afraid. When everyone else deserted me, you were there. That’s why I love you.

I miss you dad.

Dave

 

 

 

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Modern analogy of King Lear opening?

There is a man who lives in a house.

He has 3 pets; 2 dogs and a cat.

The dogs fight for attention. One always throwing herself into his arms, smothering his face with kisses. The other is always bringing gifts, like expensive pieces of wood newly broken from the outdoor lounge, or pieces of ceramic pot. He knows the man love this pot, so the dog brought part of it to the man at the back door.

The third animal is the cat. The cat does what she bleeding well pleases. She sleeps most of the day, comes for cuddles when SHE wants them and scarpers when she doesn’t. She shares the man’s food, although the man doesn’t share hers. The cat does not like the man’s aftershave or deodorant and makes no secret of the fact. The cat loves because that is what is expected every now and then, and doesn’t care if she is ignored when other things are happening. She would more like to curl up in a ball and go to sleep.

Ok, YES. the man is me. The dogs are Buddy and Gracie and the Cat is Brandy…my pet name for her is Puss Puss. It occurred to me this afternoon when I was hanging the washing out just how the two dogs are just like Goneril and Regan, willing to do whatever they thought they needed to to gain my love and approval. They don’t realise I would love them even if they were naughty. The cat is indifferent. She can live without me, however she is annoying when I don’t wish her to sleep on my bed and close the door. She scratches the door very loudly. I have timed her. She can keep it up for 12 minutes straight… and just when you think all is quiet and she has settled for the night…she will start again. I think she is like Cordelia, because she doesn’t let me cuddle or love her more than she is willing to. When she has enough, she pushes away.

The cat knows however, that my love is there for her and she is my favorite. She doesn’t try to win favours by bringing me gifts, or jump into my arms when I am trying to do something else, She patiently waits for me to be ready to give her the cuddles and scratches that she needs.

Hence, I feel like a King, in this palace, my home.

 

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I am in awe, and so grateful.

On Friday 31st March 2017, My class and I visited first, the Renaissance rooms at the Art Gallery of NSW and next the Mitchell Library in Macquarie St Sydney to look at the Shakespeare room.

I am so grateful for the people in the library for making all of their resources and providing staff to educate us, not only about Shakespearean Literature but the Architecture of the building.

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Looking at the first folio of Shakespeare’s work.

I was totally amazed that each little aspect of the Shakespeare room at the Mitchell Library was painstakingly planned. There is a reason behind the design of every little piece of woodwork, windows, and plaster. I can only imagine the tedious hours of discussion the committee had to have to come up with each aspect. Sometimes we think of meetings as boring and unnecessary. However, we see now the legacy of those meetings in the architecture of the Shakespeare room.

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The class in the Shakespeare Room at the Mitchell Library 

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This is a section of the ceiling which depicts the end of the War of the Roses, the Tudor Rose of  Henry VII

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In this picture, we can again see the Tudor Rose in the woodwork. Even the vertical lines in the woodwork have a meaning. These represent drapes. If we think that Shakespeare was renowned as a playwright, then drapes (or curtains) depicted in the woodwork design is quite suitable.

The detail taken in design showed me that when planning this room, and also the collection of the artworks that we saw; the committees overseeing these works were not just thinking of their own time, but were thinking of the generations future who may enjoy such works.

I am extremely grateful for the foresight that these people had.

I wonder if designers today put so much thought into the legacy that they are leaving, rather than just getting something done quickly to appease the people supplying the finances. Iconic buildings today soon loose their usefulness and are torn down to make something bigger, so called better.

I think of Cricket and football stadiums for example. There are areas of the Sydney Cricket Ground, and also Adelaide oval, where tradition has been forgotten and have been rebuilt to fit more people in, chasing for the almighty dollar. Melbourne Cricket Ground has not escaped this. The Notorious Bay 13, which was made very famous by Merv Hughes gym class, no longer stands. Pity.

Today we have corporate sponsors for everything. Recently the Sydney Entertainment Centre, which was renamed QANTAS centre was sold off and torn down to build a new centre. This was an iconic building. As was the Sydney Convention centre at Darling Harbour. This was completed in 1988 but later demolished to make was for a bigger ‘better’ centre.

Function has won out over art and beauty.

Sad but true when the old saying “They just don’t make em like they used to”.

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Walter Ralegh said the world is a Liar.

 

Walter Ralegh was not a suitor of the Queen, however she fancied him.  He flirted and presented the Queen with gifts from his explorations, and trophies from his wins in battles. Walter and Elizabeth Throckmorton had found that they were with child and decided to marry. The Queen who was jealous for Ralegh and disappointed at her servant Bess, through them both in the tower for not asking her permission to marry. The first child, a son named Damerei, dies early in life. Subsequently there were  two other sons Walter and Carew. Walter died in a battle, but Carew led a full life before being killed and buried with his father in 1666.

Walter Ralegh served in Parliment as well. The Queen was somewhat moody. At one time, she knights him and asks for him to be Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard (the head honcho bodyguard). At other times he was out of favour with the Queen and was returned to the Tower of London, then a Royal prison.  He was released a number of times because of his skill in the military and he was needed to lead in battles against the Spaniards.

Sir Walter Ralegh is credited with having bought potatoes and tobacco to England, products which he found on his explorations of  South America. With hindsight, one can look back and ask if he did a favour to the ‘ civilised world’ by introducing Tobacco, but the potato became a staple in the British diet.

Ralegh was sent to the tower in 1603 by James I for an alleged plot against the Throne. He stayed there until he was pardoned in 1617 when he went again to South America. He attacked a Spanish outpost when out there. James I was friends with the Spanish. The Spanish ambassador was upset by the hostilities and asked James to have Ralegh beheaded. He complied with the request, to keep the peace.

What is the central complaint that underlines Ralegh’s poem “The Lie”?

Walter Ralegh had an epiphany in the tower, as he awaited his head to be separated from his body. He figured that there is no real pleasure, no good in the world. If there are moments of pleasure or good, they, or the ones who administer it,  have hidden agendas. Every smile is painted over a smirk, every tickle has darker intentions.

Walter wrote many poems in the Tower. The Lie being one of them.

The Lie tells of discoveries that Walter made that are perhaps not documented elsewhere. It explores and discovers the truth about the world and those in it. To Walter, the affections and admiration of those close to him, save perhaps his sons and wife, were all false. The favours people were showing him were conditional. Conditional on his allegiance and devotion to a religion, a monarch or a cause.

To the court and the church, the poem is saying that while you look good, underneath, your foundations are rotting. The foundation of the court was the history on which it stood, but the reports of historians were all lies, biased in favour of the monarch who was ruling at the time. The church itself was not so much a place of relief and solace, but one in which political decisions were made. The church at the time espoused a virtuous existence where in fact they were a puppet of the politicians.

The poem continues in the third verse, to tell the Kings and Queens not to be fooled when some says they love you. They love you only so far as it can fair them well. It is not a love or a loyalty that can be relied upon. It is merely a fair weather love. The Monarchs say they are serving their people, they want nothing for themselves. Ralegh says that is a lie. This was shown when Ralegh was castigated for attacking a Spanish ship, but was forgiven it when it showed to be a bounty for the monarch.

The poem continues in its revelations. Everything is a lie. With this discovery, he finds he has no reason to fight any longer. He has resigned himself that he is going to die.

The final verse tells the world to kill him then. The body may die but you cannot kill the soul.

The Lie

Go, Soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless errand;
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.

Say to the court, it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Say to the church, it shows
What’s good, and doth no good:
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Tell potentates, they live
Acting by others’ action;
Not loved unless they give,
Not strong but by a faction.
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lie.

Tell men of high condition,
That manage the estate,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practice only hate:
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending,
Who, in their greatest cost,
Seek nothing but commending.
And if they make reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell zeal it wants devotion;
Tell love it is but lust;
Tell time it metes but motion;
Tell flesh it is but dust:
And wish them not reply,
For thou must give the lie.

Tell age it daily wasteth;
Tell honour how it alters;
Tell beauty how she blasteth;
Tell favour how it falters:
And as they shall reply,
Give every one the lie.

Tell wit how much it wrangles
In tickle points of niceness;
Tell wisdom she entangles
Herself in overwiseness:
And when they do reply,
Straight give them both the lie.

Tell physic of her boldness;
Tell skill it is prevention;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law it is contention:
And as they do reply,
So give them still the lie.

Tell fortune of her blindness;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindness;
Tell justice of delay:
And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.

Tell faith it’s fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth;
Tell manhood shakes off pity
And virtue least preferreth:
And if they do reply,
Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing–
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing–
Stab at thee he that will,
No stab the soul can kill.

 

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