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Petrarch’s rime sparse

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  1. Fundamental assumptions derived from the two poems.
  2. True and false autobiographical statement.
  3. Did Laura cause the poet to see without eyes?
  4. Poet's emphasis on the truth of the tornare a me(nte) trope.
  5. The timelines within the poems.
  6. Laura as a marker of time.
  7. Conclusion.

The reader of Petrarch's Rime Sparse is compelled as early as the first sonnet to impose narrative onto the poems. In Voi ch' ascoltate in rime sparse il suono, a poet-figure emerges and addresses the reader as he reflects on what he calls his primo giovenile errore. Finding herself at such an early point already engaged in what seems to be the poet's life story, the reader cannot help but read the subsequent poems with an eye to autobiography. At the same time, however, the Rime refuses to be so easily categorized and thus demands its reader to derive a more nuanced interpretation of the text. In this essay I plan to argue that the poet presents the reader with multiple autobiographical realities, a move which allows him to express his progression through time in a way which also resists time.

[...] The unique numericality of the anniversary poems initially causes them to stand out among the other poems in the Rime as markers of order, of narrative, of reality?in short, of what the reader might consider to form the basic timeline of the poet's autobiography. More specifically, the poet explicitly states that he first entered the laberinto, or fell in love with Laura, in ?mille trecento ventisette, a punto / su l'ora prima, il sesto dì d'aprile?[2] and that mille trecento quarantotto, / il dì sesto d'aprile, in l'ora prima / del corpo uscio quell'anima beata.?[3] So, two fundamental assumptions which can be derived from the anniversary poems are that the poet falls in love with Laura within the first hour of April and that Laura dies within the first hour of April 1348?at which point the poet is still in love with her. [...]


[...] Regarding the tornare a me(nte) poems, then, it might be the case that the poet's statements are expressive, that when the poet states in sonnet 286 that Laura gelosa et pia / torna ov' io [the poet] he means to say ?Hurray, Laura!? and not ?Laura returned to me with sympathy.?[13] Thus, the question becomes whether it might not be a category mistake to try to understand the tornare a me(nte) poems within the Rime as making false biographical statements. [...]


[...] The question, then, becomes what the significance might be of the poet opening up the Rime to a multiplicity of autobiographies, and thus, of realities, of truths, and of times. Of course, the poet often talks about the passing of time. Consider only what he writes in sonnet 272: La vita fugge et non s'arresta un'ora, et la Morte vien dietro a gran giornate; et le cose presenti et le passate mi dànno guerra et le future ancora, e rimembrare et l'aspettar m'accora or quince or quindi For the poet, then, time forces mortal things from vita to Morte. [...]

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