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of Laura, greatly to Petrarch's surprise. ' As to Laura,” he wrote to the Bishop of Lombes, who bantered him on the subject, in 1335, “would to Heaven that she were only an imaginary personage, and my passion for her only a pastime! Alas! it is a madness which it would be difficult and painful to feign for any length of time; and what an extravagance it would be to affect such a passion! One may counterfeit illness by action, by voice, and by manner, but no one in health can give himself the true air and complexion of disease. How often have you yourself been witness of my paleness and my sufferings! I know very well that you speak only in irony ; it is your favorite figure of speech ; but I hope that time will cicatrize the wounds of my spirit, and that Augustine, whom I pretend to love, will furnish me with a defence against a Laura, who does not exist.” He tried to divert his mind by travel, and made an extensive tour, but to no purpose; he returned to Avignon as he left it--the lover of Laura. He then took a mistress, as was the fashion of clerical gentlemen of his time, but neither her blandishments, nor the children she bore him, effected his cure. At last he determined to remove from Avignon. He bought a cottage at Vaucluse, á wild and picturesque spot near the windings of the Sorgue. Here he repaired with his books, and devoted himself to study and meditation. He commenced his great Latin epic, “Arriga," and planned a history of Rome from Romulus down to Titus Vespasian. He was a happy man as long as he kept at work, but the moment he became idle his thoughts reverted to Laura. He found some consolation in the society of his friends, but unfortunately they seldom came to see him, for travelling even short distances was difficult then. He threw aside his books, and took to rambling about Vaucluse—the very worst thing he could have done, for one day in the course of his rambles he found himself at Avignon. It was accidental, no doubta piece of absent-mindedness on his part, but somehow it did not end here, for a few days after he found himself at Avignon again, and this time in the neighborhood of Laura's house! She met him in the street, coquette that she was, and whispered, “Petrarch, you are tired of loving me." Tired of loving her-it was impossible! And to
— prove it he went home and wrote her a sonnet. About this time he was visited by Simone Martini, of Sienna, a pupil of Giotto, famous for taking spirited likenesses. He sat to Simone for his portrait, and was so much pleased with it when it was finished, that he persuaded him to paint him a miniature of Laura, which miniature he ever after carried about with him.
Twenty years passed, and his passion was unabated. Laura had aged somewhat in that time, having borne her husband ten children; but it made no difference to Petrarch. Her wise chastity towards him had kept her young in his eyes. He had enjoyed no favours, not even a kiss: the most that she had granted him was her hand, which she had once permitted him to hold for a little while!
In 1347, he made up his mind to depart for Italy. “Before he left Avignon, he went to take leave of Laura. He found her at an assembly which she often frequented. She was seated,' he says, ' among those ladies who are generally her companions, and appeared like a beautiful rose surrounded with flowers smaller and less blooming. Her air was more touching than usual. She was dressed perfectly plain, and without pearls or garlands, or any gay colour. Though she was not melancholy, she did not appear to have her wonted cheerfulness, but was serious and thoughtful. She did not sing as usual, nor speak with that voice that used to charm every one. She had the air of a person who fears an evil not yet arrived. 'In taking leave of her,' says Petrarch, “I sought in her looks for a consolation of my sufferings. Her eyes had an expression which I had never seen in them before. What I saw in her face seemed to predict the sorrows that threatened me,
They parted, never to meet again, for in the following spring Laura died of the plague. Her death shocked Petrarch, who made a note of it in his Virgil, which is now in the Ambrosian Library at Milan. “Laura, illustrious for her virtues, and for a long time celebrated in my verses, for the first time appeared to my eyes on the 6th of April, 1327, in the church of St. Clara, at the first hour of the day. I was then in my youth. In the same city, and at the same hour, in the year 1348, this luminary disappeared from our world. I was then at Verona, ignorant of my wretched situation. Her chaste and beautiful body was buried the same day, after vespers, in the church of the Cordeliers. Her soul returned to her native mansion in Heaven. I have written this with a pleasure mixed with bitterness, to retrace the melancholy remembrance of 'My GREAT Loss.' This loss convinces me that I have nothing now left worth living for, since the strongest cord of my life is broken. By the grace of God I shall easily renounce a world where my hopes have been vain and perishing. It is time for me to fly from Babylon, when the knot that bound me to it is untied.”
There are many portraits of Laura, but none, I fancy, that can be relied upon as being authentic. The one that I have selected comes the nearest to the descriptions of her by Petrarch and his biographers. It is from Tomasini's “PETRAROHA REDIVIVVS" Latin work on the love of Petrarch and Laura, and is probably a copy of the portrait painted by Simone of Sienna. So, at least, I gather from the rather obscure text.
TO LAURA IN LIFE.
HE CONFESSES THE VANITY OF HIS PASSION.
Ye who in rhymes dispersed the echoes hear
And self-reproach with frequent blushes teem:
HE BLAMES LOVE FOR WOUNDING HIM ON A HOLY DAY.
'Twas on the morn, when heaven its blesséd ray In pity to its suffering master veiled, First did I, Lady, to your beauty yield,
eyes th' unguarded prey. Ah ! little recked I that, on such a day, Needed against Love's arrows any shield; And trod, securely trod, the fatal field : Whence, with the world's, began my heart's dismay. On every side Love found his victim bare, And through mine eyes transfixed my throbbing heart; Those eyes which now with constant sorrows flow : But poor the triumph of his boasted art, Who thus could pierce a naked youth, nor dare To you in armour mailed even to display his bow!
ON THE PORTRAIT OF LAURA, PAINTED BY SIMON MEMMI.
Had Policletus seen her, or the rest
Over whose souls the body's veil is thrown :
RECOLLECTIONS OF LOVE.
That window where my sun is often seen
HE IS BEWILDERED AT THE UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL OF LAURA.
As Love his arts in haunts familiar tried,
Than the bright rays in which I burn were here.
COULD HE BUT SEE THE HOUSE OF LAURA, HIS SIGHS MIGHT REACH HER
If, which our valley bars, this wall of stone,
THOUGH HE IS UNHAPPY, HIS LOVE REMAINS EVER UNCHANGED.
My sixteenth year of sighs its course has run,