Sculpture Saturday: Mattiacci’s Eye of the Sky @UCLA

April 16, 2011

The entire “north campus” of my alma mater, U.C.L.A., is a wonderful sculpture garden, including works by Rodin and Matisse.

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I visited with my putative father (as he likes to call himself), close friend, and dissertation advisor, Milanese poet Luigi Ballerini.

That’s Luigi, above, with the newest installation in the Murphy Sculpture Garden, “L’occhio del cielo,” by Eliseo Mattiacci, known for his seemingly impossible and often precarious pieces.

It was great to catch up with Luigi and stroll around the campus. The work by Mattiacci stands behind Royce Hall, just below the building’s chapel (which is used as a classroom by the Italian Department). Royce, the symbol of U.C.L.A., is inspired by Milan’s Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, a place dear to Petrarch who lived, studied, and composed there.


My Italy: 150 years of Italian Unity

March 18, 2011

Yesterday, in one of the most tumultuous moments of its history (between the general discontent of its people, the governmental crisis, and the situation in Libya, its historical client state), Italy celebrated 150 years of Unity.

My friend Simona, author of the excellent Italian gastronomy blog Briciole, published this FANTASTIC post including the video above. I highly recommend it: she’s composed a beautifully woven timeline for Italy’s last (and first) 150 years as a united country and she’s translated a number of the quotes from the video above (you’ll find quotes by a number of historical figures that have appeared here on my blog).

Chapeau bas, Simona!

Above: The Italian Alps, as seen from the vineyards of my friend Giampaolo Venica, September 2010.

My friend Simone, a young and gifted wine professional from Lucca, wrote me to remind me this morning of a poem dear to both of us and as vibrant and topical as it was when Petrarch wrote it (probably) during the siege of Parma in 1344-45 (the fact it was composed in Parma will not be lost on those who fear and loathe the rise of the Italian Separatist Party). It’s one of Petrarch’s most moving political poems and I spent hours and hours pouring over every line, every syllable, and every scansion as I prepared my dissertation on Petrarchan prosody. I’ve scanned and reproduced the Robert Durling prose translation below (Petrarch’s Lyric Poems, Harvard, 1976), which I also highly recommend to you.

On our recent trip to Italy, every time Tracie P and I gazed at the Alps, I couldn’t help but think of the lines (see the fifth stanza below), Nature provided well for our safety/when she put the shield of the Alps/between us and the Teutonic rage.

The incipit of the song is immensely powerful and could not be more a propos today — whether in the sphere of Italian politics or viticulture.

    Italia mia, ben che’l parlar sia indarno
    a le piaghe mortali

    My Italy, although speech does not aid
    those immortal wounds

The song’s congedo is even more moving… Your divided wills are spoling the loveliest part of the world.


Colli Euganei, where Petrarch and great wine meet (and an unsung hero of the Veneto)

October 28, 2010

petrarch

Above: Winemaker Luciano Gomiero of Vignalta (center), pioneer and unsung hero of one of my favorite appellations in the world, the Colli Euganei (Veneto). That’s my friend, the aptly named, Marco Tinello (right, the Veneto’s “best sommelier” 2008), who led our vinous journey to the Euganean Hills so beloved by Petrarch in mid-September.

There is no place in Italy that I feel more at home then the Veneto, where I spent many years at university and playing music. And there is no other place where my interests converge more mellifluously than the Colli Euganei, the Euganean Hills south of Padua, where my beloved Petrarch and great wines meet.

Petrarch took refuge in these hills toward the end of his life and it was here that he transcribed and edited his life’s work, including the Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta, his fragments of vernacular things, a songbook composed of 366 poems written for Laura.

petrarch

Above: La Casa del Petrarca, Petrarch’s house in Arquà in the heart of the Euganean Hills, is adorned with frescoes inspired by the narrative culled from the Fragmenta.

Petrarch’s favorite poet was the Latin writer Virgil and there’s no doubt that Petrarch knew and appreciated the line so often repeated from the Georgics, Bacchus amat colles, in other words, Bacchus [the divine embodiment of the vine] loves hills.

To understand why Petrarch loved this immensely beautiful place and why it is ideal for raising fine wines, here are a few photos.

petrarch

Above: That’s a view from the hills looking eastward toward Venice and the Adriatic.

The eastern plains leading to Venice are otherwise flat but south of Padua, the Eugeanean Hills rise up suddenly and violently from the flats.

petrarch

Above: Petrarch wrote that the Euganean Hills reminded him of the Vaucluse where he met Laura.

The soil types range from volcanic to ancient seabed to calcareous clay and the different growing sites deliver rich mineral flavors in the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that have traditionally been grown there.

petrarch

Above: Luciano ages all and vinifies some of his wines in recycled tonneaux and barriques — no new wood here! You could hear his 2009 Alpianae fermenting again (in other words, it had been fermenting on and off, depending on the temperature of the cellar, for more than a year!)

The Colli Euganei are best know for their red wines. Luciano doesn’t barrique his wines and you never find woodiness in them. His reds are defined by their rich, earthiness and minerality, tar and goudron notes. And while I’m not generally a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, I gladly drink his wines, which never show woodiness, and are extremely well priced (generally around $25-35 in the U.S.). I highly recommend them.

petrarch

Above: The 2008 Sirio (dry Moscato) was stunning, with great minerality and fruit. BrooklynGuy would have loved it.

But the wines that truly fill me with emotion are his white wines, Sirio (dry moscato) and Alpianae (dried-grape Moscato Giallo) in particular. And the best news is that, like his reds, Luciano’s white wines are more than reasonably priced (the Sirio should cost about $20 retail).

petrarch

Above: The name Alpianae actually came from a typo, Luciano told me. It was supposed be called Apianae, a reference to a name used by the Romans for sweet wines “belonging to the bees” (in the sense that bees are drawn to sweet wines, i.e., the best wines).

Luciano was the first to popularize dry Moscato in the Euganean Hills and he successfully lobbied the consortium and the Italian government to create the Colli Euganei Moscato DOC (previously you couldn’t write Moscato on the label). With the 2010 vintage, Fior d’Arancio (the local name for Moscato Giallo) will be the appellation first DOCG, also thanks to pioneer Luciano.

The Vignalta whites, including the dried-grape Moscato Giallo, are some of my favorite wines in the world. And I love how they are connected to a topos so imbued with cultural riches. Indeed, Petrarch’s transcriptions and collations during the last years of his life in Arquà (a stone’s throw from Luciano’s winery) are considered to by many to be the birthing of Renaissance humanism.

Like Bacchus, I love Euganean hills, too.

I posted on the fantastic lunch we had that day here.

Next up: my September trip to Italy continues with a series of posts from Friuli…


How do you say “happy as a clam” in Italian?

September 20, 2010

In Italian, when someone is as happy as a clam, you say that someone va in brodo di giuggiole, in other words, that she or he swims in jujube soup.

This sweet lady let me try one of her giuggiole in Arquà Petrarca. No Italian spoken here, just the sweet cadence of my beloved Veneto. Just to breath the fresh air of the Euganean Hills where Petrarch spent his last years of life fills my heart with joy.

She also let me try her sugolo, grape must pudding (made by boiling sweet grape must with flour). So yummy.

Lunch was served sotto una pergola (under a pergola), homemade pappardelle with fresh porcini (in season).

Fagottini stuffed with ricotta and pears.

I couldn’t resist the crostata di mele (apple pie).

Lunch with a wide selection of locally cured charcuterie, a pasta course, dessert, and wine (a Collli Euganei Pinot Bianco at a wonderful 12.5% alcohol!) was Euro 22 per person.

Have you ever taken a swim in jujube soup?


An orange, natural wine from the Veneto (and my very own mimetic desire)

December 19, 2009

Above: One of my favorite places in the world, a scene from Petrarch’s house in the hilltop town of Arquà in the heart of the Colli Eugenei (the Euganean Hills) in the province of Padua. One of my mentors, Professor Vittore Branca, believed that Petrarch spoke with a northern cadence, even though he was born to Tuscan parents in Arezzo. Petrarch spent most of his life in southern France, Milan, and Arquà. (Photo courtesy Padova Cultura.)

Nearly every Italian who’s ever heard me speak Italian will remark that I speak Italian with a simpatico Veneto accent. Some will place it in Padua, others (when I’ve got a belly full of wine) in Treviso (non è vero, Briciole?). But the many years I spent of study and touring with my Italian-based band in the Veneto profoundly informed and shaped my “Italian” identity.

When I saw that Franco had posted about what must be a truly wonderful orange, natural wine from my beloved Euganean Hills outside Padua, I couldn’t resist the mimetic desire it stirred in me.

Were they not the site of countless Sunday evenings spent with friends eating roast pollastro and patatine fritte, accompanied by side-splitting joke-telling in Veneto dialect and carafes of Malvasia and Cabernet Franc! Were they not the home to some of the most unique, distinct, and distinctive wines produced in the Veneto! Did they not abound with a dolce aura, a sweet air, and immense beauty!

The Euganean Hills would still hold a special place in my heart for it is there that my beloved Petrarch spent the last years of his life, under the protection of the Carraresi family, the lords of medieval Padua, and it is there he finished the final notes of the transcription of his autograph and idiograph version of the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (Fragments of Vernacular Things), his song book, his 366 poems devoted to the blond-haired and fair Laura (a laical breviary, with a poem for every day of the year and a proemium). Today, that beautiful book — singular also for its humanist script and the unusual binding format — resides in the Vatican Library (Codex Vaticanus 3195). It was the subject of my doctoral thesis: I have examined it myself, I have held it in my hands and run my fingers across its vellum leaves and scrutinized their pores, and I have felt its aura.

O to see those hills again! Someday, I’ll take Tracie B to visit them and and breath in their dolce aura, to see Petrarch’s house, and to taste the wines.

And I will tell my sweet Tracie B (my Laura and my dolce aura, with her fair skin as white as ivory, her eyes as blue as the fresh, clear water that flows in the streams of trans-Alpine lands)… I will tell her the same thing the vecchiette, the little old ladies, in Monselice at the foot of the Colli Euganei say as you begin your ascent to Arquà: non dimenticare di salutare la gatta del Petrarcadon’t forget to say hello to Petrarch’s cat

Above: The famous “gatta del Petrarca,” Petrarch’s female feline, who, as Modenese poet Alessandro Tassoni wrote in the 17th-century epic poem, The Rape of the Bucket, still bars the tops from crossing the dotta soglia, the erudite threshold. (Photo by Arquà Petrarca.)

Someday Tracie B will see it, too. In the meantime we can only dream of natural skin-contact Garganega and roast poissons.

Click here to read my translation of Franco’s post.

Buona domenica a tutti!


A closer reading: “The vine is the greatest commodity of Tuscany, if not of Italy.”

September 16, 2009

This just in: taste old Australian Semillon with me at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego on Saturday, September 26… yes, Australian wine, can you believe it?

Above: At the time of Dallington’s visit to Italy (1596), Bacchus was often depicted with Ariadne, his wife, as in this painting by Guido Reni (1557-1642). Today, we think of Bacchus (or Dionysus) as the god of wine. In fact, he was the god of luxuriant fertility, which was symbolized by the vine in antiquity, and so by association he became the god of wine. In ancient Italy, he was associated with the indigenous god Liber, who was celebrated with joyous abandon during the time of the grape harvest.

My post the other day on an “earlier Tuscan sun” and the description of grape growing and viticulture in late 16th-century Tuscany elicited some interesting comments and questions. Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to read and comment.

Simona, author of Briciole, brought up an important point: in the first line of the passage, Dallington uses the term Italy.

    The Vine.. without comparison is the greatest commodity of Tuscany, if not of Italy

Italy, as we know it today, was unified for the first time for a brief period in the modern era under Napoleon (1805-1814). Only in 1861 did Italy — as a nation — achieve independence from foreign domination. Until that time, the Italic peninsula was divided among its principalities or microstates, which often aligned themselves in league with foreign powers but never achieved a confederation defined by Italy’s natural geographical boundaries.

According to the OED, the toponym Italy begins to appear in the English language toward the end of the sixteenth-century, the same time that Dallington made his trip to Tuscany. (The terms Italy, Italian, and Italo, derive ultimately from the Latin Italia, in turn from the Latin Vitalia from vitulus, meaning calf; the ancient name Vitalia was owed to Italy’s abundant cattle.)

Even though the notion of the Italian nation and the term Italia had distinctly emerged by the 14th century (think of Petrarch’s song 126, Italia mia, ben che’l parlar sia indarno [My Italy, although speech does not aid]), the citizens of the Duke State of Tuscany encountered by Dallington would hardly have called themselves “Italians.”

Simona was right on: it’s truly remarkable that Dallington uses the term Italy and implicitly refers to an Italian nation. But what I find even more remarkable is the fact that he calls the vine the “greatest commodity of Tuscany, if not of Italy.”

More than two centuries had passed since Petrarch reproached the gluttonous cardinals of Avignon for their immovable love of Burgundian wine, asking them, “Is it not a puerile ambition to malign the many types of wines, so plentiful, found in all parts of Italy?” (See my post on this famous letter by Petrarch to Pope Urban V here.) The papacy was returned to Italy in 1378.

More than two centuries later, a foreigner arrived from Elizabethan England, and called the vine “Italy’s greatest commodity” — a preview of how viticulture would become a sine qua non of the Italian nation and Italian national identity.

This is the first in a series of “closer readings” of the Dallington text inspired by visitors’s comments. Next up: the origins of the term zibibbo. Stay tuned…


Lacan, Petrarch, Nietzsche, Fiorano, and hieroglyphic wine

July 29, 2009

Above: I love this image of the 1994 Malvasia by Fiorano, snapped by Tracie B in her apartment the other day. It’s a quasi-film-noir take on a hard-to-wrap-your-mind-around wine. One of the things that intrigues us about wine is its mystery: who made it and how and why? A glass of wine can be like Lacan’s hieroglyphs in the dessert.

Twentieth-century linguist, semiotician, and father of late-blooming French psychoanalysis Jacques Lacan famously asked his readers to consider how they would react in the following situation (perhaps a great premise for an ersatz reality show?):

    Suppose that in the desert you find a stone covered with hieroglyphics. You do not doubt for a moment that, behind them, there was a subject who wrote them. But it is an error to believe that each signifier is addressed to you — this is proved by the fact you cannot understand any of it. On the other hand, you define them as signifiers, by the fact that you are sure that each of the signifiers is related to each of the others.

(This passage is often cited in explaining Lacan’s theory of the “precedence of the signifier,” in other words, the notion that the word or symbol or sign always exists before meaning does.)

In some ways, protohumanist Francis Petrarch said the same thing when he wrote that as a young man, he could read Roman orator Cicero’s writing and he was enchanted by the words, their sounds, and their elegance, even though he could not (yet) understand what they meant.

Above: Tracie B’s contribution to our dinner Saturday at Italian Wine Guy’s was her excellent carbonara. It paired stunningly with the vibrant 92 Fiorano Semillon. Carbonara is another example of a trace of the past that has lost its meaning. No one knows for sure the origins of the dish or they etymon of its name.

As with literature and writing (even writing on the wall), we sometimes assign meaning to things not because we know the meaning intended by their authors or creators but because we simply come into contact with them. Nietzsche wrote about this in The Twilight of the Idols as “the error of imaginary causes,” as in dreams, when, for example, external stimulus (like a canon shot, as Nietzsche put it, or perhaps the song playing on a radio alarm clock) enters our subconscious:

    The ideas engendered by a certain condition have been misunderstood as the cause of that condition. We do just the same thing, in fact, when we are awake.

What do any of these things have to do with one another, beyond me stringing together a seemingly arbitrarily compiled handlist of philosophical and epistemological musings?

Every wine wine we approach and draw to our lips is a mystery, a riddle of the Sphinx. Every glass of wine is Lacan’s desert hieroglyph, Petrarch’s Cicero, and Nietzsche’s waking dream — ay, there’s the rub… And so were the three bottles of Fiorano white that Tracie B and I opened with Italian Wine Guy over the weekend as our birthday gift to him (and a thank you for all that he’s done for both of us, professionally and personally, over the last two years).

Above: Deciphering Fiorano through the prism of Italian Wine Guy aka Alfonso’s superb stemware, paired with his take on petto di pollo alla milanese. Photo by Tracie B.

A great deal has been written about the fascinating wines of Fiorano (Eric’s 2004 article was the first piece about these wines in English) but I think that Eric put it best when he called them “bygone wines”: they are wines that will never be made again. In part because wine is no longer produced in that fashion on the Fiorano estate (outside Rome) and in part because today, few if any would ever consider making white wines intended for such prolonged barrel aging. They are a trace of another time and era in winemaking. They are “classic” inasmuch as they will never be made again. They are a mystery, a conundrum that keeps us thinking. We know they exist and have existed (and we will know that even after we have drunk them all). We know someone made them but we will probably never know what he meant by them.

All we do know for certain is that they’re delicious.


Sunday Poetry on Friday and a painting too: Parmigianino and Ashbery

July 10, 2009

Tracie B and I are headed out to spend the weekend with her family at Canyon Lake — for swimming, relaxing, visiting, and playing Mexican Train. I’m really looking forward to going offline for the next few days and so I thought I’d post Sunday Poetry today (next week, btw, I’ve got a great post on deck on Petrarch’s “generous wine”).

The reflection in the spoon in the photo of the panna cotta in yesterday’s post made me think of the great American poet John Ashbery’s poem “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” in which he writes — ut pictura poësis — about Italian Renaissance master Parmigianino’s wonderful oil on wood. When I was studying poetry as a graduate student at U.C.L.A. and in Italy, I was fascinated by both works and every time I read the poem, I discover a new layer of meaning and semiosis — the “secret knowledge” that a distorted image can often reveal.

From “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror”
by John Ashbery

As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
And swerving easily away, as though to protect
What it advertises. A few leaded panes, old beams,
Fur, pleated muslin, a coral ring run together
In a movement supporting the face, which swims
Toward and away like the hand
Except that it is in repose. It is what is
Sequestered. Vasari says, “Francesco one day set himself
To take his own portrait, looking at himself from that purpose
In a convex mirror, such as is used by barbers . . .
He accordingly caused a ball of wood to be made
By a turner, and having divided it in half and
Brought it to the size of the mirror, he set himself
With great art to copy all that he saw in the glass,”
Chiefly his reflection, of which the portrait
Is the reflection, of which the portrait
Is the reflection once removed.
The glass chose to reflect only what he saw
Which was enough for his purpose: his image
Glazed, embalmed, projected at a 180-degree angle.
The time of day or the density of the light
Adhering to the face keeps it
Lively and intact in a recurring wave
Of arrival. The soul establishes itself.
But how far can it swim out through the eyes
And still return safely to its nest? The surface
Of the mirror being convex, the distance increases
Significantly; that is, enough to make the point
That the soul is a captive, treated humanely, kept
In suspension, unable to advance much farther
Than your look as it intercepts the picture.
Pope Clement and his court were “stupefied”
By it, according to Vasari, and promised a commission
That never materialized. The soul has to stay where it is,
Even though restless, hearing raindrops at the pane,
The sighing of autumn leaves thrashed by the wind,
Longing to be free, outside, but it must stay
Posing in this place. It must move
As little as possible. This is what the portrait says.

Read the poem in its entirety here.

Eating for Beginners once interviewed John Ashbery. I’m really looking forward to her upcoming posts on her passage on the Queen Mary 2 back from Europe with the German Professor and the Cheese Hater.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend y’all!


Petrarch and the unbearable thought of life without the wines of Burgundy

June 7, 2009

From the “Sunday poetry” department…

Above: In this Renaissance illuminated manuscript (painted book), Petrarch and Laura appear on the banks of a river. Laura, the river (the Sorgue), and the laurel tree (also depicted) are central to Petrarchan iconography. Petrarch knew the wines of Burgundy well but he liked the wines of Italy better.

Petrarch (1304-1374) knew the wines of Burgundy well. He spent most of his early life in and around Avignon, where his father followed the Babylonian exile of the papal court, and where the wines of the Côte d’Or already enjoyed considerable fame. It wasn’t far from Avignon where he first saw Laura, for whom he would write 366 poems, later gathered in his Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (Fragments of Vernacular Things, the title he gave to his Canzoniere or Song Book). Their first meeting took place in Vaucluse in 1327 (according to his own mythology).

Petrarch spent much of the latter half of his life trying to bring the papacy back to Rome. After one of his appeals to Pope Urban V, some of the cardinals argued that a return to Rome would be unthinkable: how could they survive, they told the pope, without the health-enhancing properties of the wines of Burgundy? Petrarch responded with one of his most famous political letters and a passage, often cited but seldom revisited, in which he chastises the gluttonous cardinals. But in the same stroke, he invites them to experience the wines of Italy:

    Is it not a puerile ambition to malign the many types of wines, so plentiful, found in all parts of Italy? … Let them come and see for themselves — all those for whom life would be unbearable without the wines of Burgundy! They will find copious amounts of grain, olive oil, wines, plants, and fruits. Here there are fruits unfamiliar to you and unknown in your [colder] climate. The woods, beasts, wild animals, game, and food and spices are so abundant that no one dies of hunger…

    Seniles 9, to Pope Urban V, August 1366 (translation adapted from Aldo Bernardo)

In last week’s Sunday poetry post, Petrarch flowed the rivers of the world together in verse. Laura is absent and he longs for the river where she appeared: no other river, he cries, could quench the fire burning in his soul.

In this week’s post, he happens upon Laura by a river, innocently washing her veil. She is more beautiful than the huntress goddess Diana who turned Acteon’s dogs upon him when he happened upon her bathing nude in a river.

Magridal 52 is one of the most exquisite compositions in Petrarch’s Rerum. As summer temperatures rise here in Texas, there is a someone special in my life, too, who can still make me “tremble with a chill of love.”

    Not so much did Diana please her lover when, by a similar
    chance, he saw her all naked amid the icy waters,

    as did the cruel mountain shepherdess please me, set to wash a
    pretty veil that keeps her lovely blond head from the breeze;

    so that she made me, even now when the sky is burning, all
    tremble with a chill of love.

    (translation by Robert Durling)

    Non al suo amante più Diana piacque
    quando per tal ventura tutta ignuda
    la vide in mezzo de le gelide acque,

    ch’a me la pastorella alpestra e cruda
    posta a bagnar un leggiadretto velo
    ch’a l’aura il vago e biondo capel chiuda;

    tal che mi fece, or quand’egli arde’l cielo,
    tutto tremar d’un amoroso gelo.


Poetry for Sunday: Petrarch’s musical rivers

May 31, 2009

People seemed to enjoy last week’s Poetry for Sunday so I thought I’d try another one this week…

A quick search online revealed this wonderful gallery at the Beinecke Library (Yale) site. Petrarch’s script inspired a generation of Northern Italian amanuenses and calligraphers who developed what would later be called “humanist script.” The inscription at the top of the folio reads: “Here happily begin the songs in verse in elegy of Laura by the illustrious poet Francis Petrarch.”

When I lived in Italy in the 1990s as a graduate student, I had the great fortune to meet a number of twentieth-century Italian poets, including Giovanna Sandri, whose poetry I translated for a collection of modern poetry published by my dissertation adviser. One day, when I was doing research for my dissertation at the Vatican library, she invited me over for a lunch of rice and baby shrimp — “translation and risotto di gamberetti” she wrote playfully in a dedication she signed in a copy of one of her books that she gave to me. Her primary literary interest was the group of Roman poets and the Gruppo 63 poets among whom she had come of age literarily and literally. But when she asked me about my studies devoted to Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, fourteenth-century Italian poet and humanist) she fondly remembered her favorite sonnet. She loved the way that Petrarch ingeniously listed the great rivers of the world in meter (in this case, rhymed hendecasyllables — eleven-syllable lines, the classic meter of Italian medieval lyric).

The following is Robert Durling’s translation of the sonnet and the original Italian. Even if you don’t read Italian, try reading the lines out loud to hear the music of Petrarch’s verse.

The tree in the poem is central to the body of poetry and the new poetical language that Petrarch created for his beloved Laura: the laurel tree (do you hear the paronomasia between Laura and lauro or laurel?), the tree so dear to Apollo the god of music and poetry (among other things) because his beloved Daphne had been transformed into a laurel tree so she could escape his amorous advances.

    Not Tesino, Po, Varo, Arno, Adige, or Tiber, Euphrates, Tigris, Nile, Hermus, Indus or Ganges, Don, Danube, Alpheus, Garonne, the sea-breaker Timavus, Rhône, Ebro, Rhine, Seine, Elbe, Loire, or Hebrus —

    not ivy, fir, pine, beech, or juniper — could lessen the fire that wearies my sad heart as much as a lovely stream that from time to time weeps along with me, and the slender tree that in my rhymes I beautify and celebrate.

    I find this a help amid the assaults of Love, where I must live out in armor my life that goes by with such great leaps.

    Then let this lovely laurel grow on the fresh bank; and he who planted it, let him — in its sweet shade, to the sound of the waters — write high and happy thoughts!

    Non Tesin, Po, Varo, Arno, Adige e Tebro
    Eufrate, Tigre, Nilo, Ermo, Indo et Gange,
    Tana, Istro, Alfeo, Garona, e’l mar che frange,
    Rodano, Ibero, Ren, Sena, Albia, Era, Ebro —

    non edra, abete, pin, faggio o genebro —
    poria ‘l foco allentar che’l cor tristo ange
    quant’un bel rio ch’ad ogni or meco piange
    co l’arboscel che’in rime orno e celebro

    Questo un soccorso trovo fra gli assalti
    d’Amore, ove conven ch’armato viva
    la vita che trapassa a sì gran salti.

    Così cresca il bel lauro in fresca riva,
    e chi’l piantò pensier leggiadri et alti
    ne la dolce ombra al suon de l’acque scriva!

What does wine have to do with any of this? In his prose, Petrarch wrote famously about wine and in particular about the wines of Burgundy, but that will have to wait for another post. Today, let’s just enjoy his musical rivers.

Thanks for reading…


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