Friday, March 18, 2011

From Petrarch

This poem is about a man longing for a woman. But she's more than a woman really, she's a goddess. I loved the way this poem made the woman sound strong and free with words like "streamed", "bright waves", and "Zephyr's sighs". She sounds untamable and untouchable. On the other hand, the man who is pining after her sounds rather pathetic. He's no match for her possibly deceptive "warm love" and beaming "melting pity", especially with his "tender heart". The speaker doesn't seem to paint her as a man-eater, but as a strong woman; regal, independent, and self-sufficient.
The woman never speaks in this poem, only the lovesick man. At first, this choice seems potentially sexist on the poet's part. However, after examining the poem more closely, it seems more fitting that the poet was highlighting the needs of the man versus the woman by having only him speak. The speaker (the man) is in pain over this goddess. He asks questions and makes exclamations and (as brought out above) uses adjectives to highlight his dependent nature and, in contrast, her independent nature. His thoughts jump around sporadically much like someone in love, as can be seen by the many variations of punctuation liberally spread throughout the poem.
The woman doesn't speak because she doesn't have to. She has nothing to say on the subject; the man's infatuation doesn't interest her and her feelings (or lack thereof) for the man aren't saturating her thoughts. Having her speak would make her weaker in our eyes. We would wonder why she felt the need to defend her feelings, and she might seem more like a human and less like a goddess to us (after all, goddesses don't address their public). The unknowable, distant, and perhaps even cold nature of this woman is known to the man speaking, and by her epic silence we can relate to how she makes him feel: like an average mortal trying to comprehend a mysterious entity.

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