bella man che mi destringi ‘l core / e ‘n poco spazio la mia vita chiudi.” The hand is active, utilitarian. Thus, in making a chamber pot the subject of his poem, Berni again is parodying the Petrarchan tradition by returning to the Petrarchan poem and utilizing and inverting its complex imagery: the hand is not only beautiful, it is also useful. The utilitarian aspect of the described object is exaggerated in his sonnet, as Berni picks a base and quotidian chamber pot, a useful household object that he nominates as beautiful, to stand in for the more elegant, but also useful, hand.
Berni does not only use the complex image of the hand found in Canzoniere 199, he also engages the very interesting Petrarchan glove, which in sonnet 199 has more than just utilitarian connotations. Canzoniere 199 is the moment in which the veil, here in the form of a glove, becomes eroticized in the Petrarchan tradition. The veil is a common topos of Petrarchan poetry and shows up frequently in the Canzoniere itself, very famously in Canzoniere 52, the volume’s first madrigal, and again in 126, in which the beloved wipes her eyes with her “bel velo.” Very interestingly, before Canzoniere 199, the veil is appropriated as an impediment to the erotic encounter, as the works preceding this sonnet extol moments when Laura has removed her opaque cover.17
One sees a dramatic shift, however, in Canzoniere 199, following a three-sonnet series that revels in the free-flowing mane of the unveiled beloved. While this poem does maintain the poet’s delight in the unclothed glimpses he catches of his desired’s body, it adds a new dimension to the poetry, which is the delight in the veil itself. That delight enters into the poetic discourse in the first terzina of sonnet 199, when the veil itself
17 As to what Laura’s veil could have really looked like, how opaque or transparent it could have been, and how much of her body it could have actually covered, see Mirollo, Chapter 3, “Visage and Veil: The bel viso and the bel velo,” especially pages 99-115.