a longing description for the sodomite’s unavailable partner. This bernesque work is so fascinating not simply because it disrupts Petrarchan norms, but because it does so by identifying the rich interpretive possibilities of Petrarch’s poetry and uses those moments in innovative and interesting, if hilarious and scandalous, ways.
Chiome d’argento fino
Francesco Petrarca develops a standard female aesthetic ideal in his Canzoniere, despite the fact that the work never presents a complete image of the beautiful beloved. “We never see in the Rime sparse a complete picture of Laura,” but rather, “Laura is always presented as a part or parts of a woman.”18 The reader gets the occasional glimpse of her hair, her hands, her eyes, her lips, but interestingly, usually not all together. Instead, her various features are spread across the bulk of the Canzoniere, scattered like the rhymes themselves are. One finds, for example, her hair in poems 52 and 90, her eyes in canzoni 71 through 73, and her hands in sonnets 199 through 201. Perhaps this fragmentation is itself the cause of the disjuncture of the poetry. Laura is a memory that is never totally accessible, her features strewn across the pages like so many seeds from which sprout the somewhat sporadic songs that sublimely sing the praises of her beauty. As a memory, the woman herself is absent from the poetry, leaving the speaker to describe her image, or at least bits of her image.
The substance of the absent beloved comes not from the body itself, then, but from the physical objects to which her various features are compared. These objects are typically precious materials like gold, pearls, coral, ivory and ebony, though can also be
18 Nancy Vickers, “Diana Described: Scattered Woman and Scattered Rhyme,” in Writing and Sexual Difference, ed. Elizabeth Abel, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982): 95-109, here 96.