Remarkably, when directly compared to Canzoniere 157, one finds that the aesthetic standard and linguistic construction of that standard seem to be the only Petrarchan elements that Bembo’s sonnet in fact preserves. The Petrarchan sonnet fails to completely capture the memory of the encounter with a dynamic beloved. As Peter Hainsworth, observes of Petrarch’s sonnet 157: “For all the brightness and colour of the imagery the experience is not purified. Pity and dismay complicate the aesthetic pleasure.”21 Not only does the poem fail to present a single, clear image of the beloved, then, but it also resists limiting the experience of the speaker to a single emotional reaction. As Hainsworth further, and more dramatically, comments: “The experience of beauty here involves something like sadism, if only the sadism of beauty.”22 The original episode and its memory are both “sempre acerbo et onorato.” Bembo’s work, on the other hand, is limited to the description of static contemporary visual appearance. His vision is pleasing, as is his viewing of it. His work does not grapple with memory access or descriptive inadequacy. It is never acknowledges its status as a poem, therefore occupying itself only with an account of the beloved and not, like the Petrarchan original, with a meditation on the capacity and function of poetry. Thus, the Bembo poem, an exemplar of the tradition of Petrarchism, though it maintains the Petrarchan aesthetic ideal and poetic technique, limits and simplifies the poetic project originally developed in the Canzoniere. He reduces it to the stylized depiction of a stylized beauty.
As illustrated earlier, in the Sonetto del bacciliero, Francesco Berni does not engage the Petrarchan poetic tradition so narrowly, reducing it to a stylized depiction of an aesthetic ideal. Instead, his works swam against the powerful tide of Petrarchism,
21 Hainsworth, 124
22 Ibid., 124