Canzoniere 227, “Aura che quelle chiome bionde et crespe / cercondi et movi et se’ mossa da loro / soavamente, et spargi quel dolce oro / et poi ‘l raccogli e’n ben nodi il rincrespe.” The first line of Berni’s sonnet continues, and describes the beloved’s tresses as “argento,” which can also be identified as a Petrarchan technique. Though overwhelmingly golden, Laura’s enchanting mane is, in fact, once referred to as silver. In Canzoniere 12, the speaker ponders the future, when he will see the beloved’s “cape’ d’oro fin farsi d’argento.” Thus, “chiome d’argento fino,” while not the typical Petrarchan image, is a possible vision that the typical Renaissance reader could identify as Petrarchan. What is remarkable about the opening line of Berni’s sonnet, then, is not that the hair is gray and twisted, but the Petrarchan way in which it is so.
While Laura may have had hair that was softly knotted by a light breeze and that did have the potential of turning to a stately silver, her hair was never, ever “irte e attorte senz’arte.” Berni’s poem seems to be aware of the way it is separating itself from the Petrarchan tradition, as it rhythmically separates the innovative element of the hair’s description. The line may be rhythmically diagrammed in the following manner:
Chio-me – d’ar-gen-to – fi-no, - // - ir-te e at- tor-te
With the heaviest accented syllable falling on the sixth beat, the caesura following the seventh, and a lightly stressed syllable on the first and tenth beats, this line is classified as a maiore. What is especially interesting, though, is the placement of the caesura and the division of the seventh and eighth syllables. Usually, there are no syllabic divisions between successive words that end and start with vowels.24 This line, however,
24 For example, the second line of Dante’s Inferno would be divided as follows: mi-ri-tro-vai-pe-ru-na-sel-va o-scu-ra. Here, there is no division between “va” and “os.” Even though “va” and “os” form parts of different words, because of they are successive vowels in a poetic line, they are counted as one single syllable.