predecessor allows for this word play, illustrating how Berni’s relationship to this earlier work adds a level of sophistication to the seemingly lighthearted rubbish.
Further, the opening lines of Berni’s poem allow for a reevaluation even of the original Petrarchan sonnet. Peter Hainsworth, in his useful introduction to Petrarch’s work Petrarch the Poet, points out:
When Cino da Pistoia…dies, he does not receive from Petrarch the kind of fulsome tribute which he, in his turn, had paid to Dante. The sonnet (92) is perfunctory: Cino the love-poet is dead, says the poem, and it asks in turn ladies, love, lovers, and Pistoia (which exiled him) to weep for him. And that is all. The much less significant figure of Sennucio del Bene…receives on his death a much more impressive sonnet than the one for Cino.14
Berni’s sonnet seems to be playing with the original Petrarchan sonnet’s shortcoming. Recalling the opening of Canzoniere 92 does not simply invoke grave Petrarchan solemnity, but evokes the image of a mismatched pair, that there is some kind of disjuncture between the poem and its subject. Berni exaggerates and inverts this disjuncture: while in the Canzoniere, the sonnet does not exactly suit the subject, in Berni’s work, the subject, the common chamber pot of a young man who is himself only an unidentified student, does not seem to fit the sonnet. Thus, there is an original Petrarchan complexity that Berni’s sonnet identifies and preserves even when discoursing on a chamber pot. Perhaps it is even exactly because he chooses an item not found on Petrarch’s catalogue of praiseworthy subjects that Berni is able, in fact, to identify and maintain this complexity.
In addition, the first terzina of Berni’s sonnet is notably a Petrarchan quotation. Here, the poem addresses its reader, asking “chi vide mai tal pentolino?” and following
14 Peter Hainsworth, Petrarch the Poet: An Introduction to the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (New York: Routledge, 1988), 78-79.