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are 'fishers of men, who catch a credulous multitude, and de'vour them for their prey,' he attacked the papal system, not its locality
During this period Petrarch began the study of Greek. Bernardo Barlaamo, a Calabrian monk, was his instructor; a celebrated man, who had resided at Constantinople, and been abbot there ;-but in 1343, the death of King Robert of Naples induced the pope to send him there, to negotiate with the council respecting the regency. When he arrived at Naples, all was in confusion, and his letters from thence are valuable contributions toward the history of the unfortunate Queen Giovanna, whose story, as Mr. Čampbell justly says, reminds us greatly of Mary, Queen of Scots. He quitted Naples soon after, and again retired to Parma ;—in the following year its siege compelled Petrarch to seek another retreat, and he determined to return to Avignon.
At this period a change seems to have passed over his mind in reference to Laura; and after an almost songless interval, he again pours forth the most ardent homage in strains of untranslateable beauty. The two following sonnets are among the proofs of this ; the first translated by Mrs. Wollaston, the second by Mr. Campbell
Oh! what rich vein to Love the gold bequeath'd
sprang the pearls from whose restraint unsheath'd
-One Hundred Sonnets, p. 147.
A living sun she seemed spirit of Heaven,
-Life of Petrarch, pp. 364, 365. Mr. Campbell remarks that now the twentieth year of his devotion to Laura had elapsed ; in viewing an attachment so deep and permanent, our sympathy begins to get ahead of our 'strict morality.' There is, however, no necessity that it shoưld do so, since we think an easier solution is at hand than that which views Laura as yielding at length to a misplaced passion. We have already remarked that the married life of Laura was most unhappy; while that her husband had no very strong attachment to her, perhaps had formed another, is evident from his marrying within a few months after her death. Now divorces were of common occurrence among the nobility at this period, and especially in Italy, from the facility of obtaining papal dispensations. What, therefore, is more probable than that such a step might be contemplated by Hugh de Sade; and that the hope that Laura might eventually become free, should awaken in Petrarch's heart all the eager expectations which for so long a course of years he feared to indulge ? At this period, too, he was free, for the mother of his two children died in 1343. Church preferment had repeatedly been offered him, and repeatedly been refused, and it is difficult to account for this, seeing that immediately after Laura's death he entered the church, save by supposing that he still indulged the hope of eventually becoming the husband of his twenty years loved mistress. His reply to the remonstrance of St. Augustine, whom in an imaginary conversation in his work “De Con' temptu Mundi,' he represents as addressing him, is conclusive testimony, we think, to Laura's unstained character.
• Thou wilt not deny that the little good thou beholdest in me, is the work of her hands. However undeserving I may be of my present name and glory, still I had not attained this proud eminence, had not she, by her noble precepts, warmed into life the feeble germs of virtue nature had implanted within me. She it was who withdrew my youthful heart from its associating impurity; and, by the power of sympathy, made it pant for the contemplation of all that was sublime --thus, by love, changing the very nature of the lover. Never has the audacious and sharpened tooth of calumny dared to lacerate her spotless fame-not one hath presumed to breathe his censure either upon her actions, her words, or her looks ; whilst they who confound alike all that should excite respect, silently evince their veneration of her, by leaving her in peace. Is it marvellous that one so pure, should have awakened within me the desire of winning a fame bright as her own, whilst my youthful aspirations sought no other recompense, save
her approval, who alone gave me pleasure on earth ? And thou wouldst have me forget her—thou wouldst bid me love her less, who, in withdrawing me from a contact with the multitude, elected herself my guide in every undertaking-was the gentle spur of my sluggish spirit—and fanned anew into flame my half extinguished genius.'
-One Hundred Sonnets, pp. 32, 33. Surely she, who many years after her death was the object of such grateful remembrance, must have been well worthy the poet's homage.
It was during this time that the singular revolution under Cola de Rienzo was accomplished at Rome; and Petrarch, whose feelings were always on the side of freedom, hastened to congratulate the tribune, and celebrate the event in an allegorical poem. But after events soon proved that Roman liberty was not as yet to triumph, and Petrarch at length found that Rienzo was not the hero he contemplated. He now determined to retire to Italy: it is not improbable that he had excited the hostility of some of the papal court, by his avowed advocacy of Rienzo, perhaps by his censures on the profligacy of the clergy at Avignon ; where, however, he intended to settle is not known. Previously to quitting Avignon, he took leave of Laura, little thinking that it would be their last meeting. Toward the close of the year 1347, he proceeded to Genoa, and from thence to Verona.
The year 1348 was memorable throughout all Europe, for the earthquake that terrified its southern coasts, and the plague, which spread desolation from its eastern to its western boundary. Through all the ravages of that fearful pestilence Petrarch remained unharmed, but Laura fell a victim to it on the 6th of April, 1348. The following note, written by his own hand, in his copy of Virgil, which was formerly in the Ambrosian library at Milan, records his irreparable loss.
Laura, illustrious for her virtues, and for a long time celebrated in my verses, for the first time appeared to my eyes on the 6th of April, 1327, in the church of St. Clara, at the first hour of the day. I was then in my youth. In the same city, and at the same hour, in the year 1348, this luminary disappeared from our world. I was then at Verona, ignorant of my wretched situation. Her chaste and beautiful body was buried the same day, after vespers, in the church of the Cordeliers. Her soul returned to its native mansion in heaven. I have written this with a pleasure mixed with bitterness, to retrace the melancholy remembrance of 'MY GREAT Loss. This loss convinces me that I have nothing now left worth living for, since the strongest cord of my life is broken. By the grace of God, I shall easily renounce a world where my hopes have been vain and perishing. It is time for me to fly from Babylon when the knot that bound me to it is untied.'-Life of Petrarch, vol. i. pp. 358, 359.
The death of Laura seems to have effected what she earnestly desired during her life—the advance of her lover in virtue and religion. Still, as may well be supposed, his sorrow was too severe to yield without a protracted struggle. The following sonnet, written most probably soon after, is very beautiful.
• Lady! whose gentle virtues have obtain'd
faith and love thou canst attest,
-One Hundred Sonnets, p. 247. But years after, Petrarch besought forgiveness for that idolatry which, occupied with the contemplation of her blessedness, had well nigh forgotten Him, who claimed his first devotion.
The three years after his loss were spent in visiting the various Italian cities, where he received the highest honors; during his stay at Padua, he met two Carthusian friars, and from them learnt the following interesting particulars of his brother Gherardo, who, some years before, in sorrow for the loss of a lady to whom he was devotedly attached, retired to the cloister.
• The plague, they said, having got into the convent of Montrieux, the prior, a pious but timorous man, told his monks that flight was the only course which they could take. Gherardo answered with courage, 'Go whither you please! As for myself, I will remain in the situation in which Heaven has placed me.' The prior fled to his own country, where death soon overtook him. Gherardo remained in the convent, where the plague spared him, and left him alone, after having destroyed, within
a few days, thirty-four of the brethren who had continued with him. He paid them every service, received their last sighs, and buried them when death had taken off those to whom that office belonged. With only a dog left for his companion, Gherardo watched at night to guard the house, and took his repose by day. When the summer was over, he went to a neighboring monastery of the Carthusians, who enabled him to restore his convent.
While the Carthusians were making this honorable mention of Father Gherardo, the prelate cast his eyes from time to time upon Petrarch. I know not,' says the poet, 'whether my eyes were filled with tears, but my heart was tenderly touched. The Carthusians, at last discovering who Petrarch was, saluted him with congratulations. Petrarch gives an account of this interview in a letter to his brother himself.'— Life of Petrarch, vol. ii. pp. 67, 68.
From Padua, Petrarch proceeded to Venice, where he formed an acquaintance with its Doge, Andrea Dandolo, to whom soon after he addressed an earnest remonstrance on the occasion of its war with Genoa. The remonstrance was unheeded, although the writer was complimented for his deep eloquence; but if disappointed in his patriotic aim of preserving the peace and unity of the Italian cities, he received intelligence which highly gratified him, in the restoration of his family estates, and his admission to the citizenship of Florence, united to an invitation, in the name of the republic, that he would reside in the city of his ancestors, and become the head of the projected university. Petrarch declined the latter offer in a courteous letter, and proceeded northward. In the summer of 1351, he revisited Vaucluse, and wrote some of his most pleasing Latin verses in its praise. He then proceeded to Avignon, where, indignant at the even increasing profligacy of the western Babylon,' he wrote his seventh eclogue. It seems strange that this stern censurer of the clergy should have been invited by Clement the Sixth, himself no faultless character, to become his secretary ;-was it on the principle that in the present day offers lucrative situations under government to the leaders of the opposition ? However this may be, we find some objections were made; Petrarch took the advantage of them, and declined the honor, with the same feeling, he says, as that of a prisoner when the gates of his dungeon are thrown open.'
On the accession, soon after, of Innocent the Sixth to the papal chair, Petrarch retired to Milan, under the protection of the powerful John Visconti. This step was greatly blamed by his friends, for Visconti was a despot; and Petrarch's apology for his conduct, which, indeed, stripped of all its ornaments, is little more than 'I could not help it,' dissatisfied them still
Without apologizing for him, as Mr. Campbell has, on the ground of his admiration of Visconti's talents, we think' his conduct may probably have arisen from the necessity of placing himself under the guardianship of a powerful prince. Petrarch had evidently excited much ill will at Avignon, and by the present pontiff he was actually viewed as a magician ;-while by his unwise attacks on the physicians there, he had excited their bitterest hostility; it might be as well then for him to retire to a better guarded place than the solitude of Vaucluse, and in