Music as the Perfecting of Poetry: Liszt – Sonetto 104 del Petrarca (c. 1846)

Francesco Petrarch

Francesco Petrarch

Petrarch/Liszt, sonnet 104. “The effect of the abbaabba octave is truly remarkable. It is actually a blend of 3 brace-rhyme quatrains, since the middle 4 verses whose sounds overlap the others and echo their patterns, impress the reader with a similar sound pattern, thus, abBAABba.”(Alex Preminger, ed., Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics)

Canzone CIV by Petrarch (1304-1374):

Pace non trovo, et non ò da far guerra;
e temo, et spero; et ardo, et son un ghiaccio;
et volo sopra ‘l cielo, et giaccio in terra;
et nulla stringo, et tutto ‘l mondo abbraccio.

Tal m’à in pregion, che non m’apre né serra,
né per suo mi riten né scioglie il laccio;
et non m’ancide Amore, et non mi sferra,
né mi vuol vivo, né mi trae d’impaccio.

Veggio senza occhi, et non ò lingua et grido;
et bramo di perir, et cheggio aita;
et ò in odio me stesso, et amo altrui.

Pascomi di dolor, piangendo rido;
egualmente mi spiace morte et vita:
in questo stato son, donna, per voi.

The translation is by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542), who introduced the sonnet into English. He changed, however, Petrarch’s scheme of an octave followed by a volta in the form of a sestet to three quatrains with a closing couplet. He was a member of the delegation to Rome to petition Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon.


Sir Thomas Wyatt, by Hans Holbein the Younger

I fynde no peace and all my warre is done,
I feare and hope, I bourne and freese lyke yse;
I flye above the wynde, yet cannot ryse;
And nought I have, yet all the worlde I season,
That looseth, nor lacketh, holdes me in pryson,
And holdes me not, yet can I escape no wyse.
Nor lets me leeve, nor die at my devyce,
And yet of death it giveth none occasion.
Without eye I see, and without tongue I playne;
I desyre to perishe, yet aske I health;
I love another, and yet I hate my self;
I feede in sorrow and laughe in all my payne,
Lykewyse pleaseth me both death and lyf,
And my delight is cawser of my greif.

Franz Liszt (1811-1886), Années de pèlerinage, deuxième année: Italie, No 5



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