Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/525

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CANTO IV.]
481
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

love of Petrarch was not platonic. The happiness which he prayed to possess but once and for a moment was surely not of the mind,[1] and something so very real as a marriage project, with one who has been idly called a shadovy nymph, may be, perhaps, detected in at least six places of his own sonnets. The love of Petrarch was neither platonic nor poetical; and if in one passage of his works he calls it "amore veementeissimo ma unico ed onesto," he confesses, in a letter to a friend, that it was guilty and perverse, that it absorbed him quite, and mastered his heart.

In this case, however, he was perhaps alarmed for the culpability of his wishes; for the Abbé de Sade himself, who certainly would not have been scrupulously delicate if he could have proved his descent from Petrarch as well as Laura, is forced into a stout defence of his virtuous grandmother. As far as relates to the poet, we have no security for the innocence, except perhaps in the constancy of his pursuit. He assures us in his epistle to posterity, that, when arrived at his fortieth year, he not only had in horror, but had lost all recollection and image of any "irregularity." But the birth of his natural daughter cannot be assigned earlier than his thirty-ninth year; and either the memory or the morality of the poet must have failed him, when he forgot or was guilty of this slip.[2] The weakest argument for the purity of this love has been drawn from the permanence of its effects, which survived the object of his passion. The reflection of M. de la Bastie, that virtue alone is capable of making

    The old editors read and printed perturbationibus; but M. Capperonier, librarian to the French king in 1762, who saw the MS. in the Paris library, made an attestation that "on lit et qu'on doit lire, partubus exhaustum." De Sade joined the names of Messrs. Boudot and Béjot with M. Capperonier, and, in the whole discussion on this ptubs, showed himself a downright literary rogue. (See Riflessioni, p. lxxiv. sq.; Le Rime del Petrarca, Firenze, 1832, ii. s.f.) Thomas Aquinas is called in to settle whether Petrarch's mistress was a chaste maid or a continent wife.

  1. "Pigmalion, quanto lodar ti dei
    Dell' immagine tua, se mille volte
    N' avesti quel, ch' i' sol una vorrei!"

    Sonetto 50, Quando giunse a Simon l'alto concetto.
    Le Rime, etc., i. 118, edit. Florence, 1832.

  2. "A questa confessione così sincera diede forse occasione una nuova caduta, ch' ei fece."—Tiraboschi, Storia, lib. iii., della Letteratura Italiana, Rome, 1783, v. 460.