The Symbolism of Petrarch's Canzone to the Virgin

Snow, Francis Woolson

It has, so far as the writer knows, never been pointed out that Petrarch's magnificent invocation to the Virgin, in the high and solemn beauty of which the mystic and essentially mediaeval side of the poet's complex nature finds eloquent expression, contains the same symbolism as that on which the early Christian hymnists based their morning hymns; which forms the nucleus of the tenth century bilingual alba discovered by Johann Schmidt in the Vatican Library in 1881; and which was utilized by Folquet de Marselha (if the attribution be reliable) and his successors in this field, as a nucleus for the production of the psychologically interesting, and, to certain temperaments, aesthetically pleasing religious albas of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Provence. This important fact, if it can be demonstrated, is a striking instance of what, for the dawn genre in general, may be stated as a species of universal law, by the operation of which the development of this form seems to have been largely conditioned. I refer to the attractive power which this theme, in all its aspects, has exerted, at different times and in different places, over minds of great and even transcendent poetic talent, in virtue of which there has formed around the motif a body of poetry which, both qualitatively and quantitatively, is altogether remarkable.

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Romanic Review

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Academic Units
French and Romance Philology
Columbia University Press
Published Here
July 31, 2015


Source: / Bibliothèque nationale de France