Study Guide

Chiare Fresche et Dolci Acque Stanza 2

By Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch

Stanza 2

Lines 14-26

If it, indeed, must be my fate,
and Heaven works its ways,
that Love close up these eyes while they still weep,
let grace see my poor body
be buried there among you
and let my soul return to its home naked;
then death would be less harsh
if I could bear this hope
unto that fearful crossing,
because the weary soul
could never in a more secluded port,
in a more tranquil grave,
flee from my poor belabored flesh and bones.

  • After that dreamy first stanza, you may be a little lost in the first few lines of stanza 2. You may ask yourself, "What happened to all those flowers and the gorgeous girl?" Yeah, that's over now. Stanza 2 is all about Petrarch's morbid fantasy to escape his suffering and possibly—in the future—make some posthumous inroads with Laura.
  • The speaker begins by toying with the idea of an early death. Would it be so bad? Not really, if we are to believe the implication in line 3, that personified Love might "close up these eyes while they still weep," and thereby put an end to his suffering. Yes, it would be sad and he doesn't directly wish for this to happen (note the passive-aggressive "If it, indeed, must be my fate/ and Heaven works its ways"). But just in case it does, Petrarch has a fully formed plan in his mind:
    1) Get buried in this wonderful place;
    2) Be allowed to keep his love memories as he goes into the light; and
    3) Let his weary spirit flee from his weak body ("belabored flesh").
  • Then, well… death would be pretty okay. Yes, Petrarch is being dramatic, but aside from any real depression he might have felt over Laura, he's also participating in the cultural and poetic conventions of "fin'amor"—something he picked up from the Provençal troubadours that he so admired. In these conventions, lovesickness is a real thing and it could actually sicken and kill you. We may not have any sympathy with this now, but take a look at Shakespeare's sonnets, Sir Philip Sidney, or Geoffrey Chaucer and you will see the tradition alive and well.
  • If you're going to get into the spirit of the poem, you've got to develop some sympathy with Petrarch—even if you think he's a bit silly. To help you along, take a look at lines 23-26:
    because the weary soul
    could never in a more secluded port,
    in a more tranquil grave,
    flee from my poor belabored flesh and bones.
  • Petrarch may not go seeking death at his own hand, but he's so plagued by this frustrated love that his soul will slip away quietly, without any struggle on his part. The metaphorical description of his grave as a "secluded port" and as "tranquil" highlight the fact that his death would not be unwelcomed, nor would it be mourned—at least by him.
  • Stanza 2 is the best example of Petrarch's use of settenari (don't freak out, it's a just a seven-syllable line with two or three stresses) in the poem. The accent pattern itself is pronounced in this stanza, quite strong and easy to hear when you listen to it in the original Italian. The strength of the metrical stresses matches the power of Petrarch's emotions here. Lines 19-20 illustrate this well: "la morte fia men cruda/se questa spene porto" ("then death would be less harsh/if I could bear this hope").
  • For a more comprehensive discussion of this metrical patterning, check out the "Form and Meter" section.

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