Study Guide

Italia Mia The Song as a Woman in Distress-Personification of Peace

By Petrarch

The Song as a Woman in Distress-Personification of Peace

This is strangest image we've seen in a while, to be honest. Petrarch uses his envoy or congedo (the last, farewell stanza) to turn his poem into a person. But personification of the poem itself is not particularly weird (Chaucer did this all the time, as does Petrarch in "Chiare, fresche, et dolci acque"). What's more odd is that Petrarch actually figures the poem as a damsel in distress.

On first blush, that sounds bizarre, but let's hear Petrarch out. He tells us in the beginning of stanza 8 that the poem is going to have its work cut out for it, since the princes are stubborn and prideful. The only way to get the point across is to find good people and act helpless:

But you must try your fortune
among the valiant few who love the good;
tell them: "Who will protect me?
I go my way beseeching: Peace, peace, peace."
(119-122)

Petrarch invokes the image of Eirene, the ancient Roman personification of peace. By doing this, he's appealing to the noble Roman that surely must be hidden somewhere in the frozen hearts of these princes. Petrarch is crazy, all right… crazy like a fox.

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