Study Guide

Italia Mia Patriotism

By Petrarch

Patriotism

O, my own Italy, though words be useless
to heal the mortal wounds
I see covering all your lovely body,
I wish at least for my sighs to be one
with Tiber's hopes and Arno's
as well as Po's (1-6)

It's pretty amazing to see someone in medieval Italy write the phrase "Oh, my Italy." This is because the idea of Italy as a nation doesn't come along until many centuries later. But Petrarch is a unique guy, so it doesn't surprise us that he feels such affinity for the land and his cultural heritage.

what are the swords of strangers doing here? (20)

It may strike you that Petrarch is being a bit harsh on foreigners—and you'd be right. To be fair, he's got pretty good reason. German mercenary armies have been pillaging the land and spurring on the fighting between the noble houses of Italy—not cool, strangers.

Nature provided well for our condition
when she raised up the screen
of the Alps between us and the German rage (33-35)

This is the darker side of patriotism: xenophobia and isolationism. Petrarch can't understand why Italian princes had to go spoil the perfection of Italy by inviting those German barbarian warriors in.

Your disagreeing wills
despoil the fairest part of all the world (55-56)

Petrarch's disgust at the destructive behavior of the Italian princes is in direct proportion to his admiration for his Italy. She really is the fairest one of all.

Is this not the first soil my body touched?
Is this not my own nest
In which I found myself so sweetly nourished?
Is this not my own country I have trust in,
kind mother, merciful,
who serves to shelter both of my dear parents? (81-86)

If Petrarch seems overly defensive and prideful when it comes to his country, this might be the reason. He presents this speech of admiration as a general one that any Italian might be able to speak. In this emotional address, we see that the poet's loyalty lies with the land, not with the political mess its nobility has made of it.

[...] then virtue against rage
will take up arms, and battle will be short,
for all that ancient valor
in the Italian heart is not yet dead. (93-96)

Petrarch still seems to be optimistic about the Italians' ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Why? Because they have that good, ancient blood with old Roman values (like civic responsibility) in it. Better than vitamins...

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