Monday, November 20, 2023


I Study, Think, Read, and Write

Petrarch, Familiar Letters 15.3, to Zanobi da Strada (February 22, 1353; tr. Aldo S. Bernardo):
Here is how I live: I rise in the middle of the night, go outdoors at sunrise, but both in the fields and at home I study, think, read, and write; I keep sleep from my eyes as long as possible, softness from my body, pleasures from my mind, sluggishness from my actions. Every day I wander over the rocky mountains, through the dewy valleys and caverns; I often walk along both banks of the Sorgue without meeting anyone who disturbs me, without a companion or guide except my cares, which day by day grow less insistent and troublesome. Mindful of the past, I deliberate on things to come and consider them from every angle.


As I said, I am at the source of the Sorgue; and since fortune has so decreed, I seek no other place, nor shall I do so, until she shifts her changeable edicts as is her wont. Meanwhile here I have established my Rome, my Athens, and my spiritual fatherland; here I gather all the friends I now have or did have, not only those who have proved. themselves through intimate contact and who have lived with me, but also those who died many centuries ago, known to me only through their writings, wherein I marvel at their accomplishments and their spirits or at their customs and lives or at their eloquence and genius. I gather them from every land and every age in this narrow valley, conversing with them more willingly than with those who think they are alive because they see traces of their stale breath in the frosty air. I thus wander free and unconcerned, alone with such companions.

Haec vita mea est. Media nocte consurgo; primo mane domo egredior, sed non aliter in campis quam domi studeo, cogito, lego, scribo: somnum quantum fieri potest ab oculis meis arceo, a corpore mollitiem, ab animo voluptates, ab operatione torporem. Totis diebus aridos montes, roscidas valles atque antra circumeo. Utramque Sorgiae ripam saepe remetior, nullo qui obstrepat obvio, nullo comite, nullo duce, nisi curis meis minus in dies acribus ac molestis. Illas ante retroque transmittens praeteritorum memor ventura delibero.


Ad fontem Sorgiae sum, ut dixi, et quando ita visum est fortunae, locum alium non requiro, nec faciam donec illa, quod crebro solet, varium mutet edictum. Interea equidem hic mihi Romam, hic Athenas, hic patriam ipsam mente constituo. Hic omnes quos habeo amicos vel quos habui, nec tantum familiari convictu probatos et qui mecum vixerunt, sed qui multis ante me saeculis obierunt solo mihi cognitos beneficio litterarum, quorum sive res gestas atque animum, sive mores vitamque, sive linguam ingeniumque miror, ex omnibus locis atque omni aevo in hanc exiguam vallem saepe contraho, cupidiusque cum illis versor quam cum iis qui sibi vivere videntur quotiens rancidum nescio quid spirantes gelido in aere sui halitus vident vestigium. Sic liber ac securus vagor et talibus comitibus solus sum.

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