|Plaque commemorating the birth of Petrach in 1304|
As I read Wednesday's post about de Stael's last week of life before committing suicide, I learned that just prior to that week of frenzied painting, he had been in Paris and had attended two concerts. Lawrenson provides a YouTube video of the work that supposedly prompted this manic episode of creativity and perhaps even contributed to de Stael's decision to leap to his death from the window of his atelier. Legend hints at a disparaging remark by a critic as having influenced him. Or perhaps it was a failed love affair that made him despondent? As I watched and listened to the Schonberg's 'Serenade Opus 24, I have to admit...it's not music that would inspire me to either creativity or death! The Muse moves us all in different ways, though, and de Stael was clearly moved by the piece. Listening to the music, I read the commentary that accompanies it and was surprised to see that the central portion of the work is a sonnet by Petrarch.
Well, that piqued my curiosity! You might remember that I blogged about Petrarch this spring when I stayed in Fontaine de Vaucluse and visited the museum there dedicated to his life and work and strolled in his garden. Which sonnet was it? Could there be a clue to why this particular piece of music 'sang' to de Stael? I spent most of the morning doing the Google thing and found that the sonnet of Shonberg's 'Serenade' is Sonnet 217, part of Petrarch's Cantoniziere to Laura, his life-long love and Muse. It took a bit of digging, but here is the sonnet in English:
Once I hoped, lamenting so justly
making such fervent verses heard,
that pity's warmth might be felt
in that hard heart that freezes in mid-summer:
and that the cruel cloud, that chills
and veils it, might disperse with the breeze
of my ardent voice, or others might hate her
for hiding those eyes that destroy me.
Yet I seek no pity for myself, nor hatred
for her: I do not wish it, nor is it possible
(such are my stars, and my cruel fate):
but I sing her heavenly beauty, so
that, when I'm free of this flesh, the world
will know the sweetness of my death
It's one of Petrarch's later sonnets that speaks more of unrequited love and the reality that hope is gone.Laura barely knows he exists and will never love him. I think the last stanza is very telling. The poet almost looks forward to the 'sweetness of my death.' Is this what compelled de Stael to take his own life? Was he following Petrarch's advice? Certainly it was well-known that de Stael suffered from bouts of despair and depression, but could the music with its core of unrequited love and death have tipped him over the edge? We'll never know for sure, of course. All this is pure speculation driven by that endless curiosity to know more of the story. But isn't it intriguing how poetry, music and great paintings melange into a story of love, life and death?
|Sculpture in Petrarch's garden representing his unrequited love for Laura.|