28 August 2010

All The Planets In Heaven, All The Stars In The Sky: Gaspara Stampa

"All the planets in heaven, all the stars,
gave my lord their graces at his conception;
all gave him their special gifts,
to make one perfect mortals man.
Saturn gave loftiness of understanding,
Jove the desire for noble deeds,
Mars more skill in war than any other,
Phoebus Apollo elegance and wit.
Venus gave him beauty and gentle ways,
Mercury eloquence; but the moon alone
made him too freezing cold for me.
Every one of those rare graces
makes me burn for his brilliant flame,
and one alone has turned him into ice."
- Gaspara Stampa, from Gaspara Stampa, translated from the Italian by Sally Purcell, Greville Press: 1984.

One of the great poets of the Italian Renaissance and, I think, the equal of Petrarch, Gaspara Stampa (1523-1554) was born in Padua and grew up in Venice, where the Stampa family home became a salon where Gaspara and her sister gave musical performances together. During her short life only a few poems were published; most circulated in manuscript form. It was Gaspara's sister who arranged for the publication of Rime, a collection more than 300 poems, after Gaspara died.
Giuliano d'Arrigo (1367-1446) created this fresco for the Sacristy of San Lorenzo at Florence. It shows the night sky over Florence as it looked on 4 July 1442. Visit Museo Galilio here.


Barbara Wells Sarudy said...

Gaspara Stampa & Emily Dickinson's sisters made sure their poetry was published after each died. The significant difference--Stampa's world swirled with cultural life, Dickinson only wished for domestic retirement. Thanks for the posting!

Rouchswalwe said...

Hurrah for sisters!

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

I agree with your crazy opinion about Stampa. Her best poems are as good as Petrarch's best poems. I don't know why more people haven't had a go at translating her.

I don't think I've ever commented before. I've subscribed for a longtime, though, and am always impressed by your knowledge and taste, all of the amazing images.

Jane said...

Hurrah for Gaspara Stampa. Why doesn't some enterprising publisher re-issue her poems in English? And while they're at it...the fact that more people have been able to read Marcel Proust's "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu" than have read Dorothy Richardon's "Pilgrimage" is a shame, too.

Neil said...

What a wonderful poem. I have to admit the name Gaspara Stampa meant nothing to me, but it will now. Even more shameful because I knew Sally Purcell the translator...

Jane said...

Neil, I have to admit that when I first encountered the name of Gaspara Stampa in Joan Silber's fine book of fiction "Ideas Of Heaven" (2004), I thought she was an invented character because I didn't want to believe such a remarkable person could be so little known.

Neil said...

Rilke mentions her in the first of the Duino Elegies, too: "Have you imagined the love of Gaspara Stampa?"