Petrarch's Eight Years in Milan

By Ernest Hatch Wilkins | Go to book overview
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1360: January-June


In the midst of a deluge of rain on the late afternoon of a day in January, probably late in the month, Bolanus, bringing a letter from Socrates, appeared at Petrarch's door, with several companions--Petrarch speaks of them as a turba. Bolanus' chattering was insufferable; but in view of the rain and the lateness of the hour Petrarch felt that he had to ask them all to spend the night--though his house, "solitarii hominis tecta," was hardly large enough to hold them. Bolanus would have accepted; but one of his companions had more sense, and on the ground of business elsewhere the invitation, though repeated, was declined, much to Petrarch's relief [ Fam. XXII8].

Hardly had they left, and as darkness was falling, there came a very different visitor, Laelius, just arrived from Avignon --and with him came Petrarch's son Giovanni.

Giovanni came under good sponsorship: not only had he come with Laelius, but the letter that Bolanus had brought contained an inquiry as to what Giovanni's reception was to be: "quem mecum exitum invenerit, queris." But Petrarch had suffered too long and had been too gravely hurt to pardon readily. His interview with his son was evidently one of the most painful and difficult experiences of his life. Giovanni's tearful entreaty for pardon so moved him that he too almost wept, and almost felt himself to be rather a defendant and a suppliant than an offended party. Yet he could not alter his exceedingly severe judgment of his son's character--he speaks of him as "Homo blandus et fallax, idemque si liceat et violentus et minax"--; he could not forget his son's wrong attitudes and wrongdoings; he still held to the opinion that leniency had been


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