1555 / 56 VOLUME (BOOK A)
Chiara Matraini’s first book of poems was published by Busdraghi in Lucca in 1555. It was later republished in 1556 as part of the seventh volume of Giolito de’ Ferrari’s anthology of poets, a multivolume tribute to the creativity of the cinquecento lyricists and a powerful means of diffusion. The seventh volume was compiled by Lodovico Dolce and contains Matraini’s poems. These poems are in the same order as, and in every other respect identical to, those published in 1555 at Lucca, except for minor differences in spelling and punctuation and occasional corrections or new errors.
At the end of the 1555 volume, Matraini has a Letter and an Oration on the Art of War. The letter was written to a person identified only as “M. L.” It is not clear who that was. It contains her most personal, most direct apology for her writing in prose and in poetry. The letter refers to her life in Lucca and goes on with a paean about Love in all its forms which, at that time, she called our last desired end. These were quite naturally omitted from the anthology, being prose works.
The following pages contain my selection of her poems: forty- six out of a total of ninety- nine. Out of every five poems in order, I have chosen two or three which both respect her choice and portray her style of writing and the substance of her work. Together, they represent her tale of earthly love; it is described as beautiful and chaste but destined to end in failure. The stages of the unhappy story constitute a process of deterioration which is finalized in the physical death of the real man, a flesh- and- blood object of desire. His murder is the end of the narration, followed by a coda of consolatory poems.
In 1989, Giovanna Rabitti published Chiara Matraini’s Rime e Lettere,1 a critical edition. Until that time, Matraini was available only in scattered rare book libraries, mostly in Italy, and in a variety of anthologies. Rabitti’s