Desiring Voices: Women Sonneteers and Petrarchism

By Mary B. Moore | Go to book overview

3 Body of Light, Body of Matter Self-Reference as Self-Modeling in Gaspara Stampa

Se, cosí come sono abietta e vile
donna, posso portar sí alto foco,
perché non debbo aver almeno un poco
di ritraggerlo al mondo e vena e stile?
S'Amor con novo, insolito focile,
ov'io non poteo gir, m'alzó a tal loco,
perché non può non con usato gioco
far la pena e la penna in me simile
?

If I, as I am an abject and vile woman,
Can bear such high fire,
Why should I not also have at least a little
Style and talent to paint it to the world?
If Love, with a new and unusual flint,
Lifted me to such a place where I could not have climbed,
Why can't I, and not with the usual skill,
Make pen and pain alike in me?

-- Gaspara Stampa

More than sixty poems in Gaspara Stampa 1554 Rime reflect on, eschew, bemoan the weakness of, or tout the power of her own poetic voice. A Venetian virtuosa, or professional musician, Stampa boldly claims poetic equality with male masters. While sonnet 114 compares its female speaker with Petrarch, Virgil, and Homer, the epigraph, from sonnet 8, contrasts the speaker's lowly social position with her high poetic aspirations. 1 Stampa's witty play on pen and pain ( Gaspara Stampa221) likens erotic lack to poetic prowess,

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