Unattributed photo from Petrarch's house at Arqua, in the Euganean Hills
Epitaph for Petrarch's Cat, Embalmed and Mounted Antonio Quarenghi (17th century)
The Tuscan poet burned with a twin love,
but yet his Laura was second to me.
Why laugh? Her heavenly beauty was enough
to make her worthy --- so was my fidelity.
She inspired verses and genius for his poems,
which, thanks to me, were no cruel rodents' prey.
Alive, I drove the mice from his sacred tomes,
lest words be food when the master was away.
Dead, I strike fear in those cowards just as well,
my faithfulness still quick in this lifeless shell.
Etruscus gemino vates ardebat amore:
Maximus ignis ego; Laura secundus erat.
Quid rides? divinæ illam si gratia formæ,
Me dignam eximio fecit amante fides.
Si numeros geniumque sacris dedit illa libellis
Causa ego ne sævis muribus esca forent.
Arcebam sacro vivens à limine mures,
Ne domini exitio scripta diserta forent;
Incutio trepidis eadem defuncta pavorem,
Et viget exanimi in corpore prisca fides.
This is one of the best poems I know of (the original, I mean. The translation clunks and clanks and barely manages.) There is nothing more tender in the ancient world than Martial's grief and his concern that this child not be frightened in the underworld (she was, it seems, a real girl, not an imagined one). It occurs to me that this is also a gesture of love and piety toward Martial's parents, who must have died recently, if a five-year-old is going to recognize them. He sends her on ahead, trusting to his parents' kindness and letting them know that they are still in his mind.
On the Death of Erotion, a Slave Child
I commend this girl,
this sweet one, my delight,
Flaccilla, my parents, into your care,
so that with you
little Erotion might not take fright
at Cerberus's triple
roar or the phantoms there.
Had she lived six
more days of winter cold,
she'd have prided
herself on being six years old.
With such familiar
protectors, let her trick and play
and still lisp my
name, as she used to do.
May mellow sod veil
her brittle bones --- and weigh
Lightly on her, kind
earth; she was light on you.
Hanc tibi, Fronto pater, genetrix
These images, in which I find a strange, abstract beauty, are cropped and enlarged sections of an aerial news photograph (by Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune) showing the Oceti Sakowin camp, where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access pipeline on federal land, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. A federal judge on Monday refused to stop construction on the last stretch of the Dakota Access pipeline. The honourable efforts of the Dakota people to protect their land and water will almost certainly fail, under the weight of corporate interests, paired with the federal government's unsleeping insistence toward empire.
Here, in this time of fade and dissolution, we are surrounded by the long, somber rhythms of many things dying.