The conceit of the beloved’s hair ensnaring and binding the poet’s heart and soul is common in Renaissance poetry and particularly widespread in the tradition of Petrarchan love lyric. The topos can be traced back to Petrarch’s canzoniere, or Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, in which Laura’s golden hair is often described in terms of knots and laces tying both the poet’s heart and soul. No classical antecedent has previously been identified for the image. In this study, I propose a possible classical source for the characteristic Petrarchan motif of Laura’s binding hair knot: Apuleius’s Metamorphoses, a manuscript of which the poet owned and which he read and annotated several times. In particular, I show how passages such as Lucius’s celebration of the beauty of women’s hair (Metamorphoses, II.8–9), and especially his declaration of love to Photis, an oath he takes on ʻthat sweet knot of your hair with which you have bound my spiritʼ (ibid., III.23), can be convincingly regarded as a source for Petrarch’s conceit. In addition to the value inherent in the detection of a new source for an influential Petrarchan topos, the present study may have some further implications. It could offer novel arguments for the dating of a series of Petrarchan poems, and it could foster a potentially fruitful reappraisal of the influence of Apuleius’s work on Petrarch’s vernacular poetry.

A Classical Source for Petrarch’s Conceit of the Binding Knot of Hair: Apuleius’s Metamorphoses

Caporicci Camilla
2021

Abstract

The conceit of the beloved’s hair ensnaring and binding the poet’s heart and soul is common in Renaissance poetry and particularly widespread in the tradition of Petrarchan love lyric. The topos can be traced back to Petrarch’s canzoniere, or Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, in which Laura’s golden hair is often described in terms of knots and laces tying both the poet’s heart and soul. No classical antecedent has previously been identified for the image. In this study, I propose a possible classical source for the characteristic Petrarchan motif of Laura’s binding hair knot: Apuleius’s Metamorphoses, a manuscript of which the poet owned and which he read and annotated several times. In particular, I show how passages such as Lucius’s celebration of the beauty of women’s hair (Metamorphoses, II.8–9), and especially his declaration of love to Photis, an oath he takes on ʻthat sweet knot of your hair with which you have bound my spiritʼ (ibid., III.23), can be convincingly regarded as a source for Petrarch’s conceit. In addition to the value inherent in the detection of a new source for an influential Petrarchan topos, the present study may have some further implications. It could offer novel arguments for the dating of a series of Petrarchan poems, and it could foster a potentially fruitful reappraisal of the influence of Apuleius’s work on Petrarch’s vernacular poetry.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11391/1496849
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