The Book of Bucolics by Virgil
(A study prompted in 1963 by
               The Arminarm Eclogues [see below]
                        & that continues: click here)

The Poem Book by Giovanni della Casa
(study prompted by awareness
of the above: see below]

The Arminarm Eclogues by W. Antony
(first prompted me to see Virgil's book
as a coherent & self-reflexive
experiment in poetics)
  [published in 1971 by JVS & presented to the organizer of the conference on pastoral (Oslo, April 2003): 

a sampler here]

Giovanni della Casa's Poem Book

Ioannis Casae Carminum Liber   Florence 1564

Edited & Translated into Verse with Commentary  by John B. Van Sickle

[Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies 1999]

[Sample: The Program Poem Carmen X click here]    [At]

From Rome to Venice for a Cure
The Escape Epode (CL V) in Latin & English,
With collagraph plates and design by John Ross
Printed by John Ross at the High Tide Workshop
East Hampton, New York, 1996, in an edition of 60 copies.

Relations between the published work & this web presentation come under scrutiny in a theoretical study by the publisher [click here]


Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese) with his grandsons Cardinal Alessandro (the patron and intimate of Casa) and Ottavio Farnese (who after 1547, abetted by his brother, contrived to inherit and hold the dukedom of Parma in defiance of his grandfather and precipitating his death in 1549): portrayed by Titian in l545, when Casa also sat for his portrait while serving as the pope's nuncio to Venice.

Pietro Cardinal Bembo (long-time intimate & model for Casa):
Titian (ca 1488-1579)

The Carminum Liber (Poem Book) of Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556), long unrecognized and never interpreted, receives here the first separate edition of its Latin text and a translation into English verse. Rather than a literal rendering, the translation seeks to convey the flow of Casa's story and the force of his style, sometimes also to elucidate the implication of an elusive or allusive turn.

Introductory essays relate Casa's brilliance and passionate contradictions to the clash of Renaissance with Counter-reformation culture in early modern Italy. Under the protection of Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese) and his grandson Alessandro Cardinal Farnese, Casa rose to become an archbishop and nuncio to Venice, with a cardinal's purple in view. Frustrated in the latter ambition by Pope Paul's death in 1549, he exiled himself to the Venetian countryside, where he wrote the works that would make his name in Italian letters--the wry essay on manners, Galateo, which is indebted to Boccaccio, and the tormented lyric sequence that transformed Petrarchan tradition. At the same time he began composing poems in Latin that tell the story of his disappointment, motivate his exile, cultivate his powerful patron Cardinal Farnese, and artfully prepare for return to Rome.

The background for the poems and the circumstances of their composition emerge from Casa's lively correspondence, a selection of which appears in an appendix. Some letters take readers behind the scenes, as when his cardinal-patron badgers Casa to write a piece of political flattery and the poet resists, or when a poem calls poet-lovers harmless while a letter boasts of seduction approaching rape.

A commentary shows how Casa framed his story of exile and redemption by boldly adapting a classical tradition--the poetic sequence. He takes his lead primarily from Horace but draws also on other Roman creators of poem-books--Propertius, Virgil, and Catullus. Unlike Horace, though closer to Catullus, Casa mingles several genres in one book, but he innovates by matching each genre to a stage in his story: satire for despair, epode for denunciation and departure, but then ode for redemption and return. 

Notes provide detailed information about persons, places, and events, about meters and genres, about figures of speech, about Casa's adaptations of classical materials, and about recurrent themes. The notes and commentary point out the ways in which Casa weaves poems composed for separate occasions into a coherent sequence with a structure of its own.

Readers may well approach Casa's book with diverse interests in mind. The poems and letters together offer a fascinating close-up of how literary, political, religious, and erotic strains can interact. Authoritative models bend and stretch under the pressure of passion and ambition. The emergence of a carefully and boldly calculated poetic sequence adds a new and specific chapter to the history of this classical construct, which Alexandrian Greeks pioneered and Romans elaborated into an art consummately practiced and theorized by poets though critics left it uncategorized and unnamed. That Casa produced this classicizing sequence contemporaneously with his canzoniere invites scrutiny for the relations between aristocratic Latin and popular Italian in a moment formative for the modern mind.

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