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This article is taken from PN Review 67, Volume 15 Number 5, May - June 1989.

The Sonnets of Angiolieri Felix Stefanile


             Now was ever
a people as vain as the Sienese?

     Inferno, XXIX: 121-22


According to Boccaccio's description of him in the Decameron, IX.4, Cecco Angiolieri was a handsome young man of courteous demeanour who could not bear to live in Siena on the allowance his father gave him. Money talks in many of Cecco's poems. His father was a successful banker in Siena in the great Italian age of banking. His son depicts him as a fierce tightwad, and also makes something bad out of his father's service as a frate gaudente, some of whose leaders Dante put in hell. Cecco's irascible personality earns him, in the remarks of some scholars, the pert, succinct, dismissive compliment of being called 'the Villon of the Middle Ages', a closing door of a reference if I ever heard one shut, since it puts him in the shadow of a greater poet, and waves discussion away. It is dismissive enough - as a work or two of his complains - that Cecco lived in the shadow of Dante, and thereby, perhaps, hangs a tale. Add to such bitter testimony that he wrote about his obsessive attachment to a tempestuous young woman who robbed him, scorned and insulted him, this experience occurring during the period of the cult of the Lady, and we have a mix-up.

The Deconstructionists in our midst may find it comely that Cecco's cruel sweetheart, Becchina, has a name starting ...


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