Essay about Sappho's vs. Petrarch on the Body

1293 Words Nov 27th, 2013 6 Pages
Professor M.H.
The Divine Body Humans are wired for sex. Physical interaction is possibly the most intuitive emotion we have as a species. Sex and body image are absurdly prominent in today’s culture, and have been since the beginning of written history. Sexuality is only a surface desire though. What lies beneath the surface is where a person’s true beauty rests. The poets Sappho and Petrarch are two very early writers that often focused on the human body, sexuality, and desire but in different ways. Sappho’s body of work is a reaction and praise to the exterior beauty of many individuals. Petrarch’s sonnets are a repeated effort to unearth the root of divine beauty. Sappho’s poems were more direct and in a relatable way.
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She is playing with that feeling of tension in the chest that people tend to have in matters of deep-seated emotions. It is common to read Sappho and notice emphasis on the body in her descriptions of both grief and bliss. Later in her life, Sappho uses the same analogy of her heart to describe herself as an old woman, “My heart’s grown heavy, my knees will not support me, that once on a time were fleet for the dance as fawns.” It seems that her heart never grew lighter from her younger years, or even grew into a more intense pain. Having access to so many of her works allows scholars to observe a development in the character Sappho. Her subject matter turns from delight in others, slowly to dismay in their absence. What does not seem to change much is her approach of the subject matter. She still materializes her emotions in the form of the physical body in her later poems. Petrarch deals with his bodily desires in a different manner. His most famous series of poems are more or less descriptions of a woman Petrarch had much love for and how she made him feel. This collection is known as the ‘Canzoniere’. Petrarch’s sonnets focus more on the emotional side of his desires, while still using his body as a reference for the reader. In a selection from one of his sonnets, Petrarch writes, “Love found me all disarmed and found the way / was clear to reach my heart down through the eyes / which have become the halls and doors of tears”
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