Writing to the sound of water: tradition and varietas in Petrarch’s river poems

This article explores the river motif in some of Petrarch’s poems from his famous collection Canzoniere (Canz. 148, 180 and 208) as well as other crucial texts. The river is seen as an index and a structuring pattern of temporality and history, as well as a key symbol for Petrarch’s seminal ideas about literary imitation and the Classical Tradition. Yet if an allegory of tradition, Petrarch’s rivers also point at the highly important notion of «varietas». Thus the article pursues a double strategy, both throwing light on Petrarch’s historical consciousness and addressing the question of how the river motif can be seen to inform and structure his revolutionary anthropology.

Keywords: Petrarch, Canz. 148, 180, 208, river motif, history, tradition, varietas, poetology