Petrarch’s Africa I-IV: A Translation and Commentary
By Erik Z. D. Ellis
Master’s Thesis, Baylor University, 2007
Abstract: English-speaking scholars have neglected Francesco Petrarch’s self-proclaimed masterwork, the Africa. Focusing on Petrarch’s vernacular poetry and to a lesser extent his Latin prose, scholars overlook his Latin verse. Of Petrarch’s major works, the Africa has received the least scholarly attention, inspiring to date only one monograph, one translation, and fewer than ten articles from English-speaking scholars. This discrepancy between Petrarch’s opinions and those of his admirers inspired this thesis.
This thesis provides first-time readers of Africa I-IV with a translation that brings the reader to Petrarch’s Latin. The translation aims to preserve the tone and literal sense of the Latin original while maintaining smooth readability in English. A commentary, including grammatical annotations and discussing Petrarch’s sources, inspiration, and historical context, accompanies the translation.
Excerpt: Recount even to me, Muse, the man–famous for his valor and dreadful in war–to whom noble Africa, subdued by Italian arms, first gave her eternal name. Sisters who are my sweet care, if I sing to you of wonders, I pray that it be granted to me to drink again at the fountain of Helicon. Indeed, now Fortune has restored to me the meadows and springs of friendly country, the stillness of uninhabited fields, streams and hills, and the pleasures of sunny forests. You, restore to your bard your songs and inspiration.
And You, Highest Parent, the world’s most certain hope and highest glory, Whom our age celebrates as Victor over the ancient gods and over Hell, Whom we see revealing fivefold wounds profuse on His innocent body, bring succor! If songs delight, I shall bring back from the peak of Parnassus pious verses, dedicating many to You; or if such please You too little, perhaps I will bring You even my tears, which ought to have been shed for you, which I–thus my mind was deceived–have long kept from You.