De consolatione somni – figura Pocieszycielki w renesansowej poezji miłosnej. Jan Kochanowski w nurcie łacińskiej literatury europejskiej (Boecjusz, F. Petrarca, G. Pontano, J. Secundus)

Grażyna Urban-Godziek


De consolatione somni – the figure of the comforter in renaissance love poetry. Jan Kochanowski and the current of Latin literature in Europe (Boecjusz, F. Petrarca, G. Pontano, J. Secundus)

This paper presents the history of a motif that the author calls De consolatione somni. It is based on the Boethian pattern of consolation brought about by a woman who appears in a dream. Lady Philosophy, who in De consolatione Philosophiae morally and philosophically comforts Boethius when under sentence of death, is later introduced by Dante and Petrarch into the Renaissance poetry. The motif was applied to two ends: to express love in amorous poetry and grief in poetry of mourning. In Dante’s Vita nova and Petrarch’s Canzoniere (the author analyses poems No. 282 and 359) the deceased beloved appears to the bereaved lover in a dream and brings him comfort. Boccaccio, the third jewel in the “Tuscan crown,” in his eclogue Olympia introduces this motif to literature of mourning, creating the patterns of poetry dedicated to deceased girls (his influence is visible, for instance, in the Middle English poem The Perl, in the Dialogue en forme de vision nocturne by Margaret of Navarre or in Lament XIX by Kochanowski). The 15th-century lyric bonds mourning and erotic elements together even more strongly, adding a sensual dimension. Giovanni Pontano, in his poems dedicated to the memory of his late wife (the author analyses works from Lyra 9, Eridanus II 1; II 32, Hendecasyllabi II 29), evokes dream visions in which her spirit visits him. This consolation, however, had a clear sensual and erotic character, for the dead wife would come to her husband’s bed. He also likewise envisioned the prospective unification of the spouses in Elysium. In the next two centuries, in anti-Petrarchan poetry such consolation experienced in erotic dreams appeared both in poems of mourning (when the beloved passed away) and in love poems (when fulfilment was impossible for other reasons). The latter option is here illustrated in elegy I 10 by Secundus. A dream that compensates for the deficiencies of reality is a frequent motif in baroque poetry (G.B. Marino, A. Morsztyn). Yet the target point of this study is determined by the works that constitute the compositional frame of book II of Jan Kochanowski’s Elegiarum libri IV. Here we come across a rather unusual idea. A betrayed lover wishing to free himself from his humiliating love has a dream in which the goddess Venus appears (elegy II 4). Like Lady Philosophy (the Boethian pattern is particularly visible in a previous version of the elegy that is preserved in a manuscript), Venus tries to convert her charge to her domain, that is, to renew love in him. (This character, and especially her way of reasoning, is reminiscent of the creation of the Mother in Lament XIX). The triumph of the comforter is not long – elegy 11 brings another concept: a suicide committed in a dream that symbolically puts an end to unhappy love.
Another significant aim of this paper is to draw attention to the influence that Boethius and his version of Platonism had on Renaissance poetry, and on Jan Kochanowski in particular. It seems especially important for recognising the sources of Lament XIX and elegies from book II of the printed volume. The first to have noticed Boethius’ impact on Kochanowski’s work was Izydor Richter (1912) but his discovery has not been exploited by later researchers.
To sum up, the paper presents the history of a non-obvious (singled out by the paper’s author) motif in modern poetry and its relation to both love poetry and poetry of mourning as well as the Neoplatonic basis of Renaissance erotic lyric. It also explains the origin and the meaning of the dream vision in Kochanowski’s book II of Elegies and (although it is not the chief aim of the paper) the genesis of the comforting Mother who appears with Orszulka, the departed daughter of the poet, in Lament XIX.


Słowa kluczowe: A Dream Motif, Consolation, Early Modern Love Poetry, Mournful Poetry, Neo-Latin Poetry, Boethius, Francesco Petrarch, Giovanni Pontano, Janus Secundus, Jan Kochanowski

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