歐美研究季刊第46卷第1期 - page 3

Petrarch and Chaucer on Fame
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“Poetry is nothing without fame” (Cooper, 2010: 361).
Most writers, at least occasionally, aspire to have their names
immortalized by their works. An obvious example of this
longing for literary immortality is Milton’s “On Shakespeare,”
where the poet writes:
Dear son of memory, great heir of Fame,
What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a livelong Monument. (1957: 63)
Shakespeare himself enthused about the immortality promised by
poetry. In Sonnet 18, he writes:
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. (1992: 1620)
For ancient writers the situation was vastly different. Many ancient
writers never felt the desire or need to mention their own names in
their writings, since to them the notion of authorship mattered
little and the idea of literary fame was totally alien. Over time, the
concept of fame gradually germinated, matured, diversified, and
took root in the consciousness of literary practitioners. Despite the
predominance of Christianity and the concomitant depreciation of
worldly fame, with the emergence of humanism fourteenth-century
Italy witnessed greater recognition of human achievements in this
life. The writings of Petrarch, which became a major driving force
behind humanism, perfectly capture the tension between the
Christian belittlement of earthly fame and the author’s yearning for
it. Petrarch, deeply steeped in Christian orthodoxy, made an
incisive and compelling critique of worldly fame; notwithstanding
his full knowledge of the Christian doctrine against earthly fame,
his eagerness for literary fame evolved into a lifelong obsession.
Geoffrey Chaucer, a younger contemporary of Petrarch,
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