歐美研究季刊第46卷第1期 - page 12

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To weigh all aspects of his lingering doubts, Petrarch wrote a little
book
My Secret Book
to dissect his misgivings. Written in the form
of an imaginary dialogue between himself and St. Augustine, this
book wrestles with, among other things, Petrarch’s innermost
desire for fame. When Petrarch confesses to hankering for “glory
among men and an immortal reputation” (2002a: 82), Augustine, a
stickler for orthodox Christian doctrines, responds that this
unhealthy desire may militate against “the way to true immortality”
(2002a: 83). As Petrarch agrees with Augustine on the definition of
reputation as “simply being talked about by many people,”
Augustine immediately points out the absurdity of Petrarch’s
longing for reputation (Petrarch, 2002a: 83). Augustine queries
why Petrarch, essentially a polymath whose taste is far removed
from that of the general public, cares so much about the popular
opinion: “It [worldly fame] is therefore a mere shifting breath of
wind and
something which you will find hard to bear
the breath
of many people” (Petrarch, 2002a: 83).
As Petrarch enthuses about his determination to pursue
literary fame, Augustine dismisses this infatuation with “a mere
passing breath of wind” as a glaring folly (2002a: 86). Augustine
then proceeds to elucidate the factors responsible for the brevity of
mortal fame: death and forgetfulness, argues Augustine, render
mortal fame inherently transient. Other human deficiencies, such
as envy, hatred, hostility, and fickleness, also shorten the duration
of fame (Petrarch, 2002a: 89). For Augustine, the pursuit of
immortality by way of monuments is no less ill-advised. Augustine
here adduces Petrarch’s own words in the
Africa
to demonstrate
the unreliability and transience of material glory: “The sepulchre
will soon fall into ruin, together with the epitaph carved on its
marble: then, my son, you will suffer the second death” (Petrarch,
2002a: 89). For Petrarch, any attempt to preserve one’s reputation
by virtue of erecting physical monuments is doomed to failure as
all feats will fade into absolute obscurity when the inevitable decay
of building materials sets in.
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