I found this ceramic plate a few years ago at a charity shop in Tufnell Park. The back of it is stamped and says that it comes from the Guerrieri workshop on the Murano island in Venice.
The phrase “Vivere ardendo e non sentire il male” can be roughly translated as “To live in flames and never feel the pain.”
It’s like what I talked about yesterday. I’ve been looking at this phrase for years now, using the plate to put my rings on it while I wash the dishes in the kitchen, and it never occurred to me that it could come from something.
So finally I looked it up and yes it comes from a poem, written during the Renaissance by Gaspara Stampa, “Amor mi ha fatto tal ch’io vivo in foco“. (Love has made me such that live in fire).
I hadn’t heard of her before, but Gaspara Stampa is considered to be one of the greatest female poets of the Renaissance. She lived in Venice in the 1500s and she was educated in literature, art and music. Her family hosted salons in their homes and had regular visitors of artists, writers and musicians. She shunned society’s constraints and lived quite freely as an educated woman with lots of lovers.
I’ve been having this poem staring me in the face all this time! And what’s more it’s written by a Venetian courtesan poet, considered to be one of the greatest poets during the Renaissance. Can you believe it?
Here’s the poem in Italian:
Amor m’ha fatto tal ch’io vivo in foco,
qual nova salamandra al mondo, e quale
l’altro di lei non men strano animale,
che vive e spira nel medesimo loco.
Le mie delizie son tutte e il mio gioco
vivere ardendo e non sentire il male,
e non curar ch’ei che m’induce a tale
abbia di me pietà molto né poco.
I’m still trying to understand the old-fashioned Italian myself. But I like the part where the phrase comes from:
Love has made me such that I live in fire,
Like a second salamander in this world
Or like the phoenix that lives and dies in the same place.
All my delights and my game
Are to live in flames and never feel the pain
And never care if he who leads me to this,
Pities me little or much.
I feel like I’m full of all these ideas right now, of poems and writing, of Venice, of Italy, and of all these possibilities that life offers if you can ignore the self-doubt and what society says you can and can’t do. Of course, if you’re wealthy and educated, life is a lot easier, but this woman is still a great inspiration. From this poem, she’s a woman who doesn’t back down because she’s been jilted in love and continues to fan the flames of her passion and personality.