Biography of Gaspara Stampa
Gaspara Stampa was an Italian poet.
Born in Padua, Stampa's father, Bartolomeo, originally from Milan, was a jewel and gold merchant in Padua. When Stampa was eight, her father died and her mother, Cecilia, moved to Venice with her children Gaspara, Cassandra, and Baldassarre; whom she educated to literature, music, history, and painting. Gaspara and Cassandra excelled at singing and playing the lute, possibly due to training by Tuttovale Menon. Early on, the Stampa household became a literary club, visited by many well-known Venetian writers, painters and musicians.
When her brother died in 1544, Stampa suffered greatly and formed the intention of becoming a nun. However, after a long period of crisis, she came back to "la dolce vita" (the sweet life) in Venice, and was believed to have been involved in a love affair with Count Collaltino di Collalto. It was to him that she eventually dedicated most of the 311 poems she is known to have written. The relationship broke off in 1551, apparently resulting from a cooling of the count's interest, and perhaps in part due to his many voyages out of Venice. Stampa was devastated.
Stampa went into a physical prostation and depression, but the result of this period is a collection of beautiful, intelligent and assertive poems in which she triumphs over Collaltino, creating for herself a lasting reputation. It might be noted in passing that Collaltino is only remembered because of Stampa. She makes clear in her poems that she uses her pain to inspire the poetry, hence her survival and fame. After Collaltino, Stampa had another lover and may not have been a courtesan as some believe. There is evidence that she was a musician who performed madrigals of her own composition.
In 1550 Stampa became a member of the Accademia dei Dubbiosi under the name of “Anaxilla.” Toward the end of the year Collaltino returned to Venice, and Stampa spent time with him at his estate, but by the end of the year, deeply depressed, she returned to Venice, marking the end of her relationship with Collaltino and the beginning of a new relationship with Bartolomeo Zen.
Between 1551 and 1552, Stampa enjoyed a period of relative tranquillity. But the following year her health worsened, and she spent a few months in Florence hoping that the milder climate might cure her. She then returned to Venice, became ill with a high fever, and after fifteen days she died on April 23, 1554.
The register of her parish noted that she died of fever and colic, and of mal de mare (Venetian literally for disease of the matrix). In October 1554, Pietrasanta published the first edition of Stampa’s poetry, edited by her sister Cassandra. Her poems were published posthumously in the collection, Rime.
Stampa's collection of poems has a diary form: Gaspara expresses happiness and emotional distresses, and her 311 poems are one of the most important collections of female poetry of the 16th century. This collection was published after her death by her sister Cassandra, and dedicated to Giovanni Della Casa.
The German poet, Rilke, refers to Gaspara Stampa in the first of his Duino Elegies; which is often considered his greatest work.
Gaspara Stampa's Works:
Stampa, Gaspara (2010). The Complete Poems: The 1554 Edition of the "Rime," a Bilingual Edition. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.
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Gaspara Stampa Poems
When before those eyes, my life and light, my beauty and fortune in the world, I stand, the style, speech, passion, genius I command, the thoughts, conceits, feelings I incite,
If I, who am an abject, low-born woman, Can bear within me such lofty fire, Why should I not possess at least a little Poetic power to tell it to the world?
Harsh is my fortune, but harsher still is the fate dealt me by my count: he flees from me, I follow him; others long for me, I cannot look at another man's face.
O night to me more splendid and more blessed Than the most blessed and most splendid of days, Night worthy of the most exalted praise, Not just of mine, unworthy and distressed,
I swear to you, Love, by your arrows
I swear to you, Love, by your arrows, And by your powerful holy flame, I care not if by one I’m maimed, My heart burned, wasted by the other
Every planet above, and every star
Every planet above, and every star, Gave my lord their powers at his birth: Each one gave him of their special worth,
By Now So Sick Of Waiting
By now so sick of waiting, I'm by now so beaten by the pain (by now the burn won't stop and he forgets so quickly how I trust in his return and ho ...
O all my labours scattered uselessly
O all my labours scattered uselessly O, all my useless scattered sighs, O loyalty, that never, O living fire, Chilled or burned others so, if I s ...
Place me where ocean breaks with angry roar, Or where the waters lie serene and calm, Place me wherever sun shoots sparks that scorch Or where the ice pierces with sharpest pain,
LADIES, who of my lord would fain be told, Picture a gentle knight, full sweet to see, Though young in years, in wisdom passing old, Model of glory and of valiancy;
DEEPLY repentant of my sinful ways And of my trivial, manifold desires, Of squandering, alas, these few brief days Of fugitive life in tending love's vain fires.
Love, do you know why your fair mother gave you These arrows to your hands, and bound your eyes? That you may shoot the first wound and break The heart of this or any faithful lover;
Toward that sweet nest where I remained though parting, And where the better part of me still lingers, Whether the weary sun returns or leaves, I always spread the wings of my desire.
When before those eyes, my life and light,
my beauty and fortune in the world, I stand,
the style, speech, passion, genius I command,
the thoughts, conceits, feelings I incite,
in all I'm overwhelmed, utterly spent,
like a deaf mute, virutally dazed, all reverence, nothing but amazed
in that lovely light, I'm fixed and rent.
Enough, not a word can I intone
for that divine incubus never quits