(Boylove Documentary Sourcebook) - "On a Budding Disciple" by Pacifico Massimi d'Ascoli, 1489 (full-text poem)

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Portrait of a Youth (ca. 1518–1519) by Raphael and collaborator. Oil on panel, 43.8 x 29 cm (Madrid, Spain: Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza).

From "Italian Renaissance Literature to Michelangelo" by James J. Wilhelm, in Gay and Lesbian Poetry: An Anthology from Sappho to Michelangelo, edited by James J. Wilhelm (Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, 2013). First published in 1995 by Routledge.

PACIFICO MASSIMI (ca. 1400–ca. 1500)
Very little is known about the facts of Massimi’s life, as the dates indicate, but he tells us a lot about himself and his family in his poems. We do know that he was born in Ascoli, and he lived widely in Italy, including Naples, where he wrote verse in honor of Alfonso of Aragon and the Two Sicilies. His Hecatelegium (One Hundred Elegies), written in Latin, were published in Florence in 1489; they were dedicated to Francesco Soderini, the Bishop of Volterra. Massimi wrote some poems to Pope Sixtus IV, but later Massimi’s relations with the Church grew worse, for although the prelates were at first taken by Massimi’s easy handling of Latin elegiacs, they later resented his antipapalism and frank humanism. His 100 elegies, divided into ten books, have been well edited by Juliette Desjardins (University of Grenoble, 1986), who includes a facsimile of the first edition.


VII, 3 On a Budding Disciple
When a Tuscan friend brought me a boy of the kind
That you might find superintending Jove’s table
He whispered in my ear: “This kid I’ve brought you
Will cling to your side night and day.
The gods and the goddesses want you to cling to his love.
If you bugger him, he’ll become an expert there.”
I said: “I like this freedom that gives way to shame.
Your kind offer forces me to hold myself back.
You’ll see that I’m very different from the usual hungry dog.
If you give most people a finger, they’ll open to a hand. 10
I don’t know what god shines out of his face.
He certainly seems to have more than a human power.”
“Don’t doubt if he’s good that he’ll get better; you will see
That he’s drained every drop of my doctrine to the dregs.”
My friend went away happy. Happily I claimed my joy.
Every day of my waiting seemed too long.
O father of great virtue, the only one to be praised,
Who alone in such a large city is known to be wise,
You joined the ass of this boy to the cock of his master!
Foolish people, do you think you could learn this right away? 20
O lucky boy that Fate chose me as your master,
And gave you to me as a loving dad!
Alas, how slowly the sun descends into the shadows!
Alas, how slowly the somber night descends!
When will the marriage bed join us in its embrace?
When will this hour be witnessed by my eyes?
Someone will sing on a guitar all night about our misfortunes;
Another will sigh, and two others hymn our woes.
Then, as you lie in my arms, I shall tell you some stories,
And you can give me long kisses while I talk. 30
As the wind blows outside, we shall lie happy in sleep,
While the raindrops beat downward upon the roof.
I’ll delight in running my tired body down from your neck
And to rub my tired limbs against yours in the lamplight.
Let others lust for riches, a chest full of coins;
Let them take up the yoke like some crazy bull.
If you want to learn poetry, I shall teach you the art:
Whether to compose with four or five feet to a line,
And how to turn a short syllable into a long one,
And how something can artfully be lengthened or cut. 40
Often I’ll stretch out the chords as I move the plectrum;
Often I shall make you hold fast to my lyre.
You’ll become a true poet, circled by a sacred crown,
And on festival days, a laurel will be placed on your door!

Florentine Singer of the 15th Century (1865). Silvered bronze sculpture by Paul Dubois. Paris, Museé d'Orsay.

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