Rinaldo d’Aquino


Rinaldo d’Aquino
(early 13th century)
   Rinaldo d’Aquino was one of the poets of the “Sicilian school” of lyric poetry, a group associated with the Sicilian court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, and responsible for introducing the conventions of the COURTLY LOVE lyric in the tradition of the Provençal TROUBADOURS into Italian vernacular poetry. Among his fellow poets were GIACOMO DA LENTINO and PIER DELLA VIGNA.
   There is no consensus as to the identity of this poet. Three possible candidates with the name Rinaldo d’Aquino have been suggested. One was a page or a falconer in Frederick’s household who eventually was granted a benefice in 1270. A second is mentioned in a document from 1242 where he is called magister, a title that would suggest he was an academic. The third candidate is the most interesting: The poet may have been the brother of St. Thomas AQUINAS, who, according to one story, kidnapped Thomas in about 1243 with the help of Pier della Vigna, and held him in the family castle of San Giovanni in an attempt to prevent Thomas from joining the Dominican order.
   Whichever candidate was in fact the poet, he was admired if not for his innovation, at least for his deft handling of the conventional themes of the courtly tradition. Dante twice praises one of his CANZONI in De VULGARI ELOQUENTIA. Of Rinaldo’s roughly dozen extant poems, perhaps his best-known is “Già mai non mi conforto,” a Crusade song in the voice of a woman whose lover is leaving her to fight. The poem is simple, direct, and moving. Some critics have seen the influence of popular Italian lyrics in the poem. Here the speaker explores the irony of the cross as the symbol of her grief rather than her comfort:
   The cross saves humanity
   and makes me lose the way.
   The cross fills me with grief,
   I get no help
   praying to God.
   O pilgrim cross,
   why have you destroyed me?
   (Goldin 1973, 31, ll. 25–30)
   Bibliography
   ■ Goldin, Frederick, trans. German and Italian Lyrics of the Middle Ages: An Anthology and a History. New York: Doubleday, 1973.
   ■ Jensen, Frede, ed. and trans. The Poetry of the Sicilian School. New York: Garland, 1986.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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