Cecco Angiolieri was born in Siena to parents Angioliero
degli Angelioleri and Lisa Salimbeni. As a
youth he entered military service, where he was
reprimanded several times for unauthorized absences
and once for making noise after curfew. In
1288 he served in a military campaign where he is
thought to have met fellow poet DANTE. Angiolieri’s
later history is equally colorful: In 1291 he was accused
but not convicted of stabbing a man, and
sometime in the next decade he was banished from
Siena. In 1302 he sold a vineyard to a neighbor for
a tidy profit, but in 1313, after his death, his five
children renounced their claims to his estate to
avoid the huge debts placed upon it.
Of Angiolieri’s poetry, 150 sonnets survive. He
wrote in a realistic and burlesque style, and translator
Thomas Caldecot Chubb says that “his is the
best and the most vivid writing of this interesting
school.” Angiolieri often introduces a comedic
touch into the conventional depictions of love and
lovers. His sonnets to Becchina, the shoemaker’s
daughter, show him using the tropes of love with
Whatever good is naturally done
Is born of Love as fruit is born of flowers:
By Love all good is brought to its full power.
In other sonnets, he parodies those who are slaves
to love and celebrates his freedom, as in this playful
verse in which the poet says,
Love is no lord of mine, I’m proud to vouch.
So let no woman who is born conceive
That I’ll be her liege slave. . . .
Angiolieri also wrote three bantering poems to
his friend Dante, one of which respectfully points
out how Dante appears to contradict himself in the
last sonnet of his New Life. Angiolieri’s contemporaries
spared him no less in their own literary
works; Boccaccio portrays him as a gambler and
prankster in the Decameron, which no doubt contributed to Angiolieri’s reputation, in Chubb’s
terms, as a handsome and well-mannered rogue.
An English Version of Works by
Cecco, As I Am and Was: The Poems of Cecco Angiolieri.
Translated by Tracy Barrett. Boston: Branden Publishing
A Work about Cecco Angiolieri
Alfie, Fabian. Comedy and Culture: Cecco Angiolieri’s
Poetry and Late Medieval Society. Leeds, U.K.:
Northern Universities Press, 2001.