Joy in the archives

My archive trip was great fun and, as is often the case, productive in ways that I was not anticipating. I was looking for material relating to two different patrons: Cardinal Pompeo Colonna, and Felice Orsini Colonna. I didn’t find so much on the cardinal—I think there are probably better places to look—but I came away with some wonderful material pertaining to Felice. So, that’s all good. In addition, I read several letters from sixteenth-century musicians. The letters were catalogued in the inventory, so not really a discovery, but I don’t think anyone has published on them yet. Anyway, I have plenty of work to do, and I am already working out when I can return.

In a previous blogpost, I wondered how Felice Orsini Colonna had learned to run a household and to perform her identity as a Roman noblewoman. Not long after that post, I heard from a fellow scholar that Cardinal Sforza had entrusted Felice to the care of Giovanna d’Aragona—Felice’s future mother-in-law. So, in my recent visit to the archives, I decided to look for useful tidbits of information in the daily letters Felice wrote to her mother-in-law when they lived in separate cities. They had shared interests, and I imagined their letters must have been full of information about this or that writer, or musician. In fact, the letters I read (not all of them; I couldn’t see everything I wanted to see in a fortnight) were entirely taken up with relating the health of Felice’s children, and asking after her mother-in-law’s own health. Of course, this could have been in part down to their correspondence not being private (thanks, Valeria De Lucca!), as much as it could be related to the relationship between the women, or between grandmother and grandchildren, and to the very real and understandable concerns over health given the standard of medical care (not to mention the cultural importance given to male heirs).

I did eventually find the kind of information I sought, but in a different place: in Felice’s letters to Cesare Gallo, her husband’s secretary. In those letters, she thanks Gallo for sonnets that he sent her; she sometimes mentions artists, and on one occasion a musician. I didn’t get through all of this correspondence either, but I made a good start.

The other reason this trip was so joyful was that I brought my daughter and my mother with me. Introducing my daughter to real Italian food and gelato was a pleasure. Some researchers who are parents are able to travel for weeks without their young family. I could not bring myself to do it, even though I knew our daughter would thrive with her dad, as he’s more than capable, and I knew that I really wanted—needed, even—to do this work. I couldn’t have done any of that work without my mother coming to provide childcare, and I’m very grateful for that. So, thank you, Mum, for your labour, and thanks to my daughter for being a fun travelling companion.

Thanks, also, to other parents for blogging about how to fly with a car seat. In case it helps someone else: I used bungee cords to attach the FAA/TÜV-approved car seat to a lightweight, collapsible hand trolley. I packed our clothes into one large suitcase with good wheels, and had our carry-on items in a small rucksack. When my daughter was too tired to walk during the travel, I wore her in a buckle carrier. It was manageable. More than that, it was liberating, even, to find that I could balance work and family that worked for us.

The staff of the archive were enormously helpful, informative, and welcoming. I am so glad to have met them.

Now I’m back home, and the new semester is starting in two weeks. I have a lot of material to sift through in my research time, and I’ve plenty of writing to do. It’s good to have found my archive feet again.

Returns

‘Return’ is the theme of the summer for me (not in the equivocal sense!). I’ve worked out how to turn my doctoral dissertation into a book, and I seem to have the stomach for writing it now, too, so I’m returning to some familiar material and of course taking quite a new angle. I’m heading to Italy to do some archival research—back to Italy, back into archives after what feels like a long break. I’ve also been revisiting one of the primary sources I began to look at during my Marie Curie fellowship. (One of the chapters I’d planned to include in a monograph on music & eroticism in 16th-century Rome that I think will fit better in the villotta book.) I’m racing to have my introduction, sample chapter and book proposal ready to send off by the time teaching resumes in early September. Gulp.

Sexualities, Textualities, Art and Music in Early Modern Italy Published

A stack of three copies of Sexualities, Textualities, Art and Music in Early Modern Italy, ed. Melanie L. Marshall, Linda L. Carroll, and Katherine A. McIver. The front cover is uppermost. The cover art is Titian's Venus with the Organ Player (c.1550) from the Prado, Madrid. This painting shows a male organist at a small chamber organ. He is seated on the edge of a bed, and looking back over his right shoulder at the pudenda of the nude Venus. She is reclining on a sumptuous velvet cloth covering the bed. Her left hand caresses a small dog. She wears bracelets on each wrist, and a necklace. Her curly blonde hair is up. In the background is a painting of a fountain and a tree-lined avenue.

Sexualities, Textualities, Art and Music in Early Modern Italy, ed. Melanie L. Marshall, Linda L. Carroll, and Katherine A. McIver

This new book, co-edited by UCC Lecturer in Music and Marie Curie Fellow, Dr Melanie Marshall, with Linda L. Carroll and Katherine A. McIver, explores how the arts shape the erotic and the sexual. Taking medieval and early modern Italy as its focus, the authors follow a wide cross-section of subjects as they imagine, experience and strive to regulate the sensual in fields as diverse as religion, painting, literature, acting, musical performance and humour.

The result sheds light on a world very like our own: as economic, religious and political upheaval coalesced into a new European social order, the foremost artists, musicians and playwrights rubbed shoulders (and more) with cross-dressing actors, pimps, moralists and papal reformers. Sexual autonomy was sought, celebrated and veiled, subverted and sold, satirized and sentimentalized.

In a period before the emergence of formal definitions that encourage us now to perceive homosexuality and heterosexuality through a lens of difference, early-modern Italian culture makers like Titian, Giorgione, Vecchi, Boccaccio, Ruzante, Castellino, and even distinguished patrons and reformers like Pope Leo X and Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga, were engaged in creating fluid and stimulating representations of human love and lust, capturing in their art the full realities of the sexual activity they themselves knew. Their realisations can inform our perspectives today on both early modern Italian art and culture and on modes of contemporary sexual expression.

Sexualities, Textualities, Art and Music in Early Modern Italy, edited by Melanie L. Marshall, Linda L. Carroll and Katherine A. McIver is published by Ashgate.
ISBN: 978-1-4094-6468-6. Regular price €60, website price €54. http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409464686

Gaga Out

The volume on Lady Gaga that I co-edited with Martin Iddon (Leeds), Lady Gaga and Popular Music: Performing Gender, Fashion, and Culture, is now out! Exciting stuff! And I’m already thinking about my next dip in to Gaga Studies–still not “Gagad out” yet. That will be a paper on Gaga, liveness and social media. It’s a bit of a change from writing about Gaga, cake and ice cream, and a big change from Italian Renaissance sexualities (my other big project at the moment).

Talking of cake, not long after kissing the proofs of my Gaga chapter good bye, I found that Lady Gaga had indeed sent Gaga cakes to collaborators: V Magazine, Zedd and DJ White Shadow. In my chapter, I note that many Gaga cakes that I read about online are vanilla with buttercream icing—a confection with an interesting gender history, as it was the classic bride’s cake of weddings past (think Miss Havisham, and Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman). The paleness was no coincidence, as it symbolized the innocence of the virgin bride. Cutting in to the bride cake stood in for another form of penetration. Gaga’s cakes were not vanilla but dark chocolate with butterscotch truffle ganache, and the sugar work Gaga was a skull with ponytail.

Zedd’s cake:

 

Early Modern Women in the Private and Public Spheres: Felice Orsina Colonna

Device of Felice Orsina Colonna

Device of Felice Orsini Colonna, from ‘Delle Imprese’ by Giulio Cesare Capaccio (Naples: Carlino & Pace, 1592), book 1, 50v.

When I first ‘met’ Felice Orsina Colonna (153?–27 July, 1596) almost three years ago after visiting the Archivio Colonna in Subiaco, I thought she was quite something. I was impressed that she apparently ran family affairs when her husband, Marcantonio Colonna (25 Feb. 1535–1 Aug. 1584), was away fulfilling his military duties or other duties of state. (This was often: his best known battle was the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, when he led the Papal forces. He was also Viceroy of Sicily.) However, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that she wasn’t as remarkable as I thought. The idea that noblewomen didn’t worry their pretty heads about much other than spending their time in honest (decent) pursuits, like needlework and ordering the servants around—in other words, that they were active on a domestic level, while their husbands were active in public—is being laid to rest. Felice Orsina Colonna’s activities seem to be another nail in the coffin of the notion of noblewomen exclusively operating in the private sphere. Moreover, women from diverse backgrounds, even noblewomen and cloistered noble nuns, regularly operated outside the home.

Felice was the daughter of Francesca Sforza and Girolamo Orsini. Both her grandmothers were acknowledged natural daughters of men who became popes. Her maternal grandmother, Costanza Farnese, was the daughter of Silvia Ruffini and Alessandro Farnese, who became Pope Paul III. And Felice was named after her paternal grandmother, Felice della Rovere, the daughter of Lucrezia Normanni and Giuliano della Rovere who became Pope Julius II. Felice della Rovere negotiated (or had negotiated on her behalf) excellent terms on her marriage to Gian Giordano Orsini, including that any sons she had would inherit over Giuliano’s sons by his first wife. Felice della Rovere oversaw her family’s interests after her husband died; she built the family fortune up with prudent management and key property deals. Until two days ago, when I read sections of Caroline Murphy’s Murder of a Medici Princess (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), my fantasy was that even though Felice Orsina never met her paternal grandmother, she heard lots of stories about her and took them to heart. But it turns out she wouldn’t have heard those stories from her parents. Her father, Girolamo, died in late 1540, leaving the 19-year-old Francesca Sforza a widow and heavily pregnant. Felice’s brother Paolo Giordano, was born a couple of months later. As Murphy notes (56), Francesca did not know how to run a household, and Francesco Orsini, Girolamo’s brother, seems to have been devoted to misrule. He ran the family’s finances into the ground, ruining the wealth and, presumably, the reputation that Felice della Rovere had built up. Pope Paul III, Francesca Sforza’s grandfather, stepped in: Francesco was exiled in 1542; Francesca remarried (presumably into a more financially stable family), and Felice and Paolo Giordano were entrusted instead to their maternal uncle, Cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza (1518-64).

At some point, Felice must have learned how to run a household. I’m not quite sure yet how that happened—perhaps the answer will lie in the Cardinal’s account books and correspondence—but in any case she seems to have done a good job following her marriage to Marcantonio Colonna in 1552. At least, that was my impression after a brief perusal of the Colonna family’s financial records for 1575 in the Archivio Colonna.

Felice and Marcantonio’s wedding was commemorated in music by Antonio Barré, with a four-voice setting of Francesco Bellano’s five-part madrigal ‘Sorgi superbo’. This and another piece dedicated to Felice’s uncle and guardian, Cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza, are encomiastic texts praising Felice. The book as a whole (Primo libro delle muse a quattro voci [Rome: Barré, 1555]) is dedicated to Felice. There are other celebrations of her in a number of song and dance collections—Pompilio Venturi (1571), Gasparo Fiorino (1571 and 1573), and Fabritio Caroso’s Il ballarino (1581).

According to Rinaldina Russell, Marcantonio Colonna and Felice Orsina hosted a literary salon that may have included Margherita Sarrocchi.* There are numerous poems to Felice in various anthologies, including Muzio Manfredi’s, Per donne romane: Rime di diversi raccolte e dedicate al Signor Giacomo Buoncompagni (Bologna: Alessandro Benaco, 1575) and a manuscript anthology in the Archivio Colonna. Felice was a muse for Curzio Gonzaga, and is also mentioned in Maddalena Campigli’s Flori.** She also had a book dedicated to her by Don Benedetto dell’Uva, Le Vergini prudenti (1582).

In terms of public works, Felice helped the marchesa Giulia Orsini Rangone to establish S. Maria del Rifugio, a refuge for impoverished girls and widows.*** In this, she may have been following the lead of her mother-in-law, Giovanna d’Aragona, who founded a convent. (Patronage on that scale certainly sounds like acting in the public arena to me.)

I still have to answer the question ‘how typical is Felice’, but my hunch is that she was, in fact, pretty normal for a Roman noblewoman. In any case, I have a lot to go on here. With luck, I’ll have more to say following my trip to Rome in July.

* Margherita Sarrocchi, Scanderbeide: The Heroic Deeds of George Scanderberg, King of Epirus, ed. and trans. Rinaldina Russell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 9.

** Maddalena Campiglia, Flori: A Pastoral Drama, ed. V. Cox and L. Sampson, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004, 284-285 and 323 n.97.

*** Carolyn Valone, ‘Women on the Quirinal Hill: Patronage in Rome, 1560-1630,’ The Art Bulletin, Vol. 76, No. 1 (Mar., 1994), 129-146: 136.

 

Tracing Music Patronage and Commissioning by Women in Early Modern Rome

44a.CherryBlossoms.TidalBasin.SW.WDC.23March2012

This year is the centenary of Japan's gift of cherry trees to Washington. Photo credit: 44a.CherryBlossoms.TidalBasin.SW.WDC.23March2012 by Elvert Barnes.

I spent Saturday in Washington, DC catching up with fellow scholars attending the Renaissance Society of America annual meeting (I wasn’t presenting). I received some really useful input for my fellowship project and for smaller writing projects. I was able to have a lengthy conversation with one senior colleague, who encouraged me to look at art collecting and literature too, in case there are shared erotic resonances between different art forms associated with particular people. It is clear, too, that the avvisi di Roma (news and gossip about the papal court and Roman families) will probably be an important source of information. The nearest collection is in the Vatican Microfilm Library housed at St. Louis, Missouri, so I am planning a trip there in the coming months.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to talk much with Christine Jeanneret (University of Geneva), which is unfortunate because her current project on Marenzio’s madrigal dedications to women relates in some ways to my fellowship research. Her paper surveyed Marenzio’s dedications to Lucrezia d’Este, Bianca Cappello, and Margarita Gonzaga d’Este (all associated with Ferrara), and the Roman noble women Clelia or Cleria Cesarini and Vittoria Accoramboni (second wife of Paolo Giordano Orsini, both mentioned in my post on UCLA’s Orsini archives ). Jeanneret suggested that there is little evidence of women’s patronage because women had restricted access to the public sphere, and therefore women drew upon a male network to do things like  commission compositions. One piece of evidence Jeanneret cited was a letter from Cardinal Luigi d’Este to Luca Marenzio, enclosing a poem and revealing that a group of women known to Marenzio but not identified in the letter would like him to set it. These women were most likely the Ferrarese concerto delle donne (women’s ensemble) who sang in the exclusive, invitation-only concerts held most evenings at the Ferrarese ducal court from the 1560s. Jeanneret correctly concluded that women did have musical expertise, and were able to exercise their judgement in selecting poetry and commissioning settings.

I’ve been interested that most dedications to women appear to be to married women, presumably for reasons of decorum, and perhaps also because at this stage some women may have access to their own resources to be able to give reciprocal gifts. There appear to be more dedications to women in the latter half of the sixteenth century than in the first half. I wonder, too, to what extent there are particular patterns in Ferrara and Rome: Isabella d’Este, a famous daughter of Ferrara who married into the Gonzaga family and lived in Mantua, is well-known as a music patron. In Ferrara, successive duchesses—Lucrezia Borgia, Renée de France, and Margarita Gonzaga—were music patrons (Renée de France also had at least one music book dedicated to her), as were Lucrezia’s daughters. I don’t know offhand whether there are the same patterns in other Italian courts. In comparison, if memory serves, Rome didn’t really see a significant number of music print dedications to women until the 1570s. It is possible that the social mores were different, and I suspect status and rank will be significant. Certainly, I think social standing is an important consideration when it comes to the ways different women operated in the public sphere. Some elite women may have had to rely upon male go-betweens to conduct certain transactions, but many poorer women worked outside the home and had considerable autonomy (even transacting their own marriages). So, it’s important not to generalize from the situation of a small group of women and presume their circumstances applied across the board.

Suggestive Song Facilitated Care of the Self

Palazzo Barbaran Da Porto

Palazzo Barbaran Da Porto by David Nicholls (netNicholls).

 

In ‘Music and Care of the Self’ last month I wondered whether certain accounts from the Proceedings of the Old Bailey could indicate something of how music was seen to interact with ideas of selfhood and subjectivity. In the stories I selected, it seemed the accused’s response to music was considered to reveal something about their nature: in Mary Raby’s case, frequenting music houses indicated a predilection for sin, while John Swift walked away from inappropriate music-making as an act of self-defence. And I was curious about the potential relationship between these stories and the collection and performance of suggestive strophic songs in sixteenth-century Italian academies.

The strophic song genres I was thinking of are the villotta alla padoana (quasi-peasant song in the Paduan manner) and the canzone villanesche alla napolitana (peasant-like song in Neapolitan style). They’re often written in dialect, although the language can be toned down for publication. The names villotta and villanesca are thought to derive from the Venetian and Italian words for peasant, and for a long time the songs were thought to be songs of the people (the folk, in that German, 19th-century invention). It seems to be a bit more complicated than that–yet to be teased out–but the songs we know of from the middle of the 16th century were printed and often dedicated to minor nobility. They were owned by academies (and others).

One publication that still fascinates me is Filippo Azzaiolo’s first book of villotte from 1557. Azzaiolo dedicated the book anonymously to Pandolfo Rucellai, the nephew of Giovanni della Casa, and the cover of the book bears the device of the Accademia dei Costanti of Vicenza. The Costanti (the Constant Ones) met for about 10 years starting in 1556. Few records have survived, but it seems to have been an opportunity for men from elite Vicentine families to get together to hear and discuss lectures, poetry, literature, and to make music. It was rather like the Accademia Filarmonica of Verona, which was founded in 1543 and is still going today. Montano Barbaran was a member (that’s his palazzo in the picture—the facade is by Andrea Palladio, the famous Vicentine architect); he employed a musician in his household, owned a number of musical instruments, and appears also to have enjoyed Vicentine dialect poetry.

Azzaiolo’s songs draw on an extensive erotic lexicon—there were thousands of Italian words with double meanings—that means they are open to quite subversive readings.  There’s a song asking a girl called ‘Tasty’ (Saporita) to bring her ‘fresh fig’ to her lover, and comparing her to the famously beautiful Princess of Salerno—a compliment for Saporita, and an insult to the Princess of Salerno; other songs allude to erotic acts that were then illegal or considered immoral. And some songs seem entirely innocent. Azzaiolo published three collections of villotte, all with similar content. This first book and the third book open with dedications that make reference to the power of music to spur people to action, or provide respite for afflicted souls. This kind of expression of the importance of music is usually associated with highbrow genres rather than with the lowly strophic song. So, it seems that, if only for Italian academicians (not just in Vicenza but also in Verona, Venice, Siena, Florence, Rome, Naples…), even suggestive song was considered to have potential benefits for the soul.

Justifications of music as a way of caring for the self were nothing new, and were not exclusive to musicians. For example, Baldassare Castiglione’s popular Book of the Courtier contained similar pronouncements in the debate over whether the courtier should play music. (There is a proper time and place for music, and the courtier mustn’t do it too much lest he neglect his duties.) Gioseffo Zarlino, a composer and organist based in San Marco, Venice and author of several music treatises, devoted several chapters to the importance and significance of music study. He says that it is key to combine practical and theoretical study of music, and he also urges temperance—like someone who drinks too much, someone who plays music too much makes a fool of themselves, and overindulges their senses. Zarlino says that music and gymnastics should be studied together so that a certain balance is kept. He is keen to distinguish music from the bodily discipline of gymnastics, and make it instead some other kind of training—I want to say intellectual, but perhaps he saw it more in spiritual terms. (The body-mind-soul division comes later.) In any case, he says that music and gymnastics should be studied together so that a certain balance is kept. Even Zarlino doesn’t really distinguish between kinds of music; he makes a passing comment about indecent/dishonest music, but that comes together with his thoughts on avoiding sensual excess, so it might suggest an occasional lascivious song is ok. It’s worth thinking about Zarlino’s audience, here, too. Zarlino is concerned to establish music as something to do in leisure time, which might suggest he’s not really aiming his thoughts at professional musicians, but at dilettante musicians.

Putting this together with the stories of Mary Raby and John Swift, it seems that there is a time and a place for everything. Music can be an important way to care for the self, providing it doesn’t become an intoxicating over-indulgence. You want to play or listen to music in the right place and hobnob with the right people (develop genteel contacts rather than cutpurse contacts–so avoid Mary Raby’s music house). But music can also function as a way to demonstrate that you know how to respond. This is perhaps especially true of suggestive song. It’s not always a life or death matter as it was for John Swift, but when a young man is sitting around with fellow academicians of an evening, he needs to be able to laugh the right amount at the right things. Academies provided an opportunity to develop a social network, and to foster social cohesion. They do that by providing people with opportunities to demonstrate that they know the social codes, and when it’s ok to bend or break them, and when it’s important to follow them. That kind of training could be important when an acquaintance starts singing dirty songs under a lady’s window.

If you’re interested where this is heading, you may wish to have a look at the summary of my paper for the Oldenburg selfhood conference.

 

Decency

Paul Schleuse in a comment on a previous post raised the issue of decency and ensemble performance – titillation or something else? This is something that Paul deals with brilliantly in an essay he wrote for a collection I’m co-editing in relation to quasi-theatrical song. I’m not going to preempt publication here, but there’s certainly food for thought in the issues raised: who is the audience for this kind of thing? Who sang it? And what does it mean, what is it’s cultural significance in the various performing contexts and for the various parties involved?

The issue of decency is fascinating. Giovanni Della Casa, in his Galateo (published posthumously), points out that declaring something decent or indecent is not at all straightforward. Words can have an entirely decent (innocent) meaning but be comprised of hidden indecencies. Della Casa’s example is rinculare, which includes the suggestive syllables in cul (in ass). My guess is Della Casa’s having a bit of fun with this, and with his interlocutor. However, there are times when a composer might choose to highlight hidden indecencies in setting the text. (Well, there is at least one time: I have a particular example by Perissone Cambio in mind.) Under these kinds of circumstances, there’s an element of plausible deniability–the writer/composer could claim the obscenity is in the reader’s/musician’s/censor’s mind. In effect, that this is a kind of queer or obscene reading strategy. There are plenty of examples of obscure poetry that make more sense when read in this manner than when read only with a ‘surface’ meaning (Burchiello, for example).

Performing suggestive texts (as opposed to downright obscene texts) in well-to-do circles, I have argued, might be a kind of test of gentility–does everyone respond in a socially acceptable manner? Do they exhibit appropriate decorum? Do they laugh when they are supposed to laugh and do they ignore the doppi sensi (double meanings) when they are supposed to ignore them? But I am becoming increasingly suspicious that many of our ideas about what was socially acceptable in sixteenth-century Italy are still somewhat influenced by Victorian-era thinking. Sure, 16th-c moralists would have preferred there to be no innuendo. (One point made in Galateo is that the trouble with hidden meanings is that you might be misunderstood: in order to make sure there is no confusion, one should speak as clearly and straightforwardly as possible.) And they would have liked there to be no bawdy song or lascivious singing too. But society was not composed entirely of moralists. People sang dirty ditties anyway. Monks embellished tunes to such an extent that they offended some sensibilities and were subject to accusations of lasciviousness and vanity. It is not properly representative to interpret a culture just through the lens of moralists’ theories about how things should work. People rarely do what they’re told, and the number of times the complaints were repeated suggests that the moralists were fighting a losing battle.

The Shepherdess and the Shepherd

sheeps

So, I’m sure you can guess what’s coming next, so strong is the association between shepherdesses and eroticism in the sixteenth century (and if you can’t, you might wish to have a look at Titian’s Three Ages of Man in the National Gallery of Scotland). This is a text in a 1533 publication, best known because it’s the first time the word madrigal appears in a title: Madrigali novi . . . Libro primo de la Serena. Stefano Campagnola has convincingly argued that the book is associated with the Colonna family, one of the big Roman families. The collection is a mix of chansons and Italian texted pieces, among them this song about a shepherdess. As far as I know, this song does not appear in any other music collections (although I have yet to check Jeppesen).

Quando mia pastorella
voi ch’io ritorni al delettevol monte
dove è d’ogni dolceza il vivo fonte
non son Chirsuto* fauno, orso ne ladro    * hyrsuto in the bassus partbook
ma quel pastor che fai
“O più bella che rosa, lacte e giglio
se[i] in queste silve.” “Mi provasti mai.”
Allor, quando al legiadro
bel volto, ai labri d’un color vermiglio
con morsi io diedi, piglio
oime, oime che gli è pur si suave il fonte
che vorrei sempre ritrouarmi al monte.

(I’ve retained the original spelling, but added punctuation, accents and speech marks.) I’m not entirely sure I’ve got the metre, accents and dialogue right yet.

Here’s my working translation (input welcome).

When my shepherdess
desires that I return to the delightful hill
where the living source of all sweetness is,
I am not a hirsute faun, bear or thief [i.e., I do not behave like]
but that shepherd who says,
“O more beautiful than rose, milk & lily
you are in these woods.” – “You never ?tasted me.”
Now, when to the graceful
beautiful face, to the vermilion lips,
with bites I gave, she took,
Oh, it is so sweet, the spring/source
that I would like always to find myself on the hill.

How should “mi provasti mai” be translated? I used “tasted” because of the references to milk and biting. But I’m not sure it’s the best way to understand “provasti”. And the only way I can understand this is if it’s the shepherdess speaking, but is there something I’m missing?

Photo credit: sheeps by staflo, on Flickr.