Death and (Carpe) Diem in "Piazze Piece"

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Death and (Carpe) Diem Death, “a gentleman in a dustcoat” (line 1), will forever catch and snuff Youth, “a lady young in beauty waiting” (line 9), and John Crowe Ransom’s “Piazza Piece” creates a tension between the two actors/allegories, a tension that is ultimately resolved in theme and poetic structure. “Piazza Piece” is Petrachan not only in form (an octave and sestet) but also in content (the subject of love). The form (sonnet) allows Random to examine the conventional theme of love and to evoke the ancient time when courtly love prevailed as a literary convention in the West. If the poem’s form (and surface content) suggests a remoteness in time, its title suggests a remoteness in place. Additionally, the word “piazza” denotes a porch or veranda in the South, but it also denotes an open square or public place in a city of Italy. The word cannot fail to strike into an English reader’s mind a Romantic aura of being in (Medieval or Renaissance) Italy. Thus, the title as well as the form seems to prepare the reader for experiencing something familiar yet foreign. The drama between the gentleman and the lady presents a vivid, concrete scene. The gentleman pulls while the young lady pushes. There is tension is their attempted encounter, and what makes this drama even more powerful is that the two characters are not simply two ordinary lovers. Indeed, the gentleman who speaks the octave is emblematic of Death while the lady who speaks the sestet is emblematic of Youthful Beauty. Thus, the conventional theme of courtly love has turned into another conventional theme, carpe diem, since the young lady is being warned of death soon before she can fulfill her desire for love. More specifically, the reader first encounters a gentleman in a dustcoat. The dustcoat can be death’s robe, and it can be an actual dustcoat used for death’s travels. It could
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