Fuerit tibi forsan de me aliquid auditum—quamquam et hoc dubium sit: an exiguum et obscurum longe nomen seu locorum seu temporum perventurum sit—et illud forsitan optabis, nosse, quid hominis fuerim aut quis operum exitus meorum, eorum maxime, quorum ad te fama pervenerit vel quorum tenue nomen audieris. et de primo quidem variae erunt hominum voces: ita enim ferme quisque loquitur, ut impellit non veritas, sed voluptas; nec laudis nec infamiae modus est. fui autem vestro de grege unus, mortalis homuncio, nec magne admodum nec vilis originis, familia—ut de se ait Augustus Caesar—antiqua. honestis parentibus, florentinis origine, fortuna mediocri, et—ut verum fatear—ad inopiam vergente, sed patria pulsis Arretii in exilio natus sum, anno huius aetatis ultimae quae a Cristo incipit MCCCIV, die lunae ad auroram XIII kalendas Augusti. natura quidem non iniquo neque inverecundo animo, nisi ei consuetudo contagiosa nocuisset. adolescentia me fefellit, iuventa corripuit, senecta autem correxit experimentoque perdocuit verum illud quod diu ante perlegeram: quoniam adolescentia et voluptas vana sunt; immo etatum temporumque omnium Conditor, qui miseros mortales de nihilo tumidos aberrare sinit interdum, ut peccatorum suorum vel sero memores se se cognoscant. corpus iuveni non magnarum virium sed multe dexteritatis obtigerat. forma non glorior excellenti, sed quae placere viridioribus annis posset: colore vivido inter candidum et subnigrum, vivacibus oculis et visu per longum tempus acerrimo, qui praeter spem supra sexagesimum aetatis annum me destituit, ut indignanti mihi ad ocularium confugiendum esset auxilium. tota aetate sanissimum corpus senectus invasit, et solita morborum acie circumvenit.
(Francesco Petrarca, Rerum Senilium Libri 18.1 (= Epistola Posteritati) 1-4)
It is possible that some word of me may have come to you, though even this is doubtful, since an insignificant and obscure name will scarcely penetrate far in either time or space. If, however, you should have heard of me, you may desire to know what manner of man I was, or what was the outcome of my labors, especially those of which some description or, at any rate, the bare titles may have reached you. To begin, then, with myself. The utterances of men concerning me will differ widely, since in passing judgment almost every one is influenced not so much by truth as by preference, and good and evil report alike know no bounds. I was, in truth, a poor mortal like yourself, neither very exalted in my origin, nor, on the other hand, of the most humble birth, but belonging, as Augustus Cæsar says of himself, to an ancient family. My parents were honorable folk, Florentine in their origin, of medium fortune, or, I may as well admit it, in a condition verging upon poverty. They had been expelled from their native city, and consequently I was born in exile, at Arezzo, in the year 1304 of this latter age, which begins with Christ’s birth, July the 20th, on a Monday, at dawn. As to my disposition, I was not naturally perverse or wanting in modesty, however the contagion of evil associations may have corrupted me. My youth was gone before I realized it; I was carried away by the strength of manhood. But a riper age brought me to my senses and taught me by experience the truth I had long before read in books, that youth and pleasure are vanity—nay, that the Author of all ages and times permits us miserable mortals, puffed up with emptiness, thus to wander about, until finally, coming to a tardy consciousness of our sins, we shall learn to know ourselves. In my prime I was blessed with a quick and active body, although not exceptionally strong; and while I do not lay claim to remarkable personal beauty, I was comely enough in my best days. I was possessed of a clear complexion, between light and dark, lively eyes, and for long years a keen vision, which, however, deserted me, contrary to my hopes, after I reached my sixtieth birthday, and forced me, to my great annoyance, to resort to glasses. Although I had previously enjoyed perfect health, old age brought with it the usual array of discomforts. (tr. James Harvey Robinson)