Petrarch Essay, Research Paper
Petrarch (1304-1374), Italian poet and humanist, who is considered the
first modern poet. His perfection of the sonnet form later influenced such
English poets as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and Edmund
Spenser. His wide knowledge of the classical authors and his restoration of
the classical Latin language earned him his reputation as the first great
humanist; but he also played an important role in the development of
Italian as a literary language.
Petrarch was born in Arezzo. In 1312 his family moved to Avignon, France.
Petrach took minor orders in the church about 1330. In 1327 he first saw
Laura (probably Laure de Noves), whose name he was to immortalize in his
lyrics and who inspired him with a passion that has become proverbial for
its constancy and purity.
Petrarch wrote in Latin and in Italian. His Latin works include “Africa”
(1338-1342), an epic poem about the Roman conqueror Scipio Africanus,
and Concerning Famous Men (1338?), a series of biographies. His vast
collection of letters is important for its historical and biographical details.
Petrarch’s most famous work is the collection of Italian verses, Rime in vita
e morta di Madonna Laura (after 1327) translated into English as Petrarch’s
Sonnets. Almost all of these sonnets and odes are inspired by Petrarch’s
unrequited passion for Laura
Known as “Italy’s greatest lyric poet” (Musa) Petrarch is a master of the
sonnet tradition alongside his countryman Dante. The sonnets of Petrarch
helped define the conventional sonnet form; that is, fourteen lines divided
into an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines) with the rhyme scheme
following the pattern- -abba abba cde cde, or, abab abab cde dce; although,
there are variations in his sonnets (Tomlinson, 3) “his language is most
simple, and his meaning most direct. He goes straight to his object and
clothes it in the simplest words, and with little or no inversion.”(Tomlinson,
Petrarch began a collection of his Italian poetry in 1342. In its final form it
contained three hundred sixty-six compositions, principally sonnets, with
other verse forms interspread. (Auslander, 295) Written in the tradition if
chivalry, in which the lovers remain separated from his beloved, this body
of love poetry has been a major influence ever since, particularly on the
Elizabethan poets. (Auslander, 400)
In Sonnet number three Petrarch speaks of the first time he laid eyes on
the lady. He says: It was the morning of that blessed day then down
three lines he describes that morning as being the day he fell captive to the
lady: I fell a captive, Lady, to the sway. Petrarch is speaking of the day
when he first met Laura, a woman that some critics say was Laura De
Noves, while other critics say that Laura was just a figment of Petrarch s
Petrarch describes how he wasn t able to get close to this lady. He says
that: Of your swift eyes: that seemed no time to stay he s disappointed
that the woman he loves was gone before he got to know her better.
Petrarch also writes as though love caught him like a predator would catch
prey. He says that he stepped into the snare. It seems that he was
unaware of what was about to happen to him as is the case when most of
us fall in love.