|The Greatest Contribution to the History of Global Literature
By Brian Waldorf
The Poetry of Petrarch, Francesco Petrarch, (Author) David Young, (Translator) Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 2005, 320 Pages
David Young’s refreshing translation of Petrarch’s anatomy of lyric poems brings the vernacular to English speech in a collection of 366 sonnets written more than six hundred years ago by the first modern poet.
Francesco Petrarch, (1304-1374) simply known as Petrarch, a Latin scholar, poet, and the first sonneteer who has profoundly influenced European poetry of the Renaissance; including Shakespeare, Boccaccio, Spencer, and some of the principle poets of American literature.
While reading this book it became abundantly clear to me why Petrarch’s work has become the phenomenon that stands behind a stylistic revolution of poetry. Petrarch’s unparalleled prowess gave him the ability to psychologically transpose a poem into a living proximity in his conscious, whereas he would then assign that cerebral stimulation in its own voice, tone, and personality on the page.
It is evident that the poet composed his sonnets only to mirror his altruism, and paradigms of affection for Laura; who he devotedly fell in love with when he first met her at the church of S. Claire, in Avignon, the 6th of April in 1327. He would define her as lovely to look upon with sunny tresses, eyes of pearl, and lips of rose. But Laura could never reciprocate his admiration as she was married to Count Hugues De Sade.
Therefore, Petrarch would commit his life into writing love poems to his beloved “Laura.” At times, you can almost hear his cries of suffering in the words he expresses about his ardent love and harrowing despair for Laura’s unattainable affection in his poetry. He continued to write about Laura with an enthusiastic passion even after death on Good Friday, 22 years after he first saw her in 1327.
Soleasi Nel Mio Cor
She ruled in beauty o'er this heart of mine,
A noble lady in a humble home,
And now her time for heavenly bliss has come,
'Tis I am mortal proved, and she divine.
The soul that all its blessings must resign,
And love whose light no more on earth finds room,
Might rend the rocks with pity for their doom,
Yet none their sorrows can in words enshrine;
They weep within my heart; and ears are deaf
Save mine alone, and I am crushed with care,
And naught remains to me save mournful breath.
Assuredly but dust and shade we are,
Assuredly desire is blind and brief,
Assuredly its hope but ends in death.
Petrarch wrote 366 sonnets about Laura in a period of 47 years, although her death was as heavy on his heart, as it was to attain her love. On July 19th 1374 Petrarch was found dead with his body resting over his desk with a pen in his hand. Perhaps the true cause of his death will remain unanswered; I believe he died from a broken heart.