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||Petrarch (1304-1374) - in full Francesco Petrarca|
Italian scholar, poet, and humanist, a major force in the development of the Renaissance. Petrarch is perhaps most famous for his poems addressed to Laura, an idealized beloved whom he met in 1327 and who died in 1348. Attempts have been made to identify her, but all that is known is that Petrarch met Laura in Avignon, where he had entered the household of an influential cardinal. She is generally believed to have been the 19-year-old wife of Hugues de Sade. Petrarch saw her first time in the church of Saint Claire. According to several modern scholars, it is possible that Laura was a fictional character. However, she was a more realistically presented female character than in the conventional songs of the troubadours or in the literature of courtly love.
"In my youth I was blessed with an agile, active body, though not particularly strong; and while I cannot boast of being very handsome, I was good-looking enough in my younger days. I had a clear complexion, between light and dark, lively eyes, and for many years sharp vision, which, however, unexpectedly deserted me when I passed my sixtieth birthday, and forced me, reluctantly, to resort to the use of glasses. Although I had always been perfectly healthy, old age assailed me with its usual array of discomforts." (in 'Letter to Posterity')
Francis Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca) was born in Arezzo, the
a notary, but he spend his early childhood in a village near Florence.
His father, Ser Petracco, was expelled from Florence by the Black
Guelfs, who had seized power. Also Dante,
in Florence, became at the same year a victim of political reprisals.
Boccaccio, the youngest of the "three crowns of Florence", was eight
when the writer of the Divina Commedia died. His relationship with the city was better than Petrarch's and Dante's.
Much of his early life Petrarch spent at Avignon,
where Pope Clement V
had moved in 1309, and in Carpentras, a little town east of Avignon. He
studied law first at Montpellier (1319-23) and moved then to Bologna,
where he continued his legal education in 1323-25. Petrarch was
primarily interested in writing and Latin
literature, sharing this passion with his friend Giovanni Boccaccio
(1313-1375), the writer of Decameron.
immersed in his own world of poetry, Petrarch most likely did not take
a look at the book
until 1373, when he received a copy of it from an anonymous
donor (Boccaccio himself?). "What I did was to run through your book,
like a traveller who, while hastening forward, looks about him here and
there, without pausing," he said in a letter to Boccaccio. Actually,
Petrarch did more than just glimpse the text: delighted and fascinated
by the tale of Griselda, the closing novella, he
translated it into Latin.
Following the death of his father in 1326, Petrach returned to Avignon, working there in different clerical offices. The turning point in his life was April 6 1327, when he saw Laura in the church of Sainte-Claire d'Avignon. She became the queen of his poetry. "To be able to say how much you love is to love but little," Petrarch wrote in 'To Laura in Death'. Petrarch did not feel at home in Avignon but while staying there he composed numerous sonnets which acquired popularity.
As a scholar and poet, Petrarch soon grew famous. He was crowned as a poet laureate on Easter Sunday 1341, in a cerfemony that took place on Rome's Capotolene Hill. Subsequently, at the peak of his career, he was charged with various diplomatic missions. The latter part of his life he spent in wandering from city to city in northern Italy as an international celebrity. At Vaucluse, about fifteen miles from Avignon, where he had transferred his books, he wrote among others Bucolicum Carmen (1345-47) and De Vita Solitaria (1345-47).
In search for old Latin classics and manuscripts, he travelled through France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The manuscripts he brought to Venice, dreaming that they would one day form core of a new Alexandrian Library, were forgotten in a damp palazzo, where they crumbled into dust. In 1337 Petrarach visited Rome for the first time. Disappointed, he wrote: "Where are the numerous constructions erected by Agrippa, of which only the Pantheon remains? Where are the splendorous palaces of the emperors?" The great Rome described in the old books did not exists. After recovering from the shock, he started see in every step "something to exite the tongue and the intellect". Wandering through the ruins, Petrarch tried to recreate the topography of the city. In spite of making mistakes in his research, he is considered a more realiabe observer than his contemporaries.
Petrarch settled about 1367 in Padua, where he passed his remaining years in religious exercises. Much of his writing was concerned with religious meditation and being out of his own time. He died in Arquà in the Euganean Hills on July 18, 1374. According to Domenico Arentino, his death was occasioned by apoplexy. He was found in his library, with his head reclining on a book. To Boccaccio, his closest friend, Petrarch bequeathed a small sum of money for a new cloak. Boccaccio surved Petrarch but a year. In 1630 his monument outside the parish church of Arquà was violated by thieves, who stole some of his bones in order to sell them.
Petrarch was regarded as the greatest scholar of his age, who
combined interest in classical culture and Christianity and left deep
on literature throughout Western Europe. The majority of his works
Petrarch wrote in Latin, although his sonnets and canzoni composed
in Italy were equally influential. Petrarch was known as a devoted
student of antiquity, who had a passion for finding and commenting on
the works of the ancients. In his letter to posterity he confessed that
he always disliked his own age: "I would have preferred to have been
born in any other time than our own." But the recovery of the past
should not lead to the imitation of the style of Virgil and Cicero: "I
much prefer that my own style be my own," he said, "uncultivated and
rude, but made to fit, as a garment, to the measure of my mind, rather
than to someone else's, which may be more elegant, ambitious, and
adorned. . . ." Noteworthy, he saw Latin as the future of culture; vernacular was not a language in its own right.
A prolific correspondent, he wrote many important letters, and
critical spirit made him a founder of Renaissance humanism. Among
Petrarch's Latin works are De Virilis Illustribus, a kind of
version of Plutarch's Comparative Biograpies, and the unfinished epic poem
set at the time of the Second Punic War, which has Scipio Africanus as
its hero. Modelled in part on Virgil's Aeneid,
it was for this work, that
he received the laurel crown. During the reign of Mussolini,
a new interest arose in the poem, when the Fascist regime began
to recreate a "Roman" Empire through the conquest of Ethiopia. Figures
like Leopardi and Petrarch were presented as prophets of Italian
national greatness and would-be supporters of the regime. The poet was
in Rome for the first time in 1337; about this time he began the work.
His principal sources were Livy's Ab Urbe Condita Libri (History of Rome), especially its third deca (decade), and Cicero's Somnium Scipionis.
The dialogue Secretum, first written in 1347 and then revised, was a debate with St. Augustine. The work was withheld from publication during his lifetime. Petrarch ignored Augustine's hostility towards pagan culture, in favor of his references to classical pagan literature. Rejecting the prevailing blind faith in scholastic authorities, he argued that one should not "accept everything without criticism" because it is a sign of intellectual laziness and dullness. Other noteworthy works include Rerum Memorandarum Libri, an incomplete treatise on the cardinal virtues, De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae, Petrarch's most popular Latin prose work, Itinerarium, a guide book to the Holy Land, and De sui ipsius et multorum ignorantia, against Aristotelians.
ZEFIRO TORNA E 'L BEL TEMPO RIMENA
Zefiro torna e'l bel tempo rimena
Ridono i prati, e'l ciel si rasserena;
Ma per me, lasso! tornano i più gravi
e cantare augelletti e fiorir piagge
Petrarch wrote and revised his sonnets during the years between 1327 and 1374. Canzoniere (Song Book) was inspired by the Lady whom Petrarch names Laura, chronicling his first encounter with her at the age of 23. Intoxicated by Laura, Petrarch wrote of her rare beauty just like the Persian poet and astronomer Omar Khayyám (1048–1131) wrote of wine. However, his love was not returned – her presence causes him unspeakable joy, and on the other hand it creates unendurable desires. There is no definite information concerning Laura, except that she is lovely to look at, with golden hair, and her bearing is modest and dignified. Upon her death, the poet finds that his grief is as difficult to live with as was his former despair. Later in 'Letter to Posterity' Petrarch wrote: "In my younger days I struggled constantly with an overwhelming but pure love affair – my only one, and I would have struggled with it longer had not premature death, bitter but salutary for me, extinguished the cooling flames. I certainly wish I could say that I have always been entirely free from desires of the flesh, but I would be lying if I did."
For further reading: Petrarch and Boccaccio: the Unity of Knowledge in the Pre-modern World, edited by Igor Candido (2018); Petrarch: Everywhere a Wanderer by Christopher Celenza (2017); A Literary History of the Fourteenth Century: Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio: a Study of Their Times and Works: Storia Letteraria del Trecento by Natalino Sapegno; translated with a foreword by Vincenzo Traversa (2016); The Cambridge Companion to Petrarch, edited by Albert Russell Ascoli and Unn Falkeid (2015); Rereading the Renaissance: Petrarch, Augustine, and the Language of Humanism by Carol E. Quillen (1998); Petrarch: a Critical Guide to the Complete Works, edited by Victoria Kirkham and Armando Maggi (2009); Petrarch and His Readers in the Renaissance, edited by Karl A.E. Enenkel, Jan Papy (2006); Authorizing Petrarch by William J. Kennedy (1994); Orphans of Petrarch: Poetry and Theory in the Spanish Renaissance by Ignacio Navarrete (1994); The Worlds of Petrarch by Giuseppe Mazzotta (1993); Francesco Petrarch Rime Disperse, ed. Joseph A. Barber (1991); Another Reality: Metamorphosis and the Imagination in the Poetry of Ovid, Petrarch, and Ronsard by Kathleen A. Perry (1990); Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, ed. by Charles Southward Singleton et al. (1983); Poet As Philosopher: Petrarch and the Formation of Renaissance Consciousness by Charles Edward Trinkaus (1980); Petrarch: His Life and Times by H.C. Hollway-Calthorp (1972); Petrarch by James H. Robinson (1970); Petrarch and the Renaissance by J.H. Whitfield (1969); Petrarch: The First Modern Scholar and Man of Letters by H. Robinson and E.H. Rolfe (1899) - See also: Geoffrey Chaucer, who used for his Clerk's Tale Petrarch's translation into Latin of the Griselda story in the Decameron, as well as a poem from the Rime for the cantus Troili in Troilus and Criseyde. In Finnish: Suomeksi Petrarcalta on julkaistu valikoima Sonettaja Lauralle. Juice Leskiseltä on ilmestynyt tekstikokoelma Sonetteja Laumalle. Petrarcan saavuttamattoman intohimon kohdetta Lauraa voi verrata Leskisen haaveiden Marilyniin - "Marilyn, Marilyn, milloin riisut jumpperin?"