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"David Young's version of Petrarch will refresh our images of the West's crucial lyric poet. We are given a Petrarch in our own vernacular, with echoes of Wyatt, Shakespeare, and many who come after." --Harold Bloom Ineffable sweetness, bold, uncanny sweetness that came to my eyes from her lovely face; from that day on I'd willingly have closed them, never to gaze again at l "David Young's version of Petrarch will refresh our images of the West's crucial lyric poet. We are given a Petrarch in our own vernacular, with echoes of Wyatt, Shakespeare, and many who come after." --Harold Bloom Ineffable sweetness, bold, uncanny sweetness that came to my eyes from her lovely face; from that day on I'd willingly have closed them, never to gaze again at lesser beauties. --from Sonnet 116 Petrarch was born in Tuscany and grew up in the south of France. He lived his life in the service of the church, traveled widely, and during his lifetime was a revered, model man of letters. Petrarch's greatest gift to posterity was his Rime in vita e morta di Madonna Laura, the cycle of poems popularly known as his songbook. By turns full of wit, languor, and fawning, endlessly inventive, in a tightly composed yet ornate form they record their speaker's unrequited obsession with the woman named Laura. In the centuries after it was designed, the "Petrarchan sonnet," as it would be known, inspired the greatest love poets of the English language-from the times of Spenser and Shakespeare to our own. David Young's fresh, idiomatic version of Petrarch's poetry is the most readable and approachable that we have. In his skillful hands, Petrarch almost sounds like a poet out of our own tradition bringing the wheel of influence full circle.


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"David Young's version of Petrarch will refresh our images of the West's crucial lyric poet. We are given a Petrarch in our own vernacular, with echoes of Wyatt, Shakespeare, and many who come after." --Harold Bloom Ineffable sweetness, bold, uncanny sweetness that came to my eyes from her lovely face; from that day on I'd willingly have closed them, never to gaze again at l "David Young's version of Petrarch will refresh our images of the West's crucial lyric poet. We are given a Petrarch in our own vernacular, with echoes of Wyatt, Shakespeare, and many who come after." --Harold Bloom Ineffable sweetness, bold, uncanny sweetness that came to my eyes from her lovely face; from that day on I'd willingly have closed them, never to gaze again at lesser beauties. --from Sonnet 116 Petrarch was born in Tuscany and grew up in the south of France. He lived his life in the service of the church, traveled widely, and during his lifetime was a revered, model man of letters. Petrarch's greatest gift to posterity was his Rime in vita e morta di Madonna Laura, the cycle of poems popularly known as his songbook. By turns full of wit, languor, and fawning, endlessly inventive, in a tightly composed yet ornate form they record their speaker's unrequited obsession with the woman named Laura. In the centuries after it was designed, the "Petrarchan sonnet," as it would be known, inspired the greatest love poets of the English language-from the times of Spenser and Shakespeare to our own. David Young's fresh, idiomatic version of Petrarch's poetry is the most readable and approachable that we have. In his skillful hands, Petrarch almost sounds like a poet out of our own tradition bringing the wheel of influence full circle.

30 review for The Poetry of Petrarch

  1. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    A model selected poems, inasmuch as it's short, contains a couple of prose pieces, and every single poem is worth reading. This is particularly impressive, inasmuch as I don't care at all about love poetry... and Petrarch launched more love poets than any one else, ever. But that's because he's so good, even if his epigones are not. Of the two prose pieces, the 'Letter to Posterity' is less essential; Mark Musa's lovely introduction is more readable, and gives you the same information. But 'The A model selected poems, inasmuch as it's short, contains a couple of prose pieces, and every single poem is worth reading. This is particularly impressive, inasmuch as I don't care at all about love poetry... and Petrarch launched more love poets than any one else, ever. But that's because he's so good, even if his epigones are not. Of the two prose pieces, the 'Letter to Posterity' is less essential; Mark Musa's lovely introduction is more readable, and gives you the same information. But 'The Ascent of Mount Ventoux' is fascinating as a self-standing piece--a more or less fictional letter, describing events that probably didn't happen, obviously harking back to Dante and forward to anyone who's ever stood at the base of a mountain and thought "my, that's pretty," as well as everyone who's ever thought that maybe they could be a better person. I wasn't prepared for how approachable it was; highly recommended. As for the poems, I can't help but prefer the more political, and the more melancholy, rather than the "my lover's super hot, man" stuff. Consider the anger in 136, May heaven's fire pour down on your tresses since doing evil gives you so much pleasure, impious one, who, after stream and acrons got fat and rich by starving other people, you nest of treachery in which is hatched all evil that today spreads through the world, you slave of wine, of bedrooms, and of food, high testing-ground for every kind of lust! Usw. The New Atheists have nothing on the renaissance/medieval pious when it comes to ripping the church. And Musa's translations are charming, and occasionally excellent self-standing poems. Consider the second stanza of 190, which inspired Wyatt's famous Whoso List to Hunt: The sigh of her was so sweetly austere that I left all my work to follow her, just like a miser who in search of treasure with pleasure makes his effort bitterless. Not sure I know what that means, but who cares? I plan to use 'bitterless' in everything I say or write from now on. Not to mention, tackling more Petrarch.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    With you, dear Internet, I can be brutally honest: I was not in the market for a volume of Petrarch's poetry. Beyond the few sonnets I had read in classes scattered throughout my liberal arts education, this master of the early Italian Renaissance did not make the short list, or even the long list, of poets I intended to investigate further. No, I must admit that I was entirely seduced by Dean Nicastro's lovely cover art, which graces the new David Young translation of Petrarch's Canzoniere, put With you, dear Internet, I can be brutally honest: I was not in the market for a volume of Petrarch's poetry. Beyond the few sonnets I had read in classes scattered throughout my liberal arts education, this master of the early Italian Renaissance did not make the short list, or even the long list, of poets I intended to investigate further. No, I must admit that I was entirely seduced by Dean Nicastro's lovely cover art, which graces the new David Young translation of Petrarch's Canzoniere, put out by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Despite the Harold Bloom blurb marring the back of this beauty, the grace and simplicity of laurel leaves on marbled cream conquered my heart—much like Petrarch's own was conquered upon spying Laura that fateful day in the church of Sainte-Claire d'Avignon. Luckily, unlike Petrarch, I didn't have to pine and moan in solitude; I could buy this pretty prize, bring it home, and ravish it at my leisure. Which has turned out to be an extremely slow leisure indeed. I've been making my way through these poems since February, my friends, and am only spurred on to finish off the last twenty pages and write it up because people I told about it back then are starting to look at me funny when I meet them in the virtual street. It's not that I haven't been enjoying them, but it's an odd kind of enjoyment, and it's made me realize that I do not read poetry at the same pace, or in the same way, as prose, nor should I try to force myself into doing so. Poetry, after all, is so condensed—a professor of mine once defined it as "language under pressure"—maybe it shouldn't be consumed at the same rate a novel would be, at least not by me. That said, there is a certain novelistic quality about reading all 366 of the Canzoniere in order. Although each sonnet, sestina, or ballata seems to dwell in exactly the same emotional space as the one before it, a slow progression does take place as the years gradually unfold and the speaker's relationship to his own unrequited love evolves. The early poems give us a man struck by the full force of new infatuation; as it becomes clear that he will never successfully woo his lady (Laura was, unfortunately, already married), he struggles with anger and resentment, which alternate with attempts at acceptance and religious feeling. Every year that passes is marked with an "anniversary" sonnet, so the reader knows when the speaker has loved Laura for six, ten, eighteen years. The speaker's emotional landscape dips and crests; it is marked by such momentous events as a few words exchanged with Laura in public square, or a moment when she allows him to touch her hand. At times he rues the day he ever saw her, and at others affirms she alone gives his life meaning. He is beginning to face the prospect of growing old together (yet apart), when he begins to experience ominous forebodings, and indeed, Laura's sudden death soon strikes him a tremendous blow. The "ominous foreboding" sonnets were some of the poems I found the most interesting, full of atmospheric feeling: My lady used to visit me in sleep, though far away, and her sight would console me, but now she frightens and depresses me and I've no shield against my gloom and fear; for now I seem to see in her sweet face true pity mixing in with heavy pain, and I hear things that tell my heart it must divest itself of any joy or hope. "Don't you recall that evening we met last, when I ran out of time," she says, "and left you standing there, your eyes filled up with tears? "I couldn't and I didn't tell you then what I must now admit is proved and true: you must not hope to see me on this earth." The image of a ghostly Laura delivering the line "Don't you recall that evening we met last, / when I ran out of time...?" strikes me as deliciously Gothic, an impression that only grows when, thirty poems further on, he perceives her spirit returning to the mortal world to haunt and console him. As the narrator continues to struggle with grief and draw toward his own death, one realizes what a dynamic and really quite modern character study the Canzoniere, as a whole, make up. That said, there are also difficult things about reading Petrarch, and at the top of that list for me was the simply overwhelming influence that the man has had on every lyric poet who followed him. Like all game-defining works, the original sometimes comes to seem as tiredly clichéd as all its successors. At times I could imagine myself into a world before Shakespeare, before Milton, before Dickinson and Eliot, and begin to grasp the hugeness of Petrarch's accomplishment and influence, as in the poems against which Shakespeare's "Dark Lady" sonnets were likely reacting ("A lady much more splendid than the sun"; "her golden hair was loosened to the breeze"), or #190, the likely inspiration for Sir Thomas Wyatt's great "Whoso list to hunt" sonnet. But at other times I failed to make the imaginative leap back to the fourteenth century, and Petrarch's verses came off somewhat stale as a result. True, there were many, many gorgeous lines and passages, ones that reached out and grabbed my language-loving heart: Below the foothills where she first put on the lovely garment of her earthly limbs ... (#8) I walked along beloved riverbanks from that time on ... (#23) diamond perhaps, or maybe lovely marble all white with fear, ... (#51) that god you follow leaves you pale and wan ... (#58) she leads a mob of armored sighs around, this lovely enemy of Love and me. (#169) that same evergreen I love so well, despite the ways its shadows make me sad. (#181) I live in fear, in a perpetual war, I am no longer what I was ... (#252) My soul, caught up between opposing glories, experienced things I still don't understand: celestial joy along with some sweet strangeness. (#257) the snares and nets and birdlimes set by Love ... (#263) But there was no one poem that sustained this kind of arresting, tactile energy that is the heart of poetry to me. Having read the Canzoniere is, I find, intellectually rewarding but not emotionally exhilarating. And to be honest, I think part of the reason for that is simply my lack of sympathy for the massive project of amorous angst and sentimentality that Petrarch, probably never suspecting what a can of worms he was opening, nevertheless touched off in Western culture. To put it bluntly, it takes a lot for me to love a work about self-loathing and unrequited love. I don't believe in true love at first sight, or in some kind of courtly ideal of valuing one's life at nothing in exchange for a glance or a handkerchief. I have a high capacity for making allowances for a writer's time and place; I do well with Chaucer and Homer and the author of Beowulf. But in Petrarch I felt I was meeting the well-spring of a set of ideas against which I actively rail on an almost daily basis, and I couldn't quite get past that. Love as self-destruction is just not an idea I can tolerate, especially when paired with the veneration of the beloved as an object. These ideas may remain insanely popular in our culture, but they're not romantic; they're tremendously harmful. They are (and yes, Mom, I do believe this is the appropriate language for this situation) jacked. the fuck. up. The way a simple butterfly, in summer, will sometimes fly, while looking for the light, right into someone's eyes, in its desire, whereby it kills itself and causes pain; so I run always toward my fated sun, her eyes, from which such sweetness comes to me, since Love cares nothing for the curb of reason and judgment is quite vanquished by desire. And I can see quite well how they avoid me, and I well know that I will die from this, because my strength cannot withstand the pain; but oh, how sweetly Love does dazzle me so that I wail some other's pain, not mine, and my blind soul consents to her own death. I mean, it's a lovely and well-crafted poem from a technical point of view, but speaking as a pragmatist, just...no. No! No blind souls consenting to their own deaths! No casting yourself as a helpless moth drawn to the flame! No, good sir! I'll restrain myself from an analysis of the sonnets in which Petrarch deconstructs Laura into her component body parts, venerating at one moment her hand, at another her eyes, as if they were disconnected entities. Suffice to say, my appreciation of the cycle suffered due to my dislike of the now-persistent tropes Petrarch pioneered all those centuries ago. Nevertheless, I certainly did enjoy these poems to an extent, and I'm glad I read them all, since one of my favorite things about the volume was witnessing the slow progression and growth of the speaker's character. I'll just be sure to read some, I don't know, Seamus Heaney or something next, to cleanse my poetic palate.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ivana

    It was fun to reread Petrarca in English. Being confident that there are plenty of good reviews about this famous poetry book, I don't have anything a lot to say besides simply that I enjoy Petrarca's poetry immensely. When I've first read him as adolescent( when I had to because of the school) I used to think that he was crazy for writing a collection of poems to a women he did not know. Many years later and having learn a bit more about the context of his writing and I'm able to admire him for It was fun to reread Petrarca in English. Being confident that there are plenty of good reviews about this famous poetry book, I don't have anything a lot to say besides simply that I enjoy Petrarca's poetry immensely. When I've first read him as adolescent( when I had to because of the school) I used to think that he was crazy for writing a collection of poems to a women he did not know. Many years later and having learn a bit more about the context of his writing and I'm able to admire him for other things beside his obvious poetical genius. So, thank you Petrarca- one of the best poets that the Renaissance knew...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shyam

    True love—or rather, the truest—is always obsessive and unrequited. No one has better dramatized how it scorches the heart and fires the imagination than Petrarch did, centuries ago. —J. D. McClatchy _____ In 1327, at precisely the day's first hour, April 6, I entered this labyrinth, and I've found no escape. (211) . . . if other lovers have a better fortune, their thousand joys aren't worth one pain of mine. (231) __________ This volume comprises Petrarch's complete Il Canzoniere or Song Book; co True love—or rather, the truest—is always obsessive and unrequited. No one has better dramatized how it scorches the heart and fires the imagination than Petrarch did, centuries ago. —J. D. McClatchy _____ In 1327, at precisely the day's first hour, April 6, I entered this labyrinth, and I've found no escape. (211) . . . if other lovers have a better fortune, their thousand joys aren't worth one pain of mine. (231) __________ This volume comprises Petrarch's complete Il Canzoniere or Song Book; composed over 40 years and containing 366 poems, of which, most are in Sonnet form. The poems themselves are relatively easy to read; in contrast to his contemporary, Dante, and the latter's extremely dense allegory and symbolism, Petrarch's poetry is a little more worldly and "light", with any obscure symbolism and metaphors, as well as textual context, being helpfully explained with minimal notes in the margins. As would be expected with a collection of this size, the quality is not consistent, but there is definitely some great poetry contained within, and the whole certainly grows to become more than the sum of its parts. Of course, Petrarch's poetry had a deep and wide-ranging influence on future poets, . . . it is worth stating here, boldly and emphatically, that what we love in the sonnets of Shakespeare and Sidney and Spenser, among others, is in large part a reflection of their having absorbed and continued Petrarch's powerful example. and so his poems are also highly interesting to read in this context. Petrarch is also widely acknowledged as the first Humanist, and for helping to initiate the Italian Renaissance with his personal discovery of Cicero's Letters to Atticus. David Young's translation reads as very modern and fresh, which, for me, took a little getting used to; but the translation never oversteps, and is always faithful to the original. Highly recommended. __________ "As her white foot moves forward through cool grass, her sweet and quiet walking starts to spread a power, emanating from her soles, that acts to open and renew the flowers." (165) ". . . flawless ivory and fresh roses" (199) "Her lovely paleness . . . it stirred my heart . . ." (123) ". . . her lovely eyes and gorgeous hair" (198) "I mean that hair of hers, the curled blond snare that softly ties my soul and binds it tight . . ." (197) "Her golden hair braided with gems and pearls, or loosened, and more blond than burnished gold, — which she shook so sweetly and then gathered with such a charming gesture that my mind still trembles when I think of it again." (196) ". . . those curling locks of purest shining gold" (292) "Her glances made flowers bloom . . ." (325) "The fruit of age within the flower of youth . . ." (215) "I feed my mind upon a food so noble I don't need Jove's ambrosia or nectar." (193) __________ "You therefore, if you ever hope to have a peaceful mind before your final day, must emulate the few and not the mob." (99) ". . . a thousand things have changed, but I have not." (118) "And if I have ever strayed from the true path it pains me more than I can ever show." (119)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    The edition I have includes two letters at the start, "Letter to Posterity" and "The Ascent of Mount Ventoux." They were my favorite parts, because I'm not a poetry person. The poetry was good too (I think): lots of boars in the wood and shining hair and painful devotion; I can dig it. There are rumours that the "Laura" to whom all his poems are devoted is actually a stand-in for fame itself. His painful, painful, romantic, erotic devotion to fame. I can dig that even more (I mean, I've never kn The edition I have includes two letters at the start, "Letter to Posterity" and "The Ascent of Mount Ventoux." They were my favorite parts, because I'm not a poetry person. The poetry was good too (I think): lots of boars in the wood and shining hair and painful devotion; I can dig it. There are rumours that the "Laura" to whom all his poems are devoted is actually a stand-in for fame itself. His painful, painful, romantic, erotic devotion to fame. I can dig that even more (I mean, I've never known true love). Anyway, I gave this book so many stars because I really enjoyed the letters. A professor told me Petrarch was insanely self-centered, just 100% self-absorbed. I don't think so. I think his letters definitely *do* show someone obsessed with who he is, with his place in the world, with his thoughts and motivations — but that doesn't necessarily translate to narcissism (which is what I think this professor was getting at). We all want to know who we are, and we get lost trying to do so, as we sift through thousands of thoughts and side-thoughts and this and that. Petrarch, in these letters, tries to pierce through these tremendous doubts and come to some sort of center of self. I don't think he accomplishes it (who can?), but he writes two elegant, beautiful letters in the process. Sometimes you find a writer who really reminds you of yourself — just as a regular old person — and you just have to give them all your affection and stars.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Manners

    Petrarch is one of my favourite writers. A very influential poet, he was a master of expressing the sorrow of unrequited love. Devoted to Laura, he often employs classical myth, while also conveying his deep spirituality. He skillfully depicts his emotional suffering, while exalting Laura’s beauty. He also shows an impressive level of introspection. One of his great achievements, the Canzoniere continues to inspire. In his Secretum, it is evident that Petrarch had difficulty reconciling his ambi Petrarch is one of my favourite writers. A very influential poet, he was a master of expressing the sorrow of unrequited love. Devoted to Laura, he often employs classical myth, while also conveying his deep spirituality. He skillfully depicts his emotional suffering, while exalting Laura’s beauty. He also shows an impressive level of introspection. One of his great achievements, the Canzoniere continues to inspire. In his Secretum, it is evident that Petrarch had difficulty reconciling his ambitious quest for poetic glory with his devotion to God. As the father of Renaissance humanism, with its emphasis on human achievement, it is worth noting that Petrarch still maintained his belief in God, as evident in his other works, such as The Triumphs, which concludes with the poet finding solace in Eternity. Many of Petrarch’s poems are available in English translation at https://www.poetryimmortal.com/petrarca/

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jo Walton

    This is a good translation, and the original Italian is easily available free, so they can be read together, which you'll want to do because a lot of Petrarch's cleverness here is with language. There's no point reading "The gentle breeze, the golden curls, the laurel tree" without realising it says "L'aura, l'aureo, lauro" or "Laura Laura Laura", though since most of these sonnets say "Laura Laura Laura" you could probably figure it out. Oh that's unfair, but I like Petrarch best when he is not This is a good translation, and the original Italian is easily available free, so they can be read together, which you'll want to do because a lot of Petrarch's cleverness here is with language. There's no point reading "The gentle breeze, the golden curls, the laurel tree" without realising it says "L'aura, l'aureo, lauro" or "Laura Laura Laura", though since most of these sonnets say "Laura Laura Laura" you could probably figure it out. Oh that's unfair, but I like Petrarch best when he is not talking about love all the time. I enjoyed reading these anyway. I'd recommend his letters and dialogues more but there's a level of technical virtuosity in which these are stunning, and were stunning to his contemporaries. He was reaching for something nobody had even tried to reach for for centuries.

  8. 5 out of 5

    IrritableSatirist

    Exceptional. Petrarch was a poet of a broken heart, deeply tormented by the tragic side of life and love, and in his poetry, he vividly explores the human soul wounded. The images are potent, inspiring in the viewer great cathartic pain. Also included in this edition are Letter to Posterity and The Ascent of Mount Ventoux, which are on the nose but still containing some fine prose. Petrarch was one of the greatest poets of all time. His work sits comfortably next to Dante's in this regard. This ed Exceptional. Petrarch was a poet of a broken heart, deeply tormented by the tragic side of life and love, and in his poetry, he vividly explores the human soul wounded. The images are potent, inspiring in the viewer great cathartic pain. Also included in this edition are Letter to Posterity and The Ascent of Mount Ventoux, which are on the nose but still containing some fine prose. Petrarch was one of the greatest poets of all time. His work sits comfortably next to Dante's in this regard. This edition wonderfully encapsulates his greatness. Highly recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lina

    Left me completely breathless! I'm not a huge fan of poetry nor do I enjoy love themes, but the way Petrarch portrays his love towards Laura is simply heartbreaking! Everyone has at least once felt in the same position as him and I don't know about anyone else but I just felt like his heart was singing the same familiar song through his sonnets...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    "Creatures that are in life of such keen sight That no defence they need from noonday sun, And others dazzled by excess of light Who issue no abroad till day is done, And, with weak fondness, some because 'tis bright, Who in the death-flame for enjoyment run, Thus proving theirs a different virtue quite- Alas! of this last kind myself am one; For, of this fair the splendour to regard, I am but weak and ill- against late hours And darkness gath'ring round- myself to ward. Wherefore, with tearful eyes of f "Creatures that are in life of such keen sight That no defence they need from noonday sun, And others dazzled by excess of light Who issue no abroad till day is done, And, with weak fondness, some because 'tis bright, Who in the death-flame for enjoyment run, Thus proving theirs a different virtue quite- Alas! of this last kind myself am one; For, of this fair the splendour to regard, I am but weak and ill- against late hours And darkness gath'ring round- myself to ward. Wherefore, with tearful eyes of failing powers, My destiny condemns me still to turn Where following faster I but fiercer burn." - Sonnet XVII, "He Compares Himself to a Moth" Sometimes I wish I was fluent in Italian. Reading the beautiful yet very sorrowful sonnets of Petrarch made me realize that I may just learn the language someday. I'm going to be blunt (as I usually like to be): Petrarch's poetry totally sucked me in. I really enjoyed every word, every metaphor, every stylistic choice this man made in writing. I enjoyed learning about the man behind the words, as his unrequited love for Laura led to a brilliant yet terribly mournful tone that makes this poetry so lovely. There's the word for it- lovely! While Petrarch's poetry is certainly far from the happiest, it is so very beautiful and so deletable to read that I can't help but call it "lovely". I think I was a little scared to start this collection, since earlier on in the summer I had read other poetry that had taken me a long time and left me with little to enjoy intellectually after completion. To add to this, I have been taking on much older works this year, mainly ranging from Medieval to Renaissance literature. While this has been a truly enlightening experience for me, I always fear that I'll push myself too far and try to read too much to really stay focused. However, Petrarch's sonnets quickly became the first book that I would pull out and read: in other words, it was my book of top priority, which I tried to read at an eager pace without getting too excited. How can I even describe in words how it felt to finally feel connected to a collection of poetry besides the Keats collection? I am astonished at myself, because I used to swear that I was not into poetry. Yet here I am, raving about Petrarch. But how could I possibly be wrong in thinking that his poems are not only influential, but also very accurate from a human point of view? The most impressive aspect of Petrarch for me is (besides his creation of a new sonnet form that would carry over for many years) that his way of expressing raw emotion is done in such a way that it connects to everybody. While his situation may not be one that is shared by everyone, he deals with little parts of his dilemma so that different parts of his own soul become exposed to the reader. Compared even to my other favorite poets, Petrarch is the master of his craft in all possible ways. I feel a bit weird saying this, but I think Petrarch is as close to flawless as I would care to admit. I am a bit shocked at myself, really.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mel Bossa

    This is much more than a long love poem to Laura, but the musings of a great mind on destiny, the choices we make, and just how honest we decide to be with ourselves. According to what history says about Petrarch, he was a man divided by a quest to live a simple life of beauty and contemplation, and a relentless need to participate in Italian politics (which in his time were bloody and unbelievably unpredictable as any Game of Thrones episode). He had hopes of returning the papacy to Rome where This is much more than a long love poem to Laura, but the musings of a great mind on destiny, the choices we make, and just how honest we decide to be with ourselves. According to what history says about Petrarch, he was a man divided by a quest to live a simple life of beauty and contemplation, and a relentless need to participate in Italian politics (which in his time were bloody and unbelievably unpredictable as any Game of Thrones episode). He had hopes of returning the papacy to Rome where he believed it belonged. In the first part of the Canzoniere, I wasn't emotionally invested in the poem, as beautiful as it is--something in it left me a little cold and maybe even annoyed. The adoration of Laura's golden tresses and ephemeral beauty was a little much for me. Of course those who know me well, know I'm sensitive but hate sentimentality, so reading a pre-renaissance poem by an Italian poet was going to be a challenge for this self-proclaimed naturaliste. Anyway, as I read on and reached part two of the epic thing, Petrarch's focus shifted from Laura (I think she had died as he wrote the second part's verses), to his own thoughts and the examination of them. From then on, I was pulled in. The imagery is very provoking. Petrarch's regrets at not being a better man as he ages, touched me and his real mourning of a life cut short, resounded with my own pain at losing someone I loved more than anything far too soon. In a way, I think that above all, at least in my own humble opinion, The Canzoniere is a poem to be read later in life when one has suffered a little and after the passage of time has eroded one's youthful hopes. There is a quiet suffering in the last few pages that allowed me to visit my own grief as one would visit a friend in the night--a friend you keep very close to you for fear he will betray you if you should forget him. "I keep lamenting over days gone by, the time I spent loving a mortal thing, with no attempt to soar, although my wing might give no mean example in the sky. You that my soul unworthy sins descry, unseen and everlasting, heavenly King, succour my soul, infirm and wandering, and what is lacking let your grace supply; so, if I lived in tempest and in war, I die in port and peace; however vain the stay, at least the parting may be fair. Now in the little life that still remains and at my dying may your hand be near: in others, you well know, my hope is gone."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rodney

    Poets like Petrarch, who lived in times that savored technical virtuosity and skill at fulfilling strict formal rules more highly than our own does, can suffer badly in modern translations. They’re often either brought over into contemporary blank verse, or straitjacketed into meters and rhyme schemes that are dead to modern ears. David Young’s translations of the Canzoniere—all 366 of 'em—are remarkable for the way they succeed at combing Petrarch’s medieval Italian into direct demotic English Poets like Petrarch, who lived in times that savored technical virtuosity and skill at fulfilling strict formal rules more highly than our own does, can suffer badly in modern translations. They’re often either brought over into contemporary blank verse, or straitjacketed into meters and rhyme schemes that are dead to modern ears. David Young’s translations of the Canzoniere—all 366 of 'em—are remarkable for the way they succeed at combing Petrarch’s medieval Italian into direct demotic English that also approximates the shapely, measured elegance of the form for which he’s famous. Young creates the effect by putting caesuras where the rhymes ought to be, so that you get a feeling of completion at the ends of lines without disrupting the push into the next syntactic unit. The result is that meaning slops freely, almost conversationally, across the sentences while the lines preserve a sense of being elevated and formally “wrought.” It might be this effect that accounts for the longevity of the Petrarchan sonnet, the most familiar form to survive the Renaissance. Young sheds light on that, too, arguing for Petrarch’s Canzoniere as a sequence as deliberate and epistemologically sharp as Dante’s Commedia, but one that approaches the progress of a self through time in a more modern way, relying on echoes, resonances, and readerly inference rather than architectural rigor. The notes are also helpful and unobtrusive, without a lot of scholarly chrome and fenders, and not a footnote in sight. A great introduction to Petrarch’s often under-read achievement.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Red

    petrarca as founder of tourism. the tourist knows where he will go. the traveller knows where he was. easter 2007 i spent in the dolomites. i visited a friend called loris (laurel). he told me that it's his birthday april the 8th. so we had a little party. also my sister happened to be there. if you look at the dates in the sonnets of petrarch they kick off on good friday april the 6th when he sees laura for the first time. they end on april 8 on easter. he receives his laurel in the end. so in petrarca as founder of tourism. the tourist knows where he will go. the traveller knows where he was. easter 2007 i spent in the dolomites. i visited a friend called loris (laurel). he told me that it's his birthday april the 8th. so we had a little party. also my sister happened to be there. if you look at the dates in the sonnets of petrarch they kick off on good friday april the 6th when he sees laura for the first time. they end on april 8 on easter. he receives his laurel in the end. so in 2007 the dates were the same as in the sonnets and laurel was there. all in all above my comprehension. the sonnets are 366 in number, they cover a year.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Diem

    This started out as a rather lovely book of short essays and poems. Perfectly charming and easy to read. Then sh!t got real. By the middle of the book I was entranced by Petrarch's beautiful and poignant imagery and metaphor. I can only imagine how beautifully it reads in Italian. And how stirring it would have been as a novel approach to verse writing at the time of its creation. Beautiful.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Crompton

    This short collection has two essays and 40-some-odd poems by the great 14th century Italian writer. The essays show Petrarch to be a thoughtful, intelligent man with, however, a fairly high opinion of himself. But the poems, mostly concerning his doomed love of the mysterious Laura, are moving and multifaceted.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Every time I read one of Petrarch's poems, I am amazed! I love the romance and the beauty of each of his poems. The fact that he was able to write all these wonderful sonnets about one brief moment (or even sight) of an Italian woman, still gives me chills.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    This is my first exposure to the famous Italian poet and humanist, Petrarch. This book is a small collection of his works which I think beautifully sum up his life and work. There are three parts in this edition: The Letter to Posterity, Ascent of Mont Ventoux and a selection of works from the Canzoniere. The first is an autobiographical piece that is written with fabulous wit and detail. The second is a more philosophical and religious piece, which I did not enjoy as much as the first. The thir This is my first exposure to the famous Italian poet and humanist, Petrarch. This book is a small collection of his works which I think beautifully sum up his life and work. There are three parts in this edition: The Letter to Posterity, Ascent of Mont Ventoux and a selection of works from the Canzoniere. The first is an autobiographical piece that is written with fabulous wit and detail. The second is a more philosophical and religious piece, which I did not enjoy as much as the first. The third and main part is the poetry from the Canzoniere. These are evocative and didactic poems that Petrarch wrote about a woman, Laura, whom he saw only once, but she instantly became his muse. The selections of poetry are great insights into the lovesickness felt by Petrarch, as well as his laments on life and death after learning of the death of his love. All in all, this is a superbly translated version of Petrarch’s work, keeping with the original emotion. It is a quick and easy to read selection that I would recommend to anyone interested in the brilliant Petrarch. 5/5

  18. 4 out of 5

    Naomi Ruth

    Sometimes Petrarch can be a bit over-dramatic, but overall I enjoyed his work. There's a lot of classical references, which is great. And I've been on both sides of the fence of loving someone I can't have and being loved by someone who can't have me (although, not nearly to the extent that Petrarch experienced thankfully). Some really lovely phrases and great imagery. I think many of these would be perfect for teens going through some angst. I think he is probably underappreciated, which is too Sometimes Petrarch can be a bit over-dramatic, but overall I enjoyed his work. There's a lot of classical references, which is great. And I've been on both sides of the fence of loving someone I can't have and being loved by someone who can't have me (although, not nearly to the extent that Petrarch experienced thankfully). Some really lovely phrases and great imagery. I think many of these would be perfect for teens going through some angst. I think he is probably underappreciated, which is too bad.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Castles

    To the modern reader, this may look pathetic or even creepy. Here’s a man who dedicated his life to an obsession based on a brief meeting with this lady. He willingly admits that he trained his mind to focus only on Laura. But of course, in the proper context, this book very much is responsible for shaping the way we think about love, for establishing Italian literature in the Italian language, and for igniting the naturalistic flame that will eventually establish the renaissance.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    I've read every poem in here before, but this is the first edition where I gave the book as a linear collection a shot. The Canzoniere is certainly a different beast when read this way, and I would highly recommend it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tori

    turns out they don't name a type of sonnet after you for nothing

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alise Jirgensone

    poet and his muse - more than a love story

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This Oxford World's Classics edition of Petrarch's poetry contains two letters (his famous letter to his Parisian confessor, "The Ascent of Mont Ventoux," & his "Letter to Posterity") as well as a selection of pieces from his 366-poem Song Book, Il Canzoniere (pronounced CanzoNIEre). The Song Book was largely inspired by Petrarch's adoration of and love for Laura de Noves. Petrarch was a highly introspective man, and in the songs he charts his shifting feelings for Laura from the moment he first This Oxford World's Classics edition of Petrarch's poetry contains two letters (his famous letter to his Parisian confessor, "The Ascent of Mont Ventoux," & his "Letter to Posterity") as well as a selection of pieces from his 366-poem Song Book, Il Canzoniere (pronounced CanzoNIEre). The Song Book was largely inspired by Petrarch's adoration of and love for Laura de Noves. Petrarch was a highly introspective man, and in the songs he charts his shifting feelings for Laura from the moment he first beheld her that fateful day in the Avignon cathedral until her death and beyond. Il Canzoniere is divided into two parts: "Before Laura's Death" and "After Laura's Death." Most of the poems are heart-wrenchingly sad, with Petrarch lavishing rapturous compliments on his beloved only to weep bitter tears about her merciless indifference to his love (he calls her a "beast" a few times). Laura was already married when Petrarch first saw her, so he didn't stand a chance with her. In my favorite sonnet, he compares himself to a foolish butterfly, who flying about on a warm summer day, flutters longingly toward the sun, as butterflies do, only to crash into a woman's face, inciting tears and causing her to pound him out of existence. That woman is Laura, and the incident causes him to lament not so much his extermination from the planet as her cruel disdain toward his passion her: 141 As at times in hot sunny weather a guileless butterfly accustomed to the light, flies in its wanderings into someone’s face, causing it to die, and the other to weep: so I am always running towards the sunlight of her eyes, fatal to me, from which so much sweetness comes that Love takes no heed of the reins of reason: and he who discerns them is conquered by his desire. And truly I see how much disdain they have for me, and I know I am certain to die of them, since my strength cannot counter the pain: but Love dazzles me so sweetly, that I weep for the other’s annoyance, not my hurt: and my soul consents blindly to its death. The poems Petrarch wrote while Laura was still alive track his unrequited love for Laura--and the tumult of being enamored of someone who, for all his devotion, he could never possess. He sees Laura in the clouds, in the fields, in the streams, in the trees. He's perpetually haunted by her. He vacillates endlessly between hope and despair. He transforms her into a paragon and emblem of all that is beautiful and good. He uses his love to fuel and energize his poems; he writes his thoughts down to alleviate his 24/7 heartache. The songs take a decidedly gloomy turn after Laura's death. Petrarch becomes increasingly aware of the fleeting nature of earthly delights, meditating with increasing morbidity on the futility life. He struggles to relinquish his love of fame and even of Laura; he struggles to accept his own mortality and tries to looks forward to the next life, although it pains him to leave his earthy life behind. These poems--most of them sonnets--are highly sensitive articulations of the feelings one who is on the brink of death inevitably feels: they register the deep ambivalence he felt toward life, death, glory, and the woman who inspired and tortured him with her beauty throughout his adulthood. On the verge of death, he renounces all and awaits his death, where he hopes to see his beloved Laura again. This time, she will notice him and be glad to see him.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

    Petrarch is one of the most important poets in the European tradition, but the reason I bought this volume was to read 'The Ascent of Mount Ventoux', the letter detailing his ascent of the mountain in the company of his brother and two servants, generally regarded as the first substantial account of climbing a mountain in existing literature. I am a devotee of mountain literature, so this was a necessary text for me, and it didn't disappoint. The book is worth it for this one piece. His 'Letter Petrarch is one of the most important poets in the European tradition, but the reason I bought this volume was to read 'The Ascent of Mount Ventoux', the letter detailing his ascent of the mountain in the company of his brother and two servants, generally regarded as the first substantial account of climbing a mountain in existing literature. I am a devotee of mountain literature, so this was a necessary text for me, and it didn't disappoint. The book is worth it for this one piece. His 'Letter to Posterity' is also interesting, an account of his life that isn't self-indulgent and which opens a narrow window on the world of the 14th Century in Europe. As for the poems... now I have to admit my own weakness. I didn't enjoy them. I didn't understand them, although it is clear that they are only about one subject: his love for a girl called Laura, a love so obsessive and all-encompassing that it feels almost like a self-parody. My mind kept wandering as I read these poems. I couldn't concentrate on the words. I read them dutifully but absorbed nothing. I guess that lyrical poetry just isn't my thing!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maan Kawas

    A fascinating collection of Petrarch’s Canzoniere that demonstrates the poets mastery and talents! Although the main theme of the collection is the poet’s love to Laura, who inspired him these Canzoniere, still these poems addresses different issues and themes. The poet talks about his first meeting with Laura and his falling in love at first sight with her, his suffering in love, the unrequited love, the paradox of pleasure and pain he experienced as a result of his love. However, the Canzonier A fascinating collection of Petrarch’s Canzoniere that demonstrates the poets mastery and talents! Although the main theme of the collection is the poet’s love to Laura, who inspired him these Canzoniere, still these poems addresses different issues and themes. The poet talks about his first meeting with Laura and his falling in love at first sight with her, his suffering in love, the unrequited love, the paradox of pleasure and pain he experienced as a result of his love. However, the Canzoniere tackles other themes as well, such as the passing of time, nature of love, religion, and political issues, and glory. These collection was written in the vernacular language, and the translating is a beautiful and enchanting one. What is particularly charming in the Canzoniere is Petrarch’s analysis of his own mental states and emotions, which might signify that the poems are also about him too, not only Laura; namely about his lived experience. The collection includes different forms, but the sonnets constitute the majority of these forms (the others include sestine, madrigals, and ballate), and the made an important effect on sonnet writing then, not only in Italy. I enjoyed the book too much, especially, because it starts with two letters by Petrarch, the great Italian Laureate poet, that shed light on the man, who was seeking glory. I even enjoyed the introduction that provided important information about Petrarch.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Celine

    The entire Canzoniere are 365 poems written by the early humanist Francesco Petrarca, centering around his love for Laura. My version only had sixty of the poems, because a lot of them are hard to translate into English without losing a lot of the form and syntax that makes them special. I'm not a big poetry reader. The amount of books with poems that I've read can easily be counted on one hand. I think the Canzoniere were a bit too ambitious for me; at times I had no clue what Petrarca was talki The entire Canzoniere are 365 poems written by the early humanist Francesco Petrarca, centering around his love for Laura. My version only had sixty of the poems, because a lot of them are hard to translate into English without losing a lot of the form and syntax that makes them special. I'm not a big poetry reader. The amount of books with poems that I've read can easily be counted on one hand. I think the Canzoniere were a bit too ambitious for me; at times I had no clue what Petrarca was talking about at all. I could still enjoy his imagery though, and for a guy that lived over 600 years ago his themes still feel very familiar. His love for Laura is static, but heartfelt. He's a big fan of "cold flames" and "hot ice", but I guess we have to cut him some slack about that. When this was written, these kind of oxymorons were still fresh in literature, and probably didn't feel as contrived as they do to us now. I have of course no way of judging whether this translation by Anthony Mortimer is close to the original or not, but I enjoyed what he did with it. He managed to keep plenty of sentences rhyming without making everything rhyme, which would make the poems end up like children's poems. There were plenty of beautiful sonnets that I liked. The Canzoniere was completely outside of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed the experience.

  27. 5 out of 5

    B. Asma

    I enjoyed these 366 canzonière in which the Italian poet Petrarch literally and figuratively waxes poetic about Laura de Noves back in fourteenth-century Italy and France, during the Papacy's captivity/residence at Avignon. As her facial expression pities him, he lyrically swoons over her chasteness and beauty, bestowing the conduit of Nature's awesome characteristics through her. Like a chivalric hero, he adores an unobtainable damsel, esteeming her refusal to act dishonorably were she to retur I enjoyed these 366 canzonière in which the Italian poet Petrarch literally and figuratively waxes poetic about Laura de Noves back in fourteenth-century Italy and France, during the Papacy's captivity/residence at Avignon. As her facial expression pities him, he lyrically swoons over her chasteness and beauty, bestowing the conduit of Nature's awesome characteristics through her. Like a chivalric hero, he adores an unobtainable damsel, esteeming her refusal to act dishonorably were she to return his love. When Laura dies (he doesn't say how), Petrarch works to transform his temperament from lusting her physically to pursuing her pure spirit in heaven in union with the Virgin Mary and God. He prays to disdain his besotted, desirous human nature to join her spirit in death. According to these translated poems and introduction by David Young, Laura's death guides Petrarch's transformation from his formerly mistaking her physical charms as being the highest traits of beauty and virtue to his afterwards loving her spiritual embodiment of those traits in a higher truth. Before he is ready for that salvation, he must seek the Virgin Mary's mercy for the erroneous deeds and ideas of his earthly life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Lawrence

    "If I can love with such a glowing faith a bit of mortal and corrupted dust, how greatly will I love a noble thing?" I don't often reread books – there are too many of them for that – but since graduating college, I've been more inclined to return to those that were deeply significant in my younger years (God, what a pretentious turn of phrase). Any of my high school classmates can attest, probably with laughter, that the Canzoniere was hugely impactful for me, and it was extremely rewarding to rer "If I can love with such a glowing faith a bit of mortal and corrupted dust, how greatly will I love a noble thing?" I don't often reread books – there are too many of them for that – but since graduating college, I've been more inclined to return to those that were deeply significant in my younger years (God, what a pretentious turn of phrase). Any of my high school classmates can attest, probably with laughter, that the Canzoniere was hugely impactful for me, and it was extremely rewarding to reread it now – or, really, read it for the first time in its entirety, as we only read a fraction of it then. Going through it slowly over the last few months illuminated just how deeply its influence runs in my thought (and writing), revealing ways I've changed over the years and ways I've stayed the same – which is only fitting, considering the text's nature as a delicate account of the way desires persist and evolve through the passage of time. My appreciation of Petrarch has changed now that I'm older, but it hasn't lessened; it's only deepened.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Bird

    Highly recommended title for teachers who want to demonstrate REAL Italian/Petrarchan sonnets from the first master of the style. I love that Anthony Mortimer actually kept the Petrarcan rhyme scheme in his translation. So many choose words without the rhyme which is such a vital part of a sonnet! I had permission to use #13 "When sometimes Love comes in that lovely face/Quando fra l'altre donne ad ora a ora for Grace Awakening, but instead ended up doing my own translation of 61 (which Mortimer Highly recommended title for teachers who want to demonstrate REAL Italian/Petrarchan sonnets from the first master of the style. I love that Anthony Mortimer actually kept the Petrarcan rhyme scheme in his translation. So many choose words without the rhyme which is such a vital part of a sonnet! I had permission to use #13 "When sometimes Love comes in that lovely face/Quando fra l'altre donne ad ora a ora for Grace Awakening, but instead ended up doing my own translation of 61 (which Mortimer doesn't do). This demonstrated to me the serious challenge of capturing words, iambic pentameter and correct rhyme scheme. Not easy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ema

    I immediately fell in love with this book. More than a love story, it is sort of a confession of a man who, living at the end of the Middle Ages, thinks about how to reconcile the new, post-humanist ideals with traditional Christian ideology, how to solve the contradiction between earthly and heavenly love, between the irresistible desire for happiness in this life and the irrational fear of death and eternal damnation. Even more than that, Canzoniere made a considerable impact on the poetry tha I immediately fell in love with this book. More than a love story, it is sort of a confession of a man who, living at the end of the Middle Ages, thinks about how to reconcile the new, post-humanist ideals with traditional Christian ideology, how to solve the contradiction between earthly and heavenly love, between the irresistible desire for happiness in this life and the irrational fear of death and eternal damnation. Even more than that, Canzoniere made a considerable impact on the poetry that came after it and inspired a whole generation of Petrarca's followers - Petrarchists, some of whose works I have had the immense pleasure to read and study about.

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