Petrarch

1304-1374

Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca) is buried in Arguà Petrarca, Italy, Europe.



Tomb of Petrarch

Petrarch, who was a poet and a humanist, was born in Arezzo, the son of a notary. His family were forced to leave Florence in 1312 (at the same time as Dante) when the Black Guelfs seized power and they moved to Avignon in France. Petrarch later studied law at the universities of Montpellier and Bologna.

In 1327 Petrarch met Laura in a church in Avignon and she became the inspiration for much of his poetry. The exact identity of Laura is not known but some say she may have been Laura de Noves, the wife of Count Hugues de Sade. Petrarch's Canzoniere (Songbook) subsequently became the template for all European lyrical poetry.

Petrarch's poetry was first translated into English by Sir Thomas Wyatt who had encountered it while on diplomatic visits to Italy from Henry VIII's court in 1527.

However, it was Petrarch's influence on the use of the sonnet in English which is perhaps the most significant development. It was Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey who took the original Petrarchan sonnet and changed it to three quatrains and a final rhyming couplet - creating the English sonnet which Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney and others would make great use of. (The Petrarchan sonnet had two quatrains and a sestet.)

Petrarch was also a student of antiquity - an interest which he shared with his friend Boccaccio and he encouraged a revival of interest in Roman texts by Virgil, Cicero and Seneca and also arranged for a translation of Homer.

In 1341 Petrarch was crowned laureate in Rome. Petrarch spent the final four years of his life at Arguà Petrarca. He died in Arguà on 19th July 1374. His house is now a museum.

It was announced in 2003 that Petrarch's tomb would be reopened to make a reconstruction of his face (from his skull) to mark the 700th anniversary of his birth - but when the tomb was opened DNA tests revealed that the skull was not that of Petrarch - which led to calls for the return of the original.

Those eyes, 'neath which my passionate rapture rose,
The arms, hands, feet, the beauty that erewhile
Could my own soul from its own self beguile,
And in a separate world of dreams enclose,
The hair's bright tresses, full of golden glows,
And the soft lightning of the angelic smile
That changed this earth to some celestial isle,
Are now but dust, poor dust, that nothing knows.
And yet I live! Myself I grieve and scorn,
Left dark without the light I loved in vain,
Adrift in tempest on a bark forlorn;
Dead is the source of all my amorous strain,
Dry is the channel of my thoughts outworn,
And my sad harp can sound but notes of pain.

Gli Occhi Di Ch' Io Parlai (Translated by Thomas Wentworth Higginson)
 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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