Francesco Petrarca "Petrarch"

Founder of Humanism, Seeker of Bliss By Will Ebert

Biography: Who was Petrarch?

Petrarch was born on July 20th, 1304 in Arezzo, Italy to Ser Petracco and Eletta Canigiani. He lived in Incisa then Pisa then finally Avignon, France where he lived most his life.

Petrarch came form a wealthy enough family, so he was taught grammar and rhetoric. However most of his studies were about law which he had no love for, but his father wished him to. After his father's death in 1326 he left law and pursued his own interests, poetry. Of course without a job Petrarch joined the biggest money making organization around, the Church. In 1330 he enter the service of Cardinal Giovanni Colonna. Petrarch was a restless spirit and was constantly traveling to new places, in service of the church however. Petrarch was very involved with his community and the church, and came to know many people throughout his town and his travels. During his travels the fame for his work grew. He even was invited to be crown poet of Rome or France. (He chose Rome, sorry France) In 1348 the Black Swept over Europe and many of Petrarch friends died and his love, "Laura". After the Black Death Petrarch gather his works and organized them, he also "finished" The Canzoniere (More information is located below). In 1361 Petrarch fled to Padua because the plague had broken out in Milan. (His son was killed in this plague :( ) In 1362 he settle in Venice for a time until finally settle in ArquA (Near Padua) were one of his patrons Francesco da Carrara gave him land. There he again "finished", organized, and added to his work. His daughter, Francesca join him in ArquA until he died on July 19 1374. Petrarch was known as being one of the first humanist since Greek/Roman times and his devotion toward self driven goals prove that. Petrarch also was a bit of a skeptic, he questioned a lot of christian beliefs and saw the world differently then most before. His entire life he struggle between his faith toward his religion, his love for Laura, and his ambition for fame. ('Petrarch')

Laura: "Better to have loved than lost, then never to have loved at all."

On April 6th, 1327, at the church of St. Clare, Petrarch fell in love with a women "named" Laura. She didn't love him back. (Ouch) However that didn't stop Petrarch from writing 366 poems about her..........ya Petrarch was a stalker. Petrarch is famous for "popularizing" the Italian sonnet or Petrarchan sonnet which influence poets and Renaissance men for over 300 years. Petrarch wrote and dedicated an entire book to Laura, The Canzoniere, which was an assortment of all of his poems to her. In 1348 Laura died when the Black Plague ravaged Italy, Petrarch was grieved by her death and wrote the second half of The Canzoniere,, in which the tone changed to a "melancholy longing". The identity of Laura is not known nor if her name was even really "Laura", none the less the intensity of the poems suggest she was real enough, and Petrarch was tormented by her his entire life. ('Petrarch')
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The Canzoniere, My Song Book

The Canzoniere was quite literary Petrarch's life work. He began his "book" when he was young and continued editing it throughout his life even until his last days. The book was collection of his poems, mostly his love poems to Laura. The piece can be found published in various books and online. The piece is important because it contained the basic design for the Italian Sonnet which was commonly used in Italy for the next 300 years and is still used today. The piece also was a model for humanism, because it focused on Petrarch's desires not God's. I find this piece so interesting because of how devoted Petrarch became to this women and question why he would continue to love her even after he was, basically, "rejected". Also the intensity and passion of the poems are noted as well as the cling to chastity....and also because I'm a sap. ('Petrarch')

ëSe la mia vita da líaspro tormentoí: an exerpt from The Canzoniere

If my life of bitter torment and of tears

could be derided more, and made more troubled,

that I might see, by virtue of your later years,

lady, the light quenched of your beautiful eyes,

and the golden hair spun fine as silver,

and the garland laid aside and the green clothes,

and the delicate face fade, that makes me

fearful and slow to go weeping:

then Love might grant me such confidence

that Iíd reveal to you my sufferings

the years lived through, and the days and hours:

and if time is opposed to true desire,

it does not mean no food would nourish my grief:

I might draw some from slow sighs.

(The Canzoniere 12)

Fun Facts about Petrarch's Life

*Laura was believed to have been married, so Petrarch was going against his religion by loving her

*Petrarch did find someone in his life, he had a daughter, Francesca, and a son (who little is known about because he died during the plague). However Petrarch was in the service of the church, so he could never get married, so his mistress was never known. ( ?:/)

*Believe it or not Petrarch was actually a deeply religious person (*gasp*) even though he didn't follow all of the rules

*Petrarch wrote many other famous books that weren't focused on love such as The Secretum, and the epics, Africa and Triumps, and he also wrote a famous letter called Familiares VII, 7

*Petrarch traveled often, from Parma to Rome to Paris and Germany. He even climbed Mt. Ventoux in France and claims to be the first to reach the top since the fall of Rome

*Petrarch's family was in Political exile when he was born in Arezzo

*The Canzoniere contains 317 sonnets, 29 canzone, 9 sestinas, 7 ballads, and 4 madrigals

Bibliography: How do I know all this?

Work Cited:

"Petrarch (1304-1374)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.

"Petrarch." DISCovering Authors. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.

Kline, A. S., trans. The Complete Canzoniere. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Uploads.worldlibrary.net. 2001. Web. 20 Jan. 2013.


Picture Citations:

Laura: Petrarca-laura.jpg. Digital image. Literatura Universal. Blogspot, n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.

Petrarch: +Petrarch+and+Laura.jpeg. Digital image. Www.independent.co.uk. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.


To see more of Petrarch's poems, select the link below to download a pdf file of Petrarch's The Canzoniere.