Canzoniere 134: Hurt

Throughout Il Canzoniere 134 Petrarca uses tone and oxymorons, which makes his overwhelming sentiments caused by Laura evident. With the use of different figures of speech he creates a sense of sadness incorporated with hurt. In the first stanza, Petrarca makes two statements that seem to oppose each other but are more focused on himself and his current state. “I find no peace, and I am not at war, I fear and hope, and burn and I am ice;” he is beginning to set the tone to the poem by expressing the turmoil within himself. He begins by stating how he isn’t happy and at peace with himself yet he isn’t at war either to create a dramatic sense of his emotions. 

Petrarca then transitions to mentioning Laura and how not having his feelings matched by her affects him. “One keeps me jailed who neither locks nor opens, nor keeps me for her own nor frees the noose;”He begins to use words that mention another individual (Laura) and her actions that seem to contribute to his mood. By capitalizing in the sudden pauses he brings the readers along with him through his emotional journey. In the first stanza we felt his sense of feeling absent within himself while he is trying to figure out what he feels to a now a messy disheveled and desperate state of thoughts. The sudden pauses in the second stanza makes his disheveled state clear as it seems as though he is trying to figure out and pinpoint the feeling her rejection has caused “ Love does not kill, nor does he loose my chains;” He feels like his pain is being inflicted on him and is trying to make sense of it, for he loves Laura but not having his feelings reciprocated by her is causing his suffer. 

In the midst of trying to make sense of his emotions he begins to put the blame towards Laura, his “lady”, by stating that it’s her fault that he is in such anguish and torment. “I dislike death as much as I do life: because of you, lady, I am this way.” The shift in phrasing here suggests a profoundly dramatic tone while also emphasizing “I,” implying a scratch to the poet’s ego. 

Francesco Petrarca quote: Peace I do not find, and I have no wish … |  Quotes of famous people
Francesca Petrarca by Justus van Gent

Petrarca’s emotions of hurt and anguish is conveyed through the way the poem is written with the sudden pauses to create a sense of confusion, to the oppositions paired together. Overall illustrating a roller coaster of feelings Petrarca takes the readers along as he tries to clear his emotions and pinpoint the cause. 

Canzoniere 132: Confusion

Philippe Jacques van Bree: Laura and Petrarch at the Fountain of Vaucluse

Similar to the rest of the poems in Il Canzoniere, the general theme in poem 132 is love. However, in this poem, Petrarca seems to question love and shows a sense of confusion regarding this feeling.

In Stanza I, Petrarca writes “If it’s not love, then what is it I feel?/But if it’s love, by God, what is this thing?” He is trying to make sense of this feeling, which seems difficult because he himself is uncertain of the answer. Being that love is such a complex matter, one is bound to feel every feeling every aspect of it, just like Petrarca. He then continues by making two metaphors. The first is love being good, but feeling pain from it. The second is love being bad, but enjoying the pain that it gives you. Here he is expressing his bitter-sweet love for Laura. Though it may bring him unruly pain and confusion, this pain and confusion is giving him the strength to continue loving her.

In Stanza II, Petrarca realizes that he is only bringing himself pain by continuing this love for Laura. He states “And if against my will, what good lamenting?” Here it’s as though he understands that there is no point in crying and feeling sad because there is nothing that he can do about it. Since she was married and had children, his overall love for her was forbidden. After, he acknowledges that he does not give heart “consent” to feel the way he feels. I, however, disagree with this statement because it seems to be contradicting. He has an obsessive love for a woman that he cannot have, yet does not give his heart consent to feel this way.

In Stanza III, Petrarca uses imagery to describe that he is conflicted in this matter. In other words, he is stuck on a small boat in the middle of the ocean without something to steer him. The “contrasting winds” are his emotions. It seems like he is playing tug-of-war with himself because he knows that he is madly in love with Laura, but he also knows that this love is not right. He knows that continuing to love her pains him, but it’s utterly impossible for him not to feel love for her.

In Stanza IV, Petrarca feels as though his world has turned upside-down. Since he has no idea what he is doing or feeling (“so light of wisdom”) and accepts that he is making a big mistake (“so laden of error”), he “shiver in midsummer, burn in winter.” In other words, he is confused and uses irony to describe this confusion. Petrarca also makes a double entendre by using the word laden. In this context, he used this word to explain that is making many errors, but it can also mean to load a ship. This “ship” relates to him being stuck on the boat in Stanza III and the boat being “loaded” with more feelings, errors, and baggage for being in love with Laura. The boat is coming heavier over time making it heavier for it, or Petrarca, to go in the right direction.

Canzoniere 81: Divinity

A potrait of Franseco Petrarch source:

Throughout this poem, Petrarca speaks on his many misdeeds and how crushed he is by the weight of those mistakes until a “friend” comes and saves him. The main theme in this poem is error/mistake and this is evident because the poem begins with a very distressed Petrarca saying ” I am so weary under the ancient burden of my sins and evil ways.” This sentence makes me believe that he is reflecting on his past actions in a form of disgust and disappointment. However, I do not believe the only theme in this poem is mistakes, there is also God.

Petrarca speaks of his fear of “falling into his enemy”, and though this enemy could be a real person, he is most likely referring to Satan and falling into temptation, until a “friend” comes and saves him from his misery and bad deeds. In this poem, the “friend” was God himself speaking to Petrarca, telling him to trust Him and His guidance to lead him down a righteous path. Although there are could be other interpretations of the friend he speaks about(especially that the friend he speaks of is Laura), this is unlikely due to the capitalization of the word “Friend” in the poem.

Petrarca ends poem 81 with a simile that I believe ties the poem together very well; “Will you give me wings like a dove To rise from Earth and find rest.” He wishes to leave behind all his prior errors and mistakes and go up to heaven with God to start over. This metaphor also shows just how much of an impact religion had on his mindset, he hopes that one day he will be able to find rest by the grace of God. However, this metaphor is also very sad, the “rest” he speaks of could also be perceived as death.

Canzone 189: The Sea

In the canzoniere, we get to see the state of Petrarch’s mind many times, but there’s one metaphor for his state of mind that stands out to me. Canzone 189 portrays Petrarch’s state of mind as a ship at sea. The ship can be seen as his mind, with the sea and weather representing thoughts, or emotions. As we go on in the canzone, we can see that Petrarch feels a mix of negative emotions, placing the image of a sea in the middle of a storm with the rough waves of the sea. “My ship full of forgetful cargo sails, though rough seas at the midnight of a winter…”.

Ships in the stormy sea with gigantic waves Horrible storms - YouTube

As the poem goes on, Petrarch portrays his emotions by describing the weather in greater detail. “… the sail, by wet eternal winds of sighs, of hopes and of desires blowing breaks;”. Here we see that he feels lost and stuck with the sail breaking, as the sails are what help move the ship (Petrarch’s mind). At the end, he confirms this feeling of being lost, describing his lack of reasoning, and skill to move the ship. “… and I despair of ever reaching port.”. He feels he can’t overcome these negative emotions, and is doomed to be stuck in this storm.

Why does this stand out to me? To start, I love the imagery that Petrarch uses to describe his mind. I could easily imagine the rough seas, and cruel weather reading the poem, and relate to this negative blend of emotions creating a storm. Along with this, it stands out to me because it makes me think of Dante entering purgatory. Comparing the two, it creates an interesting juxtaposition. While in this canzone there’s a rough storm representing Petrarch’s unstable state of mind; Dante uses imagery of a ship in clear skies, with “The sweet color of eastern sapphire…” (Canto 1, line 13) of the ocean, showing a state of clarity after the inferno. This was something that stood to me and was interested in, as these were both very different states of mind, and the complete opposite of one another.

Canzoniere 189: Lost

‘A Mediterranean Brigantine Drifting Onto a Rocky Coast in a Storm’ painted by Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707). This was painted following Sir Thomas Wyatt’s (1503-1542) translation of Petrarca’s 189 poem.

In this poem, Petrarca speaks about his struggle to get his soul on the right path, comparing this journey to a rough storm at sea. Throughout Petrarca’s work, we repeatedly see the message of trying to get his soul on the right path and not to be swayed by Earthly possessions, and instead wanting to focus on finding out the truth about life. For example, we see this in the allegorical meaning of the Ascent of Mount Ventoux, as he also describes the difficult journey he must take in order to become enlightened as to what life really has to offer. 

We begin the first stanza with the line “My ship is full of forgetful cargo sails”, in which he uses the metaphor of a ship (which appears in several poems of his) to describe his soul. He then goes on to state how his ship is sailing through “rough seas at the midnight of winter between Charybdis and the Scylla reef”. Through this imagery, we get the message that the journey he must go through is arduous and dangerous. Petrarca even mentions the Scylla reef and Charybdis, which are two mythical sea monsters that are typically used to describe the hazardous conditions between Sicily and Italy.  

In the second stanza, we start to see Petrarca despair at his situation. He speaks about how he dreads the storm ahead and what challenges it might bring, as well as using the imagery of his sail breaking due to “wet eternal winds of sighs, of hopes and of desires”; this line essentially describes how his own hopes and wants in life are preventing him from reaching the spiritual awakening he needs. This hopeless tone continues on in the third stanza, as he provides imagery about the stormy atmosphere, saying it’s made of “a rain of tears, a mist of my disdain”. This storm continues to destroy Petrarca’s ship as it ravages the “weary ropes made up of wrong, entwined with ignorance”. 

The last stanza encompasses Petrarca’s melancholic point of view of his journey. As evident from the past three stanzas, his journey is difficult and full of obstacles, and we begin to see his hopelessness take over him. The stanza stuck out to me in particular because of the imagery he uses to describe how lost he feels while on this journey, especially when he says his skill and reason are now “dead in the waves”. This line perfectly exemplifies how feeling hopeless while on a journey, whether it’s to reach a spiritual awakening or for another cause, can make you feel as though you have no sense of reason or skill anymore, which can drive one deeper into feeling depressed and dejected. In his final line, Petrarch repeats this sentiment by saying “and I despair of ever reaching port”, where he admits that because of how difficult this journey is and his inability to think clearly, he fears that he may never reach what his ultimate goal is.

Canzoniere 61: Bound

Italian (Venetian) School; Petrarch and Laura de Noves; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology;

Poem 61 has an evident theme of love, especially within its first moments where Petrarca describes the emotions of when he fell in love with Laura. He expresses this theme of love throughout this poem and many others, through his uses of detailed imagery and hyperboles. 

In the first stanza of this poem, Petrarca regards the very instant and place where he first met Laura as a blessing. He explains how he felt ‘bound’ to love after he laid eyes on her ‘two lovely eyes’. This same theme of being ‘bound’ to Laura’s love is evident throughout many of his poems, not just this one. He then continues to describe this love as his ‘first sweet agony’, and explains how he is now tied to this love.

In the second stanza, he uses metaphors to compare this feeling of love to being pierced through the heart with a bow, which left wounds so deep he feared they would “reach the bottom of his heart. By using this hyperbole, he gets the reader to understand his feelings of love, and how he fell so deep in love that it caused agony and pain, and ended up hurting his heart, and portrays the struggles he had to go through when it came to loving Laura. Petrarca also mentions many Roman gods throughout his poetry to get his points across. In this particular poem, he alludes to Cupid through the mention of bows and arrows to describe his love.

In the next stanza, Petrarca discusses all of his poetry, and the main catalyst for writing them. He states that all of his poetry was made to be a call out for Laura, and a way to express his love for her, and the feelings that came with it. He also talks about how this poetry was filled with ‘all the sighs, and tears, and the desire’ that came with loving her. By stating this, Petrarca gives the reader a good sense of what most of his poetry is about, and the feelings and emotions they can find within it. It also shows how he deeply cares for Laura to the point where he has to cry out her name and shed tears.

In the last and final stanza of this poem, Petrarca talks about how all of this paper he uses to write his poetry is blessed with Laura’s grace, as she is the topic for the poetry he writes about her. Petrarca also states how every thought he has only relates to Laura, and is not shared with anyone else. 

Canzoniere 319: Shackled

Throughout Il Canzoniere, Petrarca professes his love for Laura in several ways. When he talks about the weight of her death in this sonnet, for example, it gives us, as the readers, an understanding of the admiration that he has for her. Love is seemingly the main theme of a handful of his poems, including this one, however he does not always portray it as a constant beautiful feeling. For instance, this sonnet explores the complexities of love and how it can be constricting.

In the first stanza, Petrarca writes “My days, swifter than any fawn, have fled like shadows” which explicitly reveals that he has lost all sense of time. This is awfully common for people who aren’t experiencing any excitement in their life, or have no hope for their future. He also compares the duration of all the good things in his life to a wink, which effectively shows how fast these moments come and go. Lastly, when he talks about his calmest hours, which he says are few and far between, he uses the word “bittersweet” to describe them, because his mind is truly never at ease. Even when things seem to be going better for him, he constantly thinks about how much happier he would be if he and Laura were together.

The Triumph of Death, from a 1503 edition of Petrarch. Depicts Laura’s death from the Black Plague. Source: FineArtAmerica

In the next stanza, Petrarca lets out all his anger and frustration with the world. He describes it as “wretched” and “arrogant” because of the broken condition that he was left in after Laura’s death. He also condemns any man that puts their trust into the world, even calling them “blind,” because at one point he was that same man that put his hope out there in the world. He believes that he was given false hope, as he is now unhappy because the person who owns his heart is merely dust, not a person in the flesh. Even though he is fully aware that Laura is not with us, he continues to express his love for her in the third stanza, where he says that her soul (“her best form”) continues living in the Heavens and keeps him more in love.

In the final stanza, Petrarca reintroduces the idea of time passing him by. He mentions that as he gets older and his hair grays, the only thing that he can think of is Laura and what she is like. This, once again, only reinforces the sentiment that he is chained to this love for eternity.

Canzoniere 3: Vulnerable

Antonio Salamanca (1500-62)-Laura and Petrarch

Love is the genre and theme for poem 3. This poem describes how Petrarca felt when he fell in love with Larua and how it made him weak. He expresses himself and his ideas through metaphors and descriptive language. He displays a sorrowful tone throughout the poem. 

  In the first stanza, Petrarca starts with a metaphor. He states that “It was the day the sun’s ray had turned pale with pity for the suffering of his Maker”. This establishes a gloomy tone from the start of the poem. A sunray is something that is bright and is seen as something that is happy and cheerful. It turning pale suggest an unhappy feel. He then goes on is the next few lines to explain how he fell in love. He said things like “I was caught” and “I put up no fight”. This describes how Petrarca’s love for Laura engulfed him and he gave in. He uses the metaphor “your lovely eyes had bound me” in the last line to emphasize how captured he was.

In the second stanza, Petrarca explains how being in love turned out to be a bad thing. He portrays love as something to be fought against by saying “it seemed no time to be on guard against Love’s blows…”.The phrases “guard” and “against” show that Petrarca believed he needed to defend himself against love. He then goes on to say that his “misfortunes began in midst of the universal woe”. This shows how he felt like being in love negatively affected his life. The use of the word “misfortune” adds to the dark nature of this poem.

In the following stanza, Petrarca explains how love weakened him. He implies that love left him vulnerable by saying that “Love found me all disarmed”. The term “disarmed” usually refers to when someone removes a weapon from another person. In this poem, Petrarca’s weapon is his invulnerability which was taken by his love for Laura. In the next line, he states that love found a way to reach his heart through “the eyes which have become the halls and doors of tears”. This line implies that love found its way into his heart through the precise thing that is now showing his agony. Laura’s beauty is a part of the reason Petrarca loves her so much. Beauty is seen through the eyes that he now cries out of.

In the last stanza, Petrarca begins to refer to love as “him” or “his” representing it as a person. He uses this stanza to show his understanding as to why love hurts him so much. He starts off by saying that “it seems to me it did him little honor to wound me with his arrows…”. This expresses that Petrarca does not understand why love hurts him. He then goes on to say “and to you, armed, not show his bow at all.”. In this line, Petrarca is referring to Laura. Based on how good it feels to be in love with Laura, he would not suspect that it would hurt him in the end. This poem was written to demonstrate how love captured Petrarca and led to what he perceives as misfortune.

Il Sorgue: Il Fiume dell’Amore; Canzone 126:

¨Chiare, fresche et dolci acque ove le belle membra pose colei che sola a me par donna¨

Laura incorona Petrarca (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ashb 1263, Firenze)

Nel tipico tono d’uomo moribondo a causa dell’amore che Petrarca sente per Laura avvia l´inizio della canzone 126 del Canzoniere la quale è compresa da cinque strofe ed un congedo.

La prima strofa, è piena di metafore dove il Poeta invoca l’attenzione dell’acqua del fiume, Le Sorgue, del ramo, dell’erba, dei fiori e dell’aria che lo circonda ad ascoltarlo giacché in questo luogo beato fu dove il poeta ha visto la sua cara Laura nuda per la prima volta. Sembra come se la natura stessa diventa una cosa viva a causa dell’amore che Laura ha per questo luogo. Allo stesso tempo, questo posto così vivo per Petrarca diventa il posto scelto da lui come un rifugio oppure letto di morte. Diverso dagli altri poemi nel Canzoniere, questo poema non ci dà nessun indizio che la causa della sua morte imminente sia la vecchiaia, se non l’Amore stesso che qui viene personificato, il quale sembra li aprisse e chiudesse gli occhi.
Nella seconda strofa, questo stesso Amore viene invocato dal Poeta, e gli supplica la morte proprio in quel posto così amato da lui e Laura. È curioso che la natura che circonda il Sorgues si ravvivi semplicemente entrando in contatto con Laura. L’amore che Laura ha per questo posto lo rende vivo. In un’altra dose ironica del poeta, l’amore che lui sente per Laura sembra causare la sua morte invece che il rinascimento. È per questa ragione che il Poeta ritorna a questo posto, non così tanto perché sia un rifugio dalla vita sociale ma perché è il posto dove ha avuto un incontro con Laura. E se lui non può godere un amore reciproco dalla sua amata, il poeta le basta essere sepolto nel luogo amato da lei.
Nel congedo, Petrarca parla direttamente alla sua canzone. Le dice che è libera di andare altrove se i suoi desideri sono stati soddisfatti. È facile supporre che i desideri di Petrarca per Laura non siano stati soddisfatti ancora perché continua il suo pellegrinaggio al suo rifugio ed è qui che desidera essere sepolto.

Canzone 129: Love

Poem 129 had a lot to do with love, more specifically the way Petrarca’s2 deep and profound love for Laura makes him feel. He conveys his emotions, ideas, and fears with very descriptive language. Continuously throughout Canzionere, Petrarca describes the feeling of bitterness and sorrow that is his love for Laura creates within him. The first stanza of the poem starts off with him saying that essentially, love “leads him on” from one place to another, and gets him through paths that are not well suited to living a peaceful life. As he weeps and sighs over and over again, throughout the poem, he finds himself wounded and sick with love but quickly recovers just by the thought of  things like “love saving you for better days.” 

In the following stanza, he creates an image for the reader, depicting him going up a high mountain feeling peace and thinking of Laura. He asks himself many different questions that come into his mind about love and how he treats himself in comparison to her. He stated “…perhaps; you’re loathsome to yourself but dear to her. Then to another thought, I pass and sigh: “Now could this be the truth? But how? But when?” This foreshadows a lot of what will be happening in this poem in the sense that he will be giving us an insight into what goes through his mind. Most of it, if not all will almost certainly relate back to Laura in some way.

Right after this in the next stanza, Petrarca gives us a glimpse of his point of view and state of mind again when he starts to see his lover’s face on a stone and “ feel love so close by.” He sees the love his soul carries as an error, but is satisfied with it, and asks that this error lasts because of his immense love for her and how his mind strays away from himself. He realizes that he does not give himself much thought in that moment and time, only Laura. This continues on in the next stanza when he states that he has “seen her many times-… the clear water and above green grass, alive, and in the trunk of a beech tree, and in a cloud of white…” It is almost as if his love for her consumes his every thought, and it is clear to see as the poem progresses. However, he repeats the same cycle and goes back to weeping and writing and coming back to reality “when the truth dispels.”

In the final stanza of this poem, he continues the imagery of climbing up to the highest and freest peak of the mountain, continuously weeping, writing, and thinking about Laura. However, halfway through he has an epiphany and starts thinking about how someone else might feel the same way about him, as he does when it comes to her. He stated “ Then softly to myself: How do you know, poor fool! Perhaps out there, somewhere, someone is sighing for your absence”, and this thought finally calms his soul.