Thursday, December 1, 2011
(Petrarch, 1304-1374, Italian poet
and humanist, pictured here crowned
with a laurel wreath in honor of his
renown as a poet)
As a form of poetry, the sonnet can be traced to thirteenth-century Italy. Petrarch, one of the literary giants of the Italian Renaissance, so perfected the love sonnet that one form bears his name. Many of Petrarch's sonnets express an unattainable love for the sublimely ideal woman.
In his work, Petrarch was inspired by his own experience of unrequited love. His muse, the beautiful Laura, married another man.
The Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet begins with an octave in abba, abba rhyme, which sets out the question or theme. This is followed by a sestet in cde, cde or cd, cd, cd rhyme, which provides the answer or solution.
She ruled in beauty o’er this heart of mine,
A noble lady in a humble home,
And now her time for heavenly bliss has come,
’Tis I am mortal proved, and she divine.
The soul that all its blessings must resign,
And love whose light no more on earth finds room,
Might rend the rocks with pity for their doom,
Yet none their sorrows can in words enshrine.
They weep within my heart; and ears are deaf
Save mine alone, and I am crushed with care,
And naught remains to me save mournful breath.
Assuredly but dust and shade we are,
Assuredly desire is blind and brief,
Assuredly its hope but ends in death.
~ Petrarch, or Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), Italian humanist and poet, translated by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911)