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Petrarch

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Francesco Petrarca, usually refered to as Petrarch ( 1304-1374), is generally regarded, along with Dante and Boccaccio, as the father of humanism in Western Europe. He was responsible for bringing to light many of the works of the classic poets, historians and orators of ancient Rome. He was also an outstanding poet in his own right. The following are three poems he wrote about a woman named Laura with whom he fell deeply in love, even though she  did not return his affections. The first of the three poems describes their first meeting on Good Friday in 1327, the second records his feelings for her and the third is addressed to God the Father on Good Friday in 1338, 11 years after he fell in love.

Chronologies

West Europe: Humanism

III. Era il giorno ch'al sol si scoloraro

It was the day when the sun's heavy rays
Grew pale in pity of his suffering Lord,
When I fell captive, lady, to the gaze
Of your fair eyes, fast bound in love's strong cord.
No time had I wherein to make defense
Or seek a shelter from Love's sudden blows;
I walked secure, no harm perceiving, whence
My griefs began amid the general woes.
Love found me all disarmed, and through my eyes
Where tears are wont to flow, he saw the way
Wide open to my heart. His arrow flies
And strikes the mark where it must ever stay.
Scant honor his to wound me thus, nor show
To you, well armed against him, even his bow!

XXI. Mille fiate, o dolce mia guerrera

A thousand times to make my peace I sought
With your fair eyes, O my sweet warrior foe,
And offer you my heart; but little thought
Had your proud spirit to look down so low.
Yet if another would that heart enchain,
She lives in fickle hopes and dreams untrue;
Since I despise all things that you disdain,
It is no longer mine when scorned by you.
If driven forth, it cannot find at all
Harbour with you upon its wandering way,
Nor stand alone, nor go where others call,
Far from its natural pathway must it stray.
On both our souls this heavy sin will rest,
But most on yours, for you my heart loves best.

LXII. Padre del ciel; dopo i perduti giorni

Father in heaven, lo! these wasted days
And all these nights in vain imaginings spent,
My thoughts enkindled to one maddening blaze,
On one alluring presence all intent!
May't please Thee now that by Thy light I bend
My life to better things--some worthier aim--
And that my foe his snares in vain extend,
And at his bootless wiles be filled with shame.
'Tis now, O Lord, the eleventh circling year
Since I am fettered by this pitiless chain
Which to the weak is ever most severe;
Have mercy on my undeserved pain!
Guide Thou my wandering thoughts some better way,
Remind them Thou wast on the cross to-day!



From: Some Love Songs of Petrarch, pp. 130, 132, 146, 147.

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