Monday, January 29, 2024


Petrarch (Fransesco Petrarca) (1304―1374) is an important Italian poet whose influence ― particularly as the originator and populariser of the sonnet ― is still felt today. Although best known for his poetry, he was also a significant scholar. His influence can be seen in the spread of humanism, which Petrarch saw as being no contradiction with his stand as a dedicated Christian.

Sometime between 1342 and 1353 Petrarch wrote Secretum ― a personal reflection on his life and the significance of his faith to him, in the form of an imaginary dialogue with Augustine. It begins with Augustine criticizing Petrarch for not having dedicated himself completely to God, through his love for the things of this world and his desire for literary fame. Secretum ― though not published within his lifetime, and possibly written only for his private reflection and self-criticism ― also became an important work.

One of the things of this world he was obsessed with was a beautiful, unobtainable woman named Laura, who was married to someone else. The Canzoniere is his book of sonnets and other poems concerning his love for her, and his sorrow at her premature death. The following poem is from The Canzoniere, and was translated by A.M. Juster. This translation appeared in The Christian Century in 2022.


Death dimmed the sun that dazzled brilliantly;
my eyes, intact and healthy, are in shade.
She is now dust who made me flame and fade;
like elms or oaks my laurels wilt for me,
so that I see my goal, though agony
remains. No one else made my thoughts afraid
and bold, nor chilled and scorched them, nor conveyed
full hope, nor flooded them with misery.
Released by one who jabs and mollifies,
who tortured me for many years before,
my freedom’s bittersweet, I realize,
and to the Lord I thank and I adore,
whose eyes sustain and oversee the skies,
I turn—world-weary, not desiring more.

Posted with permission of the translator.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Petrarch: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.