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The Poetry of Petrarch

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Petrarch was born in Tuscany and grew up in the south of France. He lived his life in the service of the church, traveled widely, and during his lifetime was a revered, model man of letters.

Petrarch's greatest gift to posterity was his Rime in vita e morta di Madonna Laura, the cycle of poems popularly known as his songbook. By turns full of wit, languor, and fawning, endlessly inventive, in a tightly composed yet ornate form they record ...
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The Poetry of Petrarch

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Petrarch was born in Tuscany and grew up in the south of France. He lived his life in the service of the church, traveled widely, and during his lifetime was a revered, model man of letters.

Petrarch's greatest gift to posterity was his Rime in vita e morta di Madonna Laura, the cycle of poems popularly known as his songbook. By turns full of wit, languor, and fawning, endlessly inventive, in a tightly composed yet ornate form they record their speaker's unrequited obsession with the woman named Laura. In the centuries after it was designed, the "Petrarchan sonnet," as it would be known, inspired the greatest love poets of the English language-from the times of Spenser and Shakespeare to our own.

David Young's fresh, idiomatic version of Petrarch's poetry is the most readable and approachable that we have. In his skillful hands, Petrarch almost sounds like a poet out of our own tradition bringing the wheel of influence full circle.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
All 366 of the Canzoniere are available in The Poetry of Petrarch, an English-only edition by poet and translator David Young (At the White Window), who also introduces the book. Petrarch (1304-1374) spent 47 years crafting, mostly in sonnets, what may be the ultimate evidence that a love (here, for "Laura") that is thwarted in flesh can come to fruition in word: "Love spurs me on and reins me in at once,/ comforts and terrifies, burns and freezes me,/ is kind, then scorns me, summons and dismisses, thrills me with hope, then fills me up with sorrow." Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Francesco Petrarca, known simply as Petrarch (1304-74), is widely considered to be the inventor of modern lyricism. The "Petrarchan sonnet" inspired generations of English-language poets that came after him, including Shakespeare. This fluent new translation of his work by poet Young (At the White Window) is quite possibly the most readable one yet, featuring a lengthy introduction by the translator, an index of first lines, and useful side notes. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“David Young’s version of Petrarch will refresh our images of the West’s crucial lyric poet. We are given a Petrarch in our own vernacular, with echoes of Wyatt, Shakespeare, and many who come after.” —Harold Bloom

"To read love poetry—to speak of the language of love—is to read Petrarch, who is largely responsible for inventing what W. B. Yeats called 'the old high way of love.' David Young has made the old way new again: his translation is limpid, uncluttered, rhythmically alive, and, above all, readable. Lovers of poetry will discover here the language they have spoken all their lives." —James Longenbach

“David Young’s new version of Petrarch makes this great poet seem closer to us than before, both in language and as a living presence. His marginal comments and introduction help to convey a coherent sense of Petrarch the man, his life and the myth he made of it.” —W.S. Merwin

"True love—or rather, the truest —is always obsessive and unrequited. No one has better dramatized how it scorches the heart and fires the imagination than Petrarch did, centuries ago. He dipped his pen in tears and wrote the poems that have shaped our sense of love—its extremes of longing and loss—ever since. Now in David Young's elegant new versions, his songs are as soaring and searing as ever. Indeed, not only is this a vibrant translation for our day but, their immense range slowly savored, these poems will sound anew the depths of each reader's own heart." —J.D. McClatchy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374529611
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 774,915
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

The sonnets of Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, 1304-74) helped to establish Italian as a literary language. David Young is the author of nine volumes of poetry, most recently of At the White Window.

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Table of Contents

Petrarch: An Introduction vii
The Canzoniere, 1-366 1
Index of First Lines 265
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 24, 2013

    David Young's refreshing translation of Petrarch's anatomy of ly

    David Young's refreshing translation of Petrarch's anatomy of lyric poems brings the vernacular to English speech in a collection of 366 sonnets written more than six hundred years ago by the first modern poet.

    Francesco Petrarch, (1304-1374) simply known as Petrarch, a Latin scholar, poet, and the first sonneteer who has profoundly influenced European poetry of the Renaissance; including Shakespeare, Boccaccio, Spencer, and some of the principle poets of American literature.

    While reading this book it became abundantly clear to me why Petrarch's work has become the phenomenon that stands behind a stylistic revolution of poetry. It is no hyperbole to say that he has influenced some of the foremost love poets in literary history. Petrarch's unparalleled prowess gave him the ability to psychologically transpose a poem into a living proximity in his conscious, whereas he would then assign that cerebral stimulation in its own voice, tone, and personality on the page.

    It is evident that the poet composed his sonnets only to mirror his altruism, and paradigms of affection for Laura; who he devotedly fell in love with when he first met her at the church of S. Claire, in Avignon, the 6th of April in 1327. He would define her as lovely to look upon with sunny tresses, eyes of pearl, and lips of rose. But Laura could never reciprocate his admiration as she was married to Count Hugues De Sade.

    Therefore, Petrarch would commit his life into writing love poems to his beloved "Laura." At times, you can almost hear his cries of suffering in the words he expresses about his ardent love and harrowing despair for Laura's unattainable affection in his poetry. He continued to write about Laura with an enthusiastic passion even after her death on Good Friday, 22 years after he first saw her in 1327.

    Petrarch wrote 366 sonnets about Laura in a period of 47 years, although her death was as heavy on his heart, as it was to attain her love. On July 19th 1374 Petrarch was found dead with his body resting over his desk with a pen in his hand. Perhaps the true cause of his death will remain unanswered; I believe he died from a broken heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2004

    Great intro and great read.

    At first I looked for the Italian original, not that I would understand it but it looks nice. Well the book would be a bulky twice the size tome. Then I looked to see who David Young the translator is and he is a poet, so what, I thought. Then I started reading the Introduction and I was delighted. The first line,'Time is our delight and our prison.' Not bad. Further'...the exploration of temporality might be seen as the special province of lyric poetry, which records moments of heightened awareness in the temporal process and can accumulate a rich and moving record of an individuals lifelong engagementwith time.' Nice, this guy seems to speak nicely and do everything to make his translation a reader friendly edition.

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