Laura  

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Laura and poetry

In 1327, the sight of a woman called "Laura" in the church of Sainte-Claire d'Avignon awoke in him a lasting passion, celebrated in the Rime sparse ("Scattered rhymes"). Later, Renaissance poets who copied Petrarch's style named this collection of 366 poems Il Canzoniere ("Song Book"). Laura may have been Laura de Noves, the wife of Count Hugues de Sade (ancestor of Marquis de Sade). While it is possible she was an idealized or pseudonymous character - particularly since the name "Laura" has a linguistic connection to the poetic "laurels" Petrarch coveted - Petrarch himself always denied it. Her realistic presentation in his poems contrasts with the clichés of troubadours and courtly love. Her presence causes him unspeakable joy, but his unrequited love creates unendurable desires. There is little definite information in Petrarch's work concerning Laura, except that she is lovely to look at, fair-haired, with a modest, dignified bearing.

Laura and Petrarch had little or no personal contact. According to his "Secretum", she refused him for the very proper reason that she was already married to another man. He channeled his feelings into love poems that were exclamatory rather than persuasive, and wrote prose that showed his contempt for men who pursue women. Upon her death in 1348, the poet finds that his grief is as difficult to live with as was his former despair. Later in his "Letter to Posterity", Petrarch wrote: "In my younger days I struggled constantly with an overwhelming but pure love affair - my only one, and I would have struggled with it longer had not premature death, bitter but salutary for me, extinguished the cooling flames. I certainly wish I could say that I have always been entirely free from desires of the flesh, but I would be lying if I did."

Petrarch polished and perfected the known sonnet form inherited from Giacomo da Lentini and which Dante widely used in his Vita Nova to popularise the new courtly love of Dolce Stil Novo. Many of Petrarch's poems collected in the Canzoniere (dedicated to Laura) were indeed sonnets, and the Petrarchan sonnet still bears his name. Romantic composer Franz Liszt set three of Petrarch's Sonnets (47, 104, and 123) to music for voice, Tre sonetti del Petrarca, which he later would transcribe for solo piano for inclusion in the suite Années de Pèlerinage.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Laura" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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