Medieval Love Poetry reached its peak with Francesco Petrarch's Rime sparse

Medieval love poetry owes a great deal of its output to Francesco Petrarch's Rime sparse. In the preceding page we introduced the opening verses deicated to his great love Laura.

The next poems from the same work on this page are numbers 8, 9, 11 and 12. Here the mood of the poet changes into sombre reflections that speak of great despair and death:

8. ' A pie' de' colli ove la bella vesta'

At the foot of the hill where beauty's garment

first clothed that lady with earthly members,

who has often sent wakefulness to him,

who sends us to you, out of melancholy sleep,

we passed by freely in peace through this

mortal life, that all creatures yearn for,

without suspicion of finding, on the way,

anything that would trouble our going.

But in the miserable state where we are

driven from that other serene life

we have one solace only, that is death:

which is his retribution, who led him to this,

he who, in another's power, near to the end,

remains bound with a heavier chain.

9. 'Quando 'l pianeta che distingue l'ore'

When the heavenly body that tells the hours

has returned to the constellation of Taurus,

power from the burning horns descends

that clothes the world with new colours:

and not only in that which lies before us,

banks and hills, adorned with flowers,

but within where already the earthly moisture

pregnant with itself, adds nothing further,

so that fruits and such are gathered:

as she, who is the sun among those ladies,

shining the rays of her lovely eyes on me

creates thoughts of love, actions and words;

but whether she governs them or turns away,

there is no longer any Spring for me.

Let us look at two more examples of Petrarch's medieval love poetry. Here are poems 11 and 12:

11. 'Lassare il velo o per sole o per ombra'

I have not seen you, lady,

leave off your veil in sun or shadow,

since you knew that great desire in myself

that all other wishes in the heart desert me.

While I held the lovely thoughts concealed,

that make the mind desire death,

I saw your face adorned with pity:

but when Love made you wary of me,

then blonde hair was veiled,

and loving glances gathered to themselves.

That which I most desired in you is taken from me:

the veil so governs me

that to my death, and by heat and cold,

the sweet light of your lovely eyes is shadowed.

12. 'Se la mia vita da l'aspro tormento'

If my life of bitter torment and of tears

could be derided more, and made more troubled,

that I might see, by virtue of your later years,

lady, the light quenched of your beautiful eyes,

and the golden hair spun fine as silver,

and the garland laid aside and the green clothes,

and the delicate face fade, that makes me

fearful and slow to go weeping:

then Love might grant me such confidence

that I'd reveal to you my sufferings

the years lived through, and the days and hours:

and if time is opposed to true desire,

it does not mean no food would nourish my grief:

I might draw some from slow sighs.

There are more great examples of Petrarch's medieval love poetry from the Canzoniere:

Petrarch 4

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