Petrarch’s Quest for Harmony
Throughout Petrarch’s Canzoniere he expresses his search for harmony in a variety of ways, but especially when articulating his love for Laura and, at the final poems, his desire for forgiveness from God. Petrarch struggles with his internal conflict throughout The Rime Sparse and often contradicts himself from one poem to the next. The Canzoniere shows Petrarch’s evolution in his quest for inner peace and satisfaction.
When writing about Laura, Petrarch either praises her or curses her for putting him through such emotional distress. In Petrarch’s 229th and 230th sonnets the contrast towards his feelings for Laura are quite obvious. In sonnet 229 Petrarch is bitter towards Laura for putting him through heartbreak; however, in sonnet 230 he is at peace with loving Laura. Petrarch bluntly displays this contrast by opening sonnet 239 with “I sang, now I weep…” and then with the opposite “I wept, now I sing…” in sonnet 230 (Robert 384-386). Petrarch’s uncertainty reflects his need for harmony, or balance with his love of Laura. Petrarch wants to feel content in loving her, but yet he knows that he never will because Laura is dead and she therefore will never be able to return his love. Petrarch wants to be at peace with her death and wants certainty that they will meet again in heaven.
After grieving his loss of Laura his entire life, finally in sonnet 361 Petrarch realizes how much of his life he devoted to Laura and how she “…deprived all others of fame…” Petrarch grasps that he was so engulfed in his devotion towards her that he exiled all others from his heart. He states that he should have spent the 31 years that he loved Laura seeking peace and fleeing troubles instead. Petrarch finally realizes that he erred in the way he lived his life and he now seeks forgiveness from God. Petrarch finally wants to be in harmony with himself, God and his fate. Petrarch now depicts Laura as Medusa, who has caused him to become “a stone dripping vain moisture.” Petrarch uses this comparison to exhibit how Laura froze Petrarch’s life in almost every aspect; she caused him to become apathetic towards everything except his sorrow for her.
Although he was exempt from almost all other emotions, it was still easy for him to weep and mourn her. Petrarch prays for forgiveness due to his obsession of Laura and how she completely consumed him so that he could see nothing else but her for so long. Petrarch specifically asks mercy from the Virgin Mary in hopes that she will understand because they have the same mortal origin and he believes that she will be able to see his humble heart. In the last few poems Petrarch is begging for absolution so that he can enter the gates of heaven and in return find harmony at last (Robert 570-583).
Throughout the Canzoniere the reader can conclude that Petrarch is indeed trying to find harmony, although he at first does not know what that is. Petrarch struggles to find his definition of harmony and, like many of us, first finds it in a pseudo love. Petrarch struggles his entire life to find this balance, but finally on the verge of his deathbed he can finally see all of the mistakes he made by putting a mere mortal on a pedestal instead of worshipping his heavenly father. With his book finished and his life reevaluated, one can conclude it is safe to say that Petrarch finally found the balance and harmony he desired for so long. Citations
Robert, Durling. Petrarch’s Lyric Poems. Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 1976. 384-386. Print. Robert, Durling. Petrarch’s Lyric Poems. Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 1976. 570-583. Print.