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Sonnets by Petrarch

  1. May 13, 2005 #1
    I am struggling while trying to dissect Petrarch's Sonnet's I to IV. All i know is that all the 4 sonnets are kind of continuations of each other...each being about his love. I can't see a theme. Is it just love? if so, how are the poems different then? Thanks for any help
  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2005 #2
    Got a link?
  4. May 13, 2005 #3


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    Asking physicists to help you with literary analysis is a bit like asking Maya Angelou to do your relativity homework for you.
  5. May 13, 2005 #4
    I majored in Theater, as did Math Is Hard. I've tackled a sonnet or two in my time.
  6. May 13, 2005 #5


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    Here's Sonnet 1 in the original:
    Just brilliant, isn't it?

    BTW, for those uncultured individuals for whom medieaval Italian is only partly understood (do such boors actually exist? How can they live with themselves??), here's a link which includes translations of the first and second sonnets, at least:

  7. May 13, 2005 #6
    I don't like those translations. Got anything that follows the originals more closely?
  8. May 13, 2005 #7


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    Here's another:
    Sonnet I (tr. A. S. Kline)

    You who hear the sound, in scattered rhymes,
    of those sighs on which I fed my heart,
    in my first vagrant youthfulness,
    when I was partly other than I am,

    I hope to find pity, and forgiveness,
    for all the modes in which I talk and weep,
    between vain hope and vain sadness,
    in those who understand love through its trials.

    Yet I see clearly now I have become
    an old tale amongst all these people, so that
    it often makes me ashamed of myself;

    and shame is the fruit of my vanities,
    and remorse, and the clearest knowledge
    of how the world's delight is a brief dream.
    Last edited: May 13, 2005
  9. May 13, 2005 #8
    Yeah, I find that much easier to follow.

    Now, I wonder exactly what student007 is supposed to be looking for.
  10. May 13, 2005 #9


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    Here's some more info on Petrarch.

    The basic story is that the sight of a woman, Laura de Noves, at church one day inspired a passionate and enduring love in Petrarch, and that this encounter is what led him to write these poems.

    I'm not quite sure how you're thinking about the sonnets being "kind of continuations of each other", but they look to me like successive pieces of a narrative.
    Last edited: May 13, 2005
  11. May 13, 2005 #10


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    He's looking for someone to do his homework for him. :rolleyes:
  12. May 13, 2005 #11
    Yes, I know. That's why I want him to come back so I can feed him nonsense.

    (Just kidding 007)
  13. May 14, 2005 #12
    No seriously...I saw sonnet I, and said it was significant in its connection between human and animal nature. The other two, i just said the theme is love. I said that sonnet II is more superficial love, and in sonnet III he has matured (as he refers more to her personality). But sonnet IV, all i can see is a rewording of sonnets I-III. I'm just wondering how its different? BTW, i don't want you guys to do my homework for me, i just want an idea to work with. you can be as broad as u want in helping me. I appreciate this a LOT. lol thanx
  14. May 14, 2005 #13
    What is the actual wording of the assignment? I ask, because there's alot of different valid ways to approach a poem.
  15. May 14, 2005 #14
    Its funny. I was told merely to do a brief analysis for themes..THATS IT :)
  16. May 14, 2005 #15
    Picking out themes is pretty simple.
    Somehow, though, you don't have the hang of it. Reread sonnet I and try again.
  17. May 14, 2005 #16
    First of all, my sonnet I is different from the sonnet I from this thread. I got mine from an anthology, and it goes like this:

    there are animals in the world of so stalwart
    a sight it can stand even the sun;
    others, because the great light hurts them,
    come out only toward evening;
    and others, with a mad desire that hopes
    perhaps to rejoice in fire, because it shines,
    experience the other power, the one that burns.
    alas, and my place is in the last throng,
    for i am not strong enough to look on the light
    of this lady, and i don't know how to make shields
    or dark places or late hours
    so with tearful and weak eyes
    my fate leads me to see her;
    and i know well that i go after what burns me.

    This is how i understood it. he says that people are different....kind of like animals are different. some animals are afraid of the sun and go out only at night. those that do go out in the sun can be hurt by it. similarly, humans can live "safe lives", not risking things, OR they can live and "reach out" to their sun, however, thy may be hurt by it. In the poem, he is choosing to pursue the woman, his "sun", although he knows that he may be hurt by it. At the end, i was kinda confused...i think he meant that he's like a nocturnal animal, unable to be exposed to the sun, his woman. So, he can only pursue her through fate.
  18. May 14, 2005 #17
    OK 007, now I see where the animals came from.

    First: write me out a list of the three different kinds (the three different throngs) of animal he describes in the first part. I'm not sure you caught the difference between the three.
  19. May 14, 2005 #18


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    Just a follow-up on zooby-shoe's post:
    Do you think the mesmerizing effect a candle has upon a moth leads to a better life quality for the moth?
    Just my idea, though..
  20. May 14, 2005 #19
    Hey, this is homework. Don't feed him the answers.
  21. May 14, 2005 #20


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    Well, I think he got confused because he didn't actually try to clarify Petrarch's three images.
    He still needs to do a lot of work with the other two images, and quite a bit of polishing on the third.
    Perhaps my nudge was too big, though..
  22. May 14, 2005 #21
    Well...if u can't take the hint, English is my weaker subject. Anyways, zoobyshoe, the three images with respect to animals are:
    1) some who can stand the sun
    2) some which the sun hurts, so they come out towards evening
    3) Some that, although the sun burns them, are fuelled by desire so they reach out to it (I'm not very sure about the third one)
  23. May 14, 2005 #22


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    My post above refers to the first four sonnets of the Canzoniere as shown at the link I gave (and which I assume is canonical since the numbering accords with arildno's link). I'll ask this just to make sure: the teacher's instructions refer to the first four sonnets in the book you are using, not generically to Petrarch's first four sonnets? Note that if the former is true, there is no way for anyone here to know which sonnets you are talking about, and if the latter, you are almost certainly reading the wrong ones.

    Also, you might want to look at more than one translation. The sonnet you quoted seems to be number 19 of the Canzoniere. Here is the version at the site I linked earlier, and there is another version if you scroll down at arildno's link.

    The titles or footnotes or something should indicate the original number for each sonnet in your book (otherwise it's probably a really screwed up book... :rolleyes: ).
  24. May 14, 2005 #23


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    " with a mad desire that hopes
    perhaps to rejoice in fire, because it shines,
    experience the other power, the one that burns."

    What is their motivation for reaching out?
    Do these creatures understand what is going to happen to them?
    What is the result, and why can the desire be called "mad"?
  25. May 15, 2005 #24
    Their motivation is that if they reach out ot the fire, perhaps they will rejoice in it. They are attracted to the sun becuase it shines, and they hope to experience its power. However, this power hurts, or burns. I'm not sure about that third question, but maybe the desire can be called "mad" because they are risking to be "burned" by the sun in hopes of experiencing its beauty. Or maybe they are reaching for something out of their reach, so they will be hurt in trying to obtain it. (i'm not sure which of the two are right...heck, for all i know they're both wrong).
  26. May 15, 2005 #25
    OK, this third group is the one that author declares he belongs to. Arildno was right earlier to bring up the image of a moth flying into a candle flame. The author is saying he will seek the light that attracts him regardless of any danger to himself there might be in that.
    So, since you're mainly supposed to be picking out themes, what theme have we just encountered?
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