Petrarch: The Canzoniere, or Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta

Petrarch: The Canzoniere, or Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta

Petrarch: The Canzoniere, or Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta

Petrarch: The Canzoniere, or Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta


Petrarch's characterization of the hapless lover has become an archetype of modern individualism. Indeed, in many of his poems on the pain and the bitter pleasure of love, we inevitably recognize a vivid and timely picture of ourselves. Humble sinner, aesthete, contemplative, man of the world, secretly tormented spirit, droll observer and advocate of life, Petrarch's protagonist is as richly complex as the age in which he lived.

The poems of Petrarch's Canzoniere represent one of the most influential works in Western literature. Varied in form, style, and subject matter, these ""scattered rhymes"" contain metaphors and conceits that have been absorbed into the literature and language of love.


Petrarch took no chances. He left us an autographed copy of his Canzoniere. How lucky we are!

The Italian text for this edition of the lyric poems is edited from the diplomatic edition of the Vatican Library’s codex Vat. Lat. 3195 by Ettore Modigliani (Rome, 1904), part of which was written by Petrarch himself and includes the final revisions of individual poems and their ordering. I have not, however, reproduced all of Petrarch’s spellings from that manuscript as did Gianfranco Contini in his edition, nor have I modernized Vat. Lat. 3195 in an inconsistent fashion as do most of the editions I have consulted. While I do not retain all of the Latinisms of orthography, I always keep Petrarch’s different spellings of the conjunction and: e, ed, and et. Since the punctuation of Vat. Lat. 3195 is not consistent and seems to be overdone, I have adopted modern conventions of punctuation, at times introducing quotation marks and parentheses when I thought the sense of the verse would be better served, particularly when complicated syntax is involved. I have not, however, altered the manuscript by using variations of indentation to indicate the parts of a ballata (the ritornello) or a canzone (fronte, sirma, and piedi).

The notes to the poems were undertaken with the aim of highlighting Petrarch’s special effects (both in language and logic) and of revealing the interconnectedness of image, metaphor, and structure among the individual poems; the notes do not attempt to provide an exhaustive listing of his sources and allusions, material which may be found, for example, in editions of the lyrics by Giosuè Carducci and Severino Ferrari, or by Nicola Zingarelli. the hope has been, first, to open up access to each poem’s complexities and, ultimately, to show the Canzoniere’s value as an integrated work—as a lyrical drama to be read consecutively from beginning to end.

Latin and Provençal sources are generally cited in the original to indicate the manner in which Petrarch borrowed from them. Biblical sources are from the New English Bible, except in cases where the Latin Vulgate more nearly translates the Italian. the dating of individual poems, unless otherwise indicated, is based on Ernest Hatch Wilkins’s commentary in The Making of the Canzoniere and Other Petrarchan Studies, as well as on the Chronological Conspectus in that volume. References to Vat. Lat. 3196 derive from Wilkins’s examination of Petrarch’s working manuscript, in which the poet composed and conserved, then revised and edited poems for his final . . .

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