Selections From The Canzoniere and Other Works by Petrarch

Surprising recommendation, huh?  I know.  I had this on my reading list because I found it at a resale store and thought I should read it.  But it was so charming in parts.  It brought to mind images of Italy, the Alps, the Middle Ages, St Augustine.  Dreamy, kinda, in an undergrad humanities kind of way.  The book begins with a couple essays from Petrarch.  One is a letter to St Augustine himself.  They're personable and straight-forward.  Lovely.  And then the sonnets start. I thought the most powerful were written after the loss of Laura, his distant muse.  This is a great read for a sunny afternoon outdoors in a park.  


From the letter "The Ascent of Mount Ventoux"

But, as often happens, fatigue soon followed upon our strenuous effort, and before long we had to rest on some rock.  Then we started on again, but more slowly, I especially taking the rocky path at a more modest pace.  My brother chose the steepest course straight up the ridge, while I weakly took an easier one which turned along the slopes.  And when he called me back showing me the shorter way, I replied that I hoped to find an easier way up on the other side, and that I did not mind taking a longer course if it were not so steep.  But this was merely an excuse for my laziness; and when the others had already reached a considerable height I was still wandering in the hollows, and having failed to find an easier means of ascent, I had only lengthened the journey and increased the difficulty of the ascent.  Finally I became disgusted with the tedious way I had chosen, and decided to climb straight up.  By the time I reached my brother, who had managed to have a good rest while waiting for me, I was tired and irritated.  We walked along together for a while, but hardly had we left that rise when I forgot all about the circuitous route I had just taken and again tended to take a lower one.  Thus, once again I found myself taking the easy way, the roundabout path of winding hollows, only to find myself soon back in my old difficulty.  I was simply putting off the trouble of climbing; but no man's wit can alter the nature of things, and there is no way to reach the heights by going downward.  In short, I tell you that I made this same mistake three or more times within a few hours, much to my brother's amusement and my anger.


From sonnet 311:

That nightingale so tenderly lamenting / perhaps his children or his cherished mate, / in sweetness fills the sky and countryside / with many notes of grief skillfully played, // and all night long he stays with me it seems, / reminding me of my harsh destiny; / I have no one to blame except myself / for thinking that Death count not take a goddess.