Study Guide

Chiare Fresche et Dolci Acque Memory and the Past

By Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch

Memory and the Past

While most poetry that begins with a direct address (like this one) does a good job at tricking us into believing we are in the moment, Canzone126 doesn't even try. It's clear from the very beginning that Petrarch is reflecting back on an encounter with his beloved Laura that has remained very fresh in his memory.

But he's not just going on about some beautiful chick that he once saw hanging out on the banks of a river. He's re-evaluating his emotional life, re-living the feelings and thoughts that passed through his mind at the time, and creating a fantasy for the future that can reverse all the disappointments of the past. Never mind that this fantasy requires his death. As long as he can keep the memories of his hopes and desires when he crosses over, it's all good.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. In what ways does Petrarch fuse the past and the future in Canzone126?
  2. What inspires the poet to think of this particular encounter with Laura?
  3. How does the idea of "destiny" work in a poem that is essentially a reflection on the past?
  4. What is the purpose of Petrarch's remembrance here? What is he trying to achieve or communicate by writing about it?

Chew on This

Time travel alert: Petrarch uses the past as a way of talking about his vision of the future with an absent Laura.

Geographical location sparks Petrarch's memory in Canzone126 and inspires his fantasy of Laura's change of heart.

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