Study Guide

Chiare Fresche et Dolci Acque Suffering

By Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch

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If you've ever watched The Princess Bride, you'll understand the usefulness of the term "ultimate suffering" to describe the tormented Petrarch's problem with Laura. While the pain might have been real, we have to rein in our pity. Suffering for love is all part of fin'amor, in which a lover suffers because he can't get his girl. Psychological torment is part of the game and gave material to the troubadours of southern France, whom Petrarch so admired.

The gorgeous things in Canzone126—the flowers, the river, his lady—distract us from Petrarch's pain. But there are tears and sighs and wishes for death embedded in all of that. Moreover, the poet wants us to know that the tone of the poem is sad (just check out line 13). So is it real? Take a look at Petrarch's reply to a friend on the subject and decide for yourself.

Questions About Suffering

  1. What is the purpose of suffering in Canzone126? Is it simply meant as a lament? Or is something more complex going on here?
  2. What, exactly, is causing Petrarch to be so gloomy here? What is all this "sorrowful dying" about?
  3. How does beauty affect Petrarch's emotional state?
  4. In what way does his imagined death affect the poet? Does it make him suffer, or... something else?

Chew on This

Suffering in Petrarch's Canzone 126 is cathartic rather than destructive. Um, yay?

Petrarch has a complex relationship to beauty in Canzone 126. It both soothes his tormented soul and drives him to despair.

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