Racial Humor Essay, Research Paper
Petrarch s Quest for True Love and Spiritual Fulfillment
The poems contained within The Canzoniere are spellbinding tales of love. The object of this love is Laura, the ideal woman according to the author, Francesco Petrarch. Petrarch expresses his desire for true love and spiritual fulfillment through his yearnings for Laura.
In Petrarch s opinion, Laura exemplifies perfection. Her every mannerism evokes feelings of passion and love in his heart and mind. He admires her sweet presence and her soft, lovely glance. (Petrarch 37) At first, Petrarch seeks physical consummation with Laura. This profane love is hampered by Laura s unwillingness to fall for Petrarch and is eventually purified by her virtue. By the end of The Canzoniere, Petrarch s love of the ideal, Laura, is transformed to the love of God. Consequently, Petrarch s spiritual ideologies expand and dilate in ways he previously conceived unthinkable. This transformation takes place as a result of Petrarch s newfound willingness to go through the fires of purification in order to spend eternity with his beloved Laura. In short, Petrarch reaches a new, more fulfilling understanding of God.
But for the first half and part of the second half of The Canzoniere, Petrarch loves Laura and Laura alone. Indeed, she proves herself worthy of his love. After all, her beauty mirrors the beauty of life and in Petrarch s opinion worldly glory ranks as one of man s loftiest goals. And in the poetic landscape that Petrarch creates, Laura reigns as the queen.
Prior to Laura s death, Petrarch was simply unable to free himself of the splendid abyss (Bernardo 67) in which he had become trapped due to his love of Laura. However, this predicament served not to dampen Petrarch s desires for Laura, but to increase their strength. His fascination with Laura swells. The sight of her was so sweetly austere/that I left all my work to follow her… (Petrarch 57)
Petrarch s love for Laura has been described as contemplative. (Bernardo 108) Indeed, Petrarch devotes much of his conscious and unconscious thought to Laura. She serves as Petrarch s inspiration. Without her, Petrarch s view of love would differ immensely from the view represented in The Canzoniere. Without Laura, the sense of optimism would have been lost.
Spirituality plays an integral role in The Canzoniere. While the poems occasionally stray from love and spirituality, these two topics provide the backbone for the tales. Petrarch dedicates the majority of the poems to Laura, but Laura represents more than just a person. Simultaneously, Petrarch struggles to achieve the affection of Laura and attain true Christian virtue. He finds both endeavors arduous yet possible. As he describes in The Ascent of Mount Ventoux, he is faced with two choices: the steeper, more direct path or the easier, indirect path. While in The Ascent of Mount Ventoux he chooses the easier, indirect path, Petrarch s decision in The Canzoniere is not so well-defined.
First of all, Laura s refusal to satisfy Petrarch s desires complicates his spiritual journey. Her refusal forces him to consider life beyond love and the threat of loneliness. As The Canzoniere progresses, Laura assumes an even greater significance due to Petrarch s realization of the danger of her inescapable attraction. Petrarch presents her as a paradox. On the one hand, she exemplifies beauty and pure love. On the other hand, she represents all of Petrarch s vain experiences.
After Laura s death, Petrarch strives earnestly to provide focus to the picture in his mind of the dead Laura. He attempts to cope with the tragedy any way he can. He struggles, he rationalizes, he attempts to define what Laura meant to him. But soon, Laura begins to appear in the poet s dreams, more beautiful and magnetic than ever. Petrarch s contemplation of true love and spirituality deepens, his inspiration renewed.
Although Petrarch s love for Laura remains unrequited, his poems exude
confidence and beauty, yet also desperation to some extent. Petrarch believes poetry is the greatest force in the world, yet literary critics contend that Laura did not care for poetry, even for Petrarch s. Thus, Petrarch s attempts to woo Laura become all the more difficult. Despite these obstacles, Petrarch worships this woman. The way she walked was not the way of mortals/but of angelic forms, and when she spoke/more than an earthly voice it was that sang. (Petrarch 30) By comparing Laura to an angel, Petrarch acknowledges to some extent that he will never win her hand. He places her on a pedestal unreachable to mere mortals. Nevertheless, Petrarch remains a hopeless romantic. He follows his heart, no matter what the emotional consequences.
Ultimately, Laura s significance lies in her ability to represent beauty, true love, and spirituality without sacrificing her own image. Granted, some critics have alleged Laura is merely an ideal in Petrarch s mind, a literary device if you will. However, Laura s importance is certainly more striking when considered in her metaphorical uses. Petrarch dreams the impossible dream that one day Laura will love him. This dream parallels his quest for spiritual nirvana. Furthermore, Laura s perfection parallels the perfection that is God.
Without question, Petrarch writes with a passion. A passion for words, a passion for life, a passion for God. He expresses this passion through his longing for Laura.