Usually while discussing various eras of poetry we shift straight from middle ages to Renaissance without considering the names who paved the way for the new trends. One such name is Petrarch whose philosophy influenced the poets for centuries. Francesco Petrarch was born on July 20, 1304, in Arezzo, Tuscany (now Italy). In France; Petrarch studied law, as his father had wished. After his father’s death in 1326, Petrarch left law to focus on the classics.

The model for the modern Italian language is based on Petrarch’s work along with Boccaccio and to less extent Dante. He travelled widely and has been called the “first tourist” because his travelling was just for pleasure. During this touring, he collected many lost Latin manuscripts. As Petrarch learned more about the classical period, he began to venerate that era and complained against the limitations of his own time. He disdained the ignorance of the middle age and for the very first time developed the concept of “Dark Ages”. Petrarch regarded the post-Roman centuries as “dark” compared to the light of classical antiquity. Cicero, Virgil and Seneca were his literary models, and they are frequently quoted in Petrarch’s work.

Already in search of a true meaning of life, unsatisfied with contemporary work, Petrarch’s vision entirely transformed during his visit to Mount Ventoux. The experience revealed to him that these phenomenons of nature have fixed him in a certain static manner. A walk in the vast unexplored world of human soul will quench his thirst of knowledge and satiate his restless self. Petrarch fights within himself, not against anything outside. At this point Petrarch turned from the outer world of nature to the inner world of soul. As he cited from St. Augustine’s Confessions;

And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not.

Greatly irritated by the stagnant form of literature and art, confined in the false standards of Christianity, Petrarch dared to develop a fusion of modern ideas. There is a continuous struggle between sensuality and mysticism as well as profane and Christian literature in his work. His well-known book “Secretum” states that secular achievement does not necessarily hinder an authentic relationship with God. Petrarch argued instead, that God had given humans their vast intellectual and creative potential to be used to their fullest. His enthusiastic dissemination of ancient culture that focused on the idea of man as the measure of all things instigated the process of change that gathered momentum in the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment and American Revolution. He believed in the study of human thought and action. Petrarch was a devout Catholic and did not see a conflict between realizing humanity’s potential and having religious faith.

Petrarch struggled for the proper relation between the active and contemplative life, and tended to emphasize the importance of solitude and study. As one of the world’s first classical scholars, Petrarch revealed vast stores of knowledge in the lost texts he discovered. His philosophy of humanism ended the dark ages and helped foment the intellectual growth and accomplishments of the Renaissance.


Source by Amna Jamshed