Italian: Francesco Petrarca

Francesco Petrarca lived in the 14th century. He is apparently considered the “Father of Humanism” and one of the first people to refer to the “Dark Ages” (more about him here). And it is for him, of course, that the  ‘petrarchan sonnet’ is named.

I have found, on the net, his full Canzoniere in Italian and a translation in English. These are mostly sonnets, though there are some longer poems as well.  And so, I have started to read them. The idea is, I read the sonnet, and translate it as well as I can using a dictionary. After that, I check the English version to get an idea of how close I came, and to help me understand anything I couldn’t translate.

And after reading one, I have already realised that the language sometimes differs from modern Italian. For example, I came across the word “veggio”, which was not in the dictionary and did not appear in any of my irregular verb tables. It was translated as “I see”, which in modern Italian is “vedo”. This must have changed over time, but there are other verbs that still follow this model, like ‘faccio’ – I do/make – and ‘voglio’ – I want, etc.

Some interesting words from this poem:

favola – fairy tale
sogno – a dream
dolore – sorrows
sospiri – sighs

and a beautiful turn of phrase:
rime sparse – scattered rhymes

Reading these sonnets, which are in nice bite-sized chunks (about as much as I can manage in one sitting), is a great way to work toward two different goals at the same time: learning Italian, and reading some of the world’s classic literature.


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