Petrarch - Father Of The Renaissance - Creator Of The Sonnet - And The World's First Tourist!
Hi, I’m Christy Shriver. We’re here to discuss books that have changed the world and have changed us.
I’m Garry Shriver and this is the How to Love Lit Podcast. This week is our poetry supplement that we like to do between books. Next week we’re going to begin our discussion of Arthur Miller and his allegorical work “The Crucible”, but before we leave the Renaissance, we felt we needed to take at least one week to discuss the man who is credited for starting the Renaissance= at least in part- the humanist part of it-- Francesco Petrarca or as we say in English Petrarch. Christy, this is one man that is so differently studied in the field of history versus your field or the study of literature- a testimony to his incredible influence, no doubt.
So true, although everything intersects in the Renaissance- they were all renaissance men, of course!! But I neglected to point out and it was something worth mentioning that Machiavelli ends the prince quoting Petrarch’s famous poem, Canzone 128- a beautiful poem where Petrarch calls Italy to unity-
Virtue against fury
Shall take up arms; and the fight be short;
For ancient valour
Is not dead in Italian hearts.
It’s somewhat strange concept in the 1300s – which is when Petrarch lived two hundred years BEFORE Machiavelli- maybe even strange for the 1500s and Machiavelli’s day but a dream Machiavelli shared with Petrarch for their homeland- as they viewed it not just as Tuscany but as Italy.
There is so much strangeness involving with Francesco Petrarch, I really don’t know where to start. First of all 700 years is so long ago- for an American- we can’t even think of history being that old. On our land, the inhabitants were different than those of Europe. The world was so different. Our history locks up that far back because of lack of information really. My colleague and dear friend Bill Bivens who teaches AP European History talks of Petrarch and his important influence on humanistic thought- which as we remember from the intro to Machiavelli episode- is this idea that Italians were going to revive the works of the Greeks and Latins- and Petrarch did this. Petrarch firmly believed that believing in Jesus Christ was not at odds with ancient classical thought and through his work he sought to make this important connection between the two ways of looking at the world- a way that for many during the previous era seemed to be at odds or heretical. People thought that if you were a Christian you didn’t accept anything secular and the ideas of the ancient thinkers were invalid BECAUSE they were not Christian- even today for some- religion and secular thought are at odds but in his day that was a crazy proposition. In an European history class you will likely read of Petrarch’s ascent up Mt. Vintoux. You may even read his famous letter supposedly written to a priest he used to confess his sins to, documenting this climb up the mountain that he claimed he did just to see the view.
Christy, explain why do you say supposedly-
Good question and one that looms over everything Petrarch- Petrarch addressed the letter to his confessor like it was a private meditation of sorts, but then he circulated it all over the place making it the very public piece of writing that we read to this day. So, there you go- the reason for that-id something I want to talk about. But as far as climbing Mt Vintoux goes, Petrarch’s climb up the mountain is extremely famous, Petrarch is even considered to be the informal patron saint of mountaineering.
I know it’s a tangent, but for those of us who have never been to Southern France, I think it’s worth mentioni