Sonnet, Anyone?

Whether you loved sonnets when you made their acquaintance in school or hated them, this is your day. Francesco Petrarca, the man we know as Petrarch, was born on July 20, 1304. That was a big century for literature: also Boccaccio, Dante, and Chaucer, among others. Petrarch set out to be a writer of epic poems, and he succeeded. Only after his death was the Canzoniere, his book of “little songs.” All his other poems were in Latin, but these were in Italian and everyone could read them. While other poets had already written sonnets, Dante and Cavalcanti among them, Petrarch’s were more popular and he became the name brand. Most scholars now think he never met “Laura,” the beauty who inspired the poems. Most of what we know about sonnets–fourteen lines, two movements of slightly uneven lengths, specific rhyme scheme–was there in 1374 when the book was published. Had he only known what he started!

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