What images, symbols, and metaphors are found in Petrarch's poems?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There is not enough space here to discuss all of the images, symbols, and metaphors in Petrarch's sonnets. He devised his own style of sonnet. The Petrarchan sonnet follows a set rhyme scheme of ABBA ABBA CDC DCD. Unlike the English sonnet, which has 10 syllables per line, Petrarch's usually have 11 or 7 syllables each. He is also famous for a collection of love songs called "The Canzoniere."

Many of his best-known sonnets focus on his love for a woman named Laura. He uses angelic imagery to emphasize Laura's purity, but he also portrays her as having power over him. He compares her beauty to jewels and gemstones. Note how he describes his love in this poem:

Those eyes, 'neath which my passionate rapture rose,

The arms, hands, feet, the beauty that erewhileCould my own soul from its own self beguile,And in a separate world of dreams enclose,The hair's bright tresses, full of golden glows,And the soft lightning of the angelic smileThat changed this earth to some celestial isle,Are now but dust, poor dust, that nothing knows.

Petrarch is noted for his use of the "conceit," a type of metaphor that draws on sensory imagery. Thus he calls love an "icy fire" and describes his lady as a sun that shines on him from a distance; he compares himself, the lover, to a ship on the sea and his lady as a "cloud of dark disdain."

Visit the links below for more information.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial