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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 421

Although this first lyric, Sonnet 1, in Canzoniere was probably written well after many of those poems eventually included in the collection, Petrarch placed it first as an entry piece for the reader. The poem is by no means “original” in the modern sense of the term, for the rhetorical technique of renouncing previous positions was already conventional in poetry by the time that Petrarch wrote the piece. In this acceptance of poetic tradition and convention, the poem is typical of much in the Canzoniere. Later poets would follow this example, notably Sir Philip Sidney in Astrophil and Stella (1591) and Edmund Spenser in the Amoretti (1595). As an “entrance poem,” the sonnet introduces some of the major themes and characteristics of the entire collection.

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The poem is a typical Petrarchan sonnet, with a rhyme scheme of abbaabba cdecde, and the syntax adheres to the octave/sestet structure, each portion composed of a single sentence. In the octave, the speaker renounces his former foolishness, the “errant youth” that he had spent pursuing the “vain and empty hope” of earthly “Love.” He presents himself as “Another man,” one who has learned from his experience and is now imploring “Pardon” and “Pity” from the reader. This first speech of the unifying persona of the Canzoniere not only creates the speaker and the audience but also establishes the relationship between the audience and the speaker by direct address to the reader. By indicating shared experience with the reader (the common experience that “Love can sear”), the speaker introduces one major motif of the collection, especially “Part I: Laura Living”—the destructive qualities of passion and its utter vanity (though these are still, in part, merely conventions of love poetry).

The sestet, as is common in Petrarch’s sonnets, presents a reversal and completion to the movement of the octave, noting the wisdom gained (“nought but shame my vanities have bred”) and the resolution to the sequence, the vision of the transience of earthly matters and the value of the spiritual (“earthly joys are dreams that swiftly pass”). The opening of the sestet, the “now,” also establishes the fictive structure of the sequence, a narrative of the speaker’s life of love.

The major themes of the Canzoniere are all in embryo form: the role of Love (Laura) in his life, the tension between the secular and the sacred, the passing of time. Likewise, in focusing on the personal effects of these themes, the poem provides for the reader an indication of the Renaissance perspective of the poet.

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