Petrarch Quotes

Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch)

Born: 20 July 1304, Arezzo (now in Tuscany, Italy)
Died: 19 July 1374, Arqua Petrarca, Padua (now Italy)

Petrarch’s father was a clerk in an ecclesiastical court, so the family moved to Avignon when the Pope did. Francesco was to be trained in law, but preferred to write, angering his father. He became a priest for the small stipend it paid and the time it allowed him to travel and write, he searched stores of old manuscripts in what are now France, Spain, Germany, and Italy, finding important lost works of Cicero as well as some by lesser authors. In 1341 he was crowned poet laureate of Rome. Although he wrote a great deal in both French and Latin, he is most remembered for his Italian sonnets, largely devoted to a woman named Laura, apparently the wife of an official in the pontifical court, to whom he may never have spoken. Other than letters, few of his writings are assigned dates as Petrarch continually edited even his earliest work. Petrarch was a constant letter writer. He published one volume of letters in which he was critical of papal policy “sine nomine”, meaning he removed the names of his correspondents. He also wrote numerous letters to long-dead literary models, notably Cicero and Virgil, and Secretem Meum which was a debate with Augustine of Hippo, despite the latter’s death in 430. He has been called the Father of the Renaissance on the strength of having identified the period up to his life as the Dark Ages. The town he lived his last years in was later named in his honor and a tomb was built. Despite a marble lid weighing two tons, the tomb was raided on at least two occasions and it is now known that the major skeletal remains show injuries matching his known life, but the skull in the tomb is absolutely not from the same person.

Petrarch quotes:

A good death does honor to a whole life.
    Petrarch – “To Laura in Life”

A short cut to riches is to subtract from our desires.
    Petrarch

Behold who ever wept, and in his tears
Was happier far than others in their smiles.
    Petrarch – The Triumph of Eternity

Believe me, many things are attributed to gravity and wisdom which are really due to incapacity and sloth. Men often despise what they despair of obtaining. It is in the very nature of ignorance to scorn what it cannot understand, and to desire to keep others from attaining what it cannot reach. Hence the false judgments upon matters of which we know nothing, by which we evince our envy quite as clearly as our stupidity.
    Petrarch

Books have led some to learning and others to madness.
    Petrarch

Books never pall me. They discourse with us, they take counsel with us, and are united to us by a certain living chatty familiarity. And not only does each book inspire the sense that it belongs to its readers, but it also suggests the name of others, and one begets the desire of the other.
    Petrarch

Continued work and application form my soul’s nourishment. So soon as I commenced to rest and relax I should cease to live.
    Petrarch – Letter to Giovanni Boccaccio (28 April 1373)

Do you suppose there is any living man so unreasonable that if he found himself stricken with a dangerous ailment he would not anxiously desire to regain the blessing of health?
    Petrarch

Each famous author of antiquity whom I recover places a new offence and another cause of dishonor to the charge of earlier generations, who, not satisfied with their own disgraceful barrenness, permitted the fruit of other minds, and the writings that their ancestors had produced by toil and application, to perish through insufferable neglect. Although they had nothing of their own to hand down to those who were to come after, they robbed posterity of its ancestral heritage.
    Petrarch

Five great enemies to peace inhabit with us: avarice, ambition, envy, anger and pride. If those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.
    Petrarch

For death betimes is comfort, not dismay,
And who can rightly die needs no delay.
    Petrarch – “To Laura in Death”

For style beyond the genius never dares.
    Petrarch – “To Laura in Death”

Great errors seldom originate but with men of great minds.
    Petrarch

Hitherto your eyes have been darkened and you have looked too much, yes, far too much, upon the things of earth. If these so much delight you what shall be your rapture when you lift your gaze to things eternal!
    Petrarch – Secretum Meum (1342)

How difficult it is to save the bark of reputation from the rocks of ignorance.
    Petrarch

How fortune brings to earth the oversure!

Petrarch
I rejoiced in my progress, mourned my weaknesses, and commiserated the universal instability of human conduct.

Petrarch

Letter to Dionigi di Borgo San Sepolcro (26 April 1336)
I would have preferred to have been born in any other time than our own.

Petrarch

Epistola ad Posteros – Letter to Posterity
In my younger days I struggled constantly with an overwhelming but pure love affair — my only one, and I would have struggled with it longer had not premature death, bitter but salutary for me, extinguished the cooling flames. I certainly wish I could say that I have always been entirely free from desires of the flesh, but I would be lying if I did.

Petrarch

Epistola ad Posteros – Letter to Posterity
It is better to will the good than to know the truth.

Petrarch
It is more honorable to be raised to a throne than to be born to one. Fortune bestows the one, merit obtains the other.

Petrarch
Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us to duty and truth, the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart of life, and is prophetic of eternal good.

Petrarch
Man has no greater enemy than himself.

Petrarch
Man has no greater enemy than himself. I have acted contrary to my sentiments and inclination; throughout our whole lives we do what we never intended, and what we proposed to do, we leave undone.

Petrarch
My flowery and green age was passing away, and I feeling a chill in the fires had been wasting my heart, for I was drawing near the hillside above the grave.

Petrarch
Often have I wondered with much curiosity as to our coming into this world and what will follow our departure.

Petrarch
Oh! could I throw aside these earthly bands
That tie me down where wretched mortals sigh—
To join blest spirits in celestial lands!

Petrarch

“To Laura in Death”
Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.

Petrarch

De remediis utriusque fortunae (1354)
Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure.

Petrarch
She closed her eyes; and in the sweet slumber lying
  her spirit tiptoed from its lodging place.
It’s folly to shrink in fear, if this is dying;
  for death looked lovely in her face.

Petrarch

“To Laura in Death”

Suspicion is the cancer of friendship.

Petrarch
The aged love what is practical while impetuous youth longs only for what is dazzling.

Petrarch
The end of doubt is the beginning of repose.

Petrarch
There is no lighter burden, nor more agreeable, than a pen.

Petrarch
There is no lighter burden, nor more agreeable, than a pen. Other pleasures fail us or wound us while they charm, but the pen we take up rejoicing and lay down with satisfaction, for it has the power to advantage not only its lord and master, but many others as well, even though they be far away — sometimes, indeed, though they be not born for thousands of years to come.

Petrarch

Letter to Giovanni Boccaccio (28 April 1373)
Thyself no more deceive, thy youth hath fled.

Petrarch

“To Laura in Death”
To be able to say how much you love is to love but little.

Petrarch

“To Laura in Death”
To begin with myself, then, the utterances of men concerning me will differ widely, since in passing judgment almost every one is influenced not so much by truth as by preference, and good and evil report alike know no bounds.

Petrarch

Epistola ad Posteros – Letter to Posterity
Today I made the ascent of the highest mountain in this region, which is not improperly called Ventosum. My only motive was the wish to see what so great an elevation had to offer.

Petrarch

Letter to Dionigi di Borgo San Sepolcro (26 April 1336)
True, we love life, not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving. There is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness.

Petrarch
Where are the numerous constructions erected by Agrippa, of which only the Pantheon remains? Where are the splendorous palaces of the emperors?

Petrarch

On visiting Rome (1337)
Where you are is of no moment, but only what you are doing there. It is not the place that ennobles you, but you the place; and this only by doing that which is great and noble.

Petrarch
Who naught suspects is easily deceived.

Petrarch
Who overrefines his argument brings himself to grief.

Petrarch

“To Laura in Life”
Yon nightingale, whose strain so sweetly flows,
  Mourning her ravish’d young or much-loved mate,
A soothing charm o’er all the valleys throws
  And skies, with notes well tuned to her and state.

Petrarch

“To Laura in Death”

You keep to your own ways and leave mine to me.

Petrarch

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