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First page of an illuminated manuscript of Petrarch's sonnets and canzons; owned by Federico de Montefeltro

The Canzoniere (singer) [ kantsoˈnjɛːre ] (original title Rerum vulgarium fragmenta , dt. 'Fragments of folk things') is a collection of Italian sonnets and canzons in which Petrarch expresses his love for Laura and his grief over her death in 1348.

The cycle consists of 366 poems: 317 sonnets , 29 canzons , 9 sestines , 7 ballads and 4 madrigals . It does not contain all of Petrarch's poems, but those that he carefully selected. Others (so-called extravagant ) have been lost or inserted into other scriptures. The collection was divided into two parts by the publishers: poems written during Madonna Laura's lifetime and those written after her death. Research (see the article in Kindler's New Literature Lexicon ) dates the oldest versions of some texts to 1327 (year of the encounter in Avignon with 'Laura', pseudonym according to ancient tradition for - very likely - a real lady); most of the poems were written from Codex Vaticanus 3196 from 1336 to 1369.


Most of the Canzoniere's poems deal with the subject of love, with around 30 dealing with ethical, religious or political subjects. The second part of the canzoniere ends with the canzone Alla Vergine , in which the poet implores the Virgin Mary to intercede with her son so that he may give his soul eternal peace. The canons of Italia mia and Spirto gentil are well-known , in which he identifies the concept of home with his place of birth Arezzo , which he wishes to be free from civil wars and foreign armed forces.

A variety of moods and objects are dealt with in the individual poems. In particular, it is always about the intense psychological reaction of the narrator to the beloved. Petrarch used both verses that were genuinely meant for Laura and those that were initially intended for other women and were later rewritten (see also Dante Alighieri ).

Maria Countess Lanckoronska writes in the afterword of the Reclam edition (see literature):

“The Canzoniere shows us the ardent, devoted love of someone who has been pushed back, but who is convinced that he is secretly loved. The tension of refused fulfillment with secret consent results in incessant surrender, incessant complaints and despair, exultation and bliss over the slightest signs of reciprocated affection, doubt and despair and the singing of one's own emotions down to the most tender ramifications. "

In Petrarch's poetry, the description of feelings is mixed with that of the landscape. Petrarch refined the forms of medieval lyric poetry ; he took the metrics and the sextine from the Provençals and processed their poetic tones. The depiction of the beloved woman is also embedded in the Provençal theme: Laura is a “noble woman” whom the poet adores. Her figure, however, does not tremble with life, has no true reality, her beautiful human features, her beautiful eyes, the blond braids, the sweet smile, all of this repeats itself unchanged.



Until the end of the 16th century, Petrarch's love poetry set the style for a certain type of poetry, especially in France and England, which is known as Petrarchism . The form of his sonnets in France differentiated into the Ronsard type , named after Pierre de Ronsard , and the Elizabethan type in Philip Sidney , Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare .

Many of the images used by Petrarch, for example “freezing like fire, burning like ice” ( Oxymoron ) were used so often that they turned into clichés.

On the other hand, Petrarch's poetry has been the subject of ridicule and parody since the early 16th century . The Italian writer Pietro Aretino stood out , although he wrote his first poems himself in Petrarch's manner, but later gleefully parodied it.


Poems from the Canzoniere were set to music by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco , Peter Cornelius , Moritz Hauptmann , Wolfgang Jacobi , Franz Liszt , Marcelle de Manziarly , Hans Pfitzner , Émile Paladilhe , Ildebrando Pizzetti , Nino Rota , Franz Schubert , Harald Genzmer and Rudi Spring , among others .


The first printed editions of the Canzoniere appeared since 1470, but in incorrect and corrupted text versions. In 1501 a revised edition was published by Aldus Manutius in Venice. In 1521 another edition was published by Manutius, which was philologically supervised by the humanist Pietro Bembo . From now on at the latest, the book printers endeavored to get copies of Petrarch, who had meanwhile become a recognized and admired poet and a role model for young authors. The first commentaries on the canzoniere appeared in the early 16th century. a. by Francesco Filefo, Alessandro Vellutello and Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo.


  • Francesco Petrarca: Canzoniere . After an interlinear translation by Geraldine Gabor into German verse, brought by Ernst-Jürgen Dreyer . With notes on the poems of Geraldine Gabor. Basel: Stroemfeld / Roter Stern 1989. Bilingual edition. ISBN 3-87877-328-5 , also dtv vol. 2321, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-423-02321-X .
  • Francesco Petrarca: Canzoniere - Triumphs - Scattered Poems. Italian and German . transferred by Karl Förster. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf / Zurich 2002, ISBN 3-538-06934-4 (bilingual).
  • Francesco Petrarca: Canzoniere. 50 poems with commentary. Italian / German . selected and transferred by Peter Brockmeier. Reclam, Ditzingen 2006, ISBN 3-15-018378-2 (bilingual).
  • Francesco Petrarca: Canzoniere . Selected, introduced and annotated by Gerhard Regn. Bilingual selection (Italian, German). Transferred by Karl Förster. Dieterich'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Mainz 1987, ISBN 3-87162-010-6 .


  • Klaus Ley: The prints of Petrarch's "Rime", 1470–2000. Synoptic bibliography of the editions and commentaries, library records. Hildesheim: Olms 2002. ISBN 3-487-11709-6
  • Frederic J. Jones: The structure of Petrarch's Canzoniere. A chronological, psychological and stylistic analysis. Brewer, Cambridge 1995 ,. ISBN 0-85991-410-0
  • Winfried Wehle : In the labyrinth of passions: to the structural unit in Petrarch's canzoniere. In: Paul Geyer, Kerstin Thorwarth (Ed.): Petrarca and the development of the modern subject. Göttingen 2008, pp. 71-106; (PDF).
  • Winfried Wehle: Maria, Minnekönigin - Petrarca, 'Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta 366': a poem about a prayer. In: Petrarca, Proust et al .: Reden und Schriften (= publication by the Speck Literature Foundation. 2). Bibliotheca Reiner Speck, Cologne 2016, pp. 24–55 ( PDF).

Web links

Wikisource: Canzoniere (Rerum vulgarium fragmenta)  - Sources and full texts (Italian)

Individual evidence

  1. Canzone alla Vergine (…) ch'accolga 'l mïo spirto ultimo in pace
  2. After the death of Mona Laura (PDF; 287 kB)
  3. Klaus Ley: Petrarch's Canzoniere and the censorship. (PDF).