Sonnet 90 Francesco Petrarch Analysis Essay

In Sonnet 90, Petrarch expresses two main ideas about love: one is that his love for Laura does not fade over time and as she ages; the second is that his love for her is painful because it is not returned. 

Petrarch's first idea -- that Laura remains beautiful and desirable to him over the years -- is conveyed mostly through physical descriptions of Laura, using imagery and figurative language. Stanza one (lines 1-4) provide a good example of imagery: 

Upon the breeze she spread her golden hair
that in a thousand gentle knots was turned
and the sweet light beyond all radiance burned
in eyes where now that radiance is rare

Here, Petrarch describes Laura's hair blowing in the wind in a way that allows readers to picture the image. This excerpt also ends with a contrast -- Petrarch notes that Laura's eyes no longer show the same "radiance" they did when she was younger. Petrarch continues to discuss his physical attraction to Laura in lines 9-13: 

She moved not like a mortal, but as though
she bore an angel's form, her words had then
a sound that simple human voices lack;

a heavenly spirit, a living sun
was what I saw

Here, Petrarch uses figurative language to compare Laura to an angel and place her on a pedestal above other women. He equates Laura to "a heavenly spirit, a living sun," and these metaphors indicate how highly Petrarch thinks of her.

However, Laura never returned Petrarch's love, and the pain he feels as a result can be seen in the  middle and at the end of the sonnet. In lines 5-8, Petrarch writes: 

and in her face there seemed to come an air
of pity, true or false, that I discerned:
I had love's tinder in my breast unburned,
was it a wonder if it kindled there?

In this stanza, Petrarch perceives in Laura's face "an air/ of pity," so even though he is not sure what she feels, he interprets Laura's look to mean that she feels sorry for him (likely because she will never love him and he so obviously admires her). Petrarch uses a metaphor in lines 7-8 to describe the passion he feels for Laura: he has the "tinder" to begin the fire of love, and it is "kindled" because Petrarch feels attracted to Laura. However, the tinder is "unburned" because it is not shared by Laura. Finally, at the end of the sonnet, Petrarch writes,

now, if it is not so,
the wound's not healed because the bow goes.

He feels injured or damaged because Laura does not return his love. The "wound" can never be healed, unless she were to love him. In Sonnet 90, Petrarch uses imagery and figurative language to both express his continuing love for Laura and the pain he feels because that love is unrequited. 

In Petrarch's Sonnet 90, the theme, as usual, is unrequited love, which he inserts in the parentheses:

(Seldom they shine so now.)

The sestet presents not as a solution but a meditation.  The speaker meditates on the nature of love after he has lost his love and after she may have lost her beauty.  Whereas her looks are temporal and fleeting, his love (or the wound where it used to be) is permanent (lives on).

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In Petrarch's Sonnet 90, the theme, as usual, is unrequited love, which he inserts in the parentheses:

(Seldom they shine so now.)

The sestet presents not as a solution but a meditation.  The speaker meditates on the nature of love after he has lost his love and after she may have lost her beauty.  Whereas her looks are temporal and fleeting, his love (or the wound where it used to be) is permanent (lives on).

I know my first, real heartbreak has never fully healed.  Has yours?

Whereas the octet presents his love as mortal beauty, the octet presents her as "divine," godess-like, "angelic":

She did not walk in any mortal way,
But with angelic progress; when she spoke,
Unearthly voices sang in unison.
She seemed divine among the dreary folk

And then, the last two lines:

You say she is not so today? Well, though the bow's unbent, the wound bleeds on.

We have rhetorical question which acknowledges that she may not be as beautiful as she once was.  Even so, he says he still feels the wounds from Cupid's unbent bow of love.  The heart is still open and bleeding long after it was first shot.

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