Petrarch’s Canzoniere: Scattered Rhymes in a fresh verse translation by Peter Thornton

By Peter Thornton

Category: Poetry, Translation

Formats available: Paperback, Ebook, Audiobook

Pages: 368

Publication date: 13/01/22

ISBN-13: 9781909954335

670 years ago Francesco Petrarch settled down to write of his love for young Laura, spied by him on an April day and stolen by the plague exactly a year later. His work is one of civilization’s most immaculate achievements, opening out into spirituality and nature and refining the sonnet form.  Following his acclaimed translation of Dante’s Inferno, ‘immediately joins ranks with the very best available in English’ (Richard Lansing), Peter Thornton brings the poetry of Petrarch to the 21st Century in direct and luminous verse.

Here’s a sample madrigal, number 52 in a sequence of 366 poems:


However much Diana may have pleased

the lover who by like chance spied her bare

amid the frigid water, I no less


delighted in the shy hill shepherdess

washing a wisp of veil to keep her hair,

glinting with gold, protected from the breeze.


And even now, when the sky burns above,

she makes me shiver with a chill of love.




Petrarch’s Laura, presuming she existed, was unattainable, but what is verse for? Every step of the journey -- never straightforward -- towards attainment is precisely marked by Petrarch, and no less so by Peter Thornton in this magnificent new translation that is as soaring as it is earthly.

- Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

"A brilliant new translation of Petrarch’s intensely introspective verse: polished, vivid, and accompanied by illuminating annotations at the ends of poems. This concise commentary provides the reader with welcome, non-intrusive guidance, ranging from helpful historical contextualisation to perceptive textual interpretation, and quietly points out later echoes of the poems, from Proust to blues—testament to Petrarch’s lasting currency. An invaluable new resource for both the consummated Petrarch student and the first-time reader."

- Dr Selene Scarsi – Kingston University, London

Peter Thornton

Peter was born in Key West, Florida and moved to New York City with his parents shortly after World war 2. He was a greatly accomplished attorney, professor, poet, translator, and scholar. Throughout his life, Peter was a voracious reader and a serious scholar. He spoke and read, to varying degrees, eight languages: In addition to his native English, Peter knew Italian, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, German, and Arabic. He went to Regis High School, a Jesuit high school for gifted students, in Manhattan, followed by a full scholarship to …