Petrarch, ‘Scattered Rhymes’ in a fresh verse translation by Peter Thornton

By Peter Thornton

Category: Poetry, Translation

Formats available: Paperback

Pages: 400

Publication date: 17/06/21

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 civilzation’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.


152      Questa humil fera, un cor di tigre o d’orsa


This gentle beast with tiger’s heart or bear’s,

showing a human face, an angel’s shape,

spins me so often between fear and hope

I cannot tell my laughter from my tears.


If she will not accept or free me soon

but keeps me hanging like this, in between,

till the sweet poison coursing through my veins

reaches my heart, then, Love, my life is done.


I cannot, with the weakened strength that’s left,

tolerate changes that remain so swift:

to burn, to freeze; to blush and then turn pale.


Hoping to end these pains, I slip away

like someone who from hour to hour fails;

for he is powerless who cannot die.


"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, during World War II, and moved to New York City with his parents shortly after the war. 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 …