Dante & Petrarch

Everyone knows that both Dante and Petrarch were haunted by their visions of ideal love, Dante had his Beatrice, and Petrarch his Laura. And as political exiles, each poet knew the terror of death. Writing was a way of easing the pain of both.

But did you know that these two titans of the Renaissance might have met in a quirk of circumstance?

The two lives were inextricably bound together as both were from exiled Florentine families whose fortunes might be improved by the arrival of Emperor Henry VII in Italy in 1311….If the two famous Italian writers ever met each other it had to be in Pisa in 1311, when Petrarch’s father took the family to Pisa to meet the imperial hope of his political party. We know Dante was there too. How interesting it would be to know what Dante Alighieri said to the seven-year old Francesco Petrarca: “Study your books well young man, and you too can grow up to be a great poet!”
W. H. Fredlund in “Petrarch”

“Dante and Beatrice,” John William Waterhouse, 1914

from Dante’s Inferno

“And she began to say, gentle and low, …
‘A friend of mine, and not the friend of fortune,
Upon the desert slope is so impeded
Upon his way, that he has turned through terror,
And may, I fear, already be so lost,
That I too late have risen to his succor.’”

from Petrarch:

“I had got this far, and was thinking of what to say next, and as my habit is, I was pricking the paper idly with my pen. And I thought how, between one dip of the pen and the next, time goes on, and I hurry, drive myself, and speed toward death. We are always dying. I while I write, you while you read, and others while they listen or stop their ears, they are all dying.”


It matters what we call this life:
a passage of time from life to death
or a pilgrimage from death to life.

It matters for an eternity.

“For we are always dying —
I while I write,
you while you read.”

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