In Francesco Petrarch’s Canzoniere, or Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, the first sonnet, the canzone “I’vo pensando,” and the collection’s last canzone constitute a triptych that investigates the importance and potential of memory and commemoration. In the three poems, one of Petrarch’s primary concerns is not just commemorating his beloved, as critics often understand, but that he may not be properly remembered after his death. Yet, rather than looking towards his contemporaries or the future, as his desire for commemoration would suggest, Petrarch curiously focuses his gaze on the past, ardently seeking approval and validation from the classical authors he values greatly. However, given the temporal distance that separates them, he is seeking what is both an impossible recognition, and an impossible validation. Though Petrarch emphasizes the associative and etymological connection of memory and commemoration, he also reveals that vanity—as futile enterprise and self-importance—is the destructive force that undermines lasting memory and appropriate commemoration. He does so by coupling his desire for recognition adynata and descriptions of failed seizure. However, by describing the poetic process as an attempt to grasp an intangible and elusive ‘wind’ that metaphorizes approval, Petrarch frustrates his own desire for posterity by looking in the wrong direction and to people who are dead. He claims to recognize the inevitable failure of his enterprise and acknowledges the change of strategy and orientation that are subsequently necessary. Instead of continuing to nurture his obsession with the memory of things past, he will turn his time and attentions irrevocably towards the future. Or so he avers.
"Disintegration, Adynata>/i>, and the Failures of Memory in Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta,"
Quidditas: Vol. 39
, Article 10.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/rmmra/vol39/iss1/10