‘Sonnet 227‘ or ‘Aura que chelle chiome blonde et crespe’ by the Italian scholar and poet Petrarch is published in his sonnet collection “The Canzoniere.” The sonnets in this collection express his unrequited love for a woman named Laura. The 366 sonnets are divided into two sections. The first set (Sonnet 1-263) is dedicated to Laura when she was living, and the next set (Sonnet 264-366) is dedicated to Laura after her death. The ‘Sonnet 227‘ (‘Aura que chelle chiome blonde et crespe’) appears in the first section is devoted to Laura, his unrequited love.
Sonnet 227 Petrarch Breeze, blowing that blonde curling hair, stirring it, and being softly stirred in turn, scattering that sweet gold about, then gathering it, in a lovely knot of curls again, you linger around bright eyes whose loving sting pierces me so, till I feel it and weep, and I wander searching for my treasure, like a creature that often shies and kicks: now I seem to find her, now I realise she’s far away, now I’m comforted, now despair, now longing for her, now truly seeing her. Happy air, remain here with your living rays: and you, clear running stream, why can’t I exchange my path for yours? (Translated by A S Kline)
Explore Sonnet 227
Petrarch’s ‘Sonnet 227‘ is all about his unrequited love for Laura. His emotional instability about his love and her interference inspired him to write this poem.
‘Sonnet 227‘ is an expression of the poet’s unrequited love for his chaste love Laura. Petrarch tries to seek comfort and company through nature. He starts the poem by speaking to the breeze blowing around his lover, for he believes that it is closer to his love than he is. It makes him sad. Besides, he begins to express the painful part of being in unrequited love. One moment she seems to be closer to him and reachable, but at the next moment, she seems so far. He is both comforted and in pain whenever he sees his love. Towards the concluding part, he starts to wish he had the life of a stream that would only keep flowing straight and not get deflected by any distractions.
Read the Italian version and the translated version of ‘Sonnet 227‘ here.
The central theme of ‘Sonnet 227‘ is “Love” or, in particular “Unrequited love.” Petrarch expresses his deep love for Laura and her indifference to it in detail using natural imageries. He undergoes various contrasting emotions at the same time because of his love. Simultaneously, the poem also speaks about the pain of unrequited love or one-sided love. The speaker seems to be in constant pain and anxiety. These feelings are made clear through the words like ‘sting’, ‘weep’, ‘despair’. Along with the happiness of seeing her, he also undergoes the pain of not being with her. These contrasting emotions run throughout the poem.
‘Sonnet 227‘ by Petrarch follows his typical style, which was later named after him – The Petrarchan Sonnet. The 14 lines in the sonnet are divided into an octave and a sestet. The volta or the change happens in the 9th line. The speaker realizes his situation from blindly searching for Laura’s love. The original version of Petrarch follows the rhyme scheme of – ABBAABBACDCDCD. In the English translation, to retain the essence of the poem, a different rhyme is used.
Nature is given and life and emotions that of a living human being in the poem. The poet addresses the wind and the stream as if they have life and emotions of their own in the first and last stanza. In line 12, he tells the air to remain happy with the sun: “Happy air, remain here with your living rays.” Also, in the following line, he tries to look for the possibility of exchanging life with the stream.
When the poet expresses his search for Laura’s love in the second quatrain, he compares himself to an animal. Like an animal that shies in fear and kicks, he keeps searching for his love in vain.
– and I wander searching for my treasure,
like a creature that often shies and kicks:
In the second quatrain, the poet compares his lover’s gaze to the painful sting of a bee or wasp. Her loving gaze from those bright eyes lingers until it pierces his heart, for he finds no recognition in them.
-you linger around bright eyes whose loving sting
pierces me so, till I feel it and weep
Apostrophe is used when the poet expresses his desire to swap life with the stream. He addresses the stream directly and wonders “. . . and you, clear running stream, why can’t I exchange my path for yours?”
The poet uses the two contrasting words ‘scattering” and “gathering” when he observes how the wind blows and plays with Laura’s lustrous hair.
… scattering that sweet gold about, then
gathering it, in a lovely knot of curls again …
In the sestet, the word “now” is repeatedly used by the poet to expresses his contrasting mental and emotional state. He feels close and distant, longs to see and see, comforted and at despair, simultaneously. He uses ‘now’ in the consecutive phrases to convey that everything is happening altogether.
The poet uses Alliteration in the lines when he pictures how the wind plays with Laura’s beautiful curly hair. It gives a beautiful flow to the lines, like the wind blowing and the hair swaying with the wind. “b” is repeated in “…Breeze, blowing that blonde curling hair” and “s” is repeated in the lines “…stirring it, and being softly stirred in turn. . . scattering that sweet gold about, then.”
He also uses beautiful nature imagery to get his ideas over to the readers. Therefore, this sonnet is a powerful portrayal of love and the agony that comes with it.
Breeze, blowing that blonde curling hair,
stirring it, and being softly stirred in turn,
scattering that sweet gold about, then
gathering it, in a lovely knot of curls again,
Petrarch begins ‘Sonnet 227‘ by addressing the wind, constantly blowing around Laura and closer to her. Laura seems to have beautiful blonde, curly hair that looks lustrous. The poet says that the wind blows through the attractive curls and scatters them in all directions, making them look pretty. It then gathers the curls back to their place and also makes Laura’s hair look lovely. By repeating this action, the breeze also gets stirred along with the hair. This scene captures the eyes of Petrarch and makes him jealous of the breeze.
you linger around bright eyes whose loving sting
pierces me so, till I feel it and weep,
and I wander searching for my treasure,
like a creature that often shies and kicks:
In the second stanza of ‘Sonnet 227,’ Petrarch expresses how his lover’s stare hurts him and sends him into a frenzy. He expresses how one-sided love can be painful to the one whose love is not returned. He says that Laura’s eyes are so bright and sparkling, and just a gaze from her feels like a sting to his heart. Here, he compares the loving gaze of Laura to an excruciating bee sting. He says that it hurts him because she looks at him for a moment but does not acknowledge his presence or love for her. Subsequently, it pains his heart, and he weeps. The poet then compares himself to an animal that backs away in fear only to kick forward. In reality, even though he has no hope of uniting with Laura, he still keeps moving forward, searching for the treasure that is Laura’s affection.
now I seem to find her, now I realise
she’s far away, now I’m comforted, now despair,
now longing for her, now truly seeing her.
In stanza three, a change in tone appears as the poet moves from being a bewitched lover to the self-aware one. He finally realizes the hard truth that he cannot join hands with Laura and expresses his anxiety. His emotions go through a contrasting ride, as his realization of the situation and his emotions tries to overcome each other. He seems to find her; at the same time, he also finds her so distant and unattainable. When he finds her, he feels content, yet the realization of not being with her forever terrifies him.
Happy air, remain here with your
living rays: and you, clear running stream,
why can’t I exchange my path for yours?
In the concluding stanza, the poet returns to nature and seeks comfort and help from it. He wishes the breeze to remain with the sun and stay happy forever, even though he could not be with Laura. Then, he addresses the stream and asks if he could swap his life with it. For it runs straight in its path without getting swayed by any feelings or emotions, like the poet. Although the poet seems to have understood reality, these lines portray the emotional distress he faces. For, it consolidates that human life is more stressful and painful.
The Petrarchan Sonnet is named after the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch. The form was invented by Giacomo da Lentini, who composed poetry in the literary Sicilian dialect in the thirteenth century.
Many Italian poets explored the sonnet form, from Dante Alighieri to Michelangelo. Dante sometimes used a different rhyme scheme consisting of interlocking three-line rhymes: ABA BCB CDC DED. Petrarchan sonnets were immensely popular in England. Poets including Sir Thomas Wyatt, William Wordsworth, and Browning used it. Even though the Earl of Surrey has the credit for translating Italian sonnets into English, he has not used them in his works.
Laura is Petrarch’s unrequited love and a big inspiration for his poetry collection “Canzonier.” He met her in the Church of St. Clare at Avignon on April 6, 1327, and started loving her. Even though she did not return his love, he kept loving her, almost till death. Her real identity is not known to date, for Petrarch himself kept quiet about it.
About Francesco Petrarch
Francesco Petrarch, born in Italy, is the pioneer of the artistic movement “Renaissance”. He has written many essays, poems, and sonnets. In his poetry, he often spoke about human emotions and emphasized inner feelings without hiding the reality. He is rightly called the “Father of Humanism” for his humanistic approach and to be the initiator of the sonnet form. His famous works are “Trionfi” and the “Canzonier”.
Love is a common emotion and a popularly used theme in poetry. Even after ages, as the popularity of Petrarch’s poetry and his love for Laura remain unchanged, there are many poems that express the happiness and pains of unrequited love. Some of the most popular poems are as follows:
- ‘You say you love; but with a voice‘ by John Keats makes a clear and memorable statement about unrequited love for he himself had enough struggle with his unrequited love affair with Fanny Brawne. Read more John Keats poems.
- ‘Never seek to tell thy love‘ by William Blake tells that sometimes it is better not to share one’s emotions and love for there is a possibility of it not being reciprocated. Read more poetry from William Blake.
- ‘When You Are Old‘ by W. B. Yeats is one of the poems about the poet’s unrequited love for Maud Gonne. For, most of his poems contain direct or indirect reference to her. Read more poems of W. B. Yeats.