From The Writer’s Almanac courtesy of Garrison Keillor today:
It was on this day in 1327 that the poet Petrarch first saw his idealized love, Laura, in the church of Saint Clare in Avignon, France. He went on to write 366 poems about her over the span of 40 years. Those poems make up Il Canzoniere.
Petrarch burned with desire for Laura, but she remained oblivious, and then rejected him. He wandered the countryside, caught between enjoying the happiness of life and indulging in the lustful pleasures of longing for a woman he could not have. When she died of the plague he was devastated. He wrote all of it down.
Eventually he came to see her not as an object of sinful desire, but as a spiritual guide who helped him to understand himself as a Christian, a lover, and a poet.
Today, discovering your identity through unrequited love — and poems about doing so — is called “Pertrarchan,” but giving it a name doesn’t make it hurt any less.