It was on this day in 1327 that Italian poet Petrarch (books by this author) (1304) first set eyes on “Laura,” the ethereal woman he would use as his muse for more than 300 sonnets. He met Laura on a Good Friday at St. Clare Church in Avignon. Some historians think she was a woman named Laura de Noves, a married woman and mother, and most agree she never responded to Petrarch’s overtures. She died during the Black Death of 1348. The first 263 poems Petrarch wrote for her are known as the Rime in Vita Laura. After she died, the remaining poems were known as Rime in Morte Laura. Petrarch’s works for Laura laid the groundwork for the sonnets of the Elizabethan era. Shakespeare would not be Shakespeare without Petrarch.
About his unconsummated love for Laura, Petrarch wrote: “In my younger days, I struggled constantly with an overwhelming but pure love affair — my only one, and I would have struggled with it longer had not premature death, bitter but salutary for me, extinguished the cooling flames. I certainly wish I could say that I have always been entirely free from desires of the flesh, but I would be lying if I did.”