Petrarch and Laura
Renaissance poet Francesco Petrarch spent much of his 14th-century life tormented by his unrequited infatuation with a fair-haired, married beauty named Laura, despite having a forbidden relationship with a concubine and bearing two illegitimate children. Little is known of Laura, other than what the scholar revealed in more than 300 lyrical sonnets dedicated to his love: "Her golden hair was blown wide by the breeze, which turned it in a thousand sweet knots; and the lovely light burned without measure in her eyes, which now lack such lustre. And it seemed to me – I know not whether truly or falsely – her face took on the colour of pity. I, who had the tinder of love in my breast – what wonder is it if I suddenly caught fire?" Petrarch was devastated on Laura's death in 1348. It is possible that he might not have idealised her in such a hopelessly romantic way had he known her properly, and that proximity to her would have dampened his passion. As it was, he – and she – inspired generations of poets and lovers.