Lyric poetry in the classical languages and various vernaculars is evident in the earliest medieval centuries, from the beginning of medieval literature. But an international style marked by shared forms and themes—European literature in the strong sense—dates from the innovations in Occitan love lyric beginning at the close of the eleventh century. That poetry draws on at least three post-classical traditions. One can be traced back through religious poetry in Latin, Greek, and Syriac, itself based on the Bible and in conflict with Manichaeism. A second is indebted to Semitic poetry of al-Andalus, in today’s Spain. A third draws on the Cathar heresy, which has Near Eastern roots. In turn, Occitan love poetry most crucially influences Sicily, where the sonnet is invented. Tuscan poets adapt the form, which via, Petrarch, defines the main line of European lyric.
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