1902 Encyclopedia > Italy > The Spontaneous Development of Italian Literature

(Part 47)


The Spontaneous Development of Italian Literature

In the year 1282, the year in which the new Florentine constitution of the "Arti Minori" was completed, a period of literature began that does not belong to the age of first beginnings, but to that of development. With the school of Lapo Gianni, of Guido Cavalcanti, of Cino da Pistoia, and Dante Alighieri, lyric poetry became exclusively Tuscan. The whole novelty and poetic power of this school, which really was the beginning of Italian art, consist in what Dante expresses so happily –

Amore spira, noto, ed a quell modo
Ch’ei detta dentro, vo significando-"

That is to say, in a power of expressing the feelings of the soul in the way in which love inspires them, in an appropriate and graceful manner, fitting form to matter, and by art fusing one with the other. The Tuscan lyric poetry, the first true Italian art; is pre-eminent in this artistic fusion, in the spontaneous and at the same time deliberate action of the mind. In Lapo Gianni the new style is not free from some admixture of the old associations of the Siculo-Provencal school. He wavered as it were between two manners. The empty had involved phraseology of the Sicilians is absent, but the poet does not always rid himself of their influence. Sometimes, however, he draws freely from his own heart, and then the subtleties and obscurities disappear, and his verse becomes clear, flowing, and elegant.

Guido Cavalcanti was a learned man with a high conception of his art. He felt the value of it, and adapted his learning to it. Cavalcanti was already a good deal out of sympathy with the mediaeval spirit; he reflected deeply on his own work, and from this reflection he derived his poetical conception. His poems may be divided into two classes, - those which portray the philosopher, ‘il sottilissimo dialettico," as Lorenzothe Magnificent called him, and those which are more directly the product of his poetic nature imbued with mysticism and metaphysics. To the first set belongs the famous poem Sulla Natura d’Amore, which in fact is a treatise on amorous metaphysics, and was annotated later in a learned way by the most renowned Platonic philosophers of the 15th century, such as Marsilius Ficinus and others. In other poems of Cavalcanti’s besides this, we see a tendency to subtilize and to stifle the poetic imagery under a dead weight of philosophy. But there are many of his sonnets in which the truth of the images and the elegance and simplicity of the style are admirable, and make us feel that we are in quite a new period of art. This is particularly felt in Cavalcanti’s Ballate, for in them he pours himself out ingeniously and without affection, but with an invariable and profound consciousness of his art. Far above all the others for the reality of the sorrow and the love displayed, for the melancholy longing expressed for the distant home, for the calm and solemn yearning of his heart for the lady of his love, for a deep subjectively which is never troubled by metaphysical he was banished from Florence with the party of the Bianchi in 1300, and took refuge at Sarzana.

The third poet among the followers of the newschool was Cinoda Pistoia, of the family of the Sinibuldi (see Cino da Pistoai). His love poems are so sweet, so mellow, and so musical that they are only surpassed by Dante. The pains of love are described by him with vigorous touches; it is easy to see that they are not feigned but real. The psychology of love and of sorrow nearly reaches perfection.

As the author of the Vita Nuova, Dante also belongs to the same lyric school. This is a little book of poetry and prose, which tells the story of his love for Beatrice, who is pretty generally held to be the daughter of Folco Portinari. In the lyrics of the Vita Nouva (so called by its author to indicate that his first meeting with Beatrice was the beginning for him of a life entirely different from that he had hitherto led) there is a high idealization of love. It sees as if there were in it nothing earthly or human, and that the poet had this eyes constantly fixed on heaven, while singing of his lady. Everything is supersensual, aerial, heavenly, and the real Beatrice is always gradually melting more and more into the symbolical one – passing out of her human nature and into the divine. The life of Dante covered a period of fifty-six years (1265-1321). In 1289 he fought at Campaldino against the Ghibellines of Arezzo. In 1300 he was probably one of the ambassador from the Guelphs to Pope Boniface VIII. He was afterwards elected a prior, and it is believed that he took part in the measure for banishing the heads of the factions of the Bianchi and Neri which began that same year in Florence. The Neri betook themselves to Boniface, accusing their adversaries of an understanding with the Ghibellines. For the purpose of meeting these accusations, Dante went to Boniface, but in the meanwhile the latter sent Charles of Valois as a peacemaker, with secret injunctions to crush the Bianchi. Charles fulfilled this part of his mission with real. One of the proscribed was Dante, on the charge of illicit gains and of extortion during his priorate. Henceforth the poet’s life was a perpetual pilgrimage from one Italian town to another. He was also at Paris in 1308. He hoped great things from the descent of Henry VII. of Luxembourg into Italy, and wrote to the people and princes to announce the coming of the day of redemption. He had hopes, too, of uguccione della Faggiuola, leader of the Pisans against Florence (1315). But all his hopes proved vain, and he took refuge with Can Grande della Scala at Verona 91316), moving on later to Busone de Raffaelli at Gubbio (1318), to Vagano della Torre at udine (1319), and to Guido Novello da Polenta at Ravenna (1320), where he died the next year.

It appears that Dante began the convito in his youth, that he continued it in his exile, and never completed it. He named the book the Convito, to signify that a banquet of wisdom was served up in it. He meant to comment on fourteen of his songs, and the commentary was to be the promised serving up of the banquet. But he only composed four out of the fourteen treatises. As has been said by one of Dante’s chief admirers in modern Italy, "it is a book of much learning, but the symbolism kills the poetry, and the quotations stifle the real knowledge." The Convito is very valuable as giving a notion of the mind of Dante and of his scholastic education. On the other hand, his treatise De Monarchia shows us his political conception. It was probably written in 1310, when the coming of Henry Vii. revived such hopes in him. Meant to prove in it that a universal monarchy is necessary to the well-being of the world, that the roman people had a right to claim the exercise of this office, that the authority of a monarch comes straight from God and not from his vicar, the pope. The De Monarchia us written in scholastic Latin, and the treatment is scholastic. Another work of Dante’s also written in Latin, is the De Vulgari Eloquio. It seems that it was to have consisted of four books, but only two wer written. His work is a defence of the "volgare illustre’ (the noble vulgar tongue) against the Italian dialects. Modern criticism regards it as very superficial.

The work which made Dante immortal, and raised him above all the other men of genius in Italy, was his Divina Commedia. The author himself called it a "comedy", as he says in his letter to Can Grande della Scala, for two reasons, - because it has, like comedies, a sad beginning and a cheerful ending, and because it is written in a "middle" style, treating alike of lofty and of lowly things. Alighieri is the protagonist of the great drama. He represents himself as lost in a forest, in a night at the end of March and in the first day of April 1300, when he was thirty-five years old. At first he is much alarmed, but afterwards he is cheered when, at dawn, he finds himself at the foot of a bill. He wishes to ascend it, but three wild beasts prevent his doing so, - as panther, a lion, and a she-wolf. When he flees back in haste to the forest, Virgil appears to him, and tells him that he is sent by Beatrice, at the command of the "Gentle lady" (Mary) and of St Lucy. He tells him that, in order to escape from the she wolf, he must go through hell and purgatory with him, and afterwards Beatrice herself will lead him up to heaven. Dante’s Inferno takes the shape of a deep valley, reaching down in constantly narrowing circles from the surface of our hemisphere, in the midst of which stands the mount of Jerusalem, to the center of the earth. This valley, or inverted cone, is cut by nine circles, where the souls of the damned are tortured; they are divided into three principal classes, viz., the incontinent, the violent, and the fraudulent. The valley is shut in at its entrance by the river Acheron, and afterwards crossed by the Stygian marsh, and the rivers Phlegethon and Cocytus. The two poets pass through the ninth part of each circle, talking to some of the shades they meet, and at last they come to Lucifer, stationed in the center of the earth. "Grappling at his hair," they pass the center of gravity, and begin to ascend a narrow way which brings them to the other hemisphere. They reach a little island, whence rises a very high mountain, which is purgatory. It also is divided into nine circles: in the first two are the souls of those who deferred their repentance till the hour of death; in the others the shades are cleansing themselves from the seven deadly sins. Cato of Utica guards this place. The two poets ascend the mountain, going always to the right hand. On the summit they find the earthly paradise, which is the exact antipodes to the mountain of Jerusalem. Here appear a long train of venerable persons, who precede a chariot drawn by griffins. Beatrice makes her appearance, and with her Dante takes his flight through the nine heavens, where he sees the souls of the blessed according to the order of their desert. At the tenth heaven, the empyrean, he sees them again all together, arranged in the shape of a gleaming rose round a most dazzling center, which is God. Here the poet contemplates the mysteries of the Trinity and of the manhood of Christ. Then the vision comes to an end.

An allegorical meaning is hidden under the literal one of the Commedia. Dante, traveling through the invisible worlds, is a symbol of mankind aiming at the double object of temporal and eternal happiness. By the forest in which the poet loses himself is meant the civil and religious confusion of society, deprived of its two guides, the emperor and the pope. The mountain illuminated by the sun is universal monarchy. The three beasts are the three vices and the three powers which offered the greatest obstacles to Dante’s designs; envy is Florence, light, fickle, and divided by the Biachi and Neri; pride is the house of France; avarice is the papal court; Virgil represents reason and the empire. Beatrice is the symbol of the supernatural aid without which man cannot attain the supreme end, which is God.

But the merit of the poem does not lie in the allegory, which still connects it with mediaeval literature. What is new in it is the individual art of the poet, the classic art transfused for the first time into a romance form. Dante is above all a great artist. Whether he describes nature, analyses passions, curses the vices, or sings hymns to the virtues, he is always wonderful for the grandeur and delicacy of his art. Out of the rude mediaeval vision he has made the greatest work of art of modern times. He took the materials for his poem from theology, from philosophy, from history, from mythology,- but more especially from his own passions, from hatred and love; and he has breathed the breath of genius into all these materials. Under the pen of the poet, the dead come to life again; they become men again, and speak the language of their time, of their passions. Farinata degli Uberti, Boniface VIII. Count Ugolino, Manfred, Sordello, hugh Capet, St Thomas Aquinas, cacciaguida, St Benedict, St Peter, are all so many objective kcreations; they stand before us in all the life of their characters, their feelings, their habits.

Yet this world of fancy in which the poet moves is not only made living by the power of his genius, but it is changed by his consciousness. The real chastizer of the sins, the rewarder of the virtues, is Dante himself. The personal interest which he brings to bear on the historical representation of the three worlds is what most interests us and stirs us. Dante remakes history after his own passions. Thus the Divina Commedia can fairly be called, not only the most life-like drama of the thoughts and feelings that moved men at that time, but also the most clear and spontaneous reflection of the individual feelings of the poet, from the indignation of the citizen and the exile to the faith of the believer and the ardor of the philosopher. The Divina Commedia fixed and clearly defined the density of Italian literature, to give artistic luster, and hence immortality, to all the forms of literature which the Middle Ages had produced. Dante begins the great era of the Renaissance.

Two facts characterize the literary life of Petrarch 91304-1374), - classical research and the new human feeling introduced into his lyric poetry. Nor are these two facts separate; rather is the one the result of the other. The Petrarch who traveled about unearthing the works of the great Latin writers helps us to understand the Petrarch who, having completely detached himself from the Middle Ages, loved a real lady with a human love, and celebrated her in her life and after her death in poems full of studied elegance. Petrarch was the first humanist, and he was at the same time the first lyric poet of the modern school. His career was long and tempestuous. He lived for many years at Avignon, cursing the corruption of the papal court; he traveled through nearly the whole of Europe; he corresponded with emperors and popes; he was considered the first man of letters of his time; he had honors and riches; and he always bore about within him discontent, melancholy, and incapacity for satisfaction, - three characteristics of the modern man.

He wrote many Latin works, the most important of which are the Epistolae and the poem entitled Africa. He was the first to have a style of his own, and to attempt to revive the art of the Latin authors. He specially studied Cicero, and endeavored to copy him. Perhaps there was a sort of affinity between their characters. The Epistolae are of very great importance for the study of Petrarch’s life and mind, as well as for the history of his times. Africa is a long poem in hexameters on the campaigns of Scipio which in places shows the gleam of genius. In the itinerarium Syriacum, and in another work that is now lost,. Petrarch appears as the first geographer of modern times.

It is not very certain who was the lady loved by Petrarch. There are some reasons for believing that she was called laura de Noves, and was the wide of ugo de Sade, but this is very far from being proved. It appears anyhow that the lady lived at Avignon.

The Canzoniere is divided into three parts, - the first containing the poems written during Laura’s lifetime the second the poems written after her death, the third the trionfi. The one and only subject of these poems is love; but the treatment is full of variety in conception, in imagery, and in sentiment, derived from the most varied impressions of nature. Petrarch’s love is real and deep, and to this is due the merit of his lyric verse, which is quite different, not only from that of the Provencal troubadours and of the Italian poets before him, but also from the lyrics of Dante. Petrarch is a psychological poet, who dives down into his own soul, examines all his feelings, and know how to render them with an art of exquisite sweetness. The lyrics of Petrarch are no longer transcendental like, Dante’s, but on the contrary keep entirely within human limits. In struggles, in doubts, in fears, in disappointments, in griefs, in joys, in fact in everything, the poet finds material for his poetry. The second part of the Canzoniere is the more passionate. The Trionfi are inferior; it is clear that in them Petrarch tried to imitate the Divina Commedia, but never came near it.

The Canzoniere includes also a few political poems, - a canzone to Italy, one supposed to be addressed to Cola di Rienzi, and several sonnets against the court of Avignon. These are remarkable for their vigor of feeling, and also for showing that Petrarch had formed the idea of Italianita better even than Alighieri. The Italy which he wooed was different from any conceived by the men of the Middle Ages, and in this also he was a precursor of modern times and of modern aspirations. Petrarch had no decided political idea. He exalted Cola di Rienzi, invoked the emperor Charles IV., praised the Visconti; in fact, his politics were affected more by impressions than by principles; but above all this reigned constantly the love of Italy, his ancient and glorious country, which in his mind is reunited with Rome, he great city of his heroes Cicero and Scipio.

Boccaccio (1313-1375) had the same enthusiastic love of antiquity and the same worship for the new Italian literature as Petrarch. He was the first, with the help of a Greek born in Calabria, to put together a Latin translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey. His vast classical learning was shown specially in the work De Genealogia Deorum, in which he enumerates the gods according to genealogical trees constructed on the authority of the various authors who wrote about the pagan divinities. This work marked an era in studies preparatory to the revival of classical learning. And at the same time it opened the way for the modern criticism, because Boccaccio in his researches and his own judgment was always independent of the authors whom he most esteemed. The Genealogia Deorum is, as Heeren said, an encyclopaedia of mythological knowledge; and it was the precursor of the great humanistic movement which was developed in the 15th century. Boccaccio was also the first historian of women in his De Claris Mulieribus, and the first to undertake to tell the story of the great unfortunate in his De Casibus Virorum Illustrium. He continued and perfected former geographical investigations in his interesting book De Montibus, Silvis, Fontibus, Lacubus, Fluminibus, Stagnis, et Paludibus, et de Nominibus Maris, for which he made use of Vibius Sequester, but which contains also many new and valuable observations. He also wrote in Latin several eclogues, some letters, and other minor compositions. Of his Italian works his lyrics do not come anywhere near to the perfection of Petrarch’s. His sonnets, mostly about love, are quite mediocre. His narrative poetry is better. Although now he can no longer claim the distinction long conceded to him of having invented he octave stanza (which afterwards became the metre of the poems of Boiardo, of Ariosto, and of tasso), yet he was certainly the first to use it in a work of some length and written with artistic skill, such as is his Teseide. This is a poem in twelve books, and the subject is the love of two Theban youths, Arcita and Palemone, for Emilia, one of the Amazons. We find in it great luxury of description, inflated speeches, much erudition, but little poetry. However, the Teseide is the oldest Italian romantic poem. The Filostrato relates the loves of Troiolo and Griseida (Troilus and Cressida). It may be that Boccaccio knew the French poem of the Trojan war by Benoit de Sainte-More; but the interest of the Italian work lies in the analysis of the passion of love, which is treated with a masterly hand. The Ninfale Fiesolano tells the love story of the nymph Mesola and the shepherd Africo. The Amorosa Visione, a poem in triplets, doubtless owed its origin to the Divina Commedia. The Ameto is a mixture of prose and poetry, and is the first Italian pastoral romance.

The Filocopo takes the earliest place among prose romances. In it Boccaccio tells in a laborious style, and in the most prolix way, the loves of Florio and Biancafiore. Probably for this work he drew materials from a popular source or from a Byzantine romance, Leonzio Pilato may have mentioned to him. In the Filocopo there is a remarkable exuberance in the mythological part, which damages the romance as an artistic work, but which contributes to the history of Boccaccio’s mind. The Fiammetta is another romance, about the loves of Boccaccio and Maria d’Aquino, a supposed natural daughter of King Robert, whom he always called by this name of Fiammetta.

The Italian work which principally made Boccaccio famous was the Decamerone, a collection of a hundred novels, related by a party of men and women, who had retired to a villa near Florence to escape from the plague in 1348. Novel-writing, so abundant in the preceding centuries, especially in France, now for the first time assumed an artistic shape. The style of Boccaccio tends to the imitation of Latin, but in him prose first took the form if elaborated art. The rudeness of the old fabliaux gives place to the careful and conscientious work of a mind that has a feeling for what is beautiful, that has studied the classic authors, and that strives to imitate them as much as possible. Over and above this, in the Decamerone, Boccaccio is a delineator of character and an observe of passions. In this lies his novelty. Much has been written about the sources of the novel’s of the Decamerone. Probably Boccaccio made use both of written and of oral sources. Popular tradition must have furnished himwith the materials of many stories, as, for example, that of Griselda.

Unlike Petrarch, who was always discontented, preoccupied, wearied with life, disturbed by disappointments, we find Boccaccio calm, serene, satisfied with himself and with his surroundings. Notwithstanding these fundamental differences in their characters, the two great authors were old and warm friends. But their affection for Dante was not equal. Petrarch, who says that he saw him once in his childhood, did not preserve a pleasant recollection of him, and it would be usles to deny that he was jealous of his renown. The Divina Commedia was sent him by Boccaccio, when he was an old man, and he confessed that he never read it. On the other hand, Boccaccio felt for Dnte something more than love-enthusiasm. He wrote a biography of him, of which the accuracy is now unfairly depreciated by some critics, and he gave public critical lectures on the poem in Santa Maria del Fiore at Florence.

Fazio degli Uberti and Federigo Frezzi were imitators of the Divina Commedia, but only in its external form. The former wrote the Diuttamondo, a long poem, in which the author supposes that he was taken by the geographer Solinus into different parts of the world, and that his guide related the history of them. The legends of the rise of the different Italian cities have some importance historically . Frezzi, bishop of his native town Foligno, wrote the quadriregio, a poem of the four kingdoms – Love, Satan, the Vices, an the Virtues. This poem has many points of resemblance with the Divina Commedia. Frezzi pictures the condition of man who rises from a state of vice to one of virtue, and describes hell, the limbo, purgatory, and heaven. The poet has Pallas for a companion.

Ser Giovanni Fiorentino wrote, under the tilte of Pecorone, a collection of tales, which are supposed to have been related by a monk and a nun in the parlour of the monastery of Forli. He closely imitated Boccaccio, and new on Villani’s chronicle for his historical stories. Franco Saccheti wrote tales, too, for the most part on subjects taken from Florentine history. His book gives a life-like picture of Florentine society at the end of the 14th century. The subjects are almost always improper; but it is evident that Sacchetti collected all these anecdotes in order to draw from them his own conclusions and moral reflections, which are to be found at the end of every story. From this point of view Sacchetti’s work comes near to the Moralisationes of the Middle Ages. A third novelist was Giovanni Sercambi of Lucca, who after 1374 wrote a book, in imitationof Boccaccio, about a party of people who were supposed to fly from a plague and to go traveling about in different Italian cities, stopping here and there telling stories.

It has already been said that the chronicles formerly believed to have been of the 13th century are now regarded as forgeries of later times. At the end of the 13th century, however, we find a chronicle by Dino Compagni, which, notwithstanding the unfavorable opinion of it entertained especially by some German writers, is in all probability authentic. Little is known about the life of Compagni. Noble by birth, he was democratic in feeling, and was a supporter of the new ordinances of Giano della Bella. As prior and gonfalonier of justice he always had the public welfare at heart. When Charles of Valois, the nominee of Boniface VIII., was expected in Florence, Compagni, foreseeing the evils of civil discord, assembled a number of citizens in the church of San Giovanni, and tried to quiet their excited spirits. His chronicle relates the events that came under his own notice from 1280 to 1312. it bears the stamp of a strong subjectivity. The narrative is constantly personal. If often rises to the finest dramatic style. A strong patriotic feeling and an exalted desire for what is right pervade the book. Compagni is more an historian than a chronicler, because he looks for the reasons of events, and makes profound reflections ion them. according to our judgment he is one of the most important authorities for that period of Florentine history, notwithstanding the not insignificant mistakes in fact which are to be found in his writings. On the contrary, Giovanni Villani, born in 1300, was more of a chronicler than an historian. He relates the events up to 1347. The journeys that he made in Italy and France, and the information thus acquired, account for the fact that his chronicle, called by him Istorie, Fiorentine, comprises events that occurred all over Europe. What specially distinguishes the work of Villani is that he speaks at length, not only of events in politics and war, but also of the stipends of public officials, of the sums of money used for paying soldiers and for public festivals, and of many other things of which the knowledge is very valuable. With such an abundance of information it is not to be wondered at that Villani’s narrative is often encumbered with fables and errors, particularly when he speaks of things that happened before his own time. Matteo was the brother of Giovanni Villani and continued the chronicle up to 1363. It was again continued by Filippo Villani, Gino Capponi, author of the Commentari dell’ Acquisto di Pisa and of the narration of the Tmulto dei Ciompi, belonged to both the 14th and the 15th centuries.

The Divina Commedia is ascetic its conception, and in a good many points of its execution. To a large extent similar is the genius of Petrarch; yet neither Petrarch nor Dante could be classified among the pure ascetics of their time. but many other writers come under this head. St Catherine of Sienna’s mysticism was political. She was a really extraordinary woman, who aspired to bring back the Church of Rome to evangelical virtue, and who has left a collection of letters written in a high and lofty tone to all kinds of people, including popes. She joins hands on the one side with Jacopone of Todi, on the other with Savonarola. Hers is the strongest, clearest, most exalted religious utterance that made itself heard kin Italy in the 14th century. It is not to be thought that precise ideas of reformation entered into her head, but the want of a great moral reform was flet in her heart. And she spoke indeed ex abundantia cordis. Anyhow the daughter of Jacopo Benincasa must take her place among those who from afar off prepared the way for the religious movement which took effect, especially in Germany and England, in the 16th century.

Another Sienese, Giovanni Colombini, founder of the order of Jeusati, preached by precept and example, going back to the religious idea of St Francis of Assisi. His letters are among the most remarkable in the category of ascetic works in the 14th century. Passavanti, in his Specchio dela vera Pentienza, attached instruction to narrative. Cavalca translated from the Latin the Vite dei Santi padri. Rivalta left behind him many sermons, and Franco Sacchetti (the famous novelist) many discourses. On the whole, there is no doubt that one of the most important productions of the Italian spirit of the 14th century was the religious literature.

In direct antithesis with this is a kind of literature which has a strong popular element. Humorous poetry, the poetry of laughter and jest, which as we saw was largely developed in the 13th century, was carried on in the 14th by Bindo Bonichi, Arrigo di Castruccio, Cecco Nuccoli, Andrea Orgagna, Filippo de’ Bardi, Adriano de’ Rossi, Antonio Pucci, and other lesser writers. Orgagna was specially comic; Bonichi was comic with a satirical and moral pur pose. Antonio Pucci was superior to all of them for the variety of his production. He put into triplets the chronicle of Giovanni Villani (Centiloquio), and wrote many historicall poems called Serventesi, many comic poems, and not a few epico-popular compositions on various subjects. A little poem of his in seven cantos treats of the war between the Florentines and the Pisans from 1362 to 1365. other poems drawn from a legendary source celebrate the Reina d’Oriente, Apollonio di Tiro, the Bel Gherardino, &c. There poems, meant to be recited to the people, are the remote ancestors of the romantic epic, which was developed in the 16th century, and the first representatives of which were Boiardo and Ariosto.

Many poets of the 14th century have left us political works. Of these Fazio degli Uberti, the author of Dittamondo, who wrote a Serventese to the lords and people of Italy, a poem on Rome, a fierce invective against Charles IV.of Luxemburg, deserves notice, and Francesco di Vannozzo, Frate Stoppa, and Matteo Frescobaldi. It may be said in general that following the example of Petrarch many writers devoted themselves to patriotic poetry. From this period also dates that literary phenomenon known under the nameof Petrarchism. The Petrarchists, or those who sand of love, imitating Petrarch’s manner, were found already in the 14th century. But others treated the same subject with more originality, in a manner that might be called semi-popular. Such were the Ballate of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, of Franco Sacchetti, of Niccolo Soldanieri, of GuidoandBindo Donati. Ballate were poems sung to dancing, and we have verymany songs for music of the 14th century. We have already stated that Antonio Pucci versified Villani’s Chronicle. This instance of versified history is notunique, and it is evidently connected with the preciselysimilar phenomenon offered by the "vulgar Latin" literature. It is enough to notice a chronicle of Arezzo in terza rima by Gorello de’ Sinigardi, and the history, also in terza rima,of the journey of Pope Alexander III. to Venice by Pier de’ Natali. Besides this, every kind of subject, whether history, tragedy, or husbandry, was treated in verse. Neri di Landocio wrote a life of St Catherine; Jacopo Gradenigoput the gospels into triplets; paganino Bonafede in the Tesoro dei Rustici gave many precepts in agriculture, beginning that kind of Georgic poetry which was fully developed later by Alamanni in his Coltivazione, by Girolamo Baruffaldi in the Canapajo, by Rucellai in the Api, by bartolommeo Lorenzi in the Coltivazione dei Monti, by Giambattista Spolverini in the Coltivazione del Riso, &c.

There cannot have been an entire absence of dramatic literature in Italy in the 14th century, but traces of it are wanting, although we find them again in great abundance in the 15th century. The 14th century had, however, one drama unique of its kind. In the sixty years (1250 to 1310) which ran from the death of the emperor Frederick II. to the expedition of Henry VII., no emperor had come into Italy. In the north of Italy, Ezzelino da Romano, with the title of imperial vicar, had taken possession of almost the whole of the March of Treviso, and threatened Lombardy. The popes proclaimed a crusade against him, and, crushed by it, the Ezzelini fell. Padua then began to breathe again, and took to extending its dominion. There was living at Padua Albertino Mussato, born in 1261, a year after the catastrophe of the Ezzelini; he grew up among the survivors of a generation that hated the name of the tyrant. After having written in Latin a history of Henry VII., he devoted himself ot a dramatic work on Ezzelino, and wrote it also in Latin. The Eccerinus, which was probably never represented on the stage, has been by some critics compared to the great tragic works of Greece. It would probably be nearer the truth to say that it has nothing in common with the works of Aeschylus; but certainly the dramatic strength, the delineation of certain situations, and the narration of certain events are very original. Mussato’s work stands alone in the historyof Italian dramatic literature. Perhaps this would not have been the case if he had written it in Italian.

In the last years of the 14th century we find the struggle that was soon to break out between the indigenous literary tradition and the reviving classicism already alive in spirit. As representatives of this struggle, of this antagonism, we may consider Luigi marsilio and Coluccio Salutati, both learned men who spoke and wrote Latin, who aspired to be humanists, but who meanwhile also loved Dante, Patrarch, and Boccaccio, and felt and celebrated in their wrtings the beauty of Italian literature.

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