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Title: Renaissance in Italy: Italian Literature - Part 1 (of 2)
Author: Symonds, John Addington, 1840-1893
Language: English
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without note.]



In Two Parts



_Author of "Studies of the Greek Poets," "Sketches in Italy and
Greece," etc._

     "Questa provincia pare nata per risuscitare le cose morte,
     come si è visto della Poesia, della Pittura e della Scultura."

     MACH.: _Arte della Guerra_






This work on the Renaissance in Italy, of which I now give the last two
volumes to the public, was designed and executed on the plan of an essay
or analytical inquiry, rather than on that which is appropriate to a
continuous history. Each of its four parts--the _Age of the Despots_,
the _Revival of Learning_, the _Fine Arts_, and _Italian
Literature_--stood in my mind for a section; each chapter for a
paragraph; each paragraph for a sentence. At the same time, it was
intended to make the first three parts subsidiary and introductory to
the fourth, for which accordingly a wider space and a more minute method
of treatment were reserved. The first volume was meant to explain the
social and political conditions of Italy; the second to relate the
exploration of the classical past which those conditions necessitated,
and which determined the intellectual activity of the Italians; the
third to exhibit the bias of this people toward figurative art, and
briefly to touch upon its various manifestations; in order that,
finally, a correct point of view might be obtained for judging of their
national literature in its strength and limitations. Literature must
always prove the surest guide to the investigator of a people's
character at some decisive epoch. To literature, therefore, I felt that
the plan of my book allowed me to devote two volumes.

The subject of my inquiry rendered the method I have described, not only
natural but necessary. Yet there are special disadvantages, to which
progressive history is not liable, in publishing a book of this sort by
installments. Readers of the earlier parts cannot form a just conception
of the scope and object of the whole. They cannot perceive the relation
of its several sections to each other, or give the author credit for his
exercise of judgment in the marshaling and development of topics. They
criticise each portion independently, and desire a comprehensiveness in
parts which would have been injurious to the total scheme. Furthermore,
this kind of book sorely needs an Index, and its plan renders a general
Index, such as will be found at the end of the last volume, more
valuable than one made separately for each part.

Of these disadvantages I have been rendered sensible during the progress
of publication through the last six years. Yet I have gained some
compensation in the fact that the demand for a second edition of the
first volume has enabled me to make that portion of the work more

With regard to authorities consulted in these two concluding volumes, I
have special pleasure in recording none--with only insignificant
exceptions--but Italian names. The Italians have lately made vigorous
strides in the direction of sound historical research and scientific
literary criticism. It is not too much to say that the labors of this
generation are rapidly creating a radical change in the views hitherto
accepted concerning the origins and the development of Italian
literature. Theories based on rational investigation and philosophical
study are displacing the academical opinions of the last century. The
Italians are forming for themselves a just conception of their past, at
the same time that they are consolidating their newly-gained political

To dwell upon the works of Francesco de Sanctis and Pasquale Villari is
hardly necessary here. The former is perhaps less illustrious by
official dignity than by his eloquent _Storia della Letteratura
Italiana_. The latter has gained European reputation as the biographer
of Savonarola and Machiavelli, the historian of Florence at their epoch.
But English readers are probably not so familiar with acute and accurate
criticism of Giosuè Carducci; with the erudition of Alessandro d'Ancona,
and the voluminous history of the veteran Cesare Cantù; with the
intelligence and facile pen of Adolfo Bartoli; with the philological
researches of Napoleone Caix, and Francesco Fiorentino's philosophical
studies; with Rajna's patient labors in one branch of literary history,
and Monaci's discoveries in another; with the miscellaneous
contributions to scholarship and learning made by men like Comparetti,
Guasti, D'Ovidio, Rubieri, Milanesi, Campori, Passano, Biagi, Pitré,
Tigri, Vigo, Giudici, Fracassetti, Fanfani, Bonghi, Grion, Mussafia,
Morsolin, Del Lungo, Virgili. While alluding thus briefly to students
and writers, I should be sorry to omit the names of those
publishers--the Florentine Lemonnier, Barbèra, Sansoni; the Neapolitan
Morano; the Palermitan Lauriel; the Pisan Vico and Nistri; the Bolognese
Romagnoli and Zanichelli--through whose spirited energy so many works of
erudition have seen the light.

I have mentioned names almost at random, passing over (not through
forgetfulness, but because space compels me) many writers to whom I owe
weighty obligations. The notes and references in these volumes will, I
trust, contain acknowledgment sufficient to atone for omissions in this

Not a few of these distinguished men hold professorial appointments; and
it is clear that they are forming students in the great Italian cities,
to continue and complete their labors. Very much remains to be explored
in the field of Italian literary history. The future promises a harvest
of discovery scarcely less rich than that of the last half-century. On
many moot points we can at present express but partial or provisional
judgments. The historian of the Renaissance must feel that his work,
when soundest, may be doomed to be superseded, and when freshest, will
ere long seem antiquated. So rapid is the intellectual movement now
taking place in Italy.

In conclusion, it remains for me to add that certain passages in Chapter
II. have been reproduced from an article by me in the _Quarterly
Review_, while some translations from Poliziano and Boiardo, together
with portions of the critical remarks upon those poets, were first
published, a few years since, in the _Fortnightly Review_. From the
_Fortnightly Review_, again, I have extracted the translation of ten
sonnets by Folgore da San Gemignano.

In quoting from Italian writers, in the course of this literary history,
I have found it best to follow no uniform plan; but, as each occasion
demanded, I have given the Italian text, or else an English version, or
in some cases both the original and a translation. To explain the
motives for my decision in every particular, would involve too much
expenditure of space. I may, however, add that the verse-translations in
these volumes are all from my pen, and have been made at various times
for the special purpose of this work.

DAVOS: _March, 1881._






The period from 1300 to 1530--Its Division into Three Sub-Periods--Tardy
Development of the Italian Language--Latin and Roman Memories--Political
Struggles and Legal Studies--Conditions of Latin Culture in Italy during
the Middle Ages--Want of National Legends--The Literatures of Langue
d'Oc and Langue d'Oïl cultivated by Italians--Franco-Italian
Hybrid--Provençal Lyrics--French Chansons de Geste--Carolingian and
Arthurian Romances--Formation of Italian Dialects--Sicilian School of
Court Poets--Frederick II.--Problem of the _Lingua Aulica_--Forms of
Poetry and Meters fixed--General Character of the Sicilian Style--Rustic
Latin and Modern Italian--Superiority of Tuscan--The _De
Eloquio_--Plebeian Literature--Moral Works in Rhyme--Emergence of Prose
in the Thirteenth Century--Political Songs--Popular Lyrics--Religious
Hymns--Process of Tuscanization--Transference of the Literary Center
from Sicily to Tuscany--Guittone of Arezzo--Bolognese School--Guido
Guinicelli--King Enzio's Envoy to Tuscany--Florentine Companies of
Pleasure--Folgore de San Gemignano--The Guelf City 1



Chivalrous Poetry--Ideal of Chivalrous Love--Bolognese Erudition--New
Meaning given to the Ideal--Metaphysics of the Florentine School of
Lyrists--Guido Cavalcanti--Philosophical Poems--Popular Songs--Cino of
Pistoja--Dante's _Vita Nuova_--Beatrice in the _Convito_ and the
_Paradiso_--The Preparation for the _Divine Comedy_ in
Literature--Allegory--The _Divine Comedy_--Petrarch's Position in
Life--His Conception of Humanism--Conception of Italy--His Treatment of
Chivalrous Love--Beatrice and Laura--The _Canzoniere_--Boccaccio, the
Florentine Bourgeois--His Point of View--His Abandonment of the
Chivalrous Standpoint--His Devotion to Art--Anticipates the
Renaissance--The _Decameron_--_Commedia Umana_--Precursors of
Boccaccio--Novels--_Carmina Vagorum_--Plan of the Book--Its Moral
Character--The _Visione Amorosa_--Boccaccio's Descriptions--The
_Teseide_--The _Rime_--The _Filocopo_--The _Filostrato_--The _Ameto_,
_Fiammetta_, _Ninfale_, _Corbaccio_--Prose before Boccaccio--_Fioretti
di San Francesco_ and _Decameron_ compared--Influence of Boccaccio over
the Prose Style of the Renaissance--His Death--Close of the Fourteenth
Century--Sacchetti's Lament 59



The Church, Chivalry, the Nation--The National Element in Italian
Literature--Florence--Italy between 1373 and 1490--Renascent
Nationality--Absorption in Scholarship--Vernacular Literature follows an
Obscure Course--Final Junction of the Humanistic and Popular
Currents--Renascence of Italian--The Italian Temperament--Importance of
the Quattrocento--Sacchetti's Novels--Ser Giovanni's
_Pecorone_--Sacchetti's and Ser Giovanni's Poetry--Lyrics of the Villa
and the Piazza--Nicolò Soldanieri--Alesso Donati--His Realistic
Poems--Followers of Dante and Petrarch--Political Poetry of the Guelfs
and Ghibellines--Fazio degli Uberti--Saviozzo da Siena--Elegies on
Dante--Sacchetti's Guelf Poems--Advent of the
_Bourgeoisie_--Discouragement of the Age--Fazio's _Dittamondo_--Rome and
Alvernia--Frezzi's _Quadriregio_--Dantesque Imitation--Blending of
Classical and Medieval Motives--Matteo Palmieri's _Città di Vita_--The
Fate of _Terza Rima_--Catherine of Siena--Her Letters--S. Bernardino's
Sermons--Salutati's Letters--Alessandra degli Strozzi--Florentine's
Annalists--Giov. Cavalcanti--Corio's _History of Milan_--Matarazzo's
_Chronicle of Perugia_--Masuccio and his _Novellino_--His Style and
Genius--Alberti--Born in Exile--His Feeling for Italian--Enthusiasm for
the Roman Past--The Treatise on the Family--Its Plan--Digression on the
Problem of its Authorship--Pandolfini or Alberti--The
_Deiciarchia_--_Tranquillità dell'Animo_--_Teogenio_--Alberti's
Religion--Dedication of the Treatise on Painting--Minor Works in Prose
on Love--_Ecatomfila_, _Amiria_, _Deifiria_, etc.--Misogynism--Novel of
_Ippolito and Leonora_--Alberti's Poetry--Review of Alberti's Character
and his Relation to the Age--Francesco Colonna--The _Hypnerotomachia
Poliphili_--Its Style--Its Importance as a Work of the Transition--A
Romance of Art, Love, Humanism--The Allegory--Polia--Antiquity--Relation
of this Book to Boccaccio and Valla--It Foreshadows the Renaissance 139



Separation between Cultivated Persons and the People--Italian despised
by the Learned--Contempt for Vernacular Literature--The _Certamen
Coronarium_--Literature of Instruction for the Proletariate--Growth of
Italian Prose--Abundance of Popular Poetry--The People in the
Quattrocento take the Lead--Qualities of Italian Genius--Arthurian and
Carolingian Romances--_I Reali di Francia_--Andrea of Berberino and his
Works--Numerous Romances in Prose and Verse--Positive Spirit--Versified
Tales from Boccaccio--Popular Legends--Ginevra degli Almieri--Novel of
_Il Grasso_--Histories in Verse--_Lamenti_--The Poets of the
People--_Cantatori in Banca_--Antonio Pucci--His _Sermintesi_--Political
Songs--Satires--Burchiello--His Life and Writings--Dance-Songs--Derived
from Cultivated Literature, or produced by the
People--Poliziano--Love-Songs--_Rispetti_ and _Stornelli_--The Special
Meaning of _Strambotti_--Diffusion of this Poetry over Italy--Its
Permanence--Question of its Original Home--Intercommunication and
Exchange of Dialects--_Incatenature_ and _Rappresaglie_--Traveling in
Medieval Italy--The Subject-Matter of this Poetry--Deficiency in Ballad
Elements--Canti Monferrini--The Ballad of _L'Avvelenato_ and Lord Ronald



The Thirteenth Century--Outburst of Flagellant Fanaticism--The
_Battuti_, _Bianchi_, _Disciplinati_--Acquire the name of
_Laudesi_--Jacopone da Todi--His Life--His Hymns--The
_Corrotto_--Franciscan Poetry--Tresatti's Collection--Grades of
Spiritual Ecstasy--Lauds of the Confraternities--Benivieni--Feo Belcari
and the Florentine Hymn-writers--Relation to Secular
Dance-songs--Origins of the Theater--Italy had hardly any true Miracle
Plays--Umbrian _Divozioni_--The Laud becomes Dramatic--Passion
Plays--Medieval Properties--The Stage in Church or in the Oratory--The
_Sacra Rappresentazione_--A Florentine Species--Fraternities for
Boys--Names of the _Festa_--Theory of its Origin--Shows in Medieval
Italy--Pageants of S. John's Day at Florence--Their
Machinery--Florentine _Ingegnieri_--Forty-three Plays in D'Ancona's
Collection--Their Authors--The Prodigal Son--Elements of
Farce--Interludes and Music--Three Classes of _Sacre
Rappresentazioni_--Biblical Subjects--Legends of Saints--Popular
_Novelle_--Conversion of the Magdalen--Analysis of Plays 279



Period from 1470 to 1530--Methods of treating it--By Chronology--By
Places--By Subjects--Renascence of Italian--At Florence, Ferrara,
Naples--The New Italy--Forty Years of Peace--Lorenzo de' Medici--His
Admiration for and Judgment of Italian Poetry--His Privileges as a
Patron--His _Rime_--The Death of Simonetta--Lucrezia Donati--Lorenzo's
Descriptive Power--The _Selve_--The _Ambra_--_La Nencia_--_I Beoni_--His
Sacred Poems--Carnival and Dance Songs--Carri and
Trionfi--Savonarola--The Mask of Penitence--Leo X. in Florence,
1513--Pageant of the Golden Age--Angelo Poliziano--His Place in Italian
Literature--_Le Stanze_--Treatment of the Octave Stanza--Court
Poetry--Mechanism and Adornment--The _Orfeo_--Orpheus, the Ideal of the
Cinque Cento--Its Dramatic Qualities--Chorus of Mænads--Poliziano's Love
Poems--_Rispetti_--Florentine Love--La Bella Simonetta--Study and
Country Life 359



The Romantic Epic--Its Plebeian Origin--The Popular Poet's
Standpoint--The Pulci Family--The Carolingian Cycle--Turpin--_Chanson de
Roland_--Historical Basis--Growth of the Myth of Roland--Causes of its
Popularity in Italy--Burlesque Elements--The _Morgante
Maggiore_--Adventures in Paynimry--Roncesvalles--Episodes introduced by
the Poet--Sources in Older Poems--The Treason of Gano--Pulci's
Characters--His Artistic Purpose--His Levity and
Humor--Margutte--Astarotte--Pulci's _bourgeois_ Spirit--Boiardo--His
Life--Feudalism in Italy--Boiardo's Humor--His Enthusiasm for
Knighthood--His Relation to Renaissance Art--Plot of the _Orlando
Innamorato_--Angelica--Mechanism of the Poem--Creation of
Characters--Orlando and Rinaldo--Ruggiero--Lesser Heroes--The
Women--Love--Friendship--Courtesy--Orlando and Agricane at
Albracca--Natural Delineation of Passions--Speed of Narration--Style of
Versification--Classical and Medieval Legends--The Punishment of
Rinaldo--The Tale of Narcissus--Treatment of Mythology--Treatment of
Magic--Fate of the _Orlando Innamorato_ 425



Ancestry and Birth of Ariosto--His Education--His Father's Death--Life
at Reggio--Enters Ippolito d'Este's Service--Character of the
Cardinal--Court Life--Composition and Publication of the
_Furioso_--Quiet Life at Ferrara--Comedies--Governorship of
Garfagnana--His Son Virginio--Last Eight Years--Death--Character and
Habits--The Satires--Latin Elegies and Lyrics--Analysis of the
Satires--Ippolito's Service--Choice of a Wife--Life at Court and
Place-hunting--Miseries at Garfagnana--Virginio's
Education--Autobiographical and Satirical Elements--Ariosto's Philosophy
of Life--Minor Poems--Alessandra Benucci--Ovidian Elegies--Madrigals and
Sonnets--Ariosto's Conception of Love 493

       *       *       *       *       *


No. I.--Note on Italian Heroic Verse 523

No. II.--Ten Sonnets translated from Folgore da San Gemignano 526

No. III.--Translations from Alesso Donati 531

No. IV.--Jacopone's "Presepio," "Corrotto," and "Cantico dell'Amore
Superardente," translated into English Verse 532

No. V.--Passages translated from the "Morgante Maggiore" of Pulci 543

No. VI.--Translations of Elegiac Verses by Girolamo Benivieni and
Michelangelo Buonarroti 561




     The period from 1300 to 1530--Its Division into Three
     Sub-Periods--Tardy Development of the Italian Language--Latin
     and Roman Memories--Political Struggles and Legal
     Studies--Conditions of Latin Culture in Italy during the
     Middle Ages--Want of National Legends--The Literatures of
     Langue d'Oc and Langue d'Oïl cultivated by
     Italians--Franco-Italian Hybrid--Provençal Lyrics--French
     Chansons de Geste--Carolingian and Arthurian
     Romances--Formation of Italian Dialects--Sicilian School of
     Court Poets--Frederick II.--Problem of the _Lingua
     Aulica_--Forms of Poetry and Meters fixed--General Character
     of the Sicilian Style--Rustic Latin and Modern
     Italian--Superiority of Tuscan--The _De Eloquio_--Plebeian
     Literature--Moral Works in Rhyme--Emergence of Prose in the
     Thirteenth Century--Political Songs--Popular Lyrics--Religious
     Hymns--Process of Tuscanization--Transference of the Literary
     Center from Sicily to Tuscany--Guittone of Arezzo--Bolognese
     School--Guido Guinicelli--King Enzio's Envoy to
     Tuscany--Florentine Companies of Pleasure--Folgore da San
     Gemignano--The Guelf City.

Between 1300, the date of Dante's vision, and 1530, the date of the fall
of Florence, the greatest work of the Italians in art and literature was
accomplished. These two hundred and thirty years may be divided into
three nearly equal periods. The first ends with Boccaccio's death in
1375. The second lasts until the birth of Lorenzo de' Medici in 1448.
The third embraces the golden age of the Renaissance. In the first
period Italian literature was formed. In the second intervened the
studies of the humanists. In the third, these studies were carried over
to the profit of the mother tongue. The first period extends over
seventy-five years; the second over seventy-three; the third over
eighty-two. With the first date, 1300, we may connect the jubilee of
Boniface and the translation of the Papal See to Avignon (1304); with
the second, 1375, the formation of the Albizzi oligarchy in Florence
(1381); with the third, 1448, the capture of Constantinople (1453); and
with the fourth, 1530, the death of Ariosto (1533) and the new direction
given to the Papal policy by the Sack of Rome (1527).

The chronological limits assigned to the Italian Renaissance in the
first volume of this work would confine the history of literature to
about eighty years between 1453 and 1527; and it will be seen by
reference to the foregoing paragraph that it would not be impossible to
isolate that span of time. In dealing with Renaissance literature, it so
happens that strict boundaries can be better observed than in the case
of politics, fine arts, or learning. Yet to adhere to this section of
literary history without adverting to the antecedent periods, would be
to break the chain of national development, which in the evolution of
Italian language is even more important than in any other branch of
culture. If the renascence of the arts must be traced from Cimabue and
Pisano, the spirit of the race, as it expressed itself in modern speech,
demands a still more retrogressive survey, in order to render the
account of its ultimate results intelligible.

The first and most brilliant age of Italian literature ended with
Boccaccio, who traced the lines on which the future labors of the nation
were conducted. It was succeeded by nearly a century of Greek and Latin
scholarship. To study the masterpieces of Dante and Petrarch, or to
practice their language, was thought beneath the dignity of men like
Valla, Poggio, or Pontano. But toward the close of the fifteenth
century, chiefly through the influence of Lorenzo de' Medici and his
courtiers, a strong interest in the mother-tongue revived. Therefore the
vernacular literature of the Renaissance, as compared with that of the
expiring middle ages, was itself a renascence or revival. It reverted to
the models furnished by Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, and combined
them with the classics, which had for so long a while eclipsed their
fame. Before proceeding to trace the course of the revival, which forms
the special subject of these volumes, it will be needful to review the
literature of the fourteenth century, and to show under what forms that
literature survived among the people during the classical enthusiasm of
the fifteenth century. Only by this antecedent investigation can the new
direction taken by the genius of the combined Italian nation, after the
decline of scholarship, be understood. Thus the three sub-periods of the
two hundred and thirty years above described may be severally named the
medieval, the humanistic, and the renascent. To demonstrate their
connection and final explication is my purpose in this last section of
my work on the Renaissance.

In the development of a modern language Italy showed less precocity than
other European nations. The causes of this tardiness are not far to
seek. Latin, the universal tongue of medieval culture, lay closer to the
dialects of the peninsula than to the native speech of Celtic and
Teutonic races, for whom the official language of the Empire and the
Church always exhibited a foreign character. In Italy the ancient speech
of culture was at home: and nothing had happened to weaken its
supremacy. The literary needs of the Italians were satisfied with Latin;
nor did the genius of the new people make a vigorous effort to fashion
for itself a vehicle of utterance. Traditions of Roman education
lingered in the Lombard cities, which boasted of secular schools, where
grammarians and rhetoricians taught their art according to antique
method, long after the culture of the North had passed into the hands of
ecclesiastics.[1] When Charlemagne sought to resuscitate learning, he
had recourse to these Italian teachers; and the importance of the
distinction between Italians and Franks or Germans, in this respect, was
felt so late as the eleventh century. Some verses in the Panegyric
addressed by Wippo to the Emperor Henry III. brings the case so vividly
before us that it may be worth while to transcribe them here[2]:

    Tunc fac edictum per terram Teutonicorum,
    Quilibet ut dives sibi natos instruat omnes.
    Litterulis, legemque suam persuadeat illis,
    Ut, cum principibus placitandi venerit usus,
    Quisque suis libris exemplum proferat illis.
    Moribus his dudum vivebat Roma decenter:
    His studiis tantos potuit vincire tyrannos.
    Hoc servant Itali post prima crepundia cuncti;
    Et sudare scholis mandatur tota juventus.
    Solis Teutonicis vacuum vel turpe videtur,
    Ut doceant aliquem nisi clericus accipiatur.

While the Italians thus continued the rhetorical and legal studies of
the ancients, they did not forget that they were representatives and
descendants of the Romans. The Republic and the Empire were for them the
two most glorious epochs of their own history; and any attempt which
they made to revive either literature or art, was imitative of the past.
They were not in the position to take a new departure. No popular epic,
like the Niebelungen of the Teuton, the Arthurian legend of the Celt,
the Song of Roland of the Frank, or the Spanish Cid, could have sprung
up on Italian soil. The material was wanting to a race that knew its own
antiquity. Even when an Italian undertook a digest of the Tale of Troy
or of the Life of Alexander, he converted the metrical romances of the
middle ages into prose, obeying an instinct which led him to regard the
classical past as part of his own history.[3] In like manner, the
recollection of a previous municipal organization in the communes,
together with the growing ideal of a Roman Empire, which should restore
Italy to her place of sovereignty among the nations, proved serious
obstacles to the unification of the people. We have already seen that
this reversion of the popular imagination to Rome may be reckoned among
the reasons why the victory of Legnano and the Peace of Constance were
comparatively fruitless.[4] Politically, socially, and intellectually,
the Italians persisted in a dream of their Latin destiny, long after the
feasibility of realizing that vision had been destroyed, and when the
modern era had already formed itself upon a new type in the federation
of the younger races.

Of hardly less importance, as negative influences, were the failure of
feudalism to take firm hold upon Italian soil, and the defect of its
ideal, chivalry. The literature of trouvères, troubadours, and
minnesingers grew up and flourished in the castles of the North; nor was
it until the Italians, under the sway of the Hohenstauffen princes,
possessed something analogous to a Provençal Court, that the right
conditions for the development of literary art in the vernacular were
attained. From this point of view Dante's phrase of _lingua aulica_, to
express the dialect of culture, is both scientific and significant. It
will further appear in the course of this chapter that the earliest dawn
of Italian literature can be traced to those minor Courts of Piedmont
and the Trevisian Marches, where the people borrowed the forms of feudal
society more sympathetically than elsewhere in Italy.

It must moreover be remembered that during the eleventh and twelfth
centuries the force of the Italian people was concentrated upon two
great political struggles, the contest of the Church with the Empire,
and the War of Lombard Independence. In the prosecution of these
quarrels, the Italians lost sight of letters, art, theology. They became
a race of statesmen and jurists. Their greatest divines and
metaphysicians wandered northward into France and England. Their most
favored university, that of Bologna, acquired a world-famed reputation
as a school of jurisprudence. Legal studies and political activity
occupied the attention of their ablest men. It would be difficult to
overrate the magnitude of the work done during these two centuries. In
the course of them, the Italians gave final form to the organism of the
Papacy, which must be regarded as a product of their constructive
genius. They developed Republican governments of differing types in each
of their great cities, and made, for the first time since the foundation
of the Empire, the name of _People_ sovereign. They resuscitated Roman
law, and reorganized the commerce of the Mediterranean. Remaining loyal
to the Empire as an idea, they shook off the yoke of the German Cæsars;
and while the Papacy was their own handiwork, they, alone of European
nations, viewed it politically rather than religiously, and so weakened
it as to prepare the way for the Babylonian captivity at Avignon.

Thus, through the people's familiarity with Latin; through the survival
of Roman grammar schools and the memory of Roman local institutions;
through a paramount and all-pervading enthusiasm for the Roman past;
through the lack of new legendary and epical material; through the
failure of feudalism, and through the political ferment attending on the
Wars of Investment and Independence, the Italians were slow to produce
a modern language and a literature of modern type. They came late into
the field; and when they took their place at last, their language
presented a striking parallel to their political condition. As they
failed to acquire a solid nationality, but remained split up into petty
States, united by a Pan-Italic sentiment; so they failed to form a
common speech. The written Italian of the future was used in its
integrity by no one province; each district clinging to its dialect with
obstinate pride.[5] Yet, though the race was tardy in literary
development, and though the tongue of Ariosto has never become so
thoroughly Italian as that of Shakspere is English or that of Molière is
French; still, on their first appearance, the Italian masters proved
themselves at once capable of work maturer and more monumental than any
which had been produced in modern Europe. Their education during two
centuries of strife was not without effect. The conditions of
burghership in their free communes, the stirring of their political
energies, the liberty of their _popolo_, and the keen sense of reality
developed by their legal studies, prepared men like Dante and Guido
Cavalcanti for solving the problems of art in a resolute, mature and
manly spirit, fully conscious of the aim before them, and self-possessed
in the assurance of adult faculties.

In the first, or, as it may be termed, the Latin period of medieval
culture, there was not much to distinguish the Italians from the rest of
Europe. Those Lombard schools, of which mention has already been made,
did indeed maintain the traditions of decadent classical education more
alive than among the peoples of the North. Better Latin, and
particularly more fluent Latin verse, was written during the dark ages
in Italy than elsewhere.[6] Still it does not appear that the whole
credit of medieval Latin hymnology, and of its curious counterpart, the
songs of the wandering students, should be attributed to the Italians.
While we can refer the _Dies Iræ_, _Lauda Sion_, _Pange Lingua_ and
_Stabat Mater_ with tolerable certainty to Italian poets; while there is
abundant internal evidence to prove that some of the best _Carmina
Burana_ were composed in Italy and under Italian influences; yet Paris,
the focus of theological and ecclesiastical learning, as Bologna was the
center of legal studies, must be regarded as the headquarters of that
literary movement which gave the rhyming hexameters of Bernard of Morlas
and the lyrics of the Goliardi to Europe.[7] It seems clear that we
cannot ascribe to the Italians of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
any superiority in the use of Latin over the school of France. Their
previous vantage-ground had been lost in the political distractions of
their country. At the same time, they were the first jurists and the
hardiest, if not the most philosophical, freethinkers of Europe.

This is a point which demands at least a passing notice. Their practical
studies, and the example of an emperor at war with Christendom, helped
to form a sect of epicureans in Italy, for whom nothing sanctioned by
ecclesiastical authority was sacred. To these pioneers of modern
incredulity Dante assigned not the least striking Cantos of the
_Inferno_. Their appearance in the thirteenth century, during the
ascendancy of Latin culture, before the people had acquired a language,
is one of the first manifestations of a national bias toward positive
modes of thought and feeling, which we recognize alike in Boccaccio and
Ariosto, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, Pomponazzi and the speculators of
the South Italian School. It was the quality, in fact, which fitted the
Italians for their work in the Renaissance. As metaphysicians, in the
stricter sense of that word, they have been surpassed by Northern races.
Their religious sense has never been so vivid, nor their opposition to
established creeds so earnest. But throughout modern history their great
men have manifested a practical and negative good sense, worldly in its
moral tone, impervious to pietistic influences, antagonistic to
mysticism, contented with concrete reality, which has distinguished them
from the more fervent, boyish, sanguine, and imaginative enthusiasts of
Northern Europe. We are tempted to speculate whether, as they were the
heirs of ancient civility and grew up among the ruins of Roman greatness
so they were born spiritually old and disillusioned.

Another point which distinguished the Italians in this Latin period of
their literature, was the absence of the legendary or myth-making
faculty. It is not merely that they formed no epic, and gave birth to no
great Saga; but they accepted the fabulous matter, transmitted to them
from other nations, in a prosaic and positive spirit. This does not
imply that they exercised a critical faculty, or passed judgment on the
products of the medieval fancy. On the contrary, they took legend for
fact, and treated it as the material of history. Hector, Alexander, and
Attila were stripped of their romantic environments, and presented in
the cold prose of a digest, as persons whose acts could be sententiously
narrated. This attitude of the Italians toward the Saga is by no means
insignificant. When their poets came to treat Arthurian or Carolingian
fables in the epics of Orlando, they apprehended them in the same
positive spirit, adding elements of irony and satire.

For the rest, the Italians shared with other nations the common stock of
medieval literature--Chronicles, Encyclopædias, Epitomes, Moralizations,
Histories in verse, Rhetorical Summaries, and prose abstracts of
Universal History--the meager _débris_ and detritus of the huge moraines
carried down by extinct classic glaciers. It is not needful to dwell
upon this aspect of the national culture, since it presents no specific
features. What is most to our purpose, is to note the affectionate
remembrance of Rome and Roman worthies, which endured in each great
town. The people, as distinguished from the feudal nobility, were and
ever felt themselves to be the heirs of the old Roman population.
Therefore the soldiers on guard against the Huns at Modena in 924, sang
in their barbarous Latin verse of Hector and the Capitol[8]:

    Dum Hector vigil exstitit in Troïa,
    Non eam cepit fraudulenta Græcia:
    Prima quiete dormiente Troïa,
    Laxavit Sinon fallax claustra perfida ...
    Vigili voce avis anser candida
    Fugavit Gallos ex arce Romulea
    Pro qua virtute facta est argentea,
    Et a Romanis adorata ut Dea.

The Tuscan women told tales of Troy and Catiline and Julius Cæsar[9]:

    L'altra, traendo alla rocca la chioma,
    Favoleggiava con la sua famiglia
    De' Troiani e di Fiesole e di Roma.

A rhyming chronicler of Pisa compared the battles of the burghers
against the Saracens with the Punic wars. The tomb of Virgil at Naples
was an object for pilgrimage, and one of the few spots round which a
group of local legends clustered. The memory of Livy added luster to
Padua, and Mussato boasted that her walls, like those of Troy, her
mother-city, were sacrosanct. The memory of the Plinies ennobled Como,
that of Ovid gave glory to Sulmona, that of Tully to Arpino. Florence
clung to the mutilated statue of Mars upon her bridge with almost
superstitious reverence, as proof of Roman origin; while Siena adopted
for her ensign the she-wolf and the Roman twins. Pagan customs survived,
and were jealously maintained in the central and southern provinces; and
the name of the Republic sufficed to stir Arnold's revolution in Rome,
long before the days of Rienzi. To the mighty German potentate, King
Frederick Barbarossa, attended with his Northern chivalry, a handful of
Romans dared to say: "Thou wast a stranger; I, the City, gave thee civic
rights. Thou camest from transalpine regions; I have conferred on thee
the principality."[10] It would be easy to multiply these instances.
Enough, however, has been said to show that through the gloom of
medieval history, before humanism had begun to dawn, and while the other
nations were creating legends and popular epics, Italy maintained a dim
but tenacious sense of her Roman past. This consciousness has here to be
insisted on, not merely because it stood in the way of mythopoeic
activity, but because it found full and proper satisfaction in that
Revival of Learning which decided the Renaissance.

While the Italians were fighting the Wars of Investiture and
Independence, two literatures had arisen in the country which we now
call France. Two languages, the _langue d'oc_ and the _langue d'oïl_,
gave birth to two separate species of poetry. The master-product of the
latter was the Song of Roland, which, together with the after-birth of
Arthurian romance, flooded Europe with narratives, embodying in a more
or less epical form the ideals, enthusiasms, and social creed of
Chivalry. The former, cultivated in the southern provinces that border
on the Mediterranean, yielded a refined and courtly fashion of lyrical
verse, which took the form of love-songs, battle-songs, and satires, and
which is now known as Provençal literature. The influence of feudal
culture, communicated through these two distinct but closely connected
channels, was soon felt in Italy. The second phase of Italian
development has been called Lombard, because it was chiefly in the north
of the peninsula that the motive force derived from France was active.
Yet if we regard the matter of this new literature, rather than its
geographical distribution, we shall more correctly designate it by the
title Franco-Italian. In the first or Latin period, the Italians used an
ancient language. They now adopted not only the forms but also the
speech of the people from whom they received their literary impulse. It
is probable that the Lombard dialects were still too rough to be
accommodated to the new French style. The cultivated classes were
familiar with Latin, and had felt no need of raising the vernacular
above the bare necessities of intercourse. But the superior social
development of the French courts and castles must be reckoned the main
reason why their language was acclimatized in Italy together with their
literature. Just as the Germans before the age of Herder adopted polite
culture, together with the French tongue, ready-made from France, so now
the Lombard nobles, bordering by the Riviera upon Provence, borrowed
poetry, together with its diction, from the valley of the Rhone. Passing
along the Genoese coast, crossing the Cottian Alps, and following the
valley of the Po, the languages of France and Provence diffused
themselves throughout the North of Italy. With the _langue d'oïl_ came
the Chansons de Geste of the Carolingian Cycle and the romances of the
Arthurian legend. With the _langue d'oc_ came the various forms of
troubadour lyric. Without displacing the local dialects, these imported
languages were used and spoken purely by the nobles; while a hybrid,
known as _franco-italian_, sprang up for the common people who listened
to the tales of Roland and Rinaldo on the market-place. The district in
which the whole mass of this foreign literature seems to have flourished
most at first, was the Trevisan March, stretching from the Adige, along
the Po, beyond the Brenta and past Venice, to the base of the Friulian
Alps. The Marches of Treviso were long known as _La Marca Amorosa_ or
_Gioiosa_, epithets which strongly recall the Provençal phrases of
_Joie_ and _Gai Saber_, and which are familiar to English readers of Sir
Thomas Mallory in the name of Lancelot's castle, _Joyous Gard_. Exactly
to define the period of Trevisan culture would be difficult. It is
probable that it began to flourish about the end of the twelfth, and
declined in the middle of the thirteenth century. Dante alludes to it in
a famous passage of the _Purgatory_[11]:

    In sul paese ch'Adige e Po riga,
    Solea valore e cortesia trovarsi
    Prima che Federigo avesse briga.

There are many traces of advanced French civilization in this district,
among which may be mentioned the exhibition of Miracle Plays upon the
French type at Civitale in the years 1298 and 1304, and the _Castello
d'Amore_ at Treviso described by Rolandini in the year 1214. Yet, though
the Trevisan Marches were the nucleus of this Gallicizing fashion, the
use of French and Provençal spread widely through the North and down
into the center of Italy. Numerous manuscripts in the _langue d'oïl_
attest the popularity of the Arthurian romances throughout Lombardy, and
we know that in Umbria S. Francis first composed poetry in French.[12]
It was in French, again, that Brunetto Latini wrote his _Tesoro_. So
late as the middle of the fourteenth century this habit had not died
out. Dante in the _Convito_ thought it necessary to stigmatize "those
men of perverse mind in Italy who commend the vulgar tongue of
foreigners and depreciate their own."

We have seen that the language and the matter of this imported
literature were twofold; and we can distinguish two distinct currents,
after its reception into Italy. The Provençal lyric, as was natural,
attracted the attention of the nobles; and since feudalism had a
stronger hold upon the valley of the Po than on any other district,
Lombardy became the chief home of this poetry. Not to mention the
numerous Provençal singers who sought fortune and adventure in northern
Italy, about twenty-five Italians, using the _langue d'oc_, may be
numbered between the Marchese Alberto Malaspina, who held Lunigiana
about 1204, and the Maestro Ferrara, who lived at the Court of Azzo VII.
of Este.[13] These were for the most part courtiers and imperial
feudatories; and only two were Tuscans. The person of one of them,
Sordello, is familiar to every reader of the _Purgatory_.

The second tide of influence passed from Northern France together with
the epics of chivalry. But its operation was not so simple as that of
the Provençal lyric. We can trace for instance a marked difference
between the effect produced by the _Chansons de Geste_ and that of the
Arthurian tales. The latter seem to have been appropriated by the
nobles, while the former found acceptance with the people. Nor was this
unnatural. At the opening of the twelfth century the Carolingian Cycle
had begun to lose its vogue among the polished aristocracy of France.
That uncompromising history of warfare hardly suited a society which had
developed the courtesy and the romance of chivalry. It represented the
manners of an antecedent age of feudalism. Therefore the tales of the
Round Table arose to satisfy the needs of knights and ladies, whose
thoughts were turned to love, the chase, the tournament, and errantry.
The Arthurian myth idealized their newer and more refined type of feudal
civility. It was upon the material of this romantic Epic that the nobles
of North Italy fastened with the greatest eagerness. No one has
forgotten how the tragedy of Lancelot and Guinevere proved, in a later
day, the ruin of Francesca and her lover.[14] The people, on the other
hand, took livelier interest in the songs of Roland and Charlemagne. The
Chansons de Geste formed the stock in trade of those _Cantatores
Francigenarum_, who crowded the streets and squares of Lombard
cities.[15] The exchange of courtesies and refined sentiments between a
Tristram and Iseult or a Lancelot and Guinevere must naturally have been
less attractive to a rude populace than narratives of battle with the
Infidel, and Roland's horn, and Gano's treason, and Rinaldo's quarrels
with his liege. In the Arthurian Cycle names and places alike--Avalon,
Camelot, Winchester, Gawain, Galahaut--were distant and ill-adapted to
Italian ears.[16] The whole tissue of the romance, moreover, was
imaginative. The Carolingian Cycle, on the contrary, introduced
personages with a good right to be considered historical, and dwelt upon
familiar names and traditional ideas. We are not, therefore, surprised
to find that this Epic took a strong hold on the popular imagination,
and so penetrated the Italian race as to assume a new form on Italian
soil, while the Arthurian romance survived as a pastime of the upper
classes, and underwent no important metamorphosis at their hands. In the
course of this volume, I shall have to show how, when Italian literature
emerged again from the people after nearly a century of neglect, it was
the transformed tale of Charlemagne and Roland which supplied the
Italian nation with its master-works of epic poetry--the _Morgante_ and
the two _Orlandos_.

The Lombard, or rather the Franco-Italian period is marked by the
adoption of a foreign language and foreign fashions. Literature at this
stage was exotic and artificial; but the legacy transmitted to the
future was of vast importance. On the one side, the courtly rhymers who
versified in the Provençal dialect, bequeathed to Sicily and Tuscany the
chivalrous lyric of love, which was destined to take its final and
fairest form from Dante and Petrarch. On the other hand, the populace
who listened to the Song of Roland on the market-place, prepared the
necessary conditions for a specific and eminently characteristic product
of Italian genius. Without a national epic, the Italians were forced to
borrow from the French. But what they borrowed, they transmuted--not
merely adding new material, like the tale of Gano's treason and the
fiction of Orlando's birth at Sutri, but importing their own spirit,
positive, ironical and incredulous, into the substance of the legend.

In the course of Italianizing the tale of Roland, the native dialects
made their first effort to assume a literary form. We possess sufficient
MS. evidence to prove that the Franco-Italian language of the songs
recited to the Lombard townsfolk, was composed by the adaptation of
local modes of speech to French originals. The process was not one of
pure translation. The dialects were not fit for such performance. It may
rather be described as the attempt of the dialects to acquire capacity
for studied expression. With French poems before them, the popular
rhapsodes introduced dialectical phrases, substituted words, and, where
this was possible, modified the style in favor of the dialect they
wished to use. French still predominated. But the hybrid was of such a
nature that a transition from this mixed jargon to the dialect,
presented in a literary shape, was imminent.

There is sufficient ground for presuming that the Italian dialects
triumphed simultaneously in all parts of the peninsula about the middle
of the thirteenth century.[17] This presumption is founded partly on the
quotations from dialectical poetry furnished by Dante in the _De
Eloquio_, which prove a wide-spread literary activity; partly on
fragments recovered from sources which can be referred to the second
half of the century. The peculiar problems offered by the conditions of
poetry at Frederick II.'s Court, though these are open to many
contradictory solutions, render the presumption more than probable. It
is difficult to understand the third or Sicilian period of literature
without hypothesizing an antecedent stage of vulgar poetry produced in
local dialects. But, owing to the scarcity of documents, no positive
facts regarding the date and mode of their emergence can be adduced. We
have on this point to deal with matters of delicate conjecture and
minute inference; and though it might seem logical to introduce at once
a discussion on the growth of the Italian language, and its relation to
the dialects which were undoubtedly spoken before they were committed to
writing, special reasons induce me to defer this topic for the present.

While the North of Italy was deriving the literature both of its
cultivated classes and of the people from France, a new and still more
important phase of evolution was preparing in the South. Both Dante and
Petrarch recognize the Sicilian poets as the first to cultivate the
vulgar tongue with any measure of success, and to raise it to the
dignity of a literary language. In this opinion they not only uttered
the tradition of their age, but were also without doubt historically
correct. Whatever view may be adopted concerning the formation of the
_lingua illustre_, or polished Italian, from the dialectical elements
already employed in local kinds of poetry, there is no disputing the
importance of the Sicilian epoch. We cannot fix precise dates for its
duration. Yet, roughly speaking, it may be said to have begun in 1166,
when troubadours of some distinction gathered round the person of the
Norman king, William II., at Palermo, and to have ended in 1266, when
Manfred was killed at the battle of Benevento. It culminated during the
reign of the Emperor Frederick II. (1210-1250), who was himself skilled
in Latin and the vulgar tongues of France and Italy, and who drew to his
court men distinguished for their abilities in science and literature.
Dante called Frederick, _Cherico grande_. The author of the _Cento
Novelle_ described him as _veramente specchio del mondo in parlare et in
costumi_, and spoke of his capital as the resort of _la gente ch'avea
bontade ... sonatori, trovatori, e belli favellatori, uomini d'arti,
giostratori, schermitori, d'ogni maniera gente_.[18] The portrait drawn
of him by Salimbene in his contemporary Chronicle, though highly
unfavorable to the schismatic enemy of Holy Church, proves that his
repute was great in Italy as a patron of letters and himself a poet of
no mean pretensions.[19]

It is impossible in these pages to inquire into the views of this great
ruler for the resuscitation of culture in Italy, which, had he not been
thwarted in his policy by the Church, might have anticipated the
Renaissance by two centuries. Yet the opinion may be hazarded that the
cultivation of Italian as a literary language was due in no small
measure to the forethought and deliberate intention of an Emperor, who
preferred his southern to his northern provinces. Unlike the Lombard
nobles, Frederick, while adopting Provençal literature, gave it Italian
utterance. This seems to indicate both purpose and prevision on his
part. Wishing to found an Italian dynasty, and to acclimatize the
civilization of Provence in his southern capitals, he was careful to
promote purely Italian studies. There can at any rate be no doubt that
during his reign and under his influence very considerable progress was
made towards fixing the diction and the forms of poetry. He found
dialects, not merely spoken, but already adapted to poetical expression,
in more than one district of Italy. From these districts the most
eminent artists flocked to his Court. It was there that a common type of
speech was formed, which, when the burghers of Central Italy began to
emulate the versifiers of Palermo, furnished them with an established

How the _lingua aulica_ came into being admits of much debate. But we
may, I think, maintain that the fundamental dialect from which it sprang
was Sicilian, purified by comparison with Provençal and Latin, and
largely modified by Apulian elements. The difficulty of understanding
the problem is in part removed when we remember the variety of
representatives from noble towns of Italy who met in Frederick's circle,
the tendencies of a dialect to refine itself when it assumes a literary
form, and the continuous influences of Court-life in common. Italians
gathered round the person of the sovereign at Palermo from their native
cities, must in ordinary courtesy have abandoned the crudities of their
respective idioms. This sacrifice could not but have been reciprocal;
and since Provençal was not spoken to the exclusion of the
mother-tongue, a generic Italian had here the best chance of
development. That this generic or Court Italian was at root Sicilian, we
have substantial reasons to believe; but that it exactly resembled the
Sicilian of to-day, which does not greatly differ from extant documents
of thirteenth and fourteenth century Sicilian dialect, seems too crude a
supposition.[20] Unfortunately, our evidence upon this point is
singularly scanty. Few poems of the Sicilian period, as will appear in
the sequel, have descended to us in their primitive form.

Not only was a common language instituted in the Court of Frederick; but
the metrical forms of subsequent Italian poetry were either fixed or
suggested by the practice of these early versifiers. Few subjects are
involved in darker obscurity than the history of meters--the creation of
rhythmical structures whereby one national literature distinguishes
itself from another.[21] Just as each writer who can claim an individual
style seems to possess his own rhythm, his peculiar tune, to which his
sentences are cadenced, so each nation appropriates and adheres to its
own meter. The Italian hendecasyllabic, the French Alexandrian, the
English heroic iambic, are obvious examples. This selection of a
characteristic meter, and the essays through which the race arrives at
its perfection, seem to imply some instinct, planted within the deeps of
national personality, whereof the laws have not been formulated. When we
speak of the genius of a language, we do but personify this instinct,
which appears to exercise itself at an early period of national
development, leaving for subsequent centuries the task of refining and
completing what had been projected at the outset. Therefore, nothing
very distinct can be asserted about the origin of the hendecasyllable
iambic line, which marks Italian poetry.[22] Yet it certainly appears
among the early specimens of the Sicilian period. The rhyming system of
the octave stanza may possibly be traced in Ciullo d'Alcamo's _tenzone_
between the lover and his mistress; though it still needed a century of
elaboration at the hands of popular _rispetti_-writers, to present it in
completed form to Boccaccio's muse.[23] This poem is Alexandrine in
rhythm. _Terza rima_ seems to be suggested by the sonnet of the
_Sparviere_; while a perfect sonnet, differing very little either in
structure or in diction from the type of Petrarch's, is supplied in
Piero delle Vigne's _Perocchè amore_. At the same time the highwrought
structure of the _Canzone_, destined to play so triumphant a part during
the whole period of the _trecento_, receives its essential outlines from
the rhymers of this age, especially from Jacopo da Lentino and Guido
delle Colonne.

Though the forms and language of Sicilian poetry decided the destinies
of Italian, the substance of this literature was far from being
national. Under its Italian garb, it was no less an exotic than the
Provençal and French compositions of the Lombard period. After running a
brilliant course in Provence, the poetry of chivalrous love was now
declining to its decadence. It had ceased to be the spontaneous
expression of a dominant ideal, and had degenerated into a pastime for
_dilettanti_. Its style had become conventional; its phrases fixed. The
visionary science upon which it was based, had to be studied in codes of
doctrine and repeated with pedantic precision. Frederick and his
courtiers received it at the point of its extinction. They adhered as
closely as possible to traditional forms, imitated time-honored models,
and confined their efforts to the reproduction of the old art in a new
vehicle of language. Therefore, vernacular Italian poetry in this first
stage of its existence presents the curious spectacle of literature
decrepit in the cradle, hampered with the euphuism of an exhausted
manner before it could move freely, and taught to frame conceits and
cold antitheses before it learned to lisp.

Such, in general, may be said to have been the character of the Sicilian
or Italo-Provençal style. Yet a careful student of these Canzoni,
Serventesi, and Tenzoni, will discover much that is both natural and
graceful, much that is elevated in thought, much again that belongs to
the crude sensuousness of Southern temperament. There is an unmistakable
blending of the Provençal tradition with indigenous realism, especially
in such compositions as the Lament of Odo delle Colonne, the Lament of
Ruggieri Pugliese, and the _Tenzone_ of Ciullo d'Alcamo.[24] We can
trace a double current of inspiration: the one passing downward from the
learned writers of the Court, the judges, notaries, and men of state,
who followed Provençal tradition; the other upward from the people, who
rhymed as nature taught them: both mingling in the compositions of those
more genial poets, who were able to infuse reality into the labored
form of their adoption. What might have been the destiny of Italian
literature, if the Suabian House had maintained its hold on the Two
Sicilies, and this process of fusion had been completed at Naples or
Palermo, cannot even be surmised.

Our knowledge of the earliest Italo-Provençal poetry is vague, owing to
lack of genuine Sicilian monuments. We can only trace faint indications
of a progress toward greater freedom and more spontaneous inspiration,
as the "courtly makers" yielded to the singers of the people. The battle
of Benevento extinguished at one blow both the hopes of the Suabian
dynasty and the development of Sicilian poetry. When Manfred's body had
been borne naked on a donkey from the battle-field to his nameless
grave, amid the cries of _Chi compra Manfredi?_ a foreign troubadour,
Amerigo di Peguilhan, composed his lament, bidding the _serventese_ pass
through all lands and over every sea to find the man who knew where
Arthur dwelt and when he would return. Arthur was dead, and would never
come again. Chivalry and feudalism had held their brief and feeble sway
in Italy, and that was over. Neither in Lombardy among the castles, nor
in Sicily within the Court, throbbed the real life of the Italian
nation. That life was in the Communes. It beat in the heart of the
people--especially of that people who had made nobility a crime beside
the Arno, and had outlawed the _Scioperati_ from their City of the
Flower. What the Suabian princes gave to Italy was the beginning of a
common language. It remained for Tuscany to stamp that language with
her image and superscription, to fix it in its integrity for all future
ages, and to render it the vehicle of stateliest science and consummate

The question of the origin of the Italian language pertains rather to
philology than to the history of culture.[25] Yet I cannot pass it
wholly by in silence, since it was raised at an early period by the
founders of Italian literature, who occupied themselves with singular
sagacity concerning the relations of the literary to the dialectical
forms of speech. Dante's _De Eloquio_, though based on unscientific
principles of analysis, opened a discussion which exercised the acutest
intellects of the sixteenth century.

During the whole Roman period, it is certain that literary Latin
differed in important respects from the vulgar, rustic or domestic,
language. Thus while a Roman gentleman would have said _habeo pulchrum
equum_, his groom probably expressed the same thought in words like
these: _ego habeo unum bellum caballum_. Between a _graffito_ scribbled
on the wall of some old Roman building--_Alexander unum animal est_, for
instance--and one now chalked in the same district, _Alessandro è un
animale_, there is hardly as much difference as between a literary Latin
sentence and either of these rustic epigrams; while the use of such
intensitives as _multum_ and _bene_, to express the superlative degree,
indicate in vulgar Latin the presence of a principle alien to literary
Latin but sympathetic to modern speech. The vulgar or rustic Latin
continued, side by side with its literary counterpart, throughout the
middle ages, forming in the first centuries of imperial decline the
common speech of the Romance peoples, and gradually assuming those
specific forms which determined the French, Spanish, and Italian types.
There is little doubt that, could we possess ourselves of sufficient
documents, we should be able to trace the stages in this process. Both
literary and vulgar Latin suffered transformation--the former declining
in purity, variety, and vigor; the latter diverging dialectically into
the constituents of the three grand families of modern Latin. But the
metamorphosis was not of the same nature in both cases. While the
literary language had been fixed, arrested, and delivered over to death,
the vulgar tongue retained a vivid and assimilative life, capable of
biological transmutation. French, Spanish, and Italian are modes of its
existence continued under laws of organic variety and change.

It would be unscientific to suppose that rustic Latin, even in the most
flourishing period of the Roman Empire, was identical in all provinces.
From the first it must have held within itself the principles of
differentiation. And when we consider the varying conditions of soil,
climate, ethnological admixture and political development in the several
regions of the Roman world, together with the divers influences of
contiguous or invasive races, we shall form some notion of the process
by which the three languages in question branched off from the common
stock of rustic Latin.

The same laws of differentiation hold good with regard to the dialects
in each of these new languages. It is improbable that absolutely the
same vulgar Latin was at any epoch spoken in two remote districts of the
same province--on the Tuscan sea-coast, for example, and on the banks of
Padus. Even when the Roman empire used one language, intelligible from
the Ægean to the German Ocean, the Italic districts must have differed
in their local vernacular. Again, the same conditions (climatic,
ethnological, political, and so forth) which helped to determine the
generic distinctions of French, Spanish, and Italian, determined also
the specific distinctions of one Italian dialect from another. Those of
the north-west, for instance, inclined to Gallic, and those of the
north-east to Illyrian idiom. Those of Lombardy in general exhibit a
mixture of German words. Those of Sicily and the south approximate more
to a Spanish type, and share the effects of Greek and Arab occupation.
The dialects of the center, especially the Tuscan, show marked
superiority both in grammatical form and phonetic purity over the more
disintegrated and corrupted idioms of north and south. It might be
suggested that Tuscan, being less modified by foreign contact, continued
the natural life of the old rustic Latin according to laws of unimpeded
self-development. But, however we may attempt to explain this problem,
the fact remains that, while the Italian dialects present affinities
which show them to be of one linguistic family, it is Tuscan that
completes and interprets them collectively. Tuscan stands to Italian in
the same relation as Castilian to Spanish, or the speech of the Ile de
France to French. It is a dialect, but a dialect that realized the bent
and striving of the language. We find it difficult to feel, far more to
state, what qualities in a dialect and in the people of the district who
use it, render one idiom more adapted to literary usage, more
characteristic of the language it helps to constitute, more plastic and
expressive of national peculiarities, than those around it. But the fact
is certain that this superiority in Tuscan was early recognized;[26] and
that too without any political advantages in favor of its triumph.
Boniface VIII. unconsciously expressed, perhaps, the truth, when he
called the Florentines _il quinto elemento_. It was something
spiritually quintessential, something complementary to the sister
dialects, which caused the success of Tuscan.

Thus, while literary Latin, though dying and almost dead, was taught in
the grammar schools and used by learned men, the rustic Latin in the
thirteenth century had disappeared. But this disappearance was not
death. It was transformation. The group of dialects which represented
the new phase in its existence, shared such common qualities as proved
them to have had original affinity; and fitted them for being recognized
as a single family. The position, therefore, of the Italians at the
close of the thirteenth century with regard to language, was this. They
possessed the classic Latin authors in a bad state of preservation, and
studied a few of them with some minuteness, basing their own learned
style upon the imitation of Virgil and Ovid, Cicero, Boethius, and the
rhetoricians of the lower empire. But at home, in their families, upon
the market-place, and in the prosecution of business, they talked the
local dialects, each of which was more or less remotely representative
of the ancient vulgar Latin. However these dialects might differ, they
formed in combination a new language, distinct from the parent stock of
Rustic Latin, and equally distinct from French and Spanish.[27] Whatever
difficulty an Italian of Calabria or Friuli might have felt in
understanding the _Divine Comedy_, he would have recognized an element
in its diction which defined it from French or Spanish, and marked it
out as proper to his mother-tongue. If this was true of the refined type
of Tuscan used by a great master, it was no less true of dialectical
compositions selected for the express purpose of exhibiting their
rudeness. Dante clearly expected contemporary readers not only to
interpret, but to appreciate the shades of greater and lesser nicety in
the examples he culled from Roman, Apulian, Florentine and other
vernacular literatures. This expectation proves that he felt himself to
be dealing with a group of dialects which, taken collectively, formed a
common idiom. In these circumstances it was the problem of writers, at
the close of the thirteenth century, to construct the ideal vulgar
tongue, to discover its capacities for noble utterance, to refine it for
artistic usage by the omission of cruder elements existing in each
dialect, and to select from those store-houses of living speech the
phrases which appeared well suited to graceful utterance. The
desideratum, to use Dante's words, was "that illustrious, cardinal,
courtly, curial mother-tongue, proper to each Italian State, special to
none, whereby the local idioms of every city are to be measured,
weighed, and compared."[28] Dante saw that this selection of a literary
language from the fresh shoots sent up by the antique vulgar Latin stock
could best be accomplished in a capital or Court, the meeting-place of
learned people and polished intelligences. But such a metropolis of
culture, corresponding to Elizabeth's London or the Paris of Louis XIV.,
was ever wanting in Italy. "We have no Court," he says: "and yet the
members that should compose a Court are not absent."[29] He refers to
men of education and good manners, upon whom, in the absence of a local
center of refinement, fell the duty of reforming the vernacular. The
peculiar conditions of Italy, as he described them, were destined to
subsist throughout the next two centuries and a half, when men of
learning, taking Tuscan as their standard, sought by practice and
example to form a national language. The self-consciousness of the
Italians front to front with this problem, as revealed to us in the
pages of the _De Eloquio_, and the decision with which the great
authors of the fourteenth century fixed a certain type of diction,
accurately spoken nowhere, though nearer to the Tuscan than to any other
idiom, may be reckoned among the most interesting phenomena in the
history of literature. Tuscan predominated; but that the masterpieces of
the _trecento_ were not composed in any one of the unadulterated Tuscan
dialects is clear, not merely from the contemporary testimony of Dante
himself, but also from the obstinate discussions raised upon this
subject by Bembo at a later period. A guiding and controlling principle
of taste determined the instinctive method of selection whereby Tuscan
was adapted to the common needs of Italy.

While treating of the Latin, the Lombard or Franco-Italian, and the
Sicilian or Italo-Provençal periods of national development, I have
hitherto neglected that plebeian literature which, although its
monuments have almost perished, must have been diffused in dialects
through Italy after the opening of the thirteenth century. Written for
and by the people, the relics of this prose and poetry are valuable, not
merely for the light they throw on the formation of language, but also
for their indications of national tendencies. In the northern dialects
we meet with treatises of religious, ethical and gnomic import, among
which the _Gerusalemme Celeste_ and _Babilonia Infernale_ of Fra
Giacomino of Verona, the Bible History of Pietro Bescapè of Milan, the
Contention between Satan and the Virgin of Bonvesin da Riva, and two
other dialogues by the same author, one between the Soul and Body, the
other between a son and his father in hell, deserve mention. To this
class again belongs Bonvesin's _Cinquanta Cortesie da Tavola_, a book of
etiquette adapted to the needs of the small _bourgeoisie_ upon their
entrance into social life.

It is impossible to fix even an approximate date for the emergence of
Italian prose. Law documents, deeds of settlement, contracts, and public
acts, which can be referred with certainty to the first half of the
thirteenth century, display a pressure of the vulgar speech upon the
formal Latin of official verbiage. The effort to obtain precision in
designating some particular locality or some important person, forces
the scribe back upon his common speech; and these evidences of
difficulty in wielding the Latin which had now become a dying language,
prove that, long before it was written, Italian was spoken. From the
year 1231 we possess accounts of domestic expenditure written by one
Mattasalà di Spinello dei Lambertini in the Sienese dialect. Then follow
Lucchese documents and letters of Sienese citizens, which, though they
have no literary value, show that people who could write had begun to
express their thoughts in spoken idiom. The first essays in Italian
composition for a lettered public were translations from works already
written by Italians in _langue d'oïl_. Among these a prominent place
must be assigned to the version of Marco Polo's travels, which
Rusticiano of Pisa first published in French, having possibly received
them in Venetian from the traveler's own lips. The _Tesoro_ of Brunetto
Latini and Egidio's _De Regimine Principum_ were Italianized in this
way; while numerous digests of Frankish romances, including the
collection known as _Conti di antichi Cavalieri_, appeared to meet the
same popular demand. Religious history and ethics furnished another
library in the vernacular. The _Dodici Conti Morali_, the _Introduzione
alle Virtù_, the _Giardino della Consolazione_, and the _Libra di Cato_
supplied the people with specimens from works already famous. After a
like manner, books of rhetoric and grammar in vogue among the medieval
students were popularized in abstracts for Italian readers. We may cite
a version of Orosius, and a _Fiore di Retorica_ based upon the _Ad
Herennium_ and Cicero. Of scientific compilations, the _Composizione del
Mondo_ by Ristoro of Arezzo, embracing astronomical and geographical
information, takes rank with the ethical and rhetorical works already
mentioned. The note of all these compositions is that they are
professedly epitomes of learning, already possessed in more authentic
sources by scholars. As such, they prove that there existed a class of
readers eager for instruction, to whom books written in Latin or in
French were not accessible. In a word, they indicate the advent of the
modern tongue, with all its exigencies and with all its capabilities. To
deal with the Chronicles of this period is no easy matter; for those
which are professedly the oldest--Matteo Spinelli's Ricordano
Malespini's, and _Lu Ribellamentu di Sicilia_--have been proved in some
sense fabrications. On the other hand, it is clear from the _Cento
Novelle_ that the more dramatic episodes of history and myth were being
submitted to the same epitomizing treatment. Finally we have to mention
Guittone of Arezzo's epistles as the first serious attempt to treat the
vulgar tongue rhetorically, for a distinct literary purpose.

From the dry records of incipient prose it is refreshing to turn to
another species of popular poetry; for poetry in the period of origins
is always more adult than prose. Numerous fragments of political songs
have been disinterred from chronicles, which can be referred to the
thirteenth century. Thus an anonymous Genoese rhymster celebrated the
victories of Laiazzo (1294) and Curzola (1298), while Giovanni Villani
preserved six lines upon the siege of Messina (1282).[30] Verses in the
vulgar tongue commemorating the apostasy of Fra Elia, General of the
Franciscans, in 1240, and the coming of the Florentine Lambertesco dei
Lamberteschi as Podestà to Reggio in 1243, with scraps of song relating
to Pisan and Florentine history, may be read in Carducci's monumental
work upon this period of literature.[31] These relics, though precious,
are singularly scanty; nor can a Northern student pass them by without
remarking the absence of that semi-historical, semi-mythical poetry,
which is so familiar to us under the name of Ballad. More important,
because of greater extent, are the laments and amorous or comic poems,
which can be attributed to the same century. The Lament of the Paduan
woman for her husband, who has journeyed to Holy Land in the Crusade
preached by Urban IV., may be compared with Rinaldo d'Aquino's
Farewell.[32] Both of these compositions were written under Provençal
influence, though the former at least is strictly dialectical and
popular. Passing to satirical poems, I may mention two pieces extracted
from a Bolognese MS. of 1272 which paint with vivid force of humor the
manners of women.[33] One represents a drinking-party of more than
Aristophanic freedom; the other, a wrangling match between two
sisters-in-law--the _Cognate_. Each displays facility of composition and
a literary style already formed. They are not without French parallels;
but the mode of presentation is Italian, and the phrases have been
transplanted without change from vulgar dialogue. Two romantic lyrics
extracted from the same MS. prove that the fashionable style of Provence
had descended from the nobles to the common folk and taken a new
tincture of realism.[34] The complaint of an unwedded maiden to her
mother is a not uncommon motive in this early literature, turning either
to pathos or suggesting a covert coarseness in the climax.[35] To the
same class may be referred some graceful lyrics and dance-songs,
combining the artlessness of popular inspiration with reminiscences of
French originals.[36] Of these the Nightingale and the Song of Love in
Dreams might be selected for their close sympathy with the _rispetti_
made in Italian country districts at the present day. Lastly, I have to
mention two obscene poems of great popularity, _Il Nicchio_ and
_L'Ugellino_.[37] These were known to Boccaccio, for he refers to them
by name at the close of the fifth day in the Decameron. Each of the
ditties bears a thoroughly Italian stamp, and anticipates by its
peculiar style of _double entendre_ a whole department of national
poetry--the Florentine Carnival Songs and the Capitoli of the Roman
academies being distinctly foreshadowed in their humorous and allusive
treatment of a vulgar topic. Hence we may take occasion to observe that
those who accuse Lorenzo de' Medici and his contemporaries of debasing
popular taste by the deliberate introduction of licentiousness into art,
exceed the limits of just censure. What is called the Paganism of the
Renaissance, was indigenous in Italy. We find it inherent in vulgar
literature before the date of Boccaccio; and if, with the advance of
social luxury, it assumed, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a
more objectionable prominence, this should not be exclusively ascribed
to the influence of humanistic studies or to the example of far-sighted
despots. Indeed, it can be asserted that the specific quality of the
popular Italian genius--its sensuous realism, qualified with
irony--emerges unmistakably in five most important relics of the
thirteenth century, the _Cognate_, the _Comadri_, the Tenzone of the
Maiden and her Mother (_Mamma lo temp'è venuto_), the _Nicchio_, and the
_Ugellino_.[38] They yield the common stuff of that magnificent art
which shall afterwards be developed into the _Decameron_ and the
_Novelle_, out of which shall proceed the comedies and Bernesque lyrics
of the _Cinque Cento_, and which is destined to penetrate the golden
cantos of the _Orlando Furioso_. To an unprejudiced student of Italian
arts and letters nothing seems more clearly proved than the fact that a
certain powerful objective quality--call it realism, call it
sensuousness--determines their most genuine productions, sinking to
grossness, ascending to sublimity, combining with religious feeling in
the fine arts, blending with the definiteness of classic style, but
never absent. It is this objectivity, realism, sensuousness, which
constitutes the strength of the Italians, and assigns the limitations of
their faculty.

In quite a different region, but of no less importance for the future of
Italian literature, must be reckoned the religious hymns, which, during
the thirteenth century, began to be composed in the vernacular. The
earliest known specimen is S. Francis' famous _Cantico del Sole_, which,
even as it is preserved to us, after undergoing the process of
modernization, retains the purity and freshness of a bird's note in
spring. After S. Francis, but at the distance of half a century,
followed Jacopone da Todi, with his passionate and dithyrambic odes,
which seem to vibrate tongues of fire. To this religious lyric the
Flagellant frenzy (1260) and the subsequent formation of Companies of
Laudesi gave decisive impulse. I shall have in a future chapter to
discuss the relation between the Umbrian Lauds and the origins of the
Drama. It is enough here to notice the part played in the evolution of
the language by so early a transition from the Latin Hymns of the Church
to Hymns written in the modern speech for private confraternities and
domestic gatherings.

We learn from this meager review of ancient popular poetry that during
the thirteenth century the dialects of each district had begun to seek
literary expression. There are many indications that the products of one
province speedily became the property of the rest. Spontaneous motives
were mingled with French and Provençal recollections; and already we can
trace the unconscious effort to form a common language in the process
known as _Toscaneggiamento_, or the translation of local songs into
Tuscan idiom.[39] It would, therefore, be incorrect to imagine either
that the Sicilian poets were blank imitators of Provençal models, or
that the Italian language started into being at Palermo. What really
happened was, that Frederick's Court became the center of a widespread
literary movement. The Sicilian dialect predominating at Palermo over
the rest, the poets of different provinces who assembled round the
Emperor were subsequently known as Sicilian. Their songs, passing upward
through the peninsula, bore that name, even when they had, as at
Florence, been converted, by dialectical modifications, to the use of
Tuscan folk.[40] The aristocratic tone of the Court made Provençal
literature fashionable; and a refined diction, softening the crudities
of more than one competing dialect, was formed to express the subtleties
of the Provençal style. We must bear in mind that the poets of this
Court were men of learned education--judges, notaries, officials. Dante
makes _dottori_ nearly synonymous with _trovatori_. At the same time,
one of the earliest specimens of Sicilian poetry, Ciullo d'Alcamo's
_Tenzone_, is popular, free from Provençal affectation, inclining to
comedy in some of its marked motives and to coarseness at its close.
This proves that in the island, side by side with "courtly makers" and
_dottori_, there flourished an original and vulgar manner of poetry.

The process of Tuscanization referred to in the preceding paragraph is
too important in its bearings on the problems of Italian language and
literature, to be passed over without further discussion. Nearly all the
poetry of the Sicilian epoch has been transmitted to us in Florentine
MSS., after undergoing _Toscaneggiamento_. We possess but a few stanzas
in a pure condition. There is, therefore, reason to believe that when
Dante treated of the courtly Sicilian poets in his essay _De Vulgari
Eloquio_, he knew their writings in a form already Tuscanized.[41] In
commending the curial and illustrious vernacular, as something distinct
from the dialects, he was in truth praising the dialect of his own
province, refined by the practice of polite versifiers. At the date of
the composition of that essay, the Suabian House had been extinguished;
the literary society of the south was broken up; and to Florence had
already fallen the heritage of art. What is even more remarkable, the
Bolognese poets, who preceded Dante and his peers by one generation, had
abandoned their own dialect in favor of the purified Tuscan.
Consequently the new Italian literature was already Tuscan either by
origin, or by adoption, or by a process of transformation, before the
Florentines assumed the dictatorship of letters. It seems paradoxical to
hint that Dante should not have perceived what has been here stated as
more than a mere possibility. How came it that he included Florentine
among the peccant idioms, and maintained that the true literary speech
was still to seek? These doubts may in part at least be removed, when we
remember the peculiar conditions under which the courtly poetry he
praised had been produced; and the indirect channels by which it had
reached him. In the first place, we have seen that it was composed in
avowed imitation of Provençal models, by men of taste and learning drawn
from several provinces. They culled, for literary purposes, a vocabulary
of colorless and neutral words, which clothed the same conventional
ideas with elegant and artificial monotony. When these compositions
underwent the further process of Tuscanization (which was easy, owing to
certain dialectical affinities between Sicilian and Tuscan), they lost
to a large extent what still remained to them of local character,
without acquiring the true stamp of Florentine. Even a contemporary
could not have recognized in the verse of Jacopo da Lentino, thus
treated, either a genuine Sicilian or a genuine Tuscan flavor. His
language presented the appearance of being, as indeed it was, different
from both idioms. The artifice of style made it pass for superior; and,
in purely literary quality, it was in truth superior to the products of
plebeian inspiration. We may prefer the racy stanzas of the _Cognate_ to
those frigid and exhausted euphuisms. But the critical taste of so great
a master as even Dante was not tuned to any such preference. Though he
recognized the defects of the Sicilian poets, as is manifest from his
dialogue with Guido in the _Purgatory_, he gave them all credit for
elevating verse above the vulgar level. Their insipid diction seemed to
him the first germ of a noble _lingua aulica_. Its colorlessness and
strangeness hid the fact that it had already, at the close of the
thirteenth century, assumed the Tuscan habit, and that from the
well-springs of Tuscan idiom the Italian of the future would have to
draw its aliment.

The downfall of the Hohenstauffens and the dispersion of their
Court-poets proved a circumstance of decisive benefit to Italian
literature, by removing it from a false atmosphere into conditions where
it freely flourished and expanded its originality. Feudalism formed no
vital part of the Italian social system, and chivalry had never been
more than an exotic, cultivated in the hotbed of the aristocracy. The
impulse given to poetry in the south, under influences in no true sense
of the phrase national--a Norman-German dynasty attempting to
acclimatize Provençal forms upon Italian soil--could hardly have
produced a vigorous type of literature. It is from the people, in
centers of popular activity, or where the spirit of the people finds
full play in representative society, that characteristic art must be
developed. When we say this, we think inevitably of Periclean Athens,
Elizabeth's London, the Paris of Louis XIV. If the chances of our drama
had been confined to Court-patronage or Sidney's Areopagus, instead of
being extended to the nation by free competition in the wooden theaters
where Marlowe and Shakspere appealed to popular taste, there is little
doubt but that England would only have boasted of a mediocre and
academical stage. When Italian poetry deserted Palermo for the banks of
the Arno, it exchanged the Court for the people; the subtleties of
decadent chivalry for the genuine impulses of a free community; the
pettiness of culture for the humanities of a public conscious of high
destinies and educated in a masculine political arena. Here the grand
qualities of the Italian genius found an open field. Literature,
abandoning imitative elegance, expressed the feelings, thoughts, and
aspirations of a breed second to none in Europe for acuteness of
intellect, intensity of emotion, and greatness of purpose. At Palermo
the princes and their courtiers had been reciprocally auditors and
poets. At Florence the people listened; and the poets, sprung from them,
were speakers. Except at Athens in the golden age of Hellas, no populace
has equaled that of Florence both for the production of original genius,
and also for the sensitiveness to beauty, diffused throughout all
classes, which brings the artist and his audience into right accord.

Two stages in the transition from Sicily to Florence need to be
described. Guittone of Arezzo (1230-1294) strikes the historian of
literature as the man who first attempted to nationalize the polished
poetry of the Sicilian Court, and to strip the new style of its feudal
pedantry.[42] It was his aim, apparently, dismissing chivalrous
conventions, to use the diction and the forms of literary art in an
immediate appeal to the Italian people. He wrote, however, roughly.
Though he practiced vernacular prose, and assumed in verse the
declamatory tone which Petrarch afterwards employed with such effect in
his addresses to the consciousness of Italy, yet Dante could speak of
him with cold contempt[43]; nor can we claim for him a higher place than
that of precursor. He attempted more than he was able to fulfill. But
his attempt, when judged by the conditions of his epoch, deserves to
rank among achievements.

With a poet of Bologna the case is different. Placed midway between
Lombardy and Tuscany, Bologna shared the instincts of the two noblest
Italian populations--the Communes who wrested liberty from Frederick
Barbarossa, and the Communes who were to give arts and letters to the
nation. Bologna, moreover, was proud of her legal university, and had
already won her title of "the learned." Here Guido Guinicelli solved the
problem of rendering the Sicilian style at once national in spirit and
elevated in style.[44] He did so by making it scientific. Receiving from
his Italo-Provençal predecessors the material of chivalrous love, and
obeying the genius of his native city, Guido rhymed of love no longer as
a fashionable pastime, but as the medium of philosophic truth. Learning
was the mother of the national Italian poetry. From Guido started a
school of transcendental singers, who used the ancient form and
subject-matter of exotic poetry for the utterance of metaphysical
thought. The Italians, born, as it were, old, were destined thus to pass
from imitation, through speculation, to the final freedom of their
sensuous art. Of this new lyric style--logical, allegorical,
mystical--the first masterpiece was Guido's Canzone of the Gentle Heart.
The code was afterwards formulated in Dante's _Convito_. The life it
covered and interpreted was painted in the _Vita Nuova_. Its apocalypse
was the _Paradiso_. If Guido Guinicelli did not succeed in writing from
the heart, if he was more of an analyst than a lover, it is yet clear
that the euphuisms of the Italo-Provençal imitators have yielded in his
verse to genuine emotion, while, speaking technically, the complex
structure of the true Italian Canzone now appears in all its harmony of
grace and grandeur. Guido's language is Tuscan; not the Tuscan of the
people, but the Tuscan of the Toscaneggiamenti. Herein, again, we note
the importance of this poet in the history of literature. Working
outside Florence, but obeying Florentine precedent, he stamps Italian
with a Tuscan seal, and helps to conceal from Tuscans themselves the
high destinies of their idiom.

Dante puts us at the right point of view for estimating Guido's service.
Though he recognized the Sicilians as the first masters of poetic style
in Italy, Dante saluted the poet of Bologna as his father[45]:

    Quando i' udi' nomar sè stesso il padre
    Mio, e degli altri miei miglior, che mai
    Rime d'amor usâr dolci e leggiadre.

On the authority of this sentence we hail in Guido the founder of the
new and specifically national literature of the Italians. If not the
master, he was the prophet of that _dolce stil nuovo_, which freed them
from dependence on foreign traditions, and led, by transmutation, to the
miracles of their Renaissance art. He divined that sincere source of
inspiration, whereof Dante speaks[46]:

              Io mi son un che quando
    Amore spira, noto; ed a quel modo
    Ch'ei detta dentro, vo significando.

The happy instinct which led him to use Tuscan, has secured his place
upon the roll of poets who may still be read with pleasure. And of this,
too, Dante prophesied[47]:

              Li dolci detti vostri,
    Che, quanto durerà l'uso moderno,
    Faranno cari ancora i loro inchiostri.

Bologna could boast of many minor bards--of the excellent Onesto, of
Fabrizio and Ghislieri, _qui doctores fuerunt illustres et vulgarium
discretione repleti_.[48] Her erudition was further illustrated by the
work of one Guidotto, who composed a treatise on the new vernacular,
which he dedicated to King Manfred. Thus both by example and precept, by
the testimony of Dante and the fair fame of her own writers, this city
makes for us a link between Sicilian and Tuscan literature.

Manfred was slain at Benevento in 1266, and with him expired the
prospects of Sicilian poetry. Dante, destined to inaugurate the great
age, was born at Florence in 1265. Guido Guinicelli died in 1277, when
Dante had completed his twelfth year. From 1249 until 1271, during the
whole childhood of Dante, Enzo, King of Sardinia, Manfred's half-brother
and Frederick II.'s son, remained a prisoner in the public palace of
Bologna. In one of those years of preparation and transition, while the
learned stanzas of Guido Guinicelli were preluding the "new sweet style"
of Tuscany, this yellow-haired scion of the Suabian princes, the
progenitor of the Bentivogli, sent a song forth from his dungeon's
_loggie_ to greet the provinces of Italy:--

    Va, Canzonetta mia,
      E saluta Messere,
    Dilli lo mal ch'i' aggio.
    Quella che m'ha in balia
    Si distretto mi tene,
    Ch'eo viver non poraggio.
    Salutami Toscana,
    Quella ched è sovrana,
    In cui regna tutta cortesia;
    E vanne in Puglia piana,
    La magna Capitana,
    Là dove è lo mio core notte e dia.

These lines sound a farewell to the old age and a salutation to the new.
Enzo's heart is in the lowlands of Apulia and the great Capitanate,
where his father built castles and fought mighty wars. He belongs, like
his verses, like his race, like the chivalrous sentiments he had imbibed
in youth, to the past; and now he is dreaming life away, a captive with
the burghers of Bologna. Yet it is Tuscany for which he reserves the
epithet of Sovereign--Tuscany where all courtesy holds sway. The
situation is pathetic. The poem is a prophecy.

Raimond of Tours, one of the earlier French minnesingers, bade his
friend seek hospitality "in the noble city of the Florentines, named
Florence; for it is there that joy and song and love are perfected with
beauty crowned."[49] The delicate living and graceful pastimes of
Valdarno were famous throughout Europe. In the old French romance of
"Cléomadés," for example, we read a rhymed description of the games and
banquets with which Florence welcomed May and June[50]:--

    Pour May et Gayn honorer;
    Le May pour sa jolivité,
    Et le Gayn pour la planté.

Villani, writing of the year 1283, when the Guelfs had triumphed and the
nobles had been quelled, speaks thus of those festivities[51]:--"In this
happy and fair state of ease and peaceful quiet so wealth-giving to
merchants and artificers, and specially to the Guelfs, who ruled the
land, there was formed in the quarter of S. Felicità beyond the Arno,
where the family De' Rossi took the lead, together with their
neighborhood, a company or band of one thousand men and upwards, all
attired in white, with a Lord named the Lord of Love. This band had no
other purpose than to pass the time in games and solace, and in dances
of ladies, knights and other people of the city, roaming the town with
trumpets and divers instruments of music, in joy and gladness, and
abiding together in banquets at mid-day and eventide." From another
chronicle it appears that this company was called the _Brigata bianca_,
or _Brigata amorosa_.[52] "There," says a rhymer who had seen the
sports, "might one behold the rich attire of silk and gold, of samite,
white and blue and violet, with fair velvets; and trappings of all
colors I beheld that day. The young men mid the women went with gaze
fixed upon those eyes angelical, that turn the midnight into noon. Over
their blonde tresses the maidens wore gems and precious garlands;
lilies, violets and roses were their charming faces. You would not have
said: 'Yon are mortal beings.' They rather seemed a thousand

The amusements lasted two months, from May 1 until the end of the
midsummer feast of S. John, patron of Florence. Later on, we read of two
companies, the one dressed in yellow, the other in white, each led by
their King, who filled the city with the sound of music, and wore
garlands on their heads, and spent their time in dances and

Again, when the nobles, after the battle of Campaldino, had been finally
suppressed, Villani once more returns to the subject of these companies,
describing the booths of wood adorned with silken curtains, which were
ranged along the streets and squares, for the accommodation of
guests.[55] It will be observed that Villani connects the gladness of
this season with the successive triumphs of the Guelf party and the
suppression of the nobles by the Popolo. Not only was Florence freed
from grave anxieties and heavy expenses, caused by the intramural
quarrels between Counts and Burghers, but the city felt the advent of
her own prosperity, the realization of her true type, in their
victorious close. Then the new noble class, the _popolani grassi_,
assumed the gentle manners of chivalry, accommodating its customs to
their own rich jovial ideal. Feudalism was extinguished; but society
retained such portions of feudal customs as shed beauty upon common
life. Tranquillity succeeded to strife, and the medieval city presented
a spectacle similar to that which an old Greek lyrist has described
among the gifts of Peace:

    To mortal men Peace giveth these good things:
      Wealth, and the flowers of honey-throated song;
    The flame that springs
    On carven altars from fat sheep and kine,
      Slain to the gods in heaven; and, all day long,
    Games for glad youths, and flutes, and wreaths, and circling wine.
    Then in the steely shield swart spiders weave
      Their web and dusky woof:
    Rust to the pointed spear and sword doth cleave;
    The brazen trump sounds no alarms;
      Nor is sleep harried from our eyes aloof,
    But with sweet rest my bosom warms:
    The streets are thronged with beauteous men and young,
    And hymns in praise of Love like flames to heaven are flung.

Goro di Stagio Dati, writing at the end of the fourteenth century, has
preserved for us an animated picture of Florence in May.[56] "When the
season of spring appears to gladden all the world, every man bethinks
him how to make fair the day of S. John, which follows at midsummer, and
there is none but provides himself betimes with clothes and ornaments
and jewels. Marriages and other joyous occasions are deferred until that
time, to do the festival honor; and two months before the date, they
begin to furnish forth the decorations of the races--dresses of varlets,
banners, clarions, draperies, and candles, and whatsoever other
offerings should be made. The whole city is in a bustle for the
preparation of the Festa; and the hearts of young men and women, who
take part therein, are set on naught but dancing, playing, singing,
banqueting, jousting, and other fair amusements as though naught else
were to be done in those weeks before the coming of S. John's Eve." The
minute account of the ceremonies observed on S. John's Day which
follows, need not be transcribed. Yet it may be well to call attention
to a _quattrocento_ picture in the Florentine Academy, which illustrates
the customs of that festival. It is a long panel representing the
marriage of an Adimari with a daughter of the Ricasoli. The Baptistery
appears in the background; and on the piazza are ladies and young men,
clad in damask and rich stuffs, with jewels and fantastic head-dresses,
joining hands as though in act of dancing. Under the Loggia del Bigallo
sit the trumpeters of the Signory, blowing clarions adorned with
pennons. The lily of Florence is on these trappings. Serving men carry
vases and basins toward the Adimari palace, in preparation for the
wedding feast. A large portion of the square is covered in with a white
and red awning.

If the chroniclers and painters enable us to form some conception of
Florentine festivity, we are introduced to the persons and pastimes of
these jovial companies by the poet Folgore da San Gemignano.[57] Two
sets of his Sonnets have been preserved, the one upon the Months,
addressed to the leader of a noble Sienese company; the other on the
Days, to a member of a similar Florentine society. If we are right in
reckoning Folgore among the poets of the thirteenth century, the
facility and raciness of his style, its disengagement from
Provençalizing pedantry, and the irony of his luxurious hedonism, prove
to what extent the Tuscans had already left the middle age behind
them.[58] Folgore, in spite of his spring fragrance and auroral
freshness, anticipates the spirit of the Renaissance. He is a
thirteenth-century Boccaccio, without Boccaccio's enthusiasm for humane
studies. Ideal love, asceticism, religion, the virtues of the Christian
and the knight, are not for him. His soul is set on the enjoyment of the
hour. But this materialism is presented in a form of art so temperate,
with colors so refined and outlines so delicately drawn, that there is
nothing repulsive in it. His selfishness and sensuality are related to
Aretino's as the miniatures of a missal to Giulio Romano's Modes of

In his sonnets on the Months, Folgore addresses the Brigata as "valiant
and courteous above Lancelot, ready, if need were, with lance in rest,
to spur along the lists of Camelot." In January he gives them good fires
and warm chambers, silken coverlids for their beds, and fur cloaks, and
sometimes in the day to sally forth and snow-ball girls upon the square:

    Uscir di fora alcuna volta il giorno,
      Gittando della neve bella e bianca
      A le donzelle, che staran dattorno.

February brings the pleasures of the chase. March is good for fishing,
with merry friends at night, and never a friar to be seen:

    Lasciate predicar i Frati pazzi,
    Ch'hanno troppe bugie e poco vero.

In April the "gentle country all abloom with fair fresh grass" invites
the young men forth. Ladies shall go with them, to ride, display French
dresses, dance Provençal figures, or touch new instruments from Germany,
or roam through spacious parks. May brings in tournaments and showers of
blossoms--garlands and oranges flung from balcony and window--girls and
youths saluting with kisses on cheeks and lips:

    E pulzellette, giovene, e garzoni
      Basciarsi nella bocca e nelle guance;
      D'amore e di goder vi si ragioni.

In June the company of youths and maidens quit the city for the villa,
passing their time in shady gardens, where the fountains flow and
freshen the fine grass, and all the folk shall be love's servants. July
finds them in town again, avoiding the sun's heat and wearing silken
raiment in cool chambers where they feast. In August they are off to the
hills, riding at morn and eve from castle to castle, through upland
valleys where streams flow. September is the month of hawking; October
of fowling and midnight balls. With November and December winter comes
again, and brings the fireside pleasures of the town. On the whole,
there is too much said of eating and drinking in these sonnets; and the
series concludes with a piece of inhumane advice:

    E beffe far dei tristi cattivelli,
      E miseri cattivi sciagurati
      Avari: non vogliate usar con elli.

The sonnets on the Days breathe the same quaint medieval hedonism.[60]
Monday is the day of songs and love; our young man must be up betimes,
to make his mistress happy:

    Levati su, donzello, e non dormire;
      Chè l'amoroso giorno ti conforta,
      E vuol che vadi tua donna a fruire.

Tuesday is the day of battles and pitched fields; but these are
described in mock-heroics, which show what the poet really felt about
the pleasure of them. Wednesday is the day of banquets, when ladies and
girls are waited on by young men wearing amorous wreaths:

    E donzelletti gioveni garzoni
    Servir, portando amorose ghirlande.

Thursday is the day of jousts and tourneys; Friday of hounds and horses;
Saturday, of hawks and fowling-nets; Sunday, of "dances and feats of
arms in Florence":

    Danzar donzelli, armeggiar cavalieri,
      Cercar Fiorenza per ogni contrada,
      Per piazze, per giardini, e per verzieri.

Such then was the joyous living, painted with colors of the fancy by a
Tuscan poet, and realized in Florence at the close of that eventful
century which placed the city under Guelf rule, in the plenitude of
peace, equality, and wealth by sea and land. Distinctions of class had
been obliterated. The whole population enjoyed equal rights and equal
laws. No man was idle; and though the simplicity of the past, praised by
Dante and Villani, was yielding to luxury, still the pleasure-seekers
were controlled by that fine taste which made the Florentines a race of
artists.[61] This halcyon season was the boyhood of Dante and Giotto,
the prime of Arnolfo and Cimabue. The buildings whereby the City of the
Flower is still made beautiful above all cities of Italian soil, were
rising. The people abode in industry and order beneath the sway of their
elected leaders. Supreme in Tuscany, fearing no internal feuds, strong
in their militia of thirty thousand burghers to repel a rival State, the
Florentines had reached the climax of political prosperity. Not as yet
had arisen that little cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, above
Pistoja, which was destined to plunge them into the strife of Blacks and
Whites. During that interval of windless calm, in that fair city, where
the viol and the lute were never silent through spring-tide and summer,
the star of Italian poetry, that "crowning glory of unblemished wealth,"
went up and filled the heavens with light.


[1] See Giesebrecht, _De Litterarum studiis apud Italos primis medii
ævi sæculis_, Berolini, 1845, p. 15.

[2] See Giesebrecht, _op. cit._ p. 19. Wippo recommends the Emperor to
compel his subjects to educate their sons in letters and law. It was
by such studies that ancient Rome acquired her greatness. In Italy at
the present time, he says, all boys pass from the games of childhood
into schools. It is only the Teutons who think it idle or disgraceful
for a man to study unless he be intended for a clerical career.

[3] See Adolfo Bartoli, _Storia della Letteratura Italiana_, vol. i.
pp. 142-158, and p. 167, on Guido delle Colonne and Qualichino da

[4] See above, vol. i. _Age of the Despots_, 2nd ed. chap. 2.

[5] The Italians did not even begin to reflect upon their _lingua
volgare_ until the special characters and temperaments of their chief
States had been fixed and formed. In other words, their social and
political development far anticipated their literary evolution. There
remained no center from which the vulgar tongue could radiate,
absorbing local dialects. Each State was itself a center, perpetuating

[6] See Du Méril, _Poésies Populaires Latines antérieures au douzième
Siècle_, Paris, 1843.

[7] Regarding the authorship of Latin hymns see the notes in Mone's
_Hymni Latini Medii Ævi_, Friburgi Brisgoviæ, 1853, 3 vols. For the
French origin of _Carmina Burana_ see _Die lateinischen Vagantenlieder
der Mittelalters_, von Oscar Hubatsch, Görlitz, 1870.

[8] Du Méril, _op. cit._ p. 268.

[9] Dante, _Paradiso_, xv.

[10] See _Age of the Despots_, p. 65.

[11] xvi. 115.

[12] See D'Ancona, _Poesia Popolare_, p. 11, note.

[13] See Carducci, _Dello Svolgimento della Letteratura Nazionale_, p.

[14] Romagnoli has reprinted some specimens of the _Illustre et Famosa
Historia di Lancillotto del Lago_, Bologna, 1862.

[15] Muratori in _Antiq. Ital. Diss._ xxx. p. 351, quotes a decree of
the Bolognese Commune, dated 1288, to the effect that _Cantatores
Francigenarum in plateis Communis omnino morari non possint_. They had
become a public nuisance and impeded traffic.

[16] In the _Cento Novelle_ there are several Arthurian stories. The
rubrics of one or two will suffice to show how the names were
Italianized. _Qui conta come la damigella di Scalot morì per amore di
Lanciallotto de Lac._ Nov. lxxxii. _Qui conta della reina Isotta e di
m. Tristano di Leonis._ Nov. lxv. In the _Historia di Lancillotto_,
cited above, Sir Kay becomes _Keux_; Gawain is _Gauuan_. In the
_Tavola Ritonda_, _Morderette_ stands for Mordred, _Bando di Benoiche_
for Ban of Benwick, _Lotto d'Organia_ for Lot of Orkeney.

[17] See Adolfo Bartoli, _Storia della Letteratura Italiana_, vol. ii.
chapters iii., iv., v., vi., for a minute inquiry into this early
dialectical literature.

[18] _Cento Novelle_, Milano, 1825, Nov. ii. and xxi.

[19] _Chronica Fr. Salimbene Parmensis, ord. min._, Parmæ, 1857, p.

[20] See the _Cronache Siciliane_, Bologna, Romagnoli, 1865, the first
of which bears upon its opening paragraph the date 1358. Sicilian, it
may be said in passing, presents close dialectical resemblance to
Tuscan. Even the superficial alteration of the Sicilian _u_ and _i_
into the Tuscan _o_ and _e_ (_e.g._ _secundu_ and _putiri_ into
_secondo_ and _potere_) effaces the most obvious differences.

[21] The Italians wavered long between several metrical systems,
before they finally adopted the hendecasyllabic line, which became the
consecrated rhythm of serious poetry. Carducci, in his treatise
_Intorno ad alcune Rime_ (Imola, Galeati, 1876), pp. 81-89, may be
profitably consulted with regard to early Italian Alexandrines. He
points out that Ciullo's _Tenzone_:

    Rosa fresc' aulentissima--c'appar' in ver' l'estate:

and the Ballata of the Comari:

    Pur bi' del vin, comadr'--e no lo temperare:

together with numerous compositions of the Northern Lombard school
(Milan and Verona), are written in Alexandrines. In the
Lombardo-Sicilian age of Italian literature, before Bologna acted as
an intermediate to Florence, this meter bid fair to become
acclimatized. But the Tuscan genius determined decisively for the

[22] See the Appendix to this chapter on Italian hendecasyllables.

[23] See Carducci, _Cantilene_, etc. (Pisa, 1871), pp. 58-60, for
thirteenth-century _rispetti_ illustrating the Sicilian form of the
Octave Stanza and its transformation to the Tuscan type.

[24] The poetry of this period will be found in Trucchi, _Poesie
Inedite_, Prato, 1846; _Poeti del Primo Secolo_, Firenze, 1816;
_Raccolta di Rime Antiche Toscane_, Palermo, Assenzio, 1817; and in a
critical edition of the _Codex Vaticanus_ 3793, _Le Antiche Rime
Volgari_, per cura di A. d'Ancona e D. Comparetti, Bologna, Romagnoli,

[25] The most important modern works upon this subject are three
Essays by Napoleone Caix, _Saggio sulla Storia della Lingua e dei
Dialetti d'Italia_, Parma, 1872; _Studi di Etimologia Italiana e
Romanza_, Firenze, 1878; _Le Origini della Lingua Poetica Italiana_,
Firenze, 1880. D'Ovidio's Essay on the _De Eloquio_ in his _Saggi
Critici_, Napoli, 1878, may also be consulted with advantage.

[26] "Lingua Tusca magis apta est ad literam sive literaturam quam
aliæ linguæ, et ideo magis est communis et intelligibilis." Antonio da
Tempo, born about 1275, says this in his Treatise on Italian Poetry,
recently printed by Giusto Grion, Bologna, Romagnoli, 1869. See p. 17
of that work.

[27] This fact was recognized by Dante. He speaks of the languages of
Si, Oil, and Oc, meaning Italian, French, and Spanish. _De Eloquio_,
lib. i. cap. 8. Dante points out their differences, but does not
neglect their community of origin.

[28] _De Vulg. Eloq._ i. 16.

[29] _Ibid._ i. 18.

[30] See _Archivio Glottologico Italiano_, vol. ii. Villani, lib. vii.
cap. 68.

[31] _Cantilene e Ballate, Strambotti e Madrigali nei Secoli xiii. e
xiv._ A cura di Giosuè Carducci (Pisa, 1871), pp. 29-32.

[32] _Ibid._ pp. 18, 22.

[33] _Ibid._ pp. 39, 42.

[34] _Ibid._ pp. 43, 45.

[35] See _ibid._ p. 45, the stanza which begins, _Matre tant ò_.

[36] _Ibid._ pp. 47-60.

[37] _Ibid._ pp. 62-66.

[38] The practical and realistic common sense of the Italians,
rejecting chivalrous and ecclesiastical idealism as so much nonsense,
is illustrated by the occasional poems of two Florentine
painters--Giotto's Canzone on _Poverty_, and Orcagna's Sonnet on
_Love_. Orcagna, in the latter, criticises the conventional blind and
winged Cupid, and winds up with:

             L'amore è un trastullo:
    Non è composto di legno nè di osso;
    E a molte gente fa rompere il dosso.

[39] See Carducci, _op. cit._ pp. 52-60, for early examples of
Tuscanized Sicilian poems of the people.

[40] The Tuscanized Sicilian poems in Carducci's collection referred
to above, are extracted from a Florentine MS. called _Napolitana_, and
a Tenzone between man and woman (_ib._ p. 52), which has clearly
undergone a like process, is called _Ciciliana_.

[41] See Francesco d'Ovidio, _Sul Trattato De Vulgari Eloquentia_. It
is reprinted in his volume of _Saggi Critici_, Napoli, 1879. The
subject is fully discussed from a point of view at variance with my
text by Adolf Gaspary, _Die Sicilianische Dichterschule_, Berlin,

[42] _Rime di Fra Guittone d'Arezzo_, Firenze, Morandi, 1828, 2 vols.

[43] _De Vulg. Eloq._ ii. 6; ii. 1; i. 13, and _Purg._ xxvi. 124.

[44] His poems will be found in the collections above mentioned, p.
26, note.

[45] _Purg._ xxvi.

[46] _Purg._ xxiv.

[47] _Purg._ xxvi.

[48] _De Vulg. Eloq._ i. 15.

[49] Fauriel, _Dante et les origines_, etc. (Paris, 1854), i. 269.

[50] D'Ancona, _La Poesia Popolare Italiana_ (Livorno 1878), p. 36,

[51] Giov. Vill. vii. 89.

[52] Stefani, quoted by D'Ancona, _op. cit._ p. 36.

[53] _Ibid._ p. 37, note.

[54] Giov. Vill. x. 216.

[55] Giov. Vill. vii. 132.

[56] _Storia di Firenze di Goro Dati_ (Firenze, 1735), p. 84.

[57] The date commonly assigned to Folgore is 1260, and the Niccolò he
addresses in his series on the Months has been identified with that

            Nicolò, che la costuma ricca
    Del garofano prima discoperse,

so ungently handled by Dante in the _Inferno_, Canto xxix. I am aware
that grave doubts, based upon historical allusions in Folgore's
miscellaneous sonnets, have been raised as to whether we can assign so
early a date to Folgore, and whether his Brigata was really the
_brigata godereccia, spendereccia_, of Siena alluded to by Dante. See
Bartoli, _Storia della Letteratura Italiana_, vol. ii. cap. II, for a
discussion of these points. See also Giulio Navone's edition of
Folgore's and Cene's _Rime_, Bologna, Romagnoli, 1880. This editor
argues forcibly for a later date--not earlier at all events than from
1300 to 1320. But, whether we choose the earlier date 1260 or the
later 1315, Folgore may legitimately be used for my present purpose of

[58] This is equally true of Cene dalla Chitarra's satirical parodies
of the Months, in which, using the same rhymes as Folgore, he turns
each of his motives to ridicule. Cene was a poet of Arezzo. His series
and Folgore's will both be found in the _Poeti del Primo Secolo_, vol.
ii., and in Navone's edition cited above.

[59] These remarks have to be qualified by reference to an unfinished
set of five sonnets (Navone's edition, pp. 45-49), which are composed
in a somewhat different key. They describe the arming of a young
knight, and his reception by Valor, Humility, Discretion, and
Gladness. Yet the knight, so armed and accepted, is no Galahad, far
less the grim horseman of Dürer's allegory. Like the members of the
_brigata godereccia_, he is rather a Gawain or Astolfo, all love, fine
clothes, and courtship. Each of these five sonnets is a precious
little miniature of Italian carpet-chivalry. The quaintest is the
second, which begins:

    Ecco prodezza che tosto lo spoglia,
        E dice: amico e' convien che tu mudi,
        Per ciò ch'i' vo' veder li uomini nudi,
        E vo' che sappi non abbo altra voglia.

This exordium makes one regret that the painter of the young knight in
our National Gallery (Giorgione?) had not essayed a companion picture.
Valor disrobing him and taking him into her arms and crying _Queste
carni m'ai offerte_ would have made a fine pictorial allegory.

[60] If I were writing the history of early Tuscan poetry, I should
wish here to compare the rarely beautiful poem of Lapo Gianni, _Amor
eo chero_, with Folgore, and the masterly sonnets of Cecco Angiolieri
of Siena, especially the one beginning _S'io fossi fuoco_, with Cene
dalla Chitarra, in order to prove the fullness of sensuous and
satirical inspiration in the age preceding Dante. Lapo wishes he had
the beauty of Absalom, the strength of Samson; that the Arno would run
balm for him, her walls be turned to silver and her paving-stones to
crystal; that he might abide in eternal summer gardens among thousands
of the loveliest women, listening to the songs of birds and
instruments of music. The voluptuousness of Folgore is here heightened
to ecstasy. Cecco desires to be fire, wind, sea, God, that he might
ruin the world; the emperor, that he might decapitate its population;
death, that he might seek out his father and mother; life, that he
might fly from both; being Cecco, he would fain take all fair women,
and leave the foul to his neighbors. The spite of Cene is deepened to

[61] See _Paradiso_, xv.; Giov. Vill. vi. 69.



     Chivalrous Poetry--Ideal of Chivalrous Love--Bolognese
     Erudition--New Meaning given to the Ideal--Metaphysics of the
     Florentine School of Lyrists--Guido Cavalcanti--Philosophical
     Poems--Popular Songs--Cino of Pistoja--Dante's _Vita
     Nuova_--Beatrice in the _Convito_ and the _Paradiso_--The
     Preparation for the _Divine Comedy_ in
     Literature--Allegory--The _Divine Comedy_--Petrarch's Position
     in Life--His Conception of Humanism--Conception of Italy--His
     Treatment of Chivalrous Love--Beatrice and Laura--The
     _Canzoniere_--Boccaccio, the Florentine Bourgeois--His Point
     of View--His Abandonment of the Chivalrous Standpoint--His
     Devotion to Art--Anticipates the Renaissance--The
     _Decameron_--_Commedia Umana_--Precursors of
     Boccaccio--Novels--_Carmina Vagorum_--Plan of the Book--Its
     Moral Character--The _Visione Amorosa_--Boccaccio's
     Descriptions--The _Teseide_--The _Rime_--The _Filocopo_--The
     _Filostrato_--The _Ameto_, _Fiammetta_, _Ninfale_,
     _Corbaccio_--Prose before Boccaccio--_Fioretti di San
     Francesco_ and _Decameron_ compared--Influence of Boccaccio
     over the Prose Style of the Renaissance--His Death--Close of
     the Fourteenth Century--Sacchetti's Lament.

The Sicilians followed closely in the track of the Provençal poets.
After, or contemporaneously with them, the same Italo-Provençal
literature was cultivated in the cities of central Italy. The
subject-matter of this imitative poetry was love--but love that bore a
peculiar relation to ordinary human feeling. Woman was regarded as an
ideal being, to be approached with worship bordering on adoration. The
lover derived personal force, virtue, elevation, energy, from his
enthusiastic passion. Honor, justice, courage, self-sacrifice, contempt
of worldly goods, flowed from that one sentiment; and love united two
wills in a single ecstasy. Love was the consummation of spiritual
felicity, which surpassed all other modes of happiness in its beatitude.
Thus Bernard de Ventadour and Jacopo da Lentino were ready to forego
Paradise unless they might behold their lady's face before the throne of
God. For a certain period in modern history, this mysticism of the
amorous emotion was no affectation. It formulated a genuine impulse of
manly hearts, inflamed by beauty, and touched with the sense of moral
superiority in woman, perfected through weakness and demanding physical
protection. By bringing the cruder passions into accord with gentle
manners and unselfish aspirations, it served to temper the rudeness of
primitive society; and no little of its attraction was due to the
conviction that only refined natures could experience it. This new
aspect of love was due to chivalry, to Christianity, to the Teutonic
reverence for women, in which religious awe seems to have blended with
the service of the weaker by the stronger.

Sincere and beautiful as the ideal of chivalrous love may have been, it
speedily degenerated. Chivalry, though a vital element of feudalism,
existed, even among the nations of its origin, more as an aspiration
than a reality. In Italy it never penetrated the life or subdued the
imagination of the people. For the Italo-Provençal poets that code of
love was almost wholly formal. They found it ready made. They used it
because the culture of a Court, in sympathy with feudal Europe, left
them no other choice. Not Arthur, but the Virgilian Æneas, was still the
Italian hero; and instead of S. Louis, the nations of the South could
only boast of a crusading Frederick II. Frederick the troubadour was a
no less anomalous being than Frederick the crusader. He conformed to
contemporary fashion, but his spirit ran counter to the age. Curiosity,
incipient humanism, audacious doubt, the toleration which inclined him
to fraternize with Saracens and seek the learning of the Arabs, placed
him outside the sphere of thirteenth century conceptions. His expedition
to the East appears a mere parade excursion, hypocritical, political,
ironical. In like manner his love-poetry and that of his courtiers rings
hollow in our ears.

It harmonized with the Italian genius, when Guido Guinicelli treated
chivalrous love from the standpoint of Bolognese learning. He altered
none of the forms; he used the conventional phraseology. But he infused
a new spirit into the subject-matter. His poetry ceased to be formal;
the phrases were no longer verbiage. The epicureanism of Frederick's
life clashed with the mystic exaltation of knighthood. There was no
discord between Guido's scientific habit of mind and his expression of a
philosophical idea conveyed in terms of amorous enthusiasm. Upon his
lips the words:

    Al cor gentil ripara sempre Amore,
      Come l'augello in selva alla verdura;
      Nè fe' Amore anti che gentil core,
      Nè gentil cor anti che Amor, Natura:

acquire reality--not the reality of passion, but of sincere thought.
They do not convey the spontaneity of feeling, but a philosopher's
contemplation of love and beauty in their influence on human character.
Guido's mood might be compared with that of the Greek sage, when he
exclaimed that neither the morning nor the evening star is so wonderful
as Justice, or when he thus apostrophized Virtue:

    Virtue, to men thou bringest care and toil;
    Yet art thou life's best, fairest spoil!
    O virgin goddess, for thy beauty's sake
    To die is delicate in this our Greece,
    Or to endure of pain the stern, strong ache.

For the chivalrous races, Love had been an enthusiastic ideal. For the
Italo-Provençal euphuists it supplied an artificial inspiration. At
Bologna it became the form of transcendental science; and here the
Italian intellect touched, by accident or instinct, the same note that
had been struck by Plato in the "Phædrus" and "Symposium."

A public trained in legal and scholastic studies, whose mental furniture
was drawn from S. Thomas and Accursius, hailed their poet in Guido
Guinicelli. For them it was natural that poetry should veil philosophy
with verse; that love should be confounded with the movement of the soul
toward truth; that beauty should be treated as the manifestation of a
spiritual good. Dante in his Canzone, _Donne ch'avete intelletto
d'amore_, appeals, not to emotion, but to intelligence. He tells us that
_understanding_ was the ancient name of _love_, and describes the effect
of passion in a young man's heart as a revelation raising him above the
level of common experience. Thus the transmutation of the simpler
elements of the chivalrous code into philosophical doctrine, where the
form of the worshiped lady transcends the sphere of sense, and her
spirit is identified with the lover's deepest thought and loftiest
aspiration, was sincere in medieval Florence. The Tuscan intellect was
too virile and sternly strung to be satisfied with amorous rhymes. The
contemporary theory of æsthetics demanded allegory, and imposed upon the
poet erudition; nor was it easy for the singer of that epoch to command
his own immediate emotions, or to use them for the purposes of a direct
and plastic art. Enjoying neither the freedom of the Greek nor the
disengagement of the modern spirit, he found it more proper to clothe a
scientific content with the veil of passion, than to paint the
personality of the woman he loved with natural precision. Between the
mysticism of a sublime but visionary adoration on the one side, and the
sensualities of vulgar appetite or the decencies of married life on the
other, there lay for him no intermediate artistic region. He understood
the love of the imagination and the love of the senses; but the love of
the heart, familiar to the Northern races, hardly existed for him.

And here it may be parenthetically noticed that the Italians, in the
middle ages, created no feminine ideal analogous to Gudrun or
Chriemhild, Iseult or Guinevere. When they left the high region of
symbolism, they descended almost without modulation to the prose of
common life. Thus the Selvaggia of Cino, the Beatrice of Dante, the
Laura of Petrarch, made way for the Fiammetta of Boccaccio and the women
of the Decameron, when that ecstasy of earlier enthusiasm exhausted. For
a while, however, the Florentines were well prepared to give an
intellectual significance, and with it a new life, to the outworn
conventions of the Italo-Provençal lyrists. Nor must it be thought that
the emotions thus philosophized were unreal. Dante loved Beatrice,
though she became for him an allegory. The splendid vision of her beauty
and goodness attended him through life, assuming the guidance of his
soul in all its stages. Difficult as it may be to comprehend this
blending of the real and transcendental, we must grasp it if we desire
to penetrate the spirit of the fourteenth century in Italy.

The human heart remains unchanged. No metaphysical sophistication, no
allegory, no scholastic mysticism, can destroy the spontaneity of
instinct in a man who loves, or cloud a poet's vision. Love does not
cease to be love because it is sublimed to the quintessence of a
self-denying passion. It still retains its life in feeling, and its root
in sense. Beauty does not cease to be beautiful because it has been
moralized and identified with the attraction that lifts men upward to
the sphere of the eternal truths. Nor is poetry extinguished because the
singer deems it his vocation to utter genuine thought, and scorns the
rhyming pastimes of the simple amorist. The Florentine school presents
us with a poetry which aimed at being philosophical, but which at the
same time vibrated with life and delineated moods of delicate emotion.
To effect a flawless fusion between these two strains in the new style,
was infinitely difficult; nor were the poets of that epoch equally
successful. Guido Cavalcanti, the leader of the group which culminates
in Dante, won his fame by verse that savors more of the dialectician
than the singer. Ranking science above poetry, he is said to have
disdained even Virgil. His odes are dryly scholastic--especially that
famous _Donna mi priega_, which contemporaries studied clause by clause,
and which, after two centuries, served Dino del Garbo for the text of a
metaphysical discourse.[62] At the same time, certain lyrics, composed
in a lighter mood by the same poet, have in them the essence of
spontaneous and natural inspiration. His Ballate were probably regarded
by himself and his friends as playthings, thrown off in idle moments to
distract a mind engaged in thorny speculations. Yet we find here the
first full blossom of genuine Italian verse. Their beauty is that of
popular song, starting flowerlike from the soil, and fragrant in its
first expansion beneath the sun of courtesy and culture. Nothing
remained, in this kind, for Boccaccio and Poliziano, but to echo the
Ballata of the country maidens, and to complete the welcome to the

Two currents of verse, the one rising from the senses, the other from
the brain, the one deriving force and fullness from the people, the
other nourished by the schools, flowed apart in Guido Cavalcanti's
poetry. They were combined into a single stream by Cino da Pistoja.[64]
Cino was a jurist of encyclopædic erudition, as well as a sweet and
fluent singer.[65] His verses have the polish and something of the chill
of marble. His Selvaggia deserves a place with Beatrice and Laura. From
Cino Petrarch derived his mastery of limpid diction. In Cino the
artistic sense of the Italians awoke. He produced something distinct
both from the scientific style of Guido Guinicelli, and also from the
wilding song which Guido Cavalcanti's Ballate echoed. He seems to have
applied himself to the main object of polishing poetical diction, and
rendering expression at once musical and lucid.[66] Though his hold upon
ideas was not so firm as Cavalcanti's, nor his passion so intense, he
achieved a fusion of thought and feeling in an artistic whole of
sympathetic suavity. We instinctively compare his work with that of Mino
da Fiesole in bass-relief.

Dante was five years older than Cino. To him belongs the glory of having
effected the same fusion in a lyric poetry at once more comprehensive
and more lofty. Dante yields no point as a dialectician and subtle
thinker to Guido Cavalcanti. He surpasses Cino da Pistoja as an artist.
His passion and imagination are more fiery than Guido's. His tenderness
is deeper and more touching than Cino's. Even in those minor works with
which he preluded the Divine Comedy, Dante soars above all competition,
taking rank among the few poets born to represent an age and be the
everlasting teachers of the human soul. Yet even Dante, though knowing
that he was destined to eclipse both the Guidi, though claiming Love
alone for his inspirer, was not wholly free from the scholasticism of
his century. In the earlier lyrics of the _Vita Nuova_ and in the
Canzoni of the _Convito_, he allows his feeling to be over-weighted by
the scientific content. Between his emotion and our sympathy there
rises, now and again, the mist of metaphysic. While giving them intenser
meaning, he still plays upon the commonplaces of his predecessors. Thus
in the sonnet _Amor e 'l cor gentil son una cosa_ he rehandles
Guinicelli's theme; while the following stanza repeats the well-worn
doctrine that Love should be the union of beauty and of excellence[67]:

    Che la beltà che Amore in voi consente,
    A virtù solamente
    Formata fu dal suo decreto antico,
    Contro lo qual fallate.
    Io dico a voi che siete innamorate,
    Che se beltate a voi
    Fu data, e virtù a noi,
    Ed a costui di due potere un fare,
    Voi non dovreste amare,
    Ma coprir quanto di beltà vi è dato,
    Poichè non è virtù, ch'era suo segno.

Dante's concessions to the mannerism of the school weigh as nothing in
the scales against the beauty and the truth of that most spiritual of
romances, to which the _Vita Nuova_ gives melodic utterance. Within the
compass of one little book is bound up all that Florence in the
thirteenth century contributed to the refinement of medieval manners,
together with all that the new school of poets had imagined of highest
in their philosophical conception. The harmony of life and science
attains completion in the real but idealized experience, which
transcends and combines both motives in a personality uniquely
constituted for this blending. It is enough for the young Dante to meet
Beatrice, to pass her among her maidens in the city-ways, to receive her
salute, to admire her moving through the many-colored crowd, to meditate
upon her apparition, as of one of God's angels, in the solitude of his
chamber. She is a dream, a vision. But it is the dream of his existence,
the vision that unfolds for him the universe--more actual, more steeped
in emotion, more stimulative of sublime aspiration and virile purpose
than many loves which find fruition in long years of intercourse. We
feel that the man's true self has been revealed to him; that he has
given his life-blood to the ideal which, without this nourishment, would
have ranked among phantoms, but is now reality. Students who have not
followed the stages through which the doctrine of chivalrous love
reached Dante, and the process whereby it was transmuted into science
for the guidance of the soul, will regard the records of the _Vita
Nuova_ as shadowy or sentimental. Or if they only dwell upon the
philosophical aspect of Dante's work, if they do not make allowance for
the natural stirring of a heart that throbbed with liveliest feeling,
they will fail to comprehend this book, at once so complex and so
simple. The point lies exactly in the fusion of two elements--in the
truth of the passion, the truth of the idealization, and the spontaneity
of the artistic form combining them. What is most intelligible, because
most common to all phases of profound emotion, in the _Vita Nuova_, is
its grief--the poet's sympathy with Beatrice in the house of mourning
for her father's death, the vision of her own passage from earth to
heaven, and the apostrophe to the pilgrims who thread the city clothed
with mourning for her loss.[68] No one, reading these poems, will doubt
that, though Beatrice did but cross the path of Dante's life and shed
her brightness on it for a season from afar, the thought of her had
penetrated heart and fiber, making him a man new-born through love, and
striking in his soul a note that should resound through all his years,
through all the centuries which grow to understand him.

Dante was born in 1265 of poor but noble parents, who reconciled
themselves to the Guelf party. He first saw Beatrice in his ninth year;
and, when a man, he well remembered how her beauty dawned upon him.[69]
"Her dress, on that day, was of a most noble color, a subdued and goodly
crimson, girdled and adorned in such sort as best suited with her very
tender age. At that moment, I say most truly that the spirit of life,
which hath its dwelling in the secretest chamber of the heart, began to
tremble so violently that the least pulses of my body shook therewith;
and in trembling it said these words: _Ecce deus fortior me qui veniens
dominabitur mihi_." Beatrice died in 1290, and Dante closed the _Vita
Nuova_ with these words[70]: "It was given unto me to behold a very
wonderful vision; wherein I saw things which determined me that I would
say nothing further of this most blessed one, until such time as I could
discourse more worthily concerning her. And to this end I labor all I
can; as she well knoweth. Wherefore if it be His pleasure through whom
is the life of all things, that my life continue with me a few years, it
is my hope that I shall yet write concerning her what hath not before
been written of any woman. After the which, may it seem good unto Him
who is the Master of Grace, that my spirit should go hence to behold the
glory of its lady: to wit, of that blessed Beatrice who now gazeth
continually on His countenance _qui est per omnia sæcula, benedictus.
Laus Deo_."

This passage was written possibly in Dante's twenty-eighth year. The
consecration of his younger manhood was the love of Beatrice. She made
him a poet. Through her came to him the "sweet new style," which shone
with purest luster in his verse; and the songs he made of Beatrice were
known through all the City of the Flower. Yet love had not absorbed his
energies. He studied under Brunetto Latini, and qualified himself for
the career of a Florentine citizen by entering the Guild of Speziali.
After Beatrice's death a great and numbing sorrow fell upon him. From
this eclipse he recovered by the help of reading, and also by the
distractions of public life. He fought in the battle of Campaldino, and
married his wife Gemma Donati. He went as ambassador to San Gemignano
in 1299; and in the year 1300, when Florence was divided by the parties
of Cerchi and Donati, he fulfilled the functions of the Priorate. These
ten years between Beatrice's death and Dante's election as Prior were a
period of hesitation and transition. He was no longer the poet of Divine
Love, inspired by spontaneous emotion, mastering and glorifying the form
which tradition imposed on verse. He had become a student of philosophy;
and this change makes itself felt in the more abstruse and abstract odes
of the _Convito_. Yet he was still attended, through those years of
study, civic engagements and domestic duties, by the vision of Beatrice.
This is how he speaks of science in the second part of the _Convito_:
"After some time my mind, which strove to regain strength, bethought
itself (since neither my own consolations nor those of friends availed
me aught) of having recourse to the method which had helped to comfort
other spirits in distress. I took to reading the book, not known to many
students, of Boethius, wherewith, unhappy and in exile, he had comforted
himself. And hearing also that Tully had written another book in which,
while treating of friendship, he had used words of consolation to Lælius
in the death of his friend Scipio, I read that also, and as it happens
that a man goes seeking silver, and far from his design finds gold,
which hidden causes yield him, not perchance without God's guidance, so
I who sought for consolation found not only comfort for my tears, but
also words of authors and of sciences and of books, weighing the which,
I judged well that philosophy, the lady of these authors, of these
sciences and of these books, was a thing supreme. And I imagined her in
fashion like a gentle lady, nor could I fancy her otherwise than
piteous; wherefore so truly did I gaze upon her with adoring eyes that
scarcely could I turn myself away. And having thus imagined her I began
to go where she displayed her very self, that is, in the schools of the
religious, and the disputations of philosophers; so that in short time,
about thirty months, I began so much to feel her sweetness that her love
chased away and destroyed all other thought in me."

Beatrice, who in her lifetime had been the revelation of beauty and all
good, lifting her lover above the region of sordid thoughts, and opening
a sphere of spiritual intelligence, now accompanied him through the
labyrinths of speculation. She was still the form, the essence, of all
he learned; and the vow which closes the _Vita Nuova_ had not been

Through the transition period, marked by the _Convito_, we are led to
the third stage of Dante's life--those twenty-one years, during which he
roamed in exile over Italy, and wrote the poem of medieval Christianity.
The studies of which the _Convito_ forms a fragment, and the political
career which ended in the embassy to Boniface, were both necessary for
the _Divine Comedy_. Had it not been for Dante's exile, the modern world
might have lacked its first and greatest epic; Beatrice might have
missed her promised apotheosis. As her hand had guided him through the
paths of love and the labyrinths of science, so now the brightness of
her glorified face lifted him from sphere to sphere of Paradise. By
gazing on her eyes, he rose through heaven, and stood with her before
the splendor of the Beatific Vision. To identify Beatrice with Theology
in this last stage of Dante's spiritual life is a facile but inadequate
expedient of criticism. From the earliest she had been for him the light
and guidance of his soul; and at the last he ascribed to her the best
and the sublimest of his inspirations.

Since its origin Italian poetry had pursued one line of evolution, first
following and then transmuting the traditions of Provence. In the
_Divine Comedy_ it took a new direction. Chivalry, insufficient for the
nation and ill-adapted to its temper, yielded to a motive force derived
from the religious sentiment. The Bible history, the Lives of the
Saints, and the doctrine of the Church concerning the future of mankind,
together with the emotions of piety, had hitherto received but partial
exposition at the hands of a few poets of the people. S. Francis struck
the keynote of popular Italian poetry in his _Cantico del Sole_, which
can be accepted as the first specimen of composition in the vulgar
tongue. Guittone of Arezzo, already mentioned as the earliest learned
poet who attempted to nationalize his style, acquired fame as the writer
of one sublime sonnet to Madonna and two Canzoni to the Mother and her
Son.[71] But the most decisive impulse toward religious poetry was given
by the Flagellants, who, starting from the Umbrian highlands in 1290,
diffused their peculiar devotion over Italy. I shall have occasion to
return in a future chapter to the history of this movement and to trace
its influence over popular Italian literature. It is enough, at present,
to have mentioned it among the forces tending toward religious poetry
upon the close of the thirteenth century.

The spirit of the epoch inclined to Allegory and Vision. When we
remember the prestige of Virgil in the middle ages, both as a
philosopher and also as the precursor of Christianity, it will be
understood how his descent into Hades fascinated the imagination, and
prepared the mind to accept the Vision as a proper form for conveying
theological doctrine.[72] The Journey of S. Brandan, the Purgatory of S.
Patrick, and the Visions of Tundalus and Alberic pretended to
communicate information concerning the soul's state after death, the
places of punishment, and the method of salvation. In course of time the
Vision was used for political or ecclesiastical purposes by preachers
who averred that they had seen the souls of eminent sinners in torment.
It became an engine of terrorism, assumed satiric tone, and finally fell
into the hands of didactic or merely fanciful poets.[73]

The chief preoccupation of the medieval mind was with the future destiny
of man. This life came to be regarded as a preparation for eternity.
Like a foreground, the actual world served to relieve the picture of the
world beyond the grave. Therefore popular literature abounded in manuals
of devotion and discipline, some of which set forth the history of the
soul in allegorical form. Among other examples may be cited three
stories of the spiritual life, corresponding to its three stages of
Nature, Purification, and Restoration, conveyed under the titles of
_Umano_, _Spoglia_, _Rinuova_. Many prelusions of this class were
combined in one religious drama called _Commedia dell'Anima_, the
substance of which is certainly old, though the form yields evidence of
sixteenth-century _rifacimento_.[74]

The object of the foregoing paragraphs has been to show that the popular
intellect was well prepared for religious poetry, and had appropriated
the forms of Allegory and Vision. Not in order to depreciate the
originality of Dante, but to prove in how vital a relation he stood
toward his age, I have here insisted on those formless preludes to his
work of art. In the Epistle to Can Grande he thus explains the theme of
the _Commedia_: "The subject of the whole work, taken literally, is the
state of souls after death, regarded as fact; for the action deals with
this, and is about this. But if the work be taken allegorically, its
subject is man, in so far as by merit or demerit in the exercise of free
will he is exposed to the rewards or punishments of justice." Attending
to the letter, we find in the _Commedia_ a vision of that life beyond
the tomb, in relation to which alone our life on earth has value. It
presents a picture of the everlasting destiny of souls, so firmly
apprehended and vividly imagined by the medieval fancy. But since this
picture has to set forth mysteries seen and heard by none, the
revelation itself, like S. John's Apocalypse, is conveyed in symbols
fashioned to adumbrate the truths perceived by faith. The same symbols
portray another reality, not apprehended merely by faith, but brought
home to the heart by experience. Attending to the allegory, we find in
the _Commedia_ a history of the soul in this life--an ethical analysis
of sin, purgation and salvation through grace. The poem is a narrative
of Dante's journey through the region into which all pass after death;
but at the same time it describes the hell and heaven and the transition
through repentance from sin to grace, which are the actual conditions of
the soul in this life. The _Inferno_ depicts unmitigated evil. The
_Paradiso_ exhibits goodness, absolute and free from stain. In the one
there is no relief, in the other no alloy; the one is darkness, the
other light. The intermediate region of the _Purgatorio_ is a realm of
expectation and conversion, where sin is no longer possible, but where
the fruition of goodness is delayed by the necessity of purification.
Here then are the natural alternations of day and night, the relative
twilight of a world where all is yet transition rather than
fulfillment. It may be observed that Purgatory belongs to the order of
things which by their nature pass away; while Hell and Heaven are both
eternal. Therefore the _Commedia_, considered as an apocalypse of the
undying soul, reveals absolute damnation and absolute salvation, both
states being destined to endure so long as God's justice and love exist;
but it also reveals a state of purifying pain, which ceases when the men
who need it have been numbered. Considered as an allegory of the
spiritual life on earth, it describes the process of escape from eternal
condemnation through grace into eternal happiness.

A theme so vast and all-embracing enabled Dante to inform the whole
knowledge of his epoch. The _Commedia_ is the poem of that scholastic
theology which absorbed every branch of science and brought the world
within the scope of one thought, God. As the _Summa_ of S. Thomas
combined philosophy and revelation, so Dante included both the Pagan and
Christian dispensations in his scheme. He starts from the wood of
terror, where men are assailed by the wild beasts of their passions; and
two guides lead him, by the light of knowledge, up to God. The one is
Virgil, the other Beatrice--Virgil, who stands for human reason,
science, the four cardinal virtues; Beatrice, who symbolizes divine
grace, faith formulated in theology, the virtues bestowed on man through
Christ for his salvation. Virgil cannot lead the poet beyond Purgatory;
because thus far only is human knowledge of avail to elevate and guide
the soul. Beatrice lifts him through the spheres of Paradise by
contemplation; because the highest summit attained by reason and natural
virtue is but the starting point of the true Christian's journey.

The _Commedia_ is thus the drama or the epos of the soul. It condenses
all that man has thought or done, can think or do; all that he knows
about the universe around him, all that he hopes or fears from the
future; his intuition of an incorruptible and ideal order, underlying
and controlling the phenomenal world. God, the world and man are brought
into one focus; and the interest of the poem is the relation of the
individual soul to them, the participation of each human personality in
the dramatic action. It need hardly be observed that Dante's solutions
of the problems which arise in the development of this theme, are
medieval. His physical science has been superseded. His theology is far
from approving itself to the general consciousness of Christians in our
age. Yet while all must recognize this obvious truth, the essence of the
_Commedia_ is indestructible because of its humanity, because of the
personality which animates it. Men change far less than the hypotheses
of religion and philosophy, which take form from experience as shadows
fly before the sun. However these may alter, man remains substantially
the same; and Dante penetrated human nature as few have done--was such a
man as few have been. The unity and permanence of his poem are in
himself. Never was a plan so vast and various permeated so completely
with a single self. At once creator and spectator of his vision,
neophyte and hierophant, arraigned and judge, he has not only seen hell
as the local prison-house of pain, but has felt it as the state of sin
within his heart. He has passed through purifying fires; and the songs
of Paradise have sounded by anticipation in his ears. Dante is both the
singer and the hero of his epic. In him the universal idea of mankind
becomes concrete. The continuous experience of this living person who is
at one and the same time a figure of each and every soul that ever
breathed, and also the real Dante Alighieri, exile from Florence without
blame, sustains as on one thread the medley of successive motives which
else might lack poetic unity, gives life to a scheme which else might be
too abstract. Expanding to embrace the universe, contracting to a point
within one breast, the _Commedia_ combines the general and the
particular in an individual commensurate with man.

It may be conjectured that Dante, obeying the scholastic impulse of his
age, started from the abstract or universal. Therein lay the reality of
things, not in the particular. What has been already quoted from the
letter to Can Grande justifies this supposition. He meant to lay bare
the scheme of the universe, as understood by medieval Christianity, and
viewed from the standpoint of the human agent. That scheme presented
itself in a series of propositions, a logic or a metaphysic apprehended
as truth. Each portion of the poem was mapped out with rigorous
accuracy. Each section illustrated a thought, an argument, a position.
The whole might be surveyed as a structure of connected syllogisms. To
this scientific articulation of its leading motives corresponds the
architectural symmetry, the simple outlines and severe masses of the
_Commedia_. The plan, however minute in detail, is comprehended at a
glance. The harmonies of the design are as geometrical as some colossal
church imagined by Bramante. But Dante had no intention of re-writing
the _Summa_ in verse. He meant to be a poet, using the vulgar speech of
"that low Italy" in the production of an epic which should rank on equal
terms with the _Æneid_, and be for modern Christendom what that had been
for sacred Rome. Furthermore he had it in his heart to yield such honor
to Virgil, "leader, lord, and master," as none had ever paid, and to
write concerning Beatrice "what had not before been written of any
woman." His poem was to be the storehouse of his personal experience.
His love and hatred, his admiration of greatness and his scorn for
cowardice, his resentment of injury, his gratitude for service rendered,
his political creed and critical opinions, the joy he had of nature, and
the pain he suffered when he walked with men: all this was to find
expression at right seasons and in seemly order. Upon the severe
framework of abstract truth, which forms the skeleton of the _Commedia_
and is the final end of its existence, Dante felt free to superimpose
materials of inexhaustible variety. Following the metaphor of building
more exactly, we may say that he employed these materials as the stones
whereby he brought his architectural design to view. The abstract
thought of the _Commedia_, tyrannous and all-controlling as it is, could
not lay claim to reality but for the dramatic episodes which present it
to the intellect through the imagination.

Some such clothing of abstractions with concrete images was intended in
the medieval theory of allegory. The Church proscribed the poets of
antiquity; and it had become an axiom that poetry was the art of
lies.[75] Poetry was hardly suffered to exist except as a veil to cloak
some hidden doctrine; and allegory presented a middle way of escape,
whereby the pleasure of art could be enjoyed with a safe conscience.
Virgil, whom the middle ages would not have relinquished, though a
General Council had condemned him, received the absolution of
allegorical interpretation. Dante, who defined poetry as the art "which
publishes the truth concealed beneath a veil of fable," frequently
interrupts the story to bid his readers note the meaning underneath the
figures of his verse. In composing the _Commedia_, he had moral
edification and scientific truth for his end. The dramatic, narrative,
descriptive, and lyrical beauties of his poem served to bring into
relief or to shroud in appropriate mystery--since allegory both
elucidates and obscures the matter it conveys--the doctrines he designed
to inculcate. Still Dante stood, as a poet, at a height so far above his
age and his own theories, that the cold and numbing touch of symbolism
rarely mars the interest of his work. We may, perhaps, feel a certain
confusion between the personalities of Virgil and Beatrice and the
thoughts they represent, which chills our sympathy, raising a feeling of
indignation when Virgil returns unwept to Hell, and removing Beatrice
into a world of intangible ideas. We may find the pageant at the close
of the "Purgatory" unattractive; nor will the sublimity of the
"Paradiso" save the figures by which spiritual meanings are here
suggested, from occasional grotesqueness. Thus much can be conceded.
Dante, though born to be the poet of all time, was still a scion of his
epoch. He could not altogether escape the influences of a misleading
conception. But, apart from allegory, apart from didactic purpose, the
_Commedia_ takes highest rank for the episodes, the action, the personal
interest which never flags. No poet ever had a finer sense of reality,
and none commanded the means of expressing it in all its forms more
fully. Dante's own theory of symbolism offered an illimitable sphere for
the exercise of his imagination, since it led him to give visible and
palpable shape to the thoughts of his brain. And here it may be noted
that the allegorical heresy proved less pernicious than another form of
false opinion based upon an ideal of classical purity might have been.
Since the poem was to present truth under a cloak of metaphor, it did
not signify what figures were used. The purpose they served, justified
them. Therefore Dante found himself at liberty to mingle satire with the
hymns of angels; to seek illustrations from vulgar life no less than
from nature in her sublimest moods; to delineate the horrible, the
painful, the grotesque, and the improbable with the same sincerity as
the beautiful, the charming, and the familiar. His dramatic faculty was
exercised on themes so varied that to classify them is impossible--on
the pathos of Francesca and the terror of Ugolino; the skirmish of the
fiends in Malebolge and the meeting of Statius with Virgil; the pride of
Farinata and the penitence of Manfred; the agonies of Adamo da Brescia
and the calm delights of Piccarda dei Donati. He tells the stories of
Ulysses and S. Francis, describes the flight of the Roman eagle and
Cacciaguida's manhood, with equal energy of brief but ineffaceably
impressive narration. This license inherent in the use of allegory
justified his classing the fameless folk of his own days with the heroes
of Biblical and classical antiquity, and permitted him to mingle ancient
history with his censure of contemporary politics. All times, ages,
countries, races of men are alike before the tribunal of God's justice.
Accordingly, the poet who had taken man's moral nature for his theme,
and was bound by his theory to present this theme symbolically, could
bring to view a multitude of concrete persons, arranged (whatever else
may issue from their converse with the protagonist) according to
gradations of merit or demerit. Thus the _Divine Comedy_, though written
with a didactic object and under the influence of allegory, surpasses
every other epic in the distinctness of its motives and the realism of
their presentation. The brief and pregnant style which scorns rhetorical
adornment, the accurate picture-painting which aims at vivid delineation
of the thing to be discerned, harmonize with its inflexible ethics, its
uncompromising sincerity, its intense human feeling.

The _Commedia_ is too widely commensurate with its theme, the Human
Soul, to be described or classified. The men of its era called it the
_Divine_; and this title it has preserved, in spite of the fierce
censures of the Church which it contains. They called it _La Divina_
because of its material doubtless, but also, we may dare to think,
because of its unfathomable depth and height and breadth of thought. In
course of time chairs were established at Florence, Padua, and in other
cities, for its explanation; and the labor of the commentator was
applied to it. That labor has been continued from Boccaccio's down to
our own day; yet the dark places of the _Commedia_ have not been
illuminated, nor is learning likely to solve some problems which perplex
a careful student of its cantos. That matters, indeed, but little; for
the main scope and purpose of the poem are plain, and its spirit is such
that none who read can fail to recognize it.

Before Dante the Christian world had no poet, and Italy had no voice.
The gift of Dante to Europe was an Epic on the one subject which united
the modern nations in community of interest. The gift of Dante to his
country was a masterpiece which placed her on a par with Homer's Hellas
and with Virgil's Rome. If the first century of Italian literature could
have produced three men of the caliber of Dante, Italy would have run
her future course, as she began, abreast with ancient Greece. That was
not, however, destined to be. The very conditions of the mission she had
to fulfill in the fourteenth and two following centuries, rendered the
emergence of a race of heroes impossible. Italy was about to recover the
past. Her energies could not be concentrated on the evolution of herself
in a new literature. To Dante succeeded Petrarch and Boccaccio.

Petrarch was born at Arezzo in the year 1304, when his father, like
Dante, and in the same cause, had been expelled from Florence. His
youth, passed partly in Tuscany and partly at Avignon, coincided with
the years spent by Dante in the composition of the _Commedia_. He was a
student at Montpellier, neglecting his law-books for Cicero and Virgil,
when Dante died at Ravenna in 1321. During those seventeen years of
Dante's exile and Petrarch's boyhood, a change had passed over the
political scene. The Papacy was transferred from Rome to France. The
last attempts of the German Emperors to vindicate their authority below
the Alps had failed. The Communes were yielding to anarchy and party
feuds, or fast becoming the prey of despots. A new age had begun; and of
this new age Petrarch was the representative, as Dante had been the poet
of the ages which had passed away. Petrarch's inauguration of the
classical Revival has been already described in this work; nor is it
necessary to repeat the services he rendered to the cause of
humanism.[76] In a volume dealing with Italian literature the poet of
the _Canzoniere_ must engage attention rather than the resuscitator of
antique learning. It is Petrarch's peculiar glory to have held two
equally illustrious places in the history of modern civilization, as the
final lyrist of chivalrous love and as the founder of the Renaissance.
Yet this double attitude, when we compare him with Dante, constitutes
the chief cause of his manifest inferiority.

The differences between Dante's and Petrarch's education were marked,
and tended to accentuate the divergence of their intellectual and moral
qualities. Dante, who lived until maturity within sight of his _bel San
Giovanni_, grew up a Florentine in core and fiber. In his earliest work,
the _Vita Nuova_, there is a home-bred purity of style, as of something
which could only have been perfected in Florence; a beauty akin to that
of Giotto's tower; a perfume as of some flower peculiar to a district
whence it will not bear transplanting. In his latest, the _Paradiso_, he
devotes one golden canto to the past prosperity of Florence, another to
her decadence through the corruption of her citizens. While wandering
like "the world's rejected guest" away from that fair city of his birth,
the unrest of his pilgrimage, contrasted with the peace of earlier
manhood, only strengthened the Florentine within him. Though he
traversed Italy in length and breadth, though the _Commedia_ furnishes
an epitome of her landscapes and her local customs, describes her cities
and resumes her history, the thought of national unity was not present
to his mind. Italy remained for him the garden of the empire, the unruly
colt whom Cæsar should bestride and curb. Elsewhere than in Florence
Dante felt himself an alien. He refused the poet's crown unless it could
be taken by the font of baptism upon the square of Florence. He chose
banishment with honor and the stars of heaven, rather than ignominious
entrance through the gates he loved so well; and yet from the highest
sphere of Paradise he turned his eyes down to Florence and her erring

    Io, ched era al divino dall'umano,
    Ed all'eterno dal tempo venuto,
    E di Fiorenza in popol giusto e sano.

Petrarch, called to perform another mission, had a different training.
Brought up from earliest infancy in exile, transferred from Tuscany to
France, deprived of civic rights and disengaged from the duties of a
burgher in those troublous times, he surveyed the world from his study
and judged its affairs with the impartiality of a philosopher. Without a
city, without a home, without a family, consecrated to the priesthood
and absorbed in literary interests, he spent his life in musings at
Vaucluse or in the splendid hospitalities of the Lombard Courts. Through
all his wanderings he was a visitor, the citizen of no republic, but the
freeman of the City of the Spirit. Without exaggeration he might have
chosen for his motto the phrase of Marcus Aurelius: "I will not say dear
city of Cecrops but dear city of God!" Avignon, where his intellect was
formed in youth, had become through the residence of the Popes the
capital of Christendom, the only center of political and ecclesiastical
activity where an ideal of universal culture could arise. Itself in
exile, the Papacy still united the modern nations by a common bond; but
its banishment from Rome was the sign of a new epoch, when the hegemony
of civilization should be transferred from the Church to secular
control. In this way Petrarch was enabled to shape a conception of
humanism which left the middle age behind; and when his mind dwelt on
Italy at a distance, he could think of her as the great Italic land,
inheritor of Rome, mother of a people destined to be one, born to rule,
or if not rule, at least to regenerate the world through wisdom. From
his lips we hear of Florence nothing; but for the first time the
passionate cry of _Italia mia_ the appeal of an Italian who recognized
his race, yet had no local habitation on the sacred soil, vibrates in
his oratorical _canzoni_. Petrarch's dreams of a united Italy and a
resuscitated Roman republic were hardly less visionary than Dante's
ideal of universal monarchy with Rome for the seat of empire. Yet in his
lyrics the true conception of Italy, one intellectually in spite of
political discord and foreign oppression, the real and indestructible
unity of the nation in a spirit destined to control the future of the
human race, came suddenly to consciousness. There was an out-cry in
their passion-laden strophes which gathered volume as the years rolled
over Italy, until at last, in her final prostration beneath Spanish
Austria, they seemed less poems than authentic prophecies.

Thus while Dante remained a Florentine, Petrarch was the first Italian.
Nor is it insignificant that whereas Dante refused the poet's crown
unless he could place the laurels on his head in Florence, Petrarch
ascended the Capitol among the plaudits of the Romans, and, in the
absence of Pope and Emperor, received his wreath from the Senator
Romanus. Dante's renunciation and Petrarch's acceptance of this honor
were equally appropriate. Dante, as was fitting for a man of his era,
looked still to the Commune. Petrarch's coronation on the Capitol was
the outward sign that the age of the Communes was over, that culture was
destined to be cosmopolitan, and that the Eternal City, symbolizing the
imperishable empire of the intellect, was now the proper throne of men
marked out to sway the world by thoughts and written words.

In Petrarch the particular is superseded by the universal. The citizen
is sunk in the man. The political prejudices of the partisan are
conspicuous by absence. His language has lost all trace of dialect. He
writes Italian, special to no district, though Tuscan in its source; and
his verse fixes the standard of poetic diction for all time in Italy.
These changes mark an important stage in literature emerging from its
origins, and account for Petrarch's unequaled authority during the next
three centuries. Dante's Epic is classical because of its vivid humanity
and indestructible material; but its spirit is medieval and its details
are strictly localized. Petrarch's outlook over the world and life is,
in form at least, less confined to the limitations of his age.
Consequently the students of a period passing rapidly beyond the
medieval cycle of ideas, found no bar between his nature and their

In his treatment of chivalrous love we may notice this tendency to
generalization. The material transmitted from the troubadours, handled
with affectation by the Sicilians, philosophized by the Florentines,
loses transient and specific quality in the _Canzoniere_. It takes rank
at last among simply human emotions; and, though it has not lost a
certain medieval tincture, the _Canzoniere_ rather than the _Vita
Nuova_, the work of distinguished rather than of supreme genius, has on
this account been understood and appropriated by all lovers in all ages
and in every land. Petrarch's verses, to use Shelley's words, "are as
spells, which unseal the inmost enchanted fountains of the delight which
is the grief of love." And while we admit that "Dante understood the
secrets of love even more than Petrarch," there is no doubt that the
_Canzoniere_ strikes a note which vibrates more universally than the
_Vita Nuova_. The majority of men cannot but prefer the comprehensive to
the intense expression of personal emotion.

Death rendered Beatrice's apotheosis conceivable; and Dante may be said
to have rediscovered the Platonic mystery, whereby love is an initiation
into the secrets of the spiritual world. It was the intuition of a
sublime nature into the essence of pure impersonal enthusiasm. It was an
exaltation of womanhood similar to that attempted less adequately by
Shelley in _Epipsychidion_. It was a real instinct like that which
pervades the poetry of Michelangelo, and which sustains some men even in
our prosaic age. Still there remained an ineradicable unsubstantiality
in Dante's point of view, when tested by the common facts of feeling.
His idealism was too far removed from ordinary experience to take firm
hold upon the modern mind. In proportion as Beatrice personified
abstractions, she ceased to be a woman even for her lover; nor was it
possible, except by diminishing her individuality, to regard her as a
symbol of the universal. She passed from the sphere of the human into
the divine; and though her face was still beautiful, it was the face of
Science rather than of one we love. There was even too little alloy of
earth in Dante's passion for Beatrice.

Petrarch's love for Laura was of a different type. The unrest of earthly
desire, for ever thwarted but recurring with imperious persistence, and
the rebellion of the conscience against emotions which the lover
recognized as lawless, broke his peace. It is true that, using the
language of the earlier poets and obeying a sanguine mood of his own
mind, he from time to time spoke of Laura as of one who led his soul to
God. But his sincerest utterances reveal the discord of a heart divided
between duty and inclination, the melancholy of a man who knows himself
the prey of warring powers. His love for Laura seemed an error and a sin
because it clashed with an ascetic impulse which had never been
completely blunted. In his Hymn to the Virgin he referred to this
passion as the Medusa that had turned his better self to stone:

    Medusa e l'error mio m'han fatto un sasso
    D'umor van stillante.

There is a passage in the _De Remediis utriusque Fortunæ_, where the
lyrist of chivalrous love pours such contempt on women as his friend
Boccaccio might have envied. In the _Secretum_, again, he describes his
own emotion as a torment from which he had vainly striven to emancipate
himself by solitude, by journeys, by distractions, and by obstinate
studies. In truth, he rarely alludes to the great passion of his life
without a strange blending of tenderness and sore regret. Herein he
proved himself not only a true child of his age, but also the precursor
of the modern world. While he was still bound by the traditions of
medieval asceticism, a Christian no less devout and only less firm than
Dante, his senses and his imagination, stirred possibly by contact with
classic literature, rebelled against the mysticism of the Florentine
School. This rebellion, but dimly apprehended by the poet himself, and
complicated with the yearnings of a deeply religious nature after purity
of thought and deed, gave its supreme strength and beauty to his verse.
The _Canzoniere_ is not merely the poetry of love but the poetry of
conflict also. The men of the Renaissance overleaped the conflict, and
satisfied themselves with empty idealizations of sensual desire. But
modern men have returned to Petrarch's point of view and found an echo
of their own divided spirit in his poetry. He marks the transition from
a medieval to a modern mood, the passage from Cino and Guido to Werther
and Rousseau.

That Laura was a real woman, and that Petrarch's worship of her was
unfeigned; that he adored her with the senses and the heart as well as
with the head; but that this love was at the same time more a mood of
the imagination, a delicate disease, a cherished wound, to which he
constantly recurred as the most sensitive and lively wellspring of
poetic fancy, than a downright and impulsive passion, may be clearly
seen in the whole series of his poems and his autobiographical
confessions. Laura appears to have treated him with the courtesy of a
somewhat distant acquaintance, who was aware of his homage and was
flattered by it. But her lover enjoyed no privileges of intimacy, and it
may be questioned whether, if Petrarch could by any accident have made
her his own, the fruition of her love would not have been a serious
interruption to the happiness of his life. He first saw her in the
church of S. Claire, at Avignon, on April 6, 1327. She passed from this
world on April 6, 1348. These two dates are the two turning-points of
Petrarch's life. The interval of twenty-one years, when Laura trod the
earth, and her lover in all his wanderings paid his orisons to her at
morning, evening, and noonday, and passed his nights in dreams of that
fair form which never might be his, was the storm and stress period of
his checkered career. There is an old Greek proverb that "to desire the
impossible is a malady of the soul." With this malady in its most
incurable form the poet was stricken; and, instead of seeking cure, he
nursed his sickness and delighted in the discord of his spirit. From
that discord he wrought the harmonies of his sonnets and _canzoni_. That
malady made him the poet of all men who have found in their emotions a
dreamland more wonderful and pregnant with delight than in the world
which we call real. After Laura's death his love was tranquilized to a
sublimer music. The element of discord had passed out of it; and just
because its object was now physically unattainable, it grew in purity
and power. The sensual alloy which, however spiritualized, had never
ceased to disturb his soul, was purged from his still vivid passion.
Laura in heaven looked down upon him from her station mid the saints;
and her poet could indulge the dream that now at last she pitied him,
that she was waiting for him with angelic eyes of love, and telling him
to lose no time, but set his feet upon the stairs that led to God and
her. The romance finds its ultimate apotheosis in that transcendent
passage of the _Trionfo della Morte_ which describes her death and his
own vision. Throughout the whole course of this labyrinthine
love-lament, sustained for forty years on those few notes so subtly
modulated, from the first sonnet on his _primo giovenile errore_ to the
last line of her farewell, _tu starai in terra senza me gran tempo_,
Laura grows in vividness before us. She only becomes a real woman in
death, because she was for Petrarch always an ideal, and in the ideal
world beyond the tomb he is more sure of her than when "the fair veil"
of flesh was drawn between her and his yearning.

Petrarch succeeded in bringing the old theme of chivalrous love back
from the philosophizing mysticism of the Florentines to simple
experience. He forms a link between their transcendental science and the
positive romance of the Decameron, between the spirit of the middle ages
and the spirit of the Renaissance. Guided by his master, Cino da
Pistoja, the least metaphysical and clearest of his immediate
predecessors, Petrarch found the right artistic _via media_; and perhaps
we may attribute something to that double education which placed him
between the influences of the Tuscan lyrists and the troubadours of his
adopted country. At any rate he returned from the allegories of the
Florentine poets to the directness of chivalrous emotion; but he treated
the original motive with a greater richness and a more idealizing
delicacy than his Provençal predecessors. The marvelous instruments of
the Italian Sonnet and Canzone were in his hands, and he knew how to
draw from them a purer if not a grander melody than either Guido or
Dante. The best work of the Florentines required a commentary; and the
structure of their verse, like its content, was scientific rather than
artistic. Petrarch could publish his _Canzoniere_ without explanatory
notes. He laid his heart bare to the world, and every man who had a
heart might understand his language. Between the subject-matter and the
verbal expression there lay no intervening veil of mystic meaning. The
form had become correspondingly more clear and perfect, more harmonious
in its proportions, more immediate in musical effects. In a word,
Petrarch was the first to open a region where art might be free, and to
find for the heart's language utterance direct and limpid.

This was his great achievement. The forms he used were not new. The
subject-matter he handled was given to him. But he brought both form and
subject closer to the truth, exercising at the same time an art which
had hitherto been unconceived in subtlety, and which has never since
been equaled. If Dante was the first great poet, Petrarch was the first
true artist of Italian literature. It was, however, impossible that
Petrarch should overleap at one bound all the barriers of the middle
ages. His Laura has still something of the earlier ideality adhering to
her. She stands midway between the Beatrice of Dante and the women of
Boccaccio. She is not so much a woman with a character and personality,
as woman in the general, _la femme_, personified and made the object of
a poet's reveries. Though every detail of her physical perfections, with
the single and striking exception of her nose, is carefully recorded, it
is not easy to form a definite picture even of her face and shape. Of
her inner nature we hear only the vaguest generalities. She sits like a
lovely model in the midst of a beautiful landscape, like one of our
Burne-Jones's women who incarnate a mood of feeling while they lack the
fullness of personality. The thought of her pervades the valley of
Vaucluse; the perfume of her memory is in the air we breathe. But if we
met her, we should find it hard to recognize her; and if she spoke, we
should not understand that it was Laura.

Petrarch had no strong objective faculty. Just as he failed to bring
Laura vividly before us, until she had by death become a part of his own
spiritual substance, so he failed to depict things as he saw them. The
pictures etched in three or four lines of the _Purgatorio_ may be sought
for vainly in his _Rime_. That his love of nature was intense, there is
no doubt. The solitary of Vaucluse, the pilgrim of Mont Ventoux, had
reached a point of sensibility to natural scenery far in advance of his
age. But when he came to express this passion for beauty, he was
satisfied with giving the most perfect form to the emotion stirred in
his own subjectivity. Instead of scenes, he delineates the moods
suggested by them. He makes the streams and cliffs and meadows of
Vaucluse his confidants. He does not lose himself in contemplation of
the natural object, though we feel that this self found its freest
breathing-space, its most delightful company, in the society of hill and
vale. He never cares to paint a landscape, but contents himself with
such delicate touches and such cunning combinations of words as may
suggest a charm in the external world. At this point the humanist,
preoccupied with man as his main subject, meets the poet in Petrarch.
What is lost, too, in the precision of delineation, is gained in
universality. The _Canzoniere_ reminds us of no single spot; wherever
there are clear fresh rills and hanging mountains, the lover walks with
Petrarch by his side.

If the poet's dominant subjectivity weakened his grasp upon external
things, it made him supreme in self-portraiture. Every mood of passion
is caught and fixed precisely in his verse. The most evanescent shades
of feeling are firmly set upon the exquisite picture. Each string of
Love's many-chorded lyre is touched with a vigorous hand. The
fluctuations of hope, despair, surprise; the "yea and nay twinned in a
single breath;" the struggle of conflicting aspirations in a heart drawn
now to God and now to earth; the quiet resting-places of content; the
recrudescence of the ancient smart; the peace of absence, when longing
is luxury; the agony of presence, adding fire to fire--all this is
rendered with a force so striking, in a style so monumental, that the
_Canzoniere_ may still be called the Introduction to the Book of Love.
Thus, when Petrarch's own self was the object, his hand was steady; his
art failed not in modeling the image into roundness.

Dante brought the universe into his poem. But "the soul of man, too, is
a universe:" and of this inner microcosm Petrarch was the poet. It
remained for Boccaccio, the third in the triumvirate, to treat of common
life with art no less developed. From Beatrice through Laura to La
Fiammetta; from the Divine Comedy through the Canzoniere to the
Decameron; from the world beyond the grave through the world of feeling
to the world in which we play our puppet parts; from the mystic _terza
rima_, through the stately lyric stanzas, to Protean prose--such was the
rapid movement of Italian art within the brief space of some fifty

Giovanni Boccaccio was born in 1313, the eleventh year of Dante's exile,
the first of Petrarch's residence at Avignon. His grandfather belonged
originally to Certaldo; but he removed to Florence and received the
rights of burghership among those countryfolk whom Dante reckoned the
corrupters of her ancient commonwealth[77]:

      Ma la cittadinanza, ch'è or mista
    Di Campi e di Certaldo e di Figghine,
    Pura vedeasi nell'ultimo artista.

Certaldo was a village of Valdelsa, famous for its onions. This explains
the rebuff which the author of the Decameron received from a Florentine
lady, whom he afterwards satirized in the _Corbaccio_: "Go back to grub
your onion-beds, and leave gentlewomen alone!" Boccaccio was neither
born in wedlock nor yet of pure Italian blood. His mother was a
Frenchwoman, with whom his father made acquaintance during a residence
on business at Paris. These facts deserve to be noted, since they bear
upon the temper of his mind and on the quality of his production.

It has been observed that the three main elements of Florentine
society--the _popolo vecchio_, or nobles who acquiesced in the
revolution of 1282; the _popolo grasso_, or burghers occupying a middle
rank in the city, who passed the Ordinances of 1293; and the _popolo
minuto_, or artisans and _contadini_ admitted to the franchise, who came
to the front between 1343 and 1378--are severally represented by Dante,
Petrarch, and Boccaccio.[78] So rapid are the political and intellectual
mutations in a little state like Florence, where the vigor of popular
life and the vivacity of genius bear no proportion to the size of the
community, that within the short span of fifty years the center of power
may be transferred from an aristocracy to the proletariate, and the
transition in art and literature from the Middle Age to the Renaissance
may not only be accomplished but copiously illustrated in detail.[79]

Boccaccio was the typical Italian _bourgeois_, the representative of a
class who finally determined the Renaissance. His prose and poetry
contain in germ the various species which were perfected during that
period. Studying him, we study in its immaturity the spirit of the next
two centuries. He was the first to substitute a literature of the people
for the literature of the learned classes and the aristocracy. He freed
the natural instincts from ascetic interdictions and the mysticism of
the transcendental school. He exposed the shams of chivalrous romance
and the hypocrisies of monkery with ridicule more deadly than satire or
invective. He brought realism in art and letters back to honor by
delineating the world as he found it--sensual, base, comic, ludicrous,
pathetic, tender, cruel--in all its crudities and contradictions. He
replaced the abstractions of the allegory by concrete fact. He
vindicated the claims of appetite and sensuous enjoyment against ideal
aspirations and the scruples of a faith-tormented conscience. He taught
his fellow-countrymen that a life of studious indifference was
preferable to the strife of factions and the din of battle-fields.

Boccaccio did not act consciously and with fixed purpose to these ends.
He was rather the spokesman of his age and race--the sign in literature
that Italian society had entered upon a new phase, and that the old
order was passing away. If the Decameron seemed to shake the basis of
morality; if it gained the name of _Il Principe Galeotto_ or the Pandar;
if it was denounced as the corrupter of the multitude; this meant, not
that its author had a sinister intention, but that the medieval fabric
was already sapped, and that the people whom Boccaccio wrote to please
were disillusioned of their previous ideals. The honest easy-going man,
Giovanni della Tranquillità, as he was called, painted what he saw and
made himself the mouthpiece of the men around him.[80]

For the work he had to do, he was admirably fitted by nature and
education. He combined the blood of a Florentine tradesman and a
Parisian _grisette_. He had but little learning in his youth, and was
the first great Italian writer who had not studied at Bologna. His early
manhood was passed in commerce at Naples, where he gained access to the
dissolute Court of Joan, and made love to her ladies. At his father's
request he applied himself for a short while to legal studies; but he
does not appear to have practiced as a lawyer in real earnest.
Literature very early became the passion, the one serious and ennobling
enthusiasm of his life. We have already seen him at the tomb of Virgil,
vowing to devote his powers to the sacred Muses; and we know what
services he rendered to humanism by his indefatigable energy in the
acquisition and diffusion of miscellaneous learning.[81] This is not the
place to treat of Boccaccio's scholarship. Yet it may be said that, just
as his philosophy of life was the philosophy of a jovial and sensuous
plebeian, so his conception of literature lacked depth and greatness. He
repeated current theories about the dependence of poetry on truth, the
dignity of allegory, the sacredness of love, the beauty of honor. But
his own work showed how little he had appropriated these ideas. As a
student, a poet, and a man, he lived upon a lower plane of thought than
Petrarch; and when he left the concrete for the abstract, his
penetrative insight failed him.

From this point of view Boccaccio's Life of Dante is instructive. It is
crammed with heterogeneous erudition. It bristles with citations and
opinions learned by rote. It reveals the heartiest reverence for all
things reckoned worthy in the realm of intellect. The admiration for the
divine poet expressed in it is sincere and ungrudging. Yet this book
betrays an astonishing want of sympathy with Dante, and transforms the
sublime romance of the _Vita Nuova_ into a commonplace _novella_. Dante
told the world how he first felt love for Beatrice at the age of nine.
His biographer is at a loss to understand this miracle. He supposes that
the sweet season of May, the good wines and delicate dishes of the
Portinari banquet, all the sensuous delights of a Florentine festival,
combined to make the boy prematurely a man.[82] Dante called Beatrice
"youngest of the angels." Boccaccio draws a lively picture of an angel
in the flesh, as he imagined her; and in his portrait there is far less
of the angelic than the carnal nature visible. This he does in perfect
good faith, with the heartfelt desire to exalt Dante above all poets,
and to spread abroad the truth of his illustrious life. But the hero of
Renaissance literature was incapable of comprehending the real feeling
of the man he worshiped. Between him and the enthusiasms of the middle
ages a nine-fold Styx already poured its waves.

Boccaccio's noblest quality was the recognition of intellectual power.
It was this cult of great men, if we may trust Filippo Villani, which
first decided him to follow literature.[83] His devotion to the memory
of Dante, and his frank confession of inferiority to Petrarch, whom he
loved and served through twenty years of that exacting poet's life, are
equally sincere and beautiful. These feelings inspired some of his
finest poems, and penetrated the autobiographical passages of his minor
works with a delicacy that endears the man to us.[84] No less candid was
his worship of beauty--not beauty of an intellectual or ideal order,
but sensuous and real--the beauty which inspired the artists and the
poets of the following centuries. Nor has any writer of any age been
gifted with a stronger faculty for its expression. From this service of
the beautiful he derived the major impulse of his activity as an artist.
If he lacked moral greatness, if he was deficient in philosophical depth
and religious earnestness, his devotion to art was serious, intense,
profound, absorbing. He discharged his duties as a citizen with easy
acquiescence, but no stern consciousness of patriotic purpose. He
conformed to the Church, and allowed himself in old age to be frightened
into a kind of half-repentance. But the homage he rendered to art was of
a very different and more exacting nature. With his best energies he
labored to make himself, at least in this sphere, perfect. How amply he
succeeded must be acknowledged by all men who have read the Decameron,
and who have seen that here Boccaccio forms the legends of all ages and
all lands into one harmonious whole, brings a world of many-sided human
interest and varied beauty out of the chaos of medieval materials,
finishing every detail with love, inspiring each particle with life, and
setting the dædal picture of society in a framework of delicate romance.
The conception and the execution of this masterpiece of literature are
equally artistic. If the phrase "art for art" can be used in speaking of
one who was unconscious of the theory it implies, Boccaccio may be
selected as the typical artist for art's sake. Within the sphere of his
craft, he is impassioned, enthusiastic, sincere, profound. His attitude
with regard to all else is one of amused or curious indifference, of
sensuous enjoyment, of genial ridicule, of playful cynicism.

Boccaccio was a _bourgeois_ of the fourteenth century; but his
character, as stamped on the Decameron, was common to Italy during the
next two hundred years. The whole book glows with the joyousness of a
race discarding dreams for realities, scorning the terrors of a bygone
creed, reveling in nature's liberty, proclaiming the empire of the
senses with a frankness which passes over into license. In Boccaccio,
the guiding genius of the Italian Renaissance arrives at consciousness.
That blending of moral indifference with artistic seriousness, which we
observe in him, marks the coming age. He is not the precursor but the
inaugurator of the era. The smile which plays around his mouth became,
though changeful in expression, fixed upon the lips of his
posterity--genial in Ariosto, gracious in Poliziano, mischievous in
Pulci, dubious in Lorenzo de' Medici, sardonic in Aretino, bitter in
Folengo, toned to tragic irony in Machiavelli, impudent in Berni, joyous
in Boiardo, sensual in Bandello--assuming every shade of character,
Protean, indescribable, until at last it fades from Tasso's brow, when
Italy has ceased to laugh except in secret.

The Decameron has been called the _Commedia Umana_.[85] This title is
appropriate, not merely because the book portrays human life from a
comic rather than a serious point of view, but also because it is the
antithesis of Dante's _Commedia Divina_. As poet and scene-painter
devised for our ancestors of the Elizabethan period both Mask and
Anti-mask, so did the genius of Italy provide two shows for modern
Europe--the Mask and Anti-mask of human nature. Dante's Comedy
represents our life in relation to the life beyond the grave. Boccaccio
in his Comedy depicts the life of this earth only, subtracting
whatsoever may suggest a life to come. It would be difficult to
determine which of the two dramas is the more truthful, or which of the
two poets had a firmer grasp upon reality. But the realities of the
Divine Comedy are spiritual; those of the Human Comedy are material. The
world of the Decameron is not an inverted world, like that of
Aristophanes. It does not antithesize Dante's world by turning it upside
down. It is simply the same world surveyed from an opposite point of
view--unaltered, uninverted, but seen in the superficies, presented in
the concrete. It is the prose of life; and this justifies the
counterpoise of its form to that of Dante's poem. It is the world as
world, the flesh as flesh, nature as nature, without intervention of
spiritual agencies, without relation to ideal order, regarded as the
sphere of humor, fortune, marvelous caprice. It is everything which the
Church had banned, proscribed, held in abhorrence, without that which
the Church had inculcated for the exaltation of the soul. This world,
actual and unexplained, Boccaccio paints with the mastery of an
accomplished artist, molding its chaotic elements into a form of beauty
which compels attention.

Dante condemned those "who submit their reason to natural appetite."[86]
Boccaccio celebrates the apotheosis of natural appetite, of _il
talento_, stigmatized as sin by ascetic Christianity.[87] His strongest
sympathies are reserved for those who suffer by abandoning themselves to
impulse, and in this self-abandonment he sees the poetry of life. This
is the very core of the antithesis presented by the Human to the Divine
Comedy. The Decameron is an undesigned revolt against the sum of
medieval doctrine. Like all vehement reactions, it is not satisfied with
opposing the extravagances of the view it combats. Instead of negativing
asceticism, it affirms license. Yet though the Divine Comedy and the
Decameron are antithetical, they are both true, and true together,
inasmuch as they present the same humanity studied under contradictory
conditions. Human nature is vast enough to furnish the materials for
both, inexplicable enough to render both acceptable to reason, tolerant
enough to view with impartial approbation the desolate theology of the
_Inferno_ and the broad mirth of the Decameron.[88]

The Decameron did not appear unheralded by similar attempts. No
literary taste was stronger in the middle ages than the taste for
stories. This is proved by the collection known as _Gesta Romanorum_,
and by the _Bestiarii_, _Lapidarii_, _Physiologi_ and _Apiarii_, which
contain a variety of tales, many of them surprisingly indecent, veiling
spiritual doctrine under obscenities which horrify a modern reader.[89]
From the hands of ecclesiastical compilers these short stories passed
down to popular narrators, who in France made the _fabliaux_ a special
branch of vulgar literature. The follies and vices of the clergy, tricks
practiced by wives upon their husbands, romantic adventures of lovers,
and comic incidents of daily life, formed the staple of their stock in
trade. When the _fabliau_ reached Italy, together with other literary
wares, from France, it was largely cultivated in the South; and the
first known collection of Italian stories received the name of _Il
Novellino_, or _Il Fiore del parlar gentile_. The language of this book
was immature, and the tales themselves seem rather memoranda for the
narrator than finished compositions to be read with pleasure.[90] It may
therefore be admitted that the rude form of the Decameron was given to
Boccaccio. Not to mention the larger chivalrous romances, _Conti di
antichi Cavalieri_, and translations from French _Chansons de Geste_,
which have no genuine link of connection with the special type of the
Novella, he found models for his tales both in the libraries of medieval
convents and upon the lips of popular _raccontatori_. Yet this must not
be taken to imply any lack of originality in Boccaccio. Such comparisons
as Professor Bartoli has instituted between the Decameron and some of
its supposed sources, prove the insignificance of his debt, the
immeasurable inferiority of his predecessors.[91]

The spirit of the Decameron no less than the form, had been long in
preparation. Satire, whether superficial, as in the lays of the
_jongleurs_, or searching, as in the invectives of Dante and Petrarch,
was familiar to the middle ages; and the popular Latin poems of the
wandering students are steeped in rage against a corrupt hierarchy, a
venal Curia.[92] Those same _Carmina Vagorum_ reveal the smoldering
embers of unextinguished Paganism, which underlay the Christian culture
of the middle ages. Written by men who belonged to the clerical classes,
but who were often on bad terms with ecclesiastical authorities,
tinctured with the haughty contempt of learning for the laity, yet
overflowing with the vigorous life of the proletariate, these
extraordinary poems bring to view a bold and candid sensuality, an
ineradicable spontaneity of natural appetite, which is strangely at
variance with the cardinal conceptions of ascetic Christianity.[93] In
the sect of the Italian Epicureans; in the obscure bands of the Cathari
and Paterini; in the joyous companies of Provençal Court and castle, the
same note of irrepressible nature sounded. Side by side with the
new-built fabric of ecclesiastical idealism, the old temples of
unregenerate human deities subsisted. They were indeed discredited,
proscribed, consigned to shame. They formed the _mauvais lieux_ of
Christendom. Yet there they stood, even as the Venusberg of Tannhäuser's
legend abode unshaken though cathedrals rose by Rhine. All that was
needed to restore the worship of these nature-gods was that a great
artist should decorate their still substantial temple-walls with the
beauty of a new, sincere, and unrepentant style, fitting their abandoned
chambers for the habitation of the human spirit, free now to choose the
dwelling that it listed. This Boccaccio achieved. And here it must again
be noticed that the revolution of time was about to bring man's popular
and carnal deities once more, if only for a season, to the throne. The
murmured songs of a few wandering students were about to be drowned in
the pæan of Renaissance poetry. The visions of the Venusberg were to be
realized in Italian painting. The coming age was destined to live out
Boccaccio's Human Comedy in act and deed. This is the true kernel of his
greatness. As poet, he ranked third only, and that at a vast interval,
in the triumvirate of the fourteenth century. But the temper of his
mind, the sphere of his conceptions, made him the representative genius
of the two following centuries. Awaiting the age when science should
once more co-ordinate the forces of humanity in a coherent theory, men
in the Renaissance exchanged superfluous restraint for immoderate
license. It is not to be wondered at that Boccaccio and not Dante was
their hero.

The description of the Plague at Florence which introduces the
Decameron, has more than a merely artistic appropriateness. Boccaccio
may indeed have meant to bring his group of pleasure-seeking men and
maidens into strong relief by contrast with the horrors of the stricken
city. Florence crowded with corpses, echoing to the shrieks of delirium
and the hoarse cries of body-buriers, is the background he has chosen
for that blooming garden, where the birds sing and the lovers sit by
fountains in the shade, laughing or weeping as the spirit of each tale
compels them. But independently of this effect of contrast, which might
be used to illustrate the author's life-philosophy, the description of
the Plague has a still deeper significance, whereof Boccaccio never
dreamed. Matteo Villani dates a progressive deterioration of manners in
the city from the Plague of 1348, and justifies us in connecting the
Ciompi riots of 1378 with the enfeeblement of civic order during those
thirty years. The Plague was, therefore, the outward sign, if not the
efficient cause, of those very ethical and social changes which the
Decameron immortalized in literature. It was the historical landmark
between two ages, dividing the Florence of the Grandi from the Florence
of the Ciompi. The cynicism, liberated in that time of terror,
lawlessness, and sudden death, assumed in Boccaccio's romance a
beautiful and graceful aspect. It lost its harsh and vulgar outlines,
and took the air of genial indulgence which distinguished Italian
society throughout the years of the Renaissance.

Boccaccio selects seven ladies of ages varying from eighteen to
twenty-eight, and three men, the youngest of whom is twenty-five. Having
formed this company, he transports them to a villa two miles from the
city, where he provides them with a train of serving-men and
waiting-women, and surrounds them with the delicacies of medieval
luxury. He is careful to remind us that, though the three men and three
of the ladies were acknowledged lovers, and though their conversation
turned on almost nothing else but passion, "no stain defiled the honor
of the party." Stories are told; and these unblemished maidens listen
with laughter and a passing blush to words and things which outrage
Northern sense of decency. The remorseless but light satire of the
Decameron spares none of the ideals of the age. All the medieval
enthusiasms are reviewed and criticised from the standpoint of the
Florentine _bottega_ and _piazza_. It is as though the _bourgeois_, not
content with having made nobility a crime, were bent upon extinguishing
its spirit. The tale of Agilulf vulgarizes the chivalrous conception of
love ennobling men of low estate, by showing how a groom, whose heart is
set upon a queen, avails himself of opportunity. Tancredi burlesques the
knightly reverence for a stainless scutcheon by the extravagance of his
revenge. The sanctity of the Thebaid, that ascetic dream of purity and
self-renunciation for God's service, is made ridiculous by Alibech. Ser
Ciappelletto brings contempt upon the canonization of saints. The
confessional, the worship of relics, the priesthood, and the monastic
orders are derided with the deadliest persiflage. Christ himself is
scoffed at in a jest which points the most indecent of these tales.[94]
Marriage affords a never-failing theme for scorn; and when, by way of
contrast, the novelist paints an ideal wife, he runs into such
hyperboles that the very patience of Griselda is a satire on its
dignity. Like Balzac, Boccaccio was unsuccessful in depicting virtuous
womanhood. Attempting this, he fell, like Balzac, into the absurdities
of sentiment. His own conception of love was sensual and voluptuous--not
uniformly coarse, nay often tender, but frankly carnal. Without having
recourse to the Decameron, this statement might be abundantly
substantiated by reference to the _Filostrato_, _Fiammetta_, _Amorosa
Visione_, _Ninfale Fiesolano_. Boccaccio enjoyed the painting of
licentious pleasure, snatched in secret, sometimes half by force, by a
lover after moderate resistance from his paramour. He imported into
these pictures the plebeian tone which we have already noticed in the
popular poetry of the preceding century, and which was destined to
pervade the erotic literature of the Renaissance. There is, therefore,
an ironical contrast between the decencies observed by his _brigata_ and
their conversation; a contrast rooted in the survival from chivalrous
times of conventional ideals, which have lost reality and been
persistently ignored in practice. This effect of irony is enhanced by
the fact that many of the motives are such as might have been
romantically treated, but here are handled from the _popolano grasso's_
point of view. A skeptical and sensuous imagination plays around the
sanctities and sublimities which have for it become illusory.

We observe the same kind of unconscious hypocrisy, the same spontaneous
sapping of now obsolete ideals, in the _Amorosa Visione_.[95] Here Love
is still regarded as the apotheosis of mortal experience. It is still
said to be the union of intelligence and moral energy in an enthusiasm
of the soul. Yet the joys of love revealed at the conclusion of the poem
are such as a _bayadère_ might offer.[96] The _bourgeois_ effaces the
knight; the Italian of the Renaissance has broken the leading strings of
mystical romance. This vision, composed in _terza rima_, was assuredly
not meant to travesty Dante. Still it would be difficult to imagine a
more complete inversion of the Dantesque point of view, a more
deliberate substitution of an Earthly Paradise for the Paradiso of the
Divine Comedy. It is as though Boccaccio, the representative of the new
age, in all the fullness of his sensuous _naïveté_, appealed to the
poets of chivalry, and said: "See here how all your fancies find their
end in nature!"

It will not do to over-strain the censure implied in the foregoing
paragraphs. Natural appetite, no less than the ideal, has its elements
of poetry; and the sensuality of the Decameron accords with plastic
beauty in a work of art incomparably lucid. Shelley, no lenient critic,
wrote these words about the setting of the tales[97]: "What descriptions
of nature are those in his little introductions to every new day! It is
the morning of life stripped of that mist of familiarity which makes it
obscure to us." Boccaccio's sense of beauty has already been alluded to;
and it so pervades his work that special attention need scarcely be
called to it. His prose abounds in passages which are perfect pictures
after their own kind, like the following, selected, not from the
Decameron, but from an earlier work, entitled _Filocopo_[98]:

     Con gli orecchi intenti al suono, cominciò ad andare in quella
     parte ove il sentiva; e giunto presso alla fontana, vide le
     due giovinette. Elle erano nel viso bianchissime, la quale
     bianchezza quanto si conveniva di rosso colore era mescolata.
     I loro occhi pareano mattutine stelle, e le picciole bocche di
     colore di vermiglia rosa, più piacevoli diveniano nel muoverle
     alle note della loro canzone. I loro capelli come fila d'oro
     erano biondissimi, i quali alquanto crespi s'avvolgevano infra
     le verdi frondi delle loro ghirlande. Vestite per lo gran
     caldo, come è detto sopra, le tenere e dilicate carni di
     sottilissimi vestimenti, i quali dalla cintura in su
     strettissimi mostravano la forma delle belle mamme, le quali
     come due ritondi pomi pignevano in fuori il resistente
     vestimento, e ancora in più luoghi per leggiadre apriture si
     manifestavano le candide carni. La loro statura era di
     convenevole grandezza, in ciascun membro bene proporzionata.

Space and nineteenth-century canons of propriety prevent me from
completing the picture made by Florio and these maidens. It might be
paralleled with a hundred passages of like intention, where the Italian
artist is revealed to us by touches curiously multiplied.[99] We find in
them the sense of color, the scrupulous precision of form, and something
of that superfluous minuteness which belongs to painting rather than to
literature. The writer has seen a picture, and not felt a poem. In
rendering it by words, he trusted to the imagination of his reader for
suggesting a highly-finished work of plastic art to the mind.[100] The
_fêtes champêtres_ of the Venetian masters are here anticipated in the
prose of the _trecento_. Such descriptions were frequent in Italian
literature, especially frequent in the works of the best stylists,
Sannazzaro, Poliziano, Ariosto, the last of whom has been severely but
not unjustly criticised by Lessing for overstepping the limits of poetry
in his portrait of Alcina. It may be pleaded in defense of Boccaccio and
his followers that they belonged to a nation dedicated to the figurative
arts, and that they wrote for a public familiar with painted form. Their
detailed descriptions were at once translated into color by men
habituated to the sight of pictures. During the Renaissance, painting
dominated the Italian genius, and all the sister arts of expression felt
that influence, just as at Athens sculpture lent something even to the

As a poet, Boccaccio tried many styles. His epic, the _Teseide_, cannot
be reckoned a great success. He is not at home upon the battle-field,
and knew not how to sound the heroic trumpet.[101] Yet the credit of
discovery may be awarded to the author of this poem. He introduced to
the modern world a tale rich in romantic incidents and capable of still
higher treatment than he was himself able to give it. When we remember
how Chaucer, Shakspere, Fletcher and Dryden handled and rehandled the
episode of Palamon's rivalry with Arcite for the hand of Emilia, we dare
not withhold from Boccaccio the praise which belongs to creative
genius.[102] It is no slight achievement to have made a story which
bore such noble fruit in literature. The _Teseide_, moreover, fulfilled
an important mission in Italian poetry. It adapted the popular _ottava
rima_ to the style of the romantic epic, and fixed it for Pulci,
Poliziano, Boiardo, and Ariosto. That Boccaccio was not the inventor of
the stanza, as used to be assumed, may now be considered beyond all
question. That he had not learned to handle it with the majestic
sweetness of Poliziano, or the infinite variety of Ariosto, is evident.
Yet he deserves credit for having discerned its capacity and brought it
into cultivated use.

Though unequal in quality, his sonnets and _ballate_, whether separately
published or scattered through his numerous prose works, have a higher
merit. The best are those in which, following Guido Cavalcanti's path,
he gives free scope to his incomparable sense of natural beauty. The
style is steeped in sweetness, softness and the delicacy of music. From
these half-popular poems I might select the Ballata _Io mi son
giovinetta_; the song of the Angel from the planet Venus, extracted from
the _Filocopo_; a lament of a woman for her lost youth, _Il fior che 'l
valor perde_; and the girl's prayer to Love, _Tu se' nostro Signor caro
e verace_.[103] It is difficult for the critic to characterize poems so
true to simple nature, so spontaneously passionate, and yet so artful in
the turns of language, molded like wax beneath the poet's touch. Here
sensuousness has no vulgarity, and the seductions of the flesh are
sublimed by feeling to a beauty which is spiritual in refinement. It may
be observed that Boccaccio writes his best love-poetry to be sung by
girls. He has abandoned the standpoint of the chivalrous lover, though
he still uses the phraseology of the Italo-Provençal school. What
arrests his fancy is, not the ideal of womanhood raising man above
himself, but woman conscious of her own supreme attractiveness. He
delights in making her the mirror of the feelings she inspires. He bids
her celebrate in hymns the beauty of her sex, the perfume of the charms
that master man. When the metaphysical forms of speech, borrowed from
the elder style, are used, they give utterance to a passion which is
sensual, or blent at best with tenderness--a physical love-longing, a
sentiment born of youth and desire. A girl, for instance, speaks about
herself, and says:[104]

    Colui che muove il cielo et ogni Stella
      Mi fece a suo diletto
      Vaga leggiadra graziosa e bella,
      Per dar qua giù ad ogni alto intelletto
      Alcun segno di quella
      Biltà che sempre a lui sta nel cospetto.

On the lips of him who wrote the tale of Alibech, this language savors
of profanity. Yet we are forced to recognize the poet's sincerity of
feeling. It is the same problem as that which meets us in the _Amorosa
Visione_.[105] The god Boccaccio worshiped was changed: but this deity
was still divine, and deserved, he thought, the honors of mystic
adoration. At the same time there is nothing Asiatic in his sensuous
inspiration. The emotion is controlled and concentrated; the form is
pure in all its outlines.

The Decameron was the masterpiece of Boccaccio's maturity. But he did
not reach that height of excellence without numerous essays in styles of
much diversity. While still a young man, not long after his meeting with
Fiammetta, he began the _Filocopo_ and dedicated it to his new
love.[106] This romance was based upon the earlier tale of _Floire et
Blanceflor_.[107] But the youthful poet invested the simple love-story
of his Florio and Biancofiore with a masquerade costume of mythological
erudition and wordy rhetoric, which removed it from the middle ages. The
gods and goddesses of Olympus are introduced as living agents, supplying
the machinery of the romance until the very end, when the hero and
heroine are converted to Christianity, and abjure their old protectors
with cold equanimity. We are left to imagine that, for Boccaccio at any
rate, Venus, Mars and Cupid were as real as Christ and the saints,
though superseded as objects of pious veneration. This confusion of
Pagan and Christian mythology is increased by his habit of finding
classical periphrases for the expression of religious ideas. He calls
nuns _Sacerdotesse di Diana_. God the Father is _Quell'eccelso e
inestimabile principe Sommo Giove_. Satan becomes Pluto, and human sin
is Atropos. The Birth of Christ is described thus: _la terra come sentì
il nuovo incarco della deità del figliuol di Giove_. The Apostles
appear as _nuovi cavalieri entrati contro a Plutone in campo_.[108] The
style of the _Filocopo_ was new; and in spite, or perhaps because of,
its euphuism, it had a decided success. This encouraged Boccaccio to
attempt the _Teseide_. The _Filostrato_ soon followed; and here for the
first time we find the future author of the Decameron. Under Greek names
and incidents borrowed from the War of Troy, we are in fact studying
some episode from the _chroniques galantes_ of the Neapolitan Court,
narrated with the vigor of a perfect master in the art of story telling.
Nothing could be further removed in sentiment from the heroism of the
Homeric age or closer to the customs of a corrupt Italian city than this
poem. In Troilo himself a feverish type of character, overmastered by
passion which is rather a delirium of the senses than a mood of feeling,
has been painted with a force that reminds us of the _Fiammetta_, where
the same disease of the soul is delineated in a woman. Pandaro shows for
the first time in modern literature an utterly depraved nature, reveling
in seduction, and glutting a licentious imagination with the spectacle
of satiated lust. The frenzied appetite of Troilo, Pandaro's ruffian
arts, and the gradual yieldings of Griselda to a voluptuous inclination,
reveal the master's hand; and though the poem is hurried toward the
close (Boccaccio being only interested in the portrayal of his hero's
love-languors, ecstasies and disappointment), the _Filostrato_ must
undoubtedly be reckoned the finest of his narratives in verse. The
second and third Cantos are remarkable for dramatic movement and wealth
of sensuous imagination, never rising to sublimity nor refined with such
poetry as Shakspere found for Romeo and Juliet, but welling copiously
from a genuinely ardent nature. The love described is nakedly and
unaffectedly luxurious; it is an overmastering impulse, crowned at last
with all the joys of sensual fruition. According to Boccaccio the repose
conferred by Love upon his votaries is the satiety of their
desires.[109] Between Dante's _Signore della nobilitade_ and his _Sir di
tutta pace_ there is indeed a wide gulf fixed.[110]

After the _Filostrato_, Boccaccio next produced the _Ameto_, _Amorosa
Visione_, _Fiammetta_, _Ninfale Fiesolano_, and _Corbaccio_, between the
years 1343 and 1355. The _Ameto_ is a tissue of pastoral tales,
descriptions, and versified interludes, prolix in style and affected
with pedantic erudition. To read it attentively is now almost
impossible, in spite of frequent passages where the luxuriant
word-painting of the author is conspicuous. In the _Amorosa Visione_ he
attempted the style which Petrarch had adopted for his _Trionfi_. After
reviewing human life under the several aspects of learning, glory, love,
fortune, the poet finally resigns himself to a Nirvana of sensual
beatitude. The poem is unsuccessful, because it adapts an obsolete form
of art to requirements beyond its scope. Boccaccio tries to pour the new
wine of the Renaissance into the old bottles of medieval allegory. In
the _Fiammetta_ Boccaccio exhibited all his strength as an anatomist of
feeling, describing the effects of passion in a woman's heart, and
analyzing its varying emotions with a subtlety which proved his
knowledge of a certain type of female character. It is the first attempt
in modern literature to portray subjective emotion exterior to the
writer. Since Virgil's Dido, or the _Heroidum Epistolæ_ of Ovid, nothing
of the sort had been essayed upon an equal scale. Taken together with
Dante's _Vita Nuova_ and Petrarch's _Secretum_, each of which is a
personal confidence, the _Fiammetta_ may be reckoned among those
masterpieces of analytic art, which revealed the developed consciousness
of the Italian race, at a moment when the science of emotion was still
for the rest of Europe an undiscovered territory. This essay exercised a
wide and lasting influence over the descriptive literature of the
Renaissance. Yet when we compare its stationary monologues with the
brief but pregnant touches of the Decameron, we are forced to assign it
the rank of a study rather than a finished picture. The _Fiammetta_ is
to the Decameron what rhetoric is to the drama. This, however, is hardly
a deduction from its merit. The delineation of an unholy and unhappy
passion, blessed with fruition for one brief moment, cursed through
months of illness and despair with all the furies of vain desire and
poignant recollection, is executed with incomparable fullness of detail
and inexhaustible richness of fancy. The reader rises from a perusal of
the _Fiammetta_ with impressions similar to those which a work of
Richardson leaves upon the mind. At the same time it is full of poetry.
The Vision of Venus, the invocation to Sleep, and the description of
summer on the Bay of Baiæ relieve a deliberate anatomy of passion, which
might otherwise be tedious.[111] The romance is so rich in material that
it furnished the motives for a score of tales, and the novelists of the
Renaissance availed themselves freely of its copious stores.[112]

The _Corbaccio_ or _Laberinto d'Amore_ is a satire upon women, animated
with the bitterest sense of injury and teeming with vindictive spite. It
was written with the avowed purpose of reviling a lady who had rejected
Boccaccio's advances, and it paints the whole sex in the darkest colors.
We could fancy that certain passages had been penned by a disappointed
monk. Though this work is in tone unworthy of its author, it bore fruits
in the literature of the next century. Alberti's satires are but
rhetorical amplifications of themes suggested by the _Corbaccio_. Nor is
it without value for the student of Italian manners. The list of
romances read by women in the fourteenth century throws light upon
Francesca's episode in Dante, and proves that the title _Principe
Galeotto_ was not given without precedent to Boccaccio's own
writings.[113] The discourse on gentle birth in the same treatise should
be studied in illustration of the Florentine conception of
nobility.[114] Boccaccio, though he follows so closely in time upon
Dante, already anticipates the democratic theories of Poggio.[115]
Feudal feeling was extinct in the _bourgeoisie_ of the great towns; nor
had the experience of the Neapolitan Court suppressed in Boccaccio's
mind the pride of a Florentine citizen. At the same time he felt that
contempt of the literary classes for the common folk which was destined
in the next century to divide the nation and to check the development of
its vulgar literature. He apologizes for explaining Dante, and for
bringing poetry down to the level of the _feccia plebeia_, the _vulgo
indegno_, the _ingrati meccanici_, and so forth.[116]

It remains to speak of yet another of Boccaccio's minor works, the
_Ninfale Fiesolano_. This is a tale in octave stanzas, which, under a
veil of mythological romance, relates the loves of a young man and a
nun, and their subsequent tragic ending. It owes its interest to the
vivid picture of seduction, so glowingly painted as to betray the
author's personal enjoyment of the motive. The story is thrown back into
a time antecedent to Christianity and civil life. The heroine, Mensola,
is a nymph of Diana; the hero, Affrico, a shepherd. The scene is laid
among the mountains above Florence; and when Mensola has been changed
into a fountain by the virgin goddess, whose rites she violated, the
poem concludes with a myth invented to explain the founding of Fiesole.
Civil society succeeds to the savagery of the woodland, and love is
treated as the vestibule to culture.[117] The romantic and legendary
portions of this tale are ill-connected. The versification is lax; and
except in the long episode of Mensola's seduction, which might have
formed a passage of contemporary novel-writing, the genius of Boccaccio
shines with clouded luster.[118] Yet the _Ninfale Fiesolano_ occupies a
not unimportant place in the history of Italian literature. It adapts
the pastoral form to that ideal of civility dependent upon culture,
which took so strong a hold upon the imagination of the _cinque cento_.
Its stanzas are a forecast of the _Arcadia_ and the _Orfeo_.

In the minor poems and romances, which have here been passed in review,
except perhaps in the _Fiammetta_, Boccaccio cannot be said to take a
place among European writers of the first rank. His style is prolix;
his versification, if we omit the _Canzoni a Ballo_ and some sonnets, is
slovenly; nor does he show exceptional ability in the conception and
conduct of his stories. He is strongest when he paints a violent passion
or describes voluptuous sensations, weakest when he attempts allegory or
assumes the airs of a philosopher. We feel, in reading these productions
of his earlier manhood, that nearly all were what the Germans call
_Gelegenheits-gedichte_. The private key is lost to some of these works,
which were intended for the ears of one among the multitude. On others
it is plainly written that they were the outpourings of a personal
desire, the self-indulgence of a fancy which reveled in imagined
sensuality, using literature as the safety-valve for subjective
longings. They lack the calm of perfect art, the full light falling on
the object from without, which marks a poem of the highest order. From
these romances of his youth, no less than from the Latin treatises of
his maturity, we return to the Decameron when we seek to place Boccaccio
among the classics. Nothing comparable with this Human Comedy for
universal interest had appeared in modern Europe, if we except the
Divine Comedy; and it may be questioned whether any work of equal scope
was given to the world before the theater of Shakspere and the comedies
of Molière. Boccaccio, though he paints the surface of life, paints it
in a way to suggest the inner springs of character, and to bring the
motives of action vividly before us. _Quicquid agunt homines_ is the
matter of his book. The recoil from medieval principles of conduct,
which gives it a certain air of belonging to a moment rather than all
time, was necessary in the evolution of intellectual freedom. In this
respect, again, it faithfully reflected the Florentine temperament. At
no epoch have the Italians been sternly and austerely pious. Piety with
them is a passionate impulse rather than a deeply-reasoned habit based
upon conviction. Their true nature is critical, susceptible to beauty,
quick at seizing the ridiculous and exposing shams, suspicious of
mysticism, realistic, pleasure-loving, practical. These qualities,
special to the Florentines, but shared in large measure by the nation,
found artistic expression in the Decameron, and asserted their supremacy
in the literature of the Renaissance. That a sublime ideal,
unapprehended by Boccaccio, and destined to remain unrepresented in the
future, should have been conceived by Dante; that Petrarch should have
modulated by his masterpiece of poetic workmanship from the key of the
Divine Comedy to that of the Decameron; that one city should have
produced three such men, and that one half-century should have witnessed
their successive triumphs, forms the great glory of Florence, and is one
of the most notable facts in the history of genius.

It remains to speak about Boccaccio's prose, and the relation of his
style to that of other _trecentisti_. If we seek the origins of Italian
prose, we find them first in the Franco-Italian romances of the Lombard
period, which underwent the process of _toscaneggiamento_ at Florence,
next in books of morality and devotion, and also in the earlier
chronicles. Among the Tuscanized tales of chivalry belonging to the
first age of Italian literature are the _Conti di antichi cavalieri_
and the _Tavola Ritonda_, both of which bear traces of translation from
Provençal sources.[119] The _Novellino_, of which mention has already
been made, betrays the same origin. The style of these works offers a
pretty close parallel to the English of Sir Thomas Mallory. At the same
time that the literature of France was assuming an Italian garb, many
versions of Roman classics appeared. Orosius, Vegetius, Sallust, with
parts of Cicero, Livy and Boethius were adapted to popular reading. But
the taste of the time, as we have already seen in the preceding chapter,
inclined the authors of these works to make selections with a view to
moral edification. Their object was, not to present the ancients in a
modern garb, but to cull notable examples of conduct and ethical
sentences from the works that found most favor with the medieval
intellect. Passing under the general titles of _Fiori_, _Giardini_,
_Tesori_ and _Conviti_--_Fiori di filosofi e molto savi_, _Giardino di
Consolazione_, _Fiore di Rettorica_, _Fiore del parlar gentile_--these
collections supplied the laity with extracts from Latin authors, and
extended culture to the people. The _Libro di Cato_ might be chosen as a
fair example of their scope.[120] The number of such books, ascribed to
Bono Giamboni, Brunetto Latini, and Guidotto of Bologna, proves that an
extensive public was eager for instruction of this sort; and it is
reasonable to believe that they were studied by the artisans of central
Italy. The bass-reliefs and frescoes of incipient Italian art, the
pavement of the Sienese Cathedral, the Palazzo della Ragione at Padua,
bear traces of the percolation through all social strata of this
literature. A more important work of style was the _De Regimine
Principum_, of Egidio Colonna, translated from the French version by an
unknown Tuscan hand; while Giamboni's Florentine version of Latini's
_Tesoro_ introduced the erudition of the most learned grammarian of his
age to the Italians. Contemporaneously with this growth of vernacular
treatises on rhetorical and ethical subjects, we may assume that memoirs
and chronicles began to be written in the vulgar tongue. But so much
doubt has recently been thrown upon the earliest monuments of Italian
historiography that it must here suffice to indicate the change which
was undoubtedly taking place in this branch also of composition toward
the close of the thirteenth century.[121] Literature of all kinds
yielded to the first strong impact of the native idiom. Epistles, for
example, whether of private or of public import, were now occasionally
written in Italian, as can be proved by reference to the published
letters of Guittone d'Arezzo.[122]

The works hitherto mentioned belong to the latter half of the thirteenth
century. Their style, speaking generally, is dry and tentative. Except
in the versions of French romances, which borrow grace from their
originals, we do not find in them artistic charm of diction. The _Fiori_
and _Giardini_ are little better than commonplace books, in which the
author's personality is lost beneath a mass of extracts and citations.
The beginning of the fourteenth century witnessed the growth of a new
Italian prose. Of this second stage, the masterpieces are Villani's
Chronicle, Dante's _Vita Nuova_, the _Fioretti di S. Francesco_, the
_Leggende dei Santi Padri_ of Domenico Cavalca, and Jacopo Passavanti's
_Specchio della vera Penitenza_.[123] These writers have no lack of
individuality. Their mind moves in their style, and gives a personal
complexion to their utterance. The chief charm of their manner, so far
as it is common to characters so diverse, is its grave and childlike
spontaneity. For vividness of description, for natural simplicity of
phrase, and for that amiable garrulity which rounds a picture by
innumerable details and unconscious touches of graphic force, not one of
the books of this period surpasses the _Fioretti_. Nor are the
_Leggende_ of Cavalca less admirable. Modern, especially Northern,
students may discover too much suavity and unction in the writer's
tone--a superfluity of sweetness which fatigues, a caressing tenderness
that clogs. After reading a few pages, we lay the book down, and wonder
whether it could really have been a grown man, and not a cherub flown
from Fra Angelico's Paradise, who composed it. This infantine note
belongs to the cloister and the pulpit. It matches the simple credulity
of the narrator, and well befits the miracles he loves to record. We
seem to hear a good old monk gossiping to a party of rosy-cheeked
novices, like those whom Sodoma painted in his frescoes of S. Benedict
at Monte Oliveto. It need hardly be observed that neither in Villani's
nor in Dante's prose do we find the same puerility. But all the
_trecentisti_ have a common character of limpidity, simplicity, and
unaffected grace.

The difficulties under which even the best Italian authors labor while
using their own language, incline them to an exaggerated admiration for
these pearls of the _trecento_. They look back with envy to an age when
men could write exactly as they thought and felt and spoke, without the
tyranny of the _Vocabolario_ or the fear of an Academy before their
eyes. We, with whom the literary has always closely followed the spoken
language, and who have, practically speaking, no dialects, while we
recognize the purity of that incomparably transparent manner, cannot
comprehend that it should be held up for imitation in the present age.
To paint like Giotto would be easier than to write like Passavanti. The
conditions of life and the modes of thought are so altered that the
style of the _trecento_ will not lend itself to modern requirements.

Among the prosaists of the fourteenth century--Cavalca, Villani, the
author of the _Fioretti_, and Passavanti--Boccaccio meets us with a
sudden surprise. They aimed at finding the readiest and most appropriate
words to convey their meaning in the simplest, most effective manner.
Without artistic purpose, without premeditation, without side-glances
at the classics, they wrote straightforward from their heart. There is
little composition or connection in their work, no molding of paragraphs
or rounding of phrases, no oratorical development, no gradation of tone.
Boccaccio, on the contrary, sought to give the fullness and sonority of
Latin to the periods of Italian prose. He had the Ciceronian cadence and
the labyrinthine sentences of Livy in view. By art of style he was bent
on rendering the vulgar language a fit vehicle for learning, rhetoric,
and history. In order to make it clear what sorts of changes he
introduced, it will be necessary to compare his prose with that of his
contemporaries. Dante used the following words to describe his first
meeting with Beatrice[124]:

     Nove fiate già, appresso al mio nascimento, era tornato lo
     cielo della luce quasi ad un medesimo punto, quanto alla sua
     propria girazione, quando alli miei occhi apparve prima la
     gloriosa Donna della mia mente, la quale fu chiamata da molti
     Beatrice, i quali non sapeano che si chiamare. Ella era già in
     questa vita stata tanto che nel suo tempo lo cielo stellato
     era mosso verso la parte d'oriente delle dodici parti l'una
     d'un grado: sì che quasi dal principio del suo anno nono
     apparve a me, ed io la vidi quasi alla fine del mio nono anno.

Boccaccio, relating his first glimpse of Fiammetta on April 17, 1341,
spins the following cocoon of verbiage:[125]

     Avvenne che un giorno, la cui prima ora Saturno avea
     signoreggiata, essendo già Febo co' suoi cavalli al sedecimo
     grado del celestiale Montone pervenuto, e nel quale il
     glorioso partimento del figliuiolo di Giove dagli spogliati
     regni di Plutone si celebrava, io, della presente opera
     componitore, mi trovai in un grazioso e bel tempio in
     Partenope, nominato da colui che per deificarsi sostenne che
     fosse fatto di lui sacrificio sopra la grata, e quivi con
     canto pieno di dolce melodia ascoltava l'uficio che in tale
     giorno si canta, celebrato da' sacerdoti successori di colui
     che prima la corda cinse umilmente esaltando la povertade
     quella seguendo.

Dante's style is analytic and direct. The sentences follow each other
naturally; and though the language is stiff, from scrupulous precision,
and in one place intentionally obscure, it is free from affectation.
Boccaccio aims at a synthetic presentation of all he means to say; and
he calls nothing by its right name, if he can devise a periphrasis. The
breathless period pants its labored clauses out, and dwindles to a lame
conclusion. The _Filocopo_ was, however, an immature production. In
order to do its author justice, and at the same time to compare his
style with a graceful piece of fourteenth-century composition, I will
select a passage from the _Fioretti di S. Francesco_, and place it
beside one taken from the first novel of the Decameron. This is the
episode of S. Anthony preaching to the fishes[126]:

     E detto ch'egli ebbe così, subitamente venne alla riva a lui
     tanta moltitudine di pesci, grandi, piccoli e mezzani, che mai
     in quel mare nè in quel fiume non ne fu veduta sì grande
     moltitudine: e tutti teneano i capi fuori dell'acqua, e tutti
     stavano attenti verso la faccia di santo Antonio, e tutti in
     grandissima pace e mansuetudine e ordine: imperocchè dinanzi e
     più presso alla riva stavano i pesciolini minori, e dopo loro
     stavano i pesci mezzani, poi di dietro, dov'era l'acqua più
     profonda, stavano i pesci maggiori. Essendo dunque in cotale
     ordine e disposizione allogati i pesci, santo Antonio cominciò
     a predicare solennemente, e disse così: Fratelli miei pesci,
     molto siete tenuti, secondo la vostra possibilitade, di
     ringraziare il nostro Creatore, che v'ha dato così nobile
     elemento per vostra abitazione; sicchè, come vi piace, avete
     l'acque dolci e salse; e havvi dati molti rifugii a schifare
     le tempeste; havvi ancora dato elemento chiaro e transparente,
     e cibo, per lo quale voi possiate vivere, etc., etc.... A
     queste e simiglianti parole e ammaestramenti di santo Antonio,
     cominciarono li pesci ad aprire la bocca, inchinaronli i capi,
     e con questi ed altri segnali di riverenza, secondo li modi a
     loro possibili, laudarono Iddio.

This is a portion of the character of Ser Ciapelletto:

     Era questo Ciapelletto di questa vita. Egli essendo notajo,
     avea grandissima vergogna quando uno de' suoi strumenti (come
     che pochi ne facesse) fosse altro che falso trovato; de' quali
     tanti avrebbe fatti, di quanti fosse stato richesto, e quelli
     più volentieri in dono, che alcun altro grandemente salariato.
     Testimonianze false con sommo diletto diceva richesto e non
     richesto; e dandosi a' que' tempi in Francia a' saramenti
     grandissima fede, non curandosi fargli falsi, tante quistioni
     malvagiamente vincea, a quante a giurare di dire il vero sopra
     la sua fede era chiamato. Aveva oltre modo piacere, e forte vi
     studiava, in commettere tra amici e parenti e qualunque altra
     persona mali et inimicizie e scandali; de' quali quanto
     maggiori mali vedeva seguire, tanto più d'allegrezza prendea.
     Invitato ad uno omicidio o a qualunque altra rea cosa, senza
     negarlo mai, volenterosamente v'andava; e più volte a fedire
     et ad uccidere uomini colle proprie mani si trovò volentieri.

These examples will suffice to show how Boccaccio distinguished himself
from the _trecentisti_ in general. When his style attained perfection in
the Decameron, it had lost the pedantry of his first manner, and
combined the brevity of the best contemporary writers with rhetorical
smoothness and intricacy. The artful structure of the period, and the
cadences of what afterwards came to be known as "numerous prose," were
carried to perfection. Still, though he was the earliest writer of a
scientific style, Boccaccio failed to exercise a paramount influence
over the language until the age of the Academies.[127] The writers of
the fifteenth century, partly no doubt because these were chiefly men
of the people, appear to have developed their manner out of the material
of the _trecento_ in general, modified by contemporary usage. This is
manifest in the _Reali di Francia_, a work of considerable stylistic
power, which cannot probably be dated earlier than the middle of the
fifteenth century. The novelist Masuccio modeled his diction, so far as
he was able, on the type of the Decameron, and Alberti owed much to the
study of such works as the _Fiammetta_. Yet, speaking broadly, neither
the excellences nor the defects of Boccaccio found devoted imitators
until the epoch when the nation at large turned their attention to the
formation of a common Italian style. It was then, in the days of Bembo
and Sperone, that Boccaccio took rank with Petrarch as an infallible
authority on points of language. The homage rendered at that period to
the Decameron decided the destinies of Italian prose, and has since been
deplored by critics who believe Boccaccio to have established a false
standard of taste.[128] This is a question which must be left to the
Italians to decide. One thing, however, is clear; that a nation schooled
by humanistic studies of a Latin type, divided by their dialects, and
removed by the advance of culture beyond the influences of the purer
_trecentisti_, found in the rhetorical diction of the Decameron a common
model better suited to their taste and capacity than the simple style of
the Villani could have furnished.

Boccaccio died in 1375, seventeen months after the death at Arquà of his
master, Petrarch. The painter Andrea Orcagna died about the same period.
With these three great artists the genius of medieval Florence sank to
sleep. A temporary torpor fell upon the people, who during the next half
century produced nothing of marked originality in literature and art.
The Middle Age had passed away. The Renaissance was still in
preparation. When Boccaccio breathed his last, men felt that the elder
sources of inspiration had failed, and that no more could be expected
from the spirit of the previous centuries. Heaven and hell, the
sanctuaries of the soul, the garden of this earth, had been traversed.
The tentative essays and scattered preludings, the dreams and visions,
the preparatory efforts of all previous modern literatures, had been
completed, harmonized and presented to the world in the master-works of
Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. What remained but to make a new start?
This step forward or aside was now to be taken in the Classical Revival.
Well might Sacchetti exclaim in that _canzone_[129] which is at once
Boccaccio's funeral dirge and also the farewell of Florence to the
fourteenth century:

    Sonati sono i corni
    D'ogni parte a ricolta;
    La stagione è rivolta:
    Se tornerà non so, ma credo tardi.


[62] _Rime di Guido Cavalcanti, edite ed inedite_, etc., Firenze,
1813. See p. 29 for the Canzone, and p. 73 for a translation into
Italian of Dino's Latin commentary.

[63] _Op. cit._ pp. 21-27. Two in particular, _Era in pensier_ and
_Gli occhi di quella gentil forosetta_, may be singled out. A
_pastourelle_, _In un boschetto_, anticipates the manner of Sacchetti.
As for the May song, its opening lines, _Ben venga Maggio_, etc., are
referred by Carducci to Guido Cavalcanti.

[64] See _Vita e Poesie di Messer Cino da Pistoja_, Pisa, Capurro,
1813. Also Barbèra's diamond edition of Cino da Pistoja and other
poets, edited by Carducci.

[65] The tomb of Cino in the Duomo at Pistoja, with its Gothic
canopies and the bass-reliefs which represent a Doctor of Laws
lecturing to men of all ranks and ages at their desks beneath his
professorial chair, is a fine contemporary monument. The great jurist
is here commemorated, not the master of Petrarch in the art of song.

[66] Cp. Dante _De Vulg. Eloq._ i. 17, upon Cino's purification of
Italian from vulgarisms, with Lorenzo de' Medici, who calls Cino
"tutto delicato e veramente amoroso, il quale primo, al mio parere,
cominciò l'antico rozzore in tutto a schifare." _Lettera all'illustr.
Sig. Federigo_, Poesie (ed. Barbèra, 1858), p. 33.

[67] _Il Canzoniere_ (Fraticelli's edition), p. 199.

[68] _Voi che portate_; _Donna pietosa_; _Deh peregrini_.

[69] See Rossetti's translation of the _Vita Nuova_.

[70] Rossetti's translation of the _Vita Nuova_.

[71] _Donna del cielo_; _O benigna, o dolce_; _O bon Gesù_. See _Rime
di Fra Guittone d'Arezzo_ (Firenze, Morandi, 1828), vol. ii. pp. 212,
3; vol. i. p. 61.

[72] Not only the sixth _Æneid_, but the _Dream of Scipio_ also,
influenced the medieval imagination. The Biblical visions, whether
allegorical like those of Ezekiel and Paul, or apocalyptic, like S.
John's, exercised a similar control.

[73] See the little book of curious learning by Alessandro d'Ancona,
entitled _I Precursori di Dante_, Firenze, Sansoni, 1874.

[74] See De Sanctis, _Storia della Letteratura Italiana_, vol. i.
chap. 5. Of the _Commedia Spirituale dell'Anima_ I have seen a Sienese
copy of the date 1608, a reprint from some earlier Florentine edition.
The Comedy is introduced by two boys, good and bad. The piece itself
brings God as the Creator, the soul He has made, its guardian angel,
the devil, the powers of Memory, Reason, Will, and all the virtues in
succession, with corresponding vices, on the scene. It ends with the
soul's judgment after death and final marriage to Christ.
Dramatically, it is almost devoid of merit.

[75] See _Revival of Learning_, chapter ii.

[76] See above, _Revival of Learning_, chapter ii. I may also refer to
an article by me in the _Quarterly Review_ for October, 1878, from
which I shall have occasion to draw largely in the following pages.

[77] _Par._ xvi.

[78] Carducci, "Dello Svolgimento della Letteratura Nazionale:" _Studi
Letterari_ (Livorno, 1874), p. 60.

[79] The _Divine Comedy_ was probably begun in earnest about 1303, and
the _Decameron_ was published in 1353.

[80] Boccaccio was called Giovanni della Tranquillità partly in scorn.
He resented it, as appears from a letter to Zanobi della Strada (_Op.
Volg._ vol. xvii. p. 101), because it implied a love of Court delights
and parasitical idleness. In that letter he amply defends himself from
such imputations, showing that he led the life of a poor and contented
student. Yet the nickname was true in a deeper sense, as is proved by
the very arguments of his apology, and confirmed by the description of
his life at Certaldo remote from civic duties (Letter to Pino de'
Rossi, _ibid._ p. 35), as well as by the tragi-comic narrative of his
discomfort at Naples (Letter to Messer Francesco, _ibid._ pp. 37-87).
Not only in these passages, but in all his works he paints himself a
comfort-loving _bourgeois_, whose heart was set on his books, whose
ideal of enjoyment was a satisfied passion of a sensual kind.

[81] See above, vol. ii. _Revival of Learning_, chap. ii. pp. 87-98.

[82] Boccaccio, _Opere Volgari_ (Firenze, 1833), vol. xv. p. 18.

[83] _Revival of Learning_, p. 88.

[84] I may specially refer to the passages of the _Amorosa Visione_
(cap. v. vi.) where he meets with Dante, "gloria delle muse mentre
visse," "il maestro dal qual'io tengo ogni ben," "il Signor d'ogni
savere;" also to the sonnets on Dante, and that most beautiful sonnet
addressed to Petrarch after death at peace in heaven with Cino and
Dante. See the _Rime_ (_Op. Volg._ vol. xvi.), sonnets 8, 60, 97, 108.

[85] De Sanctis, _Storia della Letteratura Italiana_, vol. i. cap. 9.

[86] "Che la ragion sommettono al talento:" _Inferno_ v. Compare these

                           Le genti dolorose
    Che hanno perduto il ben dell'intelletto.

    --_Inferno_ iii.

And Semiramis:

    Che libito fe lecito in sua legge.

    --_Inferno_ v.

[87] In all his earlier works, especially in the _Fiammetta_, the
_Filostrato_, the _Ninfale Fiesolano_, the _Amorosa Visione_, he sings
the hymn of _Il Talento_, triumphant over medieval discipline. They
form the proper prelude to what is sometimes called the Paganism of
the Renaissance, but what is really a resurgence of the natural man.
It was this _talento_ which Valla philosophized, and Beccadelli and
Pontano sang.

[88] One instance will suffice to illustrate the different methods of
Boccaccio and Dante in dealing with the same material. We all know in
what murk and filth Dante beheld Ciacco, the glutton, and what
torments awaited Filippo Argenti, the _fiorentino spirito bizzarro_,
upon the marsh of Styx (_Inferno_ vi. and viii.). These persons play
the chief parts in Giorn. ix. nov. 8, of the _Decameron_. They are
still the spendthrift parasite, and the brutally capricious bully. But
while Dante points the sternest moral by their examples, Boccaccio
makes their vices serve his end of comic humor. The inexorableness of
Dante is nowhere more dreadful than in the eighth Canto of the
_Inferno_. The levity of Boccaccio is nowhere more superficial than in
that Novella.

[89] See the little work, full of critical learning, by Adolfo
Bartoli, _I Precursori del Boccaccio_, Firenze, Sansoni.

[90] See _Le Novelle Antiche_ (another name for _Il Novellino_), per
cura di Guido Biagi, Firenze, Sansoni, 1880. It is a curious
agglomeration of anecdotes drawn from the history of the Suabian
princes, Roman sources, the Arthurian legends, the Bible, Oriental
apologues, fables, and a few ancient myths. That of _Narcis_, p. 66,
is very prettily told. Only one tale is decidedly cynical. We find in
the book selections made from the _débris_ of a vast and various
medieval library. French influence is frequently perceptible in the

[91] _Precursori del Boccaccio_, p. 57 to end.

[92] See _Carmina Burana_ (Stuttgart, 1847), pp. 1-112; _Poems of
Walter Mapes_, by Thomas Wright (for Camden Society, 1841), pp. 1-257,
for examples of these satiric poems. The _Propter Syon non tacebo_,
_Flete Sion filiæ_, _Utar contra vitia_, should be specially noticed.
Many other curious satires, notably one against marriage and the
female sex, can also be found in Du Méril's three great collections,
_Poésies Populaires Latines antérieures au douzième Siècle_, _Poésies
Populaires Latines du Moyen Age_, and _Poésies Inédites du Moyen Age_,
Paris, 1843-1847. Those to whom these works are not accessible, may
find an excellent selection of the serious and jocular popular Latin
medieval poetry in a little volume _Gaudeamus! Carmina Vagorum
selecta_, Lipsiæ, Teubner, 1877. The question of their authorship has
been fairly well discussed by Hubatsch, _Die lateinischen
Vagantenlieder_, Görlitz, 1870.

[93] The erotic and drinking songs of the Vagi deserve to be carefully
studied by all who wish to understand the germs of the Renaissance in
the middle ages. They express a simple naturalism, not of necessity
Pagan, though much is borrowed from the language of classical
mythology. I would call attention in particular to _Æstuans interius_,
_Omittamus studia_, _O admirabile Veneris idolum_, _Ludo cum Cæcilia_,
_Si puer cum puellula_, and four _Pastoralia_, all of which may be
found in the little book _Gaudeamus_ cited above. In spontaneity and
truth of feeling they correspond to the Latin hymns. But their spirit
is the exact antithesis of that which produced the _Dies Iræ_ and the
_Stabat Mater_. The absence of erudition and classical imitation
separates them from the poems of Beccadelli, Pontano, Poliziano, or
Bembo. They present the natural material of neo-pagan Latin verse
without its imitative form. It is youth rejoicing in its strength and
lustihood, enjoying the delights of spring, laughing at death, taking
the pleasures of the moment, deriding the _rumores senum severiorum_,
unmasking hypocrisy in high places, at wanton war with constituted
social shams. These songs were written by wandering students of all
nations, who traversed Germany, France, Italy, Spain, England, seeking
special knowledge at the great centers of learning, following
love-adventures, poor and careless, coldly greeted by the feudal
nobility and the clergy, attached to the people by their habits but
separated from them by their science. In point of faith these poets
are orthodox. There is no questioning of ecclesiastical dogma, no
anticipation of Luther, in their verses. This blending of theological
conformity with satire on the Church and moral laxity is eminently
characteristic of the Renaissance in Italy.

[94] See the last sentence of Giorn. iii. Nov. 1.

[95] _Op. Volg._ vol. xiv.

[96] Cap. xlix.

[97] Letter to Leigh Hunt, September 8, 1819.

[98] _Op. Volg._ vol. vii. p. 230. I am loth to attempt a translation
of this passage, which owes its charm to the melody and rhythm of
chosen words:--

"With ears intent upon the music, he began to go in the direction
whence he heard it; and when he drew nigh to the fountain, he beheld
the two maidens. They were of countenance exceeding white, and this
whiteness was blent in seemly wise with ruddy hues. Their eyes seemed
to be stars of morning, and their little mouths, of the color of a
vermeil rose, became of pleasanter aspect as they moved them to the
music of their song. Their tresses, like threads of gold, were very
fair, and slightly curled went wandering through the green leaves of
their garlands. By reason of the great heat their tender and delicate
limbs, as hath been saaid above, were clad in robes of the thinnest
texture, the which, made very tight above the waist, revealed the form
of their fair bosoms, which like two round apples pushed the opposing
raiment outward, and therewith in divers places the white flesh
appeared through graceful openings. Their stature was of fitting size,
and each limb well-proportioned."

[99] The description of the nymph Lia in the _Ameto_ (_Op. Volg._ xv.
30-33) carries Boccaccio's manner into tedious prolixity.

[100] Boccaccio was a great painter of female beauty and idyllic
landscape; but he had not the pictorial faculty in a wider sense. The
frescoes of the _Amorosa Visione_, when compared with Poliziano's
descriptions in _La Giostra_, are but meager notes of form. Possibly
the progress of the arts from Giotto to Benozzo Gozzoli and Botticelli
may explain this picturesque inferiority of the elder poet; but in
reading Boccaccio we feel that the defect lay not so much in his
artistic faculty as in the limitation of his sympathy to certain kinds
of beauty.

[101] Dante (_De Vulg. Eloq._ ii. 2) observed that while there were
three subjects of great poetry--War, Love, Morality--no modern had
chosen the first of these themes. Boccaccio in the last Canto of the
_Teseide_ seems to allude to this:

    Poichè le muse nude cominciaro
    Nel cospetto degli uomini ad andare,
    Già fur di quelli che le esercitaro
    Con bello stile _in onesto parlare_,
    Ed altri in _amoroso_ le operaro;
    Ma tu, o libro, primo a lor cantare
    _Di Marte_ fai gli affanni sostenuti,
    _Nel volgar Lazio mai più non veduti_.

[102] How far Boccaccio actually created the tale can be questioned.
In the dedication to Fiammetta (_Op. Volg._ ix. 3), he says he found a
very ancient version of his story, and translated it into rhyme and
the _latino volgare_ for the first time. Again, in the exordium to the
first Book (_ib._ p. 10), he calls it:

                   una storia antica
    Tanto negli anni riposta e nascosa
    Che latino autor non par ne dica
    Per quel ch'i' senta in libro alcuna cosa.

We might perhaps conjecture that he had discovered the legend in a
Byzantine MS.

[103] Carducci, "Cantilene, etc.," _Op. cit._ pp. 168, 170, 171, 173.

[104] _Op. cit._ p. 160.

[105] See above, p. 114.

[106] This appears from the conclusion (_Op. Volg._ viii. 376).
Fiammetta was the natural daughter of Petrarch's friend and patron,
King Robert. Boccaccio first saw her in the church of S. Lawrence at
Naples, April 7, 1341.

[107] The history of this widely popular medieval romance has been
traced by Du Méril in his edition of the thirteenth-century French
version (Paris, 1856). He is of opinion that Boccaccio may have
derived it from some Byzantine source. But this seems hardly probable,
since Boccaccio gained his knowledge of Greek later in life. Certain
indications in the _Filocopo_ point to a Spanish original.

[108] See _Op. Volg._ vii. 6-11. Compare with these phrases those
selected from the humanistic writings of a later date, _Revival of
Learning_, p. 397.

[109] This is the climax (Parte Terza, stanza xxxii.):

    A cui Troilo disse; anima mia,
      I' te ne prego, sì ch'io t'abbia in braccio
      Ignuda sì come il mio cor disia.
      Ed ella allora: ve' che me ne spaccio;
      E la camicia sua gittata via,
      Nelle sue braccia si raccolse avvaccio;
      E stringnendo l'un l'altro con fervore,
      D'amor sentiron l'ultimo valore.

[110] The _Amorosa Visione_ ends with these words, _Sir di tutta
pace_; their meaning is explained in previous passages of the same
poem. At the end of cap. xlvi. the lady says:

    Io volli ora al presente far quieto
      Il tuo disio con amorosa pace,
      Dandoti l'arra che finirà il fleto.

Again in cap. l. we read:

    E quel disio che or più ti tormenta
      Porrò in pace, con quella bellezza
      Che l'alma al cor tuttora ti presenta.

The context reveals the nature of the peace to be attained. It is the
satisfaction of an orgasm. We may compare the invocation to Venus and
her promise at the end of the _Caccia di Diana_, canto xvii. (_Op.
Volg._ xiv.). The time-honored language about "expelling all base
thoughts" is here combined with the anticipation of sensual

[111] _Op. Volg._ vi. 21, 89, 91.

[112] Bonucci in his edition of Alberti's works, conscious of that
author's debt to Boccaccio, advances the wild theory that he wrote the
_Fiammetta_. See _Opere Volgari di L.B. Alberti_, vol. iii. p. 353.

[113] _Laberinto d'Amore_ (Firenze, Caselli), p. 153, and p. 127.

[114] _Ibid._ p. 174.

[115] See _Age of the Despots_, p. 186, note.

[116] See Sonnets vii. and viii. of the _Rime_.

[117] The same motive occurs in the _Ameto_, where the power of love
to refine a rustic nature is treated both in the prose romance and in
the interpolated _terza rima_ poems. See especially the song of
Teogapen (_Op. Volg._ xv. 34).

[118] Boccaccio breaks the style and becomes obscenely vulgar at
times. See Parte Quarta, xxxvi. xxxvii., Parte Quinta, xlv. xlvi. The
innuendoes of the _Ugellino_ and the _Nicchio_ are here repeated in
figures which anticipate the novels and _capitoli_ of the _cinque

[119] Students may consult the valuable work of Vincenzo Nannucci,
_Manuale della Letteratura del primo secolo della Lingua Italiana_,
Firenze, Barbèra, 1874. The second volume contains copious specimens
of thirteenth-century prose.

[120] Nannucci, _op. cit._ vol. ii. p. 95.

[121] The journals of Matteo Spinelli, ascribed to an Apulian of the
thirteenth century, were long accepted as the earliest vernacular
attempt at history in prose. It has lately been suggested, with good
show of argument, that they are fabrications of the sixteenth century.
With regard to the similar doubts affecting the Malespini Chronicles
and Dino Compagni, I may refer to my discussion of this question in
the first volume of this work, _Age of the Despots_, pp. 251, 262-273.

[122] Nannucci, _op. cit._ p. 137.

[123] Of Villani's Chronicle I have already spoken sufficiently in the
_Age of the Despots_, chap. 5, and of the _Vita Nuova_ in this chapter
(above, pp. 67-70).

[124] _Vita Nuova_, cap. 2.

[125] _Filocopo_, _Op. Volg._ vii. 4.

[126] _Fioretti di S. Francesco_ (Venezia, 1853), p. 104.

[127] See below, the chapter on the Purists.

[128] See Capponi's _Storia della Repubblica di Firenze_, lib. iii.
cap. 9, for a very energetic statement of this view.

[129] See _Rime di M. Cino da Pistoja e d'altri del Secolo xiv._
(Firenze, Barbèra, 1862), p. 528. It begins:

    Ora è mancata ogni poësia
    E vote son le case di Parnaso.

It contains the famous lines:

    Come deggio sperar che surga Dante
    Che già chi il sappia legger non si trova?
    E Giovanni che è morto ne fe scola.

Not less interesting is Sacchetti's funeral Ode for Petrarch (_ibid._
p. 517). Both show a keen sense of the situation with respect to the
decline of literature.



     The Church, Chivalry, the Nation--The National Element in
     Italian Literature--Florence--Italy between 1373 and
     1490--Renascent Nationality--Absorption in
     Scholarship--Vernacular Literature follows an obscure
     Course--Final Junction of the Humanistic and Popular
     Currents--Renascence of Italian--The Italian
     Temperament--Importance of the Quattrocento--Sacchetti's
     Novels--Ser Giovanni's _Pecorone_--Sacchetti's and Ser
     Giovanni's Poetry--Lyrics of the Villa and the Piazza--Nicolò
     Soldanieri--Alesso Donati--His Realistic Poems--Followers of
     Dante and Petrarch--Political Poetry of the Guelfs and
     Ghibellines--Fazio degli Uberti--Saviozzo da Siena--Elegies on
     Dante--Sacchetti's Guelf Poems--Advent of the
     _Bourgeoisie_--Discouragement of the Age--Fazio's
     _Dittamondo_--Rome and Alvernia--Frezzi's
     _Quadriregio_--Dantesque Imitation--Blending of Classical and
     Medieval Motives--Matteo Palmieri's _Città di Vita_--The Fate
     of _Terza Rima_--Catherine of Siena--Her Letters--S.
     Bernardino's Sermons--Salutati's Letters--Alessandra degli
     Strozzi--Florentine Annalists--Giov. Cavalcanti--Corio's
     _History of Milan_--Matarazzo's _Chronicle of
     Perugia_--Masuccio and his _Novellino_--His Style and
     Genius--Alberti--Born in Exile--His Feeling for
     Italian--Enthusiasm for the Roman Past--The Treatise on the
     Family--Its Plan--Digression on the Problem of its
     Authorship--Pandolfini or Alberti--The
     dell'Animo_--_Teogenio_--Alberti's Religion--Dedication of the
     Treatise on Painting--Minor Works in Prose on
     Love--_Ecatomfila_, _Amiria_, _Deifiria_,
     etc.--Misogynism--Novel of _Ippolito and Leonora_--Alberti's
     Poetry--Review of Alberti's Character and his Relation to the
     Age--Francesco Colonna--The _Hypnerotomachia Poliphili_--Its
     Style--Its Importance as a Work of the Transition--A Romance
     of Art, Love, Humanism--The
     Allegory--Polia--Antiquity--Relation of this Book to Boccaccio
     and Valla--It Foreshadows the Renaissance.

The two preceding chapters will have made it clear that the Church,
Chivalry, and the Nation contributed their several quotas to the growth
of Italian literature.[130] The ecclesiastical or religious element, so
triumphantly expressed in the Divine Comedy, was not peculiar to the
Italians. They held it in common with the whole of Christendom; and
though the fabric of the Roman Church took form in Italy, though the
race gave S. Francis, S. Thomas, and S. Bonaventura to the militia of
the medieval faith, still the Italians as a nation were not specifically
religious. Piety, which is quite a different thing from ecclesiastical
organization, was never the truest and sincerest accent of their genius.
Had it been so, the history of Latin Christianity would have followed
another course, and the schism of the sixteenth century might have been

The chivalrous element they shared, at a considerable disadvantage, with
the rest of feudal Europe. Chivalry was not indigenous to Italian soil,
nor did it ever flourish there. The literature which it produced in
France, became Italian only when the Guidi and Dante gave it
philosophical significance. Petrarch, who represents this motive, as
Dante represents the ecclesiastical, generalized Provençal poetry. His
_Canzoniere_ cannot be styled a masterpiece of chivalrous art. Its
spirit is modern and human in a wider and more comprehensive sense.

To characterize the national strain in this complex pedigree of culture
is no easy task--chiefly because it manifested itself under two
apparently antagonistic forms; first in the recovery of the classics by
the scholars of the fifteenth century; secondly in the portraiture of
Italian character and temperament by writers of romance and fiction. The
divergence of these two main currents of literary energy upon the close
of the middle ages, and their junction in the prime of the Renaissance,
are the topics of my present volume.

We have seen how tenaciously the Italians clung to memories of ancient
Rome, and how their history deprived them of that epical material which
started modern literature among the northern races. While the vulgar
language was being formed from the dialects into which rustic Latin had
divided, a new nationality grew into shape by an analogous process out
of the remnants of the old Italic population, fused with recent
immigrants. Absorbing Greek blood in the south and Teutonic in the
north, this composite race maintained the ascendancy of the Romanized
people, in obedience to laws whereby the prevalent and indigenous strain
outlives and assimilates ingredients from without. Owing to a variety of
causes, among which must be reckoned geographical isolation and
imperfect Lombard occupation, the purest Italic stock survived upon the
Tuscan plains and highlands, between the Tyrrhene Sea and the Apennines,
and where the Arno and the Tiber start together from the mountains of
Arezzo. This region was the cradle of the new Italian language, the
stronghold of the new Italian nation. Its center, political, commercial
and intellectual, was Florence, which gave birth to the three great
poets of the fourteenth century. Though Florence developed her
institutions later than the Lombard communes, she maintained a civic
independence longer than any State but Venice; and her _popolo_ may be
regarded as the type of the popular Italian element. Here the genius of
Italy became conscious of itself, and here the people found a spokesman
in Boccaccio. Abandoning ecclesiastical and feudal traditions, Boccaccio
concentrated his force upon the delineation of his fellow-countrymen as
he had learned to know them. The Italians of the new age start into
distinctness in his work, with the specific qualities they were destined
to maintain and to mature during the next two centuries. Thus Boccaccio
fully represents one factor of what I have called the national element.
At the same time, he occupies a hardly less important place in relation
to the other or the humanistic factor. Like his master Petrarch, he
pronounced with ardor and decision for that scholarship which restored
the link between the present and the past of the Italian race.
Independently of their achievements in modern literature, we have to
regard the humanistic efforts of these two great writers as a sign that
the national element had asserted itself in antagonism to the Church and

The recovery of the classics was, in truth, the decisive fact in Italian
evolution. Having attained full consciousness in the Florence of Dante's
age, the people set forth in search of their spiritual patrimony. They
found it in the libraries. They became possessed of it through the
labors of the scholars. Italian literature during the first three
quarters of the fifteenth century merged, so far as polite society was
concerned, in Humanism, the history of which has already been presented
to the reader in the second volume of this work.[131] For a hundred
years, from the publication of the Decameron in 1373 to the publication
of Poliziano's _Stanze_, the genius of Italy was engaged in an
exploratory pilgrimage, the ultimate end of which was the restoration of
the national inheritance in ancient Rome. This process of renascent
classicism, which was tantamount to ranascent nationality, retarded the
growth of the vulgar literature. Yet it was imperatively demanded not
only by the needs of Europe at large, but more particularly and urgently
by the Italians themselves, who, unlike the other modern races, had no
starting-point but ancient Rome. The immediate result of the humanistic
movement was the separation of the national element into two sections,
learned and popular, Latin and Italian. The common people, who had
repeated Dante's _Canzoni_, and whose life Boccaccio had portrayed in
the Decameron, were now divided from the rising class of scholars and
professors. Cultivated persons of all ranks despised Italian, and spent
their time in studies beyond the reach of the laity. Like some mountain
rivers after emerging from the highlands of their origin, the vernacular
literature passed as it were for a season underground, and lost itself
in unexplored ravines. Absorbed into the masses of the people, it
continued an obscure but by no means insignificant course, whence it
was destined to reappear at the right moment, when the several
constituents of the nation had attained the sense of intellectual unity.
This sense of unity was the product of the classical revival; for the
activity of the wandering professors and the fanatical enthusiasm for
the ancients were needed to create a common consciousness, a common
standard of taste and intelligence in the peninsula. It must in this
connection be remembered that the vernacular literature of the
fourteenth century, though it afterwards became the glory of Italy as a
whole, was originally Florentine. The medium prepared by the scholars
was demanded in order that the Tuscan classics should be accepted by the
nation as their own. Toward the close of the fifteenth century, a fusion
between the humanistic and the vulgar literatures was made; and this is
the renascence of Italian--no longer Tuscan, but participated by the
race at large. The poetry of the people then received a form refined by
classic learning; and the two sections of what I have called the
national element, joined to produce the genuine Italian culture of the
golden age.

It is necessary, for the sake of clearness, to insist upon this point,
which forms the main motive of my present theme. After the death of
Boccaccio the history of Italian literature is the history of that
national element which distinguished itself from the ecclesiastical and
the chivalrous, and at last in the Decameron asserted its superiority
over both. But the stream of intellectual energy bifurcates. During the
fifteenth century, the Latin instincts of the new Italic people found
vigorous expansion in the humanistic movement, while the vernacular
literature carried on a fitful and obscure, but potent, growth among the
proletariate. At the end of that century, both currents, the learned and
the popular, the classical and the modern, reunited on a broader plane.
The nation, educated by scholarship and brought to a sense of its
identity, resumed the vulgar tongue; and what had hitherto been Tuscan,
now became Italian. In this renascence neither the religious nor the
feudal principle regained firm hold upon the race. Their influence is
still discernible, however, in the lyrics of the Petrarchisti and the
epics of Orlando; for nothing which has once been absorbed into a
people's thought is wholly lost. How they were transmuted by the action
of the genuine Italic genius, triumphant now upon all quarters of the
field, will appear in the sequel of these volumes; while it remains for
another work to show in what way, under the influences of the
Counter-Reformation, both the ecclesiastical and the chivalrous elements
reasserted themselves for a brief moment in Tasso. Still even in Tasso
we recognize the Italian courtier rather than the knight or the ascetic.
For the rest, it is clear that the spirit of Boccaccio--that is, the
spirit of the Florentine people--refined by humanistic discipline and
glorified by the reawakening of Italy to a sense of intellectual unity,
determined the character of literature during its most brilliant

Many peculiarities of the Renaissance in Italy, and of the Renaissance
in general, as communicated through Italians to Europe, can be explained
by this emergence of the national Italic temperament. Political and
positive; keenly sensitive to natural beauty, and gifted with a quick
artistic faculty; neither persistently religious nor profoundly
speculative; inclined to skepticism, but accepting the existing order
with sarcastic acquiescence; ironical and humorous rather than
satirical; sensuous in feeling, realistic in art, rhetorical in
literature; abhorring mysticism and ill-fashioned for romantic
exaltation; worldly, with a broad and genial toleration; refined in
taste and social conduct, but violent in the indulgence of personal
proclivities; born old in contrast with the youth of the Teutonic races;
educated by long experience to expect a morrow differing in no
essentials from to-day or yesterday; demanding, therefore, from the
moment all that it can yield of satisfaction to the passions--the
Italians, thus constituted, in their vigorous reaction against the
middle ages, secularized the Papacy, absorbed the Paganism of the
classics, substituted an æsthetic for an ethical ideal, democratized
society, and opened new horizons for pioneering energy in all the fields
of knowledge. The growth of their intelligence was precocious and
fore-doomed to a sudden check; nor was it to be expected that their
solutions of the deepest problems should satisfy races of a different
fiber and a posterity educated on the scientific methods of
investigation. Unexpected factors were added to the general calculation
by the German Reformation and the political struggles which preceded the
French Revolution. Yet the influence of this Italian temperament, in
forming and preparing the necessary intellectual medium in modern
Europe, can hardly be exaggerated.

When the Italian genius manifested itself in art, in letters and in
scholarship, national unity was already an impossibility.[133] The race
had been broken up into republics and tyrannies. Their political forces
were centrifugal rather than centripetal. The first half of the
fifteenth century was the period when their division into five great
powers, held together by the frail bond of diplomacy, had been
accomplished, and when Italy was further distracted by the ambition of
unprincipled _condottieri_. Under these conditions of dismemberment, the
Renaissance came to perfection, and the ideal unity of the Italians was
achieved. The space of forty years' tranquillity and equilibrium, which
preceded Charles VIII.'s invasion, marked an epoch of recombination and
consolidation, when the two currents of national energy, learned and
popular, met to form the culture of the golden age. After being Tuscan
and neo-Latin, the literature which expressed the nation now became
Italian. Such is the importance of the _Quattrocento_ in Italian
history--long denied, late recognized, but now at length acknowledged as
necessary and decisive for both Italy and Europe.

In the present chapter I propose to follow the transition from the
middle ages effected by writers who, though they used the mother tongue,
take rank among cultivated authors. The two succeeding chapters will be
devoted to the more obscure branches of vernacular literature which
flourished among the people.

Franco Sacchetti, who uttered the funeral dirge of the fourteenth
century, was also the last considerable writer of that age.[134] Born
about the year 1335, of one of the old noble families of Florence, he
lived until the end of the century, employed in various public duties
and assiduous in his pursuit of letters.[135] He was a friend of
Boccaccio, and felt the highest admiration not only for his novels but
also for his learning, though he tells us in the preface to his own
three hundred tales that he was himself a man of slender
erudition--_uomo discolo e grosso_.[136] From this preface we also learn
that enthusiasm for the Decameron prompted him to write a set of novels
on his own account.[137] Though Sacchetti loved and worshiped Boccaccio,
he did not imitate his style. The _Novelle_ are composed in the purest
vernacular, without literary artifice or rhetorical ornament. They boast
no framework of fiction, like that which lends the setting of romance to
the Decameron; nor do they pretend to be more than short anecdotes with
here and there a word of moralizing from the author. Yet the student of
Italian, eager to know what speech was current in the streets of
Florence during the last half of that century, will value Sacchetti's
idiomatic language even more highly than Boccaccio's artful periods. He
tells us what the people thought and felt, in phrases borrowed from
their common talk. The majority of the novels treat of Florentine life,
while some of them bring illustrious Florentines--Dante and Giotto and
Guido Cavalcanti--on the scene. Sacchetti's preface vouches for the
truth of his stories; but, whether they be strictly accurate or not, we
need not doubt their fidelity to contemporary customs, domestic manners,
and daily conversation. Sacchetti inspires a certain confidence, a
certain feeling of friendliness. And yet what a world is revealed in his
_Novelle_--a world without tenderness, pathos, high principle, passion,
or enthusiasm--men and women delighting in coarse humor, in practical
jokes of inconceivable vulgarity, in language of undisguised grossness,
in cruelty, fraud, violence, incontinence! The point is almost always
some clever trick, a _burla_ or a _beffa_, or a piece of subtly-planned
retaliation. Knaves and fools are the chief actors in this comic
theater; and among the former we find many friars, among the latter many
husbands. To accept the _Novelle_ as adequate in every detail to the
facts of Florentine society, would be uncritical. They must chiefly be
used for showing what passed for fun among the burghers, and what seemed
fit and decent topics for discussion. Studied from that point of view,
and also for the abundant light they throw on customs and fashions,
Sacchetti's tales are highly valuable. The _bourgeoisie_ of Florence
lives again in their animated pages. We have in them a literature
written to amuse, if not precisely to represent, a civic society closely
packed within a narrow area, witty and pleasure-loving, acutely
sensitive to the ridiculous, with strongly-denned tastes and a decided
preference for pungent flavors. One distinctive Florentine quality
emerges with great clearness. That is a malicious and jibing humor--the
malice Dante took with him to the _Inferno_; the malice expressed by Il
Lasca and Firenzuola, epitomized in Florentine nicknames, and condensed
in Rabelaisian anecdotes which have become classical. It reaches its
climax in the cruel but laughter-moving jest played by Brunelleschi on
the unfortunate cabinet-maker, which has been transmitted to us in the
novel of _Il Grasso, Legnaiuolo_.

Somewhat later than Sacchetti's _Novelle_, appeared another collection
of more or less veracious anecdotes, compiled by a certain Ser
Giovanni.[138] He called it _Il Pecorone_, which may be interpreted "The

      Ed è per nome il Pecoron chiamato,
      Perchè ci ha dentro novi barbagianni;
    Ed io son capo di cotal brigata,
      E vo belando come pecorone,
      Facendo libri, e non ne so boccata.

Nothing is known about Ser Giovanni, except what he tells us in the
Sonnet just quoted. From it we learn that he began his _Novelle_ in the
year 1378--the year of the Ciompi Revolution at Florence. As a
framework for his stories, he devised a frigid romance which may be
briefly told. Sister Saturnina, the prioress of a convent at Forlì, was
so wise and beautiful that her fame reached Florence, where a handsome
and learned youth, named Auretto, fell in love with her by hearsay. He
took orders, journeyed across the Apennines, and contrived to be
appointed chaplain to Saturnina's nuns. In due course of time she
discreetly returned his affection, and, managing their affairs with
prudence and decorum, they met for private converse and mutual solace in
a parlor of the convent. Here they whiled away the hours by telling
stories--entertaining, instructive, or romantic. The collection is
divided into twenty-five days; and since each lover tells a tale, there
are fifty _Novelle_, interspersed with songs after the fashion of
Boccaccio. In the style, no less than in the method of the book, Ser
Giovanni shows himself a closer follower of the Decameron than
Sacchetti. His novels have a wide range of incidents, embracing tragic
and pathetic motives no less than what is humorous. They are treated
rhetorically, and, instead of being simple anecdotes, aim at the varied
movement of a drama. The language, too, is literary, and less idiomatic
than Sacchetti's. Antiquarians will find in some of these discourses an
interest separate from what is common to works of fiction. They
represent how history was communicated to the people of that day.
Saturnina, for example, relates the myth of Troy and the foundation of
Fiesole, which, as Dante tells us, the Tuscan mothers of Cacciaguida's
age sang to their children. The lives of the Countess Matilda and
Frederick Barbarossa, the antiquity and wealth of the Tuscan cities,
the tragedy of Corso Donati, Giano della Bella's exile, the Angevine
Conquest of Sicily, the origin of Guelfs and Ghibellines in Italy,
Attila's apocryphal siege of Florence, supply materials for narratives
in which the true type of the _Novella_ disappears. Yet Ser Giovanni
mingles more amusing stories with these lectures;[139] and the
historical dissertations are managed with such grace, with so golden a
simplicity of style, that they are readable. Of a truth it is comic to
think of the enamored monk and nun meeting in the solitude of their
parlor to exchange opinions upon Italian history. Though he had the good
qualities of a _trecentisto_ prosaist, Ser Giovanni was in this respect
but a poor artist.

Both Sacchetti and Ser Giovanni were poets of no mean ability. As in his
prose, so also in his _Canzoni a Ballo_, the author of the _Pecorone_
followed Boccaccio, without, however, attaining to that glow and
sensuous abandonment which renders the lyrics no less enchanting than
the narratives of the Decameron. His style is smooth and fluent,
suggesting literary culture rather than spontaneous inspiration.[140]
Yet it is always lucid. Through the transparent language we see straight
into the hearts of lovers as the novelist of Florence understood them.
Written for the most part in the seven-lined stanza with recurring
couplet, which Guido Cavalcanti first made fashionable, these _Ballate_
give lyrical expression to a great variety of tender situations. The
emotion of first love, the pains and pleasures of a growing passion, the
anguish of betrayal, regrets, quarrels, reconciliations, are
successively treated. In short, Ser Giovanni versified and set to music
all the principal motives upon which the _Novella_ of feeling turned,
and formed an _ars amandi_ adapted to the use of the people. In this
sense his poems seem to have been accepted, for we find MSS. of the
_Ballate_ detached from the prose of _Il Pecorone_.[141] Among the most
striking may be mentioned the canzonet _Tradita sono_, which
retrospectively describes the joy of a girl in her first love; another
on the fashions of Florentine ladies, _Quante leggiadre_; and the
lamentation of a woman whose lover has abandoned her, and who sees no
prospect but the cloister--_Oi me lassa_.[142]

Ser Giovanni's lyrics are echoes of the city, where maidens danced their
rounds upon the piazza in May evenings, and young men courted the beauty
of the hour with songs and visits to her chamber:

    Con quanti dolci suon e con che canti
      Io era visitata tutto 'l giorno!
      E nella zambra venivan gli amanti,
      Facendo festa e standomi intorno:
      Ed io guardava nel bel viso adorno,
      Che d'allegrezza mi cresceva il core.

Franco Sacchetti carries us to somewhat different scenes. The best of
his madrigals and canzonets describe the pleasures of country life. They
are not genuinely rustic; nor do they, in Theocritean fashion, attempt
to render the beauty of the country from the peasant's point of view. On
the contrary, they owe their fascination to the contrast between the
simplicity of the villa and the unrest of the town, where:

    Mai vi si dice e di ben far vi è caro.

They are written for and by the _bourgeois_ who has escaped from shops
and squares and gossiping street-corners. The keynote of this poetry,
which has always something of the French _école buissonnière_ in its
fresh unalloyed enjoyment, is struck in a song describing the return of

    Benedetta sia la state
      Che ci fa sì solazzare!
      Maladetto sia lo verno
      Che a città ci fa tornare!

The poet summons his company of careless folk, on pleasure bent:

    No' siam una compagnia,
      I' dico di cacciapensieri.

He takes them forth into the fields among the farms and olive-gardens,
bidding them leave prudence and grave thoughts within the lofty walls of
Florence town:

    Il senno e la contenenza
       Lasciam dentro all'alte mura
       Della città di Fiorenza.

This note of gayety and pure enjoyment is sustained throughout his
lyrics. In one _Ballata_ he describes a country girl, caught by thorns,
and unable to avoid her admirer's glance.[144] Another gives a pretty
picture of a maiden with a wreath of olive-leaves and silver.[145] A
third is a little idyll of two girls talking to their lambs, and
followed by an envious old woman.[146] A fourth is a biting satire on
old women--_Di diavol vecchia femmina ha natura_.[147] A fifth is that
incomparably graceful canzonet, _O vaghe montanine pasturelle_, the
popularity of which is proved by the fact that it was orally transmitted
for many generations, and attributed in after days to both Lorenzo de'
Medici and Angelo Poliziano.[148] Indeed, it may be said in passing that
Poliziano owed much to Sacchetti. This can be seen by comparing
Sacchetti's _Ballata_ on the Gentle Heart, and his pastoral of the
Thorn-tree with the later poet's lyrics.[149]

The unexpressed contrast between the cautious town-life of the burgher
poet and his license in the villa, to which I have already called
attention, determines the character of many minor lyrics by
Sachetti.[150] We comprehend the spirit of these curious poems, at once
popular and fashionable, when we compare them with medieval French
_Pastourelles_, or with similar compositions by wandering Latin
students. In the _Carmina Burana_ may be found several little poems,
describing the fugitive loves of truant scholars with rustic girls,
which prove that, long before Sacchetti's age, the town had sought
spring-solace in the country.[151] Men are too apt to fancy that what
they consider the refinements of passion and fashion (the finer edge,
for example, put upon desire by altering its object from the known and
trivial to the untried and exceptional, from venal beauties in the city
to shepherd maidens on the village-green) are inventions of their own
times. Yet it was precisely a refinement of this sort which gave
peculiar flavor to Sacchetti's songs in the fourteenth century, and
which made them sought after. They had great vogue in Italy, enjoying
the privilege of popularity among the working classes, and helping to
diffuse that sort of pastoral part-song which we still know as
Madrigal.[152] Sacchetti was himself a good musician; many of his songs
were set to music by himself, and others by his friends. This gives a
pleasant old-world homeliness to the Latin titles inscribed beneath the
rubrics--_Franciscus de Organis sonum dedit_; _Intonatum per Francum
Sacchetti_; _Francus sonum dedit_; and so forth.

The Ballads and Madrigals of Niccolò Soldanieri should be mentioned in
connection with Sacchetti; though they do not detach themselves in any
marked way from the style of love poetry practiced at the close of the
fourteenth century.[153] The case is different with Alesso Donati's
lyrics. In them we are struck by a new gust of coarse and powerful
realism, which has no parallel among the elder poets except in the
savage sonnets of Cecco Angiolieri. Vividly natural situations are here
detached from daily life and delineated with intensity of passion,
vehement sincerity. Sacchetti's gentleness and genial humor have
disappeared. In their place we find a dramatic energy and a truth of
language that are almost terrible. Each of the little scenes, which I
propose to quote in illustration of these remarks, might be compared to
etchings bitten with aquafortis into copper. Here, for example, is a
nun, who has resolved to throw aside her veil and follow her lover in a
page's dress[154]:

    La dura corda e 'l vel bruno e la tonica
      Gittar voglio e lo scapolo
      Che mi tien qui rinchiusa e fammi monica;
      Poi teco a guisa d'assetato giovane,
      Non già che si sobarcoli,
      Venir me 'n voglio ove fortuna piovane:
    E son contenta star per serva e cuoca,
      Chè men mi cocerò ch'ora mi cuoca.

Here is a dialogue at dawn between a woman and her paramour. The
presence of the husband sleeping in the chamber is suggested with a
brutal vigor[155]:

    Dè vattene oggimai, ma pianamente,
      Amor; per dio, sì piano
      Che non ti senta il mal vecchio villano.
      Ch'egli sta sentecchioso, e, se pur sente

      Ch'i' die nel letto volta,
      Temendo abbraccia me no gli sie tolta.
    Che tristo faccia Iddio chi gli m'à data
      E chi spera 'n villan buona derrata.

Scarcely less forcible is the girl's vow against her mother, who keeps
her shut at home[156]:

    In pena vivo qui sola soletta
      Giovin rinchiusa dalla madre mia,
      La qual mi guarda con gran gelosia.
      Ma io le giuro alla croce di Dio
      Che s'ella mi terrà qui più serrata,
      Ch'i' diro--Fa' con Dio, vecchia arrabiata;
    E gitterò la rocca, il fuso e l'ago,
      Amor, fuggendo a te di cui m'appago.

To translate these madrigals would be both difficult and undesirable. It
is enough to have printed the original texts. They prove that
aristocratic versifiers at this period were adopting the style of the
people, and adding the pungency of brief poetic treatment to episodes
suggested by _novelle_.[157]

While dealing with the Novelle and the semi-popular literature of this
transition period, I have hitherto neglected those numerous minor poets
who continued the traditions of the earlier _trecento_.[158] There are
two main reasons for this preference. In the first place, the _novelle_
was destined to play a most important part in the history of the
Renaissance, imposing its own laws of composition upon species so remote
as the religious drama and romantic epic. In the second place, the
dance-songs, canzonets and madrigals of Sacchetti's epoch lived upon the
lips of the common folk, who during the fifteenth century carried
Italian literature onward through a subterranean channel.[159] When
vernacular poetry reappeared into the light of erudition and the Courts,
the influences of that popular style, which drew its origin from
Boccaccio and Sacchetti rather than from Dante or the Trovatori,
determined the manner of Lorenzo de' Medici and Poliziano. Meanwhile the
learned poems of the latest _trecentisti_ were forgotten with the lumber
of the middle ages. For the special purpose, therefore, of this volume,
which only regards the earlier stages of Italian literature in so far as
they preceded and conditioned the Renaissance, it was necessary to give
the post of honor to Boccaccio's followers. Some mention should,
however, here be made of those contemporaries and imitators of Petrarch,
in whom the traditions of the fourteenth century expired. It is not
needful to pass in review the many versifiers who treated the old themes
of chivalrous love with meritorious conventional facility. The true life
of the Italians was not here; and the phase of literature which the
Sicilian School inaugurated, survived already as an anachronism. The
case is different with such poetry as dealt immediately with
contemporary politics. In the declamatory compositions of this age, we
hear the echoes of the Guelf and Ghibelline wars. The force of that
great struggle was already spent; but the partisans of either faction,
passion enough survived to furnish genuine inspiration. Fazio degli
Uberti's _sermintese_ on the cities of Italy, for example, was written
in the bitter spirit of an exiled Ghibelline.[160] His ode to Charles
IV. is a torrent of vehement medieval abuse, poured forth against an
Emperor who had shown himself unworthy of his place in Italy[161]:

    Sappi ch'i' son Italia che ti parlo,
    Di Lusimburgo ignominioso Carlo!

After detailing the woes which have befallen her in consequence of her
abandonment by the imperial master, Italy addresses herself to God:

    Tu dunque, Giove, perchè 'l santo uccello ...
    Da questo Carlo quarto
    Imperador non togli e dalle mani
    Degli altri lurchi moderni germani,
    Che d'aquila un allocco n'hanno fatto?

The Italian Ghibellines had, indeed, good reason to complain that German
gluttons, Cæsars in naught but name, who only thought of making money by
their sale of fiefs and honors, had changed the eagle of the Empire into
an obscene night-flying bird of prey. The same spirit is breathed in
Fazio's ode on Rome.[162] He portrays the former mistress of the world
as a lady clad in weeds of mourning, "ancient, august and honorable, but
poor and needy as her habit showed, prudent in speech and of great
puissance." She bids the poet rouse his fellow-countrymen from their
sleep of sloth and drunkenness, to reassert the majesty of the empire
owed to Italy and Rome:

        O figliuol mio, da quanta crudel guerra
    Tutti insieme verremo a dolce pace,
    Se Italia soggiace
    A un solo Re che al mio voler consente!

This is the last echo of the _De Monarchiâ_. The great imperial idea, so
destructive to Italian confederation, so dazzling to patriots of Dante's
fiber, expires amid the wailings of minstrels who cry for the
impossible, and haunt the Courts of petty Lombard princes.

In another set of _Canzoni_ we listen to Guelf and Ghibelline
recriminations, rising from the burghs of Tuscany. The hero of these
poems is Gian Galeazzo Visconti, rightly recognized by the Guelfs of
Florence as a venomous and selfish tyrant, foolishly belauded by the
Ghibellines of Siena as the vindicator of imperial principles. The
Emperors have abandoned Italy; the Popes are at Avignon. The factions
which their quarrels generated, agitate their people still, but on a
narrower basis. Sacchetti slings invectives against the _maladetta
serpe, aspro tiranno con amaro fele_, who shall be throttled by the
Church and Florence, leagued to crush the Lombard despots.[163] Saviozzo
da Siena addresses the same Visconti as _novella monarchia, giusto
signore, clemente padre, insigne, virtuoso_. By his means the _dolce
vedovella_, Rome or Italy, shall at last find peace.[164] This Duke of
Milan, it will be remembered, had already ordered the crown of Italy
from his Court-jeweler, and was advancing on his road of conquest,
barred only by Florence, when the Plague cut short his career in 1402.
The poet of Siena exhorts him to take courage for his task, in lines
that are not deficient in a certain fire of inspiration:

    Tu vedi in ciel la fiammeggiante aurora,
    Le stelle tue propizie e rutilanti,
    E' segni tutti quanti
    Ora disposti alla tua degna spada.

In another strophe he refers to the Italian crown:

    Ecco qui Italia che ti chiama padre,
    Che per te spera omai di trionfare,
    E di sè incoronare
    Le tue benigne e preziose chiome.

An anonymous sonnetteer of the same period uses similar language[165];

      Roma vi chiama--Cesar mio novello,
    I' son ignuda, e l'anima pur vive;
    Or mi coprite col vostro mantello.

The Ghibelline poets, whether they dreamed like Fazio of Roman Empire,
or flattered the Visconti with a crown to be won by triumph over the
detested Guelfs, made play with Dante's memory. Some of the most
interesting lyrics of the school are elegies upon his death. To this
class belong two sonnets by Pieraccio Tedaldi and Mucchio da Lucca.[166]
Nor must Boccaccio's noble pair of sonnets, although he was not a
political poet, be here forgotten.[167] That Dante was diligently
studied can be seen, not only in the diction of this epoch, but also in
numerous versified commentaries upon the Divine Comedy--in the _terza
rima_ abstracts of Boson da Gubbio, Jacopo Alighieri, Saviozzo da Siena,
and Boccaccio.[168]

Tuscan politics are treated from the Guelf point of view in Sacchetti's
odes upon the war with Pisa, upon the government of Florence after 1378,
and against the cowardice of the Italians.[169] His conception of a
burgher's duties, the ideal of Guelf _bourgeoisie_ before Florence had
become accustomed to tyrants, finds expression in a sonnet--_Amar la
patria_.[170] We frequently meet with the word _Comune_ on his lips:

    O vuol rè o signore o vuol comune,
    Chè per comune dico ciò ch'io parlo.

A like note of municipal independence is sounded in the poems of Antonio
Pucci, and in the admonitory stanzas of Matteo Frescobaldi.[171]
Considerable interest attaches to these political compositions for the
light they throw on party feeling at the close of the heroic age of
Italian history. The fury with which those factions raged, prompts the
bards of either camp to curses. I may refer to this passage from Folgore
da San Gemignano, when he sees the Ghibelline Uguccione triumphant over

    Eo non ti lodo Dio e non ti adoro,
      E non ti prego e non ti ringrazio,
      E non ti servo ch'io ne son più sazio
      Che l'aneme de star en purgatoro;
    Perchè tu ai messi i Guelfi a tal martoro
      Ch'i Ghibellini ne fan beffe e strazio,
      E se Uguccion ti comandasse il dazio,
      Tu 'l pagaresti senza peremptoro!

Yet neither in the confused idealism of the Ghibellines nor in the
honest independence of the Guelfs lay the true principle of national
progress. Sinking gradually and inevitably beneath the sway of despots,
the Italians in the fifteenth century were destined to become a nation
of scholars, artists, _litterati_. The age of Dante, the uncompromising
aristocrat, was over. The age of Boccaccio, the easy-going _bourgeois_,
had begun. The future glories of Italy were to be won in the field of
culture; and all the hortatory lyrics I have mentioned, exerted but
little influence over the development of a spirit which was growing
quietly within the precincts of the people. The Italian people at this
epoch cared far less for the worn-out factions of the Guelfs and
Ghibellines than for home-comforts and tranquillity in burgher
occupations. The keener intellects of the fifteenth century were already
so absorbingly occupied with art and classical studies that there was no
room left in them for politics of the old revolutionary type. Meanwhile
the new intrigues of Cabinets and Courts were left to a class of
humanistic diplomatists, created by the conditions of despotic
government. Scarcely less ineffectual were the moral verses of
Bambagiuoli and Cavalca, or the Petrarchistic imitations of Marchionne
Torrigiani, Federigo d'Arezzo, Coluccio Salutati, Roberto di
Battifolle, and Bonaccorso da Montemagno.[173] The former belonged to a
phase of medieval culture which was waning. The elegant but lifeless
Petrarchistic school dragged through the fifteenth century, culminating
in the _Canzoniere_ of Giusto de' Conti, a Roman, which was called _La
bella mano_. The revival of their mannerism, with a fixed artistic
motive, by Bembo and the purists of the sixteenth century, will form
part of my later history of Renaissance literature.

One note is unmistakable in all the poetry of these last _trecentisti_.
It is a note of profound discouragement, mistrust, and disappointment.
We have already heard it sounded by Sacchetti in his lament for
Boccaccio. Boccaccio had raised it himself in two noble sonnets--_Apizio
legge_ and _Fuggit'è ogni virtù_.[174] It takes the shrillness of a
threnody in Tedaldi's _Il mondo vile_ and in Manfredi di Boccaccio's
_Amico il mondo_.[175] The poets of that age were dimly conscious that a
new era had opened for their country--an era of money-getting,
despotism, and domestic ease. They saw the people used to servitude and
sunk in common pleasures--dead to the high aims and imaginative
aspirations of the past. The turbulence of the heroic age was gone. The
men of the present were all _Vigliacci_. And as yet both art and
learning were but in their cradle. It was impossible upon the opening of
the fifteenth century, in that crepuscular interval between two periods
of splendor, to know what glories for Italy and for the world at large
would be produced by Giotto's mighty lineage and Petrarch's progeny of
scholars. We who possess in history the vision of that future can be
content to wait through a transition century. The men of the moment not
unnaturally expressed the querulousness of Italy, distracted by her
struggles of the past and sinking into somnolence. Cosimo de' Medici,
the molder of Renaissance Florence, was already born in 1389; and men of
Cosimo's stamp were no heroes for poets who had felt the passions that
moved Dante.

The Divine Comedy found fewer imitators than the _Canzoniere_; for who
could bend the bow of Ulysses? Yet some poets of the transition were
hardy enough to attempt the Dantesque meter, and to pretend in a prosaic
age that they had shared the vision of the prophets. Among these should
be mentioned Fazio degli Uberti, a scion of Farinata's noble house, who
lived and traveled much in exile.[176] Taking Solinus, the antique
geographer, for his guide, Fazio produced a topographical poem called
the _Dicta Mundi_ or _Dittamondo_.[177]

From the prosaic matter of this poem, which resembles a very primitive
Mappamondo, illustrated with interludes of history and excursions into
mythological zoölogy, based upon the text of Pliny, and not unworthy of
Mandeville, two episodes emerge and arrest attention. One is the
description of Rome--a somber lady in torn raiment, who tells the
history of her eventful past, describes her triumphs and her empire, and
points to the ruins on her seven crowned hills to show how beautiful she
was in youth[178]:

                          Ivi una dama scorsi;
      Vecchia era in vista, e trista per costume.
    Gli occhi da lei, andando, mai ton torsi;
      Ma poichè presso le fui giunto tanto
      Ch'io l'avvisava senza nessun forsi,
    Vidi il suo volto, ch'era pien di pianto,
      Vidi la vesta sua rotta e disfatta,
      E roso e guasto il suo vedovo manto.
    E con tutto che fosse così fatta,
      Pur nell'abito suo onesto e degno
      Mostrava uscita di gentile schiatta.
    Tanto era grande, e di nobil contegno,
      Ch'io diceva fra me: Ben fu costei,
      E pare ancor da posseder bel regno.

Fazio addresses the mighty shadow with respectful sympathy. Rome answers
in language which is noble through its simple dignity:

    Non ti maravigliare s'io ho doglia,
      Non ti maravigliar se trista piango,
      Nè se me vedi in sì misera spoglia;
    Ma fatti maraviglia, ch'io rimango,
      E non divento qual divenne Ecuba
      Quando gittava altrui le pietre e il fango.

The second passage of importance, more noticeable for a sense of space
and largeness than for its poetical expression, is a description of the
prospect seen from Alvernia, that high station of the "topless
Apennines," where S. Francis took the Stigmata, and where Dante sought
a home in the destruction of his earthly hopes[179]:

    Noi fummo sopra il sasso dell Alverna
      Al faggio ove Francesco fue fedito
      Dal Serafin quel dì ch'ei più s'interna.
    Molto è quel monte devoto e romito,
      Ed è sì alto che il più di Toscana
      Mi disegnò un frate col suo dito.
    Guarda, mi disse, al mare, e vedi piana
      Con altri colli la maremma tutta
      Dilettevole molto e poco sana.
    Ivi è Massa, Grosseto e la distrutta
      Cività vecchia, ed ivi Populonia
      Ch'appena pare, tanto è mal condutta.

The whole of Tuscany and Umbria, their cities, plains, rivers and
mountain summits, are unrolled; and the friar concludes with a sentence
which well embodies the feeling we have in gazing over an illimitable

    Io so bene che quanto t'ho mostrato,
      La vista nol discerna apertamente,
      Per lo spazio ch'è lungo dov'io guato:
    Ma quando l'uom che bene ascolta e sente,
      Ode parlar di cosa che non vede,
      Immagina con l'occhio della mente.

Such value as the _Dittamondo_ may still retain for students, it owes
partly to the author's enthusiasm for ancient Rome, and partly to the
sympathy with nature he had acquired during his wandering as an exile
over the sacred soil of Italy.

Another poem of Dantesque derivation was the _Quadriregio_ of Federigo
Frezzi, Bishop of Foligno.[180] It is an allegorical account of human
life; and the four regions, which give their name to the book, are the
realms of Love, Satan, Vice and Virtue.[181] To cast the moralizations
of the middle ages in a form imitated from Dante, after Dante had
already condensed the ethics and politics, the theology and science of
his century in the Divine Comedy, was little less than a hopeless task.
Nor need a word be spent upon the _Quadriregio_, except by way of
illustrating the peculiar conditions of the poetic art, here upon the
border-land between the middle age and the Renaissance. Federigo Frezzi
was intent on depicting the victories of virtue over vice, and on
explaining the advantage offered to the Christian by grace. Yet he chose
a mythological framework for his doctrine. Cupid, Venus and Minerva are
confused with Satan, Enoch and Elijah. Instead of Eden there is the
golden age. Nymphs of Diana, Juno, and the like, are used as emblems.
Pallas discourses about Christ, and expounds the Christian system of
redemption. The earthly Paradise contains Helicon, with all the antique
poets. Jupiter is contrasted with Satan. It is the same blending of
antique with Christian motives which we note in the Divine Comedy; but
the tact of the great artist is absent, and the fusion becomes
grotesque. After reading through the poem we lay it down with the same
feeling as that produced in us by studying some pulpit of the Pisan
School, where a Gothic Devil, all horns and hoofs and grinning jaws,
squats cheek by jowl with a Madonna copied from a Roman tomb. The
following description of Cupid recalls the manner of the Sienese

    Appena questo priego havea io decto
      quando egli apparve ad me fresco et giocondo,
      in un giardino ove io stava solecto.
    Di mirto coronato il capo biondo
      in forma pueril con si bel viso
      che mai piu bel fu visto in questo mondo.
    Creso haverai che su del paradiso
      fusse el suo aspecto, tanto era sovrano,
      se non che quando a lui mirai fiso
    Vidi che haveva uno archo orato in mano
      col quale Achille et Hercole percosse.

Here is the picture of the Golden Age, transcribed from Latin poetry,
much as it was destined to control the future of Italian fancy[183]:

    Vergine saggia e bella el ciel adorna
      di cui Virgilio poetando scripse,
      nuova progenie al mondo dal ciel torna,
    Rexe già el mondo et si la gente visse
      socto lei in pace che la età dell oro
      et seculo giusto et beato si disse.
    La terra allora senza alcun lavoro
      dava li fructi, et non faceva spine,
      ne ancho al giogo si domava el thoro;
    Non erano divisi per confine
      anchora i campi, et nesun per guadagno
      cercava le contrade pelegrine;
    Ognuno era fratello, ognun compagno,
      et era tanto amor, tanta pietade,
      che ad un fonte bevea el lupo et l'agno;
    Non eran lancia, non erano spade,
      non era anchor la pecunia peggiore
      che 'l guerigiante ferro piu si fiade;
    La invidia allor vedendo tanto amore
      di questo bene ad se genero pene
      e desto gaudio ad se diede dolore.

A little while beyond this foretaste of the _cinque cento_, we find
Charon copied, without addition, but with a fatal loss of poetry, from
the _Inferno_[184]:

    Vidi Caron non molto da lontano
      con una nave in mezo la tempesta,
      che conducea con un gran remo in mano:
    Et ciaschuno occhio chelli havea in testa,
      pareva come di nocte una lumiera,
      o un falo quando si fa per festa.
    Quando egli fu appresso alla riviera
      un mezo miglio quasi o poco mancho,
      scacci sua faccia grande vizza e nera.
    Egli havea el capo di canuti biancho,
      el manto adosso rapezato et uncto,
      el volto si crudel non vidi un quancho.

Last upon the list of Dantesque imitators stands Matteo Palmieri, a
learned Florentine, who composed his _Città di Vita_ in the middle of
the fifteenth century. This poem won for its author from Marsilio Ficino
the title of _Poeta Theologicus_.[185] Its chief interest at the present
time is that the theology expressed in it brought suspicion of heresy on
Palmieri. He held Origen's opinion that the souls of men were rebel
angels. How a doctrine of this kind could be rendered in painting is not
clear. Yet Giorgio Vasari tells us that a picture executed for Matteo
Palmieri by Sandro Botticelli, which represented the Assumption of the
Virgin into the celestial hierarchy--Powers, Princedoms, Thrones and
Dominations ranged around her in concentric circles--fell under the
charge of heterodoxy. The altar in S. Pietro Maggiore where it was
placed had to be interdicted, and the picture veiled from sight.[186]
The story forms a curious link between this last scion of medieval
literature and the painting of the Renaissance. After Palmieri the meter
of the Divine Comedy was chiefly used for satire and burlesque. Lorenzo
de' Medici adapted its grave rhythms to parody in _I Beoni_. Berni used
it for the Capitoli of the _Pesche_ and the _Peste_. At Florence it
became the recognized meter for obscene and frivolous compositions,
which delighted the Academicians of the sixteenth century. The people,
meanwhile, continued to employ it in _Lamenti_, historical compositions,
and personal Capitoli.[187] Thus Cellini wrote his poem called _I
Carceri_ in _terza rima_, and Giovanni Santi used it for his precious
but unpoetical Chronicle of Italian affairs. Both Benivieni and
Michelangelo Buonarroti composed elegies in this meter; and numerous
didactic eclogues of the pastoral poets might be cited in which it
served for analogue to Latin elegiacs. In the _Sacre Rappresentazioni_
it sometimes interrupted _ottava rima_, on the occasion of a set
discourse or sermon.[188] Both Ariosto and Alamanni employed it in their
satires. From these brief notices it will be seen that _terza rima_
during the Renaissance period was reserved for dissertational, didactic
and satiric themes, the Capitoli of the burlesque poets being parodies
of grave scholastic lucubrations. But no one now attempted an heroic
poem in this verse.[189]

To give a full account of Italian prose during this period of transition
from the middle age to the Renaissance is not easy. At the close of the
fourteenth century, S. Catherine of Siena sustained the purity and
"dove-like simplicity" of the earlier _trecento_ style, with more of
fervor and personal power than any subsequent writer. Her letters,
whether addressed to Popes and princes on the politics of Italy, or
dealing with private topics of religious experience, are models of the
purest Tuscan diction.[190] They have the garrulity and over-unctuous
sweetness of the _Fioretti_ and _Leggende_. But these qualities,
peculiar to medieval piety among Italians, are balanced by untutored
eloquence which borders on sublimity. Without deliberate art or literary
aim, the spirit of a noble woman speaks from the heart in Catherine's
letters. The fervor of her feeling suggests poetic imagery. The justice
of her perception dictates weighty sentences. The intensity with which
she realizes the unseen world of spiritual emotion, gives dramatic
movement to her exhortations, expositions and entreaties. These rare
excellences of a style, where spontaneity surpasses artifice, are
combined in the famous epistle to her confessor, Raimondo da Capua,
describing the execution of Niccolò Tuldo.[191] He was a young man of
Perugia, condemned to death for some act of insubordination. Catherine
visited him in prison, and induced him to take the Sacrament with her
for the first time. He besought her to be present with him at the place
of execution. Accordingly she waited for him there, praying to Mary and
to Catherine, the virgin saint of Alexandria, laying her own neck upon
the block, and entering into harmony so rapt with those celestial
presences that the multitude of men who were around her disappeared from
view. What followed, must be told in her own words:

     Poi egli giunse, come uno agnello mansueto: e vedendomi,
     cominciò a ridere; e volse che io gli facesse il segno della
     croce. E ricevuto il segno, dissi io: "Giuso! alle nozze,
     fratello mio dolce! chè tosto sarai alla vita durabile."
     Posesi quì con grande mansuetudine; e io gli distesi il collo,
     e chinàmi giù, e rammentalli il sangue dell'Agnello. La bocca
     sua non diceva se non, Gesù, e Catarina. E, così dicendo,
     ricevetti il capo nelle mani mie, fermando l'occhio nella
     divina bontà e dicendo: "Io voglio."

     Allora si vedeva Dio-e-Uomo, come si vedesse la chiarità del
     sole; e stava aperto, e riceveva il sangue; nel sangue suo uno
     fuoco di desiderio santo, dato e nascosto nell'anima sua per
     grazia; riceveva nel fuoco della divina sua carità. Poichè
     ebbe ricevuto il sangue e il desiderio suo, ed egli ricevette
     l'anima sua, la quale mise nella bottiga aperta del costato
     suo, pieno di misericordia; manifestando la prima Verità che
     per sola grazia e misericordia egli il riceveva, e non per
     veruna altra operazione. O quanto era dolce e inestimable a
     vedere la bontà di Dio!

The sudden transition from this narrative of fact to the vision of
Christ--from the simple style of ordinary speech to ecstasy inebriated
with the cross--is managed with a power that truth alone could yield. A
dramatist might have conceived it; but only a saint who lived habitually
in both worlds of loving service and illumination, could thus have made
it natural. This is the noblest and the rarest realism.

If we trust the testimony of contemporary chroniclers, S. Bernardino of
Siena in the pulpit shared Catherine's power of utterance, at once
impressive and simple.[192] No doubt the preachers of the _quattrocento_
were influential in maintaining a tradition of prose rhetoric. But it is
not in the nature of sermons, even when ably reported, to preserve their
fullness and their force. Not less important for the formation of a
literary style were the letters and dispatches of embassadors. Though at
this period all ceremonial orations, briefs, state documents and
epistles between Courts and commonwealths were composed in Latin, still
the secret correspondence of envoys with their home governments gave
occasion for the use of the vernacular; and even humanists expressed
their thoughts occasionally in the mother tongue. Coluccio Salutati, for
example, whose Latin letters were regarded as models of epistolary
style, employed Italian in less formal communications with his office.
These early documents of studied Tuscan writing are now more precious
than his formal Ciceronian imitations. Private letters may also be
mentioned among the best sources for studying the growth of Italian
prose, although we have not much material to judge by.[193] The
correspondence of Alessandra degli Strozzi, recently edited by Signor
Cesare Guasti, is not only valuable for the light it casts upon
contemporary manners, but also for the illustration of the Florentine
idiom as written by a woman of noble birth.[194] Of Poliziano's, Pulci's
and Lorenzo de' Medici's letters I shall have occasion to speak in a
somewhat different connection later on.

The historiographers of the Renaissance thought it below their dignity
to use any language but Latin.[195] At the same time, vernacular
annalists abounded in Italy, whose labors were of no small value in
forming the prose-style of the _quattrocento_. After the Villani,
Florence could boast a whole chain of writers, beginning with Marchionne
Stefani, including Gino Capponi, the spirited chronicler of the Ciompi
rebellion, and extending to Goro Dati in the middle of the fifteenth
century. A little later, Giovanni Cavalcanti, in his Florentine
Histories, proved how the simple diction of the preceding age was being
spoiled by false classicism.[196] This work is doubly valuable--both as
a record of the great Albizzi oligarchy and their final conquest by the
Medici, and also as a monument of the fusion which was being made
between the popular and humanistic styles. The chronicles of other
Italian cities--Ferrara, Cremona, Rome, Pisa, Bologna, and even
Siena--show less purity of language than the Florentine.[197] Italian
is often mixed with vulgar Latin, and phrases borrowed from unpolished
local dialects abound. It was not until the close of the century that
two great writers of history in the vernacular arose outside the walls
of Florence. These were Corio, the historian of Milan, and Matarazzo,
the annalist of Perugia.[198] In Corio's somewhat stiff and cumbrous
periods we trace the effort of a foreigner to gain by study what the
Tuscans owed to nature. Yet he never suffered this stylistic
preoccupation to spoil his qualities as an historian. His voluminous
narrative is a mine of accurate information, illustrated with vivid
pictures of manners and carefully considered portraits of eminent men.
Reading it, we cannot but regret that Poggio and Bruno, Navagero and
Bembo, judged it necessary to tell the tales of Florence and of Venice
in a pseudo-Livian Latin. The "History of Milan" is worth twenty of such
humanistic exercises in rhetoric. Matarazzo displays excellences of a
different, but of a rarer order. Unlike Corio, he was not anxious to
show familiarity with rules of Tuscan writing, or to build again the
periods of Boccaccio's ceremonious style. His language bears the stamp
of its Perugian origin. It is, at the same time, unaffectedly dramatic
and penetrated with the charm of a distinguished personality. No one
can read the tragedy of the Baglioni in this wonderful romance without
acknowledging that he is in the hands of a great writer. The limpidity
of the _trecento_ has here survived, and, blending with Renaissance
enthusiasm for physical beauty and antique heroism, has produced a work
of art unrivaled in its kind.[199]

Having advanced so far as to speak in this chapter of Corio and
Matarazzo, I shall take occasion to notice a book which, appearing for
the first time in 1476, may fairly be styled the most important work of
Italian prose-fiction belonging to the fifteenth century. This is the
_Novellino_ of Masuccio Guardato, a nobleman of Salerno, secretary to
the Prince Roberto Sanseverino, and resident throughout his life at the
Court of Naples.[200] The _Novellino_ is a collection of stories, fifty
in number, arranged in five parts, which treat respectively of hypocrisy
and the monastic vices, jealousy, feminine incontinence, the contrasts
of pathos and of humor, and the generosity of princes. Each _Novella_ is
dedicated to a noble man or woman of Neapolitan society, and is followed
by a reflective discourse, in which the author personally addresses his
audience. Masuccio declares himself the disciple of Boccaccio and
Juvenal.[201] Of the Roman poet's spirit he has plenty; he gives the
rein to rage in language of the most indignant virulence. Of Boccaccio's
idiom and style, though we can trace the student's emulation, he can
boast but little. Masuccio never reached the Latinistic smoothness of
his model; and while he wrote Italian, his language was far from being
Tuscan. Phrases culled from southern dialects are frequent; and the
structure of the period is often ungrammatical. Masuccio was not a
member of any humanistic clique. He lived among the nobles of a royal
Court, and knew the common people intimately. This double experience is
reflected in his language and his modes of thought. Both are unalloyed
by pedantry, and precious for the student of contemporary manners.

The interest of the _Novellino_ is great when we regard it as the third
collection of _Novelle_, coming after Boccaccio's and Sacchetti's, and,
from the point of view of art, occupying a middle place between them.
The tales of the Decameron were originally recited at Naples; and though
Boccaccio was a thorough Tuscan, he borrowed something from the south
which gave width, warmth and largeness to his writing. Masuccio is
wholly Neapolitan in tone; but he seeks such charm of presentation and
variety of matter as shall make his book worthy to take rank in general
literature. Sacchetti has more of a purely local flavor. He is no less
Florentine than Masuccio is Neapolitan; and, unlike Masuccio, he has
taken little pains to adapt his work to other readers than his
fellow-citizens. Boccaccio embraces all human life, seen in the light of
vivid fancy by a _bourgeois_ who was also a great comic romantic poet.
Sacchetti describes the _borghi_, _contrade_, and _piazze_ of Florence;
and his speech is seasoned with rare Tuscan salt of wit. Masuccio's
world is that of the free-living southern noble. He is penetrated with
aristocratic feeling, treats willingly of arms and jousts and warfare,
telling the tales of knights and ladies to a courtly company.[202] At
the same time, the figures of the people move with incomparable vivacity
across the stage; and his transcripts from life reveal the careless
interpenetration of classes to which he was accustomed in Calabria.[203]
Some of his stories are as simply _bourgeois_ as any of

When we compare Masuccio with Boccaccio we find many points of
divergence, due to differences of temperament, social sympathies and
local circumstance. Boccaccio is witty and malicious; Masuccio humorous
and poignant. Boccaccio laughs indulgently at vices; Masuccio scourges
them. Boccaccio makes a jest of superstition; Masuccio thunders against
the hypocrites who bring religion into contempt. Boccaccio turns the
world round for his recreation, submitting its follies to the subtle
play of analytical fancy. Masuccio is terribly in earnest; whether
sympathetic or vituperative, he makes the voice of his heart heard.
Boccaccio's pictures are toned with a rare perception of harmony and
delicate gradation. Masuccio brings what strikes his sense before us by
a few firm touches. Boccaccio shows far finer literary tact. Yet there
is something in the unpremeditated passion, pathos, humor, grossness,
anger and enjoyment of Masuccio--a chord of masculine and native
strength, a note of vigorous reality--that arrests attention even more
imperiously than the prepared effects of the Decameron. One point of
undoubted excellence can be claimed for Masuccio. He was a great tragic
artist in the rough, and his comedy displays an uncouth Rabelaisian
realism. The lights and shadows cast upon his scene are brusque--like
the sunlight and the shadow on a Southern city; whereas the painting of
Boccaccio is distinguished by exquisite blendings of color and
chiaroscuro in subordination to the chosen key.

Masuccio displays his real power in his serious _Novelle_, when he gives
vent to his furious hatred of a godless clergy, or describes some
dreadful incident, like the tragedy of the two lovers in the
lazar-house.[205] Scarcely less dramatic are his tales of comic
sensuality.[206] Nor has he a less vivid sense of beauty. Some of his
occasional pictures--the meeting of youths and maidens in the evening
light of Naples; the lover who changed his jousting-badge because his
lady was untrue; the tournament at Rimini; the portrait of Eugenia
disguised as a _ragazzo de omo d'arme_--break upon us with the freshness
of a smile or sunbeam.[207] We might almost detect a vein of Spanish
imagination in certain of his episodes--in the midnight ride of the
living monk after the dead friar strapped upon his palfrey, and in the
ghastly murder of the woman and the dwarf.[208] The lowest classes of
the people are presented with a salience worthy of Velasquez--cobblers,
tailors, prostitutes, preaching friars, miracle-workers, relic-mongers,
bawds, ruffians, lepers, highway robbers, gondoliers, innkeepers,
porters, Moorish slaves, the panders to base appetites and every sort of
sin.[209] Masuccio felt no compunction in portraying vicious people as
he knew them; but he reserved language of scathing vituperation for
their enormities.[210]

From so much that is coarse, dreadful, and revolting, the romance of
Masuccio's more genial tales detaches itself with charming grace and
delicacy. Nothing in Boccaccio is lovelier than the story of the girl
who puts on armor and goes at night to kill her faithless lover; or that
of Mariotto and Giannozza, which is substantially the same as Romeo and
Juliet; or that of Virginio Baglioni and Eugenia, surprised and slain by
robbers near Brescia; or that of Marchetto and Lanzilao, the comrades in
arms, which has points in common with Palamon and Arcite; or, lastly,
that of the young Malem and his education by Giudotto Gambacorto.[211].
It is the blending of so many elements--the interweaving of tragedy and
comedy, satire and pathos, grossness and sentiment, in a style of
unadorned sincerity, that places Masuccio high among novelists. Had his
language been as pure as that of the earlier Tuscan or the later Italian
authors, he would probably rank only second to Boccaccio in the
estimation even of his fellow-countrymen. A foreigner, less sensitive to
niceties of idiom, may be excused for recognizing him as at least
Bandello's equal in the story-teller's art. In moral quality he is
superior not only to Bandello, but also to Boccaccio.

The greatest writer of Italian prose in the fifteenth century was a man
of different stamp from Masuccio. Gifted with powers short only of the
very highest, Leo Battista Alberti exercised an influence over the
spirit of his age and race which was second to none but Lionardo's.[212]
Sacchetti, Ser Giovanni, Masuccio, and the ordinary tribe of chroniclers
pretended to no humanistic culture.[213] Alberti, on the contrary, was
educated at Bologna, where he acquired the scientific knowledge of his
age, together with such complete mastery of Latin that a work of his
youth, the comedy _Philodoxius_, passed for a genuine product of
antiquity. This man of many-sided genius came into the world too soon
for the perfect exercise of his singular faculties. Whether we regard
him from the point of of art, of science, or of literature, he occupies
in each department the position of precursor, pioneer and indicator.
Always original and always fertile, he prophesied of lands he was not
privileged to enter, leaving the memory of dim and varied greatness
rather than any solid monument behind him.[214] Of his mechanical
discoveries this is not the place to speak; nor can I estimate the value
of his labors in the science of perspective.[215] It is as a man of
letters that he comes before us in this chapter.

The date of Alberti's birth is uncertain. But we may fix it probably at
about the year 1405. He was born at Venice, where his father, exiled
with the other members of his noble house by the Albizzi, had taken
refuge. After Cosimo de' Medici's triumph over the Albizzi in 1434, Leo
Battista returned to Florence.[216] It was as a Florentine citizen that
his influence in restoring the vulgar literature to honor, was destined
to be felt. He did not, however, reside continuously in the city of his
ancestors, but moved from town to town, with a restlessness that savored
somewhat of voluntary exile. It is, indeed, noteworthy how many of the
greatest Italians--Dante, Giotto, Petrarch, Alberti, Lionardo, Tasso:
men who powerfully helped to give the nation intellectual
coherence--were wanderers. They sought their home and saw their
spiritual _patria_ in no one abiding-place.[217] Thus, amid the
political distractions of the Italian people, rose that ideal of unity
to which Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice, Ferrara contributed, but which
owned no metropolis. Florence remained to the last the brain of Italy.
Yet Florence, by stepmotherly ingratitude, by Dante's exile, by the
alienation of Petrarch, by Alberti's homeless boyhood, prepared for the
race a new culture, Tuscan in origin, national by diffusion and
assimilation. Alberti died at Rome in 1472, just when Poliziano, a youth
of eighteen, was sounding the first notes of that music which
re-awakened the Muse of Tuscany from her long sleep, and gave new
melodies to Italy.

In his proemium to the Third Book of the _Family_, addressed to
Francesco degli Alberti, Leo Battista enlarges on the duty of
cultivating the mother tongue.[218] After propounding the question
whether the loss of the empire acquired by their Roman
ancestors--_l'antiquo nostro imperio amplissimo_--or the loss of Latin
as a spoken language--_l'antiqua nostra gentilissima lingua
latina_--had been the greater privation to the Italian race, he gives
it as his opinion that, though the former robbed them of imperial
dignity, the latter was the heavier misfortune. To repair that loss is
the duty of one who had made literature his study. If he desires to
benefit his fellow-countrymen, he will not use a dead language,
imperfectly comprehended by a few learned men, but will bend the idiom
of the people to the needs of erudition. "I willingly admit," he
argues, "that the ancient Latin tongue is very copious and of beauty
polished to perfection. Yet I do not see what our Tuscan has in it so
hateful that worthy matter, when conveyed thereby, should be
displeasing to us." Pedants who despise their mother speech, are
mostly men incapable of expressing themselves in the latter; "and
granted they are right in saying that the ancient tongue has
undisputed authority, because so many learned men have employed it,
the like honor will certainly be paid our language of to-day, if men
of culture take the pains to purify and polish it." He then declares
that, meaning to be useful to the members of his house, and to
bequeath a record of their ancient dignity to their descendants, he
has resolved to choose the tongue in which he will be generally

This proemium explains Alberti's position in all his Italian writings.
Aiming at the general good, convinced that a living nation cannot use a
dead language with dignity and self-respect, he makes the sacrifice of a
scholar's pride to public utility, and has the sense to perceive that
the day of erudite exclusiveness is over. No one felt more than Alberti
the greatness of the antique Roman race. No one was prouder of his
descent from those patricians of the Commonwealth, who tamed and ruled
the world. The memory of that Roman past, which turned the generation
after Dante into a nation of students, glowed in Alberti's breast with
more than common fervor.[219] The sonorous introduction to the first
book of the _Family_ reviews the glories of the Empire and the decadence
of Rome with a pomp of phrase, a passion of eloquence, that stir our
spirit like the tramp of legions waking echoes in a ruined Roman
colonnade.[220] Yet in spite of this devotion to the past, Alberti, like
Villani, felt that his Italians of the modern age had destinies and
auspices apart from those of ancient Rome. He was resolved to make the
speech of that new nation, heiress of the Latin name, equal in dignity
to Cicero's and Livy's. What Rome had done, Rome's children should do
again. But the times were changed, and Alberti was a true son of the
Renaissance. He approached his task in the spirit of a humanist. His
style is over-charged with Latinisms; his periods are cumbrous; his
matter is loaded with citations and scholastic instances drawn from the
repertories of erudition.[221] The _vivida vis_ of inspiration fails.
His work is full of reminiscences. The golden simplicity of the
_trecento_ yields to a studied effort after dignity of diction, culture
of amplitude. Still the writer's energy is felt in massive paragraphs of
powerful declamation. His eloquence does not degenerate into frothy
rhetoric; and when he wills, he finds pithy phrases to express the mind
of a philosopher and poet. That he was born and reared in exile accounts
for a lack of racy Tuscan in his prose; and the structure of his
sentences proves that he had been accustomed to think in Latin before he
made Italian serve his turn.[222] Still, though for these and other
reasons his works were not of the kind to animate a nation, they are
such as still may be read with profit and with pleasure by men who seek
for solid thoughts in noble diction.

Alberti's principal prose work, the _Trattato della Famiglia_, was
written to instruct the members of his family in the customs of their
ancestors, and to perpetuate those virtues of domestic life which he
regarded as the sound foundation of a commonwealth. The first three
books are said to have been composed within the space of ninety days in
Rome, and the fourth added at a later period.[223] It is a dialogue,
the interlocutors being relatives of the Alberti blood. Nearly all the
illustrative matter is drawn from the biographies of their forefathers.
The scene is laid at Padua, and the essay contains frequent allusions to
their exile.[224] No word of invective against the Albizzi who had
ruined them, no vituperation of the city which had permitted the
expulsion of her sons, escapes the lips of any of the speakers. The
grave sadness that tempers the whole dialogue, is marred by neither
animosity nor passion. Yet though the _Family_ was written in exile for
exiles, the ideal of domestic life it paints, is Florentine.[225] Taken
in its whole extent, this treatise is the most valuable document which
remains to us from the times of the oligarchy, when Florence was waging
war with the Visconti, and before the Medici had based their despotism
upon popular favor. From its pages a tolerably complete history of a
great commercial family might be extracted; and this study would form a
valuable commentary on the public annals of the commonwealth during the
earlier portion of the fifteenth century.[226]

The first book of the _Famiglia_ deals with the duties of the elder to
the younger members of the household, and the observance owed by sons
and daughters to their parents. It is an essay _De Officiis_ within the
circle of the home, embracing minute particulars of conduct, and
suggesting rules for education from the cradle upwards.[227] The second
book takes up the question of matrimony. The respective ages at which
the sexes ought to marry, the moral and physical qualities of a good
wife, the maintenance of harmony between a wedded couple, their separate
provinces and common duty to the State in the procreation of children,
are discussed with scientific completeness. The third book, modeled on
the _Oeconomicus_ of Xenophon, is devoted to thrift. How to use our
personal faculties, our wealth, and our time to best advantage, forms
its principal theme. The fourth book treats of friendship--family
connections and alliances, the usefulness of friends in good and evil
fortune, the mutual benefits enjoyed by men who live honestly together
in a social state.[228] It may be seen from this sketch that the
architecture of the treatise is complete and symmetrical. The first book
establishes the principles of domestic morality on which a family exists
and flourishes. The second provides for its propagation through
marriage. The third shows how its resources are to be distributed and
preserved. The fourth explains its relations to similar communities
existing in an organized society. Many passages in the essay have
undoubtedly the air of truisms; but this impression of commonplaceness
is removed by the strong specific character of all the illustrations.
Alberti's wisdom is common to civilized humanity. His conception of life
is such as only suits a Florentine, and his examples are drawn from the
annals of a single family.

I have already dwelt at some length in a former volume on the most
celebrated section of this treatise--the _Padre di Famiglia_ or the
_Economico_.[229] To repeat those observations here would be
superfluous. Yet I cannot avoid a digression upon a matter of much
obscurity relating to the authorship of that book.[230] Until recently,
this discourse upon the economy of a Florentine household passed under
the name of Agnolo Pandolfini, and was published separately as his
undoubted work. The interlocutors in the dialogue, which bore the title
of _Governo della Famiglia_, are various members of the Pandolfini
family, and all allusions to the Alberti and their exile are wanting.
The style of the _Governo_ differs in many important respects from that
of Alberti; and yet the arrangement of the material and the substance of
each paragraph are so closely similar in both forms of the treatise as
to prove that the work is substantially identical. Pandolfini's essay,
which I shall call _Il Governo_, passes for one of the choicest
monuments of ancient Tuscan diction. Alberti's _Economico_, though it is
more idiomatic than the rest of his _Famiglia_, betrays the Latinisms of
a scholar. It is clear from a comparison of the two treatises either
that Alberti appropriated Pandolfini's _Governo_, brought its style into
harmony with his own, and gave it a place between the second and the
fourth books of his essay on the Family; or else that this third book of
Alberti's _Famiglia_ was rewritten by an author who commanded a purer
Italian. In the former case, Alberti changed the _dramatis personæ_ by
substituting members of his own house for the Pandolfini. In the latter
case, the anonymous compiler paid a similar compliment to the Pandolfini
by such alterations as obliterated the Alberti, and presented the
treatise to the world as part of their own history. That Agnolo
Pandolfini was himself guilty of this plagiarism is rendered improbable
by a variety of circumstances. Yet the problem does not resolve itself
into the simple question whether Pandolfini or Alberti was the plagiary.
Supposing Alberti to have been the original author, there is no
difficulty in believing that the _Governo_ was a redaction made from his
work by some anonymous hand in honor of the Pandolfini family. On the
contrary, if we assume Agnolo Pandolfini to have been the author, then
Alberti himself was guilty of a gross and open plagiarism.[231]

It will be useful to give some account of the MSS. upon which the
editions of the _Governo_ and the _Economico_ are based.[232] In the
first edition of the _Governo_ (Tartini e Franchi, Firenze, 1734) six
codices are mentioned. Of these the Codex Pandolfini A, on which the
editors chiefly relied, has been removed from Italy to Paris. The Codex
Pandolfini B was written in 1476 at Poggibonsi by a certain Giuliano di
Niccolajo Martini. Whether the Codex Pandolfini A professed to be an
autograph copy, I do not know; but the editors of 1734, referring to it,
state that the Senator Filippo Pandolfini, member of the Della Crusca,
corrected the errors, restored the text, and improved the diction of the
treatise by the help of a still more ancient MS. This admission on their
part is significant. It opens, for the advocates of Alberti's
authorship, innumerable suspicions as to the part played by Filippo
Pandolfini in the preparation of the _Governo_. Nor can it be denied
that the lack of an autograph of the _Governo_ renders the settlement
of the disputed question very difficult.

Of Alberti's _Trattato della Famiglia_ we have three autograph copies;
(i) Cod. Magl. Classe iv. No. 38 in folio; (ii) Riccardiana 1220; (iii)
Riccardiana 176. The first of these is the most important; but it
presents some points of singularity. In the first place, the third book,
which is the _Economico_, has been inserted into the original codex, and
shows a different style of writing. In the second place, the first two
books contain numerous corrections, additions, erasures and
recorrections, obviously made by Alberti himself. Some of the
interpolated passages in the first two books are found to coincide with
parts of the _Governo_; and Signor Cortesi, to whose critical Study I
have already referred, argues with great show of reason that Alberti,
when he determined to incorporate the _Governo_ in his _Famiglia_,
enriched the earlier books of that essay with fragments which he did not
find it convenient to leave in their original place. Still it should be
remembered that this argument can be reversed; for the anonymous
compiler of the _Governo_, if he had access to Alberti's autograph, may
have chosen to appropriate sentences culled from the earlier portions of
the _Famiglia_.

It is noticeable that the _Economico_, even though it forms the third
book of the Treatise on the Family, has a separate title and a separate
introduction, with a dedication to Francesco Alberti, and a distinct
peroration.[233] It is, in fact, an independent composition, and occurs
in more than one MS. of the fifteenth century detached from the rest of
the _Famiglia_. In style it is far freer and more racy than is usual
with Alberti's writing. Of this its author seems to have been aware; for
he expressly tells his friend and kinsman Francesco that he has sought
to approach the purity and simplicity of Xenophon.[234]

The anonymous writer of Alberti's life says that he composed three books
on the Family at Rome before he was thirty, and a fourth book three
years later. If we follow Tiraboschi in taking 1414 for the date of his
birth, the first three books must have been composed before 1444 and the
fourth in 1447. The former of these dates (1444) receives some
confirmation from a Latin letter written by Leonardo Dati to Alberti,
acknowledging the Treatise on the Family, in June 1443. Dati tells him
that he finds fault with the essay for being composed "in a more
majestic and perhaps a harsher style, especially in the first book, than
the Florentine language and the judgment of the laity would tolerate."
He goes on, however, to observe that "afterwards the language becomes
far more sweet and satisfactory to the ear"--a criticism which seems to
suit the altered manner of the third book. With reference to the date
1447, in which the _Famiglia_ may have been completed, Cortesi remarks
that Pandolfini died in 1446. He suggests that, upon this event, Alberti
appropriated the _Governo_ and rewrote it, and that the _Economico_,
though it holds the place of the third book in the treatise, is really
the fourth book mentioned by the anonymous biographer. The suggestion is
ingenious; and if we can once bring ourselves to believe that Alberti
committed a deliberate act of larceny, immediately after his friend
Pandolfini's death, then the details which have been already given
concerning the autograph of the _Famiglia_ and the discrepancies in its
style of composition add confirmation to the theory. There are, however,
good reasons for assigning Alberti's birth to the year 1404 or even
1402.[235] In that case Alberti's Roman residence would fall into the
third decade of the century, and the last book of the _Famiglia_ (which
I am inclined to believe is the one now called the third) would have
been composed before Pandolfini's death. That Alberti kept his MSS. upon
the stocks and subjected them to frequent revision is certain; and this
may account for one reference occurring in it to an event which happened
in 1438.

Is it rational to adopt the hypothesis of Alberti's plagiarism? Let us
distinctly understand what it implies. In his own preface to the
_Economico_ Alberti states that he has striven to reproduce the simple
and intelligible style of Xenophon[236]; and there is no doubt that this
portion of the _Famiglia_, whether we regard it as Alberti's or as
Pandolfini's property, was closely modeled on the _Oeconomicus_.
Cortesi suggests that the reference to Xenophon was purposely introduced
by Alberti in order to put his readers off the scent. Nor, if we accept
the hypothesis of plagiarism, can we restrict ourselves to this
accusation merely. In the essay _Della Tranquillità dell'Animo_ Alberti
introduces Agnolo Pandolfini as an interlocutor, and makes him refer to
the third book of the _Famiglia_ as a genuine production of
Alberti.[237] In other words, he must not only have appropriated
Pandolfini's work, and laid claim to it in the preface to his
_Economico_; but he must also have referred to it as his own composition
in a speech ascribed to the real author, which he meant for publication.
That is to say, he made the man whose work he stole pronounce its
panegyric and refer it to the thief. That Pandolfini was dead when he
committed these acts of treason would not be sufficient to explain
Alberti's audacity; for according to the advocates of Pandolfini's
authorship, the MS. formed a known and valued portion of his sons'
inheritance. Is it _primâ facie_ probable that Alberti, even in those
days of looser literary copyright than ours, should have exposed himself
to detection in so palpable and gross a fraud?

Before answering this question in the affirmative, it may be asked what
positive grounds there are for crediting Pandolfini with the original
authorship. At present no autograph of Pandolfini is forthcoming. His
claim to authorship rests on tradition, and on the Pandolfini cast of
the dialogue in certain MSS. At the same time, the admissions made by
the editors of 1734 regarding their most trusted codex have been
already shown to be suspicious. It is also noticeable that Vespasiano,
in his Life of Agnolo Pandolfini, though he professes to have been
intimately acquainted with this excellent Florentine burgher, does not
mention the _Governo della Famiglia_.[238] The omission is singular,
supposing the treatise to have then existed under Pandolfini's name, for
Vespasiano was himself a writer of Italian in an age when Latin
scholarship claimed almost exclusive attention. He would, we should have
thought, have been eager to name so distinguished a man among his
fellow-authors in the vulgar tongue.

Granting the force of these considerations, it must still be admitted
that there remain grave objections to accepting the _Economico_ of
Alberti as the original of these two treatises. In the first place, the
_Governo_ is a masterpiece of Tuscan; and it is far more reasonable to
suppose that the _Economico_ was copied from the _Governo_ with such
alterations as adapted it to the manner of the _Famiglia_, than to
assume that the _Economico_ received a literary rehandling which reduced
it from its more rhetorical to a popular form. The passage from simple
to complex in literature admits of easier explanation than the reverse
process. Moreover, if Alberti admired a racy Tuscan style and could
command it for the _Economico_, why did he not continue to use it in his
subsequent compositions? In the second place, the _Governo_, as it
stands, is suited to what Vespasiano tells us about Agnolo Pandolfini.
He was a scholar trained in the humanities of the earlier Renaissance
and a statesman who retired from public life, disgusted with the times,
to studious leisure at his villa. Now, Giannozzo Alberti, who takes the
chief part in the _Economico_, proclaims himself a man of business,
without learning. Those passages of the _Governo_ which seem
inappropriate to such a character are absent from the _Economico_; but
some of them appear in Alberti's other works, the _Teogenio_ and _Della
Tranquillità_. From this circumstance Signor Cortesi infers that
Alberti, working with Pandolfini's essay before him, made such
alterations as brought the drift of the discourse within the scope of
Giannozzo's acquirements. The advocates of Alberti's authorship are
bound to reverse this theory, and to assume that the author of the
_Governo_ suited the _Economico_ to Pandolfini by infusing a tincture of
scholarship into Giannozzo's speeches.[239]

We have still to ask who could the author of the _Governo_, if it was
not Agnolo Pandolfini, have been? The first answer to this question is:
Alberti himself. The anonymous biographer tells us that he wrote the
first three books at Rome, and that he afterwards made great efforts to
improve his Tuscan style and render it more popular. It is not,
therefore, impossible that he should himself have fitted that portion of
his _Famiglia_ with new characters, omitted the Alberti, and given the
honors of the dialogue to Pandolfini. The treatise, as he first planned
it (according to this hypothesis), has a passionate digression upon the
exile of the Alberti, followed by a declamation against public life and
politicians. To have circulated these passages in an essay intended for
Florentine readers, after Alberti's recall by Cosimo de' Medici, would
have been unwise. Alberti, therefore, may only have retained such
portions of them as could rouse no animosity, revive no painful
reminiscences, and be appropriately placed upon the lips of Pandolfini.
As it stands in the _Governo_, the invective against statecraft is
scarcely in keeping with Pandolfini's character. Though he retired from
public life disgusted and ill at ease, the conclusion that no man should
seek to serve the State except from a strict sense of duty, sounds
strange when spoken by this veteran politician. Taken as the climax to
the history of the wrongs inflicted upon the Alberti, this passage is
dramatically in harmony with Giannozzo's experience.[240] With regard to
the noticeable improvement of style in the _Economico_, we might argue
that after Alberti had enjoyed facilities at Florence of acquiring his
native idiom, he remodeled that section of his earlier work which he
intended for the people. And the same line of argument would account for
the independence of the _Economico_ and its occurrence in separate MSS.
Had Alberti designed what we now call a plagiarism, what need was there
to call attention to it by prefixing an introduction to the third book
of a continuous treatise?

It is not, however, necessary to defend Alberti from the charge of fraud
by suggesting that he was himself the author of the _Governo_. There
existed, as we shall soon see, a class of semi-cultivated scribes at
Florence, whose business consisted in manufacturing literature for the
people. They re-wrote, re-fashioned, condensed, abstracted whatever
seemed to furnish entertainment and instruction for their public. Their
style was close to the vulgar speech and frankly idiomatic. That one of
these men should have made the necessary alterations in the third book
of the _Famiglia_ to remove the recollection of the Alberti exile, and
to prepare it for popular reading, is by no means impossible. The
_Governo_ is shorter and more condensed than the _Economico_. The
rhetorical and dramatic elements are reduced; and the material is
communicated in a style of gnomic pregnancy. If it was modeled upon the
_Economico_ in the way I have suggested, the writer of the abstract was
a man of no common ability, with a very keen sense of language and a
faculty for investing a work of art and fine literature with the
_naïveté_ and grace of popular style. He also understood the necessity
of providing his chief interlocutor, Agnolo Pandolfini, with a character
different from that of Giannozzo Alberti; and he had the tact to realize
that character by innumerable touches. Great additional support would be
given to this hypothesis, if we could trust Bonucci's assertion that he
had seen and transcribed a MS. of the _Governo_ adapted with a set of
characters selected from the Pazzi family. It would then seem clear that
the _Governo_ was an essay which every father of a family wished to
possess for the instruction of his household, and to connect with the
past history of his own race. Unluckily, Signor Bonucci, though he
prints this Pazzi _rifacimento_, gives no information as to the source
of the MS. or any hint whereby its existence can be ascertained.[241] We
must, therefore, omit it from our reckoning.

As the case at present stands, it is impossible to form a decisive
opinion regarding the authorship of this famous treatise. The necessary
critical examination of MSS. has not yet been made, and the arguments
used on either side from internal evidence are not conclusive. My own
prepossession is still in favor of Alberti. I may, however, observe that
after reading Signor Cortesi's inedited essay, I perceive the case in
favor of Pandolfini to be far stronger than I had expected.[242]

Space will not permit a full discussion of Alberti's numerous writings;
and yet their bearing on the best opinion of his time is so important
that some notice of them must be taken. Together with the _Famiglia_ we
may class the _Deiciarchia_, or, as it should probably be written, the
_De Iciarchia_.[243] This, like the majority of his moral treatises, is
a dialogue, and its subject is civic virtue. Having formed the ideal
family, he next considers the functions of householders, born to guide
the State. The chief point of the discourse is that no one should be
idle, but that all should labor in some calling worthy of the dignity of
man.[244] This seems a simple doctrine; but it is so inculcated as to
make us remember the Guelf laws of Florence, whereby _scioperati_ were
declared criminals. It must not, however, be supposed that Alberti
confines himself to the development of this single theme. His
_Deiciarchia_ is rather to be regarded as a treatise on the personal
qualities of men to whom the conduct of a commonwealth has been by
accident of birth intrusted.

A second class of Alberti's dialogues discuss the contemplative life. In
the _Famiglia_ and the _Deiciarchia_ man is regarded as a social and
domestic being. In the _Tranquillità dell'Animo_ and the _Teogenio_ the
inner life of the student and the sage comes under treatment. The former
of these dialogues owes much of its interest to the interlocutors and to
the scene where it was laid.[245] Leon Battista Alberti, Niccolò di Veri
dei Medici, and Agnolo Pandolfini meet inside the Florentine Duomo,
which is described in a few words of earnest admiration for its majesty
and strength.[246] These friends begin a conversation, which soon turns
upon the means of preserving the mind in repose and avoiding
perturbations from the passions. The three books are enriched with
copious allusions to Alberti's works and personal habits--his skill as a
musician and a statuary, the gymnastic feats of his youth, and his
efforts to benefit the State by intellectual labor. They form a valuable
supplement to the anonymous biography. The philosophical material is too
immediately borrowed from Cicero and Seneca to be of much importance.
The _Teogenio_ is a more attractive, and, as it seems to me, a riper
work.[247] Of Alberti's ethical discourses I am inclined to rate this
next to the _Famiglia_; nor did the Italian Renaissance produce any
disquisition of the kind more elevated in feeling, finer in temper, or
glowing with an eloquence at once so spontaneous and so dignified. We
have to return to Petrarch to find the same high humanistic passion; and
Alberti's Italian is here more winning than Petrarch's Latin. Had Pico
condescended to the vulgar tongue, he might have produced work of
similar quality; for the essay on the Dignity of Man is written in the
same spirit.

The _Teogenio_ was sent with a letter of dedication to Lionelle d'Este
not long after his father's death.[248] Alberti apologizes for its
Italian style and assures the prince it had been written merely to
console him in his evil fortunes. The speakers are two, Teogenio and
Microtiro.[249] The dialogue opens with a passage on friendship, and a
somewhat labored description of the grove where Teogenio intends to pass
the day. Microtiro has come from the city. His friend, the recluse,
welcomes him to the country with these words: "Ma sediamo, se così ti
piace, qui fra questi mirti, in luogo non men delizioso che vostri
teatri e tempi amplissimi e sontuosissimi." This strikes the keynote of
the treatise, the theme of which is the superiority of study in the
country over the distractions of the town. Reading it, we see how
rightly Landino assigned his part to Alberti in the Camaldolese
Discussions.[250] That ideal of rural solitude which the Italian
scholars inherited from their Roman forefathers, receives its earliest
and finest treatment in this dialogue. It is not communion with nature
so much as the companionship of books and the pursuit of study in a
tranquil corner of the Tuscan hills, that Alberti has selected for his
panegyric.[251] "The society of the illustrious dead," he says in one of
the noblest passages of the essay, "can be enjoyed by me at leisure
here; and when I choose to converse with sages, politicians or great
poets, I have but to turn to my bookshelves, and my company is better
than your palaces with all their crowds of flatterers and clients can
afford."[252] After enlarging on the manifold advantages of a student's
life, he concludes the book with a magnificent picture of human frailty,
leading up to a discourse on death.

It is noticeable that Alberti, though frequently approaching the subject
of religion, never dilates upon it, and in no place declares himself a
Christian. His creed is that of the Roman moralists--a belief in the
benignant Maker of the Universe, an intellectual and unsubstantial
theism. We feel this even in that passage of the _Famiglia_ when
Giannozzo and his wife pray in their bed-chamber to God for prosperity
in life and happiness in children.[253] There is not a word about
spiritual blessings, no allusion to Christ or Madonna, though a silver
statue of the Saint with ivory hands and face is standing in his
tabernacle over them[254]--nothing, indeed, to indicate that this grave
Florentine couple, whom we may figure to ourselves like Van Dyck's
merchant and wife in the National Gallery, were not performing sacrifice
and praying to the _Di Lares_ of a Roman household. The Renaissance had
Latinized even the religious sentiments, and the elder faiths of the
middle ages were extinct in the soundest hearts of the epoch.[255]

A third group of Alberti's prose works consists of his essays on the
arts.[256] One of these, the Treatise on Painting, was either written in
Italian or translated by Alberti soon after its composition in
Latin.[257] The Treatises on Perspective, Sculpture, Architecture and
the Orders are supposed to have been rendered by their author from the
Latin; but doubt still rests upon Alberti's share in this translation.
It is not my present business to inquire into the subject-matter of his
artistic essays, but rather to note the fact that Alberti should have
thought it fitting to use Italian for at least the most considerable of
them. We have already seen that his chief motive to composition was
utility and that he recognized the need of bringing the results of
learning within the scope of the unlettered laity. We need not doubt
that this consideration weighed with him when he rehandled the matter of
Vitruvius and Pliny for the use of handicraftsmen. Nothing is more
striking in the whole series than the business-like simplicity of style,
the avoidance of rhetoric, and the adaptation of each section to some
practical end. We have not here to do with æsthetical criticism, but
with the condensed experience of a student and workman. In his
exposition of theory Alberti corresponds to the practice of Florence,
where Ghirlandajo kept a _bottega_ open to all comers, and Michelangelo
began his apprenticeship by grinding colors.

Though the subject of these essays lies beyond the scope of my work, it
is impossible to pass over the dedication to Filippo Brunelleschi, which
is prefixed to the Italian version of the _Pittura_. Alberti begins by
saying that the wonder and sorrow begotten in him by reflecting on the
loss of many noble arts and sciences, had led him to believe that
Nature, wearied and out-worn, had no force left to generate the giant
spirits of her youth. "But when I returned from the long exile in which
we of the Alberti have grown old, to this our mother-city, which exceeds
all others in the beauty of her monuments, I perceived that many living
men, but first of all you, Filippo, and our dearest friend the sculptor
Donatello, and Lorenzo Ghiberti and Luca della Robbia and Masaccio, were
not of less account for genius and noble work than any ancient artist of
great fame." After some remarks upon industry and the advantages of
scientific theory, he proceeds: "Who is there so hard and envious of
temper as not to praise the architect Filippo, when he saw so vast a
structure, raised above the heavens, spacious enough to cover with its
shadow all the Tuscan folks, built without any aid from beams and
scaffoldings, a miracle of art, if I judge rightly, which might in this
age have been deemed impossible, and which even among the ancients was
perhaps unknown, undreamed of?" After this exordium, he commits to
Brunelleschi's care his little book on painting, _quale a tuo nome feci
in lingua toscana_. The interest of this dedication lies not only in the
mention of the five chief _quattrocento_ artists by Alberti, and in the
record of the impression first produced on him by Florence, but also in
the recognition that, great as were the dead arts of antiquity, the
modern arts of Italy could rival them. It is an intuition parallel to
that which induced Alberti to compose the _Famiglia_ in Italian, and
proves that he could endure the blaze of humanism without blindness.

In the fourth group of Alberti's prose-works we come across a new vein
of semi-moral, semi-satirical reflection. These are devoted to love and
matrimony, giving rhetorical expression to the misogynistic side of the
_Novelle_. Alberti professes himself a master in the lore of love. He
knows its symptoms, diagnoses and describes the stages of the malady,
and pretends to intimate acquaintance with the foibles of both sexes.
Yet we seem to feel that his knowledge is rather literary than real,
derived from books and pranked with a scholastic show of borrowed
learning. Two lectures addressed by women to their own sex on the art of
love, take the first place in this series. The one is called
_Ecatomfila_, or the lady of the hundred loves; the other _Amiria_, or
the lady of the myriad.[258] The former tells her female audience what
kind of lover to choose, neither too young nor too old, not too rich nor
yet too handsome; how to keep him, and in what way to make the most of
the precious acquisition. She is comparatively modest, and the sort of
passion she implies may pass for virtuous. Yet her large experience of
men proves she has arrived at wisdom after many trials. Her virtue is a
matter of prudent egoism. Amiria takes a different line. Heliogabalus
might have used her precepts in his _Concio ad Meretrices_. Her
discourse turns upon the subsidiary aids to beauty and the arts of
coquetry. Recipes for hair-dyes, depilatories, eye-lotions,
tooth-powders, soaps, lip-salves, ointments, cosmetics, skin-preservers,
wart-destroyers, pearl-powders, rouges, are followed up with sound
advice about craft, fraud, force, feigned passion, entangling
manoeuvres, crocodile tears, and secrecy in self-indulgence. The
sustained irony of this address, and the minute acquaintance with the
least laudable secrets of an Italian lady's toilet it reveals, place it
upon the list of literary curiosities. Did any human beings ever plaster
their faces with such stuff as Amiria gravely recommends?[259]

The _Deifira_ is a dialogue on the cure of a distempered passion, which
adds but little to Ovid's _Remedium Amoris_; while two short treatises
on marriage only prove that Alberti took the old Simonidean view of
there being at least nine bad women to one good one.[260] His misogyny,
whether real or affected, reaches its climax in an epistle to Paolo
Codagnello, which combines the worst things said by Boccaccio in the
_Corbaccio_ with Lucian's satire on female uncleanliness in the
_Amores_.[261] The tirade appears to be as serious as possible, and,
indeed, Alberti's generalities might be illustrated _ad libitum_ from
the _Novelle_. It is no wonder that women resented his treatment of
them; and one of his most amusing lesser tracts is a dialogue between
himself and a lady called Sofrona, who took him to task for this very
epistle. In answer to her reproaches he is ceremoniously polite. He also
gives her the last word in the argument, not without a stroke of humor.
"It is all very well of you, men of letters, to take our characters
away, so long as we can rule our husbands and make choice of lovers when
and how we choose. All you men run after us; and if you do but see a
pretty girl, you stand as stock still as a statue."[262] After this
fashion runs Sofrona's reply.

Alberti's misogynistic essays remind us how very difficult it is to
understand or explain the tone of popular literature in that century
with regard to women. That the _Novelle_ were written to amuse both
sexes seems clear; and we must imagine that the women who read so much
vituperation of their manners, regarded it as a conventional play with
words. Like Sofrona, they knew their satirists to be fair husbands,
fathers, brothers, and, in the capacity of lovers, ludicrously blind to
their defects. The current abuse of women, in which Petrarch no less
than Alberti and Boccaccio indulged, seems to have been a scholastic
survival of the coarse and ignorant literature of the medieval clergy.
Cloistered monks indulged their taste for obscenity, and indemnified
themselves for self-imposed celibacy, by grossly insulting the mothers
who bore them and the institution they administered as a sacrament.[263]
Their invective tickled the vulgar ear, and passed into popular
literature, where it held its own as a commonplace, not credited with
too much meaning by folk who knew the world.

The pretty story of Ippolito and Leonora, could we believe it to be
Alberti's, might pass for a palinode to these misogynistic
treatises.[264] It is the tale of two Florentine lovers, born in hostile
houses, and brought after a series of misadventures, to the fruition of
honorable love in marriage. The legend must have been very popular.
Besides the prose version, in which the lovers are called Ippolito de'
Buondelmonti and Leonora de' Bardi, we have a poem in _ottava rima_,
where the heroine's name becomes Dianora. A Latin translation of the
same novel was produced by Paolo Cortesi, with the title _Hyppolyti et
Deyaniræ Historia_. But since Alberti's authorship has not been clearly
proved, it is more prudent to class both Italian versions among those
anonymous products of popular literature which will form the topic of my
next chapter.

Of Alberti's poems few survive; and these have no great literary value.
Out of the three serious sonnets, one beginning _Io vidi già seder_
deserves to be studied for a certain rapidity of movement and mystery of
emotion.[265] It might be compared to an allegorical engraving by some
artist of the sixteenth century--Robeta or the Master of the Caduceus.
Two burlesque sonnets in reply to Burchiello have this interest, that
they illustrate a point of literary contact between the people and the
cultivated classes. But, on the whole, the Sestines and the Elegy of
Agiletta must be reckoned Alberti's best performances in verse.[266]
Here his gnomic wisdom finds expression in pregnant, almost epigrammatic
utterances. There are passages in the _Agiletta_, weighty with packed
sentences, which remind an English reader of Bacon's lines on human
life.[267] Still it is the poetry of a man largely gifted, but not born
to be a singer. It may be worth adding to this brief notice of
Alberti's rhymes, that he essayed Latin meters in Italian. The following
elegiac couplet belongs to him[268]:

    Questa per estremo miserabile epistola mando
      A te che spregi miseramente noi.

It is not worth printing. But it illustrates that endeavor to fuse the
forms of ancient with the material of modern art, which underlay
Alberti's practical experiments in architecture.

It may seem that too much attention has already been given to Alberti
and his works. Yet when we consider his peculiar position in the history
of the Renaissance, when we remember the singular beauty of his
character, and reflect that, first among the humanists of mark, he
deigned to labor for the public and to cultivate his mother tongue, a
certain disproportion in the space allotted him may be excused. What his
immediate successors in the field of erudition thought of him, can be
gathered from a passage in Poliziano's preface to the first edition of
his work on Architecture.[269] "To praise the author is beyond the
narrow limits of a letter, beyond the poor reach of my powers of
eloquence. Nothing, however abstruse in learning, however remote from
the ordinary range of scholarship, was hidden from his genius. One might
question whether he was better fitted for oratory or for poetry, whether
his speech was the more weighty or the more polished." These great
qualities Alberti placed freely at the service of the unlettered laity.
He is therefore the hero of that age which I have called the period of

In Alberti, moreover, we study the best type of the Italian intellect as
it was molded, on emergence from the middle ages, by those double
influences of humanism and fine art which determined the Renaissance.
Though his genius was rather artistic than scientific, all problems of
nature and of man attracted him; and he dealt freely with them in the
spirit of true modern curiosity. His method shows no trace either of
mystical theology or of crooked scholasticism. He surveyed the world
with a meditative but observant glance, avoiding the deeper questions of
ontology, and depicting what he noticed with the realism of a painter.
This powerful pictorial faculty made his sketches from contemporary
life--the description of the gambler in the _Deiciarchia_; the portrait
of the sage in the _Teogenio_; the domestic colloquies of Giannozzo with
his wife in the _Famiglia_; the interior of a coquette's chamber in the
_Amiria_--surprising for sincerity and fullness. As a writer, he has the
same merit that we recognize in Masaccio and Ghirlandajo among the
fresco-painters of that age. But Alberti's touch is more sympathetic,
his humanity more loving.

He was not eminent as a metaphysician. From Plato he only borrowed
something of his literary art, and something of ethical elevation,
leaving to Ficino the mysticism which then passed for Platonic science.
His ideal of the virtuous man is a Florence burgher, honorable but keen
in business, open to culture of all kinds, untainted by the cynicism
that marred Cosimo de' Medici, lacking the licentious traits of the
_Novelle_. Alberti's Padre di Famiglia might have stepped from the walls
of the Riccardi Chapel or the Choir of S. Maria Novella, in his grave
red _lucco_, with the cold and powerful features. The life praised above
all others by Alberti is the life of a meditative student, withdrawn
from State affairs, and corresponding with men of a like tranquil
nature. This ideal was realized by Sannazzaro in his Mergellina, by
Ficino at Montevecchio, by Pico at Querceto. Just as his science and his
philosophy were æsthetic, so were his religion and his morality. He
conformed to the ceremonies of the Catholic Church. But the religious
sentiment had already become in him rational rather than emotional, and
less a condition of the conscience than of the artistic sensibility.
Honor in men, honesty in women, moved his admiration because they are
comely. The splendor of the stars, the loveliness of earth, raised him
in thought to the supreme source of beauty. Whatever the genius of man
brings to perfection of grace, he called divine, realizing for the first
time the piety that finds God in the human spirit.[270]

The harmonious lines and the vast spaces of the Florentine Duomo
thrilled him like music, merging the charm of art in the high worship of
a cultivated nature. "This temple," he writes in a passage that might be
quoted as the quintessential exposition of his mind,[271] "has in it
both grace and majesty, and I delight to notice that union of slender
elegance with full and vigorous solidity, which shows that while every
member is designed to please, the whole is built for perpetuity. Inside
these aisles there is the climate of eternal spring--wind, frost, and
rime without; a quiet and mild air within--the blaze of summer on the
square; delicious coolness here. Above all things I delight in feeling
the sweetness of those voices busied at the sacrifice, and in the sacred
rites our classic ancestors called mysteries. All other modes and kinds
of singing weary with reiteration; only religious music never palls. I
know not how others are affected; but for myself, those hymns and psalms
of the Church produce on me the very effect for which they were
designed, soothing all disturbance of the soul, and inspiring a certain
ineffable languor full of reverence toward God. What heart of man is so
rude as not to be softened when he hears the rhythmic rise and fall of
those voices, complete and true, in cadences so sweet and flexible? I
assure you that I never listen in these mysteries and funeral ceremonies
to the Greek words which call on God for aid against our human
wretchedness, without weeping. Then, too, I ponder what power music
brings with it to soften us and soothe."

It would be difficult with greater spontaneity and truth to delineate
the emotions stirred in an artistic nature by the services of a
cathedral. It is the language, however, not of a devout Christian, but
one who, long before Goethe, had realized the Goethesque ideal of
"living with fixed purpose in the Whole, the Good, the Beautiful."

Alberti both in his width of genius and in his limitations--in his
all-embracing curiosity and aptitude for knowledge, his sensitiveness to
every charm, his strong practical bias, the realism of his pictures, the
objectivity of his style, his indifference to theology and metaphysic,
the largeness of his love for all things that have grace, the
substitution of æsthetical for moral standards, the purity of his taste,
the tranquillity and urbanity of his spirit, his Stoic-Epicurean
acceptance of the world where man may be content to dwell and build
himself a home of beauty--was a true representative of his age. What
attracts us in the bronze-work of Ghiberti, in the bass-reliefs of Della
Robbia, in Rossellino's sleeping Cardinal di Portogallo, in
Ghirlandajo's portraits and the airy space of Masaccio's backgrounds, in
the lives of Ficino and Pomponio Leto, in the dome of Brunelleschi, in
the stanzas of Poliziano, arrives at consciousness in Alberti, pervades
his writing, and finds unique expression in the fragment of his Latin
biography. Yet we must not measure the age of Cosimo de' Medici and
Roderigo Borgia by the standard of Alberti. He presents the spirit of
the fifteenth century at its very best. Philosophical and artistic
sympathy compensate in his religion for that period's lack of pious
faith. Its political degradation assumes in him the shape of a
fastidious retirement from vulgar strife. Its lawlessness, caprice, and
violence are regulated by the motto "Nothing overmuch" which forms the
keystone of his ethics. Its realism is tempered by his love for man and
beast and tree--that love which made him weep when he beheld the summer
fields and labors of the husbandman. Its sensuality finds no place in
his harmonious nature. Many defects of the century are visible enough in
Alberti; but what redeemed Italy from corruption and rendered her
capable of great and brilliant work amid the chaos of States ruining in
infidelity and vice--that free energy of the intellect, open to all
influences, inventive of ideas, creative of beauty, which ennobled her
Renaissance--burned in him with mild and tranquil radiance.

This is perhaps the fittest place to notice a remarkable book, which,
though it cannot be reckoned among the masterpieces of Italian
literature, is too important in its bearing on the history of the
Renaissance to be passed in silence. The _Hypnerotomachia Poliphili_, or
"Poliphil's Strife of Love in a Dream," was written by Francesco
Colonna, a Dominican monk, at Treviso in 1467.[272] There is some reason
to conjecture that he composed it first in Latin;[273] but when it
appeared in print in 1499, it had already assumed the garb of a strange
maccaronic style, blending the euphuisms of affected rhetoric with
phrases culled from humanistic pedantry. The base of the language
professes to be Italian; but it is an Italian Latinized in all its
elements, and interlarded with scraps of Greek and Hebrew. The following
description of the Dawn, with which the book opens, serve as a specimen
of its peculiar dialect[274]:

     Phoebo in quel hora manando, che la fronte di Matuta Leucothea
     candidava, fora gia dalle Oceane unde, le volubile rote
     sospese non dimonstrava. Ma sedulo cum gli sui volucri
     caballi, Pyroo primo, & Eoo al quanto apparendo, ad dipingere
     le lycophe quadrige della figliola di vermigliante rose,
     velocissimo inseguentila, non dimorava. Et coruscante gia
     sopra le cerulee & inquiete undule, le sue irradiante come
     crispulavano. Dal quale adventicio in quel puncto occidua
     davase la non cornuta Cynthia, solicitando gli dui caballi del
     vehiculo suo cum il Mulo, lo uno candido & laltro fusco,
     trahenti ad lultimo Horizonta discriminante gli Hemisperii
     pervenuta, & dalla pervia stella ari centare el di, fugata
     cedeva. In quel tempo quando che gli Rhiphaei monti erano
     placidi, ne cum tanta rigidecia piu lalgente & frigorifico
     Euro cum el laterale flando quassabondo el mandava gli teneri
     ramuli, & ad inquietare gli mobili scirpi & pontuti iunci &
     debili Cypiri, & advexare gli plichevoli vimini & agitare gli
     lenti salici, & proclinare la fragile abiete sotto gli corni
     di Tauro lascivianti. Quanta n el hyberno tempo spirare solea.
     Similmente el iactabondo Orione cessando di persequire
     lachrymoso, lornato humero Taurino delle sete sorore.

Whether Francesco Colonna prepared the redaction from which this
paragraph is quoted, admits of doubt. A scholar, Leonardo Crasso of
Verona, defrayed the cost of the edition. Manutius Aldus printed the
volume and its pages were adorned with precious wood-cuts, the work of
more than one anonymous master of the Lombardo-Venetian school.[275] It
was dedicated to Duke Guidobaldo of Urbino.

For the student of Italian literature in its transition from the middle
age to the Renaissance, the _Hypnerotomachia_ has special and many-sided
interest. It shows that outside Florence, where the pure Italian idiom
was too vigorous to be suppressed, humanistic fashion had so far taken
possession of the literary fancy as to threaten the very existence of
the mother tongue. But, more than this, it represents that epoch of
transition in its fourfold intellectual craving after the beauty of
antiquity, the treasures of erudition, the multiplied delights of art,
and the liberty of nature. These cravings are allegorized in a romance
of love, which blends medieval mysticism with modern sensuousness. Like
the style, the matter of the book is maccaronic, parti-colored and
confused; but the passion which controls so many elements is genuine and
simple. The spirit of the earlier Renaissance reflects itself, as in a
mirror, in the Dream of Poliphil. So essentially is it the product of a
transitional moment that when the first enthusiasm for its euphuistic
pedantry and æsthetical rapture had subsided, the key to its most
obvious meaning was lost. In the preface to the fourth French edition
(1600), Beroald de Verville hinted that the volume held deep alchemistic
secrets for those who could discover them. After this distortion the
book passed into not altogether unmerited oblivion. It had done its work
for the past age. It now remains an invaluable monument for those who
would fain reconstruct the century which gave it birth.

The _Hypnerotomachia_ professes to relate its author's love for Polia, a
nun, his search after her, and their union, at the close of sundry
trials and adventures, in the realm of Venus. Poliphil dreams that he
finds himself in a wild wood, where he is assailed by monstrous beasts,
and suffers great distress of mind. He prays to Diespiter, and comes
forthwith into a pleasant valley, through which he wanders in the hope
of finding Polia. At the outset of his journey he meets five damsels,
Aphea, Offressia, Orassia, Achoe, Geussia, who conduct him to their
queen, Eleuterilyda.[276] She understands his quest, and assigns the
maidens, Logistica and Thelemia, to be his guides into the palace of
Telosia. They journey together and arrive at the abode of Dame Telosia,
which has three gates severally inscribed in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin
characters with legends, the meaning whereof is God's Glory, Mother of
Love, and Worldly Glory. Poliphil enters the first door, and finds the
place within but little to his liking. Then he tries the third, and is
no better pleased. Lastly he gains admittance to the demesne of Love's
Mother, where he is content to Stay. Lovely and lascivious maidens greet
him kindly; and while he surrenders to their invitation, one of his
attendants, Logistica, takes her flight. He is left with his beloved
Thelemia to enjoy the pleasures of this enchanting region.

Thus far the allegory is not hard to read. Poliphil, or the lover of
Polia, escapes from the perils of the forest where his earlier life was
passed, by petition to the Father of Gods and Men. He places himself in
the hands of the five senses, who conduct him to freewill. Freewill
appoints for his further guidance reason and inclination, who are to
lead him to the final choice of lives. When he arrives at the point
where this choice has to be made, he perceives that God, the world, and
beauty, who is mother of love, compete for his willing service. He
rejects religion and ambition; and no sooner has his preference for love
and beauty been avowed, than the reasoning faculty deserts him, and he
is abandoned to inclination.

While Poliphil is dallying with the nymphs of pleasure and his own
wanton will, he is suddenly abandoned by these companions, and pursues
his journey alone.[277] Before long, however, he becomes aware of a
maiden, exceedingly fair to look upon, who carries in her hand a lighted
torch. With her for guide, he passes through many pleasant places,
arriving finally at the temple of Venus Physizoe. This maiden, though as
yet he cannot recognize her, is the Polia he seeks, and on their way
together he feels the influences of her love-compelling beauty. They
enter the chapel of Venus, and are graciously received by the prioress
who guards that sanctuary. Mystical rites of initiation and consecration
are performed. Polia lays down her torch, and is discovered by her
lover. Then they are wedded by grace of the abiding goddess; and having
undergone the ceremony of spousal, they resume their wanderings
together. They pass through a desolate city of tombs and ruins, named
Polyandrion, where are the sepulchers and epitaphs of lovers. Here, too,
they witness the pangs of souls tormented for their crimes against the
deity of Love. Afterwards they reach a great water, where Cupid's barge
comes sailing by, and takes them to the island of Cythera. It is a level
land of gardens, groves and labyrinths, adorned with theaters and baths,
and watered by a mystic font of Venus. Near the Tomb of Adonis in this
demesne of Love, Polia and Poliphil sit down to rest among the nymphs,
and Polia relates the story of their early passion.

It is here, if anywhere, that we come across reality in this romance.
Polia tells how the town of Treviso was founded, and of what illustrious
lineage she came, and how she vowed herself to the service of Diana when
the plague was raging in the city. In Dian's temple Poliphil first saw
her, and fainted at the sight, and she, made cruel by the memory of her
vows, left him upon the temple-floor for dead. But when she returned
home, a vision of women punished for their hard heart smote her
conscience; and her old nurse, an adept in the ways of love, counseled
her to seek the Prioress of Venus, and confess, and enter into
reconcilement with her lover. What the nurse advised, Polia did, and in
the temple of Venus she met Poliphil. He, while his body lay entranced
upon the floor of Dian's church, had visited the heavens in spirit and
obtained grace from Venus and Cupid. Therefore, the twain were now of
one accord, and ready to be joined in bonds of natural affection. At the
end of Polia's story, the nymphs leave both lovers to enjoy their
new-found happiness. But here the power of sleep is spent, and Poliphil,
awakened by the song of swallows, starts from dreams with "Farewell, my
Polia!" upon his lips.

Such is the frail and slender basis of romance, corresponding, in the
details of Polia's narrative, to an ordinary _novella_, upon which the
bulky edifice of the _Hypnerotomachia_ is built. This love-story, while
it gives form to the book, is clearly not the author's main motive. What
really concerns him most deeply is the handling of artistic themes,
which, though introduced by way of digressions, occupy by far the
larger portion of his work. The _Hypnerotomachia_ is an encyclopædia of
curious learning, a treasure-house of æsthetical descriptions and
discussions, vividly reflecting the two ruling enthusiasms of the
earlier Renaissance for scholarship and art. Minute details of
inexhaustible variety, bringing before our imagination the architecture,
sculpture, and painting of the fifteenth century, its gardens, palaces
and temples, its processions, triumphs and ceremonial shows, its delight
in costly jewels, furniture, embroidery and banquets, its profound
feeling for the beauty of women, and its admiration for the goodliness
of athletic manhood, are massed together with bewildering profusion. Not
one of the technical arts which flourished in the dawn of the
Renaissance but finds due celebration here; and the whole is penetrated
with that fervent reverence for antiquity which inspired the humanists.
Yet the _Hypnerotomachia_, though sometimes tedious, is never frigid.
With the precision of a treatise and the minuteness of an inventory, it
combines the ardor of impassioned feeling, the rapture of anticipation,
the artist's blending with the lover's ecstasy. It is a dithyramb of the
imagination, inflamed by no Oriental lust of mere magnificence, but by
the fine sense of what is beautiful in form, rare in material, just in
proportion, exquisite in workmanship.

Whether the _Hypnerotomachia_ exercised a powerful influence over the
productions of the Italian genius, can be doubted. But that it presents
an epitome or figured abstract of the Renaissance in its earlier
luxuriance, is unmistakable. Reading it, we wander through the
collections of Paul II., rich with jewels, _intagli_, cameos and coins;
we enter Amadeo's chapels, Filarete's palaces, Bramante's peristyles and
_loggie_; we pace the gardens of the Brenta and the Sforza's deer-parks
at Pavia; we watch Lorenzo's Florentine _trionfi_ and Pietro Riario's
festivals in Rome; Giorgione's _fêtes champêtres_ are set for us in
framework of the choicest fruits and flowers; we hear Ciriac of Ancona
discoursing on his epigraphs and broken marbles; before our eyes, as in
a gallery, are ranged the bass-reliefs of Donatello wrought in bronze,
Mantegna's triumphs, Signorelli's arabesques, the terra-cotta of the
Lombard and the stucco of the Roman schools, the carved-work of
Alberti's church at Rimini, the _tarsiatura_ of Fra Giovanni da Verona's
choir-stalls, doorways from Milanese and chimneys from Urbino palaces,
Vatican tapestries and trellis-work of beaten iron from Prato--all that
the Renaissance in its bloom produced, is here depicted with the wealth
and warmth of fancy doting on anticipated beauties.

Of the author, Francesco Colonna, very little is known, except that he
was born in 1433 at Venice, that he attached himself to Ermolao Barbaro,
spent a portion of his manhood in the Dominican cloister of S. Niccolò
at Treviso, and died at Venice in 1527. Whether the love-tale of the
_Hypnerotomachia_ had a basis of reality, or whether we ought to regard
it wholly from the point of view of allegory, cannot be decided now. It
is, however, probable that a substratum of experience underlay the vast
mass of superimposed erudition and enthusiastic reverie. The references
to Polia's name and race; her epitaph appended to the first edition; the
details of her narrative, which somewhat break the continuity of style
and introduce a biographical element into the romance; the very
structure of the allegory which assigns so large a part in life to
sensuous instinct--all these points seem to prove that Poliphil was
moved by memory of what had really happened, no less than by the desire
to express a certain mood of feeling and belief. Such mingling of actual
emotion with ideal passion in a work of imagination, dedicated to a
woman who is also an emblem, was consistent with the practice of
medieval poets. Polia belongs, under altered circumstances, to the same
class as Beatrice. The hypothesis that, whoever she may have been, she
had become for her lover a metaphor of antique beauty, is sufficiently
attractive and plausible. If we adopt this theory, we must interpret the
dark wood where Poliphil first found himself, to mean the anarchy of
Gothic art; while his emancipation through the senses and Thelemia
characterizes the spirit in which the Italians achieved the Revival. The
extraordinary care lavished upon details, interrupting the course of the
romance and withdrawing our sympathy from Polia, meet from this point of
view with justification. Veiling his enthusiasm for the renascent past
beneath the fiction of a novel, Francesco Colonna invests the lady of
his intellectual choice, the handmaid of Aphrodite, evoked from the
sepulcher where arts and sciences lie buried, with rich Renaissance
trappings of elaborate device. Beneath those exuberant arabesques,
within that labyrinth of technically perfect details, suave outlines,
delicate contours devoid of content, a real woman would be lost. But if
Polia be not merely a woman, if she be, as her name [Greek: polia]
seems to indicate, at the same time the vision of resurgent classic
beauty, then the setting which her lover has contrived is adequate to
the influences which inspired him. The multiform and labored frame-work
of his picture acquires a meaning from the spirit of the goddess whom he
worships, and the presiding genius of his age dwells in a shrine, each
point of which is brilliant with the splendor which that spirit

It is, therefore, as an allegory of the Renaissance, conscious of its
destiny and strongest aspirations in the person of an almost nameless
monk, that we should read the _Hypnerotomachia_. Still, even so, the
mark of indecision, which rests upon the many twy-formed masterpieces of
this century, is here discernible. Francesco Colonna has one foot in the
middle ages, another planted on the firm ground of the modern era. He
wavers between the psychological realism of romance and the
philosophical idealism of allegory. Polia is both too much and too
little of a woman. At one time her personality seems as distinct as that
of any heroine of fiction; at another we lose sight of her in the mist
of symbolism. Granting, again, that she is a metaphor, she lends herself
to more than one conception. She is both an emblem of passion,
sanctified by nature, and liberated from the bondage of asceticism, and
also an emblem of ideal beauty, recovered from the past, and worshiped
by a scholar-artist.

This confusion of motives and uncertainty of aim, while it detracts from
the artistic value of the _Hypnerotomachia_, enhances its historical
importance. In form, the book has to be classed with the Visions of the
middle ages--the Divine Comedy, the _Amorosa Visione_, and the
_Quadriregio_. But though the form is medieval, the inspiration of this
prose-poem is quite other. We have seen already how Francesco Colonna,
traveling in search of Polia, prayed to Jupiter, and how the senses and
freewill guided him to the satisfaction of his deepest self in the
service of Beauty. It is in the temple of Venus Physizoe (Venus the
procreative source of life in Nature) that he meets with his love and is
wedded to her in the bonds of mutual desire.[278] Christianity is
wholly, we might say systematically, ignored. The ascetic standpoint of
the middle age is abandoned for another, antagonistic to its ruling
impulses. A new creed, a new cult, are introduced. Polia, whether we
regard her as the poet's mistress or as the spirit of antiquity which
has enamored him, is won by worship paid to deities of natural appetite.
In its essence, then, the _Hypnerotomachia_ corresponds to the most
fruitful instinct of the Renaissance--to that striving after
emancipation which restored humanity to its heritage in the realms of
sense and reason. Old ideals, exhausted and devoid of vital force, are
exchanged for fresh and beautiful reality. The spirituality of the past,
which has become consumptive and ineffectively lapse of time and long
familiarity, yields to vigorous animalism. The cloister is quitted for
the world, religious for artistic ecstasy, celestial for earthly
paradise, scholasticism for humane studies, the ascetic for the
hedonistic rule of conduct. Criticised according to its deeper meaning,
the _Hypnerotomachia_ is the poem of which Valla's _De Voluptate_ was
the argument, of which Lorenzo de' Medici's life was the realization,
and the life of Aretino the caricature. If it assumes the form of a
vision, reminding us thereby that the author was born upon the confines
of the middle ages and the modern era, it deals with the vision in no
Dantesque spirit, but with the geniality of Apuleius. Allegory is but a
transparent veil, to make the nudity of natural impulse fascinating. As
in Boccaccio, so here the hymn of _il talento_, simple appetite, is
sung; but the fusion of artistic and humanistic enthusiasms with this
ground-motive adds peculiar quality, distinctive of the later age which
gave it birth.

The secret of its charm, which, indeed, it shares with earlier
Renaissance art in general, is that this yearning after freedom has been
felt with rapture, but not fully satisfied. The season of repletion and
satiety is distant. Venus Physizoe appears to Francesco Colonna radiant
above all powers of heaven or earth, because he is a monk and may not
serve her. Had he his whole will, she might have been for him Venus
Volgivaga, and he the author of another _Puttana Errante_. Nor has she
yet assumed the earnest mask of science. This element of unassuaged
desire, indulged in longings and outgoings of the fancy, this
recognition of man's highest good and happiness in nature by one who has
forsworn allegiance to the laws of nature, adds warmth to his emotion
and penetrates his pictures with a kind of passion. The arts and
scholarship, which divide the empire of his soul with beauty, have no
less attraction of romance than love itself. Nor are they separated in
his mind from nature. Nature and antiquity, knowledge and desire, the
reverence for abstract beauty and the instincts of a lover are fused in
one enthusiasm. Thus Francesco Colonna makes us understand how Italy
used both art and erudition as instruments in the liberation of human
energies. For the thinkers and actors of that period, antiquity and the
plastic arts were aids to the recovery of a paradise from which man had
been exiled. They could not dissociate the conception of nature from
studies which revealed their human dignity and freedom, or from arts
whereby they expressed their vivid sense of beauty. The work they thus
inaugurated, had afterwards to be continued by the scientific faculties.

One word may finally be said about the peculiar delicacy of this book.
The _Hypnerotomachia_ is no less an apotheosis of natural appetite than
the _Amorosa Visione_. But it is more sentimental and imaginative,
because its author had not Boccaccio's crude experience. It anticipates
the art of the great age--the art of Cellini and Giulio Romano,
goldsmith-sculptors and palace-builders; but it is more refined and
passionate, because its author enjoyed those beauties of consummate
craft in reverie instead of practice. It interprets the enthusiasm of
Ciriac and Poggio, discoverers of manuscripts, decipherers of epigraphs;
but it is more _naïf_ and graceful than their work of erudition, because
its author dealt freely with his learning and subordinated scholarship
to fancy. In short the _Hypnerotomachia_ is a foreshadowing of the
Renaissance in its prime--the spirit of the age foreseen in dreams,
embodied in imagination, purged of material alloy, and freed from the
encumbrances of actuality.


[130] I may refer to the _Age of the Despots_, 2nd edition, pp. 58-65,
for a brief review of the circumstances under which the Nation defined
itself against the Church and the Empire--the ecclesiastical and
feudal or chivalrous principles--during the Wars of Investiture and
Independence. In Carducci's essay _Dello Svolgimento delta Letteratura
nazionale_ will be found an eloquent and succinct exposition of the
views I have attempted to express in these paragraphs.

[131] _Revival of Learning._

[132] It is not quite exact, though convenient, to identify Dante,
Petrarch and Boccaccio severally with the religious, chivalrous and
national principles of which I have been speaking. Petrarch stands
midway. With Dante he shares the chivalrous, with Boccaccio the
humanistic side of the national element. Though Boccaccio anticipates
in his work the literature of the Renaissance, yet Petrarch was
certainly not less influential as an authority in style. Ariosto
represents the fusion of both sections of the national element in
literature--Italian is distinguished from Tuscan.

[133] See _Age of the Despots_, chap. 2.

[134] See above, p. 138. All that is known about Sacchetti's life may
be found in the Discourse of Monsignor Giov. Bottari, prefixed to
Silvestri's edition of the _Novelle_.

[135] For Sacchetti's conception of a citizen's duty, proving him a
son of Italy's heroic age, see the sonnet _Amar la patria_, in
Monsignor Bottari's Discourse above mentioned.

[136] See the Sonnet _Pien di quell'acqua_ written to Boccaccio on his
entering the Certosa at Naples.

[137] Here too he mentions a translation of the _Decameron_ into

[138] This should also be the place to mention the _Novelle_ of
Giovanni Sercambi of Lucca. They have lately been re-edited by
Professor d'Ancona, Bologna, Romagnoli, 1871. They are short tales,
historical and moral, drawn from miscellaneous medieval sources, and
resembling the _Novellino_ in type. Two of them (_Novelle_ ix. and x.,
_ed. cit._ pp. 62-74) are interesting as forming part of the Legend of
Dante the Poet.

[139] For example, the first Novel of the fourth day is the story
which Shakspere dramatized in _The Merchant of Venice_, and forms, as
every one can see, the authentic source of that comedy.

[140] It must be remarked that the text of _Il Pecorone_ underwent
Domenichi's revision in the sixteenth century, which may account for a
certain flatness.

[141] See Carducci, _Cantilene e Ballate, Strambotti e Madrigali nei
Secoli xiii e xiv_, Pisa, Nistri, 1871. Pp. 176-205 contain a reprint
of these lyrics. Carducci's work _Intorno ad alcune Rime_, Imola,
1876, may be consulted at pp. 54 _et seq._ for the origin, wide
diffusion, and several species of the popular dance-song.

[142] _Cantilene, etc._ pp. 196, 199, 204.

[143] _Cantilene, etc._ p. 211.

[144] _Cantilene, etc._ p. 220.

[145] _Ibid._ p. 219. Compare _Passando con pensier_ in the _Rime di
Messer Cino e d'altri_ (Barbèra), p. 563.

[146] _Ibid._ p. 233.

[147] _Ibid._ p. 231.

[148] _Ibid._ p. 214 and note. The popularity of this dance-poem is
further proved by a pious parody written to be sung to the same air
with it: "O vaghe di Gesù, o verginelle." See _Laudi Spirituali_
(Firenze, Molini, 1863), p. 105.

[149] _Ibid._ pp. 217, 218.

[150] See _ibid._ pp. 252-256, 259, 263.

[151] It is enough to mention _Exit diluculo_, _Vere dulci mediante_,
_Æstivali sub fervore_.

[152] I must briefly refer to Carducci's Essay on "Musica e Poesia nel
mondo elegante italiano del secolo xiv," in his _Studi Letterari_,
Livorno, Vigo, 1874, and to my own translations from some of the there
published Madrigals in _Sketches and Studies in Italy_, pp. 214-216.

[153] Carducci, _Cantilene_, pp. 265-296.

[154] _Op. cit._ p. 298.

[155] _Op. cit._ p. 301.

[156] _Op. cit._ p. 300.

[157] It may be worth mentioning that Soldanieri and Donati as well as
Sacchetti belonged to the old nobility of Florence, the Grandi
celebrated by name in Dante's _Paradiso_.

[158] See Trucchi's _Poesie Inedite_, and the _Rime Antiche Toscane_,
cited above, for copious collections of these poets.

[159] This can be seen in Carducci's _Cantilene_, pp. 115, 116, 150,
and in his _Studi Letterari_, pp. 374-446.

[160] _O pellegrina Italia._ _Rime di Cino e d'altri_ (Barbèra), p.
318. I shall quote from this excellent edition of Carducci, as being
most accessible to general readers. The _Sermintese_ or _Serventese_,
it may be parenthetically said, was a form of satirical and occasional
lyric adapted from the Provençal _Sirvente_.

[161] _Cino_, etc. p. 342.

[162] _Ibid._ p. 334.

[163] _Cino, etc._ p. 548.

[164] _Ibid._ p. 586.

[165] _Cino, etc._ p. 391.

[166] _Ibid._ pp. 199, 200.

[167] _Ibid._ pp. 384, 389.

[168] _Cino, etc._ pp. 202, 211, 573, 390.

[169] _Ibid._ pp. 504, 535, 498.

[170] In the Discourse of Monsignor Giov. Bottari, Section vi.,
printed before Sacchetti's _Novelle_.

[171] _Cino, etc._ pp. 445-474, 258-263.

[172] Navone's edition (Bologna, Romagnoli, 1880), p. 56. The date of
this sonnet must be about 1315. We have to choose between placing
Folgore in that century or assigning the sonnet to some anonymous
author. See Appendix II. for translations.

[173] _Cino, etc._ pp. 174-195, 420-441.

[174] _Ibid._ p. 418.

[175] _Ibid._ p. 197, 198.

[176] He was the author of the Ghibelline _Canzoni_ quoted above.

[177] It was composed about 1360. I have seen two editions of this
poem, _Opera di Faccio degli uberti Fiorentino, Chiamato Ditta Mundi,
Volgare_. Impresso in Venetia per Christoforo di Pensa da Mondelo. Adi
iiii. Setembrio MCCCCCI. The second is a version modernized in its
orthography: _Il Dittamondo_, Milano, Silvestri, 1826. My quotations
will be made from the second of these editions, which has the
advantage of a more intelligible text.

[178] Lib. i., cap. 2. Cp. Fazio's Ode on Rome, above, p. 160.

[179] Lib. iii. cap. 9.

[180] _Libro chiamato Quatriregio del Decorso de la Vita Humana in
Terza Rima_, Impresso in Venetia del MCCCCCXI a di primo di Decembrio.
There is, I believe, a last century Foligno reprint of the
_Quadriregio_; but I have not seen it.

[181] "Regno di Dio Cupido," "Regno di Sathan," "Regno delli Vitii,"
"Regno della Dea Minerva e di Virtù."

[182] Lib. i. cap. 1.

[183] Lib. ii. cap. 2.

[184] Lib. ii. cap. 7.

[185] See _Ficini Epistolæ_, 1495, folio 17. If possible, I will
insert some further notice of Palmieri's poem in an Appendix.

[186] See Vasari (Lemonnier, 1849), vol. v. p. 115, and note. This
work by Botticelli is now in England.

[187] I may refer curious readers to two _Lamenti_ of Pre Agostino,
condemned to the cage or _Chebba_ at Venice for blasphemy. They are
given at length by Mutinelli, _Annali Urbani di Venezia_, pp. 352-356.

[188] For instance, "Un Miracolo di S.M. Maddalena," in D'Ancona's
_Sacre Rappr._ vol. i. p. 397.

[189] It would be an interesting study to trace the vicissitudes of
_terza rima_ from the _Paradiso_ of Dante, through the _Quadriregio_
and _Dittamondo_, to Lorenzo de' Medici's _Beoni_ and La Casa's
_Capitolo del Forno_. In addition to what I have observed above, it
occurs to me to mention the semi-popular _terza rima_ poems in
Alberti's _Accademia Coronaria_ (Bonucci's edition of Alberti, vol. i.
pp. clxxv. _et seq._) and Boiardo's comedy of _Timone_. Both
illustrate the didactic use of the meter.

[190] _Le Lettere di S. Caterina da Siena_, Firenze, Barbèra, 1860.
Edited and furnished with a copious commentary by Niccolò Tommaseo.
Four volumes.

[191] _Op. cit._ vol. iv. pp. 5-12.

[192] See for example, the passages from Graziani's _Chronicle of
Perugia_ quoted by me in Appendix IV. to _Age of the Despots_.

[193] See _Alcune Lettere familiari del Sec. xiv_, Bologna, Romagnoli,
1868. This collection contains letters by Lemmo Balducci (1333-1389),
Filippo dell'Antella (_circa_ 1398), Dora del Bene, Lanfredino
Lanfredini (born about 1345), Coluccio Salutati (1330-1406), Giorgio
Scali (died 1381), and Marchionne Stefani (died 1385).

[194] Alessandra Macinghi negli Strozzi, _Lettere di una Gentildonna
Fiorentina del secolo xv_, Firenze, Sansoni, 1877.

[195] See _Revival of Learning_, chap. 4, and _Age of the Despots_,
chap. 5.

[196] _Istorie Fiorentine scritte da Giov. Cavalcanti_, 2 vols.
Firenze, 1838.

[197] Besides Muratori's great collection and the _Archivio Storico_,
the Chronicles of Lombard, Umbrian, and Tuscan towns have been
separately printed too voluminously for mention in a note.

[198] _L'Historia di Milano volgarmente scritta dall'eccellentissimo
oratore M. Bernardino Corio_, in Vinegia, per Giovan. Maria Bonelli,
MDLIIII. "Cronaca della Città di Perugia dal 1492 al 1503 di Francesco
Matarazzo detto Maturanzio," _Archivio Storico Italiano_, vol. xvi.
par. ii. Of Corio's History I have made frequent use in the _Age of
the Despots_. It is a book that repays frequent and attentive
reperusals. Those students who desire to gain familiarity at first
hand with Renaissance cannot be directed to a purer source.

[199] In _Studies in Italy and Greece_, article "Perugia," I have
dealt more at large with Matarazzo's Chronicle than space admits of

[200] _Il Novellino di Masuccio Salernitano._ Edited by Luigi
Settembrini. Napoli, Morano, 1874.

[201] Introduction to Part iii. _op. cit._ p. 239. "Cognoscerai i
lasciati vestigi del vetusto satiro Giovenale, e del famoso commendato
poeta Boccaccio, l'ornatissimo idioma e stile del quale ti hai sempre
ingegnato de imitare."

[202] For an instance of Masuccio's feudal feeling, take this. A
knight kills a licentious friar--"alquanto pentito per avere le sue
possenti braccia con la morte di un Fra Minore contaminato" (_op.
cit._ p. 13). It emerges in his description of the Order of the Ermine
(_ibid._ p. 240). It is curious to compare this with his strong
censure of the point of honor (pp. 388, 389) in a story which has the
same blunt sense as Ariosto's episode of Giocondo. The Italian here
prevails over the noble.

[203] See especially _Nov._ xi. and xxxviii.

[204] _Nov._ ii. iii. v. xi. xviii. xxix.

[205] _Nov._ xxxi.--Masuccio's peculiar animosity against the clergy
may be illustrated by comparing his story of the friar who persuaded
the nun that she was chosen by the Holy Ghost (_Nov._ ii.) with
Boccaccio's tale of the Angel Gabriel. See, too, the scene in the
convent (_Nov._ vi.), the comedy of S. Bernardino's sermon (_Nov._
xvi.), the love-adventures of Cardinal Roderigo Borgia.

[206] For example, _Nov._ vii. xiii. v.

[207] _Op. cit._ pp. 292, 282, 391, 379.

[208] _Nov._ i. and xxviii. The second of these stories is dedicated
to Francesco of Aragon, who, born in 1461, could not have been more
than fifteen when this frightful tale of lust and blood was sent him.
Nothing paints the manners of the time better than this fact.

[209] See _op. cit._ pp. 28, 68, 89, 141, 256, 273, 275, 380, 341,

[210] For specimens of his invective read pp. 517, 273, 84, 275, 55,
65, 534. I have collected some of these passages, bearing on the
clergy, in a note to p. 458 of my _Age of the Despots_, 2nd edition.
No wonder that Masuccio's book was put upon the Index!

[211] _Nov._ xxvii, xxxiii. xxxv. xxxvii. xlviii.

[212] See _Revival of Learning_, pp. 341-344, for some account of
Alberti's life and place among the humanists; _Fine Arts_, p. 74, for
his skill as an architect.

[213] Sacchetti, we have seen, called himself _uomo discolo_; Ser
Giovanni proclaimed himself a _pecorone_; Masuccio had the culture of
a nobleman; Corio and Matarazzo, if we are right in identifying the
latter with Francesco Maturanzio, were both men of considerable

[214] The most charming monument of Alberti's memory is the Life by an
anonymous writer, published in Muratori and reprinted in Bonucci's
edition, vol. i. Bonucci conjectures, without any substantial reason,
that it was composed by Alberti himself.

[215] For the _Camera Optica_, _Reticolo de' dipintori_, and _Bolide
Albertiana_, see the Preface (pp. lxv.-lxix.) to Anicio Bonucci's
edition of the _Opere Volgari di L.B. Alberti_, Firenze, 1843, five
vols. All references will be made to this comprehensive but uncritical
collection. Hubert Janitschek's edition of the Treatises on Art should
be consulted for its introduction and carefully prepared text--Vienna,
1877, in the _Quellenschriften für Kunstgeschichte_.

[216] The sentence of banishment was first removed in 1428; but the
rights of burghership were only restored to the Alberti in 1434. Leo
Battista finished the Treatise on Painting at Florence, Sept. 7, 1435
(see Janitschek, _op. cit._ p. iii.), and dedicated it to
Brunelleschi, July 17, 1436. From that dedication it would seem that
he had only recently returned.

[217] A passage in the _Della Tranquillità dell'Animo_ (_Op. Volg._ i.
35), shows how Alberti had lived into the conception of cosmopolitan
citizenship. It may be compared with another in the _Teogenio_ (_op.
cit._ iii. 194) wher he argues that love for one's country, even
without residence in it, satisfies the definition of a citizen.

[218] _Op. cit._ ii. 215-221.

[219] Such phrases as _i nostri maggiori patrizii in Roma_ (i. 37),
_la quasi dovuta a noi per le nostre virtù da tutte le genti
riverenzia e obbedienzia_ (ii. 218), _nostri ottimi passati Itali
debellarono e sotto averono tutte le genti_ (ii. 9), might be culled
in plenty. Alberti shows how deep was the Latin idealism of the
Renaissance, and how impossible it would have been for the Italians to
found their national self-consciousness on aught but a recovery of the

[220] Especially the fine passage beginning, "Quello imperio
maraviglioso senza termini, quel dominio di tutte le genti acquistato
con _nostri latini auspici_, ottenuto colla _nostra industria_,
amplificato con _nostre armi latine_" (ii. 8); and the apostrophe, "E
tu, Italia nobilissima, capo e arce di tutto l'universo mondo" (_ib._

[221] An example of servile submission to classical authority might be
chosen from Alberti's discourse on Friendship (_Famiglia_, lib. iv.
_op. cit._ ii. 415), where he adduces Sylla and Mark Antony in
contradiction to his general doctrine that only upright conversation
among friends can lead to mutual profit.

[222] Alberti's loss of training in the vernacular is noticed by his
anonymous biographer (_op. cit._ i. xciv.). It will be observed by
students of his writings that he does not speak of _la nostra
italiana_ but _la nostra toscana_ (ii. 221). Again (iv. 12) _in lingua
toscana_ is the phrase used in his dedication of the Essay on Painting
to Brunelleschi.

[223] The anonymous biographer says: "Scripsit præterea et affinium
suorum gratia, ut linguæ latinæ ignaris prodesset, patrio sermone
annum ante trigesimum ætatis suæ etruscos libros, primum, secundum, ac
tertium de Familia, quos Romæ die nonagesimo quam inchoârat, absolvit;
sed inelimatos et asperos neque usquequaquam etruscos ... post annos
tres, quam primos ediderat, quartum librum ingratis protulit" (_op.
cit._ i. xciv. c.). It appears from a reference in Book ii. (_op.
cit._ ii. xxviii.) that the Treatise was still in process of
composition after 1438; and there are strong reasons for believing
that Book iii., as it is now numbered, was written separately and
after the rest of the dialogue.

[224] Note especially the passage in Book iii., _op. cit._ ii. 256,
_et seq._

[225] There is, I think, good reason to believe the testimony of the
anonymous biographer, who says this Treatise was written before
Alberti's thirtieth year; and if he returned to Florence in 1434, we
must take the date of his birth about 1404. The scene of the
_Tranquillità dell'Animo_ is laid in the Duomo at Florence; we may
therefore believe it to have been a later work, and its allusions to
the _Famiglia_ are, in my opinion, trustworthy.

[226] The pedigree prefixed to the Dialogue in Bonucci's edition would
help the student in his task. I will here cite the principal passages
of importance I have noticed. In volume ii. p. 102, we find a list of
the Alberti remarkable for literary, scientific, artistic, and
ecclesiastical distinctions. On p. 124 we read of their dispersion
over the Levant, Greece, Spain, France, England, Belgium, Germany, and
the chief Italian towns. Their misfortunes in exile are touchingly
alluded to with a sobriety of phrase that dignifies the grief it
veils, in the noble passage beginning with p. 256. Their ancient
splendor in the tournaments and games of Florence, when the people
seemed to have eyes only for men of the Alberti blood, is described on
p. 228; their palaces and country houses on p. 279. A list of the
knights, generals, and great lawyers of the Casa Alberti is given at
p. 346. The honesty of their commercial dealings and their reputation
for probity form the themes of a valuable digression, pp. 204-206,
where we learn the extent of their trade and the magnitude of their
contributions to the State-expenses. On p. 210 there is a statement
that this house alone imported from Flanders enough wool to supply the
cloth-trade, not only of Florence, but also of the larger part of
Tuscany. The losses of a great commercial family are reckoned on p.
357; while p. 400 supplies the story of one vast loan of 80,000 golden
florins advanced by Ricciardo degli Alberti to Pope John. The
friendship of Piero degli Alberti contracted with Filippo Maria
Visconti and King Ladislaus of Naples is described in the
autobiographical discourse introduced at pp. 386-399. This episode is
very precious for explaining the relation between Italian princes and
the merchants who resided at their courts. Their servant Buto, p. 375,
should not be omitted from the picture; nor should the
autobiographical narrative given by Giannozzo of his relation to his
wife (pp. 320-328) be neglected, since this carries us into the very
center of a Florentine home. The moral tone, the political feeling,
and the domestic habits of the house in general must be studied in the
description of the Casa, Bottega, and Villa, the discourses on
education, and the discussion of public and domestic duties. The
commercial aristocracy of Florence lives before us in this Treatise.
We learn from it to know exactly what the men who sustained the
liberties of Italy against the tyrants of Milan thought and felt, at a
period of history when the old fabric of medieval ideas had broken
down, but when the new Italy of the Renaissance had not yet been fully
formed. If, in addition to the _Trattato della Famiglia_, the letters
addressed by Alessandra Macinghi degli Strozzi to her children in
exile be included in such a study, a vivid picture might be formed of
the domestic life of a Florentine family.[A] These letters were
written from Florence to sons of the Casa Strozzi at Naples, Bruges,
and elsewhere between the years 1447 and 1465. They contain minute
information about expenditure, taxation, dress, marriages,
friendships, and all the public and personal relations of a noble
Florentine family. Much, moreover, can be gathered from them
concerning the footing of the members of the circle in exile. The
private _ricordi_ of heads of families, portions of which have been
already published from the archives of the Medici and Strozzi, if more
fully investigated, would complete this interesting picture in many of
its important details.

    [A] _Lettere di una Gentildonna fiorentina_, Firenze,
    Sansoni, 1877.

[227] Notice the discussion of wet-nurses, the physical and moral
evils likely to ensue from an improper choice of the nurse (_op. cit._
ii. 52-56).

[228] These topics of _Amicizia_, as the virtue on which society is
based, are further discussed in a separate little dialogue, _La Cena
di Famiglia_ (_op. cit._ vol. i.).

[229] _Age of the Despots_, pp. 239-243.

[230] In stating the question, and in all that concerns the MS.
authority upon which a judgment must be formed, I am greatly indebted
to the kindness of Signor Virginio Cortesi, who has placed at my
disposal his unpublished Essay on the _Governo della Famiglia di
Agnolo Pandolfini_. As the title of his work shows, he is a believer
in Pandolfini's authorship.

[231] I use this word according to its present connotation. But such
literary plagiarism was both more common and less disgraceful in the
fifteenth century. Alberti himself incorporated passages of the
_Fiammetta_ in his _Deifira_, and Jacopo Nardi in his _Storia
Fiorentina_ appropriated the whole of Buonaccorsi's Diaries
(1498-1512) with slight alterations and a singularly brief allusion to
their author.

[232] Such information, as will be seen, is both vague and meager. The
MSS. of the _Governo_ in particular do not seem to have been
accurately investigated, and are insufficiently described even by
Cortesi. Yet this problem, like that of the Malespini and Compagni
Chronicles, cannot be set at rest without a detailed comparison of all
existing codices.

[233] The anonymous biographer expressly states that the fourth book
was written later than the other three, and dedicated to the one
Alberti who took any interest in the previous portion of the work.
This, together with the isolation and more perfect diction of Book
iii. is strong presumption in favor of its having been an

[234] The _Oeconomicus_ of Xenophon served as common material for the
_Economico_ and the _Governo_, whatever we may think about the
authorship of these two essays. Many parallel passages in Palmieri's
_Vita Civile_ can be referred to the same source. To what extent
Alberti knew Greek is not ascertained; but even in the bad Latin
translations of that age a flavor so peculiar as that of Xenophon's
style could not have escaped his fine sense.

[235] See _Op. Volg._ vol. i. pp. lxxxvi.-lxxxviii.

[236] _Op. Volg._ ii. p. 223.

[237] _Op. Volg._ i. 10.

[238] It should, however, be added that Vespasiano alludes to
Pandolfini's habits of study and composition after his retirement to
Signa. Yet he does not cite the _Governo_.

[239] It is clear that all this reasoning upon internal evidence can
be turned to the advantage of both sides in the dispute. The question
will have finally to be settled on external grounds (comparison of
MSS.), combined with a wise use of such arguments from style as have
already been cited.

[240] Anyhow, and whatever may have been the source of Alberti's
_Economico_, the whole scene describing exile and winding up with the
tirade against a political career, is a very noble piece of writing.
If space sufficed, it might be quoted as the finest specimen of
Alberti's eloquence. See _Op. Volg._ v. pp. 256-266.

[241] See _Op. Volg._ Preface to vol. v.

[242] It is greatly to be desired that Signor Cortesi should print
this _Studio Critico_ and, if possible, append to it an account of the
MSS. on which Pandolfini's claims to be considered the original author

[243] _Op. Volg._ vol. iii. The meaning of the title appears on p.
132, where the word _Iciarco_ is defined _Supremo uomo e primario
principe della famiglia sua_. It is a compound of [Greek: oikos] and
[Greek: archê].

[244] See pp. 24, 28, 88, and the fine humanistic passage on p. 47,
which reads like an expansion of Dante's _Fatti non foste per viver
come bruti_ in Ulysses' speech to his comrades.

[245] _Op. Volg._ vol. i.

[246] He calls it _il nostro tempio massimo_ and speaks of _il culto
divino_, pp. 7-9.

[247] _Op. Volg._ vol. iii.

[248] _Ibid._ p. 160. This enables us to fix the date within certain
limits. Niccolò III. of Este died 1441. Lionello died 1450. Alberti
speaks of the essay as having been already some time in circulation.
It must therefore have been written before 1440.

[249] Like Boccaccio, Alberti is fond of bad Greek etymologies.
Perhaps we may translate these names, "the God-born" and "the little
pupil." In the same dialogue Tichipedio seems to be "the youth of

[250] See _Revival of Learning_, p. 339.

[251] _Op. Volg._ iii. 179.

[252] _Ibid._ p. 186.

[253] _Op. Volg._ vol. ii. pp. 320-322.

[254] _Il Santo._ Probably S. John.

[255] Alberti in a Letter of Condolement to a friend (_Op. Volg._ v.
357) chooses examples from the Bible. Yet the tone of that most
strictly pious of his writings is rather Theistic than Christian.

[256] _Op. Volg._ vol. iv. See, too, Janitschek's edition cited above.

[257] Bonucci believes it was composed in Italian. Janitschek gives
reasons for the contrary theory (_op. cit._ p. iii.).

[258] _Op. Volg._ vols. iii. and v.

[259] Passages in the plays of our own dramatists warn us to be
careful how we answer in the negative. But here are some specimens of
Amiria's recipes (_op. cit._ v. 282). "Radice di cocomeri
spolverizzata, bollita in orina, usata più dì, lieva dal viso panni e
rughe. Giovavi sangue di tauro stillato a ogni macula, sterco di
colombe in aceto ... insieme a sterco di cervio ... lumache lunghe ...
sterco di fanciullo ... sangue d'anguille." All these things are
recommended, upon one page, for spots on the skin. I can find nothing
parallel in the very curious toilet book called _Gli Ornamenti delle
Dame, scritti per M. Giov. Marinelli_, Venetia, Valgrisio, 1574.

[260] _Op. Volg._ vol. iii. 367; vol. i. 191, 215.

[261] _Op. Volg._ v. 233.

[262] _Op. Volg._ i. 236.

[263] I may refer to the Latin song against marriage, _Sit Deo gloria_
(Du Méril, _Poésies Populaires Latines du Moyen Age_, pp. 179-187),
for an epitome of clerical virulence and vileness on this topic.

[264] _Op. Volg._ iii. 274.

[265] _Op. Volg._ v. 352.

[266] _Ibid._ pp. 355-359, 367-372.

[267] For example the lines beginning "Sospetto e cure." _Ibid._ p.

[268] _Op. Volg._ i. lxv. He was not alone in this experiment.
Barbarous Italian Sapphics and Hexameters are to be found in the
_Accademia Coronaria_ on Friendship, of which more in the next

[269] _De Re Ædificatoria_, Florence, 1485. This preface is a letter
addressed to Lorenzo de' Medici.

[270] "Quicquid ingenio esset hominum cum quâdam effectum elegantiâ,
id prope divinum dicebat," says the anonymous biographer. This
sentence is the motto of humanism as elaborated by the artistic sense.
Its discord with the religion of the middle ages is apparent.

[271] _Op. Volg._ i. 8.

[272] This we learn from the last words of the first edition,
"Tarvisii cum decorissimis Poliae amore lorulis distineretur misellus
Poliphilus MCCCCLVII." The author's name is given in the initial
letters to the thirty-eight chapters of the book.

[273] For this and other points about the _Hypnerotomachia_ see Ilg's
treatise _Ueber der Kunsthistorischen Werth der Hypnerotomachia
Poliphili_, Wien, Braunmüller, 1872.

[274] It ought, however, to be said that, being the first paragraph of
the whole book, its style is not so free and simple as in more level
passages. Though I do not pretend to understand the meaning clearly, I
subjoin a translation.--"Phoebus advancing at that moment, when the
forehead of Matuta Leucothea whitened, already free from Ocean's
waves, had not yet shown his whirling wheels suspense. But bent with
his swift chargers, Pyrous first and Eous just disclosed to view, on
painting the pale chariot of his daughter with vermeil roses, in most
vehement flight pursuing her, made no delay. And sparkling over the
azure and unquiet wavelets, his light-showering tresses flowed in
curls. Upon whose advent at that point descending to her rest stayed
Cynthia without horns, urging the two steeds of her carriage with the
Mule, the one white and the other dark, drawing toward the furthest
horizon which divides the hemispheres where she had come, and, routed
by the piercing star who lures the day, was yielding. At that time
when the Riphaean mountains were undisturbed, nor with so cold a gust
the rigid and frost-creating east-wind with the side-blast blowing
made the tender branches quake, and tossed the mobile stems and spiked
reeds and yielding grasses, and vexed the pliant tendrils, and shook
the flexible willows, and bent the frail fir-branches 'neath the horns
of Taurus in their wantonness. As in the winter time that wind was
wont to breathe. Likewise the boastful Orion was at the point of
staying to pursue with tears the beauteous Taurine shoulder of the
seven sisters."

[275] When the book was translated into French and republished at
Paris in the sixteenth century, the blocks were imitated, and at a
later epoch it became fashionable to refer them to Raphael. The
mistake was gross. Its only justification is the style adopted by the
French imitators in their rehandling of the illustrations to
Poliphil's soul pleading before Venus. These cuts seem to have felt
the influence of the Farnesina frescoes.

[276] Here is the description of Poliphil's reception by the damsels:
"Respose una lepidula placidamente dicendo. Da mi la mano. Hora si tu
sospite & il bene venuto. Nui al presento siamo cinque sociale comite
come il vedi. Et io me chiamo Aphea. Et questa che porta li buxuli &
gli bianchissimi liuteamini, e nominata Offressia. Et questaltra che
dil splendente speculo (delitie nostre) e gerula, Orassia e il suo
nome. Costei che tene la sonora lyra, e dicta Achoe. Questa ultima,
che questo vaso di pretiosissimo liquore baiula, ha nome Geussia."

[277] A portion of the passage describing this dalliance may be
extracted as a further specimen of the author's style: "Cum lascivi
vulti, et gli pecti procaci, ochii blandienti et nella rosea fronte
micanti e ludibondi. Forme prae-excellente, Habiti incentivi, Moventie
puellare, Risguardi mordenti, Exornato mundissimo. Niuna parte
simulata, ma tutto dalla natura perfecto, cum exquisita politione,
Niente difforme ma tutto harmonia concinnissima, Capi flavi cum le
trece biondissime e crini insolari tante erano bellissime complicate,
cum cordicelle, o vero nextruli di seta e di fili doro intorte, quanto
che in tutto la operatione humana excedevano, circa la testa cum
egregio componimento invilupate e cum achi crinali detente, e la
fronte di cincinni capreoli silvata, cum lascivula inconstantia
praependenti." There is an obvious study of Boccaccesque phrase, with
a no less obvious desire to improve upon its exquisiteness of detail,
masking an incapacity to write connectedly.

[278] The reiteration of sensuous phrases is significant. These
inscriptions, [Greek: pantôn tokadi, pan dei poiein kata tên autou
phusin, gonos kai euphuia], together with the Triumphs of Priapus and
Cupid, accord with the supremacy of Venus Physizoe.



     Separation between Cultivated Persons and the People--Italian
     despised by the Learned--Contempt for Vernacular
     Literature--The _Certamen Coronarium_--Literature of
     Instruction for the Proletariate--Growth of Italian
     Prose--Abundance of Popular Poetry--The People in the
     Quattrocento take the Lead--Qualities of Italian
     Genius--Arthurian and Carolingian Romances--_I Reali di
     Francia_--Andrea of Barberino and his Works--Numerous Romances
     in Prose and Verse--Positive Spirit--Versified Tales from
     Boccaccio--Popular Legends--Ginevra degli Almieri--Novel of
     _Il Grasso_--Histories in Verse--_Lamenti_--The Poets of the
     People--_Cantatori in Banca_--Antonio Pucci--His
     _Sermintesi_--Political Songs--Satires--Burchiello--His Life
     and Writings--Dance-Songs--Derived from Cultivated Literature,
     or produced by the People--Poliziano--Love-Songs--_Rispetti_
     and _Stornelli_--The Special Meaning of
     _Strambotti_--Diffusion of this Poetry over Italy--Its
     Permanence--Question of its Original Home--Intercommunication
     and Exchange of Dialects--_Incatenature_ and
     _Rappresaglie_--Traveling in Medieval Italy--The
     Subject-Matter of this Poetry--Deficiency in Ballad
     Elements--Canti Monferrini--The Ballad of _L'Avvelenato_ and
     Lord Ronald.

During the fifteenth century there was an almost complete separation
between the cultivated classes and the people. Humanists, intent upon
the exploration of the classics, deemed it below their dignity to use
the vulgar tongue. They thought and wrote in Latin, and had no time to
bestow upon the education of the common folk. A polite public was
formed, who in the Courts of princes and the palaces of noblemen amused
themselves with the ephemeral literature of pamphlets, essays, and
epistles in the Latin tongue. For these well-educated readers Poggio
and Pontano wrote their Latin novels. The same learned audience
applauded the gladiators of the moment, Valla and Filelfo, when they
descended into the arena and plied each other with pseudo-Ciceronian
invectives. To quit this refined circle, and address the vulgar crowd,
was thought unworthy of a man of erudition. Even Alberti, as we have
seen, felt bound to apologize for sending his _Teogenio_ in Italian to
Lionello d'Este. Only here and there a humanist of the first rank is
found who, like Bruni, devoted a portion of his industry to the Italian
lives of Dante and Petrarch, or like Filelfo, lectured on the Divine
Comedy, or again like Landino, composed a Dantesque commentary in the
mother tongue. Moreover, Dante and Petrarch passed for almost classical;
and in nearly all such instances of condescension, pecuniary interest
swayed the scholar from his wonted orbit. It was want of skill in Latin
rather than love for his own idiom which induced Vespasiano to pen his
lives of great men in Italian. Not spontaneous inspiration, but the whim
of a ducal patron forced Filelfo to use _terza rima_ for his worthless
poem on S. John, and to write a commentary upon Petrarch in the
vernacular.[279] One of this man's letters reveals the humanist's
contempt for the people's language, and his rooted belief in the
immortality of Latin. It is worth translating.[280] "I will answer
you," he says, "not in the vulgar language, as you ask, but in Latin and
our own true speech; for I have ever had an abhorrence for the talk of
grooms and servants, equal to my detestation of their life and manners.
You, however, call that dialect vernacular which, when I use the Tuscan
tongue, I sometimes write. All Italians agree in praise of Tuscan. Yet I
only employ it for such matters as I do not choose to transmit to
posterity. Moreover, even that Tuscan idiom is hardly current throughout
Italy, while Latin is far and wide diffused throughout the habitable
world." From this interesting epistle we gather that even professional
scholars in the middle of the fifteenth century recognized Tuscan as a
quasi-literary language, superior in polish to the other Italian
dialects, but not to be compared for dignity and durability with Latin.
It also proves that the language of Boccaccio was for them almost a
foreign speech.

This attitude of learned writers produced a curious obtuseness of
critical insight. Niccolò Niccoli, though he was a Florentine, called
Dante "a poet for bakers and cobblers." Pico della Mirandola preferred
Lorenzo de' Medici's verses to Petrarch. Landino complained, not,
indeed, without good reason in that century, that the vulgar language
could boast of no great authors. Filippo Villani, in the proem to his
biographies, apologized for his father Matteo, who exerted humble
faculties and scanty culture to his best ability. Lorenzo de' Medici
defended himself for paying attention to an idiom which men of good
judgment blamed for "lowness, incapacity and unworthiness to deal with
high themes or grave material." Benedetto Varchi, who lived to be an
excellent though somewhat cumbrous writer of Italian prose, gives this
account of his early training[281]: "I remember that when I was a lad,
the first and strictest rule of a father to his sons, and of a master to
his pupils, was that they should on no account and for no object read
anything in the vulgar speech (_non legesseno cose volgari, per dirlo
barbaramente come loro_); and Master Guasparre Mariscotti da Marradi,
who was my teacher in grammar, a man of hard and rough but pure and
excellent manners, having once heard, I know not how, that Schiatta di
Bernardo Bagnesi and I were wont to read Petrarch on the sly, gave as a
sound rating for it, and nearly expelled us from his school." Some of
Varchi's own stylistic pedantries may be attributed to this Latinizing

Even when they wrote their mother tongue, it followed that the men of
humanistic culture had a false conception of style. Alberti could not
abstain from Latinistic rhetoric. Cristoforo Landino went the length of
asserting that "he who would fain be a good Tuscan writer, must first be
a Latin scholar." The Italian of familiar correspondence was mingled in
almost equal quantities with Latin phrases. Thus Poliziano, writing from
Venice to Lorenzo de' Medici, employs the following strange maccaronic

     Visitai stamattina Messer Zaccheria Barbero; e mostrandoli io
     l'affezione vostra ec., mi rispose sempre lagrimando, et ut
     visum est, de cuore; risolvendosi in questo, in te uno spem
     esse. Ostendit so nosse quantum tibi debeat; sicchè fate
     quello ragionaste, ut favens ad majora. Quello Legato che
     torna da Roma, et qui tecum locutus est Florentiæ, non è punto
     a loro proposito, ut ajunt.

Poliziano, however, showed by his letters to the ladies of the Medicean
family, and by some sermons composed for a religious brotherhood of
which he was a member, that he had no difficulty in writing Tuscan prose
of the best quality.[283] It seems to have been a contemptuous fashion
among men of learning, when they used the mother tongue for
correspondence, to load it with Latin--just as a German of the age of
Frederick proved his superiority by French phrases. The acme of this
affectation was reached in the _Hypnerotomachia_, where the vice of
Latinism sought perpetuation through the printing press. Meanwhile, the
genius of the Florentine people was saving Italian literature from the
extreme consequences to which caricatures of this kind, inspired by
humanistic pedantry and sciolism, exposed it.

A characteristic incident of the year 1441 brings before us a set of men
who, though obscure and devoted to the service of the common folk,
exercised no slight influence over the destinies of the Italian
language. After the reinstatement of the Medici, and while Alberti was
resident in Florence, it occurred to him to propose the prize of a
silver crown for the best poem upon Friendship, in the vulgar tongue.
Piero de' Medici approving of this scheme, it was arranged that the
contest for the prize should take place in S. Maria del Fiore, the
competitors reciting their own compositions. The secretaries of Pope
Eugenius IV. consented to be umpires. Eight poets entered the
lists--Michele di Noferi del Gigante, Francesco d'Altobianco degli
Alberti, and six others not less unknown to fame. We still possess their
compositions in octave stanzas, _terza rima_, sapphics, hexameters and
lyric strophes.[284] The poems were so bad that even the judges of that
period refused to award the crown; nor could the most indulgent student
of forgotten literature arraign this verdict for severity. Yet the men
who engaged in Alberti's _Certamen Coronarium_, as it was called, fairly
represented a class of literary workers, who occupied a middle place
between the learned and the laity, and on whom devolved the task of
writing for the people.

Since that unique moment in the history of Tuscan civilization when the
lyrics of Dante and Guido Cavalcanti were heard upon the lips of
blacksmiths, the artisans of Florence had not wholly lost their thirst
for culture. Style and erudition retired into the schools of the
humanists and the studies of the nobles. But this curiosity of the
_volgo_, as Boccaccio contemptuously called them, was satisfied by the
production of a vernacular literature, which brought the ruder elements
of knowledge within their reach. Mention has already been made of
Latini's _Tesoro_ and _Tesoretto_, Uberti's _Dittamondo_ and similar
encyclopædic works of medieval learning. To these may now be added
Leonardo Dati's cosmographical history in octave stanzas, the Schiavo da
Bari's aphorisms on morality, and Pucci's _terza rima_ version of
Villani's Chronicle. Genealogical poems on popes, emperors and kings;
episodes from national Italian history; novels, romances and tales of
chivalry; pious biographies; the rudiments of education, from the
_Dottrinale_ of Jacopo Alighieri down to Feo Belcari's _A B C_, helped
to complete the handicraftsman's library. Further to describe this
plebeian literature is hardly necessary. The authors advanced no
pretensions to artistic elegance or stateliness of style. They sought to
render knowledge accessible to unlettered readers, or to please an
open-air audience with stirring and romantic narratives. Their language
broke only at rare intervals into poetry and rhetoric, when the
subject-matter forced a note of unaffected feeling from the
improvisatore. Yet it has always the merit of purity, and, in point of
idiom, is superior to the Latinistic periods of Alberti. By means of the
neglected labors of these nameless writers, the style of the fourteenth
century, so winning in its infantine grace, was gradually transformed
and rendered capable of stronger literary utterance. Those who have
studied a single prose-work of this period--_I Reali di Francia_, for
instance, or Belcari's _Vita del Beato Colombino_, or the _Governo della
Famiglia_ ascribed to Pandolfini--will be convinced that a real progress
toward grammatical cohesion and massiveness of structure was made
during those years of the fifteenth century which are usually counted
barren of achievement by literary historians. Italian prose had entered
on the period of adolescence, leading to the manhood of Machiavelli.

The popular poetry of the _quattrocento_ is still more interesting than
its prose. No period of Italian history was probably more fruitful of
songs poured forth from the very heart of the people, on the fields and
in the city. The music of these lyrics still lingers about the Tuscan
highlands and the shores of Sicily, where much that now passes for
original composition is but the echo of most ancient melody stored in
the retentive memory of peasants. To investigate the several species of
this poetry, together with kindred works of prose fiction, under the
several classes of (i) epics and romances, (ii) histories in verse and
satires, (iii) love-poems, (iv) religious lyrics, and (v) dramas, will
be my object in the present and the following chapters. This survey of
popular literature forms a necessary introduction to the renascence
which was simultaneously effected for Italian at Florence, Ferrara and
Naples during the last years of the century. The material prepared by
the people was then resumed and artistically elaborated by learned

It has been well said that Italian poetry exhibits a continual
reciprocity of exchange between the cultivated classes and the
proletariate. In this respect the literature of the Italians corresponds
to their fine art. Taken together with painting, sculpture, and music,
it offers a more complete embodiment of the national spirit than can be
shown by any other modern race. Dante's Francesca and Count Ugolino,
Ariosto's golden cantos, and the romantic episodes of the _Gerusalemme_
are known by heart throughout the length and breadth of the Peninsula.
The people have appropriated these masterpieces of finished art. On the
other hand, the literary poets have been ever careful to borrow
subjects, forms, and motives from the populace. The close _rapport_
which thus connects the tastes and instincts of the proletariate with
the culture of the aristocracy, is rooted in peculiar conditions of
Italian society. Traditions of a very ancient civilization, derived
without apparent rupture from the Roman age, have penetrated and refined
the whole nation. From the highest to the lowest, the Italians are born
with sensibility to beauty. This people and its poets live in sympathy
so vital that, though their mutual good understanding may have been
suspended for short intervals, it has never been broken. The vibrations
of intercourse between the peasant and the learned writer are incessant;
and if we notice some intermittency of influence on one side or the
other, it is only because at one epoch the destinies of the national
genius were committed to the people, at another to the cultivated
classes. In the fifteenth century, one of these temporary ruptures
occurred. The Revival of Learning had to be effected by an isolation of
the scholars. Meanwhile, the people carried on the work of literary
transmutation, which was to connect Boccaccio with Pulci and Poliziano.
Their instinct rejected all elements alien to the national temperament.
Out of the many models bequeathed by the fourteenth century, only those
which suited the sensuous realism of the Florentines survived. The
traditions of Ciullo d'Alcamo and Jacopone da Todi, of Rustico di
Filippo and Lapo Gianni, of Folgore da S. Gemignano and Cene dalla
Chitarra, of Cecco Angiolieri and Guido Cavalcanti, of Boccaccio and
Sacchetti, of Ser Giovanni and Alesso Donati, triumphed over the
scholasticism of those learned poets--"half Provençal and half Latin,
half chivalrous, and half _bourgeois_, half monastic and half sensual,
half aristocratic and half plebeian"[285]--who had unsuccessfully
experimentalized in the dawn of Tuscan culture. The artificial chivalry,
lifeless mysticism, barren metaphysics, and hypocritical piety of the
rhyming doctors were eliminated. Common sense expressed itself in a
reaction against their conventional philosophy. Giotto's blunt critique
of Franciscan poverty, Orcagna's burlesque definition of Love, not as a
blind boy with wings and arrows, but thus:

            L'amore è un trastullo;
    Non è composto di legno nè d'osso;
    E a molta gente fa rompere il dosso:

struck the keynote of the new literature.[286] It is true that much was
sacrificed. Both Dante and Petrarch seemed to be forgotten. Yet this was
inevitable. Dante represented a bygone age of faith and reason.
Petrarch's humanity was too exquisitely veiled. The Florentine people
required expression more simple and direct, movement more brusque,
emotion of a coarser fiber. Meanwhile the Divine Comedy and the
_Canzoniere_ were the inalienable possessions of the nation. They had
already taken rank as classics.

The Italians had no national Epic, if we except the _Æneid_. We have
seen how the romances of Charlemagne and Arthur were imported with the
languages of France and Provence into Northern Italy, and how they
passed into the national literature of Lombardy and Tuscany.[287] Both
cycles were eminently popular. The _Tavola Ritonda_ ranks among the
earliest monuments of Tuscan prose.[288] The _Cento Novelle_ contain
frequent references to Merlin, Lancelot and Tristram. Folgore da S.
Gemignano compares the members of his Joyous Company to King Ban's
children. In the _Laberinto d'Amore_ Boccaccio speaks of Arthurian tales
as the favorite studies of idle women, and Sacchetti bids his blacksmith
turn from Dante to legends of the Round Table. Yet there is no doubt
that from a very early period the Carolingian cycle gained the
preference of the Italian people.[289] It is also noticeable that, not
the main legend of Roland, but the episode of Rinaldo, and other
offshoots from the history of the Frankish peers, furnished plebeian
poets with their favorite material.[290] MSS. written in Venetian and
Franco-Italian dialects before the middle of the fourteenth century
attest to the popularity of these subordinate romances, and reveal an
independent handling of the borrowed subject. In form they do not
diverge widely from French originals. Yet there is one prominent
characteristic which distinguishes the Italian _rifacimenti_. A
Christian hero falls in love with a pagan heroine on pagan soil. His
pursuit of her, their difficulties and adventures, and the
evangelization of her people by the knightly lover, furnish a series of
incidents which recur with singular persistence.[291] When the romances
in question had been translated into Tuscan, a destiny of special
splendor was reserved for two of them, in no way distinguished by any
apparent merit above the rest. These were the tales of Buovo d'Antona,
of which we possess an early version in octave stanzas, and of
Fioravante, which exists in still older prose. About the beginning of
the fifteenth century, the _Buovo_ and the _Fioravante_, together with
other material drawn from the Carolingian epic, were combined into the
great prose work called _I Reali di Francia_.[292] Since its first
appearance to the present day, this romance has never ceased to be the
most widely popular of all books written in Italian. "There is nothing,"
says Signor Rajna, "so assiduously read from the Alps to the furthest
headlands of Sicily. Wherever a reader exists, there is it certain to be
found in honor."[293] Not the earliest but the latest product of a long
elaboration of romantic matter by the people, it seems to have
assimilated the very essence of the popular imagination. When we inquire
into its authorship, we find good reason to ascribe it to Andrea dei
Mangalotti of Barberino in the Val d'Elsa, one of the best and most
indefatigable workmen for the literary market of the proletariate.[294]
It was he who compiled the _Aspromonte_, the _Aiolfo_, the seven books
of _Storie Nerbonesi_, the _Ugone d'Avernia_, and the _Guerino il
Meschino_, reducing these tales from elder poems and prose sources into
Tuscan of sterling lucidity and vigor, and attempting, it would seem, to
embrace the whole Carolingian cycle in a series of episodical
romances.[295] _Guerino il Meschino_ rivaled for a while the _Reali_ in
popularity; but for some unknown reason, which would have to be sought
in the instinctive partialities of the people, it was gradually
superseded by the latter. The _Reali_ alone has descended in its
original form through the press to this century.[296]

Andrea da Barberino, if we are right in ascribing the _Reali_ to his
pen, conferred a benefit on the Italians parallel to that which the
English owed to Sir Thomas Mallory in his "Mort d'Arthur." He not only
collected and condensed the scattered tales of numerous unknown
predecessors, but he also bequeathed to the nation a monument of
unaffected prose at a moment when the language was still ingenuous and
plastic. It would be not uninteresting to compare the fate of the
_Reali_ with that of our own "Mort d'Arthur." The latter was the more
artistic performance of the two. It achieved a truer epical unity, and
was composed in a richer, more romantic style. The former remained
episodical and incomplete; and its language, though solid and efficient,
lacked the charm of Mallory's all golden prose. Yet the _Reali_ is still
a household classic. It is found in every _contadino's_ cottage, and
supplies the peasantry with subjects for their _Maggi_. The "Mort
d'Arthur," on the contrary, has become the plaything of medievalizing
folk in modern England. Read for its unique beauty by students, it is
still unknown to the people, and, in the opinion of the dull majority,
it is reckoned inferior to Tennyson's smooth imitations.

When we come to consider the romantic poems of Pulci, Boiardo, and
Ariosto, we shall be able to estimate the service rendered by men like
Andrea da Barberino to polite Italian literature. The popularity of the
cycle to which the _Reali_ belonged, decided the choice of the
Carolingian epic by the poets of Florence and Ferrara. Nor were the
above-mentioned romances by any means the only works of their kind
produced for a plebeian audience in the _quattrocento_. It is enough to
mention _La Regina Ancroja_, _La Spagna_, _Trebisonda con la Vita e
Morte di Rinaldo_. Both in prose and verse an abundant literature of the
kind was manufactured. Without being positively burlesqued, the heroes
of chivalrous story were travestied to suit the taste of artisans and
burghers. The element of the marvelous was surcharged; comic and
pathetic episodes were multiplied; beneath the armor of the Paladins
Italian characters were substituted with spontaneous malice for the
obsolete ideals of feudalism. It only needed a touch of conscious irony
to convert the material thus elaborated by the people into the airy
fabric of Ariosto's art. At the same time the form which the epic of
romance was destined to assume, had been determined. The streets and
squares of town and village rang with the chants of improvisatori,
turning the prose periods of Andrea da Barberino and his predecessors
into wordy octave stanzas, rehandling ancient _Chansons de Geste_, and
adapting the mannerism of chivalrous minstrelsy to the requirements of a
subtle-witted Tuscan crowd. The old-fashioned invocations of God,
Madonna, or some saint were preserved at the beginning of each canto,
while the audience received their _congé_ from the author at its close.
When the poems thus produced were committed to writing, the plebeian
author feigned at least the inspiration of a bard.

While the traditions of medieval song were thus preserved, the
prose-romances followed, as closely as possible, the style of a
chronicle, and aimed at the verisimilitude of authentic history. The
_Reali_, for example, opens with this sentence: "Fuvvi in Roma un santo
pastore della Chiesa, che aveva nome papa Silvestro." The _Fioravante_,
recently edited by Signor Rajna, begins: "Nel tempo che Gostantino
imperadore regiea & mantenea corte in Roma grandissima." This parade of
historic seriousness, observed by the subsequent romantic poets,
contributed in no small measure to the irony at which they aimed. But
with the story-tellers of the _quattrocento_ it was no mere affectation.
Like their predecessors of the fourteenth century, they treated legend
from the standpoint of experience. It was due in no small measure to
this circumstance that the Italian prose-romances are devoid of charm.
Nowhere do we find in them that magic touch of poetry which makes the
forests, seas and castles of the "Mort d'Arthur" enchanted ground.
Notwithstanding all their extravagances, they remain positive in spirit,
presenting the material of fancy in the sober garb of fact. The Italian
genius lacked a something of imaginative potency possessed in
overflowing measure by the Northern nations. It required the stimulus of
satire, the infusion of idyllic sentiment, the consciousness of art, to
raise the romantic epic to the height it reached in Ariosto. Then, and
not till then, when the matter of the legend had become the sport of the
æsthetic sense, were the inexhaustible riches of Italian fancy, dealing
delicately and humorously with a subject which could no longer be
apprehended seriously, revealed to the world in a masterpiece of beauty.
But that work of consummate art was what it was, by reason of the
master's wise employment of a style transmitted to him through
generations of plebeian predecessors.

The same positive and workmanly method is discernible in the versified
_novelle_ of this period.[297] The popular poets were wont to recast
tales from the Decameron and other sources in octave stanzas. Of such
compositions we have excellent specimens in Girolamo Benivieni's version
of the novel of Tancredi, and in an anonymous rhymed paraphrase of
Patient Grizzel.[298] The latter is especially interesting when we
compare it with the series of panels attributed to Pinturicchio in the
National Gallery, where a painter of the same period has exercised his
fancy in illustrating the legend which the poet versified. Detached
episodes of semi-mythical Florentine history were similarly treated.
Allusion has already been made to the love-tale of Ippolito and Leonora,
attributed on doubtful grounds to Alberti.[299] But by far the most
beautiful is the story of Ginevra degli Almieri, told in octave stanzas
by Agostino Velletti.[300] This poem has rare value as a genuine product
of the plebeian muse. The heroine Ginevra's father was a pork-butcher,
says the minstrel, and lived in the Marcato Vecchio, where he carried
on the best business of the sort in Florence. It is also important for
students of comparative literature, because it clearly illustrates the
difference between Italian and Northern treatment of an all but
contemporary incident. The events narrated are supposed to have really
happened in the year 1396. On the Scotch Border they would have
furnished materials for a ballad similar to Gil Morrice or Clerk
Saunders. In Florence they take the form of a _novella_, and the
_novella_ is expanded in octave stanzas.[301] Ginevra had two lovers,
Antonio de' Rondinelli and Francesco degli Agolanti. Antonio loved her
the more tenderly; but her parents gave her in marriage to Francesco.
Soon after the ceremony, she sickened and fell into a trance; and since
Florence was then threatened with the plague, the girl was buried
over-hastily in this deep slumber. Her weeping parents laid her in a
cippus or _avello_ between the two doors of S. Reparata, where the
workmen, unable to finish their job before sunset, left the lid of her
sepulcher unsoldered. In the middle of the night Ginevra woke, and
discovered to her horror that she had been sent to the grave alive.
Happily the moon was shining, and a ray of light fell through a chink
upon her bier. She arose, wrapped her shroud around her, and struggled
from her marble chest into the silent cathedral square. Giotto's bell
tower rose above her, silvery and beautiful, and slender in the
moonlight. Like a ghost, sheeted in her grave-clothes, Ginevra ran
through the streets, and knocked first at Francesco's door. He was
seated awake by the fireside, sorrowing for his young bride's loss:

    Andonne alla finestra e aprilla un poco:
    Chi è là? Chi batte? Io son la tua Ginevra;
    Non m'odi tu? Col suo parlar persevera.

Her husband doubts not that it is a spirit calling to him, bids her rest
till masses shall be said for her repose, and shuts the window. Then she
turns to her mother's house. The mother, too, is sitting sorrowful by
the hearth, when she is startled by Ginevra's cry:

    E spaventata e piena di paura
    Disse: va in pace, anima benedetta,
    Bella figliuola mia, onesta e pura;
    E riserrò la finestra con fretta.

Rejected by husband and mother, Ginevra next tries her uncle, and calls
on him for succor in God's name:

    Fugli risposto; anima benedetta,
    Va che Dio ti conservi in santa pace.

The poor wretch now feels that there is nothing left for her but to lie
down on the pavement and die of cold. But while she is preparing herself
for this fate, she bethinks her of Antonio. To his house she hurries,
cries for aid, and falls exhausted on the doorstep. Then comes the
finest touch in the poem. Antonio knows Ginevra's voice; and loving her
so tenderly, he hurries with delight to greet her risen from the grave.
He alone has no fear and no misgiving; for love in him is stronger than
death. At the street door, when he reaches it, he finds no ghost, but
his own dear lady yet alive. She is half frozen and unconscious; yet her
heart still beats. How he calls the women of his household to attend
her, prepares a bed, and feeds her with warm soups and wine, and how she
revives, and how Antonio claims her for his wife, and wins his cause
against her former bridegroom in the Bishop's court, may be read at
length in the concluding portion of the tale. The intrinsic pathos of
this story makes it a real poem; for though the wizard's wand of
Northern imagination lay beyond the grasp of the Italian genius, the
_novelle_ are rarely deficient in poetry evoked by sympathy with injured
innocence and loyal love.

Of truly popular _novelle_ belonging to the fifteenth century, none is
racier or more characteristic than the anonymous tale of _Il Grasso,
Legnaiuolo_.[302] It is written in pure Florentine dialect, and might be
selected as the finest extant specimen of homespun Tuscan humor. We have
already seen that the point of Sacchetti's stories is nearly always a
practical joke, where comedy combines with heartless cruelty in almost
equal parts. The theme of _Il Grasso_ is a superlatively comic _beffa_
of this sort, played by Filippo Brunelleschi on a friend of his. The
incident is dated 1409, and is supposed to have really occurred. Manetto
Ammannatini, a _tarsiatore_ or worker in carved and inlaid wood, was
called _Il Grasso_, because he was a fine stout fellow of twenty-eight
years. He had his _bottega_ on the Piazza S. Giovanni and lived with his
brother in a house hard by. Among his most intimate associates were
Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, Donatello, _intagliatore di marmi_,
Giovanni di Messer Francesco Rucellai, and others, partly gentlemen and
partly handicraftsmen; for there was no abrupt division of classes at
Florence, and this story shows how artisans and men of high condition
dwelt together in good fellowship. The practical joke devised by
Brunelleschi consisted in persuading Manetto that he had been changed
into a certain Matteo. The whole society of friends were in the secret,
and the affair was so cunningly conducted that at last they attained the
desired object. They caused Manetto to be arrested for a debt of Matteo,
sent Matteo's brothers and then the clergyman of the parish to reason
with him on his spendthrift habits, and fooled him so that he fairly
lost his sense of identity. The whole series of incidents, beginning
with Manetto's indignant assertion of his proper personality, passing
through his doubts, and closing with his mystification, is conducted by
fine gradations of irresistibly comic humor. At last the poor man
resolves to quit Florence and to seek refuge with King Mathias Corvinus
in Hungary; which it seems he subsequently did, in company with a
certain Lo Spano. There is no reason to suppose that this practical joke
did not actually take place.

I have enlarged upon the _novella_ of _Il Grasso_, because it is typical
of the genuinely popular literature, written to delight the folk of
Florence, appealing to their subtlest as well as broadest sense of fun,
and bringing on the scene two famous artists, Brunelleschi, whose cupola
is "raised above the heavens," and Donatello, whose S. George seems
stepping from his pedestal to challenge all the evil of the world and
conquer it. Unfortunately, our published collections are not rich in
novels of this date; and next to the anonymous tale of _Il Grasso,
Legnaiuolo_ it is difficult to cite one of at all equal value, till we
come to Luigi Pulci's story of Messer Goro and Pius II. This is really a
satire on the Sienese, whom Pulci represents with Florentine malice as
almost inconceivably silly. The Tuscan style is piquant in the extreme,
and the picture of manners very brilliant.[303]

From epical and narrative literature to poems written for the people
upon contemporary events and public history, is not an unnatural
transition. These compositions divide themselves into _Storie_ and
_Lamenti_. We have abundant examples of both kinds in lyric measures and
also in octave stanzas and _terza rima_.[304] A few of their titles will
suffice to indicate their scope. _Il Lamento di Giuliano de' Medici_
relates the tragic ending of the Pazzi conspiracy; _Il Lamento del Duca
Galeazzo Maria_ tells how that Duke was murdered in the church of S.
Stefano at Milan; _El Lamento di Otranto_ is an echo of the disaster
which shook all Italy to her foundations in the year 1480; _El Lamento e
la Discordia de Italia universale_ sounds the death-note of Italian
freedom in the last years of the century. After that period the _Pianti_
and _Lamenti_, attesting to the sorrows of a nation, increase in
frequency until all voices from the people are hushed in the leaden
sleep of Spanish despotism.[305] The _Storie_ in like manner are more
abundant between the years 1494 and 1530, when the wars of foreign
invaders supplied the bards of the market-place with continual matter
for improvisation. Among the earliest may be mentioned two poems on the
Battle of Anghiari and the taking of Serezana.[306] Then the list
proceeds with the tale of the Borgias, _Guerre Orrende_, _Rotta di
Ravenna_, _Mali deportamenti de Franciosi fato in Italia_, and so forth,
till it ends with _La Presa di Roma_ and _Rotta di Ferruccio_. A last
echo of these _Storie_ and _Lamenti_--for alas! in Italy of the
sixteenth century history and lamentation were all one--still sounds
about the hillsides of Siena[307]:

    O Piero Strozzi, 'ndù sono i tuoi bravoni?
      Al Poggio delle Donne in que' burroni.
    O Piero Strozzi, 'ndù sono i tuoi soldati?
      Al Poggio delle Donne in quei fossati.
    O Piero Strozzi, 'ndù son le tue genti?
      Al Poggio delle Donne a côr le lenti.

It may be well to say how these poems reached the people, before they
were committed to writing or the press. There existed a professional
class of rhymsters, usually blind men, if we may judge by the frequent
affix of _Cieco_ to their names, who tuned their guitar in the streets,
and when a crowd had gathered round them, broke into some legend of
romance, or told a tale of national misfortune. The Italian designation
of these minstrels is _Cantatore in Banca_ or _Cantore di piazza_. In
the high tide of Florentine freedom the _Cantore di piazza_ exercised a
noble calling; for through his verse the voice of the common folk made
itself heard beneath the very windows of the Signoria. In 1342, when the
war with Pisa turned against the Florentines owing to the incompetence
of their generals, Antonio Pucci, who was the most celebrated
_Cantatore_ of the day, took his lute and placed himself upon the steps
beneath the Palazzo, and having invoked the Virgin Mary, struck up a
_Sermintese_ on the duty of making peace[308]:

    Signor, pognàm ch'i' sia di vil nascenza,
      I' pur nacqui nel corpo di Firenza,
      Come qual c'è di più sofficienza:
             Onde 'l mi duole
    Di lei, considerando che esser suole
      Tenuta più che madre da figliuole;
      Oggi ogni bestia soggiogar la vuole
             E occupare.

Other poems of the same kind by Antonio Pucci belong to the year 1346,
or celebrate the purchase of Lucca from Mastino della Scala, or the
victory of Messer Piero Rosso at Padua, or the expulsion of the Duke of
Athens from Florence in 1348. It must not be supposed that the
_Cantatori in Banca_ of the next century enjoyed so much liberty of
censure or had so high a sense of their vocation as Antonio Pucci. Yet
the people made their opinions freely heard in rhymes sung even by the
children through the streets, as when they angered Martin V. in 1420 by
crying beneath his very windows[309]:

    Papa Martino, Signor di Piombino,
    Conte de Urbino, non vale un quattrino.

During the ascendency of Savonarola and the party-struggles of the
Medici the rival cries of _Palle_ and _Viva Cristo Rè_ were turned into
street songs[310]; but at last, after the siege and the victory of
Clement, the voice of the people was finally stifled by authority.[311]

The element of satire in these ditties of the people leads me to speak
of one very prominent poet of the fifteenth century--Domenico di
Giovanni, called Il Burchiello, the rhyming barber.[312] He was born
probably in 1403 at Florence, where his father, who was a Pisan, had
acquired the rights of citizenship and followed the trade of a barber.
Their shop was situated in Calimala, and formed a meeting-place for the
wits, who carried Burchiello's verses over the town. The boy seems to
have studied at Pisa, and acquired some slight knowledge of
medicine.[313] At the age of four-and-twenty we find him married, with
three children and no property.[314] Soon after this date, he separated
from his wife; or else she left him on account of his irregular and
dissolute habits. Peering through the obscurity of his somewhat sordid
history, we see him getting into trouble with the Inquisition on account
of profane speech, and then espousing the cause of the Albizzi against
the Medicean faction. On the return of Cosimo de' Medici in 1434,
Burchiello was obliged to leave Florence. He settled at Siena, and
opened a shop in the Corso di Camollia, hoping to attract the
Florentines whose business brought them to that quarter. Here he nearly
ruined his health by debauchery, and narrowly escaped assassination at
the hands of a certain Ser Rosello.[315] Leaving Siena about 1440,
Burchiello spent the last years of his life in wandering through the
cities of Italy. We hear of him at Venice entertained by one of the
Alberti family, then at Naples, finally in Rome, where he died in 1448,
poisoned probably by Robert, a bastard of Pandolfo Sigismondo Malatesta,
at the instigation of his ancient enemy, Cosimo de' Medici.[316] Such
long arms and such retentive memory had the merchant despot.

Burchiello's sonnets were collected some thirty years after his death
and published simultaneously at various places.[317] They owed their
popularity partly to their political subject-matter, but more to their
strange humor. A foreigner can scarcely understand their language, far
less appreciate their fun; for not only are they composed in Florentine
slang of the fifteenth century, but this slang itself consists of
detached phrases and burlesque allusions, chipped as it were from
current speech, broken into splinters, and then wrought into a grotesque
mosaic. That Burchiello had the merit of originality, and that he caught
the very note of plebeian utterance, is manifest from the numerous
editions and imitations of his sonnets.[318] His Muse was a _volgivaga
Venus_ bred among the taverns and low haunts of vulgar company, whose
biting wit introduced her to the society of the learned. Yet her
utterances, at this distance of time, are so obscure and their point has
been so blunted that to profess an admiration for Burchiello savors of
literary affectation.[319] He was a poet of the transition; and the
burlesque style which he made popular was destined to be superseded by
the more refined and subtle Bernesque manner. Il Lasca, writing in the
sixteenth century, expressed himself strongly against those who still
ventured to compare Burchiello with the author of _Le Pesche_. "Let no
one talk to me of Burchiello; to rank him with Berni is no better than
to couple the fiend Charon with the Angel Gabriel."[320]

Not the least important branch of popular poetry in its bearing on the
future of Italian literature was the strictly lyrical. In treating of
these Volkslieder, it will be necessary to consider them under the two
aspects of secular and religious--the former destined to supply
Poliziano and Lorenzo de' Medici with models for their purest works of
literary art, the latter containing the germs of the Florentine Sacred
Play within the strophes of a hymn.

If we return to the golden days of the fourteenth century, we find that
Dante's, Boccaccio's and Sacchetti's _Ballate_ descended to the people
and were easily adapted to their needs.[321] Minute comparison of
Dante's dance-song of the _Ghirlandetta_ with the version in use among
the common folk will show what slight alterations were needed in order
to render it the property of 'prentice lads and spinning maidens, and
at the same time how subtle those changes were.[322] Dante's song might
be likened to a florin fresh from the mint; the popular ditty to the
same coin after it had circulated for a year or two, exchanging
something of its sharp lines for the smoothness of currency and usage.
The same is true of Boccaccio's Ballata, _Il fior che 'l valor perde_;
except that here the transformation has gone deeper, and, if such a
criticism may be hazarded, has bettered the original by rendering the
sentiment more universal.[323] Sacchetti's charming song _O vaghe
montanine pasturelle_ underwent the same process of metamorphosis before
it assumed the form in which it passed for a composition of
Poliziano.[324] Starting with poems of this quality, the rhymsters of
the market-place had noble models, and the use they made of them was
adequate. We cannot from the wreck of time recover very many that were
absolutely written for the people by the people; but we can judge of
their quality by Angelo Poliziano's imitations.[325] He borrowed so
largely from all sources, and his debts can be so accurately traced in
his _rispetti_, that it is fair to credit the popular Muse with even
such delicate work as _La Brunettina_, while the disputed authorship of
the May-song _Ben venga Maggio_ and of the Ballata _Vaghe le montanine e
pastorelle_ is sufficient to prove at least their widespread fame.[326]
Whoever wrote them, they became the heirlooms of the people. If proof
were needed of the vast number of such compositions in the fifteenth
century--erotic, humorous, and not unfrequently obscene--it might be
derived from the rubrics of the _Laude_ or hymns, which were almost
invariably parodies of popular dance-songs and intended to be sung to
the same tunes.[327] Every festivity--May-morning tournaments, summer
evening dances on the squares of Florence, weddings, carnival
processions, and vintage-banquets at the villa--had their own lyrics,
accompanied with music and the Carola.

The dance-songs and canzonets, of which we have been speaking, were
chiefly of town growth and Tuscan. Another kind of popular love-poem,
common to all the dialects of Italy, may be regarded as a special
production of the country. Much has lately been written concerning these
_Rispetti_, _Strambotti_ and _Stornelli_.[328] Ample collections have
been made to illustrate their local peculiarities. Their points of
resemblance and dissimilarity have been subjected to critical analysis,
and great ingenuity has been expended on the problem of their origin. It
will be well to preface what has to be said about them with some
explanation of terms. There are, to begin with, two distinct species.
The _Stornello Ritornello_ or _Fiore_, called also _Ciure_ in Sicily,
properly consists of two or three verses starting with the name of a
flower. Thus[329]:

    Fior di Granato!
    Bella, lo nome tuo sta scritto in cielo,
    Lo mio sta scritto sull'onda del mare.

_Rispetto_ and _Strambotto_ are two names for the same kind of song,
which in the north-eastern provinces is also called _Villotta_ and in
Sicily _Canzune_.[330] Strictly speaking, the term _Strambotto_ should
be confined to literary imitations of the popular _Rispetto_. In Tuscany
the lyric in question consists, in its normal form, of four alternately
rhyming hendecasyllabic lines, followed by what is technically called
the _ripresa_, or repetition, which may be composed of two, four, or
even more verses. Though not strictly an octave stanza, it sometimes
falls into this shape, and has then two pairs of three alternate rhymes,
finished up with a couplet. In the following instance the quatrain and
the _ripresa_ are well marked[331]:

    Quando sarà quel benedetto giorno,
    Che le tue scale salirò pian piano?
    I tuoi fratelli mi verranno intorno,
    Ad un ad un gli toccherò la mano.
    Quando sarà quel dì, cara colonna,
    Che la tua mamma chiamerò madonna?
    Quando sarà quel dì, caro amor mio?
    Io sarò vostra, e voi sarete mio!

In Sicily the _Canzune_ exhibits a stanza of eight lines rhyming
alternately throughout upon two sounds. Certain peculiarities, however,
in the structure of the strophe render it probable that it was
originally a quatrain followed by a _ripresa_ of the same length.

    Quannu nascisti tu, stidda lucenti,
    'N terra calaru tri ancili santi;
    Vinniru li Tri Re d'Orienti,
    Purtannu cosi d'oru e di brillanti;
    Tri aculi vularu prestamenti,
    Dannu la nova a punenti e a livanti;
    Bella, li to' billizzi su' putenti!
    Avi nov'anni chi ti sugnu amanti.

In the north-east the _Villotta_ consists of a simple quatrain. Of this
form the following is an example[333]:

    Quanti ghe n'è, che me sente a cantare,
    E i dise;--Custia canta dal bon tempo.--
    Che prego 'l ciel che me possa agiutare;
    Quando che canto, alora me lamento.

Though these are the leading types of the _Rispetto_, _Canzune_ and
_Villotta_, each district exhibits a variety of subordinate and complex
forms. The same may be said about the _Stornello_, _Ritornello_ and
_Ciure_. The names, too, are very variously applied; nor without
pedantry would it be possible to maintain perfect precision in their
usage.[334] It is enough to have indicated the two broad classes into
which popular poetry of this kind is divided. For the future I shall
refer to the one sort as _Rispetti_, to the other as _Stornelli_.

Comparative analysis makes it clear that the _Rispetti_ and _Stornelli_
scattered over all the provinces of Italy, constitute a common fund.
That is to say, we do not meet with the _Rispetti_ of each dialect
confined to their own region; but the same original _Rispetto_, perhaps
now lost to sight, has been adapted and transformed to suit the taste
and idiom of the several provinces. To reconstitute the primitive type,
to decide with certainty in each case the true source of these lyrics,
is probably impossible. All we know for certain is that beneath apparent
dialectical divergences the vulgar poetry of the Italians presents
unmistakable signs of identity.[335] Which province was the primitive
home of the _Rispetti_; whether Sicily, where the faculty for
reproducing them is still most vivid[336]; or Tuscany, where they
certainly attain their purest form and highest beauty; or whether all
Italian country districts have contributed their quota to the general
stock; are difficult questions, as yet by no means satisfactorily
decided. Professor d'Ancona advances a theory, which is too plausible to
be ignored in silence. _Rispetti_, he suggests, were first produced in
Sicily, whence they traveled through Central Italy, receiving
dialectical transmutation in Tuscany, and there also attaining to the
perfection of their structure.[337] Numerous slight indications lead to
the conclusion that their original linguistic type was southern. The
imagery also which is common in verses sung to this day by the peasants
of the Pistoja highlands, including frequent references to the sea with
metaphors borrowed from orange-trees and palms, seems to indicate a
Sicilian birthplace.[338] We have, moreover, the early evidence of six
_Napolitane_ copied from a Magliabecchian MS. of the fourteenth century,
which exhibit the transition from southern to Tuscan idiom and
structure.[339] One of these still exists in several dialects, under the
title of _La Rondinella importuna_.[340] It is therefore certain that
many _Rispetti_ are very ancient, dating from the Suabian period, when
Sicilian poetry, as we have seen, underwent the process of
_toscaneggiamento_. However, D'Ancona's theory is too hypothetical, and
it may also be said, too neat, to be accepted without reservation.

One point, at any rate, may be considered certain. Though the _Rispetti_
are still alive upon the lips of _contadini_; though we may hear them
echoing from farm and field through all the length and breadth of Italy;
though the voluminous collections we possess have recently been gathered
from _viva voce_ recitation; yet they are perhaps as ancient as the
dialects. The proof of this antiquity lies in the fact that whether we
take the literary _Strambotti_ of Poliziano for our standard, or the
_pasticci_, _incatenature_ and _intrecciature_ of the sixteenth century
for guides, we find the phrases and the style that are familiar to us in
the rural lyrics of to-day.[341] Bronzino's _Serenata_ and the
_Incatenatura_ of Bianchino contain, embedded in their structure,
ditties which were universally known in the sixteenth century, and which
are being sung still with unimportant alterations by the people. The
attention of learned men was directed in the renascence of Tuscan
literature to the beauty of these lyrics. Poliziano, writing to Lorenzo
de' Medici in 1488, and describing his journey with Pietro through
Montepulciano and Acquapendente in the month of May, says that he and
his companions amused themselves with _rappresaglie_ or adaptations of
the songs they heard upon the way.[342] His road took him through what
is still one of the best sources of local verse and music; and we may
believe that at the close of the fifteenth century, the _contadini_ of
that district were singing nearly the same words as now. Nor, when we
examine the points of similarity and difference in the Italian
_Rispetti_ and _Stornelli_, as they now exist, is there anything
improbable in this antiquity. Nothing but great age can account for
their adaptation to the tone, feeling, fancy, habits and language of so
many regions. It must have taken more than a century or two to rub down
their original angles, to efface the specific stamp of their birthplace,
and to make them pass for home productions in Venice no less than
Palermo, in Tuscan Montalcino and Ligurian Chiavari.

The retentiveness of the popular memory, before it has been spoiled by
education, is quite sufficient to account for the preservation of these
lyrics through several hundred years. Nor need their wide diffusion
suggest difficulties. Italy in the middle ages offered readier means of
intercommunication between the inhabitants of her provinces than she has
done since the settlement of the country in 1530. When the liberation of
the Communes gave a new impulse to intellectual and commercial activity,
there began a steady and continually increasing movement from one city
to another. Commercial enterprise led the burghers of Pisa, Lucca,
Florence, Venice, Genoa, to establish themselves as bankers and
middle-men, brokers and manufacturers, in Rome and Naples. Soldiers of
adventure flocked from the south, and made the northern towns their
temporary home. The sanctuaries of Gargano, Loretto and Assisi drew
pilgrims from all quarters. Noblemen of Romagna acted as _podestà_
beyond the Apennines, while Lombards opened shops in Palermo. Churchmen
bred upon the Riviera wore the miter in the March; natives of the
Spoletano taught in the schools of Bologna and Pavia. Men of letters,
humanists and artists had no fixed dwelling-place, but wandered, like
mercenary soldiers, from town to town in search of better pay. Students
roamed from school to school according as the fame of great professors
drew them. Party-quarrels in the commonwealths drove whole families,
such as the Florentine Uberti, Alberti, Albizzi, Strozzi, into exile.
Conquered cities, like Pisa, sent forth their burghers by hundreds as
emigrants, too proud to bear the yoke of foes they had resisted. Nor
were the Courts of princes without their influence in mingling the
natives of different districts. Whether, then, we study the _Novelle_,
or the histories of great houses, or the biographies of eminent
Italians, or the records of the universities, we shall be led to the
conclusion that from the year 1200 to the year 1550 there was a
perpetual and lively intercourse by land and sea between the departments
of Italy. This reciprocity of influence did not cease until the two
despotic races, Austrian and Spaniard, threw each separate province into
solitary chains. Such being the conditions of social exchange at the
epoch when the language was in process of formation, there is nothing
strange in finding the rural poetry of the south acclimatized in central
and northern Italy. But the very facility of communication and the
probable antiquity of these lyrics should make us cautious in adopting
any rigid hypothesis about their origin. It is reasonable to suppose
that such transferable property as love-poems might have been everywhere
produced and rapidly diffused, the best from each center surviving by a
natural process of selection. Lastly, whatever view may be taken of
their formation and their age, we have every reason to believe that the
fifteenth century was a fruitful period of production and accumulation.
Toward the close of the _quattrocento_ they attracted the curiosity of
lettered poets, who began to imitate them, and in the next hundred years
they were committed in large numbers to the press.[343]

In addition to the influence exercised by these popular lyrics over
polite literature in the golden age of the Renaissance, extraordinary
interest attaches to them as an indigenous species of verse, dating from
remote antiquity and still surviving in all corners of the country. In
them we analyze the Italian poetic genius at its source and under its
most genuine conditions. Both from their qualities and their defects
inferences may be drawn, which find application and illustration in the
solemn works of laureled singers. The one theme of _Rispetti_ and
_Stornelli_ is love; but love in all its phases and with all its retinue
of associated emotions--expectation, fruition, disappointment, jealousy,
despair, rejection, treachery, desertion, pleading, scorn--the joys of
presence, the pangs of absence, the ecstasy of union, the agony of
parting--love, natural and unaffected, turbulent or placid, chaste or
troubled with desire, imperious or humble, tempestuously passionate or
toned to tranquil acquiescence--love varying through all moods and
tempers, yet never losing its note of spontaneity, sincerity and truth.
The instincts of the people are pure, and their utterances of affection
are singularly free from grossness. This at least is almost universally
the case with lyrics gathered from the country. Approaching town-life,
they lose their delicacy; and the products of the city are not
unfrequently distinguished by the crudest obscenity.[344] The literary
form of many of these masterpieces exhibits the beauty of rhythm, the
refinement of outline, which we associate with melodies of the best
Italian period--with chants of Pergolese, songs of Salvator Rosa. When
we compare their subject-matter with that of our Northern Ballads, we
notice a marked deficiency of legend, superstition or grotesque fancy.
There are no witches, dragons, demon-lovers, no enchanted forests, no
mythical heroes, no noble personages, few ghosts, few dreams and
visions, in these songs poured forth among the olive-trees and
myrtle-groves of Italy. Human nature, conscious of pleasure and of pain,
finding its primitive emotion an adequate motive for verse subtly
modulated through a thousand keys, is here sufficient to itself. The
echoes imported from an outer world of passion and romance and action
into this charmed region of the lover's heart are rare and feeble.
Through all their national vicissitudes, the Italian peasants followed
one sole aim in verse. The _Rispetti_ of all times, localities and
dialects form one protracted, ever-varying Duo between Thou and I, the
_dama_ and the _damo_, the eternal protagonists in the play of youth and

This absence of legendary and historical material marks a main
difference between Italian and Teutonic inspiration. Among the Italic
communities the practical historic sense was early developed, and
sustained by the tradition of a classic past. It demanded a positive
rather than imaginative treatment of contemporary fact and mythus.
Among the people this requirement was satisfied by _Storie_, _Lamenti_,
and prose Chronicles. Very few, indeed, are the relics of either
romantic or actual history surviving in the lyrics of the rural
population. Only here and there, in dim allusions to the Sicilian
Vespers and the Norman Conquest, in the tale of the Baronessa di Carini,
or in the Northern legend of Rosmunda, under its popular form of _La
Donna Lombarda_, do we find a faint analogy between the Italian and
Teutonic ballads.[345] Dramatic, mythical and epical elements are almost
wholly wanting in the genuine lyrics of the people.

This statement requires some qualification. The four volumes of _Fiabe,
Novelle e Racconti_ recently published by Signor Pitrè, prove that the
Sicilians in prose at least have a copious literature corresponding to
German _Märchen_ and Norse tales.[346] This literature, however, has not
received poetic treatment in any existing southern songs that have been
published, excepting in the few already noticed. At the same time, it
must be mentioned that the collections of lyrics in north-western
dialects--especially the _Canti Monferrini_, _Canzoni Comasche_, and
_Canti Leccesi_--exhibit specimens of genuine ballads. It would seem
that contact with French and German borderers along the Alpine rampart
had introduced into Piedmont and Lombardy a form of lyric which is not
essentially Italian. Had I space sufficient at disposal, I should like
to quote the _Donna Lombarda_, _Moglie Infedele_, _Giuseppina
Parricida_, _Principessa Giovanna_, _Giuliano della Croce Bianca_,
_Cecilia_, _Rè Carlino_, _Morando_, and several others from Ferraro's
collection.[347] They illustrate, what is exceedingly rare in popular
Italian poetry, both the subject-matter and the manner peculiar to the
Northern Ballad. Let the following verses from _La Sposa per Forza_

    Ra soi madona a r'ha brassaja
      Suvra u so coffu a r'ha minèe;
      Uardèe qui, ra me noiretta,
      Le bele gioje che vi vôi dunèe.
    Mi n'ho csa fè dle vostre gioje;
      E manc ancur dla vostra cà;
      Cma ca voja dir bel gioje
      Ra me mama m' na mandirà.

To comparative mythologists in general, and to English students in
particular, the most interesting of these rare Italian Ballads is
undoubtedly one known as _L'Avvelenato_.[349] So far as I am aware, it
is unique in the Italian language; nor had its correspondences with
Northern Ballad-literature been noticed until I pointed them out in
1879.[350] In his work on popular Italian poetry, Professor D'Ancona
included the following song, which he had heard upon the lips of a young
peasant of the Pisan district[351]:

    Dov'eri 'ersera a cena
    Caro mio figlio, savio e gentil?
        Mi fai morire
    Dov'eri 'ersera a cena
    Gentile mio cavalier?--
    Ero dalla mia dama;
        Mio core stà male,
        Che male mi stà!
    Ero dalla mia dama;
    'L mio core che se ne và.--
    Che ti diènno da cena,
    Caro mio figlio, savio e gentil?
        Mi fai morire,
    Che ti diènno da cena,
    Gentile mio cavalier?--
    Un anguilletta arrosto,
        Cara mia madre;
        Mio core stà male,
        Che male mi stà!
    Un anguilletta arrosto,
    'L mio core che se ne và.

Other versions of the same poem occur in the dialects of Venice, Como
and Lecco with such variations as prove them all to be the offshoots
from some original now lost in great antiquity. That it existed and was
famous so far back as the middle of the seventeenth century, is proved
by an allusion in the _Cicalata in lode della Padella e della Frittura_,
recited before the Accademia della Crusca by Lorenzo Panciatichi in
1656.[352] A few lines are also quoted in the _incatenatura_ of the
Cieco Fiorentino, published at Verona in 1629.[353] Any one who is
familiar with our Border Minstrelsy will perceive at once that this is
only an Italian version of the Ballad of Lord Donald or Lord
Randal.[354] The identity between the two is rendered still more
striking by an analysis of the several Lombard versions. In that of
Como, for example, the young man makes his will; and this is the last

    Cossa lassè alla vostra dama,
    Figliuol mio caro, fiorito e gentil,
    Cossa lassè alla vostra dama?
      La fôrca da impiccarla,
    Signora mama, mio cor sta mal!
    La fôrca da impiccarla:
      Ohimè, ch'io moro, ohimè!

The same version furnishes the episode of the poisoned hounds[356]:

    Coss'avì fâ dell'altra mezza,
    Figliuol mio caro, fiorito e gentil?
    Cossa avì fâ dell'altra mezza?
      L'hô dada alla cagnòla:
    Signôra mama, mio core sta mal!
    L'hô dada alla cagnòla:
      Ohimè, ch'io moro, ohimè!
    Cossa avì fâ della cagnòla,
    Figliuol mio caro, fiorito e gentil?
    Cossa avì fâ della cagnòla?
    L'è morta drê la strada;
    Signôra mama, mio core sta mal!
    L'è morta drê la strada:
      Ohimè, ch'io moro, ohimè!

It is worth mentioning that the same Ballad belongs under slightly
different forms to the Germans, Swedes, and other nations of the
Teutonic stock; but so far as I have yet been able to discover, it
remains the sole instance of that species of popular literature in
Italy.[357] The phenomenon is singular, and though conjectures may be
hazarded in explanation, it is impossible, until further researches for
parallel examples have been made, to advance a theory of how this Ballad
penetrated so far south as Tuscany.


[279] See Rosmini, _Vita di Filelfo_, vol. ii. p. 13, for Filelfo's
dislike of Italian. In the dedication of his Commentary to Filippo
Maria Visconti he says: "Tanto più volentieri ho intrapreso questo
comento, quanto dalla tua eccellente Signoria non solo invitato sono
stato, ma pregato, lusingato et provocato." The first Canto opens

    O Philippo Maria Anglo possente,
    Perchè mi strengi a quel che non poss'io?
    Vuoi tu ch'io sia ludibrio d'ogni gente?

[280] Dated Milan, Feb. 1477. Rosmini, _op. cit._ p. 282.

[281] _Ercolano_ (in Vinetia, Giunti, 1570), p. 185.

[282] _Prose Volgari_, etc., edite da I. del Lungo (Firenze, Barbèra,
1867), p. 80.

[283] _Prose_, etc., _op. cit._ pp. 45 _et seq._ pp. 3 _et seq._

[284] Alberti, _Op. Volg._ vol. i. pp. clxvii.-ccxxxiii. The quality
of these Latin meters may be judged from the following hexameters:

    Ma non prima sarà che 'l Dato la musa corona
    Invochi, allora subito cantando l'avete,
    Tal qual si gode presso il celeste Tonante.

Of the Sapphics the following is a specimen:

    Eccomi, i' son qui Dea degli amici,
    Quella qual tutti li omini solete
    Mordere, e falso fugitiva dirli,
                          Or la volete.

[285] Carducci, "Della Rime di Dante Alighieri," _Studi_, p. 154.

[286] For Giotto's and Orcagna's poems, see Trucchi, vol. ii. pp. 8
and 25.

[287] See above, pp. 17 _et seq._

[288] The _Tavola Ritonda_ has been reprinted, 2 vols., Bologna,
Romagnoli, 1864. It corresponds very closely in material to our _Mort
d'Arthur_, beginning with the history of Uther Pendragon and ending
with Arthur's wound and departure to the island of Morgan le Fay.

[289] See above, p. 18. The subject of these romances has been ably
treated by Pio Rajna in his works, _I Reali di Francia_ (Bologna,
Romagnoli, 1872), and _Le Fonti dell'Orlando Furioso_ (Firenze,
Sansoni, 1876).

[290] The _Rinaldino_, a prose romance recently published (Bologna,
Romagnoli, 1865), might be selected as a thoroughly Italian
_fioritura_ on the ancient Carolingian theme.

[291] We have here the germ of the _Orlando_ and of the first part of
the _Morgante_.

[292] Rajna, _I Reali_, p. 320, fixes the date of its composition at a
little before 1420.

[293] _Ibid._ p. 3.

[294] _I Reali_, pp. 311-319.

[295] The _Storie Nerbonesi_ were published in two vols. (Bologna,
Romagnoli, 1877), under the editorship of I.G. Isola. The third volume
forms a copious philological and critical appendix.

[296] _Guerino_ was versified in octave stanzas, by a poet of the
people called L'Altissimo, in the sixteenth century.

[297] See _I Novellieri Italiani in Verso_ by Giamb. Passano
(Romagnoli, 1868). The whole _Decameron_ was turned into octave
stanzas by V. Brugiantino, and published by Marcolini at Venice in
1554. Among _Novelle_ versified for popular reading may be cited,
_Masetto the Gardener_ (_Decam._ Giorn. iii. 1), _Romeo and Juliet_
(Verona, 1553), _Il Grasso, Legnaiuolo_ (by B. Davanzati, Florence,
1480), _Prasildo and Lisbina_ (from the _Orlando Innamorato_), _Oliva,
Fiorio e Biancifiore_ (the tale of the _Filocopo_). Of classical tales
we find _Sesto Tarquinio et Lucretia_, _Orpheo_, _Perseo_, _Piramo_,
_Giasone e Medea_.

[298] _Tancredi Principe di Salerno_, Bologna, Romagnoli, 1863. _Il
Marchese di Saluzzo e la Griselda_, Bologna, Romagnoli, 1862.

[299] See above, p. 212. The literary hesitations of an age as yet
uncertain of its aim might be illustrated from these romances. Of
_Ippolito e Leonora_ we have a prose, an _ottava rima_, and a Latin
version. Of _Griselda_ we have Boccaccio's Italian, and Petrarch's
Latin prose, in addition to the anonymous _ottava rima_ version. Of
the _Principe di Salerno_ we have Boccaccio's Italian, and Lionardo
Bruni's Latin versions in prose, together with Filippo Beroaldo's
Latin elegiacs, Francesco di Michele Accolti's _terza rima_ and
Benivieni's octave stanzas. Lami in his _Novelle letterarie_ (Bologna,
Romagnoli, 1859) prints an Italian _novella_ on the same story, which
he judges anterior to the _Decameron_. Later on, Annibal Guasco
produced another _ottava rima_ version; and the tale was used by
several playwrights in the composition of tragedies.

[300] _La Storia di Ginevra Almieri che fu sepolta viva in Firenze_
(Pisa, Nistri, 1863).

[301] The same point is illustrated by the tales of the Marchese di
Saluzzo and the Principe di Salerno, which produced the novels of
_Griselda_ and _Tancredi_. See notes to p. 250, above.

[302] _Raccolta dei Novellieri Italiani_, vol. xiii.

[303] _Op. cit._ vol. xiii. An allusion to Masuccio in this novel is
interesting, since it proves the influence he had acquired even in
Florence: "Masuccio, grande onore della città di Salerno, molto
imitatore del nostro messer Giovanni Boccaccio," _ib._ p. 34. Pulci
goes on to say that the reading of the _Novellino_ had encouraged him
to write his tale.

[304] See D'Ancona, _La Poesia Popolare Italiana_, pp. 64-79.

[305] A fine example of these later _Lamenti_ has been republished at
Bologna by Romagnoli, 1864. It is the _Lamento di Fiorenza_ upon the
siege and slavery of 1529-30.

[306] A medieval specimen of this species of composition is the
_Ballata_ for the _Reali di Napoli_ in the defeat of Montecatini. See
Carducci's _Cino e Altri_, p. 603.

[307] D'Ancona, _op. cit._ p. 78.

[308] _Sermintese Storico di A. Pucci_, Livorno, Vigo, 1876. It will
be remembered that Dante in the _Vita Nuova_ (section vi.) says he
composed a _Serventese_ on sixty ladies of Florence. The name was
derived from Provence, and altered into _Sermintese_ by the
Florentines. We possess a poem of this sort by A. Pucci on the
Florentine ladies, printed by D'Ancona in his edition of the _Vita
Nuova_ (Pisa, Nistri, p. 71), together with a valuable discourse upon
this form of poetry. Carducci in his _Cino e Altri_ prints two
_Sermintesi_ by Pucci on the beauties of women.

[309] D'Ancona, _Poesia Popolare Italiana_, pp. 47-50, has collected
from Leonardo Bruno and other sources many interesting facts about
Pope Martin's anger at this ditty. He seems to have gone to the length
of putting Florence under an interdict.

[310] D'Ancona, _op. cit._ pp. 51-56.

[311] One of the last plebeian rhymes on politics comes from Siena,
where, in the year 1552, the people used to sing this couplet in
derision of the Cardinal of the Mignanelli family sent to rule them:

    Mignanello, Mignanello,
    Non ci piace il tuo modello.

See Benci's _Storia di Montepulciano_ (Fiorenza, Massi e Landi, 1641),
p. 104. An anecdote from Busini (_Lettere al Varchi_, Firenze, Le
Monnier, p. 220) is so characteristic of the popular temper under the
oppression of Spanish tyranny that its indecency may be excused. He
says that a law had been passed awarding, "quattro tratti di corda ad
uno che, tirando una c---- disse: Poi che non si può parlare con la
bocca, io parlerò col c----."

[312] See the work entitled _Sulle Poesie Toscane di Domenico il
Burchiello nel secolo xv_, G. Gargani, Firenze, Tip. Cenn. 1877.


    Intendi a me, che già studiai a Pisa,
    E ogni mal conosco senza signo.

_Sonetti del Burchiello, del Bellincioni, e d'altri_, 1757, Londra, p.
125. See, too, the whole sonnet _Son medico in volgar_.

[314] Gargani, _op. cit._ p. 23, extract from the _Catasto_, 1427:
"Domenicho di Giovanni barbiere non ha nulla."

[315] The parallel between these passages of Burchiello's life and
Filelfo's at the same period is singular. See _Revival of Learning_,
p. 275.

[316] Gargani, _op. cit._ p. 90.

[317] The best edition bears the date Londra, 1757.

[318] The edition cited above includes _Sonetti alla Burchiellesca_ by
a variety of writers. The strange book called _Pataffio_, which used
to be ascribed to Brunetto Latini, seems born of similar conditions.

[319] Florentines themselves take this view, as is proved by the
following sentence from Capponi: "È pure qui obbligo di registrare
anche il Burchiello, barbiere di nome rimasto famoso, perchè fece d'un
certo suo gergo poesia forse arguta ma triviale; oscura oggi, ma
popolare nei tempi suoi e che ebbe inclusive imitatori" (_Storia della
Rep. di Firenze_, ii. 176).

[320] See the Sonnet quoted in Note 59 to Mazzuchelli's Life of Berni,
_Scrittori d'Italia_, vol. iv.

[321] The _Ballata_ or _Canzone a Ballo_, as its name implies, was a
poem intended to be sung during the dance. A musician played the lute
while young women executed the movements of the Carola (so beautifully
depicted by Benozzo Gozzoli in his Pisan frescoes), alone or in the
company of young men, singing the words of the song. The _Ballata_
consisted of lyric stanzas with a recurrent couplet. It is difficult
to distinguish the _Ballate_ from the _Canzonette d'Amore_.

[322] See Carducci, _Cantilene e Ballate_ (Pisa, 1871), pp. 82, 83.

[323] _Ibid._ pp. 171-173.

[324] _Ibid._ pp. 214-217.

[325] A volume of ancient _Canzoni a Ballo_ was published at Florence
in 1562, by Sermatelli, and again in 1568.

[326] _Le Rime di Messer A. Poliziano_, pp. 295, 346.

[327] See _Laude Spirituali di Feo Belcari e di Altri_, Firenze, 1863.
The hymn _Crocifisso a capo chino_, for example, has this heading:
"Cantasi come--Una donna d'amor fino," which was by no means a moral
song (_ib._ p. 16). D'Ancona in his _Poesia Pop. It._ pp. 431-436, has
extracted the titles of these profane songs, some of which are to be
found in the _Canzoni a Ballo_ (Firenze, 1568), and _Canti
Carnascialeschi_ (Cosmopoli, 1750), while the majority are lost.

[328] The books which I have consulted on this branch of vernacular
poetry are (1) Tommaseo, _Canti popolari toscani, corsi, illirici e
greci_, Venezia, 1841. (2) Tigri, _Canti popolari toscani_, Firenze,
1869. (3) Pitré, _Canti popolari siciliani_, and _Studi di poesia
popolare_, Palermo, 1870-1872. (4) D'Ancona, _La Poesia popolare
italiana_, Livorno, 1878. (5) Rubieri, _Storia della poesia popolare
italiana_, Firenze, 1877. Also numerous collections of local songs, of
which a good list is furnished in D'Ancona's work just cited. Bolza's
edition of Comasque poetry, Dal Medico's of Venetian, Ferraro's of
_Canti Monferrini_ (district of Montferrat), Vigo's of Sicilian,
together with Imbriani's of Southern and Marcoaldo's of Central
dialects, deserve to be specially cited. The literature in question is
already voluminous, and bids fair to receive considerable additions.

[329] I take this example at random from Blessig's _Römische
Ritornelle_ (Leipzig, 1860), p. 48:

               Flower of Pomegranate tree!
    Your name, O my fair one, is written in heaven;
    My name it is writ on the waves of the sea.

[330] The term _Villotta_ or _Vilota_ is special, I believe, to Venice
and the Friuli. D'Ancona identifies it with _Rispetto_, Rubieri with
_Stornello_. But it has the character of a quatrain, and seems
therefore more properly to belong to the former.

[331] Tigri, p. 123. Translated by me thus:

    Ah, when will dawn that blissful day
    When I shall softly mount your stair,
    Your brothers meet me on the way,
    And one by one I greet them there!
    When comes the day, my staff, my strength,
    To call your mother mine at length?
    When will the day come, love of mine,
    I shall be yours and you be mine!

[332] Pitrè, vol. i. p. 185. Translated by me thus, with an alteration
in the last couplet:

    When thou wert born, O beaming star!
    Three holy angels flew to earth;
    The three kings from the East afar
    Brought gold and jewels of great worth;
    Three eagles on wings light as air
    Bore the news East and West and North.
    O jewel fair, O jewel rare,
    So glad was heaven to greet thy birth.

[333] Dalmedico, _Canti Ven._ p. 69:

    Many there are who when they hear me sing,
    Cry: There goes one whose joy runs o'er in song!
    But I pray God to give me succoring;
    For when I sing, 'tis then I grieve full strong.

[334] For instance, _Rispetti_ in the valley of the Po are called
_Romanelle_. In some parts of Central Italy the _Stornello_ becomes
_Mottetto_ or _Raccommandare_. The little Southern lyrics known as
_Arii_ and _Ariette_ at Naples and in Sicily, are elsewhere called
_Villanelle_ or _Napolitane_ and _Siciliane_. It is clear that in this
matter of nomenclature great exactitude cannot be sought.

[335] The proofs adduced by D'Ancona in his _Poesia popolare_, pp.
177-284, seem to me conclusive on this point.

[336] See Pitrè, _Studi di Poesia popolare_ (Palermo, Lauriel, 1872),
two essays on "I Poeti del Popolo Siciliano," and "Pietro Fullone e le
sfide popolari," pp. 81-184. He gives particulars relating to
contemporary improvisations. See, too, the Essays by L. Vigo, _Opere_
(Catania, 1870-74), vol. ii.

[337] _Op. cit._ pp. 285, 288-294.

[338] I may refer at large to Tigri's collection, and to my
translations of these _Rispetti_ in _Sketches in Italy and Greece_.

[339] Carducci, _Cantilene_, p. 57.

[340] See Rubieri, _Storia della poesia popolare_, pp. 352-356, for a
selection of variants.

[341] The terms employed above require some illustration. Poliziano's
Canzonet, _La pastorella si leva per tempo_, is a _pasticcio_ composed
of fragments from popular songs in vogue at his day. We possess three
valuable poems--one by Bronzino, published in 1567; one by Il Cieco
Bianchino of Florence, published at Verona in 1629; the third by Il
Cieco Britti of Venice, published in the same year--which consist of
extracts from popular lyrics united together by the rhymster. Hence
their name _incatenatura_. See Rubieri, _op. cit._ pp. 121, 130, 212.
See, too, D'Ancona, _op. cit._ pp. 100-105, 146-172, for the text and
copious illustrations from contemporary sources of Bronzino's and Il
Cieco Bianchino's poems.

[342] _Prose Volgari, etc., di A.A. Poliziano_ (Firenze, Barbèra,
1867), p. 74. "Siamo tutti allegri, e facciamo buona cera, e becchiamo
per tutta la via di qualche rappresaglia e Canzone di Calen di Maggio,
che mi sono parute più fantastiche qui in Acquapendente, alla
Romanesca, vel nota ipsa vel argumento."

[343] See D'Ancona, _op. cit._ pp. 354-420, for copious and
interesting notices of the popular press in several Italian towns. The
_Avallone_ of Naples, _Cordella_ of Venice, _Marescandoli_ of
Florence, _Bertini_ and _Baroni_ of Lucca, _Colomba_ of Bologna, all
served the special requirements of the proletariate in town and
country. G.B. Verini of Florence made anthologies called _L'Ardor
d'Amore_ and _Crudeltà d'Amore_ in the sixteenth century, both of
which are still reprinted. The same is true of the _Olimpia_ and
_Gloria_ of Olimpo degli Alessandri of Sassoferrato. The subordinate
titles commonly used in these popular Golden Treasuries are, "Canzoni
di amore," "di gelosia," "di sdegno," "di pace e di partenza." Their
classification and description appear from the following rubrics:
"Mattinate," "Serenate," "Partenze," "Strambotti," "Sdegni,"
"Sonetti," "Villanelle," "Lettere," "Affetti d'Amore," etc.

[344] Upon this point consult Rubieri, _op. cit._ chap. xiv. In Sicily
the _Ciure_, says Pitrè, is reckoned unfit for an honest woman's

[345] The South seems richer in this material than the Center. See
Pitrè's _Canti Pop. Sic._ vol. ii., among the _Leggende e Storie_,
especially _La Comare_, _Minni-spartuti_, _Principessa di Carini_,
_L'Innamorata del Diavolo_, and some of the bandit songs.

[346] Palermo, Lauriel, 1875.

[347] _Canti Monferrini_ (Torino-Firenze, Loescher, 1870), pp. 1, 6,
14, 26, 28, 34, 42. One of the ballads cited above, _La Sisilia_, is
found in Sicily.

[348] _Ibid._ p. 48.

[349] It does not occur in the _Canti Monferrini_.

[350] See my letter to the _Rassegna Settimanale_, March 9, 1879, on
the subject of this ballad. Though I begged Italian students for
information respecting similar compositions my letter only elicited a
Tuscan version of the _Donna Lombarda_.

[351] _Op. cit._ p. 106.

[352] D'Ancona, _op. cit._ p. 106.

[353] _Ibid._ pp. 99, 105.

[354] See Child's _English and Scottish Ballads_, vol. ii. pp. 244,
_et seq._

[355] Bolza, _Canz. Pop. Comasche_, No. 49. Here is the Scotch version
from Lord Donald:

    What will ye leave to your true-love, Lord Donald, my son?
    What will ye leave to your true-love, my jollie young man?
    The tow and the halter, for to hang on yon tree,
    And lat her hang there for the poisoning o' me.

[356] This is the Scotch version, with the variant of Lord Randal:

    What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?
    What gat ye to your dinner, my handsome young man?
    I gat eels boiled in broo; mother, make my bed soon,
    For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down.

    What became of your bloodhounds, Lord Randal, my son?
    What became of your bloodhounds, my handsome young man?
    O, they swelled and they died; mother, make my bed soon,
    For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down.

[357] In Passano's _I Novellieri Italiani in Verso_ I find, at p. 20,
the notice of a poem, in octave stanzas, which corresponds exactly to
the _Heir of Lynn_. Published at Venice, 1530, 1531, 1542, it bears
this title: "Essempio dun giovane ricchissimo; qual consumata la
ricchezza: disperato a un trave si sospese. Nel qual il padre previsto
il suo fatalcorso gia molti anni avanti infinito tesoro posto havea,
et quello per il carico fracassato, la occulta moneta scoperse." The
young man's name is Fenitio. I have not seen this poem, and since it
is composed in _ottava rima_ it cannot be classed exactly with the
_Avvelenato_. Passano also catalogues the _Historia di tre Giovani
disperati e di tre fate_, and the _Historia di Leon Bruno_, which seem
to contain ballad elements.



     The Thirteenth Century--Outburst of Flagellant Fanaticism--The
     _Battuti_, _Bianchi_, _Disciplinati_--Acquire the name of
     _Laudesi_--Jacopone da Todi--His Life--His Hymns--The
     _Corrotto_--Franciscan Poetry--Tresatti's Collection--Grades
     of Spiritual Ecstasy--Lauds of the
     Confraternities--Benivieni--Feo Belcari and the Florentine
     Hymn-writers--Relation to Secular Dance-songs--Origins of the
     Theater--Italy had hardly any true Miracle Plays--Umbrian
     _Divozioni_--The Laud becomes Dramatic--Passion
     Plays--Medieval Properties--The Stage in Church or in the
     Oratory--The _Sacra Rappresentazione_--A Florentine
     Species--Fraternities for Boys--Names of the _Festa_--Theory
     of its Origin--Shows in Medieval Italy--Pageants of S. John's
     Day at Florence--Their Machinery--Florentine
     _Ingegnieri_--Forty-three Plays in D'Ancona's
     Collection--Their Authors--The Prodigal Son--Elements of
     Farce--Interludes and Music--Three Classes of _Sacre
     Rappresentazioni_--Biblical Subjects--Legends of
     Saints--Popular _Novelle_--Conversion of the
     Magdalen--Analysis of Plays.

The history of popular religious poetry takes us back to the first age
of Italian literature and to the discords of the thirteenth century. All
Italy had been torn asunder by the internecine struggle of Frederick II.
with Innocent III. and Gregory IX. The people saw the two chiefs of
Christendom at open warfare, exchanging anathemas, and doing each what
in him lay to render peace and amity impossible. Milan resounded to the
shrieks of _paterini_, burned upon the public square by order of an
intolerant pontiff. Padua echoed with the groans of Ezzelino's victims,
doomed to death by hundreds and by thousands in his dungeons, or cast
forth maimed and mutilated to perish in the fields. The southern
provinces swarmed with Saracens, whom an infidel Emperor had summoned to
his aid against a fanatical Pope. It seemed as though the age, which had
witnessed the assertion of Italian independence and the growth of the
free cities, was about to end in a chaos of bloodshed, fire and frantic
cruelty. The climax of misery and fury was reached in the Crusade
launched by Alexander IV. against the tyrants of the Trevisan Marches.
When Ezzelino died like a dog in 1259, the maddened populace believed
that his demon had now been loosed from chains of flesh, and sent forth
to the elements to work its will in freedom. The prince of darkness was
abroad and menacing. Though the monster had perished, the myth of evil
that survived him had power to fascinate, and was intolerable.

The conscience of the people, crazed by the sight of such iniquity and
suffering, bereft of spiritual guidance, abandoned to bad government,
made itself suddenly felt in an indescribable movement of religious
terror. "In the year 1260," wrote the Chronicler of Padua,[358] "when
Italy was defiled by many horrible crimes, a sudden and new perturbation
seized at first upon the folk of Perugia, next upon the Romans, and
lastly on the population of all Italy, who, stung by the fear of God,
went forth processionally, gentle and base-born, old and young,
together, through the city streets and squares, naked save for a
waist-band round their loins, holding a whip of leather in their hands,
with tears and groans, scourging their shoulders till the blood flowed
down. Not by day alone, but through the night in the intense cold of
winter, with lighted torches they roamed by hundreds, by thousands, by
tens of thousands, through the churches, and flung themselves down
before the altars, led by priests with crosses and banners. The same
happened in all villages and hamlets, so that the fields and mountains
resounded with the cries of sinners calling upon God. All instruments of
music and songs of love were hushed; only the dismal wail of penitents
was heard in town and country."

It will be noticed that this fanaticism of the Flagellants began among
the Umbrian highlands, the home of S. Francis and the center of
pietistic art, where the passions of the people have ever been more
quickly stirred by pathos than elsewhere in Italy. The _Battuti_, as
they were called, formed no mere sect. Populations of whole cities,
goaded by an irresistible impulse, which had something of the Dionysiac
madness in it, went forth as though a migration of the race had been
initiated. Blind instinct, the intoxication of religious frenzy, urged
them restlessly and aimlessly from place to place. They had no Holy
Land, no martyr's shrine, in view. Only the ineffable horror of a coming
judgment, only the stings of spiritual apprehension, the fierce craving
after sympathy in common acts of delirium, the allurements of an
exaltation shared by thousands, drove them on, lugubrious herds, like
Mænads of the wrath of God. This insurgence of all classes, swelling
upward from the lowest, gaining the middle regions, and confounding the
highest in the flood of one promiscuous multitude, threatened the very
fabric of society.[359] Repentance and compunction, exhibited upon a
scale of such colossal magnitude, attended by incidents of such
impassioned frenzy, assumed the aspect of vice and of insanity. Florence
shut her gates to the half-naked _Battuti_. At Milan the tyrants of the
Della Torre blood raised 600 gibbets as a warning. Manfred drew a
military cordon round his southern States to save them from contagion.
The revival was diagnosed by cold observers as an epidemic, or as a
craving akin to that which sets in motion droves of bisons on a
trackless plain. It needed drastic measures of Draconian justice to curb
a disease which threatened the whole nation. Gradually, the first fury
of this fanatical enthusiasm subsided. It was but the symptom of moral
and intellectual bewilderment, of what the French would call
_ahurissement_, in a race of naturally firm and patient fiber. Yet, when
it passed, durable traces of the agitation remained. Lay fraternities
were formed, not only in Umbria and Tuscany, but in almost all provinces
of the peninsula, who called themselves _Disciplinati di Gesù Cristo_.
These societies aimed at continuing the ascetic practices of the
Flagellants, and at prolonging their passion of penitence in a more
sober spirit. Scourging formed an essential part of their observances,
but it was used with decency and moderation. Their constitution was
strictly democratic, within limits sanctioned by the clergy. They
existed for the people, supplementing and not superseding the offices
of the Church. From the date of their foundation they seem to have paid
much attention to the recitation of hymns in the vernacular. These hymns
were called _Laude_. Written for and by the people, they were
distinguished from the Latin hymns of the Church by greater spontaneity
and rudeness. No limit of taste or literary art was set to the
expression of a fervent piety. The Lauds dwelt chiefly on the Passion of
our Lord, and were used as a stimulus to compunction. In course of time
this part of their system became so prominent that the _Battuti_ or
_Disciplinati_ acquired the milder title of _Laudesi_.[360]

From the _Laudesi_ of the fourteenth century rose one great lyric poet,
Jacopone da Todi, whose hymns embrace the whole gamut of religious
passion, from tender emotions of love to somber anticipations of death
and thrilling visions of judgment. Reading him, we listen to the true
lyrical cry of the people's heart in its intolerance of self-restraint,
blending the language of erotic ecstasy with sobs and sighs of
soul-consuming devotion, aspiring to heaven on wings sped by the energy
of human desire. The flight of his inebriated piety transcends and
out-soars the strongest pinion of ecclesiastical hymnology. Such lines

    Fac me plagis vulnerari,
    Cruce hâc inebriari
      Ob amorem filii--

do but supply the theme for Jacopone's descant. Violently discordant
notes clash and mingle in his chords, and are resolved in bursts of
ardor bordering on delirium. He leaps from the grotesque of plebeian
imagery to pictures of sublime pathos, from incoherent gaspings to
sentences pregnant with shrewd knowledge of the heart, by sudden and
spontaneous transitions, which reveal the religious sentiment in its
simplest form, unspoiled by dogma, unstiffened by scholasticism. None,
for example, but a true child of the people could have found the
following expression of a desire to suffer with Christ[361]:

    O Signor per cortesia
      Mandame la malsania
    A me la freve quartana
      la contina e la terzana,
      la doppia cottidiana
      Colla grande ydropesia.
    A me venga mal de dente
      Mal de capo e mal de ventre,
      a lo stomaco dolor pungente
      en canna l'asquinantia.
    Mal de occhi e doglia de fianco
      e la postema al lato manco
      tyseco me ionga enalco
      e omne tempo la frenesia.
    Agia el fegato rescaldato
      la milza grossa el ventre enfiato,
      lo polmone sia piagato
      Con gran tossa e parlasia.

In order to understand Jacopone da Todi and to form any true conception
of the medium from which his poems sprang, it is necessary to study the
legend of his life, which, though a legend, bears upon its face the
stamp of truth. It is an offshoot from the Saga of S. Francis, a vivid
utterance of the times which gave it birth.[362] Jacopone was born at
Todi, one of those isolated ancient cities which rear themselves upon
their hill-tops between the valleys of the Nera and the Tiber, on the
old post-road from Narni to Perugia. He belonged to the family of the
Benedetti, who were reckoned among the noblest of the district. In his
youth he followed secular studies, took the degree of Doctor of Laws,
and practiced with a keen eye for gain and with not less, his biographer
hints, than the customary legal indifference for justice. He married a
beautiful young wife, whom he dressed splendidly and sent among his
equals to all places of medieval amusement. She was, however, inwardly
religious. The spirit of S. Francis had passed over her; and unknown to
all the crowd around her, unknown to her husband, she practiced the
extremities of ascetic piety. One day she went, at her husband's
bidding, to a merry-making of the nobles of Todi; and it so happened
that "while she was dancing and taking pleasure with the rest, an
accident occurred, fit to move the greatest pity. For the platform
whereupon the party were assembled, fell in and was broken to pieces,
causing grievous injury to those who stood upon it. She was so hurt in
the fall that she lost the power of speech, and in a few hours after
died. Jacopo, who by God's mercy was not there, no sooner heard the sad
news of his wife than he ran to the place. He found her on the point of
death, and sought, as is usual in those cases, to unlace her; but she,
though she could not speak, offered resistance to her husband's unlacing
her. However, he used force and overcame her, and unlaced and carried
her to his house. There, when she had died, he unclothed her with his
own hands, and found that underneath those costly robes and next to her
naked flesh she wore a hair-shirt of the roughest texture. Jacopone, who
up to now had believed his wife, since she was young and beautiful, to
be like other women, worldly and luxurious, stood as it were astonished
and struck dumb when he beheld a thing so contrary to his opinion.
Wherefore from that time forward he went among men like to one who is
stunned, and appeared no longer to be a reasonable man as theretofore.
The cause of this his change to outward view was not a sudden infirmity
of health, or extraordinary sorrow for the cruel death of his wife, or
any such-like occurrence, but an overwhelming compunction of the heart
begotten in him by this ensample, and a new recognition of what he was
and of his own wretchedness. Wherefore turning back to his own heart,
and reckoning with bitterness the many years that had been spent so
badly, and seeing the peril in which he had continued up to that time,
he set himself to change the manner of his life, and even as he had
lived heretofore wholly for the world, so now he resolved to live wholly
for Christ."

Jacopone's biographer goes on to tell us how, after this shock, he
became an altered man. He sold all his goods and gave away his substance
to the poor, retaining nothing for himself, but seeking by every device
within his power to render himself vile and ridiculous in the eyes of
men. At one time he stripped himself naked, and put upon his back the
trappings of an ass, and so appeared among the gentles of his earlier
acquaintance. On another occasion he entered a company of merry-making
folk in his brother's house without clothes, smeared with turpentine and
rolled in feathers like a bird.[363] By these mad pranks he acquired the
reputation of one half-witted, and the people called him Jacopone
instead of Messer Jacopo de' Benedetti. Yet there was a keen spirit
living in the man, who had determined literally to become a fool for
Christ's sake. A citizen once bought a fowl and bade Jacopone carry it
to his house. Jacopone took the bird and placed it in the man's family
vault, where it was found. To all remonstrances he answered with a
solemnity which inspired terror, that _there_ was the citizen's real
home. At the end of ten years spent in self-abasement of this sort,
Jacopone entered the lowest rank of the Franciscan brotherhood. The
composition of a Laud so full of spiritual fire that its inspiration
seemed indubitable, won for the apparent madman this grace. There was
something noble in his bearing, even though his actions and his
utterance proved his brain distempered. No fear of hell nor hope of
heaven, says his biographer, but God's infinite goodness and beauty
impelled him to embrace the monastic life and to subject himself to the
severest discipline. Meditating on the Divine perfection, he came to
regard himself as "entirely hideous, vile and stinking, beyond the most
abominable carrion." It was part of his religious exaltation to prove
this to himself by ghastly penances, instead of seeking to render his
body a fit temple for God's spirit by healthy and clean living. He had a
carnal partiality for liver; and in order to mortify this vile affection
he procured the liver of a beast and hung it in his cell. It became
putrid, swarmed with vermin, and infected the convent with its stench.
The friars discovered Jacopone rejoicing in the sight and odor of this
corruption. With sound good sense they then condemned him to
imprisonment in the common privies; but he rejoiced in this punishment,
and composed one of his most impassioned odes in that foul place. Still,
though he was clearly mad, he had the soul of a Christian and a poet.
His ecstasies were not always repugnant to our sense of delicacy.
Contemplating the wounds of Christ, it entered into his heart to desire
all suffering which it could be possible for man to undergo--the pangs
of all the souls condemned to purgatory, the torments of all the damned
in hell, the infinite anguish of all the devils--if only by this bearing
of the pains of others he might be made like Christ, and go at length,
the last of all the world, to Paradise. Not only the passion but the
love of Jesus inflamed him with indescribable raptures. He spent whole
days in singing, weeping, groaning, and ejaculation. "He ran," says the
biographer, "in a fury of love, and under the impression that he was
embracing and clasping Jesus Christ, would fling his arms about a tree."
It is not possible to imagine more potent workings of religious insanity
in a distempered and at the same time nobly-gifted character. That
obscene antipathy to nature which characterized medieval asceticism,
becomes poetic in a lunatic of genius like Jacopone. Nor was his natural
acumen blunted. He discerned how far the Papacy diverged from
Christianity in practice, and assailed Boniface VIII. with bitterest
invectives. Among other prophetic sayings ascribed to him, we find this,
which corresponds most nearly to the truth of history: "Pope Boniface,
like a fox thou didst enter on the Papacy, like a wolf thou reignest,
and like a dog shalt thou depart from it." For his free speech Boniface
had him sent to prison; and in his dungeon, rejoicing, Jacopone composed
the finest of his Canticles.

Such was the man who struck the key-note of religious popular poetry in
Italy, and whose Lauds may be regarded as the germ of a voluminous
literature. Passing from his life to his writings, it will suffice to
give a few specimens of those hymns which are most characteristic of his
temper. We have already seen how he brought together the most repulsive
details of disease, in order to express his desire to suffer with
Christ.[364] Here is the beginning of a canticle in praise of the
madness he embraced with a similar object[365]:

    Senno me pare e cortesia
      empazir per lo bel messia.
    Ello me fa sì gran sapere
      a chi per dio vol empazire
      en parige non se vidde
      ancor si gran phylosofia.

These words found an echo after many years in Benivieni's even more
hysterical hymn upon divine madness, which was substituted in
Savonarola's Carnivals for the _Trionfi_ of Lorenzo de' Medici.

A trace of the Franciscan worship of poverty gives some interest to a
hymn on the advantages of pauperism. The theme, however, is supported
with solid arguments after the fashion of Juvenal's _vacuus

    Povertate muore en pace,
      nullo testamento face,
      lassa el mondo como jace
      e la gente concordate.
    Non a judice ne notaro
      a corte non porta salaro,
      ridese del omo avaro
      che sta en tanta anxietate.

Truer to the inebriation of Jacopone's piety are the following stanzas,
incoherent from excess of passion, which seem to be the ebullition of
one of his most frenzied moments[367]:

    Amore amore che si mai ferito
      altro che amore non posso gridare,
      amore amore teco so unito
      altro non posso che te abbracciare,
      amore amore forte mai rapito
      lo cor sempre si spande per amore
      per te voglio pasmare: Amor ch'io teco sia
      amor per cortesia: Fammi morir d'amore.

    Amor amor Jesu so gionto aporto
      amor amor Jesu tu m'ai menato,
      amor amor Jesu damme conforto
      amor amor Jesu si m'ai enflammato,
      amor amor Jesu pensa lo porto
      fammete star amor sempre abracciato,
      con teco trasformato: En vera caritate
      en somma veritate: De trasformato amore.

    Amor amore grida tuttol mondo
      amor amore omne cosa clama,
      amore amore tanto se profondo
      chi piu t'abraccia sempre piu t'abrama,
      amor amor tu se' cerchio rotondo
      con tuttol cor chi c'entra sempre t'ama,
      che tu se' stame e trama: chi t'ama per vestire
      cusi dolce sentire: Che sempre grida amore.

    Amor amor Jesu desideroso
      amor voglio morire a te abracciando,
      amor amor Jesu dolce mio sposo
      amor amor la morte l'ademando,
      amor amor Jesu si delectoso
      tu me t'arendi en te transformando,
      pensa ch'io vo pasmando: Amor non so o me sia
      Jesu speranza mia: Abyssame en amore.

A still more mysterious depth is sounded in another hymn in praise of
self-annihilation--the Nirvana of asceticism[368]:

    Non posso esser renato
      s'io en me non so morto,
      anichilato en tucto
      el esser conservare,
      del nihil glorioso
      nelom ne gusta fructo,
      se Dio non fal conducto
      che om non cia que fare,
      o glorioso stare
      en nihil quietato,
      lontellecto posato
      e laffecto dormire.

    Ciocho veduto e pensato
      tutto e feccia e bruttura
      pensando de laltura
      del virtuoso stato,
      nel pelago chio veggio
      non ce so notatura
      faro somergitura
      del om che anegato
      sommece inarenato
      nonor de smesuranza
      vincto de labundanza
      del dolce mio sire.

One of Jacopone's authentic poems so far detaches itself in character
and composition from the rest, and is so important, as will shortly be
seen, for the history of Italian dramatic art, that it demands separate
consideration.[369] It assumes the form of dialogue between Mary and
Christ upon the cross, followed by the lamentation of the Virgin over
her dead Son. A messenger informs the Mother that Christ has been taken

    Donna del Paradiso,
      Lo tuo figliolo è priso,
      Jesu Cristo beato.
    Accurre, donna, e vide
      Che la gente l'allide;
      Credo che llo s'occide,
      Tanto l'on flagellato.

Attended by the Magdalen, whom she summons to her aid, Mary hurries to
the judgment-seat of Pilate, and begs for mercy:

    O Pilato, non fare
      'L figlio mio tormentare,
      Ch'io te posso mostrare
      Como a torto è accusato.

But here the voices of the Chorus, representing the Jewish multitude,
are heard:

    Crucifige, crucifige!
      Omo che se fa rege,
      Secondo nostra lege,
      Contradice al Senato.

Christ is removed to the place of suffering, and Mary cries:

    O figlio, figlio, figlio,
      Figlio, amoroso figlio,
      Figlio, chi dà consiglio
      Al cor mio angustiato!
    Figlio, occhi giocondi,
      Figlio, co' non rispondi?
      Figlio, perchè t'ascondi
      Dal petto o' se' lattato?

They show her the cross:

    Madonna, ecco la cruce
      Che la gente l'adduce,
      Ove la vera luce
      De' essere levato.

They tell her how Jesus is being nailed to it, sparing none of the
agonizing details. Then she exclaims:

    E io comencio el corrotto;
      Figliolo, mio deporto,
      Figlio, chi mi t'à morto,
      Figlio mio delicato!
    Meglio averien fatto
      Che 'l cor m'avesser tratto,
      Che nella croce tratto
      Starci desciliato.

Jesus now breaks silence, and comforts her, pointing out that she must
live for His disciples, and naming John. He dies, and she continues the

    Figlio, l'alma t'è uscita,
      Figlio de la smarrita,
      Figlio de la sparita,
      Figlio [mio] attossicato!
    Figlio bianco e vermiglio,
      Figlio senza simiglio,
      Figlio, a chi m'apiglio,
      Figlio, pur m'hai lassato!
    Figlio bianco e biondo,
      Figlio, volto jocondo,
      Figlio, perchè t'à el mondo,
      Figlio, cusì sprezato!
    Figlio dolce e piacente,
      Figlio de la dolente,
      Figlio, à te la gente
      Malamente trattato!
    Joanne, figlio novello,
      Morto è lo tuo fratello;
      Sentito aggio 'l coltello
      Che fo profetizzato,
    Che morto à figlio e mate,
      De dura morte afferrate;
      Trovârsi abbracciate
      Mate e figlio a un cruciato.

Upon this note of anguish the poem closes. It is conducted throughout in
dialogue, and is penetrated with dramatic energy. For Passion Music of
a noble and yet flowing type, such as Pergolese might have composed, it
is still admirably adapted.

Each strophe of Fra Jacopone's Canticles might be likened to a seed cast
into the then fertile soil of the Franciscan Order, which bore fruit a
thousand-fold in its own kind of spiritual poetry. The vast collection
of hymns, published by Tresatti in the seventeenth century, bears the
name of Jacopone, and incorporates his genuine compositions.[371] But we
must regard the main body of the work as rather belonging to Jacopone's
school than to the master. Taken collectively, these poems bear upon
their face the stamp of considerable age, and there is no reason to
suppose that their editor doubted of their authenticity. A critical
reader of the present time, however, discerns innumerable evidences of
collaboration, and detects expansion and dilution of more pregnant
themes in the copious outpourings of this cloistral inspiration. What
the Giotteschi are to Giotto, Tresatti's collection is to Salviano's
imprint of Jacopone. It forms a complete manual of devotion, framed
according to the spirit of S. Francis. In its pages we read the progress
of the soul from a state of worldliness and vice, through moral virtue,
into the outer court of religious conviction. Thence we pass to
penitence and the profound terror of sin. Having traversed the region of
purgatory upon earth, we are introduced to the theory of Divine Love,
which is reasoned out and developed upon themes borrowed from each
previous step gained by the spirit in its heavenward journey. Here ends
the soul's novitiate; and we enter on a realm of ecstasy. The poet
bathes in an illimitable ocean of intoxicating love, summons the images
of sense and makes them adumbrate his rapture of devotion, reproducing
in a myriad modes the Oriental metaphors of the soul's marriage to
Christ suggested by the Canticle of Canticles. A final grade in this
ascent to spiritual perfection is attained in the closing odes, which
celebrate annihilation--the fusion of the mortal in immortal
personality, the bliss of beatific vision, Nirvana realized on earth in
ecstasy by man. At this final point sense swoons, the tongue stammers,
language refuses to perform her office, the reason finds no place, the
universe is whirled in spires of flame, we float in waves of metaphor,
we drown in floods of contemplation, the whole is closed with an _O

It is not possible to render scantiest justice to this extraordinary
monument of the Franciscan fervor by any extracts or descriptions. Its
full force can only be felt by prolonged and, if possible, continuous
perusal. S. Catherine and S. Teresa attend us while we read; and when
the book is finished, we feel, perhaps for the first time, the might,
the majesty, the overmastering attraction of that sea of faith which
swept all Europe in the thirteenth century. We understand how _naufragar
in questo mar fù dolce_.

Though the task is ungrateful, it behooves the historian of popular
Italian poetry to extract some specimens from this immense repertory of
anonymous lyrics. Omitting the satires, which are composed upon the
familiar monastic rubrics of vanity, human misery, the loathsomeness of
the flesh, and contempt of the world, I will select one stanza upon
Chastity from among the moral songs[372]:

    O Castità bel fiore,
    Che ti sostiene amore.
      O fior di Castitate,
    Odorifero giglio,
    Con gran soavitate,
    Sei di color vermiglio,
    Et a la Trinitate
    Tu ripresenti odore.

Chastity in another place is thus described[373]:--

    La Castitate pura,
    Più bella che viola,
    Cotanto ha chiaro viso
    Che par un paradiso.

Poverty, the Cardinal Virtues, and the Theological Virtues receive their
full meed of praise in a succession of hymns. Then comes a long string
of proverbs, which contain much sober wisdom, with passages of poetic
feeling like the following[374]:

    Li pesciarelli piccoli
    Scampan la rete in mare;
    Grand'ucel prende l'aquila,
    Non può 'l moscon pigliare;
    Enchinasi la vergola,
    L'acqua lassa passare;
    Ma fa giù cader l'arbore,
    Che non si può inchinare.

Among the odes we may first choose this portion of a carol written to be
sung before the manger, or _presepe_, which it was usual to set up in
churches at Christmas[375]:

      Veggiamo il suo Bambino
    Gammettare nel fieno,
    E le braccia scoperte
    Porgere ad ella in seno,
    Ed essa lo ricopre
    El meglio che può almeno,
    Mettendoli la poppa
    Entro la sua bocchina.
      Cioppava lo Bambino
    Con le sue labbruccia;
    Sol la dolciata cioppa
    Volea, non minestruccia;
    Stringeala con la bocca
    Che non avea dentuccia,
    Il figliuolino bello,
    Ne la dolce bocchina.
      A la sua man manca,
    Cullava lo Bambino,
    E con sante carole
    Nenciava il suo amor fino....
    Gli Angioletti d'intorno
    Se ne gian danzando,
    Facendo dolci versi
    E d'amor favellando.

There is a fresco by Giotto behind the altar in the Arena Chapel at
Padua, which illustrates part of this hymn. A picture attributed to
Botticelli in our National Gallery illustrates the rest. The spirit of
the carol has been reproduced with less sincerity in a Jesuit's Latin
hymn, _Dormi, fili, dormi, mater_.

Close upon the joys of Mary follow her sorrows. The following is a
popular echo of the _Stabat Mater_[376]:

      Or si incomincia lo duro pianto
    Che fa la Madre di Christo tanto;
    Or intendete l'amaro canto,
    Fu crocifisso quel capo santo.
      Ma quando che s'inchiodava,
    Presso al figliuolo la Madre stava;
    Quando a la croce gli occhi levava,
    Per troppa doglia ci trangosciava.
      La Madre viddelo incoronato,
    Et ne la croce tutto piagato,
    Per le pene e pel sangue versato
    Sitibondo gridar Consummato.

Many of the odes are devoted to S. Francis. One passage recording the
miracle of the Stigmata deserves to be extracted[377]:

      La settima a Laverna,
    Stando in orazione,
    Ne la parte superna,
    Con gran divozione,
    Mirabil visione
    Seraphin apparuto
    Crucifisso è veduto,
    Con sei ale mostrato:
      Incorporotti stimmate
    A lato piedi e mano;
    Duro già fora a credere
    Se nol contiam di piano,
    Staendo vivo et sano
    Molti l'han mirate,
    L'ha morte dichiarate,
    Da molti fu palpato.
      La sua carne bianchissima
    Pareva puerile;
    Avanti era brunissima
    Per gli freddi nevili;
    La fe amor si gentile,
    Parea glorificata,
    Da ogni gente ammirata
    Del mirabil ornato.

The Penitential Hymns resound with trumpets of Judgment and groans of
lost souls. There is one terrible lament of a man who repented _after
death_; another of one arising from the grave, _damned_.[378] The Day of
Judgment inspires stanzas heavy with lugubrious chords and a leaden

    Tutta la terra tornerà a niente,
    Le pietre piangeranno duramente,
    Conturbaronsi tutti i monumente,
    Per la sententia di Dio onnipotente
    Che tutti sentiranno.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Allora udrai dal ciel trombe sonare,
    Et tutti morti vedrai suscitare,
    Avanti al tribunal di Christo andare,
    E 'l fuoco ardente per l'aria volare
    Con gran velocitate.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Porgine aiuto, alto Signor verace,
    E campane da quel foco penace,
    E danne penitentia si verace
    Che 'n ciel possiam venir a quella pace
    Dove in eterno regni.

This is the _Dies Iræ_ adapted for the people, and expanded in its

The exposition and the expression of Divine Love occupy a larger space
than any other section of the series. Mystical psychology, elaborated
with scholastic subtlety of argument and fine analysis of all the grades
of feeling, culminates in lyric raptures, only less chaotic than the
stanzas already quoted from Jacopone. The poet breaks out into short

    O alta Nichilitate,
    Dhe mi di dove tu stai!

He faints and swoons before the altar in the languors of emotion[381]:

    Languisco per amore
    Di Gesù mio Amatore.

We see before our eyes the trances of S. Catherine, so well portrayed
with sensuous force by Sodoma. Then he resumes the Song of Solomon in
stanzas to be counted by the hundred, celebrates the marriage of Christ
and the soul, or seeks crude carnal metaphors to convey his

    Del tuo bacio, amore,
    Degnami di baciare.
      Dhe baciami, dolcezza
    Di contrizione,
    Et dolce soavezza
    Di compunzione,
    O santa allegrezza
    Di devozione,
    Per nulla stagione
    Non m'abandonare.
      Poì che 'l bacio sento,
    Bevo a le mammelle
    C'hanno odore d'unguento;
    Pur le tue scintille
    A bever non so lento
    Con le mie maxille,
    Più che volte mille
    Vò me inebriare.

Let this suffice. With the language of sweetness and monastic love we
are soon surfeited. Were it not that the _crescendo_ of erotic
exaltation ends at last in a jubilee of incomprehensible passion,
blending the incoherence of delirium with fragments of theosophy which
might have been imported from old Alexandrian sources or from dim
regions of the East, a student of our century would shrink aghast from
some of these hermaphroditic hymns, as though he had been witness of
wild acts of nympholepsy in a girl he reckoned sane.

Through the two centuries which followed Jacopone's death (1306?) the
Lauds of the Confraternities continued to form a special branch of
popular poetry; and in the fifteenth century they were written in
considerable quantities by men of polite education. Like all hymns,
these spiritual songs are less remarkable for literary quality than
devoutness. It is difficult to find one rising to the height of
Jacopone's inspiration. Many of the later compositions even lack
religious feeling, and seem to have been written as taskwork. Those, for
example, by Lorenzo de' Medici bear the same relation to his _Canti
Carnascialeschi_ as Pontano's odes to the Saints bear to his elegies and
Baian lyrics. This was inevitable in an age saturated with the adverse
ideals of the classical Revival, when Platonic theism threatened to
supplant Christianity, and society was clogged with frigid cynicism. Yet
even in the sixteenth century, those hymns which came directly from the
people's heart, thrilling with the strong vibrations of Savonarola's
preaching, are still remarkable for almost frantic piety. Among the
many Florentine hymn-writers who felt that influence, Girolamo Benivieni
holds the most distinguished place, both for the purity of his style and
for the sincerity of his religious feeling. I will set side by side two
versions from his book of Lauds, illustrating the extreme limits of
devout emotion--the calmness of a meditative piety and the spasms of
passionate enthusiasm. The first is a little hymn to Jesus, profoundly
felt and expressed with exquisite simplicity[383]:

    Jesus, whoso with Thee
    Hangs not in pain and loss
    Pierced on the cruel cross,
    At peace shall never be.

    Lord, unto me be kind:
    Give me that peace of mind,
    Which in this world so blind
    And false dwells but with Thee.

    Give me that strife and pain,
    Apart from which 'twere vain
    Thy love on earth to gain
    Or seek a share in Thee.

    If, Lord, with Thee alone
    Heart's peace and love be known,
    My heart shall be Thine own,
    Ever to rest with Thee.

    Here in my heart be lit
    Thy fire, to feed on it,
    Till burning bit by bit
    It dies to live with Thee.

    Jesus, whoso with Thee
    Hangs not in pain or loss,
    Pierced on the cruel cross,
    At peace shall never be.

The second is an echo of Jacopone's eulogy of madness, prolonged and
developed with amorous extravagance[384]:

    Never was there so sweet a gladness,
    Joy of so pure and strong a fashion,
    As with zeal and love and passion
    Thus to embrace Christ's holy madness.

    They who are mad in Jesus, slight
    All that the wise man seeks and prizes;
    Wealth and place, pomp, pride, delight,
    Pleasure and fame, their soul despises:
    Sorrow and tears and sacrifices,
    Poverty, pain, and low estate,
    All that the wise men loathe and hate,
    Are sought by the Christian in his madness.

    They who are fools for Christ in heaven,
    Should they be praised peradventure, mourn,
    Seeing the praise that to them is given
    Was taken from God; but hate and scorn
    With joy and gladness of soul are borne:
    The Christian listens and smiles for glee
    When he hears the taunt of his foe, for he
    Glories and triumphs in holy madness.

Many collections of Lauds were early committed to the press; and of
these we have an excellent modern reprint in the _Laude spirituali di
Feo Belcari e di altri_, which includes hymns by Castellano Castellani,
Bernardo Giambullari, Francesco Albizzi, Lorenzo de' Medici, Lucrezia
Tornabuoni, and the Pulci brothers.[385] Studying this miscellany, we
perceive that between the _Laude_ and _Ballate_ of the people there is
often little but a formal difference. Large numbers are parodies of
amatory or obscene songs, beginning with nearly the same words and
intended to be sung to the same tunes. Thus the famous ballad, _O vaghe
montanine e pastorelle_ becomes _O vaghe di Gesù, o verginelle_.[386]
The direction for singing _Crucifisso a capo chino_ is _Cantasi
come--Una donna di fino amore_, which was a coarse street song in vogue
among the common folk.[387] _Vergine, alta regina_, is modeled upon
_Galantina, morosina_; _I' son quella pecorella_ upon _I' son quella
villanella_; _Giù per la mala via l'anima mia ne va_ on _Giù per la
villa lunga la bella se ne va_.[388] Others are imitations of carnival
choruses noted for their grossness and lewd innuendoes.[389] It is clear
that the _Laudesi_, long before the days of Rowland Hill, discerned the
advantage of not letting the devil have all the good tunes. Other
parallels between the Florentine Lauds and the revival hymns of the
present century might be pointed out. Yet in proportion as the Italian
religious sentiment is more sensuous and erotic than that of the
Teutonic nations, so are the Lauds more unreservedly emotional than the
most audacious utterances of American or English Evangelicalism. As an
excellent Italian critic has recently observed, the amorous and
religious poems of the people were only distinguished by the difference
of their object. Expression, versification, melody, pitch of sentiment,
remained unaltered. "Men sang the same _strambotti_ to the Virgin and
the lady of their love, to the rose of Jericho and the red rose of the
balcony."[390] No notion of impropriety seems to have been suggested by
this confusion of divergent feelings. Otherwise, Savonarola would hardly
have suffered his proselytes to roam the streets chanting stanzas which
are little better than echoes from the brothel or travesties of
Poliziano's chorus of the Mænads. The Italians have never been pious in
the same sense as the Northern nations. Their popular religious poetry
is the lyric of emotion, the lyric of the senses losing self-restraint
in an outpouring of voluptuous ecstasy. With them "music is a
love-lament or a prayer addressed to God;" and both constituents of
music blend and mingle indistinguishably in their hymns. As they lack
the sublime Chorales of the Reformation period in Germany, so they lack
the grave and meditative psalms for which Bach made his melodies.

The origins of the Italian theater were closely connected with the
services of the _Laudesi_. And here it has to be distinctly pointed out
that the evolution of the Sacred Drama in Italy followed a different
course from that with which we are familiar in France and England.
Miracle-plays and Mysteries, properly so called, do not appear to have
been common among the Italians in the early middle ages. There is,
indeed, one exception to this general statement which warns us to be
cautious, and which proves that the cyclical sacred play had been
exhibited at least in one place at a very early date. At Cividale, in
the district of Friuli, a _Ludus Christi_, embracing the principal
events of Christian history from the Passion to the Second Advent, was
twice acted, in 1298 and 1303. From the scanty notices concerning it, we
are able to form an opinion that it lasted over three days, that it was
recited by the clergy, almost certainly in Latin, and that the
representation did not take place in church.[391] The Friulian _Ludi
Christi_ were, in fact, a Mystery of the more primitive type,
corresponding to Greban's _Mystère de la Passion_ and to our Coventry or
Widkirk Miracles. But, so far as present knowledge goes, this sacred
play was an isolated phenomenon, and proved unfruitful of results. We
are only able to infer from it, what the close intercourse of the
Italians with the French would otherwise make evident, that Mysteries
were not entirely unknown in the Peninsula. Yet it seems clear, upon the
other hand, that the two forms of the sacred drama specific to Italy,
the Umbrian _Divozione_ and the Florentine _Sacra Rappresentazione_,
were not a direct outgrowth from the Mystery. We have to trace their
origin in the religious practices of the _Laudesi_, from which a species
of dramatic performance was developed, and which placed the sacred drama
in the hands of these lay confraternities.

At first the _Disciplinati di Gesù_ intoned their Lauds in the hall of
the Company, standing before the crucifix or tabernacle of a saint, as
they are represented in old wood-cuts.[392] From simple singing they
passed to antiphonal chanting, and thence made a natural transition to
dialogue, and lastly to dramatic action. To trace the steps of this
progress is by no means easy; nor must we imagine that it was effected
wholly within the meeting-places of the confraternities without external
influence. Though the Italians may not have brought the Miracle-play to
the perfection it attained among the Northern nations, they were, as we
have seen, undoubtedly aware of its existence. Furthermore, they were
familiar with ecclesiastical shows but little removed in character from
that form of medieval art. Representations of the manger at Bethlehem
made part of Christmas ceremonies in Umbria, as we learn from a passage
in the works of S. Bonaventura referring to the year 1223.[393] Nor were
occasions wanting when pageants enlivened the ritual of the Church.
Among liturgical dramas, enacted by priests and choristers at service
time, may be mentioned the descent of the Angel Gabriel at the feast of
the Annunciation, the procession of the Magi at Epiphany, the descent of
the dove at Pentecost, and the Easter representation of a sepulcher from
which the body of Christ had been removed. Thus the _Laudesi_ found
precedents in the Liturgy itself for introducing a dramatic element into
their offices.

Having assumed a more or less dramatic form, the Laud acquired the name
of _Divozione_ as early as the middle of the fourteenth century. It was
written in various lyric meters, beginning with six-lined stanzas in
_ottonari_, passing through hendecasyllabic _sesta rima_, and finally
settling down into _ottava rima_, which became the common stanza for all
forms of popular poetry in the fifteenth century.[394] The passion of
our Lord formed the principal theme of the _Divozioni_; for the
_Laudesi_ were bound by their original constitution to a special
contemplation of His suffering upon the cross for sinners. The Perugian
Chronicles refer to compositions of this type under the name of
_Corrotto_, or song of mourning. In its highest form it was the
passionate outpouring of Mary's anguish over her crucified Son--the
counterpart in poetry to the _Pietà_ of painting, for which the
Giottesque masters, the Umbrian school, Crivelli, and afterwards
Mantegna, reserved the strongest exhibition of their powers as
dramatists. We have already seen with what a noble and dramatic dialogue
Jacopone da Todi initiated this species of composition.[395] At the same
time, the _Divozioni_ and the Lauds from which they sprang, embraced a
wide variety of subjects, following the passages of Scripture appointed
to be read in church on festivals and Sundays. Thus the Laud for Advent
dramatized the Apocalypse and introduced the episode of Antichrist. The
story of the Prodigal furnished a theme for the vigil when that parable
was used. It was customary to sing these compositions in the oratories
after the discipline of the confraternity had been duly performed; and
that they were sung, is a fact of importance which must never be
forgotten. Every Company had its own collection of dramatic Lauds,
forming a cycle of sacred melodramas, composed with no literary end and
no theatrical effect in view, but with the simple purpose of expressing
by dialogue the substance of a Scripture narrative.

An inventory of the Perugian Confraternity of S. Domenico, dated in the
year 1339, includes wings and crowns for sixty-eight angels, masks for
devils, a star for the Magi, a crimson robe for Christ, black veils for
the Maries, two lay figures of thieves, a dove to symbolize the Holy
Ghost, a coat of mail for Longinus, and other properties which prove
that not Passion-plays alone but dramas suited to Epiphany, Pentecost
and the Annunciation must have been enacted at that period. Yet we have
no exact means of ascertaining when the _Laudesi_ left their oratories
and began to recite _Divozioni_ with action in church or on the open
square. The Compagnia del Gonfalone are said to have presented a play to
the Roman people in the Coliseum in 1260; but though the brotherhood was
founded in that year, it is more than doubtful whether their famous
Passion dates from so early an epoch.[396] By the year 1375 it had
become customary for _Laudesi_ to give representations in church,
accompanied by a sermon from the pulpit. The audience assembled in the
nave, and a scaffold was erected along the screen which divided the
nave and transepts from the choir. Here the brethren played their
pieces, while the preacher at appropriate intervals addressed the
people, explaining what they were about to see upon the stage or
commenting on what had been performed.[397] The actors were the Chorus,
the preacher the Choregus. The stage was technically called
_talamo_.[398] It had a large central compartment, corresponding to the
"Logeion" of the Attic theater, with several smaller rooms termed
_luoghi deputati_, and galleries above reserved for the celestial
personages. The actors entered from a central and two side doors called

These Umbrian _Divozioni_ form a link between the Laud of the thirteenth
and the _Sacra Rappresentazione_ of the fifteenth century. They
still--in form at least, if not in sacred character--survive in the
_Maggi_ of the Tuscan peasantry, which are yearly acted among the
villages of the Lucchese and Pistojese highlands.[399] It is difficult
to say how far we are justified in regarding them as wholly different in
type from the Northern Miracle-plays. That they originated in the
oratories of lay brotherhoods, and that they retained the character of
Lauds to be sung after they had assumed dramatic shape, may be reckoned
as established points. Moreover, they lack the cyclical extension and
the copious admixture of grotesquely comic elements which mark the
French and English Mysteries. Yet we have already seen that such
Mysteries were not entirely unknown in Italy, and that the liturgical
drama, performed by ecclesiastics, had been from early times a part of
Church ceremonial on holy days. We are, therefore, justified in
accepting the _Divozioni_ as the Italian species of a genus which was
common to the medieval nations. The development of Gothic architecture
in Central Italy might furnish an illustration. Its differentiation from
the grander and more perfect type of French and English Gothic does not
constitute a separate style.

To bridge the interval between the _Divozione_, used in Umbria, and the
_Sacra Rappresentazione_, as it appeared at Florence, is rendered
impossible by the present lack of documents. Still there seems
sufficient reason to believe that the latter was evolved from the former
within the precincts of the confraternities. In the _Sacra
Rappresentazione_ the religious drama of Italy reached its highest point
of development, and produced a form of art peculiar to Florence and the
Tuscan cities. Though it betrays certain affinities to the Northern
Miracle-play, which prove familiarity with the French _Mystères_ on the
part at least of some among the playwrights, it is clearly a distinct
kind. As in the case of the Umbrian _Divozioni_, so here the absence of
grotesque episodes is striking; nor do we find connected series of
_Sacre Rappresentazioni_, embracing the Christian history in a cyclical
dramatic work. This species flourished for about fifty years, from 1470
to 1520. These dates are given approximately; for though we know that
the Sacred Drama of Florence did not long survive the second decade of
the sixteenth century, we cannot ascertain the period of its origin. The
_Sacre Rappresentazioni_ we possess in print, almost all written within
the last thirty years of the fifteenth century, present so marked a
similarity of style and structure that they must have been preceded by a
series of experiments which fixed and conventionalized their form. Like
the _Divozioni_, they were in the hands of confraternities, who caused
them to be acted at their own expense. Since these Companies were
wealthy, and included members of the best Florentine families, their
plays were put upon the stage with pomp. The actors were boys belonging
to the brotherhoods, directed by a Chorodidascalus called _Festajuolo_.
S. Antonino, the good archbishop, promoted the custom of enrolling
youths of all classes in religious Companies, seeking by such influences
to encourage sound morality and sober living. The most fashionable
brotherhoods were those of San Bastiano or Del Freccione, Del Vangelista
or Dell'Aquila, Dell'Arcangelo Raffaello or Della Scala--the name of the
saint or his ensign being indifferently used. Representations took place
either in the oratory of the Company, or in the refectory of a convent.
Meadows at Fiesole and public squares were also chosen for open-air
performances.[400] The _libretti_ were composed in octave stanzas, with
passages of _terza rima_, and were sung to a recitative air. Interludes
of part-songs, with accompaniment of lute and viol, enlivened the
simple _cantilena_; and there is no doubt, from contemporary notices,
that this music was of the best. The time selected was usually after
vespers. The audience were admitted free of cost, but probably by
invitation only to the friends and relatives of the young actors. _Sacra
Rappresentazione_ was the generic name of the show; but we meet with
these subordinate titles, _Festa_, _Mistero_, _Storia_, _Vangelo_,
_Figura_, _Esemplo_, _Passione_, _Martirio_, _Miracolo_, according to
the special subject-matter of the play in question.

D'Ancona, in his book on the Origins of the Italian Drama, suggests that
the _Sacre Rappresentazioni_ were developed by a blending of the Umbrian
_Divozioni_ with the civic pageants of S. John's day at Florence. This
theory is plausible enough to deserve investigation; especially as many
points relating to the nature of the performances will be elucidated in
the course of the inquiry. We must, however, be cautious not to take for
granted that D'Ancona's conclusions have been proved. The researches of
that eminent literary antiquarian, in combination with those made by
Professor Monaci, are but just beginning to throw light on this hitherto
neglected topic.

From the Chroniclers of the fifteenth century we have abundant testimony
that in all parts of Italy sacred and profane shows formed a prominent
feature of municipal festivals, and were exhibited by the burghers of
the cities when they wished to welcome a distinguished foreigner, or to
celebrate the election of their chief magistrates.[401] Thus Sigismund,
King of the Romans, was greeted at Lucca in 1432 by a solemn triumph.
Perugia gratified Eugenius IV. in 1444 with the story of the Minotaur,
the tragedy of Iphigenia, the Nativity and the Ascension.[402] The
popular respect for S. Bernardino found expression at Siena in a
pageant, when the Papal Curia, in 1450, issued letters for his
canonization.[403] Frederick III. was received in 1452 at Naples with
the spectacle of the Passion. Leonora of Aragon, on her way through Rome
in 1473 to Ferrara, witnessed a series of pantomimes, profane and
sacred, splendidly provided by Pietro Riario, the Cardinal of San
Sisto.[404] The triumphs of the Popes on entering office filled the
streets of Rome with dramatic exhibitions, indifferently borrowed from
Biblical and classic history. At Parma in 1414 the students celebrated
the election of Andrea di Sicilia to a chair in their university by a
procession of the Magi.[405] When the head of S. Andrew entered Rome in
1462, the citizens and prelates testified their joy with figurative
pomps.[406] Viterbo in the same year enjoyed a variety of splendid
exhibitions, Cardinal vying with Cardinal in magnificence, upon the
festival of Corpus Domini.[407]

The pageants above-mentioned formed but prolusions to the yearly feast
of S. John at Florence.[408] Florence had, as it were, the monopoly of
such shows; and we know from many sources that Florentine artists were
employed in distant cities for the preparation of spectacles which they
had brought to perfection in their own town. An extract from Matteo
Palmieri's Chronicle, referring to the year 1454, brings this Midsummer
rejoicing vividly before the reader's mind.[409] It is an accurate
description of the order followed at that period in the exhibition of
pantomimic pageants by the guilds and merchants of the town. "On the 22d
day of June the Cross of S. Maria del Fiore moved first, with all the
clergy and children, and behind them seven singing men. Then the
Companies of James the wool-shearer and Nofri the shoe-maker, with some
thirty boys in white and angels. Thirdly, the Tower (_edifizio_) of S.
Michael, whereupon stood God the Father in a cloud (_nuvola_); and on
the Piazza, before the Signoria, they gave the show (_rappresentazione_)
of the Battle of the Angels, when Lucifer was cast out of heaven.
Fourthly, the Company of Ser Antonio and Piero di Mariano, with some
thirty boys clothed in white and angels. Fifthly, the Tower of Adam, the
which on the Piazza gave the show of how God created Adam and Eve, with
the Temptation by the serpent and all thereto pertaining. Sixthly, a
Moses upon horseback, attended by many mounted men of the chiefs in
Israel and others. Seventhly, the Tower of Moses, which upon the Piazza
gave the show of the Delivery of the Law. Eighthly, many Prophets and
Sibyls, including Hermes Trismegistus and others who foretold the
Incarnation of our Lord." With this list Palmieri proceeds at great
length, reckoning in all twenty-two Towers. The procession, it seems,
stopped upon its passage to exhibit tableaux; and these were so arranged
that the whole Scripture history was set forth in dumb show, down to the
Last Day. The representation of each tableau and the moving of the
pageant through the streets and squares of Florence lasted sixteen
hours. It will be observed that, here at least, a cyclical exposition of
Christian doctrine, corresponding to the comprehensive Mysteries of the
North, was attempted in pantomime. The Towers, we may remark in passing,
were wooden cars, surmounted with appropriate machinery, on which the
actors sat and grouped themselves according to their subject. They
differed in no essentials from the Triumphal Chariots of carnival time,
as described by Vasari in his Lives of Piero di Cosimo and Pontormo.
From an anonymous Greek writer who visited Florence in the train of John
Palæologus, we gather some notion of the effect produced upon a stranger
by these pageants.[410] He describes the concourse of the Florentines,
and gives the measure of his own astonishment by saying: "They work
prodigies in this feast, and miracles, or at least the representation of

Vasari in his life of Il Cecca contributes much valuable information
concerning the machinery used in the shows of S. John's Day.[411] The
Piazza of the Duomo was covered in with a broad blue awning--similar, we
may suppose, to that veil of deeper and lighter azure bands which forms
the background to Fra Lippi's "Crowning of the Virgin." This was sown
with golden lilies, and was called a Heaven. Beneath it were the clouds,
or _Nuvole_, exhibited by various civic guilds. They were constructed of
substantial wooden frames, supporting an almond-shaped aureole, which
was thickly covered with wool, and surrounded with lights and cherub
faces. Inside it sat the person who represented the saint, just as
Christ and Madonna are represented in the pictures of the Umbrian
school. Lower down, projected branches made of iron, bearing children
dressed like angels, and secured by waist-bands in the same way as the
fairies of our transformation scenes. The wood-work and the wires were
hidden from sight by wool and cloth, plentifully sprinkled with tinsel
stars. The whole moved slowly on the backs of bearers concealed beneath
the frame. Vasari attributes the first invention of these and similar
_ingegni_ to Filippo Brunelleschi. Their similarity to what we know
about the _pegmata_ of Roman triumphs, renders this assertion probable.
Brunelleschi's study of ancient art may have induced him to adapt a
classical device to the requirements of Christian pageantry. When
designed on a colossal scale and stationary, these _Nuvole_ were known
by the name of _Paradiso_. Another prominent feature in the Midsummer
Show was the procession of giants and giantesses mounted upon stilts,
and hooded with fantastic masks. Men marched in front, holding a pike to
balance these unwieldy creatures; but Vasari states that some
specialists in this craft were able to walk the streets on stilts six
cubits high, without assistance. Then there were _spiritelli_--lighter
and winged beings, raised aloft to the same height, and shining down
like genii from their giddy altitude in sunlight on the crowd.

Whether we are right or not in assuming with D'Ancona that the _Sacra
Rappresentazione_ was a hybrid between the Umbrian _Divozione_ and these
pageants, there is no doubt that the Florentine artists, and
_Ingegnieri_, were equal to furnishing the stage with richness. The
fraternities spared no expense, but secured the services of the best
designers. They also employed versifiers of repute to compose their
libretti. It must be remembered that these texts were written for boys,
and were meant to be acted by boys. Thus there came into existence a
peculiar type of sacred drama, displaying something childish in its
style, but taxing the ingenuity of scene-painters, mechanicians,
architects, musicians, and poets, to produce a certain calculated
theatrical effect. When we remember how these kindred arts flourished in
the last decades of the fifteenth century, we are justified in believing
that the _Sacre Rappresentazioni_ offered a spectacle no less beautiful
than curious and rare.

An examination of a few of these plays in detail will help us to
understand one of the most original products of the popular Italian
literature. With this object, I propose to consider the three volumes of
reprints, edited with copious illustrations by Professor Alessandro
d'Ancona.[412] But before proceeding to render an account of the
forty-three plays included in this collection, it will be well to give
some notice of the men who wrote them, to describe their general
character, and to explain the manner of their presentation on the stage.

The authors of _Sacre Rappresentazioni_ are frequently anonymous; but
Lorenzo de' Medici, Antonio Alamanni, Bernardo Pulci and his wife Monna
Antonia contribute each a sacred drama. The best were written by Feo
Belcari and Castellano Castellani. Of the latter very little is known,
except that in the year 1517 he exercised the priestly functions at
Florence and was a prolific writer of Lauds. Feo Belcari, a Florentine
citizen, born in 1410, held civic offices of distinction during the
ascendency of Casa Medici. He was a man of birth and some learning, who
devoted himself to the production of literature in prose and verse
intended for popular edification. His Lauds are among the best which
have descended from the fifteenth century, and his translation of the
Lives of the Fathers into Tuscan is praised for purity of style. When he
died, in 1484, "poor, weak, and white-haired," Girolamo Benivieni, the
disciple of Savonarola and the greatest sacred singer of that age,
composed his elegy in verses of mingled sweetness and fervor[413]:

    Tace il celeste suon, già spenta e morta
      È l'armonia di quella dolce lira,
      Che 'l mondo afflitto or lascia, e 'l ciel conforta.
    E come parimenti si sospira
      Qui la sua morte, così in ciel s'allegra
      Chi alla nuova armonia si volge e gira.
    Felice lui che dalla infetta e negra
      Valle di pianti al ciel n'è gito, e 'n terra
      Lasciata ha sol la veste inferma ed egra,
    Ed or dal mondo e dall'orribil guerra
      De' vizi sciolto, il suo splendor vagheggia
      Nel volto di Colui che mai non erra.

As regards their form, the _Sacre Rappresentazioni_ are never divided
into acts; but the copious stage-directions prove that the scenes were
shifted, and in one or two instances secular interludes are introduced
in the pauses of the action.[414] The drama follows the tale or legend
without artistic structure of plot; nor do the authors appear to have
aimed, except in subordinate episodes, at much development of character.
What they found ready to their hand in prose, they versified. The same
fixed personages, and the same traditional phrases recur with singular
monotony, proving that a conventional framework and style had become
stereotyped. The end in view was religious edification. Therefore mere
types of virtue in saints and martyrs, types of wickedness in tyrants
and persecutors, sufficed alike for authors, actors, and audience. True
dramatic genius emerges only in the minor parts, where a certain freedom
of handling and effort after character-drawing are discernible. The
success of the play depended on the movement of the story, and the
attractions of the scenery, costumes and music. It was customary for an
angel to prologize and to dismiss the audience[415]; but his place is
once at least taken by a young man with a lute.[416] A more dramatic
opening was occasionally attempted in a conversation between two boys of
Florence, the one good and the other bad; and instead of the _licenza_
the scene sometimes closed with a _Te Deum_, or a Laud sung by the
actors and probably taken up by the spectators. Castellani in his
_Figliuol Prodigo_ made good use of the dramatic opening, gradually
working the matter of his play out of a dialogue which begins with a
smart interchange of Florentine chaff.[417] It would be useless even to
attempt a translation of this scene. The raciness of its obsolete
street-slang would evaporate, and the fiber of the piece is not strong
enough to bear rude handling. It must suffice to indicate its rare
dramatic quality. Students of our own Elizabethan literature may
profitably compare this picture of manners with similar passages in
_Hycke Scorner_ or _Lusty Juventus_. But the Florentine interlude is
more fairly representative of actual life than any part of our
Moralities. Castellani's Prodigal Son, however, rises altogether to a
higher artistic level than the ordinary; and the same may be said about
the _Miracolo di S. Maria Maddalena_, where a simple dramatic motive is
interwoven with the action of the whole piece and made to supply a
proper ending.[418]

As a rule, the _Sacre Rappresentazioni_ partook of the character of a
religious service. Their tone is uniformly pious. Yet the spirit of the
age and the nature of the Italians were alike unfavorable to piety of a
true temper. Here it is unctuous, caressing, sentimental--anything but
vigorous or virile. The monastic virtues are highly extolled; and an
unwholesome view of life seen from the cloister by some would-be saint,
who "winks and shuts his apprehension up" to common facts of experience,
is too often presented. Vice is sincerely condemned; yet the morality
of these exhibitions cannot be applauded. Instead of the stern lessons
of humanity conveyed in a drama like that of Athens or of England, the
precepts of the pulpit and confessional are enforced with a childish
simplicity that savors more of cloistral pietism than of true knowledge
of the world. Mere belief in the intercession of saints and the efficacy
of relics is made to cover all crimes; while the anti-social enthusiasms
of dreamy boys and girls are held up for imitation. We feel that we are
reading what a set of feeble spiritual directors wrote with a touch of
conscious but well-meaning insincerity for children. The glaring
contrast between the professed asceticism of the fraternities and the
future conduct of their youthful members in the world of the Renaissance
leaves a suspicion of hypocrisy.[419] This impression is powerfully
excited by Lorenzo de' Medici's _Rappresentazione di S. Giovanni e
Paolo_, which was acted by his children. The tone is not, indeed, so
unctuous as that of Castellani. Yet when we remember what manner of man
was Lorenzo; when we reflect what parts were played by his sons, Piero
and Leo X., upon the stage of Italy; the sanctimonious tone of its
frigid octave stanzas fails to impose on our credulity.

An adequate notion of the scenic apparatus of the _Rappresentazioni_ may
be gathered from the stage-directions to _S. Uliva_ and from the
interludes described in Giovanmaria Cecchi's _Esaltazione della
Croce_.[420] The latter piece was acted in Florence on the occasion of
Ferrando de' Medici's marriage to Cristina of Lorraine, in 1589. It
belongs, therefore, to the very last of these productions. Yet, judging
by Vasari's account of the _Ingegni_, we may assume that the style of
presentation was traditional, and that a Florentine Company of the
fifteenth century might have put a play upon the stage with at least
equal pomp. The prose description of the apparatus and the interludes
reads exactly like the narrative portion of Ben Jonson's Masks at Court,
in which the poet awards due praise to the "design and invention" of
Master Inigo Jones and to the millinery of Signor Forobosco.[421] It was
indeed, a custom derived by England from Italy for the poet to set forth
a minute record of his own designs together with their execution by the
co-operating architects, scene-painters, musicians, dress-makers, and
morris-dancers. The architect, says Cecchi, was one Taddeo di Leonardo
Landini, a member of the Compagnia, skilled in sculpture as well as an
excellent machinist. He arranged the field, or _prato_, of the Compagnia
di S. Giovanni in the form of a theater, covered with a red tent, and
painted with pictures of the Cross considered as an instrument of
shameful death, as a precious relic, and as the reward of virtue in this
life. Emblems, scrolls and heraldic achievements completed the adornment
of the theater. When the curtain rose for the first time, Jacob was seen
in a meadow, "asleep with his head on certain stones, dressed in costly
furs slung across his shoulder, with a thin shirt of fine linen beneath,
cloth-of-silver stockings and fair buskins on his feet, and in his hand
a gilt wand." While he slept, heaven opened, and seven angels appeared
seated upon clouds, and making "a most pleasant noise with horns,
greater and less viols, lutes and organ ... the music of this and all
the other interludes was the composition of Luca Bati, a man in this art
most excellent." When they had played and sung, the cloud disclosed, and
showed a second heaven, where sat God the Father.[422] All the angels
worshiped Him, and heaven increased in splendor. Then a ladder was let
down, and God, leaning upon it, turned to Jacob and "sang majestically
to the sound of many instruments, in a sonorous bass voice." Thereupon
angels descended and ascended by the ladder, singing a hymn in honor of
the Cross; and at last the clouds closed round, heaven disappeared and
Jacob woke from sleep. Such was the introduction to the drama. Between
the first and second acts was shown, with no less exuberance of scenical
resources, the exodus of Israel from Egypt; between the second and
third, the miracle of Aaron's rod that blossomed; between the third and
fourth, the elevation of the Brazen Serpent; between the fourth and
fifth, the ecstasy of David dancing before the ark "to the sound of a
large lute, a violin, a trombone, but more especially to his own harp."
After the fifth act the play was concluded with a pageant of religious
chivalry--the Knights of Malta, S. James, S. Maurice, and the Teutonic
Order--who had fought for the Cross, and to whom, amid thunderings and
lightnings, as they stood upon the stage, was granted the vision of
"Religion, habited in purest white, full of majesty, with the triple
tiara and the crossed keys of S. Peter, holding in her hand a large and
most resplendent cross, adorned with diamonds, rubies and emeralds." The
resources of a theater which could place so many actors on the stage at
once, and attempt the illusion of clouds and angels, bringing into play
the machinery of transformation scenes, and enriching the whole with a
varied accompaniment of music, must have been considerable. Those who
have spent an hour in the Teatro Farnese at Parma, erected of wood for a
similar occasion, may be able to summon by the aid of the imagination a
shadow of this spectacle before their eyes. That the effect was not
wholly grotesque, though the motives were so hazardous, can be
understood from Milton's description of the descent of Mercy in his
Christmas Ode.[423]

For the play of _S. Uliva_, though first known to us in a Florentine
reprint of 1568, we may assume a more popular origin than that of
Cecchi's Mystery of the Cross. It abounds in rare Renaissance
combinations of pagan with Christian mythology. The action extended over
two days and was interrupted at intervals by dumb shows and lyrical
interludes connected only by a slight thread with the story. At one time
a chase was brought upon the stage. On other occasions pictures,
described with minute attention to details, were presented to the
audience in Tableaux Vivants. These pictures vividly recall the style
of Florentine masters, Piero di Cosimo or Sandro Botticelli. "In the
interval," say the stage-directions to the players, "you will cause
three women, well-beseen, to issue, one of them attired in white, one in
red, the other in green, with golden balls in their hands, and with them
a young man robed in white; and let him, after looking many times first
on one and then on another of these damsels, at last stay still and say
the following verses, gazing at her who is clad in green." This is the
Mask of Hope. In another part the fable of Narcissus has to be
presented, and directions are given for the disappearance of Echo, who
is to repeat the final syllables of the boy's lament. "After he has
uttered all these complaints, let him thrice with a loud voice cry
slowly Ahimè, Ahimè, Ahimè! and let the nymph reply, and having thus
spoken let him stretch himself upon the ground and lie like one dead;
and within a little space let there issue forth four or more nymphs clad
in white, without bows and with dishevelled hair, who, when they have
come where the youth lies dead, shall surround him in a circle and at
last having wrapped him in a white cloth, carry him within, singing this

      "Fly forth in bliss to heaven,
    Thou happy soul and fair,
    To find thy planet there, and haunt the skies;
      Leaving the tears and sighs
    Of this low-lying earth,
    Where man hath sorry mirth, as thou dost know!
      Bask in the fervent glow
    Of that pure light divine,
    Which on thy path shall shine, and be thy guide.
      Nay, soul, thou hast not died,
    But still more life hast thou,
    Albeit unbodied now thou art at rest.
      O soul, divinely blest,
    Enjoy the eternal mind,
    There dwelling unconfined through nights and days!
      Heaven's angels stand and gaze
    Upon thy glorious eyes,
    Up there in Paradise! In crowds they come!
      Now hast thou found thy home;
    Now art thou blithe and blest;
    Dwell now for aye at rest, pure placid soul!"

For another interlude a May-day band of girls attired in
flower-embroidered dresses and youths with crowns of ivy on their heads
are marshaled by Dan Cupid. They sing a song of which the following is a
free translation:

      Let earth herself adorn
    With grasses and fresh flowers,
    And let cold hearts, these hours, in love's fire burn.
      Let field, let forest turn
    To bloom this morn of May,
    That the whole world to-day may leap and sing.
      Let love within us spring,
    Banishing winter's smart,
    Waking within our heart sweet thoughts and fair.
      Let little birds in air
    Sing yonder boughs above;
    Each young man tell his love to his own maid;
      And girls through mead and glade,
    With honest eyes and meek
    Fixed on their lovers, seek true troth to plight.
      From field and mountain height
    To-day cold snows are fled;
    No clouds sail overhead; up springs clear morn.
      Let violets be born,
    Let leaves and grasses sprout,
    And children wander out, garlands to twine.
      In every dingle shine
    Flowers white and blue and red,
    Roses and lilies shed perfume around.
      Maidens with May-blooms crowned
    Through copse and meadow stray,
    Singing their thoughts to-day, their sweet thoughts pure.
      Let none be too demure;
    Innocence marries mirth,
    And from the jocund earth green laurels spring.
      Come, Love, and blessings bring;
    Chase sorrow, scatter care;
    Make all men happy there, soul-full of ease.
      Soothe pain, soothe jealousies,
    That with their restless flame
    Feed on man's heart: no shame, no grief be near.

Night and the God of Sleep again amuse the audience with an allegorical
mask; and the seven deadly sins, figured as men, women and beasts, march
across the stage. At no great distance from a vision of Judgment, the
Sirens are introduced after this fashion: "Now goes the King to Rome;
and you, meanwhile, make four women, naked, or else clothed in
flesh-colored cloth, rise waist-high from the sea, with tresses to the
wind, and let them sing as sweetly as may be the ensuing stanzas twice;
in the which while shall two or three of you come forth, and seem to
fall asleep on earth at the hearing of the song, except one only, who
shall be armed, and with closed ears shall pass the sea unstayed, and
let the said women take those who sleep and cast them in the waves."
When we reach Uliva's wedding, we meet with the following quaint rubric:
"If you wish to beguile the weariness caused by the length of the show,
and to make the spectators take more delight in this than in any other
interlude, then you must give them some taste of these bridals by
providing a general banquet; but if you mislike the expense, then
entertain the players only." It would seem that _S. Uliva_ was acted on
the _prato_ of the confraternity, where a booth had been erected.

The forty-three plays comprised in D'Ancona's volumes may be arranged in
three classes--those which deal with Bible stories or Church doctrine
based on Scripture; dramatized Legends of the saints; and _Novelle_
transformed into religious fables. Among the first sort may be mentioned
plays of Abraham and Isaac, Joseph, Tobias and Raphael, and Esther; the
Annunciation, the Nativity, S. John in the Desert, Christ preaching in
the Temple, the Conversion of the Magdalen, the Prodigal Son, the
Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, and the Last Judgment. The
_Natività di Cristo_ opens with a pastoral reminding us of French
_Mystères_ and English Miracle-plays.[425] The shepherds are bivouacking
on the hills of Bethlehem when the angel appears to them. For Tudde,
Harvye, Houcken, and Trowle of our Chester play, we find these southern
names, Bobi di Farucchio, Nencio di Pucchio, Randello, Nencietto, and so
forth. But the conduct of the piece is the same. The Italian hinds
discuss their cheese and wine and bread just as the clowns of Cheshire
talk about "ale of Hatton," "sheep's head sowsed in ale," and "sour
milk." Such points of similarity are rare, however; for the
_Rappresentazioni_ were the growth of more refined conditions, and
showed their origin in sentiment and pathos. The anonymous play of _Mary
Magdalen_ rises to a higher level of dramatic art than any sacred play
in English.[426] Her story, as told in these scenes, is the versified
_novella_ of a Vittoria Accoramboni or a Bella Imperia converted by the
preaching of S. Bernardino or Savonarola. It might have happened in Rome
or Florence or Perugia. Magdalen, the lady of noble blood but famous
with ill-fame, fair of person and of heaven-bright countenance, who
dresses splendidly and lives with many lovers, spending her days in the
pleasure of rich banquets and perfumed baths, delighting her heart with
the music of lyres and flutes and the voices of young men, appears
before us with a reality that proves how deep a hold upon the poet's
fancy her picturesque tale had taken. Martha, her good but commonplace
sister, forms a foil to the more impassioned and radiant figure of
Magdalen. She has been cured by Christ, and has heard Him preach. Now
she entreats her sister but to go and listen, for never man spake words
like His. Magdalen scoffs: "Why should I be damned because I do not
follow your strange life? There is time for me to enjoy my youth, and
then to make my peace with God, and Paradise will open wide for me at
last." Her friend Marcella enters with another argument: "O Magdalen, if
you did but know how fair and gracious are his eyes! Surely he has come
forth straight from heaven; could you but see him once, your heart would
never be divided from him." This touches the right spring in Magdalen's
mind. She will not go to hear the words of Christ, but the face and form
that came from Paradise allure her. Besides, in the church where Christ
will preach, there will be found new lovers and men in multitudes to
gaze at her. Her maidens array her in gold and crimson, and bind up her
yellow hair; and forth she rides in all her bravery surrounded by her
suitors. What follows may best be told by a translation of the
stage-directions and a passage of the play itself.

     And at these last verses Jesus enters the temple; and having
     gone up into the pulpit, he begins to preach and to say with a
     loud voice, "Homo quidam peregre proficiscens vocavit servos
     suos et tradidit illis bona sua." Now comes Magdalen with her
     company, and her young men prepare for her a seat before the
     pulpit, and she in all her pomp takes her place upon it,
     regarding her own pleasure, nor paying heed as yet to Jesus.
     Afterward, Jesus looks at her and goes on preaching, always
     keeping his most holy gaze bent upon her; and she, after the
     first stanza of the sermon, looks at him, and her eyes meet
     those of Jesus. Then he goes on preaching, and says as

     A certain lord who on a journey went,
     Called unto him each of his serving men,
     And of his goods gave them arbitrament:
     To one he dealt five talents, to one ten,
     To another two, to try their heart's intent,
     And see how far they should be careless; then
     Unto the last he left but one alone:
     According to their powers, he charged each one.

     And when he had departed, instantly
     That servant unto whom he gave the five,
     Went forth, and laboring with much industry,
     Increased them, and therewith so well did thrive
     That other five he gained immediately,
     To render when his master should arrive;
     He who received but twain, did even so,
     And added to his sum another two.

     But he on whom one talent was bestowed,
     Went forthwith and concealed it in the soil:
     Careless, unthankful for the debt he owed,
     While he hath peace, he seeks but strife and toil:
     Called like his fellows in that lord's abode,
     He answers not, but doth himself despoil;
     And, as a worthless steward, hides away
     The money of his master day by day.

     Woe to thee, slothful servant and remiss,
     That hast thy talent buried in the ground!
     When reckoning comes, thou'lt yield account for this
     Nay, think how stern and rigorous he'll be found!
     Weep, then, in time for what thou'st done amiss,
     Before the trumpets of the judgment sound:
     O soul, I tell thee thou hast gone astray,
     Hiding thy talent in the earth away!

     He who on earth sets his affections still,
     Forgetful of the promised heavenly treasure;
     He who loves self more than his Maker's will,
     And in ill-doing finds continual pleasure;
     He who remembers not that sin must kill,
     Nor thinks how Hell will plague him above measure;
     He who against himself makes fast heaven's gate;
     Hideth in earth his talent till too late.

     He who loves father, mother, more than God,
     Not reckoning His great gifts bestowed on man;
     He who the path of worldly gain hath trod,
     Publishes for himself damnation's ban:
     Woe, woe to that bad servant sunk in fraud,
     Who leaves the good and doth what ill he can!
     He who on this world seeks his joy to find,
     His talent hides in earth, perversely blind.

     He who is grasping, proud, discourteous, base,
     Who dreameth not that he may come to want,
     Who seeks for flattery, praise, and pride of place,
     Lording it with high airs and arrogant;
     Who to the world gives all, and still doth chase
     Delight in songs and pomps exorbitant;
     Who in this life is fain to rest and sleep--
     His talent in the earth lies hidden deep.

     Woe for that servant who through negligence
     Hath hearkened not to the command divine!
     Yea, he shall hear the dreadful doom: Go hence!
     Go forth, accursed, in endless fire to pine!
     There shall be then no time for penitence:
     Bound hand and foot with punishment condign,
     He shall abide among lost souls beneath,
     Where is great weeping and great gnashing of teeth.

     O soul, so full of sins, what shalt thou do?
     Of all thy countless crimes abominable,
     Look to the end! Look to it! Hell for you
     Lies open, with damned folk innumerable!
     Whence thou shalt never issue, ever rue
     In vain remorse and pangs intolerable!
     Weep, soul, ah weep for thy most vile estate,
     Now that repentance need not come too late!

     Seek in this life to feel sincere contrition,
     Before the judge so just and so severe
     Summons thee to his throne, for inquisition
     Into each sin, each thought that wandered here;
     There shalt thou find no merciful remission,
     But justice shall be dealt with truth austere;
     And he who fails shall go to burn with shame
     For ever, ever, in eternal flame.

     Quis ex vobis centum oves habens,
     Si forte unam ex illis perdiderit,
     Nonne nonagintas novem dimittens
     Et illam querit, donec ipsam invenerit?
     Et cum invenerit, in humeros ponens,
     Gaudens, in domum suam cito venerit,
     And calls his kinsfolk and his friends to make
     Festival for the new-found wanderer's sake?

     The soul, she is that lost and wandering sheep;
     Eternal God is the true shepherd: He
     Seeks her, lest on his lamb the wolf should leap,
     The fiend, who slays with guile and treachery.
     He spends his life, her safe to seek and keep,
     And leaves those ninety-nine in bliss to be;
     And when he finds her, makes great joy in heaven,
     With all the angelic host, o'er one forgiven.

     There was a father who had children twain;
     The younger son began to speak and pray
     That he might take his share, for he was fain,
     Furnished therewith, from home to wend his way:
     The father gently urged him to remain,
     But at the last was bounden to obey:
     Far, far away he roamed, and spent his all,
     Sad wretch, on carnal joys and prodigal.

     But when he came to want, repenting sore,
     Unto his father, all ashamed, he knelt;
     His father clothed him with new robes, and bore
     Even more tender love than first he felt:
     So doth high God, who lives for evermore,
     Unto the souls that with repentance melt;
     Let them but seek his love with contrite will,
     He is most merciful, and pardons still.

     Soul, thou hast wounded many hearts, I wis,
     Dwelling in delicate and vain delight;
     With many a lover thou wouldst toy and kiss
     And art o'erfull of evil appetite;
     Thy heart is big with strifes and jealousies:
     Turn unto me; I wait to wash thee white;
     That with the rest thy talent thou mayst double,
     And dwell with them in heaven secure from trouble.

     After the blessing of Jesus, Magdalen, weeping, and with her
     head covered, can have no rest for the great confusion that
     she felt; and all the people wept, and in great astonishment
     were waiting agaze to see what should ensue.

_O alma peccatrice, che farai?_--Christ's voice with its recurrences of
gravely sweet persuasion melts Magdalen's heart. She may not speak one
word, until her sister has led her home and comforted her a space. Then
she answers:

    Deh, priega Iddio che m'allumini il core!

After this, left alone with her own soul, awakened to the purer
consciousness that Christ has stirred, she takes the box of ointment,
and, despoiled of all her goodly raiment, with her hair disheveled, goes
to the house of the Pharisee. There at last, with the breaking of the
alabaster, she dissolves in tears, and her heart finds peace. In these
scenes, if anywhere, we have the stuff from which the drama might have
been evolved. Magdalen is a living woman, such as Palma might have
painted; and Christ is a real man gifted with power to penetrate the

The _Figliuol Prodigo_ illustrates the same effort on the poet's part to
steep an old-world story in the vivid colors of to-day.[427] In the
Prodigal himself we find a coarse-hearted villain, like Hogarth's Idle
Apprentice--vain, silly, lustful, gluttonous, careless of the honor and
love that belong to him in his father's home. The scenes with the
innkeeper, the gamblers, and the ruffians, among whom he runs to ruin,
portray the vulgar dissipations of Florence, and justify the common
identification of taverns with places of ill-fame.[428] There is a touch
of true pathos at the end of the play in the grief of the father who has
lost his son. The conflict of feelings in the heart of the elder
brother, vexed at first with the prodigal's reception, but melting into
love and pity at the fervor of his penitence, is also not without
dramatic spirit. At the very end "a boy with the lyre" enters and
"speaks the moral of the parable."[429]

The movement of these two plays is not impeded by the sanctity of the
subject. When, however, the legend belongs more immediately to the
narrative of Christ's life, the form of the Representation is more
severe. This is especially true of Castellani's _Cena e Passione_,
where the incidents of the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, the
trials before Pilate and Caiaphas, the Flagellation, and the Crucifixion
are narrated with reverential brevity.[430] In reading these scenes, we
must summon to our memory Luca della Robbia's bass-reliefs or the
realistic groups of the Lombard Sacri Monti. The colored terra-cotta
figures in those chapels among the chestnut trees above the Sesia are
but Castellani's poetry conveyed in tableaux, while the Florentine
actors undoubtedly aimed at presenting by their grouping, dresses and
attitudes a living image of such plastic work. But the peculiar pathos
of the Italians found finer expression in picture or fresco--in Luini's
"Flagellation" at S. Maurizio or the pallid anguish of Tintoretto's
women sunk beneath the Cross in the Scuola di San Rocco--than in the
fluent stanzas of the sacred playwrights. On the walls of church or
oratory the sweetness and languor of emotion became as dignified in
beauty as the melodies of Pergolese, and its fervor touched at times the
sublimity of tragic passion. Not words but plastic forms were ever the
noblest vehicle of Italian feeling. Yet each kind of art may be
profitably used to illustrate the other, and the simple phrases of the
_Rappresentazioni_ are often the best comments on finished works of
painting. Here, for example, is Raphael's _Lo Spasimo_ in words[431]:

    Oimè, figliuol, è questo il viso
    Ch'era tanto formoso e tanto bello?
    Omè, dove si specchia el paradiso
    Oggi è percosso in tanto gran flagello!
    Io vengo a morte, figliuol mio diletto,
    Se non ti tengo nelle braccia stretto.

Mary faints, and the Magdalen supports her, weeping[432]:

    Omè, che per dolor Maria vien meno:
    Noi perderem la madre col figliuolo.
    Pallido è il volto già tanto sereno,
    Quale è tutto mutato pel gran duolo.
    El polso manca, e nel sacrato seno
    El cuor suo resta respirante solo.
    Soccorso, aiuto; ognun gli dia conforto,
    Sendo aghiacciato il corpo e quasi morto.

The hearts of these rude poets were very tender for Mary, Mother of our
Lord. There is a touching passage in the _Disputa al Tempio_, when
Joseph and the Virgin are walking toward the temple with the boy who is
to them a sacred charge[433]:

_Iosef._    I' guido e son guidato, e reggo quello
          Che regge me, e muovo chi mi muove:
          Pastor mi fo di quel ch'io son agnello;
          O quanta grazia in questo servo piove!

_Maria._    S'i' alzo gli occhi alquanto per vederlo,
          Contemplo nel mirar cose alte e nuove.
          Per la virtù di sua divina forma
          L'amante ne l'amato si trasforma.

Something artless and caressing in these words brings before us Luini's
Joseph with his golden-brown robes and white hair, Mary in her blue and
crimson with the beautiful braided curls of gold. The Magdalen, again,
moves through all these solemn scenes with a grace peculiar to her
story. The poet, like the painter, never forgets that her sins were
forgiven _quia multum amavit_. She who in Luini's fresco at Lugano
kneels with outstretched arms and long fair rippling loosened hair,
beneath the Cross, is shown in the _Resurrezione di Gesù Cristo_ upon
her knees before the gardener whose one word tells her that she sees her
risen Lord.[434] It is a scene from Fra Angelico, a touch of tenderness
falling like a faint soft light athwart the mass of orthodox tradition.

The sympathy between these shows and the plastic arts may be still
further traced in Belcari's _Dì del Giudizio_.[435] After the usual
prologue an angel thrice blows the trumpet blast that wakes the dead,
crying aloud _Surgite!_ Minos assembles his fiends, and Christ bids the
archangel separate the good from the bad.[436] Michael, obedient to this
order, seeks a hypocrite hidden among the just and sets him on the left
hand, while Trajan is taken from the damned and placed among the saved.
Solomon rises alone,[437] and remains undecided in the middle space,
till Michael, charging him with carnal sin, forces him to take his
station with the goats. S. Peter now disputes with wicked friars who
think to save themselves by pointing to their cowls and girdles. The
poor appeal to S. Francis, but he answers that poverty is no atonement
for a sinful life. Magdalen refuses help to women who have lived
impenitent. Christ and Mary reply that the hour of grace is past. Then
the representatives of the seven deadly sins step forth and reason with
the virtuous--the proud man with the humble, the glutton with the
temperate. Sons upbraid their fathers for neglect or evil education.
Others thank God for the discipline that saved them in their youth. At
the last Christ awards judgment, crying to the just: "Ye saw me hungry
and ye fed me, naked and ye clothed me!" and to the unjust: "I was
hungry and ye fed me not, naked and ye clothed me not." Just and unjust
answer, as in Scripture, with those words whereof the double irony is so
dramatic. The damned are driven off to Hell, and angels open for the
blessed the doors of Paradise.

The _Rappresentazioni_ of the second class offer fewer points of
interest; almost the sole lesson they inculcate being the superiority of
the monastic over the secular life. S. Anthony leaves the world in which
he has lived prosperous and wealthy, incarcerates his sister in a
convent, and becomes a hermit.[438] Satan assembles the hosts of hell
and makes fierce war upon his resolution; but the temptation is a poor
affair, and Anthony gets through it by the help of an angel. The play
ends with an assault of the foiled fiend of Avarice upon three
rogues--Tagliagambe, Scaramuccia, and Carabello--who cut each other's
throats over their ill-gotten booty. _S. Guglielmo Gualtero_, like S.
Francis, sells all that he possesses, embraces poverty, and becomes a
saint.[439]. _S. Margaret_ subdues the dragon, and is beheaded by a
Roman prefect for refusing homage to the pagan deities.[440] _SS.
Giovanni e Paolo_ are Latin confessors of the conventional type.[441]
The legends of the _Seven Sleepers_, _S. Ursula_, and _S. Onofrio_ are
treated after a like fashion. _S. Eufrasia_ still further illustrates
the medieval ideal of monastic chastity.[442] She leaves her betrothed
husband and her mother to enter a convent. Nothing befalls her, and her
life is good for nothing, except that she exhales the odor of conventual
sanctity and dies. _S. Teodora_ is a variation on the same theme.[443]
She refuses Quintiliano, the governor of Asia, in marriage; and is sent
to a bad house, whence Eurialo, a Christian, delivers her. Both are
immediately dispatched to execution. It is probable that the two
last-mentioned plays were intended for representation within the walls
of a nunnery. _S. Barbara_ presents the same motive, with a more marked
theological bias.[444] Dioscoro, the father of the saint, hears from his
astrologers that she is fated to set herself against the old gods of his
worship. To avert this calamity, he builds a tower with two windows,
where he shuts her up in the company of orthodox pagan teachers. Barbara
becomes learned in her retirement, and refuses, upon the authority of
Plato, to pay homage to idols. Faith, instead of Love, finds this new
Danaë, in the person, not of Zeus, but of a priest dispatched by Origen
from Alexandria to convert her to Christianity. The princess learns her
catechism, is baptized, and adds a third window to her tower, in
recognition of the Trinity. It only remains for her father to torture
her cruelly to death.

The outline of these stories is often singularly beautiful, and capable
of poetic treatment. Remembering what Massinger and Decker made of the
_Virgin Martyr_, we turn with curiosity to _S. Teodora_ or _S. Ursula_.
Yet we are doomed to disappointment. The ingenuous charm, again, which
painters threw over the puerilities of the monastic fancy, is absent
from these plays. Sodoma's legend of S. Benedict in fresco on the walls
of Monte Oliveto, Carpaccio's romance of S. Ursula painted for her
Scuola at Venice, are touched with the grace of a child's fairy-story.
The _Rappresentazioni_ eliminate all elements of mystery and magic from
the fables, and reduce them to bare prose. The core of the myth or tale
is rarely reached; the depths of character are never penetrated; and
still the wizardry of wonderland is gone. In the hands of these Italian
playwrights the most pregnant story of the Orient or North assumed the
thin slight character of ordinary life. Its richness disappeared. Its
beauty evanesced. Nothing remained but the dry bones of a _novella_.
Indeed, the prose legends of the fourteenth century are far more
fascinating than these dramatized tales of the Renaissance, which might
be used to prove, if further proof were needed, that the Italian
imagination is not in the highest sense romantic or fantastic, not
far-reaching by symbol or by vision into the depths of nature human and
impersonal. The sense of infinity which gives value to Northern works of
fancy, is unknown in Italy. Sir Thomas Mallory wrote of Arthur's passage
into dreamland[445]: "And when they were at the water's side, even fast
by the banke hoved a little barge with many faire ladies in it, and
among them all was a queene, and all they had blacke hoods, and they
wept and shriked when they saw King Arthur." The author of the _Tavola
Ritonda_ makes the event quite otherwise precise[446]:

     E stando per un poco, ed ecco per lo mare venire una
     navicella, tutta coperta di bianco ... e la nave s'accostò
     allo re, e alquante braccia uscirono della nave che presono lo
     re Artù, e visibilemente il misono nella nave, e portàrollo
     via per mare ... si crede che la fata Morgana venisse per arte
     in quella navicella, e portòllo via in una isoletta di mare; e
     quivi morì di sue ferite, e la fata il sopellì in quella

This anxiety after verification and distinctness is almost invariable in
Italian literature. The very devil becomes a definite and oftentimes
prosaic personage. External Nature is credited with no inner spirit,
reaching forth from wood or wave or cloud to touch the soul of man in
reverie or trance, or breaking on his charmed senses in the form of
gnome or water-sprite or fairy. Men and women move in clear sunlight,
disenchanted of the gloom or glory, as of star-irradiate vapor, which a
Northern mytho-poet wraps around them, making their humanity thereby
more poignant.

Those who care to connect the genius of a people with the country of
their birth, may find the source of these mental qualities in the nobly
beautiful, serene and gracious, but never mystical Italian land. The
Latin Camoenæ have neither in ancient nor in modern years evoked the
forms of mythic fable from that landscape. Far less is there the touch
of Celtic or Teutonic inspiration--the light that never was on sea or
land. The nightingales of Sorrento or Nettuno in no poet's vision have

    Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Down the hillsides between Lucca and Pistoja, where the cypresses stand
in rows and olives cast their shadows on the gray tilled soil, no lover
has dreamed he met Queen Guinevere in spring riding through flowers with
Lancelot. Instead of Morgan le Fay, turning men to lichened and
mist-moistened stones upon the heath, the Italian witch was ever
Locusta, the poison-brewer, or Alcina, the temptress.

This peculiarity of the Italian genius made their architects incapable
of understanding Gothic. This deprived Italian art of that sublimity
which needs a grain of the grotesque for its perfection, a touch of the
uncouth for its accomplishment. The instinct of poets and artists alike
induced them to bring mystery within the sphere of definition, to limit
the marvelous by reducing it to actual conditions, and to impoverish the
terrible by measuring its boundaries. But since every defect has its
corresponding quality, this same instinct secured for the modern age a
world of immaculate loveliness in art and undimmed joyousness in poetry.
If the wonderland of fancy is eliminated, the monstrous and unshaped
have disappeared. With the grotesque vanishes disproportion. Humanity,
conscious of its own emotion, displaces the shadowy people of the
legends. We move in a well-ordered world of cheerfulness and beauty,
made for man, where symmetry of parts is music. Ariosto's jocund irony
is no slight compensation for the imagery of a Northern mythus.

Returning to the _Rappresentazioni_, we are forced to admit that the
defect of the Italian fancy is more apparent than its quality, in a
species of dramatic art which, being childish, needed some magic spell
to reconcile an adult taste to its puerility.[447] They were written at
the most prosaic moment of the national development, by men who could
not afford to substitute the true Italian poetry of irony and idyllic
sensuousness for the ancient religious spirit. The bondage of the middle
ages was upon them. They were forced to take the extravagance of the
monastic imagination for fact. But they did not really believe; and so
the fact was apprehended frigidly, prosaically. Instead of poetry we get
rhetoric; instead of marvels, gross incredibilities are forced upon us
in the lives of men and women fashioned like the folk who crowd the
streets we know. Another step in the realistic direction would have
transformed all these religious myths into _novelle_; and then a new
beauty, the beauty of the Decameron and _Novellino_, would have been
shed upon them. But it was precisely this step that Castellani and
Belcari dared not take, since their purpose remained religious
edification. Nay, their instinct led them in the opposite direction.
Unable to escape the influence of the _novella_, which was the truest
literary form peculiar to Italy in that age, they converted it into a
sacred legend and treated it with the same rhetorical and insincere
pietism as the stories of the Saints. From S. Barbara to the third-class
_Rappresentazioni_ the transition is easy.

The interest of this group of stories, as illustrating the psychological
conditions of the Italian imagination, is great. Stripped of medieval
mystery, reduced to the proportions of a _novella_, but not yet invested
with its worldly charm, denuded of the pregnant symbolism or tragic
intensity of their originals, these plays reveal the poverty of the
fifteenth century, the incapacity of the Florentine genius at that
moment to create poetry outside the sphere of figurative art, and in a
region where irony and sensuality and natural passion were alike
excluded. They might be compared to dead bones awaiting the
spirit-breath of mirth and sarcasm to rouse them into life. _Teofilo_ is
the Italian Faustus.[448] A devil accuses him to the Bishop he is
serving. Outcast and dishonored, he seeks Manovello, a Jewish sorcerer,
who takes him to a cross-way and raises the fiend, Beelzebub. Teofilo
abjures Christ, adores the devil, and signs a promise to be Satan's
bondsman. In return, Beelzebub dispatches a goblin, Farfalletto, to the
Bishop, who believes that an angel has come to bid him restore Teofilo
to honor. Consequently Teofilo regains his post. But in the midst of his
prosperity the renegade is wretched. Stung by conscience, he throws
himself upon the mercy of our Lady. She pleads for him with Christ,
summons the devil, and wrests from his grasp the parchment given by
Teofilo. Poetic justice is satisfied by Manovello's descent to hell.
Such is the prosaic form which the Faust legend assumed in Italy.
Instead of the lust for power and knowledge which consumed the doctor of
Wittenberg, making him exclaim:

    Had I as many souls as there be stars,
    I'd give them all for Mephistophilis!

we have this commonplace story of a bishop's almoner, driven by a vulgar
trial of his patience to abjure the faith. The intercession of Mary
introduces a farcial element into the piece: the audience is amused by
seeing the devil's contract snatched from him after a jocular
altercation with the Queen of Heaven. Our Mephistophilis is either
fantastically grotesque, as in the old prose-legend, or tragically
saturnine, as in Marlowe's tragedy. The fiend of this Florentine play is
a sort of supernatural usurer, who lends at a short date upon exorbitant
interest, and is nonsuited for fraud in the supreme court of appeal. To
charge the Italian imagination in general with this dwarfing and
defining of a legend that had in it such elements of grandeur, might be
scarcely fair. The fault lies more perhaps with Florence of the
fifteenth century; yet Florence was the brain of Italy, and if the
people there could find no more of salt or savor in a myth like that of
Theophilus, this fact gives food for deep reflection to the student of
their culture.

In the _Rè Superbo_ we have one of those stories which traveled from the
far East in the middle ages over the whole of Europe, acquiring a
somewhat different form in every country.[449] The proud king in the
midst of his prosperity falls sick. He takes a short day's journey to a
watering-place, and bathes. By night an angel assumes his shape, dons
his royal robes, summons his folk, and fares homeward to his palace. The
king, meanwhile, is treated by the innkeeper as an impudent rascal. He
begs some rags to cover his nakedness, and arrives in due time at the
city he had left the day before. There his servants think him mad; but
he obtains an audience with the angel, who reads him a sermon on
humility, and then restores him to his throne. In this tale there lay
nothing beyond the scope of the Italian imagination. Consequently the
treatment is adequate, and the situations copied from real life are
really amusing. The play of _Barlaam e Josafat_ by Bernardo Pulci is
more ambitious.[450] Josafat's father hears from his astrologers that
the child will turn Christian. Accordingly he builds a tower, and places
his son there, surrounded with all things pleasant to the senses and
cheering to the heart of man. His servants receive strict orders that
the boy should never leave his prison, lest haply, meeting with old age
or poverty or sickness, he should think of Christ. On one occasion they
neglect this rule. Josafat rides forth and sees a leper and a blind man,
and learns that age and death and pain are in store for all. This stirs
reflection, and prepares him to receive the message of one Barlaam, who
comes disguised as a merchant to the tower. Barlaam offers him a jewel
which restores sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the
dumb, and which turns a fool to wisdom. The jewel is the faith of
Christ. Josafat is instantly converted and baptized; nor can the
persuasions of wise men or the allurements of women overcome his fixed
resolve. So firmly rooted is his new faith, so wonderful his eloquence,
that he converts his father and the Court, and receives for his great
wisdom the crown of his ancestors. Yet an earthly throne savors too much
in his eyes of worldly pride. Therefore he renounces it, and lives
thenceforth a holy hermit. This legend, it will be perceived, is a dim
echo of the wonderful history of Siddârtha, the founder of Buddhism.
Beautiful as are the outlines, too beautiful to be spoiled by any
telling, Pulci has done his best to draw it from the dream-world of
romance into the sphere of prose. At the same time, while depriving it
of romance, he has not succeeded in dramatizing it. We do not feel the
psychological necessity for the changes in any of the characters; the
charm of each strange revolution is destroyed by the clumsy preparation
of the motives. We are forced to feel that the playwright was working on
the lines of a legend he did not understand and could not vitalize. The
wonder is that he thought of choosing it and found it ready to his hand.

Few of the _Rappresentazioni_ are so interesting as _S. Uliva_.[451]
Uliva is no saint of the Catholic calendar but a daughter of world-old
romance. Her legend may be read in the _Gesta Romanorum_, in Philip de
Beaumanoir's _Roman de la Mannelline_, in Ser Giovanni's _Pecorone_, in
Chaucer's _Man of Law's Tale_, in Grimm's _Handless Maiden_, and in
Russian and Servian variations on the same theme. It is in truth the
relic of some very ancient myth, used by the poets of all ages for the
sake of its lesson of patience in affliction, its pathos of persecuted
innocence. The form the tale assumed in Italy is this. Uliva, daughter
of the Roman Emperor, Giuliano, is begged in marriage by her own father,
who says she has more beautiful hands than any other princess. She cuts
her hands off, and Giuliano sends her to Britain to be killed. But her
murderers take pity on her, and leave her in a wood alone. There the
King of Britain finds her and places her under the protection of his
queen. After many misfortunes the Virgin Mary restores her hands, and
she is married to the King of Castile. She bears him a son; but by this
time she has roused the jealousy and hatred of the queen-mother, who
takes the opportunity of the king's absence to poison his mind against
her by letters, and shortly after drives her forth with her child. Uliva
reaches Rome, and lives there twelve years unknown, till her husband,
who has discovered and punished his mother's treason, and has sought his
wronged wife sorrowing, at last rejoins her and recognizes in her son
his heir. The play ends with a reconciliation scene between the
Emperor, the King, and Uliva, the Pope pronouncing benedictions on the
whole party. It will be seen from this brief abstract of the legend that
the _Rappresentazione_ is a chivalrous _novella_ dramatized. Several old
pathetic stories have been woven into one, and the heroine has been
dignified with the title of saint because of the pity she inspires.
Uliva belongs to the sisterhood of Boccaccio's Griselda, Ariosto's
Ginevra, and the Queen in our old ballad of Sir Aldingar. The medieval
imagination, after creating types of stateliness like Guinivere, of
malice like Morgana, of love like Iseult, turned aside and dwelt upon
the tender delicacy of a woman, whose whole strength is her beauty,
gentleness, and patience; who suffers all things in the spirit of
charity; whom the angels love and whom our Lady cherishes; who wins all
hearts of men by her goodliness; and who, like Una, passes unscathed
through peril and persecution until at last her joy is perfected by the
fruition of her lawful love. It was precisely this element of romance
that touched the Italian fancy; and the playwright of _S. Uliva_ has
shown considerable skill in his treatment of it. Piteous details are
accumulated with remorseless pertinacity upon the head of the
unfortunate Uliva, in order to increase the pathos of her situation.
There is no mitigation of her hardships except in her own innocence, and
in the loving compassion wrung by her beauty from her rude tormentors.
This want of relief, together with the brusque passage from one incident
to another, betrays a lack of dramatic art. But the poet, whoever he
was, succeeded in sustaining the ideal of purity and beauty he
conceived. He shows how all Uliva's sufferings as well as her good
fortune were due to the passions her beauty inspired, and how it was her
purity that held her harmless to the end.

_Stella_ is the same story slightly altered, with a somewhat different
cast of characters and an evil-hearted step-mother in the place of the
malignant queen.[452] If we compare both fables with Grimm's version of
the "Handless Maiden," the superiority of the Northern conception cannot
fail to strike us. The Italian _novella_, though written for the people,
exhibits the external pomp and grandeur of royalty. All its motives are
drawn from the clash of human passions. Yet these are hidden beneath a
superincumbent mass of trivialities. The German tale has a background of
spiritual mystery--good and evil powers striving for the possession of a
blameless soul. When the husband, who has been deceived by feminine
malice, takes his long journey without food as a penitent to find his
injured wife, how far deeper is the pathos and the poetry of the
situation than the Italian apparatus of couriers with letter-bags,
chancellors, tournaments, and royal progresses undertaken with a vast
parade, can compass! The Northern fancy, stimulated by the simple beauty
of the situation, confines itself to the passionate experience of the
heart and soul. The Florentine playwright adheres to the material facts
of life, and takes a childish pleasure in passing the splendors of kings
and princes in review. By this method he vulgarizes the legend he
handles. Beneath his touch it ceases to be holy ground. The enchantment
of the myth has evanesced.

_Rosana_ is simply the story of _Floire et Blanchefleur_, which
Boccaccio had already worked into his _Filocopo_.[453] Austero, King of
Rome, goes with his wife on pilgrimage to Holy Land. He falls into the
hands of the King of Cesaria, and is slain with all his folk, except the
queen. She is taken captive to Cesaria, where she gives birth to Rosana
on the same day that Ulimeno is born to her master. When Ulimeno grows
up, he loves the daughter of his father's slave. His parents seek to
cure this passion by sending him to France, and at the same time sell
Rosana to some merchants, who convey her to the Sultan's harem. Ulimeno
returns to Cesaria in deep distress, and vows that he will never rest
till he has regained his love. After a proper number of adventures, he
finds Rosana in the seraglio, where notwithstanding the Sultan's
admiration of her beauty, she has preserved her virginity. They are
married, and Ulimeno is converted, with his realm, to Christianity. The
prettiest parts of this play are the scenes in the seraglio, where
Rosana refuses comfort from the Sultan's women, and the contrivances
devised by Ulimeno to get speech with her. Except that Rosana and her
parents are Christian and that the saints protect her, there is nothing
to justify the title of _Sacra Rappresentazione_. It is a love-romance,
like Shakspere's _Pericles_.

Another _novella_ of less poetic interest is dramatized in _Agnolo
Ebreo_.[454] Agnolo, the Jew, has a Christian wife, who persuades him
instead of putting out his money at usury to lend it to Christ by giving
it away in alms. Having thus cast his bread upon the waters, he
recovers it again after not many days by picking up money in the streets
and finding a jewel in a fish's belly. He is baptized, because he sees
clearly that the God of the Christians can make him rich. Only its
tedious solemnity prevents this play from being a farce.

Three _Rappresentazioni_ are written upon incidents of pilgrimage to the
shrine of S. James of Compostella--Il Santo Barone, as he is always
called. The first of these is entitled _Rappresentazione di un
Pellegrino_.[455] It tells the tale of a certain Guglielmo who vowed the
journey to Compostella on his sick bed. Upon the road he meets with a
fiend in the disguise of S. James, who persuades him to commit suicide.
No sooner is he dead, than the devil grasps his soul, as may be seen in
Lorenzetti's fresco of the Campo Santo, and makes away with it toward
hell. S. James stops him, and a voluble altercation takes place between
them, at the end of which the soul, who keeps crying _misericordia_ at
intervals, is rescued and restored to its body. Then Guglielmo completes
his vow, and returns joyfully to his wife. _I due Pellegrini_ is more
complex.[456] Arrigo Coletta leaves his wife and son at Rome;
Constantino Constante leaves his wife and three sons at Genoa; and both
set forth to Compostella. On the way they meet and make friends; but the
Genoese dies before they have got far upon their journey. His Roman
friend carries the dead body to Compostella, where S. James restores it
to life, and both return in safety to their homes. After sojourning some
time in Rome, Arrigo falls sick of leprosy, and has to go forth and
wander up and down the earth. Chance brings him to the house of the
Genoese who had received such benefits from him upon their pilgrimage.
They consult doctors and wise men together, who assure them that no cure
can be wrought unless the leper bathe from head to foot in the blood of
virgins. This determines Constantino to sacrifice all that he holds
dearest in the world. He kills his three sons, and prepares a bath of
their blood, which restores his old benefactor to health. But the Saint
of Compostella has still his eye upon his servants. A miracle brings the
three boys back to life. They are found with golden apples in their
hands, and the play ends with a general thanksgiving. The prosy
bluntness with which the incidents of this strange story are treated as
matter of fact, is scarcely less remarkable than the immorality which
substitutes mere thaumaturgy for the finer instincts of humanity. The
exaggerated generosity of Constantino might be paralleled from hundreds
of _novelle_. This one virtue seems to have had extraordinary
fascination for the Italians. _I tre Pellegrini_ is based upon a legend
of medieval celebrity, versified by Southey in his "Pilgrimage to
Compostella."[457] A father, a mother, and a son of great personal
beauty set forth together for the shrine of S. Iago. On the road they
put up at an inn, where Falconetta, the host's daughter, falls in love
with the boy and tempts him. Thwarted in her will, she vows to ruin him;
and for this purpose, puts a silver cup into his traveling bag. In the
morning the pilgrims are overtaken by the police, who find the cup and
hang the beautiful young man. The parents complete their vow, and on the
way back discover their son upon the gallows alive and well. Falconetta
is burned, and her parents are hanged--the old host remarking, not
without humor, that, though he was innocent of this crime, he had
murdered enough people in his day to have deserved his fate. The style
of this play merits more praise than can be bestowed on the
_Rappresentazioni_ in general. Falconetta is a real theatrical
character, and the bustle of the inn on the arrival of the guests is
executed with dramatic vigor.

In their _Sacre Rappresentazioni_ the Florentines advanced to the very
verge of the true drama. After adapting the Miracle-plays of medieval
orthodoxy to their stage, they versified the Legends of the Saints, and
went so far as to dramatize novels of a purely secular character. The
_Figliuol Prodigo_ and the farce appended to the _Pellegrino_ contain
the germs of vernacular comedy. S. Maddalena is a complete character. S.
Uliva is delicately sketched and well sustained. The situation at the
opening of the _Tre Pellegrini_ is worked out with real artistic skill.
Lastly, in the _Esaltazione della Croce_ a regular five-act tragedy was

From the oratories of the Compagnie and the parlors of the convents this
peculiar form of art was extended to the Courts and public theaters.
Poliziano composed a _Rappresentazione_ on the classical fable of
Orpheus, and Niccolò da Correggio another on the myth of Cephalus and
Procris.[458] Other attempts to secularize the religious drama
followed, until, in 1521, Francesco Mantovano put the contemporary
history of the French General Lautrec upon the boards.

Still the fact remains that the _Sacre Rappresentazioni_ did not lead to
the production of a national Italian theater. If we turn to the history
of our Elizabethan stage, we shall find that, after the age of the
Miracles and Moralities had passed, a new and independent work of art,
emanating from the creative genius of Marlowe and Shakspere, put England
in the possession of that great rarity, a Drama commensurate with the
whole life of the nation at one of its most brilliant epochs. To this
accomplishment of the dramatic art the Italians never attained. The
causes of their failure will form the subject of a separate inquiry when
we come to consider the new direction taken by the playwrights at the
Courts of Ferrara and Rome.

As an apology for the space here devoted to the analysis of plays
childish in their subject-matter, prosaic in their treatment, and
fruitless of results, it may be urged that in the _Sacre
Rappresentazioni_ better than elsewhere we can study the limitations of
the popular Italian genius at the moment when the junction was effected
between humanism and the spirit of the people.


[358] Muratori, _Rer. Ital. Script._ viii. 712.

[359] A curious letter describing the entrance of the _Battuti_ into
Rome in 1399 may be read in Romagnoli's publication _Le Compagnie de'
Battuti in Roma_, Bologna, 1862. It refers to a period later by a
century than the first outbreak of the enthusiasm.

[360] Some banners--_Gonfaloni_ or _Stendardi_--of the Perugian
fraternities, preserved in the Pinacoteca of that town, are
interesting for their illustration of these religious companies at a
later date. The Gonfalone of S. Bernardino by Bonfigli represents the
saint between heaven and earth pleading for his votaries. Their
Oratory (Cappella di Giustizia) is seen behind, and in front are the
men and women of the order. That of the _Societas Annuntiatæ_ with
date 1466, shows a like band of lay brethren and sisters. That of the
Giustizia by Perugino has a similar group, kneeling and looking up to
Madonna, who is adored by S. Francis and S. Bernardino in the heavens.
Behind is a landscape with a portion of Perugia near the Church of S.
Francis. The Stendardo of the Confraternità di S. Agostino by
Pinturicchio exhibits three white-clothed members of the body,
kneeling and gazing up to their patron. There is also a fine picture
in the Perugian Pinacoteca by Giov. Boccati of Camerino (signed and
dated 1447) representing Madonna enthroned in a kind of garden,
surrounded by child-like angels with beautiful blonde hair, singing
and reading from choir books in a double row of semi-circular
choir-stalls. Below, S. Francis and S. Dominic are leading each two
white _Disciplinati_ to the throne. These penitents carry their
scourges, and holes cut in the backs of their monastic cloaks show the
skin red with stripes. One on either side has his face uncovered: the
other wears the hood down, with eye-holes pierced in it. This picture
belonged to the Confraternity of S. Domenico.

[361] _Cantici di Jacopone da Todi_ (Roma, Salviano, 1558), p. 64. I
quote from this edition as the most authentic, and reproduce its

[362] This Life is prefixed to Salviano's Roman edition of Jacopone's
hymns, 1558.

[363] The biographer adds, "Ma fu si horribile e spiacevole a vedere
che conturbò tutta quella festa, lasciando ogniuno pieno di

[364] See above, p. 284. The seventeenth-century editor of Jacopone
and his followers, Tresatti, has justly styled this repulsive but
characteristic utterance, "invettiva terribile contro di se."

[365] _Op. cit._ p. 109.

[366] _Ibid._ p. 77.

[367] _Ibid._ p. 122. See Appendix.

[368] _Ibid._ p. 45.

[369] It is printed in Salviano's, and reproduced in Tresatti's
edition. I have followed the reading offered by D'Ancona, _Origini del
Teatro_, vol. i. p. 142. See Translation in Appendix.

[370] The word _Corrotto_, used by Mary, means lamentation for the
dead. It corresponds to the Greek _Threnos_, Corsican _Vocero_, Gaelic

[371] _Le Poesie spirituali del Beato Jacopone da Todi._ In Venetia,
appresso Niccolò Miserrimi, MDCXVII. The book is a thick 4to,
consisting of 1,055 pages, closely printed. It contains a voluminous
running commentary. The editor, Tresatti, a Minorite Friar, says he
had extracted 211 _Cantici_ of Jacopone from MSS. belonging to his
Order, whereas the Roman and Florentine editions, taken together,
contained 102 in all. He divides them into seven sections: (1)
Satires, (2) Moral Songs, (3) Odes, (4) Penitential Hymns, (5) The
Theory of Divine Love, (6) Spiritual Love Poems, (7) Spiritual
Secrets. This division corresponds to seven stages in the soul's
progress toward perfection. The arrangement is excellent, though the
sections in some places interpenetrate. For variety of subjects, the
collection is a kind of lyrical encyclopædia, touching all needs and
states of the devout soul. It might supply material for meditation
through a lifetime to a heart in harmony with its ascetic and
erotically enthusiastic tone.

[372] _Op. cit._ p. 149.

[373] _Ibid._ p. 244.

[374] _Ibid._ p. 253.

[375] _Op. cit._ p. 266. See Translation in Appendix.

[376] _Op. cit._ p. 306.

[377] _Ibid._ p. 343.

[378] _Op. cit._ pp. 416, 420.

[379] _Ibid._ p. 433.

[380] _Op. cit._ p. 703.

[381] _Ibid._ p. 741.

[382] _Ibid._ p. 715.

[383] _Opere di Girolamo Benivieni_ (Venegia, G. de Gregori, 1524), p.

[384] _Op. cit._ p. 143. I have only translated the opening stanzas of
this hymn.

[385] Published at Florence by Molini and Cecchi, 1863. Compare the
two collections printed by Prof. G. Ferraro from Ferrarese MSS.
_Poesie popolari religiose del secolo xiv._ Bologna, Romagnoli, 1877.

[386] _Laude, etc._ p. 105.

[387] _Op. cit._ p. 16. See _Canzone a Ballo_, etc. (Firenze, 1568),
p. 30, on this song.

[388] _Op. cit._ pp. 96, 227, 50.

[389] See _op. cit._ pp. 227, 234, and _passim_.

[390] Carducci, _Dello Svolgimento della Letteratura Nazionale_, p.

[391] See Muratori, _Rer. Ital. Script._ xxiv. 1205, and _ibid._ 1209,
Friulian Chronicle.

[392] See the frontispiece to _Laude di Feo Belcari e di altri_.

[393] D'Ancona, _Or. del T._ _op. cit._ vol. i. p. 109.

[394] The phases of this progress from _ottonari_ to _ottava rima_
have been carefully traced by D'Ancona (_op. cit._ vol. i. pp.
151-165). _Ottonari_ are lines of eight syllables with a loose
trochaic rhythm, in which great licenses of extra syllables are
allowed. The stanza rhymes _a b a b c c_. The _sesta rima_ of the
transition has the same rhyming structure. The _Corrotto_ by Jacopone
da Todi, analyzed above, shows a similar system of rhymes to that of
some Latin hymns: _a a a b c c c b_, the _b_ rhyme in _ato_ being
carried through the whole poem.

[395] See above, pp. 292-294, and Appendix.

[396] D'Ancona, _op. cit._ p. 108. At p. 282 he gives some curious
details relating to the Coliseum Passion in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries. In 1539 it was suppressed by Paul III., because
the Romans, infuriated by the drama of the Crucifixion, were wont to
adjourn from the Flavian amphitheater to the Ghetto, and begin a
murderous crusade against the Jews!

[397] In the directions for a "Devotione de Veneredì sancto," analyzed
by D'Ancona (_op. cit._ pp. 176-182), we read: "_predica, e como fa
signo_ che Cristo sia posto in croce, li Judei li chiavano una mano e
poi l'altra" ... "a quello loco quando Pilato comanda che Cristo sia
posto a la colona, _lo Predicatore tase_."

[398] Ducange explains _thalamum_ by _tabulatum_.

[399] See Appendix to vol. ii. of D'Ancona's _Origini del Teatro_.

[400] In the prologues of the later comedies of learning (_commedia
erudita_) allusions to the rude style of Fiesolan shows are pretty
frequent. The playwrights speak of them as our Elizabethan dramatists
spoke of Bartholomew Fair. The whole method of a Fiesolan _Sacra
Rappresentazione_ is well explained in the induction to the play of
_Abraam e Sara_ (Siena, 1581). A father and his son set out from
Florence, at the boy's request:

    Et vo che noi andiamo
      a Fiesolani poggi,
    Ch'io mi ricordo c'hoggi
      una festa non più vista
    Mai più el Vangelista
      vi fa e rappresenta.

On the road they wonder, will the booth be too full for them to find
places, will they get hot by walking fast up hill, will their clothes
be decent? They meet the Festajuolo at the booth-door, distracted

             manca una voce
    Et è ito un veloce
        a Firenze per lui.

_Voce_ was the technical name for the actor.

[401] See D'Ancona, _op. cit._ pp. 245-267. Compare the section on
"Geselligkeit und die Feste" in Burckhardt's _Cultur der Renaissance
in Italien_.

[402] Graziani, _Arch. Stor._ xvi. 344.

[403] Allegretti, Muratori, xxxiii. 767.

[404] Corio, quoted by me, _Age of the Despots_, p. 390.

[405] See D'Ancona, _op. cit._ p. 245, and compare the account of a
similar show in Galvano Flamma's _Chronicle of Milan._

[406] _Pii Secundi Commentarii_ (Romæ, 1584), viii. 365.

[407] Niccolò della Tuccia, _Cron. di Viterbo_ (Firenze, Vieusseux,
1872) p. 84.

[408] Look above in chapter i. pp. 50-53, for passages from Goro
Dati's Chronicle and other sources, touching on the summer festivals
of Florence.

[409] This passage from Palmieri's MS. will be found, together with
full information on the subject of S. John's Day, in Cambiagi,
_Memorie istoriche riguardanti le feste, etc._ (Firenze, Stamp.
Gran-ducale, 1766), p. 65.

[410] D'Ancona, _op. cit._ p. 205. This use of the term Miracle seems
to indicate that the Florentines applied to them the generic term for
Northern Sacred Plays.

[411] Lemonnier's edition, vol. v.

[412] _Sacre Rappresentazioni_, Florence, Lemonnier, 3 vols. 1872.

[413] It may be not uninteresting to compare this _terza rima_ with a
passage written fifty years later by Michelangelo Buonarroti on his
father's death, grander in style but less simply Christian:

    Tu se' del morir morto e fatto divo,
      Nè tem'or più cangiar vita nè voglia;
      Che quasì senza invidia non lo scrivo.
    Fortuna e 'l tempo dentro a vostra soglia
      Non tenta trapassar, per cui s'adduce
      Fra no' dubbia letizia e cierta doglia.
    Nube non è che scuri vostra luce,
      L'ore distinte a voi non fanno forza,
      Caso o necessità non vi conduce.
    Vostro splendor per notte non s'ammorza,
      Nè crescie ma' per giorno, benchè chiaro,
      Sie quand'el sol fra no' il caldo rinforza.

In the Appendix will be found translations.

[414] Cecchi's _Elevation of the Cross_ aims at the dignity of a
five-act tragedy; but it was not represented until 1589. _Santa Uliva_
illustrates the interludes; and a very interesting example is supplied
by the _Miracolo di S. Maria Maddalena_, where two boys prologize in
dialogue, comment at intervals upon the action, and conclude the
exhibition with a Laud.

[415] "L'Angelo annunzia la festa," is the common stage-direction at
the beginning; and at the end "L'Angelo dà licenza."

[416] "Constantino Imperatore," _Sacre Rappr._ ii. 187. "Un Giovine
con la citara annunzia."

[417] _Op. cit._ vol. i. pp. 357-359.

[418] _Sacre Rappr._ i. 391. Cp. the _Abraam_ quoted in a note above,
p. 313.

[419] Compare, for example, Vespasiano's _naïve_ astonishment at the
virginity of the Cardinal di Portogallo with the protestations of
chastity in the _Tre Pellegrini_ (_Sacre Rappr._ iii. 467).

[420] _Sacre Rappr._ iii. p. 235 and p. 1.

[421] _Sacre Rappr._ p. 121. _Shakespeare Soc. Publ._ vol. xvii.

[422] For the technical terms _Nuvola_ and _Paradiso_ see above, pp.
318, 319.

[423] It is probable that the painting of the period yields a fair
notion of the scenic effects attempted in these shows. Or, what is
perhaps a better analogue, we can illustrate the pages of the libretti
by remembering the terra-cotta groups of the Sacro Monte at Varallo.
Designed by excellent artists and painted in accordance with the
traditions of the Milanese school, it is not impossible that these
life-size representations of Christ's birth and Passion reproduce the
Sacred Drama with fidelity.

[424] _Sacre Rappr._ iii. 270.

[425] _Sacre Rappr._ i. 193. See Shakespeare Society's Publications,
i. 119.

[426] _Sacre Rappr._ i. 255.

[427] _Sacre Rappr._ i. 357.

[428] All the novelists might be cited to illustrate this point.

[429] At the end of the _Rappresentazione di un Pellegrino_ (_Sacre
Rappr._ iii. 430) a little farce is printed, bearing no relation to
the play. It is a dialogue between a good and bad apprentice, who
discuss the question of gambling. Here and in the _Figliuol Prodigo_
and the induction to the _Miracolo di S. Maddalena_ we have the
elements of comedy, which, however, unfortunately came to nothing.
These scenes remind us of Heywood's tavern pictures, Marston's
"Eastward Ho!" and other precious pieces of English Elizabethan farce.

[430] _Sacre Rappr._ i. 304.

[431] _Ibid._ p. 319.

[432] _Sacre Rappr._ i. 229.

[433] This play ends with a pretty moralization of the episode that
forms its motive, addressed by Mary to the people (_ib._ p. 240).

    Figliuo' diletti, che cercate in terra
    Trovar il figliuol mio, pietoso Iddio,
    Non vi fermate in questa rozza terra,
    Chè Jesù non istà nel mondo rio.
    Chi vel crede trovar, fortement' erra,
    E come stolto morra nel disio.
    Al tempio, chi lo vuol, venghi oggi drento,
    Chè 'l viver vostro è come foglia al vento.

[434] _Sacre Rappr._ i. 342.

[435] _Ibid._ iii. 439.

[436] For these incidents we may think of Signorelli's huge angels and
swarming devils at Orvieto. What follows suggests the Lorenzetti
fresco at Pisa, and the Orcagna of the Strozzi Chapel. Fra Angelico
and Fra Bartolommeo also supply pictorial parallels.

[437] Poetry forced Castellani to decide where Solomon should go;
Lorenzetti left it vague.

[438] _Sacre Rappr._ ii. 33.

[439] _Sacre Rappr._ iii. 140.

[440] _Ibid._ ii. 124.

[441] _Ibid._ ii. 235.

[442] _Ibid._ ii. 269.

[443] _Ibid._ ii. 323.

[444] _Ibid._ ii. 71.

[445] _La Mort d'Arthur_ (Wright's edition), vol. iii. p. 331.

[446] Polidori's edition, vol. i. p. 542.

[447] The greater maturity of the plastic than of the poetic arts in
the fifteenth century is apparent when we contrast the
_Rappresentazioni_ with Masaccio's, Ghirlandajo's, Mantegna's, or
Carpaccio's paintings. Art, as I have frequently had to observe,
emancipated the human faculties, and humanized the figments of the
middle age by investing them with corporeal shape and forms of
æsthetic beauty. The deliverance of the Italian genius was thus
effected in painting earlier than in poetry, and in those very spheres
of religious art where the poets were helpless to attain true freedom.
Italian poetry first became free when it turned round and regarded the
myths with an amused smile. I do not say that this was absolutely
necessary, that an heroic Christian poetry might not have been
produced in the fifteenth century by another race. But for the
Italians it was necessary.

[448] _Sacre Rappr._ ii. 447.

[449] _Sacre Rappr._ iii. 177.

[450] _Ibid._ ii. 163.

[451] _Sacre Rappr._ iii. 235. Also edited separately with an
introduction by D'Ancona.

[452] _Sacre Rappr._ iii. 319.

[453] _Sacre Rappr._ iii. 362.

[454] _Ibid._ iii. 485.

[455] _Sacre Rappr._ iii. 416.

[456] _Ibid._ iii. 439.

[457] _Sacre Rappr._ iii. 466.

[458] The date of the former is probably 1472, of the latter 1486.



     Period from 1470 to 1530--Methods of treating it--By
     Chronology--By Places--By Subjects--Renascence of Italian--At
     Florence, Ferrara, Naples--The New Italy--Forty Years of
     Peace--Lorenzo de' Medici--His Admiration for and Judgment of
     Italian Poetry--His Privileges as a Patron--His _Rime_--The
     Death of Simonetta--Lucrezia Donati--Lorenzo's Descriptive
     Power--The _Selve_--The _Ambra_--_La Nencia_--_I Beoni_--His
     Sacred Poems--Carnival and Dance Songs--Carri and
     Trionfi--Savonarola--The Mask of Penitence--Leo X. in
     Florence, 1513--Pageant of the Golden Age--Angelo
     Poliziano--His Place in Italian Literature--_Le
     Stanze_--Treatment of the Octave Stanza--Court
     Poetry--Mechanism and Adornment--The _Orfeo_--Orpheus, the
     Ideal of the Cinque Cento--Its Dramatic Qualities--Chorus of
     Mænads--Poliziano's Love Poems--_Rispetti_--Florentine
     Love--La Bella Simonetta--Study and Country Life.

In dealing with the mass of Italian literature between the dates 1470
and 1530, several methods suggest themselves, each of which offers
certain advantages, while none is wholly satisfactory. In the _first_
place we might adopt a chronological division, and arrange the chief
authors of whom we have to treat, by periods. Lorenzo de' Medici,
Poliziano, Luigi, Pulci, Boiardo, and Sannazzaro would be the leading
names in the first group. In the second we should place Ariosto,
Machiavelli, Guicciardini and the minor historians of Florence. Bembo
would lead a third class, including Castiglione, La Casa, and the
Petrarchistic poets of the Academies. A fourth would be headed by
Pietro Aretino, and would embrace the burlesque writers and minor
critical prosaists of the decadence. The advantage of this method is
that it corresponds to a certain regular progression in the evolution of
Italian genius during that brief space of brilliant activity. Yet the
chronological stages are not sufficiently well marked to justify its
exclusive adoption. The first group is separated from the rest by a real
interval, since the men who compose it died, with one exception, before
the close of the fifteenth century, about the year of Charles VIII.'s
entrance into Italy.[459] But the authors of the second, third, and
fourth groups lived almost contemporaneously, covering the whole period
of Italy's greatest literary glory and deepest national discomfiture,
and witnessing the final extinction of her liberty in the settlement
effected by the policy of Charles V.[460] Nor, again, can we trace in
the several phases of literature they represent, so clear a process of
expansion as may be detected in the successive stages of artistic or
humanistic development. When the work effected by the first group was
accomplished, both the language and the literature of Italy became in a
true sense national, and the cultivated classes of all districts,
trained in the common discipline of humanistic studies, set themselves
with one accord and simultaneously to the task of polishing the mother
tongue. This fact in the history of Italian literature suggests a
_second_ method of classification. We might take the three chief centers
of renascence at the close of the fifteenth century--Florence, Ferrara,
Naples--and show how the local characteristics of these cities affected
their great writers. Rome during the pontificate of Leo X.; Urbino under
the rule of Guidubaldo Montefeltre; Milan in the days of the last
Sforzas; Venice at the epoch of Aldo's settlement; might next be chosen
to illustrate the subsequent growth of Italian culture, when it ceased
to be Tuscan, Neapolitan, and Ferrarese. Yet though this local method of
arrangement offers many advantages, and has the grand merit of fixing
the attention upon one important feature of intellectual life in
Italy--its many-sidedness and diversity, due to the specific qualities
of cities vying with each other in a common exercise of energy--still it
would not do for the historian of Italian culture at one of its most
brilliant moments to accentuate minor differences, when it ought to be
his object to portray the genius of the people as a whole. In a word,
this classification has the same defect as the treatment of the arts by
Schools.[461] Moreover, it cannot fail to lead to repetition and
confusion; for though the work we have to analyze was carried on in
several provinces, yet each Court and each city produced material of the
same general character. Novels, for example, were written at Florence as
well as Milan. Rome saw the first representation of comedies no less
than Ferrara. The romantic epic was not confined to the Court of the
Estensi, nor dissertations on the gentle life to that of Urbino. We are
led by the foregoing considerations to yet a _third_ method of
arrangement. Would it not be scientific to divide the literature of the
Renaissance into its chief branches, and to treat of the romantic epic,
the _novella_, the stage, the idyll, lyric verse, essays in prose,
histories, and so forth, under separate chapters? Undoubtedly there is
much to say for such a treatment of the subject. Yet when we consider
that it necessitates our bringing the same authors under review in
several successive sections, confuses chronology, and effaces local
distinctions, it will be seen that to follow this system exclusively
would be unwise. It is too strictly analytical for our purpose. That
purpose is to draw a portrait of the Italian spirit as expressed in the
vernacular literature of about seventy years of exceptional splendor;
and perhaps it will be conceded by the student that instinct, conscious
of the end in view, conscious also of these several methods, but
unwilling to be hampered by any one of them too rigorously followed out,
will be a safer guide than formal accuracy.

I therefore propose in the remaining chapters of this book to adopt a
mixed method, partaking of the chronological in so far as I shall
attempt to show a certain process of evolution from the renascence led
by Lorenzo de' Medici to the decadence typified in Pietro Aretino,
insisting upon local peculiarities where it can be clearly proved that
these contributed an important element to the total result, and relying
on the classification by subjects for bringing scattered details under
general consideration. Five men of the highest eminence mark stages in
the history we have to review. These are Poliziano, Ariosto and
Machiavelli, Bembo and Pietro Aretino. Chronologically, they represent
four moments of development--the initial, the consummate, the
academical, and the decadent. But if we discard chronology and regard
their intellectual qualities alone, we might reduce them to three.
Merging Poliziano and Bembo in Ariosto, retaining Machiavelli and Pietro
Aretino, we obtain the three prominent phases of Renaissance culture in
Italy--firstly, serene, self-satisfied, triumphant art, glorying in the
beauty of form for form's sake, and aiming at perfection in style of
sunny and delightful loveliness; secondly, profound scientific analysis,
taking society for its object, dissecting human history and institutions
without prejudice or prepossession, unqualified by religious or ethical
principles, pushing its logical method to the utmost verge of audacity,
and startling the world with terror by the results of its materialistic
philosophy; thirdly, moral corruption unabashed and unrestrained,
destitute of shame because devoid of conscience, boldly asserting itself
and claiming the right to rule society with cynical effrontery. Round
Ariosto are grouped the romantic and idyllic poets, the novelists and
comic playwrights, all the tribe of joyous merry-makers, who translated
into prose and verse the beauty found in painting of the golden age.
With Machiavelli march the historians and political philosophers, the
school of Pomponazzi and the materialistic analysts, who led the way for
a new birth of science in the Baconian speculations of the Cosentine
academy. Aretino is the coryphæus of a multitude of scribes and
courtiers, literary gladiators, burlesque authors of obscene _Capitoli_,
men of evil character, who used the pen for poniard, and were the fit
successors of invective-writers.

If we turn from men to cities, and seek to define the parts played by
the several communities in this work of creating an Italian literature,
we shall find that Florence fixes the standard of language, and
dominates the nation by the fame of her three poets of the fourteenth
century. Florence, moreover, gives birth to Machiavelli, Guicciardini,
and the political theorists who form a group around them. Florentine wit
and humor lend a certain pungency to all the products of the golden age.
Naples adds the luxury of southern color, felt in Sannazzaro's waxen
paragraphs and Pontano's voluptuous hendecasyllables. Ferrara develops
the chivalrous elements of the romantic epic, shelters Ariosto, and
produces the pastoral drama, that eminently characteristic product of
the late Renaissance. Milan is the home of Bandello, who takes the first
rank among the novelists and leads a school of Lombard writers in that
style. Rome does little for the general culture of the nation, except
that in the age of Leo the Papal Court formed a center for studious men
of all classes and qualities. Her place in literature is therefore
analogous to that she occupies in art and scholarship.[462] Aretino
chooses the city of the lagoons for his retreat, not without a certain
propriety; for Venice had become the Paris of the sixteenth century, and
here the press was more active than elsewhere in Italy. His instinct led
the master of lampoon, the prince of pamphleteers, to the city which
combined the utmost license of printing with the most highly developed
immorality of manners. Thus, seen from many points of view and
approached with different objects of study, men, places, and matter
alike furnish their own pivots for treatment. Italy, unlike England and
France, has no political and intellectual metropolis, no London and no
Paris, where the historian may take his stand securely to survey the
manifold activities of the race as from a natural center. He must be
content to shift his ground and vary his analytic method, keeping
steadily in mind those factors which by their interaction and
combination determine the phenomena he has in view.

We are now at length upon the threshold of the true Renaissance. The
division between popular literature and humanistic culture is about to
end. Classic form, appropriated by the scholars, will be given to the
prose and poetry of the Italian language. The fusion, divined and
attempted, rather than accomplished by Alberti, will be achieved. Men as
great as Machiavelli and Ariosto henceforth need not preface their _cose
volgari_ with apologies. The new literature is no longer Tuscan, but
Italian--national in the widest and deepest sense of the word, when
Venetian Bembo, Neapolitan Sannazzaro, Ariosto from Reggio, Boiardo
Count of Scandiano, Castiglione the Mantuan and Tasso the Bergamasque
vie with Tuscan Pulci and Poliziano, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, in
the creation of the golden age.

The renascence of Italian took place almost simultaneously in three
centers: at Florence under the protection of the Medici, at Ferrara in
the castle of the Estensi, and at Naples in the Aragonese Court. Rome
from the pontificate of Innocent VIII. to that of Leo X. was almost dumb
and deaf to literature. Venice waited till the period of the press.
Milan produced nothing. It was but gradually that the wave of national
culture reached the minor states. The three cities to which Italy owed
the resurrection of her genius were ruled by princes, and the new
literature felt the influence of Courts from the commencement. Indeed,
the whole conditions of Italy had been altered since the death of
Boccaccio in 1375. The middle ages had been swept away. Of their modes
of thought, religious beliefs, political ideals, scholastic theories,
scarcely a vestige remained. Among the cities which had won or kept
their independence during the fourteenth century, only one remained free
from a master's yoke; and even Venice, though she showed no outward
signs of decadence, had reached the utmost verge of her development. The
citizens who had fought the battles of the Communes round their banners
and their sacred cars, were now quiet burghers, paying captains of
adventure to wage mimic warfare with political or commercial rivals in
neighboring States. A class of professional diplomatists corresponding
to these mercenary war-contractors had arisen, selected from the ranks
of the scholars for their rhetorical gifts and command of Latin style.
The humanists themselves constituted a new and powerful body, a nation
within the nation, separated from its higher social and political
interests, selfish, restless, greedy for celebrity, nomadic, disengaged
from local ties, conscious of their strength, and swaying with the vast
prestige of learning in that age the intellectual destinies of the
race. Insolent and ambitious in all that concerned their literary
pretensions, these men were servile in their private life. They gained
their daily bread by flatteries and menaces, hanging about the Courts of
petty despots, whose liberality they paid with adulation or quickened
with the threat of infamy in libels. At the same time the humanists,
steeped in the best and worst that could be extracted from the classics,
confounding the dross of Greek and Roman literature with its precious
metal in their indiscriminate worship of antiquity, and debarred through
want of criticism from assimilating the noblest spirit of the pagan
culture, had created a new mental atmosphere. The work they accomplished
for Italy, though mixed in quality, had two undeniable merits. Not only
had they restored the heritage of the past and broken down the barrier
between the ancient and the modern world, bringing back the human
consciousness from the torpor of the middle ages to a keen and vivid
sense of its own unity; but they so penetrated and imbued each portion
of the Italian nation with their enthusiasm, that, intellectually at
least, the nation was now one and ready for a simultaneous progress on
the path of culture.[463]

It so happened that at this very moment, when the unity of Italy in art
and scholarship had been achieved, external quiet succeeded to the
discords of three centuries. The ancient party-cries of Emperor and
Church, of Guelf and Ghibelline, of noble and burgher, of German and
Latin ingredients within the body politic had gradually ceased and been
forgotten. The Italic element, deriving its instincts from Roman
civilization, triumphed over the alien and the feudal; and though this
victory was attended with the decay of the Communes that had striven to
achieve it, yet the final outcome was a certain homogeneity of
conditions in all the great centers of national life. Italy became a
net-work of cultivated democracies, ruled by tyrants of different
degrees. The middle of the fifteenth century witnessed the commencement
of that halcyon period of forty years' tranquillity, destined to be
broken by the descent of Charles VIII., in 1494, upon which Machiavelli
and Guicciardini from amid the tempests of the next half century looked
back with eyes of wonder and of envy. Constantinople fell, and the
undoubted primacy of the civilized races came to the Italians. Lorenzo
de' Medici was regarded as the man who, by his political ability and
firm grasp of the requisite conditions for maintaining peace in the
peninsula, had established and secured the equilibrium between mutually
jealous and antagonistic States. Whether the merit of that repose, so
fruitful of results in art and literature for the Italians, was really
due to Lorenzo's sagacity, or whether the shifting forces of the nation
had become stationary for a season by the operation of circumstances,
may fairly be questioned. Yet there is no doubt that the unprecedented
prosperity of the people coincided with his administration of Florence,
and ended when he ceased to guide the commonwealth. It was at any rate a
singular good fortune that connected the name of this extraordinary man
with the high-tide of material prosperity in Italy and with the
resurrection of her national literature.

The figure of Lorenzo de' Medici has more than once already crossed the
stage of this history.[464] Whether dealing with the political
conditions, or the scholarship, or the fine arts of the Renaissance, it
is impossible to omit his name. There is therefore now no need to sketch
his character or to inquire into the incidents of his Florentine
administration. It will suffice to remind the readers of this book that
he finally succeeded in so clinching the power of the Casa Medici that
no subsequent revolutions were able to destroy it. The part he played as
a patron of artists and scholars, and as a writer of Italian, was
subordinate to his political activity in circumstances of peculiar
difficulty. While controlling the turbulent democracy of Florence and
gaining recognition for his tyranny from jealous princes, he still
contrived to lead his age in every branch of culture, deserving the
magnificent eulogium of Poliziano, who sang of him in the

    Tu vero æternam, per avi vestigia Cosmi
    Perque patris (quis enim pietate insignior illo?),
    Ad famam eluctans, cujus securus ad umbram
    Fulmina bellorum ridens procul aspicit Arnus,
    Mæoniæ caput, o Laurens, quem plena senatu
    Curia quemque gravi populus stupet ore loquentem
    Si fas est, tua nunc humili patere otia cantu
    Secessusque sacros avidas me ferre sub auras.
    Namque, importunas mulcentem pectine curas,
    Umbrosæ recolo te quondam vallis in antrum
    Monticolam traxisse deam: vidi ipse corollas
    Nexantem, numerosque tuos prona aure bibentem....
    Quodque alii studiumque vocant durumque laborem,
    Hìc tibi ludus erit: fessus civilibus actis,
    Huc is emeritas acuens ad carmina vires.
    Felix ingenio! felix cui pectore tantas
    Instaurare vices, cui fas tam magna capaci
    Alternare animo, et varias ita nectere curas!

Lorenzo de' Medici was the last apologist for the mother speech, as he
was the first and chief inaugurator of the age when such apologies were
no longer to be needed. He took a line somewhat different from Alberti's
in his defense of Italian, proving not merely its utility but boldly
declaring its equality with the classic languages. We possess a short
essay of his, written with this purpose, where he bestows due praise on
Dante, Boccaccio and Guido Cavalcanti, and affirms in the teeth of the
humanists that Petrarch wrote better love-poems than Ovid, Tibullus,
Catullus or Propertius.[466] Again, in his epistle to Federigo of
Aragon, sent with a MS. volume containing a collection of early Tuscan
poetry, he passes acute and sympathetic judgments on the lyrists from
Guittone of Arezzo to Cino da Pistoja, proving that he had studied their
works to good purpose and had formed a correct opinion of the origins of
Italian literature.[467] Lorenzo does not write like a man ashamed of
the vernacular or forced to use it because he can command no better. He
is sure of the justice of his cause, and determined by precept and
example and by the prestige of his princely rank to bring the literature
he loves into repute again.

No one could have been better fitted for the task. Unlike Alberti,
Lorenzo was a Florentine of the Florentines, Tuscan to the backbone,
imbued with the spirit of his city, a passionate lover of her customs
and pastimes, a complete master of her vernacular. His education, though
it fitted him for Platonic discussions with Ficino and rendered him an
amateur of humanistic culture, had failed to make a pedant of him. Much
as he appreciated the classics, he preferred his Tuscan poets; and what
he learned at school, he brought to bear upon the study of the native
literature. Consequently his style is always idiomatic; whether he seeks
the elevation of grave diction or reproduces the talk of the streets, he
uses language like a man who has habitually spoken the words which he
commits to paper. His brain was vigorous, and his critical faculty
acute. He lived, moreover, in close sympathy with his age, never rising
above it, but accurately representing its main tendencies. At the same
time he was sufficiently a poet to delight a generation that had seen no
great writer of verse since Boccaccio. Though his work is in no sense
absolutely first rate, he wrote nothing that a man of ability might not
have been pleased to own.

Lorenzo's first essays in poetry were sonnets and _canzoni_ in the style
of the _trecento_. It is a mistake to classify him, as some historians
of literature have done, with the deliberate imitators of Petrarch, or
to judge his work by its deflection from the Petrarchistic standard of
pure style. His youthful lyrics show the appreciative study of Dante and
Guido Cavalcanti no less than of the poet of Vaucluse; and though they
affect the conventional melancholy of the Petrarchistic mannerism, they
owe their force to the strong objective spirit of the fifteenth century.
Lorenzo's originality consists in the fusion he effected between the
form of the love-lyric handed down from Petrarch and the realistic
genius of the age of Ghirlandajo. This is especially noticeable in the
sonnets that describe the beauties of the country. They are not
penetrated with emotion permeating and blurring the impressions made by
natural objects on the poet's mind. His landscapes are not hazy with the
atmosphere, now luminous, now somber, of a lover's varying mood. On the
contrary, every object is defined and classified; and the lady sits like
a beautiful figure in a garden, painted with no less loving care in all
its details than herself.[468] These pictures, very delicate in their
minute and truthful touches, affect our fancy like a panel of Benozzo
Gozzoli, who omits no circumstance of the scene he undertakes to
reproduce, crowds it with incidents and bestows the same attention upon
the principal subjects and the accessories. The central emotion of
Lorenzo's verse is scarcely love, but delight in the country--the
Florentine's enjoyment of the villa, with its woods and rivulets, the
pines upon the hillsides, the song-birds, and the pleasures of the

The following sonnet might be chosen as a fair specimen of the new
manner introduced into literature by Lorenzo. Its classical coloring,
deeply felt and yet somewhat frigid, has the true stamp of the

    Leave thy belovèd isle, thou Cyprian queen;
      Leave thine enchanted realm so delicate,
      Goddess of love! Come where the rivulet
      Bathes the short turf and blades of tenderest green!
    Come to these shades, these airs that stir the screen
      Of whispering branches and their murmurs set
      To Philomel's enamored canzonet:
      Choose this for thine own land, thy loved demesne!
    And if thou com'st by these clear rills to reign,
      Bring thy dear son, thy darling son, with thee;
      For there be none that own his empire here.
    From Dian steal the vestals of her train,
      Who roam the woods at will, from danger free,
      And know not Love, nor his dread anger fear.

That Lorenzo was incapable of loving as Dante or Petrarch or even
Boccaccio loved, is obvious in every verse he wrote. The spirit in him
neither triumphs over the flesh nor struggles with it, nor yet submits a
willing and intoxicated victim. It remains apart and cold, playing with
fancies, curiously surveying the carnival of lusts that hold their revel
in the breast whereof it is the lord. Under these conditions he could
take the wife his mother found for him at Rome, and record the fact in
his diary[470]; he could while away his leisure with venal beauties or
country girls at his villas; but of love in the poet's sense he had no
knowledge. It is true that, nurtured as he was in the traditions of
fourteenth-century verse, he thought it necessary to establish a titular
mistress of his heart. The account he gives of this proceeding in a
commentary on his own sonnets, composed after the model of the _Vita
Nuova_, is one of his best pieces of writing. He describes the day when
the beautiful Simonetta Cattaneo, his brother Giuliano's lady, was
carried to her grave with face uncovered, lying beneath the sunlight on
her open bier. All Florence was touched to tears by the sight, and the
poets poured forth elegies. The month was April, and the young earth
seemed to have put on her robe of flowers only to make the pathos of
that death more poignant. Then, says Lorenzo: "Night came; and I with a
friend most dear to me went communing about the loss we all had
suffered. While we spoke, the air being exceedingly serene, we turned
our eyes to a star of surpassing brightness, which toward the west shone
forth with such luster as not only to conquer all the other stars, but
even to cast a shadow from the objects that intercepted its light. We
marveled at it a while; and then, turning to my friend, I said: 'There
is no need for wonder, since the soul of that most gentle lady has
either been transformed into yon new star or has joined herself to it.
And if this be so, that splendor of the star is nowise to be wondered
at; and even as her beauty in life was of great solace to our eyes, so
now let us comfort ourselves at the present moment with the sight of so
much brilliance. And if our eyes be weak and frail to bear such
brightness, pray we to the god, that is to her deity, to give them
virtue, in order that without injury unto our sight we may awhile
contemplate it.' ... Then, forasmuch as it appeared to me that this
colloquy furnished good material for a sonnet, I left my friend and
composed the following verses, in which I speak about the star

    "O lucid star, that with transcendent light
      Quenchest of all those neighboring stars the gleam,
      Why thus beyond thine usage dost thou stream,
      Why art thou fain with Phoebus still to fight?
    Haply those beauteous eyes, which from our sight
      Death stole, who now doth vaunt himself supreme,
      Thou hast assumed: clad with their glorious beam,
      Well mayst thou claim the sun-god's chariot bright.
    Listen, new star, new regent of the day,
      Who with unwonted radiance gilds our heaven,
      O listen, goddess, to the prayers we pray!
    Let so much splendor from thy sphere be riven
      That to these eyes, which fain would weep alway,
      Unblinded, thy glad sight may yet be given!"

From that moment Lorenzo began to write poems. He wandered alone and
meditated on the sunflower, playing delightfully unto himself with
thoughts of Love and Death. Yet his heart was empty; and like Augustine
or Alastor, he could say: "nondum amabam, sed amare amabam, quærebam
quod amarem amans amare." When a young man is in this mood it is not
long before he finds an object for his adoration. Lorenzo went one day
in the same spring with friends to a house of feasting, where he met
with a lady lovelier in his eyes even than La Simonetta. After the
fashion of his age, he describes her physical and mental perfections
with a minuteness which need not be enforced upon a modern reader.[471]
Suffice it to say that Lucrezia Donati--such was the lady's
name--supplied Lorenzo with exactly what he had been seeking, an object
for his literary exercises. The _Sonetti_, _Canzoni_, and _Selve
d'Amore_ were the fruits of this first passion.

Though Lorenzo was neither a poet nor a lover after the stamp of Dante,
these juvenile verses and the prose with which he prefaced them, show
him in a light that cannot fail to interest those who only know the
statesman and the literary cynic of his later years. There is sincere
fervor of romantic feeling in the picture of the evening after
Simonetta's funeral, even though the analytical temper of the poet's
mind is revealed in his exact description of the shadow cast by the
planet he was watching. The first meeting with Lucrezia, again, is
prettily described in these stanzas of the _Selve_:

    What time the chain was forged which then I bore,
    Air, earth, and heavens were linked in one delight;
    The air was never so serene before,
    The sun ne'er shed such pure and tranquil light;
    Young leaves and flowers upon the grassy floor
    Gladdened the earth where ran a streamlet bright,
    While Venus in her father's bosom lay
    And smiled from heaven upon the spot that day.

    She from her brows divine and amorous breast
    Took with both hands roses of many a hue,
    And showered them through the heavens that slept in rest,
    Covering my lady with their gracious dew;
    Jove, full of gladness, on that day released
    The ears of men, that they might hear the true
    Echoes of melody and dance divine,
    Which fell from heaven in songs and sounds benign.

    Fair women to that music moved their feet,
    Inflamed with gentle fire by Love's breath fanned:
    Behold yon lover with his lady sweet--
    Her hand long yearned for clasped in his loved hand;
    Their sighs, their looks, which pangs of longing cheat;
    Brief words that none but they can understand;
    The flowers that she lets fall, resumed and pressed,
    With kisses covered, to his head or breast.

    Amid so many pleasant things and fair,
    My loveliest lady with surpassing grace
    Eclipsed and crowned all beauties that were there;
    Her robe was white and delicate as lace;
    And still her eyes, with silent speech and rare,
    Talked to the heart, leaving the lips at peace:
    Come to me, come, dear heart of mine, she said:
    Here shall thy long desires at rest be laid.

The impression of these verses is hardly marred by the prosy catalogue
of Lucrezia's beauties furnished in the _Innamoramento_. Lorenzo was an
analyst. He could not escape from that quality so useful to the
observer, so fatal to artists, if they cannot recompose the data
furnished by observation in a new subjective synthesis. When we compare
his description of the Age of Gold in the _Selve_,[472] justly
celebrated for its brilliancy and wealth of detail, with the shorter
passage from Poliziano's _Stanze_, we measure the distance between
intelligent study of nature and the imagination which unifies and gives
new form of life to every detail. The same end may be more briefly
attained by a comparison of this passage about roses from Lorenzo's
_Corinto_ with a musical _Ballata_ of Poliziano[473]:

    Into a little close of mine I went
      One morning, when the sun with his fresh light
      Was rising all refulgent and unshent.
    Rose-trees are planted there in order bright,
      Whereto I turned charmed eyes, and long did stay
      Taking my fill of that new-found delight.
    Red and white roses bloomed upon the spray;
      One opened, leaf by leaf, to greet the morn,
      Shyly at first, then in sweet disarray;
    Another, yet a youngling, newly born,
      Scarce struggled from the bud, and there were some
      Whose petals closed them from the air forlorn;
    Another fell, and showered the grass with bloom;
      Thus I beheld the roses dawn and die,
      And one short hour their loveliness consume.
    But while I watched those languid petals lie
      Colorless on cold earth, I could but think
      How vain a thing is youthful bravery.
    Trees have their time to bloom on winter's brink;
      Then the rathe blossoms wither in an hour,
      When the brief days of spring toward summer sink;
    The fruit, as yet unformed, is tart and sour;
      Little by little it grows large, and weighs
      The strong boughs down with slow persistent power;
    Nor without peril can the branches raise
      Their burden; now they stagger 'neath the weight
      Still growing, and are bent above the ways;
    Soon autumn comes, and the ripe ruddy freight
      Is gathered: the glad season will not stay;
      Flowers, fruits, and leaves are now all desolate.
    Pluck the rose, therefore, maiden, while 'tis May!

That is good. It is the best kind of poetry within Lorenzo's grasp. But
here is Poliziano's dance-song:

    I went a-roaming, maidens, one bright day,
    In a green garden in mid month of May.

    Violets and lilies grew on every side
      Mid the green grass, and young flowers wonderful,
    Golden and white and red and azure-eyed;
      Toward which I stretched my hands, eager to pull
      Plenty to make my fair curls beautiful,
    To crown my rippling curls with garlands gay.

    I went a-roaming, maidens, one bright day,
    In a green garden in mid month of May.

    But when my lap was full of flowers I spied
      Roses at last, roses of every hue;
    Therefore I ran to pluck their ruddy pride,
      Because their perfume was so sweet and true
      That all my soul went forth with pleasure new,
    With yearning and desire too soft to say.

    I went a-roaming, maidens, one bright day,
    In a green garden in mid month of May.

    I gazed and gazed. Hard task it were to tell
      How lovely were the roses in that hour;
    One was but peeping from her verdant shell,
      And some were faded, some were scarce in flower.
      Then Love said: Go, pluck from the blooming bower
    Those that thou seest ripe upon the spray.

    I went a-roaming, maidens, one bright day,
    In a green garden in mid month of May.

    For when the full rose quits her tender sheath,
      When she is sweetest and most fair to see,
    Then is the time to place her in thy wreath,
      Before her beauty and her freshness flee.
      Gather ye therefore roses with great glee,
    Sweet girls, or ere their perfume pass away.

    I went a-roaming, maidens, one bright day,
    In a green garden in mid month of May.

Both in this _Ballata_ and also in the stanzas on the Age of Gold, it
might almost seem as though Poliziano had rewritten Lorenzo's exercise
with a view to showing the world the difference between true poetry and
what is only very like it.

The _Selve d'Amore_ and the _Corinto_ belong to Lorenzo's early manner,
when his heart was yet fresh and statecraft had not made him cynical.
The latter is a musical eclogue in _terza rima_; the former a discursive
love-poem, with allegorical episodes, in octave stanzas. Up to the date
of the _Selve_ the _ottava rima_ had, so far as I know, been only used
for semi-epical poems and short love-songs. Lorenzo proved his
originality by suiting it to a style of composition which aimed at
brilliant descriptions in the manner of Ovid. He also handled it with an
ease and brightness hitherto unknown. The pageant of Love and Jealousy
and the allegory of Hope in the second part are both such poetry as only
needed something magical from the touch of Ariosto to make them
perfect.[474] As it is, Lorenzo's studies in verse produce the same
impression as Bronzino's in painting. They are brilliant, but hard,
cold, calculated, never fused by the final charm of poetry or music into
a delightful vision. What is lacking is less technical skill or
invention than feeling in the artist, the glow of passion, or the charm
of spiritual harmony. Here is a picture of Hope's attendant train:

    Following this luckless dame, where'er she goes,
    Flit dreams in crowds, with auguries and lies,
    Chiromants, arts that cozen and impose,
    Chances, diviners, and false prophecies,
    Spoken or writ in foolish scroll and glose,
    Whose forecast brings time flown before our eyes,
    Alchemy, all who heaven from our earth measure,
    And free conjectures made at will and pleasure.

    'Neath the dark shadow of her mighty wings
    The whole deluded world at last must cower:--
    O blindness that involves all mortal things,
    Frail ignorance that treads on human power!--
    He who can count the woes her empire brings,
    Could number every star, each fish, each flower,
    Tell all the birds that cross the autumnal seas,
    Of leaves that flutter from the naked trees.

His _Ambra_ is another poem in the same style as the _Selve_. It records
Lorenzo's love for that Tuscan farm which Poliziano afterwards made
famous in the sonorous hexameters he dedicated to the memory of
Homer.[475] Following the steps of Ovid, Lorenzo feigns that a shepherd
Lauro loved the nymph Ambra, whom Umbrone, the river-god, pursued
through vale and meadow to the shores of Arno. There he would have done
her violence, but that Diana changed her to a rock in her sore need:

    Ma pur che fussi già donna ancor credi;
    Le membra mostran, come suol figura
    Bozzata e non finita in pietra dura.

This simile is characteristic both of Lorenzo's love for familiar
illustration, and also of the age that dawned on Michelangelo's genius.
In the same meter, but in a less ambitious style, is _La Caccia col
Falcone_. This poem is the simple record of a Tuscan hawking-party,
written to amuse Lorenzo's guests, but never meant assuredly to be
discussed by critics after the lapse of four centuries. These pastorals,
whether trifling like _La Caccia_, romantic like _Corinto_, or pictorial
like _Ambra_, sink into insignificance beside _La Nencia da
Barberino_--a masterpiece of true genius and humor, displaying intimate
knowledge of rustic manners, and using the dialect of the Tuscan
_contadini_.[476] Like the _Polyphemus_ of Theocritus, but with even
more of racy detail and homely fun, _La Nencia_ versifies the
love-lament of a hind, Vallera, who describes the charms of his
sweetheart with quaint fancy, wooing her in a thousand ways, all
natural, all equally in keeping with rural simplicity. It can scarcely
be called a parody of village life and feeling, although we cannot fail
to see that the town is laughing at the country all through the
exuberant stanzas, so rich in fancy, so incomparably vivid in
description. What lifts it above parody is the truth of the picture and
the close imitation of rustic popular poetry[477]:

    Le labbre rosse paion di corallo:
    Ed havvi drento due filar di denti
    Che son più bianchi che quei di cavallo:
    E d'ogni lato ella n'ha più di venti.
    Le gote bianche paion di cristallo
    Senz'altri lisci ovver scorticamenti:
    Ed in quel mezzo ell'è come una rosa.
    Nel mondo non fu mai sì bella cosa.
      Ben sì potrà tenere avventurato
    Che sia marito di sì bella moglie;
    Ben sì potrà tener in buon dì nato
    Chi arà quel fioraliso senza foglie;
    Ben sì potrà tener santo e beato,
    Che sì contenti tutte le sue voglie
    D'aver la Nencia e tenersela in braccio
    Morbida e bianca che pare un sugnaccio.

These lines, chosen at random from the poem, might be paralleled from
_Rispetti_ that are sung to-day in Tuscany. The vividness and vigor of
_La Nencia_ secured for it immediate popularity. It was speedily
imitated by Luigi Pulci in the _Beca da Dicomano_, a village poem that,
aiming at cruder realism than Lorenzo's, broke the style and lapsed into
vulgarity. _La Nencia_ long continued to have imitators; for one of the
principal objects of educated poets in the Renaissance was to echo the
manner of popular verse. None, however, succeeded so well as Lorenzo in
touching the facts of country life and the truth of country feeling with
a fine irony that had in it at least as much of sympathy as of sarcasm.

_I Beoni_ is a plebeian poem of a different and more displeasing type.
Written in _terza rima_, it distinctly parodies the style of the Divine
Comedy, using the same phrases to indicate action and to mark the turns
of dialogue; introducing similes in the manner of Dante, burlesquing
Virgil and Beatrice in the disgusting Bartolino and Nastagio.[478] The
poem might be called The Paradise of Drunkards, or their Hell; for it
consists of a succession of scenes in which intoxication in all stages
and topers of every caliber are introduced. The tone is coldly
satirical, sardonically comic. The old man of Tennyson's "Vision of Sin"
might have written _I Beoni_ after a merry bout with the wrinkled
ostler. When Lorenzo composed it, he was already corrupt and weary,
sated with the world, worn with disease, disillusioned by a life of
compromise, hypocrisy, diplomacy, and treason to the State he ruled. Yet
the humor of this poem has nothing truly sinister or tragic. Its
brutality is redeemed by no fierce Swiftian rage. If some of the
descriptions in Lorenzo's earlier work remind us of Dutch flower and
landscape-painters, Breughel or Van Huysum, the scenes of _I Beoni_
recall the realism of Dutch tavern-pictures and Kermessen. It has the
same humor, gross and yet keen, the same intellectual enjoyment of
sensuality, the same animalism studied by an acute æsthetic spirit.[479]

To turn from _I Beoni_ to Lorenzo's Lauds, written at his mother's
request, and to the sacred play of _S. Giovanni e Paolo_, acted by his
children, is to make one of those bewildering transitions which are so
common in Renaissance Italy. Without rating Lorenzo's sacred poetry very
high, either for religious fervor or æsthetic quality, it is yet
surprising that the author of the _Beoni_ and the Platonic sage of
Careggi should have caught so much of the pietistic tone. We know that
_S. Giovanni e Paolo_ was written when he was advanced in years[480];
and the latent allusions to his illness and the cares of state which
weighed upon him, give it an interest it would not otherwise excite.
This couplet,

    Spesso chi chiama Costantin felice
    Sta meglio assai di me e 'l ver non dice,

seems to be a sigh from his own weariness. Lorenzo may not improbably
have envied Constantine, the puppet of his fancy, at the moment of
abdication. And yet when Savonarola called upon him ere his death to
deal justly with Florence, the true nature of the man was seen. Had he
liked it or not, he could not then have laid down the load of care and
crime which it had been the business of his whole life to accumulate by
crooked ways in the enslavement of Florence and the perdition of his
soul's peace. The Lauds, which may be referred to an earlier period of
Lorenzo's life, when his mother ruled his education, and the pious
Bishop of Arezzo watched his exemplary behavior in church with
admiration, have here and there in them a touch of profound
feeling[481]; nor are they in all respects inferior to the average of
those included in the Florentine collection of 1863. The men of the
Renaissance were so constituted that to turn from vice, and cruelty, and
crime, from the deliberate corruption and enslavement of a people by
licentious pleasures and the persecution of an enemy in secret, with a
fervid and impassioned movement of the soul to God, was nowise
impossible. Their temper admitted of this anomaly, as we may plainly see
in Cellini's Autobiography. Therefore, though it is probable that
Lorenzo cultivated the Laud chiefly as a form of art, we are not
justified in assuming that the passages in which we seem to detect a
note of ardent piety, are insincere.

The versatility of Lorenzo's talent showed itself to greater advantage
when he quitted the uncongenial ground of sacred literature and gave a
free rein to his fancy in the composition of _Ballate_ and Carnival
songs. This species of poetry offered full scope to a temperament
excessive in all pleasures of the senses.[482] It also enabled him to
indulge a deeply-rooted sympathy with the common folk. Nor must it be
supposed that Lorenzo was following a merely artistic impulse. This
strange man, in whose complex nature opponent qualities were harmonized
and intertwined, made his very sensuality subserve his statecraft. The
Medici had based their power upon the favor of the proletariate. Since
the days of the Ciompi riot they had pursued one line of
self-aggrandizement by siding with the plebeians in their quarrels with
the oligarchs. The serious purpose which underlay Lorenzo's cultivation
of popular poetry, was to amuse the crowd with pageantry and music, to
distract their attention from State concerns and to blunt their
political interest, to flatter them by descending to their level and
mixing freely with them in their sports, and to acquire a popularity
which should secure him from the aristocratic jealousies of the
Acciaioli, the Frescobaldi, the Salviati, Soderini, and other ancestral
foemen of his house. The frontispiece to an old edition of Florentine
carnival songs shows him surrounded with maskers in quaint dresses,
leading the revel beneath the walls of the Palazzo, while women gaze
upon them from the windows.[483] That we are justified in attributing a
policy of calculated enervation to Lorenzo is proved by the verdict of
Machiavelli and Guicciardini, both of whom connect his successful
despotism with the pageants he provided for the populace,[484] and also
by this passage in Savonarola's treatise on the Government of Florence:
"The tyrant, especially in times of peace and plenty, is wont to occupy
the people with shows and festivals, in order that they may think of
their own pastimes and not of his designs, and, growing unused to the
conduct of the commonwealth, may leave the reins of government in his
hands."[485] At the same time he would err who should suppose that
Lorenzo's enjoyment of these pleasures, which he found in vogue among
the people, was not genuine. He represented the worst as well as the
best spirit of his age; and if he knew how to enslave Florence, it was
because his own temperament shared the instincts of the crowd, while his
genius enabled him to clothe obscenity with beauty.

We know that it was an ancient Florentine custom for young men and girls
to meet upon the squares and dance, while a boy sang with treble voice
to lute or viol, or a company of minstrels chanted part-songs. The
dancers joined in the refrain, vaunting the pleasures of the May and the
delights of love in rhythms suited to the _Carola_. Taking this form of
poetry from the people, Lorenzo gave it the dignity of art. Sometimes he
told the tale of an unhappy lover, or pretended to be pleading with a
coy mistress, or broke forth into the exultation of a passion crowned
with success. Again, he urged both boys and girls to stay the flight of
time nor suffer the rose-buds of their youth to fade unplucked. In more
wanton moods, he satirized the very love he praised, or, casting off the
mask of decency, ran riot in base bestiality. These _Canzoni a Ballo_,
though they lack the supreme beauty of Poliziano's style, are
stylistically graceful. Their tone never rises above sensuality. Not
only has the gravity of Dante's passion passed away from Florence, but
Boccaccio's sensuous ideality is gone, and the _naïveté_ of popular
erotic poetry is clouded with gross innuendoes. We find in them the
æesthetic immorality, the brilliant materialism of the Renaissance,
conveyed with careless self-abandonment to carnal impulse.

The name of Lorenzo de' Medici is still more closely connected with the
_Canti Carnascialeschi_ or Carnival Songs, of which he is said to have
been the first author, than with the _Ballate_, which he only used as
they were handed to him. In Carnival time it was the custom of the
Florentines to walk the streets, masked and singing satiric ballads.
Lorenzo saw that here was an opportunity for delighting the people with
the magnificence of pageantry. He caused the Triumphs in which he took a
part to be carefully prepared by the best artists, the dresses of the
maskers to be accurately studied, and their chariots to be adorned with
illustrative paintings. Then he wrote songs appropriate to the
characters represented on the cars. Singing and dancing and displaying
their costumes, the band paraded Florence. Il Lasca in his introduction
to the Triumphs and Carnival Songs dedicated to Don Francesco de' Medici
gives the history of their invention[486]: "This festival was invented
by the Magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici. Before his time, when the cars
bore mythological or allegorical masks, they were called _Trionfi_; but
when they carried representatives of arts and trades, they kept the
simpler name of _Carri_." The lyrics written for the Triumphs were
stately, in the style of antique odes; those intended to be sung upon
the _Carri_, employed plebeian turns of phrase and dealt in almost
undisguised obscenity. It was their wont, says Il Lasca, "to go forth
after dinner, and often they lasted till three or four hours into the
night, with a multitude of masked men on horseback following, richly
dressed, exceeding sometimes three hundred in number and as many men on
foot with lighted torches. Thus they traversed the city, singing to the
accompaniment of music arranged for four, eight, twelve, or even fifteen
voices, supported by various instruments."

Lorenzo's fancy took the Florentine mind. From his days onward these
shows were repeated every year, the best artists and poets contributing
their genius to make them splendid. In the collection of songs written
for the Carnival, we find Masks of Scholars, Artisans, Frog-catchers,
Furies, Tinkers, Women selling grapes, Old men and Young wives,
Jewelers, German Lansknechts, Gypsies, Wool-carders, Penitents, Devils,
Jews, Hypocrites, Young men who have lost their fathers, Wiseacres,
Damned Souls, Tortoiseshell Cats, Perfumers, Masons, Mountebanks,
Mirror-makers, Confectioners, Prudent persons, Lawyers, Nymphs in love,
Nuns escaped from convent--not to mention the Four Ages of Man, the
Winds, the Elements, Peace, Calumny, Death, Madness, and a hundred
abstractions of that kind. The tone of these songs is uniformly and
deliberately immoral. One might fancy them composed for some old phallic
festival. Their wit is keen and lively, presenting to the fancy of the
student all the humors of a brilliant bygone age. A strange and splendid
spectacle it must have been, when Florence, the city of art and
philosophy, ran wild in Dionysiac revels proclaiming the luxury and
license of the senses! Beautiful maidens, young men in rich clothes on
prancing steeds, showers of lilies and violets, triumphal arches of
spring flowers and ribbons, hail-storms of comfits, torches flaring to
the sallow evening sky--we can see the whole procession as it winds
across the Ponte Vecchio, emerges into the great square, and slowly
gains the open space beneath the dome of Brunelleschi and the tower of
Giotto. The air rings with music as they come, bass and tenor and shrill
treble mingling with the sound of lute and cymbal. The people hush their
cheers to listen. It is Lorenzo's Triumph of Bacchus, and here are the
words they sing:

    Fair is youth and void of sorrow;
      But it hourly flies away.--
      Youths and maids, enjoy to-day;
    Naught ye know about to-morrow.

    This is Bacchus and the bright
      Ariadne, lovers true!
    They, in flying time's despite,
      Each with each find pleasure new;
    These their Nymphs, and all their crew
      Keep perpetual holiday.--
      Youths and maids, enjoy to-day;
    Naught ye know about to-morrow.

    These blithe Satyrs, wanton-eyed,
      Of the Nymphs are paramours:
    Through the caves and forests wide
      They have snared them mid the flowers.
    Warmed with Bacchus, in his bowers,
      Now they dance and leap away.--
      Youths and maids enjoy to-day;
    Naught ye know about to-morrow.

    These fair Nymphs, they are not loth
      To entice their lovers' wiles.
    None but thankless folk and rough
      Can resist when Love beguiles.
    Now enlaced with wreathed smiles,
      All together dance and play.--
      Youths and maids, enjoy to-day;
    Naught ye know about to-morrow.

    See this load behind them plodding
      On the ass, Silenus he,
    Old and drunken, merry, nodding,
      Full of years and jollity;
    Though he goes so swayingly,
      Yet he laughs and quaffs alway.--
      Youths and maids, enjoy to-day;
    Naught ye know about to-morrow.

    Midas treads a wearier measure:
      All he touches turns to gold:
    If there be no taste of pleasure,
      What's the use of wealth untold?
    What's the joy his fingers hold,
      When he's forced to thirst for aye?--
      Youths and maids, enjoy to-day;
    Naught ye know about to-morrow.

    Listen well to what we're saying;
      Of to-morrow have no care!
    Young and old together playing,
      Boys and girls, be blithe as air!
    Every sorry thought forswear!
      Keep perpetual holiday.--
      Youths and maids, enjoy to-day;
    Naught ye know about to-morrow.

    Ladies and gay lovers young!
      Long live Bacchus, live Desire!
    Dance and play, let songs be sung;
      Let sweet Love your bosoms fire;
      In the future come what may!--
      Youths and maids, enjoy to-day;
    Naught ye know about to-morrow.

On rolls the car, and the crowd closes round it, rending the old walls
with shattering hurrahs. Then a corner of the street is turned; while
soaring still above the hubbub of the town we hear at intervals that
musical refrain. Gradually it dies away in the distance, and fainter and
more faintly still the treble floats to us in broken waves of sound--the
echo of a lyric heard in dreams.

Such were the songs that reached Savonarola's ears, writing or
meditating in his cloister at S. Marco. Such were the sights that moved
his indignation as he trod the streets of Florence. Then he bethought
him of his famous parody of the Carnival, the bonfire of Vanities and
the hymn in praise of divine madness sung by children dressed in white
like angels.[487] Yet Florence, warned in vain by the friar, took no
thought for the morrow; and the morrow came to all Italy with war,
invasion, pestilence, innumerable woes. In the last year of Pier
Soderini's Gonfalonierato (1512) it seemed as though the Italians had
been quickened to a consciousness of their impending ruin. The siege of
Brescia, the battle of Ravenna, the League of Cambray, the massacres of
Prato, the sack of Rome, the fall of Florence, were all imminent. A
fascination of intolerable fear thrilled the people in the midst of
their heedlessness, and this fear found voice and form in a strange
Carnival pageant described by Vasari[488]: "The triumphal car was
covered with black cloth, and was of vast size; it had skeletons and
white crosses painted upon its surface, and was drawn by buffaloes, all
of which were totally black: within the car stood the colossal figure of
Death, bearing the scythe in his hand; while round him were covered
tombs, which opened at all the places where the procession halted, while
those who formed it, chanted lugubrious songs, when certain figures
stole forth, clothed in black cloth, on whose vestments the bones of a
skeleton were depicted in white; the arms, breast, ribs, and legs,
namely, all which gleamed horribly forth on the black beneath. At a
certain distance appeared figures bearing torches, and wearing masks
presenting the face of a death's head both before and behind; these
heads of death as well as the skeleton necks beneath them, also
exhibited to view, were not only painted with the utmost fidelity to
nature, but had besides a frightful expression which was horrible to
behold. At the sound of a wailing summons, sent forth with a hollow moan
from trumpets of muffled yet inexorable clangor, the figures of the dead
raised themselves half out of their tombs, and seating their skeleton
forms thereon, they sang the following words, now so much extolled and
admired, to music of the most plaintive and melancholy character. Before
and after the car rode a train of the dead on horses, carefully selected
from the most wretched and meager animals that could be found: the
caparisons of those worn, half-dying beasts were black, covered with
white crosses; each was conducted by four attendants, clothed in the
vestments of the grave; these last-mentioned figures, bearing black
torches and a large black standard, covered with crosses, bones, and
death's heads. While this train proceeded on its way, each sang, with a
trembling voice, and all in dismal unison, that psalm of David called
the Miserere. The novelty and the terrible character of this singular
spectacle, filled the whole city, as I have before said, with a mingled
sensation of terror and admiration; and although at the first sight it
did not seem well calculated for a Carnival show, yet being new, and
within the reach of every man's comprehension, it obtained the highest
encomium for Piero as the author and contriver of the whole, and was the
cause as well as commencement of numerous representations, so ingenious
and effective that by these things Florence acquired a reputation for
the conduct of such subjects and the arrangement of similar spectacles
such as was never equaled by any other city."

Of this Carnival song, composed by Antonio Alamanni, I here give an
English version.

    Sorrow, tears, and penitence
    Are our doom of pain for aye;
    This dead concourse riding by
    Hath no cry but Penitence.

    Even as you are, once were we:
    You shall be as now we are:
    We are dead men, as you see:
    We shall see you dead men, where
    Naught avails to take great care
    After sins of penitence.

    We too in the Carnival
    Sang our love-song through the town;
    Thus from sin to sin we all
    Headlong, heedless, tumbled down;
    Now we cry, the world around,
    Penitence, oh penitence!

    Senseless, blind, and stubborn fools!
    Time steals all things as he rides:
    Honors, glories, states, and schools,
    Pass away, and naught abides;
    Till the tomb our carcass hides,
    And compels grim penitence.

    This sharp scythe you see us bear,
    Brings the world at length to woe;
    But from life to life we fare;
    And that life is joy or woe;
    All heaven's bliss on him doth flow,
    Who on earth does penitence.

    Living here, we all must die;
    Dying, every soul shall live,
    For the King of kings on high
    This fixed ordinance doth give:
    Lo! you all are fugitive
    Penitence, cry penitence!

    Torment great and grievous dole
    Hath the thankless heart mid you:
    But the man of piteous soul
    Finds much honor in our crew;
    Love for loving is the due
    That prevents this penitence.

These words sounded in the ears of the people, already terrified by the
unforgotten voice of Savonarola, like a trump of doom. The pageant was,
indeed, an acted allegory of the death of Italy, the repentance after
judgment of a nation fallen in its sins. Yet a few months passed, and
the same streets echoed with the music of yet another show, which has
also been described by Vasari.[489] If the Car of Death expressed the
uneasy dread that fell on the Italians at the opening of the century,
the shows of 1513 allegorized their mad confidence in the fortune of the
age, which was still more deeply felt and widely shared. Giovanni de'
Medici had just been elevated to the Papal Chair, and was paying a
holiday visit to his native city. Giuliano de' Medici, his brother, the
Duke of Nemours, was also resident in Florence, where he had formed a
club of noble youths called the Diamond. Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, the
titular chief of the house, presided over a rival Company named Il
Broncone--with a withered laurel-branch, whence leaves were sprouting,
for its emblem. The Diamond signified the constancy of Casa Medici; the
withered branch their power of self-recovery. These two men, Giuliano
and Lorenzo, are the same who now confront each other upon their
pedestals in Michelangelo's Sacristy of S. Lorenzo. Both were doomed to
an untimely death; but in the year 1513, when Leo's election shed new
luster on their house, they were still in the heyday of prosperity and
hope. Giuliano resolved that the Diamond should make a goodly show.
Therefore he intrusted the invention and the poems to Andrea Dazzi, who
then held Poliziano's chair of Greek and Latin literature. Dazzi devised
three Cars after the fashion of a Roman triumph. For the construction of
each chariot an excellent architect was chosen; for their decoration the
painter Pontormo was appointed. In the first rode beautiful boys; in the
second, powerful men; in the third, reverend grandsires. Lorenzo, in
competition with his uncle, determined that the Laurel branch should
outrival the Diamond. He applied to Jacopo Nardi, the historian of
Florence and translator of Livy. Nardi composed a procession of seven
chariots to symbolize the Golden Age, and wrote appropriate poems for
each, which are still extant. In the first car rode Saturn and Janus,
attended by six shepherds of goodly form, naked, on horses without
harness. In the second sat Numa Pompilius, surrounded by priests in
antique raiment. The third carried Titus Manlius, whose consulship
beheld the close of the first Punic war. In the fifth Augustus sat
enthroned, accompanied by twelve laureled poets. The horses that drew
him, were winged. The sixth carried Trajan, the just emperor, with
doctors of the law on either side. All these chariots were adorned with
emblems painted by Pontormo. The seventh car held a globe to represent
the world. Upon it lay a dead man in a suit of rusty iron armor, from
the cloven plates of which emerged a living child, naked and gilt with
glistering leaf of gold. This signified the passing of the Iron, and the
opening of the Golden Age--the succession of the Renaissance to
feudalism--the fortunes of Italy reviving after her disasters in the
sunlight of the smiles of Leo. _Magnus sæclorum nascitur ordo!_ "The
world's great age begins anew; the golden years return!" Thus the
artists, scholars, and poets of Florence symbolized in a Carnival show
the advent of the Renaissance. The boy who represented the Golden Age,
died of the sufferings he endured beneath his gilding; and his father,
who was a baker, received ten scudi of indemnity. A fanciful historian
might read in this little incident the irony of fate, warning the
Italians that the age they welcomed would perish for them in its bloom.
In the year 1513 Luther was already thirty years of age, and Charles V.
in the Low Countries was a boy of thirteen, accumulating knowledge under
the direction of the future Adrian VI. Whatever destiny of gold the
Renaissance might through Italy be offering to Europe, it was on the
point of pouring blood and fastening heavier chains on every city of the
sacred land.

In my desire to bring together these three representative
festivals--Lorenzo's Triumph of Bacchus, Alamanni's Car of Death, and
Pontormo's Pageant of the Golden Age--marking three moments in the
Florentine Renaissance, and three diverse moods of feeling in the
people--I have transgressed the chronological limits of this chapter. I
must now return to the year 1464, when a boy of ten years old, destined
to revive the glories of Italian literature with far greater luster
than Lorenzo, came from Montepulciano to Florence, and soon won the
notice of the Medicean princes. Angelo Ambrogini, surnamed Poliziano
from his home above the Chiana, has already occupied a prominent place
in this work.[490] It is not, therefore, needful to retrace the history
of his uneventful life, or again to fix his proper rank among the
scholars of the fifteenth century. He was the greatest student, and the
greatest poet in Greek and Latin, that Italy has produced. In the
history of European scholarship, he stands midway between Petrarch and
Erasmus, taking the post of honor at the moment when erudition had
acquired ease and elegance, but had not yet passed on into the final
stage of scientific criticism. What concerns us here, is Poliziano's
achievement as an Italian poet. In the history of the vulgar literature
he fills a place midway between Petrarch and Ariosto, corresponding to
the station of distinction I have assigned to him in humanistic culture.
Of few men can it be said that they have held the same high rank in
poetry and learning; and had the moral fiber of Poliziano, his
intellectual tension and his spiritual aim, been at all commensurate
with his twofold ability, the Italians might have shown in him a fourth
singer equal in magnitude to their greatest. As it was, the excellence
of his work was marred by the defect of his temperament, and has far
less value for the general reader than for the student of versification.

Lorenzo de' Medici could boast of having restored the mother tongue to a
place of honor among the learned. But he was far from being the complete
artist that the age required. "That exquisite flower of sentiment we
call good taste, that harmony of intellect we call judgment, lies not
within the grasp of power or riches."[491] A man was needed who should
combine creative genius with refined tact in the use of language; who
should be competent to carry the tradition of Italian poetry beyond the
point where Boccaccio dropped it, while giving to his work the polish
and the splendor of a classic masterpiece. It was further necessary that
this new dictator of the literary commonwealth should have left the
Middle Age so far behind as not to be aware of its stern spirit. He must
have acquired the erudition of his eminently learned century--a century
in which knowledge was the pearl of great price; not the knowledge of
righteousness; not the knowledge of nature and her laws; but the
knowledge of the life that throbbed in ancient peoples, the life that
might, it seemed, yet make the old world young again. Moreover, he must
be strong enough to carry this erudition without bending beneath its
weight; dexterous enough to use it without pedantry; exuberant enough in
natural resources to reduce his stores of learning, his wealth of fancy,
his thronging emotions, to one ruling harmony--fusing all reminiscences
in one style of pure and copious Italian. He must be gifted with that
reverent sense of beauty, which was the sole survivirg greatness of his
century, animating the imagination of its artists, and justifying the
proud boast of its students. This man was found in Angelo Poliziano. He,
and only he, was destined, by combining the finish of the classics with
the freshness of a language still in use, to inaugurate the golden age
of form. Faustus, the genius of the middle ages, had wedded Helen, the
vision of the ancient world. Their son, Euphorion, the inheritor of all
their gifts, we hail in Poliziano.

When Poliziano composed _Le Stanze_ he was nearly twenty-four years of
age.[492] He had steeped himself in the classic literatures. Endowed
with a marvelous memory, he possessed their spirit and their substance.
Not less familiar with Tuscan poetry of the fourteenth century, he
commanded the stores of Dante's, Petrarch's and Boccaccio's diction.
Long practice in Greek and Latin composition had given him mastery over
the metrical systems of the ancient languages.[493] The daily habit of
inditing songs for music to please the ladies of the Medicean household,
had accustomed him to the use of fluent Italian. The translation of the
_Iliad_, performed in part before he was eighteen, had made him a
faithful imitator, while it added dignity and fullness to his
style.[494] Besides these qualifications for his future task of raising
Italian to an equality with Latin poetry, he brought with him to this
achievement a genius apt to comprehend the spirit of the Renaissance in
its pomp and liberty and tranquil loveliness. The noble and yet sensuous
manner of the great Venetian painters, their dignity of form, their
luxury of color, their boldness and decision, their imperturbable
serenity of mundane joy--the choicer delicacy of the Florentine masters,
their refinement of outline, selection of type, suggestion of restrained
emotion--the pure design of the Tuscan sculptors, the suavity and
flexibility of the Lombard _plasticatori_--all these qualities of
Italian figurative art appear, as it were in bud, in the _Stanze_.
Poliziano's crowning merit as a stylist was that he knew how to blend
the antique and the romantic, correct drawing with fleshly fullness.
Breadth of design and harmony of color have rarely been produced in more
magnificent admixture. The octave stanza, which in the hands of
Boccaccio was languid and diffuse, in the hands of Lorenzo harsh, in the
hands of Pulci rugged, became under Poliziano's treatment an
inexhaustible instrument of varying melodies. At one time, beneath his
touch, the meter takes an epic dignity; again it sinks to idyllic
sweetness, or mourns with the elegy, or exults with the ode. Its
movement is rapid or relaxed, smooth or vibrating, undulatory or
impetuous, as he has chosen. When we reflect how many generations of
poets it required to bring the Sonnet to completeness, we may marvel at
this youth, in an age when scholarship absorbed inventive genius, who
was able at one stroke to do for the octave stanza what Marlowe did for
our Blank Verse. Poliziano gave to Ariosto the Italian epical meter
perfected, and established a standard of style amid the anarchy which
threatened the literature of Italy with ruin.

Yet it must be confessed that, after all, it is chiefly the style of
Poliziano that deserves praise. Like so much else of Renaissance
work--like the Farnesina frescoes in Rome, or Giulio Romano's luxuriant
arabesques at Mantua, or the efflorescence of foliage and cupids in the
bass-reliefs of palace portals at Venice--there is but little solid
thought or serious feeling underneath this decorative richness. Those
who cannot find a pleasure in form for its own sake, independent of
matter, will never be able to do Poliziano justice. This brings us to
the subject of the _Stanze_. They were written to celebrate the prowess
of Giuliano de' Medici, Lorenzo's brother, in a tournament held at
Florence in the beginning of the year 1478. This fact is worth
consideration. The poem which opened a new age for Italian literature,
had no nobler theme than a Court pageant. Dante had been inspired to
sing the epic of the human soul. Petrarch finished a portrait of the
life through love of an impassioned man. Boccaccio bound up in one
volume a hundred tales, delineating society in all its aspects. Then the
Muse of Italy fell asleep. Poliziano aroused her with the full deep
intonations of a golden instrument. But what was the burden of his song?
Giuliano de' Medici loved the fair Simonetta, and bore away the prize in
a toy-tournament.

This marks the change effected by a century of prince-craft. Henceforth
great poets were to care less for what they sang than for the style in
which they sang. Henceforth poetry in Italy was written to please--to
please patrons who were flattered with false pedigrees and absurd
mythologies, with the imputation of virtues they never possessed, and
with the impudent palliation of shame apparent to the world. Henceforth
the bards of Ausonia deigned to tickle the ears of lustful boys and
debauched cardinals, buying the bread of courtly sloth--how salt it
tasted let Tasso and Guarini tell--with jests or panegyrics. Liberty
could scarcely be named in verse when natives and strangers vied
together in enslaving Italy. To praise the great deeds of bygone heroes
within hearing of pusillanimous princes, would have been an insult. Even
satires upon a degraded present, aspirations after a noble future,
prophecies of resurrection from the tomb--those last resorts of a
national literature that retains its strength through evil days--were
unknown upon the lips of the Renaissance poets. Art had become a thing
of pleasure, sometimes infamous, too often nugatory. The fault of this
can scarcely be said to have rested with one man more than with another;
nor can we lay the blame on Poliziano, though he undoubtedly represented
the class who were destined to continue literature upon these lines. It
was the combined result of scholarship, which for a whole century had
diverted the minds of men to the form and words of literature; of
court-life, which had enfeebled the recipients of princely patronage; of
tyranny, which encouraged flattery, dissimulation, and fraud; of foreign
oppression, which already was beginning to enervate a race of slaves; of
revived paganism, which set the earlier beliefs and aspirations of the
soul at unequal warfare with emancipated lusts and sensualities; of
indolence, which loved to toy with trifles, instead of thinking and
creating thought; of social inequalities, which forced the poet to eat a
master's bread, and turned the scholars of Italy into a crowd of servile
and yet arrogant beggars. All these circumstances, and many more of the
same kind, were slowly and surely undermining the vigor of the Italian
intellect. Over the meridian splendor of _Le Stanze_ we already see
their influences floating like a vaporous miasma.

Italy, though never so chivalrous as the rest of Europe, yet preserved
the pompous festivities of feudalism. Jousts were held in all great
cities, and it was reckoned part of a courtier's business to be a
skillful cavalier. At Florence the custom survived of celebrating the
first of May with tournaments, and on great occasions the wealthy
families spent large sums of money in providing pastimes of this sort.
February 7, 1468, witnessed a splendid spectacle, when Lorenzo de'
Medici, mounted successively on chargers presented to him by the Duke of
Ferrara and the King of Naples, attired in armor given by the Duke of
Milan, bearing the _fleurs de lys_ of France conferred upon the Medici
by Louis XI., and displaying on his pennon for a motto _Le Tems
revient_, won the prize of valor before the populace assembled in the
square of S. Croce. Luca Pulci, the descendant of an ancient house of
Tuscan nobles, composed an adulatory poem in octave stanzas on this
event. So changed were the times that this scion of Florentine
aristocracy felt no shame in fawning on a despot risen from the people
to enslave his city. Yet the spectacle was worthy celebration. Lorenzo,
the banker's son, the Platonist, the diplomatist and tyrant, charging in
the lists of feudalism beneath Arnolfo's tower, with the lilies of
France upon his shield and the device of the Renaissance on his
banner--this figured symbol of the meeting of two ages in a single man
was no mean subject for a poem!

From Poliziano's _Stanze_ we learn no such characteristic details
concerning Giuliano's later tournament. Though the poem is called _La
Giostra_, the insignificant subject disappears beneath a wealth of
illustration. The episodes, including the pictures of the Golden Age and
of the garden and palace of Venus, form the real strength of a
masterpiece which blent the ancient and the modern world in a work of
art glowing with Italian fancy. That _La Giostra_ has no subject-matter,
no theme of weight to wear the poet thin through years of anxious toil,
no progress from point to point, no chain of incidents and no romantic
evolution, is a matter of little moment. When Giuliano de' Medici died
before the altar by the hand of an assassin on April 26, 1478, Poliziano
laid down his pen and left the _Stanze_ unfinished.[495] It cannot be
said that the poem suffered, or that posterity lost by this abrupt
termination of a work conceived without a central thought. Enough had
been already done to present Italy with a model of the style she needed;
and if we ask why _La Giostra_ should have become immediately popular
in spite of its peculiar texture and its abrupt conclusion, the answer
is not far to seek. Poliziano incarnated the spirit of his age, and gave
the public what satisfied their sense of fitness. The three chief
enthusiasms of the fifteenth century--for classical literature, for
artistic beauty, and for nature tranquilly enjoyed--were so fused and
harmonized within the poet's soul as to produce a style of unmistakable
originality and charming ease. Poliziano felt the delights of the
country with serene idyllic rapture, not at second hand through the
ancients, but with the voluptuous enjoyment of the Florentine who loved
his villa. He had, besides, a sense of form analogous to that possessed
by the artists of his age, which guided him in the selection and
description of the scenes he painted. Again, his profound and refined
erudition enabled him "to shower," as Giovio phrased it, "the finest
flowers of antique poetry upon the people." Therefore, while he felt
nature like one who worshiped her for her own sake and for the joy she
gave him, he saw in her the subjects of a thousand graceful pictures,
and these pictures he studied through a radiant haze of antique
reminiscences. Each stanza of _La Giostra_ is a mimic world of beauty,
art, and scholarship; a painting where the object stands before us
modeled with relief of light and shade in finely modulated hues; a brief
anthology of daintily-culled phrases, wafting to our memories the
perfume of Greece, Rome, and Florence in her prime. These delicate
little masterpieces are, turn by turn, a picture of Botticelli, a fresco
by Giulio Romano, an engraving of Mantegna, a bass-relief of young
Buonarroti, or a garden-scene of Gozzoli, expressed in the purest
diction of all literatures by a poet who, while imitating, never ceased
to be original.[496] Nothing more was needed by a nation of idyllic
dreamers, artists and scholars.

What Poliziano might have achieved, if he had found a worthy theme for
the employment of his powers, it would be idle to ask. It is perhaps the
condemnation of the man and of his age that the former did not seek
heroic subjects for song, and the latter did not demand them--in a word
that neither poet nor public had in them anything heroic whatsoever. The
fact is undeniably true; but this does not deprive Poliziano of the
merit of such verses as the following:

    After such happy wise, in ancient years,
    Dwelt the old nations in the age of gold;
    Nor had the font been stirr'd of mothers' tears
    For sons in war's fell labor stark and cold;
    Nor trusted they to ships the wild wind steers,
    Nor yet had oxen groaning plowed the wold;
    Their houses were huge oaks, whose trunks had store
    Of honey, and whose boughs thick acorns bore.

    Nor yet, in that glad time, the accursèd thirst
    Of cruel gold had fallen on this fair earth:
    Joyous in liberty they lived at first;
    Unplowed the fields sent forth their teeming birth:
    Till fortune, envious of such concord, burst
    The bond of law, and pity banned and worth;
    Within their breasts sprang luxury and that rage
    Which men call love in our degenerate age.

A somewhat earlier composition than _La Giostra_ was _La Favola di
Orfeo_, a dramatic poem similar in form to the _Sacra Rappresentazione_,
with a classical instead of a religious subject.[497] To call it a
tragedy would be to dignify it with too grand a title. To class it with
pastorals is equally impossible, though the songs of the shepherds and
wood-nymphs may be said to have anticipated the style of Tasso's
_Aminta_ and Guarini's _Pastor Fido_. Nor again is it properly speaking
an opera, though it was undoubtedly meant for music. The _Orfeo_
combined tragedy, the pastoral, and the opera in a mixed work of
melodramatic art, which by its great popularity inspired the poets of
Italy to produce specimens of each kind, and prepared the public to
receive them.[498] Still, in form and movement, it adhered to the
traditions of the _Sacra Rappresentazione_, and its originality
consisted in the substitution of a Pagan for a Christian fable.

Unerring instinct guided Poliziano in the choice of his subject. Orpheus
was the proper hero of Renaissance Italy--the civilizer of a barbarous
world by art and poetry, the lover of beauty, who dared to invade Hell
and moved the iron heart of Pluto with a song. Long before the
composition of _Orfeo_, Boccaccio had presented the same conception of
society humanized by culture in his _Ninfale Fiesolano_. This was the
ideal of the Renaissance; and, what is more, it accurately symbolized
the part played by Italy after the dissolution of the middle ages. In
the myth of Orpheus the humanism of the Revival became conscious of
itself. This fable was the Mystery of the new age, the allegory of the
work appointed for the nation. Did we dare to press a metaphor to the
verge of the fantastic, we might even read in the martyrdom of Orpheus
by the Mænads a prophecy of the Italian doom. Italy, who had aroused
Europe from lethargy with the voice of poetry and learning, who had
inaugurated a new age of civil and social refinement, who thought she
could resist the will of God by arts and elegant accomplishments, after
triumphing over the rude forces of nature was now about to violate the
laws of nature in her vices, and to fall a victim to the Mænads of
incurrent barbarism, inebriate with wine and blood, indifferent to the
magic of the lyre, avengers blindly following the dictates of a power
that rules the destinies of nations. Of this Italy, Poliziano, the
author of _Orfeo_, was himself the representative hero, the protagonist,
the intellectual dictator.[499]

The _Orfeo_ was sent with a letter of dedication to Messer Carlo Canale,
the obsequious husband of that Vannozza, who bore Cesare and Lucrezia
Borgia to the Pope Alexander VI. Poliziano says that he "wrote this play
at the request of the Most Reverend the Cardinal of Mantua, in the space
of two days, among continual disturbances, and in the vulgar tongue,
that it might be the better comprehended by the spectators." He adds:
"This child of mine is of a sort to bring more shame than honor on its

There is good reason to believe that the year 1472, when the Cardinal
Francesco Gonzaga returned from Bologna to Mantua, and was received with
"triumphs and pomps, great feasts and banquets," was the date of its
composition. If so, the _Orfeo_ was written at the age of eighteen. It
could not have been played later than 1483, for in that year the
Cardinal died. At eighteen Poliziano was already famous for his
translation of the _Iliad_. He had gained the title of _Homericus
Juvenis_, and was celebrated for his powers of improvization.[500] That
he should have put the _Orfeo_ together in forty-eight hours is hardly
so remarkable as that he should have translated Herodian in the space
of a few days, while walking and dictating. For the _Orfeo_ is but a
slight piece, though beautiful and pregnant with the germs of many
styles to be developed from its scenes. The plot is simple, and the
whole play numbers no more than 434 lines.

To do the _Orfeo_ justice, we ought to have heard it with its own
accompaniment of music. Viewed as a tragedy, judged by the standard of
our Northern drama, it will always prove a disappointment. That mastery
over the complex springs of human nature which distinguished the first
efforts of Marlowe, is almost wholly absent. A certain adaptation of the
language to the characters, in the rudeness of Thyrsis when contrasted
with the rustic elegance of Aristæus; a touch of feeling in Eurydice's
outcry of farewell; a discrimination between the tender sympathy of
Proserpine and Pluto's stern relenting; a spirited representation of
Bacchanalian enthusiasm in the Mænads; an attempt to model the Satyr
Mnesillus as apart from human nature and yet conscious of its
anguish--these points constitute the chief dramatic features of the
melodrama. But where there was the opportunity of a really tragic
movement, Poliziano failed. We have only to read the lament uttered by
Orpheus for the loss of Eurydice, in order to perceive how fine a
situation has been spoiled. The pathos which might have made us
sympathize with the lover in his misery, the passion approaching frenzy
which might have justified his misogyny, are absent. Poliziano seems to
have already felt the inspiration of the Bacchic chorus which concludes
the play, and to have forgotten his duty to his hero, whose sorrow for
Eurydice is stultified and made unmeaning by the prosaic expression of a
base resolve. Yet, when we return from these criticisms to the real
merit of the piece, we find in it a charm of musical language, a
subtlety of musical movement, which are irresistibly fascinating.
Thought and feeling seem alike refined to a limpidity that suits the
flow of melody in song. The very words evaporate and lose themselves in
floods of sound. Orpheus himself is a purely lyrical personage. Of
character, he can scarcely be said to have anything marked; and his part
rises to its height precisely in the passage where the singer has to be
displayed. Thus the _Orfeo_ is a good poem only where the situation is
less dramatic than lyrical, and its finest scene was, fortunately for
the author, one in which the dramatic motive could be lyrically
expressed. Before the gates of Hades and the throne of Proserpine,
Orpheus sings, and his singing is the right outpouring of a
musician-poet's soul. Each octave resumes the theme of the last stanza
with a swell of utterance, a _crescendo_ of intonation, that recalls the
passionate and unpremeditated descant of a bird upon the boughs alone.
To this true quality of music is added the persuasiveness of pleading.
Even while we read, the air seems to vibrate with pure sound, and the
rich recurrence of the tune is felt upon the opening of each successive
stanza. That the melody of this incomparable song is lost, must be
reckoned a misfortune. We have reason to believe that the part of
Orpheus was taken by Messer Baccio Ugolini, singing to the viol.[501]

Space does not permit me to detach the whole scene in Hades from the
play and print it here; to quote a portion of it would be nothing less
than mutilation.[502] I must content myself with this Chorus of the
Mænads, which contains, as in a kernel, the whole dithyrambic poetry of
the Italians:

    Bacchus! we all must follow thee!
    Bacchus! Bacchus! Ohé! Ohé!

    With ivy coronals, bunch and berry,
      Crown we our heads to worship thee!
    Thou hast bidden us to make merry
      Day and night with jollity!
    Drink then! Bacchus is here! Drink free,
    And hand ye the drinking-cup to me!
      Bacchus! we all must follow thee!
      Bacchus! Bacchus! Ohé! Ohé!

    See, I have emptied my horn already;
      Stretch hither your beaker to me, I pray;
    Are the hills and the lawns where we roam unsteady?
      Or is it my brain that reels away?
    Let every one run to and fro through the hay,
    As ye see me run! Ho! after me!
      Bacchus! we all must follow thee!
      Bacchus! Bacchus! Ohé! Ohé!

    Methinks I am dropping in swoon or slumber;
      Am I drunken or sober, yes or no?
    What are these weights my feet encumber?
      You too are tipsy, well I know!
    Let every one do as ye see me do,
    Let every one drink and quaff like me!
      Bacchus! we all must follow thee!
      Bacchus! Bacchus! Ohé! Ohé!

    Cry Bacchus! Cry Bacchus! Be blithe and merry,
      Tossing wine down your throats away!
    Let sleep then come and our gladness bury:
      Drink you, and you, and you, while ye may!
    Dancing is over for me to-day.
    Let every one cry aloud Evohé!
      Bacchus! we all must follow thee!
     Bacchus! Bacchus! Ohé! Ohé!

It remains to speak of the third class of poems which the great scholar
and supple courtier flung like wild flowers with a careless hand from
the chariot of his triumph to the Capitolian heights of erudition. Small
store, indeed, he set by them--these Italian love-songs, hastily
composed to please Donna Ippolita Leoncina, the titular mistress of his
heart; thrown off to serve the turn of Giuliano and his younger friends;
or improvised, half jestingly, to meet the humor of his princely patron,
when Lorenzo, quitting the laurel-crowned bust of Plato, or the groves
of Careggi, or the audience-chamber where he parleyed with the envoys of
the Sforza, went abroad like King Manfred of old with lute and mandoline
and viol to serenade the windows of some facile beauty in the twilight
of a night of June.[503] Little did Poliziano dream that his learning
would pass away almost unreckoned, but that men of after time would
gather the honey of the golden days of the Renaissance from these
wilding garlands.[504] Yet, however slightly Poliziano may have prized
these productions of his early manhood, he proved that the _Canzone_,
the _Rispetto_, and the _Ballata_ were as much his own in all their
multiformity of lyric loveliness, as were the rich sonorous measures of
the octave stanza. Expressing severally the depths of tender emotion,
the caprices of adoring passion, and the rhythmic sentiment that winds
in myriad movements of the dance, these three kinds of poem already
belonged to the people and to love. Poliziano displayed his inborn taste
and mastery of art in nothing more than in the ease with which he
preserved the passionate simplicity of the Tuscan _Volkslied_, while
giving it a place among the lyrics of the learned. We have already seen
how that had been achieved by Boccaccio and Sacchetti, and afterwards in
a measure by Lorenzo de' Medici. But the problem of writing love-poetry
for the people in their own forms, without irony and innuendo, was not
now so easy as it had been in the fourteenth century, when no barrier
had yet arisen between educated poets and the folk. Nor had even
Boccaccio, far less Lorenzo, solved it with the exquisite tact and
purity of style we find in all Poliziano's verses. In order to
comprehend their charm, we must transfer ourselves to Florence on a
summer night, when the prince is abroad upon the streets attended by
singing-boys as beautiful as Sandro's angels. The professor's chair is
forgotten, and Plato's spheres are left to turn unheeded. Pulci and
Poliziano join hands with girls from the workshop and the attic. Lorenzo
and Pico figure in the dance with 'prentice-lads and carvers of
wood-work or marble. All through the night beneath the stars the music
of their lutes is ringing; and when the dancing stops, they gather round
some balcony, or hold their own upon the square in matches of improvised
melody with the unknown rhymsters of the people. What can be prettier
than the ballad of roses made for "such a night," by Angelo

Poliziano's _Rispetti_ are written for the most part in _ottava rima_.
This form alone suffices to mark them out as literary reproductions of
the poetry upon which they are modeled. In the _Rispetti_ more than the
_Ballate_ we notice a certain want of _naïveté_, which distinguishes
them from the racier inspirations of the popular Muse. That passionate
insight into the soul and essence of emotion which rarely fails the
peasant in his verse however rude, is here replaced by _concetti_
rounded into pearls of fancy with the daintiest art. Those brusque and
vehement images that flash the light of imagination on the movements of
the heart, throbbing with intensest natural feeling, yield to carefully
selected metaphors developed with a strict sense of economy. Instead of
the young _contadino_ willing to mortgage Paradise for his _dama_,
worshiping her with body, will and soul, compelling the morning and the
evening star and the lilies of the field and the bells that swing their
notes of warning over Rome, to serve the bidding of his passion, we have
the scholar-courtier, who touches love with the finger-tips for pastime,
and who imitates the gold of the heart with baser metal of fine
rhetoric. Still we find in these _Rispetti_ a quality which their rustic
models lack. This is the roseate fluency and honeyed rapture of their
author--an exquisite limpidity and ease of diction that reveal the
inborn gift of art. Language in Poliziano's hand is plastic, taking form
like softest wax, so that no effort of composition, no labor of the file
can be discerned.

    Nec pluteum cædit nec demorsos sapit ungues.

This line of Persius denotes the excellences no less than the faults of
his erotic poetry, so charming in its flow, so fit to please a facile
ear, so powerless to stir the depth of the soul or wring relenting from
reluctant hearts. Compared with the love-poetry of elder poets, these
_Rispetti_ are what the artificial epigrams of Callimachus or the
Anacreontics of the Alexandrian versifiers were to the ardent stanzas of
Sappho, the impassioned scolia of Pindar. While they fail to reflect the
ingenuous emotions of youth exulting in the Paradise of love without an
afterthought, they no less fail to embody philosophy or chivalrous
religion or the tragedy of passions in conflict. They are inspired by
Aphrodité Pandemos, and the joys of which they tell are carnal.[506]

What has been said about the detached _Rispetti_, is true of those
longer poems which consist of many octave stanzas strung together with a
continuity of pleading rhetoric. The facility bordering on negligence of
their construction is apparent. Verses that occur in one, reappear in
others without alteration. All repeat the same arguments, the same
enticements to a less than lawful love. The code of Florentine wooing
may be conveniently studied in the rambling paragraphs, while the levity
of their declarations and the fluency of their vows, doing the same
service on different occasions, show them to be "false as dicers'
oaths," mere verses of the moment, made to sway a yielding woman's
heart.[507] Yet who can help enjoying them, when he connects their
effusiveness of fervent language with the episodes of the _Novelle_,
illustrated by figures borrowed from contemporary frescoes? Those sinewy
lads of Signorelli and Masuccio, in parti-colored hose and tight
jackets, climbing mulberry-tree or vine beneath their lady's window;
those girls with the demure eyes of Lippo Lippi and Bandello, suspending
rope-ladders from balconies to let their Romeo escape at daybreak: those
lovers rushing, half-clad in shirt or jerkin, from bower and bed-chamber
to cross their swords with jealous husbands at street corners; rise
before us and sing their love-songs in these verses of Poliziano,
written for precisely such occasions to express the very feelings of
these heroes of romance. After all, too, there is a certain sort of
momentary sincerity in their light words of love.

Three lyrics of higher artistic intention and of very different caliber
mark the zenith of Poliziano's achievement. These are the portrait of
the country girl, _La brunettina mia_; the canzone to _La Bella
Simonetta_, written for Giuliano de' Medici; and the magnificent
imitation of Petrarch's manner, beginning _Monti, valli, antri e
colli_.[508] They are three studies in pictorial poetry, transparent,
limpid, of incomparable freshness. A woman has sat for the central
figure of each, and the landscape round her is painted with the delicacy
of a _quattrocento_ Florentine. _La Brunettina_ is the simple village
beauty, who bathes her face in the fountain, and crowns her blonde hair
with a wreath of wild flowers. She is a blossoming branch of thorn in
spring. Her breasts are May roses, her lips are strawberries. The
portrait is so ethereally tinted and so firmly modeled that we seem to
be looking at a study painted by a lover from the life. Simonetta moves
with nobler grace and a diviner majesty[509]:

      In lei sola raccolto
      Era quant'è d'onesto e bello al mondo.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Un'altra sia tra le belle la prima:
      Costei non prima chiamesi, ma sola;
      Chè 'l giglio e la viola
      Cedono e gli altri fior tutti alla rosa.
    Pendevon dalla testa luminosa
      Scherzando per la fronte e suoi crin d'oro,
      Mentre ella nel bel coro
      Movea ristretti al suono e dolci passi.

She is the lady of the _Stanze_, whom Giuliano found among the fields
that April morning[510]:

      Candida è ella, e candida la vesta,
    Ma pur di rose e fior dipinta e d'erba;
    Lo inanellato crin dall'aurea testa
    Scende in la fronte umilmente superba.
    Ridegli attorno tutta la foresta,
    E quanto può sue cure disacerba,
    Nell'atto regalmente è mansueta;
    E pur col ciglio le tempeste acqueta.

           *       *       *       *       *

      Ell'era assissa sopra la verdura
    Allegra, e ghirlandetta avea contesta
    Di quanti fior creasse mai natura,
    De' quali era dipinta la sua vesta.
    E come prima al giovan pose cura,
    Alquanto paurosa alzò la testa;
    Poi con la bianca man ripreso il lembo,
    Levossi in piè con di fior pieno un grembo.

All the defined idealism, the sweetness and the purity of Tuscan
portraiture are in these stanzas. Simonetta does not pass by with a
salutation in a mist of spiritual glory like Beatrice. She is surrounded
with no flames of sensual desire like the Griselda of Boccaccio. She
sits for her portrait in a tranquil light, or moves across the canvas
with the dignity of a great lady:

      Lei fuor di guisa umana
      Mosse con maestà l'andar celeste,
    E con man sospendea l'ornata veste
      Regale in atto e portamento altero.

It was a rare and fugitive moment in the history of art when Poliziano
could paint La Simonetta in these verses, and Lippo Lippi showed her
likeness on cathedral walls of Prato. Different models of feminine
beauty, different ideals of womanly grace served the painters and poets
of a more developed age; Titian's Flora and Dosso Dossi's Circe
illustrating the Alcina of Ariosto and the women of Guarini. Once more,
it is the thought of Simonetta which pervades the landscape of the third
canzone I have mentioned. Herself is absent; but, as in a lyric of
Petrarch, her spirit is felt, and we are made to see her throned
beneath the gnarled beech-branches or dipping her foot in the too happy
rivulet. Something just short of perfection in the _staccato_
exclamations of the final trophe reminds us of Poliziano's most serious
defect. Amid so much tenderness of natural feeling, he fails to make us
believe in the reality of his emotion. Not passion, not thought, but the
refined sensuousness of a nature keenly alive to plastic beauty,
educated in the schools of classical and Florentine art, and gifted with
inexhaustible facility of language, is the dominant quality of
Poliziano's Italian poetry. The same quality is found in his Latin and
Greek verse--in the plaintive elegies for La Bella Simonetta and Albiera
degli Albizzi, in the _Violæ_ and in that ode _In puellam suam_[511]
which is the Latin sister of _La brunettina_. The _Sylvæ_ add a new
element of earnestness to his style; for if Poliziano felt deep and
passionate emotion, it was for Homer, Virgil and the poets praised in
the _Nutricia_, while the _Rusticus_ condenses in one picture of
marvelous fullness the outgoings of genuine emotion stimulated by his
love of the country.

    Hanc, o coelicolæ magni, concedite vitam!
    Sic mihi delicias, sic blandimenta laborum,
    Sic faciles date semper opes; hac improba sunto
    Vota tenus. Nunquam certe, nunquam ilia precabor,
    Splendeat ut rutilo frons invidiosa galero,
    Tergeminaque gravis surgat mihi mitra corona.

That is the heart-felt prayer of Poliziano. Give me the tranquil
scholar's life among the pleasures of the fields; my books for serious
thought in studious hours; the woods and fields for recreation; with
moderate wealth well-gotten without toil; no bishop's miter or triple
tiara to vex my brows. It is the same ideal as Alberti's. From this
background of the modest rural life emerge three splendid visions--the
Golden Age, when all was plenitude and peace; Orpheus of the dulcet
lyre, evoking harmony from discord in man's jarring life; and Venus
rising from the waves to bless the world with beauty felt through art.
Such was the programme of human life sketched by the representative mind
of his century, in an age when the Italians were summoned to do battle
with France, Germany and Spain invasive of their borders.

Poliziano died before the great catastrophe. He sank at the meridian of
his fame, in the same month nearly as Pico, two years later than
Lorenzo, a little earlier than Ficino, in the year 1494, so fatal to his
country, the date that marks the boundary between two ages in Italian


[459] Lorenzo de' Medici, b. 1448, d. 1492. Poliziano, b. 1454, d.
1494. Luigi Pulci, b. 1432, d. about 1487. Boiardo, b. about 1434, d.
1494. Sannazzaro, b. 1458, d. 1530.

[460] Machiavelli, b. 1469, d. 1527. Ariosto, b. 1474, d. 1533.
Guicciardini, b. 1482, d. 1540. Bembo, b. 1470, d. 1547. Castiglione,
b. 1478, d. 1529. La Casa, b. 1503, d. 1556. Pietro Aretino, b. 1492,
d. 1557.

[461] See _Fine Arts_, p. 183.

[462] See _Revival of Learning_, pp. 215 _et seq._; _Fine Arts_, pp.
183 _et seq._

[463] It is right to say here that considerable portions of Southern
Italy, the Marches of Ancona and Romagna, Piedmont and Liguria,
remained outside the Renaissance movement at this period.

[464] See _Age of the Despots_, pp. 277, 520, 542; _Revival of
Learning_, pp. 314-323; _Fine Arts_, pp. 263, 387. See also _Sketches
and Studies in Italy_, Article on Florence and the Medici.

[465] _Op. Lat._ p. 423.

[466] _Poesie di Lorenzo de' Medici_ (Firenze, Barbèra, 1859), pp.

[467] _Ibid._ pp. 24-34. Notice especially the verdict on Cino and
Dante, p. 33.

[468] Read for instance No. xii. in the edition cited above, "Vidi
madonna sopra un fresco rio;" No. xviii., "Con passi sparti," etc.;
No. xlvii., "Belle fresche e purpuree viole."

[469] _Ibid._ p. 97.

[470] "Tolsi donna ... ovvero mi fu data," from the _Ricordi_ printed
in the Appendix to Roscoe's _Life_.

[471] "Innamoramento," _Poesie_, pp. 58-62. Compare "Selve d'Amore,"
_ib._ pp. 172-174.

[472] _Poesie_, pp. 206-213.

[473] _Ibid._ p. 236.

[474] _Poesie_, pp. 190-194, 200-204.

[475] See the peroration to _Ambra_, in the _Sylvæ_; Poliziano, _Prose
Volgari e Poesie Latine_, etc. (Firenze, 1867), p. 365: Et nos ergo
illi, etc.

[476] _Poesie_, p. 238.

[477] _Ibid._ p. 239.

[478] _Poesie_, p. 294.

[479] If anything had to be quoted from _I Beoni_, I should select the
episode of Adovardo and his humorous discourse on thirst, cap. ii.
_ib._ p. 299. For a loathsome parody of Dante see cap. v. _ib._ p.

[480] The date is 1489.

[481] Especially "O Dio, o sommo bene," and "Poi ch'io gustai, Gesù;"
_ib._ pp. 444, 447. Likewise "Vieni a me;" _ib._ p. 449.

[482] Guicciardini, in his _Storia Fiorentina_ (_Op. Ined._ vol. iii.
88), writes of Lorenzo: "Fu libidinoso, e tutto venereo e constante
negli amori suoi, che duravano parecchi anni; la quale cosa, a
giudicio di molti, gli indebolì tanto il corpo, che lo fece morire, si
può dire, giovane." Then, after describing his night-adventures
outside Florence, he proceeds: "Cosa pazza a considerare che uno di
tanta grandezza, riputazione e prudenza, di età di anni quaranta,
fussi sì preso di una dama non bella e già piena di anni, che si
conducessi a fare cose, che sarebbono state disoneste a ogni

[483] _Canzone per andare in maschera, facte da più persone._ No place
or date or printer's name; but probably issued in the lifetime of
Lorenzo from Mongiani's press. There is a similar woodcut on the
title-page of the _Canzone a Ballo_, Firenze, 1568. It represents the
angle of the Medicean Palace in the Via Larga, girls dancing in a ring
upon the street, one with a wreath and thyrsus kneeling, another
presenting Lorenzo with a book.

[484] _Ist. Fior._ viii.; _Stor. Fior._ ix.

[485] _Trattato circa il Reggimento e Governo della Città di Firenze_
(Florence, 1847), ii. 2.

[486] _Tutti i Trionfi, Carri, etc._, Firenze, 1559. See the edition
dated Cosmopoli, 1750.

[487] In this place should be noticed a sinister Carnival Song, by an
unknown author, which belongs, I think, to the period of Savonarola's
democracy. It is called _Trionfo del Vaglio_, or "Triumph of the
Sieve" (_Cant. Carn._ p. 33):

    To the Sieve, to the Sieve, to the Sieve,
      Ho, all ye folk, descend!
      With groans your bosoms rend!
      And find in this our Sieve
      Wrath, anguish, travail, doom for all who live!
    To winnow, sift and purge, full well we know,
      And grind your souls like corn:
      Ye who our puissance scorn,
      Come ye to trial, ho!
      For we will prove and show
      How fares the man who enters in our Sieve.
    Send us no groats nor scrannel seed nor rye,
      But good fat ears of grain,
      Which shall endure our strain,
      And be of sturdy stuff.
      Torment full stern and rough
      Abides for him who resteth in our Sieve.
    Who comes into this Sieve, who issues thence,
      Hath tears and sighs, and mourns:
      But the Sieve ever turns,
      And gathers vehemence.
      Ye who feel sin's offence,
      Shun ye the rage, the peril of our Sieve.
    A thousand times the day, our Sieve is crowned;
      A thousand times 'tis drained:
      Let the Sieve once be strained,
      And, grain by grain, around
      Ye shall behold the ground
      Covered with folk, cast from the boltering Sieve.
    Ye who are not well-grained and strong to bear,
      Abide ye not this fate!
      Penitence comes too late!
      Seek ye some milder doom!
      Nay, better were the tomb
      Than to endure the torment of our Sieve!

[488] Life of Piero di Cosimo.

[489] Life of Pontormo.

[490] _Revival of Learning_, pp. 345-357, 452-465.

[491] Carducci, Preface to his edition of _Le Stanze, L'Orfeo e Le
Rime di Messer Angelo Ambrogini Poliziano_ (Firenze, 1863), p. xxiii.

[492] This poem must have been written between 1476, the date of
Simonetta's death, and 1478, the date of Giuliano's murder, when
Poliziano was about twenty-four. Chronology prevents us from regarding
it as the work of a boy of fourteen, as Roscoe thought, or of sixteen,
as Hallam concluded.

[493] His Latin elegies on Simonetta and on Albiera degli Albizzi, and
those Greek epigrams which Scaliger preferred to the Latin verses of
his maturity, had been already written.

[494] From _Le Stanze_, i. 7, we learn that he interrupted the
translation of the _Iliad_ in order to begin this poem in Italian. He
never took it up again. It remains a noble torso, the most splendid
extant version of a Greek poem in Latin by a modern hand.

[495] By a strange coincidence this was the anniversary of his love,
Simonetta's, death in 1476. The close connection between her untimely
end--celebrated by Lorenzo de' Medici in his earlier _Rime_, by
Poliziano in his Latin Elegy and again in the _Giostra_--and the
renascence of Italian poetry, makes her portrait by Botticelli della
Francesca in the Pitti interesting.

[496] I must refer my readers to the original, and to the translations
published by me in _Sketches and Studies in Italy_, pp. 217-224. The
description of Simonetta in the meadow (_Giostra_, i. 43 and
following) might be compared to a Florentine Idyll by Benozzo Gozzoli;
the birth of Venus from the waves (i. 99-107) is a blending of
Botticelli's _Venus_ in the Uffizzi with his _Primavera_ in the Belle
Arti; the picture of Venus in the lap of Mars (i. 122-124) might be
compared to work by Piero di Cosimo, or, since poetry embraces many
suggestions, to paintings from the schools of Venice. The
metamorphoses of Jupiter (i. 104-107) remind us of Giulio Romano. The
episode of Ariadne and the Bacchic revel (i. 110-112) is in the style
of Mantegna's engravings. All these passages will be found translated
by me in the book above quoted.

[497] I believe the _Favola di Orfeo_, first published in 1494, and
republished from time to time up to the year 1776, was the original
play acted at Mantua before the Cardinal Gonzaga. It is not divided
into acts, and has the usual "Annunziatore della Festa," of the _Sacre
Rappresentazioni_. The _Orphei Tragædia_, published by the Padre
Ireneo Affò at Venice in 1776, from two MSS. collated by him, may be
regarded as a subsequent recension of his own work made by Poliziano.
It is divided into five acts, and is far richer in lyrical passages.
Carducci prints both in his excellent edition of Poliziano's Italian
poems. I may refer English readers to my own translation of the
_Orfeo_ and the note upon its text, _Studies and Sketches in Italy_,
pp. 226-242, 429, 430.

[498] The popularity of Poliziano's poems is proved by the frequency
of their editions. The _Orfeo_ and the _Stanze_ were printed together
or separately twenty-two times between 1494 and 1541, thirteen times
between 1541 and 1653. A redaction of the _Orfeo_ in octave stanzas
was published at Florence in 1558 for the use of the common people. It
was entitled _La Historia e Favola d'Orfeo alla dolce lira_. This
narrative version of Poliziano's play is still reprinted from time to
time for the Tuscan _contadini_. Carducci cites an edition of Prato,

[499] No one who has read Poliziano's Greek epigrams on Chrysocomus,
or who knows the scandal falsely circulated regarding his death, will
have failed to connect the sentiments put into the mouth of Orpheus
(Carducci, pp. 109-110) with the personality of the poet-scholar. That
the passage in question could have been recited with applause before a
Cardinal, is a fact of much significance.

[500] Perhaps Ficino was the first to give him this title. In a letter
of his to Lorenzo de' Medici we read: "Nutris domi Homericum ilium
adolescentem Angelum Politianum qui Græcam Homeri personam Latinis
coloribus exprimat. Exprimit jam; atque, id quod mirum est ita tenerâ
ætate, ita exprimit ut nisi quivis Græcum fuisse Homerum noverit
dubitaturus sit e duobus uter naturalis sit et uter pictus Homerus"
(_Ep._ ed. Flor. 1494, lib. i. p. 6). Ficino always addressed
Poliziano as "Poeta Homericus."

[501] Among the frescoes by Signorelli at Orvieto there is a _tondo_
in monochrome, representing Orpheus before the throne of Pluto. He is
dressed like a poet, with a laurel crown, and he is playing on a
violin of antique form. Medieval demons are guarding the prostrate
Eurydice. It would be curious to know whether a rumor of the Mantuan
pageant had reached the ears of the Cortonese painter, or whether he
had read the edition of 1494.

[502] The original should be read in the version first published by
the Padre Affò (Carducci, pp. 148-154). My translation will be found
in _Studies and Sketches in Italy_, pp. 235-237.

[503] "La notte esceva per Barletta (rè Manfredi) cantando strambotti
e canzoni, che iva pigliando lo frisco, e con isso ivano due musici
Siciliani ch'erano gran romanzatori." M. Spinello, in _Scr. Rer.
Ital._ vii. Spinello's Chronicles are, however, probably a
sixteenth-century forgery.

[504] A letter addressed by Poliziano to Lorenzo in 1488 from
Acquapendente justifies the belief that the cultivation of popular
poetry had become a kind of pastime in the Medicean circle. He says:
"Yesterday we set off for Viterbo. We are all gay, and make good
cheer, and all along the road we whet our wits at furbishing up some
song or May-day ditty, which here in Acquapendente with their Roman
costume seem to me more fanciful than those at home." See Del Lungo's
edition of the _Prose Volgari_, etc., p. 75.

[505] See above, p. 378. For translations of several _Ballate_ by
Poliziano I may refer to my _Sketches and Studies in Italy_, pp.

[506] For translations of detached _Rispetti_, see my _Sketches and
Studies in Italy_, p. 197.

[507] I have translated one long _Rispetto Continuato_ or _Lettera in
Istrambotti_; see _Sketches and Studies in Italy_, pp. 198-201. It is
probable that Poliziano wrote these love-poems for his young friends,
which may excuse the frequent repetitions of the same thoughts and

[508] In Carducci's edition, pp. 342, 355, 363. The first seems to me
untranslatable. The second and third are translated by me in _Sketches
and Studies, etc._, pp. 202-207.


    But she who gives my soul sorrow and mirth,
      Seemed Pallas in her gait, and in her face
      Venus; for every grace
    And beauty of the world in her combined.
    Merely to think, far more to tell my mind,
      Of that most wondrous sight, confoundeth me;
      For mid the maidens she
    Who most resembled her was found most rare.
    Call ye another first among the fair;
      Not first, but sole before my lady set:
      Lily and violet.
    And all the flowers below the rose must bow.
    Down from her royal head and lustrous brow
      The golden curls fell sportively unpent.
      While through the choir she went
    With feet well lessoned to the rhythmic sound.


    White is the maid, and white the robe around her,
    With buds and roses and thin grasses pied;
    Enwreathéd folds of golden tresses crowned her,
    Shadowing her forehead fair with modest pride:
    The wild wood smiled; the thicket, where he found her,
    To ease his anguish, bloomed on every side:
    Serene she sits, with gesture queenly mild,
    And with her brow tempers the tempests wild.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Reclined he found her on the swarded grass
    In jocund mood; and garlands she had made
    Of every flower that in the meadow was,
    Or on her robe of many hues displayed;
    But when she saw the youth before her pass,
    Raising her timid head awhile she stayed;
    Then with her white hand gathered up her dress,
    And stood, lap full of flowers, in loveliness.

[511] Praised for their incomparable sweetness by Scaliger, and
translated into softest Italian by Firenzuola.



     The Romantic Epic--Its Plebeian Origin--The Popular Poet's
     Standpoint--The Pulci Family--The Carolingian
     Cycle--Turpin--_Chanson de Roland_--Historical Basis--Growth
     of the Myth of Roland--Causes of its Popularity in
     Italy--Burlesque Elements--The _Morgante Maggiore_--Adventures
     in Paynimry--Roncesvalles--Episodes introduced by the
     Poet--Sources in older Poems--The Treason of Gano--Pulci's
     Characters--His Artistic Purpose--His Levity and
     Humor--Margutte--Astarotte--Pulci's _bourgeois_
     Spirit--Boiardo--His Life--Feudalism in Italy--Boiardo's
     Humor--His Enthusiasm for Knighthood--His Relation to
     Renaissance Art--Plot of the _Orlando
     Innamorato_--Angelica--Mechanism of the Poem--Creation of
     Characters--Orlando and Rinaldo--Ruggiero--Lesser Heroes--The
     Women--Love--Friendship--Courtesy--Orlando and Agricane at
     Albracca--Natural Delineation of Passions--Speed of
     Narration--Style of Versification--Classical and Medieval
     Legends--The Punishment of Rinaldo--The Tale of
     Narcissus--Treatment of Mythology--Treatment of Magic--Fate of
     the _Orlando Innamorato_.

Lorenzo de' Medici and Angelo Poliziano reunited the two currents of
Italian literature, plebeian and cultivated, by giving the form of
refined art to popular lyrics of divers kinds, to the rustic idyll, and
to the sacred drama. Another member of the Medicean circle, Luigi Pulci,
aided the same work of restoration by taking up the rude tales of the
_Cantori da Piazza_ and producing the first romantic poem of the

Of all the numerous forms of literature, three seem to have been
specially adapted to the Italians of this Period. They were the
_Novella_, the Romantic Epic, and the Idyll. With regard to the
_Novella_ and the Idyll, it is enough in this place to say that we may
reckon them indigenous to modern Italy. They suited the temper of the
people and the age; the _Novella_ furnishing the fit artistic vehicle
for Italian realism and objectivity; the Idyll presenting a point of
contact with the literature of antiquity, and expressing that calm
sensibility to natural beauty which was so marked a feature of the
national character amid the distractions of the sixteenth century. The
Idyll and the _Novella_ formed, moreover, the most precious portion of
Boccaccio's legacy.

Concerning the Romantic Epic it is necessary to speak at greater length.
At first sight the material of the Carolingian Cycle, which formed the
basis of the most considerable narrative poems of the Renaissance, seems
uncongenial to the Italians. Feudalism had never taken a firm hold on
the country. Chivalry was more a pastime of the upper classes, more
consciously artificial than it had been in France or even England. The
interest of the Italians in the Crusades was rather commercial than
religious, and the people were not stirred to their center by the
impulse to recover the Holy Sepulcher. The enthusiasm of piety which
animated the Northern myth of Charlemagne, was not characteristic of the
race that earlier than the rest of Europe had indulged in speculative
skepticism and sarcastic raillery; nor were the marvels of the legend
congenial to their positive and practical imagination, turned ever to
the beauties of the plastic arts. Charlemagne, again, was not a national
hero. It seemed as though the great foreign epics, which had been
transported into Italy during the thirteenth century, would find no
permanent place in Southern literature after the close of the
fourteenth. The cultivated classes in their eagerness to discover and
appropriate the ancient authors lost sight of peer and paladin. Even
Boccaccio alluded contemptuously to chivalrous romance, as fit reading
only for idle women; and when he attempted an epical poem in octave
stanzas, he chose a tale of ancient Greece. Still, in spite of these
apparent drawbacks, in spite of learned scorn and polished indifference,
the Carolingian Cycle had taken a firm hold upon the popular fancy. We
have seen how a special class of literary craftsmen reproduced its
principal episodes in prose and verse for the multitudes gathered on the
squares to hear their recitations, or for readers in the workshop and
the country farm. Now, in the renascence of the native literature, poets
of the highest rank were destined to receive the same material from the
people and to give it a form appropriate to their own culture. This fact
must not be forgotten by the student of Pulci, Boiardo, Berni, and
Ariosto. The romantic epics of the golden age had a plebeian origin; and
the masters of verse who devoted their best energies to that brilliant
series of poems, were dealing with legends which had taken shape in the
imagination of the people, before they applied their own inventive
faculties to the task of beautifying them with art unrivaled for
splendor and variety of fancy. This, and this alone, explains the
anomalies of the Italian romantic epic--the mixture of burlesque with
seriousness, the irony and sarcasm alternating with gravity and pathos,
the wealth of comic episodes, the interweaving of extraneous incidents,
the antithesis between the professed importance of the subject-matter
and the spirit of the poet who plays with it as though he felt its
puerility--all the startling contrasts, in a word, which have made this
glittering Harlequin of art in the Renaissance so puzzling to modern
critics. If we remember that the poets of the sixteenth century adopted
their subjects from the people, finding them already impregnated with
the plebeian instincts of _improvisatori_, who felt no real sympathy
with knighthood, and whose one aim was to amuse and gratify an audience
eager for excitement; if we further recollect that these poets
approached their own task in the same spirit, adding yet another element
of irony proper to men who stood aloof and laughed, and who desired to
entertain the Courts of Italy with masterpieces of humor and fantastic
beauty; we shall succeed in comprehending the peculiarities of their

The romances of Orlando must be regarded as works of pure art, wrought
by courtly singers from a previously existing popular literature, which
in its turn had been fashioned from the Frankish legends to suit the
tastes of a non-chivalrous, but humorous and marvel-loving multitude. In
passing from the Song of Roland or Turpin's Chronicle to the _Orlando
Furioso_ we can trace two separate processes of transmutation. By the
earlier process the _materia di Francia_ was adapted to the Italian
people; by the second the new material thus obtained was reconstructed
for the Italian Courts. The final product is a masterpiece of refined
art, retaining something of the French originals, something of the
popular Italian _rifacimento_, but superadding the wisdom, the irony,
and the poetry of one of the world's brightest geniuses. We might
compare the growth of a romantic epic of the sixteenth century to the
art of Calimala, whereby the rough stuffs of Flanders were wrought at
Florence into finer cloths, and the finished fabric was tinted with the
choicest dyes, and made fit for a king's chamber.

Hitherto I have spoken as though Pulci, Boiardo, Ariosto, Berni, and the
lesser writers of romantic epics could be classed together in one
sentence. The justification of so broad a treatment at the outset lies
in this, that their relation to the popular romances they rehandled was
substantially the same. But it will be the special purpose of the
following pages to point out their essential differences, not only as
poets, but also with regard to the spirit in which they viewed their
common subject-matter.

Boccaccio, in his desire to fuse the classic and the medieval modes of
thought and style, not merely adapted the periods of Latin to Italian
prose, but also sought to treat an antique subject in the popular
measure of the octave stanza. His _Teseide_ is a narrative poem in which
the Greek hero plays a prominent part, while all the chiefs of Theban
and Athenian legend are brought upon the scene. Yet the main motive is a
tale of love, and the language is as modern as need be. Writing to
please the mistress of his heart, and emulous of epic fame, Boccaccio
rejected the usual apostrophes and envoys of the _Cantori da Banca_, and
constructed a poem divided into books. Poliziano approached the problem
of fusing the antique and modern from a different point of view. He
adorned a courtly theme of his own day with phrases and decorative
details borrowed from the classic authors, presenting in a series of
brilliant pictures an epitome of ancient art. It remained for Pulci to
develop, without classical admixture, the elements of poetry existing in
the popular Italian romances. The _Morgante Maggiore_ is therefore more
thoroughly and purely Tuscan than any work of equal magnitude that had
preceded it. This is its great merit, and this gives it a place apart
among the hybrid productions of the Renaissance.

The Pulci were a noble family, reduced in circumstances and attached to
the Casa Medici by ties of political and domestic dependency. Bernardo,
the eldest of three brothers, distinguished himself in literature by his
translations of Virgil's Eclogues, by his elegies on Cosimo de' Medici,
by a _Sacra Rappresentazione_ on the tale of Barlaam, and by a poem on
the Passion of Christ which he composed at the instance of a devout nun.
Luca wrote the stanzas on the Tournament of Lorenzo de' Medici above
mentioned,[512] and took some part at least in the composition of an
obscure poem called the _Ciriffo Calvaneo_.[513] But the most famous of
the brothers was Luigi, whose correspondence with Lorenzo de' Medici
proves him to have been a kind of Court-poet in the Palace of the Via
Larga, while the sonnets he exchanged with Matteo Franco breathe
Burchiello's plebeian spirit.[514] He had a wild fantastic temperament,
inclining to bold speculations on religious topics; tinctured with
curiosity that took the form of magic art; bizarre in expression, yet
withal so purely Florentine that his prose and verse are a precious mine
of _quattrocento_ idioms gathered from the jargon of the streets and
squares. Of humanistic culture he seems to have possessed but little.
Still the terms of familiar intercourse on which he lived with Angelo
Poliziano, Matteo Palmieri, and Paolo Toscanelli enabled him to gather
much of the learning then in vogue. The theological and scientific
speculations of the age are transmitted to us in his comic stanzas with
a vernacular raciness that renders them doubly precious.[515]

Before engaging with the _Morgante Maggiore_, it is needful to inquire
into the source of this and all the other Italian romantic poems, and to
account for the fact that they were confined, so far as their subject
went, within the circle of the Carolingian epic. In 1122 a prose
history in monkish Latin, purporting to be the Chronicle of the last
years of the reign of Charles the Great written by Turpin, Archbishop of
Rheims, was admitted among the canonical books by Calixtus II., who in
his Bull cursed those who should thenceforward listen to the "lying
songs of Jongleurs." This Chronicle was merely a sanctimonious and
prosaic version of the Songs of Roland and of Roncesvalles.[516] The
object of the scribe who compiled it, and of the Pope who canonized it,
was to give an ecclesiastical complexion to the martial chants which
already possessed the ear of the public.[517] Accordingly, while he left
untouched the tales of magic, the monstrous marvels and the unchristian
ethics of the elder fable, this pseudo-Turpin interspersed prayers,
confessions, vows, miracles, homilies, and pulpit admonitions. In order
to secure verisimilitude for his narrative, he reversed the old account
of Roncesvalles, according to which Turpin perished on the field,
anathematized all previous poets, and pretended that his Chronicle was
written by the hands of the Archbishop.[518] What he effected for the
Song of Roland, Geoffrey of Monmouth did, without a sacerdotal bias, for
the romance of Arthur.

We possess a MS. of the _Chanson de Roland_ in Norman French. It was
discovered in the Bodleian Library and published first in 1837 by M.
Michel, afterwards in 1851 by M. Génin. The date of the MS. has been
fixed by some critics as early as the eleventh, by others as late as the
thirteenth, century. Purporting to be the work of one Turold, its most
enthusiastic admirers claim it as the genuine production of Théroulde,
tutor to William the Conqueror, which, after passing through the hands
of Taillefer, the knightly bard of Senlac field, was deposited in his
MS. chest by a second Théroulde, abbot of Peterborough.[519] Be that as
it may, we can assume that the Bodleian MS. presents the ancient
battle-song in nearly the same form as when the Normans followed
Taillefer at Hastings, and heard him chanting of "Charlemain and Roland
and Oliver who died in Roncesvalles." This song reverberated throughout
medieval Europe. Poggio in the _Facetiæ_ compares a man who weeps over
the fall of Rome, to one who in Milan shed tears over Roland's death at
Roncesvalles. Dante may have heard it on the lips of the _Cantores
Francigenarum_ in Lombard towns, or in the halls of Fosdinovo above the
Tyrrhene Sea; for he writes with an energy of style scarcely inspired by
the pseudo-Turpin:

    Dopo la dolorosa rotta, quando
      Carlo Magno perdè la santa gesta,
      Non sonò si terribilmente Orlando.

Orlando and Oliver (or Ogier) are carved upon the façade of the Duomo at
Verona--Dietrich's town of Bern, where Northern traditions of chivalry
long lingered.[520] Like the Spanish legend of the Cid, or the climax of
the _Niebelungenlied_, this Song of Roland, in dignity and strength of
style, in tragic heroism and passionate simplicity, is worthy to be
ranked with a Canto of the _Iliad_. Like all medieval romantic poetry,
it is but a fragment--the portion of a cycle never wrought by
intervention of a Homer into epical completeness. But its superiority
over Turpin's Chronicle in all the qualities that could inspire a singer
is immeasurable.

Two questions have now to be asked. What historical basis can be found
for the Carolingian myth? and how did it happen that the Italians
preferred this legend of French Paladins to any other of the feudal
romances? The history of Charlemagne and his peers--of Roland, Oliver,
Ogier, Turpin, Ganilo the traitor, Pinabel, Marsilius the Moorish king
of Spain, and all the rest, of whom we read in the Norman Song, and who
receive numerous additions from the Italian romancers--must not be
sought in Eginhard. It is a Myth. But like all myths, it has some
nucleus of reality, round which have crystallized the enthusiasms of a
semi-barbarous age, the passionate memories of the people looking back
to bygone greatness, the glowing fancies of poets intent on visions of
the future. This nucleus of fact is little more than the name of
Charles the Frankish Emperor. All the legends of the cycle represent him
as conducting a crusade, defeating the Saracens in mighty battles,
besieged by them in Paris, betrayed by his own subject Ganilo, and
bereft of his noblest paladins in the Pass of Roncesvalles. History
knows nothing of these events. Nor can history account for the
traditional character of the Emperor, who is feeble, credulous,
browbeaten by lawless vassals, incapable of strenuous action, and yet
respected as the conqueror of the world and the anointed of the
Lord.[521] It is therefore clear that the myth has blent together divers
incongruous elements, and that the spirit of the crusades has been at
work, giving a kind of unity to scarce remembered acts of the chief of
Christendom. We hear from Eginhard that Charlemagne in 778 advanced as
far as Saragossa into Spain, and during his retreat had his rearguard
cut off by the Basques.[522] Among the slain was "Roland, prefect of the
Breton Marches." We read again in Eginhard (anno 824) how Louis le
Debonair lost two of his counts, who were returning from Spain through
the Pass of Roncesvalles. Furthermore, the Merovingian Chronicles tell
us of a Pyrenean battle in the days of Dagobert, when twelve Frankish
chiefs were surrounded in those passes and slain. These are sufficient
data to account for the Pass of Roncesvalles becoming a valley dolorous,
the vale of the great woe. For the crusading exploits of Charlemagne we
have to look to his predecessor, Charles Martel, who defeated the
Saracens at Tours and stemmed the tide of Mussulman invasion. His
successors, the feeble monarchs of the Frankish line, several of whom
bore the name of Charles, explain the transformation of the Emperor into
a vacillating monarch, infirm of purpose and incapable of keeping his
peers in order; for the distinguishing surnames of history are later
additions, and Chronicles, though written, were not popularly read. The
bard, therefore, mixed his materials without care for criticism, and the
myth produced a hybrid Charlemagne composed of many royal Karls. As for
the traitor Gano, we hear of Lupus, Duke of Gascony, who dealt
treasonably with Charlemagne, and of one Ganilo, Ganelon, or Wenelon,
Archbishop of Sens, who played the same part toward Charles the Bald in
864.[523] This portion of the myth may possibly be referred to these dim
facts. Yet it would be wiser not to insist upon them; for the endeavor
to rationalize an entire legend is always hazardous, and it is enough to
say that a traitor was needed for the fight of Roncesvalles no less than
Mordred for the death of Arthur in the plain of Glastonbury. To explain
the legendary siege of Paris by the Saracens, so important an incident
in the Italian romances, it has been ingeniously remarked that, though
the Moors never menaced the French capital, the Normans did so
repeatedly, while both Saracens and Normans were Pagans.[524] It may
also be remembered that Saracens had pillaged Rome, and the Saracen
forays were a common incident of Italian experience. The gathering of
great armies from the far East and the incursions of hideous barbarian
hordes, which form an integral element of Boiardo's and Ariosto's
scheme, can be referred to the memory of Tartar, Hun, and Turk; while
the episodes of Christian knights enamored of Pagan damsels are
incidents drawn from actual history in the intercourse of Italy with the
Levant. Allowing for this slight framework of fact, but not pressing
even the few points that have been gathered by antiquarian research, it
may be briefly said that the bulk of the Carolingian romance, with its
numerous subordinate legends of knights and ladies, is purely mythical.

In the next place we have to consider what led the Italians to select
the romances of Charlemagne for special development rather than those of
Arthur, with which they were no less familiar.[525] We have seen that on
the first introduction of the _materia di Francia_ into Italy, the
Arthurian Cycle became the property of the nobles, who found in it a
mirror of the feudal manners they affected, whereas the people listened
to _Chansons de Geste_ upon the market-place.[526] When, therefore, the
polite poets of the fifteenth century adopted the romantic epic from the
popular rhymers, they found a mass of Carolingian tales in vogue, to
which they had themselves from infancy been used. But this preference of
the multitude for Charlemagne and Roland requires further explanation.
It must be remarked in the first place that the Empire exercised a
fascination over the Italians in the middle ages, paralleled by no other
power except the Papacy. They regarded it as their own, as their glory
in the past, as their pride in the future, if only the inheritor of the
Cæsars would do his duty and rule the world from Rome with equal
justice. The pedigree of the Christian Emperors from Constantine to
Charles the Great formed an integral part of the Carolingian romance as
it took form in Italy.[527] It was something for the Italians that
Charles had been crowned at Rome, a ceremony from time to time repeated
by his German successors during the centuries which made his legend
famous. Nor, though the people were but little influenced by the
crusading fanaticism, was it of no importance that in the person of this
Emperor Christendom had been imperiled by the infidels, and Christendom
through him had triumphed. The Chronicle of Turpin, again, had received
authoritative sanction. Add to it as the romancers chose, attribute
nonsense to the Archbishop as they pleased, they always relied, in show
at least, on his canonical veracity. Pulci, Bello, Boiardo, and Ariosto
appeal to his authority with mock seriousness; and even the burlesque
Berni, while turning Turpin into ridicule, adopts the style:

    Perchè egli era Arcivescovo, bisogna
    Credergli, ancor che dica la menzogna.[528]

The fashion lasted till the days of Folengo and Fortiguerra. It may
further be mentioned that Orlando at an early date had been made a Roman
by the popular Italian mythologists. They said that he was born at
Sutri, and that Oliver was the son of the Roman prefect for the Pope.
The sentiment of the people for this strange _Senator Romanus_ expressed
itself touchingly and pithily in his supposed epitaph: "One God, One
Rome, One Roland."[529] Orlando was so rooted in the popular
consciousness as a hero, that to have substituted for him another epical
character would have been impossible.

When we further investigate the naturalization of Orlando in Italy, we
find that all the romantic poems written on his legend inclined to the
burlesque. The chivalrous element of love which pervades the Arthurian
Cycle, had been extracted and treated after their own fashion by the
lyrists of the fourteenth century. That was no immediate concern of the
people, nor had the citizens any sympathy with the chivalry of arms. To
deal as solemnly with medieval romance as the Northern bards had done,
was quite beside the purpose of the _improvisatori_ who refashioned the
_Chansons de Geste_ for Italian townsfolk. When, therefore, Pulci
undertook to amuse Lucrezia Tornabuoni, the mother of Lorenzo de'
Medici, with a tale of Roland, he found his material already stripped of
epical sobriety; nor was it hard for him to handle his theme in the
spirit of Boccaccio, bent on exhausting every motive of amusement which
it might suggest. He assumed the tone of a street-singer, opening each
canto with the customary invocation to Madonna or a paraphrase of some
Church collect, and dismissing his audience at the close with grateful
thanks or brief good wishes. But Pulci was no mere _Cantastorie_. The
popular style served but for a cloak to cover his subtle-witted satire
and his mocking levity. Sarcastic Tuscan humor keeps up an _obbligato_
accompaniment throughout the poem. Sometimes this humor is in harmony
with the plebeian spirit of the old Italian romances; sometimes it turns
aside and treats it as a theme of ridicule. In reading the _Morgante_,
we must bear in mind that it was written, canto by canto, to be recited
in the Palace of the Via Larga, at the table where Poliziano and Ficino
gathered with Michelangelo Buonarroti and Cristoforo Landino. Whatever
topics may from time to time have occupied that brilliant circle, were
reflected in its stanzas; and this alone suffices to account for its
tender episodes and its burlesque extravagances, for the satiric picture
of Margutte and the serious discourses of the devil Astarotte. The
external looseness of construction and the intellectual unity of the
poem, are both attributable to these circumstances. Passing by rapid
transitions from grave to gay, from pathos to cynicism, from theological
speculations to ribaldry, it is at one and the same time a mirror of the
popular taste which suggested the form, and also of the courtly wits who
listened to it laughing. The _Morgante_ is no _naïve_ production of a
simple age, but the artistic plaything of a cultivated and critical
society, entertaining its leisure with old-world stories, accepting some
for their beauty's sake in seriousness, and turning others into nonsense
for pure mirth.

A careful study of the _Morgante Maggiore_ reveals to the critic three
separate strains of style. To begin with, it is clear that we are
dealing with two poems fused in one--the first ending with the
twenty-third canto, the second consisting of the last five cantos.
Between these two divisions a considerable period of time is supposed to
have elapsed. The first poem consists of a series of romantic adventures
in strange countries, whither Orlando, Uliviero, Rinaldo and Astolfo
have been driven by the craft of Gano, and where they fight giants,
liberate ladies, and fall in love with Pagan damsels, after the jovial
fashion of knights errant. The second assumes a more heroic tone, and
tells in truly thrilling verse the tale of Roncesvalles. But over and
above this double material, different in matter and in manner, we trace
throughout the whole romance a third element, which seems to be more
essentially the poet's own than either his fantastic tissue of
adventures or his serious narrative of Roland's death. This third
element consists of half-ironical half-sober dissertations, reflective
digressions, and brilliant interpolated incidents, among which we have
to reckon the splendid episodes of Astarotte and Margutte. So much was
clear to my mind when I first read the _Morgante_, and attempted to
comprehend the difficulties it presented to critics like Ginguené and
Hallam. Since then the truth of this view has been substantiated by the
eminent Italian scholar, Pio Rajna, who has proved that the _Morgante_
is the _rifacimento_ of two earlier popular poems, the first existing in
MS. in the Laurentian library, the second entitled _La Spagna_.[530]
Pulci availed himself freely of his popular models, at times repeating
the old stanzas with no alteration, but oftener rehandling them and
adding to their comic spirit, and interpolating passages of his own
invention. Since the two originals differed in character, his
_rifacimento_ retained their divers peculiarities, notwithstanding those
master-touches which betray the same hand in both of its main sections.
But the most precious part of the poem remains Pulci's own. Nothing can
deprive him of Margutte and Astarotte; nor without his clever
transmutation of the old material would the bulk of the _Morgante
Maggiore_ deserve more attention than many similar romances buried in
condign oblivion. Between the two parts we may notice a considerable
difference of literary merit. The second and shorter is by far the finer
in poetic quality, earnestness, and power of treatment. The first is
tedious to read. The second inthralls and carries us along.[531]

The poem takes its title from the comic hero Morgante, a giant captured
and converted by Orlando in the first Canto.[532] He dies, however, in
the twentieth, and the narrative proceeds with no interruption. If we
seek for epical unity, in a romance so loosely put together from so many
divers sources, we can find it in the treason of Gano. The action turns
decisively and frequently upon this single point, returns to it from
time to time for fresh motives, and reaches its conclusion in the
execution of the traitor after the great deed of crime has been
accomplished in the valley dolorous. An Italian of the fifteenth century
could not have chosen a motive more suited to the temper and experience
of his age, when conspiracies like that of the Pazzi at Florence and the
Baglioni at Perugia were frightfully frequent, and when the successful
massacre of Sinigaglia made Cesare Borgia the hero of historical
romance. _Il tradimento_, _il traditore_, the kiss of Judas, the simile
of the fox, recur with fatal resonance through all the Cantos of the
poem. The style assumes a rugged grandeur of tragic realism, not
unworthy of poets of the stamp of our own Webster or Marston, in the
passage which describes the tempest by the well at Saragossa, where Gano
met Marsilio to plan their fraud, and where the locust-tree let fall its
fruit upon the traitor's head.[533] The _Morgante_ is, in truth, the
epic of treason, and the character of Gano, as an accomplished yet not
utterly abandoned Judas, is admirably sustained throughout. The powerful
impression of his perversity is heightened by contrast with the loyalty
of his son Baldovino. In the fight at Roncesvalles Baldovino carries a
mantle given to Gano by the Saracen king, without knowing for what
purpose his father made him wear it; and wherever he charges through the
press of men, the foes avoid him. Orlando learns that he is protected by
this ensign of fraud, and accuses him of partaking in Gano's treason.
Then the youth flings the cloak from his shoulders, and plunges into the
fight with an indignant repudiation of this shame upon his lips. The
scene is not unworthy of the _Iliad_;[534] and his last words, as he
falls pierced in the breast with two lances, _Or non son io più
traditiore!_ are dramatic.

Pulci deserves credit for strong delineation of character. Through all
the apish tricks and fantastic arabesque-work of his style, the chief
personages retain firmly-marked types. Never since the _Chanson de
Roland_ was first sung, has a more heroic portrait of Orlando, the
God-fearing knight, obedient to his liege-lord, serene in his courage
and gentle in his strength, courteous, pious and affectionate, been
painted.[535] Close adherence to the popular conception of Orlando's
character here stood Pulci in good stead; nor was he hampered with the
difficulties which beset Boiardo and Ariosto, when they showed the
champion of Christianity subdued to madness and to love. Thus one work
at least of the Renaissance maintained for the Italians an ideal of
chivalrous heroism, first conceived by Franco-Norman bards, and
afterwards transmitted through the fancy of the people, who are ever
ready to discern and to preserve the lineaments of greatness. Oliver the
true friend and doughty warrior, Rinaldo the fiery foe and reckless
lover, to whom the press of men was Paradise,[536] and Malagigi the
magician, are drawn with no less skill. Charles is such as the
traditions of the myth and the requirements of the plot obliged Pulci
to make him. Yet in spite of the feebleness which exposes him to the
treasonable arts of Gano, he is not deficient in a certain nobility. In
the conduct of these characters, amid the windings of the poet's
freakish fancy, we trace the solidity of his plan, his faculty for
earnest art. But should there still be found critics who, after a
careful study of Gano, Orlando, Uliviero, Rinaldo and Carlo, think that
Pulci meant his poem for a mere burlesque, this opinion cannot but be
shaken by a perusal of the twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh
Cantos. The refusal of Orlando to blow his horn:

    Non sonerò perchè e' m'aiuti Carlo,
    Chè per viltà mai non volli sonarlo:

his address to the knights when rushing into desperate battle at
impossible odds[537]; the scene of his death, so tender in its pathos,
so quaint in its piety; the agony of Charles when he comes, too late, to
find him slain, and receives his sword from the Paladin's dead hands;
these passages must surely be enough to convince the most incredulous of

It has been customary to explain the apparent contradictions of the
_Morgante Maggiore_--Pulci's brusque transitions from piety to
ribaldry, from pathos to satire--by reference to the circumstances of
Florence at the date of its composition. The republic was at war with
Sixtus IV., who had taken part in the Pazzi conspiracy. To his Bull of
excommunication the Signoria had retorted by terming it "maledictam
maledictionem damnatissimi judicis," and had described the Pope himself
as "delirum senem," "leno matris suæ, adulterorum minister, diaboli
vicarius." It was not to be expected that even an orthodox Christian
should be tender toward the vices of the clergy or careful in guarding
his religious utterances at such a moment. Yet we need not go far afield
to account for Pulci's profanity. The Italians of the age in which he
lived, were freethinkers without ceasing to be Catholics. To begin a
Canto with a prayer, and to end it with speculations on the destiny of
the soul after death, was consistent with their intellectual temper. The
schools and private coteries of Florence were the arena in which
Platonism and Averroism waged war with orthodoxy, where questions of
freewill and creation, the relation of man to God, and the essence of
the human spirit, were being discussed with a philosophic indifference
and warmth of curiosity that prepared the way for Pomponazzi's
materialism. Criticism, the modern Hercules, was already in its cradle,
strangling the serpents of sacerdotal authority: and as yet the
Inquisition had not become a power of terror; the Council of Trent and
the Spanish tyranny had not turned Italians into trembling bigots or
sleek hypocrites. Externally they remained tenacious of their old
beliefs; and from the point of view of art at least, they were desirous
of adhering to tradition. For Pulci to have celebrated Orlando without
assuming the customary style of the _cantastorie_, would have been
beside his purpose. Therefore, the mixture of magic, theology, impiety,
speculation and religious fervor which perplexes a reader of the present
day in the _Morgante_, corresponded to the mental attitude of the
educated majority at Pulci's date. On the border-land between the middle
ages and the modern world the keen Italian intellect loved to entertain
itself with a perpetual _perhaps_, impartially including in the sphere
of doubt old dogmas and novel hypotheses, and finding satisfaction in an
insecurity that flattered it with the sense of disengagement from
formulæ.[538] With some minds this volatile questioning was serious;
with others it assumed a Rabelaisian joviality. Pulci ranked with those
who made the problems of the world material for humorous debate.

A few instances of Pulci's peculiar levity might be selected from the
last Cantos of the _Morgante_, where no one can maintain that his
intention was burlesque. We have just heard from the minstrel's lips how
Roland died, recommending his soul to God and delivering his glove in
sign of feudal fealty to Gabriel. The sound of his horn has startled
Charlemagne from the sleep of false tranquillity, and the Emperor is on
his way to Roncesvalles. But time is short. He prays Christ that as of
old for Joshua, so now for him in his sore need, the sun may be stayed
and the day be prolonged[539]:

    O crucifisso, il qual, già sendo in croce,
    Oscurasti quel sol contra natura;
    Io ti priego, Signor, con umil voce
    Infin ch'io giunga in quella valle oscura,
    Che tu raffreni il suo corso veloce.

The prayer is worthy, in its solemn tone, of this exordium; and the
desired effect soon follows. But now Pulci changes his note from grave
to gay[540]:

    E disse: Pazienzia, come Giobbe;
    Or oltre in Roncisvalle andar si vuole.
    Chè come savio il partito conobbe,
    _Per non tenere in disagio più il sole_.

A few lines further he describes the carnage in the dolorous valley, and
finds this comic phrase to express the confusion of the field[541]:

    Chi mostra sanguinosa la percossa,
    Chi il capo avea quattro braccia discosto,
    _Da non trovarli in Giusaffà si tosto_.

Pulci's grotesque humor gives an air of false absurdity to many
incidents which, together with his hearers, he undoubtedly took in good
faith. During the slaughter of the Christians he wishes to impress the
audience with the multitude of souls who crowded into Paradise. S. Peter
is tired to death with opening the door for them and deafened with their

    E così in ciel si faceva apparecchio
    D'ambrosia e nettar con celeste manna,
    E perchè Pietro alla porta è pur vecchio,
    Credo che molto quel giorno s'affanna;
    E converrà ch'egli abbi buono orecchio,
    Tanto gridavan quelle anime Osanna
    Ch'eran portate dagli angeli in cielo;
    Sicchè la barba gli sudava e 'l pelo.

In the same spirit is the picture of the fiends seated like hawks upon
the bell-towers of a little chapel, waiting to pounce upon the souls of

Sometimes a flash of purely Bernesque humor appears in Pulci; as when he
says that the Saracens:

    Bestemmiavano Dio divotamente,

or when Oliver, after a pathetic love-lament, complains that it is

    Celar per certo l'amore e la tossa.

According to modern notions his jokes not unfrequently savor of
profanity. Rinaldo and Ricciardetto are feasting upon ortolans, and give
this punning reason for their excellence[544]:

    Cioè che Cristo a Maddalena apparve
    In ortolan, che buon sozio gli parve.

On the same occasion Rinaldo is so pleased with his fare that he

            Questi mi paion miracoli;
    Facciam qui sei non che tre tabernacoli.

Such expressions flash forth from mere Florentine sense of fun in
passages by no means deliberately comic.

The most diverting character of the _Morgante_ is Margutte, an
eccentric heteroclite creature, the prototype of Folengo's Cingar and
Rabelais' Panurge, whom the giant met upon his wanderings and adopted
for a comrade. It has been supposed with some reason that Pulci here
intended to satirize the Greeks who flocked to Florence after the fall
of Constantinople, and that either Marullo, the personal enemy of
Poliziano, or Demetrius Chalcondylas, his rival in erudition, sat for
Margutte's portrait. The character of the rogue, described by himself in
thirty stanzas of fantastic humor, contains a complete epitome of the
abuse which the scholars of those days used to vomit forth in their
reciprocal invectives.[545] Part of the comic effect produced by his
speech is due to this self-attribution of qualities which supplied the
arsenals of humanistic combatants with poisoned arrows. But Margutte has
far more than a merely illustrative or temporary value. He is the first
finished humoristic portrait sketched in modern literature, the first
broadly-conceived and jovially-executed Rabelaisian study. Though it is
very improbable that Pulci had any knowledge of Aristophanes, though he
died eight years or thereabouts before the Curé of Meudon was born, his
Margutte is cousin-german of the Sausage-seller and Panurge.[546]
Margutte takes an impish pride in reckoning up his villanies and vices.
When Morgante asks him whether he believes in Christ or Appollino, he

                     A dirtel tosto,
    Io non credo più al nero ch' all'azzurro,
    Ma nel cappone, o lesso, o vuogli arrosto ...
    E credo nella torta e nel tortello,
    L'una è la madre, e l'altro è il suo figliuolo;
    Il vero paternostro è il fegatello,
    E possono esser tre, e due, ed un solo,
    E diriva dal fegato almen quello.

He explains his disengagement from all creeds by referring to his

    Che nato son d'una monaca greca,
    E d'un papasso in Bursia là in Turchia.

Beginning life by murdering his father, he next set out to seek
adventures in the world:

    E per compagni ne menai con meco
    Tutt'i peccati o di turco o di greco,
    Anzi quanti ne son giù nell'inferno:
    Io n'ho settanta e sette de' mortali,
    Che non mi lascian mai la state o 'l verno;
    Pensa quanti io n'ho poi de' veniali!

Margutte's humor consists in the baboon-like self-contentment of his
infamous confessions, and in the effect they produce upon Morgante, who
feels that he has found in him a finished gentleman. After amusing his
audience with this puppet for a while, Pulci flings him aside. Margutte,
like Pietro Aretino, dies at last of immoderate laughter.[547]

Another of Pulci's own creations is Astarotte, the proud and courteous
fiend, summoned by Malagigi to bring Rinaldo from Egypt to Roncesvalles.
This feat he accomplishes in a few hours by entering the body of the
horse Baiardo. The journey consists of a series of splendid leaps,
across lakes, rivers, mountains, seas and cities; and when the paladin
hungers, Astarotte spreads a table for him in the wilderness or
introduces him invisible into the company of queens at banquet in fair
Saragossa. The humor and the fancy of this magic journey are both of a
high order.[548] Yet Astarotte is made to serve a second purpose. Into
his mouth Pulci places all his theological speculations, and makes him
reason learnedly like Mephistophilis:

    Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate,
    Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute.

He is introduced in these lines[549]:

    Uno spirto chiamato è Astarotte,
    Molto savio, terribil, molto fero,
    Questo si sta giù nell'infernal grotte;
    Non è spirto folletto, egli è più nero.

Of his noble descent from the highest of created intelligences Astarotte
is well aware[550]:

    Io era Serafin de' principali ...
    Io fui già Serafin più di te degno.

He is in earnest to prove that courtesy exists in Hell[551]:

    Chè gentilezza è bene anche in inferno ...
    Non creder, nello inferno anche fra noi
    Gentilezza non sia.

When Malagigi questions him concerning divine foreknowledge and his own
state in Hell, he replies with a complete theory of sin and punishment
founded upon the doctrine of freewill.[552] The angels sinned with
knowledge. Therefore for them there is no redemption. Adam sinned in
ignorance. Therefore there is hope for all men, and a probability of
final restitution for the whole human race[553]:

    Forse che 'l vero dopo lungo errore
    Adorerete tutti di concordia.
    E troverete ognun misericordia.

Astarotte's own torment in Hell causes him bitter anguish; but he
recognizes the justice of God; and knowing that the sentence of
damnation cannot be canceled, he is too courageous to complain. When
Rinaldo offers to intercede for him, he answers[554]:

                 Il buon volere accetto;
    Per noi fien sempre perdute le chiavi,
    Maestà lesa, infinito è il difetto:
    O felici Cristian, voi par che lavi
    Una lacrima sol col pugno al petto,
    E dir; Signor, tibi soli peccavi;
    Noi peccammo una volta, e in sempiterno
    Rilegati siam tutti nello inferno.
      Chè pur se dopo un milione e mille
    Di secol noi sperassim rivedere
    Di quell'Amor le minime faville,
    Ancor sarebbe ogni peso leggiere:
    Ma che bisogna far queste postille?
    Se non si può, non si debbe volere;
    Ond'io ti priego, che tu sia contento
    Che noi mutiamo altro ragionamento.

There is great refinement in this momentary sadness of Astarotte,
followed by his return to more cheerful topics. He is the Italian
counterpart of Marlowe's fiend, that melancholy demon of the North, who
tempts his victim by the fascination of mere horror.[555] Like
Mephistophilis, again, Astarotte is ready to satisfy the curiosity of
mortals, and condescends to amuse them with elfish tricks.[556] He
explains to Rinaldo that it is quite a mistake to suppose that there are
no inhabited lands beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. The earth, he says,
is round, and can be circumnavigated; and cities full of people,
worshiping our planets and our sun, are found in the antipodes. Hercules
ought to blush for having fixed his pillars where he did.[557] The good
understanding established between Astarotte and Rinaldo on their
journey is one of the prettiest incidents of this strange poem. When
they part, the fiend and the paladin have become firm friends. Astarotte
vows henceforth to serve Rinaldo for love; and Rinaldo promises to free
him from Malagigi's power.[558]

Pulci dealt with the Carolingian Cycle in what may be termed a
_bourgeois_ spirit. Whether humorous or earnest, he maintained the tone
of Florentine society: and his _Morgante_ reflects the peculiar
conditions of the Medicean circle at the date of its composition. The
second great poem on the same group of legends, Boiardo's _Orlando
Innamorato_, transports us into a very different social and intellectual
atmosphere. The highborn Count of Scandiano, reciting his cantos in the
huge square castle surrounded by its moat, which still survives to speak
of medieval Italy in the midst of Ferrara, had but little in common with
Luigi Pulci, whose Tuscan fun and satire amused the merchant-princes of
the Via Larga. The value of the _Orlando Innamorato_ for the student of
Italian development is principally this, that it is the most purely
chivalrous poem of the Renaissance. Composed before the French
invasion, and while the classical Revival was still unaccomplished, we
find in it an echo of an earlier semi-feudal civility. Unlike the other
literary performances of that age, which were produced for the most part
by professional humanists, it was the work of a nobleman to whom feats
of arms and the chase were familiar, who disdained the common folk
(_popolaccio_, _canaglia_, as he always calls them), and whose ideal
both of life and of art was contained in this couplet[559]:

    E raccontare il pregio e 'l grande onore
    Che donan l'armi giunte con l'amore.

Matteo Maria Boiardo was almost an exact contemporary of Pulci. He was
born about 1434 at his hereditary fief of Scandiano, a village seven
miles from Reggio, at the foot of the Apennines, celebrated for its
excellent vineyards. His mother was Lucia Strozzi, a member of the
Ferrarese house, connected by descent with the Strozzi of Florence. At
the age of twenty-eight he married Taddea Gonzaga, daughter of the Count
of Novellara. He lived until 1494, when he died at the same time as Pico
and Poliziano, in the year of Charles VIII.'s invasion, two years after
the death of Lorenzo de' Medici, and four years before Ficino. These
dates are not unimportant as fixing the exact epoch of Boiardo's
literary activity. At the Court of Ferrara, where the Count of Scandiano
enjoyed the friendship of Duke Borso and Duke Ercole, this bard of
chivalry held a position worthy of his noble rank and his great talents.
The princes of the House of Este employed him as embassador in
diplomatic missions of high trust and honor. He also administered for
them the government of Reggio and Modena, their two chief subject
cities. As a ruler, he was celebrated for his clemency and for his
indifference to legal formalities. An enemy, Panciroli, wrote of him:
"He was a man of excessive kindness, more fit for writing poems than for
punishing crimes." He is even reported to have held that no offense
deserved capital punishment--an opinion which at that period could only
have been seriously entertained in Italy, and which even there was
strangely at variance with the temper of the petty tyrants. Well versed
in Greek and Latin literature, he translated Herodotus, parts of
Xenophon, the _Golden Ass_ of Apuleius, and the _Ass_ of Lucian into
Italian. He also versified Lucian's _Timon_ for the stage, and wrote
Latin poems of fair merit. His lyrics addressed to Antonia Caprara prove
that, like Lorenzo de' Medici, he was capable of following the path of
Petrarch without falling into Petrarchistic mannerism.[560] But his
literary fame depends less upon these minor works than on the _Orlando
Innamorato_, a masterpiece of inventive genius, which furnished Ariosto
with the theme of the _Orlando Furioso_. Without the _Innamorato_ the
_Furioso_ is meaningless. The handling and structure of the romance, the
characters of the heroes and heroines, the conception of Love and Arms
as the double theme of romantic poetry, the interpolation of _novelle_
in the manner of Boccaccio, and the magic machinery by which the poem
is conducted, are due to the originality of Boiardo. Ariosto adopted his
plot, continued the story where he left it, and brought it to a close;
so that, taken together, both poems form one gigantic narrative, of
about 100,000 lines, which has for its main subject the love and the
marriage of Ruggiero and Bradamante, mythical progenitors of the
Estensi. Yet because the style of Boiardo is rough and provincial, while
that of Ariosto is by all consent "divine," Boiardo has been almost
forgotten by posterity.

Chivalry at no time took firm root in Italy, where the first act of the
Communes upon their achievement of independence had been to suppress
feudalism by forcing the nobles to reside as burghers within their
walls. The true centers of national vitality were the towns. Here the
Latin race assimilated to itself the Teutonic elements which might, if
left to flourish in the country, have given a different direction to
Italian development. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the
immense extension of mercantile activity, the formation of tyrannies,
the secular importance of the Papacy, and the absorption of the
cultivated classes in humanistic studies, removed the people ever
further from feudal traditions. Even the new system of warfare, whereby
the scions of noble families took pay from citizens and priests for the
conduct of military enterprises, tended to destroy the stronghold of
chivalrous feeling in a nation that grew to regard the profession of
arms as another branch of commerce. Still Italy could not wholly
separate herself from the rest of Europe, and there remained provinces
where a kind of semi-feudalism flourished. The most important of these
undoubtedly was the kingdom of Naples, subject to alternate influence
from France and Spain, and governed by monarchs at frequent warfare with
their barons. The second was Ferrara, where the House of Este had
maintained unbroken lordship from the period when still the Empire was a
power in Italy. Here the ancient Lombard traditions of chivalry, the
customs of the Marca Amorosa, and the literature of the troubadours
still lingered.[561] Externally at least, the manners of the Court were
feudal, however far removed its princes may have been in spirit from the
ideal of knighthood. In Ferrara, therefore, more than in Florence and
Venice, those cities of financiers and traders, could the romance of
chivalry be seriously treated by a poet who admired the knightly
virtues, and looked back upon the days of Arthur and of Roland as a
golden age of honor, far removed but real. While the humanists of
Florence indulged their fancy with dreams of Virgil's Saturnian reign,
the baron of Ferrara refashioned a visionary world from the wrecks of
old romance.[562]

Boiardo did not disdain to assume the style of a minstrel addressing his
courtly audience with compliments and _congés_ at the beginning and
ending of each canto. The first opens with these words:

    Signori e cavalieri che v'adunati
    Per odir cose dilettose e nuove,
    State attenti, quieti, ed ascoltati
    La bella istoria che 'l mio canto muove.

But his spirit is always knightly, and he refrains from the quaint
pietism of Pulci's preambles. He is no mere jongleur or _Cantatore da
Banca_, but a new Sir Tristram, celebrating in heroic verse the valorous
deeds and amorous emotions of which he had himself partaken. Nor does
he, like Ariosto, appear before us as a courtier accomplished in the
arts of flattery, or as a man of letters anxious above all things to
refine his style. Neither the Court-life of Italy nor the humanism of
the revival had destroyed in him the spirit of old-world freedom and
noble courtesy. At the same time he was so far imbued with the culture
of the Renaissance as to appreciate the value of poetic unity and to
combine certain elements of classic learning with the material of
romance. Setting out with the aim of connecting all the Frankish legends
in one poem, he made Orlando his hero; but he perceived that the element
of love, which added so great a charm to the Arthurian Cycle, had
hitherto been neglected by the minstrels of Charlemagne. He therefore
resolved to tell a new tale of the mighty Roland; and the originality of
his poem consisted in the fact that he treated the material of the
_Chansons de Geste_ in the spirit of the Breton legends.[563] Turpin, he
asserts with a grave irony, had hidden away the secret of Orlando's
love; but he will unfold the truth, believing that no knight was ever
the less noble for his love. Accordingly the passion of Orlando for "the
fairest of her sex, Angelica," like the wrath of Achilles in the
_Iliad_, is the mainspring of Boiardo's poem. To his genius we owe the
creation of that fascinating princess of the East, as well as the
invention of the fountains of Cupid and Merlin, which cause the
alternate loves and hates of his heroes and heroines--the whole of that
closely-woven mesh of sentiment in which the adventures and the warlike
achievements of Paladins and Saracens alike are involved.

In dealing with his subject Boiardo is serious--as serious, that is to
say, as a writer of romance can be.[564] His belief in chivalry itself
is earnest, though the presentation of knightly prowess runs into
intentional extravagance. A dash of Italian merriment mingles with his
enthusiasm; but he has none of Pulci's skeptical satiric humor, none of
Ariosto's all-pervasive irony. The second thoughts of the burlesque poet
or of the humorous philosopher do not cross the warp of his conception,
and his exaggerations are romantic. Such a poem as the _Orlando
Innamorato_ could not have been planned or executed in Italy at any
other period or under any other circumstances. A few years after
Boiardo's death Italy was plunged into the wars that led to her
enslavement. Charles V. was born and Luther was beginning to shake
Germany. The forces of the Renaissance were in full operation,
destroying the faiths and fervors of the medieval world, closing the
old æon with laughter and lamentation, raising new ideals as yet
imperfectly apprehended. Meanwhile Boiardo, whose life coincided with
the final period of Italian independence, uttered the last note of the
bygone age. His poem, chivalrous, free, joyous, with not one stain of
Ariosto's servility or of Tasso's melancholy, corresponded to a brief
and passing moment in the evolution of the national art. In the pure and
vivid beauty which distinguish it, the sunset of chivalry and the
sunrise of modern culture blend their colors, as in some far northern
twilight of midsummer night. Joyousness pervades its cantos and is
elemental to its inspiration--the joy of open nature, of sensual though
steadfast love, of strong limbs and eventful living, of restless
activity, of childlike security. Boiardo's style reminds us somewhat of
Benozzo Gozzoli in painting, or of Piero di Cosimo, who used the skill
of the Renaissance to express the cheerful _naïveté_ of a less
self-conscious time. It is sad to read the last stanza of the
_Innamorato_, cut short ere it was half completed by the entry of the
French into Italy, and to know that so free and freshly-tuned a "native
wood-note wild" would never sound again.[565] When Ariosto repieced the
broken thread, the spirit of the times was changed. Servitude,
adulation, irony, and the meridian splendor of Renaissance art had
succeeded to independence, frankness, enthusiasm and the poetry of
natural enjoyment. Far more magnificent is Ariosto's Muse; but we lack
the spontaneity of the elder poet. And as the years advance, the change
is more apparent toward decay. The genius of Boiardo might be compared
to some high-born lad, bred in the country, pure-hearted, muscular,
brave, fair to look upon. That of Ariosto is studious and accomplished
with the smile of worldly sarcasm upon his lips. The elegances of Bembo
and the Petrarchisti remind one of a hectic scented fop, emasculate and
artificial. Aretino resembles his own _bardassonacci, paggi da taverna_,
flaunting meretricious charms with brazen impudence. Tasso in the
distance wears a hair shirt beneath his armor of parade; he is a
Jesuit's pupil, crossing himself when he awakes from love-dreams and
reveries of pleasure. It was probably the discord between Boiardo's
spirit and the prevailing temper of the sixteenth century, far more than
the roughness of his verse or the provinciality of his language, that
caused him to be so strangely and completely forgotten. In the Italy of
Machiavelli and the Borgias, of Michelangelo and Julius II., his aims,
enthusiasms and artistic ideals found alike no sympathy. To class him
with his own kind, we must go beyond the Alps and seek his brethren in
France or England.

Boiardo's merit as a constructive artist can best be measured by the
analysis of his plot. Crowded as the _Orlando Innamorato_ is with
incidents and episodes, and inexhaustible as may be the luxuriance of
the poet's fancy, the unity of his romance is complete. From the moment
of Angelica's appearance in the first canto, the whole action depends
upon her movements. She withdraws the Paladins to Albracca, and forces
Charlemagne to bear the brunt of Marsilio's invasion alone. She restores
Orlando to the French host before Montalbano. It is her ring which frees
the fated Ruggiero from Atlante's charms. The nations of the earth are
in motion. East, West, and South and North send forth their countless
hordes to combat; but these vast forces are controlled by one woman's
caprice, and events are so handled by the poet as to make the fate of
myriads waver in the balance of her passions. We might compare Boiardo's
romance to an immense web, in which a variety of scenes and figures are
depicted by the constant addition of new threads. None of the old
threads are wasted; not one is merely superfluous. If one is dropped for
a moment and lost to sight, it reappears again. The slightest incidents
lead to the gravest results. Narratives of widely different character
are so interwoven as to aid each other, introducing fresh agents,
combining these with those whom we have learned to know, but leaving the
grand outlines of the main design untouched.

The miscellaneous details which enliven a tale of chivalry, are grouped
round four chief centers--Paris, where the poem opens with the
tournament that introduces Angelica, and where, at the end of the second
book, all the actors are assembled for the supreme struggle between
Christendom and Islam; Albracca, where Angelica is besieged in the far
East; Biserta, where the hosts of pagan Agramante muster, and the hero
Ruggiero is brought upon the scene; Montalbano, where Charlemagne
sustains defeat at the hands of Agramante, Rodamonte, Marsilio, and
Ruggiero. In order to combine such distant places in one action,
Boiardo was obliged to set geography and time at defiance. Between
Tartary and Circassia, France and Spain, Africa and Hungary, the knights
make marches and countermarches within the space of a few weeks or even
days. All arrive at the same dangerous gates and passes, the same
seductive lakes and gardens; for the magical machinery of the romance
was more important to the poet's scheme than cosmographical conditions.
His more than dramatic contempt for distance was indispensable in the
conduct of a romance which admitted of no pause in the succession of
attractive incidents, and was also pardonable in an age devoid of
accurate geography. His chief aim was to secure novelty, excitement,
variety, ideal unity.

Boiardo further showed his grasp of art by the emphatic presentation of
the chief personages, whose action determined the salient features of
his tale. It is impossible to forget Angelica after her first entrance
on the scene at Paris. In like manner Marfisa at Albracca, Rodamonte in
the council-chamber at Biserta, Ruggiero on the heights of Mount Carena,
Orlando entering the combat before Albracca, Mandricardo passing forth
unarmed and unattended to avenge his father's death, are brought so
vividly before our eyes, that the earliest impression of each character
remains with us in all their subsequent appearances. The inferior actors
are introduced with less preparation and diminished emphasis, because
they have to occupy subordinate positions, and to group themselves
around the heroes; and thus the whole vast poem is like a piece of
arras-work, where the strongest definition of form, and the most
striking colors, serve to throw into relief the principal figures amid
a multitude of minor shapes. Not less skill is manifested in the
preservation of the types of character outlined in these first
descriptions. To vary the specific qualities of all those knights
engaged in the same pursuit of love and arms, was extremely difficult.
Yet Boiardo, sometimes working on the lines laid down by earlier
romancers, sometimes inventing wholly new conceptions (as in the case of
Rodamonte, Ruggiero, Marfisa, Brandiamante), may be said to have
succeeded in this master-stroke of art. The Homeric heroes are scarcely
less firmly and subtly differentiated than his champions of chivalry.

Orlando is the ideal of Christian knighthood, fearless, indifferent to
wealth, chaste, religious, respectful in his love, courteous toward
women, swift to wrath, but generous even in his rage, exerting his
strength only when the occasion is worthy of him.[566] His one weakness
is the passion for Angelica. Twice he refuses for her sake to accompany
Dudone to the help of his liege-lord, and in the fight at Montalbano he
is careless of Christendom so long as he can win his lady.[567] Studying
Boiardo's delineation of love-lunacy in Orlando, we understand how
Ariosto was led by it to the conception of the _Furioso_. Rinaldo is
cast in a somewhat inferior mold. Lion-hearted, fierce, rebellious
against Charles, prone to love and hate excessively, he is the type of
the feudal baron, turbulent and troublesome to his suzerain. Astolfo,
slight, vain, garrulous, fond of finery and flirting, boastful, yet as
fearless as the leopards on his shield, and winning hearts by his
courtesy and grace, offers a spirited contrast to the massive vigor of
Rinaldo. It was a master-stroke of humor to have provided this fop of a
Paladin with the lance of Argalia, whereby his physical weakness is
supplemented and his bravery becomes a match for the muscles of the
doughtiest champions.[568] Brandimarte presents another aspect of the
chivalrous ideal. Fidelity is his chief virtue--loyalty to his love,
Fiordelisa, and his hero, Orlando, combined with a delightful frankness
and the freshness of untainted youth. He is not wise, but boyish,
amorous, of a simple, trustful soul; a kind of Italian Sir Bors.
Ferraguto, on the contrary, is all fire and fury, as petulantly fierce
in love as in arms, so hot in his temerity that even at times he can
forget the laws of honor.[569] Mandricardo's distinctive quality (beside
that of generous daring, displayed in his solitary and unarmed quest of
Orlando, and in the achievement of Hector's armor) is singular good
fortune. Ruggiero has for his special mark victorious beauty, blent with
a courtesy and loftiness of soul, that opens his heart to romantic love,
and renders him peerless among youthful warriors. Boiardo has spared no
pains to impress our imagination with the potency of his unrivaled
comeliness.[570] He moves before our eyes like the angelic knight in
Mantegna's _Madonna of the Victory_, or like Giorgione's picture of the
fair-haired and mail-clad donzel, born to conquer by the might of
beauty. Agramante, the Eastern Emperor, whose council is composed of
thirty-two crowned heads, enhances by his arrogance of youth the
world-worn prudence of old Charlemagne. Marfisa, the Amazonian Indian
queen, who has the force of twenty knights, and is as cruel in her
courage as a famished tigress, sets off the gentler prowess of
Brandiamante, Rinaldo's heroic sister. Rodamonte is the blustering,
atheistic, insolent young Ajax, standing alone against armies, and
hurling defiance at heaven from the midst of a sinking navy.[571]
Agricane is distinguished as the knight who loves fighting for its own
sake, and disdains culture; Sacripante, as the gentle and fearless
suitor of Angelica; Gradasso, as the hyperbolical champion of the
Orient, inflamed with a romantic desire to gain Durlindana and Baiardo,
the enchanted sword and horse. Gano and Truffaldino, among these
paragons of honor, are notable traitors, the one brave when he chooses
to abandon craft, the other cowardly. Brunello is the Thersites of the
company, a perfect thief, misshapen, mischievous, consummate in his
guile.[572] Malagise deals in magic, and has a swarm of demons at his
back for all exigences. Turpin's chivalry is tempered with a subtle
flavor of the priest, exposing him to Boiardo's mockery. Of Oliver and
Ogier we hear, accidentally perhaps, but little. Such are some of
Boiardo's personages. Not a few were given to him by the old romancers;
but these he has new-fashioned to his needs.[573] Others he has molded
from his own imagination with such plastic force that they fall short in
no respect of the time-honored standard. It is no slight tribute to his
creative power that we recognize a real fraternity between these puppets
of his fancy and the mythic heroes with whom they are associated. As
Boiardo left the actors in his drama, so Ariosto took them up and with
but slight change treated them in his continuation of the tale.

Women, with the exception of Marfisa and Brandiamante, fare but ill at
Boiardo's hands. He seems to have conceived of female character as a
compound of fickleness, infidelity, malice, falsehood, and light love.
Angelica is little better than a seductive witch, who dotes on Rinaldo,
and yet contrives to make use of Orlando, luring him to do her purpose
by false promises.[574] Falerina and Dragontina are sorceresses, apt for
all iniquity and guile. Morgana and Alcina display the capricious loves
and inhuman spites of fairies. Origille is a subtle traitress, beautiful
enough to deceive Orlando, but as poisonous as a serpent. Even the
ladies who are intended to be amiable, show but a low standard of
morality.[575] Leodilla, princess of the Far Isles, glories in adultery,
and hates Orlando for his constancy to Angelica in absence.[576]
Fiordelisa is false in thought to Brandimarte, when she sees Rinaldo
sleeping in the twilight. The picture, however, of the slumbering
warrior and the watchful maiden is so fresh and true to Boiardo's genius
that it deserves quotation[577]:

    Upon his steed forthwith hath sprung the knight,
    And with the damsel rideth fast away;
    Not far they fared, when slowly waned the light,
    And forced them to dismount and there to stay.
    Rinaldo 'neath a tree slept all the night;
    Close at his side the lovely lady lay:
    But the strong magic of wise Merlin's well
    Had on the baron's temper cast a spell.

    He now can sleep anigh that beauteous dame;
    Nor of her neighborhood have any care;
    Erewhile a sea, a flood, a raging flame
    Would not have stayed his quick desire, I swear:
    To clasp so fair a creature without shame,
    Walls, mountains, he'd have laid in ruins there;
    Now side by side they sleep, and naught he recks;
    While her, methinks, far other thoughts perplex.

    The air, meanwhile, was growing bright around,
    Although not yet the sun his face had shown;
    Some stars the tranquil brows of heaven still crowned;
    The birds upon the trees sang one by one:
    Dark night had flown; bright day was not yet found:
    Then toward Rinaldo turned the maid alone;
    For she with morning light had cast off sleep,
    While he upon the grass still slumbered deep.

    Beauteous he was, and but a stripling then;
    Strong-thewed and lithe, and with a lively face;
    Broad in the chest, but in the haunches thin;
    The lady gazed, smit with his manly grace:
    His beard scarce budded upon cheek and chin:
    Gazing, she almost fainted in that place,
    And took such pleasure in so sweet a sight
    That naught she heeds beyond this one delight.

Love, as conceived by Boiardo, though a powerful and steadfast passion,
is not spiritual. The knights love like centaurs, and fight like bulls
for the privilege of paying suit to their ladies. Rinaldo and Orlando
meet in deadly duel for Angelica; Rodamonte and Ferraguto dispute
Doralice, though the latter does not care for her, and only asserts his
right to dwell in thought upon her charms. Orlando and Agricane break
their courteous discourse outside Albracca to fight till one of them is
killed, merely because the name of Angelica has intervened. For
Boiardo's descriptions of love returned, and crowned with full fruition,
the reader may be referred to two magnificent passages in the episodes
of Leodilla and Fiordelisa.[578] Poetically noble in spite of their
indelicacy, these pictures of sensuous and natural enjoyment might be
paralleled with the grand frankness of Venetian painting. It is to be
regretted for Boiardo's credit as an artist in expression, that more
than a bare reference to them is here impossible.

Boiardo's conception of friendship or fraternity in arms is finer. The
delineation of affection generated by mutual courtesy under the most
trying conditions of intercourse, which binds together the old rivals
Iroldo and Prasildo, has something in it truly touching.[579] The same
passion of comradeship finds noble expression in the stanzas uttered by
Orlando, when he recognizes Rinaldo's shield suspended by Aridano near
Morgana's Lake.[580] It must be remembered that the cousins had recently
parted as foes, after a fierce battle for Angelica before Albracca:

    Hearing these dulcet words, the Count began
    Little by little of his will to yield;
    Backward already he withdrew a span,
    When, gazing on the bridge and guarded field,
    Force was that he the armor bright should scan
    Which erst Rinaldo bore--broad sword and shield:
    Then weeping, "Who hath done me this despite?"
    He cried: "Oh, who hath slain my perfect knight?

    "Here wast thou killed by foulest treachery
    Of that false robber on this slippery bridge;
    For all the world could not have conquered thee
    In fair fight, front to front, and edge to edge:
    Cousin, from heaven incline thine ear to me!
    Where now thou reignest, list thy lord and liege!
    Me who so loved thee, though my brief misprision,
    Through too much love, wrought 'twixt our lives division.

    "I crave thy pardon: pardon me, I pray,
    If e'er I did thee wrong, sweet cousin mine!
    I was thine ever, as I am alway,
    Though false suspicion, or vain love malign,
    And jealous blindness, on an evil day,
    Brought me to cross my furious brand with thine:
    Yet all the while I loved thee--love thee now;
    Mine was the fault, and only mine, I vow.

    "What traitorous wolf ravening for blood was he
    Who thus debarred us twain from kind return
    To concord sweet and sweet tranquillity,
    Sweet kisses, and sweet tears of souls that yearn?
    This is the anguish keen that conquers me,
    That now I may not to thy bosom turn,
    And speak, and beg for pardon, ere I part;
    This is the grief, the dole that breaks my heart!"

Scarcely less beautiful is the feeling which binds Brandimarte to the
great Count, the inferior to the superior hero, making him ready to
release his master from Manodante's prison at the price of his own
liberty.[581] Boiardo devotes the exordium of the seventh Canto of the
third Book to a panegyric of chivalrous friendship:

    Far more than health, far more than strength is worth,
    Nay more than pleasure, more than honor vain,
    Is friendship tried alike in dole and mirth:
    For when one love doth join the hearts of twain,
    Their woes are halved, their joys give double birth
    To joy, by interchange of grief and pain;
    And when doubts rise, with free and open heart
    Each calls his friend, who gladly bears a part.

    What profit is there in much pearls and gold,
    Or power, or proud estate, or royal reign?
    Lacking a friend, mere wealth is frosty cold:
    He who loves not, and is not loved again,
    From him true joys their perfect grace withhold:
    And this I say, since now across the main
    Brave Brandimarte drives his flying ship
    To help Orlando, drawn by comradeship.

Next to bravery the poet's favorite virtue is courtesy. It is enough to
mention Orlando's gentle forbearance with Agricane at Albracca, their
evening conversation in the midst of a bloody duel, and the hero's
sorrow when he has wounded his opponent to the death.[582] Of the same
quality is the courteous behavior of Rinaldo and Gradasso before a
deadly encounter, the aid afforded to Marfisa by Rinaldo in the midst of
their duel, and the graceful sympathy of Astolfo for Brandimarte, whom
he has unhorsed.[583] But the two passages which illustrate Boiardo's
ideal of the chivalrous character, as blent of bravery and courtesy, of
intelligence and love, are Orlando's discourse with Agricane and his
speech to Morgana's maiden. In the first of these the Count and King had
fought till nightfall. Then they agree to sleep together side by side,
and to resume the combat at daybreak. Before they settle for the night,
they talk[584]:

    After the sun below the hills was laid,
    And with bright stars the sky began to glow,
    Unto the King these words Orlando said:
    "What shall we do, now that the day is low?"
    Then Agrican made answer, "Make our bed
    Together here, amid the herbs that grow;
    And then to-morrow with the dawn of light
    We can return and recommence the fight."

    No sooner said, than straight they were agreed:
    Each tied his horse to trees that near them grew;
    Then down they lay upon the grassy mead--
    You might have thought they were old friends and true,
    So close and careless couched they in the reed.
    Orlando nigh unto the fountain drew,
    And Agrican hard by the forest laid
    His length beneath a mighty pine-tree's shade.

    Herewith the twain began to hold debate
    Of fitting things and meet for noble knights.
    The Count looked up to heaven and cried, "How great
    And fair is yonder frame of glittering lights,
    Which God, the mighty monarch, did create;
    The silvery moon, and stars that gem our nights,
    The light of day, yea, and the lustrous sun,
    For us poor men God made them every one!"

    But Agrican: "Full well I apprehend
    It is your wish toward faith our talk to turn:
    Of science less than naught I comprehend;
    Nay, when I was a boy, I would not learn,
    But broke my master's head to make amend
    For his much prating; no one since did yearn
    To teach me book or writing, such the dread
    Wherewith I filled them for my hardihead.

    "And so I let my boyish days flow by,
    In hunting, feats of arms, and horsemanship;
    Nor is it meet, meseems, for chivalry
    To pore the livelong day on scholarship.
    True knights should strive to prove their skill, say I,
    And strength of limb in noble fellowship;
    Leave priests and teaching men from books to learn.
    I know enough, thank God, to serve my turn."

    Then spake the Count: "Thus far we both agree;
    Arms are the chief prime honor of a knight.
    Yet knowledge brings no shame that I can see,
    But rather fame, as fields with flowers are bright;
    More like an ox, a stock, a stone is he
    Who never thinks of God's eternal light;
    Nor without learning can we rightly dwell
    On his high majesty adorable."

    Then Agrican, "Small courtesy it were,
    War with advantage so complete to wage!
    My nature I have laid before you bare;
    I know full well that you are learned and sage;
    Therefore to answer you I do not care.
    Sleep if you like; in sleep your soul assuage;
    Or if you choose with me to hold discourse,
    I look for talk of love, and deeds of force.

    "Now, I beseech you, answer me the truth
    Of what I ask, upon a brave man's faith:
    Are you the great Orlando, in good sooth,
    Whose name and fame the whole world echoeth?
    Whence are you come, and why? And since your youth
    Were you by love inthralled? For story saith
    That any knight who loves not, though he seem
    To sight alive, yet lives but in a dream."

    Then spake the Count: "Orlando sure am I
    Who both Almonte and his brother slew.
    Imperious love hath lost me utterly,
    And made me journey to strange lands and new;
    And, for I fain would thus in amity
    Prolong discourse, therefore I tell you true,
    She who now lies within Albracca's wall,
    Gallafron's daughter, holds my heart in thrall."

This unlucky mention of Angelica stirs the rage of Agricane, and the two
men fight in the moonlight beneath the forest-trees till the young King
is wounded to the death--a splendid subject for some imaginative
painter's pencil. We may notice in this dialogue the modification of
chivalry occasioned by Italian respect for culture. Boiardo exalts the
courage of the educated gentleman above the valor of a man-at-arms. In
the conversation between Orlando and Morgana's maiden he depicts another
aspect of the knightly ideal. The fairy has made Orlando offer of
inestimable treasures, but he answers that indifference to riches is the
sign of a noble heart[585]:

    Orlando smiling heard what she would say,
    But scarce allowed her time her speech to end,
    Seeing toward riches of the sort the fay
    Proffered, his haughty soul he would not bend;
    Wherefore he spake: "It irked me not to-day
    My very life unto the death to spend;
    For only perils and great toils sustain
    Honor of chivalry without a stain.

    "But for the sake of gold or silver gear,
    I would not once have drawn my brand so bright;
    For he who holds mere gain of money dear
    Hath set himself to labor infinite;
    The more he gets the less his gains appear;
    Nor can he ever sate his appetite;
    They who most have, still care for more to spend,
    Wherefore this way of life hath ne'er an end."

Having seen the knights in their more generous moments, we ought to
bear in mind that they are capable of blustering, boasting, and
exchanging foul abuse like humanists. One reference will suffice.
Orlando and Rinaldo quarrel at Albracca and defy each other to combat.
Before fighting they indulge in elaborate caricatures and vilifications,
from which it would appear, to say the least, that these champions of
Christendom were the subject of much scandalous gossip.[586]

Human nature, unsophisticated and unqualified, with the crude impulses
and the contradictions proper to an unreflective age, has been studied
by Boiardo for his men and women. His power of expressing the passions
by natural signs might win for him the title of the Homer of Chivalry.
The love lamentations of Prasildo, the love-languors of Angelica, the
frenzy of Marfisa, the wrath of Ferraguto, the truculency of Rodamonte,
the impish craft of Brunello, Origille's cunning, Brandimarte's fervor,
Ruggiero's impatience to try his strength in the tournament, and his
sudden ecstasy of love for Brandiamante--these and a hundred other
instances of vigorous dramatic presentation could be mentioned. In his
pictures of scenery and descriptions Boiardo follows nature no less
faithfully--and this, be it remembered, in an age which refined on
nature and admitted into art only certain chosen phases of her
loveliness. Of affectation and elaboration he has none. The freshness of
authentic vision gives peculiar vividness to the storm that overtakes
Rodamonte in mid-channel; to the garden of Falerina, where Orlando
stuffs his cask with roses in order to stop his ears against a Siren's
song; to the picture of Morgana combing Ziliante's hair in the midst of
her enchanted meadows, and to the scene in which Angelica greets Orlando
with a perfumed bath after the battle.[587] The charm of Boiardo's
poetry consists in its firm grasp on truth and nature, the spontaneity
and immediateness of its painting. He has none of Poliziano's richness,
no Virgilian dignity or sweetness, no smooth and sparkling fluency like
that of Ariosto. But all that he writes has in it the perfume of the
soil, the freedom of the open air; the spirits of the woods and sea and
stars are in it. Of his style the most striking merit is rapidity.
Almost always unpolished, sometimes even coarse, but invariably spirited
and masculine, his verse leaps onward like a grayhound in its swiftness.
Story succeeds story with extraordinary speed; and whether of love or
arms, they are equally well told. The pathetic novel of Tisbina,
Rinaldo's wondrous combat with the griffins and the giants, the
lion-hunt at Biserta, the mustering of Agramante's lieges, and the flux
and reflux of battle before Montalbano tax the vivid and elastic vigor
of Boiardo in five distinct species of rapid narration; and in all of
them he proves himself more than adequate to the strain. For ornaments
he cared but little, nor did he wait to elaborate similes. A lion at
bay, a furious bull, a river foaming to the sea, a swollen torrent, two
battling winds, a storm of hail, the clash of thunderclouds, an
earthquake, are the figures he is apt to use. The descriptions of
Rinaldo, Marfisa and Orlando, may be cited as favorable specimens of
his illustrative metaphors.[588] Short phrases like _a guisa di leone_,
_a guisa di colomba_, _a guisa di serpente_, _a guisa d'uno drago_, _a
guisa di castello_, indicate in outline images that aid the poet's
thought. But nothing like the polish or minuteness of Ariosto's
highly-wrought comparisons can be found in the _Innamorato_. Boiardo's
study of the classics had not roused him to the emulation of their
decorative beauties. Nor, again, did he attend to cadence in his
versification. He would have wondered at the _limæ labor_ of the poets
who came after him. His own stanzas are forcible, swift, fiery, never
pompous or voluptuous, liquid or sonorous. The changes wrought by
Poliziano in the structure of _ottava rima_, his majesty and "linked
sweetness long drawn out," were unknown to Boiardo. Yet those rugged
octaves, in spite of their halting pauses at the end of the fifth line,
in spite of their frequent repetitions and inequalities of volume, are
better adapted to the spirit of his medieval subject-matter than the
sumptuous splendor of more polished versifiers. His diction, in like
manner, judged by the standard of the _cinque cento_, is far from
choice--loaded with Lombardisms, gaining energy and vividness at the
expense of refinement and precision. Thus style and spirit alike removed
him from the sympathies of the correct and classic age that followed.

For the student of the earlier Renaissance Boiardo's art has one
commanding point of interest. In the romantic treatment of antique
motives he is unique. It was the aim of Italian poets after Boccaccio to
effect a fusion between the classical and modern styles, and to ingraft
the beauties of antique literature upon their own language. Boiardo, far
more a child of nature than either Boccaccio or Poliziano, with deeper
sympathy for feudal traditions and chivalrous modes of feeling, attacked
this problem from a point of view directly opposite to theirs. His
comprehensive study of Greek and Roman authors had stored his mind with
legends which gave an impulse to the freedom of his own imagination. He
did not imitate the ancients; but used the myths with so much novelty
and delicate perception of their charm, that beneath his touch they
assumed a fresh and fascinating quality. There is nothing grotesque in
his presentation of Hellenic fancy, nothing corresponding to the
medieval transformation of deities into devils; and yet his spirit is
not classical. His Sphinx, his Cyclops, and his Circe-Dragontina, his
Medusa, his Pegasus, his Centaur, his Atalanta, his Satyr, are living
creatures of romantic wonderland, with just enough of classic
gracefulness to remove them from the murky atmosphere of medieval
superstition into the serene ether of a neo-pagan mythology. Nothing can
be more dissimilar from Ovid, more unlike the forms of Græco-Roman
sculpture. With his firm grasp upon reality, Boiardo succeeded in
naturalizing these classic fancies. They are not copied, but drawn from
the life of the poet's imagination. A good instance of this creative
faculty is the description of the Faun, who haunts the woodland in the
shade of leaves, and lives on fruits and drinks the stream, and weeps
when the sky is fair, because he then fears bad weather, but laughs when
it rains, because he knows the sun will shine again.[589] It is not
easy to find an exact analogue in the sister arts to this poetry, though
some points in the work of Botticelli and Piero di Cosimo, some early
engravings by Robeta and the Master of the Caduceus, some bass-reliefs
of Amadeo or incrustations on the chapel-walls of S. Francesco at
Rimini, a Circe by Dosso Dossi in the Borghese palace at Rome, an
etching of Mantegna here or there, might be quoted in illustration of
its spirit.[590] Better justice can be done to Boiardo's achievement by
citation than by critical description. The following stanzas are a
picture of Love attended by the Graces, punishing Rinaldo for his
rudeness near the Font of Merlin[591]:

    When to the leafy wood his feet were brought,
    Towards Merlin's Font at once he took his way;
    Unto the font that changes amorous thought
    Journeyed the Paladin without delay;
    But a new sight, the which he had not sought,
    Caused him upon the path his feet to stay.
    Within the wood there is a little close
    Full of pink flowers, and white, and various:

    And in the midst thereof a naked boy,
    Singing, took solace with surpassing cheer;
    Three ladies round him, as around their joy,
    Danced naked in the light so soft and clear.
    No sword, no shield, hath been his wonted toy;
    Brown are his eyes; yellow his curls appear;
    His downy beard hath scarce begun to grow:
    One saith 'tis there, and one might answer, No!

    With violets, roses, flowers of every dye,
    Baskets they filled and eke their beauteous hands:
    Then as they dance in joy and amity,
    The Lord of Montalbano near them stands:
    Whereat, "Behold the traitor!" loud they cry,
    Soon as they mark the foe within their bands;
    "Behold the thief, the scorner of delight,
    Caught in the trap at last in sorry plight!"

    Then with their baskets all with one consent
    Upon Rinaldo like a tempest bore:
    One flings red roses, one with violets blent
    Showers lilies, hyacinths, fast as she can pour:
    Each flower in falling with strange pain hath rent
    His heart and pricked his marrow to the core,
    Lighting a flame in every smitten part,
    As though the flowers concealed a fiery dart.

    The boy who, naked, coursed along the sod,
    Emptied his basket first, and then began,
    Wielding a long-grown leafy lily rod,
    To scourge the helmet of the tortured man:
    No aid Rinaldo found against the god,
    But fell to earth as helpless children can;
    The youth who saw him fallen, by the feet
    Seized him, and dragged him through the meadow sweet.

    And those three dames had each a garland rare
    Of roses; one was red and one was white:
    These from their snowy brows and foreheads fair
    They tore in haste, to beat the writhing knight:
    In vain he cried and raised his hands in prayer;
    For still they struck till they were tired quite:
    And round about him on the sward they went,
    Nor ceased from striking till the morn was spent.

    Nor massy cuirass, nor stout plate of steel,
    Could yield defense against those bitter blows:
    His flesh was swollen with many a livid weal
    Beneath his mail, and with such fiery woes
    Inflamed as spirits damned in hell may feel;
    Yet theirs, upon my troth, are fainter throes:
    Wherefore that Baron, sore, and scant of breath,
    For pain and fear was well-nigh brought to death.

    Nor whether they were gods or men he knew;
    Nor prayer, nor courage, nor defense availed,
    Till suddenly upon their shoulders grew
    And budded wings with gleaming gold engrailed,
    Radiant with crimson, white, and azure blue;
    And with a living-eye each plume was tailed,
    Not like a peacock's or a bird's, but bright
    And tender as a girl's with love's delight.

    Then after small delay their flight they took,
    And one by one soared upward to the sky,
    Leaving Rinaldo sole beside the brook.
    Full bitterly that Baron 'gan to cry,
    For grief and dole so great his bosom shook
    That still it seemed that he must surely die;
    And in the end so fiercely raged his pain
    That like a corpse he fell along the plain.

This is a fine painting in the style I have attempted to
characterize--the imagery of the Greek mythology taking a new and
natural form of fanciful romance. It is alien to anything in antique
poetry or sculpture. Yet the poet's imagination had been touched to
finest issues by the spirit of the Greeks before he wrote it. Incapable
of transplanting the flowers of antiquity like delicate exotics into the
conservatory of studied art, he acclimatized them to the air of thought
and feeling in which his own romantic spirit breathed. This
distinguishes him from Poliziano, whose stately poem, like the
palm-house in Kew Gardens, contains specimens of all the fairest species
gathered from the art of Greece and Rome. Even more exquisitely instinct
with the first April freshness of Renaissance feeling is another
episode, where Boiardo presents the old tale of Narcissus under a wholly
new and original aspect. By what strange freak of fancy has he converted
Echo into an Empress of the East and added the pathos of the fairy
Silvanella, whose petulance amid her hopeless love throws magic on the
well! We are far away indeed from the Pompeian frescoes here[592]:

    Beyond the bridge there was a little close
    All round the marble of that fountain fair;
    And in the midst a sepulcher arose,
    Not made by mortal art, however rare:
    Above in golden letters ran the gloss,
    Which said, "That soul is vain beyond compare
    That falls a-doting on his own sweet eyes.
    Here in the tomb the boy Narcissus lies."

    Erewhile Narcissus was a damozel
    So graceful, and of beauty so complete,
    That no fair painted form adorable
    Might with his perfect loveliness compete;
    Yet not less fair than proud, as poets tell,
    Seeing that arrogance and beauty meet
    Most times, and thus full well with mickle woe
    The laity of love is taught to know.

    So that the Empress of the Orient
    Doting upon Narcissus beyond measure,
    And finding him on love so little bent,
    So cruel and so careless of all pleasure,
    Poor wretch, her dolorous days in weeping spent,
    Craving from morn till eve of love the treasure,
    Praying vain prayers of power from Heaven to turn
    The very sun, and make him cease to burn.

    Yet all these words she cast upon the wind;
    For he, heart-hardened, would not hear her moan,
    More than the asp, both deaf to charms and blind.
    Wherefore by slow degrees more feeble grown,
    Toward death she daily dwindling sank and pined;
    But ere she died, to Love she cried alone,
    Pouring sad sighs forth with her latest breath,
    For vengeance for her undeservéd death.

    And this Love granted: for beside the stream
    Of which I spoke, Narcissus happed to stray
    While hunting, and perceived its silvery gleam;
    Then having chased the deer a weary way,
    He leaned to drink, and saw as though in dream,
    His face, ne'er seen by him until that day;
    And as he gazed, such madness round him floated,
    That with fond love on his fair self he doted.

    Whoever heard so strange a story told?
    Justice of Love! how true, how strong it is!
    Now he stands sighing by the fountain cold
    For what he hath, yet never can be his!
    He that was erst so hard as stone of old,
    Whom ladies like a god on bended knees
    Devoutly wooed, imploring him for grace,
    Now dies of vain desire for his own face.

    Poring upon his perfect countenance,
    Which on this earth hath ne'er a paragon,
    He pined in deep desire's extravagance,
    Little by little, like a lily blown,
    Or like a cropped rose; till, poor boy, the glance,
    Of his black eyes, his cheek's vermilion,
    His snowy whiteness, and his gleeful mirth
    Death froze who freezes all things upon earth.

    Then by sad misadventure through the glade
    The fairy Silvanella took her way;
    And on the spot where now this tomb is made,
    Mid flowers the dead youth very beauteous lay:
    She, marveling at his fair face, wept and stayed
    In sore discomfiture and cold dismay;
    Nor could she quit the place, but slowly came
    To pine and waste for him with amorous flame.

    Yea, though the boy was dead, for him she burned:
    Pity and grief her gentle soul o'erspread:
    Beside him on the grass she lay and mourned,
    Kissing his clay-cold lips and mouth and head.
    But at the last her madness she discerned,
    To love a corpse wherefrom the soul had fled:
    Yet knows she not, poor wretch, her doom to shun;
    She fain would love not, yet she must love on.

    When all the night and all the following day
    Were wasted in the torrent of her woes,
    A comely tomb of marble fair the Fay
    Built by enchantment in the flowery close;
    Nor ever from that station would she stray,
    But wept and mourned; till worn by weary throes,
    Beside the font within a little space
    Like snow before the sun she pined apace.

    Yet for relief, or that she might not rue
    Alone the luckless doom which made her die,
    E'en mid the pangs of love such charms she threw
    Upon the font in her malignity,
    That all who passing toward the water drew
    And gazed thereon, perchance with listless eye,
    Must in the depth see maiden faces fair,
    Graceful and soul-inthralling mirrored there.

    They in their brows have beauty so entire
    That he who gazes cannot turn to fly,
    But in the end must fade of mere desire,
    And in that field lay himself down to die.
    Now it so chanced that by misfortune dire
    A king, wise, gentle, ardent, passed thereby,
    Together with his true and loving dame;
    Larbin and Calidora, such their name.

In these stanzas the old vain passion of Narcissus for his own beauty
lives again a new life of romantic poetry. That the enchantment of the
boy's fascination, prolonged through Silvanella's mourning for his
death, should linger for ever after in the font that was his tomb, is a
peculiarly modern touch of mysterious fancy. This part of the romance
has little in common with the classic tale of Salmacis; it is far more
fragile and refined. The Greeks did not carry their human sympathy with
nature, deep and loyal as indeed it was, so far into the border-land of
sensual and spiritual things. Haunted hills, like the Venusberg of
Tannhäuser's legend; haunted waters, like Morgana's lake in Boiardo's
poem; the charmed rivers and fountains of naiads, where knights lose
their memory and are inclosed in crystal prison-caves; these are
essentially modern, the final flower and blossom of the medieval fancy,
unfolding stores of old mythology and half-forgotten emblems to the
light of day in art.[593] For their perfection it was needful that the
gods of Hellas should have died, and that the phantoms of old-world
divinities should linger in dreams and reveries about the shores of
young romance.

Boiardo's treatment of magic is complementary to his use of classical
mythology. He does not employ this important element of medieval art in
its simplicity, but adapts it to the nature of his own imagination,
adding, as it were, a new quality by the process of assimilation. Some
of his machinery belongs, indeed, to the poems of his predecessors, or
is framed in harmony with their spirit. The enchantment of Durlindana
and Baiardo; the invulnerability of Orlando, Ferraguto, and other
heroes; the wizardry of Malagise, Mambrino's helmet, Morgana's stag, the
horse Rabicano, Argalia's lance, Angelica's ring, and the countless
dragons and giants which Boiardo creates at pleasure, may be mentioned
in this category. But it is otherwise with the gardens of Falerina and
Dragontina, the sublacustrine domain of Fata Morgana, and the caverns of
the Naiades. These, however much they may have once belonged to medieval
tradition, have been alchemized by the imagination of the poet of the
Renaissance. They are glimpses into ideal fairyland, which Ariosto and
Tasso could but refine upon and vary in their famous gardens of Alcina
and Armida. Boiardo's use of the old tradition of Merlin's fountain, and
the other well of Cupid feigned by him beside it, might again be chosen
to illustrate his free poetic treatment of magical motives. When he
trespasses on these enchanted regions, then and then only does he
approach allegory. The quest of the tree guarded by Medusa in Tisbina's
story; the achievement by Orlando of Morgana's garden, where Penitence
and Fortune play their parts; and Rinaldo's encounter with Cupid in the
forest of Ardennes, have obviously allegorical elements. Yet the hidden
meaning is in each case less important than the adventure; and the same
may be said about the highly tragic symbolism of the monster in the
Rocca Crudele.[594] Boiardo had too vivid a sympathy with nature and
humanity to appreciate the mysteries which allured the Northern poets of
_Parzival_, the _Sangraal_, and the _Faery Queen_. When he lapses into
allegory, it is with him a sign of weakness. Akin, perhaps, to this
disregard for parable is the freedom of his spirit from all
superstition. The religion of his knights is bluff, simple, and sincere,
in no sense savoring of the cloister and the cowl. A high sense of truth
and personal honor, indifference to life for life's sake, profound
humility in danger, charity impelling men of power to succor the
oppressed and feeble, are the fruits of their piety. But of penance for
sins of the flesh, of ceremonial observances, of visions and fasts, of
ascetic discipline and wonder-working images, of all the ecclesiastical
trumpery with which the pseudo-Turpin is filled, and which contaminates
even the _Mort d'Arthur_ of our heroic Mallory, we read nothing.

In taking up the thread of Boiardo's narrative, Ariosto made use of all
his predecessor had invented. He adopted the machinery of the two
fountains, the lance of Argalia, Angelica's ring, Rabicane, and the
magic arts of Atalante. The characters of the _Innamorato_ reappear with
slight but subtle changes and with somewhat softened names in the
_Furioso_.[595] Ariosto, again, followed Boiardo closely in his peculiar
method of interweaving _novelle_ with the main narrative; of suspending
one story to resume another at a critical moment; of prefacing his
cantos with reflections, and of concluding them with a courteous
license.[596] Lastly, Ariosto is at great pains, while connecting his
poem with the _Innamorato_, to make it intelligible by giving short
abstracts at intervals of the previous action. Yet throughout this long
laborious work of continuation he preserves a studied silence respecting
the poet to whom he owed so much. Was this due to the desire of burying
Boiardo's fame beneath his own? Did he so contrive that the contemporary
repute of the _Innamorato_ should serve to float his _Furioso_ and then
be forgotten by posterity? If so, he calculated wisely; for this is
what almost immediately happened. Though the _Orlando Innamorato_ was
printed four times before 1513--once at Venice in 1486, once at
Scandiano in 1495, and again at Venice in 1506, 1511, and 1513--and
though it continued to be reprinted at Venice through the first half of
the sixteenth century, yet the sudden silence of the press after this
period shows that the _Furioso_ had eclipsed Boiardo's fame. Still the
integral connection between the two poems could not be overlooked; and
just about the period of Ariosto's death, Francesco Berni conceived the
notion of rewriting Boiardo's epic with the expressed intention of
correcting its diction and rendering it more equal in style to the
_Orlando Furioso_. This _rifacimento_ was published in 1541, after his
death. The mysterious circumstances that attended its publication, and
the nature of the changes introduced by Berni into the substance of
Boiardo's poem, will be touched upon when we arrive at this illustrious
writer of burlesque verse. It is enough to mention here that Berni's
version was printed twice between 1541 and 1545, and that then, like the
original, it fell into comparative oblivion till the end of the last
century. Meanwhile the second _rifacimento_ by Domenichi appeared in
1545; and though this new issue was a mere piece of impudent
book-making, it superseded Berni's masterpiece during the next two
hundred years. The critics of the last century rediscovered Berni's
_rifacimento_, and began to quote Boiardo's poem under his name,
treating the real author as an ignorant and uncouth writer of a
barbarous dialect. Thus one of the most original poets of the fifteenth
century, to whom Italy owes the form and substance of the _Furioso_,
has been thrust aside and covered with contempt, by a curious irony of
fortune, owing to the very qualities that ought to have insured his
immortality. Used by Ariosto as the ladder for ascending to Parnassus;
by Berni as an exercising ground for the display of style; by Domenichi
as the means of getting his name widely known, the _Orlando Innamorato_
served any purposes but that of its great author's fame. Panizzi, by
reprinting the original poem along with the _Orlando Furioso_, restored
Boiardo at length to his right place in Italian literature. From that
time forward it has been impossible to overlook his merits or to
underestimate Ariosto's obligations to so gifted and original a master.


[512] See p. 406.

[513] This poem relates the adventures of Ciriffo and Il Povero
Avveduto, bastards of two noble ladies, and gives the history of a
crusade of Louis against the Soldan of Egypt. It was published as the
work, as far as the first Book, of Luca Pulci, completed and restored
by Bernardo Giambullari. "Il Ciriffo Calvaneo, diviso in iv. Canti,
col primo Libro di Luca Pulci, ed il resto riformato per Bernardo
Giambullari" (Roma, Mazzocchio, 1514). Luigi Pulci claims a share in
it, if not the whole in the _Morgante_, xxviii. 118, 129.

[514] See _Lettere di Luigi Pulci a Lorenzo Il Magnifico_, Lucca,
Giusti, 1868. _Sonetti di Matteo Franco e Luigi Pulci_, 1759. The
sonnets are indescribably scurrilous, charged with Florentine slang,
and loaded with the filthiest abuse. The point of humor is that Franco
and Pulci undertook (it is said, for fun) to heap scandals on each
other's heads, ransacking the language of the people for its vilest
terms of invective. If they began in joke, they ended in earnest; and
Lorenzo de' Medici, who had a taste for buffoonery, enjoyed the
scuffle of his Court-fools. It was a combat of humanists transferred
from the arena of the schools to the market-place, where two men of
parts degraded themselves by assuming the character of coal-heavers.

[515] The poetical talents of the Pulci family were hereditary.
Cellini tells us of a Luigi of that name who improvised upon the
market-place of Florence.

[516] Turpin's Chronicle consists of thirty-two chapters, relating the
wars of Charlemain with the Spanish Moors, the treason of Ganelon, and
Roland's death in Roncesvalles. The pagan knight, Ferraguto, and the
Christian peers are mentioned by name, proving that at the date of its
compilation the whole Carolingian myth was tolerably perfect in the
popular imagination.

[517] It has been conjectured by M. Génin, editor of the _Chant de
Roland_, not without substantial grounds, that Gui de Bourgogne,
bishop of Vienne, afterwards Pope Calixtus II., was himself the

[518] See _Chanson de Roland_, line 804, and compare _Morg. Magg._
xxvii. 79.

[519] See Ludlow's _Popular Epics of the Middle Ages_, vol. i. p. 412,
and M. Génin's Introduction to the _Chanson de Roland_, Paris, 1851.

[520] See Génin (_op. cit._ pp. xxix., xxx.) for the traces of the
Roland myth in the Pyrenees, at Rolandseck, in England, and at Verona;
also for gigantic statues in Germany called Rolands (_ib._ pp. xxi.
xxii.). At Spello, a little town of Umbria between Assisi and Foligno,
the people of the place showed me a dint in their ancient town wall,
about breast-high, which passes for a mark made by Orlando's knee.
There is learned tradition of a phallic monument named after Roland in
that place; but I could find no trace of it in local memory.

[521] The _Song of Roland_ does not give this portrait of
Charlemagne's dotage. But it is an integral part of the Italian
romances, a fixed point in all _rifacimenti_ of the pseudo-Turpin.

[522] Ludlow (_op. cit._ i. 358) translates the Basque Song of
Atta-biçar, which relates to some destruction of chivalrous forces by
the Pyrenean mountaineers.

[523] See Génin (_op. cit._ pp. xxv.-xxviii.).

[524] Introduction to Panizzi's edition of the _Orlando Innamorato_
and _Orlando Furioso_ (London, Pickering, 1830), vol. i. pp. 126-128.

[525] See Dante, _Inf._ xxxii. 61, v. 67, v. 128. Galeotto, Lancelot's
go-between with Guinevere, gave his name to a pimp in Italy, as
Pandarus to a pander in England. Boccaccio's _Novelliere_ was called
_Il Principe Galeotto_. Petrarch in the _Trionfi_ and Boccaccio in the
_Amoroso Visione_ make frequent references to the knights of the Round
Table. The latter in his _Corbaccio_ mentions the tale of Tristram as
a favorite book with idle women. The _Fiammetta_ might be quoted with
the same object of proving its wide-spread popularity. The lyrics of
Folgore da San Gemignano and other _trecentisti_ would furnish many
illustrative allusions.

[526] See above, p. 17.

[527] The _Reali di Francia_ sets forth this legendary genealogy at
great length, and stops short at the coronation of Charles in Rome and
the discovery of Roland. Considering the dryness of its
subject-matter, it is significant that this should have survived all
the prose romances of the fifteenh century. We may ascribe the fact
perhaps to the tenacious Italian devotion to the Imperial idea.

[528] _Orl. Inn. Rifac._ i. 18, 26. Niccolò da Padova in the
thirteenth century quoted Turpin as his authority for the history of
Charlemagne which he composed in Northern French. This proves the
antiquity of the custom. See Bartoli, _Storia della Lett. It._ vol.
ii. p. 44. To believe in Turpin was not, however, an article of faith.
Thus Bello in the _Mambriano_, c. viii.:

    Ma poi che 'l non è articolo di fede,
    Tenete quella parte che vi piace,
    Che l'autor libramente vel concede.

[529] "Un Dio, uno Orlando, e una Roma." _Morg. Magg._ xxvii. 220.
Compare this with Arthur's "Flos regum Arthurus, rex quondam rexque

[530] See _Propugnatore_ (Anni ii., iii., iv.). _La Spagna_ was itself
two popular compilations.

[531] This is only strictly true of Cantos xxiv., xxv., xxvi., xxvii.
The last Canto, in fact the whole poem after the execution of
Marsilio, is a dull historical epitome, brightened by Pulci's personal
explanations at the ending.

[532] It is called _Morgante Maggiore_ because the part relating to
him was published separately under the title of _Morgante_. This
character Pulci derived from the MS. poem called by Signor Rajna the
_Orlando_ to distinguish it. In the year 1500 we find one of the
Baglioni called Morgante which proves perhaps the popularity of this

[533] Canto xxv. 73-78. The locust-tree, according to the tradition of
the South, served Judas when he hanged himself. Northern fancy
reserved this honor for the elder, not perhaps without a poetic sense
of the outcast existence of the plant and its worthlessness for any
practical use. On the same locust-tree Marsilio was afterwards
suspended (c. xxvii. 267). The description of the blasted
pleasure-garden in the latter passage is also very striking. For the
translation of these passages see Appendix.

[534] xxvii. 5-7 and 47. Note in particular (translated in Appendix):

      Rispose Baldovin: Se il padre mio
    Ci ha qui condotti come traditore,
    S'io posso oggi campar, pel nostro Iddio,
    Con questa spada passerògli il core!
    Ma traditore, Orlando, non son io,
    Ch'io t'ho seguito con perfetto amore;
    Non mi potresti dir maggiore ingiuria!
    Poi si stracciò la vesta con gran furia,
      E disse: Io tornerò nella battaglia,
    Poi che tu m'hai per traditore scorto;
    Io non son traditor, se Dio mi vaglia,
    Non mi vedrai più oggi se non morto!
    E inverso l'oste de' Pagan si scaglia,
    Dicendo sempre: Tu m'hai fatto torto!
    Orlando si pentea d'aver ciò detto
    Chè disperato vide il giovinetto.

[535] Of all the Paladins only Orlando is uniformly courteous to
Charlemagne. When Rinaldo dethrones the Emperor and flies to his
cousin (c. xi. 114), Orlando makes him return to his obedience (_ib._
127). See, too, c. xxv. 100:

    Or oltre in Roncisvalle Orlando va,
    Per obbedir, com'e' fe' sempre, Carlo.

[536] xxvi. 126:

    Rinaldo, quando e' fu nella battaglia,
    Gli parve esser in ciel tra' cherubini
    Tra suoni e canti.

[537] Canto xxvi. 24-39. These two touches, out of many that are
noble, might be chosen:

    Stasera in paradiso cenerete;
    Come disse quel Greco anticamente
    Lieto a' suoi già, ma disse--Nello inferno:


    La morte è da temere, o la partita,
    Quando l'anima e 'l corpo muore insieme;
    Ma se da cosa finita a infinita
    Si va qui in ciel fra tante diademe,
    Questo è cambiar la vita a miglior vita.

[538] This pervasive doubt finds its noblest and deepest expression in
some lines spoken by Orlando just before engaging in the fight at
Roncesvalles (xxvi. 31):

    Tutte cose mortal vanno ad un segno;
    Mentre l'una sormonta, un'altra cade:
    Così fia forse di Cristianitade.

This is said not from the hero's but the author's point of view.
Pomponazzi afterwards gave philosophical utterance to the same
disbelief in the permanence of Christianity.

[539] Canto xxvii. 172.

[540] _Ibid._ 196.

[541] _Ibid._ 198.

[542] Canto xxvi. 91.

[543] Canto xxvi. 89.

[544] Canto xxv. 217, 218.

[545] Canto xviii. 114, _et seq._

[546] I have placed in the Appendix a rough plaster cast rather than a
true copy of Margutte's admirable comic autobiography. My stanzas
cannot pretend to exactitude of rendering or interpretation. The
_Morgante_ has hitherto been very imperfectly edited; and there are
many passages in this speech which would, I believe, puzzle a good
Florentine scholar, and which, it is probable, I have misread.

[547] Canto xix. 148.

[548] Cantos xxv. xxvi.

[549] xxv. 119. This distinction between the fallen angels and the
_spiriti folletti_ deserves to be noticed. The latter were light and
tricksy spirits, on whom not even a magician could depend. Marsilio
sent two of them in a magic mirror to Charlemagne (xxv. 92), and
Astarotte warned Malagigi expressly against their vanity (xxv. 160,
161). Fairies, _feux follets_, and the lying spirits of modern
spiritualists seem to be of this family. Translations from Astarotte's
dialogue will be found in the Appendix.

[550] xxv. 159, 208.

[551] xxv. 161; xxvi. 83.

[552] Canto xxv. 141-158; translation in Appendix.

[553] _Ibid._ 233.

[554] _Ibid._ 284.

[555] _Doctor Faustus_, act i. Scene with Mephistophilis in a
Franciscan's habit.

[556] The scene in the banquet-hall at Saragossa (xxv. 292-305) is
very similar to some of the burlesque scenes in _Doctor Faustus_.

[557] xxv. 228-231. Astarotte's discourses upon theology and physical
geography are so learned that this part of the _Morgante_ was by Tasso
ascribed to Ficino. It is not improbable that Pulci derived some of
the ideas from Ficino, but the style is entirely his own. The sonnets
he exchanged with Franco prove, moreover, that he was familiar with
the treatment of grave themes in a burlesque style. In acknowledging
the help of Poliziano he is quite frank (xxv. 115-117, 169; xxviii.
138-149). What that help exactly was, we do not know. But there is
nothing whatever to justify the tradition that Poliziano was the real
author of the _Morgante_. Probably he directed Pulci's reading; and I
think it not impossible, judging by one line in Canto xxv. (stanza
115, line 4), that he directed Pulci's attention to the second of the
two poems out of which the narrative was wrought. If we were to
ascribe all the passages in the _Morgante_ that display curious
knowledge to Pulci's friends, we might claim the discourse on the
antipodes for Toscanelli and the debates on the angelic nature for
Palmieri. Such criticism is, however, far-fetched and laboriously
hypothetical. Pulci lived in an intellectual atmosphere highly charged
with speculation of all kinds, and his poem reflected the opinion of
his age. His own methods of composition and the relation in which he
stood to other poets of the age are explained in two passages of the
_Morgante_ (xxv. 117, xxviii. 138-149), where he disclaims all share
of humanistic erudition, and expresses his indifference to the solemn
academies of the learned. See translation in Appendix.

[558] xxvi. 82-88. We may specially note these phrases:

         Astarotte, e' mi duole
    Il tuo partir, quanto fussi fratello;
    E nell'inferno ti credo che sia
    Gentilezza, amicizia e cortesia.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Chè di servirti non mi fia fatica;
    E basta solo Astarotte tu dica,
    Ed io ti sentirò sin dello inferno.

[559] Book II. canto viii. 1. All references will be made to Panizzi's
edition of the _Orlando Innamorato_, London, Pickering, 1830.

[560] _Sonetti e Canzone [sic] del poeta clarissimo Matteo Maria
Boiardo Conte di Scandiano_, Milano, 1845. The descriptions of natural
beauty, especially of daybreak and the morning star, of dewy meadows,
and of flowers, in which these lyrics abound, are very charming and at
all points worthy of the fresh delightful inspiration of Boiardo's
epic verse. Nor are they deficient in metrical subtlety; notice
especially the intricate rhyming structure of a long Canto, pp. 44-49.

[561] See above, p. 15.

[562] See the exordium to the second Book, where it appears that the
gentle poet caressed a vain hope that the peace of Italy in the second
half of the fifteenth century was destined to revive chivalry.

[563] See the opening of Book II. Canto xviii. where Boiardo compares
the Courts of Arthur and of Charlemagne.

[564] The acute and learned critic Pio Rajna, whose two massive works
of scholarlike research, _I Reali di Francia_ (Bologna, 1872), and _Le
Fonti dell'Orlando Furioso_ (Firenze, 1876), have thrown a flood of
light upon Chivalrous Romance literature in Italy, is at pains to
prove that the _Orlando Innamorato_ contains a vein of conscious
humor. See _Le Fonti_, etc., pp. 24-27. I agree with him that Boiardo
treated his subject playfully. But it must be remembered that he was
far from wishing to indulge a secret sarcasm like Ariosto, or to make
open fun of chivalry like Fortiguerra.


    Mentre che io canto, o Dio redentore,
    Vedo l'Italia tutta a fiamma e foco,
    Per questi Galli, che con gran valore
    Vengon, per disertar non so che loco.

Compare II. xxxi. 50; III. i. 2.

[566] Orlando was not handsome (II. iii. 63):

                     avea folte le ciglia,
    E l'un de gli occhi alquanto stralunava.

[567] See his prayer, II. xxix. 36, 37.

[568] See the description of him in the tournament (I. ii. 63, iii.
4), when he saves the honor of Christendom to the surprise of
everybody including himself. Again (I. vii. 45-65), when he defies and
overthrows Gradasso, and liberates Charles from prison. The irony of
both situations reveals a master's hand.

[569] For instance, when he attacks Argalia with his sword, contrary
to stipulation, after being unhorsed by him (I. i. 71-73). The fury of
Ferraguto in this scene is one of Boiardo's most brilliant episodes.

[570] His epithets are always _fiorito_, _fior di cortesia_, _di
franchezza fiore_, etc. For the effect of his beauty, see II. xxi. 49,
50. The education of Ruggiero by Atalante was probably suggested to
Boiardo by the tale of Cheiron and Achilles. See II. i. 74, 75.

[571] See II. i. 56, for Rodamonte's first appearance; for his
atheism, II. iii. 22:

    Che sol il mio buon brando e l'armatura
    E la mazza, ch'io porto, e 'l destrier mio
    E l'animo, ch'io ho, sono il mio Dio.

[572] II. iii. 40.

[573] In Bello's _Mambriano_, for instance, we have a very lively
picture of the amorous and vain Astolfo. Pulci supplies us with even a
more impressive Orlando than Boiardo's hero, while his Amazonian
heroines, Meridiana and Antea, are at least rough sketches for
Marfisa. It was Boiardo's merit to have grasped these characters and
drawn them with a fullness of minute detail that enhances their

[574] Her arts and their success are splendidly set forth, I. xxv.

[575] In proem to II. xii., Boiardo makes an excuse, imitated by
Ariosto to his lady for this bad treatment of women.

[576] Leodilla's story is found in I. xxi. xxii. xxiv. 14-17, 44.

[577] I. iii. 47-50.

[578] I. xxii. 24-27; I. xix. 60-65.

[579] I. xvii. 21, 22.

[580] II. vii. 50.

[581] II. xii. 14, _et seq._

[582] I. xvi. 36-44; xviii. 39-47; xix. 15, 16.

[583] I. v. 7-12; xix. 47; ix. 55-57.

[584] I. xviii. 39-47.

[585] I. xxv. 13, 14.

[586] I. xxvii. 15-22; xxviii. 4-11.

[587] II. vi. 7-15, 28-42; II. iv. 24-39; II. xiii. 20-23; I. xxv. 38.

[588] I. xxiii. 38, 47; xxvi. 28.

[589] I. xxiii. 6.

[590] Burne Jones, in his _Pan and Syrinx_, offers a parallel.

[591] II. xv. 43 _et seq._

[592] II. xvii. 49 _et seq._

[593] See II. xxxi. xlv.; III. i. ii.

[594] See I. viii. 56 _et seq._ The whole tale of Grifone and Marchino
in that Canto is horrible.

[595] On Ariosto's treatment of Boiardo's characters there is much
excellent criticism in Pio Rajna's _Le Fonti dell'Orlando Furioso_
(Firenze, Sansoni, 1876), pp. 43-53.

[596] I do not mean that other poets--Pulci and Bello, for
example--had not interwoven episodical _novelle_. The latter's poem of
_Mambriano_ owes all its interest to the episodes, and many of its
introductory reflections are fair specimens of the discursive style.
But the peculiarity of Boiardo, as followed by Ariosto, consisted in
the art of subordinating these subsidiary motives to the main design.
Neither Pulci nor Bello showed any true sense of poetical unity. It
may here be parenthetically remarked that Francesco Bello, a native of
Ferrara, called Il Cieco because of his blindness, recited his
_Mambriano_ at the Mantuan Court of the Gonzagas. It was not printed
till after his death in 1509. This poem consists of a series of tales,
loosely stitched together, each canto containing just enough to
stimulate the attention of an idle audience. Rinaldo, Astolfo, and
Mambriano, king of Bithynia, play prominent parts in the action.



     Ancestry and Birth of Ariosto--His Education--His Father's
     Death--Life at Reggio--Enters Ippolito d'Este's
     Service--Character of the Cardinal--Court Life--Composition
     and Publication of the _Furioso_--Quiet Life at
     Ferrara--Comedies--Governorship of Garfagnana--His Son
     Virginio--Last Eight Years--Death--Character and Habits--The
     Satires--Latin Elegies and Lyrics--Analysis of the
     Satires--Ippolito's Service--Choice of a Wife--Life at Court
     and Place-hunting--Miseries at Garfagnana--Virginio's
     Education--Autobiographical and Satirical Elements--Ariosto's
     Philosophy of Life--Minor Poems--Alessandra Benucci--Ovidian
     Elegies--Madrigals and Sonnets--Ariosto's Conception of Love.

Ariosto's family was ancient and of honorable station in the Duchy of
Ferrara. His father, Nicolò, held offices of trust under Ercole I., and
in the year 1472 was made Governor of Reggio, where he acquired property
and married. His wife, Daria Maleguzzi, gave birth at Reggio in 1474 to
their first-born, Lodovico, the poet. At Reggio the boy spent seven
years of childhood, removing with his father in 1481 to Rovigo. His
education appears to have been carried on at Ferrara, where he learned
Latin but no Greek. This ignorance of Greek literature placed him, like
Machiavelli, somewhat at a disadvantage among men of culture in an age
that set great store upon the knowledge of both ancient languages. He
was destined for a legal career; but, like Petrarch and Boccaccio, after
spending some useless years in uncongenial studies, Ariosto prevailed
upon his father to allow him to follow his strong bent for literature.
In 1500 Nicolò Ariosto died, leaving a family of five sons and five
daughters, with property sufficient for the honor of his house but
scarcely adequate to the needs of his numerous children. Lodovico was
the eldest. He therefore found himself at the age of twenty-six in the
position of father to nine brothers and sisters, for whose education,
start in life, and suitable settlement, he was called on to arrange. The
administration of his father's estate, and the cares thus early thrust
upon him, made the poet an exact man of business, and brought him
acquainted with real life under its most serious aspects. He discharged
his duties with prudence and fidelity; managing by economy to provide
portions for his sisters and honorable maintenance for his brothers out
of their joint patrimony.

The first three years after his father's death were spent by Ariosto in
the neighborhood of Reggio, and to this period of his life we may
perhaps refer some of the love-affairs celebrated in his Latin poems. He
held the Captaincy of Canossa, a small sinecure involving no important
duties, since the Castle of Canossa was even in those days a ruin. In
1503 he entered the service of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, with whom he
remained until 1517. He was placed upon the list of the Cardinal's
extraordinary servants, to be employed in matters of confidence and
delicacy, involving frequent journeys to all parts of Italy and
ceremonial embassies. His pay seems to have been fixed at 240 _lire
marchesane_, corresponding to about 1200 francs, charged upon the
Archiepiscopal Chancery of Milan.[597] This salary, had it been
regularly paid, would have suffered to maintain the poet in decent
comfort; but he had considerable difficulty from time to time in
realizing the sums due to him. Ippolito urged him to take orders, no
doubt with a view of securing better emoluments from benefices that
could only be conferred upon a member of the priesthood. But Ariosto
refused to enter a state of life for which he felt no vocation.[598] The
Cardinal Deacon of S. Lucia in Silice was one of those secular princes
of the Church, addicted to worldly pleasures, profuse in personal
expenditure, with more inclination for the camp and the hunting-field
than for the duties of his station, who since the days of Sixtus IV. had
played a prominent part in the society of the Italian Courts. He was of
distinguished beauty; and his military courage, like that of the
Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, was displayed in the Hungarian campaign
against the Turks. With regard to his character and temper, it may
suffice to remind the reader how, in a fit of jealous passion, he hired
assassins to put out his natural brother Giulio's eyes. That Ippolito
d'Este did not share the prevailing enthusiasm of his age for literary
culture, seems pretty clear; and he failed to discern the unique genius
of the man whom he had chosen for his confidential agent. Ariosto
complains that he was turned into a common courier and forced to spend
his days and nights upon the road by the master upon whom, at the
expense of truth and reason, he conferred an immortality of fame in his
great poem. Yet it would not be fair to echo the commonplace invectives
against the Cardinal for illiberality and ingratitude. Ariosto knew the
nature of his patron when he entered his service, and Ippolito did not
hire a student but an active man of business for his work. It was an
arrangement of convenience on both sides, to which the poet would never
have stooped had his private means sufficed, or had the conditions of
Italian society offered any decent career for a gentleman outside the
circle of the Court. Moreover, it was not until after their final
rupture, caused by Ariosto's refusal to undertake the Hungarian
expedition in his master's train, that the true greatness of the author
of the _Furioso_ was revealed. How should a dissolute and
ill-conditioned Cardinal have discerned that a dreamy poem in MS. on the
madness of Orlando would live as long as the _Æneid_, or that the
flattering lies invented by his courier would in after ages turn the
fierce glare of criticism and celebrity upon the darkest corners of his
own history? The old legend about his brutal reception of the _Orlando
Furioso_ has been now in part disproved.[599] We know that he defrayed
the expenses of its publication, and secured the right and profits of
its sale to Ariosto.[600] There is even an entry in his memoranda of
expenditure proving that he bought a copy for the sum of one _lira
marchesana_.[601] While deploring the waste of Ariosto's time and
strength in the uncongenial service of this patron, we must acknowledge
that his choice of Ippolito was a mistake for which he alone was
responsible, and that the panegyrics showered on such a man are wholly
inexcusable.[602] When all the circumstances of their connection are
taken into account, there is nothing but the extreme irritation caused
by incompatibility of temper, and divergence of aims and interests, to
condone the poet's private censure of the master whom publicly he loaded
with praises.[603] The whole unhappy story illustrates the real
conditions of that Court-life, so glowingly described by Castiglione,
which proved the ruin of Tasso and the disgrace of Guarini. Could
anything justify the brigandlike brutalities of Pietro Aretino, _il
flagello de' Principi_, we might base his apology upon the dreary
histories of these Italian poets, soured, impoverished, and broken
because they had been forced to put their trust in princes. When there
lay no choice between levying blackmail by menaces and coaxing crumbs by
flatteries, it accorded better with the Italian ideal _virtù_ to fatten
upon the former kind of infamy than to starve upon the latter.

The _Orlando Furioso_ was conceived and begun in the year 1505. It was
sent to press in 1515. Giovanni Mazzocchi del Bondeno published it in
April, 1516. A large portion of the poet's life was subsequently spent
in correcting and improving it. In 1518, having freed himself from
Ippolito's bondage, Ariosto entered the service of Duke Alfonso I. He
was termed _cameriere_ or _famigliare_, and his stipend was fixed at
eighty-four golden crowns per annum, with maintenance for three servants
and two horses, paid in kind.[604] He occupied his own house in Ferrara;
and the Duke, who recognized his great literary qualities and
appreciated the new luster conferred upon his family by the publication
of the _Furioso_, left him in the undisturbed possession of his
leisure.[605] The next four years were probably the happiest of
Ariosto's life; for he had now at last secured independence and had
entered upon the enjoyment of his fame. The Medici of Florence and Rome,
and the ducal families of Urbino and Mantua, were pleased to number him
among their intimate friends, and he received flattering acknowledgments
of his poem from the most illustrious men of Italy. The few journeys he
made at the request of Alfonso carried him to Florence, the
head-quarters of literary and artistic activity. At home the time he
spared from the revision of the _Furioso_, was partly devoted to the
love-affairs he carried on with jealous secrecy, and partly to the
superintendence of the ducal theater. The criticism of Ariosto's
comedies must be reserved for another chapter. It is enough to remark
here that their composition amused him from his boyhood to his latest
years. So early as 1493 he had accompanied Ercole I. to Pavia in order
to play before Lodovico Sforza, and in the same year he witnessed the
famous representation of the _Menæchmi_ at Ferrara. Some of his earliest
essays in literature were translations of Latin comedies, now
unfortunately lost. They were intended for representation; and, as
exercises in the playwright's art, they strongly influenced his style.
His own _Cassaria_ appeared for the first time at Ferrara in 1508; the
_Suppositi_ followed in 1509, and was reproduced at the Vatican in 1519.
It took Leo's fancy so much that he besought the author for another
comedy. Ariosto, in compliance with this request, completed the
_Negromante_, which he had already had in hand during the previous ten
years. The _Lena_ was first represented at Ferrara in 1528, and the
_Scolastica_ was left unfinished at the poet's death. What part Ariosto
took in the presentation of his comedies, is uncertain; but it is
probable that he helped in their performance, besides directing the
stage and reciting the prologue. He thus acquired a practical
acquaintance with theatrical management, and it was by his advice, and
on plans furnished by him, that Alfonso built the first permanent stage
at Ferrara in 1532. On the last day of that year, not long after its
erection, the theater was burned down. These dates are important; since
they prove that Ariosto's connection with the stage, as actor,
playwright, and manager, was continuous throughout his lifetime.

Ariosto's peaceful occupations at Ferrara were interrupted early in 1522
by what must be reckoned the strangest episode of his career. On
February 7 in that year, he was nominated Ducal Commissary for the
government of Garfagnana, a wild upland district stretching under Monte
Pellegrino almost across the Apennines from the Lucchese to the
Modenese frontiers. We find that the salary allowed him by Alfonso had
never been very regularly paid, and that in 1521 the Duke, straitened in
means by his warfare with the Papacy, was compelled to suspend it
altogether.[606] At the same period the Communes forming what is known
as Garfagnana (who had placed themselves beneath the Marquises of
Ferrara in the first half of the fifteenth century, but had lately
suffered from Florentine and Papal incursions) besought Alfonso to
assert his suzerainty of their district and to take measures for
securing its internal quiet. The emoluments of the Commissary amounted
to about 930 _lire marchesane_, estimated at something like 2,300 francs
of present value; and it was undoubtedly the pecuniary profits of the
office which induced the Duke to offer it, and the poet to accept it.

We may think it strange that so acute a judge of men as Alfonso should
have selected the author of the _Furioso_, a confirmed student, almost a
recluse in his habits, and already broken in health, for the
governorship of a district half-ruined by foreign raids and domestic
feuds, which had become the haunt of brigands and the asylum of bandits
from surrounding provinces. Yet we must remember that Ariosto had
already given ample proof of his good sense and business-like qualities,
not only in the administration of his own affairs, but in numerous
embassies undertaken for the Cardinal and Duke, his masters. At that
epoch of Italian history the name and fame of an illustrious writer were
themselves a power in politics: and it is said that during Ariosto's
first journey into Garfagnana, he owed his liberation from the hands of
brigands to the celebrity of the _Orlando Furioso_.[607] Alfonso knew,
moreover, that the poet was well qualified for negotiating with princes;
and what was of grave practical importance, he stood in excellent
personal relations to the Medici, from whom as the rulers of Florence
the Garfagnana was menaced with invasion. These considerations are
sufficient to explain Alfonso's choice. Nothing but necessity would
probably have induced Ariosto to quit Ferrara for the intolerable
seclusion of those barbarous mountains; where it was his duty to issue
edicts against brigands, to hunt outlaws, to punish murderers and
robbers, to exact fines for rape and infamous offenses, to see that the
hangman did his duty, and to sit in judgment daily upon suits that
proved the savage immorality of the entire population. The hopelessness
of the task might have been enough to break a sterner heart than
Ariosto's, and his loathing of his life at Castelnovo found vent in the
most powerful of his satires. He managed to endure this uncongenial
existence for three years, from February 20, 1522, till June, 1525,
sustaining his spirits with correspondence and composition, and varying
the monotony of his life by visits to Ferrara. It was during his
Garfagnana residence in all probability that he composed the _Cinque
Canti_. The society of his dearly-loved son, Virginio--whose education
he superintended and for whom he wrote the charming seventh Satire to
Pietro Bembo--also served to diminish the dreariness of his exile from
love, leisure, and the society of friends.

Virginio was Ariosto's natural son by a woman of Reggio. He collected
the Latin poems after his father's death, and prepared the _Cinque
Canti_ for Manuzio's press in 1545. He also helped his uncle Gabriele to
finish _La Scolastica_, and wrote a few brief recollections of his
father. Ariosto had a second illegitimate son, named Giovanni Battista,
who distinguished himself in a military career.

The last eight years of Ariosto's life were spent in great tranquillity
at Ferrara. Soon after his return from Garfagnana he built his house in
the Contrada Mirasol, and placed upon it the following characteristic

    Parva sed apta mihi sed nulli obnoxia sed non
      Sordida parta meo sed tamen ære domus.

About this time, too, he married the lady to whom for many years he had
been tenderly attached.[609] She was the Florentine Alessandra Benucci,
widow of Tito Strozzi, whom he first saw at Florence in the year 1513.
The marriage was kept strictly secret, probably because the poet did not
choose to relinquish the income he derived from certain minor benefices.
Nor did it prove fruitful of offspring, for Ariosto left no legitimate
heirs. His life of tranquil study was varied only by short journeys to
Venice, Abano, and Mantua. In 1531 he was sent to negotiate certain
matters for his master in the camp of the Marquis del Vasto at
Correggio. On this occasion he received from Alfonso Davalos a pension
of one hundred golden ducats, by a deed which sets forth in its preamble
the duty of princes to recompense poets who immortalize the acts of
heroes. This is the only instance of reward bestowed on Ariosto for his
purely literary merits. The poet repaid his benefactor by magnificent
eulogies inserted in the last edition of the _Furioso_.[610] Between the
year 1525, when he left Garfagnana, and 1532, when his poem issued from
the press, he devoted himself with unceasing labor to its revision and
improvement. The edition of 1516 consisted of forty cantos. That of 1532
contained forty-six, and the whole text had been subjected in the
interval to minute alterations.[611] Not long after the publication of
the revised edition Ariosto's health gave way. His constitution had
never been robust, for he suffered habitually from a catarrh of the
lungs which made his old life as Ippolito d'Este's courier not only
distasteful but dangerous.[612] Toward the close of 1532 this complaint
took the form of a consumption, which ended his days on the sixth of
June, 1533. Great pains have been bestowed by his biographers on proving
that he died a good Catholic; nor is there any reason to suppose that he
neglected the consolations of the Church in his last hours. He was by no
means a man to break abruptly with tradition or to make an indecorous
display of doubts that may have haunted him. Yet the best Latin verses
he ever penned were a half-humorous copy of hendecasyllables for his own
epitaph, which seem to prove that he applied Montaigne's _peut-être_
even to the grave.[613]

Of Ariosto's personal habits and opinions we know unfortunately but
little, beyond what may be gathered from the incomparably transparent
self-revelation of his satires. His son, Virginio, who might have amply
satisfied our curiosity, confined himself to the fewest and briefest
details in the notes transcribed and published by Barotti. Some of
these, however, are so characteristic that it may not be inopportune to
translate them. With regard to his method of composition, Virginio
writes: "He was never satisfied with his verses, but altered them again
and again, so that he could not keep his lines in his memory, and
consequently lost many of his compositions.... In horticulture he
followed the same system as in composition, for he would not leave
anything he planted for more than three months in one place; and if he
sowed peaches or any kind of seed, he went so often to see if they were
sprouting, that at last he broke the shoots. He had but small knowledge
of herbs, and used to think that whatever grew near the things he had
sown, were the plants themselves, and watched them diligently till his
mistake was proved beyond all doubt. I remember once, when he had
planted capers, he went every day to see them and was greatly delighted
at their luxuriance. At last he discerned that they were but elders,
and that the capers had not come up at all.... He was not much given to
study, and cared to see but few books. Virgil gave him pleasure, and
Tibullus for his diction; but he greatly commended Horace and Catullus,
Propertius not much.... He ate fast and much, and made no distinction of
food. So soon as he came home, if he found the bread set out, he would
eat one piece walking, while the meats were being brought to table. When
he saw them spread, he had water poured upon his hands and then began to
eat whatever was nearest to him.... He was fond of turnips."

From the bare details of Ariosto's biography it is satisfactory to turn
to the living picture of the man himself revealed in his Satires. These
compositions rank next to the _Orlando Furioso_ in the literary canon of
his works, and have the highest value for the light they cast upon his
temperament and mode of feeling. Though they are commonly called
Satires, they rather deserve the name of Epistles; for while a satiric
element gives distinct flavor to each of the seven poems, this is
subordinated to personal and familiar topics of correspondence. We learn
from them what the great artist of the golden age thought and felt about
the times in which he lived; what moved his indignation or aroused his
sympathy; how he strove to meet the troubles of his checkered life; and
where, amid the carnival of that mad century, he laid his finger upon
hidden social maladies. Reading them, we come to know the man himself,
and are better able to understand how, while Italy was distracted with
wars and trampled on by foreign armies, he could withdraw himself from
the tumult, and spend his years in polishing the stanzas of _Orlando_.
The Satires do not reveal a hero or a sage, a poet passionate like Dante
with the sense of wrong, or like Petrarch aspiring after an impossible
ideal. It is rather the type of Boccaccio's character, refined and
purged of sensuality, with delicate touches of irony and a more
fastidious taste, that meets us in this portrait of Ariosto painted by
himself. His mental vision is more lucid, his judgment more acute, his
philosophy less indulgent, and his ideal of art more exacting; yet he,
too, might be nicknamed _Lodovico della Tranquillità_. With his head in
Philiroe's lap beside a limpid rivulet, he basks away the summer hours,
and cares not whether French or German get the upper hand in Italy.[614]
Does it greatly signify, he asks Ercole Strozzi in one of his Latin
poems, whether we serve a French or an Italian tyrant? Servitude is the
same, if the despot be a barbarian only in manners, like our
princelings, or in name too, like these foreigners.[615]

Left alone to study and to polish verses, Ariosto
is content. He is content to flatter and confer immortality on the
master he despises. He is content to rest in one place, turning his maps
over when he fain would take a journey into foreign lands. Only let him
be, and give him enough to live upon, and he will trouble no man,
dispute no pretender's claims, raise no inconvenient questions of right
and wrong, inflame the world with no far-reaching thoughts, but gild the
refined gold of his purest phrases and paint the lilies of his loveliest
thoughts in placid ease. Italy has grown old, and Ariosto is the genius
of a tired, world-weary, disillusioned age. What is there worth a
struggle? At the same time he preserves his independence as a private
gentleman. He passes free judgment upon society; and the patron he has
praised officially in his epic, receives hard justice in his Satires. He
is frank and honest, free from hypocrisy and guile, genial and loyal
toward his friends, upright in his dealings and manly in his instincts.
We respect his candor, his contempt for worldly honors, and his love of
liberty. We admire his intellectual sagacity, his deep and wise
philosophy of life, the knowledge of the world so easily communicated,
the irony so pungent yet so free from bitterness, which gives piquancy
to these familiar discourses. Still both respect and admiration are
tempered with some regret that the greatest poet of the sixteenth
century should have been so easy-going. Such is the Ariosto revealed to
us by the Satires--not a noble or sublime being: by no means the man to
save the State if safety had been possible. Throughout the tragedy of
Italy's last years of freedom he moves, an essentially comic character,
only redeemed by genius and by _Weltweisheit_ from the ridicule
attaching to a man whose aims are commonplace, and whose complaints
against the world are petty. He is not servile enough to accept the
humiliations of a courtier's lot without a murmur. He is not proud
enough to break his chains and live in haughty isolation. Hence in these
incomparable records of his private opinion, we find him at one moment
painting the discomforts of his position with a _naïveté_ that provokes
our laughter, at another analyzing the vices of society with luminous
acumen, then shrugging his shoulders and summoning philosophy to his aid
with a final cry of _Pazienza!_

The motive of the first Epistle is a proposed journey to Rome.[616] The
second enumerates the reasons why the poet will not accompany Ippolito
d'Este to Hungary. The subject of the third is the choice of a wife.
The fourth discusses the vanity of honors and wealth in comparison with
a contented mind. The fifth describes the poet's isolation in the
Garfagnana, and contains a confession of his love. In the sixth he
explains why he does not wish to go to Rome and seek advancement from
Clement VII. The seventh is devoted to the education of youth in the
humanities, and contains a retrospect of his own early life. The satire
of the first is directed against the ambition and avarice of priests,
the pride of Roman prelates, and the nepotism of the Popes. The passage
describing an ecclesiastic's levee is justly famous for its humor; and
the diatribe on Papal vices for its force. The second shows how the
dependents upon princes are forced to flatter, and how they exchange
their freedom for the empty honor of sitting near great men at table.
Ariosto takes occasion to describe the character of Ippolito d'Este, who
cared for his hawks and hounds more than for the Muses, and who paid his
body-servants better than the poet of Orlando.[617] "I owe you nothing,
Phoebus, nor you, holy college of the Muses! From you I never got enough
to buy myself a cloak. 'Indeed? your lord has given you....' More than
the price of several cloaks, I grant. But not for your sake, Muses, I am
certain. He has told me, and I do not mind repeating it, that my verses
are just worth the price of their waste paper. He will not give a penny
for my praises, but pays me for courier's service. His followers in the
barge or villa, his _valet-de-chambre_ and butler, his lackeys who
outwatch the night, get paid. But when I set his name with honor in my
verse, he tells me I have whiled my time away in ease and pleasure--I
had pleased him better by attendance on his person. If you remind me
that I owe to him a third of the Chancery dues at Milan, I answer that
he gave me this because I ply both spur and whip, change beasts and
guides, and hurry over hills and precipices, risking my life upon his

The third Epistle is a masterpiece of sound counsel and ripe knowledge
of the world. Better rules could not be given about the precautions to
be taken in selecting a wife, the qualities a man should seek in her,
and the conduct he should use toward her after marriage. The satire
consists in that poor opinion of female honesty which the author of the
_Furioso_ had conceived, not without much experience of women, and after
mature reflection upon social institutions. It is not envenomed like the
invectives of the _Corbaccio_, or exaggerated like the abuse in
Alberti's dialogues. Leaning back in his arm-chair with an amused and
quiet smile, the indulgent satirist enunciates truths that are biting
only because they condense the wisdom of an observant lifetime. He never
ceases to be kindly; and we feel, while listening to him, that his
epigrams are double-edged. The poet who has learned thus much of women,
gives the measure of his limited capacity for noble feeling; for while
he paints them as he finds them, he leaves an impression of his own
emotional banality. After making due allowance for this defect in
Ariosto's point of view, we may rank the third Epistle among the ripest
products of his intellect. The fourth resumes the theme of Court-life
and place-hunting. "You ask me, friend Annibale, how I fare with Duke
Alfonso, and whether I find his service lighter than the Cardinal's. To
tell the truth, I do not like one burden better than the other; and were
I rich enough, I certainly would be no man's servant. But I was not born
an only son, and Mercury was never generous to my race. So I am forced
to live at a patron's charge, and it is better to owe my maintenance to
the Duke than to beg bread from door to door. I know that most people
think it a grand thing to be a courtier, but I count Court-life as mere
slavery. A nightingale is ill at ease in a cage, and a swallow dies
after a day's imprisonment. If a man wants to be decorated with the
spurs or the red hat, let him serve kings or popes. For my part, I care
for neither; a turnip in my own house tastes sweeter to me than a
banquet in a master's.[618] I would rather stretch my lazy limbs in my
armchair than be able to boast that I had traveled over half the globe.
I have seen Tuscany, Lombardy, Romagna, the Apennines and Alps, the
Adriatic and the Mediterranean. That is enough for me. The rest of the
world I can visit at my leisure with Ptolemy for guide. The Duke's
service has this advantage, that it does not interrupt my studies, or
take me far from Ferrara, where my heart is always. I think I hear you
laughing at this point, and saying that neither love of study nor of
country, but a woman ties me to my home. Well: I will confess it
frankly. But suppose I had gone to Rome to fish for benefices, says some
one, I should certainly have netted more than one, especially as I was
Leo's friend before his merits or his luck raised him to the highest
earthly station. I knew him at Urbino when he cheered his exile with
Castiglione and Bembo; and afterwards when he returned to Florence, he
bade me count upon him like a brother. All this is true; but listen to a
fable I will tell you.[619] In time of drought, when there was no water
to be had in all the country, a shepherd found a scanty spring. He drank
of it first, and next his wife, and then his children, and afterwards
his servants and his cattle. Last of all there came a magpie he had
petted in old days; but the bird saw that she had no right to drink of
the fountain, for she was neither wife nor child nor hind, nor could she
bring wealth to the household.[620] It is just the same with me. Leo has
all the Medici, and all his friends in exile, who risked their lives and
fortunes for him, and all the priests who made him pope, to recompense.
What is there left for me? It is true that he has not forgotten me. When
I went to Rome and kissed his foot, he bent down from the holy seat, and
took my hand and saluted me on both cheeks. Besides, he made me free of
half the stamp-dues I was bound to pay; and then, breast-full of hope
but soaked with rain and smirched with mud, I went and had my supper at
the Ram![621] But supposing the Pope kept all his promises and put as
many miters on my head as Michelangelo's Jonah sees beneath him in the
Sistine Chapel, what would this profit me? No amount of wealth can
satisfy desire. Honors and riches do not bring tranquillity of mind.
True honor is, to be esteemed an honest man, and to be this in good
earnest; for if you are not really one, you will be detected. What is
the advantage of wearing fine clothes and being bowed to in the
market-place, if people point you out behind your back as thief and
traitor? There are dignities which are notorious disgraces; and the
richer and greater a man is who has gained his rank dishonorably, the
more he calls attention to his shame."

      Quante collane, quante cappe nove
    Per dignità si comprano, che sono
    Pubblici vituperi in Roma e altrove!

In the sixth Epistle written in the Garfagnana, Ariosto still further
develops the same theme. His friend, Pistofilo, had advised him to go to
Rome and seek preferment from Clement VII. "What would be the use?" he
argues. "I have as much of worldly honor as I care for; and if Leo did
not find it in his power to help me, I cannot expect anything from the
other Medici. Nay, my friend, bait your hook with more enticing
dainties: remind me of Bembo, Sadoleto, Giovio, Vida, Molza, Tibaldeo;
in whose company I might wander over the seven hills: or speak to me
about the libraries of Rome. Not even these allurements would move me;
for if I had to live away from Ferrara, I should not be happy in the lap
of Jove. Existence is only made endurable by occasional visits to the
town I love; and if the Duke wishes to fulfill my desires, he must
recall me to himself and make me stationary at Ferrara. Why do I cling
so to that place, you ask me? I would as lief tell you as confess my
worst crimes to a friar. I am forty-nine years of age, and too old to be
the slave of love." The conclusion of the sixth Epistle makes it clear
that his residence at Castelnovo was irksome to the poet because it
forced him to be absent from the woman he loved. But the fifth is even
more explicit. "This day completes the first year of my exile among
these barbarous mountains, dead to the Muses, divided by snows, fells,
forests, rivers, from the mistress of my soul![622] I am nearly fifty,
and yet love rules me like a beardless boy. Well: this weakness is at
least pardonable. I do not commit murder; I do not smite or stab, or vex
my neighbors. I am not consumed with avarice, ambition, prodigality, or
monstrous lust. But in this doleful place my heart fails me. I cannot
write poetry as I used to do at Reggio when life was young. Imprisoned
between the naked heights of Pania and Pellegrino's precipices, the wild
steeps of these woody Apennines inclose me in a living grave. Here in
the castle, or out there in the open air, my ears are deafened with
continual law-suits, accusations, brawls. Theft, murder, hatred,
vengeance, anger, furnish me with occupation day and night. My time is
spent in threatening, punishing, persuading, or acquitting. I write
dispatches daily to the Duke for counsel or for aid against the bandits
that encompass me. The whole province is disorganized with brigandage,
and its eighty-three villages are in a state of chronic discord. Is it
likely then that Phoebus, when I call him, will quit Delphi for this
den? You ask me why I left my mistress and my studies for so dolorous a
cave of care. I was never greedy of money, and my stipend at Ferrara
satisfied me, until the war stopped it altogether, as well as my profits
from the Chancery at Milan. When I asked the Duke for help, it so
happened that the Garfagnana wanted a Governor, and he sent me here with
more regard for my necessities than for the needs of the people under my
care. I am grateful to him for his good will; but though his gift is
costly, it is not to my mind. So I am like the cock who found a jewel on
his dungheap, or like the Venetian who had a fine horse given him and
could not ride it."

The satirical passages in this Epistle can be separated from its
autobiography, and furnish striking specimens of Ariosto's style. In
order to show how ill the world judges of the faults and follies of
great men, he draws a series of portraits with a few but telling
touches. Though furnished with fictitious names, they suit the persons
of the time to a nicety. This, for example, is Francesco Guicciardini,
as Pitti represented him:

      Ermilian sì del denajo ardente
    Come di Alessio il Gianfa, e che lo brama
    Ogn'ora, in ogni loco, da ogni gente,
      Nè amico nè fratel nè sè stesso ama;
    Uomo d'industria, uomo di grande ingegno,
    Di gran governo e gran valor si chiama.

And here, without doubt, is the elder Lorenzo de' Medici[623]:

      Laurin si fa della sua patria capo,
    Ed in privato il pubblico converte;
    Tre ne confina, a sei ne taglia il capo;
      Comincia volpe, indi con forze aperte
    Esce leon, poi c'ha 'l popol sedutto
    Con licenze, con doni e con offerte.
      Gl'iniqui alzando, e deprimendo in lutto
    Gli buoni, acquista titolo di saggio,
    Di furti, stupri e d'omicidi brutto.

Autobiography and satire are mingled in the same unequal proportions in
the seventh Epistle, which is perhaps the most interesting poem of the
series. "Bembo," so begins the letter, "I want my son Virginio to be
well taught in the arts that elevate a man. You possess them all: I
therefore ask you to recommend me a good Greek tutor at Venice or Padua,
in whose house the youth may live and study. The Greek must be learned,
but also of sound principles, for erudition without morality is worse
than worthless. Unhappily, in these days it is difficult to find a
teacher of this sort. Few humanists are free from the most infamous of
vices, and intellectual vanity makes most of them skeptics also. Why is
it that learning and infidelity go hand in hand? Why do our scholars
Latinize their names of baptism, changing Peter into Pierius, and John
into Janus, or Jovianus? Plato was right when he expelled such poets
from his State. Little have they in common with Phoebus and Amphion who
taught civil life to barbarous races. For myself, it stings me to the
quick when men of my own profession are proved thus vain and vicious.
Find, then, an honest tutor to instruct Virginio in Greek. I have
already taught him Latin; but the difficulties of my early manhood
deprived me of Greek learning. My father drove me at the spear's point
into legal studies. I wasted five years in that trifling, and it was not
till I was twenty that I found a teacher in Gregorio da Spoleto. He
began by grounding me in Latin; but before we had advanced to Greek, the
good man was summoned to Milan. His pupil, Francesco Sforza, went with
Il Moro, a prisoner, into France. Gregorio followed him, and died there.
Then my father died and left me the charge of my younger brothers and
sisters. I had to neglect study and become a strict economist. Next my
dear relative Pandolfo Ariosto, the best and ablest of our house, died;
and, as if these losses were not enough, I found myself beneath the yoke
of Ippolito d'Este. All through the reign of Julius II. and for seven
years of Leo's pontificate he kept me on the move from place to place,
and made me courier instead of poet. Small chance had I of learning
Greek or Hebrew on those mountain roads."

These abstracts of Ariosto's so-called Satires will not be reckoned
superfluous when we consider the clear light they cast upon his personal
character and philosophy. The note of sincerity throughout is
unmistakable. No one can read the pure and simple language of the poet
without feeling that his mind was as transparent as his style, his
character as ingenuous as his diction was perspicuous. When he tells us,
for example, that he does not care for honors, that he prefers his study
to the halls of princes, and that a turnip in his own house tastes
better than the pheasants of a ducal table, we believe him. His
confession of unseasonable love, and his acknowledgment that he has none
of the qualities of judge or ruler, are a security for equal frankness
when he professes himself free from avarice and the common vices of his
age. His satire upon women, his picture of the Roman prelates, his
portraits of great men, and his condemnation of the humanists are
convincing by their very moderation. Like Horace, he plays about the
heart instead of wielding the whip of Lucilius. This parsimony of
expression adds weight to his censure, and renders these epistles more
decisive than the invectives in which contemporary authors indulged. We
doubt the calumnies of Poggio and Filelfo until we read the
well-considered passage of the seventh Epistle, which includes them
all.[624] In like manner the last lines of the fourth Epistle confirm
the Diaries of Burchard and Infessura, while the first contains an
epitome of all that could be said of Alexander's nepotism. These
familiar poems have, therefore, a singular value for the illustration of
the Italian Renaissance in general no less than for that of Ariosto's
own life. Furthermore, they are unique in the annals of Italian
literature. The _terza rima_ of Dante's vision has here become a
vehicle for poetry separated by the narrowest interval from prose. It no
longer lends itself to parody, as in the _Beoni_ of Lorenzo de' Medici.
It is not contaminated by the foul frivolities of the Bernesque
_Capitoli_. It takes with accuracy the impress of the writer's common
thought and feeling. The meter designed to express a sublime belief,
adapts itself to the discursive utterance of a man of sense and culture
in a disillusioned age; and thus we might use the varying fortunes of
_terza rima_ to symbolize the passage from the _trecento_ to the _cinque
cento_, from Dante to Ariosto, from faith and inspiration to art and

Ariosto's minor poems, with but one or two exceptions, have direct
reference to the circumstances of his life. They consist of Elegies,
Capitoli, and an Eclogue composed in _terza rima_, with Canzoni,
Sonnets, and Madrigals of the type made obligatory by Petrarch. The poet
of the _Orlando_ was not great in lyric verse. These lesser compositions
show his mastery of simple and perspicuous style; but the specific
qualities of his best work, its color and imagery and pointed humor, are
absent. The language is sometimes pedestrian in directness, sometimes
encumbered with conceits that anticipate the taste of the seventeenth
century.[625] Where it is plainest, we lack the seasoning of epigram and
illustration which enlivens the Satires; and though the sincere feeling
and Ovidian fluency of the more ambitious lyrics render them delightful
reading, we acknowledge that a wider channel of description or
narrative or reflection was needed for the full tide of the poet's
eloquence. The purely subjective style was hardly suited to his genius.

Only three _Canzoni_ are admitted into the canon of Ariosto's works. The
first relates the origin of his love for Alessandra Benucci, wife of
Tito Strozzi, whom he admired as wife and married as widow. It was on S.
John's Day in the year 1513 that he saw her at Florence among the gay
crowd of the midsummer festival. She was dressed in black silk
embroidered with two vines, her golden hair twisted into heavy braids,
and her forehead overshadowed with a jeweled laurel-wreath. The
brightness of the scene was blotted out for the poet, and swallowed in
the intense luster of her beauty:

    D'altro ch'io vidi, tenni
    Poco ricordo, e poco me ne cale:
    Sol mi restò immortale
    Memoria, ch'io non vidi in tutta quella
    Bella città, di voi cosa più bella.

How much he admired Florence, he tells us in the fourteenth elegy, where
this famous compliment occurs:

    Se dentro un mur, sotto un medesmo nome
    Fosser raccolti i tuoi palazzi sparsi,
    Non ti sarian da pareggiar due Rome.

The second _Canzone_ is supposed to be spoken by the soul of Giuliano
de' Medici, Duke of Nemours, to his widow, Filiberta of Savoy. Elevation
of conception raises the language of this poem to occasional sublimity,
as in the passage where he speaks of immortality:

    Di me t'incresca, ma non altrimente
    Che, s'io vivessi ancor, t'incresceria
    D'una partita mia
    Che tu avessi a seguir fra pochi giorni:
    E se qualche e qualch'anno anco soggiorni
    Col tuo mortale a patir caldo e verno,
    Lo dêi stimar per un momento breve,
    Verso quel altro, che mai non riceve
    Nè termine nè fin, viver eterno.

The undulation of rhythm obeying the thought renders these lines in a
high sense musical.

Some of the Elegies have been already used in illustration of other
poems. There remain a group apart, which seem to have been directly
modeled upon Ovid. Of these the sixth, describing a night of love, and
the seventh, when the lover dares not enter his lady's door in moonlight
lest he should be seen, are among the finest. The ninth, upon fidelity
in love, contains these noble lines:

      La fede mai non debbe esser corrotta,
    O data a un sol o data ancor a cento,
    Data in palese o data in una grotta.
      Per la vil plebe è fatto il giuramento;
    Ma tra gli spirti più elevati sono
    Le semplici promesse un sagramento.

The second is written on the famous black pen fringed with gold, which
Ariosto adopted for his device and wore embroidered on his clothes. He
declines to explain the meaning of this bearing; but it is commonly
believed to have referred in some way to his love for Alessandra
Strozzi. Baruffaldi conjectures that her black dress and golden hair
suggested the two colors. But since this elegy threatens curious
inquirers with Actæon's fate, we may leave his device to the obscurity
he sought. Secrecy in respect to the great passion of his life was
jealously maintained by Ariosto. His ink-stand at Ferrara still bears a
Cupid with one finger on his lip, as though to bid posterity observe the
reticence adopted by the poet in his lifetime.

The Madrigals and Sonnets do not add much to our conception of Ariosto's
genius. It has been well remarked that while his Latin love-poems echo
the style of Horace, these are imitations of Petrarch's manner.[626] In
the former he celebrates the facile attractions of Lydia and Megilla, or
confesses that he is inconstant in every thing except in always varying
his loves.[627] In the latter he professes to admire a beautiful soul
and eloquent lips more than physical charms, praises the spiritual
excellences of his mistress, and writes complimentary sonnets on her
golden hair.[628] In neither case is there any insincerity. Ariosto
never pretended to be a platonic lover, nor did he credit women with
great nobility of nature. Yet on the other hand it is certain that he
was no less tenderly than passionately attached to Alessandra; and this
serious love, of which the Sonnets are perhaps the record, triumphed
over the volatility of his earlier affections.

It is enough in this chapter to have dealt with Ariosto's life and minor
writings. The _Orlando Furioso_, considered both as the masterpiece of
his genius and also as the representative poem of the Italian
Renaissance, must form the subject of a separate study.


[597] See _Satire_, i. 100-102; ii. 109-111.

[598] See _Satire_, i. 113-123, for his reasons. He seems chiefly to
have dreaded the loss of personal liberty, if he took orders.

[599] Ippolito is said to have asked the poet: "Dove avete trovato,
messer Lodovico, tante corbellerie?" That he did in effect say
something of the kind is proved by _Satire_, ii. 94-99.

[600] Campori, _Notizie per la Vita di L. Ariosto_ (Modena, Vincenzi,
1871), pp. 55-58.

[601] _Ibid._ p. 58.

[602] He penned the following couplet in 1503, when it is to be hoped
he had yet not learned to know his master's real qualities:

    Quis patre invicto gerit Hercule fortius arma,
      Mystica quis casto castius Hippolyto?

In another epigram, written on the death of the Cardinal, he pretends
that Ippolito, hearing of Alfonso's illness, vowed his own life for
his brother's and was accepted. See _Opere Minori_, i. 349.

[603] See _Satires_ ii. vii.; _Capitoli_ i. ii.

[604] Campori, _op. cit._ p. 59.

[605] See _Satire_ iv. 67-72.

[606] See _Satire_ v. 172-204.

[607] This is one of the pretty stories on which some doubt has lately
been cast. See Campori, pp. 105-110, for a full discussion of its
probable truth.

[608] "Small, but suited to my needs, freehold, not mean, the fruit of
my own earnings." His son Virginio substituted another inscription
which may still be seen upon the little house-front: _Sic domus hæc
Areostea propitios habeat deos olim ut Pindarica_--"May this house of
Ariosto have gods propitious as of old the house of Pindar."

[609] The date is uncertain. It was not before 1522, perhaps even so
late as 1527.

[610] xv. 28; xxxiii. 24.

[611] See Panizzi, _op. cit._ vol. vi. p. cxix. for a description of
these verbal changes.

[612] See especially _Satire_ ii. 28-51, and _Capitolo_ i.

[613] "Ludovici Areosti humantur ossa," etc., _Op. Min._ i. 365.

[614] See the _Opere Minori_, vol. i. p. 336. Also Carducci's eloquent
defense of these Horatian verses in his essay, _Delle Poesie Latine di
L. Ariosto_ (Bologna, Zanichelli, 1876), p. 82. The latter treatise is
a learned criticism of Ariosto's Latin poetry from a point of view
somewhat too indulgent to Ariosto as a poet and a man. Carducci, for
example, calls the four Alcaic stanzas in question "una cosellina
quasi perfetta," though they contain three third lines like these:

    Furore militis tremendo....
    Jacentem aquæ ad murmur cadentis....
    Mecumque cespite hoc recumbens.

Ariosto was but second-rate among the Latin versifiers of his century.
It must, however, be added that his Latin poems were written in early
manhood and only published after his death by Giambattista Pigna, in

[615] _Op. Min._ vol. i. p. 333:

    Quid nostra an Gallo regi an servire Latino,
      Si sit idem hinc atque hinc non leve servitium?
    Barbaricone esse est pejus sub nomine, quam sub
      Moribus? At ducibus, Dii, date digna malis.

What Ariosto thought about the Italian despots finds full expression
in the _Cinque Canti_, ii. 5, 6, where he protests that Caligula,
Nero, Phalaris, Dionysius and Creon were surpassed by them in cruelty
and crime.

[616] I have followed the order of Lemonnier's edition, vol. i. of
_Opere Minori_, Florence, 1857. But the dates of composition are
uncertain, and it may be doubted whether Ariosto's own autograph can
be taken as the basis of a chronological arrangement. Much obscurity
rests upon these poems. We do not know, for instance, whether they
were sent to the friends addressed in them by name, or whether the
author intended them for publication. The student may profitably
consult upon these points the lithographed facsimile of the autograph,
published at Bologna by Zanichelli in 1875. Meanwhile it is enough to
mention that the first epistle was addressed to Messer Galasso
Ariosto, the poet's brother, the second to Messer Alessandro Ariosto
and Messer Lodovico da Bagno, the third and fourth to Messer Annibale
Maleguccio, the fifth to Messer Sismondo Maleguccio, the sixth to
Messer Buonaventura Pistofilo, and the seventh to Monsignore Pietro

[617] The first and second _Capitoli_, upon the irksome and exhausting
service of the Cardinal, as dangerous to Ariosto's health as it was
irritating to his temper, should be read side by side with this

[618] See above, p. 505, for Ariosto's liking for turnips. He ate them
with vinegar and wine sauce.

[619] Compare the apologue of the gourd and the pear-tree in the sixth
Satire (55-114). It is to the same effect, but even plainer.

[620] The word I have translated "magpie" is _gaza_ in the autograph.
This has been interpreted as a slip of the pen for _ganza_; but it may
be a Lombardism for _gazza_. In the latter case we should translate it
"magpie," in the former "sweetheart." I prefer to read _gazza_, as the
ironical analogy between a magpie and a poet is characteristic of

[621] The irony of this passage is justly celebrated. After all his
hopes and all the pontiff's promises, the poet gets a kiss, a trifling
favor, and has to trudge down from the Vatican to his inn. The _mezza
bolla_ is supposed to refer to the fine for entrance on the little
benefice of Sant'Agata, half of which Leo remitted.

[622] The third elegy is a beautiful lamentation over his separation
from his mistress. Written to ease his heart in solitude, it is more
impassioned and less guarded than the epistle.

[623] It may be interesting to compare this scarcely disguised satire
with the official flatteries of _Canzone_ ii. and _Elegies_ i., xiv.,
where Ariosto praises the Medici, and especially Lorenzo, as the
saviours of Florence, the honor of Italy.

[624] 22-69.

[625] As when, for instance, he calls the sun in the first _Canzone_,
"l'omicida lucido d'Achille." Several of the sonnets are artificial in
their tropes.

[626] De Sanctis, ii.

[627] See especially the lines entitled _De suâ ipsius mobilitate_.

[628] See Sonnets xii. xi. xxvi. xxiii.



_Note on Italian Heroic Verse._

(See above, p. 24.)

The Italian hendecasyllable is an accentual iambic line of five feet
with one unaccented syllable over and included in the rhyme. Thus the
first line of the _Inferno_ may be divided:--

    Nel mez|zo del | cammin | di nos|tra vita.

When the verse is so constructed, it is said to be _piano_, the rhyme
being what in English we call double. When the rhyme is single, the
verse is _tronco_, and the rhythm corresponds to that of our heroic, as
in the following instance (_Par._ xxv. 102):

    Il ver|no avreb|be un me|se d'un | sol dì.

When the rhyme is treble, the verse is _sdrucciolo_, of which form this
is a specimen (_Par._ xxvi. 78):

    Che ri|fulge|va più | di mil|le milia.

It is clear that the quality of the verse is not affected by the number
of syllables in the rhyme; and the line is called hendecasyllabic
because _versi piani_ are immeasurably more frequent and more agreeable
to the ear than either _versi tronchi_ or _sdruccioli_.

If we inquire into the origin of the meter, the first remark we have to
make is that lines of similar construction were used by poets of
Provence. Dante, for example, quotes (_De Vulg. Eloq._ ii. 2) from

    Non puesc mudar q'un chantar non esparja.

This fact will seem to many minds conclusive on the point in question.
But, following the investigations of recent scholars, we find this form
of verse pretty generally referred to the watch-song of the Modenese
soldiers. Thus Professor Adolfo Bartoli, after quoting two lines of that

    O tu qui servas armis ista moenia,
    Noli dormire, moneo, sed vigila,

adds: "quì apparisce per la prima volta il nostro verso endecasillabo,
regolarmente accentato." If this, which is the view accepted by Italian
critics, be right, he ought to have added that each line of the Modenese
watch-song is a _sdrucciolo_ verse. Otherwise, the rhythm bears the
appearance of a six-foot accentual iambic, an appearance which is
confirmed by the recurrence of a single rhyme or assonance in _a_
throughout the poem. Still the strong accent on the antepenultimate
syllable of every verse is sufficient to justify us in regarding the
meter as _endecasillabo sdrucciolo_.

Going further back than the Modenese watch-song (date about 924), the
next question is whether any of the classic meters supplied its
precedent. By reading either Horatian Sapphics or Catullian
hendecasyllables without attention to quantity, we may succeed in
marking the beat of the _endecasillabo piano_.[629] Thus:

    Cui do|no lep|idum | novum | libellum?


    Serus | in coe|lum red|eas, | diuque
    Lætus | inter|sis po|pulo | Quirini.

When these lines are translated into literal Italian, the metamorphosis
is complete. Thus:

    Cui don|o il lep|ido | nuovo | libretto?


    Tardo in | ciel ried|i e di|utur|no serba
    Fausto il | tuo aspet|to al pop|ol di | Quirino.

Even Alcaics, unceremoniously handled by a shifting of the accent, which
is violent disregard of quantity, yield like results. Thus:

    Atqui | scie | bat quæ | sibi | barbarus.

Or in Italian:

    Eppur | conob|be ciò | ch'il man|igoldo.

The accentual Sapphics of the middle ages throw some curious light upon
these transmutations of meter. In a lament for Aquileia (tenth century)
we find these lines:

    Bella sublimis inclyta divitiis,
    Olim fuisti celsa ædificiis.

Here, instead of the Latin Sapphic, we get a loose _sdrucciolo_ rhythm.
The meter of the Serventese seems built upon this medieval Sapphic
model. Here is an example[630]:

    O Jeso Cristo, padre onipotente,
    Aprestame lo core con la mente
    Che rasonare possa certamente
                    Un servientese.

When the humanistic Italians tried to write Italian Sapphics, they
produced a meter not very dissimilar. Thus in the _Certamen

    Eccomi, i' son qui Dea degli amici,
    Quella qual tutti li omini solete
    Mordere, e falso fuggitiva dirli
                        Or la volete.

What seems tolerably certain is that the modern Italian hendecasyllable
was suggested by one of the Latin eleven-syllabled meters, but that, in
the decay of quantitative prosody, an iambic rhythm asserted itself. It
has no exact correspondence in any classic meter; but it was early
developed out of the accentual Latin measures which replaced
quantitative meter in the middle ages. Signor Rubieri points out that
there may be traces of it in the verses of Etruscan inscriptions.[632]
Nor is it impossible that the rhythm was indigenous, persisting through
a long period of Græco-Roman culture, to reappear when the rustic
language threw out a modern idiom.


[629] See Ermolao Rubieri, _Storia della Poesia Popolare Italiana_, p.

[630] Carducci, _Intorno ad Alcune Rime_, p. 107.

[631] _Opere Volgari di L.B. Alberti_, vol. i. p. ccxxv.

[632] See passage referred to above, p. 524, note.


_Ten Sonnets translated from Folgore da San Gemignano._

(See Chapter I. p. 55.)



     This morn a young squire shall be made a knight;
       Whereof he fain would be right worthy found,
       And therefore pledgeth lands and castles round
       To furnish all that fits a man of might.
     Meat, bread and wine he gives to many a wight;
       Capons and pheasants on his board abound,
       Where serving men and pages march around;
       Choice chambers, torches, and wax-candle light.
     Barbed steeds, a multitude, are in his thought,
       Mailed men at arms and noble company,
       Spears, pennants, housing-cloths, bells richly wrought.
     Musicians following with great barony
       And jesters through the land his state have brought,
       With dames and damsels whereso rideth he.


     Lo Prowess, who despoileth him straightway,
       And saith: "Friend, now beseems it thee to strip;
       For I will see men naked, thigh and hip,
       And thou my will must know and eke obey;
     And leave what was thy wont until this day,
       And for new toil, new sweat, thy strength equip;
       This do, and thou shalt join my fellowship,
       If of fair deeds thou tire not nor cry nay."
     And when she sees his comely body bare,
       Forthwith within her arms she him doth take,
       And saith: "These limbs thou yieldest to my prayer;
     I do accept thee, and this gift thee make,
       So that thy deeds may shine for ever fair,
       My lips shall never more thy praise forsake."


     Humility to him doth gently go,
       And saith: "I would in no wise weary thee;
       Yet must I cleanse and wash thee thoroughly,
       And I will make thee whiter than the snow.
     Hear what I tell thee in few words, for so
       Fain am I of thy heart to hold the key;
       Now must thou sail henceforward after me;
       And I will guide thee as myself do go.
     But one thing would I have thee straightway leave:
       Well knowest thou mine enemy is pride;
       Let her no more unto thy spirit cleave:
     So leal a friend with thee will I abide
       That favor from all folk thou shalt receive;
       This grace hath he who keepeth on my side."


     Then did Discretion to the squire draw near,
       And drieth him with a fair cloth and clean,
       And straightway putteth him the sheets between,
       Silk, linen, counterpane, and minevere.
     Think now of this! Until the day was clear,
       With songs and music and delight the queen,
       And with new knights, fair fellows well-beseen,
       To make him perfect, gave him goodly cheer.
     Then saith she: "Rise forthwith, for now 'tis due,
       Thou shouldst be born into the world again;
       Keep well the order thou dost take in view."
     Unfathomable thoughts with him remain
       Of that great bond he may no more eschew;
       Nor can he say, "I'll hide me from this chain."


     Comes Blithesomeness with mirth and merriment,
       All decked in flowers she seemeth a rose-tree;
       Of linen, silk, cloth, fur, now beareth she
       To the new knight a rich habiliment;
     Head-gear and cap and garland flower-besprent,
       So brave they were, Maybloom he seemed to be;
       With such a rout, so many and such glee,
       That the floor shook. Then to her work she went;
     And stood him on his feet in hose and shoon;
       And purse and gilded girdle neath the fur
       That drapes his goodly limbs, she buckles on;
     Then bids the singers and sweet music stir,
       And showeth him to ladies for a boon
       And all who in that following went with her.


     Courtesy! Courtesy! Courtesy! I call:
       But from no quarter comes there a reply.
       They who should show her, hide her; wherefore I
       And whoso needs her, ill must us befall.
     Greed with his hook hath ta'en men one and all,
       And murdered every grace that dumb doth lie:
       Whence, if I grieve, I know the reason why;
       From you, great men, to God I make my call:
     For you my mother Courtesy have cast
       So low beneath your feet she there must bleed;
       Your gold remains, but you're not made to last
     Of Eve and Adam we are all the seed:
       Able to give and spend, you hold wealth fast:
       Ill is the nature that rears such a breed!


     I praise thee not, O God, nor give thee glory,
       Nor yield thee any thanks, nor bow the knee,
       Nor pay thee service; for this irketh me
       More than the souls to stand in purgatory;
     Since thou hast made us Guelphs a jest and story
       Unto the Ghibellines for all to see:
       And if Uguccion claimed tax of thee,
       Thou'dst pay it without interrogatory.
     Ah, well I wot they know thee! and have stolen
       St. Martin from thee, Altopascio,
       St. Michael, and the treasure thou hast lost;
     And thou that rotten rabble so hast swollen
       That pride now counts for tribute; even so
       Thou'st made their heart stone-hard to thine own cost.


     Ye are more silky-sleek than ermines are,
       Ye Pisan counts, knights, damozels, and squires,
       Who think by combing out your hair like wires
       To drive the men of Florence from their car.
     Ye make the Ghibellines free near and far,
       Here, there, in cities, castles, buts, and byres,
       Seeing how gallant in your brave attires,
       How bold you look, true paladins of war.
     Stout-hearted are ye as a hare in chase,
       To meet the sails of Genoa on the sea;
       And men of Lucca never saw your face.
     Dogs with a bone for courtesy are ye:
       Could Folgore but gain a special grace,
       He'd have you banded 'gainst all men that be.


     Dear friend, not every herb puts forth a flower;
       Nor every flower that blossoms, fruit doth bear;
       Nor hath each spoken word a virtue rare;
       Nor every stone in earth its healing power:
     This thing is good when mellow, that when sour;
       One seems to grieve, within doth rest from care;
       Not every torch is brave that flaunts in air;
       There is what dead doth seem, yet flame doth shower.
     Wherefore it ill behooveth a wise man
       His truss of every grass that grows to bind,
       Or pile his back with every stone he can,
     Or counsel from each word to seek to find,
       Or take his walks abroad with Dick and Dan:
       Not without cause I'm moved to speak my mind.


     What time desire hath o'er the soul such sway
       That reason finds nor place nor puissance here,
       Men oft do laugh at what should claim a tear,
       And over grievous dole are seeming gay.
     He sure would travel far from sense astray
       Who should take frigid ice for fire; and near
       Unto this plight are those who make glad cheer
       For what should rather cause their soul dismay.
     But more at heart might he feel heavy pain
       Who made his reason subject to mere will,
       And followed wandering impulse without rein;
     Seeing no lordship is so rich as still
       One's upright self unswerving to sustain,
       To follow worth, to flee things vain and ill.


_Translations from Alesso Donati._

(See Chapter III. p. 157.)

     _THE NUN._

     The knotted cord, dark veil and tunic gray,
     I'll fling aside, and eke this scapulary,
     Which keeps me here a nun immured alway:
     And then with thee, dressed like a gallant gay,
     With girded loins and limber gait and free,
     I'll roam the world, where chance us twain may carry.
     I am content slave, scullion-wench to be;
     That will not irk me as this irketh me!

     _THE LOVERS._

     Nay, get thee gone now, but so quietly,
     By God, so gently go, my love,
     That yon damned villain may hear naught thereof!
     He's quick of hearing: if he hears but me
     Turn myself round in bed,
     He clasps me tight for fear I may be sped.
     God curse whoever joined me to this hind,
     Or hopes in churls good merchandise to find!

     _THE GIRL._

     In dole I dree the days all lonely here,
     A young girl by her mother shut from life,
     Who guardeth me with jealousy and strife:
     But by the cross of God I swear to her,
     If still she keeps me pent up thus to pine,
     I'll say: "Aroint thee, thou fell hag malign!"
     And fling yon wheel and distaff to the wall,
     And fly to thee, my love, who art mine all!


_Jacopone's Presepio, Corrotto, and Cantico dell'Amore Superardente,
Translated into English Verse._

(See Chapter V. pp. 291 _et seq._)


Though judging it impossible to preserve the least part of Jacopone's
charm in a translation, I have made versions of the Christmas Carol, the
Passion Poem, and the Hymn of Divine Love, alluded to in chapter v., pp.
291-298. The metrical structure of the first is confused in the
original; but I have adopted a stanza which follows the scheme pretty
closely, and reproduces the exact number of the lines. In the second I
have forced myself to repeat the same rhyme at the close of each of the
thirty-four strophes, which in the Italian has a very fine effect--the
sound being _ato_. No English equivalent can do it justice. The third
poem I admit to be really untranslatable. The recurrences of strong
voweled endings in _ore_, _are_, _ezza_, _ate_ cannot be imitated.


     By thy great and glorious merit,
     Mary, Mother, Maid!
     In thy firstling, new-born child
     All our life is laid.

     That sweet smiling infant child,
     Born for us, I wis;
     That majestic baby mild,
     Yield him to our kiss!

     Clasping and embracing him,
     We shall drink of bliss.
     Who could crave a deeper joy?--
     Purer none was made.

     For thy beauteous baby boy
     We a-hungered burn;
     Yea, with heart and soul of grace
     Long for him and yearn.
     Grant us then this prayer; his face
     Toward our bosom turn:
     Let him keep us in his care,
     On his bosom stayed!

     Mary, in the manger where
     Thou hast strewn his nest,
     With thy darling baby we
     Fain would dwell at rest
     Those who cannot take him, see,
     Place him on their breast!
     Who shall be so rude and wild
     As to spurn thee, Maid?

     Come and look upon her child
     Nestling in the hay!
     See his fair arms opened wide,
     On her lap to play!
     And she tucks him by her side,
     Cloaks him as she may;
     Gives her paps unto his mouth,
     Where his lips are laid.

     For the little babe had drouth,
     Sucked the breast she gave;
     All he sought was that sweet breast,
     Broth he did not crave;
     With his tiny mouth he pressed,
     Tiny mouth that clave:
     Ah, the tiny baby thing,
     Mouth to bosom laid!

     She with left hand cradling
     Rocked and hushed her boy,
     And with holy lullabies
     Quieted her toy.
     Who so churlish but would rise
     To behold heaven's joy
     Sleeping?--In what darkness drowned,
     Dead and renegade?--

     Little angels all around
     Danced, and carols flung;
     Making verselets sweet and true,
     Still of love they sung;
     Calling saints and sinners too
     With love's tender tongue;
     Now that heaven's high glory is
     On this earth displayed.

     Choose we gentle courtesies,
     Churlish ways forswear;
     Let us one and all behold
     Jesus sleeping there.
     Earth, air, heaven he will unfold,
     Flowering, laughing fair;
     Such a sweetness, such a grace
     From his eyes hath rayed.

     O poor humble human race,
     How uplift art thou!
     With the divine dignity
     Re-united now!
     Even the Virgin Mary, she
     All amazed doth bow;
     And to us who sin inherit,
     Seems as though she prayed.

     By thy great glorious merit,
     Mary, Mother, Maid!
     In thy firstling, new-born child
     All our life is laid.


     _Messenger._ Lady of Paradise, woe's me,
                      Thy son is taken, even he,
                      Christ Jesus, that saint blessed!
                  Run, Lady, look amain
                      How the folk him constrain:
                      Methinks they him have slain,
                      Sore scourged, with rods opprest.
     _Mary._      Nay, how could this thing be?
                      To folly ne'er turned he,
                      Jesus, the hope of me:
                      How did they him arrest?
     _Messenger._ Lady, he was betrayed;
                      Judas sold him, and bade
                      Those thirty crowns be paid--
                      Poor gain, where bad is best.
     _Mary._      Ho, succor! Magdalen!
                      The storm is on me: men
                      My own son, Christ, have ta'en!
                      This news hath pierced my breast.
     _Messenger._ Aid, Lady! Up and run!
                      They spit upon thy son,
                      And hale him through the town;
                      To Pilate they him wrest.
     _Mary._      O Pilate, do not let
                      My son to pain be set!
                      That he is guiltless, yet
                      With proofs I can protest.
     _The Jews._  Crucify! Crucify!
                      Who would be King, must die.
                      He spurns the Senate by
                      Our laws, as these attest.
                  We'll see if, stanch of state,
                      He can abide this fate;
                      Die shall he at the gate,
                      And Barab be redressed.
     _Mary._      I pray thee, hear my prayer!
                      Think on my pain and care!
                      Perchance thou then wilt bear
                      New thoughts and change thy quest.
     _The Jews._  Bring forth the thieves, for they
                      Shall walk with him this day:
                      Crown him with thorns, and say
                      He was made king in jest.
     _Mary._      Son, Son, Son, dear Son!
                      O Son, my lovely Son!
                      Son, who shall shed upon
                      My anguished bosom rest?
                  O jocund eyes, sweet Son!
                      Why art Thou silent? Son!
                      Son, wherefore dost Thou shun
                      This thy own mother's breast?
     _Messenger._ Lady, behold the tree!
                      The people bring it, see,
                      Where the true Light must be
                      Lift up at man's behest!
     _Mary._      O cross, what wilt thou do?
                      Wilt thou my Son undo?
                      Him will they fix on you,
                      Him who hath ne'er transgressed?
     _Messenger._ Up, full of grief and bale!
                      They strip thy son, and rail;
                      The folk are fain to nail
                      Him on yon cross they've dressed.
     _Mary._      If ye his raiment strip,
                      I'll see him, breast and hip!
                      Lo, how the cruel whip
                      Hath bloodied back and chest!
     _Messenger._ Lady, his hand outspread
                      Unto the cross is laid:
                      'Tis pierced; the huge nail's head
                      Down to the wood they've pressed.
                  They seize his other hand,
                      And on the tree expand:
                      His pangs are doubled and
                      Too keen to be expressed!
                  Lady, his feet they take,
                      And pin them to the stake,
                      Rack every joint, and make
                      Each sinew manifest!
     _Mary._      I now the dirge commence.
                      Son, my life's sole defense!
                      Son, who hath torn thee hence?
                      Sweet Son, my Son caressed!
                  Far better done had they
                      My heart to pluck away,
                      Than by thy cross to lay
                      Of thee thus dispossessed!
     _Christ._    Mother, why weep'st thou so?
                      Thou dealest me death's blow.
                      To watch thy tears, thy woe
                      Unstinted, tears my breast.
     _Mary._      Son, who hath twinned us two?
                      Son, father, husband true!
                      Son, who thy body slew?
                      Son, who hath thee suppressed?
     _Christ._    Mother, why wail and chide?
                      I will thou shouldst abide,
                      And serve those comrades tried
                      I saved amid the rest.
     _Mary._      Son, say not this to me!
                      Fain would I hang with thee
                      Pierced on the cross, and be
                      By thy side dying blessed!
                  One grave should hold us twain,
                      Son of thy mother's pain!
                      Mother and Son remain
                      By one same doom oppressed!
     _Christ._    Mother, heart-full of woe,
                      I bid thee rise and go
                      To John, my chosen!--so
                      Is he thy son confessed.
                  John, this my mother see:
                      Take her in charity:
                      Cherish her piteously:
                      The sword hath pierced her breast.
     _Mary._      Son! Ah, thy soul hath flown!
                      Son of the woman lone!
                      Son of the overthrown!
                      Son, poisoned by sin's pest!
                  Son of white ruddy cheer!
                      Son without mate or peer!
                      Son, who shall help me here,
                      Son, left by thee, distressed!
                  Son, white and fair of face!
                      Son of pure jocund grace!
                      Son, why did this wild place,
                      This world, Son, thee detest?
                  Son, sweet and pleasant Son!
                      Son of the sorrowing one!
                      Son, why hath thee undone
                      To death this folk unblessed?
                  John, my new son, behold
                      Thy brother he is cold!
                      I feel the sword foretold,
                      Which prophecies attest.
                  Lo, Son and mother slain!
                      Dour death hath seized the twain:
                      Mother and Son, they strain
                      Upon one cross embraced.

Here the miserable translation ends. But I would that I could summon
from the deeps of memory some echo of the voice I heard at Perugia, one
dark Good Friday evening, singing Penitential Psalms. This made me feel
of what sort was the _Corrotto_, chanted by the confraternities of
Umbria. The psalms were sung on that occasion to a monotonous rhythm of
melodiously simple outline by three solo voices in turn--soprano, tenor,
and bass. At the ending of each psalm a candle before the high-altar was
extinguished, until all light and hope and spiritual life went out for
the damned soul. The soprano, who sustained the part of pathos, had the
fullness of a powerful man's chest and larynx, with the pitch of a
woman's and the timbre of a boy's voice. He seemed able to do what he
chose in prolonging and sustaining notes, with wonderful effects of
_crescendo_ and _diminuendo_ passing from the wildest and most piercing
_forte_ to the tenderest _pianissimo_. He was hidden in the organ-loft;
and as he sang, the organist sustained his cry with long-drawn
shuddering chords and deep groans of the diapason. The whole church
throbbed with the vibrations of the rising, falling melody; and the
emotional thrill was as though Christ's or Mary's soul were speaking
through the darkness to our hearts. I never elsewhere heard a soprano of
this sort sing in tune so perfect or with so pure an intonation. The
dramatic effect produced by the contrast between this soprano and the
bass and tenor was simple but exceedingly striking. Englishmen, familiar
with cathedral music, may have derived a somewhat similar impression
from the more complex Motett of Mendelssohn upon Psalm xxii. I think
that when the Umbrian Laud began to be dramatic, the parts in such a
hymn as Jacopone's _Corrotto_ must have been distributed after the
manner of these Perugian Good Friday services. Mary's was undoubtedly
given to the soprano; that of the Jews, possibly, to the bass; Christ's,
and perhaps the messenger's also, to the tenor. And it is possible that
the rhythm was almost identical with what I heard; for that had every
mark of venerable antiquity and popular sincerity.

I now pass to the Hymn of Divine Love, which Tresatti entitles _Cantico
dell'Amore Superardente_ (Book vi. 16). It consists of three hundred and
seventy lines, all of which I have translated, though I content myself
here with some extracts:

     O Love of Charity!
     Why didst thou so wound me?
     Why breaks my heart through thee,
     My heart which burns with Love?

         It burns and glows and finds no place to stay;
     It cannot fly, for it is bound so tight;
     It melts like wax before the flame away;
     Living, it dies; swoons, faints, dissolves outright;
     Prays for the force to fly some little way;
     Finds itself in the furnace fiery-white;
     Ah me, in this sore plight,
     Who, what consumes my breath?
     Ah, thus to live is death!
     So swell the flames of Love.

         Or ere I tasted Jesus, I besought
     To love him, dreaming pure delights to prove,
     And dwell at peace mid sweet things honey-fraught,
     Far from all pain on those pure heights above:
     Now find I torment other than I sought;
     I knew not that my heart would break for love!
     There is no image of
     The semblance of my plight!
     I die, drowned in delight,
     And live heart-lost in Love!

         Lost is my heart and all my reason gone,
     My will, my liking, and all sentiment;
     Beauty is mere vile mud for eyes to shun;
     Soft cheer and wealth are naught but detriment;
     One tree of love, laden with fruit, but one,
     Fixed in my heart, supplies me nourishment:
     Hourly therefrom are sent,
     With force that never tires
     But varies still, desires,
     Strength, sense, the gifts of Love.

            *       *       *       *       *

         Let none rebuke me then, none reprehend,
     If love so great to madness driveth me!
     What heart from love her fortress shall defend?
     So thralled, what heart from love shall hope to flee?
     Think, how could any heart not break and rend,
     Or bear this furnace-flame's intensity?--
     Could I but only be
     Blest with some soul that knows,
     Pities and feels the woes
     Which whelm my heart with Love!

         Lo, heaven, lo, earth cries out, cries out for aye,
     And all things cry that I must love even thus!
     Each calls:--With all thy heart to that Love fly,
     Loving, who strove to clasp thee, amorous;
     That Love who for thy love did seek and sigh,
     To draw thee up to him, He fashioned us!--
     Such beauty luminous,
     Such goodness, such delight,
     Flows from that holy light,
     Beams on my soul from Love!

            *       *       *       *       *

         For thee, O Love, I waste, swooning away!
     I wander calling loud with thee to be!
     When thou departest, I die day by day;
     I groan and weep to have thee close to me:
     When thou returnest, my heart swells; I pray
     To be transmuted utterly in thee!
     Delay not then!--Ah me!
     Love deigns to bring me grace!
     Binds me in his embrace,
     Consumes my heart with Love!

            *       *       *       *       *

         Love, Love, thou hast me smitten, wounded sore!
     No speech but Love, Love, Love! can I deliver!
     Love, I am one with thee, to part no more!
     Love, Love, thee only shall I clasp for ever!
     Love, Love, strong Love, thou forcest me to soar
     Heavenward! my heart expands; with love I quiver;
     For thee I swoon and shiver,
     Love, pant with thee to dwell!
     Love, if thou lovest me well,
     Oh, make me die of Love!

         Love, Love, Love, Jesus, I have scaped the seas!
     Love, Love, Love, Jesus, thou has guided me!
     Love, Love, Love, Jesus, give me rest and peace!
     Love, Love, Love, Jesus, I'm inflamed by thee!
     Love, Love, Love, Jesus! From wild waves release!
     Make me, Love, dwell for ever clasped with thee!
     And be transformed in thee,
     In truest charity,
     In highest verity,
     Of pure transmuted Love!

         Love, Love, Love, Love, the world's exclaim and cry!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, each thing this cry returns!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, thou art so deep, so high:
     Whoso clasps thee, for thee more madly yearns!
     Love, Love, thou art a circle like the sky;
     Who enters, with thy love for ever burns!
     Web, woof, art thou; he learns,
     Who clothes himself with thee,
     Such sweetness, suavity,
     That still he shouts, Love, Love!

         Love, Love, Love, Love, thou giv'st me such strong pain!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, how shall I bear this ache?
     Love, Love, Love, Love, thou fill'st my heart amain!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, I feel my heart must break!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, thou dost me so constrain!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, absorb me for Love's sake!
     Love-languor, sweet to take!
     Love, my Love amorous!
     Love, my delicious!
     Swallow my soul in Love!

         Love, Love, Love, Love, my heart it is so riven!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, what wounds I feel, what bliss!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, I'm drawn and rapt to heaven!
     Love, Love, I'm ravished by thy beauteousness!
     Love, Love, life's naught, for less than nothing given!
     Love, Love, the other life is one with this!
     Thy love the soul's life is!
     To leave thee were death's anguish!
     Thou mak'st her swoon and languish,
     Clasped, overwhelmed in Love!

         Love, Love, Love, Love, O Jesus amorous!
     Love, Love, fain would I die embracing Thee!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, O Jesus my soul's Spouse!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, death I demand of thee!
     Love, Love, Love, Love, Jesus, my lover, thus
     Resume me, let me be transformed in thee!
     Where am I? Love! Ah me!
     Jesus, my hope! in thee
     Ingulf me, whelm in Love!


_Passages translated from the Morgante Maggiore of Pulci._

(See Chapter VII. pp. 444 _et seq._) Morgante xviii. 115.

     Answered Margutte: "Friend, I never boasted:
     I don't believe in black more than in blue,
     But in fat capons, boiled, or may be roasted;
     And I believe sometimes in butter too,
     In beer and must, where bobs a pippin toasted;
     Sharp liquor more than sweet I reckon true;
     But mostly to old wine my faith I pin,
     And hold him saved who firmly trusts therein.

     "I believe in the tartlet and the tart;
     One is the mother, t'other is her son:
     The perfect paternoster is a part
     Of liver, fried in slips, three, two, or one;
     Which also from the primal liver start:
     And since I'm dry, and fain would swill a tun,
     If Mahomet forbids the juice of grape,
     I reckon him a nightmare, phantom, ape.

     "Apollo's naught but a delirious vision,
     And Trivigant perchance a midnight specter;
     Faith, like the itch, is catching; what revision
     This sentence needs, you'll make, nor ask the rector:
     To waste no words, you may without misprision
     Dub me as rank a heretic as Hector:
     I don't disgrace my lineage, nor indeed
     Am I the cabbage-ground for any creed.

     "Faith's as man gets it, this, that, or another!
     See then what sort of creed I'm bound to follow:
     For you must know a Greek nun was my mother,
     My sire at Brusa, mid the Turks, a mollah;
     I played the rebeck first, and made a pother
     About the Trojan war, flattered Apollo,
     Praised up Achilles, Hector, Helen fair,
     Not once, but twenty thousand times, I swear.

     "Next, growing weary of my light guitar,
     I donned a military bow and quiver;
     One day within the mosque I went to war,
     And shot my grave old daddy through the liver:
     Then to my loins I girt this scimitar,
     And journeyed forth o'er sea, land, town, and river
     Taking for comrades in each holy work
     The congregated sins of Greek and Turk.

     "That's much the same as all the sins of hell!
     I've seventy-seven at least about me, mortal;
     Summer and winter in my breast they swell:
     Guess now how many venial crowd the portal!
     'Twere quite impossible, I know full well,
     If the world never ended, to report all
     The crimes I've done in this one life alone;
     Each item too is catalogued and known.

     "I pray you listen for one little minute;
     The skein shall be unraveled in a trice:--
     When I've got cash, I'm gay as any linnet,
     Cast with who calls, cut cards, and fling the dice;
     All times, all places, or the devil's in it,
     Serve me for play; I've spent on this one vice
     Fame, fortune--staked my coat, my shirt, my breeches;
     I hope this specimen will meet your wishes.

     "Don't ask what juggler's tricks I teach the boxes!
     Or whether sixes serve me when I call,
     Or jumps an ace up!--Foxes pair with foxes;
     The same pitch tars our fingers, one and all!--
     Perhaps I don't know how to fleece the doxies?
     Perhaps I can't cheat, cozen, swindle, bawl?
     Perhaps I never learned to patter slang?--
     I know each trick, each turn, and lead the gang.

     "Gluttony after gambling's my prime pleasure.
     Here it behooves one to be learned and wise,
     To gauge the merits and the virtues measure
     Of pheasant, partridge, fowl; with practiced eyes
     Noting each part, of every dish at leisure,
     Seeking where tender slice or morsel lies;
     And since I've touched upon this point, I'll tell ye
     How best to grease your jaws and stuff your belly.

     "If I could only show you how I baste,
     If you could see me turn the spit and ladle,
     You'd swear I had a most consummate taste!
     Of what ingredients are black-puddings made all?
     Not to be burned, and not to run to waste,
     Not over-hot nor frozen in the cradle,
     Done to a turn, juicy, not bathed in butter,
     Smooth, plump and swelling!--Don't you hear 'em sputter?

     "About fried liver now receive my say:
     It wants five pieces--count them on your fingers;
     It must be round--keep this in mind, I pray!--
     Fire on this side or that the frying injures!
     Be careful not to brush the fat away,
     Which keeps the stew soft while it drops and lingers;
     You must divide it in two parts, and see
     That each part is apportioned equally.

     "It should not be too large; but there's a saw--
     Stint not your bag-pudding of hose and jacket:
     Now mark me, for I'm laying down the law--
     Don't overcook the morsel in the packet;
     It ought to melt, midway twixt done and raw,
     Like a ripe autumn fig, when you attack it:
     Serve it up hissing, and then sound the tabors
     With spice and orange peel, to end your labors!

     "I've got a hundred hints to give the wary!
     But take it on my word, ragouts and pies
     Are the true test of science culinary:
     A lamprey now--you'd scarce believe your eyes
     To see its stews and salmis, how they vary!
     Yet all are known and numbered by the wise.--
     True gourmandize hath seventy-two divisions,
     Besides a few that are my own additions:

     "If one be missed, the cooking's spoiled, that's granted:
     Not heaven itself can save a ruined platter!--
     From now till noon I'd hold your sense enchanted
     With secrets of my art, if I dared chatter!--
     I kept an inn at Corinth once, and wanted
     To argue publicly upon the matter.--
     But we must leave this point, for 'twill divert you
     To hear about another cardinal virtue.

     "Only to F these confidences carry;
     Just think what 'twill be when we come to R!
     I plow (no nonsense) with ass, cassiowary,
     Ox, camel--any other beast bizarre.
     A thousand bonfires, prisons, by Lord Harry,
     My tricks have earned, and something uglier far:
     Where my head will not pass, I stick my tail in,
     And what I like's to hear the good folk railing.

     "Take me to balls, to banquets, for an airing;
     I'll do my duty there with hands and feet:
     I'm rude, importunate, a bore, and daring;
     On friends no less than foes I'll take a seat:
     To shame I've said farewell; nor am I sparing
     Of fawning like a cur when kicks I meet,
     But tell my tale and swagger up and down,
     And with a thousand fibs each exploit crown.

     "No need to ask if I've kept geese at grass,
     Purveyed stewed prunes, taught kittens how to play.
     Suppose a thousand--widow, wife, and lass:
     That's just about my figure, I dare say.
     When mid the women by mishap I pass,
     Six out of every five become my prey;
     I make the pretty dears so deucéd cunning,
     They beat nurse, maid, duenna out of running.

     "Three of my moral qualities are these--
     Gluttony, dicing, as I said, and drinking:
     But, since we'll drain the barrel to the lees,
     Hear now the fourth and foremost to my thinking.
     No need of hooks or ladders, crows or keys,
     I promise, where my hands are! Without blinking
     I've worn the cross and miter on my forehead--
     No pope's nor priest's, but something much more horrid!

     "Screws, files and jemmies are my stock in trade,
     Springs, picklocks, of more sorts than I could mention;
     Rope and wood ladders, levers, slippers made
     Of noiseless felt--my patented invention--
     Drowsing all ears, where'er my feet are laid;
     I fashioned them to take my mind's intention;
     Fire too that by itself no light delivers,
     But when I spit on it, springs up and quivers.

     "See me but in a church alone and frisky!
     I'm keener on the robbing of an altar
     Than gaugers when they scent a keg of whiskey;
     Then to the alms-box off I fly, nor falter:
     Sacristies are my passion; though 'tis risky,
     With cross and sacring cup I never palter,
     But pull the crucifixes down and stow 'em--
     Virgins and saints and effigies, you know 'em!

     "I've swept, may-be, a hen-roost in my day
     And if you'd seen me loot a lot of washing,
     You'd swear that never maid or housewife gay
     Could clear it in a style so smart and dashing!
     If naught, Morgante, 's left but blooming May
     To strip, I steal it--I can't keep from flashing!
     I ne'er drew difference twixt thine and mine:
     All things, to start with, were effects divine.

     "But ere I learned to thieve thus on the sly,
     I ran the highway rig as bold as any;
     I would have robbed the biggest saint on high--
     If there _are_ saints above us--for a penny;
     But loving peace and fair tranquillity,
     I left assassination to the many:
     Not that my will was weak--I'd rather say,
     Because theft mixed with murder does not pay.

     "My virtues theological now smile on!
     God knows if I can forge or falsify:
     I'll turn an H into a Greek Upsilon--
     You could not write a neater, prettier Y!
     I gut the pages of a book, and pile on
     New rubrics for new chapters, change the die,
     Change title, cover, index, name--the poet
     Who wrote the verse I counterfeit, won't know it.

     "False oaths and perjuries come trickling down
     Out of my mouth as smooth and sweet as honey,
     Ripe figs, or macaroni nicely brown,
     Or anything that's natural and funny:
     Suppose they brain some guileless count or clown;
     All's one; ware heads, I cry, and pouch my money!
     I've set on foot full many a strife and wrangle,
     And left 'em in inextricable tangle.

     "With ready coin I always square a scandal:
     Of oaths I've got a perfect stock in trade;
     Each saint supplies my speech with some choice handle;
     I run them off in rows from A to Z:
     In lying no man holds to me a candle;
     Truth's always the reverse of what I've said:--
     I'd like to see more fire than land or water,
     In heaven and earth naught but plague, famine, slaughter.

     "Don't fancy that in fasting, prayer and prate,
     Or charities my spare time I employ!
     Not to seem stiff, I beg from gate to gate,
     And always utter something to annoy:
     Proud, envious, tiresome and importunate--
     This character I've cherished from a boy;
     For the seven deadly sins and all the other
     Vices have brought me up to be their brother!

     "So that I'd roam the world, cross ban and border,
     Hood-winked, nor ever fear to miss my way;
     As sweet and clean as any lump of ordure,
     I leave my trail like slugs where'er I stray,
     Nor seek to hide that slimy self-recorder:
     Creeds, customs, friends I slough from day to day;
     Change skin and climate, as it suits me best,
     For I was evil even in the nest.

     "I've left a whole long chapter undiscussed
     Of countless peccadilloes in a jumble:
     Were I to catalogue each crime and lust,
     The medley of my sins might make you grumble:
     'Twould take from now till June to lay the dust,
     If in this mud heap we began to tumble;
     One only point I'd have you still perpend--
     I never in my life betrayed a friend."

     MORGANTE XXV. 119.

     There is a spirit, Astarotte height,
     Wise, terrible, and fierce exceedingly;
     In Hell's dark caves profound he hides from sight:
     No goblin, but a fiend far blacker he.--
     Malagigi summoned him one deep midnight,
     And cried: "How fares Rinaldo, tell to me!
     Then will I say what more I'd have thee work;
     But look not on me with face so mirk!

     "If thou wilt do this bidding, I declare
     I'll never call nor conjure thee by force,
     But burn upon my death yon book, I swear,
     Which can alone compel thee in due course:
     So shalt thou live thenceforward free as air."--
     Thereat the fiend swaggered, and had recourse
     To threatening wiles, and would not yield an inch,
     If haply he could make the master flinch.

     But when he saw Malagigi's blood was stirred,
     In act to flash the ring of his dread art,
     And hurl him to some tomb by book and word,
     He threw his cards up with a sudden start,
     And cried: "Of your will yet I've nothing heard."
     Then Malagigi answered: "In what part
     Are Ricciardetto and Rinaldo now?
     Tell all the truth, or you'll repent, I vow!"

     MORGANTE XXV. 135.

     Said Astarotte: "This point remains obscure,
     Unless I thought the whole night through thereon;
     Nor would my best of judgments be secure;--
     The paths of heaven for us are all undone,
     Our sight of things to be is no more sure
     Than that of sages gazing on the sun;
     For neither man nor beast would 'scape from Hell,
     Had not our wings been shortened when we fell.

     "Of the Old Testament I've much to teach,
     And of what happened in the days gone by;
     But all things do not come within our reach:
     One only Power there is, who sees on high,
     As in a glass before him, all and each,
     Past, present, and remote futurity:
     He who made all that is, alone knows all,
     Nor doth the Son well know what shall befall.

     "Therefore I could not without thought intense
     Tell thee the destined fate of Charlemain:--
     Know that the air around us now is dense
     With spirits; in their hands I see them strain
     Astrolabe, almanac, and tablet, whence
     To read yon signs in heaven of strife and bane--
     The blood and treason, overthrow and war,
     Menaced by Mars in Scorpio angular.

     "And for thy better understanding, he
     Is joined with Saturn in the ascendant, so
     Charged with all-powerful malignity
     That e'en the wars of Turnus had less woe.
     Slaughters of many peoples we shall see,
     With dire disasters in confusion flow,
     And change of states and mighty realms; for I
     Know that these signs were never wont to lie.

     "I know not whether thou hast fixed thy thought
     Upon those comets which appeared of late,
     Veru and Dominus and Ascon, brought
     Treasons and wars and strife to indicate,
     With deaths of princes and great nobles fraught?
     These, too, ne'er falsified the word of fate.
     So that it seems from what I learn and see,
     That what I say, and worse, is like to be.

     "What Gano with Marsilio planned before,
     I know not, since I did not think thereon:
     But he's the same, methinks, he was of yore;
     Wherefore this needs no divination:
     A seat is waiting for him at hell's core;
     And if his life's book I correctly con,
     That evil soul will very shortly go
     To weep his sins in everlasting woe."

     Then spake Malagigi: "Something thou hast said
     Which holds my sense and reason still in doubt,
     That some things even from the Son are hid;
     This thy dark saying I can fathom not."
     Then Astarotte: "Thou, it seems, hast read
     But ill thy Bible, or its words forgot;
     For when the Son was asked of that great day,
     Only the Father knows, He then did say.

     "Mark my words, Malagigi! Thou shalt hear,
     Now if thou wilt, the fiend's theology:
     Then to thy churchmen go, and make it clear.
     You say: Three Persons in one entity,
     One substance; and to this we, too, adhere:
     One flawless, pure, unmixed activity:--
     Wherefore it follows from what went before,
     That this alone is what you all adore.

     "One mover, whence all movement is impelled:
     One order, whence all order hath its rise;
     One cause, whereby all causes are compelled;
     One power, whence flow all powers and energies;
     One fire, wherein all radiances are held;
     One principle, which every truth implies;
     One knowledge, whence all wisdom hath been given;
     One Good, which made all good in earth and heaven.

     "This is that Father and that ancient King,
     Who hath made all things and can all things know,
     But cannot change His own wise ordering,
     Else heaven and earth to ruin both would go.
     Having lost His friendship, I no more may wing
     My flight unto the mirror, where our woe
     Perchance e'en now is clearly shown to view;
     Albeit futurity I never knew.

     "If Lucifer had known the doom to be,
     He had not brought those fruits of rashness forth;
     Nor had he ruined for eternity,
     Seeking his princely station in the North;
     But being impotent all things to see,
     He and we all were damned 'neath heaven and earth;
     And since he was the first to sin, he first
     Fell to Giudecca, and still fares the worst.

     "Nor had we vainly tempted all the blest,
     Who now sit crowned with stars in Paradise,
     If, as I said, a veil by God's behest
     Had not been drawn before our mental eyes;
     Nor would that Saint, of Saints the first and best
     Been tempted, as your Gospel testifies,
     And borne by Satan to the pinnacle
     Where at the last he saw His miracle.

     "And forasmuch as He makes nothing ill,
     And all hath circumscribed by fixed decrees,
     And what He made is present with Him still,
     Being established on just premises,
     Know that this Lord repents not of His will;
     Nay, if one saith that change hath been, he sees
     Falsehood for truth, in sense and judgment blind
     For what is now, was in the primal mind."

     "Tell me," then answered Malagigi, "more,
     Since thou'rt an angel sage and rational!
     If that first Mover, whom we all adore,
     Within His secret soul foreknew your fell,
     If time and hour were both foreseen before,
     His sentence must be found tyrannical,
     Lacking both justice and true charity;
     Since, while creating, and while damning, He

     "Foreknew you to be frail and formed in sin;
     Nathless you call Him just and piteous,
     Nor was there room, you say, pardon to win:--
     This makes our God the partisan of those
     Angels who stayed the gates of heaven within,
     Who knew the true from false, discerning thus
     Which side would prosper, which would lose the day,
     Nor went, like you, with Lucifer astray."

     Astarotte, like the devil, raged with pain;
     Then cried: "That just Sabaoth loved no more
     Michael than Lucifer; nor made he Cain
     More apt than Abel to shed brother's gore:
     If one than Nimrod was more proud and vain,
     If the other, all unlike to Gabriel, swore
     He'd not repent nor bellow psalms to heaven,
     It was free-will condemned both unforgiven.

     "That was the single cause that damned us all:
     His clemency, moreover, gave full time,
     Wherein 'twas granted us to shun the fall,
     And by repentance to compound our crime;
     But now we've fallen from grace beyond recall:
     Just was our sentence from that Judge sublime;
     His foresight shortened not our day of grace,
     For timely penitence aye finds a place.

     "Just is the Father, Son, and just the Word!
     His justice with great mercy was combined:
     Through pride no more than thanklessness we erred;
     That was our sin malignant and unkind:
     Nor hath remorse our stubborn purpose stirred,
     Seeing that evil nourished in the mind
     And will of those who knew the good, and were
     Untempted, never yet was changed to fair.

     "Adam knew not the nature of his sin;
     Therefore his primal error was forgiven,
     Because the tempter took him in a gin:
     Only his disobedience angered heaven;
     Therefore, though cast from Eden, he might win
     Grace, when repentance from his heart had driven
     The wicked will, with peace to end his strife,
     And mercy also in eternal life.

     "But the angelic nature, once debased,
     Can never more to purity return:
     It sinned with science and corrupted taste:
     Whence in despair incurable we burn.
     Now, if that wise one answered not, nor raised
     His voice, when Pilate asked of him to learn
     What was the truth, the truth was at his side;
     This ignorance was therefore justified.

     "Pilate was lost, because in doing well
     He persevered not when he washed his hand;
     And Judas, too, beyond redemption fell,
     Because, though penitent at last, he banned
     Hope, without which no soul escapes from hell:
     His doom no Origen shall countermand,
     Nor who to Judas give what's meant for Judah--
     _In diebus illis salvabitur Juda._

     "Thus there is one first Power in heaven who knew
     All things, by whom all things were also made:
     Making and damning us, He still was true;
     On Truth and Justice all His work is laid:
     Future and past are present to his view;
     For it must follow, as I elsewhere said,
     That the whole world before His face should lie,
     From whom proceeds force, virtue, energy.

     "But now that thou hast bound me to relate,
     My master thou, the cause of our mischance,
     Thou fain would'st hear why He who rules o'er fate,
     And of our fall foresaw each circumstance,
     Labored in vain, and made us reprobate?--
     Sealed is that rubric, closed from every glance,
     Reserved for Him, the Lord victorious:
     I know not, I can only answer thus!

     "Nor speak I this to put thy mind to proof;
     But forasmuch as I discern that men
     Weave on this warp of doubts a misty woof,
     Seeking to learn; albeit they cannot ken
     Whence flows the Nile--the Danube's not enough!
     Assure thy soul, nor ask the how and when,
     That heaven's high Master, as the Psalmist taught,
     Is just and true in all that he hath wrought.

     "The things whereof I speak are known not by
     Poet or prophet, moralist or sage:
     Yet mortal men in their presumption try
     To rank the hierarchies, stage over stage!
     A chieftain among Seraphim was I;
     Yet knew not what in many a learnéd page
     Denys and Gregory wrote!--Full surely they
     Who paint heaven after earth will go astray!

     "But above all things see thou art not led
     By elves and wandering sprites, a tricksy kind,
     Who never speak one word of truth, but shed
     Doubt and suspicion on the hearer's mind;
     Their aim is injury toward fools ill-sped:
     And, mark this well, they ne'er have been confined
     To glass or water, but reside in air,
     Playing their pranks here, there, and everywhere.

     "From ear to ear they pass, and 'tis their vaunt
     Ever to make things seem that are not so:
     For one delights in horseplay, jeer and jaunt;
     One deals in science; one pretends to show
     Where treasures lurk in some forgotten haunt:
     Others, more grave, futurity foreknow:--
     But now I've given thee hints enough, to tell
     That courtesy can even be found in Hell!"

     MORGANTE XXV. 282.

     And when Rinaldo had learned all his need,
     "Astarotte," he cried, "thou art a perfect friend,
     And I am bound to thee henceforth indeed!
     This I say truly: if God's will should bend,
     If grace divine should e'er so much concede
     As to reverse heaven's ordinance, amend
     Its statutes, sentences, or high decrees,
     I will remember these thy services.

     "More at the present time I cannot give:
     The soul returns to Him from whom it flew:
     The rest of us, thou knowest, will not live!
     O love supreme, rare courtesy and new."--
     I have no doubt that all my friends believe
     This verse belongs to Petrarch; yet 'tis true
     Rinaldo spoke it very long ago:
     But who robs not, is called a rogue, you know.--

     Said Astarotte: "Thanks for your good will!
     Yet shall those keys be lost for us for ever:
     High treason was our crime, measureless ill.
     Thrice happy Christians! One small tear can sever
     _Your_ bonds!--One sigh, sent from the contrite will:
     Lord, to Thee only did I sin!--But never
     Shall _we_ find grace: we sinned once; now we lie
     Sentenced to hell for all eternity.

     "If after, say, some thousand million ages
     We might have hope yet once to see again
     The least spark of that Love, this pang that rages
     Here at the core, could scarce be reckoned pain!--
     But wherefore annotate such dreary pages?
     To wish for what can never be, is vain.
     Therefore I mean with your kind approbation
     To change the subject of our conversation."

     MORGANTE XXV. 73.

     What God ordains is no chance miracle.
     Next prodigies and signs in heaven were seen;
     For the sun suddenly turned ghastly pale,
     And clouds with rain o'erladen flew between,
     Muttering low prelude to their thunder-knell,
     As when Jove shakes the world with awful spleen:
     Next wind and fury, hail and tempest, hiss
     O'er earth and skies--Good God, what doom is this?

     Then while they cowered together dumb with dread,
     Lightning flashed forth and hurtled at their side,
     Which struck a laurel's leaf-embowered head,
     And burned it; cleft unto the earth, it died.
     O Phoebus! yon fair curls of gold outspread!
     How could'st thou bear to see thy love, thy pride,
     Thus thunder-smitten? Hath thy sacred bay
     Lost her inviolable rights to-day?

     Marsilio cries: "Mahound! What can it mean!
     What doleful mystery lies hid beneath?
     O Bianciardino, to our State, I ween,
     This omen brings some threat of change or death!"
     But, while he spoke, an earthquake shook the scene,
     Nay, shook both hemispheres with blustering breath:
     Falseron's face changed hue, grew cold and hot,
     And even Bianciardino liked it not.

     Yet none for very fear dared move a limb,
     The while above their heads a sudden flush
     Spread like live fire, that made the daylight dim;
     And from the font they saw the water gush
     In gouts and crimson eddies from the brim;
     And what it sprinkled, with a livid flush
     Burned: yea, the grass flared up on every side;
     For the well boiled, a fierce and sanguine tide.

     Above the fountain rose a locust-tree,
     The tree where Judas hanged himself, 'tis said;
     This turned the heart of Gano sick to see,
     For now it ran with ruddy sweat and bled,
     Then dried both trunk and branches suddenly,
     Moulting its scattered leaves by hundreds dead;
     And on his pate a bean came tumbling down,
     Which made the hairs all bristle on his crown.

     The beasts who roamed at will within the park,
     Set up a dismal howl and wail of woe;
     Then turned and rushed amuck with yelp and bark,
     Butting their horns and charging to and fro:
     Marsilio and his comrades in the dark
     Watched all dismayed to see how things would go;
     And none knew well what he should say or do,
     So dreadful was heaven's wrath upon the crew.

     MORGANTE XXV. 115.

     I had it in my mind once to curtail
     This story, knowing not how I should bring
     Rinaldo all that way to Roncesvale,
     Until an angel straight from heaven did wing,
     And showed me Arnald to recruit my tale:
     He cries, "Hold, Louis! Wherefore cease to sing?
     Perchance Rinaldo will turn up in time!"
     So, just as he narrates, I'll trim my rhyme.

     I must ride straight as any arrow flies,
     Nor mix a fib with all the truths I say;
     This is no story to be stuffed with lies!
     If I diverge a hand's breadth from the way,
     One croaks, one scolds, while everybody cries,
     "Ware madman!" when he sees me trip or stray.
     I've made my mind up to a hermit's life,
     So irksome are the crowd and all their strife.

     Erewhile my Academe and my Gymnasia
     Were in the solitary woods I love,
     Whence I can see at will Afric or Asia;
     There nymphs with baskets tripping through the grove,
     Shower jonquils at my feet or colocasia:
     Far from the town's vexations there I'd rove,
     Haunting no more your Areopagi,
     Where folk delight in calumny and lie.


     Then answered Baldwin: "If my sire in sooth
     Hath brought us here by treason, as you say,
     Should I survive this battle, by God's truth,
     With this good sword I will my father slay!--
     But, Roland, I'm no traitor--I forsooth,
     Who followed thee with love as clear as day!--
     How could'st thou fling worse insult on thy friend?"
     Then with fierce force the mantle he did rend,

     And cried: "I will return into the fight,
     Since thou hast branded me with treason, thou!
     I am no traitor! May God give me might,
     As living thou shalt see me ne'er from now!"
     Straight toward the Paynim battle spurs the knight,
     Still shouting, "Thou hast done me wrong, I vow!"
     Roland repents him of the words he spake,
     When the youth, mad with passion, from him brake.


     I ask not for that wreath of bay or laurel
     Which on Greek brows or Roman proudly shone:
     With this plain quill and style I do not quarrel,
     Nor have I sought to sing of Helicon:
     My Pegasus is but a rustic sorrel;
     Untutored mid the graves I still pipe on:
     Leave me to chat with Corydon and Thyrsis;
     I'm no good shepherd, and can't mend my verses.

     Indeed I'm not a rash intrusive claimant,
     Like the mad piper of those ancient days,
     From whom Apollo stripped his living raiment,
     Nor quite the Satyr that my face bewrays.
     A nobler bard shall rise and win the payment
     Fame showers on loftier style and worthier lays:
     While I mid beech-woods and plain herdsmen dwell,
     Who love the rural muse of Pulci well.

     I'll tempt the waters in my little wherry,
     Seeking safe shallows where a skiff may swim:
     My only care is how to make men merry
     With these thick-crowding thoughts that take my whim:
     'Tis right that all things in this world should vary;--
     Various are wits and faces, stout and slim,
     One dotes on white, while one dubs black sublime,
     And subjects vary both in prose and rhyme.


_Translations of Elegiac Verses by Girolamo Benivieni and Michelangelo

(See page 321).

     The heavenly sound is hushed, from earth is riven
         The harmony of that delighted lyre,
         Which leaves the world in grief, to gladden heaven.
     Yea, even as our sobs from earth aspire,
         Mourning his loss, so ring the jocund skies
         With those new songs, and dance the angelic choir.
     Ah happy he, who from this vale of sighs,
         Poisonous and dark, heavenward hath flown, and lost
         Only the vesture, frail and weak, that dies!
     Freed from the world, freed from the tempest-tossed
         Warfare of sin, his splendor now doth gaze
         Full on the face of God through endless days.

            *       *       *       *       *

     Thou'rt dead of dying, and art made divine;
         Nor need'st thou fear to change or life or will;
         Wherefore my soul well-nigh doth envy thine.
     Fortune and time across thy threshold still
         Shall dare not pass, the which mid us below
         Bring doubtful joyance blent with certain ill.
     Clouds are there none to dim for thee heaven's glow;
         The measured hours compel not thee at all;
         Chance or necessity thou canst not know.
     Thy splendor wanes not when our night doth fall,
         Nor waxes with day's light however clear,
         Nor when our suns the season's warmth recall.


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