Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

equal pedes and a volta—Dante mentions this term as the popular equivalent for dieresis—agreeing with the ripresa. At the close of the poem some versewriters substitute a new ritornello, which may almost be regarded as an envoy. Three o'f Dante's ballate are irregular.1

Lastly, with regard to the sestina. The inventor

of this form was Dante's great admiration, Arnaut

Daniel: the first to transplant it to Italian

77k Sestina. . ..

soil, Dante himself. Its leading principle was that the same "refrain-words "—not rhymes— were repeated in each stanza, which consisted of six lines. But though the words were the same, the order of their succession was different, and the laws governing their succession in each of the six stanzas were rigorous and precise. It was like change - ringing: abedef,faebde, cfdabe, &c. At the close was an envoy of three lines, in which three of the "refrain-words" were re - introduced. Sidney's Arcadia contains a "crown of sixtines," and the form has been tried also in more recent English.

Discussion of the formal side of the Italian lyric is necessarily somewhat tedious, but will serve to pave the way for a more intelligent consideration of its material and spiritual aspects. It would have been deplorable to leave the reader under the impression that canzoni, ballate, and such things were purely arbitrary creations, and still worse not to satisfy legitimate curiosity concerning their structure, their probable origin, and their development. I shall now review the stages by which Italian poetry, from being a humble copy of the then famous, but essentially mediocre, literature of Provence, attained to greatness in the writings of Dante and Petrarch.

1 Carducci, Intorno ad alcune Rime dei Sccoli xiii. c xiv. ([mola, 1876).

As is well known, the birthplace of this poetry was

Sicily, and the periods of its infancy, childhood, and

adolescence are all comprised within the

Sicilian verte. ... . . ., „_„

brief space of about sixty years (122U1283). This extraordinarily rapid growth is easily accounted for by the fact that the Italians had not to build up a literary organism by their own unaided efforts. They entered on a rich inheritance in the bodyings forth of other lands. This was not entirely an advantage, and the main interest of the first halfcentury of Italian verse centres in the gradual throwing-off of the shadow of Provence. At the outset Provencal influence may be described as absolute. What we see is Troubadour poetry masquerading in Italian dress. Troubadour poetry, in form as in content, was intensely artificial, but the Sicilian imitation was even more unreal. Whatever may be our opinion of the former, it is undeniable that it reflected an actual state of things. In Italy, it is notorious, the chivalrous idea had never taken root. The arch-patron of the new Sicilian verse was Frederick II., who, whilst singing in exalted strains the divinity of woman, himself lived the life of a sultan. Poetry was regarded as an intellectual pastime; and the place of real feeling was supplied by simulated passion expressing itself in conventional, stereotyped modes. It is needless to furnish a detailed account of Troubadour verse in what may be termed its Sicilian phase. Suffice it to say that its general character is that of more or less refined compliment, of which the fair sex in some imaginary person is the object. In verse of this kind—uninspired art—metaphor and simile, which, properly applied, strengthen thought and vivify emotion, sink into mere embellishments, or even into "expletives." The commonest is the likening of love to fire. The lover lives in fire, like a salamander, without being burnt; or he would willingly share the lot of the phoenix, if, rising from his ashes, he could better please his mistress. Guido of the Columns (not, perhaps, the Trojan historian) has rather more independence than most of the school, but Guido sought for independence in wrong directions. His similes tend to be prosaic, or, when not prosaic, far-fetched.

From Sicily, probably through the agents of the

Imperial court, the Troubadour lyric passed over to

Mid-Italy, and took up its abode in Arezzo,

Mid-Italy.

Siena, Pisa, and other towns. At Lucca lived a poet, Buonagiunta Orbicciani degli Overardi, who was accused of decking himself with the "plumes of the Notary "—that is, with the plumes of Jacopo da Lentino. This wretch of a fowl may be conceived as spanning with his outstretched legs (or with his mouth-filling tubular name) the at first not very significant gap between the Sicilian and the Tuscan schools of verse. On the material side he belongs to the earlier school. His ideas and images are those of the Troubadours. In other respects, he shows himself in touch with the later developments—e.g., in his adoption of the ballata-form, almost certainly unknown to the Sicilians.

Although the Sicilians so closely followed Troubadour precedent, it is remarkable that a class of writing possessing special attraction in the wane of Provencal literature—the political sirventes—was wholly, or almost wholly, neglected by them. The pioneers were engrossed with the theme of knightly love. In the democratic cities of Tuscany, where the thing itself was unknown, this exclusive attachment could not continue to hold. It fell before the conditions of the age, and especially that spirit of faction which was as the breath of life in the nostrils of the Lapi and the Bindi. It was the success of his party, not any female abstraction, that fascinated the citizen; and the burning questions of the day, and the controversial fury that flashed and flamed in them, naturally found a mirror in contemporary verse. Bologna had its Serventese del Gercmei c Lambertazzi. But a caution is necessary. A production like this is something totally different from the Provenqal type, and at the commencement of the fourteenth century the misshapen, and to some extent misnamed, verse is laughed out of court by Francesco da Barberino as mere mountebank mummery, which artistic poetry disowns.

Politics, however, in the wider, international sense, laid hold of all, poets and lay-folk both. Guittone of Arezzo wrote nothing better than his political ode on the defeat of the Florentines at Monteaperti. This hlow to the "country party" was due in a measure to the presence of German horse—a circumstance more than once ironically alluded to—and Guittone, ardent Guelf, wishes the Ghibellines joy of the alliance:—

"Pray, serve them well, and make them show the blades, Wherewith your faces they have cleft in twain, And sons and fathers slain."

The triumph of Charles of Anjou in 1266, which decided the supremacy of the Guelfs throughout Italy, and the ill - starred expedition of the young Conradin two years later, gave rise to a war of sonetti a tenzone, especially at Florence, where Monte Andrea, secure in the power of the French, gibes at the baffled Ghibellines, while Schiatta di Messer Albizzi Pallavillani espouses their cause and promises them good fortune. The day will come, says he, when it will be seen how the lamb can bite. Other versifiers who shared in the polemic were Orlanduccio Orafo, Palamidesse Belindore, Bernardo Notaio, and Ser Cione Notaio. This title "Ser," in Italian literary annals, is of evil omen, but it is bootless to make exceptions. The notary - people, one and all, are ciphers to the tough friar.

In Guittone's story there is much that reminds us of Dante. Converted "nel mezzo del cammin," he

ouutme o/ left wife and children, and joined himse

Aram- to the order of the Knights of Mary. This order was commonly known as that of the Joyous Brethren, because the knights, as a rule, gave them

« AnteriorContinuar »