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The fourth line has been sometimes interpreted, "You yielded to vain love, deceived by appearances and believing them to be mine." Such an interpretation, whatever may be said for it on other grounds, completely stultifies both the stanza itself and the whole poem. As heat is in the physical world, and as God is in the spiritual world, so love is in the moral world; and God, as a beneficent principle, may rightly and fitly symbolise His creature, when misrepresented and defamed. The recantation in the final stanza is only apparent.
The question may be asked, What is there to distinguish this philosophic poetry from the versified philosophy of Brunetto Latini? The answer is contained in the terms ot the question. In Guinicelli's case philosophy may have supplied the material, but the material was transmuted by the workings of a truly poetic nature instinct with high feeling, and aglow with genuine fervour. In such an atmosphere thought loses its severer features and passes into that condition of enthusiasm in which all things are possible. In themselves, however, endeavours to fathom and to analyse love, to dissipate its mystery, are peculiarly infelicitous, and in that sense I would gladly barter all that Guinicelli and his disciples ever wrote for a score of verses from the Lover's Tale.
"Love lieth deep: Love dwells not in lip-depths.
So that they pass not to the shrine of sound.
Else had the life of that delighted hour
Drunk in the largeness of the utterance
Of Love; but how should earthly measures mete
The Heavenly-unmeasured or unlimited Love,
Who scarce can tune his high majestic sense
Unto the thunder-song that wheels the spheres,
Scarce living in the jEolian harmony
And flowing odour of the spacious air,
Scarce housed within the circle of this Earth,
Be cabin'd up in words and syllables,
Which pass with that which breathes them? Sooner Earth
Might go round Heaven, and the strait girth of Time
Inswathe the fulness of Eternity,
Than language grasp the infinite of Love."
It is not quite certain how far Guinicelli's poetry
was imitated at Bologna. Some writers assume that
he had no following there, and that the
At Bologna. °
"sweet new style reappeared only in Tuscany. Three Bolognese writers, however, whom Dante praises conjointly with Guinicelli, were probably more or less influenced by the poet-philosopher —namely, Guido Ghislieri, Fabrizio (or Fabruzzo) dei Lambertazzi, and Onesto di Bologna. As regards the two former, we have little or nothing on which to base an opinion, but in one of Onesto's odes occur the following lines, which, though perhaps textually faulty, express the central and characteristic idea of the new verse:—
"Quand' egli appar, Amor prende suo loco
Nevertheless, it was in Tuscany, and especially at Florence, that the style inaugurated by Guinicelli ne importance was most fully developed. So much was of Florence. this the case that this poet's star underwent a partial eclipse. Dante's allusion to the two Guidos— Guinicelli and Cavalcanti—and the danger to which both were exposed by his own rising fame, is well known to students of the Commedia:—
"So has one Guido from the other taken
The glory of our tongue, and he perchance
Is born, who from the nest shall chase them both."
These words indicate that, in Dante's eyes, the most important member of the school hitherto was Guido Cavalcanti. Before coming to him, however, it is desirable to pay rather more attention than they ordinarily receive to some of his colleagues — if "adversaries" be not the better term.
The phrase "sweet new style " may lead incautious persons to imagine that this Tuscan poetry is particucharactcrMice larly easy of comprehension. There could o/tke TM» ver«. be no greater delusion. Guinicelli himself, when taxed by Buonagiunta with obscurity, replied, "The man of wisdom doth not lightly run"; while Frescobaldi rivalled Guittone in the art of making himself intentionally difficult and abstruse.1 Besides his difficulty, Frescobaldi has another quality which will assuredly not commend him—he cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be deemed cheerful company. His mind is always feeding on its own griefs, and on the thought of death. He sees in death the end of all his torments, and, accosting the Last Enemy, bids him, since he is glad of his coming, come. Naturally, this way of thinking indisposes him for the half-adulterous homage the Troubadours paid to married women, and leads him to fix his regard on the giorinetta. When the question is put to him point-blank by a poet named Verzellino, Which is to be preferred as a mistress, a pleasing dame or a maid? Frescobaldi unhesitatingly decides for the latter.
1 " It would be very hard to recover the meaning of those verses; even if one succeeded iu recovering it, and after long reflection and patient care could say, ' I seem to have found it,' the fact would still remain that those verses represent a manner which has been substituted for preceding manners" — when a critic of the calibre of Signor Adolfo Bartoli can write like that, the general reader may form his own conclusions as to what is in store for him.
This point of view he shares with Lapo Gianni, who, finding himself at a loss for a metaphor to describe a young lady whom his heart desires, pitches on the now extremely worn comparison of an "angel from Heaven," and the less familiar but equally distinctive phrase " sister of Love." The chastity of the Tuscan muse is as the chastity of marble; and noting this, critics have been induced to ask, Is the object of their worship real and human? She floats before us in almost spectral beauty, and the whole being centres in the eyes, a glance from which sets men longing. Greeting from one so exalted is almost too great a condescension, and is in itself a source of blessing, "Beata 1' alma che questa saluta!"
All here, in fact, is spiritual, even the terminology. Nothing is more irksome to us moderns
than the constant recurrence of the words spiriti and spimtelli. True it is that we employ a similar locution ourselves when we talk of one's spirits, but probably no one using it attaches a specific value to the barometrical phrase. The Tuscans, on the contrary, certainly did attach to it a specific value, though commentators are puzzled to state precisely what. Practically, our choice is limited by the nature of the case to two interpretations. One is that the soul is attended by a multitude of little hobgoblins— so the diminutive spiritelli would imply—or, at any rate, by a plurality of spirits whose existence is sometimes confounded with her own. If this explanation be not accepted, then the only alternative is to consider that the term spiriti or spiritelli denotes the qualities or functions of the soul as a complex organism. This is the more likely as these poets invest the members of the body with a personality rendering them psychologically distinct, both from each other and from the body as a whole. One thing, however, appears certain, that these spirits, whatever they are, have to do with the soul's terrestrial existence, and do not accompany her beyond the grave. In Dante's ode, E1 in! ineresee di me si malamente, the departing soul embraces the spirits who weep at losing her. The climax is reached in a sonnet of Cavalcanti:—