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The explosion is quite intelligible when we remember that the townsman had shared with the clerk and the villein the obloquy of the preceding age. In the fabliau,): he is commonly depicted as a cuckold or as tyrannised over by his wife, and though it would doubtless be inaccurate to think of fabliaux as designed exclusively for the noble, it is likely enough that the pieces in which the townsman is vilified were faithful reflections of aristocratic prejudice. The townsman was now to essay his revenge. The satirical turn, the sansculottism of certain chansons de geste, has already been noted. The same thing is visible, in a greatly exaggerated form, in an amazing production, entitled Renart le Contrefait (i.e., copied from the old). This long poem is rich in scandals, and such episodes as that of Athis and Prophilias—we might style it "The Adventures of a Contented Wittol"—look uncommonly like an attempt to pay off old scores. Roman senators do duty for Christian knights, and high-flown chivalrous sentiments are parodied in a succession of scenes ridiculous and quaint, and serving as a mirror of actual topsyturvydom. The work is in two parts, one of which was written by a grocer; and it comprehends a history of the world down to the year 1319.
Renart le Contrefait, however, is not the only verse in which the bourgeois spirit allies itself with history.
Rhyming A title like Branche des Royaux Lignages
chnnvUt. natUrally awakens an expectation of a courtier - like production, but that is precisely what Guillaume Guiart's memoir is not. It is occupied chiefly with the war of Philippe IV. in Flanders, where Guiart had served as sergeant of artillery. The poem extends to 12,500 lines, nearly all of which have "leonine" rhymes. Of more vital concern is the fact that Guiart is a sworn enemy of the chansons de geste, whose marvels he rejects with scant ceremony. His aim is not to flatter, but to tell the truth; and this trait, in spite of eccentricities, renders his work precious. The style is past praying for. Either Guiart never read or foolishly put aside Ciesar's memorable caution against the verbum invsitatum, which exercises over the man of Orleans a fatal attraction. Thirdly, Godefroi de Paris, who wrote Le Martyre de Saint Bacchus, a witty parody of the Lives of the Saints, wrote also a by no means witty chronicle of Paris from 1300 to 1316. As poetry this is rubbish, but the composition deserves mention as describing contemporary events from the standpoint of a keen observant citizen. Politically, Paris was conspicuous as the theatre of a conflict between the University and the mendicant
orders. For purely bouroeois manifestations Pais. . , . r J »
it behoves us to turn aside to a thriving
municipality of the North. To literary students Arras is interesting from its associations with Adam de la Halle. After his departure the taste for lyric poetry, which he had helped so much to foster, lived on in the citizens, and led to the establishment of puis or poetical contests. Like the consistories of the Gay Science, the puis allowed themselves to be absorbed by technical considerations, with the result that the matriculating verse was uniform and laboured. From this general censure may perhaps be excepted the sottes chansons, or burlesque poems, which, coarse as they sometimes are, have a positive value for the light which they throw on the life and language of the place and period. In Italy vernacular verse may be said to have begun with the Cantico dd Sole of St Francis of Assisi, while jtoHo» a prominent feature in the goings-on of the flue-song. flagellants (not, of course, in Italy only) was the chanting of a lauda, or hymn. The composition of lauds was a favourite exercise of the half, or wholly, mad Jacopone da Todi; and the fourteenth century produced a large crop of such poems, the best being those of Bianco da Siena. All this is very plain, but secular developments are proportionally obscure. A great and recurring difficulty with regard to all early popular poetry is that it was written down, for the most part, a century or two after the presumed date of its composition. The comfortable theory of one eminent critic that a poem roughly synchronises with the event which it celebrates is applicable only to the class of historical ballads, if there. Nevertheless, it seems certain that Italian folk in the thirteenth century, however they may have been inspired, ventured on poetical experiments of their own. The famous Sicilian contrasto of Ciullo d'Alcamo (or Cielo dal Camo) can hardly have stood alone, and in the opinion of some speaks for a lost world of kindred compositions, which always remained oral, or, committed to writing, perished from want of care. Again, the strambolti of southern. Italy, though conceivably not preserved exactly in their original form, undoubtedly represent a very old tradition.
The specimens we possess of primitive Italian folksong, some of which goes back to at least the thirteenth century, do not differ materially from the same class of poems elsewhere. Take, for example, what are perhaps the most characteristic of any, the Bologna ballades. In one of these a mother wrangles with her daughter, who has a mind to wed. Another is a dialogue between two sisters-in-law, who have been false to their respective spouses. The third "shows up" the ill-breeding of a couple of gossips. The verses are of the unbidden anonymous sort which, like fungi, spring up everywhere. Iu other words, they are typical folk-songs.
A century passes, and we meet with a self-conscious poetry produced, as the earlier was, in the bosom of the city-republics, and reflecting the life and conversation of the citizens. In the interim much has happened. A classic Italian literature has blossomed, and has struck its roots deep and wide among the Italian people; and, of course, this circumstance does not count for nothing. The precursors of the later town-verse were Cecco Angiolieri, Folgore di San Gemignano, and still more, Pieraccio Tedaldi and Pietro Faitinelli. These writers, who flourished during the first half of the fourteenth century, have been happily described in the words "poeti volgari famigliari, o giocosi, o urnoristi, o borghesi, come si debbano chiamare" (Morpurgo). Concerning them more will be said in the following chapter.
The wit and play of fancy which characterised this older school are not altogether wanting in their suecessors. But in Italy, as in Germany, the distinctively middle - class lyric exhibits a strong moralising tendency. Its principal exponents are Antonio Beccari of Ferrara, and Antonio Pucci of Florence. Beccari, a physician and friend of Petrarch, was prolific enough; but he is too formal, too didactic, and too faulty a versifier to rank as an artistic poet, which was apparently his ambition. Far more richly endowed The Trumpeter was the Florentine trumpeter, Pucci,1 who, o/Fhrence. though he also teaches and preaches, preaches and teaches in a simpler, more natural style. Not improbably, the rhymes he composed on the leading events of the day were sung by himself in the piazze. Pucci's great achievement is to have turned Villani's chronicle into term rima. This work he christened Centiloquio, which, it would seem, expressed his intention on commencing, for it is arithmetically a misnomer. These things — rhyme and title — show that Pucci, in a very humble way, followed in the footsteps of his great fellow-citizen, in the study of whose writings lay the best and chiefest part of his education. Accordingly, special interest attaches to that portion of his poem relating to Dante, for whom he displays boundless reverence and enthusiasm. It commences as follows:—