« AnteriorContinuar »
known—the tragedy Eccerinis—was dedicated to the same end. Mussato was a native of Padua, in which city, some sixty years before, Ezzelino da Eomano and his brother Alberico had provided a spectacle of tyranny in its worst and vilest shape. To freshen the memory of these events, to fire anew the indignation of the citizens, and thus prevent a recurrence of the episode, was the purpose of Mussato's learned play, in which the chief personage was that son of Satan— literally, in the drama—Ezzelino. In spirit the work is rather lyrical than dramatic. There is no action worth mentioning, and no fine characterisation. With regard to form, it was modelled on Seneca's tragedies, and was never intended to be played. It consists, in a large measure, of long declamatory passages; and, indeed, the whole of the fifth act is taken up with the report of the horrible death of Alberico and his family. Although faultily constructed and "speaking with tongues," the composition, by reason of its ardent patriotism, profoundly impressed the people of Padua, and the author was publicly rewarded with a wreath of laurel, ivy, and myrtle.
Mussato described himself in official documents as "poeta et historiographus Paduanus." The latter title he appropriated on the score of two immense historical works: the Historia Augusta or De Gestis Henrici VII. Ccesaris, and De Gestis Italicorum post Ilenricum VII. Ccesarem. Mussato here takes Livy as his model, imitating him not only in the use of the period and the "oblique oration," but in terminology. Coeval Italian institutions are llomanised out of knowledge. We read of tribunes of the people, decrees of the Senate, and cohorts of the army. Occasionally an explanatory note is added as, for instance, that in which the expression " tribuni plebis" is supplemented by the words "quos gastaldiones appellant"; but, more usually, we are left to grope our way unaided, and with a growing sense of misapplied ingenuity. These histories, however, possess considerable value as chronicles. Not only was Mussato truthful and painstaking, but, regarding much that he has set down, an eyewitness. In this respect he contrasts with another Latin historian, Ferreto da Vicenza, who,not perhaps quite voluntarily, acts the part of special pleader for Can Grande. Ferreto, though he expresses admiration for Mussato, is actually, in style and method, superior to the Paduan; but he of Vicenza does not regard the historian's calling in the same serious light, nor, again, are his statements based on personal knowledge. Mussato and Ferreto were the leaders of a whole school of Latinists, including two older writers, Lovato of Padua and Benvenuto dei Campesani of Vicenza. These scholars, it should be noticed, limit themselves to the linguistic aspect of classical study. Mussato's Latin, though not equal to Petrarch's, is better than Dante's and better than Boccaccio's, but, unlike Boccaccio, Mussato has not cut himself loose from mediaeval tradition. His interests and his point of view are those of the mass of his contemporaries.
The quasi-ness of Mussato and Ferreto in relation to humanism, of which they have, so to speak, an ahnung, but not the full revelation, is in England repMchard resented by Gower and Richard Aungerville AungeniUe. ,je Bury, Bishop of Durham. Aungerville, as we learn from the Italian scholar, met Petrarch, and in a learned conversation promised to help in elucidating the position of the ancient Thule, which promise he broke. The bishop was a great collector of books, and author of a Latin Philobiblon on his favourite "hobby." His MSS., it is said, were "more than all the bishops of England had then in their keeping "; but he died deep in debt, and his books were sold to the Abbot of St Albans. The assertion that they went to enrich the library of Durham College. Oxford, appears to rest on a clause in his will defining his intention. The Philobiblon testifies to an almost puerile joy in books. Aungerville calls Paris, on account of its libraries and academic treasures, the "paradise of the world," and he looks down from a superior height on the sea of ignorance around. He might be compared to Reuchlin, only Reuchlin is more mature, more philosophic. The bishop's love for antiquity is shown in frequent allusions to the classics, and his literary ardour in a defence of poetry. Aungerville is therefore in some sort an intellectual ancestor of Sir Philip Sidney.
It is in Petrarch, however, that the Renaissance first stirs with life. In his own eyes, and in the eyes of his t contemporaries, Petrarch was great, not on account of his sonnets, but by virtue of his attainments as a scholar; and though none but connoisseurs may care to peruse his Latin writings (with the possible exception of the Letter to Posterity), it is nevertheless difficult to overestimate their historical importance. Petrarch, the Eenaissance, the modern world—in this light their significance becomes at once apparent.
Francesco Petrarca was the son of a Florentine notary, Petracco di Parenzo. "Petracco," of course, is a derivative of "Peter"; and the great scholar, finding the name too homely for him, Latinised it. Petracco belonged to the White faction, of which Dante also was an adherent, and it would seem that, as a boy, Petrarch had a passing glimpse of his austere predecessor, possibly in his father's house. Petracco having, with other members of his party, been driven into exile, his son was born at Arezzo. The event occurred on the 20th January 1304. Petrarch's mother, it seems quite determined now, was Eletta Canigiana, and under her tutelage he spent his early years at Incisa, where his ancestors had dwelt, near the upper reaches of the Arno. Thence, in 1310, the family removed to Pisa; and when, through the failure of Henry VII., the Ghibelline cause was finally lost, Petrarch accompanied his father to Avignon, in the south of France, then the seat of the Papal Court. Both at Pisa and at Avignon, the boy was instructed by a certain Convenevole da Prato; and he was afterwards sent to Montpellier and Bologna, that he might study jurisprudence. Petrarch, however, had no taste for the legal profession, having succumbed to the seductive influence of literature. When Petracco died, the youthful student found himself compelled to embrace the priesthood, an office for which he was essentially unfitted, though, in a secular sense, it proved extremely profitable, since it enabled him to enjoy the fruits of rich prebends conferred upon him by appreciative patrons.
So far as outward circumstances are concerned, Petrarch's career offers a notable contrast to that of courtier and Dante—a contrast arising no doubt, in part, courted. from difference of temperament and mental constitution. Despite his fervid imperialism, Dante was no courtier. He was a kind of Elijah. Petrarch, on the contrary, was a finished man of the world. So much was this the case that he could dispense with the vulgar arts of flattery. As a young man he succeeded in gaining the attachment of the powerful family of the Colonnas; and, in later years, he was everywhere courted by the great and noble, who appear to have regarded his society as a distinction. Jacopo da Carrara, the lord of Padua, sent him repeated invitations, and when at length Petrarch arrived, obtained a canonry for him as an inducement to stay. Again, in 1353, when Petrarch passed through Milan, Giovanni Visconti, at once archbishop and lord of the city, almost forced him to remain at his court. Instead of being, like Dante, a personal enemy of the popes, Petrarch enjoyed such a measure of their favour as to receive from Benedict XII. and Clement VI. a canonry, a priory, and an archdeaconry.
This was obviously a very different lot from Dante's wretched plight, which, to judge from his own description, resembled that of a tramp, while Petrarch, amply