« AnteriorContinuar »
Sonnet, from Petrarch
The London 'Prentices
Madrigal to Apollo; from Gilbert
London and the Country
NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
ITALIAN POETS. NO. III.-GUIDO CAVALCANTI.
THUS hath one Guido from the other snatch'd
Such is the modest pride with which Dante anticipates the superiority of his own renown;-adding, however,
DANTE. Purg. c. ix.
Of worldly fame is but a blast of wind
That blows from divers points, and shifts its name
VOL. Y. NO. XIX.
And yet he endured every suffering to acquire that celebrity which he thus pronounced to be fluctuating and perishable. The two Guidos, who successively inherited and enlarged the domain of the Italian language, had a competitor of the same name, idiomatically called Guittone, born at Arezzo, a short time after the twelfth century. To him is attributed the merit of having reduced the sonnet to the regular form and laws, which it has ever since retained. Among the specimens of his talent, some are wonderful for his age: we refrain from citing them through the fear of becoming accomplices in what we suspect to be an imposture. To prove their authenticity, ancient manuscripts have been referred to, evidently transcribed long before the invention of printing; but, as the language had attained its height before that event, it would not be surprising if some copyist had ascribed to him, through mistake, the verses of a later poet; or if some wit had written them expressly to sport with the credulity of his contemporaries. But, whether a blunder or a hoax, these fragments have been carefully cherished as testimonies by the Italians, who, not content with possessing a beautiful language, are anxious to prove that it reached perfection a century before Dante, and a century and a half before Petrarch. To these authorities, Italian scholars in England award implicit faith; nor should we be inclined to withhold it, if the rudeness of the other productions of Guittone (the authenticity of which none dispute) did not give the lie to those elegant lines of which the national vanity has availed itself. Besides, if Guittone really composed the verses in question, would Dante have so decidedly written"many of the elder time cried up Guittone, till, truth by strength of numbers vanquished, they gave him the prize.'
The eldest of the three Guidos was born at Bologna, of the noble
* Purgatory. Cant. xxvi.
family of Guinicelli, and died in 1276. It is of him that Dante says "He was father to me, and to those my betters, who have ever used the sweet and pleasant rhymes of love-
His dulcet lays, as long
Dante was not a critic to lavish his praises; he never flattered the living, and why should he flatter the dead? Still we doubt whether his praises would be justified by any of the known pieces of Guido Guinicelli. The following stanza is part of a canzone on the loss of his mistress.
Conforto già conforto l'amor chiama,
Ver l'alma vostra che ancora spiera
"Comfort thee, comfort thee," exclaimeth Love;
Nor Reason's plea should ineffectual prove,
Be this in mortal mourning some relief,
Rescue thy spirit from its heavy load,
And that in heaven thou hop'st again to share
In sight of her, and with thine arms to fold,
Hope then; nor of this comfort quit thy hold.-Carey.
Allowing for the imperfect state of the language, the versification and style convey with sufficient clearness the ideas; and these are at once elevated without being far-fetched, and natural without being common. Pathos, however, belongs to all time, and may be expressed in every language; yet we find nothing but coldness in the verses of Guinicelli. In this perhaps we are wrong, since Mr. Carey has thought them worthy, precisely for their pathos, to be inserted among those extracts of early poetry with which he has enriched his translation of Dante. It is probable, however, that the best pieces of Guinicelli have not come down to our times. Another Guido, of the family of Ghisilieri, and his fellow citizen, appears to have been his formidable rival in poetry; but the Guido who " snatched from him the lettered prize" was a Florentine, the son of a philosopher and statesman, and a character still interesting to poets, critics, historians, and philosophers, and one who seemed born to exercise a vast influence over his contemporaries, and to be remembered by posterity not so much for any great achievement,