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Him he questioned about Tuscany, and was informed that the Guelfs had been expelled the country. Latini was heart-broken. Such was his distraction that he lost the highway, and wandered through a wood, where he beheld certain visions. As a fact, he sought refuge in France, which, it may be, the wood symbolises. Anyhow, there is evident kinship between this "selva diversa" and the "selva oscura" of the Commedia, while the words "perdei il gran cammino" may well have suggested "che la diritta via era smarrita."
Apart from Dante, the chief significance of the Tcsoretto lies in its being the earliest specimen of that The Romance allegorico-didactic school of poetry which of the Rose. afterwards won such triumphs in Italy. It was, however, in France that allegory first gained an ascendancy. Of that not so much great as famous work, the Romance of the Rose, one part had been written relatively not long before by Guillaume de Lorris, while Jehan de Meung was busied at this very time with the continuation. Not only did Latini sojourn in France, but he became, in a literary sense, naturalised1 there, for he wrote on French soil, and in French prose, an encyclopaedia — Li Livres dou Trevor. It would seem, therefore, that among the remoter influences which went to shape the Divine Comedy was that of the Romance of the Rose, a dry,
1 "Et se aucuns demandoit por quoi cist livres est escriz en romanz selon le langaige des Francois, puisque nos somes Ytaliens, je diroie que ce est por deux raisons: l'une, car nos somes en France, et paree que la parleure des Francois est plus delitable et plus commune a toutesgens."—hi Trisor, I. i. 1.
pedantic, and tedious allegory,1 both directly and by the fascination it exercised over the mind of Dante's guide, philosopher, and friend, Brunetto Latini.
And here let me say something as to the metre. The Romance was written in ordinary short couplets of eight syllables; the Tesoretto, in hepta
Short metre. . _ T . .
syllabic couplets, which Latini appears to have thought the nearest approach in Italian to the French metre. The choice of such a verse for so high and serious a theme was unquestionably bad, and proves Latini deficient in the poetic instinct which, in giving expression to thought and feeling, infallibly seizes the appropriate form. To be honest, it is only by courtesy that Latini can be styled poet at all. He was essentially a schoolman, who posed as a versewriter for the object of conciliating the ignorant, of rendering his studies popular. Indeed, the Tesoretto may be deemed, and this is its gravest censure, a second edition, in another language and on a much smaller scale, of Li Trisor.
On awaking from his stupor, the disappointed Guelf encounters Nature. Nature is a woman, of whose scholasticism outward lineaments—hair, brow, eyes, lips, inexceMs. teeth—is vouchsafed a needless, and (it must out!) stupid, description. The more needless and stupid, since the lady is a confirmed blue-stocking, and lectures the poor man on the Creation, the Fall of the Evil Angels, Man, the Soul and its Faculties, the Four Elements, the Seven Planets, and other
1 Lorris is not so bad, but the other's contribution is much larger.
theological, philosophical, and astronomical topics. Geography next, and the Flora and Fauna of the East. Then Latini, bidden to continue his journey, passes into the domain of Virtue, and thence into a flowery meadow ruled by a naked boy — here designated Pleasure—with bow and arrows. With Pleasure, as his constant attendants, are four ladies, Fear, Desire, Hope, and Love. From this place of peril Latini owes his escape to the good offices of Ovid, a circumstance that rather surprises us until we remember that the most sensual of poets—thief to catch thief—compiled the Remedies of Love. Latini, upon this, repents of his sins, and finds himself, not on Mount Pisgah, but on Mount Olympus, where Ptolemy, an old man with white face and white beard, prepares to induct him into the mysteries of astronomy. The Tesoretto, never having been finished, ends jerkily.
In relation to the destiny, the future content, of artistic verse, the most notable portion of the Tesoretto is that concerning love. Not indeed that
IPTiatislove? . . . . .
it contains anything new. Latini merely adopts the views of Provencal and Sicilian predecessors, with whom the question, What is love? had long been a favourite topic. Their answer was that love has its source in pleasure. The vision of beauty sweeps through the eyes into the soul, and taking up its abode in the heart, allows the mind no rest from distracting thoughts. All this may be perfectly true, but only touches the surface. It was in attempts to show, not how love is begotten, nor what are its effects, but what love in its inmost essence is, that the dolee stil nuovo had it birth. In other words, the new was a philosophising style.1
After the account given of the general tendency of things down to the second half of the thirteenth ffuido century, this statement may seem para
GuiniceiH. doxical. It was natural to expect that a refined Tuscan lyric would arise out of a fusion of the more graceful popular poetry with the Troubadour art—there, in Florence. Everything points to such a dinouement. But this is precisely what did not happen. Guido Guinicelli—Dante's "father "—was a jurist of Bologna. Born about 1230, he appears to have died, an exile, in 1276.
Although Guinicelli is credited with the invention, not all his poems were composed in the "sweet new style." It came to him, seemingly, as a happy inspiration, quite late in his career. Before adopting it he had proved and tested himself, like Chiaro Davanzati, in certain existing styles. He wrote, for instance, an ode (Lo fin pregio avanzato) in the obscure manner of the Provencal equivocal rhymes. Afterwards he professed himself a disciple of Guittone, to whom he sent a sonnet, addressing him as "caro padre mio," and inviting his criticism. In speaking of the "sweet new style," Dante contemplates neither this nor that, but, pre-eminently, the canzone beginning Al cor gentil ripara sempre amove.
In this mystical ode we find reconciled two conceptions of love hitherto regarded as antagonistic. On
1 The standard work on Brunetto Latini is that of Thor Sundby, Brunetto Latinos Levnct og Skrifter, Copenhagen, 1869. There is an Italian translation by Renier (Florence, 1884).
the one hand, there was the Troubadour idea which, TVeiewt though veiling itself in Platonic phraseology, conceives of love as something sensual and carnaL When Guittone and Chiaro Davanzati reach the age of reflection, they abjure this passion as sinful, and adopt another sort of love —love to God and the Blessed Virgin. Guinicelli, on the contrary, whilst accepting all that the Troubadours predicate of woman, goes a step further, and finds in love—sexual, but not sensual, love—an emanation of Deity.
Love is the portion and inheritance of the gentle heart, and evil natures have neither part nor lot therein. Just as a star imparts its influence to a precious stone, when purified by the sun, so woman enamours the heart that is pure and true, and free from guile. The symbols of love—Guinicelli can, as it were, only speak in parables—are the sun in high heaven, and God in His higher heaven. Lest the latter figure should seem too bold — nay, blasphemous and profane — to those accustomed to a lower view of love, Guinicelli in his last stanza accuses and defends himself:—
"' My lady,' God shall ask,'what daredst thou?'
(When my soul stands with all her acts reviewed ;)
Who endeth fraud and wrong.'
Love wore an angel's face:
1 Roesetti, Early Italian Poets, p. 25.