This circumlocution is puzzling because it does not seem possible that a person, although silent, may appear hoarse. Even when the voice of reason returns, it is inevitably weak and may only gather strength and clarity as the soul struggles against the pull of sin. Dante-character does appeal, in this way, to his reason at this stage in the narrative.
Well, first of all, the choice of a pagan guide enables Dante to represent, if only at an allegorical level, human reason. Dante was convinced that man could pursue the natural good, and be directed away from evil, through the correct use of his reason. Virgil does not simply, however, represent reason or human wisdom. If Dante had only wanted to allegorise philosophy, he could have chosen — even more appropriately — Aristotle, whom he considered the maximum authority in philosophy: Zanichelli, , p.
I was born sub Iulio, though it was late, and I lived in Rome under the good Augustus in the time of the false and lying gods. I was a poet, and I sang of that just son of Anchises who came from Troy, when proud Ilion was destroyed by fire. Why specifically the pagan Virgil? How, then, does this emphasis on Virgil, as poet of Imperial Rome, connect with the sense of Virgil, as embodiment of human wisdom? Dante believed that the pagan Aristotle had set out — for all time — the necessary theory for human flourishing ethics and for Justice natural law. As he argues in the Convivio, imperial power without philosophy is dangerous while philosophy without political power is weak Conv.
Dante-character, facing south, initially sees four stars which represent allegorically the four cardinal virtues: Turning to face north, he then sees these lights brilliantly reflected in the, as yet unidentified, pagan Cato Purg. Well, again first of all, a pagan — without access to the theological virtues faith, hope and charity or the graces conferred by baptism and the Christian sacraments — may allegorically represent in a way a Christian could not the perfection of natural virtue.
But why specifically the Roman pagan Cato and why here in Purgatory? Why is he not, even more appropriately, in the circle of violence allocated to the suicides? University of Pennsylvania Press, , pp. You know it; for to you, because of her, death was not bitter in Utica, when you left the raiment that will be so bright on the great day.
For Cicero and Seneca, Cato is the quintessential model and pattern of virtue. It is epitomised by the pedagogical text mis-attributed during the medieval period to Cato of Utica amongst others, the Disticha Catonis. See also Virgil, Aen. Following Aristotle, Dante argues that each living thing, from a flower to a horse, has a certain natural perfection. This, he affirms, is its nobility. Because Cato embodies, for Dante, human nobility.
Why this emphasis at the beginning of Ante-Purgatory? University of California Press, , p. Cato of Utica, he implies, most closely incarnates this ideal and is thereby most worthy to represent God: The startling presence of Cato thus throws into relief two distinct ethical goals: God is not directly named in the first canto of Paradiso; rather, He is referred to by a series of philosophical definitions: The first argues that in the Comedy there is no trace of the dualistic doctrine of two final ends developed in the Convivio and crystalized in the Monarchia Mon.
The second trend reads the Comedy as informed by the dualism of the prose works, but identifies the secular goal as equivalent to the Earthly Paradise in the Purgatorio. An influential development of this position is John. For a full presentation of, and series of arguments for, my own dualistic reading of the Comedy, see George Corbett, Dante and Epicurus: Legenda and MHRA, See John Marenbon, Pagans and Philosophers: Princeton University Press, Change — the movement from potency to act — is understood as a form of love: Cecchini argues that the evidence balances in favour of authenticity see Epistola, pp.
The University of Michegan Press, , pp. My own view tends towards the authenticity of the whole epistle. In the case of man, who has free will, he may be directed away from the fulfilment of his true nature because of false secondary goods ll. And it would be as unnatural for him not to rise up as for a living fire to be motionless: It would be a marvel in you if, free from impediment, you had remained below, as if, on earth, living fire should be motionless. Only on the enjoyment of the good of the intellect, God, does the human will, reaching its goal, ultimately find peace.
A vertical reading of the three opening cantos has suggested a number of possible reasons. Through the pagan Dante instantiates the natural potential of man. Through the special prominence Dante gives to the Roman pagans Virgil and Cato in Inferno i and Purgatorio i , Dante underlines his imperial argument. Just as the Roman Imperium of Augustus prepared for the advent of Christianity so, Dante argues, a restoration of the Holy Roman Empire in his own time would enable the Christian Church to exercise more effectively its spiritual power.
Liberated from its avaricious assumption of ever-greater temporal power, the Church could fulfil its true mission of leading men to their eternal salvation. Moreover, Dante sees pagan civilisation as a whole as preparing for Christianity. The philosophical definitions of God, and the discourse on the natural order of the universe, in Paradiso i may also be understood, in this way, as preparation for revelation: Indeed, although Dante-character discovers a pagan, Virgil, in the dark wood of Inferno i, Virgil is being directed — unbeknown to Dante-character at this stage of the narrative — by Beatrice.
In like manner, Dante, in the first canto of each canticle, draws upon the heights of pagan moral virtue, philosophy and poetry not simply as an end-in-itself as for some later humanist scholars but as the starting point — the dawn — of his Christian vision. Orientation Heather Webb A structuring concept that runs through the Ones is orientation. How does the pilgrim determine his position or locate his path? What point of reference does he choose? How does he relate to that point of reference?
Finally, how do I, as reader, relate to the particularity and the universality of the pilgrim as he seeks to orient himself at the threshold of three realms that are, by definition, foreign lands to us? By examining these issues of orientation, we may discover a powerful means of exploring the relations and distinctions between the three canticles. These are, of course, distinctions not only between the realms the canticles reveal but also between states of being in place. Let us begin with the very first lines: Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura che la diritta via era smarrita.
In the pages that follow, I have signaled in footnotes only a few critical works that were particularly helpful in my preparation of the reading. Mondadori, , , Her introductions and notes offer excellent summaries of, as well as contributions to, the critical debates in each of these canti. We readers are, at the same time, somewhat disoriented by the way that the first line meets the second: Which path are we on? Is this the path that all mankind takes through life? Or is this the single, individual, non-repeatable life of Dante Alighieri, Florentine, born in ?
Is this timeline, this landscape, entirely symbolic, and therefore pertinent to if removed from all of us in its abstraction or is it historically located in the year ? Are we reading autobiography or theology? As we move swiftly through a series of depictions of spatial orientation in these three opening canti, we will see that in each of the three, moments of particular opacity, moments that have led to huge critical discussion and that have continued to perplex readers, hinge on the ways in which the specificity of place and the inscription of individual bodies into space push our understanding of the poem either toward historical specificities or transcendent theological truths.
What does it mean to find oneself in this case? He has, in this moment, recognized that he is in a dark wood and can no longer see the straight path. But he does not tell us how long he has been there without noticing — he himself does not the first canto of the Inferno, readings that I have found particularly useful are: Adriatica, , pp. The Poetics of Conversion, ed. Harvard University Press, , pp. The Poetics of Conversion, pp.
Franco Cesati, , pp. He has no idea how or where he entered. He has become conscious of his disorientation only now. It is only now that he looks around himself and sees where he is — already in the midst of the unknown. He has entered a wild, undomesticated space in which he can discern no point of reference.
It takes considerable self-enclosure, significant abstraction from the world around us, to stumble so far into the darkness that we can no longer see where we entered or locate any recognizable point. But this, in fact, is the condition of the sinners that are deepest in the Inferno, figured elegantly in their contrapasso. Encased in ice, they have no means of exchange or relation with anything or anyone outside themselves. They have not understood that their place in the world must be a relative position. If we bear in mind this notion of the extremity of sin, the urgent focus on orientation in these three opening canti becomes comprehensible.
In each, the pilgrim has become sharply conscious of the ways in which he enters the realms that he enters and of the signs that mark the paths that he takes. It is at this moment of darkness and disorientation that the pilgrim meets Virgil. This is the challenge set to the reader: And it is precisely in these moments that the most difficult hermeneutic problems of the poem appear. On a more general level, what exactly is the prophecy meant to indicate? A specific, known political leader who will unite the peninsula or the secular redeemer of End Times who will make way for the Second Coming of Christ?
Having it both ways is tricky. A person who, as far as we can tell, did not restore order and prepare the way for the Second Coming. Leaving this mysterious prophecy dangling, Virgil then suggests a new system of orientation for the pilgrim: He must not follow the sun, but must follow his own personal guide. This pilgrimage will go from history into eternity, but will do so by means of the vehicle of a still-living mortal body. And there will be a return into history for that body. And so the pilgrim does follow Virgil throughout Hell, often blindly, through that dark realm with increasing misery and claustrophobia as the only index of place apart from the reassuring presence of his guide to give structure to what the pilgrim and reader so viscerally experience.
We are told, at the end of Inferno, that the pair emerge to see the stars again, but the description only arrives at the beginning of Purgatorio, where the delight in perceiving external references of orientation is palpable, and glorious: Oxford University Press, , p. La costruzione del paesaggio nel Purgatorio di Dante Bologna: Bononia University Press, , pp.
What follows is a deliriously joyful list of astronomical coordinates, a flourish of knowledge that shows the pilgrim back in relation with the heavenly bodies. With his feet upon the earth, he knows something of his utterly new place due to his view of the heavens: I turned to the right and considered the other pole, and I saw four stars never seen except by the first people.
And this is the new mode of Purgatorio. The pilgrim has no further need to blindly follow Virgil; he is encouraged to look around himself and develop his own relational geographies, his own sets of coordinates, beginning with the heavens, but also within the landscapes, and the human landscapes of Purgatorio. His journey will be directed by his recognition of friends and countrymen, who will serve to point the way upward, but also toward new understandings of vice and virtue. In Inferno, where there was only sin, and no good to follow, the pilgrim was utterly dependent on his guide.
Finding your way is a constant choosing of the good, as we come to understand in Purgatorio, and this option only at long last opens here. Only the right guide can save you. In Purgatorio, we find instead an alignment between astronomical and moral points of orientation, as becomes immediately clear when the pilgrim sees Cato: To some degree, the way in which we resolve the challenge at the entrance of each realm functions as a kind of test for us as readers.
Our resolution will in some way determine our reading of the entire canticle to follow. And each canticle of the Comedy must be read in a different key, employing different tools. Yes, they stand for the cardinal virtues: They are points of orientation in a part of the world as yet unknown to us and they point directly to Cato, a historical person whose concrete life is taken here, in this place, as emblematic of moral virtue. What do we do with the life of the historical Cato, a pagan, a republican, a suicide? We might begin by noting that Purgatorio is of the earth, but its points of orientation are, as we see in the example of the stars that Dante notes, partly recognizable and partly entirely new.
We may use some of our earthly coordinates to navigate here, but some should be left behind as we look toward, other, new, markers of place and of identity. Now that she dwells beyond the evil river, she can move me no longer, according to the law that was made when I came forth from there. Now that Marcia is beyond that line, she can do no more to move him. The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans.
Princeton University Press, , p. For the pilgrim, the re-orientation needed here constitutes something of a return. As in the first canto of Inferno, Dante must retrace his steps, going back down before he can ascend the mountain. With Virgil at his side, rather than leading him, he will once again take up the challenge that defeated him in the first canto of Inferno. He will ascend a mountain not just a hill this time — though it is clear that the poet means for us to make connections between the colle of Inferno i and the monte of Purgatorio i , taking the sun as a guide.
In Paradiso, the issue of orientation is again utterly different. If it is difficult to navigate Hell because of the absence of celestial markers, difficult to navigate earth and Purgatorio because of things that impede our adherence to our clearly marked path, such as forests, beasts, tiredness, the need for sleep, etc. In Purgatorio, the coordinates of place are also the all-important coordinates of time. But it is distance from these heavenly bodies that constitutes their relative meaning. To be in Paradiso is to be immersed in the simultaneity and blinding light of the heavenly spheres, in the place where all of historical time is seen as one indivisible moment.
The third of those particular challenges to the reader in terms of conceptualizing the relationship between body and place occurs here: There has been considerable debate upon this point. In a parallel way, the historical individual that is Dante Alighieri enters into the eternal space that is Paradiso, with his body. Or at least that is how I understand it; because this is the second fold of the interpretive crux that we run up against at the opening of Paradiso.
Can those four celestial circles be joined with three crosses or is this merely an allegorical vision of the four cardinal virtues meeting the three theological virtues? It depends on mappings and understandings of ecliptics, equinoxes, etc. But this problem as to whether Dante can be referencing real astronomical phenomena and whether he is doing so accurately, or even intends to do so accurately, is paired with a major theological issue. Echoing Paul, he says: Once again, as in the first canto of Inferno, he is entirely disoriented, as his human senses perceive something beyond their purview.
A human body that depends on orientation to understand its place has entered into the coordinates of orientation themselves: It is no longer a question of turning the body towards or away from some distant point, but rather of allowing that body to naturally be subsumed by that point that reveals itself to be encompassing. This, on a microcosmic level, is a preparation for the appearance of God as point in Paradiso, but as a point that is, ultimately, the generative circumference of all creation.
University of Notre Dame Press, His movement here needs no guide. But he continues to need to orient himself and this, for the reader, is a great mercy. It is the particularity of the pilgrim, his human, corporeal historicity, that provides us with an in, with a mode of navigating Paradise. The sharpest spurs to read vertically come, perhaps, in those cantos where textual echoes across the cantiche are so insistent that one suspects that many readers would seek out resonances and draw comparative readings even without any numerical structure or correspondence for encouragement: This is, of course, an unusually marked example; but we might usefully see it as setting an interpretive habit to be applied even in those cantos where the cues to read vertically across cantiche are more subtle.
The cantos are not marked by multiple textual echoes in the way that other cantos are; the practice of reading vertically is not, then, insisted upon. Rather, the cantos offer a rich sense of why reading vertically might be important. The cantos help articulate a version of the very idea of vertical reading. It is not my intention to argue that this rationale for vertical reading implies that vertical reading should supersede other forms of reading. The cantos, after all, also insist upon the forward progression of the text.
Novelty and surprise are all features of these cantos. Each of them, indeed, marks a moment of transition. As well as describing moments of transition, the cantos are marked by features which are puzzling to the first-time reader. We are only beginning to recognise the position of Purgatory in the southern hemisphere, for instance, from the brief allusions to the constellations visible to the pilgrim. Furthermore, the fact that the souls are singing a psalm, as they arrive at the shore of Mount Purgatory on the boat, would have startled late medieval readers, used to the idea that while the souls of Purgatory require prayers on the part of the living on earth, they themselves do not pray.
Disorientation and defamiliarisation are, in short, hallmarks of these moments in the Commedia. However, the two opening descriptions of the time of day in these two cantos, and the strong relationship between them, suggest that the experience of time, and the shaping and consideration of time, are much richer than that. Let us consider the two passages together: References to Aquinas are to the Leonine edition available online via the Corpus Thomisticum, http: In Inferno ii, the end of the day is presented in the context of a certain regular, repeated experience of time — usually at this time of day, people are starting to rest, but I, Dante the pilgrim, am having to break that norm in order to prepare for this journey.
The familiarity of the daily regularity, as a new moment of dusk settles into the expected patterns of rest and sleep, sets the onward journey into sharp relief. At this stage of the poem, this relationship between different experiences of time is expressed as tension. But in Purgatorio ii, that tension becomes more meaningful, for here the description of the opening of the day is framed, as so many of the mentions of the time of day will be in the second cantica, by complex descriptions of the relative position of the sun at Jerusalem.
In order to signal the start of a new day on Mount Purgatory, Dante also signals the end of a day in Jerusalem. So, as in the opening of Inferno ii, the progressive passage of time with the dawn of a new day and this is the first new day we have witnessed since Dante emerged from the darkness of Hell is set against a quite different sense of time, with a single moment in time described in such a way that it references both the beginning and the end of a day.
This will become more explicit still at the very end of the ascent of Mount Purgatory, when Dante describes the end of a day in these terms: In Jerusalem, it is dawn; at the summit of Mount Purgatory at the antipodes of Jerusalem , it is dusk. Dante ties this linear moment in time to the crucifixion: But here, Dante goes still further. At the very moment of telling us the time of day, he is also describing the time of day in three other places: This choice of reference points is surely not casual, and deepens the association with the description with Christ: These geographical reference points thus establish a cruciform shape.
But it is not only a spatial image: The figure of the Cross not only embraces all of earthly space — the Ebro and the Ganges representing for Dante the Westerly and Easterly limits of the earth — but also all of human time. Ortus uero humanitatis eius, quia et coepit, et desiit, et ante et post habere a tempore accepit. Sed quia, dum ipse umbras nostrae temporalitatis suscepit, lumen nobis suae aeternitatis infudit, recte per hunc ortum quem creator sibi in tempore condidit locum suum sine tempore aurora cognouit.
And in taking on the shadows of our temporal condition, he spreads on us the light of his eternity; it is therefore rightly said that after this birth in which the creator gave himself in time, the dawn which was outside of time takes place. We are, for instance, about to encounter Manfredi in Purgatorio iii, who will introduce himself through his wounds ; furthermore, the suffering of the souls of Purgatory will be explicitly linked to the suffering of Christ in Purgatorio xxiii, when Forese Donati will explain that the suffering — really no suffering at all — of the souls is motivated by the same desire as that which filled Christ on the cross Purg.
But here in Purgatorio ii, we are given a strong sense of reading time through Christ; it is a way of reading time which deepens and develops the idea we had at the opening of Inferno ii, where a linear movement through time seemed to exist in tension with a sense of time as a repeated cycle, where a moment can be both new and contain other moments within itself.
We might see a further suggestion of this idea in the account of Beatrice descending into Hell in Inferno ii, entering Limbo as Christ did when he reached back into time to save the Hebrew patriarchs. It is worth emphasising that this reading of time in the light of Christ is in turn a way of reading text itself. This is indicated perhaps most strongly in the account in Purgatorio ii of the arrival of the boat filled with souls on the shore of Mount Purgatory: Then he made the sign to them of the holy cross; at which they all threw themselves on the beach; and he went away as quickly as he had come.
The Epistle to Can Grande expresses the multi-layered reading of the Psalm in terms which connect it directly to the interpretation of the Commedia itself: Ad evidentiam itaque dicendorum sciendum est quod istius operis non est simplex sensus, ymo dici potest polysemos, hoc est plurium sensuum; nam primus sensus est qui habetur per litteram, alius est qui habetur per significata per litteram. Et primus dicitur litteralis, secundus vero allegoricus sive moralis sive anagogicus. Qui modus tractandi, ut melius pateat, potest considerari in hiis versibus: Nam si ad litteram solam inspiciamus, significatur nobis exitus filiorum Israel de Egipto, tempore Moysis; si ad allegoriam, nobis significatur nostra redemptio facta per Christum; si ad moralem sensum, significatur nobis conversio anime de luctu et miseria peccati ad statum gratie; si ad anagogicum, significatur exitus anime sancte ab huius corruptionis servitute ad eterne glorie libertatem.
Epistle XIII [One must know that the sense of this work is not simple, rather it can be called polysemous, having several senses; for the first sense is what is conveyed by the letter, another is what is conveyed by the things signified by the letter. And the first is called literal, the second either allegorical or moral or anagogical.
This mode of treatment can be made clear by considering it in these verses: The Psalm itself — which we are expected to imagine all the way through, as Dante makes clear — offers a model for reading, then, whereby a historical moment, read in the light of the sign of the Cross, is not simply an instant which passes from the present into the past, but itself is given presence. Coming at a point in the text where time is foregrounded and where the nature of time in relation to Christ is also highlighted through the opening lines of the canto, the presence of the Psalm suggests a model of reading which disrupts any straightforward linearity of time.
You other few, who stretched out your necks early on for the bread of the angels, which one lives on here though never sated by it: It might be tempting to think of the distinction drawn here as that between educated and non-educated audiences, or between readers of varying intellectual powers; and, indeed, the intellectual challenge of the cantica which follows supports such a reading. However, a comparative, vertical reading across the Twos of each cantica of the Commedia draws out a somewhat different emphasis.
The respective openings of Inferno ii and Purgatorio ii suggest a deepening understanding of the nature of time in Christ. The vertical reading across cantiche can offer still further insights into the distinction being made between types of readers because Purgatorio ii has already staged different modes of engaging with text. As we have seen, the arrival of the souls in Purgatory on their boat offers a mode of engaging with the Psalm, bringing it into a present moment by voicing it and interpreting it Christologically through the gesture of the angel.
This, the first example of the pilgrim meeting a saved friend in the afterlife, is a moment filled with great tenderness; and Dante uses the encounter to establish firmly that the souls in Purgatory are still able to remember their past lives very clearly, the pilgrim asking: The recollection of the song itself has a powerful effect on those who hear it.
Noi eravam tutti fissi e attenti a le sue note; ed ecco il veglio onesto gridando: What negligence, what standing still is this? The relationship between the historical moment and the present is, in other words, not a dynamic one, and certainly not one which is conceived in relation to providential history, as the singing of Psalm so clearly was. Second, it emphasises the ability to sing, and — alongside the singing of the Psalm earlier in the canto — it firmly establishes the idea that Purgatory will be a place of song, in contrast not only to Hell, but also to existing notions of Purgatory, as we have seen.
Finally, the personal connection between Dante the pilgrim and his friend, as well as the tenderness of the communal experience, reflects an important characteristic of the second cantica as a whole. Eloquent speech, then, can help draw the pilgrim from his Dark Wood. But in itself, speech is not enough. Beatrice also suggests two characteristics for salvation: The question of how ornate speech might relate to salvation is thus contained already in Inferno ii, and will be drawn out in Purgatorio ii and Paradiso ii. It also points towards a further, related question about the processes and models of learning, which is developed throughout these three cantos.
And, indeed, one of the central preoccupations of Inferno ii is the question of why the pilgrim himself needs to go on this journey. It is in this canto that he insists that he is neither Aeneas, nor St Paul l. As Virgil and Dante are approached by those souls and asked for guidance towards the mountain, Virgil responds: These lines offer an account of the way in which learning will take place in Purgatory: Dante creates this feeling of bewilderment in his reader as well.
And Paradiso ii foregrounds the conditions in which learning can take place through its complex discussion of the nature of the spots on the moon. The distinction at the opening of Paradiso ii, between those readers who Dante suggests can follow him into the third cantica and those who cannot, is not a distinction relating to intellectual ability, but is rather associated with a particular habit of thought. The Eucharistic image of the bread of angels is not casual here. Indeed, the latter stages of Purgatory- proper had been marked by a concentration of Eucharistic references: The Eucharistic imagery in the upper Terraces of Purgatory, then, contrasts with such attachment.
We can see, then, an analogy between the very process of purgation — figured here as a process of learning to look beyond immediate goods to the divine creative principle on which those, and all, goods depend — and the habit of thought which those readers who are able to follow Dante into Paradiso have cultivated, reaching for the Eucharistic bread of angels rather than fixing on that which is immediate. Theology as Poetry, ed. Notre Dame University Press, , pp. The mysterious, miraculous event which is described is not to be interpreted or understood in its own right, but directs us to the Incarnation.
The distinction between types of readers at the opening of Paradiso ii is thus reinforced: Rather, it is to be seen as encouraging readers in their longing for the mystery of the Incarnation, as those who stretch out their necks early on for the bread of angels Par.
There is not space here to consider the intricacies of the argument, and the passage has been discussed in rich detail elsewhere. The importance of the account is not to be found in the intrinsic importance of moonspots as opposed to any other phenomenon in the created world, but rather in the intellectual and spiritual action that the phenomenon demands and provokes. Oxford University Press, , pp. However, rather than simply set out what is really the case, Beatrice asks him to present his own view: Beatrice then partially dismantles this purely material explanation by reference to a further physical phenomenon: Then, a further possible physical explanation is discussed: So far, the potential explanations, and the arguments which Beatrice has deployed to unpick them, have all responded to physical phenomena.
Rivolto ad essi, fa che dopo il dosso ti stea un lume che i tre specchi accenda e torni a te da tutti ripercosso. Facing toward them, have a light from behind you shine on the three mirrors and return to you reflected from all three. Even though the more distant image is not as extended in size, you will see that it is equally bright there. Instead, Beatrice explains, the entire order of the universe is intended to produce variety in being. In this respect, it is a very similar move to the one she makes in pointing the pilgrim to his experience of witnessing eclipses at lines However, the experiment itself — as readers have pointed out — is intrinsically problematic.
This idea is as easy to understand as fixing up a few mirrors and a lamp in a dark room; it is as hard to understand as the Incarnation itself. And it is no accident, surely, that this mirror — pushing us to the very limit of where sensory experience and experimentation can take us — situates us, once again, in a cross. Indeed, in order to understand the limits of what we can grasp empirically, it is necessary to be located within the cross.
The moonspots experiment encapsulates, in this way, what has emerged across these three cantos. In Inferno ii, the pilgrim insists that he is not worthy of his predecessors on this journey through the afterlife: Stanford University Press, , pp. That perspective is, I have suggested, evident throughout these three cantos; Paradiso ii extends that perspective from interpreting time, and events in time, to interpreting the created world itself. What these three cantos have to offer the present project, then, is a rich rationale for vertical reading. As we have seen, the strong engagement with notions of time which open Inferno ii and Purgatorio ii suggests a progressively deeper understanding of the ways in which the linear passage of time is placed in dialogue with an understanding of time in the light of the Incarnation.
That understanding in turn reflects upon the practice of reading and engaging with text, as modelled in the performance of Psalm , framed by the sign of the cross; but this practice extends to the interpretation of the created world. Individual events and phenomena are to be appreciated in the light of an Incarnational perspective. Hope, Personhood and Particularity1 Vittorio Montemaggi The first image that came to mind when I started to work on the lecture on which this chapter is based was that of a handstand: While I did not attempt to deliver the lecture in this position, I ask you to imagine that it was, in fact, delivered in that way — for the image will be able to communicate to you more successfully than anything else a few crucial aspects of what is at stake in undertaking this vertical reading of Inferno iii, Purgatorio iii, and Paradiso iii.
I suspect that the request to imagine a handstand may generate a mix of surprise, excitement and suspense. These, I think, are very appropriate states of being for engaging in a vertical reading of the Commedia. For the format proposes something that is much needed yet also novel and striking: It generates, furthermore, suspense. As surprising and exciting as the journey we are undertaking may be, we are yet to discover where exactly it will lead, or how our relationship with the Commedia will be transformed by the adventure.
In preparing the lecture, I had the privilege of attending the first two vertical readings, and my experience of writing the lecture was inextricably tied to the conversations surrounding those, for which I am especially grateful to George Corbett, Matthew Treherne and Heather Webb.
This is very appropriate for discussing the Threes. As we shall see, these are cantos that, especially if read in the light of Paradiso iii, invite us to think about verticality and its theological implications. More generally, the image of the handstand directly suggests that the vertical reading we are embarking upon is about the subversion of expectation. All three cantos, in one way or another, foreground the need for expectations and assumptions to be modified to permit progress on the journey towards God.
This is true both of the pilgrim Dante himself, and of what the text demands of us as readers. In fact, in this reading, I shall intentionally blur the distinction between the two. I am conscious of the possible limitations that such forms of interpretation may have. I am not suggesting we need necessarily to adopt the particular theological framework presented to us by Dante as the form our own transformation can take. Before embarking on my reading of the Threes, allow me to express gratitude for work whose influence pervades the present essay.
As clearly suggested by my title, freedom is the overarching theme I have chosen for my vertical reading of the Threes. It is in and through the question of freedom that verticality and the re-orientation of expectation emerge as subjects in our cantos. What this means, as we shall see, is that these cantos focus on personhood, particularity and hope. Indeed, if we take our cantos in their narrative order, we immediately find a rather stark statement concerning hope and what appears to be the ultimate lack of freedom. Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create se non etterne, e io etterna duro.
Through me to everlasting pain you go. From Guido started a school of transcen- dental singers, who used the ancient form and subject- matter of exotic poetry for the utterance of metaphys- ical thought. The Italians, born, as it were, old, were destined thus to pass from imitation, through specula- tion, to the final freedom of their sensuous art.
Of this new lyric style — logical, allegorical, mystical — the first masterpiece was Guido's Canzone of the Gentle Heart. The code was afterwards formulated in Dante's Convito. The life it covered and interpreted was painted in the Vita Nuova. Its apocalypse was the Paradiso. If Guido Guinicelli did not suc- ceed in writing from the heart, if he was more of an analyst than a lover, it is yet clear that the euphuisms of the Italo - Provencal imitators have yielded in his verse to genuine emotion, while, speak- ing technically, the complex structure of the true Italian Canzone now appears in all its harmony of grace and grandeur.
Guido's language is Tuscan; not the Tuscan of the people, but the Tuscan of the Toscaneggiamenti. Herein, again, we note the im- portance of this poet in the history of literature. Working outside Florence, but obeying Florentine precedent, he stamps Italian with a Tuscan seal, and helps to conceal from Tuscans themselves the high destinies of their idiom. Dante puts us at the right point of view for estimating Guido's service. Though he recognized the Sicilians as the first masters of poetic style in Italy, Dante saluted the poet of Bologna as his father l: On the authority of this sentence we hail in Guido the founder of the new and specifically national litera- ture of the Italians.
If not the master, he was the prophet of that dolce stil nuovo, which freed them from dependence on foreign traditions, and led, by transmutation, to the miracles of their Renaissance art. He divined that sincere source of inspiration, whereof Dante speaks l: Io mi son un che quando Amore spira, noto; ed a quel modo Ch' ei detta dentro, vo significando.
The happy instinct which led him to use Tuscan, has secured his place upon the roll of poets who may still be read with pleasure. And of this, too, Dante prophesied 2: Li dolci detti vostri, Che, quanto durera 1' uso moderno, Faranno cari ancora i loro inchiostri. Bologna could boast of many minor bards — of the excellent Onesto, of Fabrizio and Ghislieri, qui doctores fuerunt illustres et vulgarium discretione rtpleti?
Her erudition was further illustrated by the work of one Guidotto, who composed a treatise on the new ver- nacular, which he dedicated to King Manfred. Thus both by example and precept, by the testimony of Dante and the fair fame of her own writers, this city makes for us a link between Sicilian and Tuscan literature. Manfred was slain at Benevento in , and i Purg. Dante, destined to inaugurate the great age, was born at Florence in Guido Guinicelli died in , when Dante had completed his twelfth year. In one of those years of prepara- tion and transition, while the learned stanzas of Guido Guinicelli were preluding the " new sweet style " of Tuscany, this yellow-haired scion of the Suabian princes, the progenitor of the Bentivogli, sent a song forth from his dungeon's loggie to greet the provinces of Italy: These lines sound a farewell to the old age and a salutation to the new.
Enzo's heart is in the lowlands of Apulia and the great Capitanate, where his father built castles and fought mighty wars. He belongs, like his verses, like his race, like the chivalrous sentiments he had imbibed in youth, to the past ; and now he is dreaming life away, a captive with the burghers of Bologna. The situation is pathetic.
The poem is a prophecy. Raimond of Tours, one of the earlier French minnesingers, bade his friend seek hospitality " in the noble city of the Florentines, named Florence; for it is there that joy and song and love are perfected with beauty crowned. In the old French romance of " CleomadeV' for example, we read a rhymed description of the games and banquets with which Florence welcomed May and June 2: Villani, writing of the year , when the Gueiis had triumphed and the nobles had been quelled, speaks thus of those festivities 3: Felicita beyond the Arno, where the family De' Rossi took the lead, together with their neighborhood, a company or band of one thousand men and upwards, all attired in white, with a Lord named the Lord of Love.
This band had no other purpose than to pass the time in games and solace, and in dances of ladies, knights and other people of the city, roaming the town with trumpets and divers instruments of music, in joy 1 Fauriel, Dante et les origines, etc. Paris, , i. The young men mid the women went with gaze fixed upon those eyes angelical, that turn the mid- night into noon.
Over their blonde tresses the maidens wore gems and precious garlands; lilies, violets and roses were their charming faces. You would not have said: John, patron of Florence. Later on, we read of two companies, the one dressed in yellow, the other in white, each led by their King, who filled the city with the sound of music, and wore garlands on their heads, and spent their time in dances and banquets. Not 1 Stefani, quoted by D'Ancona, op. Then the new noble class, the popolani grassiy assumed the gentle manners of chivalry, accommodating its customs to their own rich jovial ideal.
Feudalism was extinguished; but society retained such portions of feudal customs as shed beauty upon common life. Tranquillity succeeded to strife, and the medieval city presented a spectacle similar to that which an old Greek lyrist has described among the gifts of Peace: To mortal men Peace giveth these good things: Wealth, and the flowers of honey-throated song; The flame that springs On carven altars from fat sheep and kine, Slain to the gods in heaven; and, all day long, Games for glad youths, and flutes, and wreaths, and circling wine.
Then in the steely shield swart spiders weave Their web and dusky woof: Rust to the pointed spear and sword doth cleave; The brazen trump sounds no alarms; Nor is sleep harried from our eyes aloot, But with sweet rest my bosom warms: The streets are thronged with beauteous men and young, N And hymns in praise of Love like flames to heaven are flung. Goro di Stagio Dati, writing at the end of the four- teenth century, has preserved for us an animated pic- ture of Florence in May.
John, which follows at midsummer, and there is none but provides himself betimes with clothes and ornaments 1 Storia di Ftrense di Goro Dati Firenze, , p. Marriages and other joyous occasions are deferred until that time, to do the festival honor; and two months before the date, they begin to furnish forth the decorations of the races — dresses of varlets, banners, clarions, draperies, and candles, and whatso- ever other offerings should be made.
The whole city is in a bustle for the preparation of the Festa; and the hearts of young men and women, who take part therein, are set on naught but dancing, playing, sing- ing, banqueting, jousting, and other fair amusements as though naught else were to be done in those weeks before the coming of S. John's Day which follows, need not be transcribed. Yet it may be well to call attention to a quattrocento picture in the Florentine Academy, which illustrates the customs of that festival. It is a long panel representing the marriage of an Adimari with a daughter of the Rica- soli.
The Baptistery appears in the background; and on the piazza are ladies and young men, clad in damask and rich stuffs, with jewels and fantastic head- dresses, joining hands as though in act of dancing. Under the Loggia del Bigallo sit the trumpeters of the Signory, blowing clarions adorned with pennons. The lily of Florence is on these trappings. Serving men carry vases and basins toward the Adimari palace, in preparation for the wedding feast.
A large portion of the square is covered in with a white and red awning. If we are right in reckoning Folgore among the poets of the thirteenth century, the facility and raciness of his style, its disengagement from Provencalizing pedantry, and the irony of his luxurious hedonism, prove to what extent the Tuscans had already left the middle age behind them.
He is a thirteenth-century Boccaccio, without Boccaccio's enthusiasm for humane studies. Ideal love, asceticism, religion, the virtues of the Christian and the knight, are not for him. His soul is set on the enjoyment of the hour. But this material- i The date commonly assigned to Folgore is , and the Niccolo he addresses in his series on the Months has been identified with that Nicolb, che la costuma ricca Del garofano prima discoperse, so ungently handled by Dante in the Inferno, Canto xxix. I am aware that grave doubts, based upon historical allusions in Folgore's miscel- laneous sonnets, have been raised as to whether we can assign so early a date to Folgore, and whether his Brigata was really the brigata goderec- cia, spender eccia, of Siena alluded to by Dante.
See Bartoli, Storia della Letter atur a Italians vol. This editor argues forcibly for a later date— not ear- lier at all events than from to But, whether we choose the earlier date or the later , Folgore may legitimately be used for my present purpose of illustration. Cene was a poet of Arezzo. His series and Folgore's will both be found in the Poeti del Primo Secolo, vol. His selfishness and sensuality are related to Aretino s as the miniatures of a missal to Giulio Romano's Modes of Venus.
Uscir di fora alcuna volta il giorno, Gittando della neve bella e bianca A le donzelle, che staran dattorno. February brings the pleasures of the chase. March is good for fishing, with merry friends at night, and never a friar to be seen: They describe the arming of a young knight, and his reception by Valor, Humility, Discretion, and Gladne9s. Yet the knight, so armed and accepted, is no Galahad, far less the grim horseman of Diirer's allegory. Like the members of the brigata goder- eccia, he is rather a Gawain or Astolfo, all love, fine clothes, and court- ship.
Each of these five sonnets is a precious little miniature of Italian carpet-chivalry. The quaintest is the second, which begins: Ecco prodezza che tosto lo spoglia, E dice: This exordium makes one regret that the painter of the young knight in our National Gallery Giorgione? Valor disrobing him and taking him into her arms and crying Queste cami tri at offerte would have made a fine pictorial allegorv. In April the "gentle country all abloom with fair fresh grass" invites the young men forth.
Ladies shall go with them, to ride, display French dresses, dance Provencal figures, or touch new instruments from Germany, or roam through spacious parks. May brings in tournaments and showers of blossoms — garlands and oranges flung from balcony and win- dow — girls and youths saluting with kisses on cheeks and lips: In June the company of youths and maidens quit the city for the villa, passing their time in shady gar- dens, where the fountains flow and freshen the fine grass, and all the folk shall be love's servants.
July rinds them in town again, avoiding the sun's heat and wearing silken raiment in cool chambers where they feast.
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In August they are off to the hills, riding at morn and eve from castle to castle, through upland valleys where streams flow. September is the month of hawking; October of fowling and midnight balls. With November and December winter comes again, and brings the fireside pleasures of the town. On the whole, there is too much said of eating and drinking in these sonnets; and the series concludes with a piece of inhumane advice: E beffe far dei tristi cattivelli, E miseri cattivi sciagurati Avari: The sonnets on the Days breathe the same quaint medieval hedonism.
Levati su, donzello, e non dormire; Che 1' amoroso giorno ti conforta, E vuol che vadi tua donna a fruire. Tuesday is the day of battles and pitched fields; but these are described in mock-heroics, which show what the poet really felt about the pleasure of them. Wed- nesday is the day of banquets, when ladies and girls are waited on by young men wearing amorous wreaths: E donzelletti gioveni garzoni Servir, portando amorose ghirlande. Thursday is the day of jousts and tourneys; Fri- day of hounds and horses; Saturday, of hawks and fowling- nets; Sunday, of " dances and feats of arms in Florence": Danzar donzelli, armeggiar cavalieri, Cercar Fiorenza per ogni contrada, Per piazze, per giardini, e per verzieri.
Such then was the joyous living, painted with colors of the fancy by a Tuscan poet, and realized in here to compare the rarely beautiful poem of Lapo Gianni, Amor eo chero, with Folgore, and the masterly sonnets of Cecco Angiolieri of Siena, espe- cially the one beginning S' iofossifuoco, with Cene dalla Chitarra, in order to prove the fullness of sensuous and satirical inspiration in the age preceding Dante. Lapo wishes he had the beauty of Absalom, the strength of Samson; that the Arno would run balm for him, her walls be turned to silver and her paving-stones to crystal; that he might abide in eternal summer gardens among thousands of the loveliest women, lis- tening to the songs of birds and instruments of music.
The voluptuous- ness of Folgore is here heightened to ecstasy. Cecco desires to be fire, wind, sea, God, that he might ruin the world; the emperor, that he might decapitate its population; death, that he might seek out his father and mother; life, that he might fly from both; being Cecco, he would fain take all fair women, and leave the foul to his neighbors. The spite ot Cene is deepened to insanity. Florence at the close of that eventful century which placed the city under Guelf rule, in the plenitude of peace, equality, and wealth by sea and land.
Distinc- tions of class had been obliterated. The whole popu- lation enjoyed equal rights and equal laws. No man was idle; and though the simplicity of the past, praised by Dante and Villani, was yielding to luxury, still the pleasure-seekers were controlled by that fine taste which made the Florentines a race of artists. The buildings whereby the City of the Flower is still made beautiful above all cities of Italian soil, were rising. The people abode in industry and order beneath the sway of their elected leaders. Supreme in Tuscany, fearing no internal feuds, strong in their militia of thirty thousand burghers to repel a rival State, the Floren- tines had reached the climax of political prosperity.
Not as yet had arisen that little cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, above Pistoja, which was destined to plunge them into the strife of Blacks and Whites. During that interval of windless calm, in that fair city, where the viol and the lute were never silent through spring-tide and summer, the star of Italian poetry, that " crowning glory of unblemished wealth," went up and filled the heavens with light.
After, or contemporaneously with them, the same Italo- Provencal literature was culti- vated in the cities of central Italy. The subject- matter of this imitative poetry was love — but love that bore a peculiar relation to ordinary human feeling. Woman was regarded as an ideal being, to be ap- proached with worship bordering on adoration. The lover derived personal force, virtue, elevation, energy, from his enthusiastic passion.
Love was the consummation of spiritual felicity, which surpassed all other modes of happiness in its beatitude. Thus Bernard de Venta- dour and Jacopo da Lentino were ready to forego Paradise unless they might behold their lady's face before the throne of God. For a certain period in modern history, this mysticism of the amorous emotion was no affectation. It formulated a genuine impulse of manly hearts, inflamed by beauty, and touched with the sense of moral superiority in woman, perfected through weakness and demanding physical protection.
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By bringing the cruder passions into accord with gentle manners and unselfish aspirations, it served to temper the rudeness of primitive society ; and no little of its attraction was due to the conviction that only refined natures could experience it. This new aspect of love was due to chivalry, to Christianity, to the Teutonic reverence for women, in which religious awe seems to have blended with the service of the weaker by the stronger. Sincere and beautiful as the ideal of chivalrous love may have been, it speedily degenerated. Chiv- alry, though a vital element of feudalism, existed, even among the nations of its origin, more as an aspiration than a reality.
In Italy it never penetrated the life or subdued the imagination of the people. For the Italo- Provencal poets that code of love was almost wholly formal.
They found it ready made. They used it because the culture of a Court, in sympathy with feudal Europe, left them no other choice. Louis, the nations of the South could only boast of a crusading Frederick II. Frederick the troubadour was a no less anomalous being than Frederick the crusader. He conformed to contempo- rary fashion, but his spirit ran counter to the age. Curiosity, incipient humanism, audacious doubt, the toleration which inclined him to fraternize with Saracens and seek the learning of the Arabs, placed him outside the sphere of thirteenth century con- ceptions. His expedition to the East appears a mere parade excursion, hypocritical, political, ironical.
In like manner his love-poetry and that of his courtiers rings hollow in our ears. It harmonized with the Italian genius, when Guido Guinicelli treated chivalrous love from the standpoint of Bolognese learning. He altered none of the forms; he used the conventional phraseo- logy. But he infused a new spirit into the subject- matter. His poetry ceased to be formal; the phrases were no longer verbiage. The epicureanism of Freder- ick's life clashed with the mystic exaltation of knight- hood. There was no discord between Guido's scientific habit of mind and his expression of a philosophical idea conveyed in terms of amorous enthusiasm.
Upon his lips the words: Al cor gentil ripara sempre Amore, Come l'augello in selva alia verdura; Ne fe' Amore anti che gentil core, Ne gentil cor anti che Amor, Natura: Virtue, to men thou bringest care and toil; Yet art thou life's best, fairest spoil! O virgin goddess, for thy beauty's sake To die is delicate in this our Greece, Or to endure of pain the stern, strong ache. For the chivalrous races, Love had been an enthusiastic ideal. For the Italo- Provencal euphuists it supplied an artificial inspiration. At Bologna it became the form of transcendental science; and here the Italian intellect touched, by accident or instinct, the same note that had been struck by Plato in the " Phaedrus " and " Symposium.
Thomas and Accursius, hailed their poet in Guido Guinicelli. For them it was natural that poetry should veil phi- losophy with verse; that love should be confounded with the movement of the soul toward truth; that beauty should be treated as the manifestation of a spiritual good. Dante in his Canzone, Donne cli avete intelletto d' amove, appeals, not to emotion, but to in- telligence. He tells us that understanding was the ancient name of love, and describes the effect of passion in a young man's heart as a revelation raising him above the level of common experience.
The Tuscan intellect was too virile and sternly strung to be satisfied with amorous rhymes. The contem- porary theory of aesthetics demanded allegory, and imposed upon the poet erudition ; nor was it easy for the singer of that epoch to command his own immediate emotions, or to use them for the purposes of a direct and plastic art. Enjoying neither the freedom of the Greek nor the disengagement of the modern spirit, he found it more proper to clothe a scientific content with the veil of passion, than to paint the personality of the woman he loved with natural precision.
Be- tween the mysticism of a sublime but visionary adora- tion on the one side, and the sensualities of vulgar appetite or the decencies of married life on the other, there lay for him no intermediate artistic region. He understood the love of the imagination and the love of the senses; but the love of the heart, familiar to the Northern races, hardly existed for him. And here it may be parenthetically noticed that the Italians, in the middle ages, created no feminine ideal analogous to Gudrun or Chriemhild, Iseult or Guine- vere.
When they left the high region of symbolism, they descended almost without modulation to the prose of common life. Thus the Selvaggia of Cino, the Beatrice of Dante, the Laura of Petrarch, made way for the Fiammetta of Boccaccio and the women of the Decameron, when that ecstasy of earlier enthusiasm was exhausted.
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For a while, however, the Florentines were well prepared to give an intellectual significance. Nor must it be thought that the emotions thus philosophized were unreal. Dante loved Beatrice, though she became for him an allegory. The splendid vision of her beauty and good- ness attended him through life, assuming the guidance of his soul in all its stages. Difficult as it may be to comprehend this blending of the real and transcen- dental, we must grasp it if we desire to penetrate the spirit of the fourteenth century in Italy. The human heart remains unchanged. No meta- physical sophistication, no allegory, no scholastic mysti- cism, can destroy the spontaneity of instinct in a man who loves, or cloud a poet's vision.
Love does not cease to be love because it is sublimed to the quint- essence of a self-denying passion. It still retains its life in feeling, and its root in sense. Beauty does not cease to be beautiful because it has been moralized and identified with the attraction that lifts men upward to the sphere of the eternal truths. Nor is poetry ex- tinguished because the singer deems it his vocation to utter genuine thought, and scorns the rhyming pas- times of the simple amorist. The Florentine school presents us with a poetry which aimed at being philo- sophical, but which at the same time vibrated with life and delineated moods of delicate emotion.
To effect a flawless fusion between these two strains in the new style, was infinitely difficult ; nor were the poets of that epoch equally successful. Guido Cavalcanti, the leader of the group which culminates in Dante, won his fame by verse that savors more of the dialectician than the singer. His odes are dryly scholastic — especially that famous Donna mi priega, which contemporaries studied clause by clause, and which, after two centuries, served Dino del Garbo for the text of a metaphysical discourse. His Ballate were probably regarded by himself and his friends as playthings, thrown off in idle moments to distract a mind engaged in thorny speculations.
Yet we find here the first full blossom of genuine Italian verse. Their beauty is that of popular song, starting flowerlike from the soil, and fragrant in its first expansion beneath the sun of courtesy and culture. Nothing remained, in this kind, for Boccaccio and Poliziano, but to echo the Ballata of the country maidens, and to complete the welcome to the May. They were combined into a single stream by Cino da Pistoja. Two in particular, Era in pensier and Gh occhi di quella gentil forosetta, may be singled out.
A pastourelle, In un boscketto, anticipates the manner of Sacchetti. As for the May song, its opening lines, Ben venga Maggio, etc. Also Barbara's diamond edition of Cino da Pistoja and other poets, edited by Carducci. His Selvaggia deserves a place with Beatrice and Laura. From Cino Petrarch derived his mastery of limpid diction.
In Cino the artistic sense of the Italians awoke. He produced something distinct both from the scientific style of Guido Guinicelli, and also from the wilding song which Guido Cavalcanti's Ballate echoed. He seems to have applied himself to the main object of polishing poetical diction, and rendering expression at once musical and lucid.
We instinctively compare his work with that of Mino da Fiesole in bass-relief. Dante was five years older than Cino. To him belongs the glory of having effected the same fusion in a lyric poetry at once more comprehensive and more lofty. Dante yields no point as a dialectician and subtle thinker to Guido Cavalcanti.
He surpasses Cino da Pistoja as an artist. His passion and imagination are more fiery than Guido's. His tender- ness is deeper and more touching than Cino's. Even ' The tomb of Cino in the Duomo at Pistoja, with its Gothic canopies and the bass-reliefs which represent a Doctor of Laws lecturing to men oi all ranks and ages at their desks beneath his professorial chair, is a fine contemporary monument.
The great jurist is here commemorated, not the master of Petrarch in the art of song. Barbera, , p.
Yet even Dante, though knowing that he was destined to eclipse both the Guidi, though claiming Love alone for his inspirer, was not wholly free from the scholasticism of his century. In the earlier lyrics of the Vita Nuova and in the Canzoni of the Convito, he allows his feeling to be over-weighted by the scientific content. Between his emotion and our sym- pathy there rises, now and again, the mist of meta- physic. While giving them intenser meaning, he still plays upon the commonplaces of his predecessors.
Thus in the sonnet Amor e 7 cor gentil son una cosa he rehandles Guinicelli's theme; while the following stanza repeats the well-worn doctrine that Love should be the union of beauty and of excellence l: Che la belta che A more in voi consente, A virtu solamente Formata fu dal suo decreto antico, Contro lo qual fallate. Io dico a voi che siete innamorate, Che se beltate a voi Fu data, e virtu a noi, Ed a costui di due potere un fare, Voi non dovreste amare, Ma coprir quanto di belta vi e dato, Poiche non e virtu, ch' era suo segno.
Dante's concessions to the mannerism of the school weigh as nothing in the scales against the beauty and the truth of that most spiritual of romances, to i II Cansoniere Fraticelli's edition , p. With- in the compass of one little book is bound up all that Florence in the thirteenth century contributed to the refinement of medieval manners, together with all that the new school of poets had imagined of highest in their philosophical conception. The harmony of life and science attains completion in the real but idealized experience, which transcends and combines both motives in a personality uniquely constituted for this blending.
It is enough for the young Dante to meet Beatrice, to pass her among her maidens in the city- ways, to receive her salute, to admire her moving through the many-colored crowd, to meditate upon her apparition, as of one of God's angels, in the solitude of his chamber. She is a dream, a vision. But it is the dream of his existence, the vision that unfolds for him the universe — more actual, more steeped in emotion, more stimulative of sublime aspira- tion and virile purpose than many loves which find fruition in long years of intercourse.
We feel that the man's true self has been revealed to him ; that he has given his life-blood to the ideal which, without this nourishment, would have ranked among phantoms, but is now reality. Students who have not followed the stages through which the doctrine of chivalrous love reached Dante, and the process whereby it was transmuted into science for the guidance of the soul, will regard the records of the Vita Nuova as shadowy or sentimental.
The point lies exactly in the fusion of two elements — in the truth of the passion, the truth of the idealization, and the spontaneity of the artistic form combining them. What is most intelligible, because most com- mon to all phases of profound emotion, in the Vita Nuova, is its grief — the poet's sympathy with Beatrice in the house of mourning for her father's death, the vision of her own passage from earth to heaven, and the apostrophe to the pilgrims who thread the city clothed with mourning for her loss.
Dante was born in of poor but noble parents, who reconciled themselves to the Guelf party. He first saw Beatrice in his ninth year; and, when a man, he well remembered how her beauty dawned upon him. At that moment, I say most truly that the spirit of life, which hath its dwelling in the secretest chamber of the heart, began to tremble so violently that the least pulses of my body shook therewith; and in trembling it said these words: Ecce deus fortior me..
M It was given unto me to behold a very wonderful vision ; wherein I saw things which determined me that I would say nothing further of this most blessed one, until such time as I could discourse more worthily con- cerning her. And to this end I labor all I can ; as she well knoweth. Wherefore if it be His pleasure through whom is the life of all things, that my life continue with me a few years, it is my hope that I shall yet write concerning her what hath not before been written of any woman. After the which, may it seem good unto Him who is the Master of Grace, that my spirit should go hence to behold the glory of its lady: The consecration of his younger manhood was the love of Beatrice.
She made him a poet. Through her came to him the " sweet new style," which shone with purest luster in his verse; and the songs he made of Beatrice were known through all the City of the Flower. Yet love had not absorbed his energies. He studied under Brunetto Latini, and qualified himself for the career of a Flor- entine citizen by entering the Guild of Speziali. After Beatrice's death a great and numbing sorrow fell upon him.
From this eclipse he recovered by the help of reading, and also by the distractions of public life.
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He fought in the battle of Campaldino, and 1 Rossetti's translation of the Vita Nuova. He went as ambas- sador to San Gemignano in ; and in the year , when Florence was divided by the parties of Cerchi and Donati, he fulfilled the functions of the Priorate. These ten years between Beatrice's death and Dante's election as Prior were a period of hesita- tion and transition.
He was no longer the poet of Divine Love, inspired by spontaneous emotion, master- ing and glorifying the form which tradition imposed on verse. He had become a student of philosophy ; and this change makes itself felt in the more abstruse and abstract odes of the Convito. This was elaborated by these poets under the direction of Frederick II and combines many traits typical of the Sicilian, and to a lesser, but not negligible extent, Apulian dialects and other southern dialects, with many words of Latin and French origin. Dante's styles illustre, cardinale, aulico, curiale were developed from his linguistic study of the Sicilian School, which had been re-founded by Guittone d'Arezzo in Tuscany.
The standard changed slightly in Tuscany, because Tuscan scriveners perceived the five-vowel system used by southern Italian as a seven-vowel one. As a consequence, the texts that Italian students read in their anthology contain lines that do not rhyme with each other sometimes Sic.
In the 13th century a religious movement took place in Italy, with the rise of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders. The earliest preserved sermons in an Italian language are from Jordan of Pisa , a Dominican. Though he was educated, Francis's poetry was beneath the refined poetry at the center of Frederick's court. According to legend, Francis dictated the hymn Cantico del Sole in the eighteenth year of his penance, almost rapt in ecstasy; doubts remain about its authenticity. It was the first great poetical work of Northern Italy, written in a kind of verse marked by assonance , a poetic device more widespread in Northern Europe.
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Other poems previously attributed to Francis are now generally recognized as lacking in authenticity. Jacopone da Todi was a poet who represented the religious feeling that had made special progress in Umbria. Jacopone was possessed by St. Francis's mysticism, but was also a satirist who mocked the corruption and hypocrisy of the Church personified by Pope Boniface VIII , persecutor of Jacopone and Dante. Jacopone's wife died after the stands at a public tournament collapsed, and the sorrow at her sudden death caused Jacopone to sell all he possessed and give it to the poor.
Jacopone covered himself with rags, joined St. Francis's Third Order , took pleasure in being laughed at, and was followed by a crowd of people who mocked him and called after him Jacopone, Jacopone. He went on raving for years, subjecting himself to the severest sufferings, and giving vent to his religious intoxication in his poems. Jacopone was a mystic , who from his hermit 's cell looked out into the world and specially watched the papacy, scourging with his words Pope Celestine V and Pope Boniface VIII, for which he was imprisoned.
The religious movement in Umbria was followed by another literary phenomenon, the religious drama. In a hermit, Raniero Fasani , left the cavern where he had lived for many years and suddenly appeared at Perugia. Fasani represented himself as sent by God to disclose mysterious visions, and to announce to the world terrible visitations. This was a turbulent period of political faction the Guelphs and Ghibellines , interdicts and excommunications issued by the popes, and reprisals of the imperial party. In this environment, Fasani's pronouncements stimulated the formation of the Compagnie di Disciplinanti , who, for a penance, scourged themselves until they drew blood, and sang Laudi in dialogue in their confraternities.
These laudi , closely connected with the liturgy , were the first example of the drama in the vernacular tongue of Italy. As early as the end of the 13th century the Devozioni del Giovedi e Venerdi Santo appeared, mixing liturgy and drama. Later, di un Monaco che ando al servizio di Dio "of a monk who entered the service of God" approached the definite form the religious drama would assume in the following centuries. The Tuscans spoke a dialect that closely resembled Latin and afterward became, almost exclusively, the language of literature, and which was already regarded at the end of the 13th century as surpassing other dialects.
Lingua Tusca magis apta est ad literam sive literaturam "The Tuscan tongue is better suited to the letter or literature" wrote Antonio da Tempo of Padua , born about After the fall of the Hohenstaufen at the Battle of Benevento in , it was the first province of Italy. From , Florence began a political reform movement that led, in , to the appointment of the Priori delle Arti , and establishment of the Arti Minori. This was later copied by Siena with the Magistrato dei Nove , by Lucca , by Pistoia , and by other Guelph cities in Tuscany with similar popular institutions.
The guilds took the government into their hands, and it was a time of social and political prosperity. In Tuscany, too, popular love poetry existed. A school of imitators of the Sicilians was led by Dante da Majano , but its literary originality took another line — that of humorous and satirical poetry. The entirely democratic form of government created a style of poetry that stood strongly against the medieval mystic and chivalrous style. Devout invocation of God or of a lady came from the cloister and the castle ; in the streets of the cities everything that had gone before was treated with ridicule or biting sarcasm.
Folgore da San Gimignano laughs when in his sonnets he tells a party of Sienese youths the occupations of every month in the year, or when he teaches a party of Florentine lads the pleasures of every day in the week. Cenne della Chitarra laughs when he parodies Folgore's sonnets. The sonnets of Rustico di Filippo are half-fun and half-satire, as is the work of Cecco Angiolieri of Siena, the oldest humorist we know, a far-off precursor of Rabelais and Montaigne. Another kind of poetry also began in Tuscany. He attempted political poetry, and, although his work is often obscure, he prepared the way for the Bolognese school.
Bologna was the city of science, and philosophical poetry appeared there. Guido Guinizelli was the poet after the new fashion of the art. In his work the ideas of chivalry are changed and enlarged. Only those whose heart is pure can be blessed with true love, regardless of class. He refuted the traditional credo of courtly love, for which love is a subtle philosophy only a few chosen knights and princesses could grasp. Love is blind to blasons but not to a good heart when it finds one: Guinizzelli's democratic view can be better understood in the light of the greater equality and freedom enjoyed by the city-states of the center-north and the rise of a middle class eager to legitimise itself in the eyes of the old nobility, still regarded with respect and admiration but in fact dispossessed of its political power.
Guinizelli's Canzoni make up the bible of Dolce Stil Novo, and one in particular, "Al cor gentil" "To a Kind Heart" is considered the manifesto of the new movement that bloomed in Florence under Cavalcanti, Dante, and their followers. His poetry has some of the faults of the school of d'Arezzo. Nevertheless, he marks a great development in the history of Italian art, especially because of his close connection with Dante's lyric poetry.
In the 13th century, there were several major allegorical poems. One of these is by Brunetto Latini , who was a close friend of Dante. His Tesoretto is a short poem, in seven-syllable verses, rhyming in couplets, in which the author is lost in a wilderness and meets a lady, who represents Nature and gives him much instruction. We see here vision, allegory, and instruction with a moral object—three elements we find again in the Divine Comedy.
Francesco da Barberino , a learned lawyer who was secretary to bishops , a judge , and a notary , wrote two little allegorical poems, the Documenti d'amore and Del reggimento e dei costumi delle donne. The poems today are generally studied not as literature, but for historical context. A fourth allegorical work was the Intelligenza , which is sometimes attributed to Compagni, but is probably only a translation of French poems. In the 15th century, humanist and publisher Aldus Manutius published Tuscan poets Petrarch and Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy , creating the model for what became a standard for modern Italian.
Italian prose of the 13th century was as abundant and varied as its poetry. The earliest example dates from , and consists of short notices of entries and expenses by Mattasala di Spinello dei Lambertini of Siena. At this time, there was no sign of literary prose in Italian, though there was in French. Rusticiano of Pisa , who was for a long while at the court of Edward I of England , composed many chivalrous romances, derived from the Arthurian cycle , and subsequently wrote the Travels of Marco Polo , which may have been dictated by Polo himself. And finally Brunetto Latini wrote his Tesoro in French.
Latini also wrote some works in Italian prose such as La rettorica , an adaptation from Cicero 's De inventione , and translated three orations from Cicero: There are some moral narratives taken from religious legends, a romance of Julius Caesar , some short histories of ancient knights, the Tavola rotonda , translations of the Viaggi of Marco Polo , and of Latini's Tesoro. At the same time, translations from Latin of moral and ascetic works, histories, and treatises on rhetoric and oratory appeared. Some of the works previously regarded as the oldest in the Italian language have been shown to be forgeries of a much later time.
The oldest prose writing is a scientific book, Composizione del mondo by Ristoro d'Arezzo , who lived about the middle of the 13th century. This work is a copious treatise on astronomy and geography. Ristoro was a careful observer of natural phenomena; many of the things he relates were the result of his personal investigations, and consequently his works are more reliable than those of other writers of the time on similar subjects. Another short treatise exists: De regimine rectoris , by Fra Paolino , a Minorite friar of Venice, who was probably bishop of Pozzuoli , and who also wrote a Latin chronicle.
His treatise stands in close relation to that of Egidio Colonna , De regimine principum. It is written in the Venetian language. The 13th century was very rich in tales. A collection called the Cento Novelle antiche contains stories drawn from many sources, including Asian, Greek and Trojan traditions, ancient and medieval history, the legends of Brittany , Provence and Italy, the Bible , local Italian traditions, and histories of animals and old mythology. This book has a distant resemblance to the Spanish collection known as El Conde Lucanor.
The peculiarity of the Italian book is that the stories are very short, and seem to be mere outlines to be filled in by the narrator as he goes along. Other prose novels were inserted by Francesco Barberino in his work Del reggimento e dei costumi delle donne , but they are of much less importance. On the whole the Italian novels of the 13th century have little originality, and are a faint reflection of the very rich legendary literature of France.
Some attention should be paid to the Lettere of Fra Guittone d'Arezzo, who wrote many poems and also some letters in prose, the subjects of which are moral and religious. Guittone's love of antiquity and the traditions of Rome and its language was so strong that he tried to write Italian in a Latin style. The letters are obscure, involved and altogether barbarous. Guittone took as his special model Seneca the Younger , and hence his prose became bombastic. Guittone viewed his style as very artistic, but later scholars view it as extravagant and grotesque.
In the year a period of new literature began, developing from the Tuscan beginnings. The whole novelty and poetic power of this school, consisted in, according to Dante, Quando Amore spira, noto, ed a quel niodo Ch'ei detta dentro, vo significando: Love is a divine gift that redeems man in the eyes of God, and the poet's mistress is the angel sent from heaven to show the way to salvation. This a neo-platonic approach widely endorsed by Dolce Stil Novo , and although in Cavalcanti's case it can be upsetting and even destructive, it is nonetheless a metaphysical experience able to lift man onto a higher, spiritual dimension.
Cavalcanti's poems fall into two classes: To the first set belongs the famous poem Sulla natura d'amore , which in fact is a treatise on amorous metaphysics , and was annotated later in a learned way by renowned Platonic philosophers of the 15th century, such as Marsilius Ficinus and others. In other poems, Cavalcanti tends to stifle poetic imagery under a dead weight of philosophy.
On the other hand, in his Ballate , he pours himself out ingenuously, but with a consciousness of his art. The greatest of these is considered to be the ballata composed by Cavalcanti when he was banished from Florence with the party of the Bianchi in , and took refuge at Sarzana. The third poet among the followers of the new school was Cino da Pistoia, of the family of the Sinibuldi.
His love poems are sweet, mellow and musical. Dante, one of the greatest of Italian poets, also shows these lyrical tendencies. In he wrote La Vita Nuova "new life" in English, so called to indicate that his first meeting with Beatrice was the beginning of a new life , in which he idealizes love. It is a collection of poems to which Dante added narration and explication. Everything is supersensual, aerial, heavenly, and the real Beatrice is supplanted by an idealized vision of her, losing her human nature and becoming a representation of the divine.
Dante is the main character of the work, and the narration purports to be autobiographical, though historical information about Dante's life proves this to be poetic license. Several of the lyrics of the La Vita Nuova deal with the theme of the new life. Not all the love poems refer to Beatrice, however—other pieces are philosophical and bridge over to the Convivio.
Divina Commedia tells of the poet's travels through the three realms of the dead— Hell , Purgatory , and Paradise —accompanied by the Latin poet Virgil. An allegorical meaning hides under the literal one of this great epic. Dante, travelling through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, symbolizes mankind aiming at the double object of temporal and eternal happiness.
The forest where the poet loses himself symbolizes the civil and religious confusion of society, deprived of its two guides, the emperor and the pope. The mountain illuminated by the sun is universal monarchy. The three beasts are the three vices and the three powers that offered the greatest obstacles to Dante's designs. Pride is the house of France.
Avarice is the papal court. Virgil represents reason and the empire. Beatrice is the symbol of the supernatural aid mankind must have to attain the supreme end, which is God. The merit of the poem does not lie in the allegory, which still connects it with medieval literature. What is new is the individual art of the poet, the classic art transfused for the first time into a Romance form.
Whether he describes nature, analyses passions, curses the vices or sings hymns to the virtues, Dante is notable for the grandeur and delicacy of his art. He took the materials for his poem from theology , philosophy, history, and mythology, but especially from his own passions, from hatred and love. Under the pen of the poet, the dead come to life again; they become men again, and speak the language of their time, of their passions. Thomas Aquinas , Cacciaguida , St. Benedict , and St. Peter , are all so many objective creations; they stand before us in all the life of their characters, their feelings, and their habits.
The real chastizer of the sins and rewarder of virtues is Dante himself. The personal interest he brings to bear on the historical representation of the three worlds is what most interests us and stirs us. Dante remakes history after his own passions. Thus the Divina Commedia is not only a lifelike drama of contemporary thoughts and feelings, but also a clear and spontaneous reflection of the individual feelings of the poet, from the indignation of the citizen and the exile to the faith of the believer and the ardour of the philosopher.
The Divina Commedia defined the destiny of Italian literature, giving artistic lustre to all forms of literature the Middle Ages had produced. Two facts characterize the literary life of Petrarch: The facts are not separate; rather, the former caused the latter [ citation needed ].
The Petrarch who unearthed the works of the great Latin writers helps us understand the Petrarch who loved a real woman, named Laura, and celebrated her in her life and after her death in poems full of studied elegance. Petrarch was the first humanist , and he was at the same time the first modern lyric poet. His career was long and tempestuous. He lived for many years at Avignon , cursing the corruption of the papal court; he travelled through nearly the whole of Europe; he corresponded with emperors and popes, and he was considered the most important writer of his time.
His Canzoniere is divided into three parts: The one and only subject of these poems is love; but the treatment is full of variety in conception, in imagery and in sentiment, derived from the most varied impressions of nature. Petrarch is a psychological poet, who examines all his feelings and renders them with an art of exquisite sweetness. The lyrics of Petrarch are no longer transcendental like Dante's, but keep entirely within human limits. The second part of the Canzoniere is the more passionate. The Trionfi are inferior; in them Petrarch tried to imitate the Divina Commedia , but failed.
The Canzoniere includes also a few political poems, one supposed to be addressed to Cola di Rienzi and several sonnets against the court of Avignon. These are remarkable for their vigour of feeling, and also for showing that, compared to Dante, Petrarch had a sense of a broader Italian consciousness. He wooed an Italy that was different from any conceived by the people of the Middle Ages.
In this, he was a precursor of modern times and modern aspirations. Petrarch had no decided political idea. He exalted Cola di Rienzi, invoked the emperor Charles IV , and praised the Visconti ; in fact, his politics were affected more by impressions than by principles. Above all this was his love of Italy, which in his mind was reunited with Rome, the great city of his heroes, Cicero and Scipio. Petrarca, some say, began the Renaissance humanism. Boccaccio had the same enthusiastic love of antiquity and the same worship for the new Italian literature as Petrarch.
He was the first to put together a Latin translation of the Iliad and, in , the Odyssey. His classical learning was shown in the work De genealogia deorum , in which he enumerates the gods according to genealogical trees from the various authors who wrote about the pagan divinities. The Genealogia deorum is, as A. Heeren said, an encyclopaedia of mythological knowledge; and it was the precursor of the humanist movement of the 15th century. Boccaccio was also the first historian of women in his De mulieribus claris , and the first to tell the story of the great unfortunates in his De casibus virorum illustrium.
He continued and perfected former geographical investigations in his interesting book De montibus, silvis, fontibus, lacubus, fluminibus, stagnis, et paludibus, et de nominibus maris , for which he made use of Vibius Sequester. Of his Italian works, his lyrics do not come anywhere near to the perfection of Petrarch's. His narrative poetry is better. He did not invent the octave stanza , but was the first to use it in a work of length and artistic merit, his Teseide , the oldest Italian romantic poem. It may be that Boccaccio knew the French poem of the Trojan war by Benoit de Sainte-More ; but the interest of his poem lies in the analysis of the passion of love.
The Ninfale fiesolano tells the love story of the nymph Mesola and the shepherd Africo. The Amorosa Visione , a poem in triplets, doubtless owed its origin to the Divina Commedia. The Ameto is a mixture of prose and poetry, and is the first Italian pastoral romance. The Filocopo takes the earliest place among prose romances.
In it Boccaccio tells the loves of Florio and Biancafiore. Probably for this work he drew materials from a popular source or from a Byzantine romance, which Leonzio Pilato may have mentioned to him. In the Filocopo , there is a remarkable exuberance in the mythological part, which damages the romance as an artistic work, but contributes to the history of Boccaccio's mind. The Fiammetta is another romance, about the loves of Boccaccio and Maria d'Aquino, a supposed natural daughter of King Robert, whom he always called by this name of Fiammetta.
Boccaccio became famous principally for the Italian work, Decamerone , a collection of a hundred novels, related by a party of men and women who retired to a villa near Florence to escape the plague in Novel-writing, so abundant in the preceding centuries, especially in France, now for the first time assumed an artistic shape. The style of Boccaccio tends to the imitation of Latin, but in him prose first took the form of elaborated art.
The rudeness of the old fabliaux gives place to the careful and conscientious work of a mind that has a feeling for what is beautiful, that has studied the classic authors, and that strives to imitate them as much as possible. Over and above this, in the Decamerone , Boccaccio is a delineator of character and an observer of passions. In this lies his novelty. Much has been written about the sources of the novels of the Decamerone.
Probably Boccaccio made use both of written and of oral sources. Popular tradition must have furnished him with the materials of many stories, as, for example, that of Griselda. Unlike Petrarch, who was always discontented, preoccupied, wearied with life, disturbed by disappointments, we find Boccaccio calm, serene, satisfied with himself and with his surroundings. Notwithstanding these fundamental differences in their characters, the two great authors were old and warm friends.
But their affection for Dante was not equal. Petrarch, who says that he saw him once in his childhood, did not preserve a pleasant recollection of him, and it would be useless to deny that he was jealous of his renown. The Divina Commedia was sent him by Boccaccio, when he was an old man, and he confessed that he never read it. On the other hand, Boccaccio felt for Dante something more than love—enthusiasm. He wrote a biography of him which some critics deprecate the accuracy of and gave public critical lectures on the poem in Santa Maria del Fiore at Florence.
Fazio degli Uberti and Federico Frezzi were imitators of the Divina Commedia , but only in its external form. The former wrote the Dittamondo , a long poem, in which the author supposes that he was taken by the geographer Solinus into different parts of the world, and that his Commedia guide related the history of them. The legends of the rise of the different Italian cities have some importance historically. Frezzi, bishop of his native town Foligno , wrote the Quadriregio , a poem of the four kingdoms Love, Satan, the Vices, and the Virtues.
This poem has many points of resemblance with the Divina Commedia. Frezzi pictures the condition of man who rises from a state of vice to one of virtue, and describes hell, limbo, purgatory and heaven. The poet has Pallas for a companion. Ser Giovanni Fiorentino wrote, under the title of Pecorone , a collection of tales, which are supposed to have been related by a monk and a nun in the parlour of the monastery Novelists of Forli. He closely imitated Boccaccio, and drew on Villani's chronicle for his historical stories. Franco Sacchetti wrote tales too, for the most part on subjects taken from Florentine history.
His book gives a lifelike picture of Florentine society at the end of the 14th century. The subjects are almost always improper, but it is evident that Sacchetti collected these anecdotes so he could draw his own conclusions and moral reflections, which he puts at the end of each story. From this point of view, Sacchetti's work comes near to the Monalisaliones of the Middle Ages. A third novelist was Giovanni Sercambi of Lucca, who after wrote a book, in imitation of Boccaccio, about a party of people who were supposed to fly from a plague and to go travelling about in different Italian cities, stopping here and there telling stories.
Later, but important, names are those of Masuccio Salernitano Tommaso Guardato , who wrote the Novellino , and Antonio Cornazzano whose Proverbii became extremely popular. Chronicles formerly believed to have been of the 13th century are now mainly regarded as forgeries. At the end of the 13th century there is a chronicle by Dino Compagni , probably authentic. Giovanni Villani , born in , was more of a chronicler than an historian. He relates the events up to The journeys that he made in Italy and France, and the information thus acquired, mean that his chronicle, the Historie Fiorentine , covers events all over Europe.
He speaks at length, not only of events in politics and war, but of the stipends of public officials, the sums of money used to pay for soldiers and public festivals, and many other things of which knowledge is valuable. Villani's narrative is often encumbered with fables and errors, particularly when he speaks of things that happened before his time. Matteo was the brother of Giovanni Villani, and continued the chronicle up to It was again continued by Filippo Villani. The Divine Commedia is ascetic in its conception, and in a good many points of its execution. Petrarch's work has similar qualities; yet neither Petrarch nor Dante could be classified among the pure ascetics of their time.
But many other writers come under this head. St Catherine of Siena 's mysticism was political. This extraordinary woman aspired to bring back the Church of Rome to evangelical virtue, and left a collection of letters written in a high and lofty tone to all kinds of people, including popes. Hers is the clearest religious utterance to have made itself heard in 14th-century Italy. Although precise ideas of reformation did not enter her head, the want of a great moral reform was felt in her heart.
She must take her place among those who prepared the way for the religious movement of the 16th century. Another Sienese, Giovanni Colombini , founder of the order of Jesuati , preached poverty by precept and example, going back to the religious idea of St Francis of Assisi. His letters are among the most remarkable in the category of ascetic works in the 14th century. Bianco da Siena wrote several religiously-inspired poems lauda that were popular in the Middle Ages.
Jacopo Passavanti , in his Specchio della vera penitenza , attached instruction to narrative. Rivalta left behind him many sermons, and Franco Sacchetti the famous novelist many discourses. On the whole, there is no doubt that one of the most important productions of the Italian spirit of the 14th century was religious literature. Orgagna was specially comic; Bonichi was comic with a satirical and moral purpose. Pucci was superior to all of them for the variety of his production.
He put into triplets the chronicle of Giovanni Villani Centiloquio , and wrote many historical poems called Serventesi , many comic poems, and not a few epico-popular compositions on various subjects. A little poem of his in seven cantos treats of the war between the Florentines and the Pisans from to These poems, meant to be recited, are the ancestors of the romantic epic.
Many poets of the 14th century produced political works. It may be said in general that following the example of Petrarch many writers devoted themselves to patriotic poetry. From this period also dates that literary phenomenon known under the name of Petrarchism. The Petrarchists, or those who sang of love, imitating Petrarch's manner, were found already in the 14th century.
But others treated the same subject with more originality, in a manner that might be called semi-popular. Ballate were poems sung to dancing, and we have very many songs for music of the 14th century. We have already stated that Antonio Pucci versified Villani's Chronicle. Besides this, every kind of subject, whether history, tragedy or husbandry, was treated in verse.
Scholasticism focused on preparing men to be doctors, lawyers or professional theologians, and was taught from approved textbooks in logic, natural philosophy, medicine, law and theology. Rather than train professionals in jargon and strict practice, humanists sought to create a citizenry including, sometimes, women able to speak and write with eloquence and clarity. Thus, they would be capable of better engaging the civic life of their communities and persuading others to virtuous and prudent actions.
This was to be accomplished through the study of the studia humanitatis , today known as the humanities: Early humanists, such as Petrarch , Coluccio Salutati and Leonardo Bruni , were great collectors of antique manuscripts. Many worked for the organized Church and were in holy orders like Petrarch , while others were lawyers and chancellors of Italian cities, like Petrarch's disciple, Salutati, the Chancellor of Florence, and thus had access to book copying workshops. In Italy, the humanist educational program won rapid acceptance and, by the midth century, many of the upper classes had received humanist educations.
Some of the highest officials of the Church were humanists with the resources to amass important libraries. Such was Cardinal Basilios Bessarion , a convert to the Latin Church from Greek Orthodoxy, who was considered for the papacy and was one of the most learned scholars of his time. At Florence the most celebrated humanists wrote also in the vulgar tongue, and commented on Dante and Petrarch, and defended them from their enemies. Leone Battista Alberti , the learned Greek and Latin scholar, wrote in the vernacular, and Vespasiano da Bisticci , while he was constantly absorbed in Greek and Latin manuscripts, wrote the Vite di uomini illustri , valuable for their historical contents, and rivalling the best works of the 14th century in their candour and simplicity.
Belcari and Girolamo Benivieni returned to the mystic idealism of earlier times. But it is in Lorenzo de Medici that the influence of Florence on the Renaissance is particularly seen. His mind was formed by the ancients: De Medici lived entirely in the classical world; and yet if we read his poems we only see the man of his time, the admirer of Dante and of the old Tuscan poets, who takes inspiration from the popular muse, and who succeeds in giving to his poetry the colors of the most pronounced realism as well as of the loftiest idealism, who passes from the Platonic sonnet to the impassioned triplets of the Amori di Venere , from the grandiosity of the Salve to Nencia and to Beoni, from the Canto carnascialesco to the lauda.
The feeling of nature is strong in him; at one time sweet and melancholy, at another vigorous and deep, as if an echo of the feelings, the sorrows, the ambitions of that deeply agitated life. He liked to look into his own heart with a severe eye, but he was also able to pour himself out with tumultuous fulness. He described with the art of a sculptor; he satirized, laughed, prayed, sighed, always elegant, always a Florentine, but a Florentine who read Anacreon , Ovid and Tibullus , who wished to enjoy life, but also to taste of the refinements of art.
Next to Lorenzo comes Poliziano , who also united, and with greater art, the ancient and the modern, the popular and the classical style. In his Rispetti and in his Ballate the freshness of imagery and the plasticity of form are inimitable. A great Greek scholar, Poliziano wrote Italian verses with dazzling colors; the purest elegance of the Greek sources pervaded his art in all its varieties, in the Orfeo as well as the Stanze per la giostra.