The note of all these compositions is that they are professedly epitomes of learning, already possessed in more authentic sources by scholars. As such, they prove that there existed a class of readers eager for instruction, to whom books written in Latin or in French were not accessible. In a word, they indicate the advent of the modern tongue, with all its exigencies and with all its capabilities. On the other hand, it is clear from the ' Cento Novelle ' that the more dramatic episodes of history and myth were being submitted to the same epito- mising treatment.
Finally we have to mention Guittone of Arezzo's epistles as the first serious attempt to treat the vulgar tongue rhetorically, for a distinct literary purpose.
From the dry records of incipient prose it is refreshing to turn to another species of popular poetry ; for poetry in the period of origins is always more adult than prose. Numerous fragments of political songs have been disinterred from chronicles, which can be referred to the thirteenth century. Thus an anonymous Genoese rhymester celebrated the victories of Laiazzo and Curzola , while Giovanni Villani preserved six lines upon the siege of Messina More important, because of greater extent, are the laments and amorous or comic poems, which can be attributed to the same century.
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Passing to satirical poems, I may mention two pieces extracted from a Bolognese MS. They are not without French parallels ; but the mode of presentation is Italian, and the phrases have been transplanted without change from vulgar dialogue. Two romantic lyrics extracted from the same MS. Ballate, Sframbotti e Madrigali nei Secoli xiii. A cura di Giosui Carducci Pisa, , pp.
Hence we may take occasion to observe that those who accuse Lorenzo de' Medici and hig contemporaries of debasing popular taste by the deliberate introduction of licentiousness into art, exceed the limits of just censure. What is called the Paganism of the Renais- sance was indigenous in Italy. We find it inherent in vulgar literature before the date of Boccaccio ; and if, with the advance of social luxury, it assumed, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a more objectionable prominence, this should not be exclusively ascribed to the influence of humanistic studies or to the example of far-sighted despots.
Indeed, it can be asserted that the specific quality of the popular Italian genius — its sensuous realism, qualified with irony — emerges unmistakably in five most important relics of the thirteenth century, the ' Cognate,' the ' Comadri,' the Tenzone of the Maiden and her Mother ' Mamma lo temp' 6 ' See ibid.
It is this objectivity, realism, sensuousness, which constitutes the strength of the Italians, and assigns the limitations of their faculty. In quite a different region, but of no less importance for the future of Italian literature, must be reckoned the religious hymns, which, during the thirteenth century, began to be composed in the vernacular. The earliest known specimen is S. Francis' famous ' Cantico del Sole,' which, even as it is preserved to us, after undergoing the process of modernisa- tion, retains the purity and freshness of a bird's note in spring.
Francis, but at the distance of half a century, followed Jacopone da Todi, with his passionate and dithyrambic odes, which seem to vibrate tongues of fire. To this religious lyric the Flagellant frenzy and the sub- sequent formation of Companies of Laudesi gave decisive ' The practical and realistic common sense of the Italians, rejecting chivalrous and ecclesiastical idealism as so much nonsense, is illustrated by the occasional poems of two Florentine painters — Giotto's Canzone on Poverty, and Orcagna's Sonnet on Love.
I shall have in a future chapter to discuss the relation between the Umbrian Lauds and the origins of the Drama. It is enough here to notice the part played in the evolution of the language by so early a transition from the Latin Hymns of the Church to Hymns written in the modern speech for private confraternities and domestic gatherings.leondumoulin.nl/language/children/4539-imagining-the-balkans.php
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We learn from this meagre review of ancient popular poetry that during the thirteenth century the dialects of each district had begun to seek literary expression. There are many indications that the products of one province speedily became the property of the rest. Spontaneous motives were mingled with French and Proven9al recollections ; and already we can trace the unconscious effort to form a common language in the process known as Toscaneggiamento, or the translation of local songs into Tuscan idiom.
What really happened was, that Frederick's Court became the centre of a widespread literary movement. The Sicilian dialect pre- dominating at Palermo over the rest, the poets of different provinces who assembled round the Emperor were subse- quently known as Sicilian. Their songs, passing upward through the peninsula, bore that name, even when they had, as at Florence, been converted, by dialectical modifications, to the use of Tuscan folk.
We must bear in mind that the poets of this Court were men of learned education — judges, notaries, officials. Dante makes dot tori nearly synonymous with trovatori. This proves that in the island, side by side with ' courtly makers ' and dottori, there flourished an original and vulgar manner of poetry. The process of Tuscanisation referred to in the preceding paragraph is too important in its bearings on the problems of Italian language and literature, to be passed over without further discussion.
We possess but a few stanzas in a pure condition. There is, therefore, reason to believe that when Dante treated of the courtly Sicilian poets in his essay 'De Vulgari Eloquio,' he knew their writings in a form already Tuscanised. At the date of the composition of that essay, the Suabian House had been extinguished ; the literary society of the South was broken up ; and to Florence had already fallen the heritage of art. What is even more remarkable, the Bolognese poets, who preceded Dante and his peers by one generation, had abandoned their own dialect in favour of the purified Tuscan.
It Is reprinted in his volume of Saggi Critici, Napoli, The subject is fully discussed from a point of view at variance with my text by Adolf Gaspary, Die Siciliaiiisclie Dichterschule, Berlin, How came it that he included Florentine among the peccant idioms, and maintained that the true literary speech was still to seek?
These doubts may in part at least be removed, when we remember the peculiar con- ditions under which the courtly poetry he praised had been produced ; and the indirect channels by which it had reached hnn. In the first place, we have seen that it was composed in avowed imitation of Proven9al models, by men of taste and learning drawn from several provinces.
They culled, for literary purposes, a vocabulary of colourless and neutral words, which clothed the same conventional ideas with elegant and artificial monotony. When these compositions underwent the further process of Tuscanisation which was easy, owing to certain dialectical affinities between Sicilian and Tuscan , they lost to a large extent what still remained to them of local character, without acquiring the true stamp of Florentine.
Even a contemporary could not have recognised in the verse of Jacopo da Lentino, thus treated, either a genuine Sicilian or a genuine Tuscan flavour. His language presented the appearance of being, as indeed it was, different from both idioms. The artifice of style made it pass for superior ; and, in purely literary quality, it was in truth superior to the products of plebeian inspiration.
We may prefer the racy stanzas of the ' Cognate ' to those frigid and exhausted euphuisms. But the critical taste of so great a master as even Dante was not tuned to any such preference. Though he recognised the defects of the Sicilian poets, as is manifest from his dialogue with Guido in the ' Purgatory,' he gave them all credit for elevating verse above the vulgar level.
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Its colourlessness and strangeness hid the fact that it had already, at the close of the thirteenth century, assumed the Tuscan habit, and that from the well- springs of Tuscan idiom the Italian of the future would have to draw its aliment. The downfall of the Hohenstauffens and the dispersion of their Court-poets proved a circumstance of decisive benefit to Italian literature, by removing it from a false atmosphere into conditions where it freely flourished and expanded its originality. Feudalism formed no vital part of the Italian social system, and chivalry had never been more than an exotic, cultivated in the hotbed of the aristocracy.
The impulse given to poetry in the South, under influences in no true sense of the word national — a Norman-German dynasty attempting to acclimatise Proven9al forms upon Italian soil — could hardly have produced a vigorous type of literature. It is from the people, in centres of popular activity, or where the spirit of the people finds full play in representative society, that characteristic art must be developed.
If the chances of our drama had been confined to Court-patronage or Sidney's ' Areopagus,' instead of being extended to the nation by free competition in the wooden theatres where Llarlowe and Shakspere appealed to popular taste, there is KtLle doubt but that England would have boasted only of a mediocre and academical stage.
When Italian poetry deserted Palermo for the banks of Arno, it exchanged the Court for the people ; the subtleties of decadent chivalry for the genuine impulses of a free com- munity ; the pettiness of culture for the humanities of a public conscious of high destinies and educated in a mascu- line political arena. Here the grand qualities of the Itahan genius found an open field. At Palermo the princes and their courtiers had been reciprocally auditors and poets.
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At Florence the people listened ; and the poets, sprung from them, were speakers. Except at Athens in the golden age of Hellas, no populace has equalled that of Florence, both for the production of original genius, and also for the sensitiveness to beauty, diffused throughout all classes, which brings the artist and his audience into right accord.
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Two stages in the transition from Sicily to Florence need to be described. Guittone of Arezzo strikes the historian of literature as the man who first attempted to nationalise the polished poetry of the Sicilian Court, and to strip the new style of its feudal pedantry. He wrote, however, roughly. He attempted more than he was able to fulfil. But his attempt, when judged by the conditions of his epoch, deserves to rank among achievements. Placed mid- way between Lombardy and Tuscany, Bologna shai'ed the instincts of the two noblest Italian populations — the Com- munes who wrested liberty from Frederick Barbarossa, and the Communes who were to give arts and letters to the nation.
Receiving from his Italo-Proven9al predecessors the material of chivalrous love, and obeying the genius of his native city, Guido rhymed of love no longer as a fashionable pastime, but as the medium of philosophic truth. Learning was the mother of the national Italian poetry. From Guido started a school of transcendental singers, who used the ancient form and subject-matter of exotic poetry for the utter- ance of metaphysical thought. The Italians, born, as it were, old, were destined thus to pass from imitation, through specu- lation, 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.
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