Lay people or belonging to the new Franciscan order born outside the hierarchy, they are the authors of the Northern Italian religious and moral poems; not a fallacious confirmation of the thesis that places the origins of the new literature in the great spiritual renewal that took place after the year 1000. But even clearer confirmation comes from the history of laude and sacred theater.
Even if it is admitted, as is natural, that religious lyric in the vernacular arose at the same time in several places, it is however certain that its first luxuriant flowering was in Umbria due to the impulse that came directly or indirectly from the great saint of ‘Assisi, himself the author of some Latin laudes and prayers and of a canticle in the vernacular called by friar sole or laudes creaturarum, which is an immediate outpouring of that love of God, by which he felt all the works of creation linked to man in the unity of the creative spirit. Similarly, the old custom of associations, including religious ones, became general and took stable and uniform ways after, aroused by the Perugian hermit Ranieri Fasani (1260), an irrepressible ardor of piety spread from Umbria to the lands of Italy, and the crowds, who at first had gone on pilgrimage from city to city, disciplining themselves, and singing sacred lauds, organized themselves into companies or schools called disciplined of Jesus Christ or laudesi, who gathered in their oratories for prayers, disciplines, to other devout practices. Near the end of the century. XIII each company had its own repertoire of laudi to be intoned in the various ecclesiastical celebrations, and the repertoires, modified in their structure, diminished, increased, they migrated from land to land spreading everywhere the use of the laude and at the same time a considerable number of single lauds, which are now found, with more or less profound alterations, as well as in the Umbrian laudaries, in those of ‘other regions, from Piedmont to Abruzzo, from Lombardy to Marche, from Veneto to Tuscany. The subject of the lauds are the facts of the life of Christ and the patron saints of the brotherhoods or cities; meter, the often irregular ballad; sources, the Gospels or the hagiographic legends followed with slavish fidelity; very crude art. Not a few lauds derive from their very source dramatic form; and these were recited in the oratories with a rudimentary stage set by several actors made up according to what required their part.
According to aceinland.com, these sacred representations were not new, because the Church too had drawn from the liturgy the so-called liturgical drama, which put the facts of Christ’s life in a scenic form before the eyes of the faithful. In France and Spain, which expanded considerably, it left the church and, assuming the vulgar idiom, gave rise to the mysteries. In Italy, on the other hand, faced with the liturgical drama, which remained tenaciously faithful to Latin, the small drama of the disciplined was born outside the church, through the direct elaboration of the evangelical texts, and moving from this autonomous origin, it set out for its own autonomous development. . In contrast to the theocratic tradition, the laity, which arose after the year 1000 to govern society as a municipal bourgeoisie, expressed even in that modest literary form the reborn energies of the spirit, of which it was itself a son.
Almost all the praises that came out in that first flourishing of religious lyric are anonymous, nor do they have intimate characters that differentiate them; but an individual imprint distinguishes from the others the hundreds of praises, extraneous to the life of the brotherhoods, by Iacopone da Todi (died in 1306). The poetry of them is in the anxious labor of the spirit of Jacopone to transcend human nature and transfuse into the Absolute, it is in the intoxication of divine love, it is in the ineffable joy of sinking oneself, of disappearing, of annihilating oneself in God. Iacopone theorizes his mystical experience, the role of theologian suffocates and hides his poetic personality, which is alive instead in the impetuous and alogical making of other praises, which seem to express actuality itself, rather than aesthetic contemplation, of the devouring spasm of divine love. What the songbook has that is primitive in the language, imbued (nor could it be otherwise at the end of the 13th century) with Umbrian dialectal elements, in the syntax, in a certain crude realism, in certain images and material symbols, it was mistaken for the character of popularity; while it is not; indeed, the language itself regulated according to an idea of regional refinement, the perfect rhyme, the skilful construction of every laude and every verse, the formulas of courteous love taken to sing divine love, clearly show the cultured poet , to whom the technical advances made by the art of rhyming in the poetic school that had the name of Sicilian from Dante are not unknown.
The collection of rhymes belonging to her is copious, and there is no lack of flashes of poetry; the notary Iacopo da Lentino, Giacomino from Puglia, Rinaldo d’Aquino sometimes represent original lyrical situations and have effectively expressive images of their moods and even blunt and vigorous hints of passion. But considered as a whole as a historical fact, the lyric that flourished at the court of Frederick II and Manfredi wanders all in the circle of concepts and situations typical of troubadour poetry, tapering to oozing the refinements of courtly love with phrasebook, with images, with the comparisons of this lyric. While in northern Italy a not scarce group of rhymers, among whom rises high in the fame of posterity, thanks to the magnificent Dante figure, Sordello di Goito, also followed in the language the models that came from Provence, at the court of Sicily the motifs and stylistic artifices of the Provençal lyric reappeared, together with the feudal conception of love, in a language that can be called illustrious Sicilian, that is in the dialect of the island balanced in its varieties and ennobled with a mirror of Latin and Provençal. From the lyric of Provence the well thought out and artificial structures of the song were also deduced in the poetry of the Sicilian school, which underwent notable modifications, while the song room, used in isolation and in a particular style, gave rise (which was probably due to opera del notaro da Lentino) to the sonnet, a purely Italian metric form, which with prodigious vitality followed and follows the development of literature.
Flowering under the imperial protection of the Swabians, in an environment that was foreign and adverse to the renewed social and political orientation of the Italian people and nourished by exotic spirits from a literature grown in the feudal courts of Provence, the Sicilian school had no leaven of the future. . The tribute it paid to the preparation of national literature lies mainly in those technical innovations and in having first educated an Italian language to the expression of conceptual refinements and to the treatment of noble and alien matter from realistic local peculiarities.