Italy Literature – The First Retches and the Technical Preparation Part 3


At the fall of the Swabian dynasty (1266-68) the art of rhyming in the manner of the Sicilians had spread widely in Italy and there were, especially in Tuscany, numerous verses who recited the subtleties of courtly love, even with closer adherence to the Provençal models and with more frequent use of insipid verbal artifices, which were not usual for their southern predecessors, keeping the language a Sicilian coloring, by now inherent to that subject. An important novelty, these Tuscans often dealt with moral and political arguments in  tensions  or disputes that take place in two-way sonnets between two or more rhymers; which helped to broaden the horizon of the rimeria, bringing it closer to the realities of life and bending it to a greater variety and freedom of language and style.

Among these Sicilian-like Tuscans, Chiaro Davanzati, who poet in the last decades of the thirteenth century, stands out for a notable fecundity and a certain casual and imaginative grace; but above all Guittone del Viva d’Arezzo stands out, who in the midst of a lot of pedantic prolixity, obscure doctrinal delays, clumsy stylistic complications, shows an uncommon fantastic energy in expressing his morality and his feelings as a lover and citizen . Its historical importance, however, is in having reinvigorated the thought and therefore the style of high lyric, training it to spin the reasoning in the broad Latin periods, sometimes with the damage of clarity, but in any case with the advantage of the logical structures of the rooms and poems, which rose from the mingherlina infantility of the Sicilians to a robust construction maturity.

For within the exoticism and Latinism of the Sicilian poetic school both southern and central Italy there is no shortage, and we cannot forget in this context of literary preparation, elements of popular poetry or in any case autochthonous treated in various ways and in various degrees heaped up. Certain Tuscan poems in dialogue have a popular and jester-like flavor that develop topics of universal tradition, such as the lament of the unmarried woman and the cravings of the girl who wants to marry; and, more famous and more ancient, the contrast of Cielo d’Alcamo, which a cultured poet, not unaware of similar Provençal and French compositions, wrote towards the middle of the thirteenth century. And the spirit of genuine Tuscanism has many sonnets of joke and ridicule, which are interspersed with rhymes of another nature by Florentine poets,

Turning our gaze to other regions and other matters, the fragment of a love treatise prior to 1277, which goes under the improper title of  Lament of the Paduan bride  and is Venetian by origin, also comes to life with some motive and tone of popular poetry, while other songs that come to us from Bologna have clearly revealed a more lowly plebeian imprint. On the other hand, the varied attitude of the citizen spirit in the face of political events found its humble and seldom effective form in songs of which fragments have survived, and in mostly narrative jester songs, such as the Bolognese  Sementese de ‘Geremei and de ‘Lambertazzi .

In the effort with which in the first centuries after the year one thousand the human spirit regenerated itself, those men felt the profound women of their history bubbling up and were able to better understand and relive the Roman world, so rich in examples of free and full spirituality. Therefore, alongside the studies of law and philosophy, the grammatical and rhetorical study of Latin in the various forms of prehumanism flourished again as a secondary manifestation of spiritual rebirth. Linked to a political and intellectual world already close to sunset, imperial and ecclesiastical prehumanism, of which the epistolary models of Pier della Vigna and Maestro Berardo da Napoli are conspicuous and of which there are documents in Latin historiography of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries , does not matter to the development of Italian literary thought, if not with technical experience of the ancient language, in analogy with what has been said of the Sicilian poetic school. But in prehumanism that flourished in the shadow of the municipal lords, in Florence, where the poem De diversitate fortunae  by Arrigo da Settimello (circa 1193) modestly affirms the defensive vigor of the spirit against adverse fortune; in Padua, where a sense of freedom and homeland charity animates a cenacle of learned scholars of antiquity, headed by Albertino Mussato, the author of the Ecerinis ; in Bologna where in the rough and sometimes bizarre latinity of the masters of dictation (first among them Buoncompagno da Signa), as in the characteristic Latin of the minorite Guelph Salimbene, indistinct aspirations for national style forms, the reaction to the universalism of Middle Ages where national literature is generated.

According to, this reviving of the studies of Latin, as it certainly was not without some effectiveness in some of the versed manifestations of the new thought, of which we have spoken (remember, for example, the constructive expertise of Bonvesin, the establishment of the dialect among the Sicilians, the technique of the period in Guittone), thus had a considerable action in the formation of thought itself in vulgar prose.

In the newly formed civil consortium, the number of experts in Latin was increasingly thinning out, while minds of I don’t know what congeniality were brought to desire to know the Roman world. Thus grew the need for vulgarizations that would make it possible for most to get to know this world, glimpsed and felt as admirable. On the other hand, the experts of Latin, when they took office as vulgarizers or remakers of ancient or medieval works, tried to reproduce or almost unwittingly echoed the solemn and colorful majesty and serious periodic complexities of Latin poets, orators, moralists , and they also helped themselves with the means they taught the  Artes  or  Summae dictaminis. Hence the numerous versions or remakes or compendiums of Latin works ( Aeneid ,  Metamorphosis ,  Vegetius’s Art of War  ,  Cicero’s  De inventione  , Boethius’  philosophical consolation  , Disticha Catonis, moral treatises by Albertano Giudice, etc.) were educating a prose by constructs, by rhythms, by Latin-like rhetorical colors, in which classical and medieval attitudes were reflected together. All the artifices devised over the centuries by the rhetoric of the Middle Ages converge in the vernacular of Guittone d’Arezzo’s letters, arduous exercises in a dark and twisted style, rich in consonances, rhythms, verbal games, every kind of peregrinity; Guido Fava, Bolognese dictator of the early thirteenth century, in the essays of the  Gemma purpurea  and of  the Parliaments et epistole  adapted to the vulgar the rules of the  cursus , while friar Guidotto in  the Flower of rhetoric , compendium of the pseudociceroniana  Rhetorica at Herennium, and Brunetto Latini in the commentary on the first book of  De inventione , give their Latin prose a flavor more of classicism than of the Middle Ages.

Faced with this type of prose there was in that primordial age we are talking about, the simple and straightforward prose, airy with its casual and smooth periodizing the spoken language, of the novels of chivalry, Arthurian, Carolingian, classics ( Tristano ,  Fioravante ,  Trojan story , etc.); del  Novellino , a collection of agile short stories, the most traditional ones; of the  Book of the Seven Sages , another shorter collection of short stories framed in a traditional invention; of the so-called  Flowers , florileges of sentences, observations, comparisons, examples, derived from disparate sources for the purpose of moral training ( Flower of virtue ; Flowers and the life of philosophers , etc.); works of science, such as the  Composition of the World the Arezzo Refreshments; of the most ancient chronicles, among which must be placed, as certainly authentic, the Florentine one by Rememberano and Giacotto Malispini. In some of which texts the example of French prose undoubtedly operates with its limpid analytical gait, often also the source of the subjects. French, moreover, as the “most delightful and most common language for all peoples”, was itself used in the 10th century. XIII by Italian writers in fictional, historical and doctrinal works: from Rustichello da Pisa in a compilation of stories from the Round Table and in the narration of Marco Polo’s travels written under the dictation of the great explorer in the prisons of Genoa; by Martino da Canale in a chronicle of the Venetians; from the Florentine Brunetto Latini, chancellor of his municipality and teacher to his fellow citizens of politics and rhetoric, Li livre dou Trésor .