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The literary needs of the Italians were satisfied with Latin ; nor did the genius of the new people make a vigorous effort to fashion for itself a vehicle of utterance.

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Moribus bis dudum vivebat Eoma decenter : His studiis tantos potuit vincire tyrannos. Hoc servant Itali post prima crepundia cuncti ; Et sudare scholis mandatur tota juventus. Solia Teutonicis vacuum vel turpe videtur, Ut doceant aliquem nisi clericus accipiatur. The Republic and the Empire were for them the two most glorious epochs of their own history; and any attempt which they made to revive either literature or art, was imitative of the past.

They were not in the position to take a new departure. Wippo recommends the Emperor to compel his subjects to educate their sons in letters and law. It was by such studies that ancient Eome acquired her greatness. In Italy at the present time, he says, all boys pass from the games of childhood into schools. It is only the Teutons who think it idle or disgraceful for a man to study unless he be intended for a clerical career.

The material was wanting to a race that knew its own antiquity. Even when an Italian undertook a digest of the Tale of Troy or of the Life of Alexander, he converted the metrical romances of the middle ages into prose, obeying an instinct which led him to regard the classical past as part of his own history. We have already seen that this reversion of the popular imagination to Rome may be reckoned among the reasons why the victory of Legnano and the Peace of Constance were comparatively fruitless. Of hardly less importance, as negative influences, were the failure of feudalism to take firm hold upon Italian soil, and the defect of its ideal, chivalry.


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The literature of trou- veres, troubadours, and minnesingers grew up and flourished in the castles of the North ; nor was it until the Italians, under the sway of the Hohenatauffen princes, possessed some- thing analogous to a ProvenQal Court, that the right conditions for the development of literary art in the vernacular were attained. From this point of view Dante's phrase of lingim aulica, to express the dialect of culture, is both scientific and ' See Adolfo Bavtoli, Storia clella Letteratura Italiana, vol.

It will further appear in the course of this chapter that the earliest dawn of Italian literature can be traced to those minor CJourts of Piedmont and the Trevisan Marches, where the people borrowed the forms of feudal society more sympathetically than elsewhere in Italy. It must moreover be remembered that during the eleventh and twelfth centuries the force of the Italian people was concentrated upon two great political struggles, the contest of the Church with the Empire, and the War of Lombard Independence.

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In the prosecution of these quarrels, the Italians lost sight of letters, art, theology. They became a race of statesmen and jurists. Their greatest divines and metaphysicians wandered northward into France and England. Their most famous university, that of Bologna, acquired a world-wide reputation as a school of jurisprudence.


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Legal studies and political activity occupied the attention of their ablest men. It would be difficult to overrate the magnitude of the work done during those two centuries. In the course of them, the Italians gave final form to the organism of the Papacy, which must be regarded as a product of their con- structive genius. They developed republican governments of differing types in each of their great cities, and made, for the first time since the foundation of the Empire, the name of People sovereign.

They resuscitated Eoman law, and re- organised the commerce of the Mediterranean.

Eemaining loyal to the Empire as an idea, they shook off the yoke of the German Caesars ; and while the Papacy was their own handi- work, they alone of European nations, viewed it politically rather than religiously, and so weakened it as to prepare the way for the Babylonian captivity at Avignon. They came late into the field ; and when they took their place at last, their language presented a striking parallel to their political condition.

As they failed to acquire a solid nation- ality, but remained split up into petty States, united by a Pan-Italic sentiment; so they failed to form a common speech. The written Italian of the future was used in its integrity by no one province ; each district clinging to its dialect with obstinate pride. Their education during two centuries of strife was not without effect.

The conditions of burghership in their free communes, the stirring of their political energies, the liberty of their ] opolo, and the keen sense of reality developed by their legal studies, prepared men like Dante and Guido Cavalcanti for solving the problems of art in a resolute, mature and manly spirit, fully conscious of the aim before them, and self-possessed in the assurance of adult faculties.

In the first, or, as it may be termed, the Latin period of medieval culture, there was not much to distinguish the Italians from the rest of Europe. Those Lombard schools, of ' The Italians did not even begin to reflect upon their lingua volgare until the special characters and temperanients of their chief States had been fixed and formed. In other words, their social and political develop- ment far anticipated their literary evolution.

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There remained no centre from which the vulgar tongue could radiate, absorbing local dialeota Each State was itself a centre, perpetuating dialect. Better Latin, and particu- larly more fluent Latin verse, was written during the dark ages in Italy than elsewhere. While we can refer the 'Dieslraj,' 'LaudaSion,' 'Pange Lingua,' and ' Stabat Mater ' with tolerable certainty to Italian poets ; while there is abundant internal evidence to prove that some of the best ' Carmina Burana ' were composed in Italy and under Italian influences; yet Paris, the focus of theological and ecclesiastical learning, as Bologna was the centre of legal studies, must be regarded as the headquarters of that literary movement which gave the rhyming hexameters of Bernard of Morlas and the lyrics of the Goliardi to Europe.

Their previous vantage-ground had been lost in the political distractions of their country. At the same time, they were the first jurists and the hardiest, if not the most philosophical, freethinkers of Europe. This is a point which demands at least a passing notice. Their practical studies, and the example of an emperor at war with Christendom, helped to form a sect of epicureans in Italy, for whom nothing sanctioned by ecclesiastical authority was sacred.

To these pioneers of modern incredulity Dante assigned not the least striking Cantos of the ' Inferno. It was the quality, in fact, which fitted the Italians for their work in the Kenaissance. As metaphysicians in the stricter sense of that word, they have been surpassed by Northern races. Their religious sense has never been so vivid, nor their opposition to established creeds so earnest.

But through- out modern history, their great men have manifested a prac- tical and negative good sense, worldly in its moral tone, impervious to pietistic influences, antagonistic to mysticism, contented with concrete reality, which has distinguished them from the more fervent, boyish, sanguine, and imaginative enthusiasts of Northern Europe. Another point which distinguished the Italians in this Latin period of their literature, was the absence of the legendary or myth-making faculty. It is not merely that they formed no epic, and gave birth to no great Saga ; but they accepted the fabulous matter, transmitted to them from other nations, in a prosaic and positive spirit.

This does not imply that they exercised a critical faculty, or passed judg- ment on the products of the medieval fancy.

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On the con- trary, they took legend for fact, and treated it as the material of history. Hector, Alexander, and Attila were stripped of their romantic environments, and presented in the cold prose of a digest, as persons whose acts could be sententiously narrated. This attitude of the Italians toward the Saga ia by no means insignificant.

For the rest, the Italians shared with other nations the common stock of medieval literature — Chronicles, Encyclo- paedias, Epitomes, Moralisations, Histories in verse, Ehetorical Summaries, and prose abstracts of Universal History — the meagre cUhris and detritus of the huge moraines carried down by extinct classic glaciers. It is not needful to dwell upon this aspect of the national culture, since it presents no specific features. What is most to our purpose, is to note the affectionate remembrance of Eome and Eoman worthies, which endured in each great town.

The people, as dis- tinguished from the feudal nobility, were and ever felt themselves to be the heirs of the old Eoman population. A rhyming chronicler of Pisa compared the battles of the burghers against the Saracens with the Punic wars. The ' Du Meiil, op. The memory of Livy added lustre to Padua, and Mussato boasted that her walls, like those of Troy, her mother-city, were sacrosanct.

Florence clung to the mutilated statue of Mars upon her bridge with almost superstitious reverence, as proof of Eoman origin ; while Siena adopted for her ensign the she-wolf and the Eoman twins. Pagan customs survived, and were jealously maintained in the central and southern provinces ; and the name of the Republic sufficed to stir Arnold's revolution in Rome, long before the days of Rienzi. To the mighty German potentate, King Frederick Barbarossa, attended with his Northern chivalry, a handful of Romans dared to say : ' Thou wast a stranger ; I, the City, gave thee civic rights.

Thou camest from transalpine regions ; I have conferred on thee the principality. Enough, however, has been said to show that through the gloom of medieval history, before humanism had begun to dawn, and while the other nations were creating legends and popular epics, Italy maintained a dim but tenacious sense of her Roman past. This conscious- ness has here to be insisted on, not merely because it stood in the way of mythopoeic activity, but because it found full and proper satisfaction in that Revival of Learning which decided the Renaissance.

While the Italians were fighting the Wars of Investiture and Independence, two literatures had arisen in the country which we now call France. Two languages, the langue d'oG and the langue d'oil, gave bkth to two separate species of poetry. The master-product of the latter was the Song of Roland, which, together with the after- birth of Arthurian ' Sfift Vol.

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The former, cultivated in the southern provinces that border on the Mediterranean, yielded a refined and courtly fashion of lyrical verse, which took the form of love-songs, battle-songs, and satires, and which is now known as Proven9al literature. The influence of feudal culture, communicated through these two distinct but closely con- nected channels, was soon felt in Italy.

The second phase of Italian development has been called Lombard, because it was chiefly in the north of the peninsula that the motive force derived from France was active. Yet if we regard the matter of this new literature, rather than its geographical distribution, we shall more correctly designate it by the title Franco-Italian.

In the first or Latin period, the Italians used an ancient language. They now adopted not only the forms but also the speech of the people from whom they received their literary impulse. It is probable that the Lombard dialects were still too rough to be accommodated to the new French style.