Imágenes de página

Michele, and through the Adimari, which was his accustomed route, unto San Giovanni, where were many great arches of marble (such as are now in Santa Reparata), he stayed to muse between the columns of porphyry and these arches, the gate of San Giovanni being shut. Now Messer Betto with his company journeying on horseback through the piazza of Santa Reparata, discovered Guido among the sepulchres, whereupon he said to his companions, “Let us break a jest with im,' and giving spurs to their horses they came upon him unawares, crying out, ‘Ho, there, Master Guido, since thou dost refuse to be one of our company, what wilt thou do when thou hast assured thyself there is no God? Whereto Guido, seeing that he was enclosed by them, answered readily,—Signors, in your own houses ye may speak as ye list,' and placing his hand on one of the great arches he vaulted nimbly to the other side and went on his way.

Then stood they staring one on the other, and began to say, 'Of a surety he is distracted, for his speech lacketh meaning, inasmuch as we have no more concern with these sepulchres than the other citizens and Guido among

them.' To the which replied Messer Betto, Ye are the distracted, that ye have not comprehended his words, which, though very civil, are indeed very pithy, and the greatest reproach in the world. See ye not that these arches are the houses of the dead, because they are put here to dwell for ever? whereby he would indicate that we and the other simple and unlearned men are but as the dead in comparison with him and great scholars, and therefore, being here, that we are in our own houses.' Then comprehended each man the sense of Guido's speech, and took shame upon himself; nor did they in after-time break any jest with Guido, and they looked upon Messer Betto as a cavalier of a very subtle and excellent wit.”

The character of Guido Cavalcanti was so strongly marked, that his fellow-citizens and the historians of his times all agreed in their manner of pourtraying it. “He was,” says Villani, " for a philosopher, skilful in many pursuits ; but somewhat too irritable and harsh." Dino, another eye-witness, speaks of him as "courteous and ardent, though scornful, solitary, and immersed in study;" and Dante himself, who possessed, in an uncommon degree, the same good and bad qualities, called him “his first friend," — yielded with deference to his literary opinions, and stood in awe of his remonstrances. During an access of idle melancholy, to which in his youth he was often liable from his too strong feelings, he was severely reproached by Guido in these lines :

Io vengo il giorno a te infinite volte

E trovoti pensar troppo vilmente:
Molto mi duol della gentil tua mente

E d'assai tue vertù, che ti son tolte.
Solevati spiacer persone molte ;

Tuttor fuggivi la noiosa gente :
Di me parlavi si coralmente,

Che tutte le tue rime avea accolte.
Or non mi ardisco, per la vil tua vita,
Far dimostranza ch'l tuo dir mi piaccia;
Ne’n guisa vegno a te, che tu mi veggi.

Whene'er I visit thee day after day,

Thy thoughts, thy wishes, all debased I find :
And oh! what grief to see that noble mind,

And all thy various virtues, fade away.
I knew thee when thy scorn in withering ray

Fell blasting on the mean and idle crew :
And when of me thou spok’st with friendship true-
Of ine, who loved so well thy lofty lay.
'Tis past, and I despise thee :-now, I dare

Not own how once I loved thee with a pride
That honour'd both;-henceforth my only care

Will be thy loathed presence to avoid. We are indebted to Mr. Hayley for a spirited version of the following playful sonnet, addressed by Dante to Guido.

Guido vorrei, che tu, e Lappo, ed io

Fossimo presi per incantamento,
E messi ad un vassel, ch'ad ogni vento

Per mare andasse a voler vostro, e mio;
Sicchè fortuna, od altro tempo rio,

Non ci potesse dare impedimento:
Anzi vivendo sempre in noi talepto

Di stare insieme crescesse 'l desio.
E Monna Vanna, e Monna Bice poi,

Con quella ch'è 'n sul numer delle trenta,

Con noi ponesse il buono incantatore :
E quivi ragionar sempre d'amore:

E ciascuna di lor fosse contenta,

Siccome i' credo, che saremo noi.
Guido! I wish that you, Lappo, and I,

By some sweet spell within a bark were placed,
A gallant bark with magic virtue graced,

Swifi at our will with every wind to fly;
So that no changes of the shifting sky,

No stormy terrors of the watery waste,
Might bar our course, but heighten still our taste
Of sprightly joy and of our social tie :
Then that my Bice, Bice fair and free,

With those soft nymphs, on whom your souls are bent,
The kind magician might to us convey,
To talk of love throughout the livelong day;

And that each fair might be as well content,

As I in truth believe our hearts would be. Philip Villani, the son and nephew of the two Florentine historians, in giving the earliest example of literary history and criticism, confirmed the decision of the learned in his age, who pronounced the lyric pieces of Guido equal to those of Dante. Indeed the energy and originality which form the two characteristics of Dante's genius appear still more strongly in the lyrics of Guido, but always deformed by a primitive rudeness, which Dante, who was born twenty years later, more successfully avoided. Guido found the art in its infancy, and in raising it to adolescence, displayed greater force than skill; but in the productions of Dante strength and address marched with an equal step, and in tempering the harshness incident to all early poetry, he had the sagacity to choose the style of Virgil as his model. Besides, Dante made poetry his study and his chief glory : Guido, aspiring to a higher reputation, considered the single merit of fine poetry as insufficient to entitle any man, even Virgil himself, to rank with a philosopber.

Those who know that the enterprise of subjecting a language even in the height of its perfection to a system of rules, demands a profound insight into the operations of the intellect, will agree that Guido evinced a philosophic mind in composing a grammar, and laying down the rules of correct writing, before the Italian language could boast of authors of commanding example and authority. The ancient Italians, content with eulogizing this treatise, neglected to preserve it for posterity; and we are therefore unable to judge of its execution. Of his prose writings there are no remains; but the praise cannot be withheld from him, of having, at least, commenced a project of vast utility, and at the same time of such difficulty that it could not be brought to any maturity before the golden age of Leo the Xth. Still, that which he has not effected by his theories he has in a great measure accomplished in his practice. He was the first to ennoble the language with a poetical phraseology and versification, and except his too great love for metaphysical ideas and terms, he might serve as a model for any age. The following sonnet exhibits in a striking degree the excellences and the defects of his style.

Chi è questa, che vien, ch' ogni uom la mira,

E far di clarità l'aer tremare,
E mena seco Amor, sicchè parlare
Null'uom ne puote, ma ciascun sospira ?
Ahi Dio, che sembra quando gli occhi gira?

Dicalo Amor, ch'io non saprei contare :
Cotanto d'umiltà donna mi pare.

Che ciascun'altra in ver di lei chiam' ira.
Non si porria contar la sua piacenza;

Ch'a lei s'inchina ogni gentil vertute,

E la beltate per sua Dea la mostra :
Non fu sì alta già la mente nostra,

E non s'e posta in noi tanta salute ;

Che propriamente n'abbiam conoscenza.
Ah! who is she whose beauty wins all eyes,

And fills with tremulous light the charıned air,
Leading young Love with her? Ah! who can spare

His wonder other breath than deep-drawn sighs?
And when on me her looks in softness beam,

My rising hopes Love only may declare ;
And such a quiet meekness doth she wear

That other dames full cold and haughty seem.
Her graces infinite what tongue can tell?

While gentlest virtues thronging round are seen,

And Beauty proudly boasts her for her queen.
Ne'er did our hearts with such emotions swell,

Nor with such pure and passionate feelings glow,

As now, when gazing on her charms we know. From a letter of Lorenzo de' Medici, which we shall quote here in order to shew this renowned patron and arbiter of literature in his less known character of critic, we learn that two centuries after the

death of Guido, the most illustrious of his fellow-citizens continued to lament him as if he had but recently died. It is addressed to the son of the King of Naples. “ The most eminent, after Dante and Petrarch, is the delicate Guido Cavalcanti, a Florentine; a dextrous dialectician, and the most distinguished philosopher of his age. He was elegant and graceful in his person, noble in his descent; in his writings he united, beyond all others, beauty, ease, and originality; in his inventions he was sagacious, splendid, and admirable; in his expression deliberate, copious, and sublime; in his arrangement regular, wise, and skilful. All these happy endowments were adorned with a style at once sweet, enchanting, and novel; and if they had been displayed in an ampler field, would undoubtedly have commanded the highest honours. But, above all his other works, there is one canzone, in which this charming poet has described every quality, virtue, and property of love.” To this canzone some have applied the epithet divine, but though it has been studied for centuries by many acute scholars, we do not find any who have succeeded in understanding it. Its celebrity and obscurity have, however, given birth to seven long commentaries, some in Italian, others in Latin, and two of them still unedited; yet the more their authors have paraded their metaphysics, the more unintelligible has their text become. Although the canzone is always printed in the Appendix to every edition of Petrarch, who seems to have held it in much esteem, still, for the last two centuries, it has been more frequently spoken of than read. This, indeed, is the case with all of Guido's poetry.

Lorenzo de' Medici seems to have been his last panegyrist, and since that time his high reputation rests rather on the magni nominis umbrá, than on any of his remaining works.

Some of the compositions of Guido were published by fragments in different collections, and others remained unedited until 1813, when Signor Cicciaporci of Florence gathered them together and gave them to the world from a pious duty of consanguinity; a duty which would have been better performed, if instead of a long and useless preface, he had prefixed to his edition an accurate biography of his ancestor. Of the precise date of his birth we have no account: the year, place, and circumstances of his death are equally unknown. Having been exiled, under the magistracy of Dante, as one of the chiefs of the Guelph party, to a spot infected with the mal-aria, he was recalled, on the pretext of its unhealthiness, by his friend, which drew upon him the imputation of partiality, and was one of the causes of his own banishment. From this year—the last of the thirteenth century-we find no authentic mention of Guido, except that he was expelled a second time; and from a poem, composed during his exile, we learn that his illness left him few hopes of life. It is written in a tone of truth and passion, which gives it a value, in the absence of others, as an bistorical document. We shall cite from it some passages, and the more willingly as it appears to be one of the most poetical of his compositions. Perch'io non spero di tornar giammai, Since these eyes no inore shall see Ballatetta, in Toscana,

My native fields of Tuscany,
Va tu leggiera, e piana

Gó, little Song, and softly bear
Dritta alla donna inia.

Thy homage to my lady fair.

Tu voce sbiggottita, e deboletta,

Ch'esci piangendo dello cor dolente,
Con l'anima, e con questa ballatetta
Va ragionando della strutta mente.
Voi troverete una donna piacente
Di sì dolce intelletto
Che vi sarà diletto
Starle davanti ognora.
Aniina e tu l'adora
Sempre nel suo valore.

And thou, voice, that timid art and

weak, This sad and languid bosom quit

With thee my soul is gently flitting,
Instruct this little Song to speak

Unto my mistress meek,
Of its master's faded mind.
There a lady wilt thou find

Gifted with a sense so bright

That 'twill be thy dear delight
To live with her for ever.

Soul, thou hast with passion loved,

All her fondness thou hast proved, And shalt forget her never.

Tu senti, ballatetta, che la morte

Mi stringe sì, che vita m'abbandona;
E senti come 'l cor si sbatte forte
Per quel che ciascun spirito ragiona:
Tant'è distrutta già la mia persona,
Ch'i' non posso soffrire :
Se tu mi vuoi servire
Mena l'anima teco,
Molto di ciò ti

preco, Quando uscirà del core.

Go, little Song, the hand of death

Tells me life is hourly fleeting:
Feel'st thou how this heart is beat-

As it heaves the parting breath?
My form hath wasted all away,

And I cannot suffer more.
Wouldst thou longer service pay,

Take my soul, I now implore, When it quits this fragile sphere, And bear it to my lady dear.



The Auctioneer and the Lawyer.
A City Auctioneer, one Samuel Stubbs,

Did greater execution with his hammer,

Assisted by his puffing clamour,
Than Gog and Magog with their clubs,
Or that great Fee-fa-fum of war,
The Scandinavian Thor,
Did with his nallet, which (see Bryant's
Mythology) felld stoutest giants :
For Samuel knock'd down houses, churches,
Avd woods of oak and elms and birches,
With greater ease than mad Orlando
Tore the first tree he laid his hand to.

He ought, in reason, to have raised his own
Lot by knocking others' down;
And had he been content with shaking
His hammer and his hand, and taking
Advantage of what brought him grist, he
Might have been as rich as Christie ;-
But somehow when thy midnight bell, Bow,

Sounded along Cheapside its knell,
Our spark was busy in Pall-mall
Shaking his elbow,-

« AnteriorContinuar »