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ITALIAN POETS. NO. 111.–GUIDO CAVALCANTI.

Thus hath one Guido from the other snatch'd
The letter'd prize, and he perhaps is born
Who shall drive either from their nest.

Dante. Purg. c. ix.
Such is the modest pride with which Dante anticipates the superiority
of his own renown;-adding, however,

The noise
Of worldly fame is but a blast of wind
That blows froin divers points, and shifts its name
Shifting the point it blows from. Your renown

Is like the herb, whose hue doth come and go.
And yet he endured every suffering to acquire that celebrity which he
thus pronounced to be fluctuating and perishable. The two Guidos,
who successively inherited and enlarged the domain of the Italian lan-
guage, had a competitor of the same name, idiomatically called Guit-
tone, born at Arezzo, a short time after the twelfth century. To him
is attributed the merit of having reduced the sonnet to the regular
form and laws, which it has ever since retained. Among the speci-
mens of his talent, some are wonderful for his age: we refrain from
citing them through the fear of becoming accomplices in what we sus-
pect to be an imposture. To prove their authenticity, ancient manu-
scripts have been referred to, evidently transcribed long before the in-
vention of printing; but, as the language had attained its height before
that event, it would not be surprising if some copyist had ascribed to
him, through mistake, the verses of a later poet; or if some wit had
written them expressly to sport with the credulity of his contempora-
ries. But, whether a blunder or a hoax, these fragments have been
carefully cherished as testimonies by the Italians, who, not content
with possessing a beautiful language, are anxious to prove that it
reached perfection a century before Dante, and a century and a half
before Petrarch. To these authorities, Italian scholars in England
award implicit faith ; nor should we be inclined to withhold it, if the
rudeness of the other productions of Guittone (the authenticity of
which none dispute) did not give the lie to those elegant lines of which
the national vanity has availed itself. Besides, if Guittone really com-
posed the verses in question, would Dante have so decidedly written-

many of the elder time cried up Guittone, till, truth by strength of numbers vanquished, they gave him the prize."

The eldest of the three Guidos was born at Bologna, of the noble

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family of Guinicelli, and died in 1276. It is of him that Dante says - He was father to me, and to those my betters, who have ever used the sweet and pleasant rhymes of love

His dulcet lays, as long
As of our tongue the beauty does not fade,

Shall make us love the very ink that traced them.” Dante was not a critic to lavish his praises ; he never flattered the living, and why should he flatter the dead? Still we doubt whether his praises would be justified by any of the known pieces of Guido Guinicelli. The following stanza is part of a canzone on the loss of his mistress.

Conforto già conforto l'amor chiama,
E pietà prega per Dio, fatti resto;
Or'v’inchinate a sì dolce preghiera ;
Spogliatevi di questa vesta grama,
Da che voi sete per ragion richiesto.
Che l'uomo per dolor more e dispera.
Con voi vedeste poi la bella ciera.
Si v'accogliesse morte in disperanza,
De si grave pesanza
Traete il vostro cor ormai

per

Dio,
Che non sia cosi rio
Ver l'alma vostra che ancora spiera
Vederla in ciel e star nelle sue braccia,
Dunque spene de confortar vi piaccia.

Comfort thee, comfort thee,” exclaimeth Love;
And Pity by thy God adjures thee—“ rest.
Oh then incline thee to such gentle prayer !

Nor Reason's plea should ineffectual prove,
Who bids thee lay aside this dismal vest :
For man meets death through sadness and despair.
Amongst you ye have seen a face so fair :-

Be this in mortal mourning some relief,
And for more balm of grief,
Rescue thy spirit from its heavy load,

Remembering thy God;
And that in heaven thou hop'st again to share
In sight of her, and with thine arms to fold,

Hope then ; nor of this comfort quit thy hold.—Carey. Allowing for the imperfect state of the language, the versification and style convey with sufficient clearness the ideas; and these are at once elevated without being far-fetched, and natural without being common. Pathos, however, belongs to all time, and may be expressed in every language; yet we find nothing but coldness in the verses of Guinicelli. In this perhaps we are wrong, since Mr. Carey has thought them worthy, precisely for their pathos, to be inserted among those extracts of early poetry with which he has enriched bis translation of Dante. It is probable, however, that the best pieces of Guinicelli have not come down to our times. Another Guido, of the family of Ghisilieri, and his fellow citizen, appears to have been his formidable rival in poetry; but the Guido who “ snatched from him the lettered prize” was a Florentine, the son of a philosopher and statesman, and a character still interesting to poets, critics, historians, and philosophers, and one who seemed born to exercise a vast influence over his contemporaries, and to be remembered by posterity not so much for any great achievement, or any distinguished production of his genius, as for an union of accidents, a rare assemblage of various talents, and above all, for that inexplicable ascendancy of character which always cominands admiration. True or false, it was believed at that time, and the documents are still referred to, that his ancestors came into Italy with Charlemagne, who endowed them with titles and estates.

This last Guido was born in what Mr. Sismondi justly calls the heroic age of Tuscany. The Ghibelline party, composed of the feudal aristocracy, having been expelled from Florence by the Guelphs, who upheld the popular government, the nobles of the Tuscan cities united their forces, and, led on by Farinata, a Florentine nobleman of exalted soul and great military genius, defeated the Guelphs with great slaughter. After the victory they assembled a council, where it was agreed by all, that to maintain the power of their party, it was necessary to destroy Florence. Farinata alone dared to oppose the general decree, and saved his native city. To re-establish peace among his fellow-citizens, he gave his daughter in marriage to Guido, son of Cavalcante Cavalcanti, the leader of the popular party.

This, however, did not restrain Guido from attacking several of the opposite faction, whom he accidentally encountered on horseback; and though wounded in the affray, yet such were the apprehensions his character inspired, that during his pilgrimage to St. Jago in Spain, his adversaries attempted to assassinate him. This pilgrimage, however, was with Guido, (and, perhaps, with others of that age,) a name which meant nothing more than a tour: indeed, he returned from his devotional expedition enamoured of a young woman of Tolosa, whom he calls Mandetta, and celebrates in strains that do not always seem inspired by a platonic sentiment.

In un boschetto trovai pastorella

Più che la stella bella al mio parere.
Capegli avea biondetti, e ricciutelli,

E gli occhi pien d'amor, cera rosata :
Con sua verghetta pasturara agnelli;
E scabra, e di rugiada era bagnata :
Cantava come fosse innamorata,

Era adornata di tutto piacere.
D'amor la salutai immantenente,

E domandai, s'avesse compagnia :
Ed ella mi rispose dolcemente,
Che sola sola

per

lo bosco gia :
E disse: sappi, quando l'augel pia ;

Allor disia lo mio cor drudo avere.
Poichè mi disse di sua condizione,

E per lo bosco augelli udio cantare,
Fra me stessa dicea: or è stagione
Di questa pastorella gioi' pigliare :
Mercè le chiesi, sol che di baciare,
E d'abbracciare fosse 'l suo volere.
Per man mi preso d'amorosa voglia,

E disse, che donato m’avea 'l core:
Menommi sotto una freschetta foglia,
Là dov' io vidi fior d'ogni colore:
E tanto vi sentio gioi', e dolore,
Che Dio d'Amor mi parve ivi vedere.

In the depth of a thicket a maiden I found,

More fair than the stars of the sky to my sight;
Her delicate curls in a fillet were bound,

And her cheek was all freshness, her eyes all delight.
With a crook she was guarding her lambkins from roving,

Her dear little feet were all gemm’d with the dew;
And she carolled a lay—so light-hearted and loving,

That caught even Pleasure, as round her he few.
I gazed, till enchanted I sprang to her side,
And besought her to say where her mates had all Aown ;-
Alas,”—and she blushed as she softly replied,

“I roam through the thickets alone-all alone !
“ And whene'er-would you think it?-I hear the blithe singing

“ Of birds as they Аutter from bushlet to tree,
“ Then deep in my bosom soft wishes are springing;

“ But no one,” she whisper'd, “ comes singing to me.”

The elder Cavalcanti bore the reputation of having pushed the study of philosophy to heresy, and even to disbelief in the immortality of the soul; and it would seem that the son carried his scepticism still farther. Those who are interested in the history of religious opinions, we would refer to the Dictionary of Bayle, art. Cavalcanti; for ourselves, we are more willingly gratified with literature and manners, and believe that our object will be better attained by introducing here an anecdote concerning Guido, detailed by Boccaccio :

“ Now you must know, that in times past there were many very pleasant and praiseworthy usages in this fair city, of which none remain in our days, thanks to the avarice which has grown up with our wealth and has destroyed them all. There was one of this kind : In different places about Florence the gentry were used to assemble in companies of a certain number, being careful to include such only as could afford the necessary expense. It was their wont, each in his turn, to provide a feast for the whole company, whereunto they invited such strangers of note as might chance to sojourn in the city, and sometimes cven did they honour the citizens. Moreover, once, if not oftener, in the year, they clothed themselves in fresh and like apparel ; and on some festival, or other notable day, as when the joyful tidings of any victory had arrived, did they ride gallantly armed through the city. Of these companies one there was of Messer Betto Brunelleschi, who with his comrades were much desirous to have among them Guido, son of Messer Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti ; and with good reason, for besides that he was one of the best logicians that the world had, and very famous in philosophy, (of which things, to speak advisedly, the companies took small account) so was he very agreeable in his speech and well-mannered in his actions, and knew better than any other, what rightly pertained to a cavalier ; he was very rich withal, and gracious in his address to such as he wished to please. But Messer Betto could never succeed to get him amongst them ; whereupon he thought that, because Guido was often given to speculations, therefore he liked not to commune with men. It was whispered too, among the commonalty, that he held to the opinions of Epicurus, and that his speculations aimed to prove that there existed no God. It came to pass upon a day, that Guido having gone out from his dwelling in San

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