Anne C. Lynch (Anne Charlotte Lynch) Botta.

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which have operated so powerfully on their chivalrous feelings.
We trace their effects in all the literature of the south, which
owes to this cause its mental character. Many of these tales had
separately found their way into the poetic literature of Europe,
long before the translation of the Arabian Nights. Some are
to be met with in the old fabliaux, in Boccaccio and in Ariosto,
and these very tales which have charmed our infancy, passing
from nation to nation through channels frequently unknown, are
now familiar to the memory and form the delight of the imagin-
a,tion of half the inhabitants of the globe.

The author of the original Arabic work is unknown, as is
also the period at which it was composed. It was first intro-
duced into Europe from Syria, where it was obtained, in the lat-
ter part of the 11th century, by Galland, a French traveller, who
was sent to the East by the celebrated Colbert, to collect manu-
scripts, and by hiTn first translated and published.

8. HisTOKT AND Science. — As early as the 8th century a.d.,
history became an important department in Arabian literature.
At later periods, historians who wrote on all subjects were nu-
merous. Several authors wrote universal history from the begin-
ning of the world to their, own time ; every state, province, and
city possessed its individual chronicle. Many, in imitation of
Plutarch, wrote the lives of distinguished men ; and there was
such a passion for every species of composition, and such a desire
to leave no subject untouched, that there was a serious history
written of celebrated horses, and another of camels that had
risen to distinction. They possessed historical dictionaries, and
made use of all those inventions which curtail labor, and dispense
with the necessity of research. Every art and science had it8
history, and of these this nation possessed a more complete col-
lection than any other, either ancient or modem. The style
of the Arabian liistorians is simple and unadorned.

Philosophy was passionately cultivated by the Arabians, and


npon it was founded the fame of manj ingenious and sagacious
men, whose names are still revered in Europe. Among them, were
Arerrhoes of Cordova (d. 1198), the great commentator on the
works of Aristotle, and Avicenna (d. 1031), a profound philo-
sopher as well as a celebrated writer on medicine. Arabian
philosophy penetrated rapidly into the West, and had greater
influence on the schools of Europe than any branch of Arabic
literature ; and yet it was the one in which the progress was, in
fact, the least real. The Arabians, more ingenious than pro-
found, attached themselves rather to the subtleties than to the
connection of ideas ; their object was more to dazzle than to in-
struct, and they exhausted their imaginations in search of mys-
teries. Aristotle was worshipped by them, as a sort of divinity
In their opinion all philosophy was to be found in his writings,
and they explained every metaphysical question according to the
scholastic standard.

The interpretation of the Koran formed another important
part of their speculative studies, and their literature abounds
with exegetic works on their sacred book, as well as with com-
mentaries on Mohammedan law. The learned Arabians did
not confine themselves to the studies which they could only pro-,
secute in their closets ; they undertook, for the advancement of
science, the most perilous journeys, and we owe to Aboul Feda
(1213-1331) and other Arabian travellers the best works on
geography written in the middle ages.

The natural sciences were cultivated by them with great ardor
and many naturalists among them merit the gratitude of poste-
rity. Botany and chemistry, of which they were in some sort
the inventors, gave them a better acquaintance with nature than
the Greeks or Romans ever possessed, and the latter science was
applied by them to all the necessary arts of life. Above all agri-
culture was studied by them with a perfect knowledge of the
climate, soil and growth of plants. From the 8th to the 11th
century, thay established medical schools in the principal cities
of their dominions, and published valuable works on medical
science. They introduced more simple principles into mathe-
matics, and extended the use and application of that science. They
added to arithmetic the decimal system, and the Arabic numerals
which,-^ however, are of Hindu origin ; they simplified the
trigonometry of the Greeks, and gave algebra more useful and
general applications. Bagdad and Cordova had celebrated
schools of astronomy and observatories, and their astronomers
made important discoveries ; a gi-eat number of scientific words
aro evidently Arabic, such as algebra, alcohol, zenith, nadir, etc


and many of the iuventions, which at the present day add to the
comforts of life, are due to the Arabians. Paper, now so neces-
sary to the progress of intellect, was brought by them from
Asia. In China, from all antiquity, it had been manufactured
from silk, but about the year 30 of the Hegira (649 a.d.) the
manufacture of it was introduced at Samarcand, and when that
3ity was conquered by the Arabians, they first employed cotton
in the place of silk, and the invention spread with rapidity
throughout their dominions. The Spam"ards, in fabricating paper,
substituted flax for cotton, which was more scarce and dear; but
t was not till the end of the 13th century, that paper mUIa
ivere established in the Christian states of Spain, from whence
ihe invention passed, in the 14th century only, to Treviso
md Padua. Tournaments were first instituted among the Ara?
Dians, from whom they were introduced into Italy and France.
Grunpowder, the discovery of which is generally attributed to a
Grerman chemist, was known to the Arabians at least a century
aefore any trace of it appeared in European history. The com-r
pass, also, the invention of which has been given alternately to
;he Italians and French in the 13th century, was known to the
Arabians in the 11th. The number of Arabic inventions, of-
jyhich we enjoy the benefit without suspecting it, is prodigious-
Such, then, was the brilliant light which literature and science
iisplayed from the 9th to the 14th century of our era in those
rast countries which. had submitted to the yoke of Islamism. In
;his immense extent of territory, twice or thrice as large as
Europe, nothing is now found but ignorance, slavery, terror and
leath. Few men are there capable of reading the works of their
Uustrions ancestors, and of the few who could comprehend them,
lone are able to procure them. The prodigious literary riches
)f the Arabians no longer exist in any of the countries where
;he Arabians or Mussulmans rule. It is not there that we must
!eek for the fame of their great men or for their writings. What
las been preserved is in the hands of their enemies, in the coa«
rents of the monks, or in the royal libraries of Europe.


iHTEODUorioB.-l. ItaUan Literature and Its DiTisiona.-2. The Language.

PuRiOD P1I1ST.-1. Early Poetry and Prose.-2. Dante ; the Divine Comedy .-8. Pe-
trarch.-4. Boccaccio and other prose writers ; ViUani, SacohetU.-6. The first declina
of Italian Literature; the fifteenth Century.

Period Seoond.-I. The close of the fifteenth Century; Lorenzo de' Medicl-2. The
origin of the Drama and Bomantic Epic ; Poliziano, Pulci, Boiardo.-S. Romantic Epic
Poetry; Ariosto.-4. Heroic Epic Poetry; Taaso.— 6. Lyric Poetry; Bembo, Motaa,
Tarsia, V. Colonnade. Dramatic Poetry; Trissino, KuceUai, the writers of Comedy.
— T. Pastoral Drama and Didactic Poetry; Beccari, Sannazzaro, Tasso, Gnarini,
Eucellai, AlamannL— 8. Satirical Poetry, Novels and Tales; Beini, Grazzinl, Firenzu-
ola, Bandello, and others.— 9. History; MachiavelU, Guiociardini, Nardi, anB others.
—10 Grammar and Rhetoric ; the Academy della Omsoa, Delia Casa, Speroni, and
others.— 11. Science, PhUosophy and PoUtics; the Academy da Cimento, Galileo,
Torricelll, Borelli, Patriz:, Telesio, CampancUa, Bruno, Castiglione, Machiavelli, and
others.— 12. Decline of the Literature in the seventeenth Centuiy.— 18. Epic and Lyrio
Poetry ; Marini, Filicaja.— 14. Mocl£ Heroic Poetry, the Drama and Satire ; Tassonl,
Bracciolini, Andreinl, and others.— 15. History and epistolary writings ; Davila, Bentl-
Toglio, Sarpi, Redi.

Pebiod Thibd.— 1. Historical Development of the Third Period.— 2. The Melodrama;
Rinuccini, Zeno, Metastasio.— 8. Comedy ; Goldoni, C. Gozz;, and others. — 1 Tragedy ;
Haffei, Alfieri, Monti, Manzoni, Nicolinl, and others.— 5. Lyric, Epic, and Didactia
Poetry; Parini, Monti, Ugo Foscolo, Leopardi, Grossi, Lorenzi, and otliers.— 6. Heroic-
Comic Poetry, Satire, and Fable; Fortiguerri, Passeroni, G. Gozzi, Parini, Giustl,
and others. — 7. Romances ; Verrl, Manzoni, D^Axe^^lio, Cantii, Guerrazzi, and others. —

8. Histotr; Muratori, Vice, Giannone, Botta, Colletta, Tiraboschi, and others.—

9. ^Esthetics, Criticism, Philology, and Philosophy ; Barettl, Parini, Giordani, Gloj*i
Romagnosi, Galluppi, Rosmini, GiobertL


1. Italian LirEKATUKE and its Divisions. — The fall of the
Western Empire, the invasions of the northern tribes, and the
subsequent wars and calamities, did not entirely extinguish the
fire of genius in Italy. As we have seen, the Crusades had
opened the East and revealed to Europe its literary and artistic
treasures ; the Arabs had established a celebrated school of
medicine in Salerno, and had made known the ancient classics ;
a, school of jurisprudence was opened in Bologna, where Roman
law was expounded by eminent lecturers ; and the spirit of
chivalry, while it softened and refined human character, awoke
the desire of distmction in arms and poetry. The origin of the


Italian republics, giving scope to individual agency, marked
another era in civilization ; while the appearance of the Italian
la.nguage quickened the national mind and led to a new literature.
The spirit of freedom, awakened as early as the 11th century,
received new life in the 12th, when the Lombard cities, becoming
independent, formed a powerful league against Frederick Barba-
rossa. The instinct of self-defence thus developed increased
the necessity of education. Meanwhile, a kingdom was formed in
Sicily, where, at the court of Frederick II., the new language re-
ceived its first impulse to refinement, and poetry was first culti-
vated. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Italian literature
acquired its national character and rose to its highest splendor,
through the writings of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, whose
inflnence has been more or less felt in succeeding centuries.
Dante, above all, has been the ruling spirit of Italian literature,
which has risen or declined, as the inspirations of this grea,t
genius have been more or less regarded,

The literary history of Italy may be divided into three peri-
ods, each of which presents two distinct phases, one of progress
and one of decline. The first period, extending from 1100 to
1415, embraces the origin of the literature, its development
tlirongh the works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio in the 13th
and 14th centuries, and its first decline in tjie 15th, when it was
supplanted by the absorbing study of the Greek and Latin classics.

The seamd period, commencing 1475, embraces the age of
Lorenzo de' Medici and Leo X., when literature began to revive ;
the age of Ariosto, Tasso, Machiavelli and GalUeo, when it
reached its meridian splendor ; its subsequent decline, through
the school of Marini ; and its last revival towards the close of
the 11th century.

The thirA period, extending from the close of the ITth cen-
tury to the present time, includes the development of Italian
literature, its decline under French influence, and its subsequent
national tendency, through the writings of Metastasio, Goldoni,
Alfieri, Parini, Monti, Manzoni and Leopardi.

2. The Language. — ^The ancient popular dialects of Italy
coming in contact with the Latin, or rather with the language
spoken by the Roman people, called Lingua Romana, and at a
later period with the idioms of the people who successively in-
vaded the country, were moulded in new forms and organized into
new languages. One of these dialects, which had preserved
much of the prunitive Roman structure, was spoken as early as
the, 13th centm-y at the court, of Frederick II. at Palermo,


where it began to be used by the primitive bards of Italy.
Prom that court it received a more elegant form, and those
laws of grammar which, originally founded upon custom, early
obtained the ascendency over it.. Soon after, it came into
general use in Tuscany ; and previous to the close of the 13th
century it had received great stability from several writers in
■ verse and in prose, until with Dante it was carried to a degree
of perfection which it has ever since maintained. Of all modern
languages, the Italian possesses the greatest flexibility. _ By its
copiousness, its freedom of arrangement and construction, and
the great beauty and harmony of its sounds, it happily adapts
itself to almost all subjects, either in prose or in poetry ; and it
is perhaps the most perfect of all the modem dialects which
have arisen out of the ruins of the ancient.

The Italian, together with the French and Spanish languages,
are called by the general appellation of Romanic, or Romance
tongues, to distinguish them as those transmitted by the Roman
empire, from the dialects of the northern invaders. According
to the opinion of some modern scholars, the Romance idioms were
not of Roman origin, but originated at a period far beyond the
historic age, and were derived from a now unknown language
belonging to the Indo-European family, which in various dialects
prevailed in Italy, Gaul and Spain.


The Rise or Italian Literature and its First Decline

1. Early Poetry and Prose op Italy. — In the beginning
of the 13th century, the poetical genius of the Italians was
awakened by the Proven9al muse at the courts of Frederick IL
and of Charles of Anjou. From that time, there were many
Italian bards who sang in the Proven5al language and took a
high rank among the troubadours. Soon after in the same cen-
tury, at first in Sicily, then in Tuscany and elsewhere, a multi-
tude of poets arose who composed their verses in the Italian
language, while they borrowed the forms and the structure of
their verse from the troubadours. Frederick himself, his sons
Manfredi and Enzio and Pier delle Vigne, his chancellor (fl. 1235),
amused themselves in writing and singing Italian love stanzas ;
and their example was followed by many bards of that age.
With all these poets love was the subject of their song ; not the
love that nature inspires, but such as the false and affected taste


of the limes demanded. The chief merit of these bards was that
they abandoned the degenerate Latin to the schools and monas-
teries, and consecrated by their poetry the vernacular tongue,
which had before served only for the common intercourse of the

From the favor with which story-tellers were received in the
com-ts and castles of the princes and lords of Italy, prose writing
was early cultivated, especially in Tuscany, where it flourished
before the 14th century. Of these stories, the " Novelliuo " ia
one of the best collections. It consists of one hundred tales,
full of life and simplicity, some of which belong to the age
of Frederick II. "The first literary work, however, of any con-
siderable length, is the " History of Florence," by Malaspini
(d. 1281), written without method and unadorned in style.
This history was continued by a nephew of Malaspini, and after-
wards brought down by Dino Compagni to 1312. The great
events which occurred in the country at that period, in which
the author took an active part, his perfect knowledge of his
subject, his political wisdom and his patriotism, have all con-
tributed to give to him a high place among the historians of
Italy. His style is forcible, and his work interesting, both in
a historical and artistic point of view.

2. Dante. — 'No poet had yet arisen gifted with absolute
power over the empire of the soul ; no philosopher had pierced
into the depths of feeling and of thought, when Dante, the
greatest name of Italy and the father of Italian literature,
appeared in the might of his genius, and availing himself of the
rude and imperfect materials within his reach, constructed his
magnificent work. Dante was born at Florence in 1265, of the
noble family of Alighieri, which was attached to the papal, or
Guelph party, in opposition to the imperial, or Ghibellme. He
was but a child when death deprived him of his father ; but his
mother took the greatest pains with his education, placing him
nnder the tuition of Brunetto Latini, and other masters of emi
nence. He early made great progress, not only in an acquaint
ance with classical literature and politics, but in music, drawing,
horsemanship and other accomplishments suitable to his station.
As he grew up, he pursued his studies in the universities of
Padua, Bologna and Paris ; he became an accomplished scho-
lar, and at the same time appeared in public as a gallant and
high-bred man of the world. At the age of twenty-five, he took
arms on the side of the Florentine Guelphs, and distinguished
himself in two battles against the Ghibellines of Arezzo and


20i irixiAsr xiTBEAnrEB!,

Pisa. But before Dante was either a student or a soldier, ha
had become a lover ; and this character, above all others, waa
impressed upon him for life. At a May-day festival, when only
nine years of age, he had singled out a girl of his own age, by the
name of Bice, or Beatrice, who thenceforward became the object
of his constant and passionate affection. His attachment was
of a singularly pure and romantic character, and the lady reci-
procated it with corresponding tenderness and delicacy ; but
before his twenty-fifth year she was separated from him by
death. His passion, he informs us, was not extinguished but
refined by this event ; not buried with her body but translated
with her soul, which was its object. On the other hand, the
affection of Beatrice for the poet troubled her spirit amid the
bliss of Paradise, and the visions of the eternal world with which
he was favored were a device of hers for reclaiming him from
sin, and preparing him for everlasting companionship with herself.
He subsequently married a lady belonging to one of the most
powerful and turbulent families ia Tuscany, Madonna Gemma,
by whom he had five sons and a daughter, whom he called

At the age of thirty-five he was elected prior, or supremo
magistrate of Florence, an honor from which he dates all his sub-
sequent misfortunes. During his priorship, the citizens were di-
vided into two factions called the Neri and Bianchi, as bitterly
opposed to each other as both had been to the Ghibellines. In
the absence of Dante on an embassy to Rome, a pretext was
found by the Neri, his opponents, for exciting the populace
against him. His dwelling was demolished, his property confis-
cated, himself and his friends condemned to perpetual exile, with
the provision that, if taken, they should be burned alive. After
a fruitless attempt, by himself and his party, to surprise Florence,
he quitted his companions in disgust, and passed the remainder
of his life in wandering from one court of Italy to another, eat-
ing the bitter bread of dependence, which was granted him often
as an alms. The greater part of his poem was composed during
this period; but it appears that till the end of his life he con
tinued to retouch the work.

The last and most generous patron of Dante was Guido di
Polenta, lord of Ravenna, and father of Francesca da Rimini,
whose fatal love has been the theme' of poets and painters.
Polenta treated him, not as a dependant but as an honored guest,
and in a dispute, with the Republic of Venice he employed the
poet as his ambassador, to effect a reconciliation; but he was
refused even an audience, and, returning disappointed and broken-


hearted to Ravenua, he died soon after lit the age of fifty-isix
(1321), haying been in exile nineteen years.

His foUow-citizens, who had closed their hearts and their gates
against him while living, now deeply bewailed his death; and,
during the two succeeding centuries, embassy after embassy was
vainly sent from Florence to recover his honored remains.
Not long after his death, when the municipality of Florence was
entirely in the hands of his enemies, those who had exiled him
and confiscated his property, provided that his poem should be
read and expounded to the people in a church. Boccaccio was
appointed to this professorship. Before the end of the 16th cen-
tury, the " Divine Comedy" had gone through sixty editions.

The Divine Comedy is one of the greatest monuments of
human genius. It is an allegory conceived in the form of a
vision, which was the most popular style of poetry at that age.
At the close of the century, in the year 1300, Dante supposes
himself to be wandering in the deserts near Jerusalem, and to be
favored with the means of access to the realms of shadows. He
is there met by Virgil, who takes upon himself the office of guide.
By the decree of the Most High, they are enabled to pass the
gates of hell, and to penetrate into the dismal region beyond.
This, as represented by Dante, consists of nine circles, forming
an inverted cone, of the size of the earth, each succeeding circle
being lower and narrower than the former, while Lucifer is
chained in the centre and at the bottom of the dreadful crater
Each circle contains various cavities, where the punishments vary
in proportion to the guilt, and the suffering increases in intensity
as the chcles descend and contract. In the first circle were
neither cries nor tears, but the eternal sighs of those who, having
never received Christian baptism, were, according to the poet's
creed, forever excluded from the abodes of bliss. In the next
ch'cle, appropriated to those whose souls had been lost by the in-
dulgence of guilty love, the poet recognizes the unhappy Fran-
cesca da Rimini, whose history forms one of the most beautiful
episodes of the poem. The third circle includes gluttons; the
fourth misers and spendthrifts; each succeeding circle embracing
what the poet deems a deeper shade of guilt, and inflicting ap-
propriate punishment. The Christian and heathen systems of
theology are here freely interwoven. We have Minos visiting
the Stygian Lake, where heretics areburnmg; we meet Cerberus
and the harpies, and we accompany the poet across several of the
fabulous rivers of Erebus; A fearful scene appears ia the deepest
cu'cle of the infernal abodes. Here, among those who have
betrayed their country, and are entombed m eternal ice, isCouht


TJgolmo, who, by a series of treasons, had made himself master
of Pisa.' He is gnawing with savage ferocity the skull of the
archbishop of that state, who had condemned him and his
children to die by starvation. The arch-traitor, Satan, stands
fixed in the centre of hell and of the earth. AU the streams
of guilt keep flowing back to him as their source, and from be-
neath his threefold visage issue six gigantic wmgs with which
he vainly struggles to raise himself, and thus produces wmda
which freeze him more firmly in the marsh.

After leaving the infernal regions, and entering purgatory,
they find an immense cone divided into seven circles, each
of which is devoted to the expiation of one of the seven mortal
sins. The proud are overwhehned with enormous weights ; the
envious are clothed in garments of horse-hau-, their eye-lids
closed ; the choleric are suffocated with smoke; the indolent are
compelled to run about continually; the avaricious are prostrated
upon the earth; epicures are af^cted with hunger and thirst; and
the incontinent expiate their crimes in fire. In this portion of
the work, however, while there is much to admire, there is less
to excite and sustain the interest. On t^e summit of the purga-
torial mountain is the terrestrial paradise, whence is the only
ascent to the celestial. Beatrice, the object of his early and con-
stant affection, descends hither to meet the poet. Virgil disap
pears, and she becomes his only guide. She conducts him
through the nine heavens, and makes him acquainted with the

Online LibraryAnne C. Lynch (Anne Charlotte Lynch) BottaHandbook of universal literature, from the best and latest authorities → online text (page 22 of 62)