Italy Literature – Trecentisti Minor

While the sky of Italy was traversed by the sun of Dante’s art, flashes of art plowed through it with varying intensity and duration. They came from the rhymes of the last poets of the new style, among which Cino da Pistoia stands out, in whose songbook the motif of the angelic woman veils itself with a shadow of melancholy, now sweet now tragic, and the tendency towards new and more human forms of psychological analysis. They came from the  Fiore , a collection of colorful and skillfully shortened sonnets, in which a Florentine, who tried in vain to identify himself with Dante, shortened the length of the  Roman de la Rose. They came from the sonnets of the months and days of the week of Folgòre da San Gimignano, which transfer customs and local spirits into a wider world of courtesy and amusement. They came from certain ascetic prose, mostly Tuscan, alive with a native freshness, lovable at the same time and powerful in the expression of candid sentiment, very effective in the representations: the  Fioretti di San Francesco , a florilege of naive Franciscan legends translated or reduced from a unknown original Latin; the sermons of Fra Giordano da Rivalto; the  Lives of the Holy Fathers , the  Tongue -Stick , the  Mirror of Sins and other translations or original works by the Dominican fra Domenico Cavalca. The poetry of fantastic souls who had the feeling of facts came from some historical song (the ballad on the route of Montecatini, 1315; the serventese in morte di Cangrande, 1327). They came from that stupendous exposition of lived history or political apology that is to say, which is the  Chronicle  of Dino Compagni; from fervent historical writings with a peer spirit, such as the  Pistolese Histories; from that great picture of European history centered around the history of Florence, which is the chronicle of Giovanni Villani. In these works of history the Italianness is made of a sublimation of local spirits. Thus in the beautiful songbook of Cecco Angiolieri the pretta senesità often extends to notes of profound humanity in a highly original mixture of sadness and comedy, which was badly mistaken for humor.

Naturally, in those first decades of the fourteenth century, as they will still meet for centuries, happy literary expressions of local spirits, which are many other playful and familiar Tuscan rhymes that continued what was called popular or native poetry of the period of preparation. But more works abound in which traditions of form or thought that are already old continue, without real notes of artistic individuality, or with notes so slight that it does not matter to point them out, to live their generically Italian or universal life. The allegorical style, which Dante had bent to be an almost immediate and necessary form of his soul, was used by an anonymous person, who could be Dino Compagni, to represent in a ninth rhyme poem entitled  L’intelligenza, the averroistic doctrine of the possible intellect; and by Francesco da Barberino in Val d’Elsa to teach morals, manners and wisdom in the  Documents of love  and to compile a kind of female etiquette in  the Regiment and costume of a woman ; these last two works of singular historical importance and valuable for the quality of constructive balance, but far from art. Merely didactic poetry or to put it better, verses of doctrinal material were obtained at that time by the work of Bindo Bonichi, arid and indefatigable moralist in his songs; by Iacopo Alighieri, son of Dante, author of an encyclopedic poem the  Doctrinale , and by Francesco Stabili known as Cecco d’Ascoli, who died as a heretic at the stake in 1327, who in Acerba he accumulated notions of astrology, psychology, morality, zoology, mineralogy coldly, aridly, to show against Dante, of whom he is a gruff opponent, that naked scientific truth is enough to make poetry. These mechanical compilations can, due to the nature of the method practiced by the authors, go together with the compilations in moralistic, historical, novellistic prose, such as the  Ammaestramenti degli ancients  by Fra Bartolommeo da San Concordio, the  Fiorita  by Armannino as judge, the Adventurous Ciciliano, which has already been attributed, erroneously it seems, to Bosone de ‘Raffaelli da Gubbio. Poor fruits of poor fantasies, which literary history must take into account in order to be able to see and relive the art of the great, which otherwise would be elusive abstraction, in the concreteness of current reality.

Italy Literature - Trecentisti Minor