The academical speeches, both those made at the installation of a new teacher and at the opening of a new course of lectures were delivered by the professor himself, and treated as occasions of great rhetorical display. The ordinary university lectures also usually had an oratorical character.
With regard to forensic eloquence, the quality of the audience determined the form of speech. In case of need it was enriched with all sorts of philosophical and antiquarian learning.
As a special class of speeches we may mention the address made in Italian on the battlefield, either before or after the combat. Federigo of Urbino was esteemed a classic in this style; he used to pass round among his squadrons as they stood drawn up in order of battle, inspiring them in turn with pride and enthusiasm. Many of the speeches in the military historians of the fifteenth century, as for instance in Porcellius, may be, in part at least, imaginary, but may be also in part faithful representations of words actually spoken. The addresses again which were delivered to the Florentine Militia, organized in 1506 chiefly through the influence of Machiavelli, and which were spoken first at reviews, and afterwards at special annual festivals, were of another kind. They were simply general appeals to the patriotism of the hearers, and were addressed to the assembled troops in the church of each quarter of the city by a citizen in armor, sword in hand.
Finally, the oratory of the pulpit began in the fifteenth century to lose its distinctive peculiarities. Many of the clergy had entered into the circle of classical culture, and were ambitious of success in it. The street-preacher Bernardino da Siena, who even in his lifetime passed for a saint and who was worshipped by the populace, was not above taking lessons in rhetoric from the famous Guarino, although he had only to preach in Italian. Never indeed was more expected from preachers than at that time especially from the Lenten preachers; and there were not a few audiences which could not only tolerate, but which demanded a strong dose of philosophy from the pulpit. But we have here especially to speak of the distinguished occasional preachers in Latin. Many of their opportunities had been taken away from them, as has been observed, by learned laymen. Speeches on particular saints' days, at weddings and funerals, or at the installation of a bishop, and even the introductory speech at the first mass of a clerical friend, or the address at the festival of some religious order, were all left to laymen. But at all events at the Papal court in the fifteenth century, whatever the occasion might be, the preachers were generally monks. Under Sixtus IV, Giacomo da Volterra regularly enumerates these preachers, and criticizes them according to the rules of the art. Fedra Inghirami, famous as an orator under Julius II, had at least received holy orders and was canon at St. John Lateran; and besides him, elegant Latinists were now common enough among the prelates. In this matter, as in others, the exaggerated privileges of the profane humanists appear lessened in the sixteenth century on which point we shall presently speak more fully.
What now was the subject and general character of these speeches? The national gift of eloquence was not wanting to the Italians of the Middle Ages, and a so-called 'rhetoric' belonged from the first to the seven liberal arts; but so far as the revival of the ancient methods is concerned, this merit must be ascribed, according to Filippo Villani, to the Florentine Bruno Casini, who died of the plague in 1348. With the practical purpose of fitting his countrymen to speak with ease and effect in public, he treated, after the pattern of the ancients, invention, declamation, bearing, and gesticulation, each in its proper connection. Elsewhere too we read of an oratorical training directed solely to practical application. No accomplishment was more highly esteemed than the power of elegant improvisation in Latin. The growing study of Cicero's speeches and theoretical writings, of Quintilian and of the imperial panegyrists, the appearance of new and original treatises, the general progress of antiquarian learning, and the stores of ancient matter and thought which now could and must be drawn from, all combined to shape the character of the new eloquence.
This character nevertheless differed widely according to the individual. Many speeches breathe a spirit of true eloquence, especially those which keep to the matter treated of; of this kind is the mass of what is left to us of Pius II. The miraculous effects produced by Giannozzo Manetti point to an orator the like of whom has not been often seen. His great audiences as envoy before Nicholas V and before the Doge and Council of Venice were events not to be soon forgotten. Many orators, on the contrary, would seize the opportunity, not only to flatter the vanity of distinguished hearers, but to load their speeches with an enormous mass of antiquarian rubbish. How it was possible to endure this infliction for two and even three hours, can only be understood when we take into account the intense interest then felt in everything connected with antiquity, and the rarity and defectiveness of treatises on the subject at a time when printing was but little diffused. Such orations had at least the value which we have claimed for many of Petrarch's letters. But some speakers went too far. Most of Filelfo's speeches are an atrocious patchwork of classical and biblical quotations, tacked on to a string of commonplaces, among which the great people he wishes to flatter are arranged under the head of the cardinal virtues, or some such category, and it is only with the greatest trouble, in his case and in that of many others, that we can extricate the few historical no- tices of any value which they really contain. The speech, for instance, of a scholar and professor of Piacenza at the reception of the Duke Galeazzo Maria, in 1467, begins with Julius Caesar, then proceeds to mix up a mass of classical quotations with a number from an allegorical work by the speaker himself, and concludes with some exceedingly indiscreet advice to the ruler. Fortunately it was late at night, and the orator had to be satisfied with handing his written panegyric to the prince. Filelfo begins a speech at a betrothal with the words: 'Aristotle, the peripatetic.' Others start with P. Cornelius Scipio, and the like, as though neither they nor their hearers could wait a moment for a quotation. At the end of the fifteenth century public taste suddenly improved, chiefly through Florentine influence, and the practice of quotation was restricted within due limits. Many works of reference were now in existence, in which the first comer could find as much as he wanted of what had hitherto been the admiration of princes and people.
As most of the speeches were written out beforehand in the study, the manuscripts served as a means of further publicity afterwards. The great extemporaneous speakers, on the other hand, were attended by shorthand writers. We must further remember that not all the orations which have come down to us were intended to be actually delivered. The panegyric, for example, of the elder Beroaldus on Lodovico il Moro was presented to him in manuscript. In fact, just as letters were written addressed to all conceivable persons and parts of the world as exercises, as formularies, or even to serve a controversial end, so there were speeches for imaginary occasions to be used as models for the reception of princes, bishops, and other dignitaries.
For oratory, as for the other arts, the death of Leo X (1521) and the sack of Rome (1527) mark the epoch of decadence. Giovio, but just escaped from the desolation of the eternal city, described, not impartially, but on the whole correctly, the causes of this decline: 'The plays of Plautus and Terence, once a school of Latin style for the educated Romans, are banished to make room for Italian comedies. Graceful speakers no longer find the recognition and reward which they once did. The Consistorial advocates no longer prepare anything but the introductions to their speeches, and deliver the rest—a confused muddle—on the inspiration of the moment. Sermons and occasional speeches have sunk to the same level. If a funeral oration is wanted for a cardinal or other great personage, the executors do not apply to the best orators in the city, to whom they would have to pay a hundred pieces of gold, but they hire for a trifle the first impudent pedant whom they come across, and who only wants to be talked of, whether for good or ill. The dead, they say, is none the wiser if an ape stands in a black dress in the pulpit, and beginning with a hoarse, whimpering mumble, passes little by little into a loud howling. Even the sermons preached at great Papal ceremonies are no longer profitable, as they used to be. Monks of all orders have again got them into their hands, and preach as if they were speaking to the mob. Only a few years ago a sermon at mass before the Pope might easily lead the way to a bishopric.'
The Treatise, and History in Latin
From the oratory and the epistolary writings of the humanists, we shall here pass on to their other creations, which were all, to a greater or less extent, reproductions of antiquity.
Among these must be placed the treatise, which often took the shape of a dialogue. In this case it was borrowed directly from Cicero. In order to do anything like justice to this class of literature—in order not to throw it aside at first sight as a bore two things must be taken into consideration. The century which escaped from the influence of the Middle Ages felt the need of something to mediate between itself and antiquity in many questions of morals and philosophy; and this need was met by the writer of treatises and dialogues. Much which appears to us as mere commonplace in their writings, was for them and their contemporaries a new and hard-won view of things upon which mankind had been silent since the days of antiquity. The language too, in this form of writing, whether Italian or Latin, moved more freely and flexibly than in historical narrative, in letters, or in oratory, and thus became in itself the source of a special pleasure. Several Italian compositions of this kind still hold their place as patterns of style. Many of these works have been, or will be mentioned on account of their contents; we here refer to them as a class. From the time of Petrarch's letters and treatises down to near the end of the fifteenth century, the heaping up of learned quotations, as in the case of the orators, is the main business of most of these writers. Subsequently the whole style, especially in Italian, was purified, until, in the 'Asolani' of Bembo, and the 'Vita Sobria' of Luigi Cornaro, a classical perfection was reached. Here too the decisive fact was this, that antiquarian matter of every kind had meantime begun to be deposited in encyclopedic works (now printed), and no longer stood in the way of the essayist.
It was inevitable too that the humanistic spirit should control the writing of history. A superficial comparison of the histories of this period with the earlier chronicles, especially with works so full of life, color, and brilliancy as those of the Villani, will lead us loudly to deplore the change. How insipid and conventional appear by their side the best of the humanists, and particularly their immediate and most famous successors among the historians of Florence, Leonardo Aretino and Poggio! The enjoyment of the reader is incessantly marred by the sense that, in the classical phrases of Fazio, Sabellico, Foglietta, Senarega, Platina in the chronicles of Mantua, Bembo in the annals of Venice, and even of Giovio in his histories, the best local and individual coloring and the full sincerity of interest in the truth of events have been lost. Our mistrust is increased when we hear that Livy, the pattern of this school of writers, was copied just where he is least worthy of imitation—on the ground, namely, 'that he turned a dry and walled tradition into grace and richness.' In the same place we meet with the suspicious declaration that it is the function of the historian— just as if he were one with the poet—to excite, charm, or overwhelm the reader. We ask ourselves finally, whether the contempt for modern things, which these same humanists sometimes avowed openly, must not necessarily have had an unfortunate influence on their treatment of them. Unconsciously the reader finds himself looking with more interest and confidence on the unpretending Latin and Italian annalists, like those of Bologna and Ferrara, who remained true to the old style, and still more grateful does he feel to the best of the genuine chroniclers who wrote in Italian—to Marino Sanuto, Corio, and Infessura—who were followed at the beginning of the sixteenth century by that new and illustrious band of great national historians who wrote in their mother tongue.
Contemporary history, no doubt, was written far better in the language of the day than when forced into Latin. Whether Italian was also more suitable for the narrative of events long past, or for historical research, is a question which admits, for that period, of more answers than one. Latin was, at that time, the 'Lingua franca' of instructed people, not only in an international sense, as a means of intercourse between Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Italians, but also in an interprovincial sense. The Lombard, the Venetian, and the Neapolitan modes of writing, though long modelled on the Tuscan, and bearing but slight traces of the dialect were still not recognized by the Florentines. This was of less consequence in local contemporary histories, which were sure of readers at the place where they were written, than in the narratives of the past, for which a larger public was desired. In these the local interests of the people had to be sacrificed to the general interests of the learned. How far would the influence of a man like Biondo of Forli have reached if he had written his great monuments of learning in the dialect of the Romagna? They would have assuredly sunk into neglect, if only through the contempt of the Florentines, while written in Latin they exercised the profoundest influence on the whole European world of learning. And even the Florentines in the fifteenth century wrote Latin, not only because their minds were imbued with humanism, but in order to be more widely read.
Finally, there exist certain Latin essays in contemporary history which stand on a level with the best Italian works of the kind. When the continuous narrative after the manner of Livy—that Procrustean bed of so many writers is abandoned, the change is marvelous. The same Platina and Giovio, whose great histories we only read because and so far as we must, suddenly come forward as masters in the biographical style. We have already spoken of Tristano Caracciolo, of the biographical works of Fazio and of the Venetian topography of Sabellico, and others will be mentioned in the sequel.
The Latin treatises on past history were naturally concerned, for the most part, with classical antiquity. What we are most surprised to find among these humanists are some considerable works on the history of the Middle Ages. The first of this kind was the chronicle of Matteo Palmieri (449-1449), beginning where Prosper Accedence ceases. On opening the 'Decades' of Biondo of Forli, we are surprised to find a universal history, 'ab inclinatione Romanorum imperii,' as in Gibbon, full of original studies on the authors of each century, and occupied, through the first 300 folio pages, with early mediaeval history down to the death of Frederick II. And this when in Northern countries nothing more was current than chronicles of the popes and emperors, and the 'Fasciculus temporum.' We cannot here stay to show what writings Biondo made use of, and where he found his materials, though this justice will some day be done to him by the historians of literature. This book alone would entitle us to say that it was the study of antiquity which made the study of the Middle Ages possible, by first training the mind to habits of impartial historical criticism. To this must be added, that the Middle Ages were now over for Italy, and that the Italian mind could the better appreciate them, because it stood outside them. It cannot, nevertheless, be said that it at once judged them fairly, let alone with piety. In the arts a strong prejudice established itself against all that those centuries had created, and the humanists date the new era from the time of their own appearance. 'I begin,' says Boccaccio, 'to hope and believe that God has had mercy on the Italian name, since I see that His infinite goodness puts souls into the breasts of the Italians like those of the ancients souls which seek fame by other means than robbery and violence, but rather on the path of poetry, which makes men immortal.' But this narrow and unjust temper did not preclude investigation in the minds of the more gifted men, at a time, too, when elsewhere in Europe any such investigation would have been out of the question. A historical criticism of the Middle Ages was practicable, just because the rational treatment of all subjects by the humanists had trained the historical spirit. In the fifteenth century this spirit had so far penetrated the history even of the individual cities of Italy that the stupid fairy tales about the origin of Florence, Venice, and Milan vanished, while at the same time, and long after, the chronicles of the North were stuffed with this fantastic rubbish, destitute for the most part of all poetical value, and invented as late as the fourteenth century.
The close connection between local history and the sentiment of glory has already been touched on in reference to Florence. Venice would not be behindhand. Just as a great rhetorical triumph of the Florentines would cause a Venetian embassy to write home posthaste for an orator to be sent after them, so too the Venetians felt the need of a history which would bear comparison with those of Leonardo Aretino and Poggio. And it was to satisfy this feeling that, in the fifteenth century, the 'Decades' of Sabellico appeared, and in the sixteenth the 'Historia rerum Venetarum' of Pietro Bembo, both written at the express charge of the republic, the latter a continuation of the former.
The great Florentine historians at the beginning of the sixteenth century were men of a wholly different kind from the Latinists Bembo and Giovio. They wrote Italian, not only because they could not vie with the Ciceronian elegance of the philologists, but because, like Machiavelli, they could only record in a living tongue the living results of their own immediate observations and we may add in the case of Machiavelli, of his observation of the past—and because, as in the case of Guicciardini, Varchi, and many others, what they most desired was, that their view of the course of events should have as wide and deep a practical effect as possible. Even when they only write for a few friends, like Francesco Vettori, they feel an inward need to utter their testimony on men and events, and to explain and justify their share in the latter.
And yet, with all that is characteristic in their language and style, they were powerfully affected by antiquity, and, without its influence, would be inconceivable. They were not humanists, but they had passed through the school of humanism and have in them more of the spirit of the ancient historians than most of the imitators of Livy. Like the ancients, they were citizens who wrote for citizens.
Antiquity as the Common Source
We cannot attempt to trace the influence of humanism in the special sciences. Each has its own history, in which the Italian investigators of this period, chiefly through their rediscovery of the results attained by antiquity, mark a new epoch, with which the modern period of the science in question begins with more or less distinctness. With regard to philosophy, too, we must refer the reader to the special historical works on the subject. The influence of the old philosophers on Italian culture will appear at times immense, at times inconsiderable; the former, when we consider how the doctrines of Aristotle, chiefly drawn from the Ethics and Politics—both widely diffused at an early period—became the common property of educated Italians, and how the whole method of abstract thought was governed by him; the latter, when we remember how slight was the dogmatic influence of the old philosophies, and even of the enthusiastic Florentine Platonists, on the spirit of the people at large. What looks like such an influence is generally no more than a consequence of the new culture in general, and of the special growth and development of the Italian mind. When we come to speak of religion, we shall have more to say on this head. But in by far the greater number of cases, we have to do, not with the general culture of the people with the utterances of individuals or of learned circles; and here, too, a distinction must be drawn between the true assimilation of ancient doctrines and fashionable make-believe. For with many, antiquity was only a fashion, even among very learned people.
Nevertheless, all that looks like affectation to our age, need not then have actually been so. The giving of Greek and Latin names to children, for example, is better and more respectable than the present practice of taking them, especially the female names, from novels. When the enthusiasm for the ancient world was greater than for the saints, it was simple and natural enough that noble families called their sons Agamemnon, Tydeus, and Achilles, and that a painter named his son Apelles and his daughter Minerva.58 Nor will it appear unreasonable that, instead of a family name, which people were often glad to get rid of, a well-sounding ancient name was chosen. A local name, shared by all residents in the place, and not yet transformed into a family name, was willingly given up, especially when its religious associations made it inconvenient. Filippo da San Gimignano called himself Callimachus. The man, mis- understood and insulted by his family, who made his fortune as a scholar in foreign cities, could afford, even if he were a Sanseverino, to change his name to Julius Pomponius Laetus. Even the simple translation of a name into Latin or Greek, as was almost uniformly the custom in Germany, may be excused to a generation which spoke and wrote Latin, and which needed names that could be not only declined, but used with facility in verse and prose. What was blameworthy and ridiculous was the change of half a name, baptismal or family, to give it a classical sound and a new sense. Thus Giovanni was turned into Jovianus or Janus, Pietro to Petreius or Pierius, Antonio to Aoniuss Sannazaro to Syncerus, Luca Grasso to Lucius Crassus. Ariosto, who speaks with such derision of all this, lived to see children called after his own heroes and heroines.
Nor must we judge too severely the latinization of many usages of social life, such as the titles of officials, of cere monies, and the like, in the writers of the period. As long as people were satisfied with a simple, fluent Latin style, as was the case with most writers from Petrarch to, Aeneas Sylvius, this practice was not so frequent and striking; it became inevitable when a faultless, Ciceronian Latin was demanded. Modern names and things no longer harmonized with the style, unless they were first artificially changed. Pedants found a pleasure in addressing municipal counsellors as 'Patres Conscripti,' nuns as 'Virgines Vestales,' and entitling every saint 'Divus' or 'Deus'; but men of better taste, such as Paolo Giovio, only did so when and because they could not help it. But as Giovio does it naturally, and lays no special stress upon it, we are not offended if, in his melodious language, the cardinals appear as 'Senatores,' their dean as 'Princeps Senatus,' excommunication as 'Dirae,' and the carnival as 'Lupercalia.' The example of this author alone is enough to warn us against drawing a hasty inference from these peculiarities of style as to the writer's whole mode of thinking.
The history of Latin composition cannot here be traced in detail. For fully two centuries the humanists acted as if Latin were, and must remain, the only language worthy to be written. Poggio deplores that Dante wrote his great poem in Italian; and Dante, as is well known, actually made the attempt in Latin, and wrote the beginning of the 'Inferno' first in hexameters. The whole future of Italian poetry hung on his not continuing in the same style, but even Petrarch relied more on his Latin poetry than on the Sonnets and 'Canzoni,' and Ariosto himself was desired by some to write his poem in Latin. A stronger coercion never existed in literature; but poetry shook it off for the most part, and it may be said, without the risk of too great optimism, that it was well for Italian poetry to have had both means of expressing itself. In both something great and characteristic was achieved, and in each we can see the reason why Latin or Italian was chosen. Perhaps the same may be said of prose. The position and influence of Italian culture throughout the world depended on the fact that certain subjects were treated in Latin—'urbi et orbi'—while Italian prose was written best of all by those to whom it cost an inward struggle not to write in Latin.
From the fourteenth century Cicero was recognized universally as the purest model of prose. This was by no means due solely to a dispassionate opinion in favour of his choice of language, of the structure of his sentences, and of his style of composition, but rather to the fact that the Italian spirit responded fully and instinctively to the amiability of the letter writer, to the brilliancy of the orator, and to the lucid exposition of the philosophical thinker. Even Petrarch recognized dearly the weakness of Cicero as a man and a statesman, though he respected him too much to rejoice over them. After Petrarch's time, the epistolary style was formed entirely on the pattern of Cicero; and the rest, with the exception of the narrative style, followed the same influence. Yet the true Ciceronianism, which rejected every phrase which could not be justified out of the great authority, did not appear till the end of the fifteenth century, when the grammatical writings of Lorenzo Valla had begun to tell on all Italy, and when the opinions of the Roman historians of literature had been sifted and compared. Then every shade of difference in the style of the ancients was studied with closer and doser attention till the consoling conclusion was at last reached that in Cicero alone was the perfect model to be found, or, if all forms of literature were to be embraced, in 'that immortal and almost heavenly age of Cicero.' Men like Pietro Bembo and Pierio Valeriano now turned all their energies to this one object. Even those who had long resisted the tendency, and had formed for themselves an archaic style from the earlier authors, yielded at last, and joined in the worship of Cicero. Longolius, at Bembo's advice, determined to read nothing but Cicero for five years long, and finally took an oath to use no word which did not occur in this author. It was this temper which broke out at last in the great war among the scholars, in which Erasmus and the elder Scaliger led the battle.
For all the admirers of Cicero were by no means so one-sided as to consider him the only source of language. In the fifteenth century, Politian and Ermolao Barbaro made a conscious and deliberate effort to form a style of their own, naturally on the basis of their 'overflowing' learning, and our informant of this fact, Paolo Giovio, pursued the same end. He first attempted, not always successfully, but often with remarkable power and elegance, and at no small cost of effort, to reproduce in Latin a number of modern, particularly of aesthetic, ideas. His Latin characteristics of the great painters and sculptors of his time contain a mixture of the most intelligent and of the most blundering interpretation. Even Leo X, who placed his glory in the fact, 'ut lingua latina nostro pontificatu dicatur facta auctior,' was inclined to a liberal and not too exclusive Latinity, which, indeed, was in harmony with his pleasure-loving nature. He was satisfied if the Latin which he had to read and to hear was lively, elegant, and idiomatic. Then, too, Cicero offered no model for Latin conversation, so that here other gods had to be worshipped beside him. The want was supplied by representations of the comedies of Plautus and Terence, frequent both in and out of Rome, which for the actors were an incomparable exercise in Latin as the language of daily life. A few years later, in the pontificate of Paul II, the learned Cardinal of Teano (probably Niccolo Forteguerra of Pistoia) became famous for his critical labors in this branch of scholarship. He set to work upon the most defective plays of Plautus, which were destitute even of a list of the characters, and went carefully through the whole remains of this author, chiefly with an eye to the language. Possibly it was he who gave the first impulse for the public representations of these plays. Afterwards Pomponius Laetus took up the same subject, and acted as producer when Plautus was put on the stage in the houses of great churchmen. That these representations became less in common after 1520, is mentioned by Giovio, as we have seen, among the causes of the decline of eloquence.
We may mention, in conclusion, the analogy between Ciceronianism in literature and the revival of Vitruvius by the architects in the sphere of art. And here, too, the law holds good which prevails elsewhere in the history of the Renaissance, that each artistic movement is preceded by a corresponding movement in the general culture of the age. In this case, the interval is not more than about twenty years, if we reckon from Cardinal Adrian of Corneto (1505) to the first avowed Vitruvians.
The chief pride of the humanists is, however, their modern Latin poetry. It lies within the limits of our task to treat of it, at least in so far as it serves to characterize the humanistic movement.
How favourable public opinion was to that form of poetry, and how nearly it supplanted all others, has been already shown. We may be very sure that the most gifted and highly developed nation then existing in the world did not renounce the language such as the Italian out of mere folly and without knowing what they were doing. It must have been a weighty reason which led them to do so.
This cause was the devotion to antiquity. Like all ardent and genuine devotion it necessarily prompted men to imitation. At other times and among other nations we find many isolated attempts of the same kind. But only in Italy were the two chief conditions present which were needful for the continuance and development of neo-Latin poetry: a general interest in the subject among the instructed classes, and a partial re-awakening of the old Italian genius among the poets themselves—the wondrous echo of a far-off strain. The best of what is produced under these conditions is not imitation, but free production. If we decline to tolerate any borrowed forms in art, if we either set no value on antiquity at all, or attribute to it some magical and unapproachable virtue, or if we will pardon no slips in poets who were forced, for instance, to guess or to discover a multitude of syllabic quantities, then we had better let this class of literature alone. Its best works were not created in order to defy criticism, but to give pleasure to the poet and to thousands of his contemporaries.
The least success of all was attained by the epic narratives drawn from the history or legends of antiquity. The essential conditions of a living epic poetry were denied, not only to the Romans who now served as models, but even to the Greeks after Homer. They could not be looked for among the Latins of the Renaissance. And yet the 'Africa' of Petrarch probably found as many and as enthusiastic readers and hearers as any epos of modern times. Purpose and origin of the poem are not without interest. The fourteenth century recognized with sound historical sense that the time of the second Punic war had been the noonday of Roman greatness; and Petrarch could not resist writing of this time. Had Silius Italicus been then discovered, Petrarch would probably have chosen another subject; but as it was, the glorification of Scipio Africanus the Elder was so much in accordance with the spirit of the fourteenth century, that another poet, Zanobi di Strada, also proposed to himself the same task, and only from respect for Petrarch withdrew the poem with which he had already made great progress. If any justification were sought for the 'Africa,' it lies in the fact that in Petrarch's time and afterwards Scipio was as much an object of public interest as if he were then alive, and that he was regarded as greater than Alexander, Pompey, and Caesar. How many modern epics treat of a subject at once so popular, so historical in its basis, and so striking to the imagination? For us, it is true, the poem is unreadable. For other themes of the same kind the reader may be referred to the histories of literature.
A richer and more fruitful vein was discovered in expanding and completing the Greco-Roman mythology. In this too, Italian poetry began early to take a part, beginning with the 'Teseid' of Boccaccio, which passes for his best poetical work. Under Martin V, Maffeo Vegio wrote in Latin a thirteenth book to the, Aeneid; besides which we meet with many less considerable attempts, especially in the style of Claudian—a 'Meleagris,' a 'Hesperis,' and so forth. Still more curious were the newly-invented myths, which peopled the fairest regions of Italy with a primeval race of gods, nymphs, genii, and even shepherds, the epic and bucolic styles here passing into one another. In the narrative or conversational eclogue after the time of Petrarch, pastoral life was treated in a purely conventional manner, as a vehicle of all possible feelings and fancies; and this point will be touched on again in the sequel.58 For the moment, we have only to do with the new myths. In them, more clearly than anywhere else, we see the double significance of the old gods to the men of the Renaissance. On the one hand, they replace abstract terms in poetry, and render allegorical figures superfluous; and, on the other, they serve as free and independent elements in art, as forms of beauty which can be turned to some account in any and every poem. The example was boldly set by Boccaccio, with his fanciful world of gods and shepherds who people the country round Florence in his 'Ninfale d'Ameto' and 'Ninfale Fiesolano.' Both these poems were written in Italian. But the masterpiece in this style was the 'Sarca' of Pietro Bembo, which tells how the river-god of that name wooed the nymph Garda; of the brilliant marriage feast in a cave of Monte Baldo; of the prophecies of Manto, daughter of Tiresias; of the birth of the child Mincius; of the founding of Mantua, and of the future glory of Virgil, son of Mincius and of Magia, nymph of Andes. This humanistic rococo is set forth by Bembo in verses of great beauty, concluding with .an address to Virgil, which any poet might envy him. Such works are often slighted as mere declamation. This is a matter of taste on which we are all free to form our own opinion.
Further, we find long epic poems in hexameters on biblical or ecclesiastical subjects. The authors were by no means always in search of preferment or of papal favour. With the best of them, and even with less gifted writers, like Battista Mantovano, the author of the 'Parthenice,' there was probably an honest desire to serve religion by their Latin verses—a desire with which their half-pagan conception of Catholicism harmonized well enough. Gyraldus goes through a list of these poets, among whom Vida, with his 'Christiad' and Sannazaro, with his three books, 'De partu Virginis' hold the first place. Sannazaro (b. 1458, d. 1530) is impressive by the steady and powerful flow of his verse, in which Christian and pagan elements are mingled without scruple, by the plastic vigor of his description, and by the perfection of his workmanship. He could venture to introduce Virgil's fourth Eclogue into his song of the shepherds at the manger without fearing a comparison. In treating of the unseen world, he sometimes gives proofs of a boldness worthy of Dante, as when King David in the Limbo of the Patriarchs rises up to sing and prophesy, or when the Eternal, sitting on the throne clad in a mantle shining with pictures of all the elements, addresses the heavenly host. At other times he does not hesitate to weave the whole classical mythology into his subject, yet without spoiling the harmony of the whole, since the pagan deities are only accessory figures, and play no important part in the story. To appreciate the artistic genius of that age in all its bearings, we must not refuse to notice such works as these. The merit of Sannazaro will appear the greater, when we consider that the mixture of Christian and pagan elements is apt to disturb us much more in poetry than in the visual arts. The latter can still satisfy the eye by beauty of form and color, and in general are much more independent of the significance of the subject than poetry. With them, the imagination is interested chiefly in the form, with poetry, in the matter. Honest Battista Mantovano, in his calendar of the festivals, tried another expedient. Instead of making the gods and demigods serve the purposes of sacred history, he put them, as the Fathers of the Church did, in active opposition to it. When the angel Gabriel salutes the Virgin at Nazareth, Mercury flies after him from Carmel, and listens at the door. He then announces the result of his eavesdropping to the assembled gods, and stimulates them thereby to desperate resolutions. Elsewhere, it is true, in his writings, Thetis, Ceres, Aeolus, and other pagan deities pay willing homage to the glory of the Madonna.
The fame of Sannazaro, the number of his imitators, the enthusiastic homage which was paid to him by the greatest men, all show how dear and necessary he was to his age. On the threshold of the Reformation he solved for the Church the problem, whether it were possible for a poet to be a Christian as well as a classic; and both Leo and Clement were loud in their thanks for his achievements.
And, finally, contemporary history was now treated in hexameters or distichs, sometimes in a narrative and sometimes in a panegyrical style, but most commonly to the honour of some prince or princely family. We thus meet with a Sforziad, a Borseid, a Laurentiad, a Borgiad, a Trivulziad, and the like. The object sought after was certainly not attained; for those who became famous and are now immortal owe it to anything rather than to this sort of poems, for which the world has always had an ineradicable dislike, even when they happen to be written by good poets. A wholly different effect is produced by smaller, simpler and more unpretentious scenes from the lives of distinguished men, such as the beautiful poem on Leo X's 'Hunt at Palo,' or the 'Journey of Aulius II' by Adrian of Corneto. Brilliant descriptions of hunting-parties are found in Ercole Strozzi, in the above-mentioned Adrian, and in others; and it is a pity that the modern reader should allow himself to be irritated or repelled by the adulation with which they are doubtless filled. The masterly treatment and the considerable historical value of many of these most graceful poems guarantee to them a longer existence than many popular works of our own day are likely to attain.
In general, these poems are good in proportion to the sparing use of the sentimental and the general. Some of the smaller epic poems, even of recognized masters, unintentionally produce, by the ill-timed introduction of mythological elements, an impression that is indescribably ludicrous. Such, for instance, is the lament of Ercole Strozzi on Cesare Borgia. We there listen to the complaint of Roma, who had set all her hopes on the Spanish Popes, Calixtus III and Alexander VI, and who saw her promised deliverer in Cesare. His history is related down to the catastrophe of 1503. The poet then asks the Muse what were the counsels of the gods at that moment, and Erato tells how, upon Olympus, Pallas took the part of the Spaniards, Venus of the Italians, how both then embrace the knees of Jupiter, how thereupon he kisses them, soothes them, and explains to them that he can do nothing against the fate woven by the Parc, but that the divine promises will be fulfilled by the child of the House of Este-Borgia.60 After relating the fabulous origin of both families, he declares that he can confer immortality on Cesare as little as he could once, in spite of all entreaties, on Memnon or Achilles; and concludes with the consoling assurance that Cesare, before his own death, will destroy many people in war. Mars then hastens to Naples to stir up war and confusion, while Pallas goes to Nepi, and there appears to the dying Cesare under the form of Alexander VI. After giving him the good advice to submit to his fate and be satisfied with the glory of his name, the papal goddess vanishes 'like a bird.'
Yet we should needlessly deprive ourselves of an enjoyment which is sometimes very great, if we threw aside everything in which classical mythology plays a more or less appropriate part. Here, as in painting and sculpture, art has often ennobled what is in itself purely conventional. The beginnings of parody are also to be found by lovers of that class of literature, e.g. in the Macaroneid— to which the comic Feast of the Gods, by Giovanni Bellini, forms an early parallel.
Many, too, of the narrative poems in hexameters are merely exercises, or adaptations of histories in prose, which latter the reader will prefer, where he can find them. At last, everything— every quarrel and every ceremony—came to be put into verse, and this even by the German humanists of the Reformation. and yet it would be unfair to attribute this to mere want of occupation, or to an excessive facility in stringing verses together. In Italy, at all events, it was rather due to an abundant sense of style, as is further proved by the mass of contemporary reports, histories, and even pamphlets, in the 'terza rima.' Just as Niccolo da Uzzano published his scheme for a new constitution, Machiavelli his view of the history of his own time, a third, the life of Savonarola, and a fourth the siege of Piombino by Alfonso the Great, in this difficult meter, in order to produce a stronger effect, so did many others feel the need of hexameters, in order to win their special public. What was then tolerated and demanded, in this shape, is best shown by the didactic poetry of the time. Its popularity in the fifteenth century is something astounding. The most distinguished humanists were ready to celebrate in Latin hexameters the most commonplace, ridiculous, or disgusting themes, such as the making of gold, the game of chess, the management of silkworms, astrology, and venereal diseases (morbus gallicus), to say nothing of many long Italian poems of the same kind. Nowadays this class of poem is condemned unread, and how far, as a matter of fact, they are really worth the reading, we are unable to say. One thing is certain: epochs far above our own in the sense of beauty—the Renaissance and the Greco-Roman world—could not dispense with this form of poetry. It may be urged in reply, that it is not the lack of a sense of beauty, but the greater seriousness and the altered method of scientific treatment which renders the poetical form inappropriate, on which point it is unnecessary to enter.
One of these didactic works has been occasionally republished—the 'Zodiac of Life,' by Marcellus Palingenius (Pier Angelo Manzolli), a secret adherent of Protestantism at Ferrara, written about 1528. With the loftiest .speculations on God, virtue, and immortality, the writer connects the discussion of many questions of practical life, and is, on this account, an authority of some weight in the history of morals. On the whole, however, his hi fruit of contrast, nor the 'burla,' for their subject; their aim is merely to give simple and elegant expression to wise sayings and pretty stories or fables. But if anything proves the great antiquity of the collection, it is precisely this absence of satire. For with the fourteenth century comes Dante, who, in the utterance of scorn, leaves all other poets in the world far behind, and who, if only on account of his great picture of the deceivers, must be called the chief master of colossal comedy. With Petrarch begin the collections of witty sayings after the pattern of Plutarch (Apophthegmata, etc.).
is no verbal imitation, in precisely the tone and style of the verses on Lesbia's sparrow. There are short poems of this sort, the date of which even a critic would be unable to fix, in the absence of positive evidence that they are works of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
On the other hand, we can find scarcely an ode in the Sapphic or Alcaic meter, which does not clearly betray its modern origin. This is shown mostly by a rhetorical verbosity, rare in antiquity before the time of Statius, and by a singular want of the lyrical concentration which is indispensable to this style of poetry. Single passages in an ode, sometimes two or three strophes together, may look like an ancient fragment; but a longer extract will seldom keep this character throughout. And where it does so, as, for instance, in the fine Ode to Venus, by Andrea Navagero, it is easy to detect a simple paraphrase of ancient masterpieces. Some of the ode-writers take the saints for their subject, and invoke them in verses tastefully modelled after the pattern of analogous odes of Horace and Catullus. This is the manner of Navagero, in the Ode to the Archangel Gabriel, and particularly of Sannazaro, who goes still further in his appropriation of pagan sentiment. He celebrates above all his patron saint, whose chapel was attached to his lovely villa on the shores of Posilippo, 'there where the waves of the sea drink up the stream from the rocks, and surge against the walls of the little sanctuary.' His delight is in the annual feast of St. Nazzaro, and the branches and garlands with which t_e chapel is hung on this day seem to him like sacrificial gifts. Full of sorrow, and far off in exile, at St. Nazaire, on the banks of the Loire, with the banished Federigo of Aragon, he brings wreaths of box and oak leaves to his patron saint on the same anniversary, thinking of former years, when all the youth of Posilippo used to come forth to greet him on flower-hung boats, and praying that he may return home.
Perhaps the most deceptive likeness to the classical style is borne by a class of poems in elegiacs or hexameters, whose subject ranges from elegy, strictly so called, to epigram. As the humanists dealt most freely of all with the text of the Roman elegiac poets, so they felt themselves most at home in imitating them. The elegy of Navagero addressed to the Night, like other poems of the same age and kind, is full of points which remind us of his model; but it has the finest antique ring about it. Indeed Navagero always begins by choosing a truly poetical subject, which he then treats, not with servile imitation, but with masterly freedom, in the style of the Anthology, of Ovid, of Catullus, or of the Virgilian eclogues. He makes a sparing use of mythology, only, for instance, to introduce a sketch of country life, in a prayer to Ceres and other rural divinities. An address to his country, on his return from an embassy to Spain, though left unfinished, might have been worthy of a place beside the 'Bella Italia, amate sponde' of Vincenzo Monti, if the rest had been equal to this beginning:
'Salve cura Deum, mundi felicior ora, Formosae Veneris dulces salvete recessus; Ut vos post tantos animi mentisque labores Aspicio lustroque libens, ut munere vestro Sollicitas toto depello e pectore curas! '
The elegiac or hexametric form was that in which all higher sentiment found expression, both the noblest patriotic enthusiasm and the most elaborate eulogies on the ruling houses, as well as the tender melancholy of a Tibullus. Francesco Maria Molza, who rivals Statius and Martial in his flattery of Clement VII and the Farnesi, gives us in his elegy to his 'comrades,' written from a sick-bed, thoughts on death as beautiful and genuinely antique as can be found in any of the poets of antiquity, and this without borrowing anything worth speaking of from them. The spirit and range of Roman elegy were best understood and reproduced by Sannazaro, and no other writer of his time offers us so varied a choice of good poems in this style as he. We shall have occasion now and then to speak of some of these elegies in reference to the matter they treat of.
The Latin epigram finally became in those days an affair of serious importance, since a few clever lines, engraved on a monument or quoted with laughter in society, could lay the foundation of a scholar's celebrity. This tendency showed itself early in Italy. When it was known that Guido da Polenta wished to erect a monument at Dante's grave, epitaphs poured in from all directions, 'written by such as wished to show themselves, or to honour the dead poet, or to win the favour of Polenta.' On the tomb of the Archbishop Giovanni Visconti (d. 1354), in the Cathedral at Milan, we read at the foot of thirty-six hexameters: 'Master Gabrius de Zamoreis of Parma, Doctor of Laws, wrote these verses.' In course of time, chiefly under the influence of Martial, and partly of Catullus, an ex- tensive literature of this sort was formed. It was held the greatest of all triumphs, if an epigram was mistaken for a genuine copy from some old marble, or if it was so good that all Italy learned it by heart, as happened in the case of some of Bembo's. When the Venetian government paid Sannazaro 600 ducats for a eulogy in three distichs, no one thought it an act of generous prodigality. The epigram was prized for what it was, in truth, to all the educated classes of that age—the concentrated essence of fame. Nor, on the other hand, was any man then so powerful as to be above the reach of a satirical epigram, and even the most powerful needed, for every inscription which they set before the public eye, the aid of careful and learned scholars, lest some blunder or other should qualify it for a place in the collections of ludicrous epitaphs. Epigraphy and literary epigrams began to link up; the former was based on a most diligent study of the ancient monuments.
The city of epigrams and inscriptions was, above all others, Rome. In this state without hereditary honours, each man had to look after his own immortality, and at the same time found the epigram an effective weapon against competitors. Pius II enumerates with satisfaction the distichs which his chief poet Campanus wrote on any event of his government which could be turned to poetical account. Under the following popes satirical epigrams came into fashion, and reached, in the opposition to Alexander VI and his family, the highest pitch of defiant invective. Sannazaro, it is true, wrote his verses in a place of comparative safety, but others in the immediate neighbourhood of the court ventured on the most reckless attacks. On one occasion when eight threatening distichs were found fastened to the doors of the library, Alexander strengthened his guard by 800 men; we can imagine what he would have done to the poet if he had caught him. Under Leo X, Latin epigrams were like daily bread. For complimenting or for reviling the Pope, for punishing enemies and victims, named or unnamed, for real or imaginary subjects of wit, malice, grief, or contemplation, no form was held more suitable. On the famous group of the Virgin with Saint Anne and the Child, which Andrea Sansovino carved for Sant' Agostino, no fewer than 120 persons wrote Latin verses, not so much, it is true, from devotion, as from regard for the patron who ordered the work. This man, Johann Goritz of Luxemburg, papal referendary of petitions, not only held a religious service on the feast of Saint Anne, but gave a great literary dinner in his garden on the slopes of the Capitol. It was then worth while to pass in, review, in a long poem 'De poetis urbanis,' the whole crowd of singers who sought their fortune at the court of Leo. This was done by Franciscus Arsillus—a man who needed the patronage neither of pope nor prince, and who dared to speak his mind, even against his colleagues. The epigram survived the pontificate of Paul III only in a few rare echoes, while epigraphy continued to flourish till the seventeenth century, when it perished finally of bombast.
In Venice, also, this form of poetry had a history of its own, which we are able to trace with the help of the 'Venezia' of Francesco Sansovino. A standing task for the epigram-writers was offered by the mottoes (Brievi) on the pictures of the Doges in the great hall of the ducal palace—two or four hexameters, setting forth the most noteworthy facts in the government of each. In addition to this, the tombs of the Doges in the fourteenth century bore short inscriptions in prose, recording merely facts, and beside them turgid hexameters or leonine verses. In the fifteenth century more care was taken with the style; in the sixteenth century it is seen at its best; and then coon after came pointless antithesis, prosopopceia, false pathos, praise of abstract qualities— in a word, affectation and bombast. A good many traces of satire can be detected, and veiled criticism of the living is implied in open praise of the dead. At a much later period we find a few instances of deliberate recurrence to the old, simple style.
Architectural works and decorative works in general were constructed with a view to receiving inscriptions, often in frequent repetition; while the Northern Gothic seldom, and with difficulty, offered a suitable place for them, and in sepulchral monuments, for example, left free only the most exposed parts — namely the edges.
By what has been said hitherto we have, perhaps, failed to convince the reader of the characteristic value of this Latin poetry of the Italians. Our task was rather to indicate its position and necessity in the history of civilization. In its own day, a caricature of it appeared—the so-called macaronic poetry. The masterpiece of this style, the 'opus macaronicorum,' was written by Merlinus Coccaius (Teofilo Folengo of Mantua). Vi/e shall now and then have occasion to refer to the matter of this poem. As to the form—hexameter and other verses, made up of Latin words and Italian words with Latin endings — its comic effect lies chiefly in the fact that these combinations sound like so many slips of the tongue, or like the effusions of an over- hasty Latin 'improvisatore.' The German imitations do not give the smallest notion of this effect.
Fall of the Humanists in the Sixteenth Century
Why, it may be asked, were not these reproaches, whether true or false, heard sooner? As a matter of fact, they were heard at a very early period, but the effect they produced was insignificant, for the plain reason that men were far too dependent on the scholars for their knowledge of antiquity—that the scholars were personally the possessors and diffusers of ancient culture. But the spread of printed editions of the classics, and of large and well-arranged handbooks and dictionaries, went far to free the people from the necessity of personal intercourse with the humanists, and, as soon as they could be but partly dispensed with, the change in popular feeling became manifest. It was a change under which the good and bad suffered indiscriminately.
The first to make these charges were certainly the humanists themselves. Of all men who ever formed a class, they had the least sense of their common interests, and least respected what there was of this sense. All means were held lawful, if one of them saw a chance of supplanting another. From literary discussion they passed with astonishing suddenness to the fiercest and the most groundless vituperation. Not satisfied with refuting, they sought to annihilate an opponent. Something of this must be put to the account of their position and circumstances; we have seen how fiercely the age, whose loudest spokesmen they were, was borne to and fro by the passion for glory and the passion for satire. Their position, too, in practical life was one that they had continually to fight for. In such a temper they wrote and spoke and described one another. Pog- gio's works alone contain dirt enough to create a prejudice against the whole class—and these 'Opera Poggii' were just those most often printed, on the north as well as on the south side of the Alps. We must take care not to rejoice too soon, when we meet among these men a figure which seems immaculate; on further inquiry there is always a danger of meeting with some foul charge, which, even if it is incredible, still discolors the picture. The mass of indecent Latin poems in circulation, and such things as ribaldry on the subject of one's own family, as in Pontano's dialogue 'Antonius,' did the rest to discredit the class. The sixteenth century was not only familiar with all these ugly symptoms, but had also grown tired of the type of the humanist. These men had to pay both for the misdeeds they had done, and for the excess of honour which had hitherto fallen to their lot. Their evil fate willed it that the greatest poet of the nation, Ariosto, wrote of them in a tone of calm and sovereign contempt.
Of the reproaches which combined to excite so much hatred, many were only too well founded. Yet a clear and unmistakable tendency to strictness in matters of religion and morality was alive in many of the philologists, and it is a proof of small knowledge of the period, if the whole class is condemned. Yet many, and among them the loudest speakers, were guilty.
Three facts explain and perhaps diminish their guilt: the overflowing excess of fervour and fortune, when the luck was on their side; the uncertainty of the future, in which luxury or misery depended on the caprice of a patron or the malice of an enemy; and finally, the misleading influence of antiquity. This undermined their morality, without giving them its own instead; and in religious matters, since they could never think of accepting the positive belief in the old gods, it affected them only on the negative and sceptical side. Just because they conceived of antiquity dogmatically—that is, took it as the model or all thought and action—its influence was here pernicious. But that an age existed which idolized the ancient world and its products with an exclusive devotion was not the fault of individuals. It was the work of an historical providence, and if the culture of the ages which have followed, and of the ages to come, rests upon the fact that it was so, and that all the ends of life but this one were then deliberately put aside.
The career of the humanists was, as a rule, of such a kind hat only the strongest characters could pass through it unscathed. The first danger came, in some cases, from the parents, rho sought to turn a precocious child into a miracle of learning, with an eye to his future position in that class which then was supreme. Youthful prodigies, however, seldom rise above a certain level; or, if they do, are forced to achieve their further progress and development at the cost of the bitterest trials. For an ambitious youth, the fame and the brilliant position of the humanists were a perilous temptation; it seemed to him that he too 'through inborn pride could no longer regard the low and common things of life.' He was thus led to plunge into a life of excitement and vicissitude, in which exhausting studies, tutorships, secretaryships, professorships, offices in princely households, mortal enmities and perils, luxury and beggary, boundless admiration and boundless contempt, followed confusedly one upon the other, and in which the most solid worth and learning were often pushed aside by superficial impudence. But the worst of all was, that the position of the humanist was almost incompatible with a fixed home, since it either made frequent changes of dwelling necessary for a livelihood, or so affected the mind of the individual that he could never be happy for long in one place. He grew tired of the people, and had no peace among the enmities which he excited, while the people themselves in their turn demanded something new. Much as this life reminds us of the Greek sophists of the Empire, as described to us by Philostratus, yet the position of the sophists was more favourable. They often had money, or could more easily do without it than the humanists, and as professional teachers of rhetoric, rather than men of learning, their life was freer and simpler. But the scholar of the Renaissance was forced to combine great learning with the power of resisting the influence of ever-changing pursuits and situations. Add to this the deadening effect of licentious excess, and—since do what he might, the worst was believed of him—a total indifference to the moral laws recognized by others. Such men can hardly be conceived to exist without an inordinate pride. They needed it, if only to keep their heads above water, and were confirmed in it by the admiration which alternated with hatred in the treatment they received from the world. They are the most striking examples and victims of an unbridled subjectivity.
The attacks and the satirical pictures began, as we have said, at an early period. For all strongly marked individuality, for every kind of distinction, a corrective was at hand in the national taste for ridicule. And in this case the men themselves offered abundant and terrible materials which satire had but to make use of. In the fifteenth century, Battista Mantovano, in discoursing of the seven monsters, includes the humanists, with any others, under the head 'Superbia.' He describes how, fancying themselves children of Apollo, they walk along with affected solemnity and with sullen, malicious looks, now gazing t their own shadow, now brooding over the popular praise they hunted after, like cranes in search of food. But in the sixteenth century the indictment was presented in full. Besides Ariosto, their own historian Gyraldus gives evidence of this, whose treatise, written under Leo X, was probably revised about the year 1540. Warning examples from ancient and modern times the moral disorder and the wretched existence of the scholars meet us in astonishing abundance, and along with these, accusations of the most serious nature are brought formally against them. Among these are anger, vanity, obstinacy, self-adoration, dissolute private life, immorality of all descriptions, heresy, theism; further, the habit of speaking without conviction, a sinister influence on government, pedantry of speech, thanklessness towards teachers, and abject flattery of the great, who st give the scholar a taste of their favours and then leave m to starve. The description is closed by a reference to the den age, when no such thing as science existed on the earth. these charges, that of heresy soon became the most dangers, and Gyraldus himself, when he afterwards republished a perfectly harmless youthful work, was compelled to take refuge neath the mantle of Duke Ercole II of Ferrara, since men had the upper hand who held that people had better spend their time on Christian themes than on mythological researches. justifies himself on the ground that the latter, on the contrary, were at such a time almost the only harmless branches of study, as they deal with subjects of a perfectly neutral character.
But if it is the duty of the historian to seek for evidence in which moral judgement is tempered by human sympathy, he 11 find no authority comparable in value to the work so often quoted of Pierio Valeriano, 'On the Infelicity of the Scholar.' It was written under the gloomy impressions left by the sack of Rome, which seems to the writer, not only the direct cause of untold misery to the men of learning, but, as it were, the fulfilment of an evil destiny which had long pursued them. Pierio is here led by a simple and, on the whole, just feeling. He does not introduce a special power, which plagued the men of genius on account of their genius, but he states facts, in which an unlucky chance often wears the aspect of fatality. Not wishing to write a tragedy or to refer events to the conflict of higher powers, he is content to lay before us the scenes of everyday life. We are introduced to men who, in times of trouble, lose first their incomes and then their places; to others who, in trying to get two appointments, miss both; to unsociable misers who carry about their money sewn into their clothes, and die mad when they are robbed of it; to others, who accept well-paid offices, and then sicken with a melancholy longing for their lost freedom. We read how some died young of a plague or fever, and how the writings which had cost them so much toil were burnt with their bed and clothes; how others lived in terror of the murderous threats of their colleagues; how one was slain by a covetous servant, and another caught by highwaymen on a journey, and left to pine in a dungeon, because unable to pay his ransom. Many died of unspoken grief from the insults they received and the prizes of which they were defrauded. We are told how a Venetian died because of the death of his son, a youthful prodigy; and how mother and brothers followed, as if the lost child drew them all after him. Many, especially Florentines, ended their lives by suicide; others through the secret justice of a tyrant. Who, after all, is happy?—and by what means? By blunting all feeling for such misery? One of the speakers in the dialogue in which Pierio clothed his argument, can give an answer to these questions— the illustrious Gasparo Contarini, at the mention of whose name we turn with the expectation to hear at least something of the truest and deepest which was then thought on such matters. As a type of the happy scholar, he mentions Fra Urbano Valeriano of Belluno, who was for years a teacher of Greek at Venice, who visited Greece and the East, and towards the close of his life travelled, now through this country, now through that, without ever mounting a horse; who never had a penny of his own, rejected all honours and distinctions, and after a gay old age, died in his eighty-fourth year, without, if we except a fall from a ladder, having ever known an hour of sickness. And what was the difference between such a man and the humanists? The latter had more free will, more subjectivity, than they could turn to purposes of happiness. The mendicant friar, who had lived from his boyhood in the monastery, and never eaten or slept except by rule, ceased to feel the com- pulsion under which he lived. Through the power of this habit he led, amid all outward hardships, a life of inward peace, by which he impressed his hearers far more than by his teaching. Looking at him, they could believe that it depends on ourselves whether we bear up against misfortune or surrender to it. 'Amid want and toil he was happy, because he willed to be so, because he had contracted no evil habits, was not capricious, inconstant, immoderate; but was always contented with little or nothing.' If we heard Contarini himself, religious motives would no doubt play a part in the argument—but the practical philosopher in sandals speaks plainly enough. An allied character, but placed in other circumstances, is that of Fabio Calvi of Ravenna, the commentator of Hippocrates. He lived to a great age in Rome, eating only pulse 'like the Pythagoreans,' and dwelt in a hovel little better than the tub of Diogenes. Of the pension which Pope Leo gave him, he spent enough to keep body and soul together, and gave the rest away. He was not a healthy man, like Fra Urbano, nor is it likely that, like him, he died with a smile on his lips. At the age of ninety, in the sack of Rome, he was dragged away by the Spaniards, who hoped for a ransom, and died of hunger in a hospital. But his name has passed into the kingdom of the immortals, for Raphael loved the old man like a father, and honoured him as a teacher, and came to him for advice in all things. Perhaps they discoursed chiefly of the projected restoration of ancient Rome, perhaps of still higher matters. Who can tell what a share Fabio may have had in the conception of the School of Athens, and in other great works of the master?
We would gladly close this part of our essay with the picture of some pleasing and winning character. Pomponius Laetus, of whom we shall briefly speak, is known to us principally through the letter of his pupil Sabellicus, in which an antique coloring is purposely given to his character. Yet many of its features are clearly recognizable. He was a bastard of the House of the Neapolitan Sanseverini, princes of Salerno, whom he nevertheless refused to recognize, writing, in reply to an invitation to live with them, the famous letter: 'Pomponius Laetus cognatis et propinquis suis salutem. Quod petitis fieri non potest. Valete.' t An insignificant little figure, with small, quick eyes, and quaint dress, he lived, during the last decades of the fifteenth century, as professor in the University of Rome, either in his cottage in a garden on the Esquiline hill, or in his vineyard on the Quirinal. In the one he bred his ducks and fowls; the other he cultivated according to the strictest precepts of Cato, Varro, and Columella. He spent his holidays in fishing or bird-catching in the Campagna, or in feasting by some shady spring or on the banks of the Tiber. Wealth and luxury he despised. Free himself from envy and uncharitable speech, he would not suffer them in others. It was only against the hierarchy that he gave his tongue free play, and passed, till his latter years, for a scorner of religion altogether. He was involved in the persecution of the humanists begun by Pope Paul II, and surrendered to this pontiff by the Venetians; but no means could be found to wring unworthy confessions from him. He was afterwards befriended and supported by popes and prelates, and when his house was plundered in the disturbances under Sixtus IV, more was collected for him than he had lost. No teacher was more conscientious. Before daybreak he was to be seen descending the Esquiline with his lantern, and on reaching his lecture-room found it always filled to overflowing. A stutter compelled him to speak with care, but his delivery was even and effective. His few works give evidence of careful writing. No scholar treated the text of ancient authors more soberly and accurately. The remains of antiquity which surrounded him in Rome touched him so deeply that he would stand before them as if entranced, or would suddenly burst into tears at the sight of them. As he was ready to lay aside his own studies in order to help others, he was much loved and had many friends; and at his death, even Alexander VI sent his courtiers to follow the corpse, which was carried by the most distinguished of his pupils. The funeral service in the Aracceli was attended by forty bishops and by all the foreign ambassadors.
It was Laetus who introduced and conducted the representations of ancient, chiefly Plautine, plays in Rome. Every year, he celebrated the anniversary of the foundation of the city by a festival, at which his friends and pupils recited speeches and poems. Such meetings were the origin of what acquired, and long retained, the name of the Roman Academy. It was simply a free union of individuals, and was connected with no fixed institution. Besides the occasions mentioned, it met at the invitation of a patron, or to celebrate the memory of a deceased member, as of Platina. At such times, a prelate belonging to the academy would first say mass; Pomponio would then ascend the pulpit and deliver a speech; someone else would then follow him and recite an elegy. The customary banquet, with declamations and recitations, concluded the festival, whether joyous or serious, and the academicians, notably Platina himself, early acquired the reputation of epicures. At other times, the guests performed farces in the old Atellan style. As a free association of very varied elements, the academy lasted in its original form down to the sack of Rome, and included among its hosts Angelus Coloccius, Johannes Corycius and others. Its precise value as an element in the intellectual life of the people is as hard to estimate as that of any other social union of the same kind; yet a man like Sadoleto reckoned it among the most precious memories of his youth. A large number of other academies appeared and passed away in many Italian cities, according to the number and significance of the humanists living in them, and to the patronage bestowed by the great and wealthy. Of these we may mention the Academy of Naples, of which Jovianus Pontanus was the centre, and which sent out a colony to Lecce, and that of Pordenone, which formed the court of the Condottiere Alviano. The circle of Lodovico il Moro, and its peculiar importance for that prince, has been already spoken of.
About the middle of the sixteenth century, these associations seem to have undergone a complete change. The humanists, driven in other spheres from their commanding position, and viewed askance by the men of the Counter-reformation, lost the control of the academies: and here, as elsewhere, Latin poetry was replaced by Italian. Before long every town of the least importance had its academy, with some strange, fantastic name, and its own endowment and subscriptions. Besides the recitation of verses, the new institutions inherited from their predecessors the regular banquets and the representation of plays, sometimes acted by the members themselves, sometimes under their direction by young amateurs, and sometimes by paid players. The fate of the Italian stage, and afterwards of the opera, was long in the hands of these associations.
THE DISCOVERY OF THE WORLD AND OF MAN
Journeys of the Italians
Freed from the countless bonds which elsewhere in Europe checked progress, having reached a high degree of individual development and been schooled by the teachings of antiquity, the Italian mind now turned to the discovery of the outward universe, and to the representation of it in speech and form.
On the journeys of the Italians to distant parts of the world, we can here make but a few general observations. The Crusades had opened unknown distances to the European mind, and awakened in all the passion for travel and adventure. It may be hard to indicate precisely the point where this passion allied itself with, or became the servant of, the thirst for knowledge; but it was in Italy that this was first and most completely the case. Even in the Crusades the interest of the Italians was wider than that of other nations, since they already were a naval power and had commercial relations with the East. From time immemorial the Mediterranean Sea had given to the nations that dwelt on its shores mental impulses different from those which governed the peoples of the North; and never, from the very structure of their character, could the Italians be adventurers in the sense which the word bore among the Teutons. After they were once at home in all the eastern harbors of the Mediterranean, it was natural that the most enterprising among them should be led to join that vast inter- national movement of the Mohammedans which there found its outlet. A new half of the world lay, as it were, freshly discovered before them. Or, like Polo of Venice, they were caught in the current of the Mongolian peoples, and carried on to the steps of the throne of the Great Khan. At an early period, we find Italians sharing in the discoveries made in the Atlantic Ocean; it was the Genoese who, in the thirteenth century found the Canary Islands. In the same year, 1291, when Ptolemais, the last remnant of the Christian East, was lost, it was again the Genoese who made the first known attempt to find a sea-passage to the East Indies. Columbus himself is but the greatest of a long list of Italians who, in the service of the western nations, sailed into distant seas. The true discoverer, however, is not the man who first chances to stumble upon anything, but the man who finds what he has sought. Such a one alone stands in a link with the thoughts and interests of his predecessors, and this relationship will also determine the account he gives of his search. For which reason the Italians, although their claim to be the first comers on this or that shore may be disputed, will yet retain their title to be pre-eminently the nation of discoverers for the whole latter part of the Middle Ages. The fuller proof of this assertion belongs to the special history of discoveries. Yet ever and again we turn with admiration to the august figure of the great Genoese, by whom a new continent beyond the ocean was demanded, sought and found; and who was the first to be able to say: 'il mondo e poco'—the world is not so large as men have thought. At the time when Spain gave Alexander VI to the Italians, Italy gave Columbus to the Spaniards. Only a few weeks before the death of that pope Columbus wrote from Jamaica his noble letter (July 7, 1503) to the thankless Catholic kings, which the ages to come can never read without profound emotion. In a codicil to his will, dated Valladolid, May 4, I 506, he bequeathed to 'his beloved home, the Republic of Genoa, the prayer-book which Pope Alexander had given him, and which in prison, in conflict, and in every kind of adversity, had been to him the greatest of comforts.' It seems as if these words cast upon the abhorred name of Borgia one last gleam of grace and mercy.
The development of geographical and allied sciences among the Italians must, like the history of their voyages, be touched upon but very briefly. A superficial comparison of their achievements with those of other nations shows an early and striking superiority on their part. Where, in the middle of the fifteenth century, could be found, anywhere but in Italy, such a union of geographical, statistical, and historical knowledge as was found in Aeneas Sylvius? Not only in his great geographical work, but in his letters and commentaries, he describes with equal mastery landscapes, cities, manners, industries and products, political conditions and constitutions, wherever he can use his own observation or the evidence of eye-witnesses. What he takes from books is naturally of less moment. Even the short sketch of that valley in the Tyrolese Alps where Frederick III had given him a benefice, and still more his description of Scotland, leaves untouched none of the relations of human life, and displays a power and method of unbiased observation and comparison impossible in any but a countryman of Columbus, trained in the school of the ancients. Thousands saw and, in part, knew what he did, but they felt no impulse to draw a picture of it, and were unconscious that the world desired such pictures.
In geography, as in other matters, it is vain to attempt to distinguish how much is to be attributed to the study of the ancients, and how much to the special genius of the Italians. They saw and treated the things of this world from an objective point of view, even before they were familiar with ancient literature, partly because they were themselves a half-ancient people, and partly because their political circumstances predisposed them to it; but they would not so rapidly have attained to such perfection had not the old geographers shown them the way. The influence of the existing Italian geographies on the spirit and tendencies of the travellers and discoverers was also inestimable. Even the simple 'dilettante' of a science— if in the present case we should assign to Aeneas Sylvius so low a rank—can diffuse just that sort of general interest in the subject which prepares for new pioneers the indispensable favourable predisposition in the public mind. True discoverers in any science know well what they owe to such meditation.
The Natural Sciences in Italy
For the position of the Italians in the sphere of the natural sciences, we must refer the reader to the special treatises on the subject, of which the only one with which we are familiar is the superficial and depreciatory work of Libri. The dispute as to the priority of particular discoveries concerns us all the less, since we hold that, at any time, and among any civilized people, a man may appear who, starting with very scanty preparation, is driven by an irresistible impulse into the path of scientific investigation, and through his native gifts achieves the most astonishing success. Such men were Gerbert of Rheims and Roger Bacon. That they were masters of the whole knowledge of the age in their several departments was a natural consequence of the spirit in which they worked. When once the veil of illusion was torn asunder, when once the dread of nature and the slavery to books and tradition were overcome, countless problems lay before them for solution. It is another matter when a whole people takes a natural delight in the study and investigation of nature, at a time when other nations are indifferent, that is to say, when the discoverer is not threatened or wholly ignored, but can count on the friendly support of congenial spirits. That this was the case in Italy is unquestionable. The Italian students of nature trace with pride in the 'Divine Comedy' the hints and proofs of Dante's scientific in- terest in nature. On his claim to priority in this or that discovery or reference, we must leave the men of science to decide; but every layman must be struck by the wealth of his observations on the external world, shown merely in his picture and comparisons. He, more than any other modern poet, takes them from reality, whether in nature or human life, and uses them never as mere ornament, but in order to give the reader the fullest and most adequate sense of his meaning. It is in astronomy that he appears chiefly as a scientific specialist, though it must not be forgotten that many astronomical allusions in his great poem, which now appear to us learned, must then have been intelligible to the general reader. Dante, learning apart, appeals to a popular knowledge of the heavens, which the Italians of his day, from the mere fact that they were a nautical people, had in common with the ancients. This knowledge of the rising and setting of the constellations has been rendered superfluous to the modern world by calendars and clocks, and with it has gone whatever interest in astronomy the people may once have had. Nowadays, with our schools and handbooks, every child knows— what Dante did not know—that the earth moves round the sun; but the interest once taken in the subject itself has given place, except in the case of astronomical specialists, to the most absolute indifference.
The pseudo-science which dealt with the stars proves nothing against the inductive spirit of the Italians of that day. That spirit was but crossed, and at times overcome, by the passionate desire to penetrate the future. We shall recur to the subject of astrology when we come to speak of the moral and religious character of the people.
The Church treated this and other pseudo-sciences nearly always with toleration; and showed itself actually hostile even to genuine science only when a charge of heresy together with necromancy was also in question—which certainly was often the case. A point which it would be interesting to decide is this: whether and in what cases the Dominican (and also the Franciscan) Inquisitors in Italy were conscious of the falsehood of the charges, and yet condemned the accused, either to oblige some enemy of the prisoner or from hatred to natural science, and particularly to experiments. The latter doubtless occurred, but it is not easy to prove the fact. What helped to cause such persecutions in the North, namely, the opposition made to the innovators by the upholders of the received official, scholastic system of nature, was of little or no weight in Italy. Pietro of Abano, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, is well known to have fallen a victim to the envy of another physician, who accused him before the Inquisition of heresy and magic; and something of the same kind may have happened in the case of his Paduan contemporary, Giovannino Sanguinacci, who was known as an innovator in medical practice. He escaped, however, with banishment. Nor must it be forgotten that the inquisitorial power of the Dominicans was exercised less uniformly in Italy than in the North. Tyrants and free cities in the fourteenth century treated the clergy at times with such sovereign contempt that very different matters from natural science went unpunished. But when, with the fifteenth century, antiquity became the leading power in Italy, the breach it made in the old system was turned to account by every branch of secular science. Humanism, nevertheless, attracted to itself the best strength of the nation, and thereby, no doubt, did injury to the inductive investigation of nature. Here and there the Inquisition suddenly started into life, and punished or burned physicians as blasphemers or magicians. In such cases it is hard to discover what was the true motive underlying the condemnation. But even so, Italy, at the close of the fifteenth century, with Paolo Toscanelli, Luca Pacioli and Leonardo da Vinci, held incomparably the highest place among European nations in mathematics and the natural sciences, and the learned men of every country, even Regiomontanus and Copernicus, confessed themselves its pupils. This glory survived the Counter-reformation, and even today the Italians would occupy the first place in this respect if circumstances had not made it impossible for the greatest minds to devote themselves to tranquil research.
A significant proof of the widespread interest in natural history is found in the zeal which showed itself at an early period for the collection and comparative study of plants and animals. Italy claims to be the first creator of botanical gar dens, though possibly they may have served a chiefly practical end, and the claim to priority may be itself disputed. It is of far greater importance that princes and wealthy men, in laying out their pleasure-gardens, instinctively made a point of collecting the greatest possible number of different plants in all their species and varieties. Thus in the fifteenth century the noble grounds of the Medicean Villa Careggi appear from the descriptions we have of them to have been almost a botanical garden, with countless specimens of different trees and shrubs. Of the same kind was a villa of the Cardinal Trivulzio, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, in the Roman Campagna towards Tivoli, with hedges made up of various species of roses, with trees of every description— the fruit-trees especially showing an astonishing variety—with twenty different sorts of vines and a large kitchen-garden. This is evidently something very different from the score or two of familiar medicinal plants which were to be found in the garden of any castle or monastery in Western Europe. Along with a careful cultivation of fruit for the purposes of the table, we find an interest in the plant for its own sake, on account of the pleasure it gives to the eye. We learn from the history of art at how late a period this passion for botanical collections was laid aside, and gave place to what was considered the picturesque style of landscape-gardening.
The collections, too, of foreign animals not only gratified curiosity, but served also the higher purposes of observation. The facility of transport from the southern and eastern harbors of the Mediterranean, and the mildness of the Italian climate, made it practicable to buy the largest animals of the south, or to accept them as presents from the Sultans. The cities and princes were especially anxious to keep live lions even where a lion was not, as in Florence, the emblem of the State. The lions' den was generally in or near the government palace, as in Perugia and Florence; in Rome, it lay on the slope of the Capitol. The beasts sometimes served as executioners of political judgements, and no doubt, apart from this, they kept alive a certain terror in the popular mind. Their condition was also held to be ominous of good or evil. Their fertility, especially, was considered a sign of public prosperity, and no less a man than Giovanni Villani thought it worth recording that he was present at the delivery of a lioness. The cubs were often given to allied States and princes, or to Condottieri as a reward of their valor. In addition to the lions, the Florentines began very early to keep leopards, for which a special keeper was appointed. Borso of Ferrara used to set his lion to fight with bulls, bears, and wild boars.
By the end of the fifteenth century, however, true menageries (serragli), now reckoned part of the suitable appointments of a court, were kept by many of the princes. 'It belongs to the position of the great,' says Matarazzo, 'to keep horses, dogs, mules, falcons, and other birds, court-jesters, singers, and foreign animals.' The menagerie at Naples, in the time of Ferrante, contained even a giraffe and a zebra, presented, it seems, by the ruler of Baghdad. Filippo Maria Visconti possessed not only horses which cost him each 500 or 1,000 pieces of gold, and valuable English dogs, but a number of leopards brought from all parts of the East; the expense of his hunting birds, which were collected from the countries of Northern Europe, amounted to 3,000 pieces of gold a month. King Emanuel the Great of Portugal knew well what he was about when he presented Leo X with an elephant and a rhinoceros. It was under such circumstances that the foundations of a scientific zoology and botany were laid.
A practical fruit of these zoological studies was the establishment of studs, of which the Mantuan, under Francesco Gonzaga, was esteemed the first in Europe. All interest in, and knowledge of the different breeds of horses is as old, no doubt, as riding itself, and the crossing of the European with the Asiatic must have been common from the time of the Crusades. In Italy, a special inducement to perfect the breed was offered by the prizes at the horse-races held in every considerable town in the peninsula. In the Mantuan stables were found the in- fallible winners in these contests, as well as the best military chargers, and the horses best suited by their stately appearance for presents to great people. Gonzaga kept stallions and mares from Spain, Ireland, Africa, Thrace, and Cilicia, and for the sake of the last he cultivated the friendship of the Sultans. All possible experiments were here tried, in order to produce the most perfect animals.
Even human menageries were not wanting. The famous Cardinal Ippolito Medici, bastard of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, kept at his strange court a troop of barbarians who talked no less than twenty different languages, and who were all of them perfect specimens of their races. Among them were incomparable voltigeurs of the best blood of the North African Moors, Tartar bowmen, Negro wrestlers, Indian divers, and Turks, who generally accompanied the Cardinal on his hunting expeditions. When he was overtaken by an early death (1535), this motley band carried the corpse on their shoulders from Itri to Rome, and mingled with the general mourning for the open-handed Cardinal their medley of tongues and violent gesticulations.
These scattered notices of the relations of the Italians to natural science, and their interest in the wealth and variety of the products of nature, are only fragments of a great subject. No one is more conscious than the author of the defects in his knowledge on this point. Of the multitude of special works in which the subject is adequately treated, even the names are but imperfectly known to him.
Discovery of the Beauty of Landscape
But outside the sphere of scientific investigation, there is another way to draw near to nature. The Italians are the first among modern peoples by whom the outward world was seen and felt as something beautiful.
The power to do so is always the result of a long and complicated development, and its origin is not easily detected, since a dim feeling of this kind may exist long before it shows itself in poetry and painting and thereby becomes conscious of itself. Among the ancients, for example, art and poetry had gone through the whole circle of human interests, before they turned to the representation of nature, and even then the latter filled always a limited and subordinate place. And yet, from the time of Homer downwards, the powerful impression made by nature upon man is shown by countless verses and chance expressions. The Germanic races, which founded their States on the ruins of the Roman Empire, were thoroughly and specially fitted to understand the spirit of natural scenery; and though Christianity compelled them for a while to see in the springs and mountains, in the lakes and woods, which they had till then revered, the working of evil demons, yet this transitional conception was soon outgrown. By the year 1200, at the height of the Middle Ages, a genuine, hearty enjoyment of the external world was again in existence, and found lively expres- sion in the minstrelsy of different nations, which gives evidence of the sympathy felt with all the simple phenomena of nature —spring with its flowers, the green fields and the woods. But these pictures are all foreground without perspective. Even the crusaders, who travelled so far and saw so much, are not recognizable as such in their poems. The epic poetry, which describes amour and costumes so fully, does not attempt more than a sketch of outward nature; and even the great Wolfram von Eschenbach scarcely anywhere gives us an adequate picture of the scene on which his heroes move. From these poems it would never be guessed that their noble authors in all countries inhabited or visited lofty castles, commanding distant prospects. Even in the Latin poems of the wandering clerks, we find no traces of a distant view—of landscape properly so called— but what lies near is sometimes described with a glory and splendor which none of the knightly minstrels can surpass. What picture of the Grove of Love can equal that of the Italian poet — for such we take him to be—of the twelfth century?
'Immortalis fieret Ibi manens homo; Arbor ibi quaelibet Suo gaudet pomo; Viae myrrha, cinnamo Fragrant, et amomo— Conjectari poterat Dominus ex domo' etc.
To the Italian mind, at all events, nature had by this time lost its taint of sin, and had shaken off all trace of demoniacal powers. Saint Francis of Assisi, in his Hymn to the Sun, frankly praises the Lord for creating the heavenly bodies and the four elements.
But the unmistakable proofs of a deepening effect of nature on the human spirit begin with Dante. Not only does he awaken in us by a few vigorous lines the sense of the morning air and the trembling light on the distant ocean, or of the grandeur of the storm-beaten forest, but he makes the ascent of lofty peaks, with the only possible object of enjoying the view—the first man, perhaps, since the days of antiquity who did so. In Boccaccio we can do little more than infer how country scenery affected him; yet his pastoral romances show his imagination to have been filled with it. But the significance of nature for a receptive spirit is fully and clearly displayed by Petrarch—one of the first truly modern men. That clear soul—who first collected from the literature of all countries evidence of the origin and progress of the sense of natural beauty, and himself, in his 'Aspects of Nature,' achieved the noblest masterpiece of description—Alexander von Humboldt has not done full justice to Petrarch; and following in the steps of the great reaper, we may still hope to glean a few ears of interest and value.
Petrarch was not only a distinguished geographer—the first map of Italy is said to have been drawn by his direction—and not only a reproducer of the sayings of the ancients, but felt himself the influence of natural beauty. The enjoyment of nature is, for him, the favorite accompaniment of intellectual pursuits; it was to combine the two that he lived in learned retirement at Vaucluse and elsewhere, that he from time to time fled from the world and from his age. We should do him wrong by inferring from his weak and undeveloped power of describing natural scenery that he did not feel it deeply. His picture, for instance, of the lovely Gulf of Spezia and Porto Venere, which he inserts at the end of the sixth book of the 'Africa,' for the reason that none of the ancients or moderns had sung of it, is no more than a simple enumeration, but Petrarch is also conscious of the beauty of rock scenery, and is perfectly able to distinguish the picturesqueness from the utility of nature. During his stay among the woods of Reggio, the sudden sight of an impressive landscape so affected him that he resumed a poem which he had long laid aside. But the deep- est impression of all was made upon him by the ascent of Mont Ventoux, near Avignon. An indefinable longing for a distant panorama grew stronger and stronger in him, till at length the accidental sight of a passage in Livy, where King Philip, the enemy of Rome, ascends the Haemus, decided him. He thought that what was not blamed in a greyheaded monarch, might well be excused in a young man of private station. The ascent of a mountain for its own sake was unheard of, and there could be no thought of the companionship of friends or acquaintances. Petrarch took with him only his younger brother and two country people from the last place where he halted. At the foot of the mountain an old herdsman besought him to turn back, saying that he himself had attempted to climb it fifty years before, and had brought home nothing but repentance, broken bones, and torn clothes, and that neither before nor after had anyone ventured to do the same. Nevertheless, they struggled forward and upward, till the clouds lay beneath their feet, and at last they reached the top. A description of the view from the summit would be looked for in vain, not because the poet was insensible to it, but, on the contrary, because the impression was too overwhelming. His whole past life, with all its follies, rose before his mind; he remembered that ten years ago that day he had quitted Bologna a young man, and turned a longing gaze towards his native country; he opened a book which then was his constant companion, the 'Confessions' of St. Augustine, and his eye fell on the passage in the tenth chapter, 'and men go forth, and admire lofty mountains and broad seas, and roaring torrents, and the ocean, and the course of the stars, and forget their own selves while doing so.' His brother, to whom he read these words, could not understand why he closed the book and said no more.