liked to look into his own heart with a severe eye, but he was also able to pour himself out with tumultuous fulness. He described with the art of a sculptor; he satirized, laughed, prayed, sighed, always elegant, always a Florentine, but a Florentine who read Anacreon, Ovid and Tibullus, who wished to enjoy life, but also to taste of the refinements of art.
Next to Lorenzo comes Poliziano, who also united, and with greater art, the ancient and the modern, the popular and the classical style. In his Rispetti and in his Ballate the freshness of imagery and the plasticity of form are Poliziano. inimitable. He, a great Greek scholar, wrote Italian verses with dazzling colours; the purest elegance of the Greek sources pervaded his art in all its varieties, in the Orfeo as well as the Stanze per la giostra.
As a consequence of the intellectual movement towards the Renaissance, there arose in Italy in the 15th century three academies, those of Florence, of Naples and of Rome. The Florentine academy was founded by Cosmo I. de’ Medici. Having heard the praises of Platonic The Academies. philosophy sung by Gemistus Pletho, who in 1439 was at the council of Florence, he took such a liking for those opinions that he soon made a plan for a literary congress which was especially to discuss them. Marsilius Ficinus has described the occupations and the entertainments of these academicians. Here, he said, the young men learnt, by way of pastime, precepts of conduct and the practice of eloquence; here grown-up men studied the government of the republic and the family; here the aged consoled themselves with the belief in a future world. The academy was divided into three classes: that of patrons, who were members of the Medici family; that of hearers, among whom sat the most famous men of that age, such as Pico della Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano, Leon Battista Alberti; that of disciples, who were youths anxious to distinguish themselves in philosophical pursuits. It is known that the Platonic academy endeavoured to promote, with regard to art, a second and a more exalted revival of antiquity. The Roman academy was founded by Giulio Pomponio Leto, with the object of promoting the discovery and the investigation of ancient monuments and books. It was a sort of religion of classicism, mixed with learning and philosophy. Platina, the celebrated author of the lives of the first hundred popes, belonged to it. At Naples, the academy known as the Pontaniana was instituted. The founder of it was Antonio Beccadelli, surnamed Il Panormita, and after his death the head was Il Pontano, who gave his name to it, and whose mind animated it.
Romantic poems were the product of the moral scepticism and the artistic taste of the 15th century. Italy never had any true epic poetry in its period of literary birth. Still less could it have any in the Renaissance. It had, however, many poems called Cantari, because they Romantic poetry. contained stories that were sung to the people; and besides there were romantic poems, such as the Buovo d’ Antona, the Regina Ancroja and others. But the first to introduce elegance and a new life into this style was Luigi Pulci, who grew up in the house of the Medici, and who wrote the Morgante Maggiore at the request of Lucrezia Tornabuoni, mother of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The material of the Morgante is almost completely taken from an obscure chivalrous poem of the 15th century recently discovered by Professor Pio Rajna. On this foundation Pulci erected a structure of his own, often turning the subject into ridicule, burlesquing the characters, introducing many digressions, now capricious, now scientific, now theological. Pulci’s merit consists in having been the first to raise the romantic epic which had been for two centuries in the hands of story-tellers into a work of art, and in having united the serious and the comic, thus happily depicting the manners and feelings of the time. With a more serious intention Matteo Boiardo, count of Scandiano, wrote his Orlando innamorato, in which he seems to have aspired to embrace the whole range of Carlovingian legends; but he did not complete his task. We find here too a large vein of humour and burlesque. Still the Ferrarese poet is drawn to the world of romance by a profound sympathy for chivalrous manners and feelings—that is to say, for love, courtesy, valour and generosity. A third romantic poem of the 15th century was the Mambriano by Francesco Bello (Cieco of Ferrara). He drew from the Carlovingian cycle, from the romances of the Round Table, from classical antiquity. He was a poet of no common genius, and of ready imagination. He showed the influence of Boiardo, especially in something of the fantastic which he introduced into his work.
The development of the drama in the 15th century was very great. This kind of semi-popular literature was born in Florence, and attached itself to certain popular festivities that were usually held in honour of St John the Baptist, patron saint of the city. The Sacra Rappresentazione is in Drama. substance nothing more than the development of the medieval Mistero (“mystery-play”). Although it belonged to popular poetry, some of its authors were literary men of much renown. It is enough to notice Lorenzo de’ Medici, who wrote San Giovanni e Paolo, and Feo Belcari, author of the San Panunzio, the Abramo ed Isac, &c. From the 15th century, some element of the comic-profane found its way into the Sacra Rappresentazione. From its Biblical and legendary conventionalism Poliziano emancipated himself in his Orfeo, which, although in its exterior form belonging to the sacred representations, yet substantially detaches itself from them in its contents and in the artistic element introduced.
From Petrarch onwards the eclogue was a kind of literature that much pleased the Italians. In it, however, the pastoral element is only apparent, for there is nothing really rural in it. Such is the Arcadia of Jacopo Sannazzaro of Naples, author of a wearisome Latin poem De Partu Pastoral poetry. Virginis, and of some piscatorial eclogues. The Arcadia is divided into ten eclogues, in which the festivities, the games, the sacrifices, the manners of a colony of shepherds are described. They are written in elegant verses, but it would be vain to look in them for the remotest feeling of country life. On the other hand, even in this style, Lorenzo de’ Medici was superior. His Nencia da Barberino, as a modern writer says, is as it were the new and clear reproduction of the popular songs of the environs of Florence, melted into one majestic wave of octave stanzas. Lorenzo threw himself into the spirit of the bare realism of country life. There is a marked contrast between this work and the conventional bucolic of Sannazzaro and other writers. A rival of the Medici in this style, but always inferior to him, was Luigi Pulci in his Beca da Dicomano.
The lyric love poetry of this century was unimportant. In
its stead we see a completely new style arise, the Canto carnascialesco.
These were a kind of choral songs, which
were accompanied with symbolical masquerades,
common in Florence at the carnival. They were
poetry. written in a metre like that of the ballate; and for the most part they were put into the mouth of a party of workmen and tradesmen, who, with not very chaste allusions, sang the praises of their art. These triumphs and masquerades were directed by Lorenzo himself. At eventide there set out into the city large companies on horseback, playing and singing these songs. There are some by Lorenzo himself, which surpass all the others in their mastery of art. That entitled Bacco ed Arianna is the most famous.
Girolamo Savonarola, who came to Florence in 1489, arose to fight against the literary and social movement of the Renaissance. Some have tried to make out that Savonarola was an apostle of liberty, others that he was a precursor of the Reformation. In truth, however, he was neither Religious reaction. Savonarola. the one nor the other. In his struggle with Lorenzo de’ Medici, he directed his attack against the promoter of classical studies, the patron of pagan literature, rather than against the political tyrant. Animated by mystic zeal, he took the line of a prophet, preaching against reading voluptuous authors, against the tyranny of the Medici, and calling for popular government. This, however, was not done from a desire for civil liberty, but because Savonarola saw in Lorenzo and his court the greatest obstacle to that return to Catholic doctrine which was his heart’s