The Oxford Book of Italian Verse: XIIIth Century-XIXth Century

The Oxford Book of Italian Verse: XIIIth Century-XIXth Century

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The Oxford Book of Italian Verse: XIIIth Century-XIXth Century

The Oxford Book of Italian Verse: XIIIth Century-XIXth Century

Read FREE!

Synopsis

The earliest Italian poetry which has come down to us was written in Sicily during the brief but extremely important epoch of culture which was inaugurated by the Emperor Frederick II, himself a poet and an enthusiastic patron of all fine art. This poetry, as might be expected, is in some degree tainted with the formal graces of the Court; it lacks the personal note, and its conventions are an inheritance from the Provençal troubadours. Dante tells us in the Vita Nuova that the first poet who wrote in lingua volgare—in the spoken language that existed all through the early Middle Ages side by side with the sadly degraded Latin of the priests—employed that lowly medium in order to be understood by the lady whom he addressed; but the Sicilian school of poets probably made use of the volgare for a less interesting reason— it had become the fashion, or, possibly, the custom of writing it was encouraged by the Emperor because his ambition to unite the various Italian cities against the Pope made him realize the importance of cultivating a language which, except for a few local variations, was common to them all. In spite of a certain conventionality, however, there is a freshness and delicacy in the little garland of Sicilian courtpoetry which is intrinsic, owing nothing to the art of . . .

Excerpt

San Francesco d’ Assisi (page 37), son of Pietro di Bernadone, merchant; born at Assisi. Trained as a merchant, but preferred a life of pleasure, and was the acknowledged chief of a band of happy hedonists in his native town. Taken prisoner by the Perugians in 1202, he began to dream of military glory during captivity, and when he was free decided to take arms on behalf of Innocent III, but, falling ill at Spoleto, he was warned in a vision to become the ‘ new soldier of Christ’, and returned to Assisi. He separated himself from his family, and in 1209, having given away all that he possessed, he went from city to city preaching the new gospel of poverty, repentance, and love for others. In 1210 the Rule of the new Order was approved by Innocent III, and in 1217 five thousand Brothers assembled at the first General Chapter. Probably he met St. Dominic at Porziuneola in 1218. In 1219 he went to St. John of Acre, but was recalled to Italy owing to dissensions in the Order. In 1223 the revised rule was solemnly ratified by Honorius III. A year later, on the Mount Alvernia, the body of the saint, worn by long toils and fasting, prese l’ ultimo sigillo, and on the 4th of October, 1226, he died at Porziuneola whilst the larks, as the old legend tells us, sang at his window. He was canonized by Gregory IX in 1228, and two years later his remains were interred beneath the high altar of the Lower Church.
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