The Minor Poems
The historical significance of Renaissance cities is inseparable from their status as ideas. Burckhardt implied as much when he began his Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy with a chapter on "The State as a Work of Art"; and a recent work on the urban culture of Renaissance Italy has enshrined the implication in its title: Power and Imagination. Not just in Italy, but at different times and in different ways throughout Europe, the life of Renaissance cities was shaped not only by evolving economic forces and civic forms, but also by a growth in civic awareness, a consciously novel effort to frame an urban ideology. Because its chief architects were often literary humanists, that ideology embodied as a major theme the role of literary culture in the structure of power. According to the Ciceronian myth fostered by humanists, the arts of speech lay at the very roots of civic order. "The highest science with which to govern the city," Brunetto Latini explained, "is the science of language; without language there would be no cities, nor could we establish justice and human community. And as Lord Berners similarly remarked in the preface to his translation of Froissart's Chroniques (1523-25), political power flows from literary sources: "So thus, through the monumentes of writynge, ... many men have ben moved, some to bylde cytes, some to devyse and establisshe lawes right profitable, necessarie, and behovefull for the humayne lyfe...."
Mythographical commonplace had bestowed on poets a distin-____________________