Page images

ejus verbis utamur, Christo Jesu, et Moyse, et Mahometo, totum mundum fuisse deceptum, &c.” Frederick, in a circular to all the princes of Christianity, formally denies having uttered such expressions; and our Matthew Paris, although a monk, does not seem to have given an implicit faith to the statement of the Pope, and notices the blasphemies imputed to the Emperor as a report rather than a fact. 6. The same Emperor Frederick is reported (fertur) to have said, although it is unlawful to repeat the words—that Moses, Jesus, and Mahomet, were three jugglers, who skilfully and cunningly deluded all their contemporaries, that they alone might domineer over the world."* But the charge being upheld by the authority of the church, originated and confirmed the story that Frederick the Second and Pietro delle Vigne were the authors of the famous book de Tribus Impostoribus, which, from that time forth, every one quoted, execrated, and formally refuted, but which no one had ever seen; for, if written at all previous to the eighteenth century, it could not have been so till about the middle of the sixteenth, Monsieur de la Monnoie, whose whole life was devoted to researches concerning the history of typography and libraries, believed, (in the year 1716,) that he had proved to demonstration, that the existence of such a work was a mere chimera. Either he was ignorant that a rare copy had been discovered of an edition printed in 1598, or else this early date had been affixed to one of a much more recent impression; indeed the paper and the form of the types betrayed a date later, by, at least, one hundred and fifty years.t But it does not warrant the assertion of Mr. Ginguené, that such a book never existed. Some performance of this description, and with a title somewhat similar, must have been circulated during the time of the Reformation ; for those to whom it was then attributed disclaimed the imputation, whilst they admitted the recent publication of the book. It is not unlikely that the Inquisition itself contrived the work, for the purpose of using it as a ground of accusation against any man of ability who might incline towards the doctrines of the Protestant church. The disputes between the Popes and the Emperor having terminated, there was no longer any motive for ascribing the book de Tribus Impostoribus to the head of the empire. Thus, without regarding anachronisms, it was imputed to any one whose sacrifice was likely to be useful to the church, by spreading ecclesiastical terrorism. Amongst others, Campanella, the precursor of Lord Bacon in the reform of philosophy, and one of the most powerful reasoners against Atheism, having excited some suspicion that he favoured the new tenets, was sentenced to be tried as its author. “Up to this day have 1 suffered and been confined in fifty different prisons : seven times have I been put to the severest torture: the last time endured forty-eight hours. I was bound with cords, drawn so tightly, they cut to the very bones, and was suspended by a rope, with my hands backward, over a sharp piece of wood, which tore away nearly six pounds of flesh from my posteriors, and ten pounds of blood ran from me to the earth. 'At length, after six months, being by divine aid cured, I was plunged into a ditch. They had accused me of having written the book de Tribus Impostoribus, which was printed thirty years before I was out of my mother's womb."

* Ilistor. ad an. 1238.
+ Catul. of the Crevina Liltary.

I Menugiuna, Vol. II. Amsterdam, 1716.

Hist. Literaire d'Italie, Vol. I. p. 351.

The real crime of Campanella, was the same which had been committed three hundred and fifty years before by the Emperor Frederick and his chancellor. They wished to diffuse as much intelligence as possible, and to dissipate, as far as they could, the superstition which Rome, under the name of religion, had turned so profitably to its account. The most efficacious mode of diminishing the authority of their writings was to ascribe to them a work, whose very title excites a shudder. The struggle of Frederick, however, in favour of literature was so successful as to lay the first foundation of the language and poetry of the Italians.

Christianity in their age proscribed every sort of study except those of theology, medicine, and law; and even this last was entirely subject to the canon law. The Popes had not yet arrived to their subsequent profligacy of manners and the ambition of enriching and aggrandizing their families. To science the most profound, they united an exemplary austerity of life. Their frequent requisitions of pecuniary tributes from kings and nations were only to enable them to exercise over them a more supreme authority. Far from being actuated by the pitiful ambition of leaving behind them a long genealogy of titled nephews, their grand design was to establish at Rome a despotic theocracy-absolute over all countries-over all princes, and over the human mind itself;-a despotism which could not be accomplished without perpetually retaining the implicit faith of mankind. The exercise of the intellectual faculties in those studies which require warmth and freedom of imagination, contributes eminently to weaken this sort of faith. Thus poetry was denounced as a profane pursuit, at once relaxing the public morals and diminishing religious belief. It was as much, therefore, as a political scheme as from natural talent that Frederick II. assembled at his court all the minstrels and artists he could find ; that he wrote verses himself, and taught his son and his grandson also to write them.

Pietro delle Vigne, his chancellor, was courtier enough to imitate the example of his master, and Frederick was a poet sufficiently generous not to be displeased with finding that the verses of his chancellor were better than his own. In analyzing the language of the only fragment which remains to us of the poetry of Frederick, we recognize in it the groundwork of the Italian of our days; and by slight alterations of the Sicilian mode of spelling, -as by writing ho, partird, in the place of haggio and partiraggio; and by taking away the traces of the Latinisms, eo (ego), and meo (meus), and replacing them by io, mio—the following ballad will scarcely betray any vestige of an obsolete style.

Poiche ti piace, amore,
Ch 'eo deggia trovare
Faron de mia possanza
Ch'eo vegna a compimento.
Dalo haggio lo meo core
In voi, madonna, amare ;
E tutta mia speranza
In vostro piacimento.

* In Proem. Atheismi.

E no mi partiraggio
Da voi, donna valente;

Ch'eo vamo dolcemente:
E piace a voi ch'co haggia intendimento;
Valimento mi date, donna fina;

Che lo meo core adesso a voi s'inchina. We should be more abundantly qualified to enter into an examination more accurate and successful, than has hitherto been made, of the origin and early progress of the literary language of Italy, if we possessed all the poetry of Pietro delle Vigne. It was not until three hundred years after his death, that any attempt was made to dig them out from their obscurity. It was already too late : three short pieces make up the whole of the discovery; and these were published for the first time towards the middle of the sixteenth century. The enterprise, almost superhuman, of creating a new literary language, which Dante achieved, will be less astonishing, when we consider that it was encouraged and facilitated by such predecessors as Pietro delle Vigne. One hundred years before Dante, and in an epoch of which there remains no trace of correct Italian writing, not even among the Florentines, (and it is believed that throughout Italy the language spoken was a sort of Latin mutilated in its terminations, and barbarized by importations from the languages of the North.) Nature had endowed Pietro delle Vigne with so fine a tact and such a correctness of taste, as to select his words and frequently to turn his phrases in such a way as to ensure them a permanent and distinguished place in the language of Italy. In the following lines there is no part of the syntax which is not perfectly grammatical, nor a word which has become antiquated, nor one inelegant expression.

Or potess' io venire a voi, amorosa,
Come il ladron ascoso, e non paresse :
Ben lo mi terria in gioja avventurosa
Se l'ainor tanto di ben mi facesse.
Si bel parlare, donna, con voi fora;

E direi come v amai lungamente.Among the three pieces which remain of Pietro, there is one sonnet; and being the most ancient specimen known of this form of composition, the invention has been attributed to him. What is certain, however, is, that the Provençal poets and the Troubadours, even in the opinion of M. Ginguené, were unacquainted with it, and that they received the earliest models of it from the Italians. We republish this rarity the more willingly, as it contains a distinct profession of that platonic love, which almost all the Italian poets, with Petrarch at their head, have never ceased to celebrate.

Peroch' amore no si ро vedere
E no si trata corporalemente,
Quanti ne son de si fole sapere
Che credono ch'amor sia niente.

Ma poch' amore si faze sentere,
Dentro dal cor signorezar la zente,
Molto mazore presio de avere
Che sel vedesse vesibilemente.

Per la vertute de la calamita
Come lo ferro atra' non se vede
Ma si lo tira signorevolmente.

E questa cosa a credere me ’nvita
Ch'amore sia e dame grande fede

Che tutt' or fia creduto fra la zente.*
Love is so subtle, mortals cannot see

His outward form or grasp him with the hand;
Fools as they are, they wish to understand

Thai love hath nothing of reality.
Though blind and but a shadow, still doth he

Rule o'er that little realm the human heart,
And leaveth there a wound of deeper smart,

Unseen, than if appearing openly.
Like to the virtue of the mystic stone

Forcing the stubborn metal to obey,

We yield before his mighty hidden power ;
And, thus constrain'd, I with submission own

That he exists, and bears a wider sway

Than man hath e'er believed unto this hour. A beautiful passage of Dante, admirably translated by Mr. Cary, will, in some measure, compensate for the scanty relics of Pietro delle Vigne's poetry; and will, at the same time, instruct our readers in all which is certainly known as to the tragic death of this uncommon man. The causes which contemporary writers, both Italians and foreigners, and amongst others Matthew Paris, assign for his death, are apparently so romantic, and in reality so contradictory, that it is impossible to ascertain any thing else, than that Pietro, having lost the favour of Frederick, was condemned to lose his eyes, and to pass the rest of his life in a prison, where he destroyed himself. Dante, in his circuit of Hell, enters upon a forest

" Where no track
Of steps had worn a way. Not verdant there
The foliage, but of dusky hue; not light
The boughs and tapering, but with knares deform’d
And matted thick : fruits there were none, but thorns
Instead, with venom fill'd.”

Hell, Canto xiii. v. 3. From the trees of this forest wailings and deep groans issue forth ; and Dante, stretching out his hand, gathers a branch from a great wilding :—when a voice from the trunk exclaims

Why pluck’st thou me?'
Then, as the dark blood trickled down its side,
These words it added: "Wherefore tearst me thus?
Is there no touch of mercy in thy breast?
Men once were we, that now are rooted here.
Thy hand might well have spared us, had we been
The souls of serpents. As a brand yet green,
That burning at one end, from the other sends
A groaning sound, and hisses with the wind
That forces out its way, so burst at once
Forth from the broken splinter, words and blood.

I, letting fall the bough, remained as one
Assail'd by terror."

[ocr errors]

Hell, Canto xiij.v. 33.

* M. Ginguené infers (and we think rightly) from the spelling of these lines, that they were transcribed from some old manuscript by a Venetian copyist.

He then renews his dialogue with the trunk, which continues to utter its mournful cries, and to pour forth words and blood : when he is informed that every one of these melancholy plants incloses the soul of a suicide.

When departs
The fierce soul from the body, by itself
Thence torn asu der, to the seventh gulf
By Minos doom'd, into the wood it falls,
No place assign'd, but wheresoever chance
Hurls it; there sprouting, as a grain of spelt,
It rises to a sapling, growing thence
A savage plant. The Harpies, on its leaves
Then feeding, cause both pain, and for the pain
A vent to grief. We, as the rest, shall come
For our own spoils, yet not so that with them
We may again be clad ; for what a man
Takes from himself it is not just he have.
Here we perforce shall drag them: and throughout
The dismal glade our bodies shall be hung,
Each on the wild thorn of his wretched shade."

Hell, Canto xiii. v. 96. To make the unhappy soul some amends for the wrong he had done it in wrenching off the branch from the tree in which it was confined, Dante demands the name it bore in the world above, in order that he, on his return, may revive its fame :-it answers

I it was who held
Both keys to Frederick's heart, and turn'd the wards
Opening and shutting, with a skill so sweet,
That besides me into his inmost breast
Scarce any other could admittance find.
The faith'I bore to my high charge was such,
It cost me the life-blood that warm'd


The harlot,* who ne'er turn'd her gloating eyes
From Cæsar's household, common vice and

Of courts, 'gainst me inflamed the minds of all;
And to Augustus they so spread the flame,
That my glad honours changed to bitter woes.
My soul, disdainful and disgusted, sought
Refuge in death from scorn, and I becaine,
Just as I was, unjust toward myself.
By the new roots, which fix this stem, I swear,
That never faith I broke to my liege lord,
Who merited such honour: and if you,
If any to the world indeed return,
Clear he from wrong my memory:

that lies
Yet prostrate under envy's cruel blow.

Hell, Canto xiii. 9. 60. Frederick himself survived his unfortunate Chancellor not more than two years, leaving, as Voltaire observes, “ le monde aussi troublé à sa mort qu'à sa naissance.”+


* The harlot.] Envy. Chaucer alludes to this in the Prologue to the Legende of Good women :

“ Envie is lavender to the court alway,

For she ne parteth neither night ne day

Out of the house of Cesar; thus saith Dant." Note of Mr. Cara + Essai sur les Maurs, c. 53.

« PreviousContinue »