Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/592

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is quaintly significant of the scant attention given to the Attic drama in the fifteenth century. But nothing in the poem is truer to the feeling of Italian humanism, or better indicates one of its limitations on the critical side, than the estimate of Homer and Virgil. Virgil, says Politian, ranks next to Homer; or, were not Homer the elder, might even rank above him (vel, ni veneranda senectus Obstiterit, jbrtasse prior). The second poem of the Sylvae, called Rusticus, was an introduction to the author's lectures on Hesiod's Works and Days, Virgil's Eclogues and Georgws, and other bucolic poetry. The third, Manto, was a brilliant eulogy on Virgil. The fourth, Ambra, was prefatory to lectures on Homer. Politian's Italian lyrics have been deemed by competent critics to possess high poetical merit, entitling him to a place between Petrarch and Ariosto. His Latin verse, brilliant as it is in rhetorical quality, wants the tact in selection of topics, and the artistic finish, which belong to poetry. But it is easy to conceive how powerful must have been the effect of those impetuous hexameters, when Politian, who was skilled in elocution and gifted with a voice of much charm, declaimed them in his crowded lecture-room at Florence, as a proem to discourses full of eloquence and learning. His audience was cosmopolitan, and the fame of his teaching was borne to every country in Europe. Politian's work was cut short by death at an age when most men of comparable eminence in the annals of scholarship have been only at the outset of their career. But his function was to inspire; and his gifts were such that his brief span of life sufficed to render him one of the most influential personalities in the history of Italian humanism.

The teaching by public lecture, of which Filelfo and Politian were such distinguished exponents, gave occupation, throughout the fifteenth century, to a long series of able men. It flourished at almost every considerable centre of Italian life. And, from the second quarter of the century onwards, the humanist professor had found an efficient ally in the schoolmaster, who prepared the ground for him. The Italian Renaissance brought forth no fairer fruit, and none fraught with more important consequences for the liberal culture of the world, than the school-training, based on the ideas of humanism, which took shape at that period. A place of special honour in the history of education is due to the founder of that system, Vittorino da Feltre. Born in 1378 at Feltre, a small town of Venetia, he went at eighteen to the University of Padua, then second in Italy only to the University of Bologna, and sharing with Pavia the distinction, still rare at that time in Universities, of being comparatively favourable to the New Learning. At Padua, Vittorino was the pupil of Giovanni di Conversino and afterwards of Gasparino da Barzizza, scholars whose important services to the study of Latin have already been noticed. Another Paduan teacher of that day whose influence Vittorino doubtless felt was Vergerius, the author