Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/603

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

so decidedly passed its zenith: certainly he can have had no presage of what was to happen a few years after his death.

The capture of Rome by the imperialist troops in 1527 broke up that Roman world of literature and art which, as viewed by the men who were under its spell, had rivalled the age of Pericles or of Augustus. Valeriano, who knew the city both before and after that fatal year, has described, in his dialogue De Literatorum Infelicitate, the horror and completeness of the catastrophe. When he asked for the men of letters whom he remembered at Rome, he learned that many of them had perished by the sword, by torture, or by disease. Others had escaped only to end their days in penury and suffering. But some fine scholars were still left in Italy. Petrus Victorius (1499-1584), who taught at his native Florence from 1538 onwards, showed much acuteness in his Variae Lectiones. His labours included some good work for the Attic tragedians, Aristotle, and Cicero. Lombardy was now the part of Italy in which classical culture found its chief refuge. At Ferrara humanism was represented especially by Lilius Gyraldus (1479-1552), whose His-toria Poetarum (1545) was one of the earliest books on the history of classical literature. Robortellus (1516-67), a sound Hellenist, who taught at Pavia and elsewhere, edited Aeschylus and Callimachus; while by his treatise De Arte sive Rat tone Corrigenda Antiquos Llbros he ranks among the founders of textual criticism. Ever since the days of Politian, the cultivation of Latin verse writing had been popular. Along with much that was mediocre or bad, some admirable work in this kind was produced. Andrea Navagero, of Venice, who died in 1529, might be instanced as a Latin scholar who wrote verse in a really classical taste, untainted by the coarseness which was then too common. A few years after the sack of Rome, Marcantonio Flaminio, of Imola, dedicated to his patron, Alessandro Farnese, a collection of verses by scholars belonging to Venice, Modena, Verona, Mantua, and other North-Italian towns. The condition of Italy at this time was utterly miserable. But Flaminio's elegant verse breathes only a scholar's exultation. "Happy, too happy, are our days, which have given birth to a Catullus, a Tibullus, a Horace, and a Virgil of their own! Who would have thought that, after the darkness of so many centuries, and the dire disasters of Italy, so many lights could have arisen within the narrow region beyond the Po?" Such words, written in such days, have an unconscious pathos. They are significant of Italy's patient fidelity to the ideals of the Renaissance, as well as of the price which she paid for it. And now at last the tide was about to turn. The power of the Roman Church, strenuously engaged in combating the Reformation, became adverse also to the aims and the spirit of the New Learning. In 1530 Clement VII and Charles V made their compact at Bologna. Spain, supported by the papacy, effected the pacification of Italy. So far as Italy was concerned, the humanistic movement was now arrested,