Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/77

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
63
PONTARLIER—PONTECOULANT

where his father was murdered in one of the frequent civil brawls which then disturbed the peace of Italian towns. His mother escaped with the boy to Perugia, and it was here that Pontano received his first instruction in languages and literature. Failing to recover his patrimony, he abandoned Umbria, and at the age of twenty-two established himself at Naples, which continued to be his chief place of residence during a long and prosperous career. He here began a close friendship with the distinguished scholar, Antonio Beccadelli, through whose influence he gained admission to the royal Chancery of Alphonso the Magnanimous. Alphonso discerned the singular gifts of the young scholar, and made him tutor to his sons. Pontano's connexion with the Aragonese dynasty as political adviser, military secretary and chancellor was henceforth a close one; and the most doubtful passage in his diplomatic career is when he welcomed Charles VIII. of France upon the entry of that king into Naples in 1495, thus showing that he was too ready to abandon the princes upon Whose generosity his fortunes had been raised. Pontano illustrates in a marked manner the position of power to which men of letters and learning had arrived in Italy. He entered Naples as a penniless scholar. He was almost immediately made the companion and trusted friend of its sovereign, loaded with honours, lodged in a fine house, enrolled among the nobles of the realm, enriched, and placed at the very height of social importance. Following the example of Pomponio Leto in Rome and of Cosimo de' Medici at Florence, Pontano founded an academy for the meetings of learned and distinguished men. This became the centre of fashion as well as of erudition in the southern capital, and subsisted long after its founder's death. In 1461 he married his first wife, Adriana Sassone, who bore him one son and three daughters before her death in 1491. Nothing distinguished Pontano morethan the strength of his domestic feeling. He was passionately attached to his wife and children; and, while his friend Beccadelli signed the licentious verses of Hermaphroditus, his own Muse celebrated in liberal but loyal strains the pleasures of conjugal affection, the charm of infancy and the sorrows of a husband and a father in the loss of those he loved. Not long after the death of his first wife Pontano took in second marriage a beautiful girl of Ferrara, who is only known to us under the name of Stella, Although he was at least sixty-five years of age at this period, his poetic faculty displayed itself with more than usual warmth and lustre in the glowing series of elegies, styled Eridanus, which he poured forth to commemorate the rapture of this union. Stella's one child, Lucilio, survived his birth but fifty days; nor did his mother long remain to comfort the scholar's old age. Pontano had already lost his only son by the first marriage; therefore his declining years were solitary. He died in 1503 at Naples, where a remarkable group of terra-cotta figures, life-sized and painted, still adorns his tomb in the church of Monte Oliveto. He is there represented together with his patron Alphonso and his friend Sannazzaro in adoration before the dead Christ.

As a diplomatist and state official Pontano played a part of some importance in the affairs of southern Italy and in the Barons' War, the wars with Rome, and the expulsion and restoration of the Aragonese dynasty. But his chief claim upon the attentions of posterity is as a scholar. His writings divide themselves into dissertations upon such topics as the “ Liberality of Princes ” or “ Ferocity,” composed in the rhetorical style of the day, and poems. He was distinguished for energy of Latin style, for vigorous intellectual powers, and for the faculty, rare among his contemporaries, of expressing the facts of modern life, the actualities of personal emotion, in language sufficiently classical yet always characteristic of the man. His prose treatises are more useful to students of manners than the similar lucubration's of Poggio. Yet it was principally as a Latin poet that he exhibited his full strength. An ambitious didactic composition in hexameters, entitled Urania, embodying the astronomical science of the age, and adorning this high theme with brilliant mythological episodes, won the admiration of Italy. It still remains a monument of fertile invention, exuberant facility and energetic handling of material. Not less excellent is the didactic poem on orange trees, De hortis Hesperidum. His most original compositions in verse, however, are elegiac and hendecasyllabic pieces on personal topics—the De conjugali amore, Eridanus, Tumuli, Naeniae, Baiae, &c.—in which he uttered his vehemently passionate emotions with a warmth of southern colouring, an evident sincerity, and a truth of painting from reality which excuse their erotic freedom.

Pontano's prose and poems were printed by the Aldi at Venice. For his life see Ardito, Giovanni Pontano e i suoi tempi (Naples, 1871); for his place in the history of literature, Symonds, Renaissance in Italy.  (J. A. S.) 


PONTARLIER, a frontier town of eastern France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Doubs, 36 m. S.E. of Besançon by road. Pop. (1906), 7896. It is situated 2750 ft. above sea-level on the Doubs, about four miles from the Swiss frontier, and forms an important strategic point at the mouth of the defile of La Cluse, one of the principal passes across the ]ura. The pass is defended by the modern fort of Larmont, and by the Fort de Joux, which was originally built in the 10th century by the family of Joux and played a conspicuous part in the history of Franche-Comté. Pontarlier is the junction of railway lines to Neuchâtel, Lausanne, Lons-le-Saunier, Dole and Besançon. A triumphal arch of the 18th century commemorates the reconstruction of the town after the destructive fire of 1736. It was at Pontarlier that the French army of the East made its last stand against the Prussians in 1871 before crossing the Swiss frontier. The distillation of herbs, extensively cultivated for the manufacture of absinthe, kirsch and other liqueurs, is the chief industry. The town is the seat of a sub-prefect and has a tribunal of first instance and a communal college.


PONT AUDEMER, a town of north-western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Eure, 39 m. N.W. of Evreux, on the Risle, a left-bank affluent of the Seine, and on the railway from Evreux to Honfleur. Pop. (1906), 5700. The church of St Ouen, which has fine stained glass of the 16th century, combines the late Gothic and Renaissance styles; its choir is Romanesque. Local institutions are the sub-prefecture, a tribunal of first instance, a board of trade-arbitration, a chamber and tribunal of commerce. Manufacturing industry is active, and includes the founding of malleable metal, a spur factory, the manufacture of glue and paper, cotton-spinning and various branches of leather manufacture. There is trade in iiax, wool, grain, cattle, cider, paper, iron, wood and coal. The port has a length of over half a mile on the Risle, which is navigable for small vessels from this point to its mouth (10 m.). The town owes its name to Audomar, a Frank lord, who in the 7th or 8th century built a bridge over the Risle at this point. It was the scene of several provincial ecclesiastical councils in the 12th and 13th centuries and of meetings of the estates of Normandy in the 13th century.


PONTE (Ital. for “ bridge ”), a rough game peculiar to the ci ty of Pisa, in which the players, divided into two sides and provided with padded costumes, contended for the possession of one of the bridges over the Arno. The weapon used, both for offence and defence, was a kind of shield which served as a club as well.

A history and description of the game may be found in William Heywood's Palio and Ponte (London, 1904).


PONTECORVO, a city of Campania, Italy, in the province of Caserta, on the Garigliano, about 48 m. from Caserta and 3 m. from Aquino on the railway from Rome to Naples. Pop. (1901), 10,518 (town); 12,492 (commune). The town is approached by a triumphal arch adorned with a statue of Pius IX. The principality of Pontecorvo (about 40 sq. m. in extent), once an independent state, belonged alternately to the Tomacelli and the abbots of Monte Cassino. Napoleon bestowed it on Bernadotte in 1806, and in 1810 it was incorporated with the French Empire.


PONTÉCOULANT, LOUIS GUSTAVE LE DOULCET, Comte de (1764–1853), French politician, was born at Caen on the 17th of November 1764. He began a career in the army in 1778.