Page:The Oxford book of Italian verse.djvu/4

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INTRODUCTION

Provence; the note of irony in the Tenzone of Ciullo d'Alcamo is new and real, and the other poets of the group occasionally achieve effects which are never found in completely derivative literature. To call them the Sicilian group does not imply that they were all Sicilians; there were many Tuscans, and probably many Lombards, at the Court of Frederick II, and thus the new art would be disseminated throughout Italy.

Provençal influence not only found its way into the country through Sicily; the gai saber was cultivated in Genoa, in the Trevisan March, and especially at the Court of Bonifazio di Monferrato, the friend of Raimbaut di Vaqueiras. Many Italians, Sordello amongst them, wrote in Provençal. The poetry of the langue d'oc was essentially 'courtly', but the epics of chivalry which were written in the langue d'oïl and were brought into Italy by wandering minstrels (who eventually became a public nuisance, in the manner of certain modern alien artists) had a more popular quality; the pig-headed paladins and bloodthirsty archbishops who ravened in those interminable laisses would no doubt seem singularly lifelike to a humble audience in that most troubled time. Besides the epic of chivalry, didactic poems in the manner of the 'Romance of the Rose' were popular; various versions of the Arthurian legends were recited both in the piazza and the Court, MS. copies of which (amongst them the famous book which Paolo and Francesca read together in the garden at Rimini) existed in the palace of every great noble. These poems in the langue d'oïl very soon lost their distinctively French quality, and borrowed many dialectic peculiarities of the provinces where they became popular.

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