Page:The Oxford book of Italian verse.djvu/6

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the popular songs—of the early poetry of Italy which you may still hear as it rises from the sunburnt vineyards of Tuscany, or breaks the dreamy silence of the Campagna.

About the time when Frederick and Ciullo and the unhappy Pier' delle Vigne were writing, we lind a group of poets in Florence, where there was no court and therefore no courtly affectation. Their poems, of which the Tenzone by Ciacco d'Anguillaja is a good example, were remarkable for a sober simplicity, the appropriate language of the good old time extolled by Cacciaguida, when

Fiorenza dentro dalla cerchia antica...
Si stava in pace, sobria e pudica.

At Bologna, where the dreadful shade of Aristotle hovered over the University, a school of philosophical poetry flourished; Guido Guinizelli sang, or rather reasoned, of love in the detached and scholastic manner that is the privilege of the learned; whilst Umbria was the centre of the religious poetry, the laudi and the sacra rappresentazione.

Such were the antecedents of the dolce stil nuovo and of the Divine Comedy. The evolutionary view of literature has of late been advanced to painful extremes, for certainly nothing can be drearier than to regard any great work of art as the punctual flower on a particular branch of a vast genealogical tree. Yet it is well to remember that we may find one, at any rate, of the many keys which 'unlock the heart' of a great poet hidden away amid even the rubbish and lumber left by his predecessors—that a knowledge of the intellectual and artistic tendencies of his age may give us a fuller insight into his own mental pro-