Italian Poetry in the 13th and Early 14th Century Part II

A learned lyric, even when it re-elaborates popular motifs, such as the lament of an abandoned woman, attributed to Odo delle Colonne, or that for the departure of the crusader by Rinaldo d’Aquino. Refined stylistic exercise, the Sicilian School is at the basis of the later lyric, also because it fixes the main meters of it, the song (derived with innovations from the Provençal one) and the main of the Italian meters, the sonnet. ● Immediately after the middle of the 13th century, when the Swabian power was destroyed, the center of linguistic-literary development moved to Tuscany: a large group of rhymers from the various provinces of that region (the most notable of which is C. Davanzati) interprets and welcomes the literature of the Sicilian School as national, from which he assumes as his own the modes of poetry and in part also the poetic language, also welcoming typical forms of the Sicilian speech that will thus acquire the lasting right of citizenship in the Italian poetic language, which, however, from this moment becomes essentially Tuscan, and indeed it will soon become, more precisely, Florentine. To the still Sicilian, and therefore Provençal, subject, Tuscan poets willingly add political and moral themes, developing that tendency of love poetry to transform itself into moral meditation, which was already implicit in the literature of the oc. This more or less secret path becomes clearly perceptible in the poetic-biographical career of the one who exercised, in the generation prior to Dante’s, the function of real leader, Guittone d’Arezzo, who, abandoned at a certain point in his life the rhymes of love, he devoted himself to the moral ones. Guittone and the Guittonians love Provençal, more than the Sicilians trobar clus, and exasperate the stylistic artifices, delighting in the difficult, the subtle, the tortured.

According to REMZFAMILY, a little younger than him, G. Guinizzelli starts from Guittone’s poetry, but soon to contest his supremacy and deny his ways. Guinizzelli does not innovate poetry in the sense of giving rise to an immediate outpouring of ‘true’ feelings, according to the opinion of romantic origin; but he innovates it precisely in the doctrinal sense, giving a precise philosophical basis to the tendency to consider love as a means of moral elevation (especially in the song Al cor gentil rempaira semper amore, which will later be assumed as the manifesto of the new poetic school). The next generation, that of G. Cavalcanti and Dante, as well as a few other of their peers and friends, all Florentines (Lapo Gianni, D. Frescobaldi, G. Alfani, to whom another young man, Cino da Pistoia echoes), reacts to Guittonian poetry, which is defined plebeian, municipal, even ‘foolish’. They are aristocrats, some even by birth, and they inaugurate a ‘new style’, a new way of love poetry; which must be ‘sweet’, that is, par excellence, eschewing realism, linguistically refined, stylistically supported but not artificial. They recognize their precursor and teacher in Guinizzelli, of which they accept the basic doctrine, of love-elevation and of the woman-angel, and constitute the school of Stil novo (or Dolce stil novo). The conquest of virtue through love is the true main theme of the stilnovists; in substance love-passion tends to become love-virtue; but Dante Alighieri alone will follow this path in its entirety (which will culminate in the Divine Comedy). However, this Sicilian-Guittonian-Stilnovist succession concerns only a part of the lyric, since the same Guinizzelli, Cavalcanti and above all Dante also write poems of different ‘style’, playful-popular; or even of carnal love (remember Dante’s stony ones).

Outside this succession is also religious poetry, in full bloom already in the thirteenth century. Just for the middle of the 13th century. Joachim of Fiore had prophesied the advent of a new era. It is the time when new great orders arise and flourish, the Franciscan and the Dominican. The Cantico di Frate Sole dates back to the early thirteenth century, contemporary and perhaps anterior to the oldest Italian poetry compositions.of s. Francis. The movement of the Disciplinati, which exploded in Perugia in 1260 and immediately spread throughout the Italy central and northern, gives new vigor to brotherhoods of lay people already existing in the early Middle Ages, whose main purpose was to gather to sing the praises of Jesus, of Mary, then also of the saints: their song, lauda, ​​at first lyric, it then becomes dramatic, and is at the origin of the reborn theater. A contemporary of Dante, Iacopone da Todi, takes the material and forms of the lauda to express his energetic and fervent spirit of religiosity.

Italian Poetry in the 13th and Early 14th Century 2