Italy Literature – Latin Humanism and Vulgar Humanism Part 2

Italy Literature - Latin Humanism and Vulgar Humanism 2

The Latin epic, which began with Africa , rarely took up topics from ancient history or pagan mythology; preferred contemporary arguments, which offered the authors the right to flatter the patrons from whom they expected compensation: Francesco Filelfo, master of that most vile art, composed without finishing a  Sforziade  between Virgilian and Homeric, full of mythological narratives, and Basinio Basini a ‘ Hesperide, where the exploits of Sigismondo Malatesta against the Aragonese are sung with a large copy of Homeric imitations. Easy in the verse, but cold and poor in color and elegance is the Latin lyric of the last fourteenth century and the century. XV, faithful to the forms of the epigram and elegy according to Martial, Ovid, Propertius, Tibullus. A large volume of epigrams composed the Filelfo; but the greatest lyricist of the early fifteenth century was Antonio Beccadelli, known as the Panormita, to whom the Hermaphroditus, scollacciata collection of epigrams and elegies, procured the name and crown of a poet. Giannantonio Campano has a few colorful elegies and sudden epigrams that are not without spirit; and Tito Vespasiano Strozzi, taking forms and ways not just from the elegiacs, but from Catullus and Horace, succeeds in representing beautiful realistic concretions and portraying with evidence and with some aura of poetry spectacles of nature, domestic scenes and tragic or comic episodes of life daily. With him we touch the end of the fifteenth century, when history has now dispelled the humanistic dream, and Italian humanism has already spoken its language for about half a century.

According to top-medical-schools.org, humanists considered language an essential part of antiquity, which the new philology freed from the superfetations and deformations on which traditional science had misrepresented it, and on which it was claimed to shape the new literary life, the humanists considered language an essential part and therefore they deluded themselves to create a new literature. Latin, that is, to be able to express themselves in Latin, as if almost a millennium and a half of history had not passed since the classical age, and the world of their souls was therefore not anything but that of Cicero or Virgil. The age that includes the extreme fourteenth century and the first decades of the fifteenth century was therefore troubled by a conflict between the abstract fantasy that wanted to make a living language of classical Latin, and history that inexorably condemned it to be a dead language. And the disagreement found a transitory composition in the easy empiricism to which the learning and use of Latin was then informed and which moderated in practice the intentions of Ciceronian imitation. The humanists of that age in fact retained a remarkable flexibility in the Latin language, which even admitted the infiltration of vulgar elements, and a great ease and freedom of movement to the style. But when the historical sense of the Latin language became more subtle and acute, that sympathetic linguistic and stylistic clumsiness was lost, which makes Italian humanism of the first half of the fifteenth century so attractive to us and already so beneficial in the history of the human spirit. The vision then became fuller and more certain, and the evaluation of the classical world more exact; but the empiricism which for a short time had reconciled the free individualism of the dream with the iron necessity of history, succumbed to the tyranny of the rules, and history asserted its rights, consecrating the vernacular as the language of Italian national humanism and composing the Latin in his tomb. Ciceronianism, of which Gasparino Barzizza had been the first apostle in the early fifteenth century, even though it triumphed over his adversaries, became rigid in a purpose of narrow formal imitation, which was the prodrome and cause of its end; and humanism, which is not Latinism, but the affirmation of humanity in action and doctrine, was on the one hand severe philological research for the purpose of pure historical reconstruction, on the other hand, expression of the new and self-aware spiritual activity in the forms of Italian or of a Latin which in the most unscrupulous eclecticism continued the linguistic and stylistic freedom of the early fifteenth century: the Latin of historians, such as Biondo Flavio da Forlì, intended to be the work of investigators and critics of the sources rather than elegant writers; of archaeologists collecting monuments, such as Ciriaco d’Ancona; of philosophers, such as Giannozzo Manetti and Marsilio Fieino, who care about form only insofar as it is expressed thought.

It was in the years between the first and second half of the century. XV, that the old empiricism and the new historicist start of culture found themselves in contrast in the fierce polemics between Poggio Bracciolini and Lorenzo Valla. A great champion of empiricism, Poggio wrote a Latin which, thanks to its freedom of vocabulary and grammar, retains an amiable flavor of a living language. On the other hand, Valla, the free and strong mind of a thinker, who shook many philosophical, historical and juridical traditions with rigor of logic and combative ardor, in the  Elegantiae latinae linguae (1444) defined with a methodical study of the classics the use of parts of speech in the period, noted some singular properties of Latin writing and stopped with philosophical discussions and comparisons of synonymous voices the precise meaning of many words.

Italy Literature - Latin Humanism and Vulgar Humanism 2