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Italian poetry is a category of Italian literature.

High medieval literatureEdit

TrovatoriEdit

The earliest vernacular literary tradition in Italy was in Occitan, a language spoken in parts of northwest Italy. A tradition of vernacular lyric poetry arose in Poitou in the early twelfth century and spread south and east, eventually reaching Italy by the end of the century. The first troubadours (trovatori in Italian), as these Occitan lyric poets were called, to practise in Italy were from elsewhere, but the high aristocracy of Lombardy was ready to patronise them. It was not long before native Italians adopted Occitan as a vehicle for poetic expression, though the term Occitan did not really appear until the year 1300, "langue d'oc" or "provenzale" being the preferred expressions.

Among the early patrons of foreign troubadours were especially the House of Este, the Da Romano, House of Savoy, and the Malaspina. Azzo VI of Este entertained the troubadours Aimeric de Belenoi, Aimeric de Peguilhan, Albertet de Sestaro, and Peire Raimon de Tolosa from Occitania and Rambertino Buvalelli from Bologna, one of the earliest Italian troubadours. The influence of these poets on the native Italians got the attention of Aimeric de Peguilhan in 1220. Then at the Malaspina court, he penned a poem attacking a quintet of Occitan poets at the court of Manfred III of Saluzzo: Peire Guilhem de Luserna, Perceval Doria, Nicoletto da Torino, Chantarel, and Trufarel. Aimeric apparently feared the rise of native competitors.

The margraves of MontferratBoniface I, William VI, and Boniface II—were patrons of Occitan poetry. Peire de la Mula stayed at the Montferrat court around 1200 and Raimbaut de Vaqueiras spent most of his career as court poet and close friend of Boniface I. Raimbaut, along with several other troubadours, including Elias Cairel, followed Boniface on the Fourth Crusade and established, however briefly, Italo-Occitan literature in Thessalonica.

Azzo VI's daughter, Beatrice, was an object of the early poets "courtly love". Azzo's son, Azzo VII, hosted Elias Cairel and Arnaut Catalan. Rambertino was named podestà of Genoa between in 1218 and it was probably during his three-year tenure there that he introduced Occitan lyric poetry to the city, which later developed a flourishing Occitan literary culture.

Among the Genoese troubadours were Lanfranc Cigala, a judge; Calega Panzan, a merchant; Jacme Grils, also a judge; and Bonifaci Calvo, a knight. Genoa was also the place of genesis of the podestà-troubadour phenomenon: men who served in several cities as podestàs on behalf of either the Guelph or Ghibelline party and who wrote political poetry in Occitan. Rambertino Buvalelli was the first podestà-troubadour and in Genoa there were the Guelphs Luca Grimaldi and Luchetto Gattilusio and the Ghibellines Perceval and Simon Doria.

The Occitan tradition in Italy was more broad than simply Genoa or even Lombardy. Bertolome Zorzi was from Venice. Girardo Cavallazzi was a Ghibelline from Novara. Nicoletto da Torino was probably from Turin. In Ferrara the Duecento was represented by Ferrari Trogni. Terramagnino da Pisa, from Pisa, wrote the Doctrina de cort as a manual of courtly love. He was one of the late 13th-century figures who wrote in both Occitan and Italian. Paolo Lanfranchi da Pistoia, from Pistoia, was another. Both wrote sonnets, but while Terramagnino was a critic of the Tuscan school, Paolo has been alleged as a member. On the other hand, he has much in common with the Sicilians and the Dolce Stil Novo.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Italian troubadour phenomenon was the production of chansonniers and the composition of vidas and razos. Uc de Saint Circ, who was associated with the Da Romano and Malaspina families, spent the last forty years of his life in Italy. He undertook to author the entire razo corpus and a great many of the vidas. The most famous and influential Italian troubadour, however, was from the small town of Goito near Mantua. Sordello (1220s–1230s) has been praised by such later poets as Dante Alighieri, Robert Browning, Oscar Wilde, and Ezra Pound. He was the inventor of the hybrid genre of the sirventes-planh in 1237.

The troubadours had a connexion with the rise of a school of poetry in the Kingdom of Sicily. In 1220 Obs de Biguli was present as a "singer" at the coronation of the Emperor Frederick II, already King of Sicily. Guillem Augier Novella before 1230 and Guilhem Figueira thereafter were important Occitan poets at Frederick's court. Both had fled the Albigensian Crusade, like Aimeric de Peguilhan. The Crusade had devastated Languedoc and forced many troubadours of the area, whose poetry had not always been kind to the Church hierarchy, to flee to Italy, where an Italian tradition of papal criticism was begun. Protected by the emperor and the Ghibelline faction criticism of the Church establishment flourished.

Chivalric romanceEdit

The Historia de excidio Trojae, attributed to Dares Phrygius, claimed to be an eyewitness account of the Trojan war. It provided inspiration for writers in other countries such as Benoît de Sainte-Maure, Herbort von Fritzlar, and Konrad von Würzburg. While Benoît wrote in French, he took his material from a Latin history. Herbort and Konrad used a French source to make an almost original work in their own language. Guido delle Colonne of Messina, one of the vernacular poets of the Sicilian school, composed the Historia destructionis Troiae. In his poetry Guido was an imitator of the Provençals, but in this book he converted Benoît's French romance into what sounded like serious Latin history.

Much the same thing occurred with other great legends. Qualichino of Arezzo wrote couplets about the legend of Alexander the Great. Europe was full of the legend of King Arthur, but the Italians contented themselves with translating and abridging French romances. Jacobus de Voragine, while collecting his Golden Legend (1260), remained a historian. He seemed doubtful of the truthfulness of the stories he told. The intellectual life of Italy showed itself in an altogether special, positive, almost scientific form in the study of Roman law. Farfa, Marsicano, and other scholars translated Aristotle, the precepts of the school of Salerno, and the travels of Marco Polo, linking the classics and the Renaissance.

At the same time, epic poetry was written in a mixed language, a dialect of Italian based on French: hybrid words exhibited a treatment of sounds according to the rules of both languages, had French roots with Italian endings, and were pronounced according to Italian or Latin rules. In short, the language of the epic poetry belonged to both tongues. Examples include the chansons de geste, Macaire, the Entre en Espagne written by Niccola of Padua, the Prise de Pampelune, and others. All this preceded the appearance of a purely Italian literature.

Important Italian poetsEdit

See alsoEdit


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