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Click on the footnote number and you will jump down to that note. Once there and enlightened, then click on that number and you will return to where you were in the text. Often he told them or heard them told in baronial halls, and in lordly places, in rough huts after days of hunting, and in the encampment of battlefields.
Before audiences of seigneurs and knights, in the company of stately prelates, and in the rollicking gatherings of dashing young donzelli , he had narrated or heard narrated by humbler men of his craft these simple 2 stories, some of them redolent of the wisdom of ages, others piquant with the flavour of his own times. Well he knew their effect, and could choose one to suit his company and occasion.
Thus for the entertainment of graver and elderly lords he would select those of monkish or ascetic origin, while when in the company of gay young cavalieri , he would not hesitate to tell over some of the more libertine tales of his oral anthology. And the beginnings of the new Italian tongue, liberating itself from the secular thrall of its parent Latin, and having taken shape in its Tuscan and Sicilian matrixes, sought an early literary expression and found it in the work of our perhaps slightly pedantic giullare who will in all probability remain for ever unknown to us.
That some such person existed is obvious, even if we cannot discover his name, nor his place of birth, nor estate. As does the fact that the tales 3 were not written in Latin, for the tenacious Latin clung to the cloisters after it had died on the tongues and pens of the lay world of those times.
Our anthologist, who was in fact a great deal more than an anthologist, had coadjutors and rivals, successors and improvers, as the different manuscripts of the Novellino prove, but the original compiler of the Cento Novelle Antiche as the work was previously called, was, one likes to believe, a single individual rather than a group of giullari or ex- giullari at the dependence of some medieval Medici.
So the idea came to him of grouping together in one manuscript, which maybe he gave for copying to some Florentine monk, a selection of the knightly, moral, Biblical, classical, and popular tales which were most in vogue in his epoch.
They were stories which had stood the test of time — some of them the test of successive civilizations — and had met the full-throated approval of numerous courts from Provence to Sicily, from Parma to Rome. Hitherto they had lived only on the lips of the Court story-tellers and wandering minstrels who narrated them. And each man added or altered them according to his wit and company. The collection here printed under the title of Il Novellino , most of which tales appear in the original edition of the Cento Novelle Antiche , by Gualteruzzi, formed part of a vast repertory of similar stories, legends and anecdotes which were bandied about from province to province, from country even to country, and closed full lived medieval days of hunting and of battle.
Perhaps it was after some especially successful night when our unknown compiler had won the approval of a generous signore for his tales, and carried off a purse filled with a few gold coins to his lonely room, that the idea came to him of 5 framing the oral stories in a literary form. He had probably no notion that he was making literature, or founding one of the purest early classics of the young Italian tongue which the wit of he people had shaped out of the mother Latin.
For him it was a matter of convenience and utility, though the urge to give a literary shape to the spreading idiom was in the air, deriving as an impellent necessity from the propagation of the spoken word which was widespread in Tuscany and vigorous elsewhere though in dialect forms. We may reflect in passing what a marvellous opportunity it was for poets and story-tellers, although they did not recognize it as such — to find themselves in the privileged position of having a virgin language at their command, not debased by the ready-made phrase, the trite mechanical expressions.
With a new language coming into 6 being, nothing or almost nothing is conventionalized. The idea runs straight from the dynamic thought to the natural phrase. There are no ready-made channels to absorb the spontaneity, convenient and inevitable as such moulds afterwards become. We may, I think, fairly argue that it was some professional teller of tales, some giullare of more than average education rather than any monk or ascetic who wrote the first manuscript of the Hundred Old Tales , and this for the extremely free, not to say bawdy character of three or four of them.
These latter have not been translated. Moreover, the curious and often ridiculous errors in geography, history, chronology and physics which we find in the Novellino is surely proof that the person who compiled it was no great scholar or man of learning. The mistakes which appear in it could hardly have been perpetrated by a learned monk well read in history and the classics.
Again, Latin was still 7 the language of science and such scholarship as existed then. The times were rude in a certain sense, though perhaps less rude than is generally imagined, but some of the errors to be found in the tales are so gross and absurd that they could not have been committed to a manuscript by anyone of real learning. Italian critics and writers generally on the subject of early Italian literature are by no means agreed as to the origins of the tales which make up the Cento Novelle.
It was during the latter half of the thirteenth century, however, that the new tongue began to make headway against the obstinacy of the Latin, but it is only towards the end of the thirteenth century that original works in Italian prose appeared.
Before the thirteenth century practically no Italian literature existed. Italian writers had written in Latin, 8 in French, and in a kind of mixed French and Italian.
Guido delle Colonne wrote his Trojan poem in Latin. It was from about the year that the national literature developed. In the North of Italy, the poems of Giacomino da Verona and Bonvecino da Riva, which were religious in character, showed traces of the movement which prepared the way for the instrument that was to serve Dante and Boccaccio. The south of the Italian continent with the exception of Naples and some monasteries like Salerno, was steeped in ignorance, and rough dialects grew out of the Greco-Latin soil with nothing literary about them.
Frederick II 9 himself, who ruled his Sicilian court, was a poet of sorts himself, though his productions were imitative and unoriginal like most of the members of the Sicilian school.
Matteo Spinelli da Giovenazzo, too, may lay claim to be one of the very earliest writers in the Tuscan dialect, which afterwards, and with great rapidity, developed into the Italian language.
Another name that may be mentioned is that of Ricordano Malespina. The former reached a far higher degree of art than they ever attained to in Italy.
To the extensive works in thousands of lines which the other romance languages can show, Italy can only put forward the bare skeleton tales of the Novellino , the Conti dei Antichi Cavalieri , 10 the Conti Morali del Anonimo Senese. Several of the tales which appear in the Novellino also figure in Disciplina Clericalis and in the Gesta , as we shall see. No memory of these Italian songs has remained, though they must have existed, and perhaps in plenty, but the versifiers of the period were plebian and lowly.
They lacked the protection of important courts. While France, Spain and Germany can show a rich epic popular poetry, Italy can only boast a few hundred novelle in prose. The tale or novella was a literary product especially pleasing to the Middle Ages, which was, in the matter of culture, an infantile age. The period seems to have almost a childish 11 affection for the marvellous tale. Learning and intellectual sophistication of ay kind was in the hands of a few, was almost a kind of vested interest in which not only the common people, but even the lords and knights themselves had no interest or claim.
This was especially the case in Italy, where no vehicle existed for its propagation until the end of the thirteenth century. Therefore to simple minds, unused to the mysteries of literature, save those written in a hermetic and pompous tongue fast disappearing from common use, the tale was a spiritual refreshment aptly suited to the time. But if Italian culture was backward at this time, or non-existent save in Latin forms, it grew very quickly, and from its plebian sources there came into being the new art of Boccaccio.
For though the language was new, the Italians were by no means a new people. They had behind them a long uninterrupted literary tradition from which they could with difficulty withdraw themselves. There was even a similarity of 12 spirit between those who clung to the old traditions and wrote in Latin, and the people seeking to express themselves in their young language.
The two literatures had a great deal of the same spirit and character. The early Italian prose developed to a great extent along the lines of the earlier chroniclers who wrote in medieval Latin.
Nor could it very well be otherwise, for even a new literature of a new tongue requires models, and where should the new nationalist scribes turn for models save to the Latin writing of their own countrymen? It is not too much to say that Italian grew quickly because of its Latin traditions.
It is astonishing to think how quickly it did grow, from the simple beginnings of the Cento Novelle to Boccaccio.
In less than one hundred years Dante is reached. This rapid growth evidently depended on the fact that Italian was a continuation of Middle-Age Latin. In its spoken form, it had been in use for some time, and it merely required a certain amount of independence and belief in the popular idiom to turn it to literary uses.
In the tales which make up the Novellino , 13 we can see how near the form is to the spoken language, especially in those tales which are of contemporary and local origin. The compiler did little more than put into simple Tuscan prose tales that for the most part were well known in oral tradition. When I come to examine the tales individually, we shall see which came from the classics, which from Oriental sources, which from Provence and which were the product of local wit.
It is alleged in some quarters that the Novellino or the Cento Novelle Antiche was not the work of a single compiler. This thesis is supported by arguments which point out the diversity of style and colour in the tales. It seems to me that it may also be argued from this that, as indisputably the stories derive from many stories, such as Provence, the Bible, the Greek and Latin classics, and the tales of the moral and ascetic writers, such a variety of style and colour is only to be expected.
If one prefers the theory of single authorship — an authorship of course which is limited as the subject matter of the tales was common property — one can find just as many arguments for it as the 14 upholders of the plural authorship theory can lay against it. There are those who deny the authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey to one poet. One cannot pretend to settle a question which still perplexes Italian critics of their own early literature.
One may, however, refer briefly to some of the best accredited opinion on the subject. This is very natural, in the case of a work which was obviously written by several people, and gathered in volume with time.
In the Novellino , Saladin is spoken of, and we know that he died in , during a war with the Christians of the Third Crusade. From one date to the other there pass some seventy-five years, whence we should have to admit that the author was more than a hundred 15 years old if he were one and the same person.
To give an idea of the close similarity that exists between the two versions of the Trajan tale, I give a translation of both versions and place them side by side. The version to be found in the Fiore di Filosofi runs:. Trajan was a very just emperor. Having one day mounted his horse to enter into battle with his cavalry, a widow woman came before him, and taking hold of his foot, begged him very earnestly and asked him that he should do justice on those who had wrongfully killed her son, a most upright 16 lad.
The Emperor spoke to her and said: I will give you satisfaction on my return. The version in the Novellino runs: The Emperor Trajan was a most just lord. Going one day with his host of cavalry against his enemies, a widow woman came before him, and taking hold of his stirrup said: Sire, render me justice against those who have wrongfully killed my son. And the Emperor answered: I will give you satisfaction when I return.
As we see, the versions are almost identical, and the similarity continues in about the same degree throughout the two versions of the same tale. The opinion has been put forward that Francesco da Barberino had a hand in the shaping of the final collection of tales.
This theory was advanced by Federigo Ubaldini in Adolfo Ancona, certainly one of the weightiest authorities on early Italian literature, is of the opinion that the Novellino was the work of one man. The matter is complicated by the existence of more than one manuscript. The first edition of the tales was printed in Bologna in by Carlo Gualteruzzi of Fano under the title of Le Ciento Novelle antike. This latter edition differs considerably from the Gualteruzzian version, contains tale which do not appear in the earlier version and omits others contained therein.
The discussions concerning the two versions soon began. But the authenticity of the Gualteruzzian version is now generally accepted, though the matter can by no means be considered as finally settled. Borghini in his edition seems to have sought to remove from the text all the moral and ascetic tales or those deriving from monkish or ecclesiastical sources.
Sicardi, it may be mentioned, holds by the theory of the plural authorship of the tales. A curious fact in connection with the early editions of the Hundred Old Tales is that it has been alleged that an earlier edition than that of Gualteruzzi published in Bologna in exists in England.
It is supposed to have been offered for sale by a London dealer in first editions, and to have passed into private hands. I have not been able to verify the truth of the existence or not of this alleged early edition.
The manuscripts of the Cento Novelle Antiche are eight in number, and seven of them correspond with the editio princeps of Gualteruzzi. Only one, the Codex Panciatichianus, discovered by Wesselofsky, and published by Biagi, in , differs materially, and contains some thirty tales and proverbs which do not appear in either of the two principal editions of Gualteruzzi or Borghini.
ISBN 13: 9788817073271