Italy Literature in the 17th Century Part II

According to COUNTRYVV, the boast of an innovator in that century greedy for novelty was also given to Tassoni for the  raptured Secchia , a poem that, modeled on the forms of the perfect epic, mixes the serious with the joking in a comic disguise of facts and characters contemporary to the author placed with laughing intertwining of anachronisms to figure and act in disparate moments of medieval life. The novelty would have been the Italian heroicomic epic, very different from the Greek heroicomic epic, which had had some dull imitator in the sixteenth century; but it was a novelty that at that time of reflected literary life was reproduced in other poems (the Donkey  by Carlo Dottori, the  desolate Torracchione  by Bartolomeo Corsini, etc.); but in substance it remained what it had been in the  Secchia, an artificial construction desired by the author to exhibit his comic and satirical spirit; formal variety of a playful art, which in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had innumerable other forms in sonnets and chapters of Burchiellesque and Bernese lineage (among the authors of such insipid pranks it hardly counts to mention Francesco Ruspoli and Lodovico Leporeo, seventeenth-century Vectors and, most fruitful and ingenious of all, Giambattista Fagiuoli, eighteenth-century artists) and in poems such as  Lo Scherno degli dei  by Francesco Bracciolini,  Lorenzo Lippi’s  repurchased Malmantile  , Niccolò Forteguerri’s Ricciardetto  , Bertoldo ‘s remake in octaves , all stuff that has little to do with art proper. A great macchiettist and caricaturist, Tassoni puppet and satirized friends and adversaries in the  Secchia  , and at the same time succeeded, perhaps without an original deliberate intention, in a parody of the grim poems (less grim than all, but poor thing too, the  Cross racquistata  by Bracciolini and  Girolamo Graziani’s Conquisto di Granata  ), in which the tassesque imitation languished.

Salvator Rosa, a bizarre artist’s spirit, also dealt with literary criticism, judiciously analyzing the vices of the poetry of his time, in one of his seven satires, who for the lively witty exuberant expression of a characteristic individuality and for the concreteness of some representations place him first among the many and pale satiricals of his time. To which followed, artistically little different from them, the many of the eighteenth century, generic, abstract, talkative too, when a spirit of anger and intentions of personal revenge do not sharpen and make concrete their complaints, as is the case in live satires. the Tuscan language of Benedetto Menzini and in those, masterfully fashioned in the manner and language of Horace and Juvenal, of Lodovico Sergardi or Quinto Settano.

Sick of secentism was then also the prose of the novel, oratory, of ceremonial letters and of any other kind, when it did not defend it, as happened, for example, in the Galilean-type scientific prose of Vincenzo Viviani, of Lorenzo Magalotti and, beyond the borders of the century. XVII, by Lazzaro Spallanzani, a thought strongly lived and therefore intolerant of formal abstractions. The novel, which moral or political or heroic-gallant had replaced the poem and the chivalrous novel as a pleasant reading, displayed the boldest flowers of the seventeenth century. Great vogue had the  Dianea  by Gianfrancesco Loredan and the  faithful Calloandro by Giovanni Ambrogio Marini. Less clumsy is the prose of the short story, which has remained faithful to the Boccaccio tradition, traces of which in the invention of the frame are also found in the  Pentamerone  by Giambattista Basile. But such are the notes of the individuality of this Neapolitan writer, not even in the genre of tales, true folk tales, but in the magnificently seventeenth-century style, which he leaps up among his contemporaries in the unclassifiable aspect of a great artist of his dialect.

Of the sacred oratory, the only form of eloquence that had an abundant flowering in the seventeenth century, it seems that no longer emotion and persuasion, but the wonder of the faithful had to be the purpose; whereby the preachers mostly based their prayers on a comparison (the predicable concept), trying to show with a great copy of scholarship and with an asphyxiating pursuit of rhetorical artifacts, how the truth they wanted to inculcate was symbolically contained in a word of Scripture, in a fact of history, in a phenomenon of nature. Paolo Segneri, simple prose writer, agile, casual in doctrinal works, but in serious sermons of overwhelming doctrine, rhetorical, emphatic in polemics, cold due to the evidently artificial warmth in the motion of the affections.

Over all the art prose writers of the seventeenth century, Daniello Bartoli, who narrated the story of the missions of his Jesuit brothers in the East, stands out, if not for the depth of lived thought, for the warm emotion of an esthete, and in other works he dealt with moral issues and science. He and Basile are perhaps the only two writers, who sometimes in some way remember the great artists of the Baroque. Bartoli’s religiosity is a poetic feeling of divine creation, which he portrays with the magisterium of a magnificent style of construction and color, his admiration for the holy heroic deeds that he narrates, is confused with the complacency of the artist who shows off an ability of powerful descriptor, and the enchantment of a fantastic vision embodied in an admirable richness and flexibility of language.

Italy Literature in the 17th Century 2