Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/128



southern Italians, and, from Tuscany to the Alps, the ProvenQal dialect was the language of the Muses.

A quick succession of revolutions in the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, withdrawing the studious from their apolHnean employments, soon put an end to a language that was yet far from having reached its point of perfection; and the bar of the Alps obstructing the course of that spoken by the masters of Provence, left the inhabitants of Italy to improve their naturai stock of words, and look out for easier means of conveying their ideas in writing to their countrymen, now reduced to make the best use they could of an uncouth cant that was neither Gothic nor Latin, but a barbarous mixture of many modem tongues, incorporared into the adulterated relics of that noble language that was spoken a thousand years before by their glorious predecessors.

This language or cant, then called volgare, to distinguisi! it from the Latin, Sicilian and Provenpal that had by intervals prevailed in the writings of the Italians, began in the twelfth century to make its appearance in written prose and poetry; but as it was itself differently pronounced in different places, and was in a manner subdivided into as many dialects as there are districts in Italy, and as no standard of speech was yet formed to which ali could refer, every one was left to his own direction and every one generally wrote this volgare, as it was spoken in the place of his nativity.

Had the art of printing made its appearance at that period, what a quantity of writing would then have got out of obscurity to entertain or to puzzle succeeding students! The teeth of time and the fíre of war have corroded and burnt the greatest part of the barbarous parchments of that age; yet it is scarcely to be conceived what huge heaps of them are stili preserved in our numerous libraries and archives. The Tuscans in particular distinguished themselves much for their addiction to scribbling and the names of Perotto Zanobi, Frate Cercuccio, Loffo Banaguida, Pippo Fronda, Meo da Maiano, Lilio Lelli, Cene della Chitarra, Folcacchiero de’ Folcacchieri, Clone Ballione,