Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/136



a prose writer as excellent in his kind as Dante and Petrarch had been in theirs.

The good genius of Italy did not suffer us to be without one; Giovanni Boccaccio, a friend of Petrarch, about thirty years after his master, began to publish many works, amongst which his Decamerone raised his name so high, that no Italian author has yet appeared who pretends, or can with justice pretend to be possessed of only one half of his perfections. Boccaccio has copiousness of words, elegance of style, variety of thought, facility of invention and so many other excellencies, that none of his countrymen must hope to get the upper hand of him.

This is the character that Boccaccio acquired and preserved in Italy, since the first pubHcation of his Decamei’one; yet my particular opinion is that he has ali those good qualities when he speaks of ludicrous things; but when he treats a serious subject, I do not find his style so constantly naturai and perspicuous, as in his humorous descriptions and burlesque narrations. In his introduction to his novels, for instance, which contains a description of the plague that raged in Tuscany in the year 1348, he strives too much to be eloquent and pompous, and his style is here and there perplexed and embarassed by circumlocutions and parentheses ; but when he comes to describe and characterize ser Ciappelletto, frate Cipolla, Cuccio Imbratta, or Calandrino, his expressions flow with precision and rapidity.

But that commendation, which Boccaccio deserves from the admirers of Italian language and eloquence, is entirely forfeited if we look on his Decamerone with the eyes of moralists and christians. Yet as the intent of this historical dissertation is to treat of language and not morals, I shall not expatiate on the numerous transgressions among our writers of the limits which religion ought to have set their pens; but without further digression copy a novel tale for a specimen of Boccaccio ’s prose:

In Firenze fu giá un giovane chiamato Federigo di tnesser Filippo Alberighi, ecc. (’)

(i) Giorn. V, nov. 9 [Ed.].