Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/137



Contemporaries with Boccaccio were Zucchero Benci venni, Ciscranna de’ Piccolomini, Alberto degli Albizzi, Leonardo del Galacone, Arrigo Castruccio (son of Castruccio Castracani), Rainerio de’ Pagliaresi, Giovanni Lambertacci, Gano da Colle, Andrea di Piero Malavolta, Giacopo Colonna, Cecco Angiolieri, Antonio Pucci, Dino di Tucca and numberless others.

This set of writers was immediately foUowed by another of much more eminence than they. Laurence of the Medici of Florence, the richest private man that perhaps lived in Italy since the Roman Crassus, encouraged with such princely munificence the learned of his time, and especially those that escaped from Greece, then conquered by the Turks, that Florence became the seat of the Muses and Italy was filled with good writers.

Our language was not only beautified by the compositions of Laurence and his numerous courtiers and friends, but enlarged by their elegant translations of the best Latin and Greek books.

Poetry and learning became then so much in fashion, that even carpenters, shoe-makers, barbers and tailors of Tuscany could write good verses; nor shall I scruple to number amongst our poets Massa the joiner, Piero the carder, Giovanni Guggiola the seller of greens, and many more, whose lyric compositions please me near as much as those of Petrarch himself.

The greatest men in literature that Italy boasts of flourished in that time: the names of Poliziano, Ficino, Barbaro, Pico, Poggio, Valla, Crisolora, the two Aretines, Moschopulo, Tarcagnota Calcondile, Bessarione and others, either professors or promoters of Italian learning, will last as long as mankind are wise enough to be addicted to arts and sciences.

For a specimen of the language of that period I shall only transcribe a few stanzas out of the epic poem of Luigi Pulci, entitied // Morgante maggiore, a poem that, in my opinion, may cope with those of Boiardo and Ariosto, for power and variety of poetical thinking. Orlando, who, next Morgante, is the chief hero of this poem, after having fought the battle of Roncisvalle, is so much overpowered with fatigue, that he finds