« ForrigeFortsett »
embassy, and, on his return to Greece, he rashly provoked the swarnis of fanatic monks, by attempting to substitute the light of reason to that of their navel. After a separation of three years the two friends again met in the court of Naples ; but the generous pupil renounced the fairest occasion of improvement; and by his recommendation Barlaam was finally settled in a small bishopric of his native Calabria. The manifold avocations of Petrarch, love and friendship, his various correspondence and frequent journeys, the Roman laurel, and his elaborate compositions in prose and verse, in Latin and Italian, diverted him from a foreign idiom; and as he advanced in life the attainment of the Greek language was the object of his wishes rather than of his hopes. When he was about fifty years of age, a Byzantine ambassador, his friend, and a master of both tongues, presented him with a copy of Homer, and the answer of Petrarch is at once expressive of his eloquence, gratitude, and regret. After celebrating the generosity of the donor, and the value of a gift more precious in his estimation than gold or rubies, he thus proceeds :-“ Your present of “ the genuine and original text of the divine poet, the fountain of all
invention, is worthy of yourself and of me; you have fulfilled your “ promise, and satisfied my desires. Yet your liberality is still imper“ fect: with Homer you should have given me yourself; a guide who “ could lead me into the fields of light, and disclose to my won“ dering eyes the specious miracles of the Iliad and Odyssey. But, - alas ! Homer is dumb, or I am deaf; nor is it in my power to
enjoy the beauty which I possess. I have seated him by the side “ of Plato, the prince of poets near the prince of philosophers, and I
glory in the sight of my illustrious guests. Of their immortal “ writings, whatever had been translated into the Latin idiom I had
already acquired; but if there be no profit, there is some pleasure, “ in beholding these venerable Greeks in their proper and national “ habit. I am delighted with the aspect of Homer; and as often as “ “ I embrace the silent volume, I exclaim with a sigh, Illustrious “ bard! with what pleasure should I listen to thy song, if my sense “ of hearing were not obstructed and lost by the death of one friend, “ and in the much lamented absence of another! Nor do I
yet « despair, and the example of Cato suggests some comfort and hope, “ since it was in the last period of age that he attained the know“ ledge of the Greek letters.” 92
The bishopric to which Barlaam retired was the old Locri, in the middle ages Scta. Cyriaca, and by corruption Hieracium, Gerace (Dissert. Chorographica Italia inedii Ævi, p. 312). The dives opum of the Norman times soon lapsed into poverty, since even the church was poor: yet the town still contains 3000 inbabitants (Swinburne, p. 340).
* I will transcribe a passage from this epistle of Petrarch (Famil. ix. 2): Donasti Homerum non in alienum sermonem violento alveo derivatum, sed ex ipsis Græci
Leo Pilatus, professor at
The prize which eluded the efforts of Petrarch was obtained by the
fortune and industry of his friend Boccace, 93 the father of A.D. 1360,&c. the Tuscan prose. That popular writer, who derives his reputation from the Decameron, an hundred novels of pleasantry and love, may aspire to the more serious praise of restoring in Italy the study of the Greek language. In the year one thousand three hundred and sixty a disciple of Barlaam, whose name was Leo or Leontius Piatus, was detained in his way to Avignon by the advice and hospitality of Boccace, who lodged the stranger in his house, prevailed on the republic of Florence to allow him an annual stipend, and devoted his leisure to the first Greek professor, who taught that language in
the Western countries of Europe. The appearance of Leo first Greek might disgust the most eager disciple: he was clothed in and the mantle of a philosopher or a mendicant; his countenance
was hideous; his face was overshadowed with black hair ;
his beard long and uncombed ; his deportment rustic; his temper gloomy and inconstant; nor could he grace his discourse with the ornaments or even the perspicuity of Latin elocution. But his mind was stored with a treasure of Greek learning: history and fable, philosophy and grammar, were alike at his command ; and he read the poems of Homer in the schools of Florence. It was from his explanation that Boccace composed and transcribed a literal prose version of the Iliad and Odyssey, which satisfied the thirst of his friend Petrarch, and which, perhaps in the succeeding century, was clandestinely used by Laurentius Valla, the Latin interpreter. It was from his narratives that the same Boccace collected the materials for his treatise on the genealogy of the heathen gods, a work, in that age, of stupendous erudition, and which he ostentatiously sprinkled with Greek characters and passages, to excite the wonder and applause of his more ignorant readers. The first steps of learning are slow and laborious; no
in the West,
eloquii scatebris, et qualis divino illi profluxit ingenio. .... Sine tuâ voce Homerus tuus apud me mutus, immo vero ego apud illum surdus sum. Gaudeo tamen vel ad. specta solo, ac sæpe illum amplexus atque suspirans dico, O magne vir, &c.
* For the life and writings of Boccace, who was born in 1313, and died in 1375, Fabricius (Biblioth. Latin. medii Ævi, tom. i. p. 248, &c.) and Tiraboschi (tom. v. p. 83, 439–451) may be consulted. The editions, versions, imitations of his novels, are innumerable. Yet he was ashamed to communicate that trilling, and perhaps scan. dalous, work to Petrarch, his respectable friend, in whose letters and memoirs he conspicuously appears.
m Boccace indulges an honest vanity: Ostentationis causa Græca carmina adscripsi ...jure utor meo; meum est hoc decus, mea gloria scilicet inter Etruscos Græcis ati carminibus. Nonne ego fui qui Leontium Pilatum, &c. (de Genealogiâ Deorum, 1. XV. c. 7, a work which, though now forgotten, has run through thirteen or fourteen editions).
This translation of Homer was by Pilatus, not by Boccaccio. Ser Hallam, Hist of Lit. vol. i. p. 132.-M.
more than ten votaries of Homer could be enumerated in all Italy, and neither Rome, nor Venice, nor Naples, could add a single name to this studious catalogue. But their numbers would have multiplied, their progress would have been accelerated, if the inconstant Leo, at the end of three years, had not relinquished an honourable and beneficial station. In his passage Petrarch entertained him at Padua a short time: he enjoyed the scholar, but was justly offended with the gloomy and unsocial temper of the man. Discontented with the world and with himself, Leo depreciated his present enjoyments, while absent persons and objects were dear to his imagination. In Italy he was a Thessalian, in Greece a native of Calabria ; in the company of the Latins he disdained their language, religion, and manners : no sooner was he landed at Constantinople than he again sighed for the wealth of Venice and the elegance of Florence. His Italian friends were deaf to his importunity: he depended on their curiosity and indulgence, and embarked on a second voyage ; but on his entrance into the Adriatic the ship was assailed by a tempest, and the unfortunate teacher, who like Ulysses had fastened himself to the mast, was struck dead by a flash of lightning. The humane Petrarch dropped a tear on his disaster; but he was most anxious to learn whether some copy of Euripides or Sophocles might not be saved from the hands of the mariners.95
But the faint rudiments of Greek learning, which Petrarch had encouraged and Boccace had planted, soon withered and Foundation expired. The succeeding generation was content for a language in while with the improvement of Latin eloquence; nor was it Maluby before the end of the fourteenth century that a new and Chrysodoras, perpetual flame was rekindled in Italy.96 Previous to his own journey, the emperor Manuel despatched his envoys and orators to implore the compassion of the Western princes. Of these envoys the most conspicuous, or the most learned, was Manuel Chrysoloras,97 of noble birth, and whose Roman ancestors are supposed to have migrated with the great Constantine. After visiting the courts of France and England, where he obtained some contributions and
90 Leontius, or Leo Pilatus, is sufficiently made known by Hody (p. 2-11) and tho abbé de Sade (Vie de Pétrarque, tom. iii. p. 625-634, 670-673), who has very happily caught the lively and dramatic manner of his original.
* Dr. Hody (p. 54) is angry with Leonarri Aretin, Guarinus, Paulus Jovius, &c., for affirming that the Greek letters were restored in Italy post septingentos annos ; as if
, says he, they had flourished till the end of the vith century. These writers most probably reckoned from the last period of the exarchate; and the presence of the Greek magistrates and troops at Ravenna and Rome must have preserved, in somo degree, the use of their native tongue.
See the article of Emanuel, or Manuel Chrysoloras, in Hody (p. 12-54) and Tiraboschi (tom. vii. p. 113-118). The precise date of his arrival floats between the years 1:10 and 1400, and is only confined by the reiga of Boniface IX.
inore promises, the envoy was invited to assume the office of a professor; and Florence had again the honour of this second invitation. By his knowledge, not only of the Greek but of the Latin tongue, Chrysoloras deserved the stipend and surpassed the expectation of the republic. His school was frequented by a crowd of disciples of every rank and age; and one of these, in a general history, bas described his motives and his success. “At that time,” says Leonard Aretin, “I was a student of the civil law; but my soul was inflamed with the “ love of letters, and I bestowed some application on the sciences of
ogic and rhetoric. On the arrival of Manuel I hesitated whether “ I should desert my legal studies or relinquish this golden oppor “ tunity; and thus, in the ardour of youth, I communed with my own “ mind—Wilt thou be wanting to thyself and thy fortune? Wilt “ thou refuse to be introduced to a familiar converse with Homer, “ Plato, and Demosthenes ? with those poets, philosophers, and “ orators, of whom such wonders are related, and who are celebrated “ by every age as the great masters of human science? Of professors " and scholars in civil law, a sufficient supply will always be found in “ our universities; but a teacher, and such a teacher of the Greek “ language, if he once be suffered to escape, may never afterwards “ be retrieved. Convinced by these reasons, I gave myself to Chry“ soloras, and so strong was my passion, that the lessons which I had “ imbibed in the day were the constant subject of my nightly dreams."99 At the same time and place the Latin classics were explained by John of Ravenna, the domestic pupil of Petrarch : 100 the Italians, who illustrated their age and country, were formed in this double school, and Florence became the fruitful seminary of Greek and Roman erudition.101 The presence of the emperor recalled Chrysoloras from the college to the court; but he afterwards taught at Pavia and Rome with equal industry and applause. The remainder of his life, about fifteen years, was divided between Italy and Constantinople, between
es The name of Aretinus has been assumed by five or six natives of Arezzo in Tuscany, of whom the most famous and the most worthless lived in the xvith century. Leonardus Brunus Aretinus, the disciple of Chrysoloras, was a linguist, an orator, and an historian, the secretary of four successive popes, and the chancellor of the republic of Florence, where he died A.D. 1444, at the age of seventy-five (Fabric. Biblioth, medii Ævi, tom. i. p. 190, &c.; Tiraboschi, tom. vii. p. 33-38).
so See the passage in Aretin. Commentario Rerum suo Tempore in Italia Gestarum, apud Hodium, p. 28-30.
100 In this domestic discipline, Petrarch, who loved the youth, often complains of the eager curiosity, restless temper, and proud feelings, which announce the genius and glory of a riper age (Mémoires sur Pétrarque, tom. iii. p. 700-709).
101 Hinc Græcæ Latinæque scholæ exortæ sunt, Guarino Philelpho, Leonardo Are. tino, Caroloque, ac plerisque aliis tanquam ex equo Trojano prodeuntibus, quorum emulatione multa ingenia deinceps ad laudem excitata sunt (Platina in Bonifacio IX.). Another Italian writer adds the names of Paulus Petrus Vergerius, Omnibonus Vine ceptius, Poggius, Franciscus Barbarus, &c. But I question whether a rigid chronologs would allow Chrysoloras all these eminent scholars (Hodius, p. 25-27, &c.).
einbassies and lessons. In the noble office of enlightening a foreign nation, the grammarian was not unmindful of a more sacred duty to his prin’e and country; and Emanuel Chrysoloras died at Constance on a public mission from the emperor to the council.
After his example, the restoration of the Greek letters in Italy was prosecuted by a series of emigrants, who were destitute of fortune and endowed with learning, or at least with lan- in Italy: guage. From the terror or oppression of the Turkish arms, the natives of Thessalonica and Constantinople escaped to a land of freedom, curiosity, and wealth. The synod introduced into Florence the lights of the Greek church and the oracles of the Platonic philosophy; and the fugitives who adhered to the union had the double merit of renouncing their country, not only for the Christian but for the Catholic cause. A patriot, who sacrifices his party and conscience to the allurements of favour, may be possessed however of the private and social virtues : he no longer hears the reproachful epithets of slave and apostate, and the consideration which he acquires among his new associates will restore in his own eyes the dignity of his character. The prudent conformity of Bessarion was barion, &c. rewarded with the Roman purple: he fixed his residence in Italy, and the Greek cardinal, the titular patriarch of Constantinople, was respected as the chief and protector of his nation : 102 his abilities were exercised in the legations of Bologna, Venice, Germany, and France ; and his election to the chair of St. Peter floated for a moment on the uncertain breath of a conclave.103 His ecclesiastical honours diffused a splendour and pre-eminence over his literary merit and service: his palace was a school; as often as the cardinal visited the Vatican he was attended by a learned train of both nations ; 104 of men applauded by themselves and the public, and whose writings, now overspread with dust, were popular and useful in their own times. I shall not attempt to enumerate the restorers of Grecian literature in the fifteenth century; and it may be sufficient to mention with gratitude the names
102 See in Hody the article of Bassarion (p. 136-177). Theodore Gaza, George of Trebizond, and the rest of the Greeks whom I have named or omitted, are inserted in their proper chapters of his learned work. See likewise Tiraboschi, in the 1st and 2nd parts of the vith tome.
103 The cardinals knocked at his door, but his conclaviat refused to interrupt the studies of Bessarion; “Nicholas," said he, “thy respect has cost thee an hat, and me “ the tiara."
104 Such as George of Trebizond, Theodore Gaza, Argyropulus, Andronicus of Thessalonica, Philelphus, Poggius, Blondus, Nicholas Perrot, Valla, Campanus, Pla tina, &c.
Viri (says Hody, with the pious zeal of a scholar) nullo ævo perituri (p. 156).
• Roscoe (Life of Lorenzo de' Medici, vol. i. p. 75) considers that Hedy Las refutec this “ idle tale.".-M. VOL. Vin.