Guston', Cambridge MA. Louis MO. Lauderdale, Ft. Louis Art Museum, St. Guggenheim Museum, Miller, Mara, Parker, Thomas B. Rumsey, Monica, Swiston, Rachel eds. Louis: Saint Louis Art Museum, exh. Ward, Lucinda ed.
Gesture and Spectacle. Eccentric Figuration.
Social Networks. Louis: The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Abrams, Inc. Knopf, Inc. Presenting himself as the unrequited and suffering lover, he mocks the platitudes of Stilnovist and courtly love as he bewails its hardships. The object of his love, the foulmouthed and coarse Becchina, is the anti-Beatrice. She also is idealized, but in reverse. As Beatrice is elevated to a shining pedestal, so is Becchina lowered to her grimy one. Each verse contains a thrust and parry, a supplication from Cecco and Becchina's immediate rebuff.
He is the plaintive and passionate lover; she, the haughty donna. The poem is laced with the most plebeian language; through it Becchina is sketched as a rude and violent counterpoint to the refined courtesan. True to his overriding sense of parodic exaggeration, Cecco's anti-Platonic love sonnets negate the noble sentiments and moral edification found in the Stilnovists. To their refined and aristocratic sensibility he opposes an overly mundane culture totally lacking in spiritual grace or ideals. His poetry exalts man's more elementary and worldly sentiments: sensual love,.
It is sonnets such as "Tre cose solamente mi so 'n grado" Appendix 5 where Cecco expounds his ideals for life, and his continual frustration in attaining them due to his penury, that led nineteenth-century critics to create a misleading biography of the poet.
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In accordance with the comedic low style determined by classical rhetorics and conserved in the burlesque tradition, the language Cecco employs is concrete and colorfully expressive. He often uses direct discourse to make his sonnets more immediate and dramatic, and to enliven short dialogues as in "—Becchina mia! In several sonnets as in "Tre cose mi so 'n grado" he inveighs against his parents, especially his father, who through his niggardliness, tyranny, and implacable longevity prevents Cecco from satisfying his earthly whims.
Because of this, the poet often clamors for his father's death. Here he raises Rustico's abusive spirit to new heights in a seemingly spontaneous yet artfully crafted and outrageous vendetta.
The Crime was in Granada
Practically each verse contains an explosive and perfectly measured threat; nothing and nobody is spared the poet's wrath. In the first three stanzas Cecco converts himself into the universal elements, into the most powerful men on earth, into God, and finally into life and death themselves to destroy the world and its inhabitants. The poem is perfectly constructed to enhance the violent nature of the emotions expressed. The division of the verses into hemistichs.
However, the sonnet ends in a different tone and on a different note, thus revealing its comicity and inherent burla —its true nature. After the wanton destruction depicted in the first three stanzas, this one could easily be recited with a wink, as Cecco threatens to grab the beauties for himself and leave the ugly women to others. By the unexpected change in rhythm and tone, the poet effectively deflates the vindictiveness and drama of the entire sonnet. The carefully constructed hemistichs dividing each verse into conditional and result clauses, along with Cecco's skillful manipulation of tone, contradict any possible spontaneity in its creation.
As Figurelli has pointed out, burlesque verse is a full-fledged literary genre with a specific form and content, governed by its own literary canon and norms. Rather than the spontaneous manifestation of the popular spirit, as interpreted by Romantic criticism, this poetry is an artistic construction governed by strict literary discipline. Three of Cecco's extant sonnets are addressed to Dante, and evidence the fact that Cecco was acquainted with the younger poet and participated in at least one poetic interchange—a tenson—with him.
It could take any metrical form, and could be between two or more poets, or between two fictitious authors created by one single poet. The somewhat ambiguous definition offered in the Leys d'amours is that "the tenso is a combat and debate, in which each maintains and reasons some word or fact. The respondent was obliged to answer using the same. The topics, generally taken from everyday life, varied greatly, but the favorite was love casuistry.
Personal grudges were another fecund source of tensons. Rather than coming to blows, poets would air their disagreements through grievous, often slanderous verse. However, the insults and rage vented were often feigned and simply responded to the exigencies of the genre. The tenson tradition continued through the Middle Ages, where it adopted the new metrical scheme of the sonnet, very soon after this was born, in fact. The first tenson in sonnet form was already in use by three poets of the Frederician court: Giacomo da Lentino, Piero delle Vigne, and Jacopo Mostacci; its subject was love.
Curiously enough, it was the gravest poet of the Middle Ages—Dante himself—who later engaged in the earliest extant sonnet tenson dated between and dealing in personal invective. The six sonnets he exchanged with his one-time friend Forese Donati each writing three are quite intriguing as well as problematic for critics because the sincerity of the sentiments they express cannot be determined conclusively. The Florentine Donati was a distant relative by marriage of Dante; his only extant poetry are the three sonnets he sent to the former.
These poems reveal a fairly competent sonneteer, at least in the burlesque genre. In his sonnets—"Chi udisse tossir la malfatata," "Ben ti faranno il nodo Salamone," and "Bicci novel, figliuol di non so cui"—Dante mocks Donati's poverty and gluttony and hints that he neglects his duties as husband. He calls him a thief and illegitimate to boot.
Donati, in turn, accuses Dante of poverty and of cowardice.
Alfonso X, the Learned
Nevertheless, in the Purgatory we see a great change in attitude on Dante's part toward the man who had been his opponent in youth. Dante questions Donati's rapid progress into Purgatory. He had died a mere five years earlier and therefore had not spent the requisite time outside its gates—a period equal to that he had spent on earth. Donati explains that it has been through the intercedence of the prayers offered up on his behalf by his faithful and devout wife Nella—the same woman Dante had gibed in the sonnets. His words seem to show a regret for former times misspent, perhaps in silly poetic jousts.
Nevertheless, Dante seems to have participated in another tenson on at least one other occasion—this time with Cecco Angiolieri. Three sonnets remain from Cecco to Dante. The first two, "Lassar vo' lo trovare di Becchina" and "Dante Alighier, Cecco, 'l tu' serv'e amico," Vitale, C and CI are cordial enough and seem to indicate that the two poets were friends.
Cecco responds in kind to what must have been accusations on Dante's part. In a kind of poetic one-upmanship, Cecco says that whatever he is, Dante is double. The final tercet is a warning to desist, to let the tenson rest. Dante cannot compete with Cecco on his poetical territory. If he insists, he will never rid himself of Cecco's goading, satirical barb.
Perhaps Dante had chided Cecco for his sharp tongue and vulgar Becchina. Nevertheless, at the time he was not totally adverse to indulging in the very type of poetry he was supposedly reproving. This is evidenced by his tensons with Forese Donati. The burlesque was not totally neglected by the sublime poets.
Many great fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century Italian and Spanish "serious" poets indulged in poetic burlas these often also erotic from time to time. Others excelled in both types. This would seem to indicate that serious and burlesque-satirical verse spring from the same poetic source. They are simply streams that ran different courses, but one was no more spontaneous or realistic than the other. They are determined literary styles which the poet has deliberately chosen to suit his inspiration.
As the fourteenth century unfolds, several more Tuscan poets carried the burlesque standard. These two contemporaries were closely linked through their poetry. A soldier and courtier, Folgore died before The society depicted in his "Sonetti dei mesi" is remarkably different from the plebeian and embittered one of his countryman Cecco. In Folgore a courtly and idyllic Siena appears full of silk sheets, bountiful food, fair ladies, and chivalrous pastimes and manners.
This light and festive poetry, full of picturesque images, presents a delightfully idealized portrait of Sienese life. The language is fresh and colloquial, popular in tone, and free of abrasive or coarse words. Although Folgore's poems are included in anthologies of Italian burlesque-comic-realistic sonnets of the midthirteenth to.
They reflect the courtly life and customs of the time in a lighthearted and fanciful way. This different spirit distances them from the sublime poets of the time, and also from the true burlesque poets. Burlesque poetry prefers to point out and make fun of men's foibles and follies. It is interested in our shortcomings, not in the pleasantries of a somewhat idealized daily life. Although Folgore cannot be classified as a true burlesque poet, he is included here because his work is inextricably linked to that of his contemporary Cenne or Bencivenne da la Chitarra of Arezzo.
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By profession a minstrel, Cenne's one claim to fame is the corona he wrote, and undoubtedly sung in the local square, parodying Folgore's "Sonetti dei mesi. Following Folgore's meter and rhyme scheme exactly, he creates a gross travesty of his rival's courtly vision, providing a coarse counterpart to every element.
In the first verse of the dedication, the "brigata nobile e cortese" is transformed into "la brigata avara senza arnesi" miserly good-for-nothings. The poem includes the stock material of early burlesque poetry: hardships, primitive lodgings, adverse elements, unpalatable food and drink, and the ubiquitous crone.
These, of course, contrast sharply and satirically with the luxurious creature comforts enjoyed by the Tuscan aristocracy depicted in Folgore's sonnet.
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In the subsequent sonnets, noble courtiers living a cultured and sumptuous existence continue to be steadily debased and degraded into ugly and vulgar creatures wallowing in smelly hovels. Cenne's sonnets have little to recommend them as such; their value is purely parodic. Nevertheless they do reveal, once again, that the burlesque is a poetical attitude, or stance.