Woodbridge, E., Boccaccio's Defence of Poetry as Contained in the Fourteenth Book of the ' Genalogia Deorum' | Aristotle | Giovanni Boccaccio

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Boccaccio's Defence of Poetry; As Contained in the Fourteenth Book of the De Genealogia Deorum Author(s): Elisabeth Woodbridge Reviewed work(s): Source: PMLA, Vol. 13, No. 3 (1898), pp. 333-349 Published by: Modern Language Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/456088 . Accessed: 15/03/2013 02:03 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-pro
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  Boccaccio's Defence of Poetry; As Contained in the Fourteenth Book of the De GenealogiaDeorum Author(s): Elisabeth WoodbridgeReviewed work(s):Source: PMLA, Vol. 13, No. 3 (1898), pp. 333-349Published by: Modern Language Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/456088. Accessed: 15/03/2013 02:03 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. .  Modern Language Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to PMLA. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded on Fri, 15 Mar 2013 02:03:07 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions  X.-BOCCACCIO'SDEFENCEOFPOETRY;ASCON-TAINEDIN THEFOURTEENTHBOOKOFTHEDEGENEALGIADEORUM.TheworkinwhichhisDefenceofPoetryoccurs,theDeGenealogiaDeorum,was firstsuggestedtoBoccacciowhilehewasyetayoungmal,by Hugo,kingofCyprus.Hugosenttotheyoungpoet,askinghim to writeaworkuponthemythologyofantiquity,therebeingnosuch booktheninexistence.Boccaccio seems to havebeenbynomeanseagerfor so tremendousatask,buturgedonbyhisroyal patronhe atlastbeganit,andcontinuedto work onitatintervals,thoughthekingwhohadsrcinallysethimtheundertakingdidnotlivetoseeitscompletion. Completed,indeed,itneverreallywas,anditwas withoutthe author'sknowledgeandagainsthiswishesthat themanuscript passedoutofhishands beforeit hadundergonerevision.This accountsinpartfor thedesultorycharacterofthework,itsdiffuseness,itsrepetitions,its lackofarrangementandsubordination;onlyinpart,ofcourse,forsomethingofallthis-that,namely,whichcorrespondswith theessentiallyundiscrimi-nating,non-selectivemindofthe author himself-couldnothavebeen eliminatedbyanyamountofrevision.The workis writteninLatinprose,andthemainpartofittreatsof the heathenmyths,withspecialreference totheirallegoricalsignificance.Inthefourteenthchapter,however,heattemptstodefend his workagainstthe accusations whichheforeseesitmustencounter;and, since,as hesays,hisworkis whollypoetical, 'heisnaturallyinvolvedin adefenseofpoetryingeneral.Heopenshisdefensebydescribinghisaccusers-thejurists,thedoctors,thetheologians-withsuchsatireashis rather lFol.p.359. Thereferencesthroughoutare to the edition of1532,Basileae,Io.Hervagius. 333 This content downloaded on Fri, 15 Mar 2013 02:03:07 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions  ELISABETH WOODBRIDGE. placidnaturecouldcommand.Havingthusoratoricallydis-posedofthe leastworthyof hisopponents,hepassestothemoreformidableoftheaccusationsthemselves. Whatisthispoetry? itsmalignersclamor; itissimplyanullity,notworththeattention ofa rationalbeing;itis acollectionoflies;it is eithermerefoolishness,oritismorallybane-ful,or it isso obscurethat no onecanunderstandit;atbest,thepoetsaresimply apesofthephilosophers.Hence,allgoodmenwillfollowJeromeand Boethiusincondemn-ingpoetry, theywillfollowPlatoinbanishingpoetsfromthe cities. Suchisthe lineofobjectionstaken,and theseobjectionsBoccaccioconsiders oneby one,usinganyargumentthat hethinksmayavail,fromthepuerilequibblingofthe school-men to thesweepingandrevolutionaryart-theoriesofthenewHumanism.Indeed,it is thisunion,orratherinter-mingling,oftheoldandthenew,thatgivestothetreatisemuchofitspeculiarinterest andsignificance.Poetry, says Boccaccio,isnot anullity.Ifitwere,henaivelyasks,whencecomeallthese volumesofpoems?Inreality,itisone of thefaculties(inthe scholasticsense ofthleword) comingfromGod,andthisveryname facultas -herespeakstheschoolman-- impliesacertainabundanceorfullness. Thenfollowshisown definition ofpoetry: Poetryisacertainfervorofexquisiteinvention,andofexquisite speakingorwritingwhat one hasinvented.Apowerwhich,proceedingoutofthe bosom ofGod,isgrantedatbirth,though,Ithink,tobutfew....This noblefervormanifestsitself,forexample,inurgingthe mindto alongingforexpression,insearchingoutrare andstrangeinventions,ingivingto one'sthoughtsorder andarrangement,inadorn-ingthecompositionbymeansofanunusualinterweavingof words andthoughts,inconcealingthe truthunderthebeauteous veil of thefable. 2 2Cap.vii,fol.pp.360,361. 334 2P. 360. This content downloaded on Fri, 15 Mar 2013 02:03:07 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions  BOCCACCIO'SDEFENCE OFPOETRY. Therefollowsaremarkableexpositionoftheetymologyofthe word poetry. lSomemalignantpersons,hesays,havederivedit from theGreek7roe&o,hichtheymakeequivalentto the Latinfingo,andthen,choosingoutthe worstmean-ingof thisverbfingo,i.e.,tocheat ordeceivebymade-upstories,they applythismeaningtopoetry,and useit asareproach,callingthepoetscheatsanddeceivers.Inreality,Boccaccioassuresus,the word comesfrom an oldGreekword,poetes,meaning carefullychosenexpression ( ex-quisitalocutio )anditwasappliedtotheeffortsoftheearlypoets,becausetheytriedtogiveto theirsongsadistinctiveformandorder,bymeans ofrhythmand clioiceofwords.Thuswe see thatBoccaccio'stheoryofpoetryemphasizes,onthe onehand,the carefulorderinganddispositionofwords;and ontheother,theexistence of ahiddenmeaning,anallegorical significance.We are familiar withsuch a con-ception,asfound,bothimplicitandexplicit,inDante;itwastheconceptionPetrarchadoptedandexpounded,andBoccacciomerelygivesto it amoreelaborateexpression.2Note,however,thatthoughheemphasizestheformalsideofpoetry,theessentialthingisinhiseyesthecontent,theallegory;andtherefore hecanspeakof hisownponderousprosetreatiseon the heathenmythologyasbeing whollypoetical. Itispossibleto read into thisnotionofpoetic allegoryameaningwhich shallconform to ourownart-theories,andsuch aninterpretationhasbyatleastonestudentofBoccacciobeenrather taken forgranted.3ButBoccacciohimself hadcertainlyno suchmeaninginmind,andthesenseinwhichheappliedthe word symbolic totheecloguesof Petrarchand ofVirgilis not the senseinwhich weapplyitto Shake-speare'sLearorSophocles' (Edipus. P. 361. 2 Cf.Inferno, Ix; Convito, i, 1;Lett.CanGrande dellaScala;Petrarch,Epist.Rer.Fam.,x. 3 Burckhardt,Renaissance inItaly,PartIII,Chap.Iv. 335 This content downloaded on Fri, 15 Mar 2013 02:03:07 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions
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