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Volume XII December IOI4 Number 6
A NOTE ON GUINIZELLI'S "AL COR GENTIL"
The first stanza of Guinizelli's canzone Al cor gentil is printed as
follows in the critical edition of Casini:
Al cor gentil ripara sempre amore
com' a la selva augello in la verdura
n6 fe' amore avanti gentil core,
nh gentil core avanti amor natura,
ch' adesso che fo' il sole
si tosto lo splendore fo' lucente
nk fo' avanti il sole;
6 prende amore in gentilezza loco
como clarore in clarity di foco.'
The readings of the three primary MSS for the last part of line 7
are as follows: Vat. 3793, davanti sole; Laur. Red. 9, avantel sole;
Pal. 418, davantil sole?
Two interpretations are current for line 7. Some critics, regard-
ing avanti as an adverb and sole as the subject, take the line to mean:
Nor did the sun exist before.'
' Le rime dei poeti bolognesi del aecolo XIII, ed. T. Caslnl (, = Scelta di curiosM lett.
ined, o rare. No. 185) (Bologna, 1881), p. 15.
2 Ed. cit., p. 249.
' A. D'Aucona and D. Comparetti, Le antiche rime volgari, II (Bologna, 1881), 30, 31 ;
G. Federzoni, La canzone di Guido Guinizetti '*Al cor gentil ripara sempre amore" (Bologna,
1905), p. 6.
325] 65 [MoDEEN Philology, December, 1914
66 Ernest H. Wilkins
Others, regarding avanti il sole as a prepositional phrase, take the
line to mean:
Nor did it [i.e., the light] exist before the sun.'
Neither of these interpretations is quite satisfactory. The first
offers a clear and straightforward thought-process, thus: love was
not before the gentle heart, nor the gentle heart before love; the
light was not before the sun, nor the sun before light. The trouble
is that avanti il sole looks exactly like a prepositional phrase, and not
at all like an independent adverb juxtaposed to a nominative article
and noun. If the second interpretation be followed, on the other
hand, line 7 seems merely a slight and needless variation of the idea
of lines 5 and 6.
But Casini's reading avanti il sole is in itself unsatisfactory; for
the rhyme it involves, il sole: il sole, is, as I shall show, extremely
Equivocal rhyme consists, by common definition, in the rhyming
of two words identical in form but different in meaning.' The
requirement that the rhyme-words differ in meaning is, however,
more or less relaxed, as will presently appear, in a number of instances
in early Italian poetry. Equivocal rhyme may be used sporadically,
that is, once or twice or somewhat oftener, in a poem in which the
remaining rhymes are not equivocal; or it may be used consistently,
with deliberate artistic purpose, throughout a poem, or in several
lines of each stanza.
The use of equivocal rhyme in the Sicilian and Tuscan canzoni
of the thirteenth century has been studied by Biadene.^ He Usts
about one hundred and fifty cases of sporadic equivocal rhyme.
In nearly all of these cases the rhyme-words differ in meaning.
There are, however, 23 cases in which Biadene finds no difference in
' D. G. Rossettl, Italian Poets Chiefly before Dante (Stratford-on-Avon, 1908),
p. 42; A. Bongioanni, Guido Quinizelli e la sua riforma poetica (Venice, 1896), p. 42.
2 The accuracy of Casini's reading of line 7 was questioned, but not studied, by
A. J. Butler, The Forerunners of Dante (Oxford, 1910), p. 250: "No variant to this line
appears to exist, yet it is hardly possible to accept it exactly as it stands, as sole appears
to be used in an identical sense with that of 1. 5."
« The first Italian definition, that of Antonio da Tempo (written in 1322) , is as
follows: "Et dicendum, quod equivocus est dictio vel dictiones compositae cum eadem
voce et sonoritate et ex eisdem Uteris, habentes plura et diversa slgniflcata" (Delle rime
volgari, ed. G. Grion (Bologna, 18691, P- 160).
* L. Biadene, "La rima nella canzone Italiana del secoli XIII e XIV," in Raccolta di
studii dedicati ad Alessandro D' Ancona (Florence, 1901), pp. 730 fl.
A Note on Guinizelli's "Al cor gentil" 67
meaning, though he remarks that in some of them another critic
might find a difference.^ In many of these cases the reading is uncer-
tain. In 16 of the 23 cases the lines in question are transmitted in
one MS only.^ In several cases plausible corrections have been or
might be proposed.' In no case does a noun preceded by the definite
article rhyme with the same noun preceded by the definite article.*
• Biadene lists 25 cases, but two of these are to be disregarded. 37 (In this and
the following notes italicized numerals refer to poems according to their order in MS
Vat. 3793; quotations are, unless otherwise indicated, from II libra de varie romame
volgare, ed. F. Egidi [Rome, 1908); and the line divisions and line numbers are, unless
otherwise indicated, those of Le antiche rime volgari, ed. D'Ancona and Comparetti
IBologna, 1875-88]), lines 3 and 9, is not a case in point. Each of the lines ends with the
word data, but they fall in independent rhyme-groups, the rhyme -ato being used twice in
this stanza, once in the piedi, and once in the voUa, though the corresponding rhyme is
not repeated in the other stanzas. For 160, lines 31 and 32, Biadene quotes the rhyme
matto: matto from the 1828 edition of Guittone, but in the modem critical edition (Fra
Gulttone d'Arezzo, Le rime, ed. F. Pellegrini (Bologna, 1901], I, 348) the rhyme is
•The instances occur in SI, SS, 63, 70, BS9, 230, iS31, 232, HI, 279, 280, 29B; cf. G. B.
Festa, "Bibiiografla delle pia antiche rime volgari itaUane," in Romaniache Forschungen,
XXV (1908), 564.
' E.g., for 31, line 33, durare, Grion reads dare ("II serventese di Ciullo d' Alcamo,"
in II propugnatore, IV , Part I, 148). For 63, line 70, mascondo, one might read
nascondo. See also the next note.
* There is, however, one case in which an infinitive preceded by al rhymes with the
same infinitive preceded by al, in 279 (Monte. Nelcore agio unfoco), lines 63 and 65: sono
alperire / comomo chesichuro / tio mare ede alperire. This poem is transmitted in Vat.
The cases in which the equivocal rhyme- words are nouns are as follows : 38, 1 and 3 :
Aamore jnchui disio edosperanza / . . . . / eguardomi infino cheuengna lasperanza. Oape-
ranza is a verbal phrase equivalent to spero. Some editors have fidama, a conjectural
emendation, for the first speranza. 63, 53 and 54 (I quote 52-55) : Rico sono delasperanza
/ pouero difina manza / sanami lafina amanza / quddo laposso uedere. In 53 amanza is
abstract, in 54 it means "the beloved lady." Transmitted in Vat. 3793 only. 138, 46
and 49: Pegio cheguerra assai reo se piucomo / . . . . / pche nompo tralglianimali eomo.
The first omo perhaps means "anyone"; the second, "man as distinct from the brutes."
ISO, 61 and 64 (I quote 61-65 from Guittone, ed. Pellegrini, pp. 319-20) : Foil' d chi fugge
il 8U0 prode e cher danno / e V onor suo fa che vergogna i torna: / di bona libertA, ou* e'
soggiorna / a gran piacer, s' aduce, a suo gran danno, / Sotto [de] segnoria fella e mahagia.
The danno of the 61 is general, and is the antonym of prode; the danno of 64 is specific,
and is the antonym of piacer. IBS, 2 and 5 (I quote 1-5 from Guittone, ed. cit., p. 254) :
Manta stagione veggio / Che V omo e, sanza colpa, / miso a dispregio grande, / E tal che
colpa pande/ ne va si com no 'n colpa. MS Riccardiano 2533 reads for line 5, ne va sicomo
not colpa (ed. cit., loc. cit.). In this reading, which makes better sense than the accepted
reading if sicomo be divided si c' omo, the colpa appears as a verb. In the accepted read-
ing sanza colpa and 'n colpa are presumably to be regarded as phrasal units. 16S, 47
and 48 (I quote 46-48 from Monaci, Crestomazia italiana dei primi secoli [Citta di Castello,
1889], p. 181) : quale danno leria / se fere tucte, onne dimonio, omni homo / fosse soma d'
un omo t Omni homo is perhaps regarded as a plu-asal unit. The homo means "man as
distinct from the brutes"; the omo, "a given individual." 241, 32 and 38: madonna
mante uolte / . . . . / ma dipiu rade uolte. Mante uolte is presumably regarded as a phrasal
unit. Transmitted in Vat. 3793 only. 280, 58 and 60: Dapoi chamore mapreso / comsi
fortte chatena / chio mora sedifeso / nomsono ditale chatena. Vat. 3793 only. 295, 12 and
16: chemi comsuma amortte sostenendo vita I .... / piu chenaue jntempesta la mia vita.
Vat. 3793 only.
68 Ernest H. Wilkins
Biadene lists 20 canzoni as consistently equivocal. In these
canzoni the constant equivocation becomes a tour de force, and in the
special exigency the requirement of difference in meaning is more
readily relaxed. In the great majority of cases the meaning still
differs, but there are a number of instances in which the difference
is very small or quite imperceptible.^ Among these instances, how-
ever, there is but one case of a noun preceded by the definite article
rhyming with the same noun preceded by the definite article. The
poem in question is by an insignificant author, Finfo del Buono
Guido Neri di Firenze, is transmitted in Vat. 3793 only, and is quite
The sonnet of the same period, being regarded as less noble than
the canzone, admitted in general a somewhat greater metrical license;
but it does not differ notably from the canzone in the matter of
Guinizelli's rhyme sole: sole in the lines under discussion is an
' Of. E. G. Parodi, "La rima e i vocaboli In rima nella Divina Commedia," in BulUt-
tino delta Societd dantesca italiana, N.S., III (1895-96), 141-42.
^ 19S (5e longhuso mimena), 38 a_nd 41 (I quote 37-41): Rengnatinsimal manto /
chebene fato nel monte / che fue gia soma questa / ondaltre dio malmanto / sonore nonai
nelmonte. There is one other case in which a noun preceded by the definite article rhymes
with the same noun preceded by the definite article, but in tills case the meaning of the
noun varies clearly in the two instances: £89, 106 and 107 (I quote 106-8^: chesi crudele
adosso o logiudicio / checredo chediqui aldie del giodicio / limiei tormenti nonaueranno fine.
The giudicio means "suffering"; the giodicio, "the Last Judgment."
» The use of sporadic equivocal rhyme in the sonnet of the thirteenth century has
not been studied. Biadene ("Morfologia del sonetto nel sec. XIII e XIV," in Stud} di
filologia romama, IV , 155-56), mentions 50 consistently equivocal sonnets. (He
lists 51 sonnets, but 766, which he includes, is not equivocal.) I have examined 42 of
these sonnets (8 are inaccessible to me: that by Talano, the last 5 mentioned by Biadene
»mder a, and the last 2 mentioned under ^), and find the rhyme usage much like that in
the consistently equivocal camoni. There are three cases in which a noun preceded by
the definite article rhymes with the same noun preceded by the definite article. In all
three cases the article is preceded, in one or both of the two lines, by a preposition that
unites with it, forming a distinctive case sign. The cases are as follows. 791,1 and 3 :
alamore: lamore. Vat. 3793 only. 914, 3 and 5: la fera; da la fera. Vat. 3793 only.
Bonaglunta da Lucca, Chi va cherendo guerra, e lassa pace (Poeti del primo secolo [ed.
Valeriani] [Florence, 1816], I, 522), 10 and 13: al core: nel core. Not in any MS. First
printed in La bella mano (fifteenth century) . A fourth case, but a very doubtful one,
appears in the sonnet of Dello da Signa, Ser Chiaro, lo tuo dir d' ira non sale, 10 and 13.
These lines appear thus in MS Vat. 3214: e bell e in ballo e ne lo gioco lasso /..../ ma
ueni uano e tosto riman lasso (Rime antiche italiane secondo la lezione del cod. vat. 3214,
ed. M.Pelaez [Bologna, 1895], p. 138). Valeriani prints e nello gioco V asso and e torto
riman V asso (Poeti del primo secolo, II, 158), but it seems more probable that the second
lasso is the adjective. Another case appears in a consistently equivocal sonnet men-
tioned by Parodi (loc. cit.) but not by Biadene — 88i, 2, 4, and 5: al camppo: del camppo:
il camppo. Here, too, the article, in two of the three lines, is preceded by a preposition
that unites with it, forming a distinctive case sign. In Vat. 3793 only.
A Note on Guinizelli's "Al cor gentil" 69
instance of sporadic equivocal rhyme. There is no other case of
equivocal rhyme in Al cor gentil. Six cases of sporadic equivocal
rhyme occur in the other poems assigned by Casini to Guinizelli.*
In each of these cases the rhyme-words in question differ in meaning.^
In no case does a noun rhyme with itself.
In one poem of Guinizelli, Canzone II, Lo fin pregio avanzato,^
equivocal rhyme is used consistently. The poem is unintelligible.
In no case does a noun preceded by the definite article rhyme with
the same noun preceded by the definite article.
It would seem improbable, therefore, that Guinizelli allowed him-
self in the lines under discussion the rhyme il sole: il sole. The idea
of differentiation persists throughout the use of equivocal rhyme.
Even when the rhyme-words themselves do not differ in meaning
there is at least a phrasal differentiation of some sort. But the
definite article, when repeated with the same noun, by its very
definiteness, makes against differentiation; and rhyme of the type
il sole: il sole is therefore obviously contrary to the essential nature
of equivocal rhyme. It is in particular highly improbable that
Guinizelli allowed himself such a rhyme in this stanza — the opening
stanza of a poem which, as the manifesto of a new poetic doctrine
and method, must have been written with the utmost care.
1 believe, accordingly, that the reading of Vat. 3793, davanti
sole, is correct in its omission of the article. Line 7 would then read
(accepting Casini's text for the first three words) :
nh fo' avanti sole.
The insertion of the article in the other MSS may well have been the
result of a scribal attempt at rectification.
The line is to be interpreted, I believe, thus:
Nor was there [any] sun before.
> Camoni I, lines 46 and 47; 49 and 52; IV. 21 and 22; Sonnets XV, 4 and 7; XX
3 and 5; 4 and 8 (ed. cit., pp. 5-42). This list does not Include the two or three cases In
which two rhyme- words identical In form occur In the same stanza but In unrelated rhyme-
groups, In poems In which a rhyme of the piedi Is, In one stanza but not in all stanzas,
repeated in the voUa: e.g., Camone III, 1 and 9.
2 The difference is slight in the first two cases. In I, 46, di molto orgoglio a dire,
the a dire is a single verbal phrase of gerundive value; in 47, che s' eo voglio ver dire, the
ver dire is a single phrase meaning "to be truthful." In 49, A pinger V air son data, the
dato means "engaged"; in 56, lasso, ch' eo li fui dato, the dato means "given." More-
over, son dato and fui dato were presumably regarded as unities.
> Ed. cit., p. 8.
70 Ernest H. Wilkins
"With this reading and interpretation, the sole of line 7 differs
from that of line 5 by its indefiniteness, the general concept "sun,"
"any sun," "luminary," standing against the particular concept
"the sun." The difference is slight, to be sure, but it is just the sort
of minor difference that appears in several of the instances of equivo-
cal rhyme noted by Biadene. This interpretation is similar to the
first of the two interpretations, cited above, of the line as printed
by Casini. It offers the same clear thought-process as that inter-
pretation, and is free from its defect, for avanti sole does not, like
avanti il sole, give the impression of being a prepositional phrase
rather than an adverb and noun juxtaposed.'
I owe thanks to Professors Pietsch and Shaw and to Dr. Pietro
Stoppani for valuable suggestions with regard to this article.
Ernest H. Wilkins
University of Chicago
• Another possible interpretation seems worth mention. The sole of line 7 may be
taken as an adverb, and the line interpreted thus: " Nor did it [i.e., the light) exist before,
separately." Only one instance ol sole as an adverb has been lexically registered, the
following passage from the translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses by Ser Arrigo Simin-
tendi da Prato (fourteenth century): E non basta sole ck' egli sia Giove: dia pegno d'
amore s' egli sia Giove (V. Nannucci, Teorica dei nomi della lingua italiana [Florence, 1858],
p. 163; P. Petrdcchi, Ndvo diziondrio universale della lingua italiana, s.v. "sole** [II, 980
inf.]). Sole is perhaps used in this way in Guinizelli's unintelligible equivocal canzone,
Lo fin pregio avamaio, line 41, Lines 40-47 are as follows; D' un' amorosa parte / me ven
voler che sole / che in ver me piii sole / che non fa la pantera, / eke usa in una parte / eke
levantisce sole / eke di piit color sole / so viso che pantera (ed. cit., p. 9). The eke sole seems
to represent ck' e sole. The existence of sole as an adverb is a priori probable. Solo
appears very frequently in the apocopated form sol: and the completion of that form by
a paragogic e would be entirely natural.