I. Forese Donati. Cecco d'Ascoli [introduction to first section of the Appendix to Part II of The Early Italian Poets]

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1861
Genre: literary commentary


◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.148-155 (II. 242-253) .

◦ De Robertis and Contini, eds., Dante. Opere Minori, II. 367-379 .


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the The Early Italian Poets text.

Scholarly Commentary


This prose piece wraps and comments on a series of four sonnets, two by Dante and two by his brother-in-law Forese Donati. The four are selected from the longer vituperative exchange between the two. The whole thing comes in as an appendix to The Early Italian Poets.

DGR's prose is part apology (for translating what he represents as inferior verse), part speculation (on the authenticity of the sonnets), and part explication (an effort to illuminate the context of the tenzone). The verse in fact is a good example of the stilus comicus, one of the two principal lines of poetry cultivated by the poets DGR is translating (the other being the stilus tragicus, i.e., the high style of poetic idealization that dominates the Vita Nuova). DGR's translations promote and concentrate on poetry written in the stilus tragicus, but DGR does not neglect the other line. (The same kind of emphasis, and de-emphasis, characterizes his original work, where poetic idealization is the prevalent mode.

One can scarcely believe that DGR is being entirely candid in this commentary. Why introduce the poems at all, especially given what DGR writes in his “Preface” about the reason for translating in the first place? DGR must be supplying these poems because he rather likes them. His defensive commentary is too elaborate by far and must have been largely written because he knows this kind of verse is not widely appreciated by an audience happy with poets like Wordsworth and Tennyson and troubled by writers like Byron and Browning. DGR himself wrote some fine comic, satiric, and even scurrilous verse, though he tended to keep its circulation private. His taste for this kind of thing is perhaps best shown in his decision to include in his book of translations no less than twenty-one sonnets by Cecco Angiolieri.

No one now doubts the authenticity of these works, and the passage of time has happily restored a taste for this kind of poetic vigor.

Textual History: Composition

DGR probably wrote this commentary fairly late—perhaps early or mid-1861, when he was putting the whole book of translations together.

Printing History

First published in 1861 in The Early Italian Poets; it was reprinted in 1874 in Dante and his Circle.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 5p-1861.raw.xml