According to this doctrine, love is an attribute of the “gentle” heart alone. There it slumbers until aroused to activity by a worthy object. The woman who awakens this “gentle” love must be a symbol of the angelic nature, or “heavenly intelligence”; and devotion to her is worship. In the generation after Guinizelli his teaching was extended by a circle of gifted writers, who introduced the poetic fashion into Florence, a busy commercial town, already perhaps the most prosperous of the bustling, ambitious, jealous, quarrelsome little commonwealths of Italy. Members of this literary company were Dante’s “first friend,” Guido Cavalcanti, and Dante himself. We find, to be sure, a less novel conception of love in some of our poet’s works: in his sweet verses on a certain young lady who pitied him in his bereavement, in his occasional complimentary sonnets and ballads, in his wildly passionate and beautiful songs concerning a youthful person whom he calls “Pietra.” In his canzoni to Lady Philosophy we have excellent examples of the amatory form put to an allegorical use. For a more literal expression of the new thought we must look to the compositions inspired by his ideal lady, Beatrice—and, among them, to the maturer ones. Some years after the death of his beloved, Dante selected from his previous verse a series of poems illustrating the phases of his inner life under Beatrice’s influence, and surrounded them with a dainty prose explanation. This is the “Vita Nuova,” or “New Life.”

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