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to exalt his genius. Castiglione would have given him a place of honour in his Cortegiano ; Ariosto would have set him in the company of Charlemagne's paladins ; Bembo would have written his epitaph in an eloquent mingling of pleasure and pain! . . . . But the Milanese men of letters, the obtuse and heavy-handed Ligurians and Cisalpine Gauls who were the intimates of Lodovico, could do nothing for the glory of their new fellow-citizen. The very language they wrote was too barbaric to be understood by the rest of Italy.
In his mature years Leonardo attempted to fill the gaps in his education. He applied himself more particularly to the study of Latin. Here he had everything to learn. If we may judge from the glossary he prepared for his own use, he had not even acquired the rudiments when he was some thirty-five or forty years old. He found it necessary to write down the meaning of such elementary pronouns, adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions as “sed, aliquid, quid, instar, tunc, præter,” &c.) I must hasten to say that his efforts were crowned with success. In the letter addressed to the Cardinal d'Este in 1507, he manages Latin epistolary forms with perfect ease. Elsewhere he quotes from the Latin, “ Omne grave tendit deorsum.—Decipimur votis et tempore fallimur et mors deridet curas.--Anxia vita nihil !” 2 He even made himself acquainted with macaronic Latin. After entering in his notebook the loan made to Salai to enable the latter to complete his sister's dowry (1508), he gives himself up to these melancholy reflections :-
(Si) non restavis (habe) bis
Si abebis, non tamen cito.
1 Charles Ravaisson-Mollien, MS. I, fol. 53 ve Leonardo quotes, “Tullius, De Divinatione," but the passage cited is not to be found in Cicero (Richter, vol. ii., p. 171). The maxim that “God sells us all that is good at the price of patience” is borrowed from Horace (Müller-Walde, Jahrbuch, 1897, p. 142). From Celsius he borrows the following maxim, “Wisdom is the greatest good and physical pain the greatest evil ” (Beltrami, Il Codice . . del Principe Trivulzio, fol. 3). Besides all this we find accidental resemblances ; for instance, he unconsciously approaches Virgil in his comparison of sleep with death (Richter, vol. ii., p. 292):
Placidoque simillima somno Mors. 2 Ravaisson, vol. iv., fol. 84, and vol. i., following upon fol. 94. Ibid., vol. iv., fol. 50. i These fantastic juxtapositions remind us of Rabelais. He, too, marshalled into three parallel columns a series of words of which we cannot grasp the relation : “Mignon, moignon, de renom,--laité, feutré, calfaté,-moulu, morfondu, dissolu,” etc. (Pantagruel, ch. xxvi.-xxvii.)
One of the most incomprehensible of Leonardo's compilations is the vocabulary in the Trivulzio Manuscript, which consists of at least seven or eight thousand words, ranged into four or five columns. Now and then it suggests the commencement of a dictionary of synonyms, but more often it seems meaningless. Reading the lines horizontally, we obtain results like this: “belicoso, glorifichato, rifrancare, unità, imaculata—ameno, piacevole, dilettevole-stupefacto, essmarrito”; reading them vertically we arrive at such results as "sadisfatione, intento, origine, fondamento, cierchare, trovare, intendere," &c.1
According to Geymüller, these lists of Leonardo's represent an attack on the philosophy of language. In the course of his reading he had noted the words which seemed to him the most telling; he had afterwards grouped them now as synonyms, now as terms opposed to each other in sense. Elsewhere he forms series of substantives and of adjectives, or of verbs derived from them or offering parallel meanings. He searches for words expressing ideas which flow naturally from some initial term, a proceeding that we should follow now if we had to compile a dictionary of analogies. Sometimes he takes as a base for his grouping the differences in meaning between words which resemble each other in sound. Orthographical likenesses and differences also attracted his attention ; thus he asks himself how it is that I comes to be substituted for y, and “ vice versâ.” Grammar, logic, philology, all these were subjected to his investigations, which, unsystematic as they are, proclaim once more his insatiable curiosity.
He collected a library in which historians elbowed poets, and philosophers mathematicians or physicists. Numberless extracts and quotations bear witness to the wide extent of his reading.
The famous manuscript known as the Codex Atlanticus contains the catalogue of Da Vinci's little library. He had collected thirty-seven volumes, representing every branch of human knowledge, from theology
2 Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1895, vol. ii., p. 73.
to agriculture, and even to magic. He had besides borrowed a certain number of volumes from his friends : a Vitruvius, a Marliano, a De Calculatione, an Albertus Magnus, an Anatomia, a Dante. We know from the researches of the Marchese d'Adda that printed editions of all these existed in the fifteenth century. To form his collection Leonardo had only then to apply to the printers of Milan and its neighbourhood, for most of the books he owned were published in Lombardy.
It is a little surprising to find the literary element holding such an important place in the studies of Leonardo; Ovid, Dante, Petrarch, stand side by side with Poggio, Philelpho, Burchiello, and Pulci. Philosophy occupies as large a place as poetry. The titles of his books and the names of the authors he honoured
– Albertus Magnus, Diogenes Laertius, Platina, Marsilio Ficino-prove the eclecticism and liberality of their possessor. Religion and morals are not forgotten ; they are represented by the Bible, the Psalms, Æsop, the Flowers of Virtue ; the champions of history are Livy, Justinian, and the chronicler Isidorus. Special treatises on arithmetic, cosmography, medicine, anatomy, agriculture, and the military arts complete Leonardo's library. The section devoted to natural history is remarkable ; it includes the works of Pliny, of John de Mandeville, and a Lapidarium, that is to say, compilations in which romance fills as large a space as science.
Italian scholars declare that Leonardo's grammar is that of the small Florentine shopkeeper, and that his orthography is of the strangest and most eccentric kind. He seems to have thought the letter c was pronounced like an s, unless accompanied by an h; so he
1 The list of the volumes studied by Leonardo which the Marchese d'Adda has compiled from the Codex Atlanticus by no means exhausts the master's library. It should be completed by the various notes in the MSS. published by Dr. Richter (vol. ii., pp. 421-437, 445-454).
On the morals of primitive beings he quotes the De Rerum naturâ of Lucretius, of which various editions had even then appeared. Their hands, their nails, their teeth, he says, served them for weapons (Richter, vol. ii., p. 450). He notes, with his usual impassibility, that, according to Ammianus Marcellinus, 700,000 volumes were burnt during the siege of Alexandria. (Ibid.—Cf. Beltrami, Il Codice di Leonardo da Vinci, fol. i.)
writes “chasa,” “chosa,” etc. He doubles an s before a consonant, “quessto,” “asspirare,” etc. ; he substitutes 1 for r in “sobblietà,” “iplocito,” etc., and for u in "aldacia,"" laldevole,” etc. He was also in the habit of combining, in the German fashion, words meant to stand apart.
In literature, as in art, it is difficult to imagine a less synthetic genius than Leonardo. What a contrast he affords to Michelangelo, whose various sallies and sarcasms have become so famous! Can we imagine Leonardo saying before a picture painted without brushes, that the artist would have done better had he condescended to use a brush, and painted rather less wretchedly; or telling Francia's handsome son that his father made better figures in the flesh than on canvas ? Before Leonardo could formulate an idea or express a sentiment, he had to go through a long process of observation and analysis. In this respect he was more like a son of the North than one of those Florentines who were so famous in the great centuries for the clearness and vivacity of their ideas. On the other hand, how profound his laboriously built-up conceptions were! When he had, at the cost of infinite labour, succeeded in giving form and unity to a composition, what a sublimity it reached !
Leonardo made up, and more than made up, for his lack of education by his natural gifts. His contemporaries agree in declaring that he was the best improvisatore of his time : “il migliore dicitore di rime all improviso del tempo.” The incessant comparisons he sets up in the Trattato between painters and poets show that he took a deep interest in poetry. What kind of attempts did he make in it himself ? Did he write love songs, or did he pen those light verses of which Florentines were so fond ? Did he follow the example of his great rival, Bramante, whose sonnets, composed at Il Moro's court, pay so generous a homage to the comic muse? We do not know. This is one more mystery in the life of the man characterised by Michelet as “the Italian brother of Faust.” We do not even know whether he ever felt love for a woman. The five thousand pages of manuscript he has left us
i Govi, Saggio, p. 9.
do not contain the slightest allusion to a love affair. He seems to have lived for art and science, and, brother of Faust though he was, no Marguerite ever hung upon his neck to distractor console him.
To return to the poet. Barely some half dozen of his verses have survived, among them an impromptu so enigmatic and strange that hitherto no one has attempted to explain it :
Se'l Petrarca amò si forte il lauro
This “jeu d'esprit,” incomprehensible at first sight, initiates us, as I think I can show, into Leonardo's relations with a whole group of poets, professional and amateur, settled at the court of Lodovico Sforza. The author, as we see, begins abruptly with the question, Why was Petrarch so fond of the laurel ? Meaningless if taken alone, the problem is readily solved if we consider it in the light of the other compositions thrown off at this time by the hangers-on of Sforza. We know, in fact, that Bramante, Gasparo Visconti, Bellincioni, and many others engaged in violent disputes over the respective merits of Dante and Petrarch. Bramante distinguished himself by a boundless admiration for the author of the Divina Commedia. Leonardo, it is pretty safe to guess, was content to contribute this very un-classic triplet to the discussion.
Leonardo has long been credited with a sonnet which still enjoys a certain popularity. It expresses, in a rather clumsy and hackneyed form, an idea which any philosopher would be ready to endorse, an idea, moreover, as old as the world : “Let him who cannot do what he wishes, wish to do what he can.2” One of the master's biographers 3 relies on this when he calls Leonardo a poet-moralist, “ familiar with internal conflicts, and gifted with qualities of style analogous to those which marked him as a painter. The
1 If Petrarch was so fond of bay, it was because it is of a good taste in sausages and with tunny; I cannot put any value on their foolery (Richter, vol. ii., p. 377).
2 Terence, for one, had already said the same thing : “Quoniam non potest id fieri quod vis, velis id quod possit.”
3 Rio, author of L'Art Chrétien,