Ezra Pound. On Lorenzo Valla


The scholars of the quattrocento had just as stiff a stupidity and contentment and ignorance to contend with. It is from the biographies of Erasmus and Lorenzo Valla that we must find consolation. They were willing to work at foundations. They did not give the crowd what it wanted. The middle ages had beena jumble. There may have been a charming diversity, but there was also the darkness of decentralization. There had been minute vortices at such castles as that of Savairic de Maleon, and later at the universities. But the rinascimento began when Valla wrote, in the preface of the Elegantiae:

Linguam Latinam distribuisse minus erit, optimam frugem, et vere divinam, nec corporis, sed animi cibum? Haec enim gentes populosque omnes, omnibus artibus, quae liberales vocantur, instituit: haec optimas leges edocuit: haec viam ad omnem sapientiam munivit, haec denique praestitit, ne barbari amplius dici possent. • • • In qua lingua disciplinae cunctae libero homine dignae continetur. • • • Linguam Romanam vivere plus, quam urbem.

"Magnum ergo Latini sermonis sacramentum est." "Ibi namque Romanum imperium est, ubicunque Romana lingua dominatur."

That is not "the revival of classicism." It is not a worship of corpses. It is an appreciation of the great Roman vortex, an understanding of, and an awakening to, the value of a capital, the value of centralization, in matters of knowledge and art, and of the interaction and stimulus of genius foregathered. Ubicunque Romana lingua dominatur!

That sense, that reawakening to the sense of the capital, resulted not in a single great vortex, such as Dante had dreamed of in his propaganda for a great central court, a peace tribunal, and in all his ghibelline speculations; but it did result in the numerous vortices of the Italian cities, striving against each other not only in commerce but in the arts as well.

Ezra Pound. “The Renaissance II.” Poetry March 1915. P&P II: 29. (Also included in Literary Essays 219).


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The finest force of the age, I think, came early - came from Lorenzo Valla. He had a great passion for exactness, and he valued the Roman vortex. By philology, by the "harmless" study of language, he dissipated the donation of Constantine. The revival of Roman Law, while not his private act, was made possible or accelerated by him. His dictum that eloquence and dialectic were one - i.e, that good sense is the backbone of eloquence- is still worth considering. I suppose anyone will now admit it in theory. Also, he taught the world once more how to write Latin, which was perhaps valuable. Seeing that they were drawing much of their thought from Latin sources, a lively familiarity with that tongue could not but clarify their impressions.

Ezra Pound. Affirmations VI. Analysis of this Decade. New Age, 11 Feb 1915. P&P II: 16. (Also included in G-B 113).


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