Chapter 5 The Challenge of the Poem: The Classicism of I fasti sacri

In: Sforza Pallavicino
Silvia Apollonio
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For a long time Sforza Pallavicino’s early poetry has been considered inferior to his other works, and has thus usually been excluded from critical evaluation. Its style is considered still unripe and unsteady, far from the accuracy and strength of his better-known treatises and historical works.1 The silence around this portion of Pallavicino’s work is probably due chiefly to the publishing history of his most ambitious youthful work, his religious poem in octaves, I fasti sacri (the first partial edition was not published until 1686). Pallavicino intended to write fourteen cantos, following the tradition of calendar poems, one for each month of the year plus two more cantos for the days of the week and movable feasts.2 However, he abandoned this plan halfway through, at seven rather than fourteen cantos, covering only the first six months of the year. At this point a printer’s proof was prepared, but Pallavicino decided to interrupt the printing and, according to biographical sources, to disperse the few available copies of the proofs among his colleagues.3 It is likely that the poem was circulated to some further extent, at least in manuscript form. The first enthusiastic celebration of Fasti sacri is found in a pamphlet entitled La gloria, published in 1633 in Jesi, the city in the Marche region where Pallavicino was governor until September of that year.4

More relevant is the insertion of around five hundred octaves (out of more than 1,200 from the whole Fasti sacri) in Scelta di poesie italiane non più per l’addietro stampate, published in Venice by Paolo Baglioni in 1686.5 It was this version, and not the two surviving manuscripts available in Roman archives, that was the means by which Pallavicino’s poem circulated during the first half of the eighteenth century. At that time, his early work received some positive commentary in scholarly essays on literary historiography, such as that by Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750):

Among Italians, so far there are not few who have sanctified their muses in this noble purpose [i.e., sacred poems]. Chiabrera composed some of them with his usual gentleness, and nowadays Signor Loreto Mattei has happily spent a lot of effort in translating the Church’s hymns. But as far as I know, no one has attained the top of the sacred mountain, and some distinguished laurels remain unused for the poets of Italy. And these are reserved for those who will bring great piety to this glorious task and who will be able to express in verses, with fecund inventiveness, sweetness, majesty and decor, the eulogy of he who is the origin of each beatitude and of those who are eternally blessed by him. And I feel also that Italian poetry is missing the ecclesiastic celebrations, even though Giovanni Canale described them and, when he was very young, the cardinal Sforza Pallavicino began to erect their edifice. Actually, not a small amount will be paid for the work of [that author] who would deal and would be good at dealing with this subject, if he would manage to obtain the [same] glory earned by Ovid composing the Fasti of dumb paganism.6

Muratori’s remarks reveal the persistent interest in this genre of sacred poetry, as well as the absence of any satisfying outcome of the attempt to establish the genre. The sacred Christian poem was always considered a spurious or even improper genre, approached with some anxiety and uncertainty, and perceived, since at least the sixteenth century, as unsuccessful. This can be inferred, for instance, from the preface of La umanità del figliuol di Dio (1533), by Teofilo Folengo (1491–1544), in which the author examines the prevalent incompetence and lack of skills of his predecessors in the genre.7

How Pallavicino came upon the idea of composing such a poem is therefore worth considering. During his youth he was an intimate associate of Virginio Cesarini (1595–1624), one of the most authoritative classicists of his time, and Pallavicino was also a close friend of Giovanni Ciampoli (1589–1643), secretary of papal briefs since 1621.8 Cesarini and Ciampoli were also two of Galileo’s closest friends: while the young Marquis Pallavicino associated with the protagonists of the most recent scientific research (Galileo and the friends in the Lincean Academy) and the most distinguished personalities of the papal court, he also entered into some of the most fervid literary controversies about poetic matters. From the first decades of the seventeenth century, and particularly after the election of Urban VIII as pontiff (r. 1623–1644), a group of poets and scholars connected to the papal court shared concerns about the state of letters, which they believed was threatened by the widespread concettismo of Marinist poets. Poetry was condemned as frivolous, if not detrimental to good morals, because it almost exclusively celebrated the flattery and licentiousness of earthly love. This long-lasting tendency of Italian poetry led to poets being considered less relevant in the hierarchy of the arts and sciences; as has been noted by many scholars, in Barberini Rome the controversy of classicism versus Marinism concerned not just metaphorical audacity and virtuosity, but also the general purpose of literature and, as a result, the choice of poetical subject matter.9

The rigorous application of Aristotelian rules, which were extensively studied during the second half of the sixteenth century, relegated religious poetry to the secondary level of devotional writing, allowing only limited space for it. Nevertheless, the circle of poets around Urban VIII was persuaded to inaugurate an art of writing Christian poetry. Since his youth, Pallavicino had persistently held the conviction that poetry should be Christian in character, as demonstrated by his last printed work, Arte della perfezion cristiana:

There is less excuse for listening to amorous songs, reading suggestive books, or keeping lewd paintings. Nor are you absolved if you say you are moved to that by honest delight in the mere excellence of art: is there perhaps no art that is both more noble and ingenious in heroic, moral, and holy subjects? Why, when you can extract a more beautiful light from the purity of wax, do you seek it in the filth of tallow? On this subject, as far as it concerns books, two men of my order have written very finely in prose, Famiano Strada with three of his Prolusions, and Vincenzo Guinigi, with one of his Allocutions.10

In this passage we can see the influence of Pallavicino’s education at the prestigious Collegio Romano. It draws particularly from the teachings of Famiano Strada S.J. (1572–1649), which are partially presented in Strada’s Prolusiones academicae,11 and which established the foundation of Pallavicino’s poetics.12 Pallavicino was also influenced by the milieu of the papal court. In Urban VIII’s cultural program, illustrated in his famous elegy, Poësis probis et piis documentis primaevo decori restituenda, poetry was intended to be used as an instrument for formulating a resolute response to the Reformation. Powerful exhortations to write Christian poetry and numerous, though minor, declarations about sacred poetics provide a very lively picture of Roman classicism at the beginning of the seventeenth century.13

Starting in 1630, and probably spurred on by the pope and his close circle, Pallavicino took on the composition of I fasti sacri. The writing continued throughout the early 1630s; epistolary evidence attests to work being done on it between 1631 and 1634.14 In 1636, when the author entered the Society of Jesus, he abandoned the unfinished poem. In this work Pallavicino attempted to strike a difficult and delicate balance between the didactic purpose of a religious topic and the application of a rhetorical form able to produce pleasure and wonder, an objective that suggests a heteronomous interpretation of the poetical aim.

A comprehensive judgement of the poem cannot be formulated without taking into account the preface, a long introductory text entitled “Discorso intorno al seguente poema” that explains the author’s poetic choices.15 This text (not selected by Pignatelli for the Scelta) contains Pallavicino’s concerns and positions about the Christian epic genre. In these theoretical pages he addresses the previous poetic tradition and defends the possibility of a Christian poem, in accordance with both the teachings he received in the Collegio Romano as well as Urban VIII’s recommendations that are in opposition to observant Aristotelism and the prevailing fashion of Marinism.

The long introduction begins by dealing with the arduous blend of truth and literary invention. Pallavicino meditates on the common belief that eloquence and poetry cannot be applied to a sacred argument, because religious truth does not have the ‘capacity for stories’ (‘capace di favole’); as a consequence, it is not possible to match a Christian subject with literary invention. From the perspective of the Aristotelian definition of poetry, the innate deficiency of Christian subject matter does not permit the existence of the genre of sacred poetry. Christian truth cannot produce delight, and a religious subject can only be held ‘in the rough austerity of academic essays or in the pious simplicity of spiritual works’.16 In Pallavicino’s opinion, this status quo came to an end with the example of Urban VIII and the experiences of the group of poets who, after his election as pontiff, followed the same ambition.17 Pallavicino, too, after his debut as a lyrical poet (under Ciampoli’s guidance), declared that he followed the way shown by the pope, with the purpose of creatively adapting one of the most famous masterpieces of the classical tradition: ‘I picked a subject analogous to the one treated with the usual success by Ovid in the false religion by means of his highly acclaimed Fasti’.18

Pallavicino first says he will avoid the old debate of ‘whether verses without story rightly deserve to be called Poetry’.19 By reflecting on human knowledge and humanity’s natural inclination toward truth, Pallavicino considers verisimilitude and deceit unnecessary for knowledge. Avoiding the infertile quarrels over poetry, he declares,

And because verses on spiritual topics, when they are not Poetry, are a kind of composition higher and more beautiful than Poetry, since they contain everything that makes Poetry noble, that is, the Wonderful, and in addition they have a property that Poetry cannot achieve, except by means of the mask, or through similitude, that is, truth.20

Another peculiarity of sacred poems is that they are ‘always inventing phrasing’ (‘inventar sempre la frase’), and thus are always working with the rhetorical structure, the exposition, to avoid repetition and excessive uniformity. This problem would have been particularly evident in the lives of saints, which are all characterised by a common end.21

Pallavicino took issue with the criticism that without ‘the allure of amorous events’ (‘gli allettamenti de’ successi amorosi’), religious subjects lacked the capacity to raise the curiosity of readers; he thought the criticism entailed a certain disregard for the judgement of readers.22 His response to that criticism is more synthetic and based on classical examples (Homer and Virgil):

I do not deny that amorous subjects attract the interest of sensual people. But it is not the case that they render the Writer’s wit [ingegno] more commendable than that of the foolish Actor who, unable to find a wittier way to gain laughs from the audience, by saying a dirty word, has it crash into the mouths of ignorant people.23

The Discorso ends with some specific observations on the subject and structure of the Fasti sacri. Pallavicino identifies some earlier works of the calendar poetry genre, but he rejects the criticism levelled at the choice of a hackneyed topic and expresses his hope to do better than other poets before him. That ambition is evident from the first octaves of his poem:

I take an Angelic Trumpet: Love and Weapons
are nasty topics for an industrious spirit.
Like an Eagle rather than a Swan I rise towards the Sky,
and I plan to disclose Sacred mysteries to the World.
To the lucky Days I devote my Poems,
that by adding Gods to the Starry Realm,
or through your other endeavours, magnificent God
become festive, to drive away Oblivion.
But by those who rotate in the Sky, shall it be granted to me
to see glories unknown to human sight?
Not by the gods of Phoebus,
but your God, oh Sacrosanct URBAN.
to whom the Eternal hand entrusted to your hand
the keys that open the entrance to Heaven.
And I am not scared by Babel with its cases,
having you as guide rising above the Stars.24

The first line clearly marks the distance from the epic poem tradition (e.g., Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, with its famous two first hendecasyllables: ‘Le donne, i cavallier, l’arme, gli amori, / le cortesie, l’audaci imprese io canto’ (‘Of loves and ladies, knights and arms, I sing / of courtesies and many a daring feat’);25 the subject will not be the deeds of heroes and knights, but the praise of the lives of saints, by which the days of the year become laudable. Following the tradition of the epic poem, Pallavicino innovates an invocation to the Muses, replacing pagan goddesses with pope Urban VIII: he thereby establishes a model for an effective sacred poetry.

As already mentioned, after a first introductory canto, the structure of the poem depends strictly on the calendar tradition and follows the main Roman Catholic feasts: each canto is occupied by the stories of major saints remembered in the Martyrologium romanum, one of the liturgical instruments recently revised by the Catholic Church. Pallavicino selected only the most important saints, and for many of them he narrates just some of the episodes of their lives. According to his poetics of truth, only a part of the stories known about the lives of saints can be trusted, and those are not the overly imaginative legends the Church has not confirmed. The result is a poem of scenes tailored for certain feast days, a poem that shows its literary ambitions mostly in the constant reuse of poetic material (often similar imagery and other features from epic poems, such as Gerusalemme liberata).

An example is the last sequence of the seventh canto, a long scene dedicated to the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul on 29 June. After the description of some salient moments from the lives of the two saints, Pallavicino describes the celebrations for this commemoration in Rome, a remarkable document of the festival organised in the city during the first decades of the seventeenth century:

When the Great Messenger through various paths
arrives at the Tomb where Hadrian is enclosed,
the valleys of Tiber are heard resounding
and the Earth trembles with sounds that please Heaven.
Here horses whinny and agitate,
some for fear, some for thirst of war.
The Great [the king of Naples] eventually arrives at the Vatican,
and encounters the Sacrosanct Urban on his Throne.
He bows in front of him, offers the pompous Chinea
and even offers not a little amount of gold;
because the King of Iberia [Spain] owes [such things] to Peter
for your Reign, oh famous Naples.
When Urban receives the gift from the King
he raises his feared and glorious hand;
then he lays [his hand] over his name, making the sign of the cross,
and with his vows makes the Sky propitious to him.
Celebrations do not end all at once with the Sun,
But continue to shine even more beautifully in the Night
the unparalleled Building of the Vatican
looks like a starry Sky with its thousand lights;
and all of Rome shall be crowned [with lights],
giving longer life to the Day with golden sparkles;
while with the sound of the bronze, a smiling mother
holds her sweet, shuddering children to the breast.26

The description of the tournament, or Giostra, and other peculiar ceremonies of that time (such as the tribute from the King of Naples, the so-called Chinea) is enhanced by the final image of Urban VIII entering Saint Peter’s to celebrate mass for the festival. In one octave, discussed by Bernini scholars, Pallavicino describes the recently erected baldacchino designed by Gianlorenzo Bernini in 1633: ‘four Columns, or rather golden Towers, / where Art and Splendour nobly challenge each other’ (‘quattro Colonne, anzi pur Torri aurate, / ove l’Arte col Fasto ha nobil gara’).27

It is not clear why Pallavicino decided not to publish his poem. The most likely hypothesis is related to the well-known Galileo affair; an implicit reference to Galileo’s work appears in the introductory Discorso.28 Although Pallavicino decided not to publish his cantos, the work remained known within Pallavicino’s circle in the years following its composition, which allowed some of it to be saved from oblivion in the already mentioned Scelta di poesie italiane. In the last years of the seventeenth century, in a pre-Arcadian circle, the poem’s appeal continued to be felt, owing to its balance between ‘gentleness of style’ (‘leggiadria di stile’) and ‘solidity of doctrine’ (‘sodezza di dottrina’).29

Pallavicino’s intent to both offer instruction to his readers and delight them at the same time remained unchanged, as we can see in other works. This could lead one to infer that Fasti sacri was probably not yet an accomplished attempt. In one passage, he says that when we attempt to ‘match subtlety of doctrine with elegance of style’,

on the one hand, our writings do not come out like hedgehogs, armed with many sharp quills, like the books of modern Scholastics, where that same hideousness is appreciated, not as beautiful but rather at least as strong; nor are [our writings], on the other hand, like peacocks, dressed with such pompous and such shiny feathers, like the academic absurdities of modern eloquence: but where moral philosophy appears accompanied by a long host of cited Authors and dressed up with a flowery drapery of the finest expression, embroidered with figures, bejewelled with sentences, and, almost as I have said, cut with asides, and fastened by golden ribbons of antitheses.30

After the challenge of this epic poem, Pallavicino definitively abandoned the genre. His later interest in poetics took a different turn, following the lines of a new aesthetics, which is thoroughly explained in the dialogue of Del bene and in the Trattato dello stile e del dialogo.31 These mature works were far from his first attempts to strenuously defend truth. They were also far from the cultural scenario of the first decades of the century, which had entirely changed after the pivotal 1630s. What had not changed, however, was Pallavicino’s strong belief in the didactic function of poetry, which continues to operate in all of his later works.


See Scarpati C. – Bellini E., Il vero e il falso dei poeti. Tasso, Tesauro, Pallavicino, Muratori (Milan: 1990) 75.


For the tradition of calendar poems in the Renaissance, see Miller J.F., “Ovid’s Fasti and the Neo-Latin Christian Calendar Poem”, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 10.2 (2003) 173–186.


For a recent outline of the series of events I summarise here, see Apollonio S., “Per una lettura dei Fasti sacri di Sforza Pallavicino”, in Pallavicino Sforza, I fasti sacri. Edizione critica e commento, ed. S. Apollonio (Lecce: 2015) 11–121.


Tempestini Anton Francesco, La gloria, poesia dedicata a Sforza Pallavicino (Jesi, Gregorio Arnazzini: 1633).


The anthology, begun by Stefano Pignatelli, was completed by Francesco Baglioni and dedicated to Queen Christina of Sweden. It was compiled in the milieu of the Accademia reale, the forerunner of the Accademia dell’Arcadia, established only in 1690.


Muratori Ludovico Antonio, Della Perfetta Poesia Italiana, vol. 2 (Venice, Sebastiano Coleti: 1703, repr. 1724) 74: ‘Non sono già pochi fra gl’italiani coloro che in questo nobile impiego abbiano finora santificato le loro muse. Il Chiabrera ne compose alcuni colla sua solita leggiadria, e a’ nostri giorni felicemente ha speso molta fatica il signor Loreto Mattei in traslatar gl’inni della Chiesa. Ma non è veruno, ch’io sappia, peranche aggiunto alla cima del sacro monte, e resta in ciò tuttavia qualche riguardevole alloro disoccupato per gli poeti d’Italia. Ed esso è riserbato a quegli che sì a gloriosa impresa porteranno gran pietà, e sapranno con fecondissima fantasia, tenerezza, maestà e decoro esprimere in versi le lodi di chi è fonte d’ogni beatitudine, e di chi è da lui fatto eternamente beato. Parmi eziandio, che all’italica favella manchino i fasti ecclesiastici, tuttoché Giovanni Canale gli abbia descritti, e il Cardinale Sforza Pallavicino, quando era giovinetto, si mettesse ad innalzarne la fabbrica. Non sarebbe in verità poco pagato lo studio di colui che trattasse e sapesse ben trattare questa materia, quando egli pervenisse ad ottener la gloria da Ovidio riportata nel comporre i Fasti della sciocca gentilità’. See also the modern edition of Della perfetta poesia italiana, ed. A. Ruschioni (Milan: 1971) 610. Similar statements appear in Crescimbeni Giovan Mario, Dell’istoria della volgar poesia, vol. 3 (Venice, Lorenzo Basegio: 1730) 166–167, and Quadrio Francesco Saverio, Della storia e della ragione d’ogni poesia, vol. 4 (Bologna, Ferdinando Pisarri: 1752) 147. More pointed observations on the minimal circulation of Pallavicino’s poem in the following centuries are found in Apollonio S., “Prime ricerche sui Fasti sacri di Sforza Pallavicino”, Aevum 84 (2010) 767–793.


Folengo Teofilo, La umanità del figliuol di Dio, ed. S.G. Ravedati (Alessandria: 2000) 134. For a useful overview of the problems concerning the Christian epic poem in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, see Faini M., “Le ‘sacrosante muse di Giordano’: La riflessione sul poema sacro nella prima metà del Cinquecento”, in Corsaro A. – Hendrix H. – Procaccioli P. (eds.), Autorità, modelli e antimodelli nella cultura artistica e letteraria tra Riforma e Controriforma: Atti del Seminario internazionale di studi, Urbino-Sassocorvaro, 9–11 novembre 2006 (Manziana: 2007) 243–265, and Faini M., “Heroic Martyrdom Unsung: Some Reflections on the Tradition of Christian Epic in Renaissance Italy and the European Context”, Wolfenbütteler Renaissance Mitteilungen 32.2 (2008–2010) 135–152.


These relationships with Virginio Cesarini and Giovanni Ciampoli are well documented in Favino F., La filosofia naturale di Giovanni Ciampoli (Florence: 2015) 43–56 and 87–103. See also Favino’s essay in this volume.


Among the studies on Barberini Rome, it is worth mentioning the essential monograph by Bellini E., Umanisti e lincei: letteratura e scienza a Roma nell’età di Galileo (Padua: 1997), particularly Chapter II (“Roma 1623: Letteratura e vita civile” 85–167), which discusses the poetics of the intellectuals who were close to Urban VIII. In addition to expressing their disapproval of concettismo and metaphorical excess, these intellectuals refuse to entertain the possibility of love as exclusive subject matter. These ideas are exposed in a more complete way in Poetica sacra, the manifesto of classicism in Barberini Rome, an in-verse dialogue that rejects ‘an image of poetry that does not bring any intellectual benefit or that skirts the domains of false and lie’ (‘un’immagine di poesia che non veicoli un guadagno intellettuale o che costeggi i domini del falso e della bugia’) (Bellini, Umanisti e lincei 137). For an introduction to the Poetica sacra (while I am working on a critical edition and commentary), see Apollonio S., “‘L’arte d’Apelle, e Fidia, / e le Dedalee destre / ponno a i Cigni d’Italia esser maestre’. L’esempio delle arti figurative nella Poetica sacra di Giovanni Ciampoli”, in Battistini L. – Caputo V. – De Blasi M. – Liberti G.A. – Palomba P. – Panarella V. – Stabile A. (eds.), La letteratura italiana e le arti, Atti del XX Congresso dell’ADI—Associazione degli Italianisti (Napoli, 7–10 settembre 2016) (Rome: 2018). For the prevailing sophistic drift in Marinism, see Frare P., “Adone. Il poema del neopaganesimo”, Filologia e Critica 35 (2010) 227–249.


Pallavicino Sforza, Arte della perfezion cristiana del card. Sforza Pallavicino. Divisa in tre libri (Rome, ad instanza di Iacomo Antonio Celsi, libraro appresso al Collegio Romano/Angelo Bernabò: 1665) 203: ‘Minore scusa ci è di sentir canti amorosi, di legger libri molli, di tener dipinture lascive. Né t’assolve il dire, che tu se’ mosso a ciò da onesta vaghezza per la sola eccellenza dell’arte: manca forse l’arte e più nobile e più ingegnosa in materie eroiche, morali e sante? Perché potendo tu ritrarre più bella luce della purità della cera, la cerchi dall’immondizia del sevo? Sopra quest’argomento, per quanto appartiene a’ libri, hanno scritto egregiamente in prosa due huomini del mio Ordine, Famiano Strada con tre delle sue Prolusioni, e Vincenzo Guinigi, con una sua Allocuzione’. See also Riga’s and Metlica’s contribution to this volume.


Strada Famiano, Prolusiones Academicae (Rome, Iacobum Mascardum: 1617).


Strada S.J. (1572–1649) was a teacher of rhetoric between 1600 and 1614, and Vincenzo Guinigi (d. 1653) followed him in the same role from 1617 to 1625; see Villoslada R.G., Storia del Collegio Romano dal suo inizio (1551) alla soppressione della Compagnia di Gesù (1773) (Rome: 1954) 335. Traces of a certain familiarity between Strada and Pallavicino can be found in Pallavicino’s correspondence dating from the 1620s, in a manuscript preserved in the Vatican Library (Chigiano A.III.53, fols. 237–352). For a partial publication of the correspondence, see De Luca A., “Lettere inedite di Sforza Pallavicino a Fabio Chigi”, La rassegna della letteratura italiana 78 (1974) 31–42. As Marc Fumaroli suggested, Jesuit rhetoric provided a model for literary and artistic expression in Barberini’s Rome; see Delbeke M., The Art of Religion: Sforza Pallavicino and Art Theory in Bernini’s Rome (Farnham: 2012) 1. In several passages of the preface to Fasti sacri are echoes of Strada’s Prolusiones academicae.


On these matters, along with a focus on the already mentioned Poetica sacra by Giovanni Ciampoli, see Apollonio S., “‘Scriva la destra quel che l’alma crede’. L’uso delle mitologie in letteratura tra riforma protestante e riforma cattolica”, in Barzanò A. – Bearzot C. (eds.), Rivoluzione, riforma, transizione, Atti della Summer School 2017 (Milan: 2018) 239–267. It is worth remembering that ‘in the second half of the sixteenth century and until the 1620s, Christian epic was regarded as a powerful tool to spread Counter-Reformation ideals and ideology’ (Faini, “Heroic Martyrdom Unsung” 137).


Letters to Fabio Chigi in BAV Chigiano A.III.53, fols. 255–79 and, in the same library, Urb. lat. 1624, fols. 156 and 402, with letters to Paganino Gaudenzi, published in Godenzi G., Paganino Gaudenzi. Uno scrittore barocco in bianco e nero nel quarto centenario della nascita 1595–1995 (Bern: 1995) 233 and idem, Paganino Gaudenzi (Bern – Frankfurt: 1975) 214.


See the previously mentioned edition of I fasti sacri 135–150.


Ibid. 136: ‘Nella scabrosa austerità de’ trattati scolastici, o nella pia semplicità delle operette spirituali’.


New documents on this period are discussed in Russo E., “Contributi per la letteratura barberiniana (1). Maffeo Barberini e Ridolfo Campeggi”, in Corradini M. – Ferro R. – Girardi M.T. (eds.), Dal ‘mondo scritto’ al ‘mondo non scritto’. Studi di letteratura italiana per Eraldo Bellini (Pisa: 2021) 101–125, and Russo E., “Contributi per la letteratura barberiniana (2). Sull’epistolario di Francesco Bracciolini”, Filologia e Critica 44 (2019) 145–168.


Ibid. 138: ‘Elessi un soggetto corrispondente a quello, che fu trattato con la solita felicità da Ovidio nella falsa religione, per mezzo de’ suoi celebratissimi Fasti’.


Ibid. 140: ‘Se i versi privi di favola meritin giustamente il titolo di Poesia’.


Ibid. 141–142: ‘E però i versi ne gli argomenti spirituali, quando non sieno Poesia, saranno una specie di composizione più alta, e più bella, che la Poesia, contenendo tutto quello, da cui la Poesia è nobilitata, cioè il Mirabile, e di più avendo con proprietà quello, che la Poesia non ottiene, se non per maschera, e per simiglianza, cioè il vero’. The same conclusion is in an important passage of Ciampoli’s Poetica sacra, the second dialogue of the first treatise, Come possa con la poesia unirsi la verità, which Delbeke generously comments upon in The Art of Religion 177–184.


Pallavicino, I fasti sacri 142.


Ibid. 139.


Ibid. 147: ‘Non nego io già, che le materie di amore non tirino la vaghezza del popolo sensuale. Ma non è però, che rendano più lodevole l’ingegno dello Scrittore, di quel, che sia lo sciocco Istrione, il qual, non sapendo più arguta maniera di cavare il riso da gli spettatori, con proferire una parola impudica, il fa stoltamente prorompere nelle bocche della Plebe’.


Ibid. 155–156: ‘1 / Prendo Angelica Tromba: Amori ed Armi / son vil materia a l’animoso ingegno. / Aquila più, che Cigno al Cielo alzarmi, / e Sacri arcani al Mondo aprir disegno. / A i fortunati Dì consacro i Carmi, / che aggiunser Divi a lo Stellante Regno, / o che d’altr’opre tue, mirabil Dio, / vengon festivi a discacciar l’Oblio. / 2 / Ma da chi gire al Ciel mi fia concesso, / mea veder glorie ignote al guardo umano? / Non già da i numi del Febeo Permesso, / ma dal tuo Nume, o Sacrosanto URBANO. / Che le chiavi, onde al Ciel s’apre l’ingresso, / fidò l’Eterna mano a la tua mano. / Né mi dà co’ suoi casi orror Babelle, / s’ho te per Duce a sormontar le Stelle’.


Ariosto Ludovico, The Orlando furioso translated into English Verse, trans. W.S. Rose, vol. 1 (London: 1858) 1.


Pallavicino, I fasti sacri 667–675 (particularly 670–671): ‘191 / Quando il Gran Messaggier per varii calli / giunge a la Tomba, ove Adrian si serra, / s’odon del Tebro rimbombar le valli /e tuoni allegri al Ciel vibra la Terra. / Ecco nitrire, e calcitrar cavalli, /chi per timor, chi per desio di guerra. / Arriva alfin quel Grande al Vaticano, /e in Trono incontra il Sacrosanto Urbano. / 192 / A lui s’atterra, e la Chinea pomposa / gli offre e pur gli offre d’or copia non lieve; / che pel tuo Regno, o Napoli famosa, / il Monarca d’Iberia a Pietro deve. / Alza la man temuta, e gloriosa / poiché del Re l’omaggio Urban riceve; / sovra il suo nome, in croce poi la stende, / e propizio co’ voti il Ciel gli rende. / 193 / Né s’estinguon le pompe in un col Sole, / ma splendon fra la Notte ancor più belle / del Vatican l’incomparabil Mole / sembra per mille lumi un Ciel di stelle; /e Roma intera coronar si suole, / vita allungando al Dì d’auree facelle; / mentre al tonar del bronzo, al sen tremanti / stringe ridente madre i dolci infanti’.


These verses are commented upon in Montanari T., “Gian Lorenzo Bernini e Sforza Pallavicino”, Prospettiva 87–88 (1997) 42–68, at 44; Bellini E., Stili di pensiero nel Seicento italiano. Galileo, i Lincei, i Barberini (Pisa: 2009) 184; and Delbeke, The Art of Religion 178–179 (where an English translation of some octaves is also provided).


See Apollonio, “Per una lettura dei Fasti sacri di Sforza Pallavicino” 45–46.


Baglioni, Scelta di poesie italiane non più per l’addietro stampate, fol. 6r.


Pallavicino Sforza, Del bene libri quattro (Rome, Appresso gli Eredi di Francesco Corbelletti: 1644) 338: ‘Così stimeranno alcuni che intervenga a noi mentre ci studiamo d’unire sottigliezza di dottrina, e gentilezza di stile. Poiché in tal modo i nostri componimenti né da un lato riescono istrici armati di tante acute punte, come sembrano i libri de’ moderni Scolastici, in cui quella orridezza medesima piace, se non come vaga, almen come forte: né dall’altro riescon pavoni vestiti di penne così pompose e così lampeggianti, come paiono le accademiche amenità dell’eloquenza moderna: ove la morale Filosofica comparisce corteggiata da lungo stuolo di citati Scrittori, e abbigliata con un drappo a fiorami di leggiadrissima dicitura, ricamato di figure, gioiellato di sentenze, e poco men ch’io non dissi, trinciato d’incisi, affibbiato da nastri d’oro di contrapposti’. See also Eraldo Bellini’s contribution to this volume.


See Delbeke, The Art of Religion 29–53.

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Sforza Pallavicino

A Jesuit Life in Baroque Rome