Just for having an idea

Piedmontese literature, a short history. First part

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Notice to be read (in case you didn't)

The pieces of information contained in this pageare pu here just for complete the speech. If you search "Piedmontese Literature" on Internet, you probably can find much more about, and mainly indications of books much more "serious", written by actual experts. Besides these informations are limited by the space available to me on the web, and by my limited skillness (I am not "in the field").
Along the centuries, many documents written in Piedmontese have been lost. The main reason is that piedmontese people and even more the men in power, didn't think important to retain them. Even if all, from the Duke to the Farmer, spoke Piedmontese, and in spite of the many writings in Piedmontese, the men in power thaught at the Piedmontese as a second level culture (at least up to 1600), and preferred, in succession, the Latin, the Provençal, the French and last the Italian as tongues for arts and official acts, in spite of the fact that the great majority of people did not know these languages, or had few notions of them, so that they were uncomfortable with the related use.
The Piedmontese is recognized as an autonomous language by the major researcher in the world, and it was recognized as such by the European Council in 1981 (Peport n. 4745), it is recognized by UNESCO as a minority language to be protected, is the support of a very large literature (see below), as a difference with Italian, it belongs to the western group of neo-Latin languages (italian belongs to the eastern), it is spoken by 2'500'000 people, it has been present in Piedmont for about 1000 years. It is officially ignored by Italy.
Before having a quick look at the piedmontese literature along the centuries, we want to speak about the "Frontier's Culture" often ignored by "official" culture.

Piedmont and Alps. A frontier culture
In the quick history of Piedmont that we've seen, it appears quite clear that piedmontese population, his language and culture are the result of the fact that Piedmont always was a "frontier land", land on which different people met and fought, mixing each other culturally and ethnically, beginning from the oldest prehistory. Ring of connection between Italic and Gallic populations. Land proud of an independences maintained at a very high price along the centuries.
This character of connection ring between different cultures is shared with all the alpine populations and, even in the differences and specificity expressed by each of them, is the basis of that "alpine culture", that is different from cisalpine or transalpinew cultures, and collects in itself the main, fundamental characters of both. People that always lived on mountains had to cope with the same hard environment, to solve the same problems on both the slopes of the mountain, tongue and life styles always were similar or equal, and often happened and happens that young men on one slope went to find a wife on the other slope of the mountain. Piedmontese life and culture, were very much influenced by this "Alpine Culture", or "Frontier Culture", in particular if we take into account that the Savoy's state, also politically, spanned both of the alpine slopes.
The idea of Alps as a "protection wall" for Italy against "barbarians" who lived beyond the mountains chain (but id should be valid also th hipothesis the other way round) already arose in the antiquity, and after it was celebrated or invoked by italian poets in the Middle Age and in Renaissance. But they did not know neither Alps nor alpine populations. Mountains were considered as dreadful and cold places, inhabited by stupid, wild populations. Places to cross as quickly as possible in case of need. No men land, dangerous, whose only utility was to represent an obstacle to enemies. Along the history, anyway, wery seldom Alps could stop some invasion: from Celts to Brenno, from Carthago army to Longobards and Franks, up to Napoleon's army.
Travellers who crossed the savoyard states, recognized in them a specific and clear character of transition between Italy and France, and considered them as certainly different from Italy. In fact they assigned Piedmont to a cultural environment similar to the french one (this, in particular, for geman travellers). They reported that life in Turin had a french style, that in the city french and italian were spoken in the same way, and that the mother tonghe of the population was completely a different thing with respect italian, pronounced like the french, it made use of many french forms (Montaigne, second half of XVI century). Actually the piedmontese of that time was very different from french in many aspects, and even more from italian. This wss also asserted by a venetian diplomatic, who in his reports wrote that in Piedmont it was not enough to know italian and french for understanding piedmontese. Rousseau asserted that, in his staying in Turin, he had no problems since he already knew well the piedmontese (first half XVIII century). Stendhal asserted that there was a greater difference between a piedmontese and an italian person than between a french and an english person. Often savoyard states (Savoy and Piedmont) were not included in depictions of Italy for travellers. If a french style was assigned to Turin, in Chambery all was french, even if also piedmontese was spoken. The piedmontewse was also spoken, and still it is nowadays, in Piedmont's areas having another mother tongue (provençal, french-provencal, french, walser).
Starting from the second half of '500 (Emmanuel Philibert first and then Charles Emmanuel I), in the piedmontese people began to take form the sense of a piedmontese nation. In that period the piedmontese language was completely formed, and quite similar to the modern one. Besides, it was spreaded over all the territory of the region. With the siege of Turin of 1706, and the following victory, this sense of nation became stronger, and reached the top with the Battle of Assietta of 1747 and the consequen victory that brought the Piedmont to its territorial completeness. In spite of the continuous wars against France, in the piedmontese people never arose some true feelins against french people. Wars were considered questions of armies, of political situations, defense of independence, fidelity toward the Duke and Dukedom, not a question of populations. From the year 1783 piedmontese had its written grammar, and the author (Maurizio Pipino), having observed that piedmontese tongue was spoken by everybody, including the Court and the King, and that Bishops encourared priests to preach in piedmontese for reasons of understanding for majority of pepole, proposed to teach piedmontese at school, and to teach directy all the matters in piedmontese. This in order to have the language correctly known, and to avoid, for learnig to read and write and everything, people were compelled to learn also another language, the italian, foreing for the most of people. In that period, indeed, they were thinking at make the piedmontese more official, since actully it was the national tongue. Another writer (Calvo), at the end of XVIII century, who was doctor and literate, used to say that each one, in his country, should speak his own language. He wrote only in piedmontese. French revolution interrupted suddenly these projects.
With the french occupation that followed the revolution, Piedmont was not included into the Cisalpine Republic, but it was directly annexed to France, since it was considered not italian. So they tried to make it french the Piedmont, and the french language, being the official one, was a bit more diffused, but it couldn't substitute the piedmontese, that was the national tongue. In that period it was recognized by some literates that if piedmontese had received more attention starting from the XVI century, it would have become a language with a relation with italian od french, similar at the one between german and dutch or spanish and portuguese, and it would have been the official language of Piedmont.
Up to the year 1861 (year of the Italian unification), the borders of italian culture and character were very discussed and uncertain, and did not include Apls and Piedmont, even if some relevant piedmontese writers, like Vittorio Alfieri (who, anyway wrote also at least two sonnets in pedmontese), wrote important works in italian. Anyway in Piedmont, around the half of XIX century and in prevision of a possible unification of Italy, some intellectual began a campaign aganst piedmontese. The fact, in that period, did not affected the large production of literature in piedmontese but, on the contrary, some supporters of the italian language discovere after that the expressivity of piedmontese (in Piedmont, of course) was extremely superior of the one of italian (like Vittorio Bersezio who, after having criticized the use of piedmontese, had his greatest success with a piedmontese comedy, then translated in various languages).
After italian unity, many problems arose about culture and belonging of frontier's populations, and in some cases solutions were proposed, not always reasonable. This happened, for example, in Aosta walley, but the problem was not considered for the remaining of Piedmont (that was the author of the unification). It seemed opportune, at that time, that unity were not intended as "occupation", in order not to make it worse some dangerous situations that arose (in some cases appeared a sort of "guerrilla" against piedmonteses, according to some experts probably the "mafia" bore as a reaction of this "occupation", in some region people that failed to report for military service and deserters were more that 50%. It seems also probable that the same King Vittorio Emmanuel II were compelled to study italian that he didn't konw so well). Also for that the capital city was quickly transferred from Turin to Florence and to Rome. Anyway, at the beginning of XX century in Turin, at school piedmontese was still studied (my mother studied it at primary school).
The accession of Fascism brought a strong opposition to all the local cultures, and in particular to the "frontier's" ones. Frontier's lands and Alps were no more rings of connections between cultures, but bulwark against the enemy and the watershed had to, arfully, divide populations and cultures. Piedmont was invaded by "missionaries" who had to redeem the piedmonteses from the "barbarity" of their language and culture. The piedmontese was, against all the evidences, classified as a "rude" dialect of italian (they not even belong to the same linguistical class). The following democracy continued on the same way, a bit for the fascist residual cultural education, a bit since the plurality bothers whatever centralizing government, a bit due to racism against Piedmont, born with the italian unity itself, and a bit for ununderstandable worries abouy the unity (as if this one weren't be made by Piedmont, and good bye to democracy and human rights). All this in spite of the 12nd article of Italian Constitution and the Report 4745 of the Council of Europe (1981), UNESCO and so on. At the end, some piedmontese people began to consider their language as something connected to old country traditions, a bit retrograde, useful for country feasts and for writing stupidities just for joking (of course, without knowing how piedmontese is written). And so, for them, an immense patrimony of poetry, of social unrests, of deep feelings, of lived life tha for centuries had accompained and sustained a strong defense of an independence highly payed, and sustained that "frontier culture" that had connected Italy to France, was lost. Without their own natural culture, that would have assigned them an important role in the European context, provided only of a standard scholastic culture, when they came in contact with other cultures (italian first, then foreign), they realized not to have anymore theirs. He was afraid and attempted to keep away the "different". They became racists. The duty that Piedmont and Piedmonteses had carried out in the history had been so different.

Traces of piedmontese vulgar tongue
The first traces of words of the piedmontese vulgar tongue, in Piedmont, can be found in floor mosaic inscriptions. They were in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Vercelli and in the church of Sant Evasio in Casale. Proposed dates for these inscriptions are, respectively, the year 1040 and the year 1106, byt of course on these dates there is some debate. They are just few words, but certainly recognizable as local vulgar. We are not expert enough for giving our opinion, but the experts say that if words of vulgar appears in mosaics decorating churchs, that means that the vulgar is has been spoken by people already for many years, and not just by "low culture" people. From that words it can be deduced that this vulgar is characteristic of the region (we have later proofs), and then it is Piedmontese. Of course it is an archaic Piedmontese, even if the words are still present in the today's piedmontese tongue. At any rate, around the year 1000, a piedmontese vulgar should be spoken in a generalized way in Piedmont.

The first known document
Beyond the traces that we've seen above, The first large document that we know, written in archaic Piedmontese, is quite a big work. It is indicated as "Sermoni Subalpini" (Subalpine sermons, or, in Piedmontese "Sermon subalpengh") which can be found in the National Library of Turin. It is a collection of 22 complete long sermons, as a comment of the liturgical cycle of the year. The work dares back to the XIIth century, but we don't know the exact year (as a reference date we can pose 1150, or some tenths of years later).
Among other hipotheses that could be reasonable, it is thought that it could have been written by a monk of the St. Solutore convent (in Turin) or of the Diocesan Curia. Another hipothesis reasonable, and supported by an exam of the used lexicon could indicate the local church of Oulx as origin place of the document. This area was (and is) of mother tongue Provençal, but anyway the document is written in Piedmontese beyond any doubt. The scope of the writer was, very probably, to offer a pastoral tool to preachers, directly written in the language that people could understand and used, which wasn't any more the Latin (the Council of Tours in the year 813 had already noticed the problems of understanding produced by the use of Latin).
The writing is light, free and easy, and demonstrated that the author is very skilled in writing the Piedmontese, as if he had written other documents in Piedmontese or he had some piedmontese document as a guideline. This would say that other preceding documents had been written in this language, and they have been lost. In the following we give a little part of this document as an example. Here and there we can find Latin quotqtion, as it is usual, also today, for some preacher:
... prendì nos la petite volp qui catzun a mal nostre vigne, zo est: ne lor o consentì mia mas la lor defendì e lanzai lor las pere e catzai los de la vigna; car i las vasten e esterpen e catzen a mal. Vos qui devez varder la vigna, zo est Sancta Ecclesia, decartzai los heretis. E cum que los en catzaré? Cum lo flael de resticulis, zo sun le paròle de Christ qui dis: Domus mea domus orationis est, vos autem fecistis speluncam latrorum. La mia maisun si est maisun d'oraciun mas vos en avez fait balma de lairun ...
These sermons contain already specific characters of the piedmontese tongue and words that are still used nowadays (for example the word "balma" for "den, cavern" is a word of the today's piedmontese tongue). The study of this document was (and is) carried out by famous specialists all around the world. The document, certainly, reports the language of that time, but at a careful reading reveals also the character of the target people in the period. Its interest is therefore not only linguistical but also literary. Obviously, as it happens for all the antique documents, from the text it is not possible to go back to the actual pronunciation.

Other important traces of piedmontese vulgar tongue
The first piedmontese words for which it was possible to have a sure date, are footnotes contained in a Latin document, known as "Doctrinal of Mayfredo of Belmonte" (Capitular library od Ivrea) where, as notes, some Latin words are explicitly translated into vulgar tongue, and this tongue is Piedmontese. The document in the library is a later transcription (of the XIVth century) of the original, which has the date of the year 1225. The document, relevant under a linguistical poin of view, has no literary relevance, of course. More or less of that period, but with a more uncertain date, there are other papers containing "Themes of translations" that give the hints for translation from Latin into vulgar tongue. They are phrases of fantasy, useful for exercizing about rules of the Latin grammar (like the present school exercises). In these writings it is possible to observe the evolution of some words toward what the modern Piedmontese will be.

The provençal and piedmontese troubadours
In the period of "Sermons", or better in the period from XI up to XIII century, among educated piedmontese people, mainly nobles, a form of art was very appreciated, which was the Provence poetry (in "langue d'Oc" or Provençal). Some nobles, in Piedmont, like the marquis of Monferrato (Monfrà) the marquis of Saluzzo (Salusse) and also the Count of Savoy, hosted provençal poets, the so called troubadours, since that was in fashion in that period. They were lirists and satirists, and brought lustre to the Courts where they worked. For the period they were the highest expression of the art of words. Not all of them, of course, were coming from Provence or from areas where the Provençal was spoken, some of them were piedmontese like, for example, Nicolett of Turin, of whom we still have some poetry.
While the Piedmontese was becoming the people's language, currently used by all the social classes, the higher piedmontese culture was inspired and conditioned by Provence and France. At the same time the influence of the italian culture was marginal. This is the reason for the loss of many piedmontese document. In those times they supposed it wasn' worth while retaining them. The official language was still the Latin.

A consideration of Dante Alighieri about Piedmontese
As it is known, Dante Alighieri was the greatest of the italian poets that first used italian. Before using italian, Dante wrote in Latin, that was, in those times, the official language. In one of his latin writings: "De vulgari eloquentia", he discussed the importance of considering the language spoken by people (vulgus in latin, and so vulgaris means "of the people"). About the language which was spoken in Piedmont, he defined it "turpissimum" (dreadful) and incomprehensible. Also wrote that even if the piedmontese were "cleaned", in any case it could not have been considered an italian vulgar tongue, due to the heavy influence on it of languages beyond Alps. So acrually he declared that Piedmontese was another language, having nothing to do with respect Italian.

Piedmontese documents up to XIV century
For what we said before, we dont'have many documents in the first piedmontese, but they allow anyway us to study the evolution of the language. After the Sermons, and in a similar piedmontese, we have two documents that can be assigned to a period of some years later. They are "La dita dël Ré e dl'Argin-a" (Saying of the King and the Queen) and "Proverbi" (Proverbs), kept in the Cathedral Chapiter of Novara. We know the author's name of the latter, a friar: Frà Colomba of Vinchio.
A more advanced piedmontese, more free and modern, can be fount in a document of which we know the date (25 July 1321- it was saturday-), contained inside the document itself. This is "Jë Statù dl'Ospissi dla Società ëd San Giòrs ëd Chér", (Hospice's charters of the Sait George society in Chér - Chér is the town ). We report the beginning of this document:
A lo nom de nostr segnor Yhesu Christ amen. A l'an de la ssoa natività MCCCXXI a la quarta indicion, en saba XXV dì del meis de loign, en lo pien e general consegl de la compagnia de messer saint Georç de Cher a son de campana e a vox de crior en la chaxa de lo dit comun de Cher al mod uxà e congregà, el fu statuì e ordonà per col consegl e per gle consegler de lo dit consegl e per le rezior de la dicta compagnia gle qual adonch li eren en granda quantità e gnun de lor discrepant, fait apres solempn partì che gly infrascript quatrcent homegn ....
Of the same century we have a document (which is now in the National Library of Florence) having title "Ij Parlament e j'Epìstole" (The parliaments and the letters), it is made up by a number of models for various kinds of letters, written in Piedmontese and in Latin. Then there is a numer of Holy Praises like (e. g. "Lamentatio lacrimosa") that are poetical compositions, and other Regulations of Confraternities.
In this period the Piedmontese is already more defined. In the Free Communes the Piedmontese was also used for official acts. In an antique manuscript belonged to the Novalesa Abbey, few pages discovered recently, we can find some exercises of translation from Piedmontese to Latin. It is supposed that these sheets were part of an antique grammar, or something similar (that translation were a diffused scholastic practice). We were at the end of the XIVth century. Not all of this document have been published, at the moment. Not always on the documents that we've seen all the studies have been done.

Documents of '400
In the State archives of Turin, there is a document in verse having title "La prèisa 'd Pancalé" (The capture of Pancalé - Pancalé is a town), its author is anonymous, but there is a date: 1410. The verse celebrates the victory of Ludwig of Acaja in the related battle.
Then in the National Library of Turin there is a document calle "Test Carmagnolèis" (Texts of Carmagnòla - a town) which are writings in prose. In the same Library there is a Latin text (the "Metamorphoses" of Ovid) where there are noted by hand on the side of the pages many translations of words from Latin to Piedmontese (interesting from a linguistical point of view). Another document of that period is the "Laudari 'd Salussi" (Laud-book of Saluzzo - a town), containing a long series of Recommendations (that are sorts of prayers). In the Royal Library in Turin there is another document in verse: "La complenta 'd Turin" ( The Lamentations of Turin) that is of the year 1427. On the same subjects there are the other two "La complenta 'd Versej"(found in another city: Vercelli), and "La complenta 'd Cher" (the same as before, related to the city of Chieri). A very interesting document is a legal sentence called "Sentensa 'd Rivàuta" (as usual Rivàuta is a town) issued in 1446 by the Abbot of the Abbey of Rivalta (near Turin) on the subject of annulment of a marriage's promise. Still an administrative act is kept in the Municipal archive of Poirino and is known as "At ëd Poirin" (Act of Poirino), which was made in 1465.
We have documents of this period which are "impotred" written in Italian, and then transformed in piedmontese text (translated and adapted). One of them is contained inside the Laudari 'd Salussi (one of the Lauds). Also coming from this period is the "Passione di Revello" (The Passion of Revello - Religious subject, found in the town of Revello), which is not in Piedmontese (is in Tuscan - Italian) but with many lexical elements clearly piedmontese and badly translated (like, for example "ancoj" for "today". In piedmontese is "ancheuj" while in Italian is "oggi", and so on).
We report some lines of "La complenta 'd Versej" where it is underlined the use of the perfect tense (no more used in Piedmontese today, with some exceptions in poetry):
.... / Io sum Zovan ch'i ò ben vist / Tutta la mòrt de Yhesù Crist / Como lo prendero li Zoè / L'abandonero tuti y sé / ......
We still add a few lines of "La prèisa 'd Pancalé":
.... / chigl del castel se son rendù / e a la marçi del dit prinçi se son metù / que gli ha de drinte soe gent mandà / e la soa bandera sussa lo castel han butà / 'la qual n'ha la banda biòva traversa / en criant aute vox "viva lo prinçi a part versa / ......

The Latin in the Late Middle Age
It can be interesting an examination of the documents that in this period were still written in Latin. in the piedmontese area. In thhose documents we can find surely piedmontese words, just a bit "latinized". The majority of the new words that were introduced into Latin (neologisms) came from Piedmontese, while words aready part of the classical Latin lexicon, were every now and then, changed with piedmontese latinized words. Here, as an example, we report a couple of these words:
In the classical Latin the word "deep" is translated into "profundus", from which the italian word "profondo" is derived, with the same meaning. In Piedmontese the word "deep" is translated into "creus" or "ancreus". The word used in Piedmont for medieval latin documents was "crosus".
In the classical Latin the word "barrel, big woodden can for wine" is translated into "cupa, dolium", the italian word having the same meaning "botte" is not derived from Latin. In Piedmontese the same word is translated into "botal". The word used in Piedmont for medieval latin documents was "botallum".

Origin of the piedmontese theater
The first Holy Performances in Piedmontese have an origin usually assigned around the year 1000. In the first centuries, the only works written for being represented in a form of dialogue had always holy subjects. Among these the most known is the scenic performance of Gelindo, about the Nativity of Jesus Christ. In the period from 1200 to 1400 there were the Lauds of the Company of "disciplinati" (literally disciplined) of Carmagnola (a town), the performance of the trilogy on Passion of Christ at Revello (a town in the Marchland of Saluzzo), and the "Ludo" of Saint George at the Court of Savoy. Then, later, we had satirical and farcical compositions mainy due to John George Allione, that we'll see below. Then we can remember some Pastoral Comedies written by Bartholomew Brayda in 1556, still a Pastoral comedy writted by the Duke Charles Emanuel I, and then "Le scolare" (the (she)pupils) of Niccolò dal Pozzo (year 2596). Finally, in the 1608, a professor of the Turin's University, Mark Anthony Gorena, wrote (alway a pastoral cvomedy) "Margarita" (Margareth).
All these works had a limited importance. For having a true piedmontese theater we have anyway to wait up to the last years of the '600. One of the most important works, at the end of the century, was the comedy " 'L Cont Piolet" (the Count Piolet) of Charles Johan Baptiste Tana, Marquis of Entraque.

John George Allione of Asti
He wrote in French, Italian and Piedmontese, and lived from XVth century and XVIth century. We don't know exactly when he bore (between 1460 and 1470), while we know that he deaded in the year 1529. Its work is important since it indicates the passage from Middle Age to Humanesim. His most known work is the collection "Opera Iocunda di Johannis Georgi Alioni Astensi - in metro macharonico Gallico Composita", written with a farcical style and content. This work was re-edited in the XVI and it was one of the few piedmontese documents of that century. The political situation in Piedmont was dreadful, characterized by continuous wars and destructions. So, not so much room for literature. There were some Pastoral Comedies, as we've told about above, sometimes written in Italian and sometimes containing only short parts in Piedmontese (Bartholomew Brayda). We report here just few lines of the writings of Allione, taken from La commedia dell'homo e dei suoi cinque sentimenti: ... Gl'eugl: / L'é ben rason sì vel direu: / l'hom, voi saré servì da mi / com s'aparten dal bon amì / e servitor, megl ch'e' porreu / L'hom: / E de que? / Gl'eugl: / Mi ve monstrereu / belle ville, belle çità / belle giesie, belle meistà .....


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