Another of the outlying realms of pastoral is the mythological tale, more or less directly imitated from Ovid. The first to introduce it in vernacular literature was Boccaccio, who in his Ninfale fiesolano uses a pagan allegory to convey a favourite novella theme. The shepherd Affrico loves a nymph of Diana, and the tale ends by the goddess changing her faithless votary into a fountain. It is written in somewhat cumbrous ottava rima, and seldom shows any conspicuous power of narrative. Belonging to the same class of composition, though of a very different order of poetic merit, is Lorenzo’s wonderfully graceful tale of Ambra. The grace lies in the telling, for the plot was probably already stale when Phoebus and Daphne were protagonists. The poem recounts how the wood-nymph Ambra, beloved of Lauro, is pursued by the river-god Ombrone, one of Arno’s tributary divinities, and praying to Diana in her hour of need, is by her transformed into a rock. Lorenzo’s Selva d’amore and Caccia col falcone might also be mentioned in the same connexion.
Less pastoral in motive and less connected in narrative, but of even greater importance in the formation of pastoral taste, is the famous Giostra written in honour of the young Giuliano de’ Medici. I have already more than once had occasion to mention its author, Angelo Ambrogini, better known from the place of his birth as Poliziano or Politian, the contemporary, dependent, and fellow-litterateur of Lorenzo il Magnifico, and the greatest scholar and learned writer of the Italian renaissance. As the author of the Orfeo he will occupy our attention when we come to trace the evolution of the pastoral drama. Though he left no poems belonging to the recognized forms of pastoral composition, his work constantly borders upon the kind, and evinces a genuine sympathy with rustic life which makes the ascription to him of the already quoted modernization of Sacchetti not inappropriate. He left several other pieces of a similar nature, some of which at least are known to be adaptations of popular songs. Such, for instance, is the irregular canzone beginning:
La pastorella si leva per
Menando le caprette a pascer fuora,
Di fuora, fuora: la traditora
Co’ suoi begli occhi la m’ innamora,
E fa di mezza notte apparir giorno.
The Giostra is composed, like its predecessors, in the octave stanza, and presents a series of pictures drawn from classical mythology or from the poet’s own imagination, adorned with all the physical beauty the study of antiquity could supply and a rich and refined taste crystallize into chastest jewellery of verse. This blending of luxuriance and delicacy is the characteristic quality of Poliziano’s and Lorenzo’s poetry. It is admirably expressed in the phrase of a recent critic, ’the decorum of things exquisite.’ After the lapse of