Eighteenth-century poetry has long been relegated to oblivion. Looked upon as fragmentary and opportunistically encomiastic, eighteenth-century poems remain largely forgotten. Many of the poems analyzed in the present essay are far from representing masterpieces, but as Robert Darnton states, their mediocre character « is no reason to consider them unworthy of serious study »2. I will argue, in fact, that, in contrast to the traditional view, during the eighteenth century poetry was a fundamental and powerful medium. Poems, often oral and occasional in character, were less subject to censorship and thus circulated widely. Consequently, they were a perfect instrument for the diffusion of ideas. The traditional view of the age of the Enlightenment as an era of rationalism, and therefore not poetic, strongly contrasts with the reality of eighteenth-century culture, in which poems and songs were composed for all manner of events (birth, baptism, graduation, marriage, monacation, victory, death) and countless people fancied themselves poets. In this sense, poetry was epidemic3. In this essay, I will argue for the central importance of a particular form of eighteenth-century poetry namely, Masonic poems and songs. Moreover, these poems will illuminate the intimate connection between Freemasonry and the French Revolution, although the largely debunked theory that Freemasonry caused the outbursts of 1789 will not be given serious consideration here. I will present a series of case studies focusing on the semantic history of the core concept of equality. These case studies will, on the one hand, unveil the crucial role that Masonic poetry played in envisaging a new society before the Revolution; and on the other hand will show how the Revolution radically changed Freemasonry, which after the events of 1789 « opened up » and committed itself to the principles of liberté/libertà, égalité/uguaglianza and fraternité/fratellanza. In other words, I intend to underline how the underground poetry of the Freemasons, today largely forgotten, was nonetheless a mighty force in the Voltairean « lutte contre l’infâme », both in France and Italy. Further examples from Italian and French Masonic poetry will show points of comparison and contrast in the development of the concept of equality within Masonic circles before and after the French Revolution.

Poetry and Circulation of Ideas: Freemasonry, Enlightenment, Revolution

Delogu
2020

Abstract

Eighteenth-century poetry has long been relegated to oblivion. Looked upon as fragmentary and opportunistically encomiastic, eighteenth-century poems remain largely forgotten. Many of the poems analyzed in the present essay are far from representing masterpieces, but as Robert Darnton states, their mediocre character « is no reason to consider them unworthy of serious study »2. I will argue, in fact, that, in contrast to the traditional view, during the eighteenth century poetry was a fundamental and powerful medium. Poems, often oral and occasional in character, were less subject to censorship and thus circulated widely. Consequently, they were a perfect instrument for the diffusion of ideas. The traditional view of the age of the Enlightenment as an era of rationalism, and therefore not poetic, strongly contrasts with the reality of eighteenth-century culture, in which poems and songs were composed for all manner of events (birth, baptism, graduation, marriage, monacation, victory, death) and countless people fancied themselves poets. In this sense, poetry was epidemic3. In this essay, I will argue for the central importance of a particular form of eighteenth-century poetry namely, Masonic poems and songs. Moreover, these poems will illuminate the intimate connection between Freemasonry and the French Revolution, although the largely debunked theory that Freemasonry caused the outbursts of 1789 will not be given serious consideration here. I will present a series of case studies focusing on the semantic history of the core concept of equality. These case studies will, on the one hand, unveil the crucial role that Masonic poetry played in envisaging a new society before the Revolution; and on the other hand will show how the Revolution radically changed Freemasonry, which after the events of 1789 « opened up » and committed itself to the principles of liberté/libertà, égalité/uguaglianza and fraternité/fratellanza. In other words, I intend to underline how the underground poetry of the Freemasons, today largely forgotten, was nonetheless a mighty force in the Voltairean « lutte contre l’infâme », both in France and Italy. Further examples from Italian and French Masonic poetry will show points of comparison and contrast in the development of the concept of equality within Masonic circles before and after the French Revolution.
LES LUMIÈRES DE L'OMBRE : LIBRES PENSEURS, HÉRÉTIQUES, ESPIONS. Exploring the early modern underground: freethinkers, herectics, spies
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3725567
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