The Canti (Songs)
The Canti (Songs)
by Giacomo Leopardi
THE LITERARY WORK
A collection of 41 poems whose settings range from ancient Greece to early-nineteenth-century Italy; written between 1818 and 1836, published in Italian (as “Canti”) in 1845, in English in 1962.
In one of the early poems, “Brutus,” the ancient Roman opts for suicide rather than tyranny. “Remembrances” concerns the tragedy of fleeting youth. In one of Leopardi’s last poems, “The Setting of the Moon”, he connects human life and historical development by comparing old age with a dark, moonless night.
Giacomo Leopardi was born in 1798 in Recanati, a very small town in the isolated, mainly rural region of Marche in central Italy. His father, the extremely conservative Count Monaldo Leopardi, was an amateur writer and scholar who spent most of his time in the family’s library. The administration of family’s life was left to Leopardi’s mother, Marquise Adelaide Antici. A strict, unloving, extremely religious woman, she envied parents who lost their children in infancy, since that meant they “had flown safely to paradise, and had freed their parents from the bother of supporting them” (Leopardi, Canti, p. 164).
Lonely and estranged, Leopardi took some comfort in the affection of his siblings Carlo and Paolina. The future poet’s education was formal and extensive; at ten he could read ancient Greek, Arabic, and several other foreign languages. In a seven-year-frenzy of study between 1811 and 1818, Leopardi extensively examined philology to theology, from classical writings by Ovid and Virgil to modern ones, including the works of the French Enlightenment. Meanwhile, his health deteriorated and his isolation increased. In 1817 he started writing a lifelong journal of sorts, the Zibaldone, a collection of notes, observations, projects, and quotes. The next year Leopardi wrote his first two canzoni (“songs,” poems with a particular metrical structure), “To Italy” and “On the Proposed Monument to Dante in Florence.” In the poems, he joins a classical style to contemporary political and social content. Leopardi wrote politically engaged canzoni and idilli (idylls), poems that were more personal. These included “The Infinite” (1819), “To the Moon” (1819), and “The Solitary Life” (1821). In 1824 he began planning a philosophical work in prose, the Operette Morali (1835). The following years saw him enter a phase of restless travel, first to Milan, then to Bologna, Florence, and Pisa. The death of one of his brothers, Luigi, called Leopardi back to Recanati for 16 months, a period in which he wrote some of his most important poems—known collectively as the great idylls (“The Solitary Thrush,” “The Calm after the Storm,” and “The Village Saturday”). In 1830 Leopardi left Recanati forever, returning to Florence, only to be crushed by a failed passion for one of its aristocratic ladies, Fanny Targioni-Tozzetti. Leopardi spent his last five years in Naples writing satirical works and poems. His failing health took a sudden turn for the worse and he died on June 14, 1837, leaving behind two final poems, “The Broom or The Flower of the Desert” and “The Setting of the Moon.” His stature would grow thereafter, until he gained renown as Italy’s major nineteenth century poet.
Discrepancies of the new century
Leopardi’s works, though spanning human history, are deeply rooted in the political and cultural milieux of nineteenth-century Italy. Early in the century, the levels of disparity among the various Italian states drew attention. The French general Napoleon Bonaparte invaded northern Italy in 1796. In the following three years, most northern regions of the Italian peninsula were reorganized as republics under French control. The new administrative and legal unity in much of the North encouraged the sector’s economic development, generating a new faith in progress and fostering dreams of unity there. The sector established a common pattern of districts and departments, adopted a uniform set of weights and measures, and introduced Napoleonic penal and other codes. But often the reforms were not put into effect, and corruption raged: “it is unbelievable,” said one official in Naples, “how much employees [of the new government] steal and embezzle; the vice has passed into their blood” (Duggan, p. 94). Meanwhile, Italian patriots in the North saw all the reorganization of their section of the peninsula as an opportunity for the whole land to enter modernity. This involved fighting the old feudal forces that still prevailed in the South and in the pope’s mainly rural dominions (including Leopardi’s region, the Marche). New laws in 1806–08 ended some of the feudal practices, but produced disappointing results. Common lands and lands of the old ruling houses were sold largely to new middle-class landowners, who differed little from the noble class in their views and practices, with no distribution to the peasants. France received the proceeds of the sales, confirming that Napoleon intended not to liberate Italy but to carve it up for his family’s and use it to finance French endeavors.
In 1797, Napoleon bargained with Austria, ceding it the Italian region of Veneto. Disillusionment set in abruptly among the Italians. It worsened under Napoleon’s highly despotic regime that intended to make the Italian peninsula a mere satellite of France. Italian intellectuals despaired. As in past centuries, Italy seemed to serve as a mere “pawn in the diplomatic and dynastic games of others” (Duggan, p. 93). These political events shook the belief that history produced continuous progress, a central idea on the earlier 1700s Enlightenment movement that highly valued the human ability to reason. Nevertheless Napoleonic rule in Italy (1796–1814) gave rise to more than despair. During these years the idea of national unity took root. This dream developed within a few decades into the Risorgimento, the movement for the formation of a modern, unitary Italy. This was far from apparent immediately after Napoleon’s rule of Italy collapsed, though. The old rulers quickly returned to power—Victor Emmanuel I in Turin, Ferdinand III in Florence, the pope in Rome—and another outside power, Austria, dominated most of the peninsula.
The decline of the Age of Reason
The political impetus for unification was born on the heels of major developments in other spheres of human activity. At the end of the eighteenth century, a new artistic and cultural movement emerged in various parts of Europe. The new movement rejected the steadfast faith in reason and progress that marked the Enlightenment. Initiating the new movement were artists, writers, and intellectuals who felt the logical and clear processes of rational thought had failed. These processes seemed incapable of shedding enough light on a rapidly changing political and social reality, where cataclysmic events like the French Revolution (1789) shattered social and political order. The Enlightenment gave way to Romanticism, which stressed not reason but freedom and heroic action, as well as strong sentiment. A force that initially just opposed total faith in rationality grew into a movement with its own Romantic art, works that focused on “feelings and mood” rather than “reason.”
The Romantics showed an interest in the most mysterious aspects of reality. One result of this attraction to the mysterious was a change in attitude towards nature. Rather than an idyllic setting for human life, Romantics recognized nature’s independent power, with its rules and cycles not necessarily corresponding to the needs and wishes of humans.
Classicism and Romanticism
An article by the Frenchwoman Madame de Staël brought the ideas of Romanticism, already popular in northern Europe, to the attention of Italian intellectuals. The article, “On the Manner and Utility of Translations” (1816), urged Italian writers to look “beyond the Alps” to developments else where and familiarize themselves with the new European sensibility:
In my opinion, Italians should start to diligently translate the most recent British and German poems, in order to show a few new things to their countrymen, who for the most part are content with ancient mythology and think that those old fables are not antiquated at all, while the rest of Europe has already abandoned and forgotten them.
(Madame de Staël in Marchese, p. 66; trans. F. Santini)
The Italian response was mixed. Some writers chose to embrace Madame de Staëls advice, resolving to transform and update Italian literature. Traditionalists bristled at her harsh attack, staunchly rejecting her idea. Among the latter was Pietro Giordani, a friend and mentor of young Giacomo Leopardi. Giordani agreed that many writers used a dated style, but he felt that an over-reliance on foreign writings would destroy rather than enrich Italian literature. In Giordani’s opinion, instead of becoming a part of the new European mania for novelty, Italian writers should look back to proud moments of their literary tradition (to predecessors such as Dante). Leopardi joined the debate, siding with Giordani and the supporters of the “classical style.” In a letter on the subject written shortly after the publication of de Staël’s essay, he argued that originality could not come from studying foreign literature. Leopardi regarded the “classic” style of ancient writers as naturally superior to modern ones because of the purer conditions of antiquity, in which humans could relate more directly to nature.
ORIGINS OF “ROMANTICISM”
The term “Romanticism” derives from the English adjective “romantic,” originally indicating the fantastic and adventurous nature of certain popular seventeenth-century literary works. In the following century, French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1671-1741) started using the word as a synonym for “picturesque” or “melancholic”, referring to those vague, nostalgic feelings stimulated in a sensitive soul through the contemplation of barren, solitary natural landscapes. It was in Germany, though, that the term (translated into “romantik”) acquired a completely positive value, emblematic of the new conception of art and literature that opposed the classical values of the Enlightenment.
In his early writings, Leopardi revealed his position by remaining more passively deferential toward classical authors, apparent in the somewhat stilted verses of one of his first songs, “To Italy.” Later, he developed a very personal poetic style, reflecting a respect and knowledge of the tradition of Italian literature and a deep understanding of modernity (including Romanticism) to create a highly innovative body of work.
The Canti includes both canzoni, longer poems on historical or social themes, and idylls, short, contemplative poems centered on more personal sensations, memories, and feelings of the writer. In an idyll, the author reduces explicit references to the outside world to a minimum.
Among the early canzoni, “Brutus,” written in 1821 and first published in 1824, deals with suicide in ancient Roman society. After depicting in highly dramatic tones the scene of the battle of Philippi (42 b.c.e.) and introducing the character of the defeated Marcus Junius Brutus, the poem presents the thoughts of Brutus himself in a monologue. His suicide is representative of the crucial moment that marks the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the decline of Rome. As Brutus tells it, the demise of the republic is a sign of inevitable corruption, which he predicts signifies the ruin of Rome and the whole world.
LIBERTY OR DEATH IN ANCIENT ROME
A lover of the republican form of government in ancient Rome and its associated freedom, Marcus Brutus (85?-42 b.c.e.) joined the conspiracy to kill Julius Caesar (100-44 b.c.e.) Apparently Brutus, a senator praised for his virtue, was pressured by Cassius to join the conspiracy, a resolute group of more than 60 who refused to accept Caesar’s decision to remain a dictator for life. The assassins had no follow-up plan, expecting the constitution to reassert itself and republican government to return of its own accord. For five months, Brutus remained in Italy waiting, but the people’s loyalty to the now-dead Caesar only intensified, shifting to his former co-consul Mark Antony and nephew Octavian. Brutus finally went into voluntary exile, where he raised an army with Cassius that was later crushed by Antony and Octavian. Deeming the republican cause lost, Brutus committed suicide by his own sword. He left behind a lofty reputation for honorable deeds and noble commitment, stirring compassion, as Leopardi’s poem suggests, for centuries to come. That Brutus also stirred such compassion in his own day is evident in the ancient words of Plutarch, who observed that the victors in Rome could not stop people there from “thinking that the unjust and wicked who destroyed the just and good did not deserve to rule” (Plutarch in Clarke, p. 71).
After an era of purity and innocence, civilization is destined for decay. Brutus, though he can foretell the destiny of his world, realizes that historical development itself has caused this imminent ruin and that corruption is part of progress:
Did gods perhaps arrange our miseries,
Our bitter chances, our unhappy feelings,
As drama to delight their hours of ease?
No life of grievous guilt—
Free in the woods a life of innocence
Nature ordained for us
(Leopardi, “Brutus,” Canti, p. 30)
Now, the poem continues, that corruption has laid waste to nature’s blessed kingdom, will nature blame the “dart” that is not natural but self-inflicted (a suicide) (“Brutus,” Canti, p. 30)? As the poem portrays it, Brutus’s suicide is an act of extreme heroism, a last attempt to deny the power of history by refusing to take part in future ruinous events. At the same time, the suicide is a sign of the powerlessness of even the most virtuous of individuals to oppose fate, and more generally, of the vanity of human efforts against the preordered scheme of history.
During his stay in Pisa, after leaving Recanati, Leopardi composed a group of poems considered the very nucleus of his Canti. These works, known as the great idylls, center on the themes of the loss of youth, the illusory quality of happiness, and the infinite misery of the human condition. The sense of isolation, already established as one of the main topics of Leopardi’s canzoni, is moved from history to the individual in the great idylls. The somewhat emphatic, highly dramatic tone of the canzoni also becomes much sweeter and more tranquil in style. Though these poems too convey a sense of desperation, they robe their subjects in serene, lyrical sadness rather than indignant or highly rhetorical cries.
One of the great idylls, “Remembrances” (1829), concerns the implacable loss of all the hopes of youth. The poem, consisting of seven long stanzas of verses in the hendecasyllable form, recalls different moments of the poet’s past. A sorrowful appeal to the stars (“Beautiful stars of the Bear”) leads to a recollection of the evenings young Leopardi spent gazing at the nocturnal sky from the garden of his home in Recanati:
When, silent, sitting on the verdant turf
I used to pass the best part of each evening
Scanning the sky, and listening to the music
Of distant frogs in open countryside!
The fireflies wandered here and there by hedges
And bedded flowers …
(“Remembrances,” Canti, p. 89)
In such a setting, never-realized dreams took shape:
… What enormous
Thoughts, and what dreams came to me at the sight
Of that sea in the distance, those blue mountains
(I make them out from here) I had in mind
To cross one day …
(“Remembrances,” Canti, p. 89)
In the following stanzas the ideas of death and loss of illusions reappear ever more forcefully until the climax, in which personal destiny symbolizes the fate of humanity:
Fugitive days! Fast as a lightning-flash
They’re over. And what mortal can be ever
Blind to life’s blows, once he has seen the last
Of that brief brilliant season, once his best
Of times, his youth, has been extinguished?
(“Remembrances,” Canti, p. 92)
The final stanza closes the poem with renewed tenderness through an invocation to a girl, Nerina, who died in her youth. Nerina represents the impossibility of going back to even the illusion of love:
But you have passed on;
Sighed for, you have passed on: and as companion
For all my fine imaginings, for all
My tender senses, and my heart’s sad beats,
What I am left with is the harsh remembrance.
(“Remembrances,” Canti, p. 93)
“The Setting of the Moon.”
At the end of his life, Leopardi composed two final philosophical poems, “The Broom” and “The Setting of the Moon,” in which personal sorrows once again evolve into a general sense of disillusionment. This last poem contains a fusion of themes and rhythms. Within a strongly negative argument that humans have no hope of partaking in the eternity of nature is another, more vibrant perspective: the notion that a fascinating world of beauty and illusion pulsates magically, though briefly, under the surface of everyday things. Schematically, “The Setting of the Moon” unfolds as follows:
- Just as the moon sets leaving the world immersed in total obscurity, human youth fades, leaving life empty and dark. (Stanzas 1 and 2)
- Old age was imposed on humanity by the gods, who did not think that human life was already bitter enough. (Stanza 3)
- After the darkness of night, nature will reawaken to a new, shiny dawn; in contrast, humans will never be able to reawaken after the darkness of old age. (Stanza 4)
Leopardi compares human life to the night. It is beautiful and fascinating when the night is still young, its moonlight transforming and beautifying reality, becoming dark and hopeless at the end. (Such a comparison is unusual in Western literature, which normally connects life to day and death to night. On the other hand, Leopardi’s choice of a nocturnal landscape is typically Romantic; the attraction to night is one of the great themes of European Romantic poetry.) The world of illusions is dominant in the first stanza, a nocturnal realm filled with moonlight:
Over the silvered countryside and water,
Where Zephyrus [the west wind] is breathing,
Where many a shadow makes
A myriad vague shapes
A myriad illusions
In the unrippled seas
And branches hedges hills and villages;
(“The Setting of the Moon,” Canti, p. 138)
Next, darkness triumphs over the familiar landscapes of Italy (the Alps, the Apennines, and the Tyrrenian Mountains): “The moon goes down; and drains the world of color” (“The Setting of the Moon,” Canti, p. 138). Suddenly the world loses its shape, and the landscape, before transformed by the moonlight into a swirling vortex of silvery beams, is now enveloped by obscurity. Beauty vanishes in the very moment it has reached its greatest power. The stanza closes with the human voice of a solitary wagon-driver who, with a mournful song, bids farewell to the moon and the beauty it had created. The wagoner shows the indifference of nature to the human condition: the moon, deaf to the man’s song, proceeds in its cycle, leaving him totally alone. His song signals the disappearance of the moon, but it cannot hold it back: humans, incapable of containing such beauty, are limited to just a brief perception of it.
In the second stanza, a comparison between the setting of the moon and the fading of youth is developed. Moon:night = youth:life.
“the moon goes down”
“the night is left bereft”
“our youth disappears”
“our life is … abandoned and obscure”
(“The Setting of the Moon,” Canti, p. 138)
Again Leopardi at once refers to the youth of individuals and all humanity, once “young” and innocent. In this poem too, a single individual becomes representative of humankind. There are no direct references to the poet, but at the end of the stanza is a “doubtful traveler,” and certainly he can be thought of as Leopardi. Now alone and hopeless, the poet, whose own youth has quickly waned, faces the end of his life:
The doubtful traveler but vainly tries
To find some kind of purpose in his way
Ahead; only to see
How human haunts become
Estranged from him, and he estranged from them.
(“The Setting of the Moon,” Canti, p. 138)
However, the canzone constitutes more than the poet’s farewell as he sits dying in the villa of Torre del Greco. The poem also serves as a concluding point in his philosophical reflections on human life. At the end of the second stanza, old age is the absence of everything that is positive: “and good will never come again” (“The Setting of the Moon,” Canti, p. 139). Such bitterness and despair progress into the third and last stanza, in which the comparison between night and human life finally dissolves into dawn, a dawn that is impossible for the individual. This is a primordial dawn, a rebirth repeating itself identically from the beginning of times. It pervades the world with unthinkable splendor, one that completely excludes humans:
ON THE RELATION BETWEEN HUMAN YOUTH AND ANCIENT HISTORY
The Zibaidone, the collection of Leopardi’s thoughts, contains many references to youth and old age. A particularly important entry of August 24, 1821, distinguishes between individual youth and historical youth “Let us consider nature. Which is the age of man that was destined by nature to be the happiest? Is it perhaps old age, when human senses are visibly decaying, and one fades, wanes, weakens? It would be a contradiction for happiness, which is in other words the perfection of a human being, to be located in a time that naturally marks the decay and the corruption of that being Therefore it is youth, the bloom of life, when the senses are the most vigorous etc., which marks the age of perfection and of a possible happiness both of humans and of all other things. Now, youth is an evident image of the ancient world, while old age represents modern times, … Therefore, ancient times were happier than the modern ones. The consequences of this consideration are incredibly vast” (Leopardi, Zibaldone 1555–1556, Tutte le opere; trans. F. Santini).
But human life, when once its best of times,
Its youth, has disappeared, will not again
Be tinged with any light, or other dawn,
But widowed to the end; and to the night
Which fills old age with gloom
The gods have set no limit but the tomb.
(“The Setting of the Moon,” Canti, p. 139)
The inadequate individual
In “Brutus,” the hero chooses suicide to avoid participating in the corrupted destiny that awaits his country: “The times, change for the worse; we would be mad to trust, to poor posterity, the honor of high minds …,” declares Brutus. “Carry my corpse away!, The wind disperse my name and memory!” (“Brutus,” Canti, p. 32).
At this stage, Leopardi was still siding with “Classicism,” explaining his choice of an ancient Roman character. Yet his treatment of the subject is highly personal and emotional, in other words, closely related to Romanticism. The poem certainly does not use ancient history or mythology to escape or avoid dealing with the contemporary world. Rather, the use of classical characters allows Leopardi to depict the unchanging situation of humankind throughout time. Leopardi shows what he sees as the relentlessly negative position of individuals within history, a history both ancient and contemporary. Brutus is as much a modern man as a Roman when he faces the unbeatable forces of nature and destiny. Leopardi, who by then had already flirted with taking his own life, no doubt identified with the Roman. Like Brutus, Leopardi observed the condition of his country with dismay; it had no strong army, he noted in his poem “To Italy” (1818), a factor Napoleon had shown to be key to any land’s strength. In 1819 anguish and loneliness brought Leopardi to the verge of suicide. As he wrote to one of his few friends, Pietro Giordani:
I’m so astonished by the nothing that surrounds me, that I don’t know how to find the strength to pick up my pen and answer your letter […]. This is the first time that boredom not only oppresses and tires me, but also anguishes me and tears me apart like a fiery pain. I am so scared by the vanity of things, and by the condition of man, for whom all passions are dead, just as they are extinguished in my soul, that I have come to the astounding realization that my very desperation is nothing.
(Leopardi, Tutte le opere, p. 1157; trans. F. Santini)
Leopardi’s despondent outlook persisted during the writing of “Brutus” in 1821 and extended into the 1830s, which found him surrounded by a group of supportive intellectuals in Florence who were hopeful about Italy’s destiny as a unified nation. Leopardi did not share their optimism; by this time, Italy’s problems appeared of little consequence in light of the general condition of humanity, as he confessed to a Florentine intellectual:
In my eyes, men are just what they are in nature, that is a very tiny part of the universe, and my relations with them or their mutual relations don’t interest me at all; since I’m not interested, I don’t notice them if not in the most superficial of manners.
(Leopardi, Tutte le opere, pp. 1242–43; trans. F. Santini)
Leopardi was certainly not alone in his negative outlook. Many beliefs were shattered in his era. The ideals of “liberty,” “fraternity,” and “equality,” the basis for the French Revolution, seemed impossible to realize. The Revolution itself had turned into a great massacre, and the consequent ascent of Napoleon led, as shown, to a new authoritarian regime.
Meanwhile, the notion that there is more to value in human beings than rational thought had prompted Romantic thinkers and artists to focus on obscure aspects of the soul and on bitter themes, such as death, sorrow, and most of all the transitory quality of human life. Out of these preoccupations came the creation of dramatic anti-heroes, who, instead of adapting to circumstances, often clashed with what they saw as a world full of contradictions. They chose suicide rather than compromise, conscious of their own inadequacy in the grand scheme of reality. Brutus, as Leopardi portrays him, is one such antihero. A highly philosophical poem, “Brutus” unveils the desolate condition of humanity through time, robbing even classical Rome of its illusion of purity. Little seemed to Leopardi to have changed. History, rather than progressing, as alleged by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, appeared to be falling back as a new wave of repression and absolutism gripped Europe. While in Italy a newfound sense of a national identity had begun to take root, it appeared more of a dream than a realistic objective.
Because of Leopardi’s immensely vast literary knowledge, references to many writers, both ancient and modern, can be found in his works. The poet himself often noted, in the Zibaldone, how his usage of a certain expression coincided with that of other writers, as in inargentate (“silvered”), a word that did not belong to the Italian of his day, but that he nevertheless used at the beginning of “The Setting of the Moon”: “Over the silvered countryside and water” (Canti, p. 138). Leopardi himself noted that many poets of the past had associated that word with the light of the moon, including Boccaccio (who used the adjective in one of his lesser-known works, Ameto) and Torquato Tasso (in Canto 18 of Jerusalem Delivered , also in WLAIT 7: Italian Literature and Its Times), Among other influential Italian poets of the past is Petrarch, whose words musically reverberate in many of Leopardi’s verses. Line 48 of “The Setting of the Moon,” for example (“There still remains desire, but hope has gone” [Canti, p. 139]], echoes line 4 of Petrarch’s Sonnet 277 (“desire’s alive, but all hope’s dead” [Petrarch, p. 291]; trans. F. Santini).
Given Leopardi’s stated preference for ancient authors of the “classical style,” one would expect him to draw more from them than from modern works; in Zibaldone, the poet noted that:
The eternal source of all that is great and beautiful are writers, works, examples, habits, and feelings of ancient times; and any extraordinary spirit of today feeds on antiquity.
(Zibaldone 341 in Tutte le opere; trans. F. Santini)
Leopardi’s notes reflect the deep effect on him of reading works by Virgil, Xenophon, Ceres of Callimachus, Homer, and Plato. But Leopardi’s literary knowledge was not limited to ancient authors; references to authors of his times (in particular, he had dedicated great attention to the works of the French philosophers belonging to the Enlightenment movement) and echoes of modern poets can often be found in his writings. In “The Setting of the Moon,” next to the lines reminiscent of Petrarch, veiled allusions can be traced to one of the works that most influenced Romantic poets throughout Europe. James Macpherson’s Fragments of Ancient Poetry (1760) is a collection of moody, nocturnal verses translating ancient Scottish and Irish songs, which Leopardi had read in the Italian translation by Cesarotti.
Once again, in his personal and inventive use of sources, Leopardi posed himself between antiquity and modernity. He created highly innovative works that are simultaneously revolutionary in style and content, yet firmly rooted in tradition.
During Leopardi’s brief life, his literary efforts, though admired by a tight circle of intellectuals and friends, were mostly ignored by the wider public. The personal isolation of the poet, his absence from vigorous centers of intellectual life including Rome and Milan, and his own preference for tradition and ancient literature over fresh approaches all contributed to the general perception of his work. He preferred to write about his personal dramas rather than to help advance the struggle for liberty begun by some other writers of his day, including his own mentor Pietro Giordani. Much of the early criticism of Leopardi’s works shared this negative opinion of the poet, whom many thought of as a skilled but dispassionate writer. Critics saw a pessimistic individual whose writing reflected his own despair and isolation. This is certainly reductive in view of the strong connections of Leopardi’s work with the new climate of Romanticism and the similarity between his themes and those of the best European poets of his period, such as England’s William Wordsworth. A first step in re-evaluating Leopardi came in 1947, when Cesare Luporini published “A Progressive Leopardi” (“Leopardi progressive”). Subsequent new studies considered the poet’s personal situation along with his attention to the destiny of humankind and his continuing reflections on history and progress. Today, Leopardi is viewed as a highly original writer who achieved an extremely personal fusion of “Classicism” (a reverence for the imaginative and pure literature of the classical past) and “Romanticism.” He is counted as one of the most innovative and poignant poets of his time.
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