The Italian Almanac


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GIacomo Leopardi

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)

Poet and scholar, born in Recanati. He was a gifted, congenitally handicapped (hunch-backed) child who by the age of 16 had read all the Latin and Greek classics, and outstripped any tutor found for him. Most of his afflicted life was lived in hopeless despondency (humanity can only redeem itself by accepting its own tragic destiny) and unrequited love, and this became the basis of his superb lyric poetry and prose. Among his most noted works are those collected under the title "I canti" (Songs).

Leopardi was one of the great Italian poets of the 19th century for the depth of his thought, his acute understanding of psychology and the power of his poetic expression. Leopardi's characteristic existential anguish reflects the general European spiritual and philosophical crisis that marked the end of the Enlightenment and the rise of Romanticism. The sceptical concepts of 18th-century rationalism could not preclude Romantic angst abouth the infinite, the eternal, a reason for life beyond ennui, universal sorrow and inevitable death. Leopardi's lyrical poems sing of illusion, love, beauty and the noble human emotions as a comfort against the agonizing process of living and an affirmation of Man's inherent dignity.