- (1798–1837)The precocious son of a noble southern Italian family, Giacomo Leopardi was the greatest Italian poet of the 19th century and one of the finest romantic poets in any language. Born near Macerata (Marches), Leopardi was an introspective, studious, sickly boy who practically lived in his erudite father’s capacious library from the age of 11 until his late teens, teaching himself Greek, astronomy, classical history, and poetry. By 1815—still only 17 years of age—he translated Homer and Virgil and wrote an essay on the “popular errors of the ancients” worthy of a first-rate classical scholar. The first poems that Leopardi would later include in his Canti (Lyrics, 1831) were written around 1819: “L’infinito” (“Infinity”) is best known, with its haunting final stanza: “Cosi tra questa immensita s’annega il pensier mio/e il naufragar m’e dolce in questo mare” (“Thus, in this immensity, my thought drowns and to drown seems sweet to me, in this sea”). By the time he wrote this poem, Leopardi was desperate to lead a less cloistered life away from home. His father eventually allowed his son to move to an uncle’s house in Rome, where the young poet hoped to find a job. The experience was a disappointment, however, and Leopardi soon returned home. In 1825, he moved to Milan, where the publisher Stella had invited him to edit a volume of Cicero’s collected works. Stella published Leopardi’s main collection of philosophical reflections, Operette morali (Moral Essays) in 1827 and two anthologies of Italian renaissance prose and poetry. The next three years were the peak of Leopardi’s mature poetic gift: In 1828, he wrote “Il Risorgimento,” and the following year the collection of poems known as Grandi Idilli (Great Idylls). The most famous of these is perhaps “La quiete dopo la tempesta” (“The Quiet After the Storm”). Between 1830 and his death in 1837, Leopardi’s failing health and a succession of unhappy love affairs inspired a final creative burst; his last poems were written on the slopes of Vesuvius, overlooking cholera-ridden Naples.
Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. Mark F. Gilbert & K. Robert Nilsson. 2007.
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Leopardi, Giacomo — born June 29, 1798, Recanati, Papal States died June 14, 1837, Naples Italian poet, scholar, and philosopher. Congenitally deformed, he suffered throughout his life from chronic ailments and frustrated hopes. His usually pessimistic poetry is… … Universalium
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