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Modern Italian Poets Essays and Versions   By: (1837-1920)

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E text prepared by Eric Eldred, Marc D'Hooghe, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

MODERN ITALIAN POETS

ESSAYS AND VERSIONS

BY

W. D. HOWELLS

WITH PORTRAITS

CONTENTS.

INTRODUCTION

ARCADIAN SHEPHERDS

GIUSEPPE PARINI

VITTORIO ALFIERI

VINCENZO MONTI

UGO FOSCOLO

ALESSANDRO MANZONI

SILVIO PELLICO

TOMMASO GROSSI

LUIGI CARRER

GIOVANNI BERCHET

GIAMBATTISTA NICCOLINI

GIACOMO LEOPARDI

GIUSEPPE GIUSTI

FRANCESCO DALL' ONGARO

GIOVANNI PRATI

ALEARDO ALEARDI

GIULIO CARCANO

ARNALDO FUSINATO

LUIGI MERCANTINI

CONCLUSION

PORTRAITS.

VITTORIO ALFIERI

VINCENZO MONTI

UGO FOSCOLO

ALESSANDRO MANZONI

TOMMASO GROSSI

GIAMBATTISTA NICCOLINI

GIACOMO LEOPARDI

GIUSEPPE GIUSTI

FRANCESCO DALL' ONGARO

GIOVANNI PRATI

ALEARDO ALEARDI

INTRODUCTION

This book has grown out of studies begun twenty years ago in Italy, and continued fitfully, as I found the mood and time for them, long after their original circumstance had become a pleasant memory. If any one were to say that it did not fully represent the Italian poetry of the period which it covers chronologically, I should applaud his discernment; and perhaps I should not contend that it did much more than indicate the general character of that poetry. At the same time, I think that it does not ignore any principal name among the Italian poets of the great movement which resulted in the national freedom and unity, and it does form a sketch, however slight and desultory, of the history of Italian poetry during the hundred years ending in 1870.

Since that time, literature has found in Italy the scientific and realistic development which has marked it in all other countries. The romantic school came distinctly to a close there with the close of the long period of patriotic aspiration and endeavor; but I do not know the more recent work, except in some of the novels, and I have not attempted to speak of the newer poetry represented by Carducci. The translations here are my own; I have tried to make them faithful; I am sure they are careful.

Possibly I should not offer my book to the public at all if I knew of another work in English studying even with my incoherence the Italian poetry of the time mentioned, or giving a due impression of its extraordinary solidarity. It forms part of the great intellectual movement of which the most unmistakable signs were the French revolution, and its numerous brood of revolutions, of the first, second, and third generations, throughout Europe; but this poetry is unique in the history of literature for the unswerving singleness of its tendency.

The boundaries of epochs are very obscure, and of course the poetry of the century closing in 1870 has much in common with earlier Italian poetry. Parini did not begin it, nor Alfieri; it began them, and its spirit must have been felt in the perfumed air of the soft Lorrainese despotism at Florence when Filicaja breathed over his native land the sigh which makes him immortal. Yet finally, every age is individual; it has a moment of its own when its character has ceased to be general, and has not yet begun to be general, and it is one of these moments which is eternized in the poetry before us. It was, perhaps, more than any other poetry in the world, an incident and an instrument of the political redemption of the people among whom it arose. "In free and tranquil countries," said the novelist Guerrazzi in conversation with M. Monnier, the sprightly Swiss critic, recently dead, who wrote so much and so well about modern Italian literature, "men have the happiness and the right to be artists for art's sake: with us, this would be weakness and apathy. When I write it is because I have something to do ; my books are not productions, but deeds. Before all, here in Italy we must be men. When we have not the sword, we must take the pen. We heap together materials for building batteries and fortresses, and it is our misfortune if these structures are not works of art. To write slowly, coldly, of our times and of our country, with the set purpose of creating a chef d'oeuvre , would be almost an impiety... Continue reading book >>




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