14 June 1837 the poet and essayist Giacomo Leopardi died in Naples from the cholera at the age of 38.
"In this century, four very strange and truly poetic persons attained a mastery of prose, for which this century is otherwise not made ... I see Giacomo Leopardi, Prosper Mérimee, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walter Savage Landor, the author of Imaginary Conversations, as worthy of being called masters of prose." (Friedrich Nietzsche)
|Giacomo Leopardi on his deathbed – a contemporary painting by |
Giuseppe Ciaranfi (1818 – 1902)
Giacomo Leopardi was attested with a “vita strozzata”, a strangled life, shaped by the ultra conservative conditions in the Papal States where he grew up, being on the rocks most of his short life and rather not the beau, small, sickly, hunchbacked, driven by yearning with no fulfilment, few friends and less love.
Nonetheless, Leopardi was, along with Alessandro Manzoni one of the prime movers of the 19th century renewal of Italian as a literary language, immensely productive in his literary output of essays, poems and aphorisms. What he wrote was told with a melancholic undertone but full of fascination with life and enchanted sensitivities and his pessimism is rather a witty and often justified scepticism, at least with the hindsight of 200 years.
|Giacomo Leopardi while being enchanted, witty, melancholic and still alive|
Thus, Leopardi is not a true Romantic but created a supertemporal and very individual oeuvre: His “Zibaldone” can hold a candle to the best aphorists, his poems and Canti wouldn’t come amiss in a collection of poetry together with Byron, Pushkin and Heine and his “Pensieri”, his modified “Zibaldone”, his dry, academic and indeed quite pessimistic look back in anger on humanity and its vanities, gathered a few months before his death, were appreciated by the likes of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.
And his "Canti" in English translation on: