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Giacomo Leopardi

Giacomo Leopardi

Remembered for his intensely pessimistic attitude towards the human condition and life, Giacomo Leopardi was a significant figure of the Italian Romanticism era. His talents not limited to a single domain associated him to several fields of art. Giacomo Leopardi was a notable poet, philosopher, scholar, essayist and philologist. Although Leopardi did not attain the fame he deserved in his lifetime, he was later declared the greatest Italian poet of the nineteenth century. Leopardi’s seven volume notebook Zibaldone is considered the finest and is also the most appreciated of his works.

Gianco was born on June 29, 1798 in Recanati, a small isolated village in Italy. He was the son of Count Monaldo Leopardi, the last aristocrat in Italy to wear a sword. Count Monaldo held interest in philosophy, politics and literature and owned a personal library with books on these subjects. He was keen to provide his son the best of education and turn him into a classical scholar. It is for this reason that Gianco studied from expensive private tutors and was a proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, English, French, and Spanish. Leopardi led a very secluded and tedious childhood. While his family was extremely religious, Leopardi’s liberal views worried them. Due to extensive reading and writing, Leopardi developed a deformity in his spine and his vision deteriorated to an extent where one of his eyes lost sight completely.

Leopardi hated Recanati and made several unsuccessful attempts to leave the village. In 1822, Leopardi got a chance to escape to Rome which was an immense disappointment since he was unable to find a suitable job due to his physical disabilities. Giacomo returned home and later travelled around Italy. Love struck him in Florence and this fruitless affair gave birth to some of his most grief-stricken poetry. Throughout his life, Leopardi struggled to support himself financially through writing but poverty forced him to depend on aid from his friends. Giacomo’s lifelong sufferings included a broken heart, depression and declining health. He died of a heart failure in 1837.

In his early writing years, Leopardi worked on translations. He translated texts from classical works such as Horace and Moschus, and sections of the Aeneid and the Odyssey. In 1813, at the age of 15, Leopardi wrote is his first original piece titled Storia della astronomia (History of Astronomy). Two years later came Saggio sopra gli errori popolari degli antichi (Essay on the Popular Errors of the Ancients). 1816 onwards Leopardi shifted his concentration towards creative writing. His poems All’Italia (To Italy) and Sopra il monumento di Dante (On Dante’s Monument) drove inspiration from a friend’s visit to Italy in 1818. L’Infinito (The Infinite), Alla luna (To the Moon), and Alla Primavera (To the Spring) are some of his most liked poems written sometime after 1819. The year 1824 brought Leopardi’s first poetry collection, Canzoni followed by another collection Canti in 1831.

Leopardi’s most legendary Pensieri di varia filosofia e di bella letteratura (Zibaldone), a notebook based on seven volumes was written during 1817 and sometime in 1830s but was published during 1898-1900. This brilliant work represents the philosophical face of Leopardi. It also reflects his tremendously pessimistic outlook on life.

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