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Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907)

 

Italian poet, critic, scholar, and orator, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1906, highly influential literary figure in his time. Carducci was regarded as the unofficial national poet of modern Italy. Already from his college years he was fascinated with the restrained style of Roman and Greek antiquity, and striving for classical ideals characterized also his mature work.

Tra le nubi ecco il turchino
cupo ed umido prevale:
sale verso l'Apennino
brontolando il temporale.
Oh se il turbine cortese
sovra l'ala aquilonar
mi volesse al bel paese
di Toscana transportar!

(in 'Nostalgia')

Giosuè Carducci was born in Val di Castello in the northwestern corner of Tuscany. His father, Michele Carducci, was a doctor, and a member of the Carbonari, an advocate of the unification of Italy. Due to political reasons, the family was forced to move several times, finally settling in 1849 for two year in Florence, where Carducci started to write. At home he grew up in the atmosphere of rationalism and patriotism. From his father Carducci inherited his admiration of classic poets, but he also read such Romantic writers as Lord Byron and Friedrich Schiller. In his own early poetry he was not tempted by the excesses of romanticism. During this time he started to write historical poetry and translated book 9 of Homer's Iliad.

In 1851 Carducci's father accepted a post as medical officer in Celle, modified his views, and again embraced Catholicism. Carducci spent some time teaching patriotic songs to the village boys and wrote odes to Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist. Soon the elder Carducci was in conflict with the authorities, and was forced to take a low-paying job as surgeon in Piancastagnaio. Carducci supported himself by compiling an anthology of Italian verse, L'arpa del popolo. Scelta di poesie religiose, morali e patriottiche (1855), and wrote articles for L'appendice, becoming a leading figure among the writers associated with the journal.

After receiving his Ph.D. in 1856 from the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Carducci worked as a teacher, and published in 1857 his first collection of poetry, Rime (Rhymes). These years were difficult for the poet: he had no official post, his father died, and his brother committed suicide. In 1859 Carducci married Elvira Menicucci; they had four children. For a short period, before he was appointed professor of Italian literature at the University of Bologna, Carducci taught Greek at a high school in Pistoia. Carducci was extremely industrious and he gained a huge popularity as a lecturer. As a critic he was fierce, using in his reviews language which made his opponents call him a poeta del maiale (poet of a pig).

In 1859 Carducci was still a monarchist but in a short period he became an enthusiastic republican and opposed the power of the church. Like many democrats, he joined the Freemasons. Carducci's opinions caused him a brief suspension from the university in 1863, and threatened transfer in 1867. The struggles of the Risorgimento, the nineteenth-century moment that advocated Italian political unity, was seen in such works as Juvenilia (1857), Levia gravia (1868), Giamba ed epodi (1879), and Rime nuove (1887). He was also in the early 1880s the key figure of the journal La Cronaca bizantina, which called for moral regeneration of Italy, and attracted such writers as Gabriele D'Annunzio, Giovanni Verga, Giovanni Pascoli, Edoardo Scarfoglio and his wife Matilde Serao.

Carducci's anticlerical and rebellious L'inno a Satana (1865, Hymn to Satan) aroused much controversy. Satan was not for him the embodiment of evil and corruption, but a synomym for restless progress. Carducci's political views were mercurial; he was alternately pro- and anti-republican; he believed that Catholicism had contributed to the degration of Italians, he idealized the world of ancient Rome, and loatherd the tasteless mass culture of the new age: "Oh, God! The kingdom of Italy ushered in the reign of universal ugliness. Ugly even are the overcoats and caps of the soldiers, ugly the coat of arms of the state, ungly the postage stams." In 1882 he declared that "We need: social reforms, for justice; economic reforms, for strength; and arms, arms, arms, for security. And arms, not for defence, but offence." In 1890 Carducci was made a senator for life. As a member of parliament, he supported Francesco Crispi's aggressive colonial policy in Africa.

Carducci often returned in his poems to his native region, as in 'Alle fonti di Clitumno' (1876), a meditation on the history and present of Tuscany: "Ancor dal monte, che di foschi ondeggia / frassini al vento mormoranti e lunge / per l'aure odora fresco di silvestri / salvie e di timi /..." Carducci's major works include the three volumes of Odi barbare (1878-1889) and Rime e ritmi  (1898), which were written in meters imitative of Horace and Virgil, and tried to capture the spirit of the classical world, Rime nueve (1861-1887). Among Carducci's other publications are monographs and essays, and other prose works on Italian literature. Carducci died on February 16, 1907, near Lucca, Duchy of Lucca. Although Carducci's reputation has rested on his poetry, his poetic output occupy only four volumes of his Opere complete (1939-41, 30 vols.).

For further reading: Giosuè Carducci by O. Williams (1914); Cadducci by J.C. Bailey (1926); L'evoluzione poetica di Giosuè Carducci by B. Sposato (1927); Giosuè Carducci by A. Galletti (1929); Passione politica in Giosuè Carducci by A. Marpicati (1935); Carducci by S.E. Scalia (1937); Giosuè Carducci e la Maremma by L. Barboni (c 1957); Carducci senza retorica by L. Russo (1957); Giosuè Carducci by Giorgio De Rienzo (1975); European Writers: The Romantic Century, ed. by G. Stade (1985); Cultura popolare e intellettuali: appunti su Carducci, Gramsci, De Martino by Fabrizio Franceschini (c1989); Il concetto di "forma" in Carducci: indagine attraverso l'epistolario by Enrico Elli (1990); Carducci di Carducci by Umberto Panozzo (2000) - bibliography by W.F. Smith (1942) - In Finnish: Runosuomennoksia Italian kirjallisuuden kultaisessa kirjassa (1945) sekä AaleTynnin antologiassa Tuhat laulujen vuotta (1974).

Selected works:

  • L'arpa del popolo. Scelta di poesie religiose, morali e patriottiche, 1855 (ed.)
  • Rime, 1857 (as Juvenilia, 1880)
  • Rime nuove, 1861-1887
    - The New Lyrics of Giosuè Carducci, translated by William Fletcher Smith, 1942 / The Rime nuove of Giosuè Carducci, translated by  Laura Fullerton Gilbert, 1916
  • Levia gravia, 1861-1871
    - Translations by William Fletcher Smith, in Political and Satirical Verse of Giosuè Carducci, 1942
  • L'inno a Satana, 1865
    - Hymn to Satan, translations by Emily A. Tribe, in A Selection From the Poems of Giosuè Carducci, 1921
  • Giambi ed epodi, 1867-1879
    - Translations by William Fletcher Smith, in Political and Satirical Verse of Giosuè Carducci, 1942
  • Decennalia, 1871
  • Nuove poesie, 1873 (includes 'The Ox')
    - Translation by Emily A. Tribe, in A Selection From the Poems of Giosuè Carducci, 1921
  • Studi letterari, 1874
  • Nuove poesie, 1875
  • Bozzetti critici e discorsi letterari, 1876
  • Odi barbare, 1878-1889 (3 vols.)
    - The Barbarian Odes of Giosuè Carducci, translated by William Fletcher Smith, 1939
  • Giambi ed epodi, 1879
  • Satana e polemiche Sataniche, 1879
  • Juvenilia, 1880
  • Eterno femminino regale, 1882
  • Confessioni e battaglie, 1882-84 (3 vols.)
  • Ça ira, 1883
    - Ira, translations by Emily A. Tribe, in A Selection From the Poems of Giosuè Carducci, 1921 / Translations by Arthur Burkhard, in Twenty-Four Sonnets, 1947
  • Petrarca e Boccaccio, 1884
  • Nuove odi barbare, 1886
  • Lopera di Dante: discorso, 1888
  • Lo studio bolognese: discorso, 1888
  • Terze odi barbare, 1889
  • Opere, 1889-1909 (20 vols.)
  • Poems of Giosuè, 1892 
    - Translated with two introductory essays: I. Giosuè Carducci and the Hellenic reaction in Italy. II. Carducci and the classic realism, by Frank Sewall, 1892
  • La liberta perpetua si San Marino, 1894
  • La chiesa di Polenta, 1897
  • Degli spiriti e delle forme nella poesia di Giacomo Leopardi: considerazioni, 1898
  • Rime e ritmi, 1899
    - Translations by William Fletcher Smith, in The Lyrics and Rhythms of Giosuè Carducci, 1942
  • Antologia carducciano, 1908 (edited by Guido Mazzoni and Giuseppe Picciola)
  • Lettere, 1911-13 (2 vols., edited by Alberto Dallolio and Guido Mazzoni)
  • Carducci: A Selection Of His Poems, With Verse Translations, Notes And Three Introductory Essays by G.L. Bickersteth, 1913 (edited by Geoffrey Langdale Bickersteth)
  • Pagine autobiografiche, 1914 (edited by G. Lipparini)
  • A Selection From the Poems of Giosuè Carducci, 1921 (translated by Emily A. Tribe)
  • Per la morte di Giuseppe Garibaldi: discorso, 1928
  • Prose scelte, 1935 (edited by L. Bianchi and P. Nediani)
  • L'Edizione Nazionale delle Opere, 1935-40 (30 vols.)
  • Lettere, 1938-60 (21 vols.)
  • Opere complete, 1939-41 (30 vols.)
  • Political and Satirical Verse of Giosuè Carducci, 1942 (translated by  William Fletcher Smith)
  • The Lyrics and Rhythms of Giosuè Carducci, 1942 (translated by William Fletcher Smith)
  • Twenty-Four Sonnets, 1947 (translated by Arthur Burkhard)
  • Poesie, 1950 (edited by Albano Sorbelli)
  • Prose e poesie, 1965
  • Rime e ritmi, 1966
  • Poesie scelte, 1968 (edited by P. Treves)
  • Tutte le poesie, 1971 (introduction by Carlo Del Grande)
  • Poesie, 1980 (edited by Davico Bonino)
  • Selected Verse, 1994 (edited and translated by David H. Higgins)


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