There have been few attempts to render the sublime poet of Italian literature into English as of the last few decades, but none have been able to best Frederick Townsend's 1888 translations. The languor, the rhythm and the syntax is versified with intelligence and sensibility, while the depth of the abandon unto the ennui of a prescient amor fati is nuanced with deft and stress. On the merits of Leopardi I have already spoken in previous reviews, but suffice it to say for those that have yet to become acquainted with the Italian poet, classist, philologist and philosopher of the 1800, the crass analogy of liking him to a Wordsworth with the cadences and concision of a Keats may be useful; whereas for those more familiar with German literature you may well make the claim, as absurd as these may be, that he is similar to Holderlin, in a similar fashion given to a riddled existential angst, while intimating the dismal distress that only Nietzsche was since apt to give voice to, yet Leopardi's "pessimism" (beware those of you who adopt this term without responsible and adequate insight) is more akin to Shopenhauer. No literarary intellecual or lover should go without experiencing Giacomo Leopardi, a man who in spite of his avowed atheism and consonent hopelessness was as spiritual as any poet has ever dared to be. Upon the first edition of Townsend's translation of the Italian Lyric genius, O. Brook Frothingham observed in its preface that "Giacomo Leopardi is a great name in Italy amoung philosophers and poets but is quite unknown in this country." Why the English have yet to embrace this poetic genius 120 years later is a topic well worth discussing, especially so because in France, Germany, and Spain he has been received with the highest interest and esteem. Whaereas he may be classified yet as a Romantic poet by the English readership he would never be branded as such elsewhere. Leopardi poses questions and allows them to lyrcally dissolve into a peculiar angst-ridden beauty; he quantifies the infinite and disenchants the illusive tendencies of human nature while eulogizing them by means of an elegy; Leopardi reflects on language and tradition with an astute picturesque dissonance; he labours through the disquiet of a melancholy spirit while wrestling with an absent divinity. It is a hybrid beauty that depicts cantos as if Giorgio De Chirico were absorbed by Edvard Munch. And most astounding is the fact that from this monster comes beauty as pristine as any modernity has been able to compose.
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Giacomo Taldegardo Francesco di Sales Saverio Pietro Leopardi ; June 29, 1798 – June 14, 1837) was an Italian poet, essayist, philosopher, and philologist. Although he lived in a secluded town in the ultra-conservative Papal States, he came in touch with the main thoughts of the Enlightenment, and, by his own literary evolution, created a remarkable and renowned poetic work, related to the Romantic era.
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