Leopardi: Selected Poemsby Giacomo Leopardi
These translations of the major poems of Giacomo Leopardi (17981837) render into modern English verse the work of a writer who is widely regarded as the greatest lyric poet in the Italian literary tradition. In spite of this reputation, and in spite of a number of nineteenth-and twentieth-century translations, Leopardi's poems have never "come over" into
These translations of the major poems of Giacomo Leopardi (17981837) render into modern English verse the work of a writer who is widely regarded as the greatest lyric poet in the Italian literary tradition. In spite of this reputation, and in spite of a number of nineteenth-and twentieth-century translations, Leopardi's poems have never "come over" into English in such a way as to guarantee their author a recognition comparable to that of other great European Romantic poets.
By catching something of Leopardi's cadences and tonality in a version that still reads as idiomatic modern English (with an occasional Irish or American accent), Leopardi: Selected Poems should win for the Italian poet the wider appreciative audience he deserves. His themes are mutability, landscape, love; his attitude, one of unflinching realism in the face of unavoidable human loss. But the manners of the poems are a unique amalgam of philosophical toughness and the lyrically bittersweet. In a way more pure and distilled than most others in the Western tradition, these poems are truly what Matthew Arnold asked all poetry to be, a "criticism of life." The translator's aim is to convey something of the profundity and something of the sheer poetic achievement of Leopardi's inestimable Canti.
"[Leopardi's] contribution to 19th-century European poetry second only to Baudelaire's . . . there's plenty to be grateful for in this lucidly translated selection. . . "Boston Review
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Introducing a poet who divulged the voice of exclusion seems a bit of a paradox, yet it is precisely what his valiant translator seems to suggest to be doing given the relative want of interest that presently he has been receiving in the U.S. The translation is successfully carried out to the extent that the mood is respected and the melancholy distance is imparted rather faithfully. The resulting exposition of Leopardi's inestimable poetry bears the stamp of a poet who is in tune with his subject and displays considerable lyrical dexterity. However for all the agility that is here employed - so as to reproduce a work akin with the original - as always it inevitably does not do justice to the tremor that transpires through the Italian undulating and langorous resonance. The syntax is also essential to understanding the reach of this poet that only Holderlin, Rilke and Trakl may be said to have deployed a similar structural approach. Giorgio Agamben's book 'Language and Death,' would be a good source for English readers to 'get a feel' of the poet's startling implosion of loss; the subtle fragility of his theory of noia (tedium); the whole of it punctuated with and surging, tentalizing strokes that emerge in the illuminations of village damsels, of frolicsome lads or of the naively insouciant Silvia. The poems herein abound with familiar illustrations of pastoral life and of the sublime that most all Romantic poets resorted to; The fashion in which Leopardi was able to express such aloofness and despair is tragic, brilliant and engagingly dispassionate. In the words of Oliver Goldsmith: 'We cannot hesitate to say that in almost every branch of mental exertion, this extraordinary man seems to have had the capacity of attaining, and generally at a single bound, the very highest exellence. Whatever he does, he does in manner that makes it his own; not with a forced or affected, but a true originality. stamping on his work, like other masters, a type that defies all counterfeit.' Amoungst others Nietzsche had the daring to translate Leopardi's poetry. These poets shared much more than simply a common profession in Philology...they were far too profound for anyone to fathom the abyss which they ceaselessly foundered within so as to dolcify the excesses of our tragic sense of life.