For years Leopardi secluded himself in his father’s library, studying and writing constantly. At the age of fourteen he wrote Pompeo in Egitto (Pompey in Egypt) an anti-Caesarean manifesto, and went onto writing various philological works until 1816, which marked a turning point in Leopardi’s life which he called “the passage from erudition to the beautiful.” Leopardi wrote L'appressamento della morte (The Approach of Death), a poem in terza rima which was heavily influenced by Petrarch and Dante, as well as Inno a Nettuno (Hymn to Neptune), and Le rimembranze (Memories). After this, Leopardi abandoned other types of work and concentrated on lyric poetry, including his book Canti (Songs) and Canzoniere (Songbook), as well as many more. Leopardi frequently focuses on the patriotic, idyllic scenes, unrequited love, childhood, and classical themes and references.
Regarded by many as the “first modern Italian classic” poet, Leopardi was additionally praised for his prose work, with his varied use of dialogue, myth, allegory, and satire. For over five years years he stopped writing lyric poetry so he could concentrate on composing his innovative prose magnum opus called Operette morali (Small Moral Works). Frederick John Snell, author of The Primer of Italian Literature, commented on Leopardi’s style and mastery of language: “He opens every little scratch, and probes, if he does not poison, the wounds of suffering humanity. Yet in all this he is the reverse of a fanatic. He argues dexterously, in the finest of literary styles.”
Unfortunately, Leopardi spent most of his life with ill health and growing blindness. As a result of his medical conditions, he was confined to Recanati for a long period of time but over his lifetime was able to travel to Rome, Florence, Milan, Bologna, and Pisa. In 1837, he died of cholera in Naples.
Articles By GIACOMO LEOPARDI
- From “Zibaldone di pensieri”
A look into the daybooks of one of 19th century Europe’s literary masters.
Audio & PodcastsThe Poetry Magazine Podcast
May We Blossom Every Fifty Years
Poems from Karen An-hwei Lee and Brooklyn Copeland, plus Giacomo Leopardi translated by W.S. Di Piero.