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||Giosuč 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. Carducci's famous anti-Vatican poem
Satan' (1865), a worship of nature, rationalism, and the goods of life,
was fiercely condemned in the clerical and concervative journals.
On thee in verse daring,
Giosuč 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. 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. Also the works of Giacomo Leopardi were an essential part of Carducci's early life. A friend of his supplied him with books that Carducci could not afford to buy. While still at school 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. Elvira's father, Francesco, had taken an active part in the Revolution of 1848.
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 merciless, 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.
He did not believe in the divinity of Christ but believed in God. 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). Dante was not for Carducci the right figure to utilize
politically: "having studied the man and his times, I would not say
that Dante would have been able to conceive of Italian unification, not
even in a dithyramb." ('Dante and the Creation of the poeta vate in Nineteenth-Century Italy' by Antonella Braida, in Dante in the Long Nineteenth Century: Nationality, Identity, and Appropriation, edited by a Aida Audeh and Nick Havely, 2012, p. 62) In the early 1880s Carducci was 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 famous anticlerical poem 'Inno a Satana' (Hymn
to Satan) aroused much controversy. "Hail, O Satan, O rebellion, O
avenging force of reason!" Satan
was not for him
the embodiment of evil and corruption, but a life force, a synomym for
the unchained power of technology and
progress. The manifestation of the final victory of reason was the
steam-engine, "a monster of awful beauty". Written in 1863, the poem
several Masonic periodicals without Carducci's permission. A few
copies, under the signature of Enotrio Romano, were printed for private
himself was know within Freemasonary as "Br:. 675". (Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism by Ruben van Luijk, 2016, p. 267) The democratic newspaper Il Popolo provocatively published the poem in 1869 on the day of the opening of the 20th Vatican Ecumenical Council.
A firm believer in freedom of thought, Carducci 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."
1890 Carducci was made a senator for life. As a member of parliament,
he supported Francesco Crispi's aggressive colonial policy in Africa.
Due to the nervous paralysis of the right hand, writing became
difficult for him. Gradually he lost the ability to move and his
speech was affected, too. Carducci's
poor health prevented him from traveling from Bologna
to Stockholm to receive personally the Nobel prize. It was presented to
him by the Swedish Ambassador in Rome, Baron von Bildt, in 1906. "I had
seen him so vigorous, so strong, and I found him broken down, conquered
by disease," Baron von Bildt recalled. "The head still preserved
the accustomed Carduccian expression of force and energy, but
there was in his eyes a look of melancholy that I had never seen
before." (A Selection From the Poems of Giosuč Carducci, translated by Emily A. Tribe, 1921, p. Ixvii)
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. To the disappointment of Vatican, he did not make peace with the Church. Although Carducci's reputation has rested on his poetry, his poetic output occupy only four volumes of his Opere complete (1939-41, 30 vols.).