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History and pastoral in the structure of Leopardi's Canti.

This article explores the cultural matrices of Leopardi's Canti, one of the most complex and stratified poetic books of the Italian tradition: the notion of history and that of pastoral (or bucolic or idyll, as Leopardi would have it). Emphasis is put on Leopardi's translations from the Greek, on the shaping spatial and temporal metaphors of the book, and in particular on the classical sources of L'infinito', a poem provisionally resolving the intellectual clash between historical decline and utopian nostalgia on which the structure of the collection is based.

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a voler conservare gli uomini, cioe farli felici, bisogna richiamarli ai loro principii, vale a dire alla natura.

(GIACOMO LEOPARDI) (1)

The 'Canti' as a Book

The Canti are the work of one man, but include the most diverse poetic forms, styles, and voices: Petrarchan canzoni, free canzoni, epistles, elegies, Horatian satire, love poems, dramatic monologues, imitations, and translations. Themes range from history to mythology, philosophy, autobiography, and contemporary social life, and the poems vary greatly in style, tone, metrics, and performance. (2) The book grew over the years from a slender collection of relatively traditional canzoni to its final form, progressively incorporating and adapting to an ever-changing design the poet's ongoing meditations and stylistic experiments. The poems, in the final, posthumous edition of 1845, appear in a predominantly chronological order, corresponding roughly to the order in which they appear in the totality of Leopardi's earlier collections (1824, 1826, 1831, and 1835). Yet temporal discontinuities as well as breaks and shifts of various kinds govern the whole. The publishing history of the book shows that the Canti have a highly dynamic structure and that contradiction and self-emendation or even recantation are distinctive features of Leopardi's mind.

In this essay I shall explore the cultural matrices of this complex, stratified book: the notion of history and that of pastoral (or bucolic or idyll, as Leopardi would have it). I shall be concerned not so much with such notions as coherence and unity as with bringing to the fore Leopardi's literary dialectic and intellectual struggle. I shall attempt to answer very basic questions: how did Leopardi construct his book? What are the shaping energies of his poetic imagination? In short, how are we to read the Canti?

These questions are basic and simple. But the answers to them cannot be. It will be Leopardian enough at least to have posed the questions. A century of critical and philological research has interposed all sorts of interpretations between the Canti and the reader, making it particularly difficult to answer any kind of question. Anthological readings--a deplorably common practice in school--have proved all the more detrimental to the understanding of Leopardi's book as a whole (and in general of all works whose modular structures are particularly susceptible to selection and quotation).

Difficulties in interpretation-indeed, in simple description-such as one encounters in relation to a book like the Canti derive from three general characteristics of academic criticism: a tendency to interpret literary works not according to their features but in response to previous critical interpretations; an inclination to analyse and consider all poetical works not as wholes but as containers of linguistic peaks to be isolated and gleaned; and aversion to 'full-length reading' (what Italians call lettura integrale)--which stems from a rejection of the notion of literary work as a consciously organized structure of meaning, and from a well-known inclination of critics to look for meaning in the marginal and the peripheral (as if margins and peripheries could not be taken and explored as significant parts of broader structures).

I here advocate 'full-length reading' as a fundamental preliminary critical activity--prior to all consultation of secondary texts--and foster a view of criticism as scrutiny of the author's intentions as they appear to be realized linguistically--that is stylistically, rhetorically, and metrically--in his or her work. We have to learn how to unlearn whatever prejudices and preconceived ideas, comforting as they may be, we have received from school or ideologies, and start all over again. First of all, interpretation calls for attentive and painstaking focus on the poet's words.

A 'Poetics of History'

I begin with a quotation from the Zibaldone--a famous one:

Uno de' maggiori frutti the io mi propongo e spero da' miei versi, e che essi riscaldino la mia vecchiezza col calore della mia gioventu; e di assaporarli in quella eta, e provar qualche reliquia de' miei sentimentipassati, messa quivi entro, per conservarla e darle durata, quasi in deposito. (p. 4302, Pisa, 15 April 1828, emphasis added)

This quotation, as I have said, is famous. However, its true meaning--as is often the case with Leopardi's revelations--has escaped interpreters. What Leopardi states here, with all its self-indulgent privacy, is nothing less than a direction to his readers. Leopardi is here telling us that the Canti are to be read as a book of the past, a relic. The poetry of the Canti is something that speaks from a temporal distance. Its time, whatever the time of the reader, is anachronism.

The past seen from today, that is history, constitutes the primary source of Leopardi's interest in poetic writing. History is what triggered Leopardi' s desire to be a poet. History, for Leopardi, is a theoretical and rhetorical construction in which the modern individual views himself in time, indeed in which he considers himself a product of historical change and which, as he does so, is part and parcel of his construction. The historian, according to Leopardi, cannot be separated from the history he recounts. One of Leopardi's most original discoveries, and one of the elements that most neatly distinguish him from such a domineering predecessor as Petrarch and make him a founder of modernity, is the idea that the self ages not simply in one's own lifetime, but within the frame of civilization.[cents] For Leopardi, there is an old age of the individual and there is an old age of humankind. In Leopardi's world, even a young man is old. Nobody else in Leopardi's century expressed so clear an idea of humanity as a senescent entity. After Leopardi came T. S. Eliot's Gerontion ('Here I am, an old man in a dry month') or his Sibyl from Petronius, stating 'I want to die' in the epigraph to The Waste Land--who sound very much like doubles of the man who speaks in the Canti.

Leopardi had an idealized idea of antiquity and valued modernity in definitely negative terms. (5) The good and the beautiful, for him, belonged exclusively to the classical past. In the Canti, the adjective antico-a very common one--has always a positive connotation. I shall call this nostalgic vision Leopardi's 'poetics of history'. It is the poetics that fashions the canzoni.

There are numerous passages in the Zibaldone that assert the superiority of the ancients (a widely discussed topic of modern criticism). Here is one of the most telling-a celebration of the golden age:

Quell'antica e si famosa opinione del secol d'oro, della perduta felicia di quel tempo [...] quest'opinione scelebre presso gli antichi e i moderni poeti, ed anche fuor della poesia, non pub ella molto bene servire a conferma del mio sistema, a dimostrare l'antichissima tradizione di una degenerazione dell'uomo, di una felicia perduta del genere umano, e felicita non consistente in altro the in uno stato di natura e simile a quello delle bestie, e non goduta in altro tempo the nel primitivo, e in quello the precedette i cominciamenti della civilizzazione, anzi le prime alterazioni della natura umana derivate dalla societa? (pp. 2250-51, 13 December 1821, emphasis added)

Finally, history, for Leopardi, signifies a clear-cut opposition between modernity and antiquity. In a word, history is de-cline (or de-generation, as in the passage of the Zibaldone just quoted)--a vertical ruinous downfall, as the Latin prefix suggests. (6) In 'Bruto minore' we read: 'dalle somme vette | Roma antica ruina' (11. 81-82); 'l'alta ruina' (1. 94), 'In peggio | Precipitano i tempi; e mal s'affida | A putridi nepoti | L'onor d'egregie menti e la suprema | De' miseri vendetta' (11. 112-16). The modern individual perceiving historical time is a quintessential child and representative of such ruin or de-cline. 'Io son distrutto', states the poet in 'Ad Angelo Mai' (1. 34). Once again, the historical dimension of the subject is marked by the Latin prefix de--(de-structus). The etymological density of this prefix resonates in one of the most typical and recurrent words of Leopardi's vocabulary: desio (disio, desiderio, desiare, desiare, desiderare, desire, desioso, and disioso also appear in the Canti). De-sider-are is formed by the preposition de- and the root of the word sidus, -eris 'star' : 'await what the stars will bring'. In the end, the whole lunar mythology around which some important poems are centred is but an allegorization of desire, that is historical nostalgia.

The Canti can and to a certain extent should be read as a great archaeology--in the etymological sense--of the self. For Leopardi, identity stems from a conception of oneself as coming after, that is late. In 'Sopra il monumento di Dante', he says: 'amari | Giorni dopo il seren n'ha dato il cielo' (11. 38-39). And in 'Ad Angelo Mai' he calls the present 'quests eta si tarda' (1. 29). Leopardi's notion of the self is one with decrepitude, exhaustion, and superannuation. The verb passare, in the sense of 'elapse' or 'pass away', is a typical one: 'Passo stagione' ('Per un giocatore di pallone', 1. 57), 'il placer the passo' (Il primo amore', 1. 93), 'tutto al mondo passa' ('La sera del di di festa', 1. 29), 'Passato e il tempo' ('Consalvo', 1. 142), 'Come passata sei [...] Mia lacrimata speme' ('A Silvia', 1. 53), 'I giorni tuoi | Furo [...]. Passasti. Ad altri | Il passar per la terra oggi e sortito [...] | Ma rapida passasti' ('Le ricordanze', 11. 149, 150, 152), 'to passasti, eterno | Sospiro mio: passasti' ('Le ricordanze', 11. 169-70), 'Passan genti e linguaggi' ('La ginestra', 1. 295).

A pervasive sense of posthumousness tinges the poet's notion of himself and of others, as is apparent from Leopardi's insistence on images of lateness and expiration. Some examples from 'La sera del deli festa' (presumably written in the spring of 1820): 'dopo i sollazzi' (1. 27), 'tutto al mondo passa' (1. 29), 'Ecco e fuggito' (1. 30), 'Or dov'e il suono | di que' popoli antichi' (11. 33-34), 'poscia | Ch'egli era spento' (11. 41-42) (spegnere is one of Leopardi's favourite verbs), 'ed alla tarda notte | un canto' (11. 43-44). In 'Sogno' (also written in 1820, probably at the beginning of December), the dead beloved appears to the poet--could we have a better living metaphor of the poet's preoccupation with resurrecting the past?--and he goes so far as to consider himself as unduly surviving: 'Dunque sei morta] [...] ed lo son vivo'. He also says: 'Giovane son, ma si consuma e perde | La giovanezza mia come vecchiezza' (11. 51-52).

Recollection and remembrance, which are paramount in the Cants ('Alla luna', 'Le ricordanze', 'A Silvia', etc.), substantiate Leopardi's imagination and rhetoric from his earliest years. 'Alla luna' was included in the 1826 edition of the Vern with the title' La ricordanza' . One of Leopardi's most accomplished early poetic outputs was entitled 'Le rimembranze', written in 1816 (unfortunately, it was never included in any of the poet's published collections). It is a lovely poem, which stages a moving dialogue between a father and his surviving son, the other son having died the year before. The father is sad because tomorrow will be the first anniversary of his son's death and he fears that the surviving son may have forgotten his brother. Anniversaries represent a very poetic theme for the young Leopardi because, like the returning spirit of the beloved in' Sogno', they seem to abolish all division between the past and the present (for Leopardi, apparently, only the dead are alive). An early passage in the Zibaldone dwells at length on the beauty of anniversaries:

E pure una bella illusione quella degli anniversari per cui quantunque quel giorno non abbia niente piu the fare cod passato the qualunque altro, not diciamo, come oggi, accadde il tad fatto, come oggi ebbi la tad contentezza, fui tanto sconsolato ec. e ci par veramente the quelle tali cose the son morte per sempre ne possono piu tornare, tuttavia rivivano e siano presenti come in ombra, cosa the ci consola infinitamente allontanandoci l'idea dellalistruzione (7) e annullamento the tanto ci ripugna, e illudendoci sulla presenza di quelle cose the vorremmo presenti effettivamente, o di cui pur ci piace di ricordarci con qualche speciale circostanza [...] (Zibaldone, p. 60, emphasis added) (8)

The human individual of the Canti is a de-stroyed, de-siring, fallen creature. His interiority is synonymous with anteriority. Leopardi found Sappho a suitable alter ego mainly because she was ancient, as he remarks in an annotation to 'L' ultimo canto di Saffo'. In 'Il passero solitario'--a beautiful late poem which Leopardi decided to include in the first section of the book as a psychological self-portrayal and an appropriate introduction to a more autobiographical sequence of poems--the poet asserts his identity in terms of decadence, regret, and retrospectiveness: 'passo del viver mio la primavera. | Questo giorno ch'omai cede alla sera' (11. 26-27), 'indugio ad altro tempo' (1. 39), 'il Sol the tra lontani monti, | Dopo il giorno sereno, | Cadendo si dilegua, e par the dica | Che la beata gioventu vien meno' (11. 41-44), 'volgerommi indietro' (1. 59). One could go so far as to argue that the root of the verb passare is in the very signifier which indicates the bird of the title, 'pass-ero', indeed, that the letters passero form the first person of the future tense of passare, 'passero'.

The theme of falling and collapsing and other related notions are seminal in Leopardi's imagination, and constitute paramount well-springs of metaphors throughout the book. The verb cadere is a very recurrent one (as is the adjective caduco), especially in the first two historical songs. To cite one telling example from 'Sopra il monumento di Dante': 'cadde gran parte anche di noi' (1. 134). One of Leopardi's early fragments, 'Odi, Melisso', dating from 1819 and originally entitled 'Lo spavento notturno' (finally placed in the closing section of the 1835 edition of the Canti), is a most spectacular treatment of the theme: the moon itself has fallen. In this twenty-eight-line poem the verb cader is repeated five times--almost once every five lines.

In an early passage of the Zibaldone (pp. 50-51), which contains anticipations of the 'Sera del di di festa', of 'L' infinito', and also of a celebrated grande idillio, the 'Canto notturno di un pastore errante dell' Asia', we read:

Dolor mio nel sentire a tarda notte seguente al giorno di qualche festa il canto notturno de' villani passeggeri. Infinia del passato the mi veniva in mente, ripensando ai Romani cosi caduti dopo tanto romore e ai tanti avvenimenti ora passati ch'io paragonava dolorosamente con quella profonda quiete e silenzio della notte, a farmi avvedere del quale giovava il risalto di quella voce o canto villanesco. (Emphasis added)

This is an excellent instance of Leopardi's historical imagination, and of his obsession with images of belatedness and expiration. The 'tarda notte'--note the adjective is not simply significant as affording good conditions for meditation, but it is in itself a symbol of the Roman Empire's decline. For Leopardi, one 'giorno di qualche festa' is enough to epitomize what he considered the historical trajectory of Western civilization.

To return to the incipit of the book, 'All'Italia', which is a passionate, almost theatrical lament on the historical decadence of Italy: line 34 asks: 'come cadesti [...]'? The poet is here addressing Italy herself, employing a common device of classical rhetoric (apostrophe to a personified entity). Curiously, the same verb, conjugated in exactly the same tense and person, resurfaces in a very different and much later poem, 'A Silvia': 'Tu misera cadesti'. The occurrence of such a verb in a poem dedicated not to personified Italy but to a dead young girl, far from being a mere coincidence, reveals the inherently historical root of all of Leopardi's poetry, including the most private and deeply felt verse. The relevance of the historical to 'A Silvia'--one of the masterpieces of Leopardi's Pisan period--is apparent also from the striking linguistic affinities of this grande idillio with the stanza on the ancient Roman maiden Virginia in the early 'Nelle nozze della sorella Paolina' (1821):
      Virginia, a to la molle
   Gota molcea con le celesti dita
   Behade onnipossente [...]
   [...] Eri pur vaga, ed eri
   Nella stagion ch' adolci sogni invita
   [...] (9)


In these very lines are to be found the predecessors of such memorable phrases of 'A Silvia' as 'laekplendea' (1. 3), 'non ti molceva il core' (1. 44), 'vago avvenir' (1. 12), 'la dolce lode' (1. 45).

I earlier defined the temporal dimension of the Canh in terms of anachronism. This word should not be taken as a simple synonym for' out-datedness' . Outdatedness is a passive notion. Leopardi, on the contrary, deliberately rejected contemporaneity, and theorized a kind of poetry that polemically departed from the present:

Gridano the la poesia debba esserci contemporanea, cioe adoperare il linguaggio e le idee e dipingere i costumi, e fors' anche gli accidents de' nostri tempi. Onde condannano l' use delle antiche finzioni, opinioni, costumi, avvenimenti [...] io dico the tutt' altro pota esser contemporaneo a questo secolo fuorche la poesia. Come puo il poeta adoperare il linguaggio e seguir le idee e mostrare i costumi d' una generazione d' uomini per cui la gloria e un fantasma, la liberta la patria l' amor patrio non esistono, l' amor verb una fanciullaggine, e insomma le illusioni son tutte svanite, le passioni, non solo grandi e nobili e belle, ma tutte le passioni estinte? Come puo, dico, cio fare, ed esser poeta? [...] Perdono dunque se il poeta moderno segue le cose antiche, se adopra il linguaggio e to stile e la maniera antica, se usa eziandio le antiche favole ec., se mostra di accostarsi alle antiche opinioni, se preferisce gli antichi costumi, usi, avvenimenti, se imprime alla sua poesia un carattere d' altro secolg se cerca in somma o di essere, quanto allo spirito e all' indole, o di parerazntico. Perdono se il poeta, se la poesia moderna non si mostrano, non sono contemporanei a questo secolo, poiche esser contemporaneo a questo secolo, e, o inchiude essenzialmente, non esser poeta, non esser poesia. (pp. 2944-46, 11 July 1823, emphasis added)

From this important passage we learn why Leopardi considered the ancients superior-because they still had passions and ideals. This passage also sheds light on the significance of the opening poem of the Canti. 'All' Italia' is a manifesto of literary anachronism and, as such, a distillation of all that poetry represents and entails for Leopardi. Unfortunately, it is no longer a popular poem. Despite its evident stylistic merits, students and critics tend to find it annoyingly rhetorical. The phrase 'procombe6 sol io' (1. 38) now occasions only mockery. In fact, the emphatic, juvenile patriotism of such a line serves only to disguise Leopardi's deeper interest in the 'heroic' or 'glory', that is in a heightened vision of human history, and in the mission of poetry as imagination. (10) One has to learn Leopardi's code, or one will fail to understand the complexity and the true meaning of his poetic language.

In' All' Italia' Leopardi not only writes ancient poetry, but, according to what I have called his 'poetics of history', he establishes his status as that of an ancient bard, the Greek Simonides. In the 1818 dedication to Vincenzo Monti, Leopardi describes Simonides as the most sublime lyric poet of antiquity and openly admits his intention to identify with that ancient poet:

dolendomi assai the il sovraddetto componimento fosse perduto, alla fine presi cuore di mettermi, come si dice, nei panni di Simonide, e cosi, quanto portava la mediocrita mia, rifare il suo canto, del quale non dubito di affermare, the se non fu maraviglioso, allora e la fama di Simonide fu vano rumore, e gli scritti consumati degnamente dal tempo. (Emphasis added)

The dedication of the 1824 edition takes the personification even further:

riputando a molta disavventura the le cose scritte da Simonide in quella occorrenza, fossero perdute, non ch' io presumessi di riparare a questo danno, ma come per ingannare il desiderio, procurai di rappresentarmi alla mente le disposizioni dell' animo del poeta in quel tempo, e con questo mezzo, salva la disuguaglianza degl' ingegni, tornare a fare il suo canto; del quale io porto questo parere, the o fosse maraviglioso, o la fama di Simonide fosse vana, e gli scritti perissero con poca ingiuria." (Emphasis added)

This passage also figures in a note appended to the 1831 and the 1835 editions. The panni are replaced by mente and ammo, showing how profoundly psychological, almost ventriloquizing Leopardi's identification with Simonides was.

The presence of Simonides in Leopardi's poetry is not limited to' All' Italia'. The 1826 Vern included a translation, dating from 1823, of the notorious tirade against women then attributed to Simonides (rather than Semonides). This text did not remain in the subsequent editions of the Canti, but Leopardi included other translations from Simonides (also dating from 1823) in the 1835 edition. Eloquently enough, these translations close the book, thus bringing full circle the stylistic and philosophical variety of the book as a whole under the unifying sign of antiquity. I shall return to this in my conclusion.

Two passages in the Zibaldone bear further testimony to the young poet's programme to impersonate an ancient poet. One- an actual allegory of Leopardi's endeavour-figures in the very first page of the book, but, surprisingly, it tends to go unnoticed:

Una Dama vecchia avendo chiesto a un giovane di leggere alcuni suoi versi pieni di parole antiche, e avutili, poco dopo rendendoglieli disse the non gl'intendeva perch quelle parole non s'usavano al tempo suo. Rispose il giovane: Anzi credea the s'usassero perche sono molto antiche.

In this satirical apologue, the old lady fails to understand the poet's language and accuses him of using a kind of vocabulary that was not common in her day. In reality, the poet's language is ancient. Therefore, the old lady should understand it. Why does she not understand it? Most likely, Leopardi is here trying to tell us that the meaning of poetry does not reside simply in words. The antiquity of poetry is remoteness from obvious communication. Old age is not sufficient per se to make poetry intelligible. This old lady is a pathetic compendium of all those who, in modern times, are no longer capable of listening to poetry and put the blame on the poet.

The second quotation comes not long after the first. Leopardi advocates the ancients' simplicity against Di Breme's modernist love of affectation:

fuggiamo da not stessi, e vediamo come parlavano gli antichi the erano ancora fanciulli [...]. (Zibaldone, p. 17). (12)

Just before this, Leopardi compares the ancients to pastorelli who described just what they saw, without adding anything to the vision (Zibaldone p. 16). Pastorelli is not a casually chosen term. Leopardi seems to be using it in the sense of 'simple people'; in facpastorelli is more than this, especially for a poet like Leopardi. The next section of this essay will demonstrate what that specific term involves.

A 'Poetics of the Pastoral'

So far, I have discussed the notion of history and the related notions of anachronism, verticality, and decline, showing how inherently historical--in Leopardi's sense--is the first section of the Canti (but also a poem as different as 'A Silvia'). I move now to the second most important cultural matrix and principle of construction of Leopardi's Canti: the pastoral. The pastoral shapes most of the remaining part of the book. In the sequence of poems starting with '11 primo amore' and ending with' Al Conte Carlo Pepoli' (the closing poem of the 1826 edition of the Vern), the pastoral represents a positive alternative to the negative poetics of history couched in the canzoni. In two subsequent parts (one starting with 'Il risorgimento', the other with 'Aspasia') Leopardi, with what I argue is a typical strategy of self-emendation, calls into question the validity of the pastoral and eventually parodies it, seemingly reasserting the postulates of his negative poetics of history. I shall return to this division of the book into contrasting sections at the end of this essay.

The pastoral, as a genre, incarnates the antithesis of history and historical memory. It is escape from history and oblivion of one's own historicity. In the Canti, while appearing to be an alternative to the negative 'poetics of history' , the 'poetics of the pastoral' is in fact coterminous with it. The pastoral is part of a horizontal imagination which, through temporal suspension and utopian evasion, saves the individual from despair, providing some kind of reprieve from historical decay. Plainly put, it is the only possible form of human happiness. (13)

The poem which most typically depicts Leopardi's positive poetics of the pastoral is 'L'infinito'.
   Sempre caro mi fu quest' ermo colle,
   E questa siepe, the da tanta parte
   Dell' ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.
   Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati
   Spazi di la da quella, e sovrumani
   Silenzi, e profondissima quiete
   Io nel pensier mi fingo; ove per poco
   Il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
   Odo stormir tra queste piante, lo quello
   Infinito silenzio a questa voce
   Vo comparando: e mi sovvien l'eterno,
   E le morte stagioni, e la presente
   E viva, e il suon di lei. Cosi tra questa
   Immensita s'annega il pensier mio:
   E il naufragar m'e dolce in questo mare.


This poem--as I hope to demonstrate--is intended in fact as a modern version of pastoral. The italicized phrases are generic markers, pinpointing a highly codified setting: an idyllic location, visual obstacles activating imagination, the sitting position, the gazing, and silence. Leopardi became familiar with the ancient pastoral genre in his early youth. (14) In 1816, when he was just eighteen years old, he translated Moschus's idylls and wrote a brilliant essay on the critical fortune and French translations of Moschus. The translations and the essay mark fundamental moments in Leopardi's education both as a poet and prose writer and in the emergence of his literary tastes (see, for example, what he says about Anacreon's language and his comparison between Theocritus and Moschus). (15) The importance of these translations can hardly be overestimated. It is in the attempt to reproduce the voice of the ancient poet that Leopardi developed a higher sense of his own endeavour and honed his metrical tools. (16) One translation in particular (Idyll v) achieves the status of an original work:
      Quando il ceruleo mar soavemente
   Increspa il vento, al pigro core io cedo:
   La Musa non mi alletta, e al mar tranquillo,
   Piu che alla Musa, amo sedere accanto.
   Ma quando spuma il mar canuto, e l'onda
   Gorgoglia, e s'alza strepitosa, e cade,
   Il suo riguardo, e gli arbori, e dal mare
   Lungi men fuggo: allor sicura, e salda
   Parmi la terra, allora in selva oscura
   Seder m'e grato, mentre canta un pino
   Al soffiar di gran vento. Oh quanto e trista
   Del pescator la vita, a cui la barca
   E casa, e campo il mar infido, e il pesce
   E preda incerta! Oh quanto dolcemente
   D'un platano chiomato io dormo all' ombra!
   Quanto m'e grato il mormorar del rivo,
   Che mai nel campo il villanel disturba!


Francesco De Sanctis remains to this day the only critic who has fully understood the importance of this short piece of poetry in Leopardi's development as a poet:

Il motivo o il sentimento di questo idillio e l'anima isolata dalla sociea; pura di passioni e di cure, nella sua solitudine e nella sua tranquillita divenuta una con la natura, e in quella vive e si appaga. Sentimento primitivo e semplice. Questa vita in grembo alla natura non se ne stacca mai, non si rivela come personalita umana, non sale di la a concetti e a giudizi, rimane senza iniziativa e senza movimento proprio, in balia delle impressioni.

La natura e bella perche sentita e goduta dall' uomo; e l'uomo gode perekla contempla e rimane tuff ato in quella contemplazione.

Or questo sentimento e la base elementare della poesia idillica, ch'e appunto nella pace della vita campestre e nel mdmento della natura.

Ed e anche la base rudimentale della poesia leopardiana.

[...] Or quel pastore e Leopardi, esso medesimo, e quell' idillio che traduce, suona nella sua anima come una eco della sua voce interiore.

[...] E brevissimo e si legge tutto d'un fiato, e te ne viene una impressione chiara e immediata. La forma e qui una con quella situazione dell' anima che abbiamo descritta. Parole piane, andatura uguale, suoni facili e soavi, quasi molli.

[...]

Questa non e una traduzione, e poesia originale, e direi profetica. Perche qui c'e gia un primo indizio della maniera leopardiana: la base idillica della sua anima e del suo canto, la prima e tenue corda che un giorno sara una orchestra. (17)

De Sanctis was right to see in this translation a predecessor of 'L'infinito'. However, we should be aware that it is not just cultural or spiritual affiliation that is at stake here. The translation of Moschus's Idyll v made the very composition of 'L'infinito' possible. (18) Let us focus on the vocabulary: 'mare', 'vento', 'core', 'sedere', 'Ma quando' (cf. 'Ma sedendo e mirando', in exactly the same syntactical position), 'me grato' (cf. 'caro mi fu'), 'dolcemente'. Here, we have the semantic backbone of 'L'infinito'--indeed, the roots of some of the most memorable of Leopardi's phrases. As Leopardi himself suggests in a note, 'm'e grato' in Idyll v comes from Theocritus' first Idyll (l. i), of which he provides the following translation: 'Oh quanto e grato | Quel pin, the canta la vicino al fonte.' This means that 'caro mi fu' in 'L'infinito' is a conflation of Moschus and Theocritus. (19)

Some lines of the translation of Moschus's Idylh III also appear to have influenced the language of 'L'infinito': 'Quael si caro agli armenti or piu non vive. Sotto romita quercia in cheta valle | Tranquillamente assiso, ei piu non canta.' Such vocabulary is obviously very akin to that of 'L'infinito'. In particular, 'sedendo' in 'L'infinito' may be Leopardi's attempt at a more literal rendition of the original [TEXT INCOMPLETE IN ORIGINAL SOURCE] [hemenos] than 'assiso'--an indication that the poet, in 'L'infinito', deliberately modelled himself on the Greek text.

Closer inspection of Leopardi's subtle intertextuality will reveal that not only does 'caro mi fu' derive from an ancient source, but also the 'siepe' (whose apparently inexplicable strangeness has perplexed many critics). (20) Interestingly, Leopardi, in his prose drafts of 'L'infinito', mentioned a 'roveto' and a Petrarchan 'verde lauro'--namely, quite specific kinds of vegetation. Finally, as was required by his poetics of the indefinito, he decided to opt for a more general term and his literary memory conjured up another significant ancient passage understandably, another pastoral:
   hinc tibi, quae semper, vicino ab limite saepes
   Hyblaeis apibus florem depasta salicti
   saepe levi somnum suadebit inire susurro;
   hinc alta sub rupe cantt frondator ad auras [...]

   Here, as always, your neighbour's bordering hedge,
   that feasts with willow-flower the Hybla bees,
   shall often lull you to sleep with gentle murmur,
   here beneath some tall rock the leaf-dresser will sing to the wind.
   (21)


These lines are from Virgil's Eclogues (i. 53-56), the very archetype of all pastoral poetry. The 'siepe' of 'L'infinito' came directly from these ancient lines, together with 'sempre' (semper). (22) I also suspect that limite may have suggested 'orizzonte'. To conclude, the incipit of 'L'infinito' is an epitome of quintessential pastoral places. Leopardi's merging of quotes from Theocritus/Moschus and Virgil, classically placed in the very first lines (just as the lyric Horace--a poet Leopardi revered-would quote his Greek sources at the very beginning of his poems), amounts to a statement of 'generic' identity. If we understand this, we understand better the meaning of 'L' infinito' within the book, and of the book of which this poem is an essential element.

A Critique of the Pastoral

'L' infinito's tages history at its worst (the glory of Rome being dead and gone) and the present at its best (the poet taking himself out of the flight of time). The present, for Leopardi, acquires a positive aspect as soon as it stops being, or appearing to be, present, that is contingent, and turns into a virtually mystical contemplation of time separated from all painful feeling of decline. The infinite is a delusional compromise between antiquity and modernity, but it is neither, and because it is not located in time (like the Greek aorist), it can last but a moment.

'L' infinito' follows the section of the historicalnzoni, as if to express a neat departure from the vertical poetics of history. In reality, 'L' infinito', written in 1819, pre-dates all the historical canzoni, including 'L' ultimo canto di Saffo' all but the first two, 'All' Italia' and 'Sopra il monumento di Dante' . The negative and the positive poetics are competing in Leopardi's imagination-much as the chosen order of the poems makes the positive one appear subsequent to, and triumphant over, the other. Moreover, one should not forget that 'L' infinito' was the incipit of the 1826 Versi. Leopardi obviously considered it an opening poem--a beginning. However, I shall try to show that the triumph of the poetics of the pastoral as expressed in 'L' infinito' is but a provisional and illusory achievement. The demolition of this poetics is evident from the destabilizing allusions to the infinito in what I see as the third and fourth sections of the book-those respectively starting with 'Il risorgimento' and 'Aspasia'.

References to the pastoral are to be found in the historical songs themselves. 'Alla primavera' nods in the direction of the pastoral through highly cliched imagery:
   e il pastorel ch' all' ombre
   Meridiane incerte ed al fiorito
   Margo adducea de' fiumi
   Le sitibonde agnelle, arguto carme
   Sonar d' agresti Pani
   Udi lungo le ripe [...]
   (11.28-33)


In the subsequent 'Inno al Patriarchi' the biblical Abraham himself-'padre de' pu' (1. 71)-is presented as a bucolic shepherd:
   Diro siccome
   Sedente, oscuro, in sul meriggio all' ombre
   Del riposato albergo, appo le molli
   Rive del gregge tuo nutrici e sedi,
   Te de' celesti peregrini occulte
   Bear l' eteree menti [...]
   (11.73-78)


Further on in the poem, Leopardi alludes to the myth of the golden age -a myth which, in the abbozzo of the poem, he traced back to Virgil's Eclogues, Tasso's Aminta (end of Act i), and Guarino's Pastor fido (Act iv), that is to outstanding specimens of the pastoral genre.

These passages are merely references to stock bucolic imagery. It is only in 'L' infinito' that a wholly original treatment of the pastoral paradigm as escape from history comes into being. This poem represents a climactic and, as such, a unique moment in the book. Pastoral clues, that is 'segnali dell' infinito'--to quote Blasucci's title--do occur in the rest of the book, but, far from asserting the validity of, and the poet's affiliation to, the pastoral, they are part of an increasingly destructive critique of the pastoral as a possible poetic and cultural alternative.

In the second stanza of 'La vita solitaria'--a slightly later poem--the critique has not yet started. Leopardi combines the traits of the classical bucolic frame--the sitting, the noonday sun, solitude, stillness, and quiet--with the metaphysical reality of' L' infinito'
   Talor m' assido in solitaria parte,
   Sovra un rialto, al margine d' un lago
   Di taciturne piante incoronato.
   Ivi, quando il meriggio in ciel si volve,
   La sua tranquilla imago il Sol dipinge,
   Ed erba o foglia non si crolla al vento,
   E non onda incresparsi, e non cicala
   Strider, ne batter perm augello in ramo,
   Ne farfalla ronzar, ne voce o moto
   Da presso ne da lunge odi ne vedi.
   Tien quelle rive altissima quiete;
   Ond' io quasi me stesso e il mondo obblio
   Sedendo immoto; e gia mi par the sciolte
   Giaccian le membra mie, ne spirto o senso
   PiU le commova, e for quiete antica
   Co' silenzi del loco si confonda.


'M' assido', 'sedendo' : the reader will recognize the 'sedendo' of 'L'infinito'. Other phrases clearly hark back to 'L' infinito' : 'altissima quiete', 'quiete antica', 'silenzi' . To be sure, this stanza and 'L' infinito' diff er substantially in one respect: 'La vita solitaria' does not mention the past; the poet's ecstasy is described exclusively in physical terms. Even so, this stanza is inherently similar to 'L' infinito' : while 'L' infinito' tries to represent suspension of time, 'La vita solitaria' stages the suspension of the self. Here, the poet escapes from individual consciousness. This experience is not so different from that of 'L' infinito'--since, as I have shown, the individual consciousness is, for Leopardi, a keen perception of one's own historicity.

The erosion of the pastoral starts in 'Le ricordanze', that is in one of the pivotal poems of the third section of the book (the section which starts with 'Il risorgimento' and ends with' A se stesso'). The usual vocabulary describing the experience of the infinite now refers to something that is happening not in a suspended present, but in the past time of remembrance:
   Quante immagini un tempo, e quante fole
   Creommi nel pensier l' aspetto vostro
   E delle luci a voi compagne! Allora
   Che, tacito, seduto in verde zolla,
   Delle sere io solea passar gran parte
   Mirando il cielo, ed ascoltando il canto
   Della rana rimota alla campagna!
   E la lucciola errava appo le siepi
   E in su l' aiuolesusurrando al vento
   I viali odorati, ed i cipressi
   La nella selva; e sotto al patrio tetto
   Sonavan voci alterne, e le tranquille
   Opre de' servi. E ch(pensieri immensi,
   Che dolci sogni mi spiro la vista
   Di quel lontano mar, quei monti azzurri,
   Che di qua scopro, e the varcare un giorno
   lo mi pensava, arcani mondi, arcana
   Felicita fingendo al viver mio!
   (11.7-24)


This beautiful passage looks very much like an inventory of rejected pastoral images. Striking allusions to the actual language of 'L' infinito'--which I have italicized--make this particular passage a sort of tragic, funereal reprise of that earlier text. The poet is here exhibiting some of the most cherished items of his imagination and is bidding farewell to them.

A critique of the pastoral is probably implicit in the very name of Nerina at the end of the poem-a name which Leopardi took from Tasso's Aminta. Silvia's name was also taken from Tasso's pastoral poem. The fact that both girls are dead seems an obviously negative commentary on the vitality of the pastoral as a concrete option for the poet.

In the 'Canto notturno' the destruction of the pastoral, that is of the infinite, is complete. References to the pastoral in this poem are ironically antiphrastic. The title establishes a direct connection with the pastoral mode. But in fact, this poem is an anti-bucolic, a reversal of 'L'infinito'. Here the 'pastore', far from achieving freedom from historical decline or experiencing any 'dolce naufragar', ends up contemplating 'tedio' and death. Linguistic quotations of 'L' infinito' reveal all the more dramatically the ironic revision to which the poet has subjected the comforting myth of his youth:
   Si che, sedendo, piu the mai son lunge
   Da trovar pace o loco.
   E pur nulla non bramo
   [...]
   O forse erra dal vero,
   Mirando all' altrui sorte, il micpensiero [...]
   (11. 120-60)


Nothing is left but despair. From the dissolution of the pastoral rises the ossified, spectral lament of' A se stesso'--which ends the third section of the book. This poem is a courageous recantation of' L' infinito' (as their antithetical titles clearly announce) or, if one prefers, a disfigured relic of the infinite:
   Or poserai per sempre,
   Stanco mio cor. Peri l' inganno estremo,
   Ch' eterno io mi credei. Per.'Ben sento,
   In not di cari inganni,
   Non che la sperre, il desiderio e spento.
   Posa per sempre. Assai
   Palpitasti. Non val cosa nessuna
   I moti tuoi, ne di sospiri e degna
   La terra. Amaro e noia
   La vita, altro mai nulla; e fango e il mondo.
   T' acqueta omai. Dispera
   L' ultima volta. Al gener nostro il fato
   Non dono che il morire. Omai disprezza
   Te, la natura, il brutto
   Poter che, ascoso, a comun danno impera,
   E l' infinita vanil del tutto.


'A se stesso' takes vocabulary and images from 'L' infinito' and subtly subverts them: 'peisempre' ('for ever', referring to the futuroempre' ('always', referring to the past); 'Stanco micxor'~' Ilcor non si spaura'; Mri inganni"caro [.. .] colle' ;eterno io mi credei'~' mi sovvien L'terno' ;fango e il mondo'~'lo nel pensier mi fingo' (a play on the signifier); 'Non ddnche il morire'~'lonorte sta gioni' ; 'I'ifinta vanita del tutto'~' quell Infinito silenzio' . While 'L' infinito' marks a beginning (in the 1826 edition of the Vern, as I have already remarked, it is the opening text), 'A se stesso' is clearly a final, concluding poem: 'L' ultima volta' (just as 'L' ultimo canto di Saffo' is a concluding poem).

One more ironic, almost comic reference to the poetics of the infinite is to be found in the final lines of the subsequent poem, 'Aspasia'
   [...] su l' erba
   Qui neghittoso immobile giacendo,
   Il mar la terra e il ciel miro e sorrido.


Who could have predicted that the pastoral would be dissolved by a smile? The restless ghost of the pastoral appears one last time in 'La ginestra' . Whatever is left of the juvenile pastoral, both as linguistic and physical experience, here becomes one with the historical embodiment of Nature's destruction--the landscape buried in lava at the feet of the volcano:
   Sovente in queste rive,
   Che, desolate, a bruno
   Veste il flutto indurato, e par che ondeggi,
   Seggo la notte; e su la mesta landa
   In purissimo azzurro
   Veggo dall' alto fiammeggiar le stelle,
   Cui di lontan fa specchio
   Il mare, e tutto di scintille in giro
   Per lo voto seren brillare il mondo.
   E poi che gli occhi a quelle luci appunto,
   Ch' a for sembrano un punto,
   E sono immense, in guisa
   Che un punto a petto a for son terra e mare
   Veracemente; a cui
   L' uomo non pur, ma questo
   Globo ove l' uomme nulla,
   Sconosciuto e del tutto; e quando miro
   Quegli ancor piU senz' alcun fin remoti
   Nodi quasi di stelle,
   Ch' a not paion qual nebbia, a cui non l' uomo
   E non la terra sol, ma tutte in uno,
   Del numero infinite e della mole,
   Con l'aureo sole insiem, le nostre stelle
   O sono ignote, o cosi paion come
   Essi alla terra, un punto
   Di luce nebulosa; al pensier mio
   Che sembri allora, o prole
   Dell' uomo?


Note the temporal adverb 'sovente' and the demonstrative 'queste', which are patently reminiscent of the first line of 'L' infinito', and the usual verb 'seggo' , paired with 'veggo' and further down with the more typical 'miro' . Furthermore, note that this anti-pastoral occurs in the night, not at noon, and that the sitting poet by now does not contemplate anything but nothingness. Leopardi's departure from 'L' infinito' could not be stated more dramatically, and the triumph of history over any comforting alternative could not be more definitive and catastrophic.

Tentative Conclusions

I have tried to show that the poetry of the Canti stems from two main sources: a negative notion of history and the pastoral. The former is responsible for the book's vertical imagery, the latter for images of comforting horizontality ('l' ultimo orizzonte').

To conclude, I should like to argue that these two opposing sources also regulate the order of the poems, shaping the structure of the book as a whole. The Canti, as I have already remarked, can be divided into four sections:

(1) Historical decline ('All' Italia'--'L' ultimo canto di Saffo').

(2) The pastoral/infinito ('Il primo amore'--'Al conte Carlo Pepoli').

(3) Critique of the pastoral/infinito ('Il risorgimento'--'A se stesso').

(4) Historical catastrophe ('Aspasia'--La ginestra').

While seeming solely to represent a fatal progression towards total historical ruin, this subdivision expresses an essential characteristic of Leopardi's mind: a passionate preoccupation with beginnings (or 'rinascimenti', as Leopardi would have it). (23) 'All' Italia' is the opening poem in the whole book., Il primo amore' and 'Il risorgimento', as is shown by such self-evident titles, initiate two contrasting sections. 'Aspasia'--a less evident beginning--starts just like the' Primo amore', 'Torna dinanzi al mio pensier' (cf. 'Tornami a mente 1, d' and celebrates the end of the poet's servitude ('contento abbracci | Senno con liberta'), that is a rebirth. 'All' Italia' is specular to 'L' ultimo canto di Saffo' , 'Il primo amore' to 'Consalvo', 'Il risorgimento' to 'A se stesso', 'Aspasia' to 'La ginestra' . Indeed, one could say that 'Il primo amore' is antithetical to 'L' ultimo canto di Saffo', 'Il risorgimento' to 'Al conte Carlo Pepoli', 'Aspasia' to 'A se stesso' .

Beginnings create thematic and tonal partitions in the book, serving not merely Leopardi's thirst for renewal and regeneration (opposed to de-generation), but a deeper quest for alternation. In the Canti, as is apparent from the subdivision I propose, the positive follows, and tends to replace, the negative. Alternation within progression appears to be the leading principle of construction of the book. However, clear-cut divisions are something that one would not want or expect to find in the poetic work of such a contradictory mind as Leopardi's. The principle of positive/negative alternation appears to be active also within each individual section--the investigation of the inner structure of which I shall leave to another occasion.

The Canti are run through by constant, irresistible impulses to return to origins (something Leopardi shares with Vico) and to resolve or repair the negative--in a virtually infinite chain of attempts. Leopardi is not a poet of solutions. We would be very unfair to his intellectual identity if we tried to make him one. Leopardi is a poet of problems--almost etymologically. (24) Leopardi puts forward questions and thus provokes provisional answers that will eventually be superseded by new questions. This is why the last poem of the Canti was not to be the late 'Palmodia' or 'La ginestra', that is a closing (or even posthumous) poem, but an earlier poem--and a light one: the 'Scherzo' . And--more important-this is why such a book as this, centred around an ultimately insoluble conflict between decline and utopia, was to be concluded by a series of juvenile poems, indeed juvenile translations of ancient poems-in which Simonides and young Leopardi become inextricably one in spite of all historical decadence and difference." (25)

NICOLA GARDINI

SAINT CROSS COLLEGE, OXFORD

(1) G. Leopardi, Zibaldone, ed. by Rolando Damiani (Milan: Mondadori, 1997), p. 222. Quotations are taken from this edition, and references are to the page numbers in Leopardi's autograph.

(2) Varietas is an important notion in the young Leopardi's literary aesthetics: see Zibaldone, pp. 189-91.

(3) On the ordering of the Canti see Domenico De Robertis, 'I "Canti": storia e testo', in his critical edition of G. Leopardi, Canti, 2 vols (Milan: Il Polifilo, 1984), i, pp. ix-cxix.

(4) On time in Petrarch's Canzoniere see Teodolinda Barolini, 'Rerum vulgarium fragmenta: The Self in the Labyrinth of Time', in The Panoptical Petrarch, ed. by Victoria Kirkham and Armando Maggi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming).

(5) Mario Andrea Rigoni, 'L'estetizzazione dell'antico', in Il pensiero di Leopardi (Milan: Bompiani, 1997), pp. 9-54.

(6) This essential notion of decline deserves careful and separate investigation. To my knowledge, no scholar of Leopardi's poetry has studied the causes of such a peculiar approach to history--not even those who appear to have addressed the issue: see, as a general introduction to Leopardi's attitude towards history, Il pensiero storico e politico di Giacomo Leopardi: Atti del VI Convegno internazionale di studi leopardiani (Recanati 9-11 settembre 1984) (Florence: Olschki, 1989), and in particular the essays 'Leopardi e la storia antica' by Massimilano Pavan (pp. 27-47) and 'Sul concetto di decadenza storica in Leopardi' by Maria de las Nieves Mu~ niz Mu~niz (pp. 375-90). To be sure, Leopardi was influenced by such texts as Cicero's Philippics, Machiavelli's Discorsi (a text whose importance for Leopardi has not yet been sufficiently underlined), and, obviously enough, Montesquieu's Grandeur et decadence des Romains--as is apparent from the Zibaldone. However, Leopardi's idea of historical decline is highly original and rests on a very idiosyncratic interpretation of the ancient world as split into two: the heroic era (whose faith in ideals and physical excellence received mortal blows from Caesar's individualism and Christianity) and the post-Augustan era (Virgil himself is not part of the heroic era for he introduced the debilitating category of 'sensibility': Zibaldone, p. 232, 6 September 1820). In reality, for Leopardi, the superiority of antiquity seems to be limited to a virtually ahistorical time mostly coinciding with the past of Greece. As far as the origins of Leopardi's notion of decline are concerned, I suspect that it may have first stemmed from his early work as a philologist. Philological speculation, based as it is on attempts to restore some ideal form, is likely to have infused into the poet's juvenile mind an idea of the classical past as a lost perfection calling for resurrection.

(7) Compare 'distrutto' in 'Ad Angelo Mai'.

(8) See also Zibaldone, p. 1322, 2 January 1822, on the ancients' custom of celebrating anniversaries.

(9) Leopardi was influenced by Alfieri's Virginia. A reference to this tragedy is to be found in Zibaldone, 60.

(10) Leopardi distinguishes neatly' amor della gloria' from' amor della patria Zilmsldone, pp. 6768. Interestingly enough, he takes his examples from ancient history and in particular from the episode of Thermopylae, to which he also refers in' All' Italia' (11. 65 ff.). A reference to the Persian wars is also included in 'A un vincitore di pallone' (11. 14 ff.).

(11) For these dedications see Giacomo Leopardi, Tutte le opere, ed. by Francesco Flora, 2 vols (Milan: Mondadori, 1973),', 147 and 148-49.

(12) See also Zibaldone, p. 58: 'Tutto si? perfezionato da Omero in poi, ma non la poesia.'

(13) On the relation of 'infinito' and 'teoria del piacere' see Zibaldone, pp. 166 ff.

(14) It may be not wholly irrelevant to note that the ceiling of Leopardi's room was covered with paintings of 'pastori e pecorelle [...] tali belleze di vita pastorale the se fosse conceduta a noi cosi fatta vita, questa gia non sarebbe terra ma paradiso, e albergo non d'uomini ma d'immortali' ('Discorso di un italiano intorno alla poesia romantica'; memories of these frescos are also to be found in 'Le ricordanze', ll. 62-63, and in the 'Vita abbozzata di Silvio Sarno')--which shows how intimate, indeed domestic and natural, Leopardi's relation to the pastoral setting must have been ever since he was a child. The interesting point here is that he recalls the painting on the ceiling, not the view from the window-which suggests that memory is already codified in terms of genre.

(15) Leopardi, Tutte le opere, 1, 566-85 (pp. 575-79).

(16) Leopardi, On the role of the Greek language in Leopardi see Franco D'Intino, 'Introduzione', in Giacomo Leopardi, Poeti greci e latini (Rome: Salerno, 1999), pp. vii-lix.

(17) Francesco De Sanctis, Leopardi, ed. by Carlo Muscetta and Antonio Perna (Turin: Einaudi, 1983), pp. 44-46. De Sanctis's essays on Leopardi derive from lectures he delivered at the University of Naples in 1876. He published them in abridged form in the newspapers Roma and Il Diritto between January 1876 and January 1878, and they were collected posthumously in an edition of 1885.

(18) See De Sanctis: 'Una prima contemplazione e l'Infinito, tutta in versi endecasillabi, senza rima, com'e l'idillio quinto di Mosco [i.e. in Leopardi's translation], e gli altri che tradusse o compose. Si vede anche nel metro la filiazione' (P.115).

(19) Franco Gavazzeni, in his over-annotated edition of the Canti (Milan: Rizzoli, 1998), neglects this intertextual correspondence and suggests that 'Sempre caro' is a 'sintagma presente nella tradizione da Guidi (Endimione v 154), a Metastasio (Demofoonte, 1 136 e 156, L' estate 120), a Monti (Iliade, XVIII 529 e 586).'

(20) As for the 'colle', this is reminiscent of Simonides' 'colle d'Antela' in 'All' Italia' (a further essential element-qua a vantage-point-in the vertical metaphorology of the Canti). The first line of 'L'infinito' appears thus to be an ingenious mise en abyme of the two competing traditions from which stems the book as a whole.

(21) P. Vergilii Maronis Opera, ed. by R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969); the translation is my own.

(22) I do not accept Luigi Blasucci's suggestion that Leopardi may have taken 'sempre' from Petrarch: see L. Blasucci, I segnali dell'infinito (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1985), p. 97.

(23) The word appears in Zibaldone, p. 193, a passage on the alternation of sleep and wakefulness.

(24) A [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [problema] is 'anything put before one as a defence, bulwark, barrier', according to the definition of Liddell and Scott: is this not a definition of' siepe'?

(25) On the conclusion of the Conti see Franco D' Intino's magisterial essay Spento il diurno roggio', in Lecturo leopardiana: i quarantuno 'Conti' e i 'Nuovi credenti', ed. by A. Maglione (Venice: Marsilio, 2003), pp. 697-717.
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Title Annotation:Giacomo Leopardi
Author:Gardini, Nicola
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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