Gabriele D'Annunzio Gabriele D'Annunzio Poetry Analysis

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Gabriele D'Annunzio Poetry Analysis

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

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The “D’Annunzio phenomenon” has stirred a century-long argument between Gabriele D’Annunzio’s admirers and detractors, and his reputation has endured alternating periods of favor and disfavor, often related to historical circumstances. Later, under the impetus of a revival both in Italy and abroad, his works were reevaluated in the light of new critical methods.

Considering the number of D’Annunzio’s poetry collections, novels, plays, and memoirs, it would be unrealistic to expect a consistent artistic level throughout his oeuvre, but it should be recognized that, in its vastness and diversity, his work is an invaluable documentation of half a century of European intellectual life. In this perspective, it is difficult to isolate certain verse collections from the context of his entire production. The pattern of receptivity and experimentation that characterizes D’Annunzio’s poetry can only be appreciated by following the arc of his poetic achievement from Primo vere to Le laudi, where the voice of the poet reaches the plenitude of his expressive means.

Primo vere

In Primo vere, the choice of language, images, and versification is clearly inspired by Giosuè Carducci’s model. A second edition of the work in 1880, enriched with fifty-nine new poems, offers greater insight. The delicate musicality of certain verses, the attention devoted to the description of landscapes as the privileged scenery for love encounters, anticipate the distinctive tone which D’Annunzio was to achieve in Canto novo. The driving inspiration of this collection is the poet’s yearning for identification with nature. A pervasive pagan sensuality saturates the atmosphere as nature and man vibrate with the same impulses: A woman’s breath has the perfume of the forest, and her haunches are like those of an antelope; lovers are entwined like “virgin trees interlacing their branches.” The metaphors unify Earth, sea, and man in a vitalistic élan in which all forms merge.

Canto novo

Canto novo establishes the alternation between two themes which constitutes a favorite pattern of D’Annunzio’s dialectic: an unresolved conflict between the vitalistic impetus and a fin de siècle introspection and sadness. The tendency to magnify the elegiac and melancholic component in the poet’s writings is evident in the prevalent interpretation of the collection’s most celebrated poem, “O falce di luna calante” (oh, sickle of waning moon), which has often been read as an expression of weariness and consuming despair; as Barberi Squarotti has noted in Invito alla lettura di D’Annunzio (1982), this interpretation takes the poem out of its context in the collection, for the next poem is an invitation to another day of joyous life and love.

Intermezzo di rime

D’Annunzio’s negative note decidedly does prevail, however, in Intermezzo di rime, which was later revised and published under the shorter title Intermezzo. This new collection presented a sharp change in versification, tone, and inspiration. Influenced by the French Parnassian school, D’Annunzio abandoned Carducci’s versification for the traditional meters of sonnets and ballads. The volume also reveals a renewed taste for mythological reminiscence, while the polished elegance of the compositions suggests a new concern with aestheticism. Here, closed gardens substitute for natural landscapes, bucolic pagan eroticism gives way to a refined experimentation with morbid sensuality, and vitalism turns into sadistic cruelty. The entire collection is informed by a spirit of willful transgression. The protagonist, “l’Adolescente,” dissipates his vital energies in enervating lust. His attempt to achieve full control of life through the exaltation of the senses results in failure, as the satisfaction of pure sensuality rapidly wears out in disgust.

Several other important themes make their first appearance in this collection: the promenade, a privileged moment for erotic emotions; woman, the luxurious...

(The entire section is 1,860 words.)