Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Giacomo Leopardi was a child prodigy who began exercising both his talents and his erudition at the age of eleven. While as a poet he is best known for the Canti (literally, “songs”), and to some extent for the political satire The War of the Mice and the Crabs and other lyrical poems not included in the Canti, he did leave a great number of shorter poetic pieces or fragments, including translations, together with a similar number of brief prose pieces which in the aggregate round out an active literary personality. His philosophical “Imitazione,” on Antoine Vincent Arnaut’s “La Feuille,” is possibly of 1818, or of 1828, the year of his polemical poem on style, “Scherzo.” Four or five years before, he had translated freely a fragment of Simonides, and followed it with another translation of the same author. As early as 1809, inspired by Homer’s Iliad (c. 800 b.c.e.), Leopardi produced his first poem, “La morte di Ettore,” and in 1812 he wrote Pompeo in Egitto, a tragedy denouncing tyranny. A number of extant poetic fragments cannot be dated accurately. In 1819, Leopardi wrote the pastoral tragedy Telesilla. In addition, there were many prose works, such as the remarkably erudite Storia dell’astronomia (1813; History of Astronomy, 1882), ranging from the beginning of the science to the comet of 1811, and the long Saggio sopra gli errori popolari degli antichi...

(The entire section is 524 words.)