Giosuè Carducci Carducci, Giosue - Essay


(Poetry Criticism)

Giosue Carducci 1835-1907

(Also wrote under the pseudonym Enotrio Romano) Italian poet, essayist, and critic.

Regarded as the finest Italian poet of the late nineteenth century, Carducci was also a noted classicist and accomplished writer of essays and criticism. His neo-classical ideals of reason, action, and nature evinced his strong reaction against the predominantly romantic and sentimental mode of works written by his Italian contemporaries in the earlier nineteenth century. Carducci also vehemently opposed the monarchy and the Catholic Church, believing them to be responsible for inhibiting progress towards the unification of Italy. He employed his literary talents to voice these controversial opinions. In his poetry, Carducci drew from Italy's rich historical tradition in an attempt to inspire his countrymen and restore a more heroic age. He additionally utilized classical Greek and Latin forms and conventions to impart his pagan ideals, perhaps most successfully in his collection Odi barbare (1877; The Barbarian Odes.) For his exceptional poetry, Carducci was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1906.

Biographical Information

Born in 1835 in Val di Castello, Tuscany, Carducci inherited much of his political fervor from his father, a local physician and patriotic believer in the unification of Italy. The Carducci family moved to Tuscan Maremma when Giosue was three. During his time there, Carducci attended the local school and learned Latin and Italian from his father. He also discovered his love of nature while exploring the Tuscan countryside, a place he would allude to frequently in his subsequent poetry. In 1848, the family was forced to move again, this time to Florence, when his father's political ties caused their home to be destroyed. In Florence, Carducci began a formal education and proved to be an excellent student, which led to his attendance at the prestigious Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa. After acquiring his teaching certificate and degree in Philosophy and Philology (Classics), Carducci began teaching Rhetoric (Latin Language and Literature) at San Miniato al Tedesco, a local university near Florence. Although he managed to get his first volume of poetry published at his own expense in 1857, he lost his teaching position due to his continued outspoken political and literary disagreements with the local press. In November of that same year, his brother Dante committed suicide, an event that devastated Carducci and received mention in some of his most poignant poems. His father died less than a year later, making Carducci the primary financial supporter of his family. He settled in Florence editing classical texts for literary journals and teaching private lessons. In 1859, he married Elvira Menicucci. A new opportunity presented itself the following year when the minister of education appointed him the Chair of Literature at the renowned University of Bologna. He was a popular teacher, which brought both financial security and the opportunity to write consistently, sometimes under the pseudonym Enotrio Romano for more controversial works. After the unification of Italy, Carducci's career flourished, but his personal life suffered when his mother and his only son died. In 1871, he turned to another woman for consolation, Carolina Priva, who was a married mother of four children. Addressing her as Lidia or Lina in his poetry, Carducci continued the affair for over seven years. Toward the end of the relationship, Carducci's interest in politics prompted him to run for and win a seat in Parliament in 1876. Unfortunately, due to a threshold on the number of teachers permitted, he was unable to serve his term. Carolina died of tuberculosis in 1881, leaving Carducci to lean on a former acquaintance, Dafne Gargiolli, for whom he wrote many poems until she remarried in 1887. A relationship with twenty-one year old Annie Vivanti inspired poems contained in Rime e ritmi (1899; The Lyrics and Rhythms), his last collection. Illness forced him to stop teaching in 1904. In 1906, three months before his death, Carducci was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Major Works

Among Carducci's earliest works of verse, the provocatively titled Inno a Satana (1865; which may be translated as Hymn to Satan) praises the poet's ‘pagan’ principals of reason and rebellion. In the work, Carducci strongly criticized the pope, whom he believed was a major factor in preventing Italian unification. He used classical Greek and Latin metrical and verse forms to support his political views more extensively in Giambi ed epodi (1882; which may be translated as Iambics and Epodes). In a representative poem from this volume, “Ripresa: Avanti! Avanti!” (first published in 1872), galloping horses represent Carducci and his peers, and reflect the poet's disappointment and anger in seeing that his work has had little effect in stirring a hoped for revolution. This anger is much tempered in his most highly regarded poems, the Odi barbare (1877; translated as Barbarian Odes), which place contemporary Italian politics within the broadened and valorizing contexts of Roman and Italian history. Carducci's command of meter in conjunction with his ability to descriptively evoke the atmosphere of the Adriatic Sea provides the setting for tragic adventure in “Miramar,” a piece from Barbarian Odes. In other works, Carducci applied his mastery of classical meter and unrhymed verse to more personal matters, including those he addressed to “Lina.” In one of his most notable poems of this type, “Alla stazione in una mattina d'autunno” (which may be translated as “To the Station On an Autumn Morning”), Carducci says one of many farewells to his mistress, in the process revealing some of his most intimate lyrical verse. The Rime nuove (1887; The New Lyrics) marks a significant departure for Carducci in its use of Italian forms and other modern principles rather than previously preferred Greek and Latin conventions. “Nostalgia”, from this collection, again offers vibrant natural imagery, but this time to suggest the idyllic countryside of his carefree youth. Furthermore, his application of contemporary forms and subjects shows Carducci broadening his literary tastes and skills. His final book, Rime e ritmi, demonstrates a blend of Italian and classical principles and themes.

Critical Reception

Critics in the late nineteenth century were initially divided in opinion on Carducci's work. The publication of Inno a Satana created adversarial relationships with some. To his contemporaries, the somewhat extreme opinions contained in his works generally elicited strong reactions and exerted a greater influence on critics than the merit of his poetry. After Italian unification, acclaim was virtually unanimous, however, as Carducci became an important voice for his struggling nation. In addition, his affair with Carolina Priva brought a heightened emotional sensibility to his work, which for many made it more accessible and increasingly popular with critics. Opinions of Carducci's last work, Rime e ritmi, were harsh, with many criticizing the volume for its lack of progression in ideas or technique. In the twentieth century, Carducci's work began to receive notice outside of Italy, among critics from Northern Europe and the United States, where opinions ranged from acclamation to subdued indifference. Critics have since pondered whether his poetry is meaningful outside of Italy, while others have noted the difficulty in translating his work. Most scholars agree, nevertheless, that Carducci is without equal as the leading figure in Italian poetry during the late nineteenth century.

Principal Works

(Poetry Criticism)

Rime 1857; revised as Juvenilia, 1880

Inno a Satana [as Enotrio Romano] 1865

Levia gravia 1868; revised, 1881

Poesie: Decennalia, Levia gravia, Juvenilia 1871

Primavere elleniche 1872

Nuove poesie [as Enotrio Romano] 1873

Odi barbare [The Barbarian Odes] 1877

Giambi ed epodi 1882

Nuove odi barbare 1882

Ça ira 1883

Rime nuove [The New Lyrics] 1887

Terze odi barbare 1889

Rime e ritmi [The Lyrics and Rhythms] 1899

Carducci: A Selection of His Poems 1913

Political and Satirical Verse 1942

Studi letterari (criticism) 1874

Eterno Femminino Regale (memoir) 1882

Discorsi storici e letterari (criticism) 1899

Edinburgh Review (essay date April 1882)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Modern Italian Poets: Cossa and Carducci.” Edinburgh Review 155, no. 317 (April 1882): 49-60.

[The following excerpt highlights examples of Carducci's poetry to emphasize his frank perspective and literary talents.]

Contemporary Italian literature is comparatively so little known in England that many readers may possibly see in these pages the name of Giosué Carducci for the first time. Yet it can be said without exaggeration that in the general estimation of his countrymen he holds the first place among living Italian poets. Different from Cossa in many qualities of mind and temperament, he differs from him also in the precocious manifestation of his...

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W. B. Wallace (essay date April 1903)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Wallace, W. B. “A Tuscan Horace.” Westminster Review 159, no. 4 (April 1903): 410-14.

[In the following essay, Wallace finds the spirit of Carducci's writing comparable to that of Latin poet Horace.]

It is an open secret that Italy, our good friend and faithful ally, can only maintain her present position as a Great Power at the cost of tremendous sacrifices; her history, even in our own days, has been checkered with disasters, if not humiliations; but under all these discouragements the golden shell of poesy has never fallen from her grasp, and the swans of song have never utterly forsaken the banks of her Eridanus. The genius of Greece, the most splendid...

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Westminster Review (essay date July 1905)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Giosue Carducci: A Character Sketch.” Westminster Review 164, no. 1 (July 1905): 53-65.

[In the following essay, the unsigned critic proposes that Carducci exemplified many of the ideals contained in his poetry, and examines Carducci's influence during his lifetime.]

Italian modern literature has no greater representative than Giosue Carducci, a true-born poet of lofty ideals, to which he gave such a sublime form as to make him classic in his own times. Occasionally he was very much discussed, not for his literary merits—which were universally admitted as being unsurpassable—but owing to a fanciful interpretation given to his political writings, now by...

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Living Age (essay date 16 March 1907)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: “Giosuè Carducci.” Living Age 34, no. 3271 (16 March 1907): 698-700.

[The following essay pays tribute to Carducci shortly after his death.]

In Carducci rather than in any other Italian modern Italy seems to be summed up and expressed; he is the father as it were of the new generation, and his work in his art, like theirs in politics, is a struggle first for liberty and then for unity; his praise is that he achieved both and restored Poetry to Italy.

Born in 1836 in Valdicastello, near Pietrasanta, in the very garden of Tuscany, he came of an old family that had given a Gonfaloniere to Florence but was poor, his father being a doctor in...

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J. Slingsby Roberts (essay date April 1908)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Roberts, J. Slingsby. “Giosue Carducci.” Quarterly Review 208, no. 415 (April 1908): 293-321.

[In the following essay, Roberts analyzes the accessibility of Carducci's work, particularly to non-Italians.]

There are certain writers whose privilege it seems to give to the contemporary genius of their country an adequate expression in literature. They neither follow public opinion nor lead it, for their minds are so constituted that they are almost certain to find themselves in accord with their countrymen. Tennyson is an instance in England, and in France Victor Hugo. Tennyson united the gifts of an incomparable literary artist with the convictions of an...

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Beulah B. Amram (essay date January 1916)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Amram, Beulah B. “Swinburne and Carducci.” Yale Review 5, no. 2 (January 1916): 365-81.

[In the following essay, Amran compares the life and poetry of Carducci to that of English Victorian poet Algernon Swinburne.]

The first decade of the twentieth century saw two giant branches lopped off the tree of European literature. When Algernon Charles Swinburne died in 1909 at the age of seventy-two, England lost the last of her great Victorian poets. When Giosuè Carducci died in 1907 at the age of seventy-one, Italy lost her one incontestably great poet, her greatest literary figure since Leopardi. There is much interesting comparison to be drawn between these...

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Ruth Shepard Phelps (essay date 1924)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Phelps, Ruth Shepard. “Giosuè Carducci.” In Italian Silhouettes, pp. 11-32. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1924.

[In the following essay, Phelps studies Carducci's political, religious, and emotional roots. In the second section, Phelps observes that Carducci brought new and sometimes radical ideas to the Italian public by using forms and meters of the classical tradition.]


It is a commonplace to say that the nations of the North have seen in Italy from the first the home of romance, the pleasure-place of the imagination. And they have always delighted to heighten her effects. From Chaucer to Walter Pater she has ever been the land...

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Mario Praz (essay date 1935)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Praz, Mario. “Giosue Carducci As a Romantic.” University of Toronto Quarterly 5 (1935): 176-96.

[In the following article, Praz maintains that though Carducci scorned romanticism, his poetry shows romantic tendencies.]

Giosue Carducci was born at Valdicastello, in the district of Pietrasanta in Versilia, on July 27, 1835. The poet's centenary has been celebrated in Italy with speeches and articles, and has seen the publication of the first volumes of the National Edition of his works. The year 1935 was indeed an anno carducciano for Italy, and such it was thanks to one aspect, certainly the most typical of this poet, which makes him popular in...

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Eugenio Donadoni (essay date 1969)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Donadoni, Eugenio. “Giosuè Carducci.” In A History of Italian Literature, pp. 455-87. New York: New York University, 1969.

[In the following essay, Donadoni follows Carducci's career path and classifies Carducci's poems chronologically into groupings of landscape, introspection, political poetry, and lyrics that combined these characteristics.]

Writing within a prevailingly Romanticist or Manzonian generation, the figure of Giosuè Carducci was that of a restorer of the classical tradition. His style and language, as though reverting to the somewhat solemn modes of Foscolo, departed from the “spoken” character of Manzonian prose and recovered a native...

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Christopher Cairns (essay date 1977)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Cairns, Christopher. “Giosuè Carducci.” In Italian Literature: The Dominant Themes, pp. 68-70. Devon, U.K.: David & Charles Limited, 1977.

[In the following essay, Cairns examines historical, patriotic, and political themes in Carducci's poetry.]

Carducci's life had the unification of Italy at its centre, as can be seen from his dates, 1835-1907. He was not without companion poets—such as Mameli, Mercantini, Prati and Aleardi—to chronicle the Risorgimento political conscience, but Carducci came to be looked on as the official poet of the new Italy, and his poems survive the test of time better than many by his contemporaries. Thus Carducci...

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Silvano Garofalo (essay date 1979)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Garofalo, Silvano. “Giosuè Carducci.” In Dictionary of Italian Literature, pp. 100-03. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, Inc., 1979.

[In the following essay, Garofolo discusses themes of nature and Roman history in Carducci's works.]

Carducci, Giosuè (1835-1907), poet, critic, and scholar. Son of a doctor and the oldest of three children, Carducci spent most of his childhood in Bolgheri, south of Livorno, the setting of two of his finer poems, “Davanti San Guido” (“Before San Guido”) and “Idillio Maremmano” (“The Idyll of Maremma”). His republican political views gave way to acceptance of the monarchy with the annexation of Rome to the...

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Nicolas J. Perella (essay date 1979)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Perella, Nicolas J. “Giosuè Carducci.” In Midday in Italian Literature, pp. 98-107. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979.

[In the following essay, Perella explores Carducci's recurring use of midday in his poetry.]

For the most part we are far from such negative noontide violence in the writings of Giosue Carducci, where it is rather the splendor and glory of the midday sun that illuminate more than one scene. In considering the role of midday in Carducci, we may begin with the idyllic and nostalgic evocation of “Idillio maremmano” (“Idyll of the Maremma”). Here, at the center of the world-weary poet's vision of a simple and healthy...

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Remo Catani (essay date 1993)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Catani, Remo. “The Mixed Blessings of Tradition: An Examination of Carducci's ‘Idillio maremmano.’” In Italian Lyric Tradition: Essays in Honour of F. J. Jones pp. 73-90. Cardiff, U.K.: University of Wales Press, 1993.

[In the following essay, Catani uses “Il maremmano” to showcase Carducci using the classical form to avoid rather than temper emotion.]

When, after long gestation, Giosue Carducci eventually came to compose ‘Idillio maremmano’ in September 1872, he was Professor of Italian Literature at Bologna and an established poet, patriot and public figure.1 Much to the annoyance of his wife Elvira Menicucci, he had for some time...

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David H. Higgins (essay date 1994)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Higgins, David H. “Commentaries & Notes.” In Giosue Carducci: Selected Verse, pp. 227-63. Warminster, U.K.: Aris & Phillips Ltd., 1994.

[In the following commentary, Higgins provides extensive background information to some of Carducci's best works.]


Written in September 1863 (although not completed until its publication two years later), the poem was recited first at a dinner-party amongst friends as a toast (brindisi). ‘To Satan’ sums up pungently and colourfully Carducci's progressive principles (what he later called his ‘razionalismo radicale’). It is, in effect, a challenging manifesto of his...

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Further Reading

(Poetry Criticism)


Higgins, David H. Introduction to Giosue Carducci: Selected Verse, pp. 1-32. Warminster, U.K.: Aris & Phillips Ltd., 1994.

Provides extensive biographical information on Carducci's life.


“The poetry of Carducci.” Edinburgh Review 209, no. 428 (April 1909): 338-62.

Thorough examination of Carducci's best works, including Odi barbare.

Garnett, Richard. “Carducci.” In A History of Italian Literature, pp. 396-402. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1898.

Analyzes specific elements that made Carducci the...

(The entire section is 169 words.)