The Scapigliatura movement
In the 1860’s, there flourished a movement in Milan called thescapigliatura, from the disheveled or Bohemian appearance of its members, who reacted against the traditional forms of late Romanticism in their desire to achieve a spontaneous artistic expression. They looked toward such non-Italian poets as Gérard de Nerval, Charles Baudelaire, Henri Murger, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and Heinrich Heine, and their work exhibited overtones of Decadence (art for art’s sake), realism, and Satanism. At their worst, they substituted allegory and symbol for genuine thought and feeling.
Emilio Praga (1839-1875), a painter as well as a poet, wrote in the style of Baudelaire and died of alcoholism. The nostalgic motifs of his poetry are couched in pessimism and sensuality and can hardly be classified as examples of realistic writing. Arrigo Boito (1842-1918), offspring of an Italian father and a Polish mother, who ranks second after Giuseppe Verdi among Italian composers of the late nineteenth century, wrote poetry that sadly and sternly evokes the past, but his best lyric work, such as the legend of Re orso (king bear), has today been forgotten. Giovanni Camerana (1845-1905), also a painter, who committed suicide at the age of sixty, wrote landscape poetry with a painter’s eye for color and form.
Peripheral to the scapigliati were Vittorio Betteloni (1840-1910), who was drawn to realism—a translator of Lord Byron and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and a forerunner of the crepuscular movement—and his friend Olindo Guerrini (pseudonym of Lorenzo Stecchetti; 1845-1916), known for his peculiar brand of realism that approached pornography and for his satirical view of politicians.
While the scapigliatura movement failed to produce any great work of poetry, it created a commotion of new ideas from which other rebellious movements arose. Indeed, it could be argued that the decadent aspect of the poetry of Giovanni Pascoli and Gabriele D’Annunzio represents a continuation of the precepts of the scapigliati.
At that time, there arose a giant of a poet who would command and receive such respect from the Italian people as is rare in modern times, and who would receive the first Nobel Prize awarded to an Italian (1906). The Tuscan Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907)—rebellious, republican, and anticlerical—presented a drastic contrast to Abbe Zanella, who had fought for the Catholic ideal of a confederated Italy under the authority of a liberal pope. Carducci instead wrote “Inno a Satana” (“Hymn to Satan”); although Carducci’s Satan is a progressive “avenging force of Reason” rather than a prince of darkness, Carducci continued for many years to harbor a grudge in response to what he deemed Pope Pius IX’s betrayal of Italy in the...
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