Giacomo Leopardi (Giacomo Leopardi - The Romantic View of Nature and the Poetics of “Infinito”)
358 pages, A5 format, Hardcover
Oh, graceful moon, I can remember, now / … / and you were hanging then above those woods / the way you do now, lighting everything.
――To the Moon (1820)
Perhaps, if I had wings / To soar above the clouds / And count the stars one by one, / Or like the thunder roam from peak to peak, / I would be happier, my sweet flock, / I would be happier, virgin moon.
――Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia (1830)
Have you have ever heard the name Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1897), the “poet who sang of the moon”? It is known that the philosophers Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were influenced by his pessimistic thought; and his name also appears in Natsume Soseki’s Gubijinso [The Poppy], Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s Shuju no Kotoba [Dwarf’s Words], and Mishima Yukio’s Haru no Yuki [Spring Snow].
In Italy, Leopardi is considered to be the greatest poet of modern era, and his works are always read in Italian language classes in junior high and high schools. However, his works are not popular at all in Japan. In fact, only one monograph on research on Leopardi has been published in Japan, in the early Showa period, until date (Torao Tsutsumi, Study on Leopardi, a Pessimistic Poet, Nishosha, 1931, Expanded edition: Study on Leopardi, Muramatsu Shokan, 1988), and translations of his two major works have only recently been published in the 21st century (lyric poems Canti and prose works Operette morali, bound in one volume, translated by Isao Waki and Motohiko Hashiramoto, The University of Nagoya Press, 2006).
This is the second research book on Leopardi written by a Japanese author, which has attempted to explore his poetic sentiments and thoughts.
In the first part, I examined his poetics and worldview in detail, considering the points that have not yet been clarified by the various studies conducted in Italy, and then further discussed the possibility of an interconnection between the two. The poetical ideas of Leopardi, who lived at the turning point of the times, were both classical and romantic. His poetics oscillated between the optimistic worldview of “nature in harmony (well-ordered)” —which was conventional until the 18th century— and the pessimistic worldview of “nature that brings agony and misfortune to humankind,” which is strongly projected into his works.
The second part has focused on the lyric poems Canti (which means “Songs”), examining its core themes and motifs (including “Moon”) from the aspects of vocabulary, literary style (language / rhetoric), and phonetics. In particular, the main purpose of this section is to conduct a detailed analysis of the “poetics of infinito,” as represented by the 1819 verselet L’Infinito, that runs through his whole creative activities as if it were an ideé fixe. The aspiration of infinito reminds us of German Romanticism, but it has his own breadth and depth of meaning. I hope that Leopardi’s “poetics of infinito” will interest you.
(Written by: FURUTA Yasushi / September 05, 2022)
The 2nd UTokyo Jiritsu Award for Early Career Academics (The University of Tokyo 2021)