Tag Archives: 18th century

Zibaldone

Portrait of Giacomo Leopardi by A. Ferrazzi c. 1820

Portrait of Giacomo Leopardi by A. Ferrazzi, ca. 1820

Giacomo Leopardi (b. June 29, 1798 Recanati, Italy – d. June 14, 1837 Naples) was a nineteenth century Italian poet, essayist, scholar, philosopher, philologist, and atheist. He has been ranked alongside Dante as one of the most important Italian literary figures, and praised by Schoepenhauer, Leopardi’s influence can be seen in modern modes of thought such as nihilism and existentialism. Though revered by Italians as one of their greatest thinkers, Leopardi has remained relatively obscure elsewhere. Among his important works are his Canti, a collection of poems completed in 1835, Operette Morali or “Small Moral Works”, and the Zibaldone.

Published in seven volumes in 1898, over a half century after his death, the Zibaldone is essentially a very large miscellany of observations, personal thoughts, essays, literary criticism, and philological writing. It wasn’t until 1937 when the work was republished that it became widely known as Zibaldone. Among its themes are pessimism, the human condition, and our excesses against nature. The first English translation of the work was published in Britain and America in the summer of 2013, and is over two thousand pages long.

 

From the Zibaldone (p. 2118 of Leopardi’s original manuscript, p.920 of the new English translation, FSG 2013):

It is pleasurable to be the spectator of vigorous, etc. etc., actions of any sort, not only those relative to man. Thunder, storm, hail, a strong wind, seen or heard, and its effects, etc. Every keen sensation in man brings with it a vein of pleasure, however unpleasurable it is within itself, however terrible, or painful, etc. I heard a farmer whose land was often severely damaged by a nearby river say that nonetheless the sight of the flood was a pleasure as it advanced, rushing swiftly toward his fields, with a thunderous noise, and carrying with it a great mass of rocks, mud, etc. And such images, while ugly in themselves, always turn out to be beautiful in poetry, in painting, in eloquence, etc.

 

The Zibaldone Project…

 

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Earth’s Answer

Blake's illustration and print of "Earth's Answer" in Copy B of Song's of Innocence and Experience, 1789, 1794, The British Museum

Blake’s illustration and print of “Earth’s Answer” in Copy B of Song’s of Innocence and Experience, 1789, 1794, The British Museum

Earth’s Answer by William Blake
from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, 1794

 

EARTH’S ANSWER

Earth raised up her head
From the darkness dread and drear,
Her light fled,
Stony, dread,
And her locks covered with grey despair.

Prisoned on watery shore,
Starry jealousy does keep my den
Cold and hoar;
Weeping o’er,
I hear the father of the ancient men.

Selfish father of men!
Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!
Can delight,
Chained in night,
The virgins of youth and morning bear.

Does spring hide its joy,
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower
Sow by night,
Or the ploughman in darkness plough?

Break this heavy chain,
That does freeze my bones around!
Selfish, vain,
Eternal bane,
That free love with bondage bound.

 

Books by or about William Blake

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Signor Formica

E. T. A. Hoffmann, Self-portrait?, oil on canvas, ca. 1822, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

E. T. A. Hoffmann, Self-portrait?, oil on canvas, ca. 1822, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Salvator Rosa, Self-portrait, oil on canvas, 1645, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg

Salvator Rosa, Self-portrait, oil on canvas, 1645, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salvator Rosa (?1615 – March 15, 1673) was an Italian, Baroque artist and poet known for his eccentric, proto-Romantic paintings. He was the subject of a fictional tale by the fantastic Romantic author, E.T.A. Hoffman, (24 January 1776 – 25 June 1822), best known for his weird tales of fantasy and horror. The story is called Signor Formica, and was published in the book, Weird Tales, Vol. I from 1885.

Here are some excerpts…

At the time that Salvator’s fame was ringing through Naples, Rome, and Tuscany—nay, through all Italy, and painters who were desirous of gaining applause were striving to imitate his peculiar and unique style, his malicious and envious rivals were laboring to spread abroad all sorts of evil reports intended to sully with ugly black stains the glorious splendor of his artistic fame. They affirmed that he had at a former period of his life belonged to a company of banditti, and that it was to his experiences during this lawless time that he owed all the wild, fierce, fantastically-attired figures which he introduced into his pictures…

Salvator Rosa, Landscape with Armed Men, oil on canvas, circa 1640, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Salvator Rosa, Landscape with Armed Men, oil on canvas, circa 1640, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

…The rumor ran that Aniello Falcone, the painter of battle-pieces, one of the best of Salvator’s masters, had been stung into fury and filled with bloodthirsty vengeance because the Spanish soldiers had slain one of his relatives in a hand-to-hand encounter. Without delay he leagued together a band of daring spirits, mostly young painters, put arms into their hands, and gave them the name of the “Company of Death.”

This is the ferocious band of which Salvator Rosa was alleged to have been a member, working hard at butchering his fellow-men by day, and by night working just as hard at painting…

More of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s work, including his famous novel, The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, here…

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Night Scenes, Joanna Baillie

Befitting the season, here is a dramatic, ghostly poem from Scottish poet and playwright,
Joanna Baillie. It was originally published in her collection, Poems, from 1790.

Engraving of Joanna Baillie by H. Robinson after a portrait by Sir William Newton

Engraving of Joanna Baillie by H. Robinson after a portrait by Sir William Newton

NIGHT SCENES OF OTHER TIMES
A Poem in Three Parts by Joanna Baillie

PART I

“The wild winds bellow o’er my head,
And spent eve’s fading light;
Where shall I find some friendly shed
To screen me from…

 

 

 

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