21 April, 2009

Giovanni Pascoli

Giovanni Pascoli was an Italian poet and classical scholar.

Pascoli was born at San Mauro di Romagna (rechristened "San Mauro Pascoli" after his death), into a wealthy family.

He had a tragic childhood, struck by the murder of his father and the early deaths of his mother, sister and two brothers, and the subsequent economical decline of the family. The father's assassination echoes in particular in one of his most popular poems, "La cavallina storna" . His whole first work, Myricae (1891), reflects his unhappy childhood.

In 1871 he moved to Rimini with six of his brothers. Here he made friends with Andrea Costa, and began to participate in Socialist demonstrations. This led to another key event in Pascoli's life, his brief imprisonment in Bologna's jail after a protest against the capture of the anarchist Giovanni Passannante.

Pascoli studied at the University of Bologna, and his teacher and mentor was Giosuè Carducci. He graduated there in 1882, and began to teach in high schools at Matera and Massa. Here he lived next to his sisters Ida and Maria, in an attempt to renew the original family, building a "nest" (as he called it) for the sisters and himself. It is widely accepted that he never married because of an immature and somewhat ambiguous relationship with his sisters. From 1887 to 1895 he taught in Livorno.

In the meantime he began to collaborate with the magazine Vita nuova, which published the first poems later collected in Myricae. In 1894 Pascoli was called in Rome to work for the Ministry of Public Instruction, and there he published the first version of the Poemi conviviali. Later he moved to several cities such as Bologna, Florence and Messina, but remained always psychologically rooted to his original, idealized peasant origins.

In 1895 he moved, together with his sister Maria, in their house at Castelvecchio, near Barga, in Tuscany, which he had bought with money gained from literary awards. The political and social turmoil of the early 20th century, which was to lead to Italy's participation in World War I and to the advent of Fascism, further streghtened Pascoli's unsafety and pessimism.

From 1897 to 1903 he taught Latin at the University of Messina, and then at Pisa. When Carducci retired, Pascoli replaced him as the recipient of the Literature Chair at the University of Bologna. In 1912, already ill of cirrhosis (caused by his frequent use of alcohol), Giovanni Pascoli died by liver cancer.

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