|Giacomo Leopardi, Count (June 29, 1798; June 14, 1837)
Italian poet and scholar. Devoted to the study of the classics and philosophy from early childhood, although plagued by illness and physical and spiritual frustration, Leopardi became one of the most formidable linguists, thinkers, and writers of his time. His pessimistic view of the world became increasingly uncompromising. His Canti [songs] (1816—37) represent the flowering of his poetry, which rests on a tension between past and present, innocence and rational consciousness. He spoke with romantic yearning for physical and spiritual oneness, even as he pointed to the unbridgeable gulf that separated people from one another and from salvation. Leopardi was a liberal and agnostic at a time when independence of thought was dangerous in Italy. Many of his works were deeply patriotic and contemptuous of the Italian rulers of his day. He wrote political and social satire in the ironic dialogues entitled Operette morali (1826—27, tr. Essays, Dialogues, and Thoughts, 1893 and 1905). A complete edition of his works was issued in 1845 by his friend Antonio Ranieri. Leopardi is considered Italy's outstanding 19th-century poet.