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Canti

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  1,977 ratings  ·  99 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book for 2011

Giacomo Leopardi is Italy's greatest modern poet, the first European writer to portray and examine the self in a way that feels familiar to us today. A great classical scholar and patriot, he explored metaphysical loneliness in entirely original ways. Though he died young, his influence was enormous, and it is no exaggeration to say th
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Hardcover, 528 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1835)
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Eadweard
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Read in memory of a dear friend.
You will be missed.





Human life was made of vanities,             
glad fantasies, and strange ideas:             
we chased after them together; what survives,             
now that the green has been leached out of things?

The certain, lonely knowledge
that everything is vain but grief.
---



Fate is heartless             
and denies fair weather             
to human courage,       

and a pure heart won’t survive
in a weak breast.
---


All is mystery except our pain.
---



Oh in y
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Alan
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Leopardi died just under forty, so possibly his many poems about dying grow from his own health, but they may also derive from his Romantic replacement of religion—like Keats’s odes, the Nightingale “My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains/ My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk…,” or his Grecian Urn, or even his To Autumn. Leopardi was my first Italian mentor’s favorite poet outside his Medieval specialty— John McNally, Chaucerian at the U of Minnesota. Since my mentor was a hilarious f ...more
Debbie Zapata
This poetry collection was a little bit out of the ordinary for me. I usually read poems in fits and starts, savoring them as I go along with other things, and sometimes a collection can take much longer to work through than you would think. And I don't always read about the poet while I am reading the poems, unless I am stumped for any idea of what they are trying to say.

When I was setting this title up on my currently reading shelf I noticed a review which said the poems were very depressing.
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ROC
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Odi et amo, quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
"
- Catullus

Ornate and often dreamlike, experiencing Canti is like exploring the Hellenistic ruins Leopardi was so fond of: splendorous in youth, now turned barren by time.

Masterfully tuned in both style and evocation, you can see why Nietzsche called Leopardi one of the four finest prose stylists of the 19th century, and indeed one of Italy's greatest poets.

Though known for his pessimism, this wasn't due to pe
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William
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Leopardi's poetic lamentations are an inevitable conclusion of the universe. Everything is assaulted, demeaned, condemned as simply a stain on the perfection of silence, infinitude, and that which cannot recognize the despicable Other...
Natalija
Mar 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
He likes Italy and dead girls too much.
Breslin White
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this seemingly good English translation of Mr. Townsend, we get a rare look at Italian syntax which is unseen in English. Take a look at the following poem:

To The Spring

Now that the sun the faded charms
Of heaven again restores,
And gentle zephyr the sick air revives,
And the dark shadows of the clouds
Are put to flight,
And birds their naked breasts confide
Unto the wind, and the soft light,
With new desire of love, and with new hope,
The conscious beasts, in the deep woods,
Amid the melting frosts,
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Mauberley
If you love poetry, why haven't your read this book?

If you answer that you have never heard of its author (Giacomo Leopardi), after visiting this page, you no longer have that excuse. Once in a very great while we read something that changes our life and this, dear friend, is one of those books. Sincerest congratulations to John Galassi for his wonderful translations and very helpful notes. His suggestion that a newcomer should begin with the idylls is well heeded. However, the bays and laurels
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Lorena
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Srtange how reading for pleasure changes everything. I hated Leopardi growing up, having to study him in school. I thought of him as a loner, even a looser. I was wrong- he was a smart man, way ahead of his time, who had a magic way with words.
Marc
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Read in Dutch translation. Very cumbersome and dark undertone.
Some gems:
XIX to Count Carlo Pepoli: life doesn't make sense, but we try to live it; is a program poem!
XXV on Saturdays in the village: beautiful, restrained description, with wistful undertone;
XXVI the overriding thought: perfect ode to love, in this valley of tears; much more cordial and brisk than all other poems together
Alejandro Saint-Barthélemy
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favourites, italia
Leopardi feels like a pure drop in an ocean of noise.
I highly recommended him to those who want some antidote to contemporary art, contemporary poetry, e-love affairs and one-night stands, shalowness, foolishness, irony…
An antidote to living in the city too.
Compared to French XIX century poets, Leopardi sounds like a man from the XVI century or even from Dante's times, and, paradoxically or not, that's what makes him great.
Leopardi wrote like an alien, indeed.
A loose translation that I hope
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H James
Apr 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
Anyone who, like me, instinctively thinks of poetry as an out-of-date, out-of-touch, only-appreciable-by-college-freshmen form of expression should approach this book with full awareness that Leopardi's poems, being 200 years old, are most definitely out-of-date and out-of-touch. The translation may be new, but subject matter (nostalgia for war, awe of nature, general anguish) is so timeworn that it's hard to image a time when it wasn't clichéd.

Two canti struck me as less bad than the rest: "L'i
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Ayan Scratuglia
Nov 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"These solitary hills have always been dear to me.
Seated here, this sweet hedge, which blocks the distant horizon opening inner silences and interminable distances.
I plunge in thought to where my heart, frightened, pulls back.
Like the wind which I hear tossing the trembling plants which surround me, a voice from the inner depths of spirit shakes the certitudes of thought.
Eternity breaks through time, past and present intermingle in her image.
In the inner shadows I lose myself,
drowning in the
...more
Lisajean
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Italians adore Leopardi for good reason. He was writing in the 19th century, but this feels more modern and relevant. The theme that runs throughout the collection is how depressing and lonely life is, but the poems are so beautifully written that they uplift the somber subjects. I found the poems about Italy particularly interesting, as there's a lot of nostalgia for past greatness, love for the country, and a lack of optimism for the future.
J.W.D. Nicolello
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Leopardi makes me want to write serious poetry. Ordering copies of this and that colossal Z book. Hart Crane nightmare. Bacchic orgy. Shipwreck Italia. Spleen.
Josh
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some great poems (especially "the infinite" and "remembrances") although my copy was only 175 pages so unsure if some have been left out.
Meaningless
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, poetry
Hopes, hopes: O bright illusions
of my early years! Whenever I talk
I come around to you, for though time passes
and affections and ideas change,
I can’t forget you. Yes, I understand
glory and honor are phantoms;
joys and things mere wishes; life produces nothing,
only senseless suffering. Yet though my years
are empty, though my mortal life
is barren and lightless, I can see
that fate’s depriving me of little.
Yet sometimes I think back on you, old hopes of mine,
and my sweet first imagining, and then
I l
...more
Dale Boyer
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Giacomo Leopardi - Canti (trans Jonathan Galassi)

Despite being considered one of Italy's greatest poets, Leopardi is not well known in the United States. Indeed, I naively bought this book thinking he was a contemporary Italian poet, only to learn his dates were actually 1798-1837.
So, this is antique poetry, but poetry of the most beautiful kind. Leopardi often writes of love and loss personified by the death of a beautiful woman, but his metaphors are sophisticated, and his language is simple
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Brendan
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry, italy
Leopardi is a treasure, especially to those of us who have a rather pessimistic view of modernity.

His poems about the meaninglessness of life, alienation, and anguish towards life probably won’t appeal to many, but the bleak vision that these poems arouse certainly will resonate with those of us that are penchant to melancholy.
I think the ‘why’ behind Leopardi’s gloomy poetry can be understood by what Nietzsche referred to as the devaluation of all values. Leopardi venerates the ancients, but a
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Emily Dybdahl
These poems were beautifully written, but would probably be more rewarding to read in Italian, if only I knew that language. I liked his darker poems about the sadness of life (apparently the author had major health problems from a young age) but I didn't get into a lot of the other poems about love as much.
0
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Wild Broom


Fragrant broom,

content with deserts:

here on the arid slope of Vesuvius,

that formidable mountain, the destroyer,

that no other tree or flower adorns,

you scatter your lonely

bushes all around. I’ve seen before

how you beautify empty places

with your stems, circling the City

once the mistress of the world,

and it seems that with their grave,

silent, aspect they bear witness,

reminding the passer-by

of that lost empire.

Now I see you again on this soil,

a lover of sad places abandoned by the world,

a
...more
Tom
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Leopardi’s Italy’s best kept secret and now one of my favourite poets. He’s basically Schopenhauer’s poetic counterpart.

“What will be is hidden from me, and what I see is such that it makes hope seem a folly and a dream”.

“We have become a base example for future ages”.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg compared to some of the morbid delights which are buried amongst the pages of “Canti”.

This is a must read for anyone who’s a miserable Cunt.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not long ago I read several selections from Leopardi's "Canti" in a different translation and wasn't too moved. Reading them again in this newer translation (in a massive, thorough, impressive new edition) was a smart thing to do. I don't often read poetry. A few years ago I read and fell in love with a lot of Japanese tanka, but LONG, disordered, Western poetry? No thanks. Leopardi is an exception. His lucid detailing of a world -- an existence -- he despised is right up my alley. For his time, ...more
Italo  Perazzoli
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Last Song Of Sappho (Leopardi)

Thou tranquil night, and thou, O gentle ray
Of the declining moon; and thou, that o'er
The rock appearest, 'mid the silent grove,
The messenger of day; how dear ye were,
And how delightful to these eyes, while yet
Unknown the furies, and grim Fate! But now,
No gentle sight can soothe this wounded soul.
Then, only, can forgotten joy revive,
When through the air, and o'er the trembling fields
The raging south wind whirls its clouds of dust;
And when the car, the pondrous ca
...more
Nicholas During
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Didn't finish it, can't read Italian, and don't know much about classics Italian poetry. But I will say, that it worth the effort to give these poems a shot. Though I definitely won't have got the structural aspect that I'm sure are quite impressive, nor the allusions to other parts of the Italian canon, the longing for a life not possible comes through, even in translation. These are the poems of reorgimento, both in the early ones when Leopardi longs for the world of Italian glory long gone, a ...more
Matthew Smith
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this. I bought it in Rome, for way too much, just because I wanted to be reading an Italian poet while traveling in Italy. And I love weighty, gloomy misanthropes. I have been in thrall to Nietzsche for a decade, I dig Schopenhauer; my taste in songwriters skews towards wordy, pensive loners. But this dude is just petulant. Perhaps a lot is lost translating him out of Italian; in English, there are some lovely images here and there, and some really interesting musings and ...more
Jen Well-Steered
I read an essay by a book critic about how she writes her reviews based on her experience of reading the book, not on the contents. That seems as good a way as any of writing about poetry, since there is so rarely a plot.

I've been trying to read poetry for a few years now. Sometimes it works: for example I've discovered I love Langston Hughes. But other times, it feels like a frustrating slog through meaningless words on a page. This is how I feel about most of the Romantics, including, it turns
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D'artagnan
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh what a rollicking ride through the emotions and ideas of a very remarkable young man. These poems read more than a little overdramatic, almost Shatneresque, but it's heck of real, hecka hecka. Might never have known of dear Leopardi if it were not for Marquez quoting him in "Memories of My Melancholy Whores". The depth of that quote proved almost boundless as I poured through Leopardi's works, and provided intriguing dimension and context for Marquez's latest little masterpiece. Shit made me ...more
Christopher Louderback
“This solitary hill has always been dear to me
And this hedge, which prevents me from seeing most of
The endless horizon.
But when I sit and gaze, I imagine, in my thoughts
Endless spaces beyond the hedge,
An all encompassing silence and a deeply profound quiet,
To the point that my heart is almost overwhelmed.
And when I hear the wind rustling through the trees
I compare its voice to the infinite silence.
And eternity occurs to me, and all the ages past,
And the present time, and its sound.
Amidst this im
...more
Lucy Pollard-Gott
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Leopardi's poetry is modern in its themes ("the first modern Italian poet") and timeless in its beauty. Galassi's translation is exceedingly graceful and astute. If you know even a little Italian, you can also enjoy the sound and rhythm of Leopardi's deft verse on facing pages. Reading the translation allows one to experience the fine emotional depth he touched in his lyrics. A beautiful edition, highly recommended.
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Italian scholar, poet, essayist and philosopher, one of the great writers of the 19th century.
Leopardi's love problems inspired some of his saddest lyrics. Despite having lived in a small town, Leopardi was in touch with the main ideas of the Enlightenment movement. His literary evolution turned him into one of the well known Romantic poets.
In his late years, when he lived on the slopes of Vesuvi
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Bryan Washington, the acclaimed author of 2019’s short story collection Lot, has returned with his debut novel, Memorial. The story follows...
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“Freedom is the dream you dream
While putting thought in chains again --”
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“For if life, once empty of attachments
and sweet illusions, is a starless winter night,
still it’s enough for me of mortal fate
and comfort and revenge that I can lie here
lazy, lifeless on the grass,
watching the sea and earth and sky, and smile.”
4 likes
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