Giosue Carducci

po_Carducci-GiosueGiosuè Alessandro Giuseppe Carducci (July 27, 1835 – February 16, 1907) was an Italian poet and teacher.

Carducci was very influential and was regarded as the official national poet of modern Italy. In 1906 he became the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature “not only in consideration of his deep learning and critical research, but above all as a tribute to the creative energy, freshness of style, and lyrical force which characterize his poetic masterpieces”.

Carducci was a popular lecturer and a fierce critic of literature and society. He was an atheist, whose political views were consistently opposed to Christianity generally and the secular power of the Catholic Church in particular.

“I know neither truth of God nor peace with the Vatican or any priests. They are the real and unaltering enemies of Italy.”

This anti-clerical revolutionary zeal is prominently showcased in one famous poem, the deliberately blasphemous and provocative “Inno a Satana” (or “Hymn to Satan”.) The poem was composed in 1863 as a dinner party toast, published in 1865, then republished in 1869 by Bologna’s radical newspaper, Il Popolo, as a provocation timed to coincide with the 20th Vatican Ecumenical Council, a time when revolutionary fervor directed against the papacy was running high as republicans pressed both politically and militarily for an end of the Vatican’s domination over the papal states.

While “Inno a Satana” had quite a revolutionary impact, Carducci’s finest poetry came in later years. His collections Rime Nuove (New Rhymes) and Odi Barbare (Barbarian Odes) contain his greatest works.

He was the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1906. He was also elected a Senator of Italy. Although his reputation rests primarily on his poetry, he also produced a large body of prose works. Indeed, his prose writings, including literary criticism, biographies, speeches and essays, fill some 20 volumes. Carducci was also an excellent translator and translated some of Goethe and Heine into Italian.

HYMN TO SATAN
Giosue Carducci

To you, creation’s
mighty principle,
matter and spirit
reason and sense

Whilst the wine
sparkles in cups
like the soul
in the eye

Whilst earth and
sun exchange
their smiles and
words of love

And shudders
from their secret embrace run down
from the mountains, and
the plain throbs with new life

To you my daring
verses are unleashed,
you I invoke, O Satan
monarch of the feast.

Put aside your sprinkler,
priest, and your litanies!
No, priest, Satan
does not retreat!

Behold! Rust
erodes the mystic
sword of Michael
and the faithful

Archangel, deplumed,
drops into the void.
The thunderbolt lies frozen
in Jove’s hand

Like pale meteors,
spent worlds,
the angels drop
from the firmament

In unsleeping
matter,
king of phenomena,
monarch of form,

Satan alone lives.
He holds sway in
the tremulous flash
of some dark eye,

Or the eye which languidly
turns and resists,
or which, bright and moist,
provokes, insists.

He shines in the bright
blood of grapes,
by which transient
joy persists,

Which restores fleeting
life, keeps
grief at bay,
and inspires us with love

You breathe, O Satan
in my verses,
when from my heart explodes
a challenge to the god

Of wicked pontiffs,
bloody kings;
and like lightning you
shock men’s minds.

Sculpture, painting
and poetry
first lived for you, Ahriman,
Adonis and Astarte,

When Venus
Anadyomene
blessed the
clear Ionian skies

For you the trees of
Lebannon shook,
resurrected lover
of the holy Cyprian:

For you wild dances were done
and choruses swelled
for you virgins offered
their spotless love,

Amongst the perfumed
palms of Idumea
where the Cyprian
seas foam.

To what avail did
the barbarous Christian
fury of agape,
in obscene ritual,

With holy torch
burn down your temples,
scattering their
Greek statuary?

You, a refugee,
the mindful people
welcomed into their homes
amongst their household gods

Thereafter filling the throbbing
female heart
with your fervor
as both god and lover

You inspired the witch,
pallid from endless enquiry,
to succor
suffering nature

You, to the intent gaze
of the alchemist,
and to the skeptical eye
of the sorcerer,

You revealed bright
new heavens
beyond the confines
of the drowsy cloister.

Fleeing from material
things, where you reside,
the dreary monk took refuge
in the Theban desert.

To you O soul
with your sprig severed,
Satan is benign:
he gives you your Heloise.

You mortify yourself to no purpose,
in your rough sackcloth:
Satan still murmurs to you
lines from Maro and Flaccus

Amidst the dirge
and wailing of the Psalms;
and he brings to your side
the divine shapes,

Roseate amidst that
horrid black crowd,
of Lycoris
and Glycera

But other shapes
from a more glorious age
fitfully fill
the sleepless cell.

Satan, from pages
in Livy, conjures fervent
tribunes, consuls,
restless throngs;

And he thrusts you,
O monk, with your memories
of Italy’s proud past
upon the Capitol.

And you whom the raging
pyre could not destroy,
voices of destiny,
Wycliffe and Huss,

You lift to the winds
your waning cry:
‘The new age is dawning,
the time has come’.

And already mitres
and crowns tremble:
from the cloister
rebellion rumbles

Preaching defiance
in the voice of the
cassocked Girolamo
Savonarola

As Martin Luther
threw off his monkish robes,
so throw off your shackles,
O mind of man,

And crowned with flame,
shoot lightning and thunder;
Matter, arise;
Satan has won.

Both beautiful and awful
a monster is unleashed
it scours the oceans
is scours the land

Glittering and belching smoke
like a volcano,
it conquers the hills
it devours the plains.

It flies over chasms,
then burrows
into unknown caverns
along deepest paths;

To re-emerge, unconquerable
from shore to shore
it bellows out
like a whirlwind,

Like a whirlwind
it spews its breath:
‘It is Satan, you peoples,
Great Satan passes by’.

He passes by, bringing blessing
from place to place,
upon his unstoppable
chariot of fire

Hail, O Satan
O rebellion,
O you avenging force
of human reason!

Let holy incense
and prayers rise to you!
You have utterly vanquished
the Jehova of the Priests.