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Giovanni Pascoli

Born 31 December 1855(1855-12-31)
San Mauro Pascoli, Italy1
Died 6 April 1912 (aged 56)
Bologna, Italy
Occupation Poet, scholar

Giovanni Pascoli (December 31, 1855‚ÄĒApril 6, 1912) 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 financial 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 following a protest against the capture of the anarchist Giovanni Passannante.

Pascoli studied at the University of Bologna, where 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. Although some have pointlessly speculated that he never married because of an immature and perhaps ambiguous relationship with his sisters, other explanations are just as possible; he may have been gay, or simply did not wish to marry, or was unlucky in love; such speculations lead nowhere. WHat does seem clear is that through his teaching, he was profoundly immersed in the world of the children he taught; this was certainly a major influence on his work. 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.


His earlier poems look simple, and focus particularly on domestic life and nature. However, Pascoli, even in that period of Positivism and scientism, believes that life is a mystery; only symbolic associations discovered in the humble things of nature can lead man to catch a glimpse of the truth behind mere appearances.

His later poems shared similar themes but were more experimental, and reflected his knowledge of classical antiquity. They were a great influence on later Italian poets, who incorporated his melancholy themes into their own works. He wrote in both Italian and Latin; he also translated English poetry.

In 1897 Pascoli issued a detailed definition of his poetical stance, which he called poetica del fanciullino ("youngster's poetics") and which showed the influence of Sully and von Hartmann. Poetry, according to Pascoli, would be the unceasing capability to get stunned by the world, typical of childhood, secondarily connected to the expressive capabilities of the aged. In a refusal of both Classicism and Romanticism, Pascoli opposed them the renunciation to self-analysis and the abandon of the self-centered point of view, in favour of a semi-irrational comfort which the poets gives himself through poetry.

Pascoli's poetry shows interesting affinities with European symbolism, even if direct influences cannot be demonstrated. A wide use of analogy and synesthesia, a very subtle musicality, a lexicon open both to foreign languages and to vernacular or onomatopeic voices are major signs of a literary research oriented towards modern poetical language.

Pascoli also wrote numerous poems in Latin, which gained many international awards.


  • Garboli, Cesare (2002). Poesie e prose scelte di Giovanni Pascoli. Milan: Mondadori.  
  • Piromalli, Antonio (1957). La poesia di Giovanni Pascoli. Pisa: Nistri Lischi.  


  • Myricae (1891)
  • Canti di Castelvecchio (1903)
  • Primi poemetti (1904)
  • Poemi conviviali (1904)
  • Odi e inni (1906)
  • Canti di Castelvecchio (Final edition, 1906)
  • Nuovi poemetti (1909)
  • Poemi del Risorgimento (1913)

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