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The Rise of the Italian Canto
Macpherson, Cesarotti and Leopardi: from the Ossianic Poems to the Canti, 2006
Il Portico n. 137
pp. 304, ISBN 88-8063-500-X € 32.00
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This study contributes to the reassessment of Ossianism in Italy from a cross-cultural perspective. On the Continent Ossian's impact on the romantic poets is revisited in relation to Melchiorre Cesarotti's translations Poesie di Ossian (1763-1801) and to the decisive role that he played in introducing and shaping (pre)romantic ideas. The 'genuineness' of James Macpherson's prose-verse apparently found no direct manifestation in the agility and eclecticism of the Italian rime and poesie, which alone foreshadowed the lyric canto in the Italian canon. Yet, undeniable echoes between Giacomo Leopardi's Canti and Cesarotti’s Ossianic poems remain rather puzzling. Is the phrase "io veggio, o parmi" only an occasional allusion, or not an allusion at all? Is it plausible, and exhaustive, to claim that there was no relation at all? Or that Cesarotti, like Macpherson before him, used poetic licence to adapt the otherwise inappropriate ‘Scottish’ conciseness to Italian gusto? This study approaches Cesarotti's editions in an awareness that they are uneven and that their uneven quality does not simply represent an adaptation, but rather a rethinking of the ‘original’ text. In this perspective his transformation of "the song of mourning" into "la canzon del pianto" finds its way into the immensity of the Leopardian oidé.