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Giosuč Carducci (1835-1907)


Italian poet, critic, scholar, and orator, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1906, highly influential literary figure in his time. Giosuč Carducci was regarded as the unofficial national poet of modern Italy. Already from his college years he was fascinated with the restrained style of Roman and Greek antiquity, and striving for classical ideals characterized also his mature work, which stood between tradition and new forms of expression. Carducci's famous anti-Vatican poem 'Hymn to Satan' (1865), a worship of nature, rationalism, and the goods of life, was fiercely condemned in the clerical and concervative journals.

On thee in verse daring,
From tight rein released,
On thee I call, Satan,
The king of the feast.

(in 'Hymn to Satan')

Giosuč Carducci was born in Val di Castello in the northwestern corner of Tuscany. His father, Michele Carducci, was a doctor, and a member of the Carbonari, an advocate of the unification of Italy. Due to political reasons, the family was forced to move several times, finally settling in 1849 for two year in Florence. At home he grew up in the atmosphere of rationalism and patriotism. From his father Carducci inherited his admiration of classic poets, but he also read such Romantic writers as Lord Byron and Friedrich Schiller. Also the works of Giacomo Leopardi were an essential part of Carducci's early life. A friend of his  supplied him with books that Carducci could not afford to buy. While still at school he started to write historical poetry and translated book 9 of Homer's Iliad.

In 1851 Carducci's father accepted a post as medical officer in Celle, modified his views, and again embraced Catholicism. Carducci spent some time teaching patriotic songs to the village boys and wrote odes to Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist. Soon the elder Carducci was in conflict with the authorities, and was forced to take a low-paying job as surgeon in Piancastagnaio. Carducci supported himself by compiling an anthology of Italian verse, L'arpa del popolo. Scelta di poesie religiose, morali e patriottiche (1855), and wrote articles for L'appendice, becoming a leading figure among the writers associated with the journal.

After receiving his Ph.D. in 1856 from the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Carducci worked as a teacher, and published in 1857 his first collection of poetry, Rime (Rhymes). These years were difficult for the poet: he had no official post, his father died, and his brother committed suicide. In 1859 Carducci married Elvira Menicucci; they had four children. Elvira's father, Francesco, had taken an active part in the Revolution of 1848.

For a short period, before he was appointed professor of Italian literature at the University of Bologna, Carducci taught Greek at a high school in Pistoia. Carducci was extremely industrious and he gained a huge popularity as a lecturer. As a critic he was merciless, using in his reviews language which made his opponents call him a poeta del maiale (poet of a pig).

In 1859 Carducci was still a monarchist but in a short period he became an enthusiastic republican and opposed the power of the church. He did not believe in the divinity of Christ but believed in God. Like many democrats, he joined the Freemasons. Carducci's opinions caused him a brief suspension from the university in 1863, and threatened transfer in 1867. The struggles of the Risorgimento, the nineteenth-century moment that advocated Italian political unity, was seen in such works as Juvenilia (1857), Levia gravia (1868), Giamba ed epodi (1879), and Rime nuove (1887). Dante was not for Carducci the right figure to utilize politically: "having studied the man and his times, I would not say that Dante would have been able to conceive of Italian unification, not even in a dithyramb." ('Dante and the Creation of the poeta vate in Nineteenth-Century Italy' by Antonella Braida, in Dante in the Long Nineteenth Century: Nationality, Identity, and Appropriation, edited by a Aida Audeh and Nick Havely, 2012, p. 62)

From 1879 to 1882 or 1883 Carducci took English lessons from a private tutor, who was always drunk. Carducci admired the American poet Walt Whitman, and during these lessons he read and orally translated Whitman's Leaves of Grass three times. (Transnational Modernity and the Italian Reinvention of Walt Whitman, 1870-1945 by Caterina Bernardini, 2021, p. 30)  In the early 1880s, Carducci was the key figure of La Cronaca bizantina (Rome, 1881-1886), founded by Angelo Sommaruga. The literary review called for moral regeneration of Italy, and attracted such writers as Gabriele D'Annunzio, Giovanni Verga, Giovanni Pascoli, Edoardo Scarfoglio and his wife Matilde Serao. 

'Inno a Satana' (Hymn to Satan), Carducci's famous anticlerical poem,  aroused much controversy. "Hail, O Satan, O rebellion, O avenging force of reason!" Satan was not for him the embodiment of evil and corruption, but a life force, a synomym for the unchained power of technology and progress. The manifestation of the final victory of reason was the steam-engine, "a monster of awful beauty". Written in 1863, the poem appeared in several Masonic periodicals without Carducci's permission. A few copies, under the signature of Enotrio Romano, were printed for private circulation. Carducci himself was know within Freemasonary as "Br:. 675". (Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism by Ruben van Luijk, 2016, p. 267) The democratic newspaper Il Popolo provocatively published the poem in 1869 on the day of the opening of the 20th Vatican Ecumenical Council. 

A firm believer in freedom of thought, Carducci was alternately pro- and anti-republican; he believed that Catholicism had contributed to the degration of Italians, he idealized the world of ancient Rome, and loatherd the tasteless mass culture of the new age: "Oh, God! The kingdom of Italy ushered in the reign of universal ugliness. Ugly even are the overcoats and caps of the soldiers, ugly the coat of arms of the state, ungly the postage stams." (The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy Since 1796 by Christopher Duggan, 2008, p. 304) In 1882 he declared that "We need: social reforms, for justice; economic reforms, for strength; and arms, arms, arms, for security. And arms, not for defence, but offence." (Francesco Crispi 1818-1901: From Nation to Nationalism by Christopher Duggan, 2002)

"I am more savage and bad-tempered than I was as a young man," he wrote in a letter to his friend, the writer and critic Giuseppe Chiarini. "Accustomed as I am to the professor's chair at Bologna, I cannot restrain a nervous irritation when I go to it. . . . It is no use: when I have to appear before an audience which is not of young men known to me, it seems to me that they come to hear me as if I were a prima donna, or to look at me as if I were a ballet-dancer". (Giosue Carducci by Orlo Williams, 1914, pp. 75-76)

In 1890 Carducci was made a senator for life. As a member of parliament, Carducci supported Francesco Crispi's aggressive colonial policy in Africa. Due to the nervous paralysis of the right hand, writing became difficult for him. Gradually he lost the ability to move and his speech was affected, too. Carducci's  poor health prevented him from traveling from Bologna to Stockholm to receive personally the Nobel prize. It was presented to him by the Swedish Ambassador in Rome, Baron von Bildt, in 1906. "I had seen him so vigorous, so strong, and I found him broken down, conquered by disease,"  Baron von Bildt recalled. "The head still preserved the accustomed Carduccian expression of force and energy,  but there was in his eyes a look of melancholy that I had never seen before." (A Selection From the Poems of Giosuč Carducci, translated by Emily A. Tribe, 1921, p. Ixvii)

Carducci often returned in his poems to his native region, as in 'Alle fonti di Clitumno' (1876), a meditation on the history and present of Tuscany: "Ancor dal monte, che di foschi ondeggia / frassini al vento mormoranti e lunge / per l'aure odora fresco di silvestri / salvie e di timi /..." Carducci's major works include the three volumes of Odi barbare (1877-1889) and Rime e ritmi (1898), which were written in meters imitative of Horace and Virgil, and tried to capture the spirit of the classical world, Rime nueve (1861-1887). "Barbaric" in the title Odi barbare refers how the "foreign" poems would have sounded to the ears of Latin or Ancient Greek poets. The first volume sold a thousand copies in a few days.

Among Carducci's other publications are monographs and essays, and other prose works on Italian literature. Carducci died on February 16, 1907, near Lucca, Duchy of Lucca. To the disappointment of Vatican, he did not make peace with the Church. Although Carducci's reputation has rested on his poetry, his poetic output occupy only four volumes of his Opere complete (1939-41, 30 vols.).

For further reading: Giosuč Carducci by O. Williams (1914); Cadducci by J.C. Bailey (1926); L'evoluzione poetica di Giosuč Carducci by B. Sposato (1927); Giosuč Carducci by A. Galletti (1929); Passione politica in Giosuč Carducci by A. Marpicati (1935); Carducci by S.E. Scalia (1937); Giosuč Carducci e la Maremma by L. Barboni (c 1957); Carducci senza retorica by L. Russo (1957); Giosuč Carducci by Giorgio De Rienzo (1975); European Writers: The Romantic Century, ed. by G. Stade (1985); Cultura popolare e intellettuali: appunti su Carducci, Gramsci, De Martino by Fabrizio Franceschini (c1989); Il concetto di "forma" in Carducci: indagine attraverso l'epistolario by Enrico Elli (1990); Carducci di Carducci by Umberto Panozzo (2000); Giosue Carducci: scrittore, politico, massone by Aldo A. Mola; presentazione di Aimone di Savoia (2006); Giosue Carducci: un anticlericale col desiderio di Dio by Franco Marcone (2012); Carducci by Francesco Benozzo (2015); Il poeta, la donnissima e il generale: il grande amore di Giosue Carducci by Marco Sterpos (2020) - Bibliography by W.F. Smith (1942) - Translations into Finnish: Runosuomennoksia Italian kirjallisuuden kultaisessa kirjassa (1945) sekä AaleTynnin antologiassa Tuhat laulujen vuotta (1974).

Selected works:

  • L'arpa del popolo. Scelta di poesie religiose, morali e patriottiche, 1855 (ed.)
  • Rime, 1857 (as Juvenilia, 1880)
  • Rime nuove, 1861-1887
    - The New Lyrics of Giosuč Carducci, translated by William Fletcher Smith, 1942 / The Rime nuove of Giosuč Carducci, translated by  Laura Fullerton Gilbert, 1916
  • Levia gravia, 1861-1871
    - Translations by William Fletcher Smith, in Political and Satirical Verse of Giosuč Carducci, 1942
  • L'inno a Satana, 1865
    - Hymn to Satan, translations by Emily A. Tribe, in A Selection From the Poems of Giosuč Carducci, 1921
  • Giambi ed epodi, 1867-1879
    - Translations by William Fletcher Smith, in Political and Satirical Verse of Giosuč Carducci, 1942
  • Decennalia, 1871
  • Nuove poesie, 1873 (includes 'The Ox')
    - Translation by Emily A. Tribe, in A Selection From the Poems of Giosuč Carducci, 1921
  • Studi letterari, 1874
  • Nuove poesie, 1875
  • Bozzetti critici e discorsi letterari, 1876
  • Odi barbare, 1877-1889 (3 vols.)
    - The Barbarian Odes of Giosuč Carducci, translated by William Fletcher Smith, 1939
  • Giambi ed epodi, 1879
  • Satana e polemiche Sataniche, 1879
  • Juvenilia, 1880
  • Eterno femminino regale, 1882
  • Confessioni e battaglie, 1882-84 (3 vols.)
  • Ça ira, 1883
    - Ira, translations by Emily A. Tribe, in A Selection From the Poems of Giosuč Carducci, 1921 / Translations by Arthur Burkhard, in Twenty-Four Sonnets, 1947
  • Petrarca e Boccaccio, 1884
  • Nuove odi barbare, 1886
  • L’opera di Dante: discorso, 1888
  • Lo studio bolognese: discorso, 1888
  • Terze odi barbare, 1889
  • Opere, 1889-1909 (20 vols.)
  • Poems of Giosuč, 1892 
    - Translated with two introductory essays: I. Giosuč Carducci and the Hellenic reaction in Italy. II. Carducci and the classic realism, by Frank Sewall, 1892
  • La liberta perpetua si San Marino, 1894
  • La chiesa di Polenta, 1897
  • Degli spiriti e delle forme nella poesia di Giacomo Leopardi: considerazioni, 1898
  • Rime e ritmi, 1899
    - Translations by William Fletcher Smith, in The Lyrics and Rhythms of Giosuč Carducci, 1942
  • Antologia carducciano, 1908 (edited by Guido Mazzoni and Giuseppe Picciola)
  • Lettere, 1911-13 (2 vols., edited by Alberto Dallolio and Guido Mazzoni)
  • Carducci: A Selection Of His Poems, With Verse Translations, Notes And Three Introductory Essays by G.L. Bickersteth, 1913 (edited by Geoffrey Langdale Bickersteth)
  • Pagine autobiografiche, 1914 (edited by G. Lipparini)
  • A Selection From the Poems of Giosuč Carducci, 1921 (translated by Emily A. Tribe)
  • Per la morte di Giuseppe Garibaldi: discorso, 1928
  • Prose scelte, 1935 (edited by L. Bianchi and P. Nediani)
  • L'Edizione Nazionale delle Opere, 1935-40 (30 vols.)
  • Lettere, 1938-60 (21 vols.)
  • Opere complete, 1939-41 (30 vols.)
  • Political and Satirical Verse of Giosuč Carducci, 1942 (translated by  William Fletcher Smith)
  • The Lyrics and Rhythms of Giosuč Carducci, 1942 (translated by William Fletcher Smith)
  • Twenty-Four Sonnets, 1947 (translated by Arthur Burkhard)
  • Poesie, 1950 (edited by Albano Sorbelli)
  • Prose e poesie, 1965
  • Rime e ritmi, 1966
  • Poesie scelte, 1968 (edited by P. Treves)
  • Tutte le poesie, 1971 (introduction by Carlo Del Grande)
  • Poesie, 1980 (edited by Davico Bonino)
  • Selected Verse, 1994 (edited and translated by David H. Higgins)
  • Carteggio (1860-1865) / Giosuè Carducci, Louisa Grace Bartolini, 2000 (a cura di Rita Gaspari; presentazione di Clemente Mazzotta)
  • Carteggio: ottobre 1888-aprile 1904 / Giosuè Carducci, Mario Menghini, 2000 (a cura di Torquato Barbieri)
  • Carteggio: ottobre 1858-dicembre 1906 / Giosue Carducci, Isidoro Del Lungo, 2002 (a cura di Marco Sterpos)
  • Carteggio (agosto 1887-febbraio 1906) / Paola Pes di Villamarina, Giosuè Carducci, 2002  (a cura di Anna Maria Giorgetti Vichi)
  • Addio caro orco: lettere e ricordi (1889-1906) / Giosuè Carducci, Annie Vivanti, 2004 (saggio introduttivo a cura di Anna Folli)
  • Discorsi parlamentari, 2004 (con un saggio di Roberto Balzani)
  • Carteggi (ottobre 1875-dicembre 1906) / Giosuè Carducci [e] gli amici veronesi, Vittorio Betteloni ... [et al.], 2005 (a cura di Alberto Brambilla)
  • Levia gravia, 2006 (a cura di Barbara Giuliattini)
  • Lettere 1890-1904, 2008 (a cura di Ornella Moroni)
  • Rime: San Miniato, Ristori, 1857, 2009 (a cura di Emilio Torchio)
  • Giambi ed epodi, 2010 (edizione critica a cura di Gabryela Dancygier Benedetti)
  • Opere / Giosuè Carducci, 2011 (2 vols.; a cura di Emma Giammattei)
  • Chiose e annotazioni inedite all'"Inferno" di Dante, 2013 (edizione critica a cura di Stefania Martini)
  • Juvenilia (1850-1860), 2013
  • Poesie, 2016 (a cura di Edoardo Ripari)
  • Carteggio: (novembre 1864 - agosto 1893) / Giosue Carducci - Adolfo Borgognoni, 2017 (a cura di Federica Marinoni)
  • A Hymn To Satan & Other Translated Poems, 2017 (with introductory essays by R. Merciless & G.L. Bickersteth)
  • Carteggio (marzo 1877-maggio 1893) / Giosuè Carducci, Adele Bergamini, 2018 (a cura di Anna Maria Tosi)
  • Rime e ritmi, 2020 (edizione critica a cura di Giovanni Biancardi)
  • Chiose e annotazioni ai Trionfi di Petrarca, 2022 (a cura di Francesca Florimbii)
  • Lezioni su Petrarca (1861-1862), 2023 (a cura di Vinicio Pacca e Chiara Tognarelli)

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