Known as the “exercise book of the Idylls,” this autograph manuscript of the great Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837) is preserved at the National Library of Naples. It consists of a booklet with lined pages, on which the author’s handwriting stands out sharp and clear. The booklet constitutes the basic draft of Leopardi’s Idilli (Idylls), composed between 1819 and 1821. Included are La ricordanza (The remembrance) which later was titled Alla luna (To the moon), L’Infinito (The infinite), Lo spavento notturno (Nocturnal fright), Sera del giorno festivo (The evening of the feast day), Il sogno (The dream), and La vita solitaria (Solitary life). Leopardi himself called these poems “idylls” and intended by them to express the “situations, affections, historical adventures” of his soul. The reader learns about solitude, considered as the need for regeneration and a refuge from the delusions that human beings must endure (La vita solitaria). He takes part in a dialogue with the moon, a silent and continuous presence with which the poet interacts, identifying it with the symbol of femininity and the gaze of a distant otherness (Alla luna). The pain of unrequited love for a woman, unaware that she is the cause of the poet’s feelings, is expressed; this is followed by a meditation on time and history that leads the distressed poet, in his isolation and loneliness, on the border between life and death, reality and nothingness, to contemplate the glories of past ages and experience nostalgia for his childhood (Sera del giorno festivo). The most defining poem of the Idilli is L’Infinito, written in 1819, a year in which the poet experienced a deep state of melancholia, leading him almost to the point of suicide but which at the same time sparked in him a need to write as a means of salvation. As the culmination of Leopardi’s poetry, L’Infinito has captured the attention of scholars and critics as well as poets from around the world.

Last updated: March 19, 2013