CAPN Abstract 7: Martina Delucchi on Pascoli’s Alexander

Martina Delucchi, who recently graduated in Philology and Ancient History (MA) from University of Pisa, Italy, will speak at our Classics And Poetry Now workshop in Senate House, London, on Thursday 2nd November. Her paper is entitled: “‘Dream is the infinite shadow of Truth’ Pascoli’s Alexander: the cosmic vertigo”, and in it Delucchi will introduce the classical in the work of whom she calls “one of the greatest Italian poets of the last two centuries”, Giovanni Pascoli.

“After his death Alexander the Great became a legend. Beside the rational and scientific accounts, his epic starts to tickle the imagination of ancient authors, who began to produce fantastic and bizarre works. They mostly converge in the Romance of Alexander, which has been transmitted in several Greek versions, one in Latin and even one in Armenian.”

“Despite the low quality of this patchwork of traditions, the Romance becomes increasingly popular throughout the Middle Ages and becomes one of the first epic cycles in langue d’oil. Giovanni Pascoli draws inspiration from this epic to write the most famous composition of the Convivial Poems: ‘Alexandros’.”

“More enjoyable and less cryptic than ‘Gog and Magog’, the other poem about Alexander, it was greeted with immediate success. The title of the collection, Convivial Poems, takes the readers back to the Greek symposium and to the Latin carmina convivalia, but the themes are not limited to aesthetic preciousness.”

“Pascoli weaves together notions that come from his deep knowledge of the Classics and he manages to draw them together in the 20th century. He uses the distant past — the past he knew so well, thanks to the lectures of his beloved and hated Professor Carducci — to talk about himself and about his relationship first with his surroundings.”

Here is the opening of Pascoli’s Alexandros, translated by Delucchi herself:

– We came: this is the End. O holy Herald, shall boom the blare!
Not another land if not up there, in the air,
the one that shines in the middle of your shield

o Pezhetairoi[1]: wandering and solitary
land, never reached by anyone. From the last shore
you see there, Carian mistophoroi,[2]

the last river, Ocean without wave.
O you who came from the Haemo and from the Carmel
here, the land blurs and collapses

inside the radiant night of the sky.

[1] πεζέταιροι: literally “foot-companions”, from pezos “foot warrior” or “infantryman”, and hetairos “companion” or “friend”. They were the men who fought in the phalanx.

[2] μισϑοϕόρος: “mercenary”.

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