Cosmic Pessimism in Giacomo Leopardi’s “Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia”

Sha Ha


The present paper analyses the lyrical expression of ‘cosmic pessimism’ contained in the “Night song of a wandering shepherd in Asia” of the Italian poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1836), a central figure of the European literary and cultural landscape of the first half of the 19th century, who was acclaimed as ‘the greatest Italian poet after Dante’ by the British cultural critic Matthew Arnold. The ‘song’, composed in the period 1828-1829, bridges neoclassic and romantic sensibilities: it is composed of 143 verses without rhyme, subdivided into six parts, called ‘stanze’ and the scenario is that of a night in a desert landscape where a flock is sleeping, while the shepherd addresses himself to the moon, posing her unanswered questions about the meaning of life.


Romanticism, Neoclassicism, Existentialism, Cosmic Pessimism

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