Giuseppe Gioachino Belli
"Giuseppe Belli" redirects here.
For the singer, see Giuseppe Belli (singer).
Belli, with his mother and his two brothers, moved back to Rome, where they were forced to take cheap lodgings in Via del Corso.
After a period of employment in straitened circumstances, in 1816 he married a woman of means, Maria Conti, and this enabled him the ease to develop his literary talents.
The two had a son, Ciro, born in 1824.
Belli made some trips to Northern and Central Italy, where he could come in contact with a more evolved literary world, as well with the Enlightenment and revolutionary milieu which was almost totally absent in Rome, where a strong social cohesion had made the almost anarchoid population completely independent from and indifferent to political ideologies.
It was during a stay in Milan that he came in touch with the rich local tradition of dialect poetry and satire, as modernized by Carlo Porta, whose witty vernacular sonnets provided him with a model for the poems in Roman dialect that were to make him, posthumously, famous.
Nevertheless, Belli's political ideas remained largely conservative throughout his life.
After his wife's death in 1837, Belli's economic situation worsened again.
In later years Belli lost much of his vitality, and he felt a growing acrimony against the world around him, describing himself as "a dead poet".
Consequently, his poetical production dropped off and his last sonnet in dialect dates to 1849.
In his later years Belli worked as artistical and political censor for the papal government.
He died in Rome in 1863 from a stroke.
His nephew, painter Guglielmo Janni, wrote a monumental biography in 10 volumes, which was published posthumously in 1967.
He produced some 2,279 sonnets that form an invaluable document of the 19th century's papal Rome and the life of its common people.
They were mainly composed in the period 1830–1839.
Belli kept them largely hidden, apart from his famous recitals before friends such as Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve and Nikolai Gogol and, just before his death, asked his friend Monsignor Vincenzo Tizzani to burn them.
Fortunately, the prelate gave them back to Ciro Belli, who when first publishing a selection of them in 1866, severely edited them in order not to offend the taste of the time.
Belli came to Roman from Italian, as an educated and intelligent user of the language, and his Letters, recently published, represent some of the finest Italian style of the period.
He regarded his Roman sonnets in something of the light of an anthropologist, expressing what he saw of the mood, experience and opinions of the Roman lower classes, and his felicity with the Roman language depended on an already acquired felicity with Italian that was very rare in his time.
The most striking characteristics of Belli's sonnets are the overwhelming humour and the sharp, relentless capability of satirization of both common life and the clerical world that oppressed it.
Some of the sonnets, moreover, show a decided degree of eroticism.
Although replete with denunciations of the corruption of the world of the Roman Church, and of 19th century Rome in general, Belli's poems have been defined as "never impious".
His verse is frequently obscene, emphasizing the exuberant vulgarity and acerbic intuitions of the local world whose language he employed, but is always phrased with an acute technical mastery of rhythm within the difficult formal structures of the Petrarchan sonnet, and by a sense of realism which was rarely matched in the poetical production of Europe, until the emergence of raw realism with Émile Zola and James Joyce.
A selection of Belli's sonnets were translated into English by Anthony Burgess, who employed a rough slang tinged with Lancastrian as a stand-in for Belli's Roman dialect.
Belli's works have also been translated by the poet Harold Norse.
Robert Garioch has rendered a selection of his sonnets, very appropriately, into Edinburgh demotic.
- Belli's The Sovrans of the Old World (1831)
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuseppe Gioachino Belli.