There is a sense in which one might say, as Leopardi did say about poetry, that his poems are born of illusion, yet what they register is a lament over its loss and a persistent rejection of all deception. The Canti are conspicuously influenced by illusion, but paradoxically dominated by a continual taking the measure, as it were, of truth, of a human and cosmic reality which simply is what it is. In generalising his convictions the poet does make a certain claim on our belief and he challenges us to take what he says seriously. However, the merit of the poems themselves is the full expression of those convictions; it is this aspect that this Introduction addresses, and t whether we should agree or disagree with Leopardi. Its aim is to explain in order to help appreciate what is found on the page. It is an analysis of the poems and an attempt to create a coherent and comprehensive structure for students in which nearly all the Canti can be considered from several points of view.
Pamela Williams is a senior lecturer at Hull University. Her other publications include articles on the themes of love and stoicism in three of Italy's greatest poets, Dante, Petrarch and Leopardi.