Vincenzo da Filicaja

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Cameo of Vincenzo da Filicaja.

Vincenzo da Filicaja (30 December 1642 – 24 September 1707) was an Italian poet.

Biography[edit]

Vincenzo da Filicaja was born in Florence to an ancient and noble family.

From an incidental notice in one of his letters, stating the amount of house rent paid during his childhood, his parents must have been in easy circumstances, and the supposition is confirmed by the fact that he enjoyed all the advantages of a liberal education, first under the Jesuits of Florence, and then in the University of Pisa.

At Pisa his mind became stored, not only with the results of patient study in various branches of letters, but with the great historical associations linked with the former glory of the Pisan republic, and with one remarkable institution of which Pisa was the seat. To the tourist who now visits Pisa the banners and emblemcs of the order of St. Stephen are mere matter of curiosity, but they had a serious significance two hundred years ago to the young Tuscan, who knew that these naval crusaders formed the main defence of his country and commerce against the Turkish, Algerine and Tunisian corsairs.

After a five years residence in Pisa he returned to Florence, where he married Anna, daughter of the senator and marquis Scipione Capponi, and withdrew to a small villa at "Al Filicaja" (he always referred to Al Filicaja with the former name of "Figline"), 60 km. south-west from the city. Abjuring the thought of writing amatory poetry in consequence of the premature death of a young lady to whom he had been attached, he occupied himself chiefly with literary pursuits, above all the composition of Italian and Latin poetry. His own literary eminence, the opportunities enjoyed by him as a member of the celebrated Accademia della Crusca for making known his critical taste and classical knowledge, and the social relations within the reach of a noble Florentine so closely allied with the great house of Capponi, sufficiently explain the intimate terms on which he stood with such eminent men of letters as Lorenzo Magalotti, Benedetto Menzini, Gori and Francesco Redi. The last-named, the author of Bacchus in Tuscany, was not only one of the most brilliant poets of his time, and a safe literary adviser; he was the court physician, and his court influelice was employed with zeal and effect in his friends favor.

Filicaja's rural seclusion was owing even more to his straitened means than to his rural tastes. If he ceased at length to pine in obscurity, the change was owing not merely to the fact that his poetical genius, fired by the deliverance of Vienna from the Turks in 1683, poured forth the right strains at the right time, but also to the influence of Redi, who not only laid Filicajas verses before his own sovereign, but had them transmitted with the least possible delay to the foreign princes whose noble deeds they sung. The first recompense came, however, not from those princes, but from Christina, the ex-queen of Sweden, who, from her circlc of savants and courtiers at Rome, spontaneously and generously announced to Filicaja her wish to bear the expense of educating his two sons, enhancing her kindness by the delicate request that it should remain a secret.

The tide of Filicaja's fortunes now turned. The grand-duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III, conferred on him an important office, the commissionership of official balloting. He was named governor of Volterra in 1696, where he strenuously exerted himself to raise the tone of public morality. Both there and at Pisa, where he was subsequently governor in 1700, his popularity was so great that on his removal the inhabitants of both cities petitioned for his recall. He passed the close of his life at Florence; the grandduke raised him to the rank of senator, and he died in that city. He was buried in the family vault in the church of St. Peter, and a monument was erected to his memory by his sole surviving son Scipione Filicaja.

In the six celebrated odes inspired by the great victory of Sobieski, Filicaja took a lyrical flight which has placed him at moments on a level with the greatest Italian poets. They are, however, unequal, like all his poetry, reflecting in some passages the native vigour of his genius and purest inspirations of his tastes, whilst in others they are deformed by the affectations of the Seicentisti. When thoroughly natural and spontaneousas in the two sonnets Italia, Italia, o tu cui feo la sorte and Dove, Italia, il tuo braccio? e a che ti serve; in the verses Alla beata Vergine, Al divino amore; in the sonnet Sulla fede nelle disgrazie the truth and beauty of thought and language recall the verses of Petrarch.

Besides the poems published in the complete Venice edition of 1762, several other pieces appeared for the first time in the small Florence edition brought out by Barbera in 1864.

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