Antonio Veneziano (poet)
Portrait of Antonio Veneziano by Salvatore Giaconia (1825-1899), Monreale City Hall
|Born||7 January 1543|
Monreale, Kingdom of Sicily
|Died||19 August 1593|
Palermo, Kingdom of Sicily
|Known for||Sicilian poetry|
Antonio Veneziano
Antonio Veneziano (1543 - 19 August 1593) was an Italian poet who wrote mainly in the Sicilian language. He is considered among the greatest poets who wrote in Sicilian, which include Giovanni Meli, Domenico Tempio and Nino Martoglio. He is perhaps the first major figure in Sicilian literature following the Sicilian School which predates him by three centuries. During his lifetime, he was well known for his poetry both within Sicily and far beyond. He also wrote in Italian and Latin.
Veneziano was born in Monreale, a contemporary of the great Spanish writer Cervantes (Sicily was under Spanish rule at this time). As it happens, both shared a cell after being captured by Barbary pirates around 1575. He wrote his greatest work, Celia during his period of imprisonment in Algeria (he was released in 1579). Cervantes is reported as having said that Veneziano had earned a passage to Paradise through this collection of poems (Celia means a jest or joke in both Sicilian and Italian). He wrote other works of poetry, also delving in satire and bawdy rhymes. He died in Palermo.
When once asked why he chose to write in Sicilian rather than a recognised literary language such as Italian or Spanish, he replied to the effect that if a man is to seduce a woman, he must do so in her mother tongue. It is unclear whether a pun was intended.
The whole of his works were assembled in 1967 in a publication entitled: Ottave, edited by A. Rigoli.
Examples of his poetry
Some extracts from his collection, Celia, appear below (circa 1575 - 1580). While the subject matter of the first poem, love, is typical enough of early Sicilian poetry, the second is a bit more atypical, possessing a whimsical quality.
Non è xhiamma ordinaria, no, la mia
No, mine is no ordinary flame
In parti dubbiu e in parti sicuru,
Half of me doubting and half of me sure,
- Antonio Veneziano (Italian) archivioflaviobeninati.com
- Arba Sicula Volume II, 1980 (bilingual: Sicilian and English) - source of the examples of poetry and English translation.
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