Antonio Veneziano (poet)

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Did not Homer, who was Greek, write in Greek, or Horace, who was Roman, write in latin? And if Petrarch, who is Tuscan, does not resile from writing in Tuscan, why should I be restrained, being a Sicilian, from writing in Sicilian? Must I parrot the languages of others?

— Antonio Veneziano

Antonio Veneziano (1543 - 19 August 1593) was an Italian poet who wrote mainly in Sicilian.[1] 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[edit]

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.

No. vii[edit]

Sicilian English
Non è xhiamma ordinaria, no, la mia No, mine is no ordinary flame
è xhiamma chi sul'iu tegnu e rizettu, it's a flame that only I possess and oversight,
xhiamma pura e celesti, ch'ardi 'n mia; a pure celestial flame that in me grows;  
per gran misteriu e cu stupendu effettu.   by a great mystery and with great effect.
Amuri, 'ntentu a fari idulatria, Love, wanting to worship idols,
s'ha novamenti sazerdoti elettu; has once again become a high priest;
tu, sculpita 'ntra st'alma, sì la dia; you, sculpted in this soul, are the goddess;
sacrifiziu lu cori, ara stu pettu. my heart is the victim, my breast is the altar.

No. viii[edit]

Sicilian English
In parti dubbiu e in parti sicuru, Half of me doubting and half of me sure,
fra lu zertu e l'inzertu scurru e penzu, between the certain and uncertain I think and wonder,
contemplu ora lu chiaru, ora lu scuru, I contemplate first the bright and then the dark,
e dugnu or'unu ed ora un autru senzu; and I mean first one thing and then another;
pisu, assuttighiu, bilanzu, misuru, I weigh, I abstract, I balance, I measure,
criju, non criju, risolvu e ripenzu, I believe, I disbelieve, I resolve and I think anew,
ogn'hura penzu e guastu, muru e smuru,   each hour I conceive and destroy, do and undo,
e sempri ddà finixxu, undi 'ncumenzu. and always end up being where I began.


  1. ^ Antonio Veneziano (Italian)
  • Arba Sicula Volume II, 1980 (bilingual: Sicilian and English) - source of the examples of poetry and English translation.