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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Thoughts Addressed to the Poets of the Nineteenth Century
By Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872)
 
From ‘Giovine Italia’

THE FUTURE is humanity. The world of individuality, the world of the Middle Ages, is exhausted and consumed. The modern era of the social world is now in the dawn of its development; and genius is possessed by the consciousness of this coming world.  1
  Napoleon and Byron represented, summed up, and concluded the epoch of individuality: the one the monarch of the kingdom of battle, the other the monarch of the realm of imagination; the poetry of action, the poetry of thought.  2
  Created by nature deeply to feel, and identify himself with the first sublime image offered to his sight, Byron gazed around upon the world and found it not.  3
  Religion was no more. An altar was yet standing, but broken and profaned: a temple silent and destitute of all noble and elevating emotion, and converted into a fortress of despotism; in it a neglected cross. Around him a world given up to materialism, which had descended from the rank of philosophical opinion to the need of practical egotism, and the relics of a superstition which had become deformed and ridiculous since the progress of civilization had forbidden it to be cruel. Cant was all that was left in England, frivolity in France, and inertia in Italy. No generous sympathy, no pure enthusiasm, no religion, no earnest desire, no aspiration visible in the masses.  4
  Whence could the soul of Byron draw inspiration? where find a symbol for the immense poetry that burned within him? Despairing of the world around him, he took refuge in his own heart, and dived into the inmost depths of his own soul. It was indeed a whole world, a volcano, a chaos of raging and tumultuous passions,—a cry of war against society such as tyranny had made it; against religion such as the pope and the craft of priests had made it; and against mankind as he saw them,—isolated, degraded, and deformed.  5
  The result was a form of poetry purely individual,—all of individual sensation and images; a poetry having no basis in humanity, nor in any universal faith; a poetry over which, with all its infinity of accessories drawn from nature and the material world, there broods the image of Prometheus bound down to earth and cursing the earth, an image of individual will striving to substitute itself by violence for the universal will and universal right.  6
  Napoleon fell; Byron fell. The tombs of St. Helena and Missolonghi contain the relics of an entire world.  7
 
 
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