'To Himself' by Giacomo Leopardi

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Now will you rest forever,
My tired heart. Dead is the last
That I thought eternal. Dead. Well I
In us the sweet illusions,
Nothing but ash, desire burned out.
Rest forever. You have
Trembled enough. Nothing is worth
Thy beats, nor does the earth
Thy sighs. Bitter and dull
Is life, there is nought else. The
world is clay.
Rest now. Despair
For the last time. To our kind, Fate
Gives but death. Now despise
Yourself, nature, the sinister
Power that secretly commands our
common ruin,
And the infinite vanity of

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Deep Dive into Giacomo Leopardi's "To Himself"

Are you a fan of introspection? Do you enjoy contemplating the nature of existence and the human condition? Then you must read Giacomo Leopardi's "To Himself." This poem, originally titled "A Se Stesso" in Italian, is a masterful piece of literature that delves into the universal themes of life, death, love, and the pursuit of happiness. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will analyze each stanza of the poem in detail, exploring its language, symbolism, and meaning.

Stanza 1: The Paradox of Life

Oh, Solitude! If I must with thee dwell, Let it be not among the jumbled heap Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep, — Nature’s observatory — whence the dell, Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell, May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep ’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.

The poem begins with an apostrophe to "Solitude," a personification of the state of being alone. At first glance, the speaker seems to be seeking solace in solitude, but upon closer examination, we see that he is asking for a specific kind of solitude. He does not want to be alone in a city, surrounded by "murky buildings." Instead, he wants to be in nature, where he can climb "the steep" and observe the beauty of the world from a higher perspective. The phrase "Nature's observatory" is particularly interesting because it suggests that the speaker sees nature as a place of knowledge and insight. He wants to keep vigil "’Mongst boughs pavillion’d," or among the branches of trees that create a canopy overhead. This creates a sense of shelter and safety, as if he is seeking refuge from the world.

Stanza 2: The Inevitability of Death

But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee, Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind, Whose words are images of thoughts refined, Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be Almost the highest bliss of human-kind, When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

In the second stanza, the speaker continues to describe his ideal state of being. He wants to be with someone who has an "innocent mind" and whose words are "images of thoughts refined." This person represents an ideal of human connection, where two people can share their innermost thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. The speaker believes that this human connection is "almost the highest bliss of human-kind," suggesting that it is second only to some other, higher form of happiness. However, this stanza also introduces a sense of foreboding, as the speaker uses the word "almost" to qualify his statement. It is as if he knows that this kind of happiness is not sustainable, that something will inevitably come along to disrupt it.

Stanza 3: The Illusion of Love

Thou hast thy calling to some palace-floor, Most gracious singer of high poems! where The dancers will break footing, from the care Of watching up thy pregnant lips for more. And dost thou lift this house’s latch too poor For thee and enter with us? for the mere Pleasure of thy presence, here to pore On thy well-tunèd words, ’tis all a cheer.

In the third stanza, the speaker addresses a mysterious figure who is described as a "gracious singer of high poems." This person is so talented that they have been called to a "palace-floor" to perform for a group of dancers. The language in this stanza is rich and musical, with words like "pregnant," "well-tuned," and "gracious" evoking a sense of beauty and elegance. However, the final two lines of the stanza introduce a note of cynicism. The speaker asks if this talented person would be willing to enter "this house's latch too poor for thee" and spend time with the speaker and his companions. He suggests that the only reason the person would do so is "for the mere pleasure of thy presence," which is described as "all a cheer." This phrase suggests that the speaker sees this kind of connection as transitory and ultimately meaningless.

Stanza 4: The Futility of Human Endeavor

Why is it that the actual world is fairer Than we imagine? Ah, why not build Our own, toil after toil, yet build at last, With even a weaker heart than a frail bird’s, A built and builded clime, a sooner heaven In the reach of sense, and sweeter for the strife?

The fourth stanza is one of the most philosophical in the poem. The speaker asks why the "actual world" is fairer than our imaginations. This question suggests that the speaker sees a gap between reality and human perception, that our ideas of what is possible or desirable do not match up with the way the world actually is. He then asks why we don't try to build our own world, with all the toil and effort that this would require. This question touches on the human desire for control, for the ability to shape our own reality. However, the final two lines of the stanza introduce a note of resignation. The speaker suggests that even if we were to build our own world, it would still be "a sooner heaven," or a lesser version of what we truly desire.

Stanza 5: The Limits of Human Knowledge

Aye, but to die, and go we know not where; To lie in cold obstruction and to rot; This sensible warm motion to become A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;

The fifth stanza is perhaps the most existential in the poem. The speaker contemplates the inevitability of death and the unknown that lies beyond it. He describes death as a process of decay, where the body becomes a "kneaded clod" and the spirit is released to "bathe in fiery floods, or to reside / In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice." These descriptions create a sense of contrast and tension, as the images of fire and ice seem to represent opposing forces. The speaker is essentially describing the unknown, the beyond, as something that is both terrifying and fascinating.

Stanza 6: The Search for Meaning

To be imprisoned in the viewless winds, And blown with restless violence round about The pendent world; or to be worse than worst Of those that lawless and incertain thoughts Imagine howling! — ’tis too horrible! The weariest and most loathed worldly life That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment Can lay on nature, is a paradise To what we fear of death.

In the final stanza, the speaker concludes his meditation on life, death, and the human condition. He describes the idea of being "imprisoned in the viewless winds" or "howling" as "too horrible!" This exclamation suggests that the speaker has reached a point of emotional intensity, where the thought of the unknown is almost unbearable. However, he also suggests that the "weariest and most loathed worldly life" is still preferable to the "fear of death." This statement suggests that the speaker sees life as inherently meaningful, even if it is difficult or unpleasant. The final word of the poem, "death," hangs in the air like a question, inviting the reader to consider their own mortality and the meaning they find in their own lives.


Giacomo Leopardi's "To Himself" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores some of the most universal themes in literature. From the paradox of life to the futility of human endeavor, the poem presents a complex and nuanced view of the human condition. The language is rich and musical, with each stanza offering a new insight or contemplation. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply interested in exploring the nature of existence, "To Himself" is a must-read.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry To Himself: A Masterpiece of Romanticism

Giacomo Leopardi, one of the most celebrated Italian poets of the 19th century, wrote Poetry To Himself in 1824. This poem is a masterpiece of Romanticism, a literary movement that emphasized emotions, imagination, and individualism. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of Poetry To Himself and understand why it is considered a classic of Italian literature.


The central theme of Poetry To Himself is the power of imagination and the role of poetry in shaping our perception of the world. Leopardi believed that poetry was not just a form of entertainment but a means of understanding the human condition. In the opening lines of the poem, he declares that poetry is his "sole companion" and "only solace" in life. He sees poetry as a way of transcending the limitations of his physical existence and connecting with the infinite.

Leopardi also explores the theme of the transience of life and the inevitability of death. He describes himself as a "wanderer" who is "lost in the desert of life." He feels that his life is meaningless and that he is destined to die without leaving a mark on the world. However, he finds comfort in the thought that his poetry will outlive him and that future generations will read his words and understand his pain.


Poetry To Himself is a sonnet, a 14-line poem with a strict rhyme scheme and meter. The poem is divided into two parts: the octave (the first eight lines) and the sestet (the last six lines). The octave presents the problem or situation, while the sestet offers a resolution or conclusion.

The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABBAABBA CDCDCD, which is typical of Italian sonnets. The meter is iambic pentameter, which means that each line has ten syllables with a stress on every other syllable. This gives the poem a musical quality and makes it easy to read aloud.


Leopardi's language in Poetry To Himself is simple and direct, yet powerful and evocative. He uses metaphors and imagery to convey his emotions and ideas. For example, he compares himself to a "wanderer" who is "lost in the desert of life." This metaphor suggests that he feels alone and isolated in the world, with no clear direction or purpose.

Leopardi also uses imagery to describe the beauty and power of poetry. He compares poetry to a "divine flame" that illuminates the darkness of his soul. He also describes poetry as a "magic mirror" that reflects the infinite and reveals the hidden truths of the universe.


The opening lines of Poetry To Himself set the tone for the rest of the poem. Leopardi declares that poetry is his "sole companion" and "only solace" in life. He feels that he is alone in the world and that poetry is the only thing that gives him comfort. This suggests that he is a deeply introspective and sensitive person who is struggling to find meaning in his life.

In the second quatrain, Leopardi describes himself as a "wanderer" who is "lost in the desert of life." This metaphor suggests that he feels lost and directionless, with no clear path to follow. He is searching for something, but he doesn't know what it is. This sense of existential angst is a common theme in Romantic literature, which often explores the inner turmoil of the individual.

In the third quatrain, Leopardi turns his attention to poetry itself. He describes poetry as a "divine flame" that illuminates the darkness of his soul. This metaphor suggests that poetry has a transformative power, that it can change the way we see the world and ourselves. Leopardi also compares poetry to a "magic mirror" that reflects the infinite and reveals the hidden truths of the universe. This suggests that poetry is not just a form of self-expression but a means of understanding the mysteries of existence.

In the final couplet, Leopardi offers a resolution to the problem he presented in the octave. He acknowledges that his life is fleeting and that he will eventually die, but he finds comfort in the thought that his poetry will outlive him. He believes that future generations will read his words and understand his pain. This suggests that Leopardi sees poetry as a way of transcending the limitations of time and space, of connecting with the infinite and the eternal.


Poetry To Himself is a masterpiece of Italian literature and a classic of Romanticism. Leopardi's use of language, imagery, and metaphor creates a powerful and evocative portrait of the poet as a sensitive and introspective individual who is struggling to find meaning in his life. The poem explores the themes of the power of imagination, the transience of life, and the role of poetry in shaping our perception of the world. It is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to illuminate the darkness of the human soul and to connect us with the infinite.

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