Pastures in Messina and the priest student. A little-known page of the great poet in the city of the Strait

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By John

There is never enough written about the idyllic relationship between the great Giovanni Pascoli and Messina, where he taught for a long period. And the city should finally be given a physical place to bring together the memories, books and studies on his work, which have unfortunately been scattered around the city for decades.
An opportunity comes from the recent re-edition of a precious, interesting, accurate, refined volume, entitled “Professor Pascoli in Messina, the Iter Siculum and the student priest”, published by Città del Sole Edizioni. A multidisciplinary essay, with a preface by prof. Fabio Stok, written by the journalist and researcher Sergio Di Giacomo, by the magistrate Giuseppe Minutoli, the priest student in question was among other things a relative of him, and by the literary teacher and scholar Giuseppe Ramires. All three rigorously from Messina, all three strictly passionate about the great poet, all three rigorously devoted to the right placement of his, for too long “obscured”, Messina years in the national context.
And here are the main questions that the book resolves: who was the student to whom the prof. Did Giovanni Pascoli, in the five years of his teaching of Latin Literature at the University of Messina, assign the only degree thesis known to us? Why does the topic of the essay, written by a young priest, have a strong religious character? What is the scientific and cultural value of that treatment and of the hermeneutic option?
The volume attempts to answer these and other questions which, in critically re-proposing, with a careful philological examination, a degree thesis conceived way back in 1901, delves into the figure of Don Salvatore De Lorenzo and his bond with the professor. Pascoli, the controversial spiritual tensions of the latter and his complex professional and life experience of the five-year period in Messina, which he himself defined as “the five best, most industrious, happiest, most collected, most radiant of visions, most resounding years of harmonies of my life”.
In the volume, here is the “gem”, the expanded and corrected version (taken from the poet’s manuscripts) of the Iter Siculum is also published for the first time, with a broad critical apparatus, i.e. the speech delivered in 1898 by the prof. Pascoli inaugurating his teaching in Messina, found among the poet’s manuscripts. A very interesting text.
There is still so much to re-discover about the long and intense season of poems, books, friendships, walks, intellectual relationships, visions and passions that the great Giovanni Pascoli spent in Messina. He wrote it himself who spent the five best years of his life, also very prolific from a literary point of view. Yet up to now there is little or nothing in the official biographies and in the traditional representation of these years spent watching the immense sea current of the Strait and walking in the afternoon on the fine sand of Maregrosso. But some pieces have been laid in recent years of studies and research, just think of the very important international study conference promoted by the University of Messina which also focused on some very innovative aspects of the non-trivially traditional reading of Pascoli’s work.
For example, the desire recently expressed by one of its scholars, prof. Vincenzo Fera, by making the unpublished letters and postcards that our university preserves accessible to the scientific community through the web, can contribute to “rewriting” Pascoli’s biography, updating it on the fundamental importance that the Messina years had for the poet.
And then there is the dream, the admirable vision, cultivated by the now consolidated group of “crazy people” from Messina for over a decade, that of the house-museum where Pascoli lived with his sister Mariù, in Palazzo Sturiale di Largo Risorgimento, for finally constitute an important cultural and metagraphic itinerary of all the material that Messina can offer – and there is a lot -, to finally tell in a temporally reasoned and organic, and usable way, its rich world and its alternating feelings. A dream that almost seemed to come true with the hypothesis of the Sicilian Region acquiring the apartment in Palazzo Sturiale, thanks to the then governor Nello Musumeci and the former councilor for Cultural Heritage Alberto Samonà. There was a precise estimate of value of over 150 thousand euros, then a regular purchase resolution was also hesitated. But the owner’s “no” stopped everything.
Casa Pascoli should have been part of a network of house-museums that should have linked all the structures on the island which are connected to the history of characters who were born, raised in our land, expressed their artistic talent or who, perhaps simply , they fell in love with this land and remained there.
A few years have already passed, it was perhaps August 2010, since we took care of the Pascoli house for the first time. A wonderful wave of opinion was then generated which, thanks also to the contribution of the prof. Piero Chillé and prof. In recent years, José Gambino has achieved some important goals to remember the figure of Pascoli, with the involvement of the schools, the former Regional Province, which also named its library after him, and the University, which in addition to purchasing some of his precious letters then dedicated a conference of the highest international profile on the centenary of his death in 2012. Prof. Giuseppe Rando, former professor of Italian Literature at our university, dedicated a beautiful book to him, entitled “Giovanni Pascoli: poems and prose of the Messina season”. And at the “Pascoli-Crispi” comprehensive institute, in the school that bears his name, its former principal Gianfranco Rosso created the “Giovanni Pascoli” study center, but he immediately said clearly that «… the school is However, it is a temporary location, waiting for the dream of creating a museum inside the Pascoli house to come true.” And how can we forget the splendid recital of Pascolian poems that was held right under those balconies, thanks to the great availability of a refined actor like Maurizio Marchetti.
Giovanni Pascoli obtained the chair of Latin Literature at the Faculty of Letters of the Royal University of Messina in 1897, succeeding Ettore Stampini. The poet, his sister Mariù and the dog Gulì arrived in Messina on 3 January 1898. They went to live on the 2nd floor of a house in via Legnano 66.
In March 1898 he fell ill with typhus and with him his sister. In June she left for the summer holidays in Castelvecchio, returning alone to Messina on 19 November. She moved house and went to occupy the apartment in Palazzo Sturiale. His sister Maria joined him with his dog Gulì on 18 December 1898. From 1899 to June 1902 the poet stayed assiduously in the city, spending there – as he himself wrote – «the best five years, most industrious, happiest, most collected, most radiant with visions, more resounding than my life.”
All this deserves to be a living memory, and not just remain among the pages of books and postcards.