Utopie pastorali e drammi della storia: Virgilio, Miklós Radnóti, Seamus Heaney

Alessandro Fo


The paper tracks the reception of Virgilian eclogues I and IX in two contemporary poets who have experienced and reinterpreted the bucolic genre with remarkable depth.
Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti, killed by the Nazis in 1944, wrote eight Eclogues (the sixth eclogue has been lost; the poem Forced March is very similar to Ecl. IX, which Radnóti had translated). From the first eclogue, Radnóti seems to have recognized the secret of Virgil's combination of fantasy and reality, pain and utopia. The Seventh and the Eighth eclogues, as well as Forced March, were written while Radnóti was in a concentration camp and were preserved in the Bor Notebook, retrieved from Radnóti's raincoat when the mass grave in which he had been thrown was dug up. For Elsa Morante, Radnóti's story was emblematic of the antithesis between writer and the alienated society that had led to the atomic bomb.
Irish Nobel Prize recipient Seamus Heaney, while analysing in an essay the pastoral genre's chances of survival also translated Ecl. IX. Furthermore he elaborated Ecl. IV in an occasional poem with an eye to the year two thousand. Indeed, on the occasion of Heaney's granddaughter's birth, the Bann Valley Eclogue tries to recover – in a world constantly coming to grips with sceleris vestigia nostri – some Virgilian hope of palingenesis for the new millennium.

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