Monday, January 5, 2009

January 5: The Soaring Eagle and Contented Stork (Vol. 32, pp. 377-396)

I had never heard of Giuseppe Mazzini, a 19th century Italian writer whose main cause was the establishment of a free and united Italian Republic. He repeatedly put his life on the line for democracy, and despite arrest, exile and death threats, kept up the fight until the end of his days.

This gives today's selection, Mazzini's passionate appraisal of George Gordon Noel Byron and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a little more weight. Like Mazzini, both men were freedom fighters. On this day in 1824, Lord Byron arrived in Greece to join its fight for independence. While not as flamboyant as Byron, Goethe fought for the emancipation of the mind.

Mazzini compared Byron to a soaring eagle — an apt comparison when one considers his romanticism — while likening Goethe to a contented stork. Stork is not as apt an analogy for Goethe, a man whose political and scientific endeavors have since been overshadowed by his wide-ranging artistic genius.

Two very different writers, but Mazzini links them together as brothers in the fight for liberty.

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