Filicaja, Vincenzo Da
FILICAJA, VINCENZO DA (1642-1707), Italian poet, sprung from an ancient and noble family of Florence, was born in that city on the 30th of December 1642. From an incidental notice in one of his letters, stating the amount of house rent paid during his childhood, his parents must have been in easy circumstances, and the supposition is confirmed by the fact that he enjoyed all the advantages of a liberal education, first under the Jesuits of Florence, and then in the university of Pisa.
At Pisa his mind became stored, not only with the results of patient study in various branches of letters, but with the great historical associations linked with the former glory of the Pisan republic, and with one remarkable institution of which Pisa was the seat. To the tourist who now visits Pisa the banners and emblems of the order of St Stephen are mere matter of curiosity, but they had a serious significance two hundred years ago to the young Tuscan, who knew that these naval crusaders formed the main defence of his country and commerce against the Turkish, Algerine and Tunisian corsairs. After a five years' residence in Pisa he returned to Florence, where he married Anna, daughter of the senator and marquis Scipione Capponi, and withdrew to a small villa at Figline, not far from the city. Abjuring the thought of writing amatory poetry in consequence of the premature death of a young lady to whom he had been attached, he occupied himself chiefly with literary pursuits, above all the composition of Italian and Latin poetry. His own literary eminence, the opportunities enjoyed by him as a member of the celebrated Academy Della Crusca for making known his critical taste and classical knowledge, and the social relations within the reach of a noble Florentine so closely allied with the great house of Capponi, sufficiently explain the intimate terms on which he stood with such eminent men of letters as Magalotti, Menzini, Gori and Redi. The last-named, the author of Bacchus in Tuscany, was not only one of the most brilliant poets of his time, and a safe literary adviser; he was the court physician, and his court influence was employed with zeal and effect in his friend's favour. Filicaja's rural seclusion was owing even more to his straitened means than to his rural tastes. If he ceased at length to pine in obscurity, the change was owing not merely to the fact that his poetical genius, fired by the deliverance of Vienna from the Turks in 1683, poured forth the right strains at the right time, but also to the influence of Redi, who not only laid Filicaja's verses before his own sovereign, but had them transmitted with the least possible delay to the foreign princes whose noble deeds they sung. The first recompense came, however, not from those princes, but from Christina, the ex-queen of Sweden, who, from her circle of savants and courtiers at Rome, spontaneously and generously announced to Filicaja her wish to bear the expense of educating his two sons, enhancing her kindness by the delicate request that it should remain a secret.
The tide of Filicaja's fortunes now turned. The grand-duke of Tuscany, Cosmo III., conferred on him an important office, the commissionership of official balloting. He was named governor of Volterra in 1696, where he strenuously exerted himself to raise the tone of public morality. Both there and at Pisa, where he was subsequently governor in 1700, his popularity was so great that on his removal the inhabitants of both cities petitioned for his recall. He passed the close of his life at Florence; the grand-duke raised him to the rank of senator, and he died in that city on the 24th of September 1707. He was buried in the family vault in the church of St Peter, and a monument was erected to his memory by his sole surviving son Scipione Filicaja. In the six celebrated odes inspired by the great victory of Sobieski, Filicaja took a lyrical flight which has placed him at moments on a level with the greatest Italian poets. They are, however, unequal, like all his poetry, reflecting in some passages the native vigour of his genius and purest inspirations of his tastes, whilst in others they are deformed by the affectations of the Seicentisti. When thoroughly natural and spontaneous - as in the two sonnets "Italia, Italia, o tu cui feo la sorte" and "Dov' è, Italia, il tuo braccio? e a che ti serve;" in the verses "Alla beata Vergine," "Al divino amore;" in the sonnet "Sulla fede nelle disgrazie" - the truth and beauty of thought and language recall the verse of Petrarch.
Besides the poems published in the complete Venice edition of 1762, several other pieces appeared for the first time in the small Florence edition brought out by Barbera in 1864.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)