My object in writing this book was to introduce to English readers a poet who (with the exception of our own Swinburne) was certainly the greatest alive in Europe at the opening of the twentieth century. As a nation we are proverbially slow to appreciate the literary achievements of foreigners. During the last forty years Italy has more than once rung throughout its length and breadth with the name of Carducci; selections from his poems have been translated into half a dozen European languages; an exhaustive study of his life and work has recently appeared in France; there is, I believe, a Carducci Society in Berlin; and yet it is doubtful whether at the present time as many as five percent, of our own poetry-reading public are even aware that such a man ever existed. If this be a true statement of the facts, I do not suppose I need apologise for wishing to fill up a gap (surely worth filling up) in the average English-man's knowledge of modern Italian literature - a literature which, even though Carducci is dead, can still boast that it possesses the most versatile literary genius now living.
I have selected, therefore, just under seventy of such of Carducci's poems as I thought best represented his genius in all its aspects. Personal preference for this rather than for that poem has, of course, to a large extent influenced my choice. As to what were his masterpieces, I have also been guided by the opinion, as expressed in anthologies, of the poet's own countrymen. But several poems - notably the selections from Giambi ed Epodi - are included in this book for no other person than tint they serve to illustrate the various stages through which Carducci passed in the long course of his development both as man and poet.
I have provided all the poems in this book with verse translations, about which a word of explanation is necessary.