Monday, July 19, 2010

Goffredo Mameli on Stamps

Goffredo Mameli (September 5, 1827 - July 6, 1849) was an Italian patriot, poet and writer, and a notable figure in the Italian Risorgimento. He is also the author of the lyrics of the current national anthem of Italy.

The son of an aristocratic Sardinian admiral, Mameli was born in Genoa where his father was in command of the fleet of the kingdom of Sardinia. At the age of seven he was sent to Sardinia, to his grandfather's, to escape the risk of cholera, but soon came back to Genoa to complete his studies.

The achievements of Mameli's very short life are concentrated in only two years, during which time he played major parts in insurrectional movements and the Risorgimento.

In 1847 Mameli joined the Società Entelema, a cultural movement that soon would have turned to a political movement, and here he became interested in the theories of Giuseppe Mazzini. Mameli is mostly known as the author of the lyrics of the Italian national anthem, Il Canto degli Italiani (music by Michele Novaro). These lyrics were used for the first time in November 1847, celebrating King Charles Albert in his visit to Genoa after his first reforms. Mameli's lyrics to a "hymn of the people"— "Suona la tromba"— were set by Giuseppe Verdi the following year.

Mameli was deeply involved in nationalist movements and some more "spectacular" actions are remembered, such as his exposition of the Tricolore (current Italian flag, then prohibited) to celebrate the expulsion of Germans in 1846. Yet, he was with Nino Bixio (Garibaldi's later major supporter and friend) in a committee for public health, already on a clear Mazzinian position. In March 1848, hearing of the insurrection in Milan, Mameli organised an expedition with 300 other patriots, joined Bixio's troops that were already on site, and entered the town. He was then admitted to Garibaldi's irregular army (really the volunteer brigade of general Torres), as a captain, and met Mazzini.

Back in Genoa, he worked more on a literary side, wrote several hymns and other compositions, he became the director of the newspaper Diario del Popolo ("People's Daily"), and promoted a press campaign for a war against Austria. In December 1848 Mameli reached Rome, where Pellegrino Rossi had been murdered, helping in the clandestine works for declaration (February 9, 1849) of the Roman Republic. Mameli then went to Florence where he proposed the creation of a common state between Tuscany and Latium.

In April 1849 he was again in Genoa, with Bixio, where a popular insurrection was strongly opposed by General Alberto La Marmora. Mameli soon left again for Rome, where the French had come to support the Papacy (Pope Pius IX had actually escaped from the town) and took active part in the combat.

In June, Mameli was accidentally injured in his left leg by the bayonet of one of his comrades. The wound was not serious, but an infection took hold, and after a time the leg had to be amputated. Mameli died of the infection on July 6, about two months before his 22nd birthday.

Above is a stamp of Mameli on his deathbed in July 1848, issued on the Centenary of the Revolution 1948.