“He is no more. As reft of breath
The heedless body lay at last
On whom such boundless hopes were cast,
Immobile in the calm of death.
So, by the tidings, in amaze
The earth is held, and with her gaze
The parting hour doth mutely scan
Of this great spirit; if again
Upon the dust of her wide plain,
All blood-besprinkled, ever can
The footfall of a mortal show
Like unto his, she doth not know.”
These are the first two stanzas of "The Fifth of May", Alessandro Manzoni’s ode to the death of Napoleon, which took place on May 5 1821, during his exile on the island of Sant'Elena. That of the author of "I promessi sposi" is a figure inextricably linked to our Florence. A few years later, in fact, Manzoni will indicate the Florentine dialect as the official linguistic model for the Unified Italy with the famous "rinsing of clothes in the Arno".