The Fifth Of May
Tomorrow is the Fifth of May. In Italian, Fifth of May is “Cinque Maggio”. This is also the title of one of the most famous poems ever written in Italian, from the great, great Alessandro Manzoni.
Manzoni’s brilliant work poses face to face the extreme greatness of the man, and the even greater power of Providence. A Providence that, after giving to us in Napoleon a clear sign of God’s infinite power, also made of him a wonderful example of late conversion, marking a stunning triumph of Faith over one of the most stunning men ever existed.
Manzoni is a man whose heart wrenching poetry (and prose) still drives me to tears decades after first knowing his works, and no matter how often read. He is, also, an always strongly Catholic man. In the death of Napoleon he sees a picture going – great as the man was – way beyond the man, and into the infinity of God.
In a world accustomed to only pay attention to worldly matters, it is good to remember, today, that Napoleon was great not only in his military and political achievements, but in the keenness of his thinking as a de facto Catholic convert, or I should say revert; a man who, when his military and political adventure ended, directed his brilliant mind to God, with the for him usual results.
We can answer Manzoni today and say that yes, it was true glory.
But it was a glory that was always the reflex of a far greater one.