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.

Posted on May 4, 2015, in Traditional Catholicism. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I recently finished Manzoni’s ‘The Betrothed’ on your advice. I can’t remember any of the other books you recommended when you suggested that a few months ago. It was a wonderful and totally Catholic story, and I’d love to read more of that style. Any suggestions? (And thank you for recommending it! It was my ‘light reading’-along with Dante’s Inferno- during Lent.)

    • Catholic novels? not of that caliber. Fogazzaro comes to mind, but he was a Modernist. I devoured his books, though, in my younger years. Guareschi, the author of “Don Camillo”, would be another. I have never read Palazzeschi, which I remember mentioned as such. Others will perhaps chime in with suggestions.

  2. Mary, if you find a good translation of ” Gli Inni sacri” -The Sacred Hymns – five poems from the same Manzoni. They deal with the principal Catholic Festivities-Christmas, Easter, etc- Not as easy to read as The Bethothed, but easier than Dante’s Inferno.

  3. Mandy, in Italian schools they do not teach Il 5 Maggio anymore.Fear that young people may dream of a strong man who can rule us much better than the actual rulers or fear to have to admit that even a so strong soul ” al disonor del,Golgota…si chino’ “?

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