1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Casti, Giovanni Battista

CASTI, GIOVANNI BATTISTA (1721–1803), Italian poet, was born of humble parents at Montefiascone, in the states of the church, in 1721. He rose to the dignity of canon in the cathedral of his native place, but gave up his chance of church preferment to satisfy his gay and restless spirit by visiting most of the capitals of Europe. In 1782, on the death of Metastasio, he was appointed Poeta Cesario, or poet-laureate of Austria, in which capacity he applied himself with great success to the opera bouffe; but in 1796 he resigned this post, in order that he might not be hampered by political relations; and he spent the close of his life as a private gentleman at Paris, where he died in 1803. Casti is best known as the author of the Novelle galanti, and of Gli Animali parlanti, a poetical allegory, over which he spent eight years (1794–1802), and which, notwithstanding its tedious length, excited so much interest that it was translated into French, German and Spanish, and (very freely and with additions) into English, in W. S. Rose’s Court and Parliament of Beasts (Lond., 1819). Written during the time of the Revolution in France, it was intended to exhibit the feelings and hopes of the people and the defects and absurdities of various political systems. The Novelle Galanti is a series of poetical tales, in the ottava rima—a metre largely used by Italian poets for that class of compositions. The sole merit of these poems consists in the harmony and purity of the style, and the liveliness and sarcastic power of many passages. They are, however, characterized by the grossest licentiousness; and there is no originality of plot—that, according to the custom of Italian novelists, being taken from classical mythology or other ancient legends. Among the other works of Casti is the Poema Tartaro, a mock-heroic satire on the court of Catherine II., with which he was personally acquainted.