CESAROTTI, MELCHIORE (1730–1808), Italian poet, was born at Padua in 1730, of a noble but impoverished family. At the university of his native place his literary progress procured for him at a very early age the chair of rhetoric, and in 1768 the professorship of Greek and Hebrew. On the invasion of Italy by the French, he gave his pen to their cause, received a pension, and was made knight of the iron crown by Napoleon I., to whom, in consequence, he addressed a bombastic and extravagantly flattering poem called Pronea. Cesarotti is best known as the translator of Homer and Ossian. Much praise cannot be given to his version of the Iliad, for he has not scrupled to add, omit and modernize. Ossian, which he held to be the finest of poems, he has, on the other hand, considerably improved in translation; and the appearance of his version attracted much attention in Italy and France, and raised up many imitators of the Ossianic style. Cesarotti also produced a number of works in prose, including a Course of Greek Literature, and essays On the Origin and Progress of the Poetic Art, On the Sources of the Pleasure derived from Tragedy, On the Philosophy of Language and On the Philosophy of Taste, the last being a defence of his own great eccentricities in criticism. His weakness was a straining after novelty. His style is forcible, but full of Gallicisms.
A complete edition of his works, in 42 vols. 8vo, began to appear at Pisa in 1800, and was completed in 1813, after his death. See Memoirs, by Barbieri (Padua, 1810), and Un Filosofo delle lettere, by Alemanni (Turin, 1894).