Reading the verses of the best known of the Christmas poems, that “Holy Night” that reads – let’s hope! – still at school, few would image that its author, the twilight poet Guido Gozzano, had a controversial and at times conflicted relationship with religion. Growing up in a turin at the end of the century where everything was novelty and technology, Gozzano grew up “meditating nietzsche”, as he wrote in La Signorina Felicita,his most famous piece. Intimately, he felt attracted to those who had not had the bad influence of nihilistic philosophers; his soul aspired to light, but for years he frequented bad companies, moving from lupanari to circles in which God was never spoken. But the truth attracted him: at the end of the century Turin, a losing but ruined by the demon of progress, he preferred past centuries. His centuries were perhaps the seventeenth-eighteenth century, those of the elegant madames (La Marchesa di Cavour, Carolin-a ‘d Savòja) and the fairy tales of Perrault, to which he was inspired. While catholic newspapers showed that they did not particularly appreciate his collections of verses (La via del Rifugio, 1906; The Colloqui, 1911), Gozzano discovered a wide popularity especially among the female audience who, even today, especially if âgée,consider the Turin poet as an inevitable classic.
Gozzano died at the age of 33 on August 10, 1916, electrocuted by tisis. At the end of his life, he had definitely come close to that Catholicism that he had so sought and sighed so much, but never fully embraced. Thanks to a fellow university student, Silvestro Dogliotti, who had entered religion among the Benedictines, and who day after day had convinced him that that light that he sighed was actually Christ. But there was another figure, usually silent when it comes to Gozzano: Sister Nazarena Emma Bartolini, silent presence alongside the great Turin poet, who lived in the convent of the Nazarene nuns, founded in Turin in 1865 by Blessed Marco Antonio Durando. Sister Bartolini, an admirer of Gozzano, offered her life in exchange for the conversion and salvation of the young poet. Well, Sister Nazarena died six months later Gozzano, in turn mowed down by tisis.
We must believe that his sacrifice had the desired effect: his friend Dogliotti had to say, about Guido’s death; at the bedside: “He followed me with his eyes, revived with joy; and with the humility of great souls, with the simplicity of pure hearts, to my prayers, short so as not to tire him, he answered, first, as I had told him, in the mind and then aloud “Amen. Oh, so be it, so be it!” […] Dressed in beauty, she smiled kidnapped at the “new heavens and a new land” that were revealed to him” (Cit. in A. Paita, Guido Gozzano, the short life of a great poet, Bur, Milan 2008, p. 168). Sister Bartolini made her sacrifice without publicity, soul-victim that now shines in the glory of God.