a cura di Giovanni Caserta
Born in Favale, today Valsinni, around 1516 she died in the winter between 1545 and 1546. She was killed by her brothers for a presumed love story with Diego Sandoval De Castro, a Spanish baron of Nova Siri (called Bollita). Isabella Morra was very fond of Petrarch and left a yearning collection of lyrics, twelve sonnets and three songs, which were published for the first time in 1559 and made her the biggest love poet of the Italian Renaissance for her originality and sincerity.
After a long silence, from 1559 to the nineteenth century, she had been rediscovered by Angelo De Gubernatis in 1901 with a conference in the Philologist Circle of Bologna, then published in 1907. Benedetto Croce during a pilgrimage-journey to Valsinni between the 23rd and 27th November 1928, wrote a long and thorough essay in order to find some signs of her life and works. He didn’t find anything but the places of the poems, which, since they had been written in a geographic isolation, became the song of solitude, according to images, sighs and rhythm which would belong later on to Giacomo Leopardi. Also Isabella Morra dreamt to escape from her “denigrated site”, where she had to “live” her life and which she considered “the only cause of her torment”. So to her as well, the only way to escape was writing poems or songs.
In her dreaming of world of Courts, the young poet thought of Paris, where her father lived in exile from 1528 for having supported French against the Spanish winners. Alone in her far castle she was in her uncouth and cruel brothers’ power, and was anxiously waiting for her father’s return; she needed love and maybe after a serious illness , which nearly led her to death, she found her peace of mind in religion, as the song to Christ and the song to the Holy Vergin testified;but she had a new and ardent wish of love and freedom when she met Diego Sandoval De Castro, her friend’s AntoniaCaracciolo’s husband, Emperor Charles V and powerful men’s friend but enemy of Morra’s family, pro-French.
Isabella’s brothers, for honour and politic reasons, didn’t even accept the suspect of an attraction, which probably was only a literary friendship, between their sister and the Spanish enemy, married and father of two children. Nor they could even ignore Valsinni people voices. Under their knives and arquebuses, fell in order the family teacher, Isabella’s protector and also presumed love intermediary, Isabella herself and the next year Diego Sandoval De Castro. So for the murderers there was the French hospitality, by King Francesco I and by the father, who didn’t come back from France and didn’t do anything to avoid the terrible revenge.
At the moment “Il Canzoniere” by Isabella Morra is available for consultation in A. Cambria – G. Caserta, Isabella, la triste storia di Isabella Morra, Venosa, Osanna, 1996, which, on the basis of the new critical text written by Antonietta Grignani (Isabella Morra, Rime, Roma, Salerno, 2000), contains the first comment and paraphrase of the text together with a rich introduction.