Garibaldi, Si!


Not previously performed.

Garibaldi, in his day, was an international star.  During his lifetime photography began to be used commercially, so that his face became familiar in Europe and beyond.  He was handsome - which helped - a northern Italian, fair with a straight nose and a steady gaze.  Not tall.

       The gaze was that of a seaman.  Giuseppe Garibaldi came from the port of Nice - Nizza as it was then under the rule of Savoy.  He went to sea early, wisely  taking ship after being implicated in the Young Italy movement.  This early involvement in the creation of one Italy from small states dominated by outside powers was prophetic.  The notion of the nation state was emerging from the medievalism of empires encompassing peoples of different languages, customs and creeds.  From the American War of Independence and the French Revolution had sprung ideas of freedom, of self-domination, of democracy.

      Garibaldi became a guerrilla fighter in South America.  He was anti-religious and anti-royal (though he made an exception for Queen Victoria: "She's a fine little woman, so as far as I'm concerned she's a Republican.")  In South America he became a seasoned campaigner and tactician.  He then returned to Italy and led the glorious Thousand from Sicily to Rome.  The unification of Italy was achieved.  As the beloved hero of the Risorgimento Garibaldi could have become King of Italy.  Instead he retired to half a rocky island - Caprera - off the coast of Tuscany.

      Why is Garibaldi such a wonderful man?  He was brave, wily and ferocious.  But soft-hearted - he said to his men before battle or skirmish "I absolutely forbid you to get killed."  He was blood-thirsty when it was necessary...he had his own men shot for looting.  He was gallant towards women - an audacious, resourceful man, capable of idiocy, a man of heart - a mixture of Ulysses and Hercules.  Today we would call him committed.  To the cause of an independent Italy he certainly was.  What was unique was his rejection of place or prize.  As an atheist he expected no reward in heaven.  What he respected was what was fair.  What was decent.  Above all, he understood the solution to heaven on earth - a life of simplicity.

                                                                                                                                   Pam Gems